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Jim Carnegie, Editor & Publisher

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I wanted to respond personally to some questions you raised in your article about the HD Radio Display options (12/13/05 RBR #242).

RBR: "Were they asking the right questions? It looks to us like people were offered two bad choices and they chose the one they found least objectionable. Can't we find something more consumer friendly than perpetuating the existing one-oh-whatever-point-thingamajig system?"

I look at it this way. We were asking the first of what are sure to be many more questions concerning HD Radio and the way listeners will use the new technology. One thing you learn very quickly when you open the HD Radio box: there are many unresolved issues so it is very easy to be pulled off track and into a deep technical and theoretical ditch. For my part, I'm happy we are starting to look for definitive answers that will help Radio navigate this new HD territory.

Did we ask all the questions ... find all the answers? Certainly not. But our twelve national Focus Groups did clear up a big one for all of us: the industry needs a more intuitive and simpler approach than the so-called Layered option. If you take out a yellow legal pad and watch our twelve Groups on the web (http://www.bobharper.com/reports.htm) you'll fill page after page with insightful listener comments on both Display options we tested. You will hear over and over in their own words that the Layered system confuses them and makes what should be a simple thing like finding and remembering a radio station more complicated than it needs to be. Branding pros should have a field day with all the anecdotal material.

Is there a better option than the Extended Band? Perhaps. As you correctly pointed out in your e-newsletter, if there is a better option, the listeners didn't come up with it on their own. And, maybe that's because the Display B, Extended Band, idea seemed pretty workable and friendly to them where the Layered band did not.

Isn't it like asking people if they'd rather drive a car with a push button panel or a steering wheel? You test the question and find they really like the steering wheel idea. No, really. They think driving with a wheel seems very right and easy and safer while the push buttons are awkward, disorienting and not very practical. Sure, you can go on testing and testing but don't be surprised if the push buttons keep finishing last whether up against a wheel, joy stick, foot pedals, or hand levers.

You may find the present "one-oh-whatever-point-thingamajig system" clumsy or confusing, however the listeners are perfectly fine with the way FM stations identify their frequencies. But, because listeners do not understand the engineering of it all, they don't know why the station numbers are what they are and - - even though they are OK with the decimals - - they are curious why we use them. In fact, they thought it was humorous we radio people once thought the decimals would be too perplexing for them ... and, that was one of the reasons so many FM stations rounded-up or -down their exact frequencies in the beginning.

RBR: "Maybe there isn't any better option than having the HD Radio FM band run from 88.1 to 247.9, but we'd sure like to see some other avenues explored. Radio has to get this right."

I couldn't agree more, Jim. And, the toughest part of getting it right is asking the questions and responding to the answers and addressing listeners' desires, especially when the listeners are asking you to do something to change a product. Thankfully we have now taken the first step and we have our first answer.

Stay tuned. It's gonna be quite a ride,

Bob Harper




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