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Bradley Hilltopics

Spring 2007 • Volume 13, Issue 2
Carillon Chimes •  Entrepreneurs  •   Digital broadcast  •  Joe Stowell  •  Painting  •  Poet CD

WCBU offers state-of-the-art digital broadcast

WCBUWCBU, Peoria’s classical music and NPR News station, is set to improve the radio experience of its listeners. On February 15, WCBU entered the age of digital broadcasting with its adoption of digital HD Radio™ technology. Listeners with digital HD Radio compatible receivers can now enjoy the improved sound of WCBU’s main channel 89.9 and an additional multicast channel, WCBU2, that will offer more NPR News and Talk programming. WCBU is among the 1,200 public and commercial stations nationwide that have deployed this next generation broadcast technology.

Digital HD Radio technology works by transmitting digital audio and data in tandem with existing AM and FM analog signals. In the same manner in which digital technology enabled many new opportunities with CDs, DVDs, cameras, and cell phones, HD Radio technology is doing the same for AM and FM radio.

“HD Radio is the most revolutionary change in our industry since the introduction of FM more than 40 years ago,” said Thomas Hunt, WCBU’s executive director. “Its combination of radically improved sound quality, multicast capabilities and WCBU’s award-winning news coverage will provide listeners with more of public radio’s most popular programming, including the Diane Rehm Show, Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, BBC News, and more classical music,” Hunt added.

More choices for listeners

WCBU2 programs will complement and expand the main channel offerings of WCBU. “Our listeners will have more choices. When news is on the main channel, we’ll have classical music on WCBU2. In this way, listeners can hear local, national and international news and public affairs programming and music whenever they want it, 24 hours a day,” Hunt added.
In addition to improved sound, WCBU will transmit information scrolled as text on HD Radio receiver displays, including artist names and music titles, weather forecasts, and emergency information.

HD Radio technology allows FM stations to divide their signals into separate channels of unique programming, called multicasts. WCBU is the first in the area to offer multicasting, which increases the amount of content available to listeners. As with all digital radio stations, WCBU will remain at its current analog frequency. New digital HD Radio receivers are set up to detect the main channel’s digital signal and tune it in; HD Radio multicast channels will be accessed in the same manner as other stations. HD Radio receivers can also tune in analog-only stations.

WCBU’s conversion is the result of funding provided by listeners and area businesses during a recently completed capital campaign, as well as grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Hunt said the digital signal will reach about half the distance of the station’s analog signal. “We’ll be able to cover the Peoria metropolitan area very well, about 500,000 people, with our digital signal,” he said. Hunt is hopeful the Federal Communication Commission will offer the station a stronger digital signal as the technology develops. Within a year, Hunt also expects WCBU to offer a third digital signal.

WCBU reaches a worldwide audience through their Web site,, where the station streams programming of both digital signals. More information about digital radio and a program schedule for both digital signals are available at WCBU’s Web site.
WCBU is Peoria’s public radio station operated by Bradley. The station has served central Illinois for 37 years with a mix of classical music and news.


Carillon Chimes •  Entrepreneurs  •   Digital broadcast  •  Joe Stowell  •  Painting  •  Poet CD