One of the positive aspects of 2005 is how much progress has been made on the HD front. Broadcasters are engaged, stations are thinking and planning, and there's finally a positive buzz about terrestrial radio again. The naysayers are many, and perhaps they have some good points. Do consumers really need double the number of stations? How can we possibly catch up with satellite in the hardware wars? Will the public pay big bucks for these radios? Which of HD Radio's benefits really resonate?
On top of that, our industry is facing some big questions about the configuration and development of HD Radio - up to and including its name. There are some who believe that HD Radio is the way to go, while others argue for Digital Radio (and similar derivations). But until there's research that suggests otherwise, our "take" on this after conducting umpteen focus and L.A.B. groups is that the ubiquitous use of "HD" in television actually works in radio's favor. High Definition is a good thing (and wait until we see how huge sales of HDTV's are this Christmas), and radio desperately needs that glow. Call it "HD Radio" - it's a no-brainer.
Other issues - like how to configure the band - are up for grabs, with various factions having their strong opinions. (Who in the upper echelons of corporate radio doesn't have strong opinions?) However this is worked out, the radio business had better make a decision on this issue quickly or it will lose the faith of equipment manufacturers who need to see a unified front.
If there was ever a time for the captains of the radio industry to put aside their differences, it is right now. Whether HD Radio is indeed the next big thing or ends up becoming AM Stereo, it's terrestrial radio's best shot at participating in the digital revolution.