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NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Bruce D. Swail, GatesAir

Radio World - 3 hours 59 min ago

The spring NAB Show is approaching. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Bruce D. Swail is chief executive office of GatesAir.

Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s NAB Show?

Bruce Swail: The television spectrum repack initiative has been the primary business driver for GatesAir since last NAB. GatesAir is proud to be the market leader in repack. We’ve shipped the largest number of repack transmitters and the most power. We enjoy terrific relationships and exclusive deals with several of the industry’s largest station groups.

This doesn’t discount the strength of our radio business. We are seeing increased convergence with IP networks for program audio transport as more broadcasters transition from TDM systems. That is a healthy situation for our Intraplex business, which has been very aggressive on the product development side over the past several years. Demand for our FM products has also been consistent.

Overall, GatesAir doubled revenues from 2017 to 2018, and we are up again in 2019. We have an aggressive strategy in place with higher goals for the coming year, so it’s safe to say that our business is very healthy.

[Read: NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Christophe Poulain, WorldCast Systems]

RW: What makes GatesAir stand out from competitive suppliers in today’s business landscape?

Swail: We remain a U.S.-based company that does all of its design and manufacturing for global markets here in the USA. We’ve been doing it for close to 100 years, and we fully expect to be doing it for the next 100 years. We are specialized in broadcast: that’s all we do, and we’re very good at it.

RW: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?

Swail: The larger station groups report positive financial health, and many are looking to invest in and modernize their networks. We anticipate greater growth internationally, particularly with DAB radio adoption, and there continues to be a steady demand for FM radio systems globally. AM projects have been fewer, but we have seen some large project-driven AM business in recent months.

RW: Within the last year or so the two largest station ownership groups have filed for bankruptcy while there’s also been serious consolidation as other groups leave the market. Stepping away from your particular segment, what is your feeling for the overall health of the radio industry?

Swail: The radio industry remains healthy globally. Radio stations continue to make investments in modernizing infrastructure. Fundamentally, the financial challenges were driven more by impaired balance sheets and problematic debt levels than pure cashflow. These broadcasters have very viable businesses that generate healthy cashflow. Those that have been through the bankruptcy process have had a chance to reset capital structures. With these challenges in the rearview mirror, they are turning their attention to modernizing infrastructure and moving their business forward.

RW: You’ve been active in the broadcast equipment market (AoIP, transmitters, etc.) for decades. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?

Swail: The media delivery landscape continues to blur across terrestrial, satellite, streaming and podcasting. These are many choices for the consumer, but terrestrial radio remains important. Consumers still fundamentally use radio as their go-to delivery of real-time audio content, and we don’t see that going away.

RW: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit booth N3303?

Swail: We’ll be showing more energy-efficient DAB radio transmitters from our Maxiva line, particularly at lower power levels, and a new 7.5 kW FM and HD Radio transmitter from our Flexiva line. In both cases, we have optimized our transmitters at these new power levels, with improved energy-efficiency and a smaller footprint.

We’re also aggressively integrating into the IT network infrastructure. Our FMXi 4g importer/exporter solution, introduced last year, is now shipping and will be available in three configurations. It’s a modern approach to becoming a functional block on the network, leveraging an embedded, self-contained system that sidesteps all the issues that come with PC operating systems. It also includes real-time, dynamic time and audio correction. The early results and feedback on this product are very favorable.

Intraplex Ascent follows this same model: an embedded audio over IP solution that integrates into the IT network infrastructure. We see this going a step further toward cloud space implementation, following a direction that the telecom industry has successfully managed for several years. We see tremendous opportunity with Ascent moving forward. This NAB marks its official debut.

RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2019 NAB Show?

Swail: Consolidation of the digital radio infrastructure. There is a thirst to simplify workflows and adopt software tools to manage and deliver content. We think that is the broader industry trend taking shape. In the transmission business, it’s about continuing to reduce footprint and increase power density and energy efficiency, while strengthening performance. We will continue to push forward and innovate on those fronts.

RW: Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?

Swail: NAB does an excellent job on the educational front, and I keep my eye on who is presenting on what topics. I look most forward to meeting with our customers, learning about their needs and helping to solve their problems. We do host a customer and partner event every year on Sunday that I very much look forward to, and we have more than 200 confirmed attendees at this time. It’s a way for us to share expert insight and learn about our customers’ experiences both through presentations and direct conversations. It’s an ideal mix of networking and education that fosters new ideas and strengthens relationships, and it’s a free event with open registration.

RW: You’re a show veteran, how has the show changed since your first visit?

Swail: This is only my second NAB, but the parallels with the wireless and telecom industry are very clear. I spent years attending tradeshows in that industry, and I see the same consolidation of network operators, content providers and suppliers taking shape in the broadcast industry.

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The post NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Bruce D. Swail, GatesAir appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Sneak Peek: Digigram Introduces New Range of Remote Solutions

Radio World - 4 hours 42 min ago

Digigram will release a new range of remote broadcasting solutions at the NAB Show.

The company says it has collaborated with a large community of journalists and broadcast technicians to develop the tools that promise to “facilitate remote broadcasting.”

Consisting of a range of rack-mountable, portable and mobile IP codecs, a suite of web-based applications, a SIP infrastructure and accessories, a highlight of Digigram‘s new line is the Iqoya Talk.

A portable IP audio codec for remote live operation, Iqoya Talk features a smartphone-like user interface and allows remote reporters to perform key actions in just two clicks. Operators can manage live reporting or commentaries with studio-quality interviews for up to four journalists and guests. The company adds that the user interface is designed for journalists not engineers.

Digigram says that the Iqoya Talk comes as a part of a comprehensive package, including studio and OB van applications, a range of four rack-mountable IP audio codecs, or the company’s flagship multichannel audio IP codec for a large number of streams.

It also features a smartphone application and accessories for mobility; a web codec solution to connect a guest from anywhere, anytime; a suite of web applications to allow technicians to control and manage the entire fleet of codecs; and a secured infrastructure that enables interconnectivity between all the IP codecs.

NAB Booth: N5919

Info: www.digigram.com

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The post NAB Sneak Peek: Digigram Introduces New Range of Remote Solutions appeared first on Radio World.

Bryan Broadcasting Asks FCC to Allow All-Digital AM

Radio World - 6 hours 47 min ago

A prominent advocate for the AM band is petitioning the FCC to allow stations to use all-digital transmissions in the United States.

Bryan Broadcasting Corp. on Monday filed a petition for rulemaking asking the commission to initiate a proceeding to authorize the MA3 all-digital mode of HD Radio for any AM station that chooses to do so.

Permitting such modernization would “give AM broadcasters a needed innovative tool with which to compete” without harming others in the spectrum ecosystem, it wrote.

Bryan is licensee of four AM stations, five FMs and six FM translators in Central Texas. Ben Downs is the vice president and general manager, and submitted the petition along with the company’s attorney David Oxenford of Wilkinson Barker Knauer. Downs also has served on the NAB board in the past, and he has been a vocal advocate for various regulatory steps to “revitalize” the AM band.

All HD Radio receivers in the market that have AM functionality would be able to receive such all-digital signals. But legacy AM receivers would not, which has long been a barrier to serious discussion of all-digital. Now, some observers say, the availability of FM translators for AM licensees has made something that once seemed unthinkable at least worth discussing.

There is one AM station in the country with special temporary authority to broadcast in all-digital. Hubbard’s WWFD in Frederick, Md., near the nation’s capital has been on the air since last summer. The station’s Dave Kolesar has been speaking in public about the ongoing experiment and will do so again at the upcoming NAB Show.

[Read: “All-Digital AM Radio Starts Here”]

An FCC official told Radio World this month that the commission had not received any proposals for widespread approval or adoption of all-digital AM broadcasts, so the Bryan petition appears to be the first, though this idea has been mentioned as a topic of possible interest at various times in the commission’s AM revitalization process.

Downs wrote in the petition: “In a room full of AM operators, one is likely to hear a specter of concern hanging over all-digital (especially forced conversion). Almost all such fears can be ameliorated by — as BBC proposes — making the transition to MA3 an optional election for AM licensees.

“Industry’s experimentation with an all-digital approach could be accelerated by actually allowing stations to fully switch to MA3; actual experiential knowledge by stations that elect to switch will provide economic proof-of-concept for stations that delay in order to see how others fare,” he wrote.

“Additionally, such a market-based approach will provide for customer-optimal outcomes — in markets where HD receiver penetration is insufficient among consumers, AM licensees will be incented to remain analog to maximize listener base; similarly, in markets where HD receiver penetration is high, AM licensees will be incented to serve the maximum number of consumers the best product possible by switching to MA3. And in the end, when an all-digital product goes on the air, listeners will have no reason to consider AM to be inferior.”

Downs reminded the commission of arguments that the AM band has “become so overwhelmed by interference and impulse noise that the resultant audio product is rendered unacceptable to modern listeners. Indeed, the noise floor generated by unlicensed devices impacting the AM band has been noticeable — and increasing — for years.”

He said his company has tried to quantify this rise but that “it appears studies spanning several years at specific locations have not been undertaken in the United States.” Experience in other countries, he said, suggests that the noise floor “jumped from anywhere between 10 dB and 40 dB between the 1970s and the early 2000s,” even before widespread use of later interference-contributing technologies like phone chargers and compact fluorescent lamp bulbs.

“The time has come to allow AM licensees the option to license their stations as all-digital, using the HD MA3 mode,” Downs wrote, calling for a formal rulemaking to adopt rules permitting AM licensees to have the option to go all-digital using the currently experimental MA3 mode. There may be further work needed on that mode, he wrote, but in the meantime, the audience for AM radio continues to erode. “As we have all read, some electric car manufacturers are excluding AM radio from their dashboard radios due to impulse noise. All-digital operation would be the cure for that.”

Downs said that Bryan Broadcasting has been very pleased with the audio quality of its current HD Radio hybrid signal at WTAW. “The audio broadcast is free of noise, demonstrating the proof-of-concept of a full-digital transition. To listen to WTAW in hybrid HD is to listen without the noise, pops and buzzes that plague analog AM today. However, the radio frequency mask has a larger footprint than the all-digital MA3; MA3 represents a far superior solution. And [Bryan Broadcasting] has found the hybrid mode MA1 signal to be fragile; dropouts occur in places where no obvious cause exists. By comparison, the chief engineer of WWFD has reported he must work hard to ‘break’ his stations’ MA3 signal.”

Noting that paired FM translators “critically extend the shelf life” of AM licensees and have been a welcome help, Downs wrote that “they do not fix the underlying problem of a poor listening experience when tuned to AM,” and many stations don’t have the option of using a translator, for instance in major markets.

Industry technologists have been exploring the potential implications of all-digital broadcasting for a number of years. NAB Labs (later renamed Pilot) led an all-digital HD Radio AM testing project consisting of several phases: field work to help demonstrate real-world signal coverage; lab work to establish interference behavior between stations; and allocation studies to understand the impact on FCC rules should all-digital be authorized. Companies involved included Hatfield & Dawson, Cavell Mertz, Nautel and several broadcast groups.

Pilot also conducted tests to see if all-digital would harm other occupants of the dial. Its conclusion, in brief: “Interference concerns of all-digital signals into existing analog stations should not be an impediment to the rollout of all-digital.”

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The post Bryan Broadcasting Asks FCC to Allow All-Digital AM appeared first on Radio World.

Boyer Nurtures Personal Relationships

Radio World - 9 hours 10 min ago
Lorrie Boyer: “We are servants working for the public good.”

Lorrie Boyer, farm director at Farm Radio 1010 KSIR in Fort Morgan, Colo., was elected 2019 president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Founded in 1944, NAFB’s members serve farmers nationwide with agricultural news, weather and market information.

“As a farm broadcaster, my goal is to serve my listeners with the most accurate, usable and up-to-date information that I can,” said Boyer. “As 2019 NAFB president, I hope to provide the same level of service to the association, its members and the farmers we broadcast to.”

RENEWED INTEREST

Make no mistake: Farming remains big business in this country. According to the Department of Agriculture, American farms contributed $136.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015 alone. That works out to about 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

And if you are tempted to think of farm broadcasting as a relic, here are some important bits of information. Boyer says 10 years ago, NAFB had 146 broadcasters, with total membership of 484. Today membership has grown to 176 broadcasters and total membership to 808 — a jump of about 20 percent in farm broadcasters and a doubling of membership in 10 years.

“The increase in the number of farm broadcasters is reflective of the renewed interest in agriculture, people wanting to know where their food comes from and the success of the farm economy within the last 10 years,” she said.

“The relationship farm broadcasters have with their audience today is as strong as ever; in addition to listeners feeling like their farm broadcaster is part of their ‘family,’ the advent of social media has only added to the broadcaster’s relationship with their listeners.”

She said research shows farm broadcast listeners rank their farm broadcaster high for credibility, timeliness and accuracy. “Even as information is readily available from the internet or even smartphones, the relationship the farm broadcaster has with their audience is unrivaled.”

Further, she said, interest in ag communication and journalism is high among college students (NAFB’s student membership is up dramatically); the number of network affiliates continues to grow; and agriculture advertisers, she said, continue to recognize the value of farm broadcasting delivering their message to a premium market.

LONG COMMITMENT

Lorrie Boyer’s commitment to farm radio goes back over 20 years, when she had just graduated from Colorado State University.

Before graduation Boyer was a intern at Colorado’s Ag Journal. After leaving the university in 1996, her knowledge of farming helped Boyer land a job as agricultural news director at KLMR Radio (93.5 FM) in Lamar, Colo.

Hosting a morning and afternoon show at KLMR taught her how to be an on-air personality. Her combined skills led competing station KVAY to hire Boyer in 2000 to set up a new agriculture department with her in charge, while keeping her on air as well.

Since then, Boyer has become most known for her farm broadcast work at KSIR — initially between 2004 and 2011, then from 2014 to the present as the station’s farm director and KSIR morning show host.

Billing itself as “Colorado’s Only Agriculture Station,” Farm Radio 1010 KSIR is serious about farm content. It broadcasts agricultural news and reports 5 to 10 a.m. weekdays, reports on farm markets at the bottom of each hour until the markets shut down, provides the closing grain bids twice each weekday afternoon and interviews ag newsmakers on the weekday lunchtime show.

[NAFB’s Tom Brand Talks Farm Broadcast Trends]

Boyer lives and breathes farm broadcasting, both at KSIR and through her involvement with the NAFB, where she previously held the offices of vice president and regional VP.

“I get up really early every day to serve my listeners,” she said. “On bad weather days, I drive into work to get to the studio, so that I can tell listeners to not be on the roads any more than they have to.”

As a long-time farm broadcaster, Boyer has built strong personal relationships with local farmers. “There’s profound mutual trust between me, KSIR and our listeners, which exists outside of work as well as on the job,” she said. “I don’t think satellite radio or any other new technology will take that bond away.”

TECH CHANGE

When Boyer started working in farm radio, “we were using 8-track carts and reel-to-reel machines,” she said. Meanwhile, listeners, typically working outside or in farm buildings, got their real-time information mostly via radio or perhaps TV.

Now, although Boyer still does radio reports in the station and on location, “I’m also broadcasting video live via Facebook,” she said. Boyer and KSIR are getting their content out via streaming media and podcasts as well, in a bid to reach Millennial farmers who don’t tune into radio as much as their parents do.

KSIR can be heard live at www.ksir.com, with a content-rich farm news feed that puts many mainstream local broadcasters’ news efforts to shame.

Adapting to new media is just part of 21st century farm reporting, Boyer said. “After all, we’re broadcasting to tech-smart farmers who are using drones to monitor their crops.”

NAFB GOALS

Boyer had considered seeking the role of NAFB president for 15 years now. Driving her dream is “a desire to give back to the association that has done so much for me and American farm broadcasting,” she said.

Now that she has the job, Boyer wants the NAFB to establish a mentorship program to train the next generation of farm broadcasters. She wants to teach the content production skills to do the job right, and the technical know-how to make the most out of the many communications options open to them, from radio to smartphones.

“I also want to develop succession training within the NAFB, to prepare our younger members to move up in the association and take charge one day,” said Boyer.

When her term ends in December, Boyer will stay involved as past president and a tireless devotee to the NAFB and the cause of farm broadcasting in general.

“In either case, it’s all about service,” she said. “Whether doing our best to run the NAFB well, or to broadcast the very latest news, weather and market news to farmers, we are servants working for the public good.”

The post Boyer Nurtures Personal Relationships appeared first on Radio World.

Cell Tower Training Bill Introduced

Radio World - 11 hours 14 min ago

House Energy & Commerce Committee member Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) has introduced a bill, the Communications Jobs Training Act of 2019, that would boost training for cell tower workers.

That comes as the FCC, over the objections of various local government officials, has taken various steps to pave the way for swifter and easier deployment of such towers with the avowed goal of closing the rural digital divide and winning the race to 5G service that will make wireless broadband a stronger competitor to wired.

The bill (HR 1848) would instruct the FCC to administer a grant program establishing and/or expanding job training for tower “service, construction and maintenance.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has championed FCC efforts to ease rights of way and impose shot clocks on local government tower siting decisions and said that would translate to savings of billions of dollars in “red tape” praised the bill.

“To ensure that America wins the race to 5G, we need to double the number of tower crews that are building this next-generation infrastructure,” said Carr. “There is demand for up to 20,000 more tower workers. These are good-paying, 5G jobs. And as I’ve seen firsthand, America’s tower crews are unmatched in their skill, professionalism, and dedication….By creating a pipeline of talented tower crews, we can help extend America’s global leadership in wireless.”

The FCC has been getting pushback from local governments who see the tower-siting moves as a threat to home rule and an overreach by the federal government into their zoning and environmental impact and historic preservation reviews. For example, according to the Daily Freeman, the Town Board of Saugerties, N.Y. (a Rolling Stone’s throw from Woodstock), last week formally objected to the FCC’s tower siting streamlining.

The post Cell Tower Training Bill Introduced appeared first on Radio World.

FCC Hopes to Streamline NCE Selection Rules

Radio World - 12 hours 32 min ago
The seal of the Federal Communications Commission hangs inside the hearing room at FCC headquarters. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The power of community radio is driving the FCC to streamline certain rules affecting NCE and LPFM stations. That’s the feeling of several industry observers, attorneys and even FCC commissioners who commented after a commission action in February.

The FCC launched a proceeding to consider changes in how it compares and considers competing applications for new noncommercial educational FM stations, NCE FM translators and LPFM stations. Major modifications for those groups would also be affected, as would NCE TV stations.

When the NPRM was announced, Chairman Ajit Pai said some of the current rules are “needlessly complex and can trip up well-intentioned but inexperienced applicants seeking to bring new radio service to their communities.”

A VOICE IN THE AIR

“I think that even in a day of expanding audio opportunity, there is still something special about a voice in the air,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel after the FCC action in February. “There is still something powerful about broadcasting that sounds like the community where it comes from.”

At present, mutually exclusive applications for new NCE and LPFM stations are resolved with a multifaceted point system. While these procedures have certainly led to the grant of several thousand new station construction permits over the years, the FCC said, some of the current rules are challenging and have caused problems for applicants.

While none of the changes is monumental or dramatically consequential, each will remediate one of the “gotchas” in the rules that can cause a denial of an application, said John Garziglia, a partner with Womble Bond Dickinson. 

“The FCC’s staff is to be commended for reviewing its rules that appear to cause compliance issues for NCE applicants,” he said. “To address those compliance issues, the FCC is proposing rule changes that keep underlying policies in place but make compliance less complicated for new station applicants.” 

[FCC Proposes to Modernize and Improve NCE FM and LPFM Selection Procedures]

One of the more logical moves is the extension of LPFM construction permits to three years. “[That] is a no-brainer considering that there is now a routine one-additional 18-month extension for almost all LPFM permittees,” Garziglia said. “The FCC is putting into a rule that which is now practice.”

But he said holders of construction permits should be aware that, absent tolling, the proposed three-year time period for construction permits is likely to continue to be strictly enforced without further extensions.

MINI-WINDOW

Other industry organizations support commission concepts like the establishment of a mini-window. In cases where a timesharing proponent drops out for whatever reason, that same time slot would be available to a new entrant through a subsequent mini-window — rather than taking the time to reapportion it to any surviving stations, said advocacy group REC Networks.

However, because of the current 10-hour minimum rule, the dropped-out group may have only had a small amount of time — and that time may be in the middle of the night, such as the case of one time-share in Miami, said REC Networks’ Michelle Bradley. That may not be viable to a new applicant.

Bradley presented a proposal to FCC staff in February that would support the mini-window concept as well as address concerns about point-stacking that sometimes give some groups an unfair advantage.

Despite the mostly positive comments, there are a few proposals greeted less favorably by industry watchers — such as the one to  lift reimbursement limitations for applicants that remain tied after all selection criteria are applied. The history of FCC application procedures, however, is that applicants mold themselves to whatever specific selection criteria will most prevail, Garziglia said. 

“If the end result of the application process is a potential significant payoff or largess as a result of the removal of reimbursement limitations in a settlement, that will only encourage additional applicants formed specifically for the end result of receiving money,” he said.  

Bradley expressed concern about the FCC’s policy of permitting applicants to pre-plan a time-share group and then use the rule that allows time-share proponents to only propose 10 hours of operation per week to be able to “stack” points in favor of the pre-planned group. 

“We saw that take place in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and possibly Boston,” she said. “Point-stacking is where a single group asks for a large amount of time and then additional organizations are added on with 10 or 12 hours of time each in order to inflate the group’s score and their likelihood of being awarded the channel.”

All in all, however, Bradley said the proposed changes will help inexperienced applicants and increase the integrity of the application process. “Rule changes such as the certification and hopefully a documentation requirement for site assurance could have prevented a considerable number of questionable speculative filings in the 2013 LPFM window,” she said.

REASONABLE ASSURANCE

Garziglia also pointed to the need for applicants to be aware of some of the lesser-known requirements for NCE and LPFM applicants, including the requirement for a reasonable assurance of transmitter site availability. 

“The FCC’s NCE and LPFM application instructions and forms currently make no mention of this requirement,” he said. “A significant number of NCE and LPFM applicants have had their applications denied due to a failure to have a reasonable assurance of site availability.”

The FCC is proposing to change its application instructions to state that requirement and alter its application form to require a certification of a reasonable assurance of site availability.

“With these changes, NCE and LPFM applicants will hopefully not be blindsided in the future by discovering far too late this FCC site-availability requirement,” he said.   

The FCC wants to know what industry stakeholders think. Commenters are encouraged to use the commission’s ECFS database at www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings, referencing Media Bureau Docket Number 19-3 or searching for the tongue-twisting moniker “Reexamination of the Comparative Standards and Procedures for Licensing Noncommercial Educational Broadcast and Low Power FM Stations.”

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PLAN

“Mutually exclusive (MX) applications for new NCE and LPFM stations are currently resolved by applying comparative procedures that include a point system for selecting among MX applications,” the FCC stated. “This NPRM seeks to clarify, simplify and improve our selection and licensing procedures and thus expedite the initiation of new service to the public.”

Among other things, it tentatively proposes to:

  • Eliminate a requirement that NCE applicants amend their governing documents to pledge that localism/diversity be maintained in order to receive points as “established local applicants” and for “diversity of ownership;”
  • Improve the NCE tie-breaker process and reduce the need for mandatory time-sharing;
  • Clarify aspects of the “holding period” rule by which NCE permittees must maintain the characteristics for which they received comparative preferences and points;
  • Reclassify as “minor” gradual changes in governing boards with respect to non-stock and membership LPFM and NCE applicants;
  • Extend the LPFM construction period from 18 months to a full three years;
  • Allow the assignment/transfer of LPFM construction permits after an 18-month holding period and eliminate the three-year holding period on assigning LPFM licenses.

The post FCC Hopes to Streamline NCE Selection Rules appeared first on Radio World.

Next-Gen PRSS System Is on the Way

Radio World - 14 hours 5 min ago
Fig. 1: Initial development environment equipment racks are shown installed. The first rack on left has, from the top, a system master clock, clock distribution amplifier, Wohler monitor amplifier, Axia selector panel, Axia AES audio node and ATX encoding equipment below.

With some anticipation, public radio engineers all over the United States have been waiting for the next-generation satellite distribution system. New equipment was last deployed by the Public Radio Satellite System in 2011. The new generation will add important features to improve reliability and flexibility of program distribution, including a backup path via the public internet and new ways to manage individual station schedules via the ContentDepot web portal.

I asked Michael Beach, vice president of NPR Distribution, for details about the new system and the timetable for its deployment.

CHRISTMAS IN SUMMER

The first steps are underway. “There are parts of the new system that have already been shipped and received,” Beach told me via email (check out Figs. 1–3 for views of the initial equipment installations).

The initial development “environment,” consisting of uplink equipment and a set of test receivers, is in place in Washington. It will be followed by a stage environment that prepares for the delivery of the final live environment installations in the Washington Network Operations Center and the Backup Network Operations Center in St. Paul, Minn.

These preparations should be completed by early summer. A period of beta testing within the system should begin at this point, with selected stations installing equipment and dual operation of the existing system and the new generation of uplink services.

Receiver manufacturer ATX will begin shipping new equipment to individual stations in October, in staggered shipments. All affiliates are expected to have new receivers in hand by the end of 2019.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Each affiliate satellite-connected station will receive two new receivers, each with four stereo audio output ports. Stations not connected by satellite will have only one unit.

These new units (Fig. 4) will be a direct replacement for their existing equipment. An adapter will be provided to minimize wiring changes as the new equipment is installed in place of the old. The hardware process at the station level essentially involves pulling out the old receiver, bolting the new one in its place and plugging in the wires.

Fig 2: Satellite DVB2 modulation and four ATX Pro4R receivers for testing. The rack also includes a rack-mounted KVM for system setup.

The new features and capabilities of the system will become available via the ContentDepot portal, where a new set of “broadcast services” will be introduced.

“When stations are ready to begin using the new receivers, they will need to associate the XDS ports with the broadcast services,” Beach said. “To take full advantage of the new XDS features, stations will want to clean up subscription data and update delivery preferences in the ContentDepot portal.”

[FCC’s C Band Plan Worries Broadcasters]

There is good news in this regard: It will not be necessary to go through the labor of re-subscribing to every desired program in a station’s schedule.

“We have upgraded the ContentDepot portal to enable ‘Broadcast Services’ on the current IDC receivers as well as the new XDS receivers to make it easier on the stations,” said Beach. The Broadcast Services will be enabled for the existing IDC receivers as well as the new ones from ATX. This will ease the period of dual-operations for affiliate stations and their engineers.

There will be some time for stations to familiarize themselves with the new options. Dual operations will continue until March 31, 2020, at least three months after everyone has received their equipment; stations are expected to have their new receivers installed by this date. Broadcast services will be released in the portal by October of this year, and PRSS will provide documentation and training in advance of receiver shipments. Final transition to the new distribution system and the end of dual operations will occur May 31, 2020.

INSIDE THE BOX

One of the most important features in the new ATX receiver is the addition of a network port that stations can use to connect it to the public internet.

“The goal is to be a hybrid satellite/terrestrial system, and to do that, we need a broadband connection to the receiver. If you want to take advantage of the features, you need an internet connection to it,” said Beach. Some kind of protective firewall will need to be installed between the receiver and its public internet connection to prevent unauthorized access to the receiver.

Fig. 3: NPR Senior Distribution Systems Architect Doug Bevington installs cable management for system racks.

By connecting to the public internet, the receiver will have a backup path available to continue operation in the event there is a satellite failure, such as the twice-yearly solar alignments. During a solar alignment, the rotation of the earth is such that the desired satellite is exactly aligned with the sun as seen from the downlink dish. The high electromagnetic energy emitted from the sun overwhelms the downlink receiver with noise and causes a loss of data for up to 20 minutes. During these solar outages, receivers will detect when a program dropout occurs, and can continue to operate by substituting delivery of a scheduled satellite program with the same program delivered over the public internet.

Additionally, the internet connection can be used to monitor the health and telemetry of the receiver from the headend and/or by the individual station user. PRSS will be able to see the RF metrics for every station in the system as a means of assisting stations with troubleshooting problems at individual downlinks.

SPECIAL DELIVERY

There are other capabilities of the distribution system that will be enabled by the advanced receivers.

“Out of the gate, the most exciting feature is that stations will be able to put their ContentDepot live and file programming on a single output port on the receiver. This will allow a station to playout directly from the receiver without having switch between systems,” said Beach. No need to download the file from the receiver to an automation playout system. Program file store, forward and playback functions will be subscribed using the ContentDepot portal.

Fig. 4: Satellite-connected stations will receive two ATX Pro4R receivers in late 2019.

The automation capabilities of the system may entice some stations to shift away from their local delivery systems, although this would likely only be in situations where simple automation is required.

“We envision down the road that a station may be able to retire their automation system should they elect to,” said Beach. “For simple applications, this could act like an automation system, but if a station is doing complex operations, they’ll want to keep their current automation system.”  

One other feature long requested by public radio engineers in northern climes appears to be on the verge of becoming a reality: a local indicator alarm for when the downlink has failed due to snow accumulation in the dish. “Yes, that is a feature that we are working on with the vendor,” said Beach. This will be a popular improvement.

TECH EXPERTS

To get the manufacturer’s perspective on the new system, I also contacted Jose Rivero, GM and chief technology and strategy officer for media broadcast at ATX Networks, a tech supplier to cable and satellite operators, enterprises and radio networks. The company says its XDS content management, distribution and monitoring products are deployed at 70% of U.S. radio networks as well as some of the biggest international ones; large customers include WestwoodOne, iHeartMedia, BBC, ESPN and Multivision.

According to Rivero, aspects of the new-generation system are unique to NPR and represent ground-breaking technology in the field of broadcast distribution.

“One collaboration is an enhanced receiver with the capability to store large quantities of prerecorded content and to reliably output via analog, AES3 and AES67 simultaneously,” said Rivero.

Fig. 5: Project block diagram

“Another is more robust and reliable live and pre-recorded audio distribution over satellite and internet, with a verification IP back channel to the PRSS NOC to track all aspects of the content playout, distribution and overall health of network. Also, the new XDS enhanced programming management and playout scheduling interface will be tightly integrated with ContentDepot, making it is easier for the stations to manage their programming.

“Some of these features and functions will be integrated into the commercially available product offered to all radio networks sometime in the future.”

Michael LeClair, CPBE, is manager of broadcast systems for WBUR Boston University and former tech editor of Radio World Engineering Extra.

Comment on this or any story. Email radioworld@futurenet.com with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject field.

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[Webinar] 15 Things you Can’t Miss at NAB Show 2019

Radio World - 14 hours 20 min ago

Would you like to get an early start on our industry’s biggest annual trade show, NAB Show? Come along for a free NAB Show webinar from Radio World, hosted by Editor in Chief Paul McLane, on March 26 at noon Eastern timeHave a scheduling Conflict? We have you covered! Register for the live event and we’ll send you the on-demand recording shortly after the broadcast date. 

Paul will provide a peek at new products that he expects to create buzz; explore the newest, most promising radio sessions for radio technologists and managers; and share what he’s hearing from our industry’s leaders about important tech developments and standards.

The NAB Show is a huge and fabulous event, but it can also be daunting. With more than 90,000 attendees expected and more than 1,700 exhibits covering a million square feet, the job of getting the most out of the NAB Show requires a lot of planning. Radio World will help you learn about key pieces and products at the show, chosen with the radio reader in mind.

Click here to register.

Sponsored by Broadcast Bionics, Comrex, ENCO, GatesAir, Inovonics, Logitek, NPRSS, RCS, Streamguys, MusicMaster and Wheatstone

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Seven Myths Broadcasters Believe About Podcasting

Radio World - 14 hours 33 min ago

The growth of podcasting is undeniable. How much radio should shift its focus toward local podcasts is certainly debatable and should vary by situation. Yet, as I visit radio stations around the country, many of the same misconceptions surface often.

1. Podcasting will cannibalize your over-the-air audience. Consultant and talent coach Tracy Johnson

We found ourselves debating this issue when online streaming arrived. We now realize that few people have probably discovered streaming and abandoned their radios because AM and FM programming became available there. In fact, there’s no evidence that repurposing some of the content of your morning show as a podcast, for example, causes people to listen to you less via the radio.

In an age when our listeners are consuming media constantly, anywhere and everywhere, “We can’t worry about ‘giving it away,’” says consultant Tracy Johnson. “Raise the profile and importance of your brands by exposing your content wherever you can.”

That’s why national TV personalities follow this strategy, posting content anywhere and everywhere. They are competing for their audience’s time, attention and share of mind — not just at the time their program airs, but 24/7. If Jimmy Fallon becomes less relevant to a potential viewer because James Corden is getting all the attention on Facebook, there’s less likelihood of those who happen to be watching TV late tonight choosing Fallon.

In fact, “there is a generational expectation that content will be available on any device at any time,” says Steve Goldstein of Amplifi Media. The question we need to ask, says Steve, is “What can I do to attract listeners on all platforms?”

As NPR VP/News Sarah Gilbert pointed out in this column recently, its podcasting audience and on-air audience are both at all-time highs.

That being said, Johnson takes issue  with simply podcasting entire episodes of a multi-hour radio show. “That’s not a service. It’s an ordeal. Curate the best moments and make them available in bite-sized chunks the way ‘Saturday Night Live’ curates their best segments and makes them available. Or create unique content that wins new fans in a new space.”

2. Everybody should have a podcast.

“Everyone could have a podcast, but only if they have a great idea, concept and vision,” says Johnson.

Goldstein adds, “Remember when websites were new and we pushed every personality to have a blog? Turns out a lot of DJs are bad writers without much to say. That didn’t enhance their image a bit.”

3. Podcasting is free.

Hardly. The time and effort a staff puts into podcasting are an investment. Would there be a greater return on that investment if it’s put into a radio station’s on-air product? Goldstein also reminds us that time is the investment that consumers make to listen, and we don’t want them to regret their investment either.

[KSL(AM/FM) Heats Up in “Cold”] 4. You can’t do a podcast about music.

Although music royalty issues make it darned near impossible to play even brief snippets of music — except from licensed stock music libraries — some of the most successful podcasts tell the stories behind the music.

As podcaster Mark Ramsey told me, “If I were writing a book about music, I wouldn’t play the music in the book either.”

5. “Hey, morning show! This will be easy. Just do an extra 15 minutes after your air shift.”

That could be a good idea for a podcast, but not if it’s treated as an afterthought. “Podcasting requires a commitment,” Johnson warns.

6. People won’t listen to a 15-minute commercial. Amplifi Media President Steve Goldstein addresses Canadian Music Week attendees.

Goldstein and I co-produce a podcast for Trader Joe’s that — we hope — isn’t perceived as a commercial. That’s the key. That Trader Joe’s sells bananas for 19 cents each is revealed, but only in the context of a real-life, amusing story about how that price was set. Many clients may request a branded podcast that tells stories about their brand, but few are interesting and transparent enough to pull it off.

7. This too shall pass.

Tired of your TV’s DVR? Want to go back to only watching live TV? Didn’t think so. Digital technology has spoiled us. We can start, pause, rewind, fast-forward, stop. Maybe you’ve found yourself wanting to forward through an uncomfortable conversation like Adam Sandler does in the movie “Click.” On-demand media has rewired our brains and shortened our attention spans, and podcasting is here to stay.

Hesitation about podcasting isn’t surprising, and the format isn’t for everyone. Neither is branding with public appearances, endorsements, video, social media or merchandise. Ultimately, if radio’s leadership wants content creators to generate more revenue from more sources, not just from ratings, they will have to rethink how they’re evaluating and compensating the talent.

Dave Beasing writes the column 21st Century PD. He can be reached at DaveBeasing@SoundThatBrands.com or @DaveBeasing on Twitter.

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Broadcast Actions

FCC Media Bureau News Items - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 22:00
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NAB Sbneak Peek: More DARCness From Arrakis

Radio World - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 17:12

Arrakis is reprising its DARC console announcement from last year, this time with the DARC Surface 12, a 12-fader control surface.

Tha DARC Surface 12 is designed to work with Arrakis’ DARC Virtual Console controller software and an AoIP network. It is Dante- and AES67-compatible.

Included is an LED meter bridge. Small OLEDs are used for channel displays and LED switches for switches. Faders are conductive plastic.

There are two output busses. Arrakis’ Simple IP AoIP I/O hardware package is available for the DARC Surface 12 though it will work with most any AoIP hardware.

NAB Show Booth: N6211

Info: http://arrakis-systems.com

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The post NAB Sbneak Peek: More DARCness From Arrakis appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Sneak Peek: Orban Pumps Up the Bass

Radio World - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 16:22

Processor developer and maker Orban has announced a bass enhancement tool for select Orban processors.

The Bass Impact Engine is designed to improve bass performance for Orban Optimod 8600i, 8600 FM/HD and 8700i processors. For units already in the field it will be available as a free firmware update.

The man himself, Bob Orban, explains, “Orban processors have, for many years, used a bass clipper embedded in the multiband crossover, which rolls off higher-frequency clipping products at 6 dB/octave and introduces a certain amount of non-optimal phase shift. … This was done to prevent intermodulation between bass and other program material. The new Bass Impact Engine replaces this older technology with a limiter that generates carefully time-aligned, bandwidth-controlled harmonics that minimize the peak level of the bass so that very low frequencies can actually exceed 100% modulation. It does so without adding objectionable distortion in the upper mid-bass and lower midrange frequencies.”

Orban President David Day adds, “Our goal is not to blow doors off cars or knock out windows with the low end. Rather, we want to make sure a station’s bass consistently sounds great, regardless of the material being played, and brings the proper ‘punch’ to music without objectionable artifacts.”

NAB Show Booth: N4120

Info: www.orban.com

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Stonecom Inaugurates New Cookeville Home

Radio World - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 15:51

Cookeville, Tenn.’s Stonecom Radio has opened its new 10,000+ square-foot facility, celebrating with a ceremony attended by broadcasters, politicians and Tennessee Association of Broadcasters Executive Director Whit Adamson, as well as listeners.

There are four on-air studios for the cluster’s country, lite rock, rock and news talk formats, and six production rooms. Systems include WideOrbit automation and Wheatstone consoles. The technology leader for the project was Chief Engineer Jeff Schroeder.

The new HQ features a meeting room that can be used by community organizations and nonprofits. The space is named in honor of Tennessee community broadcast advocates Bob Gallaher and Drew Huffines.

[Nautel Transmitters Pull Double Duty for Stonecom]

“Stonecom is led by a true team of broadcasters who are proud to serve the entire region they touch with their signal of each of the respective stations in the cluster,” said Adamson.

Stonecom Radio is led by President/General Manager Larry Stone. It consists of WCUT(AM/FM), WKXD(FM), WBXE(FM) and WLQK(FM).

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Digital Radio Summit Rings a Wake-Up Call

Radio World - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 11:21
The all-digital AM emission by WWFD is shown through the standard factory-fit receiver of an Audi Q5.

Sure, digital radio continues to advance in the U.S. and worldwide; and the number of digital radios being purchased by consumers, especially in cars, is accelerating.

But David Layer, NAB’s vice president for advanced engineering, cuts to the chase: No broadcaster can afford to be complacent.

“There will come a time, and it will be sooner than we expect, when competition for listeners will be from more than just an audio streaming service or a podcast,” Layer said at the European Broadcasting Union’s Digital Radio Summit in Geneva in February.

TRANSITION STRATEGY

Layer said U.S. radio broadcasters are starting to think about a transition from the current hybrid analog/digital technology to an all-digital implementation.

All-digital would bring a number of advantages to the FM bands too; but at this point, such consideration is more a long-term consideration on FM.

David Layer of NAB spoke at the EBU’s Digital Radio Summit 2019.

On the other hand, attendees were told, AM band services in the United States are facing immediate challenges both in competing with other services and in earning revenue. Layer described the use of FM translators by AM licensees. That relatively recent change is part of the FCC’s AM revitalization initiatives but also provides a potential transition opportunity, allowing an AM licensee to try all-digital broadcasting while continuing to serve its community on the FM band using analog radio.

Layer reported to the group that in July 2018, WWFD 820 kHz received experimental authority to become a full-time all-digital AM station, as RW has reported.

WWFD “The Gamut” is using an FM translator to reach listeners with analog-only radios. But any of the 60 million HD Radio receivers already sold in the U.S. could receive WWFD’s all-digital AM emissions. Layer showed an impressive video where the WWFD all-digital AM feed is playing through the factory-fit receiver of an Audi Q5.

SO GOOD IN A CAR

Thus, he said, WWFD looks and sounds like the most appealing music streaming service, blending vibrant, crystal-clear sound with crisp cover art and images on the dashboard. (WWFD broadcasts the metadata while the album art image is added in-vehicle by the Audi receiver through a Gracenote database.)

“Thanks to Audi for all the work that they’ve done in making radio so good in a car,” Layer said. “NAB is proactively engaging with automakers and others to imagine further possibilities that take advantage of both over-the-air radio technology and mobile broadband.”

[From Canada to Mexico, Digital Radio Makes Headway]

One of those is radio customization based on user profiles; Layer imagines a time when consumers get into a vehicle and have their preferences, perhaps stored on their smartphone, available effortlessly on the dash and ready to use, no matter where they are.

Analysts expect the adoption rate of smart speakers will be faster than that of any consumer device in history.

In his opinion, radio broadcasters need to work to enable this kind of future vision. “And not just be on the sidelines while the world changes around them.”

“Let’s consider the Audi Holoride, a backseat virtual reality experience that ties the entertainment being consumed by passengers to the motion of the vehicle, resulting in a thrilling amusement-park-like experience. This kind of development is a wakeup call for radio broadcasters.”

ENABLING OPPORTUNITIES

Brian Savoie, senior director for technology education and outreach at the NAB, described a voice-controlled radio prototype developed through a joint project of NAB and the EBU. Savoie highlighted the role that voice-controlled devices can play in broadcasters’ development strategies.

He said the adoption rate for smart speakers in the United States is likely to be faster than that of any consumer device in history, including smartphones.

Brian Savoie of NAB stressed the importance for broadcasters of including voice-controlled devices in their strategic thinking.

In Savoie’s opinion, the installed base already has provided opportunities for broadcasters to meet their audiences in new spaces and new ways, bringing a noticeable increase of in-home listening to radio streams.

“In the U.S., about 18% of smart speaker owners use their device to engage with local businesses,” said Savoie. “Broadcasters on an advertising-supported model should highly value this information.”

According to a Gartner forecast, by 2020, 70% of U.S. households will own a smartspeaker, though analysts expect the adoption curve eventually to flatten out.

Savoie said devices like smart smoke detectors are embedding high-end speakers and audio technology, allowing different classes of voice-enabled devices to proliferate in the home.

“This way, you won’t necessarily need a smartspeaker,” he concluded. “So when focusing on the opportunities that these types of technologies allow, simply looking at the smartspeaker may be too narrow-focused.”

A.I. IS IN THE CAR

Savoie also said Amazon is looking to extend Alexa into cars as part of their infotainment systems. Using various forms of A.I. — for example, face recognition — they could authenticate a user as soon as he or she enters the car, with no other action required.

The system could then download that profile information and personalize the experience, applying favorite, customized presets for environmental controls and, hopefully, radio presets, playlists and podcasts.

Since connected cars have different levels of internet access, Amazon is working on basic offline Alexa services that users should be able to access even when no wireless service is available.

“What impact could this have for radio?” Savoie said. “We all would like users to still be able to tune to a radio station even when they are out of internet connection. How to do that is something we are talking about. Broadcasters need to examine the services Amazon is developing, ensuring that radio’s place in this environment is properly understood.”

The post Digital Radio Summit Rings a Wake-Up Call appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Sneak Peek: Point Source Audio Doubles the Elements

Radio World - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 09:55

Tested on live stage, the CO2 Confidence Collection microphones from Point Source Audio are dual-element wireless microphone with a number of features for broadcast use.

Besides redundant dual elements, they are IP 57 waterproof-rated with a nearly “unbreakable” that can be rotated almost 360 degrees — all featured in a slimline design. The omnidirectional waterproof elements are 3 mm and matched feature precisely matched elements to a near identical ±0.5 dB difference, according to the company. They can be nested to appear as a single element.

They are available in headset, lavalier and ear-mount and in black, beige and brown. Connections to wireless hardware are made with the company’s locking X-Connectors.

NAB Show Booth: C2357

Infowww.point-sourceaudio.com

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Inside the March Issue of Radio World International

Radio World - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 09:07

Together with Amazon, Commercial Radio Australia is seeking to improve smart speaker performance and ensure simple radio listening via voice-enabled devices. Read about how they are approaching this challenge in the March issue of Radio World International.

GUEST COMMENTARY

Radio Keeps Dying but Someone Forgot to Tell the Listeners!

Radiodays Europe’s Rosie Smith looks back on 10 years of radio

IN-CAR RADIO

The Future of In-Car Radio: Losing All Restrictions

Fraunhofer IIS explores possibilities raised by intelligent audio-processing technologies.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE

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College Radio Watch: WCWM’s Comes Back from Water Damage and More News

Radio Survivor - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 07:45

I was sad to read about college radio station WCWM’s troubles after a burst pipe in its building led to major damage last summer. When I visited the College of William and Mary radio station in 2017, I was amazed by the historical materials in its basement home, including an impressive collection of very old […]

The post College Radio Watch: WCWM’s Comes Back from Water Damage and More News appeared first on Radio Survivor.

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