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CLEAR CHANNEL GIVES MIA MORE HIGH-DEF SIGNAL EXPOSURE

Clear Channel, which owns and operates seven stations in its Tucson cluster, is boosting the high-definition listening range for KTZR FM 97.1, aka Mia 97.1.

To do so, it has duplicated the station's feed on KRQQ FM 93.7's HD2 slot. Initially, Clear Channel's strategy was to put country music on that HD frequency, in an effort to use KRQ's ratings strength as a counter-programming option to KIIM FM 99.5, the Citadel-owned country format which usually ranks No. 1 in market share. That approach didn't work, so the change was made to see if increasing Mia's range might be more beneficial.

"We never got much in the way of feedback from any audience in reference to the HD2 country station on KRQ," said Clear Channel Tucson operations manager Tim Richards. "There are times when we'd have to do service on the station. For the (high-definition) jazz format on The Mountain (KWMT FM 92.9), for example, if that station goes off the air, we get calls. We never got that kind of feedback on (the country feed on) HD2 for KRQ.

"That being said, we were evaluating the importance of Mia. It's been on the air for about six months now. We think the format fits perfectly within our cluster. We have a lot of contemporary stations between KRQ, The Mountain and Hot (KOHT FM 98.3), and it fits right in the middle. The only problem is in certain parts of the city, such as the downtown area, you can't get it (on the regular frequency). With KRQ, we give the station another outlet, and people with HD receivers can get the signal."

It's sort of a modern approach to the translator concept. Stations that suffer from poor signal strength can place what amounts to a secondary antenna on a mountaintop in another part of town. They'll then use a different frequency location in an effort to better blanket the community. A noteworthy example is Lotus-owned KFMA, which broadcasts its primary signal on 92.1 FM, but also has a translator signal at 101.3 FM.

Mia is in the same boat, and Clear Channel has opted for the HD-piggyback route. The positive: It's a time and money saver. Clear Channel doesn't have to go through the federal paperwork to get a translator signal, nor does it have to pay for the antenna and site maintenance.

The negative: How many listeners actually have HD radio? Clear Channel might get a reasonable read on that equation soon enough.

HD radio allows stations to place multiple feeds and formats on the same frequency. In Tucson, Clear Channel has pushed HD far more aggressively than other clusters. The overwhelming majority of local HD frequencies come from Clear Channel stations.

"We're the HD2 advocate," Richards said. "We've got four stations broadcasting in HD2, and seven stations broadcasting in HD. If you listen to (KWAM) Cool 1450 and KNST (AM 790) on HD, it sounds like FM. That's been the idea, to upgrade the quality of our content."

However, Clear Channel does not have any immediate plans to add new local talent.

"Really, what it will come down to is the economy, which has been in a bit of a downturn the last couple of years. The negative impact on business in general has had an impact on local radio," Richards said. "You'll hear more local radio on HD2 when we can build a revenue model that makes it viable. There are some stations in some markets that are providing local content on HD2. With the resources we have, it's possible, but we couldn't tell you when."

Meanwhile, some local non-Clear Channel stations are dabbling in HD; others are not.

"The playlist is classic rock that skews a bit older than what we do on FM," said Chita, program director at Lotus-owned KLPX FM 96.1, of its rock-based alternate HD format. "We also schedule special programs periodically, for example, playing all the Beatles catalog when the re-issues were released. We have no immediate plans to eliminate or change it, and Lotus has no immediate plans to add another HD channel to the family. The feedback we have gotten has been positive, which we appreciate, since market adoption of HD in general is very slow."

Indeed, too slow for other private radio clusters. Journal has HD signals for KMXZ FM 94.9 and KQTH FM 104.1 FM but has no additional piggyback formats. For the time being, Citadel has scrapped its efforts altogether.


'STAR' FAILS TO ID HANSEN SIBLING IN SPORTS COLUMN PIC

The Arizona Daily Star's coverage of the UA Athletic Department's self-imposed sanction recommendations has been impressive—but the paper let an online photo caption slip through the cracks.

In his Feb. 7 column, headlined "Those Now at UA Pay for Mess Others Left," sports columnist Greg Hansen chastises the role former goazcats.com founder and publisher Jim Storey played in the events that ultimately damaged the UA.

Two photos accompany the column. One features Storey during a radio show he used to broker at KFFN AM 1490. Also in that photo, but unidentified in the online story caption, is Ben Hansen, who co-hosted the show with Storey. Ben Hansen, Greg's son, also worked at the Star on occasion.

"The photo is from 2003 and is in our archive with identifications on both Storey and Hansen," said Star executive editor Bobbie Jo Buel via e-mail. "The StarNet and photo employees who work at night aren't here at this hour of the day, so I cannot say why they didn't include Ben Hansen's ID.

"I don't remember Greg's son Ben working here, but I checked the archive and it shows 22 preps sports stories with a Ben Hansen byline between September 1993 and October 1994. Back then, we used a combination of freelancers and part-time employees to cover high school sports."

More by John Schuster

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