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BR Verkehr Puts Focus on Traffic

Radio World - Sun, 02/23/2020 - 02:00

MUNICH — Traffic is a key content in many stations’ schedules. Some stations are renowned for their timely, detailed traffic breaks. Others specifically target motorists driving along a given motorway or within a region. Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting), instead, went a step further with BR Verkehr.

Dominik Einzel, traffic journalist at BR and anchor for Bayern1, in one of BR studios. CREDIT: Dominik Einzel

BR is a public-service radio and television broadcaster, based in Munich, and is a member organization of the ARD consortium of public broadcasters in Germany. They air five radio stations in both FM and DAB, plus five digital-only stations.

FULLY AUTOMATED

As a pioneer of digital radio broadcasts, in 2005 BR began broadcasting a digital-only station — BR Verkehr [BR Traffic] to air traffic information only.

BR Verkehr is a fully automated station. A speech synthesizer “reads” the various traffic news and composes a traffic newscast that lasts a few minutes, depending on the actual number of alerts. The process then restarts from the beginning.

“We have a traffic newsroom where one journalist is on duty 24 hours a day,” said Daniela Rembold, BR Traffic coordinator, “and a second one from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.. In this newsroom we manage all the traffic information for each of our radio stations, for our website and for our videotext services.”

Daniela Rembold is traffic coordinator at BR. CREDIT: BR / Lisa Hinder/Max Hofstetter

BR receives traffic information and alerts from many sources, including the police, the ADAC [the German automobile club] and the TomTom Traffic service.

One of the two journalists on duty has the task to gather and merge the various pieces of information that arrives from available sources. After having received the information, the journalist identifies the locality of a reported event and double checks the affected area on Google Maps to verify the situation and expected time delays.

The first journalist then composes a traffic alert message, while the second journalist, in the studio, is ready to break-into the current program feed of BR’s station Bayern1 to broadcast severe alerts, like a ghost driver (someone driving in the wrong direction) or animals on the road, as they arrive.

TIMELINESS

“We do not have an approval process on traffic news,” Rembold explains “timeliness is key to us, so we rely on each of our journalists.”

BR’s editors do not forward the received traffic news or alerts as they are. Instead, they optimize the wording in order to ensure that each sentence sounds clear and can be properly understood by listeners.

“Their job is turning the received information into clear, effective and easily understood messages that can successfully reach our audience, as well as our website’s readers,” Rembold added.

Firstly the journalists tailor the message that’ll be broadcast on air, then they prepare a specific version of the same message for BR’s website and for the speech synthesizer process.

The workflow of BR’s traffic newsroom is based on the continuous, automated ingestion of data feeds from trusted sources in the form of TPEG and TMC metadata, while TomTom Traffic has its own proprietary format. A specific software suite turns the received feeds into understandable information.

No manual action is usually required to receive the information. If a reporter finds out about a major accident, they call the police or an involved authority and run a remote interview in order to provide a complete, ongoing picture to their listeners.

Unlike traditional stations, BR Verkehr focuses only on the continuous update of “fresh,” brief and effective news — there is no space for interviews and side information.

EARLY TRIGGER

The user interface of the latest release of the Xebris Flow traffic suite.

In order to check the present conditions of traffic impairments and delays, BR journalists rely on TomTom information and the Floating Car Data service (FCD) from the ADAC. If required, they can also access Google Maps to double check as many details as they can, especially the impact the given event can have on travel times.

Google Maps does not feature a “trigger event,” which can activate a sort of flag to tell reporters that something is happening, like TPEG and TMC metadata do. Since Google Maps can’t prompt editors with pushed alerts or events, reporters need to manually check the Google Maps website for what’s happening at the involved location.

BR’s traffic newsroom relies on the Xebris Flow software suite from Xebris Solutions (an Austria-based IT traffic data management company) to ingest and manage incoming traffic and news reports, as well as to prepare their traffic bulletins.

Anton Fitzthum is business development partner at Xebris Solutions.

Anton Fitzthum, Xebris Solutions business development partner, believes that radio stations can’t rely just on information coming from police departments as an initial trigger for traffic alerts.

“In Germany,” he said “the average delay between the time a police patrol on the road notices an accident and broadcast editors receive the relevant message is between 15 to 20 minutes,” he explained. “So, when the editors get the alert it could be that there is no congestion anymore. Or that maybe the situation has degraded.”

Fitzthum believes the integration of traffic information from TomTom Traffic, Google Maps or other third-party real-time level of service data provider within a broadcasters’ traffic newsroom systems is crucial for consistent early triggers of traffic events.

“Otherwise, even the best designed traffic information newsroom could produce bulletins that are timely with respect to the information received, but dramatically late on real events.”

The post BR Verkehr Puts Focus on Traffic appeared first on Radio World.

Radio Gains in Diversity in Most of Africa

Radio World - Sat, 02/22/2020 - 02:30

The author is the executive director of Radio VOP in Zimbabwe and a fellow at the Center Media Data and Society at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Ensuring diversity in radio broadcasting is crucial for democracy in Africa, as radio remains one of the most popular forms of media. The picture is still patchy. Many African countries have improved significantly. But there are still nations where promoters of radio diversity face an uphill battle.

John Masuku

Marked on the day of 13 February following UNESCO’s designation nine years ago, World Radio Day is “a celebration of the first electronic medium that has, over the decades, remained a powerful medium for connecting people and possessing the potential to reinforce critical governance concerns such as access to information, media diversity and pluralism,” Mirta Lourenço, chief of UNESCO’s Media Development and Society, Communication and Information section said in an interview with Radio World International.

That is especially true in Africa where radio has remained the most popular mass-medium thanks to its adaptability to rapidly changing living conditions on the continent, Zimbabwean academic Winston Mano wrote in a book published in 2011. He attributes radio’s growth to its simplicity, flexibility and easy access.

The sector has been thriving in Africa in recent years, significantly diversifying in terms of ownership, content and access platforms.

DEEPENING DEMOCRACY

Having a diverse radio framework helps deepen democracy, said Lumko Mtimde, former head of the Media Diversity and Development Agency (MDDA) in South Africa.

“The policy, legislative and regulatory framework in South Africa provides a diverse radio industry with three tiers, namely public, private commercial and community radio. This framework defines ownership and control, governance and licensing,” said Mtimde, who also worked for the media regulator in South Africa as well as various community radio associations both national and international including the Canada-headquartered World Association of Community Radio Stations (AMARC). The diversity in the industry also facilitates a more diverse programming structure, he said.

The situation is similar in some other countries, for example Kenya where the market has more than 100 radio stations. Media freedom and civil society activist Grace Githaiga says that “most of them play music, but they have freedom to broadcast any content so long as it does not offend the senses. Some do go overboard especially with content that may be of sexual nature but the regulator has now come up with a code of conduct that outlines the watershed period. Otherwise, stations continue to be licensed without any hindrance.”

“In Africa radio has remained the most popular mass-medium thanks to its adaptability to rapidly changing living conditions on the continent.”

Radio in Ghana is also diverse in terms of output, ownership and even language, according to Atiewin Mbillah-Lawson, a senior broadcast journalist with the privately owned Starr FM. “While some stations aim at attracting youths with good music, witty banter and interviews with trendy celebrities, others focus on news and current affairs programs aimed at promoting good governance, democracy and accountability.”

These radio stations broadcast in English, but also in many local languages like Twi, Ga and Kusaal. Broadcasting in different languages helps include minorities in radio programs, which is a very important aspect of diversity. In South Africa, the public broadcaster SABC broadcasts in 11 languages, says Shepi Mati, journalism lecturer at Rhodes University.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Wits Radio Academy and community media trainer Jacob Ntshangase says that community radio in particular helped boost the diversity of sector. “People in remote rural communities are now able to listen to news and content that is about them. Radio space is open for anyone to venture into commercial entities at regional level,” he says.

Credit: Lameck Masina

Nevertheless, community radio stations face several challenges. They “sometimes seem to struggle to maintain the initial language conditions of their license due to social mobility and migration,” Mati says. Furthermore, Ntshangase says, some of the founders of various community radio stations “want to turn them into private properties,” which is the perfect diversity-killer recipe.

Dangers remain in other African nations, too. Sam Phiri, a former journalist and media studies lecturer at the University of Zambia, said that in Zambia broadcast diversity “is constrained by its self-proclaimed status of being a Christian nation. For years Muslims have applied for radio broadcast licenses but have never been allowed to broadcast even on the state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC).” At the same time, Christian stations, run by both the Catholic and Pentecostal churches, strengthened their control over an increasing share of the nation’s airwaves, Phiri added.

LONG WAY TO GO

Still, in some African countries community radio stations are the only media that can offer diverse programming. In eSwatini, formerly Swaziland, Radio Lubombo, the first community radio station in the country, has spent 19 years lobbying heavily to be allowed to register; and still has to apply for a broadcast license to be able to launch broadcasting. Nearly all broadcast media in eSwatini are state-controlled propaganda arms in the service of the King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), an NGO in Zimbabwe, for many years has expressed concerns about the state ownership in most of the country’s radio stations. Zimpapers, a pro-government newspaper company also offers radio and television services. But that is hardly an example of media diversity. The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), the country’s media regulator, has not licensed any community radio station to date.

Mano says: “We have a monolithic radio space which is pro-ruling party. Minorities of languages and other interests are still poorly served. Rural audiences have poor signal and new players are crowded in urban centers.”

The need for diversity in the media is not a new concept in Africa. Media Monitoring South Africa’s Radio News Diversity Project highlighted the importance of media diversity already in 1998. After more than 20 years, diversity of media still has a long way to go in some of Africa’s nations.

John Masuku is a media trainer/writer and has been a radio broadcaster since 1974. He is the Executive Director of Radio VOP in Zimbabwe and a fellow at the Center Media Data and Society at Central European University (CEU), Budapest, Hungary.

This article was first published on Center for Media, Data and Society website.

The post Radio Gains in Diversity in Most of Africa appeared first on Radio World.

Applications

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Samson Q9U Broadcast Microphone Debuts

Radio World - Fri, 02/21/2020 - 16:08

Equipment manufacturer Samson is venturing into the broadcast market with the Q9U, a dynamic XLR/USB microphone.

Featuring analog and digital connectivity with an XLR output and USB C connection with 24-bit/96 kHz audio resolution, the new microphone is intended for broadcasting, podcasting and streaming.

The Q9U features a humbucking neodymium capsule that is isolated from mechanical noise by an internal air-pneumatic shockmount. The capsule has a cardioid pickup pattern to provide off-axis rejection. The design includes a dual-layer windscreen to help minimize popping and plosives, while low-cut and mid-presence boost controls offer further onboard sound tailoring.

The microphone features a USB C connection for instant plug and play connectivity to a computer without any driver downloads required. Along with the onboard 24-bit/96 kHz A/D converter, the microphone body includes a zero-latency headphone output that allows users to monitor their voice directly from the source or from the computer, and offers an onboard mute switch.

The Samson Q9U will ship in Q2, 2020 for $199.

Info: www.samsontech.com

The post Samson Q9U Broadcast Microphone Debuts appeared first on Radio World.

Have Layoffs Done Collateral Damage to Radio?

Radio World - Fri, 02/21/2020 - 15:51
A quick Google search shows iHeart’s news is currently dominating the narrative, but it’s far from the only broadcaster making these types of decisions.

This article was originally posted on the JacoBlog from Jacobs Media Strategies.

Politics and radio are strange bedfellows, indeed.

We start with a senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown and an odd mashup with radio. Aside from considering a run for president this year (he wisely decided against it), Brown made some headlines of his own in January. 

It seems that in the middle of only the third impeachment hearing in the history of this 240 year-old republic, the senator from the Buckeye State felt it was important enough to write a letter to Bob Pittman.

Many of you no doubt saw his missive in the industry trades. Pointing directly to the mass layoffs in radio, Brown asked iHeartMedia’s CEO to explain the downsizing of so many stations — especially in his home state.

Among other concerns — including executive compensation and bonuses — Brown asked Pittman to respond to these questions by Feb. 14. I’ve abbreviated them below:

  1. How many workers were fired (and how many from Ohio)?
  2. What type of severance and health care benefits did they receive and for how long?
  3. Will these employees be given priority for open positioning in the future?
  4. Will these terminated employees receive training to help them qualify for new jobs?

Good questions all.

But the strange part is why a U.S. senator embroiled in one of the most controversial events in American history is even bothering to swoop in and ask questions about what is going on in broadcast radio.

Sherrod Brown is not the only one, nor is iHeartMedia the only company involved in layoffs these past few months. For an industry that has trouble agreeing on what belongs in the dashboard and how Nielsen should conduct the ratings, the radio industry has sadly come together on the issue of downsizing, terminations, layoffs, reductions in force, “dislocations” and whatever else you call them.

And the world is taking notice.

It’s an understatement, of course, but this is a challenging time for radio, perhaps the most trying since the medium became part of the American culture. Capitalism isn’t always pretty, and we’re watching its scary side at work here, as companies duke it out to survive in this roiling, highly charged environment.

Every industry — including tech — has been on the hot seat, balancing growth and sustainability, trying to figure out how to carve out a meaningful future, while maintaining quarter by quarter performance that sates investors and stakeholders.

In the commercial radio world, the pain is coursing through the hallways, conference rooms, cubicles and jock lounges. There are well more than 1,000 people and their families impacted by this latest round of cuts.

MAKING THE NEWS

There have been tough times in broadcast radio here in the U.S. before, but now it’s experiencing all sorts of blowback — just the type of bad PR it doesn’t need.

Especially now.

For an industry that rightfully prides itself on its good deeds during times of disaster — national and otherwise — as well as year-round fundraising and charitable pursuits, this negative coverage of broadcast radio at the beginning of a tenuous new year isn’t just unfortunate; it’s disturbing and troublesome.

If you search “radio layoffs” under Google News, you can now see the torrent of results that pop up — all 150,000+ of them.

This top group of search results all involve iHeart, but the more you scroll, the more stories you see — from Rolling Stone, the Washington Post and Robert Feder’s well-read blog, “Robservations,” to stories in smaller town publications like the Arkansas Business Journal, the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) and the Daily Voice (White Plains, N.Y).

Then there was this blaring headline from Syracuse.com, an online news site published by the Post-Standard: “Does iHeartMedia have more radio stations than local DJs in Syracuse now?”

Ouch.

And the main message of these stories has been consistent, despite the widely varying markets and communities: Most lament the loss of air personalities, many of whom have commented or whose social media feeds have been clogged with outraged, aghast fans. 

Interestingly, most of these DJs, shows and hosts haven’t expressed anger toward their former employers. In fact, many feel bad their voice is no longer being heard, often addressing the outpouring of emotion from fans.

Many also are partial commentaries on the state of the commercial radio business in the U.S. — or in their communities. Some wonder why some of the industry’s biggest companies are in the forefront of these layoffs. Others question the validity of claims like “live & local” in the face of these cutbacks.

Even the story of those six Des Moines DJs who got their jobs back after a pressure campaign from advertisers and listeners got coverage — by Rolling Stone no less — was no salve on the wounds. In fact, it only served to reinforce perceptions that big, bad companies are inexplicably and arbitrarily firing some of their most popular people.

RADIO’S PR BATTLE

P.T. Barnum, one of the greatest showmen of all time, once observed, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” But that’s a myth. These days, bad news travels faster than ever before, thanks to the power, efficiency and economy of the internet in general and social media specifically.

There’s no question radio — and all traditional media — have been under the gun financially. All the hyperbole in the world from the industry’s captains doesn’t mitigate the damage caused by the bad press that has accompanied this newest round of firings. Radio wasn’t exactly being treated as a media darling before this newest wave of axings went into effect, and newspapers have historically enjoyed dancing on radio’s grave — a key competitor for local revenue.

And while the companies in the forefront of these layoffs were all hoping to achieve economic savings, pay down debt and transition their efforts, you have to wonder if the collateral damage inflicted by these policies might not backfire on many fronts — sales, listenership and even the attractiveness of broadcast radio to younger generations.

We have often discussed the need for the radio industry to tell its story, but its story is now being told by media outlets with no qualms about throwing broadcasters under the bus. Radio can ill afford a wave of negative PR, questioning its efficacy as as local medium, as the coverage spins out of control.

Getty Images/geopaul

Yes, these cuts are painful. But most radio companies have a strategic purpose behind these moves. Investment in digital personnel and services is part of the narrative. This may not make legacy workers feel any more comfortable, but it’s a reality of what the radio broadcasting industry is enduring. These new hires may not offset the losses, but they show that companies are not standing pat while they face competitive headwinds.

There’s a term in business — customer-facing. It refers to businesses that deal directly with consumers. And there are customer-facing employees — the barista who prepares your latte every morning, the receptionist at your dentist’s office who helps you set appointments, the knowledgeable geek at the electronics store who helps you make the best decisions.

And in the case of radio stations, the people on the air who cheerily wake us up every morning, who deliver the news and traffic information, who turn us on to new music and local concerts, who energize and anger us with their controversial views, who send us off to bed each night are the “listener-facing employees.”

When they disappear from the airwaves, the audience knows. They’re the people who are often the faces of their stations.

The role of on-air talent shouldn’t be underestimated, even for companies that have run their analyses, their reports and their forecasts about who’s expendable, who’s making too much money, who isn’t pulling their weight. While Wall Street may (temporarily) applaud these efforts, the audience doesn’t care about these factors nor should they be expected to.

Think about it — what’s the first thing people say to you once they find out you’re in the radio business? “Oh, are you on the air? Have I heard you on the radio?”

Paul Jacobs spends an amazing amount of time with local radio sales teams. And he reports that stations without a viable morning show often feel they have a distinct disadvantage, preventing them from garnering premium rates.

Far be it for me to offer advice to radio broadcasters about whether to slash and who should get pink-slipped. As you might expect, these cutbacks have impacted our business as well.

But the effects of radio’s staff reductions are more apparent when they’re focused on denizens of the air studio. Few actually notice if a sales manager, a production director, an office assistant or a consultant gets the ax. (And that’s not to say people in those job categories don’t contribute, because, of course, they do. But the noise is always louder when an on-air radio companion is given her walking papers.)

I’ve blogged about the often intangible value of air personalities here before — a lot. And that’s because in the big scheme of things, it’s the people on the radio that move the needle, that make us laugh, tick us off, and move us to visit a phone store or a car dealership. There’s more to planning cuts on a spreadsheet than simply looking at the hard numbers.

In fact, the ROI cliche might be better expressed on ROR — or return on reductions. How much money was truly saved this time around? And what is the collateral damage that’s been inflicted on radio as a result?

It remains to be seen whether Bob Pittman will respond to Sen. Brown. And if so, how will he frame his answers to those questions?

We’re only two months into 2020, so it’s too early to know what — if any — impact the industry might experience from this event.

The affect on how stations sound, and their appearance to audiences and advertisers may not be known or felt for a long time. But there is a cost to savings, and radio is more than a spreadsheet.

For another insight, let’s turn to another P.T. Barnum quote: “Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public.”

We will see. We will see.

The post Have Layoffs Done Collateral Damage to Radio? appeared first on Radio World.

Community Broadcaster: Looking Up

Radio World - Fri, 02/21/2020 - 14:58

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.

Some time ago, I wrote about the need for community radio to take pay and inclusion seriously. I was greeted with a variety of responses. One of the strangest? Stations could not afford to be fair to labor, because they didn’t have the money.

I understand. Stations do wonderful things with the few resources they have. And it is surely a pleasure and a privilege to work in community radio. However, not taking a long-term sustainability mindset can after serious effects later.

Why should you think about your staffing and equity? I assume you appreciate the importance of attracting the right people and agree with labor fairness. I also believe there is a strategic reason for your station to think about equity today.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: D.O.A.?]

To the outside observer coming to a nonprofit or a local business, then hearing from the proprietor that she or he is broke and can’t afford any number of items says troubling things. It communicates instability, possibly poor products and a lack of support. Do troubled businesses feel like places that you want to put your money into, even when you like the business or nonprofit?

If you have an internal station culture where the chorus is one of negativity. Ask yourself if you’d want to put $50, $100 or more in a local nonprofit whose leaders openly talked about their inability to fundraise for even simple items. While it is good to be transparent, a perennial forecast of gloom benefits nobody.

The notion of scarcity is poisonous, because the message only spreads and colors the viewpoint of potential partners, underwriters, communities with no connection to the station and everyone else. These presentations do not convey trustworthiness, viability or a broad base of support.

More than a few stations claim to value inclusion, but fail at the most basic part of that: to create opportunities and futures for diverse voices in our space. Early-career staffers, diverse voices, and people of color are not here to make radio veterans feel good about their community radio stations. We do not show up to fulfill claims of representing the community. We too have families and dreams. Talking about diversity and wanting diverse leaders without creating a real and sustained pathway to emerge into leadership is purely virtue signaling, words that mean something to a few, but contain no action to show you mean it.

This is stated not to shame anyone. Instead it is an intervention about our language, our relevance and our need to imagine differently.

Being in a perpetual state of struggle is a missed opportunity to tap into your potential and growth prospects within our communities. The people on the fence about your station want proof their dollars are going to an organization that is not stagnant. Your detractors will use your own language against you in showing others you can’t be trusted with money, so what else can’t you be trusted with? It is crucial that your organization flips the narrative into one where your station is taking forward steps that create confidence in your vision. Otherwise, simply being there in your community just isn’t enough to help you flourish in the long term.

In leaders people most look for qualities like compassion, trustworthiness, a sense of stability and hopefulness. Success as a community media manager means conveying a vision for the future, tapping in to all these areas. Moreover, it is about avoiding one of the biggest traps in community radio: zero as a reference point.

The post Community Broadcaster: Looking Up appeared first on Radio World.

Collocating AM Transmitter Facilities With Cellular Monopole Towers

Radio World - Fri, 02/21/2020 - 13:40

The author is former managing partner of Hatfield & Dawson Consulting Engineers and is a senior consultant to the firm.

While cell site towers and monopole masts have long been potential nuisances and sometimes severe impairments to the operation of nearby AM antennas, they can actually be useful as AM radiators in some situations.

The relaxation of the AM antenna efficiency requirements in the AM Improvement rulemaking has provided flexibility by revising the rules which previously made use of electrically fairly short towers and restricted ground system areas difficult (see reference [1] found later in this paper). Cell site antenna support structures vary widely in height, but many are tall enough to be suitable for use as antennas at AM frequencies.

We at Hatfield & Dawson began to investigate the possibility of using a cell site monopole for an STA antenna for an AM station in about 2004, well before the time when the FCC promulgated its efficiency rule changes. We discussed the possibility with the tower owner, and obtained assurance that they would entertain the idea of use for a low power AM operation. The idea didn’t go further at that time because the then-licensee was not sure they would relocate and rebuild.

RON RACKLEY’S WSRQ CP APPLICATION AND LICENSE

Ron Rackley’s client, WSRQ, had been operating with a temporary antenna under STA, but evidently was unable to continue at the STA site, or to construct previously approved directional facilities. When Ron was given the problem in 2016, he knew of our previous cell tower analysis, was aware of a cell site/communications tower of substantial height in an acceptable location, and advised his client to investigate its possible use. When the result was favorable, hFM te prepared an application for construction permit to use the site.

Two technical matters regarding use of this antenna tower required resolution. The first was the feed system arrangement, and the second was the ground system and resulting antenna system efficiency analysis.

The cell/communications tower is 185 feet (56.3 meters) in height, which represents an electrical height of 82.5 degrees, and therefore is tall enough to be an acceptable AM radiator. However, like nearly all cell and communications masts, monopoles and towers, it’s grounded. While detuning of grounded antenna support structures is generally accomplished with a skirt of three or more vertical wires, this was not a practical feed system method because of the multiplicity of antennas mounted on the tower.

A detuning skirt generally exhibits low RF burn hazard and can easily be temporarily disabled by “grounding” to the support structure in the vicinity of any necessary work. A driven skirt, however, has higher RF burn potential, and would require an off-air period while work is performed on the tower.

Skirts also add non-trivial amounts of wind loading, deadweight and leg stress, reducing the total capacity of a tower for additional load. The solution was to feed the tower with a slant wire feed. See Fig. 1.

Precedent for use of a slant wire feed had been obtained by our office in the application for license of station KFIO in April 2017. Ron used that precedent and showed a NEC-4 analysis of the essential circularity of the proposed WSRQ radiation pattern at horizontal and vertical angles, within 1.5 dB up to elevation 70 degrees. This result is consistent with the KFIO situation, and most all other slant wire feeds for towers of about 135 degrees or shorter, as is shown in our previous work [2]. Since many cell and communications towers are relatively short, slant wire feeds for AM use can often be a very desirable feed solution.

A NEC-4 analysis was also performed to determine the radiation efficiency of the proposed antenna, since the property parcel was very limited in size, as is typical of cell and communications installations. See Fig. 2.

Geometry showed that the site allowed a radial ground system equivalent in size to a 21.7-meter radius circle, or about 32 electrical degrees. This is well below the variables allowed by the FCC’s “Figure 8” table and computer program, which are of dubious provenance in any event. Although the construction permit was granted without a requirement for any efficiency measurements, a single radial was measured, and confirmed the calculated value. See Fig. 3.

The WSRQ construction permit was granted in November 2018, and the station is now licensed.

THE PENDING APPLICATION FOR CONSTRUCTION PERMIT FOR KARR

Our original analysis of possible cell site use for an AM station in 2004 was for KARR, a station that had lost its original transmitter site to development. The station licensee was unable to find any other possible permanent location except for, as in the WSRQ instance, a fairly tall cell tower on a small property parcel. See Fig. 4 for an idea of the constraints of the ground system.

The cell monopole itself is 150 feet in height (45.7 meters), 80.1 electrical degrees, and its antenna platform adds a bit of top-loading. The site size allows a 120 radial ground system of average length 0.134 wavelength. This radial system, like the WSRQ example, is well below the correction range of the FCC Figure 8 graph and computer algorithm.

The detailed model of the proposed slant wire fed, grounded-base, monopole tower is shown in Fig. 5.

The ground radials are modeled as #10 AWG wires buried to a depth of 0.15 meters (approximately 6 inches) in soil having a conductivity of 4 mS/m, and a relative dielectric permittivity constant (epsilon) of 15. This is the same dielectric constant used by the FCC in developing the Ground Wave Field Strength Versus Distance Curves in Section 73.184 of the Commission’s Rules and Regulations.

The NEC-4 files are over 90 pages and impractical to put in this report, but can be accessed on the FCC CDBS website at: https://tinyurl.com/karr-report.

Fig. 6 shows the model-predicted current distribution on the monopole.

Based on the results of the NEC-4 modeling, the predicted vertically-polarized RMS attenuated electric field at one kilometer is 197.1 mV/m, assuming a soil conductivity of 4 mS/m and a dielectric constant of 15.

From this attenuated value the predicted unattenuated field (antenna efficiency) was determined from the Ground Wave Field Strength Versus Distance graph (1430–1510 kHz) of Section 73.184. From the graph, for a referenced radiated field of 100 mV/m at one kilometer, the attenuated field at one kilometer for a soil conductivity of 4 mS/m is 76.7 mV/m. Stated differently, the 4 mS/m soil is predicted to attenuate the field by a factor of 0.767 when compared to the 100 mV/m unattenuated field at one kilometer. Therefore, the model derived attenuated RMS of 197.0 mV/m at one kilometer can simply be divided by 0.767 to yield the predicted unattenuated RMS field of 256.8 mV/m/kW at one kilometer.

Using the same NEC-4 model, the attenuated field strength in the horizontal plane varies from 196.1 mV/m to 200.8 mV/m, providing a circularity of 0.2 dB.

The application for construction permit is pending as of the time of this writing [3].

THE “FM TOWER” SPECIAL TEMPORARY AUTHORITY

Another site loss case resulted in an STA for use of an unusual wire antenna supported by the grounded guyed tower of a commonly-owned FM station. The tower guys were uninsulated and grounded at their outer ends as well, as is the usual case for towers not designed for AM use.

The grounded 300-foot guyed uniform cross-section antenna tower of was fed with an “umbrella spoke” wire, mounted and configured as shown in Fig. 7.

The base of this wire was terminated on the existing equipment building, and the matching network and transmitter were installed inside the building. Figs. 8, 9 and 10 show the details of the installation.

This installation also had a very cursory limited ground system. Six radial “ground” wires, extending to a distance of about 200 feet from the antenna tower (about 70 degrees) were installed. The radials were barbed wire laid in the snow (it was December). Barbed wire makes excellent radials for use in some specialized situations, and is far cheaper and less susceptible to theft than copper or even copperweld.

The efficiency for this antenna installation, based on reasonable ground conductivity assumptions and a moment method model, is about 200 mV/m/kW/km. The radiation pattern is modestly directional. Connection of the “umbrella spoke” at its upper end to the tower would result in a less directional pattern, but also a higher drive impedance.

USE OF MOMENT METHOD ANALYSIS FOR SHORT OR ODDLY-SHAPED GROUND SYSTEMS

Dave Pinion, Steve Lockwood and Joe Overacker in our office have just completed an extensive NEC-4 study showing that considerable modification of the ground system in a complex diplexed DA has essentially NO effect on the system efficiency. This situation will be an increase in total ground system area, but with an irregular configuration.

Similar studies have been performed on situations with extensive reduction of outer ground system area, and the results confirm that the “normal” 120-radial 90-degree ground system is overly conservative [4].

Fig. 11 shows the situation in the “before” and “after” ground system configurations.

The conclusion is that the lack of scaling for frequency in the Brown and Epstein experiment analysis, the source of the original 120 ninety degree radial requirement, has cost hundreds of miles of copper wire to be unnecessarily wasted.

SYSTEMS WITH NO GROUND RADIALS

A system using a relatively tall tower that does not have a base insulator but is grounded only with a few driven rods and has no radial ground system has been employed in two or three implementations which were licensed by FCC, originally at WNTF.

This arrangement uses slanted wires from close to mid-height on the tower, slanting in an umbrella arrangement to locations a short distance from the tower base. The wires are fed against the grounded tower [5]. See Fig. 12.

The complete lack of a radial ground system isn’t damaging to the efficiency, since the lower portion of the skirts or the “umbrella” together with the tower itself create a quasi-dipole, and, there is a path for the displacement current return, thus satisfying Kirchoff’s law. This result is similar to the use of elevated radial systems, with as few as four or six radials.

A quasi-dipole can also be created by a pair of skirt-wire assemblies on a grounded tower of sufficient length. A NEC-4 model using a pair of 50-degree skirts shows this configuration in Fig. 13.

This example falls slightly short of the FCC’s minimum efficiency requirement, but would be valuable for an STA. It could be easily modified to meet the FCC minimum value if a slightly taller grounded tower were available.

CONCLUSION

The conventional wisdom about the necessity of “ground radials” of substantial number and length is simply far too conservative. Innumerable examples of antennas with restricted or convoluted ground systems have been in operation for many years, based on simplistic analysis or field measurement confirmation. But modern analysis methods clearly show that the efficiency of unusual restricted area and unusual geometry ground systems — or in some cases no radial ground system at all — can meet the current minimum efficiency requirements of the FCC.

Benjamin F. Dawson III, P.E. has over 60 years of experience with broadcast antenna systems and other applied radio physics matters.

REFERENCES:

[1] 1st R&O, FNPRM, NOI;  MM Docket 13-249, at paragraphs 41–48 (October 23, 2015)

[2] Dawson, B., “The Slant Wire Fed Monopole, a Neglected but Invaluable Technique,” paper presented at the 60th Annual Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Broadcast Symposium, October 2010.

[3] Other examples of the use of moment method analysis to determine effective field of unusual antennas or antennas in unusual situations include: WRGC BP-20190130ABH, KSSK BP-20180921AAW, KIKI BP-20180921AAS and KHVH BP-20180921AAV.

[4] Dawson, B and S. Lockwood, “Revisiting Medium-Wave Ground System Requirements,” IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, August 2008. Trainotti, V and L. Dorado, “Accurate Evaluation of Magnetic- and Electric-Field Losses in Ground Systems.” IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, January 2008.

[5] Christman, A and C. Beverage, “The AM Umbrella Antenna,”  IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting, June 1999.

The post Collocating AM Transmitter Facilities With Cellular Monopole Towers appeared first on Radio World.

Radio Public Affairs: How Far We’ve Come

Radio World - Fri, 02/21/2020 - 11:53
Reed Pence

The author is vice president of MediaTracks Communications and executive producer of “Radio Health Journal.

Public affairs programming on radio is vastly different than it was a few decades ago. 

For one thing, there’s a lot less of it. Prior to the first round of radio deregulation in 1981, AM stations were required to air “non-entertainment” programming for 8% of their weekly broadcast hours; for FMs it was 6%. 

The stringent rules resulted in stronger news commitments on most stations than are present today. However, most music stations didn’t want to break the format during prime hours, so the edict meant lots of overnight newscasts and public affairs blocks starting at 4 a.m. on Sunday, when a lonely board op would drag a big stack of reel-to-reel tapes into the studio. There was often a requirement to send the tape back to the local organization or syndicator so it could be used again. 

“Non-entertainment” also didn’t always mean “news and public affairs,” as regulators probably intended. For example, back in the 1970s, the half-hour religious “Powerline” program aired seemingly everywhere on Sunday mornings. “Church programming,” as some used to refer to it, was easy to acquire, cost stations nothing and was accepted as public affairs. It was well produced and helped clock the needed hours.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS TODAY

The quota requirements are long gone, and today stations can concentrate on what they do best full-time. There’s much less public affairs on radio, but it’s usually still aired on Sunday mornings. 

However, without having to scramble for programs simply to fill the time, today stations have no need to run anything less than the best, most informative and entertaining public affairs shows. Weaker national shows have been winnowed out. Highly produced programs featuring nationally prominent guests with in-depth coverage of the issues have taken their place. 

A segment of “Radio Health Journal” focused on concussions. Other recent topics have included medical debt, hoarding, melanoma and the increase in medical emergencies around the holidays.

But while there’s less public affairs on air, the FCC still takes it seriously, and expects stations to be good public trustees in return for the privilege of holding a license and absence of strict regulations. 

The main requirement today is a quarterly report, uploaded in a timely manner to the FCC’s online database, listing local problems and issues, and describing the station’s programming (usually public affairs) that has addressed these issues. 

Each station’s quarterly report is available for public view at any time as part of their Online Public Inspection File. Previously, stations were required to maintain a public file on paper at the studio, and they were typically unread by the public. So now, public affairs is much more visible — if a station is derelict in its issues-based programming or filings, it’s readily apparent. Instead of having to send an FCC inspector on an unannounced visit, now the agency can simply look online, and while it’s exceptionally rare to lose the license, some stations have been fined tens of thousands of dollars for deficiencies in the public file. 

Over the last few years, there have been a couple of trends in radio public affairs that run in opposite directions. 

One is toward running exclusively local public affairs — programs produced by a station or cluster for its own air, utilizing local guests. Many clusters admit it’s not a job they relish, especially when staffing is already tight. But when multiple dayparts are voice tracked from out of town, some local content may be perceived as necessary. Stations may also be concerned that since the issues they’re addressing are local, the response must also be. 

However, as far as the FCC is concerned, there is no requirement that public affairs programs be locally sourced, only that they address the issues important to their community in the quarterly report. The vast majority of problems and issues listed by stations are universal, such as “education” and “unemployment.” 

[C-SPAN Radio Marks 20 Years of Covering Public Affairs]

This has led to the second trend: the use of syndicated public affairs programs by thousands of stations nationally. Syndicated public affairs shows address these issues, and since they can secure the best guests and, often cover them more thoroughly than a local show ever could. Many stations use syndicated programs exclusively to satisfy compliancy issues, while others combine them with locally produced programs. 

Syndicated public affairs programs, such as our programs “Viewpoints Radio” and “Radio Health Journal,” offer stations an online quarterly report on the problems and issues they’ve covered. Affiliates are able to simply drag-and-drop this report into their FCC filing. With FTP delivery of these shows, station automation can also be programmed to download for air every week automatically, creating truly hands off public affairs that still serve the public interest and satisfy the requirements of the FCC. 

FCC rules have always driven public affairs programming. The rules are less onerous now, but still a serious consideration. Stations have found a variety of ways to meet them, even at a time when many station staffs are stretched to the max.

MediaTracks Communications produces and syndicates weekly, half-hour public affairs/ascertainment-based programs that satisfy FCC compliance requirements. 

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

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Broadcast Actions

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Actions

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Applications

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Pleadings

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Radio World Presents: NAB Show 2019 15 Things You Don’t Want to Miss

Radio World - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 16:37

Would you like to get an early start on our industry’s biggest annual trade show? Come along for a free webinar from Radio World, hosted by Editor in Chief Paul McLane, on March 26 at noon Eastern time.

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.

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

Speakers

Paul McLane
Content Director
Radio World

 

Paul is a veteran industry technology journalist and former broadcast news anchor.

Click here to Watch.

 

The post Radio World Presents: NAB Show 2019 15 Things You Don’t Want to Miss appeared first on Radio World.

2019 NAB Show Product Report

Radio World - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 16:01

What was exciting on the NAB Show floor? Which new products and technologies got the top buzz? Maybe you couldn’t get to the show or didn’t have time to see it all.

Radio World did the walking for you to prepare our 2019 NAB Show Product Report, featuring:

  • Dozens of new products
  • Features, prices, and availability dates
  • Cloud technologies for radio, hybrid radio platforms, MPX, digital radio monitoring, remote site management, new processors and much more
  • Observations by Radio World’s veteran editors and engineering contributors
Speakers

Paul McLane
Content Director
Radio World

 

Paul is a veteran industry technology journalist and former broadcast news anchor.

Dan Slentz
Chief Video Engineer
New World Symphony

 

Dan Slentz,Chief Video Engineer for New World Symphony on Miami Beach, has over 40 years of radio & TV broadcast operations and engineering experience.

Marguerite Clark
Content Director
Radio World International

 

Born in the U.S. and based in Paris, Marguerite is a veteran industry technology journalist who has been covering issues impacting the global media sector for more than 20 years from both Italy and France.

Click here to Watch.

The post 2019 NAB Show Product Report appeared first on Radio World.

Top 25 Podcasts People Actually Listen to in 2020

Radio World - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 15:23

Network and local monitoring company Media Monitors is adding “regular podcasting metrics” this year. To highlight its latest offering, the company has released information about the “Top 25 Podcasts” as determined by a recall survey in January. 

In a press release announcing the information, Media Monitors President and CEO Philippe Generali addresses a question that has long plagued podcasters: Are downloads or subscriptions truly equivalent to listening? 

Why does this matter? Advertisers are used to metrics like views, impressions, etc., and they want to know that an ad will actually be heard by a consumer, not just stored on their iPhone.

“Opt-in redirects or server-based download measurements services …. might be an indication of who subscribes to a show, but here, this survey asked respondents to name the shows they actually listen to,” Generali said. 

Take “The Joe Rogan Experience,” for example. It’s consistently listed on top downloads lists, and it also dominated the recall survey, ranking “number one among men and women, in every income bracket, among listeners of any education level and in every region.” However, it is only second in the the 35-44 age bracket, perhaps its one area to improve outreach. 

Media Monitors said its survey, conducted by Macromill Group company Precision Sample, also confirmed the conventional wisdom that women are true crime obsessives. Two advice programs also made the cut.  

Their top five were:

  1. “The Joe Rogan Experience” 
  2. “Phil in the Blanks” 
  3. “Crime Junkie” 
  4. “My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark”
  5. “The Dave Ramsey Show” 

Men’s podcast listening habits also play to type, with representation from sports, news and comedy programming in their top five:

  1. “The Joe Rogan Experience” 
  2. “ESPN” 
  3. “The Daily” 
  4. “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend”
  5. “Rush Limbaugh Morning Update”

It’s interesting to note that the overall Top 25 Podcasts list is dominated by programming favored by women. The number one show overall (Joe Rogan) is a favorite among both men and women, but the remaining four are those named by listeners who identified as female. Check out the chart (above) to see the full list.

There has also been significant debate about how advertisers should take advantage of this medium. Many listeners of what Media Monitors classified as “niche podcasts” were unable to independently recall brands advertising on their favorite shows. With an assisted recall, respondents listed Geico, Squarespace, ZipRecruiter and Quip as podcast advertisers they remembered. Media Monitors suggests this means many podcasts still do not have advertisers/sponsors, which they say represents an “untapped opportunity.”

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