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Crowded airwaves seek new radio technology

Coralville, Iowa has a population of close to 19,000, two high schools, and its largest employer has a staff of…

By Rod MacNeill , in Talk Radio , on March 23, 2010 Tags: , , , ,

Coralville, Iowa has a population of close to 19,000, two high schools, and its largest employer has a staff of 438. But Coralville is also the home of , a pioneer in AM radio technology. On Friday, February 26, 2010 The made history—or perhaps more appropriately, it revisited history. This was the day that KCJJ blew the dust off Quadraphonic sound from the ‘70s, and broadcast rock favorites in Quad for four hours.

February 26th was the fortieth anniversary of the arrival of Quadraphonic sound. Quad doubled the number of speakers required for stereo from two to four. Each speaker broadcast a discrete channel, and Quad provided surround sound, the precursor of what is common in home theater technology today.

There is a link between the Coralville radio station and local Vancouver radio. KCJJ broadcasts in AM stereo and, according to the (CRTC), AM may be a solution to overcrowding of the FM radio band in large markets like Vancouver. The number of AM stations closing or moving to FM is growing. Between 2004 and 2008, there was an 18 percent drop in the number of AM stations in Canada, a loss of 34.

AM stereo brings the sound dimension and quality of stereo to the AM dial. In 1988, the CRTC adopted C-QUAM technology as the standard for AM stereo. Approximately 50 broadcast in AM stereo including six in the local market:

  • CKBD 600
  • CKNW 980
  • CKST 1040
  • CHMB 1320
  • CFUN 1410
  • CJVB 1470

But receiving AM stereo is a different issue. While radios are available, and vehicles with AM/FM radios may have , the technology is not universal.

However, the CRTC ignores the AM solution and is pushing the industry to (DAB), a technology introduced to the industry 20 years ago. Seen as a potential solution to overcrowded airwaves, the uptake of the technology has been slow by broadcasters and the public.

Sound quality, limited reception, and higher cost are criticisms from broadcasters, while listeners are faced with a two-second broadcast lag and power demands that can suck batteries dry six to 12 times faster than an AM/FM receiver. The latest form of DAB, , while becoming more popular and accessible in the United States, is also not being adopted by Canadian broadcasters.

The Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM) just released its winter listener statistics for Vancouver radio. CKNW AM again leads the pack. My next blog will focus on what it takes to be the perennial favourite in Vancouver talk radio.