Broadcast Electronics and its owner Elenos Group have brought on some new team members, including several familiar to U.S. radio equipment buyers.
Earlier this month Elenos, which had acquired BE in late 2017, announced that it would make BE its “face” in North and South America.
Signing on to be an advisor to Elenos Group CEO Leonardo Busi is Peter Conlon, known in the radio industry from his eight years as president/CEO of Nautel Ltd., which he left in 2014.
Another Nautel alum, Chuck Kelly, has been named vice president of the Elenos Group’s television division and will guide BE’s growth into the TV market. Kelly worked for BE prior to Nautel, so this is a return engagement for him.
The company also tapped Ricardo Jimenez to serve as vice president of sales for Latin America. Its U.S. sales team now consists of John Lackness, west regional sales manager for Broadcast Electronics; Frank Grundstein, east regional sales manager; and Joe Myers, central regional sales manager and Canadian sales manager.
Elenos Group brands include Elenos, BE, Itelco and ProTelevision.
In the announcement, Busi said, “Our recent developments in our Itelco line of TV transmitters is now industry leading and we continue to work on the next generation of both our BE and Elenos lines of FM and AM transmitters.”
So, all-digital on the AM band … a good idea or a bad one?
The Federal Communications Commission is asking for the public to weigh in on a proposal that would allow U.S. radio stations on the AM band to transmit solely in a digital format.
As we’re reported, Bryan Broadcasting Corp. in March asked the commission to initiate a proceeding to authorize the “MA3 all-digital mode of HD radio” for any interested AM radio station. According to its petition, this kind of modernization would give AM broadcasters a “needed innovative tool with which to compete” without impairing other competitors in either the broadcasting or general spectrum-usage ecosystem.
The commission is now looking for comments on the issue under Media Bureau docket RM-11836 in the FCC’s ECFS database. Interested parties have until May 13 to file comments.
Radio World recently published an ebook on the question “What’s Next for All-Digital AM?” Ben Downs of Bryan Broadcasting was among those commenting in that publication; the ebook includes comments from skeptics as well and reviews some of the obstacles to possible implementation; read it here.
But now interested parties are telling the FCC directly about what they think. The filed comments so far are mixed.
LPFM advocacy group REC Networks said that it supports AM stations changing to MA3 mode, but in a manner that addresses various public interest issues and concerns.
“One of our biggest concerns with the wholesale ability for AM licensees to specify all- digital operation, albeit voluntary, would be the loss of first or second localized AM broadcast service to particular areas,” wrote REC Networks founder Michelle Bradley.
An amateur radio operator from Missouri expressed concerns about forcing AM broadcasters to convert.
“It would not be in the best interests of AM broadcasters to force a conversion from spectrally efficient analog broadcasting to spectrally inefficient digital broadcasting, especially in the MA3 standard,” wrote Eric S. Bueneman from Hazelwood, Mo. “Analog broadcasting on AM only takes up 10 kHz of spectrum; it provides a decent quality sound. The MA3 standard wastes 40 kHz of valuable spectrum space.
“Such a forced conversion would not benefit consumers,” he wrote. “They would be required to shell out money they don’t even have to buy new receivers. MA3 is not compatible with current AM receivers, and should not be implemented.”
According to Bryan Broadcasting in its petition, the AM band is overwhelmed by interference and impulse noise — so much that the resultant audio product is “rendered unacceptable to modern listeners.”
“[T]esting tellingly showed that the noise floor jumped from anywhere between 10 dB and 40 dB between the 1970s and the early 2000s (i.e., even before widespread acceptance of millions of interference- contributing technologies as phone chargers, compact fluorescent lamp bulbs, and flat-screen TVs),” the broadcaster wrote in its petition.
“Even setting aside empirical demonstration, one only has to listen to an AM broadcast inside a home where smart phone chargers and computer monitors are operating to understand the magnitude of the problem.”
Since it’s logistically unrealistic to expect to reverse the “spurious noise emissions” that come from these Part 15 devices, Bryan said, it’s necessary that the commission consider taking action to ameliorate harms to users of the AM bands, “otherwise, audiences desiring music programming will continue to turn away from AM broadcasts.”
The time has come, Bryan said, to allow AM licensees the option to license their station as all digital using the HD MA3 mode.
One of Bryan’s four AM stations, WTAW, is operating the HD hybrid model MA1, which the broadcaster said has proven free of noise. “To listen to WTAW in hybrid HD is to listen without the noise, pops and buzzes that plague analog AM today,” Bryan said in its filing. According to Bryan, the MA3 option represents a superior solution: it is not as fragile, it doesn’t succumb to drop outs in places where no obvious cause exists.
“[MA3 AM HD] provides a listening experience without the impossibly hostile noise found on the current AM band,” Bryan Broadcasting said. “It allows AM broadcasters to program audio to a market that expects to hear digital audio, giving AM broadcasters a platform from which they can compete. It is time to allow licensees to have this tool in their kit to fight AM audience loss.”
It’s late Tuesday afternoon, and you get a call from one of your show’s producers. There’s an expert guest on the other coast, and he’s planned a long-form interview with her tonight. The studio she’s in has an IP audio codec. So do you. “Let’s do this!” says the producer. What could go wrong?
It seems like this should be simple. Give the far-end studio your IP codec’s address, and enjoy the sweet wideband audio flowing with low delay back and forth, right? Nobody needs to know she hasn’t flown in to talk to you.
But when her studio tries to connect, nothing happens. The interview is conducted by phone. The producer is livid. You call the far-end studio in the morning for the post-mortem. It turns out that you have brand X codec and they have brand Y.
Why can’t different brands interconnect? The answer is: They can. But it’s not simple. And both the codec and your network need to be specially configured to do this, and things need to be tested ahead of time. And there are a couple of layers of “gotchas” based on the brands that can throw a wrench in things.
Sometimes this is enough for a busy engineer to say “to heck with it.” But if you’re willing to spend a little time configuring things, here are some tips on how to make it happen.
WHY IS IT SO?
Interoperability requires standards that developers can use to create common protocols that connect together. In the case of IP codecs, one standard does exist: EBU Tech 3326. It’s imperfect, but it does define a way professional-grade codecs should interoperate.
One main issue with the standard is that it was defined after many of the codecs on the market were developed or were already heavily in development. Several manufacturers had substantial sales of codecs before 3326 was published, and had done a lot of development work on perfecting their own protocols. So 3326 was added as an alternate mode of operation on most devices, with the proprietary modes still being the default.
Also, the EBU chose to make the 3326 standard use the same VoIP (Voice-over-IP) protocol gaining use in the telephone industry. Known as SIP, for Session Initialization Protocol, it was used by virtually no audio hardware codecs at the time. By default, most IP codecs use a single network socket to send and receive their “handshaking” or call setup information and their audio media. SIP does things differently, and as we’ll see, complicates the IT configuration required to use it.
Finally, the IP audio codec market is competitive. This competition drives innovation. Manufacturers have added things like error correction layers, presence/traversal services and call security features that aren’t well-defined in the standard.
ABOUT SIPFig. 1: SIP connection.
In the world of VoIP, SIP is virtually always set up as a client-server protocol. A SIP endpoint (which can be a phone, a software client or a PBX) registers with a server upstream, and creates a “keep-alive” signaling channel between the client and server. The server can also be a PBX (serving SIP endpoints) or it can also be a cloud-based server providing VoIP services directly to PBXs or endpoints. Fig. 1 shows this. In this figure, the PBX is both a client (registering with the cloud provider) and a server (providing registration services to the phones).
This has a big advantage if routers with NAT and firewalls exist between the client and the server. Because the initial registration request is made outgoing from the client, a socket is created and can be kept active with keep-alive messages. If an unsolicited message must be sent from the server to the client (e.g., incoming call alert), the open socket can be reused, and the unsolicited information is allowed to pass back to the client through the NAT router.
The channel that is kept open is strictly for signaling, and no audio media is ever passed on it. SIP dictates that a separate RTP socket gets opened between client and server in order to pass media.
This is the fact that makes SIP complicated in IT environments. Somehow, this independent media stream must also bridge the same NAT routers and firewalls as the signaling channel. In the client/server model (where it’s assumed no NAT or firewall exists on the server side) this can be done simply by assuring the client creates a stream first. The server can respond on the same socket and be reasonably sure things will flow unimpeded both ways. This is shown in Fig 2.Fig. 2: Separate signaling and media paths are required for a SIP connection.
Having cloud servers to route calls is convenient in the VoIP application of SIP, but often doesn’t fit well into the workflow of connecting hardware codecs together. It is possible, however, and SIP registration servers are available for free from several providers.
More often, codec users are accustomed to connecting to a target IP address. This is allowed in SIP. But when both peers are sitting behind routers and firewalls, you lose the NAT traversal advantages of the client/server model. This is the number one failure point of SIP peer-to-peer connections and is shown in Fig. 3.Fig. 3: Firewalls cause loss of the NAT traversal advantages of the client/server model.
Professional codec users are accustomed to the fact that in order to receive incoming calls, they will need to open an incoming port on their network. This is only a single port, and is well-defined by the manufacturer, so while IT may grumble about it, this is usually possible.
SIP complicates things. In addition to the “normal” IP codec port, the user must open the SIP signaling channel (standardized as UDP 5060) and two separate ports for RTP media. There are no standard ports defined for SIP RTP media, so you must research which ports your codec uses. Here is where the IT department’s grumbling usually increases in volume.
An alternative to opening RTP ports for incoming streams is to enable a “SIP ALG” function in your router. Implementations vary, but in theory, your router should become aware of an attempted incoming SIP call (by reading the signaling channel) and allow incoming connections on the correct RTP ports. This could reduce the heartache of opening multiple ports for SIP, but the signaling channel (UDP 5060) must still be opened.
None of these IT configuration changes are much fun to do in the timeframe where you’re actively trying to set up a call between manufacturers in a hurry. It’s worth taking time to configure and test these arrangements long before they are needed. But IT configurations aren’t the only potential issue you’ll encounter.
ENCODERS AND DECODERS
On the codecs themselves, you must be sure your box is enabled to receive SIP/3326 calls. On Comrex codecs, this is done in the systems settings menu as shown in Fig. 4a.Fig. 4a: A Comrex configuration screen showing incoming SIP enabled.
The outgoing caller must also configure the call to use a SIP channel, rather than the manufacturer’s proprietary protocol. In Comrex codecs, this is two-step process where the user will create an outgoing “profile” that uses SIP, then create an outgoing peer entry in the “phone book” that has this profile assigned. See Fig. 4b.Fig. 4b: Comrex configuration screen enabling a non-Comrex codec outgoing connection
The final catch in compatibility is that encoders must be specified that are compatible on both ends of the link. At Comrex, we recommend connections use AAC encoders for the best combination of audio quality and compatibility. Opus is also a good choice, if both sides support it. G.722 exists as a “lowest common denominator” and is almost universally compatible, albeit at its lower audio bandwidth of 7 kHz. Our testing shows good compatibility between Comrex and Tieline using these encoders. Our last testing against Telos products had issues with AAC encoders, so we recommend G.722 when connecting to those.
WRAPPING IT UP
Compatibility between IP codec manufacturers isn’t typically “plug and play,” but with a little advanced configuration and testing, you can make your codec open to connections with other professional hardware codecs.
Setting up for SIP calls has side advantages, since you’ll now be able to send and receive calls to an increasing number of VoIP devices, many of which are now implementing wideband audio encoders. Taking the time to learn about how these connections work can change your codec into a hub to receive many types of calls from many devices.
Tom Hartnett is technical director at Comrex.
We have, in these pages, looked at repack from the perspective of an FM broadcaster, following Doug Irwin on his journey through a repack-forced relocation. Behind every case of a repack-displaced FM station is one or more TV stations being forced to change frequencies, antennas and sometimes towers. In this feature, frequent RWEE contributor John Marcon takes us through a repack experience from the perspective of a television engineer. It is our hope that this will provide insight for repack-TV collocated FM station engineers as they prepare to deal with repack. — Ed.
The winds of change are upon us again. Incentive auction. Reallocation. Repack. Different words with the same meaning to the broadcaster.
Not too long ago, we were figuring out what to make of repack. Initially, there was a feeling that broadcasters were getting pushed around by this gigantic entity known as the Wireless Industry. It feels really bad losing the channel you are long known for and then moving somewhere else. Will the viewers continue watching with the new channel? Will the signal be the same? Are we going off air?
On the other hand, broadcasters are getting brand-new stuff and much more, paid for by the FCC. You can replace anything that needs replacement, as long as the FCC approved of it. True, they will not approve a nuclear reactor, even if you fancy one. However, you can be getting brand-new, top-of-the-line transmitter, antenna, transmission line, cooling equipment, electrical equipment, monitoring equipment, etc. That exchange is not bad at all. It is something you don’t see in a long time or even in a lifetime.
The day came that the repack was approved and the actual auction happened. That was when the real action began. We started the paperwork, then the project planning, scheduling and then the actual implementation of the project.
Two of our stations were to undergo a repack. The new channels are 16 and 18. The first one to be worked on was the station moving to Channel 16.Fig. 1: The gin pole going up, used for the work on the main antenna.
Replacing a high-power UHF antenna is a major project because the antenna alone may weigh 10,000 pounds or more, and it is sitting hundreds of feet up on top of a really skinny guyed tower. We often hire tower crews, and we are somewhat familiar with a number of tower service companies in the south. But if you need to evaluate a tower company, a guideline from TIA can be found at http://wirelessestimator.com/publicdocs/ANSI-TIA-1019-Standard.pdf.
The plan was to install a new main and a new standby antenna. Each would have its own transmission line going into the RF switch inside the transmitter building. The standby antenna was used for broadcast while they were working on the main.
These heavier loads meant added structural reinforcement on the tower. The reinforcing was only done on the lower sections of the tower because that was where all the additional forces were concentrated. They also added new guy wires and guy anchors. This tower was built before 2006 and it is not up to the current TIA 222 G standard. Because of the reinforcement work, the tower was also upgraded to standard G.
After the reinforcement work and the installation of new guy wires and guy anchors, the crew worked on installing the spare antenna and its transmission line. This transmission line was a flexible Heliax instead of the usual rigid lines. The spare antenna was installed about 60 feet from the base of the old antenna.
After that, they started working on the main antenna by first installing a gin pole on top of the tower. This was a slow process because the gin pole itself is like a mini tower. The old antenna cannot be dismantled and the new antenna cannot be installed without the gin pole.
Like any major project work, this one went through some delays. We were expecting a day or two of off-air time, but in the end, the station was off during daytime for more than a week.
The first thing that somewhat affected the pace of work was an accident that happened on April 19, 2018 at another TV station.
A different tower company, working on another repack project, got into a terrible accident at their job site. The tower they were working on fell down while they were still on the tower, and as a result, the foreman of the tower crew was killed. This happened on a 1,892-foot tower in Fordland, Mo.Fig. 2: Half of the old antenna on its way down while the new antenna on the ground was being readied to go up.
Because of this accident, our tower crew took no chances in every step and made doubly sure that everything was safe and within specs. In fact, instead of taking down the whole antenna at once, they cut it into two pieces so as to lighten the load on the way down and make it a bit easier for the crew and the equipment.
The other thing that further delayed our project was that the upper sections (more than 100 feet) of the old transmission line going up the antenna was in the way of the rigging lines. They had to move these sections of the transmission lines to the side before any rigging could be done. The contractor considered using a helicopter to help in the main antenna installation, but then elected not to.
Another factor that affected the job was the terrain and woods around the tower site. The area is on top of a hill. Two of the guy anchors were down the slope, and the heavy equipment driver had to be extra careful in moving on the slopes to prevent turning over. This would not have been a problem if the terrain was all flat. Thankfully, the large and heavy motorized winch still had a place on the small flat area of the site.Fig. 3: The top beacon bulb was replaced with a new one.
Stations are well aware that tower lighting is a very important safety and regulatory aspect of the tower structure. When the old antenna was brought down, the top beacon was moved from the old antenna to the new one, and we decided to replace the bulb and other parts inside the enclosure. This would hopefully save on tower crew service trips in the future.
The new antenna was raised and installed without a problem. A sweep of both antennas was done, and they were all within specs. Thankfully, after all the tower and antenna work was done, there was no accident or injury. For me, having no incident during this complicated and dangerous job is a major accomplishment indeed.
In theory, the standby antenna should be on-air while the new antenna was being brought down, but this did not happen 100 percent of the time. As you can imagine, to dismantle and lower the old antenna and install the new one, the whole thing would have to pass through the aperture of the spare antenna. The result was that we were not able to use the spare antenna during daytime, only during nighttime and early morning.
From the antenna propagation study, the spare antenna was supposed to have little difference from the coverage area of the main antenna. However, some viewers were not able to receive the signal with the spare antenna. These viewers who used to receive our signals are just a few miles away.
The other thing I noticed was that the old antenna is actually directional (i.e., a cardioid with a small tail), with the main lobe facing away from the target area. This seemed odd, because less signal goes to the target area. Now, the new antenna will just follow this pattern. (The station was built decades ago and I came in only in 2015).
For sure, there must be a reason for this. However, when I asked around, nobody seemed to know why. I learned later that this was done because the area was too mountainous and the signal would just reflect back to the target area, resulting in severe multipath. It was also to protect our main channel from interference. The main channel tower was just 48 miles from this station.Fig. 4: A new Channel 18 antenna.
After the work on Channel 16, the tower crew immediately went to work on the other station. Unlike the Channel 16 work, the Channel 18 antenna installation did not have many issues. The reinforcement of the tower was done by a second tower crew. They did an excellent job and, in fact, they had finished the reinforcement even while the other group was still working on the Channel 16 installation.
The spare antenna and transmission line were installed next. They were able to bring down the old antenna and installed the new antenna without any problem. The station off-air days were fewer.Fig. 5: A rare opportunity to look inside a UHF high-power broadcast antenna. Notice the slot holes on the inner and outer conductor and the L-shaped element under the outer holes.
However, once we got on-air, we experienced the same problem of viewers not able to receive our signal. These viewers are just 40 miles from the antenna tower. One thing I noticed is that the beam tilt was increased by 0.05 degrees with the new antenna. The new ERP is also lower than the old ERP. However, upon looking again at the Longley-Rice propagation study, the old and new antenna actually nearly have the same coverage areas. The 0.05 beam tilt increase is needed to achieve this parity.Fig. 6: The Dual IOT transmitter and the new solid-state transmitter at the far end.
For the first site, we had an old Axcera 2 kW transmitter which ran at only 1.4 kW. It sometimes had some issues, but by and large, it was a dependable unit. The new unit is a 3 kW Rohde & Schwarz, and it will run at 2.5 kW, which is a kilowatt higher than old transmitter power.
The old ERP was 66.4 kW while the new one is 52.6 kW. It would look like the new ERP was low, but the coverage area would actually be the same. The antenna-transmitter combination was all decided upon based on the FCC-mandated parameters.
The old transmitter was re-tuned from Channel 26 to Channel 16 and was used as the main transmitter.
One thing that was not considered earlier was a directional coupler at the RF output switch. This coupler was needed so that we can have RF power monitoring on the main transmission line and reading for our remote-control system. The coupler will be added later.
For the second site, we have an old Advanced Broadcast Systems (ABS) IOT transmitter. The brand is not well known but the transmitter proved to be reliable. In fact, the two IOTs ran a whopping 136,000 hours each and were still running until the transmitter’s last broadcast. I believe this is an endurance record for a dual IOT transmitter.
The new transmitter is also a Rohde & Schwarz. The old ERP was 780 kW while the new one is 420 kW. Again, the combination of antenna and transmitter was based on FCC requirements.
For the RF monitoring, a Dielectric RF Scout Monitor Plus was used. The output of this monitor was also used for our remote monitoring system. The new transmitter has its own power meter, but the RF scout is monitoring the power after the mask filter. Thus, it is measuring the actual power going into the transmission line.
KEEP YOUR COOL
The Channel 16 transmitter site needed a new air-conditioning unit because of the additional cooling load of the new transmitter. The same is true for the other site. It sometimes happens that engineers just pull out numbers from somewhere and then from there decide the size of the cooling equipment. The result is an improper size of AC units. Sometimes even the AC contractor does not know how to size air-conditioning units. Cooling loads must be properly calculated and the units be properly chosen using Manual J and Manual S procedures. You can check with the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) on how to do these procedures. [See “How to Beat the Summer Heat,” RWEE Aug. 8, 2018, or type that headline into the search field at radioworld.com.]
The other thing was calculating the overall electrical load of the site. The pole transformers must be sized big enough to handle both new and old transmitters running. Again, engineers are just used to estimating the actual electrical load of the site using theoretical transmitter efficiencies. This can be a big mistake and, at worst, may cause an electrical fire due to overloaded cables. You need to actually measure the total amperes using a clamp-on AC ammeter, or better yet, an actual AC power meter.
This was our experience and thankfully we did actual current measurements and eventually found out that the capacity of the pole transformers was inadequate to meet the additional load. We ended up replacing the pole transformers. We also replaced the service entrance main breakers and cables. New three-phase power meter, phase-loss sensor and surge arrestors were also installed.
Days before the cutover day, we tested the transmitter and made the proof-of-performance at full transmitter power. The new transmitters were silent compared to our old transmitter. The lack of noise initially felt a little odd. It seems that our senses got used to the noise, and it’s weird when it’s gone.
REPACK TO RESCAN
One thing that I thought about was viewer experience on the day they had to rescan their receivers. Some of us think that rescanning a TV is a simple task, but a lot of folks out there get confused with rescanning their TV sets. There was that chance that we might lose viewers simply because they do not know this process.Fig. 8: Excel file of how to rescan different brands of TV sets.
What I did was to list most of the well-known brands of TV and write down their actual rescan steps using the remote. When you go to YouTube, there are actually videos on how to rescan a TV, but they were mostly generalized presentations and would not be of much help. In fact, in some TV brands, rescanning is different from model to model.
So, I thought it was important to look at how scans are done on different brands of TV. The list was distributed among the staff so that they can assist anyone having difficulty with the rescan. Sure enough, there were calls during the cutover day and even days afterwards.
The last lesson came from our GM about the cutover day: Do not say to the viewers that you are “changing channels.” One time, someone asked him about the repack and he said, “We are changing channel and moving to Channel 16.” The person then asked, “Are you taking over the Fox channel?!” He had a lot of explaining to do after that.
Yes, we indeed changed the RF channel, but the virtual channel remains the same. That means that the TV will receive it on a different frequency but will still assign it to the same virtual channel. In a sense, the station did not really lose its original channel.
This repack project is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and station engineers must be thoroughly involved in it. They need to have a good mental grasp of the nuts and bolts of the project. This will not only benefit them but the network as well.
With as large and complex project as the repack, it is likely that things will not happen according to plan and expectation. The engineers must be aware of this, and they are likely to be asked of critical decisions during the project.
Sometimes contractors, who have done this type of work many times, may fall into a bit of complacency in planning and preparation. It is a concern when they change things on the fly or scribble a technical drawing on the day of the project. With money available for virtually any needed equipment, services and tools, it is reasonable to expect from the contractor the highest quality of work possible.
John Marcon, CBRE, CBTE, 8VSB, is chief engineer of Victory Television Network in Little Rock, Ark.
Read Doug Irwin’s series on the relocation of iHeartMedia’s FM cluster in Los Angeles:
©2015 Patty Schuchman Photography LLC
Garrison Cavell acknowledges that the National Association of Broadcasters created a unique situation by presenting this year’s engineering achievement awards to him and his wife.
Cavell, president of Cavell, Mertz & Associates Inc., earned the Radio Engineering Achievement Award. Cindy Hutter Cavell, the company’s senior broadcast consulting engineer, received the Television Engineering Achievement Award, the first woman to do so.
“It’s obvious I’m riding my wife’s coattails,” said Cavell said with a chuckle.
He really doesn’t have to. Cavell’s career in broadcast engineering has spanned more than 40 years, during which time he has designed, built and certified “countless” station antenna systems; he also been deeply involved in testing benefits of the in-band, on-channel (IBOC) digital transmission system developed by iBiquity.1970s Gary Cavell, leisure suit and all [All-Digital AM Starts Here]
Prior to co-founding Cavell Mertz and its predecessor consulting firms in 1989, Cavell worked in radio and television engineering management, facility design and construction, program production and station systems development in his home town of New Orleans.
Cavell, 68, is a licensed pilot and former professional drummer. He has been around long enough to credit part of his success to mentors like Jules Cohen and Robert and Tom Silliman (all of whom are past NAB honorees) but humble enough to admit he still learns something new about his profession every day.
Lynn Claudy, senior vice president of technology at NAB, said, “In addition to all the excellent engineering consulting he’s done for station clients over the years, Gary has generously volunteered his time to NAB as a faculty member at NABEF’s Broadcast Leadership Training Program for almost two decades, and more recently the Technology Apprentice Program.”
He also served as editor in chief for the 11th Edition of the NAB Engineering Handbook published in 2017, a huge tome that was completed on time, Claudy said, principally because of Cavell’s commitment to the project as a labor of love.THE FCC “WILL PROVIDE”
Cavell, an IEEE and SMPTE Life Member, grew up in the Big Easy with an interest in radio, antennas and ham radio. He began his career at in Houma, La., at KCIL(FM) and KJIN(AM) as an announcer and engineering assistant.
“I was a kid playing country music and even some Cajun music. But it just so happened that the owner of the radio stations got involved with TV and invited me to help him build a television station in Houma. That was really the start of my technical career,” he said.In familiar environs: Gary Cavell at WMAL(AM) in 2007.
There are topics Cavell declined to discuss in depth for this interview, including AM revitalization because of ongoing work for the NAB and FCC. In regard to the commission taking steps to overhaul ownership rules, he said there seems to be a mixed bag of arguments for and against.
“Of course, you have clients on both sides of many issues, whether it is changing the AM rules and updating the protections for the Class As or the move to launch C4 FM service. We really can’t take a position because someone will be cheesed off,” Cavell said.
But Cavell said the commission’s efforts to lighten its regulatory touch on broadcast has resulted on plenty of work for firms like his.[Cavell: AM Revitalization Is Still a Work in Progress]
“The FCC’s moves to modernize media regulations and modify rules that are outdated and burdensome for broadcasters generally means more work for people who are in the business of offering help,” he said. “Jules Cohen once told me, ‘Don’t worry, the FCC will always provide.’”
Cavell remains passionate about drawing more youth into broadcast engineering careers. He is supportive of the NAB Educational Foundation, the Society of Broadcast Engineers and their training programming for technical apprentices and interns.
“Mentoring is so crucial to help open doors. But there are two parts to the issue. First, traditional radio and television isn’t as exciting as it was once. It’s not top of mind, and there is lots of competition from other technical fields.
“Secondly, I know the compensation level for entry level folks is not as high as it should be,” Cavell said. “So we have to get the attention of new young blood and then pay them fairly.”
The radio and TV industry needs to bring in young talent specifically to focus on computer networking, he said, where the “major growth will be the next decade.”IT’S ALL ABOUT THE …
Cavell reflected further on vast changes in the radio business throughout his career, from new technology to industry consolidation.
“It’s really interesting. Computers have impacted us the most. We don’t have to lay maps out all over the floor and draw lines on them. That was how we did it. Now you push a button and you get the same data. It’s so efficient. I can do a Moment of Method Proof for an AM station in a fraction of the time. It’s amazing. I think we charge about the same today for a project today as we did in 1989 because the time involved is so much less.”
He continued, “On the business side, radio consolidation has really impacted how we do business. It used to be we did business with dozens and dozens of broadcast groups. Now there are just a few, and that really has changed the dynamic of our business.”
Cavell said he believes over-the-air radio will remain relevant as long as broadcasters focus on content.
“Here is an engineer telling you it’s all about content, but it really is. If you put something on the air that people want to hear, they will tune in. It’s about content and always has been about content. Even as new technology develops, content will be crucial in order to get people to consume the product.”
However, he expressed surprise that some broadcasters have been slow to adopt HD Radio, considering its benefits, including extra channels.
“I thought as an industry it would be quicker… . Some broadcasters have been very forward thinking in launching HD Radio and finding ways for it to make sense for them. Others have shied away and more concerned about the cost factor.”[The FCC at 75: Still Relevant?]
Cavell Mertz regularly conducts experiments in HD Radio on AM and FM for NAB’s Pilot program. Its test bed supports analog, hybrid and all-digital testing of both AM and FM-band radio signals, he said.
“We test in various modes. We look at interference issues, performance issues and RDS issues. Folks from Xperi and Nautel are in here quite often,” he said.
The firm is involved in testing all-digital HD Radio on the medium-wave band at Hubbard’s WWFD(AM) in Frederick, Md., as Radio World has reported. Xperi and Kintronic Laboratories are also involved in the project, which is operating under special experimental authority.
“I’m very excited about the all-digital AM project for Hubbard. I’m completely jazzed about it. It offers in my mind a viable way for AM to go,” he said. “It’s quieter and has FM fidelity. Hubbard is very happy with how things are going.”
The firm also conducted co-channel interference field studies on all-digital AM for NAB.SORROWS AND JOYS From the family photo album: the Cavells after their wedding
Cavell Mertz suffered a setback when it lost one of its principals, Richard Mertz, to pancreatic cancer in 2013. Mertz joined the company in 1994 and was critical to its growth, according to Cavell.
“It took the heart out of us for a while. In many aspects, Richard was fearless. His background was in physics so he gave us a lot of depth in that area when faced with difficult calculations. He was the perfect foil. That is what made the firm so great is that we had different personalities,” Cavell said.
Cavell Mertz has nine full-time employees and regularly calls upon a half-dozen contractors to help with the firm’s TV repack consulting work for the FCC, he said. It frequently works with the accounting firm Ernst & Young, a TV repack fund administrator hired by the FCC.
“We work as their subject matter expert. It’s another of those topics I can’t discuss thoroughly. We are not doing any TV repack work for broadcasters.”
Cavell has no plans for retirement, even though he hopes to someday fly his Cessna 18 Skylane more often. “This is still fun. I love helping people and teaching folks. I’ve been doing this for so long but I’m still happy. So I have no plans to pass the firm along or shut it down,” he said. “I give my thanks to NAB for this recognition. I’m not very interesting, but the things I work on sure are.”[From AoIP to Elsie the Cow: Broadcasting Books of Note]
How did he and Cindy become an engineering power couple? Cavell related the story to RW sister publication TV Technology: “I met her at NBC here in Washington while I was working on a TV project, and we just became buddies because I liked how she handled people. I thought it was kind of funny because she worked with these big, burly guys, and she just handled it.”
She eventually became a client of the firm. “You get to know somebody in a different light than the usual dating or courtship relationship. We were professional and then personal friends for years. But eventually she persuaded me to marry her, and I persuaded her to come to this company.”
They wed in 2005, and she joined the firm in 2010.
“Cindy is outbilling me now. That’s no secret,” he told RW. “We work great together. She has her portion of the practice, and I have mine. She works mostly on TV. We do have an agreement never to discuss business at home unless it’s very urgent.”
The couple resides in Haymarket, Va., just west of Washington, D.C., near the Bull Run Mountains.Cindy Hutter Cavell
©2015 Patty Schuchman Photography, LLC CINDY HUTTER CAVELL
The recipient of the 2019 NAB Television Engineering Achievement Award, Cindy Hutter Cavell serves as senior broadcast consulting engineer at Cavell, Mertz & Associates Inc. with a specialty in television station and microwave system design and implementation. According to NAB, her career includes stints as director of operations at ABC News’ Washington Bureau, engineering director for several local TV stations, vice president of Fox Sports’ Houston Technical Operations Center and broadcast engineering director for Sprint Communications.
As part of the ABC Broadcast Operations and Engineering team, Cavell won three Emmy Awards for Technical Innovation. She is the recipient of the AWRT/SBE 2007 Outstanding Female Broadcast Engineer award and holds the 2015 TVNewsCheck Women in Technology Award.
She is the first woman to receive the NAB Engineering Achievement Award. “I am proud to be part of a community that used to be called a brotherhood,” she told TV Technology. “We’ve come a long way from the early 1970s when I got into the business when women were few and far between.” Read TVT’s interview with the couple at http://tinyurl.com/rw-huttercavell.HONOR ROLL
Recipients of the NAB Engineering Achievement Award are listed here. Beginning in 1991, radio and TV winners were named; only radio winners are shown below for those years.
- 1959 John T. Wilner
- 1960 T.A.M. Craven
- 1961 Raymond F. Guy
- 1962 Ralph N. Harmon
- 1963 Dr. George R. Town
- 1964 John H. DeWitt Jr.
- 1965 Edward W. Allen Jr.
- 1966 Carl J. Meyers
- 1967 Robert M. Morris
- 1968 Howard A. Chinn
- 1969 Jarrett L. Hathaway
- 1970 Philip Whitney
- 1971 Benjamin Wolfe
- 1972 John M. Sherman
- 1973 A. James Ebel
- 1974 Joseph B. Epperson
- 1975 John D. Silva
- 1976 Dr. Frank G. Kear
- 1977 Daniel H. Smith
- 1978 John A. Moseley
- 1979 Robert W. Flanders
- 1980 James D. Parker
- 1981 Wallace E. Johnson
- 1982 Julius Barnathan
- 1983 Joseph Flaherty
- 1984 Otis S. Freeman
- 1985 Carl E. Smith
- 1986 Dr. George Brown
- 1987 Renville H. McMann
- 1988 Jules Cohen
- 1989 William Connolly
- 1990 Hilmer Swanson
- 1991 George Marti
- 1992 Edward Edison & Robert L. Hammett
- 1993 Robert M. Silliman
- 1994 Charles T. Morgan
- 1995 Robert Orban
- 1996 Ogden Prestholdt
- 1997 George Jacobs
- 1998 John Battison
- 1999 Geoffrey Mendenhall
- 2000 Michael Dorrough
- 2001 Arno Meyer
- 2002 Paul Schafer
- 2003 John W. Reiser
- 2004 E. Glynn Walden
- 2005 Milford Smith
- 2006 Benjamin Dawson & Ronald Rackley
- 2007 Louis A. King
- 2008 Thomas B. Silliman
- 2009 Jack Sellmeyer
- 2010 Steve Church
- 2011 L. Robert du Treil
- 2012 Paul Brenner
- 2013 Frank Foti
- 2014 Jeff Littlejohn
- 2015 Thomas F. King
- 2016 Andy Laird
- 2017 John Kean
- 2018 Tom Jones
- 2019 Garrison Cavell
The Arkansas Broadcasters Association is noting its 70th anniversary this year.
“ABA began in 1949 as the trade association for broadcasters in Arkansas focused on providing broadcasters with a lobbying voice, while also providing them with technical and regulatory support and continuous professional enrichment opportunities,” it announced. “Over the years, ABA has been successful at helping Natural State broadcasters stay ahead of the ever evolving and changing landscape of broadcast media.”
The association will note the anniversary at its ARKCON event in July.
What are broadcasters talking about in Arkansas these days? We asked Executive Director Luke Story and ABA Board President Ali King-Sugg, owner/GM of Red River Radio Inc. of Heber Springs, where she is also a morning air personality.
Radio World: As the ABA celebrates its anniversary, what is the business climate like for broadcasters, and radio in particular, in Arkansas these days?
Ali King-Sugg: Because Arkansas is mostly rural, I think that many Arkansans look to local radio as their first resource for what is going on in their communities. Because of that radio is thriving!
With my family being in the radio business for over 40 years, I’ve gotten to learn from some of the best broadcasters in Arkansas on how to keep radio local and the importance of it. If you do that, your community will support you back.Luke Story [Community Broadcaster: Of Service]
Luke Story: When I started this job a little over a year ago, I launched a statewide member tour with the goal of visiting as many members as I could and glean from them how their needs have changed and what the association could do better to serve them. What the tour has taught me is more than ever, our industry is vibrant, vital and strong, but we must work collectively to address old, new and emerging challenges.
You ask specifically about radio but I think it’s important to recognize that more so than ever before, radio and TV are siblings in media. Radio does face the steep challenge of adapting to new digital technology, but together we will get there.
I often compare today’s challenges facing radio to the challenges it faced in the late ’40s-early ’50s, with the advent of television and TV becoming the household influential medium. A lot of people wrote radio off then, but 60-plus years later it still remains a powerful marketing tool for advertisers, a “go to” place for new and popular music and an economic growth engine for our communities and state. Over 18,000 Arkansas jobs created by local radio and TV.
RW: What important issues are front of mind right now for your radio members?
King-Sugg: With all the new technology of smart speakers, podcasts and dashboards, a big issue will be figuring out how to integrate digital and turn it into a revenue generator. And as broadcasters we are always worried about a performance tax.[KWVA Customizes Workflow to Fit Students’ Needs]
Story: Issues that are front of mind for all members, radio and TV, are similar to other industries in the state. We are working hard to find quality sales people. Our industry is addressing a shortage of engineers, both RF and IT/digital. And we continue to navigate the evolving digital landscape.
RW: There’s discussion at the FCC about removing ownership subcaps for radio. What is ABA’s stance on this?
Story: We haven’t formally discussed this within the association.Ali King-Sugg
RW: What other major lobbying concerns are you dealing with at the national or state level right now?
King-Sugg: On the national level, our main concern is a performance tax that would hurt local radio and potentially threaten local jobs. On the state level, we are very active and involved especially with any new law that would weaken the Freedom of Information Act. Others that have come up in this year’s session are advertising for medical marijuana.[Want more information like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get it delivered right to your inbox.]
Story: Right now, medical marijuana advertising regulations is a hot topic and a very complex one at that. We continue to focus on any and all FOIA exemption-related legislation. At the national level, I work closely with my counterparts across the country and at the National Association of Broadcasters to address radio topics, such as the Local Radio Freedom Act, unlocking the FM chip in wireless phones, performance royalties and consent decrees and ownership regulations. We also address TV topics, such as the next generation of broadcast television, the expiration of STELA and open negotiations with retransmission consent.
RW: How many members does the association have; how does that compare to years past?
Story: We represent 230 members, both radio and TV, across the Natural State. We have worked hard to improve and grow our membership base and have succeeded in membership growth over the last year plus.
RW: Anything else we should know?
Story: In Arkansas, we are fortunate to have great broadcasters that show others what we like to call “Broadcasting Naturally.” Arkansas broadcasters continue to serve their local communities and provide relevant news, weather, sports and emergency information in time of need in all 75 counties of the state.
Something else we are proud of is the equally important community service role broadcasters play. We raise money and support for dozens of community organizations helping them amplify their needs and good work. That’s part of the mission of broadcasting: to strengthen the communities we serve. Last year, broadcasters raised more than $30 million in charitable contributions to help Arkansans in need.
ARKCON is scheduled for July 18 and 19. For information visit www.arkbroadcasters.org.
It seems hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about some multiple shooting event. It’s stating the obvious but: No place is safe. Now factor in the field in which we broadcasters work, and we add a bit more to our risk factor.Several security measures are shown in this photo, including the camera, intercom and card reader for the studio complex entry gate as well as the parking lot access gate and one-way pedestrian turnstile.
Every media outlet attracts attention and many are lightning rods in today’s polarized culture. If you have never considered your radio station a target, you either haven’t given it much thought or your transmitter has been off for a while.
Certainly there are formats that lend themselves to more controversy. Talk, especially political, immediately comes to mind. In another lifetime, I was program director for one of this company’s talkers. We took strong stands on many hot-button issues. I can vividly remember taking numerous complaint calls and can never forget getting a visit from the Secret Service.
My employer has many Christian-formatted stations. On the surface, this wouldn’t seem like a format that would have to worry about an unstable person coming in to the station and causing problems. For those of us who worked in this format for a while, we know that’s not the case. Any format that can generate passion will incite some individuals on the edge to do more than write a strongly-worded letter.
I have never worked a sports format but I can’t imagine a sports fan getting passionate. (Remove tongue from cheek.)TAKE THREATS SERIOUSLY
We live in an era where there are enough individuals on the edge that we must take these things seriously. If you haven’t thought through active shooter scenarios and how you would prepare and respond to one at your station, I humbly submit that the time has come. Just Google “Radio Station Shooting” and you’ll see numerous stories on the Madison, Wis., station that was the subject of an active shooter last August. Nothing like seeing a picture of a bullet hole in studio glass to make you think.High-resolution dual-mode “bullet” cameras such as this one provide high-definition real-time and recorded video to personnel inside the building.
You just never know who is coming through that front door sometimes. Where I am writing this article it crosses our minds a lot. We’re in a neighborhood that has many homeless who wander the streets. Beyond the expected panhandling, many of these individuals often seem on the edge of rage. That doesn’t mean they are likely to come in and shoot up the station; but we have had one of them manage to get into the building with a sickle. Fortunately, this individual was looking for temp work to cut our weeds (we don’t have a lawn). He put out vibes that made all of us uncomfortable.
More recently, I was working with one of my engineers at our front-gate control pedestal because of a problem with the access card reader for the gate. I went back into the building for one minute to check something inside.[MacGyver in the Age of Centralized IT]
By the time I got back out to the front gate, my engineer had been confronted by a passerby who had asked him for tickets. He told him he wasn’t in charge of tickets, at which point the passerby let out a lot of expletives and then threatened to come back and “shoot up the station and burn it down.” This wasn’t an individual who won tickets and showed up to the station to collect his prize. Our surveillance video showed that he was walking from one of the local neighborhoods and then back again to the same neighborhood later.The receptionist station and control rooms are equipped with this display of key surveillance cameras. All these cameras plus a full array of interior cameras are recorded on DVRs.
Once I found out, we called the police. I was 99.9999 percent sure that this was somebody shooting their mouth off, but with today’s environment, you have to take every threat seriously. We collected all the appropriate videos from our security system so that we could forward them to the police. This is important so that you get a record of the event, because sometimes these events escalate over time.
I’m reminded of another event in Wisconsin, this time at a television station. An unstable individual had stolen a crucifix from a church and then took it to the TV station and was using it to bash the digital sign board along the sidewalk outside. Just a few days before, the TV station had found blue crosses painted on one of their exterior doors. In all likelihood, this was the same individual escalating his actions.
We need to take any event like this seriously and get it on record with the local authorities. It could be related to events they’ve seen elsewhere and our report might help them stop an unstable person before they do greater harm.THE PANIC BUTTON Walk-up access to the main entry is screened with this dome camera, card reader and noise-cancelled intercom.
We have had many of these incidents, enough to cause us to take steps to better our security.
When I first got here, we had an intercom system that was an aging off-the-shelf system from Radio Shack. It didn’t work too well. With the amount of road noise at our front gate, it was not practical for the receptionist to screen the public properly before letting them in our front gate or front door.
Certainly, a very important aspect of security is to not let the potential problem makers into the building in the first place. We ended up installing a newer system that featured noise cancellation. This works well, but in reality, it is only as good as the person doing the actual screening.
I also designed a panic button system for the reception position using our Avaya phone system. We simply designated one of the unused extensions on our phone system as our panic alarm. We use an analog output on the phone system to an Enberg FN-2 Phone Relay module that will set off buzzer alarms throughout the offices.
The extension is assigned on a button at reception and labeled panic. Furthermore, any calls to the extension are forwarded automatically to 911. When the person at the reception desk hits the panic button, the alarms are set off and then the call is forwarded to 911, all at the touch of one button.[A Simple Security Solution … for Your Toolbox]
This was a step in the right direction. But as we analyze our situation further, we know we need to take more steps to keep our staff secure. While we did enclose our receptionist in a booth, it is not really substantial enough to offer much protection against a violent offender. Our hallways from the reception area are open so that anyone wanting to gain access to other parts of the building can easily do so.GOOD TRAINING
The days of radio stations having open reception desks with open hallways to the rest of the office and studios are probably over. Certainly if we are designing a new office layout, we would design it with greater care to set up barriers to keep a dangerous individual as confined as possible.
It is well worth the time to examine current setups to understand where we are vulnerable. You may find, as we have, that it is difficult to weigh being more secure against the ability of evacuation in case of fire or other events. Setting up barriers could possibly compromise potential fire escapes. Consulting with the fire marshal is not a bad idea; we are planning a meeting with ours to be sure what we do will pass his inspection.
Besides the technical and structural changes that you might want to make, training staff for these scenarios is important. For instance, when the reception panic alarm was set off the first few times, we found that staff members were rushing into the reception area. Not really a good idea as you are adding stress to an already unstable individual. We had to praise our staff for responding so well but caution them to enter the room more casually. You don’t want to add gasoline to a fire.[Subscribe to our newsletter and get it delivered right to your inbox.]
You also want to make sure they understand their role. We don’t want staff members taking matters into their own hands. Usually, that type of person who wants to be the hero is more likely again to be gasoline. The staff needs to train to understand they are to be witnesses and not heroes. If you are not capable of adding calm to the situation, stay out and let the police arrive and do their job.
It’s not fun to think about these things, but the reality of the news each day should drive us to realize we shouldn’t wait for a tragic event at our facilities to take steps to increase security for protection of our staff.
Rick Sewell, CSRE, CBNT, AMD, is engineering manager at Crawford Broadcasting Company in Chicago.
This article was published in the March 2019 issue of The Local Oscillator, the newsletter of Crawford Broadcasting Company Corporate Engineering.
The Society of Broadcast Engineers’ executive committee has approved Wayne Pecena to serve as its new vice president on April 17, filling a vacancy left by RJ Russell’s April 12 resignation.
Pecena had been serving a term as SBE secretary, so his appointment causes several other executive committee shifts for this term. After SBE President Jim Leifer selected Pecena, he elevated board member Kevin Trueblood to SBE secretary. Therefore, former board member Jason Ornellas will take over Trueblood’s seat, while current board member Steve Brown will join Roz Clark as board representatives on the executive committee.
Russell stepped down because the society may hire his company, Technical Broadcast Solutions, for a to-be-announced-project.
“Losing RJ as the VP of the SBE is unfortunate, but understandable given the circumstances,” Leifer said in the announcement. “While his skill and abilities will be missed on the SBE leadership team, we are fortunate to have a deep bench of talent to continue the SBE’s work.”
Pecena has served on the SBE board of directors since 2012 and was elected secretary in 2016. He is an SBE fellow and chairs the SBE Education Committee. In his day job, Pecena is the assistant director of educational broadcast services in the Office of Information Technology at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
Radio World also honored Pecena with the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award in 2014.
The FCC Media Bureau has promoted Holly Saurer to deputy bureau chief and named Paul Jackson as associate bureau chief, according to FCC Media Bureau Chief Michelle Carey.
Saurer has previously served as associate bureau chief, senior legal advisor to the bureau chief and attorney-advisor with the Bureau’s Policy Division. She also was an advisor to then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and acting advisor to Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel. Before joining the FCC, she was an attorney at the Washington, D.C. offices of Drinker Biddle & Reath and Miller & Van Eaton.
Jackson previously served as staff member at the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, specializing in digital commerce and consumer protection. Prior to that, he was with the FCC for six years, working as acting director and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs, and special assistant to FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell. Jackson also worked for O’Melveny & Myers LLP, News Corp., and the United States Senate.
“The bureau has relied on Holly’s breadth of knowledge for many years, and Paul’s significant private sector and Hill experience will provide a unique perspective,” Carey said in the announcement.
Local broadcasters have switched on a new DAB+ multiplexer in the Umbria region of Italy.
Members of the Aeranti-Corallo association of local radio and TV broadcasters activated the new MUX, “Radiofonia locale digitale Umbria,” which transmits on the 10C block.
This latest local digital radio MUX, which is located in Colle della Trinità, carries content from stations including Max Radio Classic; Radio Blu; Radio Galileo; Radio Studio Delta; and Simply Radio.
Other local digital radio services are also operating in Tuscany (provinces of Florence, Pistoia, Prato, Arezzo and Siena), western Piedmont (provinces of Turin and Cuneo), Trentino Alto Adige and Campania (provinces of Naples and Caserta).
“The new MUX confirms local radio broadcasters’ commitment to invest in digital radio, to be a protagonist in the new technological scenario,” said Marco Rossignoli, Aeranti-Corallo coordinator. “It is now necessary for local broadcasting to be able to operate throughout Italy,” he said.
“In fact, at the moment, due to the scarcity of frequencies in many areas, local radios still do not have the ability to transmit via DAB+. It’s absolutely necessary that the Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico (the Ministry of Economic Development) authorizes the activation of experimental systems, pending the reorganization of frequencies expected to be implemented in June 2022.”
We’ve all done it: Facing a situation with some exigency, we do something temporary to get things going again. Our intention is to come back after the crisis is over and apply a proper fix, but life and work gets in the way and we are delayed … or forget about it … or both.Shiny new 1-5/8-inch rigid RF plumbing has replaced the big loops of Heliax pressing on the ceiling tiles.
That one little incident, by itself, is no big deal. The fix may not be neat, but it works, and it doesn’t really compromise the integrity of the facility or its infrastructure.
The trouble is, it happens again. And again. Busy engineers responsible for multiple stations with limited resources are under a lot of time pressure. As we apply quick fixes, we relieve the immediate pressure but cumulatively produce a whole new kind of pressure.
For the past 20 years, I have mostly flown a desk, working at the corporate level and dealing with all the technical and physical plant administrative aspects of the company for which I work; but from time to time, I just have to get out in the field. It’s in the blood.
On several occasions, I have helped out with various projects and fixes at our studios and transmitter sites. Two sites in particular have vexed me with many layers of “quick fixes” for which permanent solutions were never applied.
Earlier this year, I helped out with transmitter replacements at these sites, and I took the opportunity to overhaul the RF plumbing and wiring infrastructure there, clearing layers of quick fixes and shortcuts that had piled up over the years.
For starters, the RF plumbing at one site was done with big loops of 7/8-inch Heliax that extended up from the transmitters to the ceiling grid, sometimes pressing tiles out of place before looping back down to the phasor.
It’s one of those things that we always meant to redo but never got around to. That was now job #1, and we did it up right. The site today is plumbed with shiny 1-5/8-inch rigid, and the big Heliax loops are gone.
Beyond that, we started picking our way through the AC and remote control wiring at the sites, and as we plowed through the transmitter replacements, I occasionally had to shake my head at the things I found. For example, tracing out the audio input wire from the aux transmitter, I found its end stripped and twisted together with two other wires, one for left and one for right, coming out of a distribution amplifier downstream of the analog outputs of the audio processor.
That cobbled-together L+R summing junction worked, but it wasn’t even soldered … and it was in no way insulated — just bare wires hanging deep in the rack. It’s a miracle that it hadn’t shorted out on an equipment chassis and produced an intermittent that would have driven our engineers crazy! I have no idea who was responsible for that “quick fix” but I certainly was glad to get rid of it.
I found all sorts of other issues, many of them related to grounding, including one distribution panel that had no neutral — the 120 VAC circuits were getting their neutral from the ground in the box, which was only provided through the conduit itself.
The biggest irritation about these sites, however, was that there was no documentation on the remote control wiring scheme. I have no doubt that the very capable chief engineer who installed the wiring did in fact carefully document it, but over the years, that documentation was lost, probably as a result of computer upgrades and replacements. But whatever reason, there were no hard copies to be found at the sites — or anywhere.
As a result, anytime problem arose, the current CE had to spend a good bit of time to trace things out and find the cause. It was proof of the old adage that “a stitch in time saves nine.” Taking the time to do things right, document the changes and make sure that documentation is readily available will pay big dividends going forward.
And so it was that we stripped everything down to the bare bones and, with yellow legal pad in hand, started tracing out and documenting the wiring. It was a painstaking process, but as we moved along, we began to see how the underlying infrastructure was all very systematic, symmetrical and sensible.
The command, status and metering connections from the remote control system were terminated on a split insulation displacement block. Similarly, the command, status and metering wiring from the transmitters also terminated on a split block. Since the main would become the aux and a new transmitter would become the main, we had to pull all the cross-connects anyway, so this really was the ideal time to make things right and produce new documentation.
In the end, it really didn’t take all that long. With the pages from the legal pad in hand, we made a spreadsheet with tabs for command, status and metering, showing wire numbers, wire color, function and cross-connect source/destination on each line. All those spreadsheets were printed out, laminated and affixed to the inside of the rack door for easy reference. Then it was simply a matter of making all the cross-connects and testing everything out.
Those laminated spreadsheets will have to be updated from time to time as changes are made, but at the very least they provide documentation of the underlying wiring scheme. To find channel 6-raise, for example, it’s a simple matter of finding that function on the command spreadsheet, identifying the wire number and getting the wire color for confirmation. In seconds, we know on exactly which terminal that function is punched. And that’s the way it ought to be.Laminated spreadsheets documenting the remote control wiring are affixed to the rack door for easy reference.
CAN’T AFFORD TO LET IT PASS
We are engineers. Ask most anyone for a list of characteristics of an engineer and among them will be neatness, precision and organization. And those words are accurate, or they should be.
Certainly, there are some in our ranks who are a little challenged in those attributes, but for the most part, a good engineer wants to see things done neatly, with precision and organization. Yet, again, sometimes the exigencies get in the way and we’re tempted to take the shortcut.
I’ve heard it said that if you have time to do something twice, you have time to do it right. I would agree with that sentiment. Quite often, the reality is that it takes a lot less time to do a task right the first time than it does to apply a quick fix now and make it right later. So look at it this way: By doing it right the first time, you’ll actually save time, and those who come after you will benefit as well.
While he’s not an engineer, singer/songwriter Billy Joel captured the sentiment well:
I’ve gotta get it right the first time
That’s the main thing,
I can’t afford to let it pass
You get it right the next time that’s not the same thing,
Gonna have to make the first time last
Cris Alexander, CPBE AMD DRB, is director of engineering of Crawford Broadcasting Co. and technical editor of RW Engineering Extra. Email him your thoughts and suggestions for articles to email@example.com.
How much can I receive? And what’s covered?
Those are questions that radio broadcasters affected by the TV band repack can get answered when it comes to being reimbursed by the federal government.
At its March meeting, the Federal Communications Commission said that FM broadcast stations, television translators and LPTVs are eligible for reimbursement if their facilities have been affected by a repacked television station, assuming the stations have been in operation for a stipulated amount of time. The commission finalized and released a catalog that details potentially reimbursable costs.
Earlier, Congress had appropriated $1 billion in funding as part of the 2018 Reimbursement Expansion Act. Of the $600 million available in fiscal 2018 and $400 million in 2019, the REA stipulated that up to $50 million be used to reimburse FM stations, and up to $150 million for LPTVs and TV translators.
To help broadcasters keep track of what is potentially reimbursable, the Incentive Auction Task Force at the FCC finalized its cost “catalog.” A draft had been circulated earlier. The catalog is a 20-page document that can be found at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-19-176A2.pdf.Congress stipulated that up to $50 million be used to reimburse FM stations.
The FCC adopted rules to reimburse both hard and soft expenses for FM stations that must replace or modify equipment, as well as stations that must construct or upgrade auxiliary facilities in order to minimize disruption of service. “Hard” expenses include new equipment and tower rigging; “soft” include legal and engineering services.[Public Radio Not a Fan of FM Repack Reimbursement Proposal]
The goal of the catalog is to give stations a list of ranges for use as estimates when they do not have vendor quotes and to help them establish acceptable price ranges. These provide guidance only, the FCC clarified; they do not serve as price caps, and stations can submit additional cost justification documentation if needed, the commission said.
Earlier, NPR had expressed a concern that the draft version of the catalog limited the range of equipment and services that is potentially reimbursable.
“We reiterate that the cost catalog is a non-exhaustive list of equipment and services,” the FCC said in finalizing the catalog. “It is intended to serve as a reference guide that will add structure to the process of claiming reimbursement by identifying the types of equipment and services that are most commonly required to construct new broadcast facilities, as well as their price ranges.”
For equipment or services not listed in the catalog, the form provides flexibility for users to claim reimbursement for such reasonably incurred expenses.
The final version includes other changes, such as a modification requested by NPR that the initial price range proposed in the draft for “lease negotiations or other legal matters” for FM stations should be equivalent with the range for LPTV and translator stations.[We Wrap Up Our FM Cluster Repack Project]
The FCC also amended the catalog to add a line for FM stations looking to purchase a combined HD importer/exporter, a relatively new type of product that combines an HD Radio importer and exporter into one unit.
The commission also added a broader range of program management and consulting costs as part of the professional services category, since “local public radio stations are likely to need ‘legal, engineering and consulting services to assist with overall planning, determining the specific steps needed to minimize disruption, and procuring equipment, labor and services,’” the report said.
The FCC also updated the catalog amounts for filing fees associated with certain Media Bureau applications that FMs, LPTVs and translators may need to implement changes necessary to remain on the air during the repack.
The author is chairman of Digital Radio Mondiale.
What is 5G? Is it a bird or a plane or yet another good topic for myriads of conferences?
It seems to me, as a “laywoman,” that 5G is an exciting new wireless communication project. It is an improvement on 4G that hopefully will revolutionize our lives by optimizing many of our daily activities, including access to fast internet and video.5G might be complementary to digital broadcasting but not a replacement for it. Photo copyright: Radu Obreja.
5G began as a technology for mobile network operators to deployed. In principle it should ensure faster speeds — great for video then — more volume of data transported with very little delay. Since 5G, when compared to 4G, allows for better, faster, cheaper and more reliable data distribution, it could also optimize other activities in addition to telecommunications. In fact, the new platform may have wide applications in the industry (i.e. control and move equipment in a factory), as nowadays data transport is the currency of everyday life and logistics. Software will program 5G for a lot of applications of which broadcasting will be just one slice.
5G started as a technology developed by mobile operators but it is highly unlikely that the telecom companies will be able alone to roll it out as “a network for everything” at profit. So, there is already talk of private 5G networks and also of repurposing existing terrestrial broadcast networks or using satellites or a combination of all these.Ruxandra Obreja
It is clear that 5G is still a nebulous concept, which is being worked on technically at the moment, with standardization at an advanced stage. 5G has a big chance to become a truly global standard, widely accepted and thus delivering economies of scale.
But, alas, the technology will not be the answer to all our digital prayers. And there are many other “issues.” For example, 5G is a very small-cell application i.e. it works well and fast at short distances. So, it will require even more transmitters than FM, DAB+ or the efficient DRM. More spectrum, even below 470 MHz or just as low as band III, will have to be made available, if we want connectivity for a lot of devices simultaneously.
5G, at least in the beginning, will need a new and very dense (read expensive) infrastructure. This month, authorities halted a pilot project to provide high-speed 5G wireless internet in Brussels due to fear of radiation. Belgian Environment Minister, Celine Fremault, wrote in the Brussels Times on April 1 that the people there “are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit.”
In addition, the United Kingdom Government recently announced that it has ditched part of its £35 million trial of 5G-based mobile and fixed line fiber technology on a rail route between Manchester and York in northern England. The reasons given were mainly complexity and costs.
Even if we will eventually overcome these hiccups, new receivers will have to be manufactured and sold. A solid business model will need to be defined, too.
5G will progress and offer new opportunities in both content creation and distribution. Some specialists estimate that 5G will become reality in 10 years. According to Darko Ratkay of the, EBU, it would be premature to consider 5G as a replacement of technologies and infrastructure in use (tech-I, tech.ebu.ch/March 2019).
Those who still hesitate to go the digital radio way, invoking the mirage of the 5G, are simply using it as an excuse for their lack of determination and courage. After all, 5G is still in its infancy; it will be great for internet and video but will not deliver the large coverage that digital DRM can do in AM, for example, or what DRM, DAB+ and HD can do for local coverage.
And we have not even touched the question of audio in cars. But neither can 5G and its potential be ignored, as the industry worldwide and the policy makers are behind it, considering it to be the future.
This year 5G broadcasting tests are taking place in Germany and the U.K. The BBC is pioneering live radio broadcasts over 5G mobile networks in the first public trial of its kind in the far away Scottish island of Orkney where 4G/5G mobiles will be used to deliver BBC content.
So, is digital terrestrial audio broadcasting at the moment just a stepping stone to the predicted benefits of 5G? The answer has to be an emphatic no.
Digital radio (DRM and other digital standards) can already distribute rich multi-media content to many, at low energy costs and with clear spectral efficiency.
Radio has been recently declared the most trustworthy medium in both Europe and the US. Duncan Stewart, director of Research with Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications, boldly predicts that 18- to 34-year-old Americans will spend more time listening to radio than watching TV by 2025.
And this might be happening already in the Nordic countries (except Norway) “as radio listening minutes for younger demographics was already higher than linear TV viewing minutes in Sweden and Finland, and was going to crossover in Denmark in 2019.”
Radio is in a good place just now and in the words of Bob Pittman, CEO of iHeart Media,” is hot for the first time in decades.” Radio does not need to be shy and apologetic in the new media landscape, or fear the advent of 5G. Conversation, discussion and discovery are central to this medium that is resilient and has shown how it can reinvent itself digitally.
If you are in a part of the world where 2G and 3G are the norm, where electricity might be sporadic and data plans unaffordable, you can be connected and linked through radio.
Broadcasters, regulators and the industry need to watch, experiment and develop 5G but, before anything else, digital radio has to be available everywhere in good quality and for free.
If you start experimenting and developing digital content and also renew your analog infrastructure by upgrading to digital with DRM, for example, you might be using the good place audio is in just now, while video is planning on the huge boost it will receive with 5G.
By becoming digital and putting your faith in radio, you might be even better prepared to benefit from 5G, too, once it is clearly defined and available.
Codec interoperability … powerful remote control systems … smart engineering management…securing your facility against the unthinkable. All this and more in your latest RWEE, with articles from Tom Hartnett, Paul Shulins, Rick Sewell, John Marcon, Frank Eliason and Cris Alexander.FACILITY MANAGEMENT
Physical Security in the Broadcast Plant
The hard truth is that your radio station conceivably could become the target of a shooter or other person looking to do harm. What can you do today to keep your people and your facility safe?TECH TIPS
Professional IP Audio Codec Compatibility
Codecs of different brands can work together if you take the proper steps, writes Tom Hartnett.ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:
- Get the Most Out of Your Modern Remote Control System
- It’s the Repack — Scoot Over!
- Failure Is, in Fact, an Option
The wheels are in motion for submitting information about a radio station’s satellite earth station usage.
The Federal Communications Commission has finalized the deadline for all radio stations to submit information about earth station and satellite usage as May 28, 2018.
Way back in July 2018, the FCC started the process of collecting information for earth station and satellite licensees. The goal, plainly stated by Commissioner Ajit Pai at the time, was to “ensure that America continues to lead the world in mobile innovation” and pursue a spectrum strategy that “calls for making low-band, midband and high-band airwaves available for flexible use,” he said.
The process marches on now that the FCC has finally finalized the deadline for radio stations to detail their use of the spectrum in the 3.7–4.2 GHz band. The goal is to gather feedback on current usage to determine the viability of transitioning some or all of the 3.7–4.2 GHz band to terrestrial fixed and mobile broadband services.
By the May 28 deadline, operators of fixed satellite service (FSS) earth stations in this band must certify the accuracy of their license info, including call signs and file numbers as well as detailed info on satellite operating capacity. Temporary or transportable users must also provide details such as how often the link is used.
The FCC has some fairly specific guidance on how to file the information. FSS stations must submit the information using the “Pleadings and Comments” link here. For fixed, temporary fixed or transportable earth station licensee, file certifications as a pleading type “C Band certification” for each call sign. And also: temporary fixed and transportable earth station licensees and space station licensees must file the additional earth station and space station data requested above using the pleading type “Other” for each call sign.
The mood from broadcasters on the issue has been one part dubious, one part hopeful. The National Association of Broadcasters has called on the commission to “tread lightly” when it comes to potentially repurposing spectrum for the commercial wireless industry, said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton when the initial order was released. Since nearly every American depends on C Band satellite spectrum to receive radio and television programming, he said, the FCC must move carefully.
Other broadcasters, like National Public Radio have also expressed concern about impact the move could have on the continued affordability, reliability and availability of existing C Band operations.
The post With Earth Station Filing Deadline Set, FCC Will Eye Potential C Band Opportunities appeared first on Radio World.
Our mention of the Ion Trap magnet (March 13 column) brought back some very old memories for a number of readers.
NHPR’s Stephanie Donnell, WA1YKL, wrote that she had not even heard the term “picture tube” in many years. She also recalled a thing called a “purity ring,” used on color picture tubes. And if you have a weak CRT, Stephanie still has a B&K CRT Rejuvenator.
Stephanie shared another story of interest about an old Ferrups UPS, on which the AC output had died. The only logged fault displayed was “Low AC Output.” After checking for the usual things like fuses and signs of damage or burns, she called Eaton Tech Support, who recommended she check the tank cap.
It took Stephanie a second, but she quickly realized this was the large, nonpolarized electrolytic capacitor that made up a resonant “tank,” along with the additional secondary winding on the AC power transformer. With the UPS switched off and unplugged and with the capacitor disconnected, Stephanie attempted to check the capacitor and saw that it was shorted. A quick inspection of the capacitor did not reveal anything unusual, and there wasn’t any leakage.
What she saw when setting the capacitor top on a flat surface was a very noticeable wobble. The top of the new replacement capacitor was very stable. Checking against a business card (see Fig. 1) revealed a subtle outward bulge in the otherwise flat surface.
While this was far less noticeable than what has been seen with electrolytic capacitors when they have similarly failed, it provided further proof of the condition of the capacitor. A new 10 uF 660V capacitor was ordered from Eaton, installed and the UPS was back in operation.
This issue with the UPS brought back some of the things recalled about power supply regulators. The old UPS uses a “ferro-resonant” or what is sometimes called a “constant voltage” transformer, kind of an ugly stepchild of power supplies. Their regulation is based on the resonance of an extra secondary winding in the transformer, and the capacitor that is connected to it. The capacitor and the extra secondary form a resonant tank circuit that works in conjunction with the AC Line frequency. Their efficiency is often quite low, compared to other power supply designs. But one advantage is that they are very simple.***
Broadcast engineer and Radio World colleague Dan Slentz has been surfing the web again and found more useful sites.
Formerly expensive Digital Audio Workstation Cakewalk software is now free. It’s good for mixing music (CDs and albums), allowing you to compose, record and then edit material. Here’s the site to visit: www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk.
And here’s a novel reason to become associated with an educational facility or nonprofit. AutoDesk, maker of AutoCAD drawing/drafting software, offers their full software suite to .edu organizations. This is not a “lite” version but the full-blown AutoCAD, and you can choose any version, including a network-applied version for educational nonprofits.
If you are associated with an .edu, check out this link: www.autodesk.com/education/free-software/autocad.
Dan also suggests Workbench readers take a look at Wireshark. It’s said to be the world’s most widely used network protocol analyzer.
Wireshark lets you see what’s going on in your network at a microscopic level. Its feature set includes deep inspection of hundreds of protocols. Wireshark is multiplatform, running on Windows, MacOS and Linux, along with many other operating systems. Network data can be browsed using a GUI. Wireshark also provides VoIP analysis. A Wireshark user guide can be downloaded from the site: www.wireshark.org.
And Dan’s latest find is the MixerFace R4, a portable two-mic (with phantom power) mixer and mobile recording interface, featuring high-quality mic preamps, High-Z (guitar) inputs and balanced outputs. Dan says that it would work great with a cell phone doing a call-in, or using Cleanfeed. The device lets you record pro-quality audio on your smartphone. An internal long-lasting rechargeable battery makes it ideal for interviews or remotes “on the road.”
It’s manufactured by CEntrance, which has been around for two decades providing products primarily to the music/performing industry. The MixerFace R4 sells for between $349 and $599, depending on options. Here’s the link for more information or to order: https://centrance.com/mixerface.***
“Thumbs” Feebleman is the editor of the Munn-Reese Broadcast Engineering Consultants e-newsletter (www.munn-reese.com). In a recent issue, Thumbs cautioned owners of new translator construction permits to read the CP thoroughly.
Many new CPs are conditioned with special requirements, like intermodulation and spectral measurements. You may also need to complete a partial proof on a nearby AM array.
Remember, your new translator is licensed under Part 74 of the FCC Rules and Regulations; however, at the very beginning of Part 74 is a paragraph that refers many requirements back to Part 73. Although your translator is licensed under Part 74, it is a Part 73 device!
Radio World’s popular Workbench column relies on your tips and ideas. You’ll help fellow engineers and qualify for SBE recertification credit. Send tips and high-resolution photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Bisset has spent 49 years in the broadcasting industry and is still learning. He handles western U.S. radio sales for the Telos Alliance. He is SBE certified and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.
I’m Michael O’Shea. I serve as president of Amaturo Sonoma Media Group, owners/operators of five market-leading radio stations in Sonoma County in California Wine Country.
My community, Santa Rosa, was devastated in October a year and a half ago, when vicious wildfires swept through our city at 2 a.m., literally evaporating 7,000 homes, 100 businesses and killing 43 of our citizens.
My AM-FM news/talk station KSRO, on the air with continuous service for over 80 years, was the only true “first informer.” And when the power was off, land lines dead, cable TV off the air, cell service off due to bandwidth starvation and many cell towers melted in the fire, there were only two ways to seek help in the middle of that terrible night: 1) knock on your neighbors door; and 2) local radio.
My station, with auxiliary generators buzzing to keep our signal viable, literally saved lives that night, at a time when ALL other forms of communications were simply GONE. After the initial 72 hours of true emergency and the next months-long period of initial recovery, local radio (and KSRO) stepped up and served its community at the highest level possible.
We were awarded two Marconi Awards at the NAB’s Radio Show in Orlando in September as a result of our lifesaving efforts.
As a recent article in Broadcasting & Cable pointed out, when it’s Armageddon time and we need immediate lifesaving information the most, that is when infrastructure is most likely to become disrupted. We are so increasingly dependent on the smart phone in our hand 16 hours a day for virtually every source of info. When there is nothing but a little dial going round and round trying to find something to re-transmit is when we are most vulnerable.
Then the “old-school” Walkman or other small radio with batteries (fished from an old gym bag or tackle box in the garage) becomes a literal life line. I heard this exact story from hundreds of my listeners after our disaster.
I helped produce a documentary short film about our fire emergency and how the community pulled through to get through. Our skilled director pointed out how local radio was as important in those wicked moments as the firefighters and sheriff’s deputies banging on the doors of sleeping residents.
Our film, “Urban Inferno, the Night Santa Rosa Burned,” is on the international film festival tour now, winning festivals in Las Vegas, Chile, Australia and India.
I’m posting here a short clip from the film, and a full YouTube HD version. I’m asking my industry colleagues to share it with anyone who could make a difference in appreciating what local radio has done for decades and continues to do today.
Michael O’Shea is president of Amaturo Sonoma Media Group in Santa Rosa, Calif. Radio World welcomes commentaries on this or any relevant industry issue. Email email@example.com.
Groups that filed a legal challenge to the FCC’s media ownership deregulation under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai have told the court that the FCC ignored its obligation to the public interest, and an order from a federal appeals court, to study the impact of its moves on diversity.
That came in a reply brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The groups said the FCC ignored the impact of the broadcast incentive auction — where owners gave up their licenses for pay — on the amount of broadcast diversity. The Third Circuit had instructed the FCC to consider the impact of the broadcast incentive auction on diversity, it did not. The FCC has said that was also reasonable because not all the facts were in. While the auction was over by the time it made its 2017 decision to deregulate, the repack was not.
“The Third Circuit has told the FCC on multiple occasions to examine how its media ownership rules impact race and gender ownership diversity,” said Michael Copps, former FCC chairman and special advisor to Common Cause, one of the petitioners. “The FCC has not only failed to assess the impact of its rules on minority ownership but has also abandoned its rules all together. We urge the court to reverse this unlawful decision and require the FCC to fulfill its statutory mandate to promote race and gender diversity in media ownership.”
“The FCC and intervenors [broadcasters and others filing briefs in support of the commission] ignore petitioners’ core points and this court’s mandate about the agency’s obligation under the public interest standard …,” the petitioners told the court. “The FCC tries to have it both ways — claiming it has addressed race/gender ownership diversity yet insisting it cannot. Neither is true: the FCC must heed its obligation to at minimum do no harm to race/gender diversity by apprising itself of knowable facts. The FCC cannot justify reliance on an insubstantial record.”
It was in response to the FCC’s defense of the decision filed with the court last month. The FCC had told the court that it did gauge the effect of its 2017 broadcast deregulation on media ownership diversity and found it would have “no material impact.”
The FCC’s deregulatory moves came as part of its congressionally mandated quadrennial review, which also had to be responsive to a Third Circuit remand of its previous review, part of a years-long legal challenge to media deregulation stretching back to the early 2000s.
Indicating, Goldilocks-like, that its decision was neither too regulatory nor too deregulatory, but justifiably “just right,” the FCC told the court that it had reasonably updated its rules in light of increased competition and its public interest analysis, which included that the old rules were doing affirmative harm. The FCC also suggested the groups did not even have standing to bring the suit, something they countered in their reply as well. In fact, it asked the court for permission to provide additional supporting material for its standing.
The FCC launched a program to encourage established broadcasters to help minorities and women get into the business, but the groups told the court that did not cut it. “The FCC is left only with the Incubator Program to meet its obligation [to diversity in broadcasting], whose eligible entity definition is without “a sufficient analytical connection” to the statutory goal of race/gender diversity.”
The brief was filed by Prometheus Radio Project, Media Mobilizing Project, Free Press, Office of Communication, Inc. of the United Church of Christ, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America and Common Cause.
The Communications and Technology Law Clinic Institute for Public Representation Georgetown University Law Center is representing petitioners in the legal challenge.
The post Prometheus, Et al, Fire Back at FCC Over Ownership Dereg appeared first on Radio World.
Readers have shared memories of respected broadcast engineer Ron Rackley, who died April 12. Send your own remembrances and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article will be periodically updated to reflect additional submissions.Mario Hieb:
Yes, Ron Rackley was a giant.. He was a classically trained engineer who understood the RF world at great depth. Ron had a particular passion for AM radio systems and was well regarded for the many improvements he developed. We’ll miss you, Ron.Geoff Mendenhall:
I am deeply saddened and shocked at the loss of my good friend, Ron Rackley.
Ron was the top expert in bandwidth optimization of AM broadcast antenna arrays for HD Radio and DRM transmission. I had the opportunity to work with Ron on several interesting broadcast engineering projects, and we both enjoyed our amateur radio antenna projects. He taught me so much over the decades that I knew him.
One of my favorite, fun memories of Ron was when we went together to Skycraft surplus electronic parts store in Winter Park, Fla., in search of ham radio goodies. We were like two kids in a candy store!
I am truly glad to have known and worked with Ron. He contributed so much to the broadcast engineering profession and is greatly missed.[Learn more about Rackley’s life and career.] Glynn Walden:
I am so saddened to learn of his passing as he was a friend and mentor. He always had time to explain and share his incredible knowledge, a two-line email from me led to a long multi-paragraph explanation of the problem or situation and his thoughts on solving it.
On Thursday of last week, he sent me a picture of the former AM site on Gomer Road where our first AM IBOC demonstration on KUSA took place. The picture that he sent shows that site is now a housing development. We talked on Thursday morning about our long nights at the site with Dave Hartup and Hilmer Swanson.
Ron lived his life as a Christian. I will miss the gentle giant and the broadcast industry will be less without him.John Sadler, retired FCC Communications Specialist, writes:
It is hard to believe that the broadcast world has lost an industry icon. Ron was a real gentleman and a hard worker. He was a good friend of mine for over 50 years.
I first met Ron at one of the NAB engineering seminars on directional AM antennas in which we both participated. He was a very knowledgeable individual and always had time for everyone should they have questions relating to antennas.
During my 26 year tenure at the FCC, I had many opportunities to consult with Ron regarding reports that he had submitted to the FCC for review. My son Jim and his wife worked for the Rackley firm for several years, until the company relocated to Florida from Washington. Thanks to Jim’s experience with Ron’s firm, he still enjoys working in the industry at Carl T. Jones.
Ron will be sorely missed by those working in the broadcast business.James Walker:
I had the honor and pleasure of working with Ron on a number of projects. He was always ready to talk about the philosophy behind the applications when there was time. I have found this to be the best way to learn a subject.
He was generous will all sorts of info. I had picked up a Wayne-Kerr b601 at the Dayton Hamfest. The unknown terminals are a bit complicated on that device. We were working on a new D.A. in Los Angeles, and I mentioned I had this bridge but no instructions. Ron talked at some length about that device and its virtues and weaknesses vis a vis devices such as the genrad 1606. A few weeks after I got back to my office in Cincinnati, a package arrived from Sarasota with a nicely bound copy of the Wayne-Kerr manual — with a note from Ron that said simply, “Hope this is useful.” (I still have the book with the note attached — and the bridge.)
For several years, I handled the network broadcasts of Cincinnati Reds’ spring training in Sarasota. I would invite Ron to lunch every year at his favorite local Mexican restaurant. Each of these occasions lasted for several hours as we just talked medium wave engineering. (He talked, I listened). These were fascinating experiences — some of the very best of my career — like going to an oracle.
Ron Rackley’s death has rocked radio engineers and others in the radio industry’s technology circles. Rackley passed away unexpectedly on Friday night. He was 66.
The veteran consulting engineer was the champion of AM radio and its revitalization efforts. He worked on high-power medium wave antennas systems around the world and served as a consultant to USA Digital Radio during the early stages of in-band on-channel (IBOC) digital testing in this country.
AM broadcast system design and optimization was Rackley’s passion, according to industry friends. He graduated from Clemson University with an electrical engineering degree and was a former radio station CE and antenna designer for Kintronic Labs Inc. In 1983 he co-founded du Treil-Rackley Consulting Engineers, with Bob du Treil, which later merged with A.D. Ring & Associates to form du Treil, Lundin and Rackley.
Rackley grew up in Greenville, N.C., and worked as a duty operator for several local AM radio stations while still in high school.Ron Rackley
“I had plenty of time to read various engineering reports and study contour maps while on duty. Radio always seemed like magic to me. It seemed less like magic after I took mathematics in college,” Rackley told Radio World during an interview in 2006 acknowledging his NAB Engineering Achievement Award, which he shared that year with his friend Ben Dawson.
Rackley said, “I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t interested in radio.”
Touching tributes to Rackley appeared over the weekend, including one from his daughter, Elizabeth, posted to her father’s Facebook account: “My father passed away unexpectedly Friday night. Please pray for my family, and especially my mother. My dad was definitely the most intelligent person I have ever known.”
“He did work in his field of electrical engineering that only a handful of people in the world were capable of, and was renowned for it. I will remember my father as an incredibly wise and loving father, who always knew what was best and who loved and appreciated his family. I have annoyed so many people bragging about my dad, and I have no shame for it. He deserved every word of appreciation,” she wrote.
Rackley, who was at the NAB Show in Las Vegas early last week, told Radio World during an earlier interview that he was a “self-professed introvert uncomfortable speaking in front of crowds,” yet delivered countless speeches to radio engineers on how to troubleshoot and maintain AM antenna systems through the years.
“I’ll do it if I can help other engineers understand what AM is all about. Professionals are supposed to share information and to share knowledge,” he said.
Rackley was a regular at broadcast engineering conferences, friends say. David Layer, the NAB’s VP of advanced engineering, told us, “It was devastating news that Ron Rackley had passed. I am so glad I was able to see him last week at the NAB Show and of course now wish I had spent more time with him. Ron was one of the gentlest souls I’ve ever encountered, a true gentleman and scholar, his brilliance as an AM broadcast engineer was world-renowned. He will be greatly missed by me and I expect everyone who knew him.”
The broadcast engineering community flooded Rackley’s Facebook page with condolences. Veteran broadcast engineer Richard Rudman posted the following: “I had the great fortune to know this man and work with him on a research project. Ron was more than a brilliant radio engineer who I swear could visualize complex solutions as Smith Chart displays, a form of analyzing that require mere mortals to use expensive test equipment. Ron was wonderful teacher with a folksy down home style. He will be missed.”
Jeff Littlejohn, executive VP, engineering and systems integration of iHeartMedia posted his condolences: “One of the nicest, most intelligent and professional people I have ever met. The broadcast industry lost a giant.”
Art Sutton, president of Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting, told Radio World in an email: “I first became acquainted with Ron, like many did, when needing help with an AM signal matter. No one knew amplitude modulation better. In addition to just being a hell of a nice guy, he was a great broadcast historian. We shared many enjoyable communications about the history of this business we love and the prominent role radio broadcasting has played in the development of our great nation.”
Rackley lived with his wife, Dorothy, in Sarasota, Fla. The couple has four children. His family is currently planning a Celebration of Life service.