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NAB Sneak Peek: Tieline Opens the Gateway

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 13:09

Codec manufacturer Tieline will unveil the new Gateway IP audio codec for the first time at the NAB Show. The Gateway is a compact and powerful multichannel IP audio transport solution for radio broadcasters and can stream up to 16 IP audio channels with support for AES67, AES3 and analog I/O as standard

[Read: 2020 NAB Show: Schedule, Exhibitor Info, Updates]

The Gateway’s applications include STL, studio-to-studio and audio distribution missions, as well as managing multiple incoming remotes at the studio. It is interoperable with all Tieline IP codecs and compatible over SIP with all EBU N/ACIP Tech 3326- and 3368-compliant codecs and devices.

Tieline VP Sales, APAC/EMEA, Charlie Gawley said, “The new Gateway codec increases channel density with 16 bidirectional mono or eight bidirectional stereo streams of IP audio in 1RU to reduce rack space requirements.”

The Gateway also has Tieline SmartStream PLUS redundant streaming and Fuse-IP data aggregation technologies.

It is configurable through an embedded HTML5 Toolbox Web-GUI interface, the Gateway can also interface with the TieLink Traversal Server for simpler connections and is controllable using Tieline’s Cloud Codec Controller.

An optional WheatNet-IP card is also available.

NAB Show Booth: N6214
Info: www.tieline.com

 

The post NAB Sneak Peek: Tieline Opens the Gateway appeared first on Radio World.

NAB: “The Show Is Moving Forward as Planned”

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 12:21

The NAB says the 2020 NAB Show is still on, as of Tuesday, March 10.

A spokesperson told TV Technology that “the show is moving forward as planned.” The association updated its coronavirus update page on Tuesday, announcing that it is “continuing to evaluate the national and international situation carefully.”

The NAB says it is taking its direction from global, federal and local health officials, like the WHO and CDC, which at this time have put no travel notices or restrictions on public gatherings for the U.S.

[Read: 2020 NAB Show: Schedule, Exhibitor Info, Updates]

Concerns over the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on large gatherings has prompted a number of cancellations, including SXSW, which was expected to attract several hundred thousand to Austin, Texas, this month. PBS TechCon, which holds its annual gathering in Las Vegas just prior to the NAB Show, also cancelled its event last Friday.

Several high profile exhibitors backed out of the show on Monday, including Ross and Adobe. NAB says that 96% of its exhibitors are still planning to attend, and of the 4% no longer attending, the association claims more than 80% would be coming from China, which has implemented travel restrictions.

“Ross has been at every NAB since 1974 and this has not been an easy decision to take, but we have a clear duty to our employees, our customers and families,” the company announced, adding that is was looking for alternative “virtual” ways to get its NAB Show news out to its customers and attendees.

Adobe said in a blog post: “Over the past few weeks, we have been closely monitoring and evaluating the situation around COVID-19 and have made the difficult but important decision to cancel our presence at the show this year.” Adobe had previously cancelled its summit that was also scheduled to be held in Las Vegas.

NAB is working on ways to both minimize the risk of transmission on the show floor — including implementing a “no handshake” policy — and to add value to in-person attendees remotely.

For the latest updates on how the coronavirus is impacting the NAB Show, please visit the NAB Show’s dedicated page, as well as TV Technology’s coronavirus updates.

 

The post NAB: “The Show Is Moving Forward as Planned” appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Sneak Peek: Davicom Exchange Forum Scheduled for April 21

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 11:33

One of the benefits of travelling to Las Vegas for the NAB Show is the number of unofficial industry events taking place coincidentally.

One such event is the Davicom Exchange Forum, scheduled for April 21, starting at 7:30 a.m. at the Wheel House at the High Roller.

The DEX, as it’s nicknamed, “serves as a platform for technical exchanges between Davicom community users, specialized training and support professionals and those new to the benefits and flexibility of Davicom’s remote site management systems.”

Planned are brief presentations, informal discussions along with lessons of practical experience shared by the user community. Registration required and a breakfast provided.

Go here to register for this free event, limited number of tickets available.

 

The post NAB Sneak Peek: Davicom Exchange Forum Scheduled for April 21 appeared first on Radio World.

Product Evaluation: AKG K275 and K371 Headphones

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 07:56

I’m still a fan of the classic AKG K240s, once a familiar sight in many a radio station, with their open-backed design and rather open sound as well. However, the AKG K275 and AKG K371 headphones reviewed here are closed-back and more in line with modern performers/recordists who like the tight isolation, extended bass and high SPLs of closed-backs.

AKG K275 K275

The K275s offer a round, closed-back, over-ear design and slow-retention foam ear pads. They don’t look like it, but they fold right up for easier transport, with a three-axis hinge and rotatable cups, and they come with a nice cinch-top storage bag. At 295 grams (0.65 pounds), these AKG headphones are slightly heavy in use, but still comfortable because of the soft ear pads. These headphones will only go so small, however, as the headband tension defines fit, so smaller people and those with bald heads might want to try them on before purchase.

The large 50 mm drivers operate at a low-ish 32 ohms, enabling efficient use with a 109 dB SPL/V rating and wide response from 16 Hz to 28 kHz. Sonically, I found the 275s to have a warm high end, with more of a bottom end emphasis and plenty of low-mids, not the carved out middle that is so common. The low end isn’t terribly defined, so I had trouble making mix decisions, but I found that performers liked tracking through them quite a bit. Bassists and guitarists appreciated the full, warm response, even if they weren’t such a hit with vocalists.

The stereo imaging was strong, with a well-defined phantom center, and dynamics were slightly constrained at higher volumes (like most headphones). Although I wasn’t able to mix on the 275s solely, I did find them a useful mix check for excessive low-mids and to make sure that higher-pitched elements were well represented.

The two big steel bands that are the backbone of the 275s seemed amply strong and durable, and the three cables provided (coiled, short straight and long straight) are connected via a nice LEMO connector, ensuring long life and durability.

K371 AKG K371

Even though the 371s are foldable, over-the-ear and closed-back, they’re really nothing like the 275s. Here, the ear cups are oval, with a softer slow-retention foam, and their lighter 255-gram weight (0.56 pounds) makes for a comfier fit. These cans have ear cups on sliding bands, unlike the sliding headband of the 275s, which allows for a snugger fit. Plus, they still fold up (the ear cups and their support arms snap and fold inward).

Once again, we’ve got 50 mm drivers, but this time with pure oxygen-free voice coils (and the accuracy that reportedly brings). These phones have 32-ohm impedance but yield a very efficient 114 dB SPL/V, with an extremely wide frequency response of 5 Hz to 40 kHz.

The K371’s sonic signature is decidedly different from the 275, with a tighter and more defined low-end response, more punch, still a warm top end, and upper-mids that are much more forward. Dynamics and imaging seem comparable to the 275s and sufficient.

I found performers liking these AKG headphones, too, with instrumentalists and vocalists enjoying them, but bassists not so much (nor myself when mixing). As much as I loved the comfort and fit of these phones (I can wear them for hours without fatigue), I never could get over one prominent midrange frequency bump (around 600 Hz) that got in the way of my mix decisions. This response made vocal and upper instrument decisions tough, but I still found the 371s to be a great bottom-end reference checkpoint. Their nicely moderated bass response is well distributed and quite even across the spectrum, providing great insight to bass and drum mix decisions.

The three cables and storage bag complement the 371s as well, making them a good choice for users who wear headphones for very long periods of time, who want effective isolation and comfort, and those who like their guitars/vocals/snares more prominent than their kicks/basses/toms.

Product Capsule

AKG K275 and K371

Headphones

Thumbs Up

+ Comfortable to wear for extended listening sessions

+ Foldable

+ Solid sound quality

+ Ships with three cables

Thumbs Down

– Not completely accurate for critical mixing

– Flattish low end (K275)

– Sound bump around 600 Hz (K371)

Price: K275 — $99; K371 — $149

Contact: AKG at 1-888-452-4254 or visit www.krksys.com

The post Product Evaluation: AKG K275 and K371 Headphones appeared first on Radio World.

A Look Inside Italy’s Digital Radio Rollout

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 02:00

Italy has been at the forefront of digital radio adoption in Europe for two decades, with three national and several local DAB+ multiplexes on the air today.

The Plan de Corones site serves Italy’s South Tyrol region, a mountainous area by the Austrian border.

Approximately 83% of the Italian population can receive DAB+ broadcasts today, with well over 150 different transmission sites from the three national broadcasters. These networks stretch from the northern border south through Italy’s famous boot-shaped peninsula — with some networks extending into Sicily and Sardinia.

EVOLUTION

Of the three national services, DAB Italia has perhaps the most interesting history. The network operator, owned by private radio service providers, launched its initial tests in Northern Italy in 1998, and was actively involved in regulatory development for the emerging medium. Those developments stretched into the second decade of the new century, resulting in DAB Italia’s 2012 commercial launch.

The Torcegno site covers the Trentino region not far from the Austrian border.

The technology has continued to evolve and change in those ensuing 13 years — changes that brought new challenges and benefits. Notably, the introduction of a second-generation audio codec in 2007 shifted testing from DAB to DAB+ due to the enhanced service and quality capabilities that the latter offered.

“The launch of the MPEG-4 AAC+ Version 2 codec presented us with a more efficient audio encoding standard,” said Hanns Wolter, technical director, DAB Italia.

“The previous MPEG-1 Layer II standard limited us to around 10 DAB radio services for each multiplex. The second-generation standard doubled that capacity while also reducing the associated transmission costs. It was an important development in efficiency that has allowed us to protect our investments over many years.”

To serve the Piedmont region, a large Kathrein 10-bay, Band III Yagi antenna is top-mounted to the tower. The same tower supports a large, top-mounted Aldena antenna.

Naturally, as with any early digital radio service, there weren’t many possibilities of reaching an audience. “There were no DAB+ receivers in 2007,” he said.

“It took us at least four months to procure a DAB+ receiver for our own tests, and we could only verify the operation with test equipment. We immediately heard the audio quality improvements, and soon followed the efficiency benefits.”

The efficiency largely comes down to the number of transmitters required. “We need 40 to 50 FM transmitters to achieve the same results that we do with 10 DAB transmitters on a single frequency network,” said Wolter. “This really opened the door for commercial DAB+ radio in Italy, because those tests proved we could deliver cost-efficient digital transmissions.”

EARLY INNOVATION

DAB Italia’s efforts have paid off. With more than 120 live transmission sites from the Austrian border south through Naples, Italians with DAB+ receivers — currently estimated at more than 4.5 million — can receive 16 DAB Italia digital radio programs (three other channels are used for testing). Many are broadcast exclusively in DAB+, while others are also available as FM simulcasts.

“We cover much of Italy, but we are still building the network,” said Wolter. “We add between 20 to 30 transmitters a year. It’s a continuous rollout intended for national diffusion.”

That national perspective is mainly focused around road travels. “Italians drive a lot and are often stuck in traffic. Therefore, 70% of Italian radio consumption happens inside the car,” said Wolter.

In the northwest corner near the Swiss and French borders, the Gerdaz site covers the broad Aosta Valley region.

The early rollouts focused on major cities to address the most heavily traveled regions. Italy’s geographical footprint expands over 116,350 square miles, which means there are plenty of open highways, expansive countryside areas, and challenging terrain. Italy’s two mountain ranges, the Alps and the Apennines, are monumental, with the latter running north to south through much of the country.

All of this means that to make a true impact, DAB Italia soon looked beyond the major metropolitan areas. “We sent a strong signal to the automobile industry: We are providing Italy with a network, and it’s time to get DAB receivers into your cars,” said Wolter. “Our tests showed that the performance and propagation were especially good in the valleys, and we were penetrating the more challenging mountainous terrain. We were achieving capabilities that we simply could not do in analog.”

TACTICAL APPROACH

By the seaside in northwestern Italy, the Monte Fasce site covers the Liguria region, including the capital city of Genoa.

The DAB Italia team tries to locate each transmitter site based on what will provide the best coverage, including rooftops and traditional high broadcast towers in cities, and hilltops to penetrate valleys in rural areas.

Regardless of location, each new site involves extensive planning and theoretical studies. “There are a number of hurdles and constraints in an SFN deployment,” said Wolter. “We have to precisely calculate the delays across each transmitter for the receivers to decode the signals accurately. If the signals are outside a time interval of 246 microseconds, the RF interference contributed by the different transmitters will disrupt reception. Staying within that time interval will both influence and limit site selection.”

The site buildouts are simple by comparison. DAB Italia favors simple antenna systems from Kathrein or Aldena Telecomunicazioni, both of which Wolter says are simple to install and control. DAB antennas are approximately half the size of FM antennas, which makes it easier to place and position the antenna.

The network includes a mix of transmitters from six vendors, some of which are no longer in business. The most recent phases have utilized GatesAir S.r.l. (formerly ONEtastic) and Syes transmitters, both based in Italy (GatesAir S.r.l.’s parent company, GatesAir, is located in the United States). Wolter notes that both companies strike the balance of price, performance, and space-efficiency they are seeking as their network grows.

“Over the last years we have supported these manufacturers in the development of their DAB transmitters with the capabilities we needed to operate correctly our network,” said Wolter. “We worked closely with them on the software development side to access information on system performance. An important recent development is the integration of satellite receivers into the most recent transmitters they shipped. That removes the cost of external receivers. They are active listeners and respond to our requests.”

DAB Italia has deployed 15 GatesAir’s Maxiva transmitters since early 2019 covering a range of power levels and network requirements. “The first GatesAir transmitter we installed provides DAB+ service to the city of Verona, but we also have a number of medium-power transmitters and gap fillers.

Most of these transmitters deliver power levels of 100, 250 or 450 W. But we have gap fillers as low as 25 W, and a few higher power systems that go up to 2.5 kW. All have a 40% efficiency rating, and the higher power transmitters reduce energy use by 15 to 20%.”

The multiplexes come into the transmitter sites from eight radio content providers, using a Factum Radioscape system that takes in signals via IP, satellite and fixed radio links. DAB Italia ingests the various contributed signals into the Factum multiplex, which combines and distributes the signals to the various transmitter sites.

“Our system is really a server farm,” said Wolter. “Audio processing is handled by the content providers, and we manage distribution of the finalized signals. The Factum Radioscape system integrated encoders, which leverage Dolby or Fraunhofer audio codecs. Each has a digital audio interface or AoIP.

The DAB Italia network has a mix of transmitters, including GatesAir (formerly ONEtastic) transmitters for recent deployments in Ferrara and Asti.

“We can adapt a broad range of bitrates based on the quality of the originating signal we receive,” explained Wolter. “We rely on our content providers to appropriately process the audio for DAB, which is quite different compared to processing for FM. DAB offers more bandwidth, which means less processing is required. Too much processing will create a loss in audio quality.”

The majority of DAB Italia’s 19 channels are currently encoded at 48 kbps using HE-AAC+ Version 2 coding. Some are encoded with lower bitrates of 32 kbps, while others leverage higher bitrates of 64 kbps.

[Read: 2020 Looks Good for Digital Radio, Smart Speakers]

“It’s an interesting compromise that still results in exceptional audio quality for the broadcast, provided the source signal is pristine,” said Wolter. “You cannot correct a bad source with higher bit rates; the quality will not improve. The listener will just notice the problems more easily.”

DAB Italia leverages the ETI protocol for contribution and distribution, but is looking at EDI for backup streams. “EDI had just been finalized as we began rolling out the network, and the modulators and transmitters at the time did not support it,” he said. “We are looking to roll out a system that will seamlessly switch between ETI and EDI sources, which gives us the option of having either IP or satellite as the backup.”

The Radioscape system includes an ETI output, and additional equipment then converts the signals to ASI before being sent into a DVB-S2 multiplex. The satellite receivers at each transmission site extract the ETI signal before sending the streams into the transmitters. Where older transmitters without integrated satellite receivers are used, DAB Italia leverages external extractors and receivers from 2wcom.

CAREFUL INVESTMENTS

As DAB Italia works with private radio service providers, they are limited to a certain annual budget. That budget is used to manage the rollout of new sites and maintain the existing network.

“We’re funded by FM revenues, which means we don’t have the budget to roll out 100 to 200 transmitter sites a year in a way that public networks can afford,” said Wolter. “It forces us to make thoughtful investments, and it has provided the opportunity to gain experience in building DAB networks.”

This also means that the network operator needs to use existing resources wisely. Therefore, labor and system maintenance require some very careful planning.

“DAB maintenance is a complex subject in Italy, as a large majority of the existing engineering base is not trained for digital,” said Wolter. “It’s mostly a different generation of technicians that have years of FM experience, but don’t quite understand digital radio. It’s very difficult to convince them to take a laptop to the transmitter site.

“But we have found that most DAB transmitter failures are generic — things such as the power supply, or a software issue. The simplest and easiest way is to change out the transmitter at the site and take it back to the lab.”

Wolter notes that GatesAir has reduced the maintenance burden with more modern and clever designs. “It’s almost like a Lego box, especially with their smaller transmitters,” he said. “They have interlocking parts and no cables. These are compact transmitters with separate amplifiers. It also makes for an interesting tunnel coverage solution, which we are now evaluating.”

Wolter expects to significantly expand the network over the next two years, taking the DAB Italia service to smaller cities, towns and roads, one by one. The most recent GatesAir transmitters recently went on the air in Ferrara and Asti, which represents their expansion strategy into smaller cities.

“We will extend highway coverage further, focusing on areas that are underserved,” he said. “Our second step is to install a local transmitter in every major regional or provincial towns. We ultimately expect to have a network of more than 400 transmitters throughout Italy, and to run it at approximately one-tenth the cost of a comparable FM network.

“Italy is closely interconnected with other European realities and we always keep an eye on new technical developments to keep our system at the highest level of reliability and efficiency,” concluded Wolter.

The post A Look Inside Italy’s Digital Radio Rollout appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Sneak Peek: Bext Introduces XD Series FM Transmitters

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 19:13

Bext Corp. is bringing the XD Series of FM transmitters to NAB Show attendees.

The company says these transmitters can be customized at time of ordering. Buyers can choose from a menu of features or options, selecting and paying only for the ones they actually need at the moment. Courtesy of software-defined configurations, most other additional features or options can also be activated at any time by remote, should the user need more of those at a later date.

[Read: 2020 NAB Show: Schedule, Exhibitor Info, Updates]

Features or options available for this line include: digital audio modulation; built-in highly customizable audio processor and stereo generator; built-in FM receiver; built-in satellite receiver; onboard audio storage; built-in RDS encoder; and a built-in user manual file (USB accessible even with unit powered down or inoperable).

There’s also the capability to accept audio via AES67, AES192 (MPX over IP), AES-EBU and webstreaming; graphic user interface can be used via web; programmable email alerts; and built-in phase locking to GPS reference.

XD transmitters will be available in power levels of 150 W, 300 W, 600 W, 1 kW, 2 kW, 3 kW, 5 kW, 10 kW, 15 kW and 20 kW.

All models up to 1 kW can operate on 120 V AC power, while all models up to 5 kW are 2, 3 or 4 RU.

NAB Show Booth: N4219

Info: https://bext.com

 

The post NAB Sneak Peek: Bext Introduces XD Series FM Transmitters appeared first on Radio World.

Xperi Urges FCC to Allow All-Digital on AM

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 15:54

The owner of HD Radio technology, not surprisingly, hopes the FCC will allow individual AM-band stations in the United States to switch to all-digital transmission if they wish.

Xperi said it will work with the broadcast, consumer electronics and automotive communities to push forward all-digital MA3 broadcasting if the FCC adopts the proposed rule. Comments to the commission about all-digital AM (Docket MB 19-311) are due today (March 9). Reply comments are due April 6.

The FCC proposed last fall to allow U.S. AM radio stations to turn off their analog signals and broadcast in the in-band on-channel (IBOC) mode known as MA3. Analog-only receivers — of which there are countless millions — would not be able to receive the all-digital stations; but the growing number of cars equipped with HD Radio receivers would.

[Read a new commentary from Xperi: “Is AM All-Digital Right for Your Station?”]

Xperi told the FCC that HD Radio broadcasting provides many benefits over traditional analog radio, including crystal-clear, static-free sound, multicasting, enhanced metadata — including artist, song title, and album information — traffic services and enhanced digital emergency alerts.

For broadcasters with cost concerns, Xperi says it is prepared to make the transition affordable. “Currently, Xperi offers AM stations a license to use all-digital technology in perpetuity without any initial or ongoing licensing fees.” It noted the cost to upgrade facilities to accommodate all-digital operations will vary by station. “By providing broadcasters with the flexibility to transition if they want and when they want, however, the commission will facilitate a transition driven by market forces rather than regulatory fiat,” Xperi wrote.

[Watch Radio World’s recent webinar “Digital Sunrise for AM,” available on-demand, for an extended exploration of this topic.]

The company addressed concerns about interference: “Because all-digital signals have less spectral occupancy, the potential for interference is greatly reduced as compared to hybrid mode. Moreover, the HD Radio system was designed to operate in a mixed environment of analog, hybrid and all-digital stations, with all-digital signals designed to protect analog and core digital services within their protected contours,” it wrote.

The company also continues to push the FCC officially to adopt the NRSC-5-D standard as the official standard for each digital radio station. “NRSC-5-D is a mature standard that already serves as the de facto standard for both hybrid and all-digital transmissions in the United States,” Xperi said.

Only one AM station, WWFD licensed to Hubbard Radio, operates in full-time all-digital under special temporary authority from the FCC.

The NAB has favored the FCC’s move to adopt all-digital AM.

 

The post Xperi Urges FCC to Allow All-Digital on AM appeared first on Radio World.

Radiodays Europe and CABSAT Postponed Due to COVID-19 

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 10:21

Two major broadcast industry events have been postponed due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak.

The 2020 edition of Radiodays Europe has been indefinitely postponed, General Manager Peter Niegel announced in a Monday email. 

According to the Radiodays Europe email, the steering board’s decision was made “after extensive consultation to ensure the health and safety of our participants, speakers, commercial partners and staff.” Niegel cited concerns over travel logistics, crowd safety and other factors related to coronavirus, saying the attendant health risks make “it impossible for Radiodays Europe to hold an event at this time.” This is a significant change from last week’s messaging.

Niegel’s announcement promised that new dates for Radiodays Europe will be announced on the event’s website. It is unclear whether the event will still be held in Lisbon, as originally planned.

Additionally, CABSAT has been rescheduled from late March to Oct. 26–28, according to the event’s website. The event will still be held at the Dubai World Trade Center. 

CABSAT organizers emphasized that the United Arab Emirates is still open for business: “Whilst the UAE remains completely safe for travel, and has deployed the strictest medical and hygiene protocols, we fully recognise that for some specific shows, we have a high majority of key participants significant to the event’s programme that are unable to travel due to restrictions in their home countries.”

The CABSAT update also notes that the postponement was supported by stakeholders and they expect “greater participation” and “more inclusive access” with the new timeframe. 

[What Radio Exhibitors at NAB Show Are Saying About Coronavirus]

Coronavirus jitters are also affecting events scheduled for the summer and late fall. However, “IBC2020 is proceeding as planned, Sept. 11–15 in Amsterdam,” according to a statement updated March 5

IBC planners said, “We are aware of the concerns that Coronavirus (Covid-19) may be causing and would like to reaffirm our commitment to delivering a safe and successful IBC2020. We are monitoring the situation very closely and will take the advice of the relevant international, national, local authorities and agencies to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all involved with our event in September.” 

Organizers noted that they “ will ensure that IBC2020 is fully compliant with all required regulations,“ including those they expect European Union health authorities to publish soon. 

The post Radiodays Europe and CABSAT Postponed Due to COVID-19  appeared first on Radio World.

MMTC: Don’t Eviscerate EEO

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 07:40
Getty Images/Plume Creative

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council is worried that some broadcasters and state associations are trying to “totally eviscerate, diminish or cripple” enforcement of the FCC’s Equal Employment Opportunity rules

Some broadcasters have argued that current rules, “with their laudable goals,” require burdensome paperwork and nonproductive effort, especially at smaller companies; they laid out those arguments as part of an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking.

MMTC recently replied with a 22-page letter from its President Emeritus and Senior Advisor David Honig to Chairman Ajit Pai and the other four commissioners. It says some broadcaster proposals are contrary to the intent of the NPRM.

RESET SMALL-STATION EXEMPTION?

MMTC found “common ground” with broadcasters on certain issues, including the need for the FCC to publicize its EEO whistleblower and anti-retaliation rules. 

But it took issue with the overall tone of comments to the commission. “This proceeding is not about how to totally eviscerate, diminish or cripple EEO enforcement,” Honig wrote. “Instead, the NPRM called for comments on how to improve the current EEO enforcement system.”

The regulations disallow the use of race and gender in hiring decisions, while seeking to ensure that qualified persons, including minorities and women, can learn of and compete on an equal footing for job openings. 

They also require broadcasters to take steps to provide notice of each full-time opening and participate in recruitment initiatives like job fairs and internship programs, along with additional steps. 

According to the FCC, each year it audits the EEO programs of approximately 5% of both radio and TV stations. It also can review compliance at the time of a broadcaster’s license renewal.

According to a summary on the Broadcast Law Blog, the back-and-forth began when the FCC asked for comments on its NPRM in MB docket 19-177, prompted by complaints raised in connection with abolition of the Form 397 Mid-Term report.

Much of the debate focuses on comments from a group of 82 broadcasters, represented by attorney John Garziglia of Womble Bond Dickinson, that submitted joint comments last year. They believe that the FCC’s documentation and paperwork approach to nondiscrimination and employment diversity is not working.

“In the absence of evidence that the current FCC’s paperwork and recordkeeping requirements prevent or reduce discrimination, or increase employment diversity, the FCC should generally direct its regulatory efforts to finding effective ways to achieve the important goals of nondiscrimination and employment diversity,” the group wrote. 

The coalition of 82 broadcasters — some consisting of one or a few stations, others with dozens — titled its filing “EEO Enhancements” but concluded: “If the FCC’s paperwork and recordkeeping requirements do nothing toward reducing discrimination or enhancing diversity, they should and must be jettisoned.” 

But it also told the FCC that its members have “no desire to lessen or diminish the FCC’s quest for diversity in employment, and full and transparent opportunities for all seekers of jobs in the broadcasting industry. To the contrary, [we] believe that the commission can do more to achieve its goal.”

These broadcasters proposed requiring a wide outreach through a nationally or regionally recognized job-oriented website for every full-time broadcast station employment opening, no matter how few employees it has. “The placement of an internet posting for an open position at a broadcast station is something that most stations now do, and requiring it of all broadcast stations is not an undue burden and is an effort that may bring future broadcasters into the now exempted stations.”

The group also proposes to put an end to the consideration of market-based “employment units,” given the abolition of the broadcast station main studio rule, in favor of an examination of a broadcaster as an entire entity. It calls this “a more pragmatic and sensible definition of employment unit.”

“In return, however,” the broadcasters continued, they asked the FCC to reset the small-station exemption for EEO documentation and supplemental initiative requirements. 

“Reduce EEO paperwork for small broadcasters by exempting entities with fewer than 50 full-time employees, which is the number … regarded by the human resources profession as demarcating smaller from larger entities,” according to the filing. 

“DAMNING INDICTMENT”

The MMTC’s Honig responded directly to several comments from the coalition, which he said “expressly advocated heading backward toward less enforcement, less accountability, and more opportunities for intentional discriminators. … Their approach would help no one but the bad apples in their industries that seek to evade accountability for discrimination. Such comments are not responsive to the NPRM.”

Moreover Honig is troubled by the “hostile language” in some filings. 

“According to the 82 Licensees, EEO compliance imposes a crippling resource burden that simply takes away from the important task of broadcasting. There is no evidence to support this assertion.”

Comments by state broadcast associations also caught the attention of MMTC. Associations wrote in a joint filing: “Many of the proposals presented in this proceeding would dramatically increase burdens on broadcasters while at the same time being of both questionable constitutionality and little practical utility in achieving the commission’s stated goals.” 

In addition, the associations wrote, the FCC “has not found a single broadcaster to have engaged in discrimination since the advent of the first EEO rules in 1969.”

The National Association of Broadcasters echoed that theme: “To our knowledge, the commission has conducted tens of thousands of reviews of broadcasters’ EEO programs since the rules became effective in 2003, without one finding of discrimination. This includes random EEO audits, mid-term reviews and license renewal examinations,” NAB commented.

To this line of argument, Honig replied in his December letter: “The fact that an industry contains discriminators, but they never get prosecuted, much less held liable, is certainly not a strong argument for weakening the obviously insufficient EEO compliance program in place now. That is a damning indictment of the agency’s enforcement program. It is simply not the case that broadcasting is the only industry in the nation whose thousands of employers included no racial or gender discriminators for the past 50 years.”

MMTC said it believes its position is bolstered by comments by several individuals including Dr. Jannette Dates, dean emerita of the Howard University School of Communications, Dr. Valerie White, associate professor at the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University; and Zemira Jones, president and CEO of the All American Management Group and former vice president of operations for Radio One.  

Another MMTC witness, Robert Neal, president and general Manager of WQID(LP), Hattiesburg, Miss., and executive director of the International Black Broadcasters Association, wrote: “It is absolutely without question that racial discrimination persists in the radio and television industries. I have seen extraordinary well-qualified African American managers, announcers and salespersons get shunted aside when jobs open up. Often they find out the jobs were available only after they were filled,” Neal wrote.

“EDGE OF CONSTITUTIONALITY”

Whereas EEO supporters asked the FCC for more frequent EEO audits, the National Association of Broadcasters pleaded against this.

“Rather, the commission should minimize the unjustified burdens of EEO audits by eliminating audits for small broadcasters,” NAB wrote. It added, “the record [FCC proceeding] lacks support for additional EEO rules and regulations.”

The NAB estimated the cost of an audit in the $3,000 to $5,000 range. NAB also said that the commission “should be wary of imposing more EEO rules, as the current regime already flirts with the edge of constitutionality, and there is no evidence of discrimination in broadcasting that justifies additional regulation or that more EEO rules will actually increase employment diversity.”

The association said additional EEO rules are unjustified and unnecessary.

The post MMTC: Don’t Eviscerate EEO appeared first on Radio World.

Fresh Solutions to Repel Pests

Sun, 03/08/2020 - 07:35
Fig. 1: Rodent Sheriff mint spray deters pests and smells good too.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could repel rodents, raccoons, roaches and ants all in one fell swoop? 

Stop by your local big box store and look for Rodent Sheriff Spray (shown in Fig. 1). These pests hate the smell of mint, so your transmitter shelter, ATU or storage shed should stay pest-free — and as a nice bonus will smell minty fresh. 

***

Frank Hertel, principal consultant with Newman-Kees, sent a link to another peppermint refill that works with the Air Wick Plug-In air fresheners. These refills cost less than other methods, and like the spray above keep your buildings pest-free and smelling pleasant. 

Here’s a link to the product: https://scentfill.com/products/all-natural-fresh-peppermint.

***

Joe Geerling is synonymous with engineering in St. Louis. Joe ended 2019 by leaving Entercom St. Louis to become director of engineering for the Covenant Network, also in St. Louis. 

Fig. 2: A helpful resource

He dropped me a line recently about his son Jeff. Jeff is a software programmer and wrote a book entitled “Ansible for DevOps” (Fig. 2). 

Ansible is a simple but powerful server and configuration management tool. Jeff’s book will help those familiar with command line and basic shell scripting start using Ansible, to provision and manage anywhere from one to thousands of servers. The subject matter is increasingly relevant as more and more companies get into cloud computing. The book is available from Amazon for under $20.

Jeff is also an avid podcaster. Joe writes that Jeff wanted to “up” his podcasting game and took an old RE20 apart in order to replace the internal foam. 

There are a lot of old Electro-Voice RE20 mikes being dumped by stations because they no longer sound good, or have started to shed decayed internal foam. Perhaps you have one or two on your shelf.  In most cases, as these mikes age, the foam supporting the capsule deteriorates. Although the job to replace the foam is time-intensive, the result is restoring a great-sounding microphone! 

Jeff documented his experience, complete with pictures and step-by-step instructions, on a blog post. Read it here:  https://tinyurl.com/hpt3fux.

***

I’ve spoken to a number of engineers who have found it difficult to acquire a reliable, versatile FM/AM/NOAA weather receiver. 

The Watch Dog (WD-1) is reliable, versatile and features a real-time RDS decoder, making it a great choice for an EAS receiver. This compact receiver can also be used as a confidence monitor, and even provides an open collector alarm system. If you need contact closures, attach the optional Watch Dog Alarm.  

Contact your favorite broadcast equipment distributor for more information or visit www.rfengineers.com.  

***

Projects engineer Dan Slentz has found a free image and photo editing software for PCs that run Windows. 

Paint.NET features an innovative and intuitive user interface, which includes special effects. There is also an active online community to assist you.

Paint.NET started development as an undergraduate senior design project. It was intended as a free replacement for the Microsoft Paint software that comes with Windows, and the project had a mentor from Microshop.

The software is maintained by some of its creators, and Paint.NET has developed into a powerful yet simple photo editor tool.

Download Paint.net here: https://www.dotpdn.com/downloads/pdn.html.

Fig. 3: An inexpensive document tray with a plastic lid, from Daiso Japan, holds parts while equipment is being repaired. ***

Richard Parker shared a twist on using muffin tins to hold parts when disassembling equipment. 

The Daiso Japan’s Clear Plastic Document Case, Model A4L, is a clear plastic case with a snap-on top. But if you add a Daiso A4 magnetic sheet on the bottom of the tray, steel screws, nuts, washers and other parts stay put. The magnetic sheet is white, and could also serve as a “white board” for brainstorming during other projects.

Shown in Fig. 3, the plastic tray is available from the Daiso Japan online store and also from Amazon for about $10 for two trays.

***

Looking for a way to stay educated in broadcast engineering best practices? The Society of Broadcast Engineers webinar archive is an excellent resource for learning the latest in broadcast engineering. 

If you sign up for SBE MemberPlus membership, you’ll have access to all existing SBE webinars, including the Workbench Tips Webinar. 

Head to www.sbe.org for more information about SBE MemberPlus benefits and the society’s webinar offerings.

***

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 a CPBE certification with the Society of Broadcast Engineers and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.

The post Fresh Solutions to Repel Pests appeared first on Radio World.

Germany: Space Available on First Private National DAB+ Network

Sat, 03/07/2020 - 02:00

National German Radio GmbH is launching an international call for applications for the remaining slots of Germany’s first private nationwide DAB+ network.

Erwin Linnenbach is the CEO of National German Radio.

The organization says the platform will potentially reach more than 67 million people when it goes on air. They are also already planning a network expansion.

Antenne Deutschland tasked the Leipzig-based company with market placement of the remaining space. Interested parties can register on its website.

Antenne Deutschland will decide on allocation in June. The service will start in September and run for a 10-year period with an optional extension until 2040. The launch coincides with the international consumer electronics show IFA 2020 in Berlin.

“The new platform will decisively transform the private radio sector in Germany because new national advertising budgets will be triggered by new offers and existing national advertising budgets will be shifted from local/regional toward national radio programs,” said Erwin Linnenbach, CEO of National German Radio.

[Read: DAB Progress in France and Beyond]

The main selection criteria will be based on “broadcasting concept and a broadcaster’s expertise and innovative spirit,” he added.

“Our goal is to combine the remaining slots with Antenne Deutschland’s radio programs to create a diverse, colorful family of attractive content – a mix which is economically powerful and will have a considerable impact on listeners and advertising markets.”

The post Germany: Space Available on First Private National DAB+ Network appeared first on Radio World.

Is AM All-Digital Right for Your Station?

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 19:03

The author is director of broadcast business development for HD Radio intellectual property holder Xperi.

There is an important AM digital comments filing approaching on Monday. That means it is time to get serious about all-digital AM broadcasting.

And that means that with all you may have heard recently about the pros and cons of going all-digital with your AM station, it’s about time for some plain talk about what kind of AM station this conversion could potentially benefit, and where it might not yet make financial sense.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, as a 50-year broadcast veteran with a large collection of working antique AM radios, I have to admit to mixed feelings about any AM station dropping their analog signal for all-digital. I was that kid in the Midwest who grew up listening at night to WABC in New York, WCFL in Chicago, KDKA in Pittsburgh, WLW in Cincinnati, WOAI in San Antonio and so many other 50 kW clear channel stations.

[Read: Dates Set for Comments on Digital AM Proposal]

But that was before computers, cellphone chargers, CFL light bulbs and so many other new gadgets that just happened to radiate noise smack in the middle of the AM broadcast band. It may rub you the wrong way to have to get an FM translator to keep your AM station viable in the 21st century, but our business has always been one of constant change. We’ve always had to evolve, and there have always been naysayers predicting the end of our medium every time we faced a new challenge.

First it was TV, then it was 8-tracks, then it was cassettes, then the Walkman, then iPods … the list goes on and on. But in the spring of 1969 when I was a senior in high school, Arbitron data showed that some 95% of persons 12+ listened to radio in a given week. Fast forward 50 years to spring 2019, and that number has plummeted to … 92%! That’s right — only 3% attrition in 50 years, while newspapers have suffered critical losses and continue to fold left and right, and TV viewership has become so fragmented that the major networks have all suffered double-digit audience losses. But unlike TV and print, audio listening has never been a zero-sum game. More choices have always meant more listening to more audio sources.

Radio has maintained its commanding share of market by constantly changing, growing and evolving. Consider the option of going all-digital AM as just another possible marketing tool in your arsenal, one with several unique ramifications to consider:

First: Does your AM station currently simulcast on an FM translator? This is a key piece of the puzzle. Providing an alternative place to hear your station, one not noise-challenged, can go a long way to keeping listeners and advertisers happy. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to own your own. There are many organizations that own multiple translators in certain markets, and may be willing to lease one to a noncompetitive station. Don’t forget, there are some translators operating at 10 or 20 watts because they are being fed remotely, but might be capable of going up to a full 250 watts if they are being fed from a local program source.

Second: It’s not enough to just simulcast on that translator, but to make sure all your listeners know that there is a noise-free alternative way to hear your station. Weaning your listeners off of your AM signal and onto your FM translator where possible is a vital part of stemming audience erosion. You need to extensively promote your “alternative” FM signal. Keeping your FM simulcast a secret defeats the whole purpose of having a translator.

[Read: Is the Time Right for All-Digital AM?]

Third: Technically, is it cost-effective for you to go all-digital? If your current antenna and transmitter setup are digital-capable, it is worth considering. If it just means replacing an aging AM transmitter with limited operational life left, it may be worth considering. But if your current transmission plant is not capable of passing a digital signal, and it isn’t feasible to replace transmitter and antenna right now, then all-digital may not be a reasonable option to consider at this time.

Obviously, AM all-digital doesn’t make sense in every case, but there are several scenarios where it may make financial and long-term sense to consider conversion at this time. The benefits can be significant, especially if your market has significant HD Radio automotive penetration. Right now, an average of 21.4% of all the cars on the road in the U.S. have an HD Radio receiver, and 100% of those receivers can receive all-digital AM broadcasts. But many individual markets have much higher penetration numbers, with several exceeding 33% — basically one car in three! And many of those AM HD Radio receivers have the ability to show album art and advertiser logos when in all-digital mode just like their FM counterparts:

In addition, currently there is no associated licensing cost to go all-digital. Through at least July 2020, Xperi is waiving the license fee for AM stations that go directly from analog to MA3 all-digital mode. And since the technology does not currently support multicasting on AM, there are no future licensing costs associated with going all-digital.

But perhaps the strongest argument for at least considering all-digital is the real-world experience of the Hubbard station in Frederick, Md., WWFD(AM)/820 kHz. For the last 18 months, they have been operating in all-digital mode under special experimental authority from the FCC. They have an FM translator, but it is worth noting that even though they had been simulcast with their analog FM translator since the fall of 2017, prior to commencing MA3 mode all-digital operation, the station had not appeared in the local Frederick, Md., Nielsen rating book in recent memory.

[Read: Fowler: Let “Mr. Market” Decide Best AM Digital System]

But beginning the very first survey period after starting all-digital operations, WWFD began showing up with measurable listening audience in that Nielsen survey. Nielsen measures the Frederick market twice annually during the spring and fall survey periods using their diary methodology. In both the spring and fall 2019 surveys, WWFD (and their associated analog FM translator) showed up with measurable listening audience.

In prior surveys dating back to before the station began their simulcast with their analog FM translator, they had never showed up with any measurable audience. This new audience is another example of how voluntary transition to MA3 mode enables better services for consumers and can breathe new life into the AM band. Content has always been king, and the eclectic music selection of “The Gamut” has become a destination format for WWFD listeners. The AM all-digital sunrise has made this music format viable on the AM band.

But are they listening to the all-digital AM or the analog FM? Who cares? As an advertiser, what you really want is to reach the most people, the most times, for the fewest dollars. As a station operator, what you really want is to continue to run a viable business, provide a service to your local community, and deliver a solid advertising vehicle for your advertisers, all while generating a modest profit.

For today’s increasingly signal-challenged AM station, all-digital may be just be the solution you didn’t know you were looking for.

The post Is AM All-Digital Right for Your Station? appeared first on Radio World.

Lauren Rooney Passes Away

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 18:15

The Radio World family lost a former colleague recently.

 Lauren Rooney, a freelance writer for Radio World and TV Technology from 1995 to 2005, passed away on Feb. 27, after a three-year battle with cancer. The following was provided by her husband, Don Rooney.

Lauren’s background included work as an on-air personality at radio stations in New Hampshire, Kansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania. She spent seven years as news director of WNNK(FM) in Harrisburg, Pa., where she won over 35 Associated Press awards for newscasts and coverage; five years as South-Central Pennsylvania regional news director for then Clear Channel radio, based at WHP(AM) in Harrisburg; and three years as assignment editor and producer at Clear Channel’s WHP(TV) Channel 21 in Harrisburg. She appeared on-camera at Hearst’s Lancaster, Pa., WGAL(TV) Channel 8 in the late 1990s, delivering 60-second news updates.

In addition to her work for Radio World and TV Technology, Lauren wrote for the Radio and Television News Directors Association newsletter, including authoring an article about how to interview children at the scene of a disaster.

From 2000 to 2003, she served two terms as president of the Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association, sponsoring broadcast writing workshops and organizing the annual awards competition and luncheon.

In 2009, Lauren went to work as a media specialist for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, producing news releases and newsletters for representatives. In 2011 she became executive director of the Pennsylvania House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, a position she held at the time of her death. As executive director, she worked on legislation, as well as on solutions for problems brought in by constituents. In 2018, a bill she authored was signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. That legislation established a state-sponsored online data base providing a list of services to aid grandparents raising grandchildren by themselves.

Lauren’s hobbies included cooking, gardening and playing the ukulele. She is survived by her husband Don, children Brian, Christopher and Jonathan, daughters-in-law Kristina and Kaitlin, and granddaughter Selena.

 

The post Lauren Rooney Passes Away appeared first on Radio World.

Community Broadcaster: Four Top Fund Drive Fumbles

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 17:10

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

This month kicks off a time-honored tradition in community radio: the spring pledge drive. Many stations will succeed. Others will be less successful. Seeing fundraising wins may require you avoid three common pitfalls.

In my three-and-a-half years with the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, I have listened to pledge drives coast-to-coast. Before that, I was part of a major-market noncommercial station’s pledge campaign for more than a decade. I have been asked to appear with many stations to boost their on-air fundraising. And, as strange as it sounds, I love the pledge drive. I love stating the case for community radio and encouraging audiences to lift up local stations.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Coronavirus Education]

So, I can speak with a little heft when it comes to pledge drive missteps. I have heard many, and the most common ones are absolute killers during a campaign.

What moments happen most frequently?

Focusing on “me,” not you. Anyone who has heard a community radio pledge drive has heard this before. Someone at the microphone says how your donation makes it possible for them to come play music or share some news with you. The problem? I, as a donor, can get music and news on a $30 smart speaker for free. And what if I only like every third song you play, or I think you’re biased but I listen because I am in the car but wouldn’t otherwise? Messages should center why donors give, not what DJs get.

Not offering more. This is one of the most difficult issues, because the message we have ingrained in community media is the notion that people give to support fill-in-the-blank. That blank could be news, music, talk shows and so on. However, all of those things are available free elsewhere. Instead consider your message as one of you talking about donations increasing community impact and results, e.g. “Your donations supported investigative reports on City Hall;” “Your donation made a live concert series possible.” Quantifying where dollars go and went is more compelling than telling people they’re simply funding you to keep the lights on.

Lacking fire. Nothing is less inspiring than hearing a community radio DJ who sounds out-of-place during fundraising; who clearly has not thought about what they’ll say before the mic goes live; and does not respect a listener enough to even sound engaged during pledge drive. I have heard this more times than I care to admit. They’re not bad people. They sometimes have too much going on, or do not understand how crucial fundraising is to a station. And in a notoriously nice but evasive community radio culture, no one has the heart to tell these folks anything. So they just go on, sounding distant and unfocused. But pledge drive is a time to be proud of your station, be excited to talk to others about a station’s value to its community. Successful programs have reasons why people should give, sound happy to be there and like that the audience is supporting a local resource; as you should too.

Striking the gift balance. Weak shows either wander through the book of gifts available for a donation (overwhelming the listener) or never mention thank-you gifts available during the drive (missing the incentive a gift represents). What is the magic formula? Pick a gift or two to feature each hour, research the gift and be able to discuss it especially in cases of books and music, and be flexible and prepared enough to change on the fly if needed. Many people won’t pick up the gifts at all, but having something interesting to motivate donors never hurts.

Community radio stations rely on pledge drive. Many stations raise their operating funds, staff pay and money for their many initiatives through donations from listeners. The stakes for fundraising are high. Good pledge drives make the difference between new endeavors or a period of uncertainty.

Skipping these stumbles ensures stations have a happy spring.

The post Community Broadcaster: Four Top Fund Drive Fumbles appeared first on Radio World.

Public Radio Engineering Event Is Still a “Go” in Vegas

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 16:55

Public TV engineers won’t be able to gather at TechCon this year. But their radio engineering counterparts are still planning to meet.

The Association of Public Radio Engineers put out a statement by President Victoria St. John about their PREC event, held in Las Vegas right before the NAB Show each year:

“APRE is wishing for everyone’s safety in this time of concerns for the COVID-19 and the ever changing landscape it presents to our industry.

“The Public Radio Engineering Conference 2020 is currently on for April 15-17 at the Tuscany Suites in Las Vegas as planned. We are consulting with our board and presenters to ensure that this year’s Public Radio Engineering Conference continues in the rich tradition of 20 years of excellent engineering interaction and high quality session content.

“The Board of the APRE is aware of the fluidity of the situation and will plan the conference with health, safety and quality of the conference for the members and presenters.

“We are sorry to hear that PBS has opted to cancel their TechCon meeting for 2020 due to concerns over issues related to COVID-19. APRE had plans to share meetings and sessions as a part of our PREC experience, but we still have a strong set of presentations in store.

“Our policy is to extend no refunds, but if at a future time APRE does opt to cancel the PREC 2020, we will offer full refunds to attendees or attendees can apply this year’s registration fees to the 2021 conference fees.”

[What Radio Exhibitors at NAB Show Are Saying About Coronavirus]

The post Public Radio Engineering Event Is Still a “Go” in Vegas appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Darrin Paley, Senior Sales Engineer, Western U.S.A. and Canada, Wheatstone

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 14:35

The spring NAB Show is approaching. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Darrin Paley is the senior sales engineer for western U.S.A. and Canada for Wheatstone.

Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s NAB Show?

Darrin Paley: Last year we did our biggest project ever in terms of complexity, size, scope and innovation — WTOP. We also found ourselves putting together packages for smaller and mid-sized stations, and I think that’s because the broadcast industry is changing at such a fast pace. Everyone needs technical solutions to those changes and they’re looking to the Wheatstones of the industry to provide it. It definitely keeps us thinking of new ways to stay ahead of the curve.

[Read: 2020 NAB Show: Schedule, Exhibitor Info, Updates]

RW: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?

Paley: The trend seems to boil down to “how to do more with less.” There’s a lot of interest in how to share studios, content and resources across distances. Broadcasters tell us they’re looking for ways to reduce real estate costs and hardware upkeep. At the same time, they’re adding more services, like streaming, and, of course, all of that falls under the AoIP umbrella. The look of the studio itself has changed as well, due in large part to virtual mixers like our Glass LXE. A number of projects I worked on this year didn’t actually have a physical console in one or more studios, and that, along with AoIP appliances to bridge studios separated by distance are creating real opportunities for broadcasters to impact their bottom line.

RW: The last year has proven rather rocky for much of the radio industry with the largest group owner making a big move to chart a new business/operational model. Stepping away from your particular segment, what is your feeling for the overall health of the radio industry?

Paley: Overall, we feel the radio industry is stable for the most part. What we saw in the last year was an industry stepping back to reevaluate how it was going to remain relevant for the foreseeable future given the change in consumer habits over the past few years.

RW: You’ve been active in the radio broadcast equipment market for many years. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?

Paley: I think the biggest challenge for all of us in this industry is to recognize that we have to be open to new ideas. We can’t continue to do what we did five years ago. We have to keep moving forward because listeners are continually moving forward. At Wheatstone, we are constantly pushing the limits of what AoIP can do because we have an R&D department that’s made up of both engineers who have been with us since the beginning and understand the business, and also systems engineers who know about enterprise and telecommunications technology. That serves us well in being able to provide a path forward for broadcasters.

RW: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit N3317?

Paley: Last year we introduced several appliances for our AoIP system that bridged studios separated by distance and we developed some interesting interfaces to the network that made workflows much easier. This year, we’re taking it to the cloud in some unique ways that we think will change how broadcasters operate and will solve a few of the challenges we discussed earlier. We’ll be demonstrating WheatNet-IP and our virtual solutions at booth N3317.

RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2020 NAB Show?

Paley: Virtualization and cloud. This seems to be a part of almost every conversation I have with broadcasters today, and for good reason. We are at an unprecedented time in broadcast history where we are just beginning to tap into technologies like cloud and virtualization that can make a real difference in the future of radio and television.

RW: Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?

Paley: I am looking forward to the BEIT session “Studio Elasticity, From Hardware to Virtual to Cloud,” presented by our senior software engineer, Scott Gerenser. It’s Tuesday afternoon, and he covers a lot of ground, including important trends and how broadcasters can start planning now for virtualization. I believe it starts at 3:45 p.m. in room N258, Tuesday of the show.

RW: You’re a show veteran, how has the show changed since your first visit?

Paley: My first NAB Show was in 1995 and I have been to the NAB in Las Vegas every year since, as an attendee and an exhibitor. The NAB Show has changed dramatically since 1995 in many ways, the biggest being the actual attendees. With the internet, consolidation, and the workload put on the engineers, not to mention the tighter budgets, there doesn’t seem to be as many attending. I remember how many local engineers, from small to large markets and from all over the world attended, and now it’s generally the group DOEs and the occasional local engineer who is researching equipment for an upcoming project.

 

The post NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Darrin Paley, Senior Sales Engineer, Western U.S.A. and Canada, Wheatstone appeared first on Radio World.

Most People Don’t Have a Cybersecurity Plan, Tarr Warns

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 13:21
Chris Tarr

Radio engineers and technologists worry about whether their networks are adequately prepared to defend against cybersecurity incursions. We talked to Chris Tarr, CSRE, AMD, DRB, CBNE, director of technical operations for Wisconsin at Entercom, which was one of several radio groups in the United States that have suffered recent ransomware attacks. Opinions are his own and not necessarily those of Entercom.

Radio World: How well prepared is the radio industry?

Chris Tarr:  There’s still a mentality that you can protect yourself and make yourself completely invulnerable. It’s never a matter of whether it’s going to happen to you; it’s a matter of when

Do what you can to fortify your systems, [but] you can put up the best fortress in the world, and once they’re behind that wall, everything is fair game. A lot of companies do a good job of preventing people from getting in from the outside but not doing anything about people who actually get inside. The theme that I’ve seen [in other attacks] is nobody had a plan. Always assume someone is going to get in.

Always assume someone is going to get in.

Everybody says, “Oh well we have backup so we’re okay.” A lot of people who have backups never check them. They never validate them, they never make sure they’re working; and they don’t realize how long it takes to restore that stuff. A lot of people get by with, “We’ve got antivirus, we’ve take backups of everything. We’ve got a firewall, we’re good. Worst case is we just restore from our backups.” 

If backups are part of your plan, do you have a plan to check those every day, every two days? What’s your plan for how many times a week you backup? Do you backup [only] certain files? Even if you’re on the cloud, are you able to roll back if something gets attacked? 

We haven’t even gotten to the network part yet.

RW: Once a manager knows they need a plan, what’s the next step? 

Tarr: A plan is only as good as how you execute it. So what are the vital components of your operation? Once you’ve identified those, what happens if those were all to fail? How would you restore those? Even better, is there a way to really harden the network?

For example, by now everybody should be segregating their automation networks from their office networks. However, you can’t do that 100%, you have to be realistic. Short of sneaker netting, and using thumb drives and stuff that can kill the infection, how can you get files from Point A to Point B? 

Something as simple as “How many file shares do you have, and how many do you really need?” Does everybody need to have access to everything? Really take a serious look at the roles of each individual in the organization. What do they truly need access to?

Then how can we isolate things? We know that an automation system isn’t going to get the ransomware on its own, so look at what kinds of actions people could take to infect the network. 

What if the program directors want access to the computers on that automation network? In the old days we’d just throw on another network card, put their computer on there and they’re good to go. You can’t do that anymore. So you look at maybe a thin client on your desktop, where there really isn’t any services other than sharing a video feed between the two machines. 

Where do you keep your financials? Where do you keep HR stuff? How do you segregate that? Again, most of that is going to have to live on a network somewhere; what do you do to keep those files safe?

That’s step number one, getting things locked down, network segregated, backup plans. You can’t do just a single backup and hope for the best; you need to rotate backups, take backups offline so they can’t ever touch the network. That’s saved me more than once, where my backup was a disconnected drive so it never got touched. I was able to restore cleanly without any problems. 

You want to validate those backups to make sure. There’s nothing worse than putting a backup up, and realizing that it hasn’t run for three months because of not paying attention.

How will you communicate [after an attack]? Most of the time your email is going to be down, everybody’s computers are going to be off; so how do you communicate what’s going on? How do you communicate to your advertisers so that everything is okay? Because the word will get out. How do you put logs together? 

Assume that everything involved in your operation is off and there’s nothing you can do right now about that. How do you manage that? Do you set up a Twitter account for employees? Do you prepare a list of their personal email accounts so that you can do a mass email with “Here’s what’s going on” status updates on what’s functioning and what’s not functioning?

 Have you thought about how you’re going to play back audio if your playback machines, heaven forbid, get hit? How are you going to bill clients? Spots, how are you going to bill them? A file server backup could take hours to days to restore. What do you do? 

That’s the holistic approach people are missing. 

RW: I do have the sense that more organizations are trying to raise awareness on this.

Tarr: Unfortunately, there hasn’t really been a lot of discussion, because companies are afraid to talk about it. Companies that have gotten hit are afraid to talk about it; they don’t want to talk about where they went wrong for fear of somebody thinking that they’re weak or incompetent. 

That public station [KQED] that got hit a year or two ago, they really were upfront about the challenges that they ran into. But nobody has really taken the time to talk about from a broadcasting point of view, what the best practices should be. 

When this happens to you, be clear and say, “Yes, it’s a very common thing. Yes, we got hit by ransomware and everything’s okay, data is secure, we have a plan and we’re implementing it.” 

Getting hit with ransomware is not unusual. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The success stories are in how you limited how you were affected, and how quickly and efficiently you restored your systems. How quickly did you get your traffic system back up? We were scheduling spots on Monday following the weekend. That’s where planning comes in. There will be things that’ll be out of order for a week or two because they’re low priority. [But] how quickly can you get your critical functions back up?

There’s not enough dialogue about that in broadcasting.

RW: Ransomware catches people’s attention. Should a broadcaster ever pay a ransom?

Tarr: No, you shouldn’t. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to work. 

There’s a school of thought that the person who wrote ransomware is going to unlock it if you pay them, because it’s their — for lack of a better word — reputation; but you just don’t know. And payment encourages them; there’s a potential to make yourself a bigger target. 

That’s why it’s so important to focus not only on prevention but on response. If you can respond properly and you have a good plan, you don’t need to pay the ransom, you will have all of the things you need to rebuild. 

The only thing that I would completely harden in this environment would be your automation system, your bread and butter. That’s easy enough to do because you don’t have to have that on a public network

The problem that exists these days is that security is inconvenient. Unfortunately a lot of the people on the other side of the building, the creative people, the sales people — they understand inconvenience, they don’t understand security. When you say, “No you can’t move those files around, and no, you can’t connect to that automation system,” it’s inconvenient, and they put up a fight. There has to be education there. 

As long as your automation network is segregated physically, you can at least stay on the air. That is the number one. You can always hand-write logs, you can hand-write billing, but if you’re not on the air, you’ve got a problem. 

As long as your automation network is segregated physically, you can at least stay on the air.

That’s how you have to approach it: Different levels of importance. Being on the air is most important. Second, would be billing, how do we get the billings on, how do we reconcile? Then everything else. It’s trivial to backup office computers and restore them. Nine times out of 10 there is nothing so critical on them that if you’ve got a three-day-old backup, it’s not the end of the world. We had computers that were offline for a week or two. When we got to it, we got to it.

RW: You mentioned automation but there are other vulnerable mission-critical systems, right? Remote control transmitter, interfaces, EAS. 

Tarr: Those need to be firewalled and password protected. They’re not going to get affected by ransomware, but you need to be smart about them. What a lot of people are turning to now are firewalls and virtual LANs so these devices are kept onto a separate subnet and you’re only opening ports that are necessary to access them, changing default passwords. 

I used to be able to love to get to my stuff from the outside world when I’m driving around or wherever I’m at, being able to log in and do stuff. Those days are over because if I can do it, anybody can do it. So now we’re doing VPNs and virtual LANs to separate them from the office networks.

A lot of the stories you see, EAS boxes getting hacked and those Barix boxes getting hacked, was just because of sloppiness. We have a lot of engineers who are not IT guys, and a lot of IT guys who aren’t engineers. It’s one of the bigger problems in our industry, speaking of firewalls: We’ve built this firewall between IT and engineering. They don’t understand each other’s goals.

I’m lucky that I have a background in both, but in a lot of places, either engineering runs everything and you’ve got firewalls open and ports open, or IT is in charge and the engineer can’t do anything.

A lot of IT guys don’t understand broadcast stuff. For example, PSD or RDS data. Before point-to-point firewalls were common, you’d have a DSL connection at a translator site or whatever, you’d send that data over the public internet. More than once I’ve had an IT guy say, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Actually you can and you have to. And they just don’t understand that. 

Make sure that engineers and IT guys understand each other’s goals. The IT guy has to know that there are going to be some things that have to get done that may require special consideration on the engineering side. Engineers are going to have to understand you can’t throw a bunch of ports open so you can get to your Burk. VPN or something else is going to be required. 

A lot of security rides on that relationship.

RW: But when the head of a radio group reads a headline about a competitor being hit by a ransomware attack, calls the engineer in and says “How do we make sure this never happens to us,” the answer can’t just be, “We need a better relationship between engineering and IT,” right? What does the engineer say to the CEO?

Tarr: You need to get stakeholders together and come up with a plan. It’s hard to act as one cohesive unit if you’ve got these varied departments with their own priorities. You can’t even set up a security plan if you’ve got the program directors insisting they must have access to this or that. 

Let’s be honest, in a broadcast situation, a lot of times the engineers don’t carry a lot of power, so they can’t tell the program directors, “No, you can’t do that.” You need to get buy-in from the CEO all the way down to the part-time guys. Get everybody together in a room and say, “First of all, let’s talk about how this could happen,” or bring in a security consultant to talk about those things. The second part is to know that if this happens, we know what we’re going to do, we know what the expectations are. To be able to say, “Yeah, we if we get hit, we’ll be down for a day, but here’s what we’re going to do and here’s the steps that we’re taking to make sure that that plan can be executed.” That makes you more confident: “We could get hit and you know what? We’ll be okay.”

[Ebook: Cybersecurity and Studio Disaster Recovery]

RW: People reading this will be well aware of the attack on Entercom. Knowing you can’t talk about every aspect, what can you share about what the company did or learned? 

Tarr: Well, unfortunately I still can’t. There’s really not much I can divulge. The only thing I can say personally is that I was very proud of how we responded internally. We were back up and running very quickly. We had a solid plan. We worked over the weekend, we implemented the plan and it was a success. 

We didn’t look at this as a failure by any means. That’s the mindset people have to have. It wasn’t a failure that we got hit with ransomware; it’s going to happen, it happens to everyone. Had we not been able to respond to it and had it crippled our business for a month, that would have been a failure. 

The biggest thing I can say is, “Don’t think for a minute it’s not going to happen, or that just the basics are going to help you.” This is a rapidly changing environment. A good security consultant is worth their weight in gold. Hire one and have them look at what you’re doing, talk about what your job function is and what you want to achieve as a company. Get that advice.

RW: Other specific best practices to mention? 

Tarr: I’ll probably get in trouble with my boss for saying this, but I’m not a big fan of password changing. Once your password’s out, your password’s out. Password complexity is good, but the 90 days rule may not be very effective. It’s not like a password gets leaked and then they sit on it for six month.

Obviously, education. Make sure that people understand: If somebody sends you a link to something, verify with them, call and say, “Did you send this to me?” Today’s viruses and nastyware always look like they came from somebody you know. Unless somebody says specifically “I’m going to send you this,” don’t open it til you verify that they actually did. 

We talked about hardening your automation network. Do not plug it in to the office network at all. And if you do, make sure that it’s firewall blocked and that you’re only opening the ports you need to open. Make sure they don’t touch each other, other than what you absolutely need. 

Third, physical security. My server room is locked up because who knows what could happen, sabotage wise or information security wise? Even just curious part-timers can get in and wreak havoc. 

Backups. Take lots of backups and verify them regularly. Preferably have a backup offsite. At the very least make sure you rotate and what I call “air gap” backups. Have a backup that’s not connected to anything. Rotate them off. If the infection spreads, you’ve got a good clean backup to the restore from. 

Obviously antivirus, those sorts of things. There’s new software specifically for detection of malware or ransomware; they detect the moment that the malware tries to change a file, it throws out a couple of honeypot files and as soon as it touches one of those files and attempts to change it or lock it, it shuts everything down. 

Antivirus is great but it’s not a firewall and it doesn’t really do anything for ransomware. It’s kind of one of those “inch deep mile wide” pieces of software. You really want to get specific and look into smart firewall appliances that will stop it at the door. Short of having a security consultant, that’s the next best thing: Have a firewall that inspects the packets coming in, and get something with a subscription to a database that keeps that up to date. If you could stop this stuff from getting in the door, that’s 90% of the issue.

We all think we’re the smartest guys in the room. Engineers are notorious for that. There’s someone out there smarter than us working on what they’re going to do next. Don’t assume that because you’ve read the latest books and read the latest information that you’re safe, because there’s always somebody smarter and they’re always out there trying to wreck your stuff. Part of a complete plan is assuming that it’s going to happen. And if it doesn’t, that’s great. If it never happens to you bless you, but assume that it will and know what you’re going to do, know how you’re going to respond and make it automatic. Write the plan down, make sure everybody knows what the plan is, and then you ready to execute it when it’s necessary.

 

[Get more tips and insider information about cybersecurity best practices in this ebook.]

The post Most People Don’t Have a Cybersecurity Plan, Tarr Warns appeared first on Radio World.

Brazil’s Marcos Pontes on Radio’s Future

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 10:19

Brazilian Minister of Science and Technology Marcos Pontes opened the second National Forum of Brazilian Broadcasters on March 5. In Portuguese, the event is known as the Fórum Nacional de Radiodifusão MCTIC.

Pontes is an Air Force pilot, engineer, astronaut and author. He became the first South American to travel to space in 2006.

Digital Radio Mondiale Chair Ruxandra Obreja traveled to Brasilia for the event and had the opportunity to interview Marcos Pontes on behalf of Radio World. Obreja is a frequent contributor to Radio World International, and she also shared a clip of the interview. Watch it now.

http://www.radioworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/videoplayback.mp4

 

In the video, Pontes explains the purpose and importance of this forum for the Brazilian radio broadcast industry. He said hopes the forum will be an opportunity for broadcasters to share their ideas for how the government can improve, as well as what the Ministry of Science and Technology is getting right. For example, Pontes said he is seeking feedback on what broadcast technologies the country should standardize on and what types of regulation radio broadcasters believe is necessary for their success.

Pontes also provides an update on the country’s near-term plans for the sector. In his address, Pontes said that the time has come for digital radio in Brazil. Obreja pressed him on the question of timing. Pontes demurred to provide a specific timeline, but said he hopes for a “short term” solution to emerge and said they “are getting there.”

Pontes also noted that many Brazilian stations are still in the process of converting from AM to FM. Obreja added that she hopes digital will be the next step for these stations. Pontes appeared to agree, but emphasized the need to choose the right technology to make that happen.

The post Brazil’s Marcos Pontes on Radio’s Future appeared first on Radio World.

Tesla Offers Infotainment Upgrade That Removes Radio

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 15:08

Radio broadcasters have long feared that self-driving cars would threaten their dashboard dominance. A new optional infotainment system upgrade from carmaker Tesla proves that these concerns are well founded.

Some older Tesla Model S and Model X owners are now able to purchase a $2,500 update that the company says improves user experience, enables video streaming and supplies an expanded Tesla Arcade but will remove broadcast AM/FM radio and Sirius/XM reception. (Broadcasters will likely wince when they see “Removes AM, FM and Sirius XM radio” under the “Improvements” heading of its software breakdown.) 

Currently, the offer is available by emailed invitation only, according to Tesla Service. U.S. vehicles with Autopilot Computer 2.5 featuring Full Self-Driving Capability will be first in line, while those running Autopilot Computer 2.0 should be contacted later this month.

In response to this news, Strategy Analytics Global Automotive Associate Director Roger Lanctot wrote a LinkedIn article titled “Technology Tyranny and the End of Radio.” 

According to Lanctot, “Once again, Silicon Valley is asking us to surrender one thing in exchange for another. Yesterday it was our privacy. Today it is the radio. Tomorrow it will be our freedom.” Perhaps this conclusion is a bit hyperbolic, but Lanctot concedes that the strategy has a logical side. He writes, “it is quite possible that Tesla has leveraged user data from its own vehicles to determine that radio listening in its vehicles was sufficiently minimal to be worth risking some minor resistance.”

Additionally, it may be “a market research project” to determine customer demand for OTA radio. Why? Tesla is an international company dealing with a variety of broadcast standards while also preparing for 5G rollout; an attempt to simplify its technology offerings makes sense for the manufacturer, if not for the consumer, Lanctot reasons. Nonetheless, it’s clear that he believes radio should remain prominent in the car dash.

This isn’t the first time radio has worried about Tesla’s in-dash plans. As far back as 2017, rumors have circulated that Elon Musk’s tech-car company would remove radio. That fear proved to be overblown for the Tesla 3, but this time, it appears Tesla is indeed moving in a radio-less direction. The 2020 Tesla Model 3, for example, does not offer AM radio, according to Car and Driver. Note that Tesla isn’t the only car company experimenting with removing broadcast radio. In 2014, BMW removed AM reception from its electric i3 models, to the chagrin of organizations like the National Association of Broadcasters and AM enthusiasts.

RW has requested comment from Tesla and will report any reply.

 

The post Tesla Offers Infotainment Upgrade That Removes Radio appeared first on Radio World.

FCC Suspends Travel to “Large Gatherings” in Coronavirus-Related Move

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 11:23

The FCC says it will be limiting access to the FCC as a preventative measure in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and will be suspending FCC participation in any large gatherings.

According to the commission, anyone who has been in any country in the previous 14 days that is subject to CDC level-three travel warnings will not be allowed to enter FCC facilities. Currently that would exclude recent visitors to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

[Read: What Radio Exhibitors at NAB Show Are Saying About Coronavirus]

That includes FCC employees and contractors as well as visitors.

The FCC has suspended all noncritical FCC domestic and international travel and for the near term is “suspending until further notice any FCC involvement in noncritical large gatherings that involve participants from across the country and/or around the world.”

An FCC spokesperson was checking at press time on whether that means the chairman won’t make it for his Q&A at the NAB Show next month or whether that is considered a “critical” gathering. That is still six weeks away, so there could also be a change in the virus status by then.

It is certainly a large gathering, drawing close to 100,000 people from home and abroad.

 

The post FCC Suspends Travel to “Large Gatherings” in Coronavirus-Related Move appeared first on Radio World.

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