Includes Clear Channel, Entercom, Infinity.

Recognizing it needs to move more aggressively in the face of competitive digital threats, eight of radio's largest companies came together Tuesday morning (Dec. 6) to unveil an alliance to put HD digital radio on a fast track.

Lead by former Clear Channel executive Peter Ferrara, the HD Digital Radio Alliance includes Bonneville, Citadel, Clear Channel, Cumulus, Emmis, Entercom, Greater Media and Infinity. Other radio groups are welcome to join, the group says. Cumulus, in fact, came on board the night before a splashy press conference announced the alliance at New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

To be part of the coalition, radio companies are required to agree to its goals and mission; commit ad inventory to marketing HD radio; and make a monetary contribution.

Formed to prevent what otherwise could have been a digital radio Wild West, the alliance plans a “unified direction” for the long-awaited roll-out of HD2 multicast side channels, widely regarded as the new technology’s killer app.

HD2 channels – comprised of entirely new programming -- will be launched in the top 25 markets beginning in January. One of the purposes of the alliance is to fairly and equitably coordinate local market "format allocations," so that companies aren't stepping on each other as they launch what amount to scores of brand new radio stations.

The new channels will be commercial-free for at least two years. Programmed locally, they will be free to anyone who purchases a new HD radio.

However, competitively priced HD radios are not widely available. By launching new formats dedicated to jazz and blues, Hispanic love songs, female talk and other programming not widely available on free radio, the alliance hopes to spur manufacturers to crank out more and cheaper radios and convince automakers to install them in cars.

Collectively, the coalition has pledged more than $200 million in airtime next year to promote HD radio.

Clear Channel president/CEO Mark Mays, Greater Media president /CEO Peter Smyth and Infinity chairman/CEO Joel Hollander will serve on the alliance’s oversight management committee.