By Emily Loper
KACU-FM is riding the waves of change in radio as it begins the transition to high definition, a change that should be complete by next semester.
Dave Smith, director of operations for KACU, said high-definition radio is very different from high-definition television. Nothing about the audio clarity will change, but high-definition radio will allow the station to function at three digital frequencies — A, B and C — all set at the station’s current radio address, 89.7 FM.
Smith said A will be the same news and music currently broadcast by KACU. Content on frequencies B and C is not finalized, but B is set to play primarily classical music. Frequency C will focus on a younger audience by playing sports, local news and varying types of music.
“The switch is significant for KACU because it is one of the first stations in Abilene to make the change,” Smith said. “It is also a way to diversify our programming.”
Smith said high definition is the next natural curve of the radio industry, a change similar to the switch from AM radio to FM. Making this change is the best way for KACU to stay ahead, Smith said.
Similar to HDTV, listeners must own an HD radio to listen to HD radio stations. Smith said he hopes KACU will be able to discount HD radios for listeners when the official transition takes place.
One of the few drawbacks to HD radio is the lack of technology in place to gauge how many people are listening, Smith said.
“It’s just a matter of time before that technology is created,” Smith said. “For now, it will be hard to determine its success.”
Jacquie Harbour, KACU disc jockey and junior elementary education major from Nacogdoches, said the change will be good because it will bring in younger listeners.
“Our current setup is great, but I’m excited about hearing that more students are listening to 89.7,” Harbour said. “I don’t think people realize what a great radio station they have right here on campus.”
Smith said more information about the switch to high definition will be available as the transition date draws closer. The actual dates depend on the order and delivery of necessary new equipment. KACU will go off the air for three days to install the new system.