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Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast, the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog, and a senior contributing editor at the ADCC News.

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    Friday, February 24, 2006

    New Online and on HD Radio: Gretchen 99.9 

    The HD radio revolution is beginning in earnest this year. What this means is that over-the-air radio stations are switching to digital transmission. This gives them the capability of broadcasting numerous signals at once. These new signals are called HD 2 channels, and these stations are now figuring out what formats to play on them.

    According to the industry trade group, the HD Digital Radio Alliance, from January 2006 on, "some 264 entirely new HD 2 channels will carry a variety of music or talk formats."

    Of course, few outside of the techie and radio worlds are at present aware of all this. Plus, receivers able to get HD radio signals are still extremely expensive, going for about 500 bucks. But one report predicts that the prices of these new radios will soon plummet, as have most other new types of technology, and that "sales could surge to 4 million units in 2007 from 35,000" in 2005. Others, however, such as Joel Hollander, chairman and CEO of CBS Radio, are less optimistic, saying that with the spread of HD receivers he "could not see any significant progress happening for at least three to seven years."

    Whatever happens with the transition to digital radio, some stations are wasting no time in coming up with innovative formats. One of those is the popular country radio station 99.9 WKIS-FM in Miami, FL.

    Their HD 2 channel , begun in September, is named Gretchen 99.9, for the "Redneck Woman" country superstar herself, Gretchen Wilson.

    According to a press release, besides Gretchen's own songs, this channel "showcases music from core artists including Hank Williams, Jr., Charlie Daniels Band, The Allman Brothers, Montgomery-Gentry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Travis Tritt, Toby Keith, Gretchen Wilson, and other musically inventive, creative 'outlaws' of the format."

    If you don't have one of these pricey HD radios yet, you can still listen for free by going to the WKIS web site.

    Listening for about two hours Friday morning confirmed the promised mix, with country anthems by Gretchen and Hank Williams Jr. alternating with the likes of Janis Joplin and various Southern rockers. It all is hard-edged, rocks, and spirited. So if you're looking for fluff, you found the wrong honky tonk, er, radio station.

    Like all present HD 2 channels, Gretchen 99.9 is commercial-free and has no DJ's. But that also means that there is no one to identify the songs played.

    Check it out when you can, 24/7. If you have any suggestions, there also was an announcement that e-mails are welcome from listeners. Just send them to bob@wkis.com, and tell 'em Eddie sent you.

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