Digital Broadcasting May Boost Local Radio Competition

KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee and the Knoxville area may face competition when local radio stations switch to digital broadcasting.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed on Oct. 10 to allow the iBiquity Corp. to develop the transmission system that will broadcast digital radio.

UT broadcasting professor Dr. Barbara Moore said the opportunity to use digital signals could increase business competition in the area.

“Radio stations will get the chance to compete with satellite radio signals and digital cable networks,” Moore said, “so local radio will be able to maintain its audience.”

Digital radio broadcasting sends a stream of ones and zeroes through the air and requires a digital receiver to convert the data back into sound. The clarity of digital radio remains the same whether the listener is close to the broadcast tower or miles away. In current analog broadcasting, the further away from the tower one gets, the worse the reception becomes.

Moore said the only drawback for radio stations making the switch would be buying all-new equipment.

“In the short-run the radio industry will suffer because of the cost to purchase the equipment,” Moore said, “but in the long-run it will be good because the digital sound is more clear and crisp.”

Initially, stations will need to get permission from the FCC before broadcasting digital signals. As the system grows in usage, stations must notify the commission before broadcasting.