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FCC to Two AM Licensees: Pay Fees or Nixed Licenses Could be Next

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:46

The Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission is asking two licensees to clarify why they haven’t paid years’ worth of regulatory fees — in one case, for more than a decade — and warned the owners that the next possible step could be loss of the stations’ licenses.

In both situations, the backgrounds are similar. Cox Broadcast Group and La Favorita Inc. are being questioned by the FCC over allegedly unpaid regulatory fees. For Cox station WCGA(AM) in Woodbine, Ga., the FCC said that the licensee allegedly failed to pay regulatory fees for fiscal year 2010, 2103, 2016, 2017 and 2018 resulting in unpaid regulatory fees totaling $11,531.21. Despite the fact that demand letters have been sent to Cox, no payments have yet been made, the Media Bureau said.

[Read: Virginia FM Handed $15,000 Forfeiture for Alleged Filing Violations]

A similar situation has occurred with three AM stations in Georgia licensed by La Favorita Inc. The Media Bureau said the licensee has unpaid regulatory fees stretching back more than a decade — from 2007 through 2018 — for stations WAOS(AM) in Austell, WLBA(AM) in Gainesville and WXEM(AM) in Buford. The amount of unpaid fees totals $79,457.69 for those years. The bureau said that demand letters have been sent to La Favorita but to date have not been paid.

In both cases, additional charges will continue to accrue on these debts until they are paid in full, the bureau said, which includes a penalty equal to 25% of the amount of the original fee.

The commission also has the authority to revoke a station’s license for failing to pay regulatory fees and penalties. As a result, the commission has asked Cox and La Favorita to file documented evidence within 60 days to show that that it has paid or to show cause why payment should be waived. The FCC warned that failing to provide such evidence within the next two months may result in revocation of the stations’ licenses.

 

The post FCC to Two AM Licensees: Pay Fees or Nixed Licenses Could be Next appeared first on Radio World.

FCC to Tackle Duplicative Programming Rule

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:36

The Federal Communications Commission said it may be time to tackle the issue of duplicative programming in commonly owned radio stations.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a blog post this week that the commission will seek comment on modifying or eliminating a rule that limits the amount of duplicative programming that can be aired by commonly owned radio stations in a market.

This rule was originally adopted in 1992; since then the number of radio stations has continued to grow. In his blog post recapping the issues set for the November FCC meeting, Pai said that number of AM and commercial FM stations has increased to 19,500 (up from 11,600 in the 1990s) while the number of noncommercial FM stations has more than doubled and more than 2,000 low-power FM stations have been launched.

[Read: Groups Call on FCC to Waive First-Term Fees for Incubating AM/FM Stations]

And as the number of stations proliferate — and those stations continue to offer content over the air, on websites and through mobile apps — the commission is seeking comment on how to ensure competition and program diversity, which were the objectives of the radio duplication rule when it was set. As a result, the commission will seek formal comment on whether the rule is still necessary and whether it should be modified or eliminated.

Comments on that notice, known as Media Bureau Docket Number 19-310, can be found in the FCC’s ECFS database under the formal title of “Amendment of Section 73.3556 of the Commission’s Rules Regarding Duplication of Programming on Commonly Owned Radio Stations.”

The November commission meeting is set for 10:30 a.m. Eastern on Nov. 19.

 

The post FCC to Tackle Duplicative Programming Rule appeared first on Radio World.

GatesAir Taps Graham Lay for MEA Region

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 02:00

Graham Lay has joined the GatesAir team as its new regional sales manager representing the Middle East and Africa. One of his key responsibilities is to build GatesAir’s market share and brand visibility in those regions.

Graham Lay

Lay has more than a decades’ worth of experience in sales and account management for broadcast and communications. He previously worked for electrical cable distribution company IEWC, moving to Dubai in 2015 to serve as the business unit leader, MEA for Argosy Cable, an IEWC company.

“I look forward to working with the greater EMEA team to strengthen our brand in the Middle East and eastern Africa,” Lay said. “We see enormous opportunity to help broadcasters refresh FM radio infrastructure, and drive large, national digital TV and DAB radio transitions that generate new revenue and service opportunities for customers.”

Lay is based in Dubai and reports to Andy McClelland, managing director, EMEA.

 

The post GatesAir Taps Graham Lay for MEA Region appeared first on Radio World.

Progressive Concepts Takes on RVR

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 17:30

Equipment dealer Progressive Concepts has announced an agreement with RVR Electronica of Italy to become an authorized dealer and service center.

Progressive will be handling RVR’s current stereo FM transmitter line: TEX30, TEX100, TEX150, TEX300, TEX502, TEX702 and TEX1002. These range from 30 W to 1 kW in power and can be controlled remotely via the web.

All of the TEX models feature a stereo encoder with left and right analog audio inputs, mono inputs, and MPX composite signal and auxiliary inputs for SCA/RDS signals. They utilize a Power Factor Correction power supply.

They are also FCC- and Industry Canada-approved.

 

The post Progressive Concepts Takes on RVR appeared first on Radio World.

Readers Comment on Engineering Extinction

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 11:55

The following comments were about the column “Are You Doing Your Part” in the June 12 issue of RW Engineering Extra.

TALKING TO THE WRONG PEOPLE?

Hi Cris, I was fortunate enough to have worked with the late Tom Osenkowsky in the early 1990s. While I was holding down afternoon drive, he appointed me “assistant chief operator” of WLAD Danbury, Conn. — more an honorary position than a functional one, but it meant I could field tech issues and check logs when he wasn’t around.

My deeper interest in engineering didn’t happen until a couple of years later — 1994 — when Tom Walker (WNNK-FM Harrisburg) suggested I join the SBE. Along the way, I got my CBT and CEA certifications and I did my best to wrangle my way into working with any engineer I could who was in charge of an AM directional system. I wanted very much to learn how those things worked.

Well, I must have been speaking to all the wrong people. Nobody anywhere wanted to share their secret knowledge with me. Between stations along the southern tier of Maryland and much of Northern Virginia, I couldn’t get my nose into the tent. One told me his skill was all that was keeping him employed and didn’t want to risk losing out to someone (slightly) younger and no doubt less expensive to hire. Another told me I was just a dumb disc jockey who had no business getting into engineering. Whatever I learned about directional RF came on my own from being a ham, and even then that’s limited to two sticks and a little algebra at best.

I sympathize with the industry and the shortage of qualified folks. I also sympathize with those before me who needed to make it to retirement with a paycheck. I’m now a few years out from hanging up the headphones myself, so a mentoring program would be wasted on me. I’ll eventually walk away from the biz pleased with other things I accomplished, but always a little unhappy about the selfishness I experienced, and flummoxed by the lack of foresight that caused AM to shoot itself in the foot in slow motion.

Alan Peterson, KJ4IVD
Arlington, Va.

 

NICELY PUT

Just read your “Radio World” article. “A few funerals away.” What a capsualization! What a brisk way to report the apparent future of broadcast engineering.

I hold SBE certification, but broadcast engineering is at arms’ length.

Thanks for that crisp designation.

Ludwell Sibley
Medford, Ore.

 

PASS IT ON

Excellent commentary, Cris! Much like my advice at the NAB Engineering Achievement Award event two years ago, and Gary Cavell’s this year — to pass knowledge on to younger generations. Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to forget the need as we get involved in our day-to-day work.

In my career, there were a few “senior” engineers (a generation older than me, at the time!) who gave me some lifelong lessons in technology and engineering philosophy. Their contribution to me and others were extraordinary. However, I wish their experience could have extended to many others. I believe we should develop more opportunities to teach and discuss in sessions with others, so that the knowledge is passed on.

It is difficult for national conferences to be a venue for education — sessions seem to be increasingly shorter and lighter in detail. But educational venues could be developed elsewhere. Maybe at SBE meetings and conferences? Personally, I’d welcome the chance to teach, and I wonder how others feel about this.

Thanks for bringing up the transfer of knowledge and wisdom. It is indeed an important issue for our industry!

John Kean
Falls Church, Va.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN TRAINING

Great article, Cris. The Colorado Broadcasters Association has hosted three “Introduction to Broadcast Engineering” classes in the last two years. These are modeled after Alabama’s program and taught by their staff engineer, Larry Wilkins. The courses are free to everyone, not just members, and we invite anyone with an interest in broadcast to attend. On average, the course has attracted as many as 22 individuals who attend all three days of the course.

I hope you’ll send some “potentials” our way the next time we host this (currently looking at October 2019) and I would really appreciate any outreach you could provide to get more people to attend the classes.

Thanks again for this article. The call to action is desperately needed!

Justin Sasso
President & CEO
Colorado Broadcasters Association
Englewood, Colo.

 

Do you have a story to share? Write to radioworld@futurenet.com. Please reference “Are You Doing Your Part” in the subject line.

The post Readers Comment on Engineering Extinction appeared first on Radio World.

Is There an Afterlife for “Franken FMs?”

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 11:47

Is there an afterlife for “Franken FMs?”

WRME(LP) in Chicago broadcasts the MeTVFM format as a music companion to the MeTV network, which airs classic television programming. The LPTV station is owned by Venture Technologies Group and operated via an LMA with Weigel Broadcasting. It has received press attention for its success in attracting listeners.

VHF low-power analog television stations that present themselves as radio stations — airing audio on TV Channel 6 spectrum just below the U.S. FM band — face an approaching sunset date for LPTV analog service that could spell their doom.

Advocates argue that many FM6 stations provide important audio services to supplement their video signals and that “millions” of Americans tune to 87.7 FM to listen to programming not available anywhere else, particularly in ethnic and minority communities that are underserved. The very term Franken FM, they add, is a pejorative one coined by radio stations that fear additional legitimate competition.

But once LPTVs transition to digital in 2021, listeners will no longer be able to receive audio from Channel 6 stations on 87.7 MHz.

Their advocates say the industry has developed a technical solution to protect these services but that the FCC has left their future in doubt.

OPPORTUNISTIC

The audio carrier for TV Channel 6 can be heard on many car and tabletop FM receivers. Opportunistic low-power licensees use their TV transmitters to air separate audio and video content, according to those familiar with the practice. FM6 stations are programmed as radio stations, though they are still required to transmit a TV signal, sometimes merely travelogues or nature scenes, in other cases more useful information like visual traffic and weather. The TV signal is analog, “so no one is watching them,” according to one observer.

The stations can operate this way thanks to a loophole opened when the FCC created the LPTV rules, as Radio World has reported. FM6 stations operate in a number of major cities; there are approximately 30 presenting themselves as FM stations in the United States. They were nicknamed Franken FMs by broadcast engineers who were aware of the practice early and considered the signals to be, like Frankenstein’s monster, an unnatural mashup.

As controversial as the practice might appear, legal analysts say the LPTV licensees are working within FCC regulations, though critics feel the practice was not what the FCC had planned when crafting LPTV rules.

Until the 2009 digital transition, full-power TV stations could be heard on that part of the dial; but most audio signals at 87.7 FM have since disappeared.

FM6 operators want to continue to provide analog carriers in order to reach FM radios after the LPTV analog sunset date. That sunset has been extended several times, giving FM6s a longer life than expected. However, the FCC is not believed to be considering another extension.

“NO TECHNICAL BARRIER”

According to the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition, operators are continuing to work on technical solutions to provide maximum performance without causing impermissible interference.

“There is no technical barrier to allowing TV Channel 6 FM operators to continue after the July 13, 2021, LPTV analog sunset date,” said Mike Gravino, director of the Washington-based group.

“Remember, it is all about highest and best use of spectrum; and 87.7 FM is available in all markets, can be heard by most car radios and should be used as much as possible.”

The Preserve Community Programming Coalition (PCPC), a group of FM6 broadcasters, has asked the FCC to permit LPTV and TV translator stations on analog Channel 6 to supplement their future digital LPTV operations with a small analog audio carrier.

“This will allow listeners to continue receiving analog audio programming on 87.7 FM without disrupting the ATSC-compatible digital transmission using the majority of the 6 MHz channel,” said Ari Meltzer, a communications attorney with Wiley Rein LLP, representing PCPC and spearheading talks with the FCC.

A slide from a presentation to FCC officials given by FM6 broadcasters. They urged the commission to preserve the capability of LPTV stations operating on Channel 6 to continue broadcasting an aural signal that can be received on 87.7 MHz following the LPTV digital transition.

The goal of the group is not to extend the analog deadline, Meltzer said, but to allow existing Channel 6 FM broadcasters to continue delivering valuable and diverse audio programming that can be received on 87.7 FM following the digital transition.

PCPC estimates that approximately 50 LPTV and TV translator stations are authorized to broadcast an analog signal on Channel 6, more than half of which provide a separate audio stream for reception on 87.7 FM.

The group says analog Channel 6 LPTV radio stations on the air include KRPE(LP) in San Diego, WNYZ(LP) in New York City, WRME(LP) in Chicago and KZFW(LP) in Dallas.

It says that WRME in Chicago has outperformed several traditional AM and FM stations in several ratings categories; that Guadalupe Radio in southern California is an important Christian voice; that WDCN is the second largest Hispanic radio station in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area; and that KXDP is the only station in Denver that broadcasts live news, traffic and weather reports in Spanish.

Audio from an analog carrier on 87.7 FM and Channel 6 DTV can coexist on the same channel, according to the PCPC presentation to the commission. “An 87.7 MHz audio signal can coexist on the same 6 MHz channel as a digital Channel 6 LPTV station without harming TV or FM reception.”

The group’s ex parte filing stated that “a television station typically utilizes 5.38 MHz of its 6 MHz channel to broadcast a digital signal. The unused 0.62 MHz can be used to transmit a supplementary audio signal.”

 

A chart from the group indicates that by “slightly narrowing the bandwidth used for the DTV broadcast on Channel 6, it is possible to insert an FM audio carrier at 87.76 MHz without degrading the DTV signal or derogating the ability of ATSC tuners to receive it.”

Meltzer said the PCPC is not proposing a shift in analog audio from 87.75 to 87.76 MHz. The exact placement of the audio carrier is less important than the fact that this is a proven concept consistent with the FCC’s rules, which do not require full compliance with the ATSC standard for digital LPTV stations, Meltzer said.

Advocates believe that by narrowing the bandwidth used for the DTV broadcast on Channel 6, it is possible to insert an FM audio carrier at 87.76 MHz without degrading the DTV signal.

“Procedurally, the FCC already has a full record on allowing digital LPTV stations operating on Channel 6 to add an analog audio carrier. The PCPC is merely asking the commission to clarify that the analog sunset rules do not prohibit the broadcast of a supplemental analog audio carrier when existing Channel 6 FM stations transition to digital,” Meltzer said.

According to the FCC, its records indicate there are no digital LPTV Channel 6 stations operating with an analog audio carrier at 87.75 MHz.

UNCERTAINTY

 

LPTV Channel 6 advocates say the commission’s “failure to address questions raised by its 2014 NPRM raises uncertainty about the future of these stations.”

In 2014, the Media Bureau released an NPRM seeking comment on whether digital LPTV stations should be allowed to operate analog FM radio type services on an ancillary or supplementary basis. At the time National Public Radio voiced opposition to the changes.

The FM6 advocates say there is no evidence that a Channel 6 TV station, operating within lawful parameters of its license, causes harmful interference to an FM radio station.

LPTV stations do not have codified rules to protect FM facilities in the reserved band (87.9-91.9 MHz), according to legal observers. And LPFMs are required to protect LPTV (and thus FM6) stations. In addition, FM translators must protect Channel 6 stations.

Since TV Channel 6 is adjacent to the noncommercial portion of the FM band, which runs from 88.1 to 91.9 MHz, there are interference concerns for some observers.

“If the FCC legitimizes Franken FMs, the TV6 radio operators need to follow the same rules applicable to radio, and protect adjacent NCE stations from incoming interference,” said Melodie Virtue, a communications attorney with Foster Garvey.

There currently are no interservice (TV-FM) protection requirements, Virtue said.

“LPTV, as secondary, needs to protect full-power NCEs. There should be protection in favor of the NCE full-power radio stations from FM6 audio stations if those are allowed to continue to exist after the LPTV digital transition deadline.”

PROTECTED CONTOURS

Data collected by REC Networks, an LPFM advocate, appears to support FM6 broadcasters’ argument that interference between FM6s and noncommercial broadcasters is not a concern.

REC told Radio World it has evaluated the service contours of all of the FM6 stations mentioned in PCPC’s ex parte comments. “We found that most of the service contours where those FM6 stations are, there is already a protected contour of a NCE FM station on 88.1 or 88.3 MHz,” said Michi Bradley, founder of REC Networks. “If there is any actual interference from a FM6 station to full-service broadcasters, existing NCE FM stations would already know about it.”

In a related matter, the FCC this year released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (MB docket 19-193) that could affect the LPTV FM6 stations. The NPRM, based on a petition from REC Networks, proposes to improve technical rules that primarily affect LPFM stations.

In it the FCC reaffirms the sunset date for LPTV analog transmissions. But the NPRM also states: “REC concludes (in its petition) that the LPFM rules significantly over-protect TV6 stations and could be reduced with little impact … REC supports but is not proposing a complete repeal of TV protection requirements.”

The FCC further proposes “to provide LPFM stations relief from television 6 protection rules and to eliminate TV6 protections entirely on July 13, 2021, and propose to institute a waiver process in the interim, i.e., as of the effective date of any new rule adopted in this proceeding and before July 13, 2021.”

Industry voices, like NAB, have long been guarded in comments about FM6 stations. NAB declined comment for this story.

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

The post Is There an Afterlife for “Franken FMs?” appeared first on Radio World.

VuHaus Migrates to NPR Music Platform

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 11:37

The music platform VuHaus has migrated to NPR Music to give its station clients and the artists it supports a much bigger distribution point.

The nonprofit platform was officially launched in 2015 by Public Media Co. (with a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) to create a coalition of public radio member stations from across the country to showcase professionally shot in-studio live sessions that highlighted local artists, introduced new music, and promoted up and coming artists.

[Read: VuHaus: All About Music Discovery]

According to an announcement by Paragon Media Strategies, a consulting firm that continues to work with NPR News and others, the video performances, interviews and live streams from VuHaus stations will continue as Live Sessions at NPR Music.

The news comes at a time when both public radio and television revenue have grown in recent years, according to a report by market consultant Public Media Co. For the first time in 2018, the report said, radio’s higher growth rate has led to public radio revenue overtaking public TV’s revenue.

While the consumer-facing name of VuHaus will dissolve with the integration, the name will remain as part of the organization’s B2B station network and operating group. VuHaus will also continue to handle curation, manage station involvement and grow sponsorship revenue for its stations.

The move had been in the works for more than a year, according to Mike Henry, founder of Paragon, in a statement on its website.

According to a statement by Henry, when Paragon began conceiving the concept of a national video platform for public radio music stations, the goals were simple: For public radio stations to retain the expensive video production investments they had made over the years. “Their internal investments had created phenomenal original video content in support of emerging, national and local artists, but there were very few eyeballs and even fewer dollars to cover production expenses,” Henry said in a statement. “After hearing the same concerns from multiple stations, the idea was hatched to aggregate all their video content onto one consumer-facing platform.”

Three years ago when Houston Public Media became an affiliate for the music discovery video platform, the broadcaster’s comments were similar to the assessment of many — the new platform was a means of both supporting its local artists, giving them greater exposure and also introducing audiences to new emerging artists across the country. In the years since its founding, VuHaus has grown to 20 public radio and TV stations.

The VuHaus platform can be viewed at the NPR Music platform.

 

The post VuHaus Migrates to NPR Music Platform appeared first on Radio World.

Downs Hails FCC Announcement on All-Digital AM

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 11:23

The Texas broadcaster who pushed the FCC to allow voluntary all-digital transmission on the AM band in the United States is pleased that the commission plans to consider the idea.

“I think this is a uniquely positive step in AM revitalization,” said Ben Downs, reacting to news that the FCC will consider a proposal at its next meeting to take public comments and explore the implications. Downs is VP/GM of Bryan Broadcasting in Texas; he petitioned the FCC in March to initiate a proceeding to authorize the MA3 all-digital mode of HD Radio.

[Read: All-Digital on the AM Band? The FCC Might Allow It Soon]

“We’ve talked for years about the rise in the noise on the AM band and how the quality of receivers has declined. But this is the first time we’ve had a chance to directly resolve both of these issues,” Downs told Radio World in an email. “With the approval of AM all-digital, we have a technology that cleans up all the noise and hash we’ve been complaining about and sends an FM quality signal out of the speakers.”

Going all-digital would mean a station could not be heard on existing analog-only AM receivers. Downs said he recognizes that all-digital would not be the right choice for every station. “We asked for a voluntary standard because of that.”

But he said there are two circumstances where it makes a lot of sense.

One, he said, is an AM station competing with music that has an FM translator for “backup.”

“In that case, the station would be able to compete with high-quality audio while the translator covered listeners who only have analog radios.”

The other, he said, is a major-market station that wants to compete with music but hasn’t been able to break through the low-fidelity reality of AM radio receivers.

“Plus it would be nice to see title, artist and album on the AM dial just like our FM friends,” Downs said.

“There are enough HD Radios being driven around now that it makes sense for operators to think about this step. Every HD radio that’s been sold has the ability to receive AM all-digital. So do you take your chance with the 25% of cars with HD Radio or the shrinking percentage of people who listen to music on AM? It’s a market-based decision.”

Downs said he does not consider an all-digital option as the only answer to AM problems, but a piece of the solution. “And it directly impacts the problem we face on the AM band. I’m glad the FCC realized that AM radio just wants a level playing field. This coming vote allowing all-digital AM is a chance to give AM operators a tool to compete.”

Chairman Ajit Pai described the proposal in a blog post Monday: “Just as the FCC is trying to keep pace with changes in the market, so are AM radio operators, and the commission wants to give them as much flexibility as possible to compete in the digital age,” Pai wrote.

“AM radio stations are currently authorized to operate with either analog signals or hybrid signals, which combine analog and digital signals. In three weeks, we will consider a proposal to allow AM licensees to broadcast using an all-digital signal on a voluntary basis. It would seek comment on topics ranging from the predicted benefits of all-digital AM broadcasting to the interference potential of all-digital stations, as well as addressing the technical standards for all-digital AM stations. And because all-digital broadcasting would be on a voluntary basis, AM operators would be the ones deciding if transitioning is right for them.”

[Read Radio World’s recent ebook “What’s Ahead for All-Digital AM?”]

“I think this is a uniquely positive step in AM revitalization,” Downs told Radio World on Tuesday. “We’ve talked for years about the rise in the noise on the AM band and how the quality of receivers has declined. But this is the first time we’ve had a chance to directly resolve both of these issues. With the approval of AM all-digital we have a technology that cleans up all the noise and hash we’ve been complaining about and sends an FM quality signal out of the speakers.”

 

The post Downs Hails FCC Announcement on All-Digital AM appeared first on Radio World.

All-Digital on the AM Band? The FCC Might Allow It Soon

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 10:53

AM radio station operators in the United States may soon have the option of switching their transmissions to all-digital.

It’s not a done deal; but the concept is about to take a step closer to reality, because the Federal Communications Commission will consider a proposal at its next meeting that would start a process. It will take comments on whether to allow AM band licensees to make the switch if they want.

Ben Downs, VP/GM of Bryan Broadcasting in Texas, petitioned the FCC in March to initiate a proceeding to authorize the all-digital mode of HD Radio.

[Read a commentary from Ben Downs about why he asked the FCC to take this step.]

Allowing stations to use all-digital transmission is an idea that some broadcasters feel could give business-challenged AM stations in the United States new life or at least another option. Turning off their analog signals would mean that most existing receivers could no longer pick up that signal; but many AM broadcasters are currently heard on FM translator simulcasts now. And adding the all-digital AM option could open up new possibilities for them as the number of digital receivers in the marketplace continues to grow.

One station, WWFD in Frederick, Md., owned by Hubbard, is operating in all-digital AM under special temporary authority, as RW has reported.

Chairman Ajit Pai described the proposal in a blog post Monday: “Just as the FCC is trying to keep pace with changes in the market, so are AM radio operators, and the commission wants to give them as much flexibility as possible to compete in the digital age,” Pai wrote.

“AM radio stations are currently authorized to operate with either analog signals or hybrid signals, which combine analog and digital signals. In three weeks, we will consider a proposal to allow AM licensees to broadcast using an all-digital signal on a voluntary basis. It would seek comment on topics ranging from the predicted benefits of all-digital AM broadcasting to the interference potential of all-digital stations, as well as addressing the technical standards for all-digital AM stations. And because all-digital broadcasting would be on a voluntary basis, AM operators would be the ones deciding if transitioning is right for them.”

[Read Radio World’s recent ebook “What’s Ahead for All-Digital AM?”]

“I think this is a uniquely positive step in AM revitalization,” Downs told Radio World on Tuesday. “We’ve talked for years about the rise in the noise on the AM band and how the quality of receivers has declined. But this is the first time we’ve had a chance to directly resolve both of these issues. With the approval of AM all-digital we have a technology that cleans up all the noise and hash we’ve been complaining about and sends an FM quality signal out of the speakers.”

 

The post All-Digital on the AM Band? The FCC Might Allow It Soon appeared first on Radio World.

IBC2019 Best Of Show Award Digital Edition Now Available

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 07:51

If you weren’t able to attend September’s IBC Show in Amsterdam or you just weren’t able to catch up on everything that was on the show floor, you can now catch up with a detailed look at some of the best products via the IBC 2019 Best of Show Award Digital Edition.

This new digital edition offers all of the Best of Show award-winning and nominated products from TVBEurope, Radio World and ProSoundNews Europe. All of the products included were praised for their innovations and how they can help drive the industry forward.

To access the IBC 2019 Best of Show Award Digital Edition, click here.

 

The post IBC2019 Best Of Show Award Digital Edition Now Available appeared first on Radio World.

Italian Radio Industry Joins The Radioplayer Platform

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 02:00

MILAN — The Radioplayer Italia app will be available in Italy in early 2020.

Last July, many Italian radio broadcasters teamed together to foster their digital presence through any available device. They launched Player Editori Radio (PER) with the goal of giving their listeners a direct, immediate access to partnering stations’ live streaming content, as well as to podcast, extra content and native videos through a single app.

On Oct. 21, PER signed an agreement with Radioplayer, the international industry-backed radio platform, to launch Radioplayer Italia for the benefit of 44 million Italian radio listeners.

HYBRID FOLLOWING

Present members of PER include Italian public service broadcaster Rai, Radio Mediaset, Gedi, Sole 24 Ore, RTL 102.5, RDS, Radio Italia, Radio Kiss Kiss, Radiofreccia, and organizations Aeranti-Corallo and Federazione Radio Televisioni, which include most local broadcasters.

Player Editori Radio comprises public, commercial and local broadcasters in Italy.

Radioplayer is a non-profit radio aggregation model. There are shared technical standards for the browser, the radio-discovery apps and the back-end systems that power them, but broadcasters retain full control over their own branding, streaming, and commercial deals. In addition, each system is specific to the country in which it is available.

The Italian stations will also join the international Radioplayer data feed that powers the hybrid radio interfaces in many Audi, VW and Porsche cars. These smart devices can switch automatically between DAB, FM, and streaming, to keep listeners locked into their favorite radio stations.

As well as enabling “hybrid” switching between broadcast and streaming as reception varies, the new data feed can power next generation features such as personalized radio recommendations, search results and catch-up content.

“We welcome this new partnership,” said Michael Hill, managing director at Radioplayer. “Italy is a major car manufacturing center, and one of the top automotive markets in Europe. We are determined to keep radio strong in the car, and we’ll do it by working closely with broadcasters and car companies.”

PER and Radioplayer representatives celebrate the launch of Radioplayer Italia. (L to R) Massimiliano Montefusco, RDS; Mario Volo, United Music; Michele Gulinucci, Rai; Lorenzo Suraci, RTL 102.5; Laurence Harrison and Lawrence Galkoff, Radioplayer Worldwide; Paolo Salvaderi, Mediaset Radio; and Eugenio Lateana, RTL 102.5.

With the Radioplayer Italia app “we target all digital platforms,” added Michele Gulinucci, PER director. “One key fact is that each content comes directly from the broadcaster, with no additional advertising. Radio evolves by being itself.”

RELATION ENABLER

According to Eugenio Lateana, PER board member and R&D director for RTL 102.5, broadcasters have typically approached Telco companies, web giants and the automotive industry as individual players. Those large-footprint companies are used to dealing with global representative bodies, while they are less used to working with a multitude of individual players.

“The Radioplayer platform has now reached the critical mass required to sit at the same table with those global-business entities,” said Lateana. “More than a mere aggregator, Radioplayer is a relation-enabler between radio broadcasters and the automotive industry, as well as smart speaker manufacturers and other global players.”

Given the availability of the Radioplayer app on a car multimedia system, all partner stations will immediately be available in the dash, as well as podcasts and time-shifts.

Radioplayer APIs will also upload the most recent version of station logos and brands to the radio receiver. Within this workflow, Radioplayer essentially acts as a database populated by radio stations themselves, with no third-party interference. It also provides metadata directly from each station to receivers.

“No single broadcaster nor any national radio industry could realistically achieve that,” Lateana concluded.

 

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Errant Missile Alert Prevention Bill Reintroduced

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 13:46

Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-S.D.) have reintroduced the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act, which is meant to improve the emergency alert system and prevent its accidental triggering.

Among other things, the bill would allow broadcasters to repeat presidential and FEMA alerts, something they can’t do now.

The bill was introduced last year — and passed the Senate — in the wake of an inadvertent missile alert triggered in Hawaii during which some people did not receive the alert. “Even though it was a false alarm, the missile alert exposed real flaws in the way people receive emergency alerts,” said Schatz, Oct. 24, ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee.

FCC Investigating Missile False Alarm

Local officials in Hawaii inadvertently issued an incoming nuclear missile alert, leading to some panic and an FCC investigation into the incident.

“South Dakotans understand how drastically the weather can change on a dime,” said Thune, chairman of the subcommittee. “For that reason, among many others, this legislation would make necessary improvements to help keep South Dakotans and communities around the country safe in times of emergency.”

The bill would:

  1. “Ensure more people receive emergency alerts by eliminating the option to opt out of receiving certain federal alerts, including missile alerts, on mobile phones;”
  2. “Require active alerts issued by the president or FEMA to be repeated. Currently, alerts on TV or radio may only be played once;”
  3. “Explore establishing a system to offer emergency alerts to audio and video online streaming services, such as Netflix and Spotify;”
  4. “Encourage State Emergency Communications Committees to periodically review and update their state Emergency Alert System plans, which are often out of date;”
  5. “Compel FEMA to create best practices for state, tribal and local governments to use for issuing alerts, avoiding false alerts, and retracting false alerts if they occur, as well as for alert origination training and plans for officials to contact each other and federal officials during emergencies;” and
  6. “Establish a reporting system for false alerts so the FCC can track when they occur and examine their causes.”

A House version has also been introduced by Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Pete Olson (R-Texas) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.).

“We applaud the leadership of Sens. Schatz and Thune and Reps. McNerney, Bilirakis, Gabbard and Olson for introduction of the READI Act of 2019 which develops guidance and best practices for how state and local governments can improve emergency alerts, particularly to address the issuance of false alerts,” said NCTA — The Internet & Television Association. “As participants in the nation’s emergency alert system, cable operators appreciate Congress’ efforts to improve coordination between federal and local authorities to ensure consumers receive accurate and relevant emergency and public safety information in their local communities.”

 

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What Does “Value Engineering” Mean to You?

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 11:56

Value engineering. What does that mean? As broadcast engineers, we typically don’t build devices, but we do build systems, often made up of equipment from multiple, disparate manufacturers. We start off by determining the goal of the project — just what is the system supposed to accomplish? We then begin drilling down to key elements of the system, their roles and how they interact with other parts of said system.

But always in the background, we’re forced to work within a framework of cost. It’s great to say, “If money were no object, this is what I would do …” but I have yet to work on a project for a radio station in which money was not an object. I’m quite sure the same goes for you. We all have budgets that need to be satisfied.

When we purchase a piece of gear, there are several aspects of it that we must consider:

• Role in the system
• Functionality
• How well it integrates with other parts of the system
• Upfront cost
• Operating cost

And let’s face it, a big part of the purchasing decision is whether we like a brand or not, and that comes mainly from prior experience. Trying a new brand, or a new technology, is often something people don’t want to do because they have no experience with it and can’t form any idea of how it will affect them negatively. “Tried and true” is something most of us want to stick with.

Value engineering comes into play when what you want to accomplish doesn’t fit within budgetary requirements. It’s as simple as that.

Say, for example, you’re moving an entire radio station cluster to a brand-new facility, and when you look at the overall cost for the entire project, you find that it’s short on budget by, say, 10%. (That’s also of concern because you’ve no contingency money at the end.)

Another cause for value engineering would be when you want to get a certain item, but it doesn’t fit within your budget parameters, so you are left figuring out what else can be removed, or otherwise made less expensive, so that your desired “thing” then does fit.

HOW TO FIND THAT 10 (OR MORE) PERCENT

It should be obvious that the easiest way to find savings is by studying the largest budget line items first, since they’ll have the most impact mathematically. In a studio move, for example, that will likely be consoles, followed by furniture. In a transmitter site build, that will likely be the transmitter itself.

If you’ve found out that you are over budget after completing your initial design, likely there will be some anger and frustration to get over. You could be saying to yourself, “We just can’t do it for that much!” and it’s probably true. (Although it’s putting the cart before the horse, many times budgets get set before the system design is complete. It happens that way all the time.)

The order in which I would look for savings, from the least worst to the worst, is this:

• Can I reduce some of the studios to a less complex (and less expensive) console model?
• Can I reduce the size of the routing system? Do I really need that many inputs and outputs?
• Can I defer the building of several of the studios until a different budget period comes along?
• Can I re-use one or more of the “old” studios at the new place until a different budget period comes along?

No one wants to take this approach, but it’s one of the many aspects of managing a large capital project that you must be able to do in order to succeed. Hopefully, you’ll have your project fully budgeted before the station owners say, “Just how much is this going to cost?” so that you don’t find yourself in this position. Be forewarned, though: Just because you have all the numbers added up doesn’t mean that the station owners will agree to that amount.

There’s much more on the topic of value engineering, which we’ll discuss in future editions of Best Practices. And as always, we welcome your contribution on the topic.

Doug Irwin, CPBE AMD DRB, is vice president of engineering at iHeartMedia in Los Angeles and a technical advisor to Radio World.

Comment on this or any story. Email rweetech@gmail.com with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject field.

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NXP and DRM Hold First India Infotainment Forum

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 08:14

NXP Semiconductors in collaboration with the Digital Radio Mondiale consortium hosted the first annual NXP Cockpit & Infotainment Forum in New Delhi on Oct. 22.

Pictured from left to right are Ron Schiffelers, NXP; Ashok Chandak, NXP; Ruxandra Obreja, DRM; Alexander Zink, Fraunhofer IIS; SK Singhal, advisor TRAI; and Yogendra Pal, DRM India Platform.

The newly created one-day event featured presentations and demonstrations of the latest trends and solutions surrounding infotainment — from radio and audio to processing and connectivity. It also provided attendees with insight into the development of DRM and the inclusion of DRM receivers in many of the new models on the roads in India.

[Read: Air Highlights DRM Ahead of Cricket Matches]

DRM says participants also received updates on the All India Radio rollout as well as information on how NXP’s latest generation of software defined radio can facilitate DRM digital radio for infotainment system architectures.

The broadcasting and manufacturing industry as well as representatives from government bodies like the Indian regulator TRAI participated in the forum, sharing their information and experience. They, in turn, received information on the latest developments in the infotainment sector.

“The NXP-DRM car event in New Delhi was a great moment where our message was that DRM, whether in AM or FM, is just one standard with the same features and benefits,” said DRM Chairman Ruxandra Obreja. The demonstrqtions of DRM for FM showed how DRM can also enhance the performance of the many cars that an increasing number of Indians will own.”

 

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70-Year-Old Antenna Site Rules Up For Debate By FCC

Sat, 10/26/2019 - 13:09

Times have changed since 1945, and the FCC wants to make sure that it is keeping up with those changes, seeking to update many of its media rules that may no longer be relevant. The latest such attempt comes with rules dealing with who has access to antenna sites.

The commission announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Oct. 25, seeking comment on whether current rules originally crafted in 1945 should be eliminated or revised. Specifically, the rules prohibit the grant, or renewal, of a license for a TV or FM station if the applicant or licensee controls an antenna site that is suitable for broadcasting in the area and does not make the site available for use by other similar licensees.

The FCC says that since the rules were introduced, there has been an increase in antenna sites suitable for broadcasting, a majority of which it says are owned by non-broadcast entities. Calling them “rarely invoked,” the FCC seeks comment on whether the rules are necessary in today’s environment to promote competition and a variety of broadcast sources.

All five commissioners approved of the NPRM.

“These rules date back to 1945,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “At the time, there was a freeze on broadcast station construction in order to conserve equipment and material needed for World War II. The commission was also concerned about developing the still-nascent FM radio and TV services at a time when broadcasters were still the predominant antenna site owners. But that was a long, long time ago; today there are abundant FM and TV stations, the tower site market is flourishing and commission staff has been unable to find a single instance where these rules were successfully invoked. What they have found are parties citing these rules without a factual basis for doing so, resulting in unnecessary delay of commission proceedings.”

“We must keep up the effort to free traditional, regulated industries from regulatory burdens where appropriate; otherwise, they will continue to fight with one, or both, of their proverbial hands tied behind their backs,” wrote commissioner Michael O’Rielly in his statement.

No deadline for comments has been given at this time.

 

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New Bill Would Force C-Band Auction

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 18:08

A bipartisan quartet of House members want to force the FCC to auction C-Band spectrum rather than repurpose it via free-market deals between satellite operators and wireless carriers, as those operators prefer.

The FCC wants to free up as much of that midband (3.7–4.2 GHz) spectrum for 5G as possible, likely at least 300 MHz. Satellite carriers (most as part of the C-Band Alliance) want to be able to strike deals to free up the spectrum. But many in Congress have argued that the money for the public spectrum — to which satellite operators have licenses — should instead go to the Treasury to help fund rural broadband buildouts among other things.

[Read: C-Band Hearing Scheduled for the House]

That definitely includes the four House members who introduced the Clearing Broad Airwaves for New Deployment (C-BAND) Act Thursday (Oct. 24). They are Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), subcommittee vice-chair, and Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), and Greg Gianforte (R-Minn.).

“I am pleased to introduce the bipartisan C-Band Act, which would require the FCC to promptly conduct a public auction to provide more much-needed midband spectrum,” said Doyle. “This bill would ensure a transparent and fair process that would generate billions of dollars in revenue to address the urgent needs of millions of Americans such as building out broadband internet service in rural America while protecting users of incumbent services.”

The FCC would have a September 2022 deadline for auctioning the spectrum.

The act:

  • “Requires the FCC to hold a public auction of C-Band spectrum;”
  • “Allow for no less than 200 megahertz and no more than 300 megahertz of C-band spectrum [with 20 MHz set aside for guard bands];”
  • “Ensures that incumbent C-Band users will be protected” by mandating that they get as good or better service than before. Cable operators, who are also eyeing the C-Band spectrum for 5G, have signaled they could support freeing up as much of that spectrum for 5G as is practicable, perhaps even all of it, replacing the satellite feed with fiber. Broadcasters are concerned that fiber would put their must-have programming at the mercy of an errant backhoe that failed to miss the utility, as it were.

The C-Band Alliance initially propose private sales of 200 MHz, but is likely willing to boost that to 300 MHz if they can be private sales rather than an auction.

Incumbent users include broadcasters and cable operators, who receive their programming network feeds via the satellite spectrum.

The bill will definitely be a topic of conversation at the subcommittee’s C-Band hearing next week.

“ACA Connects salutes the House subcommittee for its introduction of this bipartisan bill,” said ACA Connects President Matt Polka. “The bill appropriately recognizes that any repurposing of C-Band spectrum for 5G must ensure the same or better service for existing users of the band, including the cable operators that rely on the band to deliver video programming to millions of households across the nation. If cable operators encounter any reduction in reliability, capability or quality of that service, or any increase in costs, it is competition and consumers that will ultimately suffer, especially in rural America. To head off these concerns, it is important that any C-Band transition fully compensate cable operators for any costs they incur in opening up the band for 5G, and that receiving programming via fiber instead of satellite is an option. We applaud the subcommittee for its leadership and look forward continuing to work together on this critical public policy issue.”

 

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Community Broadcaster: Facebook Needs Community Radio

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 17:19

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

By the time you read this, Facebook will have relaunched its News tab. The Oct. 25 rollout is the social media giant’s return to aggregating journalism. It comes at one of media’s more curious moments, in a period of curiosities aplenty.

Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress this week, as the House Financial Services Committee inquired about the company’s plans to get into the cryptocurrency business. Facebook had bowed out of news curation after being pelted with accusations of propping up misinformation in its old news feeds during the 2016 elections. Facebook promised to refocus on personal streams. Many media outlets’ fortunes plummeted in the process.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: A Cautionary Tale]

The reentry into news rekindles what has to be a love-hate relationship between journalism and Facebook. No one doubts Facebook’s power to generate audiences or conversation in news. But the power lies in Facebook’s hands and news organizations have minimal influence in what the company’s priorities may be. After Facebook changed its tools to deemphasize news stories, media organizations that had come to depend on Facebook traffic saw stock plunges and layoffs.

Will it be different this time around? Hard to know. Facebook’s newfound interest in local news is encouraging. Given the local lens, for all the criticism of Facebook receives, rightly or wrongly, the News tab could represent a benefit and opportunity to local journalism hubs like community radio.

Facebook would be wise to tap into the vast network of community radio stations providing coverage to their towns, and giving a local perspective to national stories all of us have our eyes on. Whether it’s the excellent coverage by Marfa Public Radio of the El Paso mass shooting or immigration issues, WRFI’s coverage of housing in New York state, or KZMU’s coverage of the complex environmental issues in Utah, there is no shortage of essential stories being told. They’re stories told not from the viewpoint of a parachuting journalist from the coasts, but reporters that live and work in these communities. It is authenticity that is rare in journalism. It is refreshing. And local news from community radio is needed now more than ever, by Facebook and the nation.

Beyond making community news more prominent in feeds, Facebook could build trust by investing financially in community radio journalism and by giving training and access to the slate of new features. Not every community radio station may be able to take advantage of such support, but for those willing and able, a powerful ally can only lift up local voices. Facebook has a unique power in can wield for the betterment of community media.

While details for independent publishers remain sketchy, a process for publishers to submit feeds and stories is expected. One can hope Facebook may have learned from the firestorm during its last foray into news. It launched an initiative to improve news delivered on its platform, and one can hope community radio stations are active in getting themselves listed. Facebook should also take this journalism seriously. I love the Washington Post, Fox News and the like as much as anyone, but Americans deserve the richness community media offers.

 

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Phasing Quadrature Amplification

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 14:18

Two things have been overlooked with phasing amplitude modulation. One is the importance of pulse modulation; the other is that logic gates can be used for analog signal processing. Both of these things were new areas to explore, along with how far was it possible go with these ideas.

There are three types of pulse modulation that can be used to build other waveforms with. There are pulse width modulation (PWM), pulse phase modulation (PPM) and pulse location modulation (PLM). Whereas PPM can be used to generate the other two forms, PWM only has amplitude information and PLM only has phase information. So to be able to move from one form to the other depends on what is required: amplitude, frequency modulation or both.

By using PPM, we can do both phase and amplitude modulation, as demonstrated with this new phasing modulator amplifier design. This technique is able to work with both radio frequencies (RF) and with light at optical wavelengths.

Over the last three years during which I have been working on this phase modulation technique, it has been a test case to prove and evaluate the findings. Once this is done, the process is repeated again and again, making small improvements with each iteration.

Throughout this research process, it was not possible to go on the internet and see how this technology should work. By being first, there is no limitation on what can and cannot be done. The downside is that it takes a large amount of time to make small amounts of progress.

I also had ongoing support from Stephen Nitikman at our local college electronic labs, working through many different ideas throughout this process.

Once everything was working in class D, this amplifier was pushed into class E and I replaced the low-pass filter with a bandpass filter. The negative was poor modulation of 65.536 kHz; it was too low to be received on an AM broadcast radio.

The next step was to increase the frequency again to go above 150 kHz, to fall within the longwave band. I found that PWM was a limiting factor to modulating the carrier, so it was time to move away from using PWM and to try again with PPM. This is how the two unknown classes of switching amplification were found. At this stage, I needed to do more research into other forms of switching amplification and could not find any match to what I was working with.

After these experiments, I added in a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) into the circuit and used its PPM waveforms as a starting point. It was then possible to modify these pulses with logic gates to build a phasing modulator.

Looking at what was done with the Tayloe mixer and taking a new approach is where the Taylor modulator came from. It is far more than a simple switching RF mixer. The Taylor modulator takes the analog building blocks and converts their analog stages into logic equivalents.

This is an interesting area of discovery that falls between both analog and digital technologies, letting us take the best parts of both to work with. Once I worked out the required logic blocks and how they would go together to build the analog digital modulator (ADM), I soon found it was possible to use it with in-phase and quadrature (I & Q) inputs.

REQUIREMENTS

There is, in my view, a need for a transmitter that has lower total harmonic distortion (THD) and higher amplifier efficiency than any broadcast transmitter that is in production. What is the best way of going about designing such a device?

With AM, there are a number of stages that present problems in reaching these aims. The way to move forward is to look at other ways to generate the desired type of modulation to eliminate many of these shortcomings.

The power amplifier would need to operate in a switching configuration for the highest level of conversion efficiency from the DC input to the RF output stage. The only way this could be done would be by using some form of phasing modulator in combination with a switching amplification process.

Let’s take a look at a couple of current I and Q mixer designs.

Phasing Modulator Version 1

Fig. 1: Basic phase modulator

The most common type of phasing modulator is made up of two balanced mixers offset by a 90° phase shift network. The oscillator is fed into this phase-shift network and each of the two inputs are driven via low pass filters. The two outputs are then combined and fed through a bandpass filter, leaving only the desired frequency. See Fig. 1.

Tayloe Mixer Version 2

Fig 2: Tayloe mixer.

The other common type of phasing modulator is the Tayloe mixer, whereby the phase offset is done in logic by a divide-by-four, generating in this case four phase angles: 0°, 90°, 180° and 270°. The mixing is done with an analog switch, rebuilding the desired output frequency and as with the other type, this is then run through a bandpass filter. See Fig. 2.

BACKGROUND

The phasing modulator has been around since the 1940s. In its early form, it was used to generate SSB as a more efficient transmission format over AM that was widely used at that time. This is when we started working with In-phase and Quadrature inputs, to represent each part of the waveform as Phase and Amplitude.

While AM radio broadcasts have been around for more than 100 years now, the basic idea remains the same, with many improvements made over time. AM radio sound quality has also changed over time. The biggest impact came about with the invention of the super heterodyne receiver and its limited bandwidth, which is a design feature to increase selectivity and reduce adjacent-channel interference, and has therefore limited the audio frequency response to below 7 kHz. This is only one of the factors that have an impact. The others are the overprocessing of modulating audio and poor linearity of modulators and RF amplifiers stages.

Up until now, we have been generating various waveforms and measuring the effects of the pulse widths to work out the minimum required bandwidth. The process described herein works the opposite way and uses pulses to generate various waveforms. This technique is able to work both ways.

This type of quadrature amplification was invented in 2017. After experimenting with an optical road safety system called the Electronic Eye Project, it was soon discovered that the same process could be modified to work at radio frequencies. This form of switching amplification is made up of two parts, one being a phasing modulator using In-phase and Quadrature inputs, the other a switching output stage that acts as the amplifier. For this process to work, it must have a minimum of four pulses: two for the In-phase components positive- and negative-going, and the same for both Quadrature components.

Classes of Amplification

From the beginning of electronic amplification devices, there was a requirement to understand how the amplification process has been done. The way this was worked out in the analog classes was by using angles to specify the on time in degrees. So you had Class A that conducts for all 360° of the cycle, Class B that conducts for 180° x 2 of a cycle, and Class C that conducts for just a few degrees of the cycle and uses an L-C tuned circuit combination to restore the full cycle. With switching amplification, classification is based on the type of switching and the way the output filtering is being done.

Types of Pulse Modulation

Fig 3: Basic pulse waveforms.

PWM has the same information on both sides of the pulse but is mirrored or 180° out of phase, and the phase information is canceled out, leaving just amplitude information. By converting PWM to PPM by removing one side, we keep all the encoded information as well as the all-important phase information. This is, in a way, like what you would get with amplitude modulation with the sidebands on each side of the carrier when all that is needed is just one of the side bands to convey the information.

PWM Amplification

Class D and I are switching amplifiers. Class D uses PWM. This process chops the sine wave into wide or narrow pulses. The widest point of the pulse is at the peak of the sine wave and the opposite at the minimum point. With Class I, there are two in-phase PWM carriers that are connected to a common clock, using a differential process where one input is offset to the other by 180°. This means the audio input needs to be phase-shifted by 0° and 180° to drive each PWM input.

Both classes of amplification, therefore, are linear. What goes in comes out with very good efficiency. These are known as switching classes, and all require filtering after their output stages to remove unwanted harmonics. In class D and I, a low-pass filter is used.

The efficiency of these classes comes from the output device being turned hard on and off, minimizing power being dissipated within the switching device.

Quadrature Amplification

Quadrature amplification starts out with two signals that have the same frequency and are offset by 90°, which is expanded out to four phase angles that have an offset of 90° (0°, 90°, 180° and  270°). Unlike Class D, quadrature amplification works at minimum of four times the highest frequency, where Class D works at a minimum of two times the highest frequency.

Another difference between the other switching classes is that quadrature amplification uses PPM and not PWM. The latter has no phase information and is therefore used to vary only the amplitude. However, if you remove one side, you end up with both the phase and amplitude components. In quadrature amplification, the amplitude part is not used.

Phase information is processed within logic gates and by adding I and Q pulses together, and with that, it is possible to rebuild any type of analog waveform. This is where Nyquist is very misleading, stating you only need two pulses to regenerate a sine wave. This is not true for phase integrity, where you need a minimum of four. This is the key difference between quadrature amplification and what happens in Class D and many other switching classes.

Class P and Q

Fig. 4: Class Q on the left with class P on the right, where the sine and cosine swap based on what sideband information is required. Both of these classes are based on pulse phase modulation.

Class P and Q are unique due to the way that they are based on phasing principles, so you will have sine and cosine parts to the step waveform. These amplifiers employ four pulses as parts of the generated analog waveform: two positive-going and two negative-going. This approach is used in these new forms of amplification, moving on from the limitations of class D and the two-times-clock technique.

There are two forms of quadrature amplification, which I will call Class P and Class Q. In Class P (pulse), you have four PPM pulses that are offset by 90° from each other. In Class Q (quadrature), each side of the pulse has the in-phase and quadrature information.

Fig. 5: Prototype testing with an oscilloscope.

In Class P, each pulse must have less than 25% on time, and you have a gating window that the pulse must fall within. The PPM, therefore, is between 0% and a maximum of 25%. It must be triggered to start at 0°, 90°, 180° and 270°. With PLM, the pulse just needs to be within the gating window. The output waveform, therefore, has 0° and 90° positive-going, and 180° and 270° are negative-going pulses. Possible uses for Class P would be in applications where you need an extra level of processing between input and output stages, whereas Class Q has the higher efficiency of the two.

With Class Q, the maximum on time is 50%, where you will end up moving into Class E (square wave). Therefore, when amplifying a modulated signal, you always will be less than the maximum of 50% on the positive- and negative-going cycles to provide room for modulation. Where there is a sharp cutoff between the linear and nonlinear zones, this starts to have an impact above 25% pulse average until you reach 30%, where it mostly becomes nonlinear. Another way to look at Class Q is that it provides the linearity of class A with the efficiency of Class E, making it ideal for many forms of analog and digital modulation systems.

With quadrature amplification, it can also be used for audio applications, but there is no real advantage over existing classes like D and I, so my focus has been on RF applications where I and Q inputs are used.

The phasing technique used is the same for both classes. The only difference is in pulse processing stage of the modulator. In Class P, you have four time slots for each of the angles, where one side of each pulse is modulated (PPM). The location within that time slot can also vary, using pulse position modulation. In Class Q, each side is modulated. The positive side has two parts of the information and the negative side has the other two. With Class Q, the 0° and 90° phases are set in the pulse processing stage, but are not so important in the pulse converter stage.

As with Class D and all the other switching classes, output filtering becomes very important to rebuild the analog waveform. Both Class P and Q use low-pass, bandpass or a combination of both.

The table shows amplifier grouping types.

Table 1: Amplifier Grouping Types

A Class Q AM Broadcast Transmitter

By using one dual device and doubling the frequency, in logic I then did a divide by two, bringing the operating frequency back down to 660 kHz from 1.32 MHz. With this version, it modulated both digital and analog waveforms with very good linearity. For analog testing, I used AM Stereo (C-QUAM), and for digital, Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) was used at 64QAM.

Fig. 6: ADM design version 4, modulating QPSK. Fig. 7: ADM design version 4, modulating 16QAM.

The current prototype has elements of all the other versions as well as new ideas for the first fully-working AM transmitter. Whereby in this configuration you are able to operate up to the maximum frequency of 10 MHz, this is well within the range of the AM broadcast band from 540 to 1700 kHz. All the testing was done over three frequencies, 660, 1110 and 1500 kHz, where there were gaps found between local radio stations. For the output power, I was getting a maximum of 200 watts at 100% modulation, using an LDMOS switching device.

Operating in I and Q Mode

Operating in I and Q mode with DRM using an offset of 12 kHz, there is no issue generating any waveform type, regardless of the type of information been sent analog or digital. A waveform as complex as COFDM can easily be modulated. The only limitation is the linearity of the phase modulators used. This is why the THD is so important.

Fig. 8: ADM design version 5, modulating QPSK. Fig. 9: ADM design version 5, modulating 16QAM.

Unlike other types of analog RF amplifiers, this configuration uses very nonlinear amplification, just two states: on and off. So phase noise and phase distortion effects need to be minimized wherever possible. This is why so much negative feedback was used in various parts of this circuit.

Fig. 10: Two-tone test.

From Fig. 10, you can see the version using two phase modulators with better switching output devices made an improvement over Version 4 using the four-phase modulator design. This was due the switching power MOSFETs that had a higher amount of phase distortion.

In version 5, a newer design was used for the negative feedback path, using two PWM signals through a low-pass filter driving back into each of the inputs of the phase modulators. With quadrature amplification, it is an ultralinear process, where most of the distortion takes place in the phase modulator stages (converting the analog inputs to PPM or PWM). With ongoing improvements, I am sure it is possible to bring this level of distortion down, closer to 0.5% at 100% modulation.

NEXT VERSION

Fig. 11: Two-tone test at 750 Hz and 1 kHz.

I now have my first working product based on the experimental work done with all the previous versions. The next version is a 100-watt model that operates in Class Q with a small number of improvements, such as using a new type of phase modulator design, providing a wider frequency range from LF all the way up to HF. It also has an in-built audio compander stage just before the preemphasis to provide improved signal-to-noise performance on the receive side. The plan is to go with this design for on-air testing here in Toronto this year.

Fig. 12: 99% modulation at 1 kHz.

The 1 kW model uses the NXP MRFX1K80H device. For higher efficiency, I am working with a switching DC power supply rail to operate in class G and Q using a combination of techniques from the older versions with flexibility from a common hardware layout. Quadrature amplification is a fully scalable process, making for much higher power levels above 1 kW possible with minimal design changes.

This transmitter design is lost on your average AM receiver. I am using a Denon TU-680NAB receiver connected to a Pioneer EX-9000 expander, and this is providing good off-air performance with this setup. With renewed interest in AM stereo, I hope manufacturers will soon get the message and start making receivers again — it is not that hard to do in a single DSP chip these days.

Grant Taylor started experimenting with a simple FM transmitter in high school. He spent the next few years experimenting with home-made television equipment within amateur radio. From there, he worked repairing and installing outside broadcast links in New Zealand, which led to working on local radio and television infrastructure projects. He experiments with new technologies that have applications in broadcasting.

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WorldCast Supplies Audio Transmission for Purbeck Coast FM

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 07:08

Purbeck Coast FM, which just began broadcasting earlier in 2019 in Dorset, United Kingdom, is going with WorldCast Systems as the supplier for its audio transmission system. WorldCast Systems’ U.K. distributor Baudion managed the project.

Needing a system to link its studios with the transmitter site 4 km away, Purbeck went with WorldCast’s studio-to-transmitter-link codecs, an Ecreso FM 300 W transmitter and an ATP IP Silver encoder that was installed at the studio, while an ATP IP Silver decoder was put at the transmitter site. The connectivity uses two IP paths, one through a microwave radio link and a second via internet VPN.

Purbeck shares its transmission site with other FM stations, so in order to comply with U.K. regulator Ofcom’s requirements, WorldCast Systems is supplying an additional custom, tuned filter to remove unwanted intermodulation products.

The station is using the Ecerso transmitter’s backup audio players as a program source, which allows the STL codec configuration to be monitored and optimized prior to the commencement of broadcasting from the studios.

 

The post WorldCast Supplies Audio Transmission for Purbeck Coast FM appeared first on Radio World.

Make the Most of Your Uncompressed Opportunities

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 14:47

The authors are the founders, respectively, of StreamGuys and Barix AG.

Reliable urban performance is particularly important for competing with satellite, which often has dropouts even in cities with terrestrial repeaters.

As with most things in the broadcast universe, the transition from legacy to IP workflows has been gradual. In radio, this is perhaps best represented in the STL category.

For one thing, IP networks were uncharted, unproven territory for audio transport. The less reliable nature of IP as a transport medium versus tried-and-true T1/E1 lines was an immediate concern for broadcasters. From dropped packets to network outages, time spent off the air is money and listeners lost.

But there were other concerns as well. Working with IP meant learning an entirely new operation; configuration processes often required IT specialists to open firewalls and establish IP addresses on send (encode) and receive (decode) devices — a starting point that caused major frustration and confusion for many. This would grow even more complex for broadcasters seeking to adopt IP for point-to-multipoint architectures such as program syndication.

Once operational with live, local area connections, these send and receive devices, along with other boxes in the architecture that began to speak digital, required a great deal of local management and monitoring to ensure consistent reliability. That required being on-premise to manage all of these systems on the network.

Architecture of an uncompressed reflector and remote encoder system.

Security was also a concern — a concern that remains, but continues to grow stronger thanks to more secure solutions, and a better understanding of how broadcasters should protect their networks.

Early innovations like the Barix Reflector Service aimed to change these dynamics by providing a plug-and-play solution that simplified configuration, enhanced security and established a future foundation for cloud management. As these challenges have been addressed more strongly and broadcasters transition to IP more aggressively, the next logical question was how to optimize audio quality and support new media services over the network.

Radio has often been an industry of compromise; and with IP transport that compromise has been to the detriment of great-sounding audio. For radio studios and content owners in the adjacent audio production landscape, the focus is on creating high-quality, impactful audio. On the internet, the industry begrudgingly has accepted compressed formats — albeit for good reasons.

MP3 compression was widely accepted when the internet was slow; and in terms of compressed formats, it remains the most reliable when it comes to managing program-associated metadata. Nowadays, connections of 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps and even 5 Gbps are supporting 4K video to consumers, along with more efficient metadata management. It is now possible to send uncompressed streams over once-unthinkable 4G connections, for example, where T1 or better was traditionally necessary.

The question remains: With upload bandwidth no longer a concern, why compromise a radio station’s audio quality with compression?

Compressed formats still have a role in content networking and distribution, but when packaged for last-mile delivery to the consumer, the concept of “no compromise” in the signal chain is enormously important. This, along with a desire to support new media services and business models, makes an increasingly stronger case for broadcasters to move to an uncompressed IP transport service.

MOVING TOWARD GREATNESS

Similar to how broadcasters grew comfortable with IP, operating within the cloud is no longer a technical uncertainty. The transition has been similarly gradual, but the evidence exists that moving to the cloud is both operationally sound, while also simplifying systems management. This also reduces exposure to security risks, as the devices within the architecture are phoning home to the CDN or service providers, versus living inside the broadcaster’s network.

For example, there is no longer a need to run encoders on-premise for an uncompressed service. In most cases, the in-studio overhead is reduced to a stable desktop solution — typically well under $1,000.

Today’s premium encoders no longer need to sit inside the studio environment, and instead will reliably take in an input signal and its associated metadata in the cloud. In addition to reducing equipment costs and maintenance, operationally this cloud-based architecture unlocks the potential to mix-and-match digital signage processors, as well as codecs. The latter provides the flexibility to repackage program audio in HLS or segmented formats required for the radio affiliate, tower and or/consumer.

The metadata component unlocks a lot of this potential and flexibility at the final production stage. In addition to simplifying encoding into several formats, the presence of metadata provides more information to the listener to visualize and enhance the user experience. That same information also simplifies royalty reporting for the artists.

Enabling the service comes down to a stable, dedicated connection on the WAN interface — the same configuration that an ISP would embrace — that can support a bandwidth payload of 1.4 Mb per second. A 1.4 Mbps payload will support uncompressed PCM audio at 44.1 kHz, which delivers a human resolution up to 20 kHz — the standard for compact disc audio. This is representative of the Nyquist frequency, delivering a high-fidelity signal at approximately half of the sampling rate.

PCM audio, which represents the starting point of the uncompressed audio, remains a more reliable format for external IP distribution landscape. While AES67 inside the studio has come to fruition, PCM is still better equipped to tolerate the latencies and network condition variables of long-haul IP transport; our tests and real-world deployments prove latency at sub-1 second, with very minimal packet loss.

With more data moving across the network in an uncompressed format, packet loss or slight bandwidth interruptions will have minimal impact on the resulting audio quality.

There will come a time where 192 kHz resolution will be more reliable to manage over long distances, but PCM will provide the high fidelity of an uncompressed audio service with optimal reliability on today’s networks.

SOLVING PROBLEMS

While understanding the path to uncompressed transport is necessary, what matters most to broadcasters is solving problems and supporting new services. Let’s outline some of these scenarios, the value that an uncompressed transport platform delivers.

Quality Sourcing

Operating within a cloud workflow requires that the broadcaster send the program audio data into the cloud. While this can be achieved with a compressed stream, that signal will require further compression from downstream transcoding or transrating, among other processes. The more the audio is encoded and compressed, the greater likelihood of stream latency, undesirable audio artifacts and other issues with quality of experience.

With uncompressed source audio, a single encoding stage will support a varied bouquet of codecs and bitrates required for many consumer formats. And, with one device accommodating all encoding, the outputs are more tightly aligned from a latency perspective. This remains true when outputting different protocols, such as RTMP and HLS, at the encoding stage.

Therefore, working with uncompressed source audio — in addition to enhancing sound quality for audiences — will deliver a wide array of tightly aligned outputs encoded once from the master quality source.

Encoder Upgrades

As referenced earlier, moving encoders to the cloud introduces several new operational efficiencies, both in terms of upgrade and network growth.

On-premise encoders are offered in two flavors: a hardware device with fixed, limited CPU and RAM resources, and a software solution that typically runs on a PC or Mac. Both offer limitations that are amplified when working within an uncompressed environment.

The built-in capabilities of a hardware encoder are typically finite, and upgrades are often limited by what the vendor makes available. Any significant changes, such as adding a new codec or an increase in CPU processing, will likely require replacement of the encoder, with a potentially lengthy configuration process to bring the new system online.

While a software encoder is typically easier to replace, the supporting computer infrastructure hosting the software may require an upgrade. Over the long term, the management of that software, computer hardware and operating system will escalate costs and labor — and potentially put more stress on an already overburdened IT department.

Cloud encoders offer a simpler upgrade path. Most can be sized on the fly to amplify computing resources without wasting unnecessary resources and power, while also eliminating the need to replace the OS or software. An increase in available CPU, RAM and/or disk resources can be executed through a simple reboot process.

Scaling the infrastructure is also much easier in the cloud environment, with greater flexibility to increase the number of encoders efficiently without burdensome integration costs and labor.

Systems Management

The audio contribution and distribution pool continues to broaden, and broadcasters are finding themselves more limited by the locations of their on-premise encoders. For example, a remote contribution application may be limited by the resources and gear of the corresponding studio. Perhaps the content has been supplied to an affiliate that has no control of the master studio.

More specifically, an on-premises encoder increases the challenge of encoding at the right point in the signal chain. If the on-premise encoder is not at the precise location where the broadcaster desires, this means that encoding at the distribution point to the end user or desired application may not be possible — potentially introducing more than one encoding stage in the workflow.

Encoding in the cloud solves this problem by offering the option to insert the encoding output at any relevant place in the signal chain. If the broadcaster wants to condition and process a signal prior to sending to an affiliate, that affiliate could use an uncompressed master signal to feed their headend. From there, the uncompressed feed can be transported without any encoding required. Instead, a decoder can be supplied that can pass through the unmodified source at very low latency.

Using a cloud encoder also enables the broadcaster to send high- and low-bitrate signals in two formats, such as HE-AAC v2 and AAC-LC — and then output them as both RTMP, HLS and Icecast audio sources. A single uncompressed signal at the studio, with a fixed bandwidth rate of 1.4 Mbps, is all that is required, which equates to much less than the combined total of sending high and low bitrates for each protocol.

The overarching benefit here is that the management burden at the studio is reduced to one output to support a wide array of audio contribution and distribution requirements.

 

OUT IN THE REAL WORLD

Philadelphia-based WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania, is one example of a major broadcaster that has embraced the benefits of uncompressed audio over IP for program syndication. The broadcaster set out to develop a more sustainable distribution model for its XPoNential Radio channel, leveraging the Reflector Service from StreamGuys and Barix.

XPoNential Radio was originally distributed to affiliates via satellite and offered only for use on HD2 or HD3 channels. WXPN wanted to widen the usage of the channel to include primary broadcast, and while it continues to use satellite for national programming, the station sought an alternative, sustainable distribution model for the smaller-scale XPoNential Radio. Despite cost-effectiveness being one of the station’s motivations, quality and reliability were also key criteria.

The WXPN architecture leverages uncompressed PCM audio, which is transported between the encoding and decoding endpoints across the CDN infrastructure, while link management is simplified through a cloud-based portal. The station has achieved lossless, CD-quality audio enabled by uncompressed delivery to affiliates as far away as Alaska. New affiliates plug in Ethernet, power and audio cables to receive XPoNential Radio programming. Affiliates connect using 1.4 to 1.5 Mbps of bandwidth, which is plenty to receive the uncompressed signal and deliver it to consumers.

Moving the service to the cloud simplifies management, with station personnel able to access the portal to confirm that all clients are connected and streaming. The portal also allows operators to start, stop and configure delivery to each affiliate. Service can also be terminated for any client directly through the management portal.

Affiliates also don’t need any “special” internet connectivity to use the service. A very modest 1.5 Mbps of bandwidth is enough to receive the uncompressed signal, and most consumer-level internet connections are sufficiently reliable and stable. Even WXPN does not require hefty bandwidth regardless of how many affiliates they serve, as the Barix Reflector service takes a single feed from the origin (a Barix codec), with StreamGuys’ delivery network scaling out the bandwidth for reaching recipients.

 

BRINGING IT TOGETHER

As we look deeper into the future, the enhanced reliability and flexibility of an uncompressed IP service will provide a strong value proposition that will be hard to deny. Uncompressed STL will simply deliver T1-like audio quality over IP unhindered by downstream processes like transcoding, while syndicators will save a great deal of money and labor in the transition from satellite to IP for contribution and distribution.

Moving encoders into the cloud will support more formats and services while reducing the systems management burden, both at the studio and elsewhere in the audio contribution and distribution chain. The opportunity to better manage metadata alongside the uncompressed program audio stream will strengthen business opportunities and the consumer experience. And, the adaptability to accommodate even high-resolution formats as network conditions evolve will surely open new doors from both a service provision and listener experience perspective.

Kiriki Delany, a musician, computer geek and multimedia specialist, founded StreamGuys in 2000. Johannes Rietschel, a communications engineer by heart, founded Barix AG in 2000 and serves as CTO.

The post Make the Most of Your Uncompressed Opportunities appeared first on Radio World.

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