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WAMU Tries Various Ways to Boost HD2 Awareness

Multicast award winner seeks ‘Street Team’ volunteers

WAMU(FM) here in Washington is looking for volunteers to act as a “Street Team” for its “Bluegrass Country” HD2 channel. They’d pass out postcards for the station at local bluegrass concerts and to fellow bluegrass enthusiasts. The concept is one of many the folks who run the multicast channel are trying to generate awareness.

That’s one of the reasons why NAB has honored the station with its HD Radio Multicast Award. Dick Cassidy, executive and technical director of the HD2 channel who’s also director of content operations for WAMU, tells me the biggest challenge at the moment is the overall dropoff in membership donations to public radio in general.

However, “We’re committed to the service,” he says, noting the air talent promotes the channel, which launched an iPhone app in March. He also gives kudos to the station’s “hot” underwriting team.

The station this spring took 100 listeners on a bluegrass steam engine train through the Cumberland Gap in western Maryland, a win for the station and for the tourism industry.

Bluegrass Country launched in June 2001 as a 24-hour bluegrass Internet radio station online. After debuting on HD Radio channel 88.5-3 in September 2006, it expanded its presence by adding programming and moving to the stereo HD channel 88.5-2 one year later.

The station is dividing up its digital 96 kilobits-per-second bit rate into roughly 48 kbps for the main digital channel and 48 for the HD2 channel. The station uses its extended hybrid mode to devote 24 kbps in mono for a third digital channel, which carries BBC programming.

In December of last year, Bluegrass Country began broadcasting on 105.5 FM, a 250 watt translator in Reston, Va., to extend its reach in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs outside of the District of Columbia. This March, the station also released what it says is the first bluegrass music application available on iTunes.

Jen Hitt, music director for the HD2 channel, will pick up the award in Philly.