HD RADIO LEMONS…
…CAN BECOME FM LEMONADE
For the past several months SPARK! has been covering sole-service noncom stations adding a second FM station by putting their HD channel on a FM translator. We call this MAKING HD LEMONS INTO FM LEMONADE.
Public radio stations have the chance to turn a liability (HD channels with very few listeners) into valuable new assets (FM stations). This is being done right now. Today we have the story about WUFT in Gainesville that was originally June 15, 2015.
I wish/hope somebody at CPB is paying attention because there is the need to act quickly. Public radio is already behind the curve. Open FM translator spots are in limited supply. Religious and commercial broadcasters are gobbling up. Public radio should ACT NOW.
THE ORIGINAL COLUMN
A decade ago, like many CPB-funded FM stations, WUFT in Gainesville added HD Radio channels. Now HD Radio hasn’t panned out as was hoped. This fact-of-life has left quite a few public radio stations stuck with the expense of providing HD Radio channels that reach few, if any, listeners. In other words, HD Radio is a lemon.
Now WUFT  is creating lemonade by putting it’s HD2 channel on a local FM translator. These new Instant Stations are no longer HD Radio, they are for-real FM stations. The one thing that HD Radio is very, very good at is feeding FM translators.
Like iHeart Media, Educational Media Foundation (“EMF” – the purveyors of K-LOVE) and other commercial broadcasters, WUFT is expanding their services by adding FM signals to expand programming choices for Gainesville area listeners.
INSIDE WUFT’S PLAN
WUFT is licensed to the University of Florida. The UF College of Journalism and Communications operates WUFT-FM (and it's repeater WJUF-FM), PBS affiliate WUFT-TV, two commercial stations WRUF-FM (Country) and WRUF-AM (ESPN Sports).
WUFT-FM is almost full-time NPR News. WUFT-HD2 is full-time Classical, airing Classical-24 24/7 .It is the cheapest way to run the channel. Like HD Radio elsewhere, WUFT’s HD2 channel has not attracted much listening. Beginning in October, WUFT’s Classical service will debut on 92.1 FM via translator W2748BT.
WUFT has big plans for it’s new FM station. According to news reports, WUFT will replace C-24 with local hosts. I bet this will work Big Time. WUFT is providing a model for other public radio stations in similar situations.
(Also this fall, WUFT will debut a second FM translator that will repeat its commercial station WRUF-AM.)
“Securing these two new FM frequencies for the College is significant,” said Randall Wright, executive director of the College’s Division of Multimedia Properties. “The new WUFT-?FM Classical/Arts will provide a radio broadcast format not currently available in this market, helping to position our public media for another phase of growth from both a membership and underwriting perspective,” he said.
PUBLIC RADIO: MAKE LEMONADE FROM YOUR HD RADIO LEMONS NOW
WUFT is providing an example of what noncom stations, particularly CPB-funded licensees, can do with their HD channels. Many licensees who got into HD Radio agreed to CPB requirements that they keep the HD channels going for years. This is one way some stations can turn an underperforming channel into significant new public service.