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Planning a Studio Reopening? Recording Academy Has Some Tips

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 18:24

What considerations should you weigh before reopening your studios?

Helpful guidance comes in the form of a document from the Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing. While it targets recording and production studios, most of the advice has direct relevance to radio as well.

Just a sampling:

  • Evaluate rooms in the studio facility and make necessary adjustments to ensure social distancing.
  • Consider requiring individuals to wear cloth face coverings while inside the entire facility; in some parts of the country, face coverings may be required by law in outdoor areas as well.
  • Have work that cannot be performed with face coverings take place in an isolation room or an otherwise empty studio.
  • Consider limiting studio access to essential personnel or, at minimum, limit the number of visitors.
  • You may choose to require staff or others to have their temperature taken with an infrared thermometer upon entry to the facility.
  • Limit the number of people allowed to use elevators at once and consider requiring face coverings in elevators.
  • Consider disinfecting footwear, or providing booties.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Designate a staff person to be in charge.
  • Microphones should be monitored and cleaned before and after all sessions.
  • Consider HVAC filter cleaning and replacement.
  • Shift staff and/or session schedules where possible to maximize social distancing.

Download the full list.

The post Planning a Studio Reopening? Recording Academy Has Some Tips appeared first on Radio World.

New Ebook Explores Broadcasting From Home

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 01:00

A new Radio World ebook reports on how radio organizations around the world responded and modified on-air and production operations when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business.

In this special, free double-issue ebook, find out how major commercial and public broadcasters responded operationally to the pandemic.

Whether it’s a leading public station in New York, a massive radio network in Spain, a college station in Colorado, a commercial music cluster in California, an international radio news network or more, our sources all told us: Everything has changed.

Learn from them and from our sponsors about how stations solved problems, how manufacturers supported them and how these experts think radio operations have changed for good.

Access the ebook here or click on the cover image.

The post New Ebook Explores Broadcasting From Home appeared first on Radio World.

Ohio Broadcaster Pays $8,000 in Consent Decree

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 21:04

An Ohio broadcaster agreed to pay $8,000 as part of a consent decree after purchasing two licenses without consent from the Federal Communications Commission.

Earlier this year Media Bureau began investigating the assignment of station WTTF(AM) and FM translator W227BJ from Tiffin Broadcasting to BAS Broadcasting. Beginning in April 2014, Tiffin began the process of acquiring the licenses of the two stations, which were based in Tiffin, Ohio. Tiffin also entered into a Local Marketing Agreement for the two stations with BAS. At the time, it was agreed that Tiffin would retain full control of all operations, programming and personnel.

[Read: FCC Proposes Regulatory Fees for 2020 Amid Uncertain Media Marketplace]

In January 2015, Tiffin and BAS entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement in which BAS agreed to formally purchase the licenses and other assets from Tiffin. BAS began making a series of monthly payments in early 2015. The deal was in December 2019 when payments to Tiffin totaled $608,000.

But all this was done without commission consent, the FCC said.

In April 2020, Tiffin and BAS filed an application with the FCC disclosing the reassignment of the two stations. According to BAS and Tiffin, “[We] mistakenly believed that the ownership change would be implemented through the process of filing the renewal applications.”

According to the rules laid out in the Communications Act, “no construction permit or station license, or any rights thereunder, shall be transferred, assigned, or disposed of in any manner … except upon application to the commission… .”

After an investigation, Tiffin and BAS agreed that they violated Section 310 of the Communications Act and Section 73.3540 of the FCC Rules. As a result, BAS agreed to make an $8,000 civil penalty payment to close out the investigation.

 

The post Ohio Broadcaster Pays $8,000 in Consent Decree appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Unveils Service to America Finalists

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 14:50

The National Association of Broadcasters has announced the radio and TV finalists in their 2020 Celebration of Service to America awards. Of corporate owners Townsquare Media, Gray television and Tegna garnered multiple nominations.

The awards, which are for outstanding community service by local broadcasters, were to have been handed out at a June 9 dinner in Washington but will now handed out via a prerecorded tribute that stations can air sometime in August.

The finalists are listed below:

Service to Community Award for Radio Small Market
Bryan Broadcasting, KNDE(FM), College Station, Texas — 103 Charities
Townsquare Media, WKXW(FM), Trenton, N.J. — New Jersey Judges
Townsquare Media, WKXW(FM), Trenton, N.J. — Feel Better Bears
Milner Media Properties, WYUR(FM), WVLI(FM), WIVR(FM), WFAV(FM), Bourbonnais, Ill. — Serving the Kankakee River Valley

Service to Community Award for Radio Medium Market
Alpha Media, WSGW(AM/FM), Saginaw, Mich. — Sharing Hope Radiothon
iHeartMedia, WRVE(FM), WGY(AM/FM), Albany, N.Y. — 2019 Cares for Kids Radiothon

Service to Community Award for Radio Major Market
Bonneville International, KIRO(AM), Seattle — 710 ESPN Seattle and Coaching Boys into Men
Hubbard Broadcasting, KRWM(FM), Seattle/Tacoma — WARM 106.9 Community Activation
Cox Media Group, WSB(AM), Atlanta — 2019 WSB Careathon

Service to Community Award for Television Small Market
Gray Television, KVLY(TV), Fargo, N.D. — Homeless Kids Need Help
Gray Television, KWQC(TV), Davenport, Iowa — 2019 Flood Relief
Gray Television, WJHG(TV), Panama City, Fla. — Remembering the Forgotten

Service to Community Award for Television Medium Market
Gray Television, KWTX(TV), Waco, Texas — Food for Families
Tegna, WBIR(TV), Knoxville, Tenn. — The Reality of Suicide
Gray Television, WNDU(TV), South Bend, Ind. — Never Again: Preventing Bus Stop Tragedies
Tegna, WTOL(TV), Toledo, Ohio — 11 Investigates: Guilty Without Proof

Service to Community Award for Television Large Market
Sinclair Broadcast Group, KABB(TV), WOAI(TV), San Antonio — Show Me Your Bill
Hubbard Broadcasting, KOB(TV), Albuquerque, N.M. — Protecting Our Enchanting Environment
Nexstar Media Group, KXAN(TV), Austin, Texas — Save Our Students: Solutions for Wellness and Safety
Nexstar Media Group, WDAF(TV), Kansas City, Mo. — FOX4 Band of Angels
Graham Media Group, WKMG(TV), Orlando, Fla. — Driving Change: Florida’s Texting and Driving Law

The post NAB Unveils Service to America Finalists appeared first on Radio World.

LeGeyt Reiterates NAB Opposition to Performance Fees

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 14:54
National Association of Broadcasters Chief Operating Officer Curtis LeGeyt

A music performance fee would not only be “unjustified as a matter of policy,” but is “financially untenable for local radio broadcasters of all sizes.”

That’s the message from National Association of Broadcasters Chief Operating Officer Curtis LeGeyt testifying at a Senate Judiciary IP Subcommittee staff briefing. The topic was music rights within the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA.

LeGeyt reiterated several arguments that broadcasters have cited for years in this debate, and brought them up to date to include ramifications of the pandemic.

“Without reliance on subscription fees like our streaming and satellite competitors, local radio is supported by advertising alone,” LeGeyt said, according to his prepared remarks, released by NAB.

“With local businesses – including restaurants, retailers and car dealers – ravaged by this pandemic, that advertising revenue is currently on life support and further illustrates the policy interest in keeping broadcast radio’s costs down. For these reasons, Congress has repeatedly considered the recording industry’s arguments and chosen not to impose a performance royalty on free, local radio.”

LeGeyt said that radio’s place in American culture is not accidental. “It is the product of policy choices and a resulting legal framework that enable broadcast radio to remain completely free and dedicated to communities.” Among those, he said, is the DMCA. That copyright law, he said, may be in need of review, but “its music licensing reforms are an incredible success story.”

LeGeyt said the DMCA “enabled the growth of lawful music streaming to the benefit of recording artists whose revenues hit record highs in 2019, all while preserving a free and local broadcast radio model that continues to benefit those same performers and serve the public interest.”

He thanked lawmakers who have expressed support for the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes performance fees for broadcast radio.

“The recording industry is also well aware that NAB stands ready to continue discussions around alternative music licensing frameworks that could increase total royalties to performing artists while allowing broadcasters to expand our own streaming footprint,” LeGeyt also said. “However, any piecemeal terrestrial performance royalty unilaterally imposed on local radio stations is not justified as a matter of copyright policy and will further stress the economics of the current free and local broadcast model.”

The post LeGeyt Reiterates NAB Opposition to Performance Fees appeared first on Radio World.

FCC, CISA Ask Governors to Support Communication Networks

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 13:47

The heads of two federal agencies are asking the nation’s governors to provide necessary access and resources to communications workers during the pandemic.

Radio and TV broadcasters are among the essential entities listed. Other networks include those related to 911 calls, telehealth, distance learning and telework. (The full list is at the end of this story.)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs sent the letter, describing communications networks as “a lifeline during this challenging time.” CISA is a relatively new entity, established in 2018 and responsible for protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats.

The letter asked the states to follow guidance from the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency updated earlier this month, specifically: Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce and Guidelines for Executives: 911 Center Pandemic Recommendations.

Among other recommendations it also asked the governors to “consider prioritizing the distribution of personal protective equipment to communications personnel when availability permits’: to understand that communications retail customer service personnel at service centers are critical for helping customers, especially low-income families and veterans; and to facilitate maintenance and repair of communications infrastructure by providing more online access to relevant government functions such as the permit process.

[Read the letter.]

Below is the list of infrastructure and entities that the FCC and CISA asked governors to treat as essential to COVID-19 response efforts:

  • Businesses and personnel that provide communications support to medical and healthcare facilities, assisted care and living facilities, and people with disabilities;
  • Radio and television broadcasters, cable operators, and Internet Protocol television (IPTV) providers;
  • Telecommunications relay services providers and closed captioning providers;
  • Public safety communications infrastructure (e.g., land mobile radio, broadband, Wi-Fi, high frequency radio, microwave, wireline, satellite voice, video, Radio over Internet Protocol, paging, data communications systems), including infrastructure that is owned, operated or maintained by commercial service providers in support of public safety and infrastructure in support of Emergency Communications Centers;
  • Internet access service providers, telephone carriers, interconnected VoIP providers, mobile wireless providers, undersea cable operators, content delivery network operators, service integrators, and equipment vendors;
  • Satellite operators; and
  • Companies and individuals involved in the construction of new communications facilities and deployment of new and existing technology to address unprecedented levels of customer usage and close the digital divide for Americans who are sheltering at home.

The post FCC, CISA Ask Governors to Support Communication Networks appeared first on Radio World.

Inside the May 27 Issue of Radio World

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 13:32

Should the FCC allow “zoned” programming for FM stations in the United States? Read what major broadcast organizations had to say about this in our latest issue. Also: IP studios for managers; making connections during a business crisis; and using privacy slats to deter vandalism at your transmitter site.

Read it online here.

Prefer to do your reading offline? No problem! Simply click on the digital edition, go to the left corner and choose the download button to get a PDF version.

The post Inside the May 27 Issue of Radio World appeared first on Radio World.

Let Your Dryer Work Out the Kinks

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 21:36

Bill Fike writes in to say that quite often he will receive, with a new piece of equipment, a power or audio cable or some other special connection cable. More often than not, the cable has been folded and tightly tied with a cable tie. Even after removing the tie, some of these cables will remain kinked indefinitely.

Bill has read that a heat gun can be used to warm up the cable and remove the kinks; but that’s a lot of work to go over the length of a long cable. Bill also worried about the risk of melting the inner conductors; some heat guns can get very hot.

Bill came up with an easy alternative method to relax the cable so it can be coiled or wrapped. His clothes dryer has a rack for drying sweaters, sneakers or other items that can’t be tumbled. He places the cables on the rack in the dryer, sets the dryer to high and runs it for about 10 minutes (Fig. 1). Some cables may need longer dryer time.

Fig. 1: A dryer rack holds cables as the dryer removes kinks (fabric softener sheets optional)

When you pull out the cable, it’s warm and relaxed. It can then be coiled or wrapped properly, and it won’t have kinks.

The first time Bill did this, his wife asked why the drying rack was out. When she heard the answer, she just slowly shook her head and walked away. Some people don’t appreciate a good idea when they see one.

By the way, Bill is an Audible Approved Producer. Audible defines this as “a master of the craft, the best of the best; they excel in audiobook production, performance, generate positive customer reviews, and provide the Author and Rights Holder with a professional and smooth production experience. They typically submit audiobooks that do not require a resubmission by QA, and their titles are not terminated for reasons related to the production or their professionalism. Audible Approved Producers are hand-selected by the ACX team for their skill.”

***

Engineering consultant Frank Hertel is always solving problems. Recently, he found an interesting link while searching for an older two-lead virtual ground IC.

The link takes you to a 2000 Engineering Application Note by Bruce Carter of Texas Instruments. Titled “A Single-Supply Op Amp Circuit Collection,” it is ideal for those engineers who still fabricate special devices, instead of buying something “off the shelf.”

This in-depth article provides useful information regarding the design and use of op-amps, especially in single voltage supply applications. The author explains that one of the biggest problems for designers arises when the circuit must be operated from a single voltage supply rather than a dual ±15 VDC supply. The application note includes working circuits that should be helpful.

The full article can be accessed at www.add.ece.ufl.edu/4924/docs/TI_SingleSupply.pdf

***

Speaking of op amps:

Dan Slentz writes that though he is far from the best bench tech, he has replaced his share of op amps over the years. At WHIZ in Zanesville, Ohio, the AM/FM studios were in a different building, and Dan had a static or ground issue where he was constantly replacing op amps.

Dan alleviated the problem by adding an odd diode to the input/output of the op amp. This didn’t affect the audio, but did discharge anything over 1V to ground. This greatly reduced the replacement of op amps in his distribution amps.

Fig. 2 The Sparkos Labs website offers some interesting finds.

As Dan was researching the issue, he came across “discrete op amps” that sounded interesting. A video associated with the site describes these devices as being better sonically. The company is Sparkos Labs; they use layered surface-mount devices mated to the familiar eight-pin DIP (Dual In-line Package) to create an op-amp alternative. In addition to a full data sheet, there’s a white paper on why discrete op-amps are superior to ICs.

PS: Dan keeps an eye via social media and enjoys seeing what “cotton-headed ninny muggins” are up to. (If you don’t know that phrase, watch the movie “Elf.”)

Today’s award winner is a hobbyist who built an FM transmitter powered by the 12 VDC of a car. With that kind of power, there’s small chance of this individual’s transmitter causing an interference problem. But what caught Dan’s eye was his closing statement, seeking referrals for upgrading to a higher-power transmitter!

***

We’ll wrap up this column with a little history lesson that Dan found.

Prior to the advent of the tape cartridge machine was a device called the MacKenzie Program Repeater. As one of the first designs of continuous loop tape playback devices, the MacKenzie Program Repeater was used by top 40 radio stations starting in the late 1950s.

Fig. 3: Read about the MacKenzie Program Repeater at the ReelRadio website.

The MacKenzie Model 500 featured five decks stacked — though other models included up to 10 — all with a common capstan. Two independent tracks per magazine deck gave a total of 10 messages that could last up to 14 minutes. Tape was contained in mounted metal magazines.

Read about it at the ReelRadio website, which includes a drawing of how the tape was wound in the magazine. Visit www.reelradio.com/reports/mackenzi to read more.

Though the repeater found its way into top 40 radio, according to the article it was used initially at Disneyland and in Hollywood filmmaking. Louis G. MacKenzie, inventor of this device, received a technical citation for developing a selective sound effects repeater at the 1962 Academy Awards.

Contribute to Workbench. You’ll help your fellow engineers, and qualify for SBE recertification credit. Send Workbench tips to johnpbisset@gmail.com.

John Bisset has spent over 50 years in the broadcasting industry and is still learning. He handles western U.S. radio sales for the Telos Alliance. He holds CPBE certification with the Society of Broadcast Engineers and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.

The post Let Your Dryer Work Out the Kinks appeared first on Radio World.

Bob Groome Dies at 77

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 13:30

Bob Groome, a former radio chief engineer who went on to a 41-year career in broadcast sales, marketing and technical support, died this month at age 77.

According to his Facebook page, he passed away May 17 at his home in Florida after a long battle with cancer. At his death he worked in sales engineering for RF Specialties.

“Although his working career extended an extraordinary 59 years, he was particularly proud of his technical position in 1963, working on NASA’s Apollo project, as a lead (PWB) technician for General Electric, on contract supporting NASA in Daytona, Fla.,” according to an obituary on his Facebook page.

“But his love of music and technology ultimately led him to the broadcast industry, beginning with his very first job at WOOO radio (1310 AM) in Deland, Fla. in 1961, as chief engineer and DJ personality ‘Bob the Bachelor’ and later, chief engineer at WGCL radio, Fort Myers, Fla., from 1969–76.”

Radio World readers will know him best for his work with numerous prominent equipment and service companies including Audio Associates, Harris Broadcast, Allied Broadcast Equipment, Arrakis Systems, Jampro Antennas, Electronic Research Incorporated (ERI) and RF Specialties.

“As a member of Society of Broadcast Engineers, Bob authored and presented papers at local, regional and national conferences. Bob presented to Mexico’s Ametra, Japan’s InterBEE and Canada’s CCBE meetings. He presented papers and was invited to attend engineering roundtables at professional conferences held by Texas Association of Broadcasters, Broadcasters’ Clinic, Iowa Public Symposium, Tampa’s SBE Symposium, among others.”

According to the obituary, Groome was a spiritual man and a devoted Christian. His interests included technical projects such as building an electric car, computers, collecting music, woodworking, and visiting the traces of the “old Florida” of his youth.

“He loved his wife [Philippa Jeffreys], Krispy Kremes, Rod McKuen poetry, the ocean, and Tina Turner. He watched ‘Young Frankenstein’ at least once a year. Everyone loved his crooked smile.”

Groome maintained a website, the Sweet Old Bob Website, www.bobgroome.us that includes FM and AM formula calculators “to help his radio broadcasting comrades with their work. This site is up and helping others at the time of this writing, and we hope to maintain this website to honor Sweet Old Bob, the wonderful husband, dad, brother, grandfather and friend who touched so many lives and will be dearly missed.”

A family service is planned at a future date.

 

The post Bob Groome Dies at 77 appeared first on Radio World.

Who’s Buying What: Online Station Studio Brussels Opts for SmartRadio

Mon, 05/25/2020 - 02:30
Orban’s SmartRadio in use at online music station Studio Brussels

At Belgian public broadcaster VRT, online music station Studio Brussels launched a new digital channel, Stubru #ikluisterbelgisch, using SmartRadio. Three additional online radio streams from VRT, including ’90s and ’00s from its youth station MNM, were recently launched by VRT, also utilizing SmartRadio.

A cloud- and web-based radio-as-a-service platform developed by Broadcast Partners, SmartRadio provides a software-based product to broadcasters, consisting of microservices that run in a virtualized Windows environment. SmartRadio can operate either online for streaming and other services or can provide production, editing and streaming services to terrestrial broadcasters.

Orban Labs partnered with Broadcast Partners to add Smart Processing capability to this platform. Using Smart Processing, stations can select parameters for processing to create their own custom, unique “sound.” Algorithms used in Smart Processing are comparable to Orban’s Optimod hardware processors.

Radio World welcomes submissions for the Who’s Buying What column from both buyers and sellers. Email radioworld@futurenet.com with “Who’s Buying What” in the subject line.

The post Who’s Buying What: Online Station Studio Brussels Opts for SmartRadio appeared first on Radio World.

Grounding: GroundLinx Advocates for New Approach

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 02:43
Tom LaBarge, CEO of GLxT Holdings

Tom LaBarge is CEO of GLxT Holdings and its manufacturing subsidiary GroundLinx Technologies. The company makes a system called Gradiance that it promotes as providing a new approach to electrical grounding.

Radio World: Don’t we know pretty much what we need to know about grounding?
Tom LaBarge: The necessity for electrical grounding has indeed been well known for over two centuries. But well known and well understood are not always synonymous.

The current industry specifications to achieve compliance in a grounding installation are woefully outdated and dangerously anemic with respect to the electronics-rich culture of contemporary society.

Even “enhanced” grounding systems exclusively rely on a humble ground rod — inspired by Ben Franklin — which, in fact, has only a single point of primary dissipation for fault currents, as well as no capability for high-frequency dispersion.

Regardless, engineers continue to specify not only antiquated technology, but also inaccurate models of grounding performance and on point-in-time resistance-to-ground measurements made with low-voltage, low-frequency test equipment.

“Significant research is now available that shows dissipation of dangerous fault currents can be accomplished very successfully if novel combinations of new materials and electrode structures are employed.” — Tom LaBarge

These meters cannot capture the dynamic characteristics of an entire fault event. Thus, the limitations of basic ground rods, combined with grounding system designs built only to achieve snapshot-quality resistance measurements, result in much less than optimal protection of the broadcasting plant.

However, significant research is now available that shows dissipation of dangerous fault currents can be accomplished very successfully if novel combinations of new materials and electrode structures are employed.

Such designs can properly manage high frequencies in these currents, as well as more efficiently disperse all aspects of a fault pulse over time through better management of differences of impedance in elements of a grounding system.

Existing technology — as discussed within the broadcasting industry for many years — is not able to achieve these essential results, thus causing increasing failures of critical equipment.

In fact, there is a tremendous amount of new information to review and understand with respect to effective grounding — particularly as the financial and operating demands of broadcasters evolve.

RW: You’ve said systems can fail “in spite of their adherence to commonly accepted design standards.” It sounds like the standards themselves need to change, no?
LaBarge: We absolutely advocate for standards to be changed — based on a new understanding of fault current characteristics, dramatic limitations of present grounding technology and the shortcomings of contemporary grounding system analysis techniques.

The quantity and sophistication of electronics required in broadcasting of any type, whether commercial, public safety, industrial or transportation, among many other uses, has leapfrogged the published performance goals of traditional grounding. We seek to be the change agents toward substantially improving protection of expensive equipment, and reduction in injuries and loss of lives.

RW: Your GroundLinx Gradiance system aims to provide a solution. What is it?
LaBarge: Through the use of novel combinations of materials not previously found in grounding devices, these products are capable, first, of non-sacrificially dissipating current frequencies exceeding 60 MHz, the point where copper begins to lose effectiveness, and second, creating an “impedance gradient” that dramatically reduces the possibility of reflection of a fault current, throughout the event, back into systems and devices that a grounding strategy was designed to protect.

Traditional ground rods are not able to offer these protective features. With GroundLinx Gradiance systems we’ve reimagined and redesigned the “business end” of grounding to protect the super-sensitive electronics of the contemporary broadcast plant at a significantly higher level.

An image from the GroundLinx Gradiance website. (Click on the image to view a larger version.)

RW: What are the major deficiencies in common grounding systems?
LaBarge: In a nutshell we can group major causes of the significant deficiencies into two megacategories: absence of research and development over several decades, and a general lack of understanding of the physics behind grounding performance overall. Additionally, within the world of traditional grounding, there is little consensus on system design standards.We’ve heard it said that if one puts 10 grounding design engineers in a room, 11 opinions will emerge.

In terms of industry codes, grounding has always been an exercise, necessary to achieve a stated resistance-to-ground target — which is of very limited value with respect to true, full-fault-event dissipation. This rote activity is repeated all over the world. As a result, the U.S. insurance industry alone reports over $1 billion in lightning losses every year. (This excludes fire damage initiated by lightning.) European Union organizations site “billions of Euros” lost annually due to lightning and fault current events.

Due to antiquated modeling, inaccurate representations of fault current behavior and a “We’ve always done it this way” attitude, the use of everything from highly insufficient conductor size or deployment, to exclusive reliance on soil moisture, to creation of “ground loops” that allow fault currents to return to structures and equipment, the range and amount of dangerous errors in grounding system design are rather amazing.

As an example, at a recent site inspection at an eastern U.S. larger-market television tower, three chain-link fence posts embedded in concrete were being used as grounding for this tower more than 1,000 feet tall. Not surprisingly, the facility suffers equipment damage exceeding $50,000 annually.

Reviews at smaller-market radio facilities nearly always show major disregard for grounding necessities. As a result, off-air time, or signal disruption events at a minimum, are far too common.
In all cases, the throttling of major fault currents into small ground rods, regardless of quantity, that have a huge disparity in impedance relative to surrounding soils (and possibly amendments) far too often results in completely insufficient dispersal of the fault, and therefore equipment damage, or worse.

We see this situation in well over 90% of the sites we review.

In our experience, U.S. broadcast facilities of all types and applications are generally designed to achieve compliance with the current published standards and codes. They are often tested and certified to comply with specified static/point-in-time resistance-to-ground readings. However, as I said, such measurement is only a snapshot of system performance made with simple test meters — which cannot emulate the performance of a grounding system over time during a major fault event where over 30,000 amps and 250,000 volts at frequencies exceeding 200 MHz may be encountered.

Broadcasters need to up their grounding game, and do so quickly.

RW: What else should we know?
LaBarge: Steep waveforms at the initiation of lightning strikes and fault surges are now understood to contain a simultaneous mélange of frequencies that often exceed 100 MHz. It is the inability to deal with this toxic onslaught that is often to blame for signal loss, equipment damage and worse. Immediate dissipation of the high-frequency barrage — before its reflection back into equipment can occur — is paramount. Unfortunately, copper is only optimally effective up to 60 MHz, and loses effectiveness quickly above that level. Therefore, rethinking of grounding system materials and structures, and overall grounding strategies, is necessary.

Quite simply, the “criticality” of greatly improved grounding in broadcasting operations through attention to fault frequencies and grounding impedance mismatches cannot be overstated. For operating consistency and financial prudence, we encourage radio broadcasting engineers to become far more “acquainted“ with grounding systems of their facility.

Information about the company’s grounding systems can be found at www.groundlinx.com.

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

The post Grounding: GroundLinx Advocates for New Approach appeared first on Radio World.

Community Broadcaster: Four Zoom Tips for Community Radio

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 22:48

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

Many community radio stations are hosting virtual meetings for board members, volunteers and staff. It is a new world for many. But how do you avoid Zoom disaster?

Stations have long flourished on the aesthetic of community, which means face-to-face interactions and groups of people gathering together. For many, video conferencing is something their stations have never done before. However, there is no reason to stress out. The etiquette of virtual meetings is not much different than what you’re used to.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Remote Forever]

At the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, we have hosted weekly video conferences on Zoom since the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as webinars and meetings of various sizes. NFCB has been holding such gatherings for several years. As a facilitator, I have seen many video conference successes and fails. How can you and your organization do Zoom well? Here are a few recommendations.

Turn on Your Video
Little is more off-putting to fellow staff and volunteers than someone who won’t bother to turn on their video, or who has not worked out kinks with their audio and video before showing up. In this pandemic period, where so much is done through online meetings, video is crucial in building trust and engagement. Video also keeps you engaged; people can see you multitasking or being distracted, so consider this your time to give your all to the meeting at hand. Short of your background being distracting or inappropriate, video should be on. Body language, eye contact and rapport still matter.

Set Meetings to Mute on Entry, and Mute Yourself to Start
I once heard that unmute was today’s Reply All. And it is true! If your station is hosting meetings of five or more, your facilitator will make everyone’s day by setting the meeting to mute all initially. We need to remember that people are at all kinds of places when they join these meetings. People’s significant others and families may be in close proximity. Dogs are scampering about. As well, if you are attending a meeting, no one wants to hear your side conversation about breakfast or, worse, an unflattering opinion about someone on your call. Click Mute and save yourself embarrassment and worse.

Private Chat Is Not Private
Related to the above, do not say something in a private chat that you would not say in the public meeting to co-workers or other volunteers at your station. Also, do not be creepy. Those are rules of thumb for life, but apply doubly for Zoom, which permits meeting hosts to get full chat transcripts, including of those that are sent privately between two parties in a meeting. Thus, you will find stories like this one, this, and this one, where people are shocked to discover their meetings were littered with rude, profane or abusive backchannel conversations, and the perpetrators of such soon learn they are in hot water, or out of a job, for violating organizational policies.

Use Chat Liberally
Chat boxes are wonderful to share links, insights and other resources others can look back at later. Save your on-microphone time for something you do not wish to type out, or that will resonate more with other volunteers and staff when it is spoken, rather than typed.

There are many tutorials about lighting, headsets and other matters related to video meetings. However, the basic rules of video meetings are not far from in-person success tips. Zoom forward and help enhance your stations as much as possible!

The post Community Broadcaster: Four Zoom Tips for Community Radio appeared first on Radio World.

KCVM Is Part of Life in Cedar Valley

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 21:37
Jim Coloff, right, accepts a donation from Diya Pradeep of Cedar Falls, who for her 10th birthday asked friends to donate to the charity instead of giving her a gift. She raised $1,000.

A station can only be honored with the NAB Crystal Heritage Award after receiving five Crystal Radio Awards for outstanding community service. KCVM(FM) in small-market Cedar Falls, Iowa, is the latest station so honored.

How small is Cedar Falls? If one combines it with the population of the larger nearby city of Waterloo it is still only Nielsen Audio market 237. Yet, Jim Coloff, owner and general manager of KCVM, is able to run that station and three others in his cluster, make a profit and still devote hundreds of hours each year to public service for his communities.

“Yeah, I love small markets,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult than operating in a large market, but we all do have to wear more hats.”

[Read: Crystal Radio Awards Winners Announced]

“We have smaller staffs, we don’t have big budgets, but we sure have a diverse workday because we all do a little of everything. I will say we have fewer employee-type headaches so in that sense it may be easier! But if we’re doing the right job, we might be the only game in town, the only local media voice and the only local access these communities have.”

Magical Mix Kids

Coloff came by radio and public service naturally; his parents Tony and Sue Coloff started a station in 1978 in Forest City, Iowa. Jim joined the company in 1991 and partnered with his parents until purchasing the Coloff Media Group in 2017.

Fun at a Magical Mix Kids event.

“My parents, mostly retired at this point, used to work as volunteers for various causes when I was growing up. I was raised with the belief that you support the community that supports your business. So I immediately got involved and now I require the same of my staffs, here in Cedar Falls and in the other markets where we own stations.”

Coloff Media owns stations in other Iowa mini-markets including Britt, Charles City, Forest City, Manchester, Mason City and New Hampton. The group now includes 12 stations, all of which follow the “give back” directive from the Coloffs.

KCVM took its desire to help the community a step further 20 years ago when it began its own charity, Magical Mix Kids, a 501(c)(3) organization.

School fundraiser organizers are interviewed on 93.5 The Mix.

“Magical Mix Kids, named after the station’s designation as ‘93.5 the Mix,’ is similar to the national Make-A-Wish, but the difference is that our kids are not necessarily terminally ill,” said Coloff.

“Most of our kids are suffering from chronic and life-shortening conditions as well as terminal conditions. We feel the psychological and financial stress that is put on these families makes them deserving of a respite from their troubles. What better place to send them than Walt Disney World?”

“This is the biggest activity we’re involved in, and every year we send these kids and their families, about 80 or 90 people in all, on that trip. It takes the entire year to raise the nearly $100,000 it takes to accomplish that.”

Smart Hiring

Getting good personnel is a challenge in any market, and in a small town there’s always the danger that the best people will want to go elsewhere to make more money. Add to that Coloff Media’s special criteria for all employees.

Bob Westerman conducts interviews during a broadcast from the site of a flag mural on a local Amvets post in Cedar Falls.

“We’ve had some people who moved on to larger markets, but we scout like everyone else at the college level and we go to the recruitment fairs,” said Coloff.

“We check out the workforce development sites and work fairs, but I tell you, it’s not so much where we look but the kind of people we’re looking for that matters. We want people who need to make a difference in their community,” he continued.

“Of course they have to have talent, but we would take someone with less training and experience but who is willing to learn. And most of all they have to have already been involved their community. Some of our people have been with us 15, 20, 25 years, and it’s because they are talented enough but they decided that this community is where they want to raise their families.”

Kim Manning is manager of the Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau and a frequent collaborator on promotions with KCVM.

“All we have to do is pick up the phone and call the station, and anyone there will be willing to help us, not just Jim,” she said.

Volunteering at a food event to help the needy are station staff, from left, Janelle Rench, Mark Simpson, Lori Payne.

“He has instilled this attitude across his entire staff; and if an event will benefit the community, they are always onboard. For example, we all worked together on Pedal Fest, which is a cycling event we started five years ago. It’s free and this year it’ll be every weekend in September. Jim Coloff attends just about every auction in town, and he’s active in Rotary Club and  other service organizations. He’s always there for anyone who needs him.”

The KCVM calendar can be found on the station’s site www.935themix.com, and in normal nonpandemic times is full of events like blood drives, Kiwanis meetings, fundraisers and pancake breakfasts.

Radio stations must still pay the bills and meet payroll. Here is what Coloff says about radio’s viability and how it is tied to his goals for the community.

“I can’t speak for every market in the country or every radio station, but I think if radio is done right, and if the stations are involved in their communities, and make that goal part of the culture of the radio station, radio can be a huge part of its listeners’ lives.”

“Our stations provide a locally connected community delivered via live and local audio, available on every distribution channel including terrestrial radio, mobile/PC stream, enabled devices and even video. I think a radio station can be a driving force in a community’s success in a lot of ways, but you have to be committed to spending time and resources on becoming involved and doing hyper-local programming.”

Ken Deutsch is a former disc jockey and former TV director who also ran a jingle studio for 24 years. In fact, he says he’s now a former almost everything. 

 

The post KCVM Is Part of Life in Cedar Valley appeared first on Radio World.

Lawo, KQED Ready Remote Radio Master Control

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 08:00

The author is Radio Marketing Specialist for Lawo AG.

Radio has always been a vital source of news and information when crises hit. California’s public broadcasters have traditionally been prepared for nearly any eventuality, such as disasters like earthquakes, floods and wildfires. And now they must be prepared to inform listeners during a pandemic as well.

KQED’s remote control center at Sutro Tower. The Sapphire mixer on the table is a remote control for the sapphire located in the station’s Master Control Room. The three screens are VisTool GUIs that control all of the mixing and peripheral devices in the three on-air studios used for the “Forum” call-in program.

In San Francisco, NPR member station KQED observed other stations in the U.S. where personnel were unable to access their facilities due to COVID-19 shutdowns, and took action to ensure remote access to their FM‘s Master Control Room and adjacent production facilities.

“We had to ask ourselves what we would do if one of our staff members tested positive for the virus. How would we produce our daily programming if the facilities were off-limits?” says Donny Newenhouse, executive director of broadcast engineering and operations at KQED.

“We knew we would need the ability to run our Master Control Room from a remote location. We also needed to remotely-control the three production studios where our daily call-in program, “Forum,” originates. All of these rooms have Lawo sapphire mixing consoles, so we called Lawo and asked – how can we do this?”

“There wasn’t an off-the-shelf solution to remote-control the sapphire consoles and also control the integrated networked systems, but our engineering staff had some ideas,” says Herbert Lemcke, key account manager/president, Lawo Corp. Americas. “A key aspect of the solution was to use KQED’s spare sapphire mixing surface as a remote for the one in MCR by using CANBus-to-IP converters to connect to and control the station’s console core and Nova73 router.”

KQED’s engineering space at Sutro Tower (the main transmission site for many Bay Area TV and FM stations) hosts the emergency remote setup, a solution already employed by KQED’s television operations, which have a backup TV Master Control at Sutro. Using the sapphire surface installed at the tower site, KQED’s operators can directly control the operation of the sapphire located in the station’s MCR for complete control of all satellite feeds and local programming sources.

The second part of the project — creating a “virtual studio” at Sutro for operators to produce the daily “Forum” call-in program — required a different kind of remote control. For this, Lemcke and Lawo R&D engineer Andreas Schlegel designed a touchscreen mixing console interface using Lawo’s VisTool GUI Building software.

This connects via IP from the Sutro Tower site to KQED’s downtown studios, which should give complete access to all mixing functions and console resources in the station’s three control rooms, including the codec pool, broadcast VoIP phone system, Dalet playout system — even talkback and mix-minus channels.

Lawo engineers were able to give KQED the solution they needed: the entire physical and virtual remote control solution was executed, tested and proofed in under a week’s time, and reports from operators on the virtual studio implementation have been very positive.

“With the combination of hardware remote control of Master Control, and VisTool virtual control of our studio mixing consoles, our contingency plans are in place and ready should we need them,” says Newenhouse. “But we hope we never will.”

The post Lawo, KQED Ready Remote Radio Master Control appeared first on Radio World.

Today, EEO Rules Are Harming Stations

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 23:18

Communications attorney Richard Hayes has been busy during the coronavirus pandemic, sending a letter to the FCC with a number of suggestions, many, if not all of which would help his clients survive. See here.

 He has now sent a more detailed letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai concerning, temporarily at least, relieving stations of EEO regulations while the coronavirus pandemic continues. This idea was outlined in the previous letter.

 Here follows the text of the latest letter.

Everyone in the radio industry appreciates your proactive stance in helping stations survive during this virus by eliminating unnecessary and burdensome rules. Please keep up the good work. There is more you can do and that is the reason for this letter.

I represent about 100 different radio stations across the country. They are struggling more now than they ever have in the 38 years I have been practicing communications law. Station revenues are down 50, 60, 70 and 80%. Many small stations, particularly standalone AM and FM broadcasters, were struggling before the pandemic and the likelihood that some will financially survive is doubtful. If the crisis continues, you can expect to see stations filing Special Temporary Authority requests to shut down until they can operate profitably. Some are already in advanced discussions to go silent.

Here is a big way you might be able to help. From what I have observed, the EEO program, as it applies to broadcasters, is a total waste of time. First, broadcasting is not a suspect industry which requires such monitoring.  Second, the EEO program is toothless. What other industry has to jump through these pointless hoops? Suggesting that the EEO program prevents discrimination is not supported by any data and no data has ever been provided to the public to show that the EEO program, as administered by the FCC, is in any way effective.

Widely recruiting for specialized positions is an empty gesture and solves no discrimination problems. Forcing stations to conduct meaningless EEO initiatives is also counterproductive. Before the pandemic, conducting a job fair when the station had no job openings really annoys the public and irritates the radio station. Now that we are facing extreme unemployment, I doubt that any of the EEO initiatives are appropriate. Stations will hire back their furloughed employees. I note that there has been some relief for broadcasters in this regard as the commission has stated that there will be a 90-day window in which stations may hire back their furloughed employees without having to recruit. They planned to do so, anyway. This relief doesn’t go far enough.

Yesterday [May 20], I completed an EEO Public File Report for a small cluster of stations in rural Indiana. That report was 324 pages long! All of those pages were necessary to complete the report. Two months ago, for the same cluster of stations, I prepared a detailed Audit Response. These reports provide nothing regarding the prevention of discrimination. They are composed of page after page of advertising “copy” with hundreds of pages showing the exact times each announcement was aired. The report detailed EEO initiatives with “copy” and exact times despite the fact that the stations have had to furlough employees and drastically reduce expenses just to stay on the air.

The EEO program is a pointless burden which the commission cannot rationally defend (other than politically). That small, rural cluster of Indiana radio stations had to pull one employee from other critical duties for more than a week in order to assemble all of the EEO materials required for the report. Other employees such as news directors and traffic personnel were also required to divert their attention to the EEO report’s compilation. This is a total waste of resources, especially now.

Please consider suspending the EEO rules for the duration of the crisis. It would also be helpful if the entire EEO program was placed under review to determine if it is actually making any difference or if it just squandering limited financial and personnel resources for nothing more than a political benefit.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

The post Today, EEO Rules Are Harming Stations appeared first on Radio World.

FCC Seeks to Keep the Wheels Turning

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 16:48
Al Shuldiner, chief of the FCC’s Audio Division

Radio World talked with Al Shuldiner, chief of the FCC’s Audio Division, about how the commission was coping during the coronavirus shutdowns, as well as about various regulatory issues before the commission.

The commission effectively shut down its headquarters and moved to teleworking, like much of the radio industry. It sought to provide some relief to broadcasters, granting a series of waivers and extending the deadline for the quarterly issues and programs lists. It also eased the public file requirements placed upon broadcasters.

Chairman Ajit Pai said the commission was “acting quickly to make decisions” to help manage. During an online workshop in April, he said, “If there’s one area where bureaucracies struggle most, it’s doing anything fast. But during a pandemic, delays can be deadly. So the FCC has put a premium on making decisions as quickly as possible. We’re talking days, not months or years.”

Shuldiner said the chairman empowered the FCC’s division leaders to make regulatory decisions without the layers of review typically needed.

He spoke with Radio World’s Randy Stine in April.

Radio World:  You spoke with NAB members recently in an online chat about what the FCC has been doing publicly and behind the scenes in regards to coronavirus. Radio has been especially hard hit. What should radio broadcasters know?

Al Shuldiner: The FCC staff is very aware of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on broadcasters and the severe economic impact this is having on the radio industry. We are looking at ways that we can provide additional regulatory flexibility to help broadcasters navigate through this crisis.

Where stations have been able to provide us with specific information that the pandemic has impacted their operations, such as where stations have been forced to stop construction because key personnel have been infected and are quarantined or where parts have been delayed due to supply chain disruptions, we have provided regulatory relief where we can.

Similarly, we have worked with stations facing extreme economic problems to adjust their operations to save money. I encourage stations that are facing problems to contact us if they have approaches that might help save jobs or avoid taking a station off the air.

We have not provided relief in response to generalized requests based simply on unspecified impacts of the coronavirus, but we are prepared to respond quickly when broadcasters provide specific information and documentation that they have suffered a significant impact. And stations do not need to worry about making formal proposals. A number of stations have contacted me informally by email, and we have been able to provide prompt relief with minimal administrative delays.

RW: Will the FCC forgive or delay collection of regulatory fees, for radio stations hit by the economic downturn? How about the current license renewal process?

Shuldiner: We are looking at options to help broadcasters get through this economic downturn. I know there have been questions about regulatory fees, which Congress requires the commission to collect. While we are unable to waive these fees, the Media Bureau has been working with the commission’s Office of the Managing Director to help stations implement payment plans and to develop other relief to address cash shortages.

RW: Are there other postponements of deadlines or other regulatory processes? Are there Public File implications? 

Shuldiner: The Media Bureau delayed the deadline for stations to upload first quarter issues/programs lists to their online public inspection files. For stations that were required to file renewal applications by April 1, 2020, we did not grant a blanket extension of time, but we addressed extension requests on a case-by-case basis. We processed about 25 of these requests and in all cases, each was granted the day it was submitted.

We and the Video Division will monitor developments leading up to the June 1 renewal application deadline. I expect we will address any problems for that date on a case-by-case basis as well. Similarly, we have been able to handle a few construction tolling requests on an individual basis. I think the biggest current outstanding question about deadlines is the status of FM translator construction permits scheduled to expire in January 2021.

We are looking at the ability of AM stations to make those investments right now and understand the need to provide more guidance on this issue well in advance of the deadline. I hope to have input for broadcasters early this summer.

RW: Do the FCC modernization initiatives continue during the COVID-19 outbreak, like possibly streamlining the license renewal process?

Shuldiner: We are fully engaged in all our work, including ongoing rulemakings. I am not aware of any changes that have been proposed to the renewal process, but we are actively working to complete our rulemaking on the local public notices that broadcasters must provide for renewal and other applications. 

Our Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposed a number of changes designed to streamline our existing rules. We received a lot of supporting comments from interested parties and expect to release revised rules before the summer. In conjunction with the ongoing work in that proceeding and in recognition of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on broadcasters, we recently waived the requirement for broadcasters filing renewal applications in June 2020 to provide prefiling announcements of their renewal applications. 

We plan to continue to advance our important media modernization initiatives and to continue to provide the industry with regulatory relief where possible.

RW: The pandemic has led to a number of churches and other organizations doing local broadcasts to their parking lots. Have there been cases where you have relaxed Part 15 compliance?

Shuldiner: We have encouraged churches and other organizations that have asked us for permission to broadcast to an audience to use streaming or call-to-listen services, or to partner with an existing broadcaster rather than relying on Part 15 devices.

I was very interested to learn recently of an initiative where a broadcaster is working with local schools in the communities it serves to air lessons on AM and FM stations during part of the day to ensure children without access to the internet can continue to complete their schoolwork. Using existing stations for this effort avoids the need for special authorizations.

Also, often low-cost Part 15 equipment being offered to churches and other organizations is not legal for use in the U.S. A properly certified and labeled Part 15 device comes with a permanent, manufacturer-affixed label certifying that the device complies with Part 15 of the FCC rules and displays an FCC ID number. Those devices should be able to provide a service radius of up to 200 feet under ideal conditions. Anything claiming to provide service beyond that distance is likely in violation of FCC rules.

Although we have provided a very limited number of special authorizations for governmental entities and medical centers with a public health need to broadcast using power levels that exceed Part 15 criteria, we are not able to provide other organizations with licenses for larger coverage areas, due to the public safety and broadcast interference concerns.

RW: If the FCC allows that option, what can you say to radio broadcasters concerned about possible interference?

Shuldiner: We review all requests to ensure they are on channels that minimize the potential interference. Any special authorizations we provide are on a noninterference basis. And the stations we have authorized at this point are operating at power levels that are extremely unlikely to cause interference. However, we remain prepared to address any interference that arises and will work with broadcasters to address any problems they experience.

RW: New rules were put in place last year to streamline the sometimes contentious process of working out interference complaints around FM translators. Can you report on how that›s going? Has the frequency of complaints changed?

Shuldiner: We have seen some additional claims from stations, but my sense is that the volume is pretty consistent with what we have seen for the last few years. The new rules have not created a spike in complaints but have helped us weed out some of the less sustainable complaints.

In our experience, most interference problems can be resolved by the stations, and our new rules strongly encourage stations to attempt to resolve problems without the FCC. But there are cases where we have found real interference problems and taken appropriate action to remedy the problem.

In the most contentious cases, the parties often do not act reasonably and engage in an endless war of pleadings and accusations. This is not an effective way to work with commission staff or to resolve the matter. I encourage all parties to work with us to find productive solutions.

RW: We’ve seen at least one ruling where it appeared that the company raising a complaint had provided documentation but that the petition to deny was refused because they didn’t follow every letter of the process. Is it possible the system is too stringent now?

Shuldiner: I don’t want to comment on the merits of a particular case, but we think it is important for stations filing interference claims to comply with the procedural requirements we adopted. We believe that will help avoid invalid claims and avoid wasting time and resources for all parties.

RW: The comment period on allowing all-digital on the AM band has closed, and most of the comments were clearly in support. It seems likely that the FCC will confirm its tentative plan soon. What can you share with us?

Shuldiner: There were a number of comments and reply comments filed in that proceeding. It’s a little premature to share the staff’s thinking on the outcome of the proceeding, but the staff members responsible for that item are reviewing the comments and hope to have more guidance for AM broadcasters later this year.

“We do not view waivers as a workable solution for something as significant as a new class of service, particularly when there is an open rulemaking on the same topic.” — Al Shuldiner

RW: What is the status of the FM Class C4 proposal? Is it possible a waiver approach could be used in the interim for those FM stations interested?

Shuldiner: Although a number of broadcasters have expressed support for a rulemaking on Class C4, there also has been significant opposition from other broadcasters, particularly on the issue of Section 73.215 of the commission’s rules.

We do not view waivers as a workable solution for something as significant as a new class of service, particularly when there is an open rulemaking on the same topic. We will continue to study this issue to see if we can determine a way to proceed.

“We recognize the transition from CDBS to LMS has not been a smooth one. No one is more frustrated with the pace of the transition or the glitches we have experienced than me.” — Al Shuldiner

RW: We are told by broadcasters they feel as if they are struggling with regard to Media Bureau databases for FM. Many filings have transitioned to LMS, but many CDBS records and fields apparently have not made the trip. Some broadcasters have found it necessary to run searches using both databases to be sure they pick up on all potential records, allocations and applications. What is the plan for completing this transition?

Shuldiner: We recognize the transition from CDBS to LMS has not been a smooth one. No one is more frustrated with the pace of the transition or the glitches we have experienced than me. I can assure you the Audio Division staff has put in a lot of hours to design and test the system, but sometimes we cannot anticipate all the problems.

It is important to note that information flows from CDBS to LMS but not the other way around. CDBS is still the best place to find older information, but anything that has been filed in LMS will not appear in CDBS.

Even with all of us teleworking, we are making good progress on the next phase of the LMS transition and hope to have the assignment and transfer forms working in LMS in the second half of the year. After that, we plan to transition our AM forms and historical information. As we move more and more functionality to LMS, the need to check CDBS will go away. But right now, it is best to check both databases for completeness.

I say thank you to all our users who have shown tremendous patience during this transition. But please do not suffer in silence — if people are experiencing problems, they should let us know so we can address them.

RW: One of the important tasks the Audio Division does is to process assignment and transfer applications for station sales. In January, one of your well-known attorneys who was responsible for supervising station sales, Mike Wagner, retired. Who in the Audio Division is taking Mike’s place, and have there been any issues with the transition?

Shuldiner: Mike Wagner’s retirement was a big loss for the Audio Division, but I spoke to Mike recently and was pleased that he is enjoying his retirement. In March, we were very lucky to have Chris Clark join the Audio Division from the Media Bureau’s Industry Analysis Division. Chris is our newest assistant division chief and has taken over responsibility for the assignment and transfer application process. He also is involved in our ongoing license renewal process and other matters.

The staff’s move to full-time telework in March made the transition a little complicated for us, but the overall transition has been pretty smooth, and the feedback I have received from broadcasters indicates our processing has not been an impediment to completing transactions. We are fortunate to have a skilled group, headed by Annette Smith, that can keep the process moving forward, even while working remotely. Chris and Annette are available to the public to answer questions and resolve problems relating to pending applications.

“We were told the FCC’s move has been delayed from the end of June until the end of the summer, but we are waiting to see if the pandemic has any further impact on that schedule.” — Al Shuldiner

RW: The FCC was scheduled to move from the Portals to a location north of Union Station in Washington, D.C., this summer. What is now the status of that, and do you expect to have any attrition of Audio Division personnel from the move?

Shuldiner: We were told the FCC’s move has been delayed from the end of June until the end of the summer, but we are waiting to see if the pandemic has any further impact on that schedule. I don’t expect any significant attrition as a result of the move. I know we have a few people that are getting closer to retirement age, so we may see a few retirements in the future. But we have been fortunate to have had a few engineers and attorneys join the Audio Division over the past year and a half. With that additional staff, we are well positioned to continue to handle our work even if we experience a little attrition from the move.

RW: Reasonable, accommodating and flexible. Several communication attorneys have used those words to describe the FCC in recent weeks. Do you sense a change in how some broadcasters perceive the FCC?

Shuldiner: I like to think that the Audio Division is always responsive and helpful. We have a tremendous group of talented and dedicated individuals. We cannot accommodate every request we receive, and sometimes we have to deny requests or take enforcement action against bad actors. But we try to be fair and reasonable.

The pandemic has allowed us to have more detailed discussions with broadcasters about individual needs and situations. And it has given us the room to be creative to find solutions to unusual and extreme problems. I hope we will be able to maintain that approach when we return to regular operations and that the radio industry will continue to view us as a resource that is looking for reasonable solutions.

The post FCC Seeks to Keep the Wheels Turning appeared first on Radio World.

RTW Publishes List of Loudness Standards

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 20:19

Quick, how does the loudness standard used at Spotify differ from that of public radio’s PRSS?

The answer can be found in a new reference list put together by RTW. The equipment manufacturer gathered info about several dozen audio delivery standards for content used by streaming and broadcast organizations.

“While aligning the perceived loudness of content in broadcast and digital delivery platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music and more is a good initiative, one of the consequences is a wealth of new delivery standards,” it stated in its announcement. “RTW sets out to provide an overview.”

[Read: A Quality Audio Crisis in the Music Industry]

It noted that loudness standards in broadcast have been in the news for the past decade but that many new digital streaming platforms have emerged in that time. “And in recent years, the companies behind these new platforms have also started to recognize the need for recommending specific loudness deliver specifications to its content providers.”

It noted that Spotify, Netflix, Apple, Sony, Amazon, Tidal and Google (YouTube) have their own loudness delivery guidelines. “Some of them are similar in terms of Integrated Loudness (LUFS), but may vary slightly with regard to True Peak (dBTP), and then again some are simply the same.”

The Public Radio Satellite System is one of the many organizations included, as are numerous global TV industry sectors. RTW said that it found nearly 50 specifications including 35 for broadcast.

The loudness delivery specifications on the RTW page include Loudness and True Peak targets. Depending on content type and destination, parameters such as Short Term Loudness, Momentary Loudness and Max Loudness Range may also be included, it said.

RTW’s Senior Director of Product Management Mike Kahsnitz was quoted saying that the list is aimed at content providers. “For instance, if you make music and would like to submit your content to Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal and Deezer, you should not just bounce one file for all of them.”

The guide is here.

 

The post RTW Publishes List of Loudness Standards appeared first on Radio World.

MMTC, LULAC Urge FCC to Consider Multilingual Needs During Emergencies

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 14:06

The Multicultural, Media Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have provided an outline of strategies they believe the FCC should implement to ensure multilingual populations receive critical information during emergencies, including pandemic and natural disasters.

MMTC and LULAC made two specific recommendations for the FCC to ensure that they deliver and maintain emergency communications to multilingual populations.

[Read: Multilingual Emergency Broadcasting: A Moral Imperative for the Radio Industry]

The first is for communications during a pandemic, when systems are not adversely impacted. In this case, the organizations believe the FCC should survey communication providers’ resiliency, redundancy and multiple language capabilities before, during and immediately after the emergency. Based on the results, the FCC should design and implement a training regimen to assist providers in meeting the information needs of multilingual populations in the event of such an emergency.

The second recommendation focuses more on hurricanes and tornadoes that take down electric wireline or wireless grids for communication. For this MMTC and LULAC want to see the FCC adopt the “Designated Hitter” system, which ensures that at least one commercial or noncommercial full power radio station is able to remain on air during and after a hurricane with the responsibility of distributing critical multilingual information.

Here’s what the organizations wrote about the “Designated Hitter” idea:

“For communication during and after a hurricane or tornado that takes down the electric, wireline or wireless grids — as happened with Hurricanes Andrew (1992), Katrina (2005), Maria (2017), Florence (2018), and Michael (2018) — the commission should adopt a radio station ‘Designated Hitter’ system. When radio is the last resort for mass communication, the Designated Hitter paradigm contemplates that at least one commercial or noncommercial full power radio station, able to remain on the air during and after a hurricane, will have arranged in advance to broadcast life-saving multilingual information.

“Initially, these arrangements would be made in radio markets that have no more than one full service in-language station (defined as a commercial full power FM, or an AM with at least 1 kw day and night) and where there are more than 50,000 persons likely to speak the target language). This paradigm is necessary if one or more grids go down, leaving radio stations with generators as the only channels capable of mass communication. The ‘Designated Hitter’ concept is the only method that can prearrange and generally assure the provision of life-saving multilingual information during and after a hurricane or tornado.”

 

The post MMTC, LULAC Urge FCC to Consider Multilingual Needs During Emergencies appeared first on Radio World.

Schmidt Grant Helps Fund Public Radio Regional Newsrooms

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 12:45

A $4.7 million grant will help fund the creation of two more regional public radio newsrooms, NPR announced.

The organization said philanthropists Eric and Wendy Schmidt are donating to NPR’s Collaborative Journalism Network. Eric Schmidt held leadership positions at Google and Alphabet; Wendy Schmidt worked in marketing in Silicon Valley and started a residential interior design business; she is president of the Schmidt Family Foundation.

[Read: CPB Funds Noncom Election Reporting/Engagement Effort]

One newsroom will be in California, the other in the Midwest serving stations in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. The goal is to “increase local coverage across the states, especially in underserved communities” and expand investigative reporting capacity.

NPR announced the California regional newsroom in February. That collaboration will be led by KQED in San Francisco and includes KPBS in San Diego, CapRadio in Sacramento, KPCC/LAist and KCRW in Southern California, with NPR as the national partner. The newsroom will serve the 17 public radio stations in the state.

The 25 public radio stations in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska will have access to content from the Midwest regional newsroom, which will be led by KCUR in Kansas City, St. Louis Public Radio, Iowa Public Radio and NET in Nebraska with NPR as national partner.

NPR officials said these newsrooms will focus on investigative reporting, hiring small teams of investigative journalists to work with station reporters on their public service investigations.

The California news hub is the second regional collaboration with local stations under NPR’s Collaborative Journalism Network. The first was the Texas Newsroom. Separately public stations in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana joined to launch the Gulf States newsroom. The Midwest makes four, and NPR said more are in the works.

 

The post Schmidt Grant Helps Fund Public Radio Regional Newsrooms appeared first on Radio World.

Virtualization and Cloud Come to the Forefront

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 11:45

It’s doubtful that any of the major radio broadcast groups in the United States included a pandemic on the list of emergencies they worried about when creating preparedness plans. Yet the coronavirus outbreak quickly demanded changes in operations at most stations.

The solutions that broadcasters have adopted are likely to have long-term implications. Managers say these new workflows will influence how stations operate after the pandemic ends.

Better Than Imagined

Maintaining critical infrastructure during the emergency, while coping with staff cuts, furloughs and medical absences, certainly challenged engineering leaders. Most broadcast groups also froze capital expenditure spending and placed numerous projects on hold.

One chief technology officer told Radio World his company’s build-out projects were “paused but not cancelled” pending a recovery.

The use of remote technology for air staff accelerated early in the crisis as broadcasters faced social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders.

One veteran broadcast engineer said in some cases, “Entire air staffs at radio stations are working from home, and working better than anyone imagined,” which leads him to believe “these short-term fixes could turn into long-term strategies.”

The versatility of the cloud also is being stretched in new ways, including ingesting production remotely through virtual private network capacity.

“This was like having a day or two to plan for a hurricane, since some studios were emptied out the same day a staff member tested positive for COVID-19,” said a corporate engineer. “We were mapping major technical changes that had to happen within 24 hours in many cases. It got ‘real’ really fast.”

Another engineering executive said it was “like going from 100 on-air studios to 4,000 home studios,” all with the same network security concerns. Most broadcasters established VPN or other remote access protocols for employees to connect to station servers from home.

Gaps in cybersecurity became a major focus of radio technical staffs worried that audio feeds could be hijacked from home computers protected by less-robust security systems, according to several engineers.

“Our first focus was getting everyone out of our buildings,” one said. “Beginning with sales then programming. Then you’re faced with moving the air staff to at home work and that’s the heavy lift, especially with live shows. Fortunately we can voicetrack the music stations. Everyone was VPNing in from distance. In some cases people just yanked the desktop from their work desk and took it home.”

It was a big job for many broadcasters. In Washington, WAMU Director of Technology Rob Bertrand said that by late April, “We finally got everyone out of the building. Hosts, producers, engineers, call screeners, editors, reporters … from national talk shows to regional podcasts … all from home,” he wrote in an email. “It’s been great to be able to breathe a sigh of relief that everyone is safe and we are able to keep going while the dust settles around the question of when and how to reopen everything.”

Video Conference Tools

Video conferencing is the new norm, and remote broadcasting from home studios has become routine for many broadcasters.

The Bert Show,” a syndicated morning show distributed by Westwood One, used BlueJeans video conferencing to bring members of the morning show together on air.

At least one broadcaster utilized StreamYard, a live streaming studio app, to allow for the simultaneous stream distribution of remote content to YouTube, Twitch, LinkedIn and Facebook, which they hoped would stimulate listener engagement.

Mike Cooney, CTO and executive VP of engineering for Beasley Broadcasting, said the company’s immediate focus was getting everyone home, especially in clusters with employees that tested positive for COVID-19.

“The transition to home was fairly smooth. I would say probably better than I could have hoped. We have a lot of people working on their home computers, so we had to implement a lot of security changes and installed a lot of VPNs,” Cooney said.

Beasley was not immune to the job cuts that have affected many companies. It eliminated 67 positions, including five broadcast engineers, in early April, according to a company announcement. That included one “corporate-level IT person,” Cooney said.

Operations at stations have continued without much interruption, Cooney said, even though the overall “on-air sound at times hasn’t been totally smooth.”

Beasley utilized remote gear “from some of our largest sports stations currently not being used” to supply some air staff with home studio equipment, Cooney said. “We did purchase about 10 additional Comrex units for air staff to use from home,” he said.

Cooney said that in the future he expects to see more “reciprocal agreements” among radio competitors within markets, to work together during a crisis.

“I think radio needs to stop competing against each other during a crisis like this pandemic. The landscape changes when things like this happen. I see a day when resources are shared, and that maybe even means sharing studios. It could bring some further consolidation, but groups could share generators, towers and maybe even engineering staff. But radio stations could still compete,” he said.

“I see a few things coming out of this — a more collaborative environment between radio groups, more shared workspace for employees and many more staff working from home.”

“Radio needs to stop competing against each other during a crisis like this pandemic. The landscape changes when things like this happen.”

— Mike Cooney

Cooney chairs the NAB’s Technology Committee and says the developments lend urgency to the group’s work dealing with the cloud.

“We have spent a lot of time focused on the ability for broadcasters to do more in the cloud, and looking at EAS and PPM encoding. We know you can do automation and processing in the cloud, but we think being able to remote control EAS and PPM encoding is a logical step,” Cooney said. “It would give a broadcaster the ability to easily run a broadcast facility from another market during an emergency.”

A More Remote Workforce

Jason Ornellas, director of engineering at Bonneville International, said even though engineers typically look for “solutions and answers, it’s hard to imagine such a scenario” as a pandemic.

Bonneville, which owns 21 stations in six markets in the U.S., quickly transitioned all employees in administration, sales, marketing and digital to remote work through VPN and Microsoft 365 in the cloud.

“We ordered remote home studio broadcast kits to make the home studio as turnkey as possible for our on-air talent’s convenience to make them feel comfortable and safe from their home. Tutorial videos were produced to show unpacking and setting up the equipment as well as using RCS Zetta2Go,” he said. “The file servers are providing everyone with a sense of being on the network from home.”

The home studio kits included an EV RE320 microphone with stand, XLR cables, RodeCaster Pro Board, Tascam headphones and Comrex BRIC Link II. (The Sacramento cluster is one of the case studies featured in Radio World’s “Broadcasting From Home” webcast series.)

Bonneville said in a press release in April it did not anticipate staff cuts. Ornellas said technical staff is needed now more than ever.

“I think long term you will see a lot more remote workforce. When we rebound, which I believe radio and audio will, virtualization, software-based solutions and cloud initiatives will be the forefront. Our vendors recognize that,” Ornellas said. “There is nothing like a real emergency to get things moving in a creative way. Some of our technical priorities have changed.”

Some industry observers expect there will be newly discovered cost savings and efficiencies as a result of the new virtualization adopted by broadcasters, which corporate owners might be anxious to implement.

“When we rebound — which I believe radio and audio will — virtualization, software-based solutions and cloud initiatives will be the forefront.”

— Jason Ornellas

“This crisis is likely to change the way we think about every single radio position in the building, including sales and programming. It is likely owners and managers will take a hard look at what lessons we learned,” said one corporate technical employee.

Remote work in general “will likely increase for broadcasters because everyone is going to be accustomed to a new normal,” another engineer said

“This pandemic has forced everyone to think about how they do their jobs. Everything has been hyper-focused right now on how to do things as efficiently as possible and I think some of that will hold over once this is over,” he said. “So the first step is getting through this crisis and then putting everything back together.”

Bertrand of WAMU said, “It was remarkable, while working to transition the live products of our talk show teams and local hosts to their homes, to walk through a fully vacant newsroom and then hear a record volume of content on the air and see it on our websites. It does make me wonder if we might adopt a more distributed work model for our journalists in the long term.”

He said WAMU grappled with questions about how, why and when to deploy automation functions, but decided that emergencies are when a live and local voice is more important than ever to its audience.  “Even if that voice is simply checking in between network elements, they are a reassuring companion for so many people who are seeking a foothold in this time of crisis.”

For WAMU’s complex national and local talk shows, he said it was a feat to move to 100% remote production, but he doesn’t foresee that being a new normal.

“Similarly, we have now proven that complex live newscasts are possible from home; and while this model might be helpful in storm responses in the future, it has also been challenging. I’m not sure that we would attempt to permanently distribute our entire journalism operation to quite the extent that has happened; but we have proven that it is possible,” Bertrand said.

“It does make you start to think about the cost of real estate per square foot, versus the alternatives. My dream is that this opens up new collaborative opportunities across the public media ecosystem; that we might all be stronger together in the aftermath of this pandemic.”

How do you think our industry and its technical workflows will change in the long term due to the coronavirus crisis? Email radioworld@futurenet.com with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject field.

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