Right in front of people's ears, car stereos, boom boxes and counter-top portables along the Wasatch Front are being turned into televisions - well, sort of.

The transformation is part of one of the newest trends sweeping a struggling AM radio industry these days - the broadcasting of television audio.Since mid-November, local station KCNR News Radio (AM-860), has been transmitting a large portion of the audio feed from cable television's Cable News Network.

And TV without pictures has proven a hit. So much so, that KCNR has taken the concept one step further. This past week, the station added live KTVX (Channel 4) newscasts to its schedule.

"I feel with the worldwide resources of CNN and the proficient local coverage of KTVX, now more than ever, `News Radio 860' is Utah's local and world news connection," Sheila Nardone, the station's news/program director said.

Nardone said simulcasts of TV on radio are a national trend. She said it cuts costs for radio stations and obviously enables TV stations to promote themselves effectively.

The theory is that a person can't watch TV while driving a car and that there are many occupations or activities where a person can't watch TV but can listen to the radio.

AM-860 is broadcasting two 15-minute KTVX news segments during the 6-7 a.m. hour and also has the 5:30 p.m. KTVX newscast live each weekday.

Nardone said that since KTVX has joined AM-860, it has enhanced the station's 24-hour local news coverage. She stressed that the station has not cut back on any of its previous local news and traffic reporting but that KTVX's presence adds another dimension to its news.

One major problem with carrying TV audio on radio is that the occasional reference to pictures, maps, etc., can leave radio listeners a little baffled. Nardone accepts that drawback and said that she has received 1,000 complimentary letters from Wasatch Front listeners regarding the CNN audio. She said not even one letter has complained about visual references.