Tri-Cities TN/VA: Broken clouds, 68 °F
If you have an HD radio in your home, car, or office, you may have heard our new HD signals. We now offer three HD signals in addition to our regular analog signal. And if you were disappointed last year when we dropped most of our music programming, you’ll be pleased to know that two of those signals are devoted exclusively to music.
If you don’t yet have an HD radio receiver, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to hear what we have on WETS-HD 2 and WETS-HD 3. (WETS-HD 1 is a digital version of the analog signal.) And I hope you’ll take a moment to make a pledge of financial support to WETS. Your support is the most important source of funding we have. You can make an online pledge, or call us between 7 am and 7 pm at 888.895.9387.
“HD radio” is the trademark for a digital radio process developed by iBiquity Corporation that allows FM stations to broadcast up to three digital signals on the same frequency as the analog station. The digital signals are clearer than standard FM, with CD-quality sound. To receive these digital signals, a radio must be HD compatible. Many newer radios can receive HD signals, and don’t cost any more than radios that don’t get HD. This past summer, my stereo receiver finally gave up the ghost and I bought a new oner, just a typical moderately-priced stereo/home theatre unit, and it had HD. Many of the higher-end automobiles, like my Mom’s Buick, have HD radio, and many times the owners (like my Mom) don’t know they have it – there hasn’t been an HD signal for them to pick up – until now. Also, a few months ago Toyota announced that all their new cars will have HD radio as standard equipment.
An HD radio works like any other FM tuner, picking up all the stations in the vicinity. But when an HD radio in the Tri-Cities is tuned to 89.5, the radio will default to WETS-HD 1, a digital version of the analog signal received by non-HD radios. You can then choose either WETS-HD 2, which programs Americana and similar genres, or WETS-HD 3, offering classical music, with some jazz at night and on weekends. The analog signal, as well as WETS-HD 1, features news and information programming from NPR, the BBC, and other sources.
WETS-FM received a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting earlier this year that provided 70 percent of the equipment cost. The remaining 30 percent was contributed by listeners in an effort spearheaded by Kathleen Grover, an ETSU English professor and classical music aficionado. Since then, the WETS staff has been very busy. We are essentially tripling our output with no increase in staff, facilities, or budget. Imagine that in your own workplace and you’ll have an idea of what our summer and early autumn have been like.
To make this all possible, the staff has installed and learned new programming systems for each of the new HD stations. Our engineers, Mitch Sandidge and Dave Edwards, are still tweaking things technically, but these are relatively minor adjustments. The computer systems that coordinate everything are a bit trickier; there’s a pretty steep learning curve on those. Jim Blalock will host classical music in the mornings as he did for many years on WETS-FM; he’s been working very hard to learn the systems that will allow him to program WETS-HD 3 almost single-handedly – with help, of course, from our program director Larry Mayer. Larry is quickly learning the system that we’re using for WETS-HD 2l, staying just a jump ahead of me and Mike Strickland; we’re responsible for 15 hours each weekday between 5 am and 8 pm. Bob Hoffman and Tony Coker are also learning new systems, and Sandy Trivett keeps up with everything. I couldn’t be more proud of the staff we have here at WETS.
We’ll be smoothing out the on-air sound for the next few weeks. It’s going to take a while longer to get the program schedules worked out to our satisfaction; it’s a work in progress, or perhaps more like an evolutionary process. We’re working with several people outside the station who have ideas and resources for some great programming, so the sound and schedules of the HD channels will be evolving over the next several months. We hope to be streaming the audio from all three stations online before the end of the year.
But the really cool thing is that it’s brand-new – we’re operating the first HD signals in the Tri-Cities market and we’re all learning new things. One of the most rewarding things about my job is that every few years, it evolves into something different. I’ve been at WETS and ETSU since the Stone Age, it seems, but hardly any of the tools I used when I first came here – magnetic tape (edited with razor blades), turntables, cartridge tapes, vinyl records – are used today. And most of the tools I use today – nearly all of them some form of computer – did not exist when I first came to WETS. It’s ahrd to get bored in a job that fundamentally changes every few years.
Again, thank you for your support of WETS-FM/HD. If you haven’t yet done so, please make a pledge to support this vital public radio service.