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WRAL-FM Joins HD Revolution

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RALEIGH, N.C. — History was made Friday as WRAL-FM added a digital signal to its spot on the dial.

It is called high-definition radio and MIX 101.5 is the first station on the East Coast to launch the new service. Officials said the new signal provides CD-quality sound.

New technology recently approved by the Federal Communications Commission allows radio stations to move to digital broadcasting.

"You know I think we're 10 years behind on this. What this is going to do is, our FM quality is going to be as good as CD and it's going to be as good as satellite," said Jim Goodmon, president and chief executive officer of Capitol Broadcasting Co.

WRAL-FM already digitizes its music and commercials but broadcasts in analog. This week, engineers installed a digital transmitter alongside its analog transmitter.

"We've got a very clear, strong signal and that will continue, but not until we get some digital receivers in the marketplace will the actual consumer or listeners be able to tell the difference," said Ardie Gregory, general manager of WRAL-FM.

Officials said the first digital radios will show up in cars beginning next year at about $100 more than the typical high-end sound system. Stations that go to digital will continue to broadcast the old-fashioned way.

"We are the same frequency. We're 101.5 analog and 101.5 digital. You're digital radio will automatically change from analog to digital," Gregory said.

An advantage over satellite radio is local news and weather will be available. Also, artists' pictures and names can also be sent over the air, but officials said the big difference will be sound quality.

"We'll have a small datastream that we can feed to a digital display in the car, which I think will be a nice addition to what we're doing," Gregory said.

"I think it's going to be something that's going to be noticeable, like the difference between us playing a cassette in our car years ago and now a CD," Goodmon said.

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