According to the latest WorldDAB market report, more than 82 million consumer and automotive DAB/DAB+ receivers had been sold in Europe and Asia Pacific by the end of Q2 2019. This, it shows, is up from 71 million one year earlier.
The new data gives an overview of DAB receiver sales, road and population coverage, household penetration and the number of national stations on DAB/DAB+ compared to FM. The report covers Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It also also details the rollout status in 24 emerging markets including information on trials and population coverage.
Key findings from the WorldDAB report include:
- More than 40 million receivers have been sold in the U.K., with 65% of households having at least one DAB receiver
- In Switzerland, 65% of all radio listening is via digital platforms, and 35% of all listening is on DAB+. Switzerland has also confirmed digital switchover will take place no later than the end of 2024
- Italy, France, Netherlands and Belgium all show positive signs of growth in the last year
- In Norway, following its digital switchover in 2017, radio listening is now back to similar levels as achieved in 2016
“2019 has been an exceptional year for DAB+ radio. By mandating digital terrestrial capabilities in all new car radios, the European Electronic Communications Code is transforming the European radio landscape. This year we have seen DAB+ launches in Austria and Sweden, and next year France will launch national DAB+. In the Asia Pacific region, Australia is seeing its highest ever levels of DAB+ in new cars, and Tunisia is the first country in Africa to launch regular DAB+ services,” said Patrick Hannon, WorldDAB president. “A record 12 million DAB receivers were sold worldwide in the last 12 months, and we expect this figure to grow in 2020 as DAB+ uptake continues to rise.”
To download the latest infographic, click here.
At the time, the broadcaster claimed that the decision was “unlawful and unconstitutional,” and that it was “eager” to have a date in appeals court to defend itself and prove its “rightful claim” to the 103.5 FM radio license. There is a question now, however, about whether that day will ever arrive.
In recent developments, Kahlil Parker, Navette Broadcasting’s attorney, said to the appellate court that the decision to close its client’s broadcast company was a “unilateral decision” and “without due process of law.”
The company had originally filed two appeals but then requested to begin judicial review proceedings. Navette ended up withdrawing the first two appeals, but then the court dismissed Navette’s application for the judicial review proceedings.
Parker said he subsequently — and tardily — filed a notice of appeal against that decision. He did so late, he said, because he erroneously thought the judge’s verdict was a final judgment and that he couldn’t appeal it. When he realized however that he was mistaken, he belatedly requested the appeal.
Now, according to reports, URCA’s lawyer argues that Navette shouldn’t be granted time to appeal due to its “continuous refusal” to “abide” by the appeal process.
As a result, Navette Broadcasting still does not know whether it will be sanctioned for unintentionally not carrying out the appeal process correctly, or if it will be granted more time to state its case.
There have been plenty of articles written about small single-board computers including in the RW family of magazines (most recently, https://tinyurl.com/rw-pi-2). Getting started with the Pi or Arduino is easy because there is so much ready-to-run software available.
This article begins a series focusing on simple, practical, cost-effective and reliable uses of the Raspberry Pi and Arduino in the broadcast environment.
This first article will serve as a brief introduction for those who haven’t started “Making Pi” yet. Here’s your first warning: The people who make these little systems love bad puns and plays on the device names.
When the Raspberry Pi foundation released their first system-on-a-chip (SOC) in 2012, they had no idea how overwhelming the response would be. The credit-card-sized computer once meant to be an easy entry point for British students to get into programming and computer science has burgeoned into a whole community of add-on boards (“hats”), screens and extras that people all around the world are using for all kinds of things.
Raspberry Pi computers have ARM processors on them and most Linux distributions that support those processors will run on them. There are also Windows 10 IOT (Internet of Things) embedded platforms that will run on them as well.
The most popular operating system for it by far is Raspbian, which is a derivative of Debian Linux. The Raspberry Pi foundation also has an OS image called NOOBS, which will allow you to install a number of different options on it as well.
Getting started is as easy as buying a Pi, a case and its accompanying necessities, which you might already own, namely a microSD card, a 5V-2A wall-wart-type supply with a micro USB connection, an HDMI cable and a USB keyboard and mouse.
Several starter kits are available that include cases, power supplies and NOOBS already installed on a microSD card. If you already have access to a microSD card, it is simple enough to go to www.raspberrypi.org and download any of the OS images that they have there. There are also details on how to get the image onto the card.
FEEL THE BURN
My particular preference is to use a program called Etcher, which will take any OS image and burn it to flash memory (including USB thumb drives). We’ll have an article about my Linux distribution of choice (DietPi) for Raspberry Pi in a future article.
One of the first real-world uses of the Pi in our studios was as a network AirPrint server to allow wireless device printing. Prior to smartphones and tablets, when we received a new computer, I would have to install print drivers for any network printers, and we had several throughout the building. On top of that, IOS and Android phones and tablets needed a way to print email and other documents in the same way as their computer counterparts. See Fig. 1.Fig. 1: Our Raspberry Pi happily running a network AirPrint server.
When the Raspberry Pi came along, I saw an opportunity to provide a cost-effective designated computer that would simply provide all of that on the network and relieve my print driver installing duties at the same time. I downloaded the latest Raspbian version that was available and transferred the image to the microSD card.
With power, HDMI, Ethernet, mouse and keyboard connected, I plugged the unit in and let it install itself. The install, as expected, prompted to set time zones, language defaults, etc.
The default user and password is “pi” and “raspberry,” respectively. It goes without saying that network security concerns should motivate you to change the default password. Using the Raspberry Configuration GUI will allow you to make those changes.
You can also enter a terminal, type sudo raspi-config and enter the password, and do it that way. You’ll want to change a number of things including the Raspberry Pi’s host name and also the ability to connect to the Pi via secure shell and VNC by enabling them in the interfacing options. You will probably want to set a static IP address as well.
For the print server, there were several packages that needed to be installed: samba, cups, cups-server, avahi-discover and (if you have an HP printer) hplip. Samba will allow windows network sharing. “CUPS” stands for “Common Unix Printing System” and provides the actual print server packages. Avahi-discover is what allows IOS and Android to find the print server and all of the printers that are available. Finally, hplip as the name implies, supports HP printers.
At the command prompt in an xterm window, you simply enter sudo apt-get install samba cups cups-server avahi-discover hplip and the APT package manager will add those packages to your base install.
Linux has “conf” files and in this case, there are two that may need to be adjusted. Samba’s configuration file is located at /etc/samba/smb.conf and the CUPS configuration file is located at /etc/cups/cupsd.conf. Depending on the way your network is configured, you may need to edit those files. The way to do that at the CLI is to use sudo nano /etc/samba/smb.conf or sudo nano /etc/cups/cupsd.conf. From there, you can scroll through the files to see if there is anything that may need to be changed to suit your network.
The last two things to do before adding printers to the server is to make sure that the “pi” user is an admin for CUPS with the command sudo usermod -a -G lpadmin pi and that the CUPS server is accessible from anywhere on the network with the command sudo cupsctl –remote-any. Lastly, reboot the pi with the sudo shutdown -r now command.
If you’ve made it this far, the sprint to the finish line is upon us. Now that we have done all of that, we can access the CUPS server locally via a web browser with your setup still connected to a display at http://127.0.0.1:631 or http://static-ip-address-you-gave-the-pi:631 from any device on the network. You’ll enter the site with the user “pi” and the password you supplied earlier. See Fig. 2. Once you click the administration tab, you can begin adding printers. Most network printers will be discovered automatically and you just need to choose them and the CUPS server will typically have a driver that will work for the given printer.
Fig. 2: The CUPS server home page.
WE’VE GOT RESOURCES
If you find that a driver is not available for a particular printer, many manufacturers provide drivers in the form of a PPD file. A PPD file (Postscript Printer Description) provides the CUPS server with everything it needs to setup the printer. You can generally find them on the manufacturer’s support page for the printer in question.
Once the file is downloaded, when adding the printer, choose the printer you want to add and when it presents the drivers that are available, you can provide the PPD by browsing to your download folder. Continue this process until you have added all of the printers that you want to be served over your network.
As you are reading this, you might easily fall victim to the belief that this is beyond you. I can assure you that it will take longer to download the Raspbian operating system image and burn it to the microSD card than it will to get this print server up and running on your Raspberry Pi.
One real advantage is that if it doesn’t work out exactly as I have described, the community of people that have done this very thing and many other things with the Pi is truly massive. This is just one of the ways that a Pi has solved a problem we were having.
When you consider the power savings, the compact form factor and the ability to connect to it without having a monitor by using Secure Shell or VNC, it really makes it a perfect platform for network services like printing.
More to come next time. Email your comments or suggestions for this series to email@example.com.
Todd Dixon is assistant engineer for Crawford Broadcasting Company in Birmingham, Ala.
The holiday season seems to bring many of us around to thoughts of far-away family. Memories of parents, grandparents and elderly neighbors almost universally prompt us to kick ourselves a bit. Mom was right: you should be checking in more.
Those holiday visits are a great metaphor for public and community radio’s bond with its listeners. Just like in our own lives, those people senior to us are influential, even if we are not thinking of them all the time. For radio, where growing audience is the never-ending quest, younger individuals become the gravitational pull for our attention. Yet our foundations come from those people we at times forget.
How can community radio lean in on its older demographic, while remaining inclusive of new, younger listeners?
To be clear, the legacy listener is here to stay — for now, at least. Dozens of surveys, going back years, have indicated that noncommercial radio trends toward older audiences. And though millennials and Generation Z are tuning in too, it is the 40-and-older group that tends to most often listen and donate.
Sensing the growth in older audiences, noncommercial stations do as much as they can to cater to these listeners. Tune in to virtually any community radio station and you will find programs spinning music from the 1990s, 1980s and earlier. Oldies and “classic” music shows are alive and well on community radio in cities across America. Current recently profiled a program positioning its pledge drive around healthy living for retirement aged Americans and beyond.
Such programming may be much more than just a niche or trend, however. Community and public radio listenership and giving is further complicated by the graying of the United States. With the number of Americans over 65 years of age closing in on 50 million, the country itself is at a cultural and political crossroads.
All this sounds like John Coltrane (read: AMAZING) if you are into public and community radio. However, due to the passage of time, the good times will not last. For nonprofits like community radio, dialogs about long-term sustainability and finding innovative ways to get new donors into the fold are ongoing conversations.
With its podcasts, NPR has tapped into the consciousness of younger listeners by delivering something timeless — relevant, insightful, interesting content — in a format the audience likes on a platform they love, smartphones. However, NPR continues to deliver the news and public affairs programming its traditional audience relies on and donates to see continue. This approach seems to be the model of the moment.
For some community radio stations, getting younger listeners is a big priority. But, before fracking their program schedules and putting on EDM, stations would benefit by examining that podcast model. Attracting new audiences is more than doing “something” (such as playing music that managers may assume is liked by these demographics) but about the entire exercise. Who are the hosts? Are they credible? How does the station listen to these new listeners? How is it building trust and relationships? Meanwhile, your station must also balance out the needs of your established donors. How are you messaging your efforts? How are you listening? How are you impressing upon the audience their value while presenting your vision for the station’s future?
This question of audience is a weighty one for noncommercial stations. It is heavy because of the many assumptions we make, especially of community radio, and perhaps ourselves. We want to welcome those youth who will be that station’s base in the coming years. We expect they are interested. Yet the long-time supporters need love too.
By 1971 my only radio experience was with a carrier current college station, but in my 20-year-old brain I was ready for the big time! When I saw an ad in the paper for a disc jockey I didn’t bother mailing in an application but instead got into my car and headed for a town called Berkey, Ohio.
With a map spread out on the seat next to me in my VW I drove a long way out into the country, passing nothing but farms and fields. Finally I found the address but there was nothing there but a shack, a few cars in the gravel lot, and a tower. I thought this must just be the transmitter site, but seeing no other building I knocked on the door.
A young woman let me in and after I introduced myself she said, “You’re the first to apply for the job. I’ll get the program director for you!” So this little building in a cornfield was a radio station! Shortly a guy about my own age came out to the lobby and told me his name was London. I didn’t realize that he was on the air at the time and had come out to chat while a record was playing. He invited me back into the studio with him where I spent an hour or so. London explained that the call letters were WGLN(FM) and the format was country music. During our brief time together he hired me (Yay!) and I found myself officially employed at my first commercial station, starting the following Monday.
After I had been working there for a while the wave of euphoria began to wear off and I learned some of the finer details about WGLN. My salary was $1.87 an hour, and even in the early ’70s that was not wonderful. The station was climate-controlled: in the summer we sweated like dogs and in the winter we wore every piece of clothing we owned to keep from freezing.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but there were other issues with the station. The bathroom was located in the same tiny closet where we stored the logs and other legal documents, and there was no lock on the door. If someone had asked me if the toilet worked I would have answered “mostly.” Once when I walked down the driveway to the street where our mailbox was located I looked down and saw a snake between my feet. The parking lot was never shoveled in the winter so we parked out on the paved road.
Our owners were two farmers from the equally rural Delta, Ohio. Apparently they thought it would be a swell idea to brand WGLN as “The Home of the Jones Boys,” and they bought a jingle package suffused with that phrase. Musically it was happy hoedown time, and we were stuck with jock jingles for John Paul Jones, Deacon Jones and Davy Jones for example. Each time a DJ left, his replacement had to use the same name jingle as his predecessor. I considered myself a whiz with a razor blade, but there was no way I could edit anything usable out of those jingles, which were reminiscent of the country swing band “Spade Cooley and his Buckle Busters” circa 1935.
I was not a complete stranger to country music but neither was it my métier. When I mispronounced the name of an artist my listeners called in to correct me. And sometimes callers would relate their personal experiences with the stars. One animated fan spoke of meeting Merle Haggard in the restroom of a truck stop in Indiana. “He washed his hands.” Good to know!
A former waitress wanted me to know that Buck Owens was a regular guy, polite and friendly, and he left a big tip. Another brush with greatness. But I learned a lot from people on the phone during my stint at WGLN. When I told a brief story on the air about buying shoes a man called in during the next record to say he didn’t care about all that “happy horse s**t,” suggesting I shut up and play the music. Point well-taken, sir!
While on the air one afternoon with my mic open I heard a tremendous crash of glass which sounded like it came from the roof. I brilliantly ad libbed something like “what was that?” and played a commercial. I found out later that an engineer had scaled our transmitting tower to replace a giant light bulb near the top, and oops, he dropped it.
And on it went for about a year and a half, my time as a Jones Boy. The people at the station were all friendly and helpful, but I knew that this was just a stepping stone on the way to real stardom in AM top 40.
Or so I thought.
Ken Deutsch is living in semi-retirement in sunny Sarasota, Florida and has written for Radio World since 1985. After 34 years he is still learning about writing and radio. His book of these tales is available, Up and Down the Dial.
The authors are senior broadcast engineer for Hubbard Radio and manager of broadcast engineering at Xperi Corp., respectively. WWFD is serving as a real-world testbed for the MA3 mode of HD Radio, which the authors say provides more coverage and less adjacent-channel interference than hybrid MA1.
Over the past 50 years, many AM stations struggled to continue to serve their listeners as they moved into the suburbs and exurbs, far from the stations’ transmitter sites. And the weaker their signals became, the more vulnerable they were to noise from power lines, TVs and other electrical sources.
In Part 1 of this article we explored why today’s AM HD Radio technology hasn’t done much to level the playing field with FM, satellite and streaming services such as Spotify. One major reason is because the current system uses the MA1 waveform. Although that provides HD Radio capabilities such as high-fidelity audio and track data, it may do so in only part of a station’s coverage area.An HD Radio screen display of WWFD’s PSD.
Another drawback is that MA1’s digital carriers require three times more bandwidth than the analog signal, so they create more adjacent-channel interference — an annoyance that’s among the reasons why people choose alternatives such as FM, SiriusXM or Pandora. By providing a better listening experience for some stations, MA1 actually undermines others.
The MA3 waveform avoids those drawbacks because it’s an all-digital signal, whereas MA1 is a hybrid of analog and digital. MA3 minimizes the interference problem and extends HD Radio’s capabilities to the vast majority of an AM station’s coverage area.
Since July 16, 2018, WWFD in Frederick, Md., has served as a testbed that vendors, broadcasters and the FCC can use to understand how upgrading a station to MA3 affects antenna systems, transmitters and engineering practices. Our previous article described the upgrade process in detail, both from a technical and a business perspective.
This article describes the technique and equipment used to measure power coming out of the transmitter. It also discusses the extensive daytime and nighttime drive-test results conducted in summer 2019, which found that both the core and enhanced carriers are received out to the station’s 0.5 mV daytime contour.
These and other real-world tests suggest that there’s a solid business case for implementing MA3. In fact, even though only about 25% of vehicle radios in the Frederick area can tune in WWFD’s MA3 signal, the station already acquired enough listeners to make its first appearance in the Spring 2019 ratings book. The ratings also suggest that listeners are seeking out WWFD because it offers stereo audio, album artwork and other data. Finally, although WWFD is a rimshot into the D.C. market, some weeks its ratings have exceeded those of 50 kW WFED.
ADDITIONAL DRIVE TEST RESULTS
Qualitative field strength measurements used the station’s existing Potomac Instruments FIM-21 meter, which was checked against an FIM-4100, which is specifically designed to handle the MA3 mode. Drive tests used multiple vehicles’ factory OEM radios.
In the initial drive tests:
• Under ideal daytime conditions, the MA3 primary/core carriers could be decoded down to the 0.1 mV contour, as confirmed via reception reports and drive testing at or near Harrisburg, Pa., Breezewood, Pa., and Cambridge, Md.
• Critical hours propagation phenomena typically reduced reliable coverage to the 0.5 mV contour.
• Nighttime MA3 reception generally followed the station’s nighttime interference free (NIF) contour: Wherever an analog carrier-to-noise ratio of 20 dB is achieved, the MA3 carrier will generally be received. Early evening reception goes well beyond the NIF. As co-channel skywave interference increases during the evening, coverage is reduced to the NIF. In the station’s 2.0 mV contour, in-vehicle reception was reliable, without observed dropouts in either the Frederick urban core or underneath bridges. Reliable urban performance is particularly important for competing with satellite, which often has dropouts even in cities with terrestrial repeaters.
The latest round of drive tests, conducted in summer 2019, showed that the primary/core and enhanced carriers are good out to 0.5 mV daytime contour. This coverage area has a population of nearly 2.8 million people.
This means WWFD’s MA3 capabilities — the stereo audio and album artwork that enable aural and visual parity with FM HD, streaming audio and SiriusXM — are effective for attracting and retaining listeners throughout the vast majority of its service area. By extension, those MA3 capabilities also will help the station attract and retain advertisers.
The core carrier typically dropped out at the 0.1 mV daytime contour, with a few exceptions. For example, at one point while driving east into metro Baltimore, the core carrier failed at 0.2 mV due to electrical noise. However, an analog signal would have been completely unintelligible at this point due to the buzz that few listeners would tolerate.WWFD AM daytime pattern — all digital.
Terrain also proved to be a factor. For example, in the mountains near Rippon, West Virginia, the core signal failed around 0.25 mV. The reason is unclear, but the result is relatively insignificant because at that point, an analog-only signal would have been very weak. So, most listeners might have abandoned the station at that point anyway.
In the latest round of nighttime drive testing, core and enhanced services were received to half the value of the station’s NIF contour. For WWFD the NIF zone extends to the 10.8 mV contour, and half of that value is 5.4 mV. Co-channel skywave interference appears to limit nighttime service to this contour. The core-only carriers, being stronger, may continue beyond this contour but should not be considered marketable coverage, as interference may cause reception to vary both nightly and seasonally.WWFD AM nighttime pattern — all digital.
WWFD will conduct a second round of drive testing in early 2020 because propagation conditions are significantly different in the dead of winter. The increased skywave interference probably won’t affect the half NIF (5.4 mV) area, but it could reduce coverage beyond that contour.
THREE POWER MEASUREMENT OPTIONS
All-digital power can’t be measured using traditional analog AM practices. For example, MA3’s peak-to-average ratio is significantly higher than that of analog AM, so the transmitter’s power level meter may read inaccurately. Also, if the transmitter isn’t optimized for MA3 mode, the peak-to-average ratio may be reduced, and a different power level reading may result than if the transmitter had been optimally adjusted.
As a result, the WWFD experiments included identifying a new procedure to verify that transmitters are operating at licensed power when in MA3 mode. Three methods were considered:
• A channel power measurement with a spectrum analyzer on the transmitter’s RF monitor port using an unmodulated carrier at licensed power (verified with the station’s existing base current and common point meters), and verifying the same channel power when the transmitter is placed in the MA3 mode.
• A procedure identical to that above, but instead utilizing a calibrated average power meter.
• Replacing the Common Point current meter and each tower base current meter with a thermocouple-type RF ammeter. (Remote monitoring systems connected to pre-existing meters could then be recalibrated to what the thermocouple meter reads.)
AM stations commonly use transformer-coupled RF ammeters, but they aren’t viable for measuring MA3’s OFDM carriers, which use quadrature amplitude modulation and vary by the type of information sent. Sometimes most or all of the carriers are in phase, which would raise the peak power tremendously. Other times, the carriers could be mostly or totally out of phase with one another, thus reducing the power to zero. As a result, average power is the best metric.
The third technique proved to be the best option, for several reasons:
• A thermocouple-type RF ammeter is a device that many AM stations already have. Those that don’t can purchase one for, at most, a few hundred dollars — unlike a spectrum analyzer. In fact, the WWFD tests used a Simpson 0-15A that was purchased pre-owned for $50. These and other models are widely available online from sellers such as test-and-measurement surplus equipment dealers and even at hamfests.
• These devices also are easy to implement. At WWFD, the Simpson 0-15A was mounted on a fiberglass J-plug inserted into the J-plug between the output of the tower ATU and the tower itself. This is where the current transformer for the base current measurement is located.
• Reading and interpretation are straightforward. After the meter was inserted into WWFD’s system, a baseline reading was obtained by operating the transmitter with an unmodulated carrier with no QAM carriers present. The RF ammeter and current transformer readings should match, which means the station is operating at licensed power. Next, the QAM carriers are turned on, and the RF ammeter reading should be the same as with an unmodulated carrier. If the base current meter is a diode detector, such as a Delta TCA type meter, the reading will be slightly lower.
WWFD’s tests used all three measurement methods because a power meter and spectrum analyzer were available. All three methods also proved to be accurate in an MA3 environment. For station owners, equipment manufacturers, consultants and other members of the broadcast ecosystem, the bottom line is that the choice comes down to equipment availability, budget and personal preference. But for most stations, measurement at the transmitter output with a thermocouple-type RF ammeter likely will be the most economical option.
OPTIMIZING ANTENNA HELPS WITH SIGNAL AND LISTENER ACQUISITION
Since Part 1 of this series published in October, the daytime antenna system was further optimized using a design provided by Kintronic Labs. The goal was to shift the day pattern from its upward position to the optimal load for the transmitter (“cusp left”), as well as to provide additional broadbanding of the antenna system. This was achieved by replacing the capacitor in the very long transmission line with a second T network.
This change provided several benefits, starting with presenting the transmitter with the best possible load (also referred to as “Hermetian symmetry”), as well as tuning out the transmission line’s inductance. Additional benefits were surprising. Radios were able to acquire the core digital signal faster: within one frame (1.5 seconds). When the digital signal was lost (such as under bridges or near major power lines), it recovered faster.
For stations that decide to implement MA3, these kinds of network changes are worth considering because they improve the listening experience. The less frustration and annoyance that audiences encounter, the less likely they are to tune away. Faster acquisition times help them find a station in the first place as they’re casually tuning around. Large, loyal audiences attract more advertising revenue, which helps make the business case for upgrading to MA3.
Another potential business factor is the possibility of adding HD2 on MA3. This could be particularly valuable for AM stations in smaller markets by providing an additional revenue stream. That income could further offset MA3 upgrade costs. The license fee also will be waived for stations that turn on MA3 full-time.
MA3 WILL HELP REVITALIZE AM
Each AM station has its own set of marketplace considerations and business challenges, which is why there can never be an industry-wide silver bullet. MA3 is no exception to that rule. However, it will be a viable option for many stations.
While an AM station with an existing, profitable analog audience is not likely to be among the first to switch to digital, it should be noted that analog AM broadcasting, in general, is not a growth medium. In-home listening is migrating to streaming devices such as smart speakers, and in-car listening of terrestrial analog broadcasts is being challenged by the new options offered in-dash.
Trends in receiver designs seem to be converging around “tuning” by visual metadata: specifically, a thumbnail preset. A receiver of the future will likely scan the bands for available content and display the available options. When pressing an icon for a favorite station, it may not be immediately obvious whether the source is AM, FM, satellite or a stream. AM stations must be digital to transmit the necessary metadata and achieve the required audio fidelity. All-digital AM is likely to be one option “under the hood” of delivering audio content to future receivers.
For the immediate future, AM stations converting to all-digital achieve aural and visual parity with other services in the dash: FM HD, satellite and streaming. Additionally, having a desirable product with a pleasant user experience in the dash will cause car manufacturers to take notice and include AM (and FM) HD in their standard offerings.
It’s important to note that with the possible exception of electric vehicles, when consumers get AM HD, they get analog AM, too. That “package deal” should benefit legacy stations by keeping the medium in the dashboard. It costs money to keep AM in the car (in terms of hardware and noise-suppression techniques), but by going digital, broadcasters on the “senior” band will cause receiver manufacturers to take notice by showing that AM can be a growth medium, as well. In short, going digital reinforces the presence of AM in the car.
Dave Kolesar, CBT, CBNT, recently recieved the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award for 2019–2020.
Comment on this or any story. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WWFD: A Station Overview
Owned by Hubbard Radio, WWFD runs an adult album alternative format on 820 kHz. It operates 4.3 kW non-directional during the day and switches to a 430 W two-tower array at night.
WWFD also has a 160 W translator, W232DG, on 94.3 MHz. Most WWFD listeners migrated to the translator after it signed on in July 2017, which made it feasible from a business perspective to replace the analog carrier with MA3 on an experimental basis.
The FCC granted Hubbard a one-year STA to operate WWFD in MA3 mode, a switch that took place on July 16, 2018. Getting to that point took a lot of time, effort and collaboration with Kintronic Labs and Cavell, Mertz and Associates for the antenna system, and Broadcast Electronics, Nautel and GatesAir for the transmitters. Xperi Corp. lent its expertise to set up the digital transmitters, and to verify the operation of the antenna system. The STA has since been renewed.
WorldDAB has published the first version of its Aftermarket Devices Guidelines.
Designed by the WorldDAB Aftermarket Devices Working Group, the purpose of the document is to improve the user experience of aftermarket devices, including those for DAB+ digital radio.
Intended for manufacturers, WorldDAB says these guidelines are based on WorldDAB User Experience Group research and incorporate “allowances and changes in line with the nature of AMDs.”
Featuring directions on domains in relation to AMDs, including for instance, user interface; device connection; functionality; power; service lists; car display; service following and antennas, the document provides a foundation for manufacturers of aftermarket devices and adaptors. WorldDAB plans to update the guidelines as necessary based on market developments and future improvements.
“These Aftermarket Devices Guidelines were developed to help manufacturers better understand how to integrate DAB+ digital radio devices into vehicles that are already on the road,” said Jørn Jensen, retiring chairman of the WorldDAB Aftermarket Devices Working Group.
“The aftermarket sector has seen a significant increase in demand over the last few years. More drivers are looking to bring the extra choice and better quality of DAB+ into older cars, which do not have digital radio as standard. These guidelines were created to help achieve this in the best possible way.”
The Aftermarket Devices Guidelines is available for download here.
Start off the new year off right. Now available, Scott Fybush’s famed Tower Site Calendar for the year 2020. As always, each month features a radio broadcast tower in a gorgeous setting.
This 19th edition takes a trip across the pond adding a tower in the United Kingdom.
Calendars are $20 plus shipping, and tax if you live in New York state. For info contact Lisa Fybush or call 1-585-442-5411.
OSLO, Norway — On Sept. 11, Soundware Norway proved that it was possible to run a live radio broadcast using the touchscreen monitor inside a Tesla 3 electric car.The Tesla 3’s in-car monitor, showing the web page that controls program rundown, playout and the audio mixer. All photos: Soundware Norway
Inside the Tesla parked outside Soundware Norway’s Oslo headquarters, Soundware Sales Manager Ketil Morstøl managed a mock live broadcast using the Tesla 3’s web browser, which accesses the web via the car’s built-in LTE wireless modem. The browser was connected to a website hosting Soundware’s DHD user interface that remotely controls a DHD-equipped radio production facility, and David Systems’ TurboPlayer playout system.
Using the touchscreen display — which showed a standard radio music playlist in the center of the screen and standard on-air control buttons to switch/fade between audio sources and turn microphones on and off on the right side — Morstøl cycled through the functions just as if he was doing a live radio broadcast.The Soundware Norway interface set to the remote studio mixer control screen.
“As a proof that we have bidirectional audio, we can switch on the microphone and we will actually see the PPM meter showing the input signal,” said Morstøl in a YouTube video entitled “Soundware Norway to Do BroadCARst as World First!” (Available here.) The microphone was sourced from Morstøl’s own smartphone, which connected to the web browser by taking a photo of an onscreen QR code.
MORE THAN A STUNT
Given that this “broadCARst” was staged to promote Soundware Norway’s appearance at IBC2019, it is easy to dismiss this demonstration as a publicity stunt. But the broadCARst was much more than that: It showed that radio talent can now take remote control of their station’s live production facilities from any location and run the broadcast as if they were actually in studio themselves.
Soundware Norway was able to do this demo inside a Tesla 3 because this car has a built-in web browser on its touchscreen display. This same functionality can be accessed using a web-connected laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Had he chosen to, Morstøl could have run this demo on a Samsung Family Hub refrigerator — because this fridge has a web-connected touchscreen display built in. “We have pictures of us on Linkedin.com, running a radio studio remotely inside a Boeing 747 at 30,000 feet,” he said.A closer view of the screen, showing the music playlist and mixer controls.
“You can do everything remotely using our DHD interface that you can do in the studio,” Morstøl added. “This goes far beyond choosing songs and opening the microphones. You can actually access the mixing desk in the studio, and make and receive telephone calls. We have even integrated an audio codec into the system so that transporting audio data across the web to the studio is easily enabled.”
MORE THAN A RADIO REMOTE
Broadcasting radio programs from remote locations is nothing new. The first “radio remote” is believed to have taken place in 1924, when WHN (New York City) station manager Nils Granlund leased Western Union telegraph lines to connect his station to local jazz nightclubs.
Producing complex radio broadcasts from remote locations is also standard fare in the broadcasting industry, where fully mixed programs are relayed back to the studio for direct airing. So if Soundware Norway’s DHD system did nothing more than this — turning a Tesla 3 into a radio production studio on wheels — it would be impressive, but not ground-breaking.
However, the Soundware demo showed that the Tesla 3 could serve as a web-based interface for complete remotely controlled radio production; just as the other web-connected devices cited above could.
And this is where the demo gets interesting — because it proves that physical radio production facilities operated by broadcasters who have to be on-site are no longer necessary. Rather than building a 24/7 radio station whose production facilities are only used for live broadcasts at peak hours and otherwise left unused, Soundware’s production model makes it possible to use an unmanned “production hub” whose equipment is accessed remotely as needed, and by multiple users/stations at different times of the day.The Soundware Norway system can also be remotely controlled by a smartphone.
“Rather in a specific radio station investing in production hardware that is unused most of the day, you could share the costs of hardware across broadcasters and all use a common facility,” said Morstøl.The Soundware Norway production system also supports physical faders; as shown by Ketil Morstøl.
To cope with the fact that radio broadcasters need production facilities for live morning shows, stations operating in different time zones around the world could do the sharing. As long as Station A is four hours (time zones) ahead of Station B, both could use the same remote production facility sequentially for their four hour-long morning shows.
This same function could be provided by third-party vendors. They could create cloud-based virtual production facilities that radio stations could access remotely, with the mixed radio feeds going directly to their transmitter sites via IP.
Should this come to pass, radio stations would no longer need physical radio production facilities. They could reduce their operations to sales/administration offices and transmitter/antenna sites, with engineering staff located there to handle the remaining physical aspects of radio broadcasting.
This said, there’s no reason that on-air talent could not broadcast from the sales/administration office using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone to maintain the public fiction of actually broadcasting from a radio studio. But it would be a fiction, because the creation of fully remote radio production has made the continued existence of physical radio studios optional at the very least, and unnecessary at most.
This may seem a lot to conclude from a mock radio broadcast from inside a Tesla 3. But the far-reaching implications of Soundware Norway’s demo are there for all to see.
The Optimod-PC 1101e audio processing card from Orban is especially designed for use with digital transmission media such as radio streaming channels.
The unit comes with a variety of presets, speech/music detection and PreCode Technology to minimize artifacts caused by low bitrate codecs and according to the company is easy to set up.
It also features a digital mixing function, which Orban says, is “crucially important for an internet radio broadcaster who needs to control commercial content and insertion.”
Optimod-PC lets users mix an analog source, two digital sources, and two WAV sources. For example, the processor allows users to run a playout system on one’s computer while using the three hardware inputs for a live microphone feed, commercial insert and network insert.
Alternatively, operators can run the commercial insert playout software on the same computer as the main playout system, using Optimod-PC’s second WAV input to separately route the outputs of the two playout systems to the card.
Orban adds that Optimod-PC is useful for users with multiple streams because it allows them to load one computer with as many Optimod-PC cards as there are free PCI slots, each card handling one stereo program.
For information, contact Orban in Germany at +49-7141-2266-0 or visit www.orban.com.
Great content strictly for engineers, including D-I-Y and first-person articles from Frank McCoy, Wayne Pecena, Todd Dixon and Cris Alexander, as well as insights by Dave Kolesar and Mike Raide about their real-world research into all-digital medium-wave transmission.BAKING WITH PI
Pi for Everyone and Everything
What’s more fun than being able to solve a problem by combining ideas from your own brain with the power of a single-board computing platform? Todd Dixon has the first in an ongoing series of articles.DIGITAL RADIO
Real-World Tests Make Business Case for MA-3
Continuing a report they began in the October issue of RWEE, Kolesar and Raide describe the technique and equipment used to measure power from the WWFD transmitter, and describes the day- and nighttime drive tests of the station’s all-digital signal.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:
- Do You Know What Time It Is?
- “Green” Tower Lights Are a Viable Option
- Receivers in a Box on the Roof
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of car trips that we took, usually at night, between our home in the Texas panhandle and Dallas, where my older sister and later my brother lived. And I remember seeing those vertical stacks of red lights, some of which were flashing, and wondering what they were. “Those are radio towers,” or something to that effect, was my dad’s response.
Of course, at the time, I had no idea what radio towers even were or why they had to be adorned by those red flashing lights, but I thought they were pretty cool. Then, when I started at my first job in radio, there was a whole array of towers with flashing red lights right outside the back door. At that job, I had no responsibility for those lights, but I did know what they were for and if my job were at a non-directional station, what my responsibilities for them would be as a Third-Class Radiotelephone Operator licensee (with Broadcast Endorsement, of course).
That first radio gig was pretty much a summer job, and I landed a job at an FM station across town when it was done. That FM was located at the base of an 800-foot tower, and I worked 4 p.m. to midnight six days a week, which meant that I had to make the daily visual observation of the tower lights and faithfully enter into the operating log, “Tower lights are on and flashing.”
It was kind of a cool thing, standing in the dark at the base of that tower, listening to the ever-present Texas wind howling through the angle iron and guy wires and looking up at those red lights. The top beacon illuminated the “crow’s nest” above the top plate and beacon, and the tower had enough cross section that I could really see it and wonder what it was (I later climbed up there and saw it, the huge Huey & Phillips beacon and side marker fixtures up close).
A MYSTERIOUS BOX
The station signed off at midnight — there were few people out of bed after midnight in Amarillo, Texas, in those days, and of those that were, few had FM radios.
When the filaments and all the blowers shut off, I could hear a rhythmic grinding noise coming from the back wall. There was a mysterious electrical box of some sort that contained a motor, a cam and a pair of black bulbs with wires coming out of them. Up and down those bulbs went, one coming down as the other went up. I had discovered the tower light controls and mechanical flasher unit.The KBRT LED tower lights are so efficient that we could run them off a single 300-watt solar panel and a deep-cycle battery.
For decades after that, I found similar setups at tower sites all over. Even when we bought new towers in the 1990s, tower lights and tower light controls were very much the same. They used the same pairs of 620-watt bulbs in the beacons, the same 110-watt lamps in the markers; and they used some kind of mechanical device to produce the flash, although mechanical contacts were used rather than mercury switches by then.
Over those decades, tower lights were always a pain in the backside. It seemed like I could never keep the lights all working for long — bulbs burned out, flashers developed mechanical issues and the constant vibration on the towers would cause wiring to chafe and occasionally short out. Then when solid-state flashers entered the scene, they were prone to failure, either from lightning or overheating. We would buy them by the case.
A FLASH IN THE DARK
Somewhere back in time, we began to see strobes come into use for some towers, usually with reduced intensity at night. We had (and still have) a tower in suburban Chicago that is 450 feet high and free-standing. It cost a fortune to paint, and we had to paint it every three or four years, so as soon as the FAA lighting standards would permit, I filed to change it from red lights and paint to a dual system with medium intensity white strobes during the day and red lights at night. While we no longer had to paint the tower after that change, those tower lights were a chore to keep working. It was always something with that high-voltage gas-tube system.
Sometime later, a few manufacturers began producing direct replacement LED red beacons and marker lights. These fixtures included integral 120-volt AC power supplies, so the existing 120-VAC wiring, power and flashers could be used with them. They weren’t cheap, but with the promise of much longer bulb life, we went down that road at a lot of sites, with mixed results. At some, we had no problems and the retrofit LED beacons and markers that we installed are still working after many years. At others, we had quite a bit of trouble and any power and bulb replacement savings was quickly consumed by repair costs.
In 2012, we built a four-tower 50 kW directional array for KBRT near Los Angeles, way up on a mountaintop with the L.A. Basin below to the west and the Inland Empire some 3,000 feet below to the east. The marking and lighting for that site were very much in question for all kinds of reasons. First was for air safety and obstruction marking. Then there was the question of light pollution — how much would the various lighting options contribute to light pollution above the skyline of the Santa Ana Mountains? And then there was the question of migratory (and other) bird attraction to the lights.
ENTER LED LIGHTING
After much study, we opted to install red LED lights on the four towers, lights with tightly-focused beams that would confine the light projection to the horizon plus or minus a few degrees. That seemed to satisfy everyone, but I had my doubts that an LED tower lighting system that operated on low DC voltage would be reliable with 50 kW of medium-wave RF present. But to my amazement, I had nothing to fear. The lights worked fine, and we have not experienced a single failure to date. Their power consumption was so low that I was able to run the tower lights off solar panels and deep-cycle marine batteries for a couple of months after the towers went up but before we had commercial power at the site.Today’s LED tower light controllers are a far cry from the motor, cam and mercury switch mechanical controllers of old.
Since then, I’ve become a believer in LED tower light systems (and I’m speaking here of DC-powered LED systems, not hybrid or retrofit systems). I have been converting some of our oldest towers to new-technology systems. It’s amazingly easy. Beacons fit the bolt hole patterns of a code incandescent beacon, and all new wiring employing UV-rated SO cable is used to connect everything up.
A couple of years ago, the FAA began allowing the use of dual white/red systems on towers under 700 feet high, and that encompasses most of the towers in my company. It means that we can, in many cases, convert to dual red/white systems and (if the towers are galvanized) forget about painting forever. And don’t forget about the power savings, which can be significant on taller structures and multi-tower arrays.
So, the next time you find yourself troubleshooting a tower light issue … or relamping … or replacing a solid-state or mechanical flasher … consider making the move to new technology LED tower lighting. It’s the green (or maybe red) thing to do.
Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB, is director of engineering of Crawford Broadcasting Co. and technical editor of RW Engineering Extra.
The family of the recently deceased John Lyons has set up a GoFundMe account to help with the costs of education for his 7-year-old son.
Lyons died unexpectedly the day after Thanksgiving. In addition to his wife Natasha and adult son Matthew, his family includes 7-year-old Constantine.
“In lieu of flowers, donations for Constantine Lyons’ education, extracurricular and other school-related needs to help support him as he grows will be greatly appreciated,” stated his obituary. As of Wednesday the site had raised about $5,000.
Find info here.
The National Association of Tower Erectors has elected its new board of directors. Four board members will retain their seats, and the fifth will be occupied by Jessica Cobb, the association announced this week. The two-year terms are effective Feb. 16.
Cobb is CEO of MDTS in Ortonville, Mich. She is a current board member of the Michigan Wireless Association and also serves on the NATE Member Services Committee and as a member of the Women of NATE Committee.
The returning board members are MillerCo President Jimmy Miller, Tower & Turbine Technologies LLC President John Paul Jones, Millennia Contracting President Kevin Dougherty and Lee Antenna & Line Service President Bryan Lee.
“Looking ahead to 2020, the NATE board of directors will be governing during a very exciting and dynamic time in the industry that offers enormous potential to position the association for future growth and influence,” NATE Chief Operating Officer Paula Nurnberg said in the announcement.
At its annual Innovation Day conference last week, the firm showcased a prototype of the low-cost, low-power DRM design.
This, according to the company, addresses the vital need for information by the global population that doesn’t have the internet or TV, adding that since it is low power, it can run from solar or wind-up.
Cambridge Consultants say the design will be ready in 2020, available for any radio manufacturer to license and incorporate into their own products.Ruxandra Obreja
DRM Chairman, Ruxandra Obreja said she welcomes the announcement.
“The unique and inspiring design will finally lead to the development of a low-power, low-cost, small-screen, large-coverage receiver. This means we’ll be able to bridge the digital divide for millions of people who don’t have easy access to broadband.”
The post Cambridge Consultants Unveil Prototype for Low-Cost DRM Receiver appeared first on Radio World.
During the latest national test of the Emergency Alert System, more than 84% of radio broadcasters successfully received the National Periodic Test alert, and then 82.5% of those retransmitted the code, averaging slightly better than all of the EAS participants combined.
That’s according to initial results of the 2019 Nationwide Test of Emergency Alert System released Dec. 9. This public notice includes “aggregated, anonymized data” derived from the Form Three filings submitted by EAS participants.
This annual test is intended to assess whether the EAS would perform as designed, an increasingly important question as some debate whether the current system is the best way to keep citizens informed in the smartphone age.[Broadcasters Need to Keep Eye on Latest EAS Updates]
A total of 19,607 EAS participants spanning radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, Internet Protocol Television providers, wireline video systems and others reported they received the alert, and 15,986 then retransmitted it. Radio broadcasters make up the majority of EAS participants at 13,940, followed by the 2,717 television broadcasters and the 2,626 cable system providers.
Interesting, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau noted that nearly half of those who reported receiving the alert said that they were monitoring three or more over-the-air sources at the time. Almost 70% of participants who filed Form Three indicated that there were “no complications” in receiving the test, but about 12% said there were issues with the test’s audio quality. Also, nearly 75% indicated there were no complications during the retransmission, although a small minority said they encountered “other” difficulties.
As 2020 approaches, community stations face many vexing yet familiar challenges. Most want to grow their volunteer base as well their audiences/donors, across generations as well as across socio-economic groups, at a time when the role and relevance of radio itself is being challenged or rethought.Nina Simon
Nina Simon, author of “The Art of Relevance,” says managers might ask themselves, “How do I get young people to volunteer or listen to my station?” She feels this is the wrong question because it takes the onus off the station.
Instead, she challenges organizations to focus on ways to make a station more welcoming to a plethora of audiences.
The nonprofit that she founded is OF/BY/FOR ALL. It articulates this vision by stating, “Putting up a ‘Welcome’ sign is not enough. To involve people in meaningful, sustainable ways, you can’t just make programs FOR them. You have to involve them in their creation. And that means becoming OF and BY them too.”
Simon, speaking at the Community Media Conference of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters earlier this year, said she has learned that while most people believe their organizations are welcoming to all, they will also say that their current audience doesn’t reflect the diversity of their community.
This is a disconnect with which many community stations grapple.WHAT IS “INCLUSION”?
NFCB CEO Sally Kane has a deep understanding of the community radio landscape and agrees that there’s work to be done.
“Lots of community radio folks say they are ‘inclusive,’ but in fact [their stations] are insider clubs that aren’t seeing or understanding the fullness of their communities. And I think that is perilous,” she said.
“For example, lots of rural stations are actually embedded in a dominant culture that is highly conservative, and [yet] they are more progressive. It’s important for the stations to at least acknowledge that and not pretend that they represent the community as a whole.”
Although it can be challenging for stations to connect with everyone, “community” is obviously the focus of community radio, for both its workforce of volunteers and for its audience of listeners and donors.
“Community radio is, by design, intended to be of, by and for the people,” Simon said. “Especially today, when many community radio stations have been politicized or marginalized into perceived niches, I believe it’s critical and meaningful to recommit to involving everyone.”[Facebook Needs Community Radio]
Kane believes these conversations about engaging with audiences are imperative in the current hyper-connected media landscape.
“The digital space is highly interactive, so a one-way pipeline of delivering content is no longer adequate, and stations need to integrate that into the way they approach communication and content and organizational culture.”
Young people are identified time and again as a vital component of radio’s future; yet many a community radio station has an aging crew of volunteers and minimal involvement by new, young team members.
Simon suggests that stations get specific: “Identify a specific community of young people who you want to involve, whether that be high school band nerds or young professionals starting their first full-time job and looking for creative outlets. Then talk with them about what they are looking for from a volunteer or engagement experience. Base your offerings on their goals and interests, not yours.”CALLS FROM HOME
Ways that community stations are seeking to engage and evolve are reflected by others who participated in that NFCB conference.WMMT airs “Calls From Home,” promoted here on its website. The station in rural Kentucky works with listeners incarcerated in at least six nearby prisons.
WMMT General Manager Elizabeth Sanders says the rural Whitesburg, Ky., station works with its listeners who are incarcerated in at least six nearby prisons. WMMT has for many years communicated with prisoners and their families through its “Calls From Home” and “Restorative Radio” programs and more recently through a Prison Justice Assembly.
Sanders shares letters that the station has received from prisoners. She said WMMT is trying to represent those who are “the most marginalized” and also wants to bring a “multitude of voices” to the airwaves.
Collaborating with organizations that are enmeshed in specific communities is another way that stations are touching new audiences.
Kerry Semrad, general manager of KZUM in Lincoln, Neb., says the station has an innovative Podcast Partner Program that offers podcast training in order to broaden its public affairs programming. Through partnerships, the station was able to work with some of Lincoln’s refugee communities and learned more about how KZUM could address their needs.
As a result, content is being developed in listeners’ native languages. Semrad says the “only way to remain relevant is to learn from each other constantly.”[Community Broadcaster: Acting on Equity]
Similarly, WERU Community Radio in Maine has been increasing the number and depth of partnerships with community organizations in part to help make the station relevant to a broader audience, especially younger listeners.
Development Director Heather Andrews says that through conversations and surveys, the station learned about specific programming needs. As a result, the station is looking more closely at local programming and on-demand and mobile access for listeners. Andrews said that it was critical to “break down barriers” and “change things up” in order to attract new audiences.
As at KZUM, podcasting is an entry point for new participants and listeners at many community radio stations. Station Manager Ursula Ruedenberg of KHOI in Ames, Iowa, said its entry into podcasting was unexpected. In response to the lack of audio production training at the nearby Iowa State University, KHOI created an audio lab in order to work with the school newspaper. Ruedenberg said the program has expanded and now provides training as the required audio production class in the school’s journalism program.
In a moment in history when so many people are racing to get involved with podcasting, KHOI realized that it could provide a needed service while simultaneously engaging with new audiences to spread the word about KHOI. This type of collaboration also has helped to bridge the traditional “town and gown” divide in Ames, by bringing the student and non-student communities together in order to create audio.
The author is co-founder of Radio Survivor and co-chairs the College, Community & Educational Radio Caucus on the Library of Congress’ Radio Preservation Task Force.
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks spoke in November at the Media Institute “Free Speech America” Gala. He addressed issues involving freedom of speech as well as diversity in broadcast ownership and hiring. His text:THE FIRST AMENDMENT
The need has always been clear: for free men and women to commit to the ideals of liberty and self-determination, they must be well-informed. A free press is the sentinel of our democracy. On this score, perhaps the greatest observer, and the greatest account, is Alexis de Tocqueville in “Democracy in America.” He writes: “The sovereignty of the people and the liberty of the press may therefore be looked upon as correlative institutions; just as the censorship of the press and universal suffrage are two things which are irreconcilably opposed, and which cannot long be retained among the institutions of the same people.”
In our current moment, perhaps more than ever, the need for a robust, independent free press has never been more critical.
Today, there is an overload of information. It can be difficult to discern what is true, what is not; what are facts, and what are not; what is worthy to be called news, and what is not. And just as the promise of the First Amendment supported the free exchange of ideas in the age of typewriters and telegraphs, it continues to do so in today’s era of broadband and network broadcasting. Social media, deep fakes and the barrage of information that comes to each of us through the internet are potent new influences upon our democracy that admonish us to develop new responsive interpretive muscles.
But part of this hearkens back to the era of our nation’s founding. In the 1830s, Tocqueville wrote that “[t]he number of periodical and occasional publications in the United States actually surpasses belief.” The American people have a deeply ingrained urge to seek out and wade through what the Supreme Court has called a “multiplicity of information.”
That’s a good thing because it is essential to our democracy that the American people go through the process of hearing from a wide range of sources, ideologies and viewpoints. The fabric of our shared culture has long understood how to make decisions in the midst of this fog. Democracy is inherently curious and competitive, which is why we often speak of our culture as the product of a marketplace of ideas.
Like all markets, the one of ideas rises and falls upon the quality and depth of information. As they say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” What we need, then, is a press that pursues unvarnished facts and, above all else, truth.MEDIA DIVERSITY
The rights enshrined in the First Amendment, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press, guide the Federal Communications Commission’s public interest standard, which must inform everything that we do. But the fact that those celebrated words were written into the Bill of Rights does not, in and of itself, guarantee that it will work as intended. The First Amendment is not self-executing. Preserving its guarantees requires the vigilance of regulators, the media, and the public alike.
Ida B. Wells once said: “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.” For its part, the FCC has an incredibly important role to play in supporting the First Amendment and preserving the freedoms it affirms.
Namely, the FCC, by statute, is tasked with facilitating greater diversity in our national discourse. As the Supreme Court has stated, when considering the First Amendment, “the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public.”
Those in the media are both the beneficiaries and the guarantors of our First Amendment rights. They have the power to inform, to educate and to impact the way we view ourselves and the world. Where we strengthen our media, we strengthen our national conversation and reaffirm our freedom of speech at the same time.
The FCC, which governs our communications networks, has a critical role to play in securing and protecting public access to information. One of the many roles the law assigns to the commission is licensing broadcasters to use our public airwaves. In doing so, our controlling statute demands that we distribute these licenses in a way that prevents too many from winding up in the same hands and promotes ownership by women and people of color.[Starks Criticizes FCC Record on Media Diversity]
This is important. The capacity of broadcast media to empower and inform is indisputable, and it is critical that those exercising this power represent all of us, not a mere privileged or anointed few. Eighty-six percent of Americans get their local news from local TV stations, while only 23% get their local news from sources that are exclusively online. And numerous studies suggest that most of the news consumed online is originated by traditional sources, like broadcasters or newspapers.
Of particular concern to me, then, is the persistent lack of diversity in broadcast media ownership, and among its rank and file.
America’s broadcasters should look like America. Ownership sets the tone for a media outlet, and employees manage its day-to-day operations and provide its public face. Given the crucial role our media plays in informing the public, it is critical that it reflect the nation at large, both behind and in front of the camera, and that our local media also be reflective of the local communities it is bound to serve. These institutions should mirror the richness of our population and give expression to its diverse voices.
The need for a greater focus on diversity and inclusion has never been more apparent, and the commission has, largely and over many decades, failed in meeting its statutory goals and obligations in this regard.
This isn’t conjecture or political posturing. It isn’t even an opinion. It is a fact borne out by our data.
The FCC’s numbers on broadcast ownership are collected every two years. The latest dataset was released in 2017. According to our most recent data, there are more than 1,300 full-power television stations licensed across the country, with only 12 owned by African Americans. If you were rounding, that would be closer to zero percent than 1% — and this has been so for a long, long time.OPPORTUNITY
However, now we may finally have a chance to get this right.
The FCC has been given a golden opportunity to succeed where it has previously fallen flat. As the Third Circuit Court of Appeals observed in its most recent media ownership decision, Prometheus v. FCC, the commission can and must do better in addressing the impact of its regulatory efforts on the ability of women and people of color to own stations. No longer can it rely on bad data and analysis while ignoring its obligations. The court sent back the FCC’s latest deregulatory efforts and demanded that we get the data and perform the analysis necessary to ensure that we are fully meeting our statutory requirements. [In November, the FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, filed an appeal of the decision vacating the FCC’s media ownership rules. — Ed.]
Beyond ownership, the commission must redouble its Equal Employment Opportunity efforts to ensure that broadcasters are seeking diverse employees. For 15 years, the commission has had an open rulemaking proposing to continue a decades old data collection on the diversity of the broadcast workforce. And for 15 years, while we’ve been stuck in neutral, we’ve elicited zero visibility on whether station management and news teams reflect our communities. We cannot fully engage on this issue when our ability to understand the problem is compromised.
On both counts, when it comes to ownership and employment, there are those that would argue that collecting data or adopting meaningful policies to promote diversity would be unconstitutional. I couldn’t disagree more.
First, collecting and analyzing data is a core function of an expert agency, and having a better understanding of the industries that we regulate is also just common sense.
Second, when it comes to designing programs that would help improve our stagnant and declining ownership numbers, we can target our efforts based on race, ethnicity and gender, so long as we are careful and provide a well-supported reason for doing so. The Third Circuit Court has instructed us to do so. Given the historic problems we’ve had with broadcast diversity, new research like disparity studies identifying past discrimination in licensing, could be critical to both addressing the concerns of the Third Circuit and finally making good policy in this space.
So, we must get this right. We must do better in fulfilling our statutory obligation to promote diversity in broadcasting. And we must support the inclusion of marginalized voices in the national conversation. Only then can we claim to have upheld our responsibilities under our statute and secured the guarantees of First Amendment in the field of broadcasting.
Geoffrey Starks, a Democrat, was nominated by President Trump to the FCC seat formerly held by Mignon Clyburn. He was sworn in in January 2019.
We are proud to announce the 16th recipient of the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award. Also: Radio places a bet on gambling; best practices in RF safety; keeping mice out of a transmitter; and Paul Rotella sounds off about the latest attempt in Congress to pass a “performance tax.”EXCELLENCE
He Sees the Promise in All-Digital AM
Our honoree Dave Kolesar of Hubbard Radio is an innovator and disruptor. Hear about his career and what he sees coming next for AM.SAFETY
Staying Safe Around RF
James O’Neal shares lessons learned at a seminar tailored to assist transmitter/tower workers.ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:
- NABA Urges North American Radio to Look Ahead
- Don’t Let Mice Kill Your Transmitter
- America’s Broadcasters Should Look Like America
The author is chairman of Digital Radio Mondiale.
A picture is worth a thousand words and a digital radio coverage map might be worth a million dollars or more in business.Ruxandra Obreja
We might stress in documents and presentations the undeniable benefits of digital radio: Better audio, extra data, more choice, emergency warning capability and less spectrum. For DRM specifically the list also includes, the capacity to offer improved audio and data for large or local coverage very often using the existing basic infrastructure.
This can be illustrated with audio and can be doubled by screen grabs showing data, like names, colorful pictures of singers and albums, stock exchange values, etc. This is often impressive but not as easily understood as a map.
To many of those interested, a big global map showing the progress of one or another digital audio broadcasting standard is unbeatable. It is also immediately understandable and appreciated, especially by regulators, cost-conscious receiver manufacturers, the car industry and even listeners.
Seeing your [digital radio] standard represented by deep (actual transmissions) or faint colors (trials and demos that might lead to rollout or nothing at all) over large swathes of Europe, India, China, the Middle East or Asia, certainly gives confidence and creates the image of unstoppable progress.
But are clever marketers just using these maps as a fictional tool to impress the right audience?
Firstly, several standards claim the same territory on their respective maps. Is China a DRM, a CDR or a DAB country? DRM in shortwave (pumped 80 hours a day) giving actual and huge domestic coverage is the latest digital radio project in China.
So, maybe, the previous DAB broadcasts are no longer of great significance? Is South Africa a DRM or a DAB+ territory? For the time being, neither, since the country has tried or rather is trying both standards but the Pretoria government has not announced a policy. And the decision might go both ways, which would be good for the country, the standards and the maps.Photo Credit: Radu Obreja
Then, does a short workshop, a much-touted future trial, a feeble transmission on a low-power and unloved transmitter or a favorable meeting at a ministry turn a country into a colored spot on the global map? And how many transmitters and broadcasts and receivers qualify a country as a truly digital radio territory?
The purists might say the only truly undeniable deep color patches on anyone’s map represent the following: DRM in India, DAB in Norway and the United Kingdom (though FM continues to function in the country), and HD Radio in the United States.
And there is also the question of actual coverage. We might say DRM is covering the whole of Western Europe in shortwave but this is mainly for a short time and for the BBC World Service and digital pioneers. We could also say that a DAB transmission in a capital city, sometimes of a small Central European country, does not represent coverage of a whole country.
Is HD Radio really taking hold of Mexico when just some border stations are using the standard? There is no right or wrong answer, just the realization that generalization can often lead to distortion. We might even have to agree with what a famous politician was glossing on the famous saying: “One picture is worth a thousand denials.”
Rather than using the map argument, proponents of the various digital broadcasting systems need to give a true picture of what is really happening, while admitting that true coverage without false extrapolations is important but so is engagement and extending listening time, especially for the younger generation, Generation Z and the Millennials.
Radio is doing well everywhere but the big brands like Disney+ and now Amazon HD Music are muscling in. Streaming is everywhere and soon we’ll see the unthinkable, a Podcast Radio station (announced recently for London) using the radio platform to attract young listeners to a format they know and have grown up with, the podcast, whose roots were in radio in the first place.
PROMOTE THE FACTS
It is against these developments that digital radio needs to hold its own and do much better. Internet is not a threat; it is just an accompaniment. In the U.K., according to Rajar, 23% more audio hours have been consumed in the last four years. But many broadcasters are looking at how audio is being consumed by the younger generation and a more realistic picture of how audio is being enjoyed is shaping their thinking and strategies.
Instead of playing with maps, which become often obsolete and inaccurate the moment they are included in the slide pack, digital radio proponents could show that digital radio can deliver all that’s needed to attract the younger listeners: Better audio and larger coverage (DRM), greener broadcasting, news, emergency warnings, pictures and even podcasts.
Maps are flat and inaccurate, often a blunt instrument used to persuade the industry that there is only one standard or one version of the digital radio world. Digital radio is many-layered and very relevant in all parts of the world, in all countries developed or developing. It is also still gatekeeper-free and protective of the listener’s identity.
So maybe a picture is worth a thousand words but be sure to use only those that illustrate the picture accurately. This way the picture will provide encouragement and good vibes for the future of radio.