It began broadcasting on Christmas Eve 1925. It may be the only radio station audible, after dark, on a radio in locales as diverse as Los Angeles, Orlando and Hartford.
In 2021, however, the might of a 50kw Class A clear channel signal on the AM isn’t what it used to be. That explains why, starting March 22, one of America’s most recognized radio stations will be gaining a 250-watt FM translator superserving this station’s home market.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The NAB has launched a new volunteer initiative designed to “enhance communication” between broadcast media’s biggest lobbying organization and its member stations’ employees at all levels.
The association says its Broadcast Ambassador Program ensures stations are taking full advantage of the benefits that come with NAB membership.
“Broadcast ambassadors” have a direct line of communication with NAB staff, who share timely information on benefits ranging from professional growth opportunities and advocacy updates to human resources tools and technical expertise. The ambassadors in turn share this information with interested colleagues to ensure all levels of the company are reaping the benefits of NAB membership.
Those with a desire to build relationships with colleagues, communicate on behalf of NAB and provide valuable member insights are encouraged to apply or nominate an individual. Ambassadorships are open to those in non-executive or general management positions in NAB member organizations, and the application process is ongoing.
“We are excited to enrich relationships with our members through this new ambassador program,” NAB EVP/Industry Affairs April Carty-Sipp said. “Ambassadors will complement our board of directors in helping to shape NAB’s goals to meet the industry’s evolving needs.”
Broadcast Ambassadors are distinguished representatives for their station or group working directly with NAB to meet the needs of the member company. They provide important updates and help shape new NAB initiatives and benefits by providing feedback and member insight.
As a critical point-of-contact, Broadcast Ambassadors offer guidance and information on NAB events, educational offerings, advocacy initiatives and other membership benefits. They also update their colleagues and leadership on NAB’s work on behalf of local broadcasters.
Participants will be featured in NAB Member News and receive industry-wide recognition for their participation in the program. They also have the opportunity to network and engage with broadcasters throughout the industry.
All candidates must receive a recommendation from an NAB member station or group executive. For more information, contact email@example.com.
LOS ANGELES — She’s been EVP/General Manager of Horizon Media’s Century City-based operation since 2012 and joined the ad buying giant in October 2009 after two years as SVP/Communications and Planning Director at Universal McCann.
In her time at Horizon, she was responsible for a diverse portfolio of client business including Corona Beer, Jack in the Box, STX and ABC.
Today, the media and advertising worlds are mourning the loss of Serena Duff.
He spent more than 20 years in key positions with WarnerMedia and predecessor Turner Broadcasting, where he created and led dozens of nationally recognized products including the Watch TCM steaming service and TCM.com.
Now, this esteemed industry veteran is joining The E.W. Scripps Co. to lead its newly expanded national television business’ digital efforts.
Selected by Cincinnati-based Scripps for the role is Richard Steiner.
He’ll be responsible for developing, directing and managing the digital strategy for Scripps’ new national networks, including oversight for OTT, AVOD, SVOD, TVOD, web and mobile
Steiner reports to Scripps networks COO and entertainment head Jonathan Katz; Scripps’ national assets are comprised of the former Katz Networks and ION Media properties.
At WarnerMedia and Turner, Steiner rose to SVP/Digital, developing and launching Turner’s Turner’s first entertainment-focused direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, FilmStruck. Steiner also developed TVEverywhere (TVE) and multi-platform strategies for digital activation and new media for TCM, TNT and TBS; created and supported e-commerce initiatives, and developed web and mobile products. Earlier, Steiner was Turner’s VP/Digital Activation.
Before joining Turner, Steiner evaluated programming titles for acquisitions for the Starz Encore Group.
“Richard is a visionary,” Jonathan Katz said. “As a proven innovator in developing world-class streaming products, he’s the perfect leader to help the Scripps Networks leverage the popularity of our content and brands to serve diverse audiences across OTT and connected devices.”
Monoprice has launched an expanded podcasting/streaming bundle centered around its Stage Right microphone. Augmented with an accessories package, the bundle is intended for entry-level use.
The Stage Right Complete Podcasting and Streaming Bundle includes a USB condenser mic, a pair of headphones, a mic stand, and other accessories. The headphones can be plugged into the USB microphone’s headphone jack so users can monitor without the need for additional hardware.
The headphone volume level can be adjusted independently of the microphone output level using the headphone volume knob on the mic.
The USB condenser microphone itself features a 16-bit/48 kHz sampling rate, and comes with a broadcast-style mic boom, pop filter, mic clip, mount bracket and windscreen.
Another legendary AM news station owned by Entercom is expanding its footprint via the FM dial.
The company said that starting March 22, KMOX(AM) in St. Louis, which broadcasts on 1120 kHz, will simulcast on an FM translator at 98.7 MHz. The translator previously simulcast KFTK, “97.1 FM Talk.”
The KMOX branding will be “News Radio 1120 AM 98.7 FM – the voice of St. Louis.”
In St. Louis, it said the FM frequency of KMOX “will be heard throughout the city’s business district including downtown, Clayton, midtown, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights and Kirkwood.
The company also adds “The Dave Glover Show” to its afternoon lineup; the show had been on KFTK.
The announcement was made by Senior Vice President and Market Manager Becky Domya and Brand Manager Steve Moore.
Moore was quoted in the announcement saying, “It’s important that KMOX is available on multiple platforms in order to keep the listeners in the business district informed with the latest news throughout the city.”
As recently as December 21, 2020, public relations firm NRPR Group was busily pitching opportunities to chat with Charlie Nooney, CEO of MobiTV, on how cable television companies “can maintain its relevance” in the coming years as subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) continues to gain market share.
Now, NRPR and Nooney are fielding calls of a whole other nature: the pioneering Emeryville, Calif.-based company is voluntarily reorganizing by seeking federal bankruptcy protection.
It’s Tuesday morning in Guam, a U.S. territory much closer to Tokyo and Manila than Tenleytown, in Northwest Washington D.C., or McLean, Va.
Yet, veteran communications law expert and Jacksonville, Fla.-based attorney John Wells King is well versed on the Hagatña radio scene. That’s because he’s the legal counsel for a licensee that’s parting ways with an AM on the Pacific island taken silent last year.
The incoming licensee? A broadcast ministry seeking donations for a new transmitter for its station serving Saipan, in the nearby U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Matrix Solutions’ Monarch Media Ad Sales Platform is now in place at one of the nation’s biggest owners of both radio and television stations.
As such, the company will now have what Matrix calls “complete visibility into their aggregated data while also providing extensive CRM capabilities and media intelligence designed to increase revenue opportunities and extend operational efficiencies.”
When financial historians look back at the final three months of 2020 and take a microscope to the broadcast media sector, they’ll likely notice one very clear delineation point between those companies focused on audio content and their brethren with a lens on visual fare.
Radio station owners, even with political bumps that bolstered earnings, still suffered from steep double-digit revenue and profit dips in Q4.
Television station owners, thanks largely to retransmission consent fees and political ad dollars, took to their collective surfboards and collectively rode the high surf caused by COVID-19 across October, November and December 2020.
Add TEGNA to the list of companies that navigated the waves smoothly.
LOS ANGELES — Facility management software maker Xytech has agreed to purchase Net Insight subsidiary ScheduALL.
The company says the acquisition provides Xytech “the ability to afford customers, and the marketplace as a whole, an end-to-end resource management system with scalability and configurability in a cloud-enabled platform.”
Xytech will continue to support the ScheduALL application and all ScheduALL clients.
Xytech also offers the MediaPulse facility management software and the MediaPulse Managed Cloud.
“With this transaction, we reach an important milestone in our journey towards a more focused and stronger Net Insight where we accelerate growth in our core Media Network’s business,” said Net Insight CEO Crister Fritzson. “ScheduALL has been a valuable part of the Net Insight portfolio, and I would like to thank all ScheduALL employees for their contribution over the years. We believe Xytech is the best future owner of the business and look forward to partnering with them to continue to serve shared customers across the media industry.”
— Katie Kailus
It’s not easy running a low-power FM operation. Raising funds to build the station, construction of studio and transmitter facilities, growing and training a volunteer staff, creating a format that serves your niche and of course, the endless need for fundraising all have to be mastered.
One misstep in any of these areas can cause the organization to flounder. In spite of all these challenges, KUHS(LP) in Hot Springs, Ark., appears to have hit one out of the park.
Its combination of out-of-the-box engineering solutions, enlightened management and innovative fundraising has created a cultural resource for central Arkansas that has been operating successfully since 2015.
KUHS also holds the distinction of being the only solar-powered station in the state.Powered by the sun …
The station story began when Zac Smith, a tuba player and amateur radio operator then living in Winston-Salem, N.C., read about the FCC’s plans to allocate part of the spectrum to LPFM.
“I thought, ‘How cool would it be if there were a deejay booth in a coffee shop and you could drop a tune, or talk about your latest philosophical revelations?’”
That thought led to Smith partnering with broadcast engineer Bob Nagy and Bill Solleder, founder of Hot Springs non-profit Low Key Arts. Their 2013 application was approved by the commission, and they spent the next 18 months raising $35,000 and preparing for sign-on.
The first step was finding a transmitter site. Smith and Nagy scouted the peak of nearby West Mountain, which was covered with cellular, radio and emergency service towers. They found a long-vacant AT&T microwave relay building that was available.The KUHS transmitter is located in this former AT&T microwave relay building on top of West Mountain.
The power had been disconnected, and the two quickly did the math to calculate their LPFM’s power needs. They determined that a solar installation would be more cost-effective than restoring commercial power, and estimated a two-year payback period. The system cost $2.75/watt including batteries. Since the installation work was all volunteer, there were no labor costs.
Nagy designed a 2.4 kW solar system for the site, and took steps to keep as much of the equipment running directly off DC as possible, avoiding power-hungry DC-to-AC inverters.
The station purchased a Bext exciter that ran on 24 VDC. Nagy designed a system to convert the solar system’s native 12.8 VDC to +5VDC and other voltages for ancillary equipment.
Initially, the KUHS solar system used lead-acid batteries for power storage, which Smith admits was probably not the best choice.
“They were the least expensive option, but they turned out to be very high maintenance. Corrosion of the battery terminals was an ongoing issue, and the cells had to be kept topped off with deionized water. Even worse was the damage to our other equipment from the corrosive gasses they released.”
When it came time to replace these, the station used 200 Ah sealed lead acid batteries — more expensive but virtually maintenance-free. The battery system has enough juice to power the transmitter site through a cloudy winter week.
In 2016, KUHS also installed a 6 kW solar array on the roof of the Hot Springs studio. It powers the lights, studio equipment and a portion of the HVAC. The system has a grid tie, so excess power is sold back to the power company. For that installation, they paid $2.15/watt. There was a lot of volunteer labor in the project, but the switchgear was installed by a licensed electrician.
To get programming from the downtown Hot Springs studios to West Mountain a mile and a half away, they selected a Cambium Networks 5 GHz WiFi system with PoE (Power over Ethernet). A pair of Barix boxes provided the A-D and D-A conversions.… and by volunteers
KUHS took steps to upgrade in 2018. The frequency was changed from 97.9 to 102.5 MHz to reduce interference from other stations. A Pira P132 RDS encoder was purchased to add text to the signal, and a BW V2 30W TX exciter was purchased for better sound and remote management. The frequency swap was celebrated with a gala event at the local theatre.Station DJs do a dry run with remote gear prior to a live broadcast.
The station runs with a staff of 60 to 65 DJs. One of the key factors for its success is that everyone at the station, including Smith and Nagy, is a volunteer. Smith said the idea came from Nagy.
“He was really adamant about that. He said that at every volunteer station he had been at, the moment you raise enough money to get one person on part time, everybody quits putting in the effort. They’re like, ‘Well, let the paid person do it.’’’ He adds that part of the KUHS culture involves urging volunteers to ask for help when they need it, but also emphasizing that no one is going to do your work for you.
Smith’s real job is brewmaster for the SQZBX Brewery and Pizza Joint, which is in the same building as KUHS. The two businesses sometimes fertilize each other, with visitors to the station patronizing the brewery, and brewery customers discovering KUHS.A KUHS promotion asked listeners to post pictures of their pets on Instagram. Favorites were posted by the station, and the first-prize winner was awarded a radio.
The programming philosophy for KUHS is providing community access and airing eclectic genres of music that are neglected by mainstream media. Smith uses a community garden analogy to describe the programming.
“We’re not maximizing our slice of the radio spectrum for money, rather we’re maximizing it for access.” Volunteer DJs have a love for a particular type of music that they think is underrepresented on the airwaves of Hot Springs. Each one stakes out a 1-2-hour shift to bring their musical passion to the community.
Planet Sounds, hosted by DJ Modest, features all genres of world music. Sonny Kay, Danny P and Operator OT host “Finally Friday,” where they play “motivational, agitational and otherwise propellent punk and pop” guaranteed to get a Friday night moving. And “Half Machine Lip Moves” is where you’ll hear “alien soundtracks from the industrial underground,” bringing you EBM, industrial, power electronics and noise, dark ambient, no wave, synthpunk, cold wave/minimal wave, noise rock, the experimental sounds of inner and outer space, and more.
Unusual for 21st century century radio, the KUHS studios have turntables, and several of the volunteers build their shows around various genres of esoteric vinyl.
Most vinyl DJs bring their own material. The station has a small library of around 200 LPs, 50 singles and approximately 200 CDs. Most were donated when the station started.
“With the internet what it is in terms of a musical resource,” Smith said, “I decided early on that being an archivist was not going to be our strong point. With 60 or 70 DJs, what would you collect with limited space?”
Holding down a full-time job while managing KUHS requires some thoughtful time management. One trick Smith utilizes is automation.
“One of our board members is a programmer, and he has been able to automate a lot of small tasks I need to do and glue them together with Python.”
KUHS is a member of the Grassroots Radio Coalition, an offshoot of public radio that focuses on community access and volunteer involvement in station operations. In 2016, the station hosted the annual Grassroots Radio Conference.
The annual budget for KUHS is about $12,000. That relatively small number is possible due to the combination of an all-volunteer staff and regular contributions from a stable financial base that includes several large benefactors, major contributors and numerous Hot Springs merchants. Additional revenue comes from music festivals. All of this makes Smith very grateful, “No one really wants the job of going door to door asking for money.”
The author is a broadcast contract engineer who has a unique way of measuring the carrier frequency of the AM stations in his care.
Making off-air frequency measurements of AM broadcast stations can be a bit of a challenge.
Unless you are at the transmitter site and have a high-level RF sample of the transmitter output available, it’s unlikely that you can use a frequency counter to make the measurement. Another method has to be used to measure the low-level (millivolt-range) off-air signal. I have found an easy, “zero-beat” method that works reliably.
I use the following complement of equipment:
- Field intensity meter (such as PI FIM-21/41, RCA WX-2 or Nems-Clarke 120);
- RF signal generator with 0.01 Hz adjustability (such as Agilent E4430B);
- GPS-disciplined 10 MHz reference oscillator (such as HP Z3801A) and antenna;
- Loop antenna (such as Chris Scott LP-3).
The physical setup is shown in Fig. 1, and the measurement procedure is as follows:
- Connect the equipment as shown. The loop antenna can be oriented in any way and should be placed about a foot away from the FIM.
- Tune the RF signal generator to the frequency of the station to be measured, then tune the FIM to that signal. It is not necessary to calibrate the FIM; it will only be used to receive the station and the actual field intensity reading is unimportant. You don’t even need to listen to the signal on the speaker or headphones. Set the meter to LIN mode, not Log mode.
- Disconnect the loop antenna from the RF signal generator or disable its RF output. Orient the FIM to maximize the signal coming from the station. Adjust the FIM’s Range switch and Gain controls for a mid-scale indication (3–6) on its meter.
- Reconnect the loop antenna or enable the RF output of the signal generator and adjust its output level so the meter swing remains within the limits of the scale. Set the RF output level based on the position of the FIM’s Range switch: for the 1 V/m range, start with –20 dBm; set it lower by 20 dB for each lower position of the Range switch. On my setup, I need around –10 dBm feeding the loop antenna for a usable indication on the FIM’s 1 V/m range. If necessary, change the RF signal generator’s frequency up or down by a few Hertz to see the meter swing back and forth due to the beat frequency.
- Adjust the RF signal generator’s frequency to zero-beat the station so the meter swing is minimized and eventually stands still. Go right down to 0.01 Hz steps. Take your time as you get near the exact frequency, as the meter will be moving up or down very slowly. Make sure you’re not at a maximum or minimum of the zero-beat cycle. You want a position where changing the frequency up or down by 0.01 Hz causes the meter indication to reverse direction, indicating you’re as close as you can get. With practice you can dial in the exact zero-beat frequency in less than 30 seconds. Read the station’s exact carrier frequency on the RF signal generator.
Stations running IBOC, most of which are locked to a GPS reference frequency, are usually very close to their assigned frequency, within 0.1 Hz. Most modern analog transmitters will show some seasonal drift with temperature.
I am currently checking the carrier frequency of four local stations. The IBOC station (that is not using an external GPS antenna) has drifted up 0.04 Hz over five years. The others tend to move up or down by as much as 3 Hertz as the equipment temperature changes. The FCC rules require the carrier frequency to be within +/- 20 Hertz, so a few Hertz won’t matter.
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I’ve been using this method for more than eight years with results that match or exceed the commercial frequency measuring company’s reports.
I have the equipment listed above, but you can make substitutions if necessary. For example, in place of the Chris Scott loop antenna, a couple of clip leads and a series 30-50 ohm resistor can be used to form a loop that can be loosely draped on top of the FIM’s loop antenna. Even a short whip antenna can be used on the signal generator if the FIM is close enough to it.
An RF signal generator that lets you specify a frequency within 1 Hz or better can be used as long as it can utilize a 10 MHz reference signal. The carrier frequency you measure will only be as accurate as the equipment you have available to measure it with.
The 10 MHz reference signal could come from a rubidium oscillator, which has been adjusted to zero-beat a GPS-disciplined oscillator (GPSDO). These can often achieve accuracies of 0.0001 Hz on the 10 MHz signal.
An AM radio with a VTVM or DMM on its AVC line can also be used as an indicator if you don’t have an FIM.
RW welcomes your Tech Tips, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author is an amateur radio operator (WA1MIK) and FCC licensed contract radio engineer in Southern Connecticut. Email him at mailto:email@example.com.
One of the stranger media industry stories surfaced last week as a cautionary tale for any organization not taking its leadership role seriously.
Nonprofit news outlet FairWarning closed Feb. 20 after allegations of inflammatory remarks by editor Myron Levin came to light on Twitter. According to a job candidate, Levin brushed off concerns of FairWarning’s lack of diversity in its board and staffing, offering various questionable hot takes in the interview. Controversy ensued. The staff went public to say Levin, who had already been planning to step down after an executive search, should resign.
Those involved in media for any length of time have seen other scandals play out similarly. In most cases, the leader in question apologizes and steps aside, so that the media organization can continue its needed work and retain the trust of its audience. In a jaw-dropping move, Levin and the board penned spirited defenses of the editor and a rebuke of the candidate. While charging the candidate of distorting the interview and making a point of saying he wasn’t hired, Levin does not outright say the account is a lie, either. The board then told the aggrieved staff they were out of jobs and that the whole operation was dissolving. Current dives further into this bizarre turn of events.
What can other organizations learn from such a colossal governance and leadership flop? How can your radio station avoid such issues?
First, whether you are interviewing job candidates, volunteers or prospective board members, it’s important to remember that they’re interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them. Word choice matters. Such conversations are formal exchanges about your organization, its values and your leadership style. When you’re looked at as a resource, it’s at times easy to forget those conversations are not simply between you and the person you’re talking with, but are a chance to convey your organization’s vision for how its workplace functions.
Second, no matter if you believe Levin is completely innocent, covering up, or falls somewhere in the middle, clearly the subject of accountability bears reflection. At times, our words may not have been heard as we think they should be when someone else hears them. And when they aren’t, the old-school go-to of blame the listener does not cut it in today’s world. Salting your response by presenting others’ accounts as an “attack,” or cloaking yourself in self-righteousness only makes you look guilty. Apologizing and humbly accepting how one’s words were heard and pledging to do better shouldn’t be so hard, yet people sometimes make it so.
Finally, governance training for media organizations, especially nonprofit radio stations, is essential. Nonprofit boards have historically been taught that they have three core responsibilities. Among those is what is called the duty of loyalty, or operating the organization in its best interests above personalities. Boards supervise executives and, when it is time, replace them to ensure continuity of services, so that the nonprofit keeps delivering what its constituents expect. It may be hard for any established media organization to comprehend how a nine-person board (including Levin) would simply shut down a media outlet in response to criticism. In many instances, a lack of board training may be the issue.
Matt Levin is chief engineer for River Radio in Columbus, Ohio, and does contract engineering for several stations. Our interview with him is from the Radio World ebook “Trends in Audio Processing for Radio.”
Radio World: We’re asking users and manufacturers for their take on key trends in processing.
Matt Levin: I think the biggest development in processing is the shift from conventional dedicated hardware boxes to software that can run on a server with an alternative method for the MPX audio to get to the transmitter.
By shifting to software, it allows you to do your processing on your own server hardware, either on a physical box or in a virtual machine, or in the cloud via hosted services. Virtualization is the direction pure IT infrastructure went years ago and now the radio industry is finally embracing this concept from automation vendors to now processing vendors.
One of the keys to allowing this to work fully was the invention of the MicroMPX codec by Hans van Zutphen and his employee Mathijs Vos, and now through their collaboration with the Telos Alliance, we’re seeing products employing this technology. We are seeing further innovation by Telos and Nautel to synchronize the HD Radio and FM audio across the internet, which was the last major problem to solve before this becomes the norm for processing moving forward.
The other major benefit to this model is that it brings the cost of good processing capability down, as there is no expensive hardware box to design, build, maintain and support by the manufacturers. It’s just a server that most IT savvy engineers can maintain on their own, so really it’s a win-win for everyone!
RW: What should we know about differences in processing for various types of platform?
Levin: The needs are very different.
The worst thing an engineer could do would be to take the OTA FM signal and feed it into a web encoder. Low-bitrate webstream encoders do not deal well with a lot of density, or clipping, both of which are employed for FM OTA.
For FM OTA processing we are trying to overcome both the inherent noise in the FM analog broadcast system, and the road noise in automobiles, as studies have proven that most FM OTA listening is done while driving. Even with FM HD OTA we want some density there to overcome the road noise I spoke of, although you obviously don’t want all the clipping designed for the FM analog system.
Streaming in my opinion always needs its own separate processing which uses gentle, low-ratio compression, mainly for consistency between each piece of audio, and with some light lookahead limiting for peak protection on the encoder.
The other thing I’ve discovered through my own experience with low-bitrate webstream encoders, both MP3 and HE-AAC, is that they don’t deal well with excessive stereo enhancing or excessive warm bass/low mid-range material.
This seems to muddy everything in the codec, and too much stereo energy also causes havoc in the encoder, so careful shaping of the audio to pull some of the muddy area out, and use of very light spatial enhancing should be employed here.
Since podcasts deal primarily with speech, but are still typically low-bitrate-encoded audio files, the same rules apply from my previous streaming comments with the added aspect to keep the voice region clean, intelligible, and consistent.
RW: With “hybrid” platforms, a listener might tune to an FM but then drive out of market and the receiver switches to the online stream. What “matching” challenges does this present?
Levin: As this technology becomes more prevalent, paying attention to your web stream processing becomes more and more important, as it won’t just be in homes and offices anymore, but now in cars as well and for the masses.
This is where creating your “sonic signature” on both your OTA and your stream is so important. While the needs of processing for streaming differ greatly, you can still create a certain “sound” for your station that stays consistent on all platforms.
Take the time to listen to your FM, HD and web stream and come up with something that sounds comparable on all platforms.
RW: Where might further dramatic improvements in processing power come from?
Levin: Unfortunately, I think the needs today are more about trying to repair the damage done to the music by poor mastering techniques used by the record labels, and/or the damage done by using lossy codecs in the distribution process. Processing has become more than just compression, limiting and clipping.
Modern processors of today also have to repair the audio before it ever hits the compression stages. Different manufacturers are finding different ways to do this; these tools aim either to declip and add dynamics to audio that the mastering process has over-processed and over-clipped, or restore missing spectrum and remove artifacts from lossy compression.
Those that implement these repair tools in their processors have a cleaner product going into the compression stages, and will end up with a much-better-sounding product on the output, and I think we will continue to see more of these kinds of tools.
Additionally, there has been effort put into preparing the output audio or processors feeding low-bitrate codecs (i.e. streaming or HD) to prevent artifacts from being generated in the codec itself; all in an effort to get the best sounding audio to the user.
RW: We’ve also been asking folks if radio processing has attained such a condition of “hypercompression” that there has been little further change in how loud one can make over-the-air audio.
Levin: I have actually seen a significant amount of development from several of the leading processor manufacturers to create cleaner and cleaner clipping structures. Each employs different techniques to do this, so each has different side effects, but as a whole, the loudness levels we are able to achieve today while still keeping the audio clean and free of clipping grunge, distortion, and artifacts out of the top boxes on the market is actually a huge improvement over the boxes of 10+ years ago.
Now, how the engineers are turning the knobs on these boxes at their individual stations is another story. I think in some cases engineers are still abusing even these modern clippers and driving them past the point of sounding good, and further damaging the end user experience by over modulating significantly, causing massive amounts of distortion in modern DSP receivers.
I’m finding as I travel that most modern DSP-based HD capable receivers start to induce distortion on anything over 110%, and while many markets and engineers stay below this and can maintain clean audio, there are others that choose to carelessly overmodulate by as much as 140%, and you can imagine how bad that can sound on a modern receivers.
As much effort as the manufacturers have put into cleaning up the audio and providing a better product for the end user, it’s still up to the engineer installing and setting up their air chain and processing to make sure that they are using the tools at their disposal to provide the best possible product to their listeners.
I remember a day when radio sounded better than the music you would buy and listen to on your own, when processing actually improved the sound. With the power of modern processors, this is still possible today, but so many markets I’ve driven through recently this is sadly not the case. I long for the day when we as an industry strive for that goal once again, to sound better than the other streaming services and listening options out there.
RW: Could radio see loss of potential audience due to listening fatigue?
Levin: We as an industry are driving listeners away by bad practices, not only by overcompression, overclipping and overmodulating, but let’s add overusing Voltair to that list as well. I’ve traveled to some markets where all I hear is PPM tones adding flange effect and reverb effect to everything going over the air.
We have to do a better job of caring what our product sounds like if we hope to stay relevant in the future. Now sure, there may be some listeners out there who don’t care; but there are a lot that do.
While they may not be able to tell you why they can’t stand to listen to a particular radio station for more than a few songs or a few minutes before it drives them crazy or makes them want to turn the volume down, I wager that if you had the same content on a much cleaner-sounding delivery system, they would suddenly find it much less annoying and actually find themselves turning the volume up, instead of down or off.
Give listeners a reason to turn the volume up, make your station sound good!
Comment on this or any article. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject field.
The author is sales, marketing and PR manager for 2wcom Systems GmbH.
This article appeared in Radio World’s “Trends in Codecs and STLs for 2020” ebook.
These days most studios run their AoIP networks to produce audio content. In theory, keeping the studio’s contribution separate from distribution offers flexibility at all sites; and separating the audio portion from transmitting sources such as satellite, DAB+ or IP provides various benefits.
Practically speaking, it’s now necessary to change perspective: IP offers broadcasters significantly more flexibility for the transmission of content, so more and more broadcasters and recording studios are deciding to expand IP-based networks.
But broadband and fiber optic are growing at very different rates internationally. So in addition to the use of IP-based structures, flexible alternative distribution paths must be available.
This leads to the question of how best to link contribution and distribution. The answer is to keep it in segments, because an increasing number of stations are multimedia, streaming audio and video along their facility’s networks.
First Segment: Studio Sites
To connect the studio’s networks with the headend and finally all transmitter sites, we should consider several aspects for our audio setup. The AoIP codec chosen for this should meet at least five key requirements.A typical facility distribution following the audio, left to right, from a studio through 2wcom digital audio IP encoders into the 2wcom multimedia over IP network cloud (MoIN). It then moves into available distribution channels — internet, DAB multiplex or satellite — and then onto broadcast transmitters.
First, it must be stable even when operating in WANs. This can be achieved by providing features for transmission robustness like redundant internal or external power supplies; software redundancy, e.g. forward error correction or SRT; and dual streaming or parallel streaming with different audio bitrates. Also, please consider a backup with an alternative source to ensure that your content is transmitted, say, via satellite in case IP lines fail.
Second, the codec must provide all audio formats normally used in a studio, like Enhanced aptX, most ACC profiles or MPEG formats, Opus, Ogg Vorbis, PCM and Dolby. Moreover, compatibility of the different frame sizes of AAC Profiles and Opus is important. Put each manufacturer through its paces to ensure that its products support all possible variants of an audio algorithm.
Third, the codec must support all common protocols as well as standards for internet interoperability such as Livewire+, Ravenna, AES67, EBU Tech 3326 or SMPTE ST2110 full-stack.
Fourth, flexible stream management must be possible in means of channel scalability and MPEG multiplexing facilities. This includes perfect network synchronization by supporting PTPv2 and 1PPS. Especially for audio description of live events, synchronization down to the microsecond is essential.
Fifth, management and control of each audio over IP codec of all studios in a network should be available remotely via PC web interface, supporting SNMP, Ember+, JSON or NMOS. The main system control should be accessible hands-on via local hardware control in case a WAN becomes inaccessible.
As a result of the above, all studios in a static or mobile network can fall back on a unified codec solution while keeping their independence. From a budgetary point of view, a system as described above provides the chance for all studios of a network to rely on existing AoIP setups.
Second Segment: Headend
The demand for the perfect link at the headend implies all of the requirements mentioned above, plus NTP (Network Time Protocol) for network synchronization. Moreover, the solution should just collect the forwarded studio programs to make them available by simply transcoding the streams respectively to the different distribution sources — audio over IP, DAB+ or satellite. This could be achieved by a multimedia-over-IP network server software, flexible, integratable into existing structures in hardware, VMs or as a containerized cloud service.
A system setup that fulfills the requirements described above ensures a “non-locked-in” arrangement. The headend/multiplexing system and studio systems are not hosted on the same network but kept separate from each other; thus, it is possible to replace one or the other if needed without bringing the companion operation down.
An aside about virtualization. We are at the beginning of the use of virtualized products. Be aware that virtualization counts on maintenance. This goes along with the wishes I have often heard from our customers that a broadcast network should be expandable as easily as possible, add new services with a mouse click and mirror the configuration of one device to another.
Scalability can be notably improved by using virtualization strategies. The possibilities that have been introduced by Docker or VMware to copy instances, take snapshots or run them across multiple hardware devices are a great improvement to scale and maintain networks.
That also has a major impact on needed rack space. Thanks to virtualization, applications can share the same hardware or even run as a swarm across multiple hardware units with different hardware configurations.
As a result, the number of devices needed is reduced to a minimum, because server hardware has in most cases a lot more processing power than the specialized hardware of codec manufacturers. Thanks to AES67 and other AoIP standards, the requirements for real hardware interfaces are slowly disappearing, and that is opening the door for virtualized solutions dependent on an all-IP infrastructure. With high bandwidth and robust IP lines, audio processing in the cloud becomes possible. In consequence, manufacturers have to pick up the pace and offer their solutions as virtualized software.
Third Segment — Imagination
With a little imagination such networks have been utilized for a variety of transportation duties. Here’s a beginning list.Web-based programming streams are taken in by a 2wcom multimedia over IP network. They can then be routed to a satellite program distribution path or down an IP path to transmitters.
Icecast/HLS to DVB Transport Stream Transcoding: This is used by a number of customers who want to make webstreams available on a DVB transport stream that can be sent in cable networks or via satellite.Audio is directly fed into the 2wcom MoIN digital multimedia network, where it can be routed to a streaming encoder or directly to a content delivery network and then into web streaming.
Streaming Encoder: Software can also be used to feed a streaming encoder, for example, the Wowza streaming cloud; or the solution transcodes the audio signals to adaptive bitrate protocols like HLS that can be distributed to the end customer by using a CDN.
AES67 to WAN Bridge: With a great number of supported audio over IP protocols, a “multimedia over IP” network server can transcode signals from studio networks that use AES67, Dante, WheatNet, Ravenna or Livewire+ to a format that is suitable for wide-area networks. For example, the studio signals can be transcoded to Opus for a low-bitrate transmission with SMPTE 2022 conform error protection or using Secure Reliable Transport (SRT). That enables a studio-to-studio bridge that can overcome even stressful network conditions.The author says solutions that support standards, protocols, multiple audio formats and redundancy enable the most use cases.
On-Demand Transcoders: The multimedia over IP network server software offers scalable activation of codecs in means of number and time. This allows flexible handling of alternative audio streams such as an audio description of a video, to guarantee accessibility for blind and visually handicapped persons. Or, when a multimedia contribution is produced, operators are enabled to process simultaneous audio commentaries for the video, station website, social media and the radio broadcast.
The author is chairman of the WorldDAB Automotive Working Group and head of Development Entertainment & Car Functions at Volkswagen Car SW.Org Wolfsburg AG.
The EBU’s Digital Radio Summit took place online in February, featuring a wide range of speakers and presentations outlining radio’s multiplatform future.
Radio’s place in the car was high on the agenda throughout the day and I got the opportunity to share — in my capacity as chair of the WorldDAB Automotive Work Group (AWG) — some insights into the uptake of DAB+ digital radio in the car and highlight some of WorldDAB’s recent initiatives in this space.Strong growth for in-car DAB+ across Europe
The European Electronics Communication Code (EECC) came into force at the end of 2020, meaning new passenger cars sold throughout the EU are now required to include digital radio capabilities.
As expected, this has led to a surge in the number of new cars factory-fitted with DAB+ in Europe since the start of the year, and this growth is set to continue as more countries introduce national regulation reflecting the EECC.
Italy —which introduced national regulation mandating digital radio in the car at the start of 2020, well ahead of its European counterparts — is leading the way in this respect, with 90% of new cars sold now including DAB+ as standard.Creating a great user experience
Getting DAB+ into cars is merely the first step of the process — in order to guarantee radio’s place at the heart of the connected dashboard, we ought to provide drivers with a great user experience.
Through WorldDAB and the WorldDAB AWG network, we bring together radio broadcasters and auto makers and facilitate cross-industry collaboration with the aim of continuously improving the in-car multimedia experience.The importance of metadata
Metadata plays a key role in providing a positive user experience in the car, as it enables the visual information, text and graphics (such as station name and logo, presenter, song title and album artwork) to be displayed on the dashboard while a specific station is playing.
The WorldDAB AWG recently launched a campaign underlining the important role visual information now plays in providing a positive digital radio experience for drivers — and offering guidance to broadcasters on how to use information they already have in the form of metadata to provide a richer experience for the driver.UX guidelines
Having a common understanding of the user interface in the car is essential, which is why the WorldDAB UX Group — a subgroup within the WorldDAB AWG — published the user experience (UX) guidelines.
Aimed at broadcasters and manufacturers, the guidelines are updated regularly to reflect the changing dashboard and radio’s place in it as well as creating this positive user experience for drivers.Keeping up with new technologies
Voice control and speech recognition are now essential features in the car dashboard, enabling drivers to search and change stations seamlessly while keeping their eyes on the road.
With that in mind, this year WorldDAB and its members — both vehicle manufacturers and broadcasters — will develop within the UX guidelines guides to using voice control along with providing further clarity to broadcasters on phonemes and their importance.
As well as voice control, the extended guidelines will include new information on hybrid radio and how hybrid, with DAB+ at the heart of it, provides a great digital radio user experience in the car.
Other key areas of focus for the AWG are Android Automotive — and specifically, determining how these new technologies and operating systems will integrate hybrid radio — as well as radio’s place in electric vehicles.DAB+ at the heart of hybrid
On Wednesday 10 March, WorldDAB and the European Broadcasting Union will co-host a two-hour session where experts will share their insights on how broadcasters can keep radio strong in the car, with DAB+ at the heart of the hybrid radio experience. Register here to attend the virtual event.
Nexstar Media Group President of Broadcasting Tim Busch, a potential nominee for RBR+TVBR’s Broadcast Television’s Best Leaders of 2021, will retire on June 1, the company has announced.
It will conclude a 36-year career in the broadcast industry, with the last 20 years spent within Nexstar.
Busch joined Nexstar in 2000 as GM for the CBS affiliate serving Rochester, N.Y., WROC-8. Before that, Busch served as General Sales Manager and held various other sales positions
at NBC affiliate WGRZ-2 in Buffalo, his professional home from 1989 to 2000.
Earlier in his career, Busch worked in radio broadcasting, holding various sales and management positions at WGR-AM & FM (today WGRF) in Buffalo under Taft Broadcasting ownership.
During his tenure at Nexstar, Busch worked closely with company founder, chairman and CEO Perry Sook as Nexstar expanded its local television station group, digital offerings and
national market presence.
Sook commented, “Tim and I have worked collaboratively for over 20 years and I’m grateful for his leadership, expertise and friendship. Tim has been instrumental in building the foundation for what Nexstar has become and the values that we have established in terms of our commitment to our team members and the local communities where we operate. On behalf of Tom Carter, Elizabeth Ryder, our Board, shareholders and the entire Nexstar team, we thank him for his many contributions to our long-term success.’
He added that Busch leaves Nexstar “well positioned” to continue Nexstar’s growth as, Sook said, “we have a deep bench of experienced broadcast and digital executives and we are immediately commencing a search for Tim’s successor. We will miss Tim and wish him all the best as he enters the next phase of his life.”
Busch added, “Throughout my years at Nexstar, I have been fortunate to work directly with Perry Sook and Nexstar’s talented team which has re-shaped the industry, delivered great service to the viewers and users of our content and delivered compelling marketing solutions for companies of all sizes. I have had the honor of working with the executive leadership team that consistently drives strong growth and operating results reflecting the talents of our General Managers and team members across the Nexstar Nation. In addition
to building America’s largest local media company, I am proud of our countless accomplishments over the past two decades.
“With a dynamic executive team in place, I am highly confident that the next generation of leaders at Nexstar will extend the Company’s exemplary long-term record of success and the continued creation of shareholder value. I wish everyone in the Nexstar Nation the very
best as they execute on their plans for continued growth.”
Thursday evening’s big headline across business media was AT&T‘s revelation that it will sell a 30% stake in its satellite and terrestrial video services provider business, inclusive of DirecTV. The entity grabbing the stake: TPG Capital.
For Moody’s Investors Service, this is a credit positive move for AT&T.
The deal includes AT&T’s DirecTV, U-Verse, and all of AT&T’s virtual MVPD business, AT&T TV.
The transaction values DirecTV at about $16 billion, which is down considerably from the $67 billion that AT&T paid (including debt assumption) to acquire DirecTV in 2015.
TPG will pay $1.8 billion for its stake, which will include TPG receiving senior preferred equity yielding 10%. AT&T will have junior preferred equity in DirecTV that will PIK.
The new company will incur about $6 billion of new debt, with the proceeds expected to be distributed to AT&T at the close of the transaction.
As the DirecTV valuation is low, the transaction, Moody’s says, “is moderately credit positive for AT&T only because we expect that it will provide AT&T with about $7.8 billion of proceeds, which we expect will be used to help offset the company’s C-band auction cost obligation, which as a result, should quicken AT&T’s leverage reduction.”
The deal also includes AT&T funding about $2.5 billion of net losses from the NFL Sunday Ticket contract for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
“The significant decline in DirecTV’s valuation is largely driven by the secular pressure hitting the linear pay-tv industry as consumers switch to over-the-top (OTT) MVPDs, subscription video on-demand (SVOD) and advertising video on-demand platforms, such as Netflix, Inc., Disney+, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, HBOMAX and others,” Moody’s notes. “These secular headwinds as well as competition for resources within AT&T and failure to manage competitively have caused the company’s DirecTV business to be one of the hardest hit in the industry, as the company has lost over 7 million video connections over the past two years.”
Moody’s believes that DirecTV has been “a drag” on the company’s overall equity valuation.
Thus, it says, “it is logical that management would sell a part of this declining business and structure the sale such that it is deconsolidated from AT&T.”
Due to the pandemic, the company has shifted its strategic priorities and is now focusing on four things:
- investing in fiber/5G
- investing in streaming
- restoring the balance sheet to historical strength levels
- supporting the dividend
As a result, AT&T has divested multiple non-core assets over the past year.
In December 2020, the company announced the sale of its anime streaming service, Crunchyroll, to Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation, for $1.175 billion.
In October 2020, the company also closed on about $3 billion in proceeds from the sales of Central European Media and real estate, and the sale of its Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands wireless business.
On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 18, Ed Stolz was placed in jail. U.S. Marshals arrested him, as he was a fugitive, unwilling to surrender control of his three FM radio stations to a court-appointed receiver in lieu of unpaid music royalty payments.
Stolz was released from jail one day later. Since then, U.S. District Court of the Central District of California’s Eastern Division, which is presided by Judge Jesus Bernal, continues to hear from the receiver, Larry Patrick, about Stolz’s interference.
Stolz, meanwhile, has filed an appeal of Bernal’s ruling in yet another attempt to thwart the loss of his FMs.