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Chip Shortage Could Affect Jacksonville’s Radio Landscape

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BILL BORTZFIELD / WJCT NEWS
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A HD Radio broadcast is pictured on a Mercedes AMG E63.

As automakers look for creative ways to deal with the worldwide microchip shortage, expanded choice for radio listeners is starting to be affected.

Industry trade publication GM Authority reports General Motors is dropping HD Radio from the feature list for the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD pickup trucks because of the chip shortage.

Automakers have been scrambling for ways to keep production lines going during the shortage, in some cases removing features that require additional microchips. The Verge reports General Motors is also dropping wireless charging from some SUVs due to the chip shortage.

For new vehicle buyers considering the affected models, the absence of a HD Radio means less choice on the AM and FM dials. Most Jacksonville radio broadcasters offer one or more additional channels via HD Radio tuners that are not available on non-HD Radio receivers, including older car radios. 

More than 30 HD Radio channels are broadcast in Jacksonville, according to HD Radio.com -  31 HD Radio music stations, three news/talk stations and two sports stations. WJCT Public Media, for example, operates four HD Radio channels, three of which are not available on older FM-only tuners:

In WJCT’s case, its HD Radio channels are also available to everyone via streams in the WJCT app, on the Jacksonville Music Experience and at WJCT.org. Drivers without HD Radio tuners can listen to the WJCT HD Radio-only channels with their smartphones via their car's bluetooth or aux-jack connections.  

HD Radios also offer more features than traditional radios, including better sound quality and, depending on the car's display capabilities, album art. In the case of AM channels, HD Radio also enables broadcasting in stereo, while older AM tuners only allowed for monoaural (one channel).

Industry publication InsideRadio reported some 40 automotive brands ship vehicles in North America with HD Radios, with more than 50 million of them on the road in 2019. 

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.