WRVO Earns Grant To Expand HD Offerings, Add New Channel

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The WRVO Stations at SUNY Oswego will continue adding high-definition radio outlets thanks to a $164,280 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The National Public Radio station launched a second HD channel, WRVO 2, on Memorial Day weekend on its main signal, 89.9 FM in Oswego, aided by a previous CPB grant. The new funding will allow the station to upgrade to HD signals for WRVJ, 91.7 FM in Watertown; WRVN, 91.9 FM in Utica; and WRVD, 90.3 FM in downtown Syracuse.

The high-definition WRVO 2, which can also be heard online through wrvo.fm, is a different news and talk station than the main channel, said WRVO General Manager John Krauss, thus doubling WRVO’s offerings. Stations may now carry up to three channels on their license, and this is a growing trend locally with the likes of B104.7, Y94, WCNY and WAER adding HD channels recently, he said. Currently more than 1,200 separate HD stations exist nationwide.

WRVO 2’s weekday schedule features programs of a global news bent, while weekends are more themed with specialty shows, said Fred Vigeant, WRVO program director. Saturday’s entertainment block features “The Bob Edwards Show,” as the popular longtime “Morning Edition” host conducts long-form interviews with newsmakers, as well as “Studio 360” and repeats of favorites like “Fresh Air” and “This American Life,” Vigeant noted.

“We’re also able to carry former WRVO shows that had small but dedicated followings, such as ‘The Splendid Table,’ a cooking show; ‘Calling All Pets’; and ‘Living on Earth,’ a show about the environment,” Vigeant said.

The CPB grant will fund 70 percent of the upgrades to HD signals. “We have to raise about $30,000 in each location to finish the job,” Krauss said. “We look to complete conversion for these locations by summer 2010.”

While high-definition transmission presents a higher-quality digital signal, the main stumbling block to acceptance thus far is that listeners have to purchase HD radios or receivers to decode the signals. But prices of HD tuners continue to drop and “have now broken the $50 barrier, and more car companies have come to include HD as an option in new cars,” Krauss said.

HD radio may get an additional boost from the Federal Communication Commission’s settlement on the merger of XM and Sirius satellite radio, which included a requirement to explore a universal receiver for satellite, HD and regular radio, Krauss said. He compared it to when the United States required all TVs to include receivers for UHF stations in 1962.

Meanwhile, WRVO has actively added translators for its original signal at 99.9 FM for downtown Watertown, to supplement WRVJ’s move to Copenhagen, 92.3 FM in Hamilton and 106.3 FM in Geneva. Another translator will soon turn on at 106.5 FM in Norwich. WRVO has applications for translators in other communities currently under consideration, Krauss said.