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New FM Construction Permit Auction Set for April 2020

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 17:45

A new round of construction permits are about to be up for auction.

The Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission introduced Auction 106, a new FM broadcast construction permit auction scheduled to commence on April 28, 2020.

Auction 106 will offer 130 construction permits for FM broadcast allotments, including 34 permits that were either defaulted upon or not sold or in earlier FCC auctions. The commission released a list of those vacant FM allotments, which include teeny Texas hamlets like Milano, Texas, population app. 400, as well as populous urban thoroughfares like Coalinga, Calif.

The bureau plans to follow the commission’s standard auction procedures — a multiple-round auction format that offers every construction permit bid at the same time and consists of successive bidding rounds in which qualified bidders can place bids on individual permits. Bidding usually remains open until bidding stops on all permits.

The auction will be conducted over the internet using the FCC auction bidding system, although bidders will also have the option of placing bids by phone. The bureau is also proposing to stop, slow or speed up the bidding if the process is proceeding at either a sluggish or a too rapid pace.

As in earlier auctions, the bureau proposes that applicants submit upfront payments as a prerequisite to becoming qualified to bid.

But before things kick off, the bureau and the Office of Economics and Analytics is seeking comment on a variety of auction-specific procedures relating to Auction 106 — including the proposed open bidding process, how much upfront payment should be required for each CP and the proposed opening bid amounts.

The price range for construction permits in Auction 106 vary wildly. On the low end sits permits for $750, such as ones in Wamsutter, Wy., and San Isidro, Texas. Compare that to the upfront payment of $100,000 — and the subsequent minimum opening bid of $100,000 — for a CP in California’s capital city of Sacramento. Mid-level bids include Huntington, Ore., for $45,000; West Rutland, Vt., for $25,000; and Gackle, N.D., for $15,000.

The initial bidding schedule will be announced one week before bidding starts via a public notice.

Comments on Auction 106 can be made through the FCC ECFS filing system using AU Docket No 19-290. The commission is also requesting that all comments be submitted electronically via the email auction106@fcc.gov.

FM broadcasters who have questions can reach out to the Audio Division within the Media Bureau at 1-202-418-2700.

 

The post New FM Construction Permit Auction Set for April 2020 appeared first on Radio World.

Dosch to Devote Full-Time to Angry Audio

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 14:14

Mike Dosch will be leaving his role with equipment manufacturer Lawo and focusing full-time on his recently launched company Angry Audio.

Separately, his new company also will acquire the StudioHub wiring infrastructure line.

Dosch joined Lawo in 2014 with the title of director of virtual radio projects and later was named senior product manager radio. Prior, he was president of the Axia Audio division of the Telos Alliance; for 10 years before that he was with Pacific Research & Engineering, where he started as a console designer and worked his way up to VP and COO.

His company Angry Audio makes small problem-solving devices that it happily refers to as “gadgets and gizmos” targeting audio needs of the radio broadcast market. Products are sold through a number of U.S. and international dealers. Examples include the Guest Gizmo and the Bidirectional Balancing Gadget. A recently introduced Bluetooth Audio Gadget is intended to make it easier to put a smartphone on the air.

Separately, Angry Audio is acquiring the StudioHub product line, which it currently resells, from Radio Systems and developer Mike Sirkis.

“Angry Audio is buying StudioHub and will soon begin manufacturing the entire StudioHub line including cables, adapters, panels, breakout boxes and hubs, matching amplifiers, etc.,” Dosch told Radio World in an email.

[Related: “Radio Systems Turns a Business Page”]

“Additionally, we will be providing spare-parts support for products previously manufactured under the Radio Systems brand. Millennium consoles for example will soon be supported by Angry Audio. We’ve moved into a bigger space to accommodate the expanded product line and hope to have operations humming along next month.”

Dosch said his last day with Lawo will be next week.

The post Dosch to Devote Full-Time to Angry Audio appeared first on Radio World.

Deter Stinging Insects at the Transmitter Site

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 12:08

Tom Johnson and I were talking about pests.

Fig. 1: Eaves and overhangs at unmanned transmitter buildings can attract stinging insects.

We met at the Alabama Broadcasters Association and Larry Wilkins’ Engineering Day seminar; and as we talked about bugs infesting transmitter sites, Tom shared the picture in Fig. 1.

I don’t know many engineers who care for wasps, hornets or other flying, stinging insects. Tom’s photo is a great reminder to spray under eaves, and around door and window frames — any place that’s protected from the weather.

Unfortunately, with cold weather approaching, it’s not just vermin that seek shelter from the cold. An unoccupied transmitter building or AM antenna tuning unit is an ideal home for insects and rodents. Make sure it is sealed.

ATUs in particular can attract unwanted guests. If your ATU has a light fixture inside, wait til it’s dark and then  turn it on, then walk around the ATU looking for any escaping light (remember to look underneath, too; and also watch out for the “hot” tower). Any holes you spot, perhaps where bolts once held coils or other components, are “welcome signs” for insects, and usually the proper diameter for these insects to squeeze through. Plug those holes with RTV or caulk.

Remember also that before opening the ATU door, pause to watch whether stinging insects are flying around. They may have infested your enclosure already.

Check that entry panels or doors to the ATU also fit tight; again look for light leakage. Remember that field mice can squeeze through amazingly small crevices.

Tom waited till dark, then sprayed that nest and its occupants.

When I did contract work, a client was losing their satellite signal every day at dusk. I stood on a ladder and unscrewed the LNB. A swarm of angry wasps escaped the nest they built inside. How we didn’t get stung —  or break a leg, frantically jumping off the ladder — still amazes me.

As I mention in my Workbench sessions, a one-liter clear plastic water bottle fits nicely in the throat of a satellite feed horn and will prevent infestation. As for your building, a good spritz of wasp and hornet spray applied under all the overhangs on your building is good preventive maintenance.

 

* * *

 

San Francisco contract and project engineer Bill Ruck writes, “Been there, done that.” He was referring to the electrolytic capacitor woes we described recently.

Back around 1967, Bill learned about electrolytic capacitors working at a hi-fi store. Rule of thumb in those days was (1) if they’ve “puked their guts” by exploding, replace them; (2) if not, replace them anyway.

Since then, Bill’s experience is only worse. Many times he has traced spurious outputs of an FM exciter to the power supply oscillating and modulating the carrier.

Recently, Bill had two BE FX-30 exciters with that problem. The issue was traced to the FMO module. The problem was that the FMO is potted and to dig out the potting compound to replace the capacitors would take a lot of time and was no longer cost-effective. The group owning the exciter preferred to purchase a new exciter rather than put a lot of money into reconditioning something that was over 30 years old.

Bill adds a few more nuggets to consider:

1. Although high ESR (equivalent series resistance) doesn’t cause “ringing,” it does let an unstable amplifier oscillate. Furthermore, most three-terminal regulators can be defined as an “unstable amplifier” and will oscillate. Bill learned in his own home-built power supplies to put a 1 uF tantalum bead capacitor and a 0.1 uF ceramic disc capacitor as close to the regulator IC input pins as possible.

2. Always put in 105 degree C electrolytic capacitors. They’re slightly larger and slightly more expensive but they last a lot longer.

3. It takes the same effort to remove capacitors from a printed circuit board to measure them, than to just replace them. Yes, Bill can measure ESR and capacitance, but he does that only to confirm his suspicions, after putting in new low ESR 105 C replacement capacitors.

In summary, Bill writes that these days, component level repair is less cost-effective than during his misguided youth; but if you do make these repairs, replace!

 

* * *

 

Fig. 2: Find this DIY rat trap at the YouTube link in the text.

Our Workbench Malaysian connection, broadcast engineer Paul Sagi, found an interesting YouTube video that we’ll call “Curiosity Killed the Rat!” Here’s the link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T-KJMM55A9A

Paul comments that it appears that clear box sealing tape was used to hold the grain, and the “ramps” appear to be floor tiles, placed so the underside faces up. Placing two ramps on opposing sides permit some rats to balance out each other, a single ramp may be better. Finally, for remote locations, Paul suggests affixing the ramp to the bucket, so it doesn’t fall.

My comment? I sure hope this isn’t someone’s transmitter site! That’s a lot of rats.

I also hope you’ll contribute to Workbench. You’ll help your fellow engineers and qualify for SBE recertification credit. Send Workbench tips and high-resolution photos to johnpbisset@gmail.com.

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

The post Deter Stinging Insects at the Transmitter Site appeared first on Radio World.

Community Broadcaster: A Cautionary Tale

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 11:28

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

This week’s big news in community radio was all about layoffs at Pacifica radio station WBAI(FM) in New York and termination of its existing programming. The seriousness of the situation is a bellwether to conversations community media must have about relevance.

WBAI is certainly an iconic noncommercial radio station. It has hosted a veritable who’s who of cultural vanguards, especially in the 1960s. From Bob Dylan to Malcolm X, WBAI has been fondly remembered by fans for such history. Unfortunately, those glory days are long gone.

When I wrote for Radio World about the Empire State Realty Trust $3 million judgment against WBAI and Pacifica in 2017, matters were already quite dire. Pacifica audits noted a listener support decline between 2007 and 2017 in the millions. The California Attorney General’s Office and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Inspector General launched probes in 2015 and 2011 respectively over management issues. WBAI had seen crashes in 2009 and 2013, and its internal strife, inability to make payroll and subsidization by other Pacifica outlets had been in public circulation for years. WBAI folks, a smart and interesting bunch to be sure, have long contended what may seem to be farfetched theories, from essentially embezzlement by its licensee to its owner kneecapping the station staff and volunteers for their liberal orientation and willingness to host marginal programming under the free speech banner.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Changemakers]

Indeed, any publication that termed this week’s action stunning or a shock clearly must be excused for not paying attention to a crisis decades in the making.

Pushback to Pacifica’s decision was swift, including a state court intervening in the situation. However, it may be unclear how influential a New York court injunction to prevent layoffs and program changes will be. After all, Pacifica is a California nonprofit organization. The network’s payroll and WBAI’s federally assigned license (and thus programming placed on it) are both based far from said court’s jurisdiction. This story is developing.

Regardless of what happens to WBAI, the health of community radio as a whole is always a concern. What can stations learn from this issue?

As I conveyed to radio station WORT this week, community radio stations should always ask themselves about how they are truly listening to and serving local listeners with content they are passionate about and rely on. It is not difficult to figure out why WBAI, at 99.5 FM and in a city of eight million people and with one of the nation’s top median household incomes, could muster only 78,500 weekly listeners (according to Nielsen Audio) and not cover basic expenses. An old friend at Radio Research Consortium, noncommercial media’s data clearinghouse, once shared, listeners tell you what they think of your programming with their ears and wallets. Every station should track what their local fans think, and be responsive to area needs. That can be hard, given the many perspectives that are part of a station, but centering listener experiences with our stations must always be a priority.

Careful financial monitoring and adopting an approach to problems that sees them as a shared responsibility should also be a part of any station’s ethos. When tensions arise, the easy way out is to cast blame on others. Difficulties such as those experienced by the community radio space this week might have been averted with more swift, productive actions, and buy-in from everyone. All community stations might be wise to unify in times like these.

And finally, every station would be well served to take the lead in telling its story. In times of trouble, explaining one’s vision and where one hopes to be reassures listeners and tells donors you have a solution. Once a station loses control of its narrative, it is hard to regain credibility. Pacifica’s message posted on WBAI’s website is a start, in this instance.

Noncommercial radio observers may recall the WBAI move is not without precedent. In May, Humboldt State University shuttered its volunteer-based programming and laid off staff at KHSU in a bid to reorganize. A Humboldt State University advisory review identified a need for financial review of university investments, a realignment of the station’s operations and other issues for the licensee. One can hope WBAI’s reorganization is successful, and that all of community radio takes a cue from what’s happened to make the best media possible.

 

The post Community Broadcaster: A Cautionary Tale appeared first on Radio World.

Does 5G Make Sense for Radio?

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 02:00

The author is the head of technical and infrastructure department at German national public broadcaster Deutschlandradio.

The reception of radio programs with smartphones is becoming increasingly important for radio makers, particularly due to young people’s tendency to use their hand-held devices for a wide range of purposes — information and entertainment, social media networks, smart home and smart speakers, amongst others.

Chris Weck

There is no doubt that broadcasters have to be present on that platform with both linear and non-linear audio, with social media and the various functions of the internet.

At first glance, 5G broadcasts seem to be a promising solution for the future of broadcasting, and a viable solution to bring radio to the smartphone — one device and one transmission standard on one transmitter network. But who will benefit from this — the user, the mobile network operators, radio broadcasters or the industry as a whole?

Physical laws for radio communication are still valid for 5G as for DAB and all the other broadcasting and telecommunication schemes. From the well-known Shannon limit of 1948 we know that a minimum of energy per bit is necessary in order to provide an error-free transmission over a channel with a certain bandwidth (Eb/N0 = −1.6 dB in AWGN-Channel).

New and very efficient transmission systems like 5G are able to transmit very high data rates in a channel of a certain bandwidth, however, the energy per bit will never fall under the minimum defined by the Shannon law. With other words, the higher the data rate of a transmission system, the higher the signal-to-noise ratio required. This means in practice for a certain transmitting power the size of the transmitter cell will be reduced for higher data rates accordingly.

Now, from a theoretical point of view with respect to the energy per transmitted useful bit (including all the overhead), there is no significant difference in performance between 5G modulation schemes compared to the still very robust system of DAB+.

The 5G broadcast mode provides also a robust QPSK modulation to make use of bigger cell sizes. However, the expected performance compared to DAB especially in a single frequency network is rather the same. In fact, there are no results of a system comparison in the field available and therefore it is reasonable to focus on other basic differences between the idea of 5G broadcast and conventional DAB+ broadcasting.

Today, DAB radio receivers have an external antenna as well as car receivers. In comparison to a smartphone with a less sensitive built-in antenna, the link budget for the required field strength differs at minimum of 15 dB or even 20 dB and more.

This means that in order to achieve the same coverage for radio reception by smartphones, 10 dB more transmitting power is required. This is also true for 5G broadcast networks, so that 5G broadcast networks for smartphone reception have to aim for 10 dB more transmitting power compared to a conventional DAB+ network. In practice, this means that a significantly denser transmitter network is required for 5G broadcast to smartphones than for conventional DAB+.

Radio reception differs for smartphones compared to conventional radio receivers.  The field strength required depends on the effective antenna size, and has to be higher for smartphone reception.

The reduction of the transmitter distance can be anticipated easily from the CCIR propagation curves. For example for VHF propagation a loss of field strength of 20 dB corresponds to a reduction of the distance to the transmitter from 30 km to 10 km.

With the basic transmitter distance of about 60 km for DAB+ networks, the average transmitter distance for 5G broadcasting to smartphones has to be around 20 km. In fact this means that the transmitter distance has to be reduced by a factor of three in order to overcome a loss of 20-dB field strength. This means nine times more transmitters in the area are required in order to achieve the same coverage as a conventionally planned DAB+ network. Can radio broadcasters really afford this? In fact round about 10 dB more transmitting power results in 10 dB more money.

For the time being, the national DAB multiplex in Germany comprises of 130 transmitters in a nationwide SFN. Today, coverage stands at around 95% for mobile reception, but in order to reach 99% coverage, the number of transmitters has to be increased to 250 at least and may be around 400 (including small gap fillers) in the long term.

With 5G Broadcast round about 10 times more transmitters will be required which might sum up to 2,500 or even 4,000 transmitters in Germany. The mobile network in Germany comprises already 40,000 transmitters today and everybody experiences that this is rather not enough. Concerning 5G mobile networks, experts anticipate that future high data rate networks will be based on a cell size of less than 1 square kilometre, which would sum-up to around 400,000 transmitters in Germany for nationwide area coverage.

CCIR 370 Propagation Curves

What can we learn from these facts?

  1. The DAB+ network with its low number of transmitters is the most efficient network to realize a full area coverage
  2. The 5G broadcast networks, the mobile network and future 5G mobile networks require far too much transmitters for a full area coverage that nobody can expect the same area coverage as for DAB radio services

Assume e.g. transmitting costs for a full area DAB network in Germany of about €25 million per year. In order to gain 10 dB more transmitting power for smartphone reception, the network will cost a nationwide broadcaster approximately €250 million per year, as opposed to €25 million a year for conventional DAB. In Germany, no broadcaster is in a position to afford this amount of money — the price for this purpose to reach smartphones with radio is incredible high, and quite frankly, out of reach for any public broadcaster.

If one says that 5G would only be applied in cities as opposed to rural areas, the additional costs would indeed be lower. However, setting aside a budget of €10 million a year for this purpose is also unrealistic for a broadcaster and, should this sum even be available, it would certainly make more sense to spend it on the DAB network, where coverage gaps could be closed, and where broadcasters and consumers could benefit from it.

What’s more, it wouldn’t make sense for a broadcaster to give up nationwide DAB coverage. In order to supply 10% of the area with 5G broadcast to mobile phones for the same amount of money.

So, if broadcasters are far from being able to afford 5G broadcasting, who would pay for this? Mobile network operators will never provide a 5G-radio service for free, and broadcasters will not pay for 5G broadcasting either, so there really is no business model for either.

The one and only solution is that the user pays for the broadcasting service to his smartphone — this could be done by a contract with the broadcaster or with the mobile network operator, something that is already being done today with 3G/4G.

The smartphone user has a mobile contract and pays for the data volume on an individual basis. This enables the mobile network operator to set up very dense mobile networks that have enough power to be received by small smartphones. This works perfectly for radio with LTE and even UMTS, so why wait for 5G broadcasts?

Users already have radio services available on smartphones today, and it works well, so long as the user has enough high-speed volume on his contract.

Today, hybrid radio with DAB+ and Internet via mobile networks or via Wi-Fi at home provides the most suitable solution. Hybrid radio is the perfect fit for all broadcaster and user requirements, as with DAB+ it allows broadcasters the proven and most efficient radio network at an affordable price for area-wide coverage. It allows for free access of the users to radio and information, regardless of whether they live in cities or in rural areas, and whether or not they can afford a high-volume data contract for their mobile phones.

Hybrid DAB radio provides broadcasters with a content distribution platform directly linked to the customers, and independent of the commercially driven infrastructure of mobile network operators. This may be an advantage for emergency warnings, too.

On the other hand, users already have audio streaming and additional non-linear services available on their smartphone via the Internet. So, the only need for radio broadcasters today is to think about attractive hybrid radio services, and an impactful marketing strategy for their brand.

I cannot comprehend why broadcasters and politicians would want to switch a system running with DAB and IP with the more expensive, and in practical terms less efficient system that is 5G. Instead, why not use and extend the existing and approved technology? Hybrid radio is the best approach both economically and in terms of efficiency, and this is unlikely to change in the future.

Diversity between broadcaster networks and mobile phone networks will result in better efficiency and will offer more advantages than disadvantages for broadcasters as well as for users — so proceed with Hybrid DAB and IP. There is no need for 5G for radio broadcast.

[Read: Using Digital Radio to Boost Listening Figures and Revenues]

 

The post Does 5G Make Sense for Radio? appeared first on Radio World.

Radiodays Europe Announces First Group of Speakers

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 12:21

Six industry professionals have already made their plans to attend the 2020 edition of Radiodays Europe in Lisbon, Portugal, as the conference has announced the first batch of its planned speakers.

Those confirmed to speak at next year’s conference are Cilla Benkö, director general and CEO for Swedish Radio; Cathrine Gyldensted, co-founder and director at the Constructive Journalism Network in the Netherlands; Yagmur Özberkan, journalist and presenter for YLE, Finland; Torben Brandt, Danish radio legend; Ole Hedemann, content developer and head of formats at NRK in Norway; and Susani Mahadura, journalist for YLE, Finland.

Radiodays Europe Lisbon 2020 is going to take place from March 29–31, 2020. For more information or to register for the event, click here.

 

 

The post Radiodays Europe Announces First Group of Speakers appeared first on Radio World.

“THAT Thing” — A Solid-State Mic Preamp Project

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 11:25

Over the years I’ve become a student of mic preamp design, building and modifying several along the way and learning a little more each time. Usually, I worked from a kit or published set of plans. Recently, I’ve tried some designs from “scratch,” researching various components, studying earlier designs, and incorporating them into raw schematics, followed by circuit layout, design tweaks and final fabrication.

Since my last two builds were vacuum tube devices, I wanted to do a simple, solid-state design this time. I came across some old preamp ICs in a parts box and almost used them but discovered they had been obsolete for years.

Was there a viable updated replacement? Enter THAT Corp., a relatively small IC manufacturer that specializes in chips for audio applications. THAT makes a few chips that are direct replacements of some popular preamp ICs like the Analog Devices SSM2019 or Texas Instruments INA163. If you’ve ever cracked open a broadcast console, you may have seen one. THAT’s website is a treasure trove of design notes and white papers on mic preamp design, with plenty of ideas to get a project going.

This project uses two ICs from THAT: the 1512 Low-Noise Audio Preamp, and the 1646 Balanced Line Driver. Using design notes from THAT and other sources, including advice from several more experienced DIYers, I was able to come up with a relatively low-cost design that has plenty of gain and good performance numbers for most applications.

The mic preamp can make or break a recording. Aside from the microphone, it’s the first stage in the signal chain before the recorder, and in some cases the only stage. It has to be clean and have ample headroom (unless noise and distortion are your thing), yet have sufficient gain to handle a wide variety of microphones.

Professional microphones have a balanced output, so the preamp will have a balanced input. Normally this is accomplished either with transformer balancing, which is expensive, or by using a standard op-amp as a differential amplifier, usually involving two op-amp stages with their attendant gain feedback loops, etc. The THAT 1512 takes care of this within the chip, providing its own balanced input. All that’s needed is a pretty standard input stage that can provide phantom power. The phantom power is sent to Pins 2 and 3 of the input XLR jack through a matched pair of 6.81K resistors, R1 and R2. These limit the current of the phantom supply.

The phantom power section

In order to preserve common mode noise rejection, any components that are mirrored between positive and negative signal paths must be matched in value as closely as possible. SW1 [switch] allows for turning off phantom power when it is not needed, and LED1 illuminates to show the actual presence of phantom voltage. R9 limits current through the LED to keep it from going “poof!” Capacitor C13 is there to smooth out any ripples from the 48 V supply. Between Pins 2 and 3 of the input jack and ground, ceramic capacitors C1 and C2 shunt any RF noise that might hitch a ride on the mic cable. Bad mic cables make good radio antennas!

Keeping stray static at bay is the job of the diodes.

Obviously, we need to keep 48 VDC out of our audio circuit. In a transformer-based design, the transformer would handle this, as transformers only pass AC. Likewise with capacitors, which are much cheaper and take up less space. This is why inexpensive designs use them. The problem is that inexpensive designs tend to skimp on these coupling capacitors. Years ago, I hot-rodded a mic preamp that originally had 4.7µF tantalum capacitors in the coupling stage. I replaced them with nonpolar electrolytics of a much higher value, and performance was improved.

Here, for C3 and C4, I use the same ones. At 100µF it’s overkill, I’ll freely admit, but the higher value reduces low-frequency phase shift (the LF response here is in the single-digit Hz range). Anything around 22µF or greater will work. Besides, it’s very difficult to match capacitors to such tight tolerances.

The high-pass filter is engaged by a switch — SW2.

Here’s where R5, R6, and R7 come in. They form what THAT calls a “T-bias” circuit, which boosts low-frequency common mode impedance. C14 is another ceramic capacitor across the inputs to clean up any remaining RF noise. By the way, R3 and R4 are there to limit any fault currents that might sneak by the capacitors. Their low value prevents input impedance issues.

Additional protection from stray static charges and other voltage transients is provided by diodes D1 through D4. This is a simplified version of a number of protection circuits I’ve seen. Anything ugly gets shunted to ground.

Now, it’s on to the preamp IC, which does the heavy lifting in terms of gain: up to 60 dB of gain, in fact. While a lot of designs will set the chip at a fixed gain level and introduce level controls somewhere between subsequent stages, ours is a simple mic preamp. It would be a simple matter of just inserting a potentiometer (VR1) across the gain setting pins of the chip, right? Not that easy!

Rapid changes in that resistance can introduce DC offset in the chip, which translates to thumping and popping on the output. This is where C5 comes in; a very large capacitor to kill DC offset. Why so large? Because VR1, R8, and C5 comprise a high-pass filter, so the capacitance has to be large enough to bring the low-frequency response down. In this case, it puts it around 5 Hz at maximum gain, keeping any rolloff well below 20 Hz. VR1 is a reverse-log pot, which provides the correct gain vs. position curve.

Capacitors C7 through C10 filter RF gunk out of the power rails to each chip.

Speaking of high-pass filters, I included one here to roll-off any mic or room rumble. C6 and SW2 provide a HPF, but this one has a twist. (Special thanks to the folks at www.groupdiy.com for this idea.) Because the changing resistance of VR1 naturally changes the characteristics of the HPF, this filter’s rolloff actually increases somewhat at higher gain settings. At first, this may seem undesirable, but think about it — low frequency artifacts are more likely to be a problem at higher gains than at lower gains. At any rate, C6 is small enough to rolloff the low end, but not to the point of sounding thin.

Now on to the output stage, handled by the THAT 1646. It’s one of the simplest I’ve ever seen. One IC and a couple of nonpolar capacitors. Caution must be used if inserting any other stages or components before the 1646, as it is very sensitive with regard to impedance. C11 and C12 are there to address any common-mode DC offset on the outputs. From there, it’s on to the output XLR jack, passing through a simple polarity switch, SW3, to reverse phase if needed.

Finally, capacitors C7 through C10 filter RF gunk out of the power rails to each chip, a very important consideration in any design. Clean audio has to have clean power.

Since this whole thing is built around THAT ICs, I decided to simply call it “THAT Thing.” Tune in next time, and we’ll talk about the power supply, breadboarding the prototype, and putting it all together.

More information about the THAT 1512 and 1646 ICs, as well as design notes and other information can be found at:

www.thatcorp.com/Design_Notes.shtml
www.thatcorp.com/datashts/THAT_1510-1512_Datasheet.pdf
www.thatcorp.com/datashts/THAT_1606-1646_Datasheet.pdf

Curt Yengst, CSRE, is a contributor to Radio World and an assistant engineer with WAWZ(FM) in Zarephath, N.J.

Email us with your own DIY ideas at radioworld@futurenet.com.

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Find Your Modulation Sweet Spot

Fri, 10/11/2019 - 11:53

First I’ll tell what you already know. Back in the day, AM broadcasting was king and FM was commercial-free. Things changed in the 1970s as FM grew in popularity. Here we are 40+ years later with many AMs struggling. Some have gone away because they were no longer financially viable. To make matters worse, AM directional stations are more time-intensive and costly to maintain, especially when compared to FM stations.

On the positive side, I know a number of smaller AM/FM combination and stand-alone AM stations in Minnesota that are doing well. One town has a 1 kW AM with a 100 kW FM. The AM brings in 40% of the sales revenue because it has always been locally programmed with live announcers until 1 p.m., then is live again during afternoon drive.

AM radio isn’t supposed to sound bad. It can be a clean and pleasurable listening experience, even when there is only 3 kHz of audio bandwidth. On the other hand, AM can be ugly to the ear when there are maladjustments.

SCIENCE

Modulation is the process of adding audio to a transmitted signal. Amplitude modulation is aptly named. A station’s carrier (transmitter power) is varied by the station’s audio. Carrier power is depressed to zero watts to achieve 100% negative modulation. It increases to 1.5 times carrier power when 100% positive modulation is reached. That is why a thermocouple antenna ammeter reading rises with modulation. You read it during a programming pause to get an accurate measurement.

METERING

AM modulation monitors have –100% and +125% lights indicating overmodulation. You really don’t want those lights to come on. More is not better.

First, be sure to set the monitor’s RF carrier level control so the carrier meter needle is in the right spot, as per manufacturer’s instructions. A carrier meter misadjustment will result in inaccurate modulation monitor readings.

Fig. 1 shows an AM modulation monitor. The –100% and +125% lights are on and yet the analog modulation meter reads only 94%. It is normal for an analog meter to read lower than actual modulation. In fact, 85 to 90% is a more realistic meter display, because it cannot track peaks as lights do.

Fig. 1: AM modulation monitor showing overmodulation.

A monitor’s audio output will sound excessively bright or harsh if a de-emphasis audio circuit is not included. Monitors traditionally do not have this, but often a simple capacitor and resistor modification will do the trick. The idea is to undo the high-frequency boost that is a part of the audio processing, per the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC) standard. As you probably know, the transmitted audio has increased high-frequency response to overcome high-frequency rolloff in most receivers. The goal is to restore flat frequency response to the listener. Some audio processor manufacturers are using non-standard pre-emphasis curves to suit their taste. That complicates getting a realistic feel for frequency response. At least they are trying to make the best of receiver frequency response roll-off.

ON A SCOPE

An article I wrote regarding the operation of oscilloscopes, “Your Scope Is a Tool for all Seasons,” appeared in the Jan. 13, 2013, edition of Radio World.

To refresh your memory, a scope has a display where a dot that travels from left to right is deflected up and down with voltage. In this case, we will look at a transmitter’s RF output.

Fig. 2: An AM RF carrier wave on an oscilloscope.

I’ll begin with Fig. 2. It shows an oscilloscope with a view of the transmitter’s carrier with the scope sweeping at high speed (0.2 microsends per horizontal screen division) to see the actual carrier wave of an AM radio station. By carrier, I mean the transmitter’s power output. What you see is an almost perfect sine wave at the station’s operating frequency.

 

Fig. 3: A carrier with no modulation.

Let’s zoom in to the scope’s screen. Fig. 3 shows the carrier when the oscilloscope is slowed down to view audio (0.2 milliseconds per division). No modulation was present at that instant. Fig. 4 shows a 1 kHz sine wave modulating the carrier 100% positive and negative. The positive parts are the top and bottom peaks. They are mirror images of each other. The negative modulation part is where the carrier is just pinched-off at zero power in the center of the screen. This sine wave is relatively clean/undistorted, with less than 0.5% audio harmonic distortion.

Fig. 4: A carrier modulated 100% with a 1 kHz sine wave.

Many receivers do not reproduce it that way. The last 5 or 10% of negative modulation, between 90 and 100%, is where receiver detectors have trouble faithfully reproducing what the transmitter is sending. The result is audio distortion. We all know that unwanted audio artifacts are a listener turnoff.

Fig. 5: 100% modulation with receiver detector output.

In Fig. 5, I’ve switched the oscilloscope to dual trace mode. It shows the transmitter at 100% modulation on the top trace. The bottom trace was sampled at the receiver’s detector. I made the measurement there so it rules out additional audio harmonic distortion, which might be added in the output stage. By definition, harmonic distortion is where this 1 kHz audio tone will have unwanted audio products at 2 kHz, 3 kHz, 4 kHz etc. because of non-linear system performance. In this case, distortion from transmitter through the receiver detector measured 5.1%. It was only 3.1% at 90% modulation.

Fig. 6: 125% positive modulation, 100% negative modulation with receiver detector.

Fig. 6: Traditional analog audio processing used diodes to clip the negative side of audio before it went to the transmitter so it would not attempt to overmodulate the negative modulation while allowing positive modulation to go to 125%. The downside is that it added as much as 6.5% harmonic distortion in the process. Add the receiver’s problems to the mix and you have a whopping 10.2% distortion. Ouch! You’d never allow that on FM.

Newer digital processors reduce but may not eliminate the problem. Yes, the station can be a bit (about 0.9 dB) louder on the dial, but it is irritating to many listeners. They don’t know how to describe it, but oops, there goes another tune-out! Again, some people hear it and some don’t. Best not to penalize the station with high modulation.

Fig. 7: The transmitter is being badly over-driven at 100% negative modulation.

Fig. 7 shows the transmitter being modulated at over 100% negative modulation. I’ve moved the scope’s trace up a bit so you can see detail. Negative peaks go flat to the center, which is no carrier at that instant. Modulation like this will not pass the required NRSC occupied bandwidth nor will it pass my ear test for listenability. It is tiring to hear.

Fig. 8 is where you want to be. No more than 95% negative modulation, the sweet spot between loudness and listenability.

Fig. 8: 95% program modulation of the carrier.

It is a shame to lose listeners for that last 5% (about 0.5 dB) of modulation. Few if any will hear the loudness difference. Likely most will hear grit in the audio of transmitters modulated to the max. You can make up much of the modulation percentage difference with careful adjustments of the audio processing, before it goes to the transmitter. Software-defined receivers eventually will solve much of this problem, but we need to deal with today’s radios.

When I was installing AM stereo years ago, negative modulation was usually set at 95% and positive modulation at 95% for stations to sound clean. It was positive +125% if the client preferred it. That extra positive modulation comes as “forced asymmetry” where the negative audio peaks are soft clipped so the positive peaks can go higher. Ouch!

Surprisingly, bad-sounding audio with less than 100% modulation will usually fit into the NRSC occupied bandwidth mask, in the FCC required annual measurement. That is because of the required 9.5 kHz low-pass filter in audio processing.

AM stations competed in loudness wars to beat the other guy years ago. Now it is time to give listeners a pleasant experience with natural-sounding audio. Don’t drive them away.

I grew up in a broadcasting family that owned two AM stations and no FM. Success was dependent on keeping listeners. Loudness was not the answer.

Comment on this or any article. Write to radioworld@futurenet.com.

Mark Persons, WØMH, is an SBE Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer. He recently retired after more than 40 years in business. His website is www.mwpersons.com.

The post Find Your Modulation Sweet Spot appeared first on Radio World.

Radio Television Afghanistan Rebroadcasting BBC Radio Programs

Fri, 10/11/2019 - 09:52

The BBC has announced that its two flagship radio programs for Afghan audiences will now be carried live by Radio Television Afghanistan, the country’s national broadcaster.

BBC News Dari

“Majale Shamgahi,” which is broadcast in Dari, and “BBC Naray Da Wakht,” broadcast in Pashto, will have the first half of its hour-long evening news programs every day on RTA’s FM networks in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, as well as on medium wave.

The BBC programs examine key local and international issues with daily reports, interviews and analysis.

“A partnership with the BBC further reinforces RTA’s mission of informing the Afghan nation,” said RTA Director General Ismail Miakhail.

Pictured from left to right are Diva Patang, RTA presenter based in London; Ismail Miakhail, RTA director general; Jamie Angus, BBC World Service director; and Ismael Saadat, planning and commissioning editor, BBC News Afghan.

“Adding BBC programming to our output will contribute to the provision of trusted and impartial news about Afghanistan and the wider world.”

[Read: Radio TechCon Opens Registration]

BBC News Pashto

“We are delighted that the new partnership with RTA will allow our content to reach more people in Afghanistan, on channels they already know,” added Jamie Angus, BBC World Service director.

Miakhail also said that the RTA Academy would use the BBC as an example as it looks to train its country’s journalists on ethical journalism.

“Majale Shamgahi” will air from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Kabul Time, and “BBC Naray Da Wakht” will air from 3–4 p.m. Kabul Time.

 

 

The post Radio Television Afghanistan Rebroadcasting BBC Radio Programs appeared first on Radio World.

Virginia FM Handed $15,000 Forfeiture for Alleged Filing Violations

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 12:26

A Virginia licensee has been handed a $15,000 forfeiture — in addition to receiving a shortened license renewed term — after allegedly failing to keep proper issues and program files updated in the FCC OPIF database.

The Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission ruled in a combination order/notice of apparent liability that Seaview Communications, which is licensee of WPEX(FM) in Kenbridge, Va., apparently violated several sections of FCC rules.

[Read: AM Station Hit with $15,000 Forfeiture After Public File Lapse]

According to the bureau, the station allegedly failed to prepare its set of quarterly issues and programs lists and it failed to upload this information into the station’s online public inspection file. FCC Rules require that commercial broadcast radio stations place issues and program lists — which detail programs that he station has covered over a three-month period — every quarter . Those files must include a quick briefing of the issues addressed as well as lay out specific details such as the time, date, duration and title of each program. Stations must then upload certain public file documents to the FCC’s OPIF public inspection file database. As of March 1, 2018, all broadcast stations are now required to post public file info (except political file material).

When Seaview began the process of prepping its license renewal application, it answered “no” when asked if it has placed the required documentation into its public file. The station explained that it had difficulties in navigating the new on-line public inspection file. “As such, certain deadlines were not meet with respect to the ‘upload’ of issues/programs lists,” the licensee said, though Seaview said it had begun working with the FCC counsel and plans to resolve the public file upload problems.

However, this explanation does not excuse or nullify the violation, the bureau said. The commission has the authority to hand down a base forfeiture of $10,000 to those licensees who fail to maintain their public file and an additional $3,000 for failing to upload the required documentation.

The commission can also raise or lower those forfeitures based on the circumstances. In the case of WPEX, the FCC handed down a $15,000 forfeiture, saying that even though Seaview admitted to its violations, it did so only when compelled to answer via its renewal application. Moreover, the bureau found the violations were “extensive” and apparently encompassed the entire license term.

The Media Bureau also found that the licensee’s conduct fell short of the standard of compliance that the FCC uses when handing out a routine license renewal. “The issues and programs lists are a significant and representative indication that a licensee is providing substantial service to meet the needs and interests of its community,” the bureau said. As such, it concluded that a short-term license renewal of two years was warranted. “This limited renewal period will afford the commission an opportunity to review the station’s compliance with the [Communications Act] and the FCC’s rules and to take whatever corrective actions, if any, that may be warranted at that time.”

Seaview has 30 days to pay the forfeiture or respond seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.

 

The post Virginia FM Handed $15,000 Forfeiture for Alleged Filing Violations appeared first on Radio World.

Broadcasters Need to Keep Eye on Latest EAS Updates

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 12:13

It’s time for broadcasters to confirm that their stations are up and running with the latest in EAS updates.

As it stands today, EAS participants are required to not only receive Common Alert Protocol messages from IPAWS but also configure their systems to reject all CAP-formatted EAS messages that include an invalid digital signature. Now, an effort to maintain compliance with commonly accepted security standards, FEMA is also taking the next step of removing support for older methods by requiring the use of an updated TLS 1.2 protocol to access FEMA’s IPAWS server, said Sage Alerting Systems and the Society of Broadcast Engineers. TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is cryptographic protocol providing communications security over networks and is often used for internet communications.

To acquire and verify IPAWS CAP alerts, a broadcaster’s EAS alerting equipment must be upgraded with the TLS 1.2 update prior to Nov. 8, 2019.

[Read: California LPFM Asked to Explain Alleged Transmission, EAS Violations]

The move is one of several rule changes put in place by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to improve EAS security to ensure that messages are received smoothly and accurately.

According to Sage, the TLS 1.2 protocol is now part of a September 2019 update called Rev95. Certain ENDEC systems qualify for a free update; older systems will need to purchase an update via a distributor.

SBE cautioned in its blog that after the switchover on Nov. 8, older versions of the ENDEC software will not be able to receive CAP messages from IPAWS. “This will render the station in violation of FCC rules concerning EAS monitoring and logging,” the SBE said.

For Gorman-Redlich systems, the SBE reported that stations operating with E-prom V 9.5.8 will remain compliant with the changes. For Digital Alert Systems DASDEC/One-Net systems, those units operating with software versions 3.1 or 4.0 will remain compliant.

In addition to the CAP format changes, the SBE said the FCC also recently changed EAS rules to refine the time window within which an alert message is valid and added a new false EAS alert reporting rule.

 

The post Broadcasters Need to Keep Eye on Latest EAS Updates appeared first on Radio World.

Radio Eyes Advantages of Deregulation

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 11:39

WASHINGTON — Recent changes to certain FCC rules present opportunities for the industry to operate more efficiently, supporters believe.

Elimination of the main studio rule, the license posting requirement and the requirement to keep a hard copy of FCC rules at radio stations are three of the changes that have swept through the commission under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai.

Further significant regulatory amendments remain in the pipeline, such as the potential relaxation of local ownership rules, including modifying limits on common ownership of AM and FM stations in a market. Those decisions are pending completion of the FCC’s latest quadrennial review.

Further, the commission has launched a proceeding to simplify local public notice requirements for radio station applications, according to a FCC filing.

Radio broadcasters are focused  on adapting their operations to better compete in a more relaxed regulatory environment. “The deregulation of the past 18 months is significant,” said Scott Flick, partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, ahead of a panel discussion of radio and financial experts at the Radio Show in Dallas.

“Early during Chairman Pai’s leadership he said he wanted to put one media deregulatory item on each month’s FCC agenda. They’ve hit a lot of the low-hanging fruit, but there is more to go,” Flick said. “I think we are on the brink of fundamental regulatory change.”

Radio broadcasters are researching alternate business practices to improve efficiencies, Flick said, but first they must consider structural changes in how they run their businesses.

“Radio broadcasters are so used to being micro-managed by the FCC that it takes a while for these changes to sink in. For instance, the elimination of the main studio rule. Of course broadcasters want to maintain a presence in their local communities, but there are circumstances where having a main studio, or at least what qualifies as a main studio now by the FCC, may not make sense anymore,” Flick said.

“Broadcasters are stepping back to ask how they might do things if they were starting from scratch today. They are giving their operations a fresh look.”

Flick said some of his broadcast clients are adopting new business strategies in light of deregulation, specifically the elimination of the main studio rule, but though not in large quantities. “It takes time to implement changes, and … leases are sometimes years long,” he said.

In addition, deregulation of any industry typically increases the interest level of investors, Flick said; he expects that to be the case for radio.

“Any time you cut out the regulatory straightjacket, then you have people asking, ‘Ok, now I might want to invest the money to figure out an alternate business plan,’” Flick said. “The risks are lower and the industry becomes less complicated with fewer government limits.”

Not everyone feels the direction of radio deregulation is a good thing, Flick said; and on some issues, radio companies don’t speak with one voice. For example, iHeartMedia and Urban One are opposed to a change in the ownership subcaps that many others support.

“Of course, there will always be a split on any proposed deregulation between those who feel the rule constrains them and those who like the rule’s constraining effect on their competitors,” Flick said.

Susan Patrick, co-owner of Legend Communications, said the regulatory environment is presenting opportunities to improve operations and in some cases expand them.

“We are fans of deregulation. It’s going to help small-market broadcasting and help us compete against all of the other audio services that are out there now,” Patrick said.

Legend Communications, which has 23 radio stations, including several FM translators across Wyoming, is always looking for business efficiencies, she said.

“We have several situations where the main studio rule being eliminated could help us. We haven’t made those changes yet. I have spoken to a number of small-market broadcasters who have combined studio facilities, and it has helped them use resources in a different manner that better serves their communities.”

Patrick, who is also co-owner and managing partner of brokerage firm Patrick Communications, said she does see the potential for some broadcasters to utilize the new rules to cut staffing by consolidating facilities.

“To say otherwise is naïve. Some people given the opportunity to save money will try to save money, while large operators are more likely to be able to afford to keep staff.”

Beth Neuhoff, president and CEO of Neuhoff Communications, said the deregulatory mode of the FCC can help radio broadcasters increase value in their properties.

“I think with deregulation there is tremendous upside to a disciplined operator and investor. One of the basic rules of economics is that mature industries must consolidate to survive,” Neuhoff said. “There is so much opportunity in the smaller market for a better, more efficient model.”

Neuhoff said regulatory moves by the FCC offer broadcasters relief but they don’t go far enough.

“I think there would be both top- and bottom-line growth opportunity with less regulation. The ability to streamline back-office and operations is certainly interesting,” Neuhoff said.

“The bigger opportunity in my estimation is top line. With greater scale, I believe markets like ours could be better served with more offerings both that serve multiple markets and a larger portfolio of digital.”

Those stations with market proximity “most certainly can and should take advantage of the main studio rule,” Neuhoff said, but the challenge will be keeping a local presence visible on the street.

Neuhoff Communications, which owns 20 radio stations, is reviewing its best business practices, she said.

“Interestingly enough, our Fast Forward team, our next generation of company leadership, is designing the station workplace of the future as their capstone project. They identified main studio as a real opportunity for us,” Neuhoff said.

David Santrella, president of broadcast media for Salem Media Group, said the broadcaster is looking upon the recent FCC dereg moves favorably.

“I think now all broadcasters need to run more efficiently. There are broadcasters always looking for ways to run their operations with less money than they did the year prior and the year before that. And so I think the main studio rule will present opportunities going forward,” Santrella said. “Salem will look at that.”

The FCC is simply allowing broadcasters to make changes to operations to better fit new technology, he said.

California-based Salem, with just over 100 radio stations in just under 40 markets offering Christian-centric content, is “not behind” the movement for a change in the subcaps, Santrella said.

“If they change the subcaps I think you’ll see more people abandoning the AM band and moving formats to FM. Such a move would devalue AM properties. We built a business based on the current model and regulations, so when you change the rules in a very long tail business, and radio is a long tail business, you severely impact the business model designed based on the rules as they exist,” Santrella said.

Santrella, who also chairs the NAB Radio Board, said radio will need to balance moves based on fewer regulations while not losing touch with radio’s greatest natural strength of being “a local community service” business.

What do you expect the impact of FCC rule changes to be on the U.S. radio business marketplace? Comment on this or any story. Email to radioworld@futurenet.com with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject field.

The post Radio Eyes Advantages of Deregulation appeared first on Radio World.

Solving the Medium-Wave Problem

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 00:00

The author is chairman of Digital Radio Mondiale.

Is medium wave in decline? Some people think so.

In the 1950s radio was declared mortally wounded by TV. But then FM with its new music rescued it, becoming one of the most successful technologies and platforms ever. Radio survived and thrived but AM should have died at the hands of the nimbler, younger and more attractive FM.

Photo credit: Radu Obreja

Only it did not and the medium reinvented itself by using presenter-led programming, commercial music and sport. In the United States it took until the end of 1990s for the FM and AM audiences to be equal and to this day the big AM stations are going strong, bringing in the ad dollars.

REASONS

Still, it’s undeniable that the whiff of decline has enveloped AM in the past two decades. The reasons are well-known: Analog medium wave doesn’t always deliver the best sound, it can suffer from interference, it can behave annoyingly different by day and night and even by season. Medium wave mainly appeals to a maturing population (a global phenomenon, considered shameful by some!) using aging receivers (this is bad!).

Analog medium-wave broadcasting also needs quite an infrastructure and deep pockets for the electricity bill.

Ruxandra Obreja

On the other hand, medium wave is that middle sister that delivers by giving excellent regional coverage over hundreds or (overnight and if the ionosphere behaves) even thousands of kilometers, whereas FM goes up to roughly 200 kilometers and digital DAB+ to half of that.

Medium wave is not only a regional but also an excellent local coverage solution. In Australia 33% of the public broadcaster ABC’s local transmitters broadcast in AM and 11 50 kW transmitters are serving the mainland capital or big cities. Medium wave covers large areas and reaches small far-flung communities for whom, even in developed countries, medium wave and FM still provide the first source of information.

Besides, medium wave with its reach, availability outdoors and on the go, is a fallback solution in times of emergency or simply a good standby solution when other platforms or services are unavailable (broadband, satellite, 4G or the mythical 5G).

The listeners’ behavior and the demands of the digital world are such that tackling medium wave has elicited different responses from broadcasters and regulators worldwide. In Europe, where the frequency was much used and abused, broadcasters initially energized by the potential of IP have not thought twice about closing down many medium-wave transmitters. Some have survived the cull, for example, in the UK, France, Spain, or in some eastern European countries.

DIFFERENT SCENARIOS

Regulators in other parts of the world have embraced different scenarios. One was to migrate AM to FM, or AM to a digital solution for FM (HD or DAB+). This process has taken a long time and, despite some successes, has shown it’s no replacement for AM or for a full large regional or national coverage.

In other parts of the world, like Brazil, digital was not even part of the mix. The simple migration AM to FM is plodding on there, as this is easier done in smaller places than in bigger, overpopulated ones, like big cities where there is no FM spectrum available and where the original demand for a solution came from.

Another idea is to expand the FM band, downwards, migrate everyone and forget about AM altogether, as FM seems a proven and winning formula. A nice idea but then, on top of the costs of replacing a large area covering transmitter with many, expensive, spectrum and energy hungry FM transmitters, there is the extra challenge of the new receivers to be produced and actually sold.

Certainly, there is also the option of doing nothing. Reading through the most recent submissions to the judicious consultation launched by the Australian regulator on the future delivery of radio services, I was struck by how some contributors claim that there is no current replacement for analog AM. Their scenario is to leave things as they are, for at least the next 10 years.

[Read: Historic Woofferton Boasts a Modern Twist]

Change is though the name of the radio game. While analog AM will subsist, it is worth looking at other options, too. In India where most of the territory and population are covered by the public radio medium-wave transmitter infrastructure, the government and public broadcaster took the bull by the horns and deployed almost 40 digital transmitters covering about half the country population with a digital signal.

THE SOLUTION

Recently cricket fans were able to enjoy an open-air demonstration of three different DRM programs on one frequency ahead of an important match in Bangalore. The fans also received data (stock exchange values) available on radio screens. This demonstrated that digital DRM is a game changer for medium wave.

In DRM the crackling audio disappears as sound is as good of that on FM. The electricity consumption and costs decrease, the spectrum is trebled and reception, even in cars (as available in over 1.5 million cars in India currently) is excellent, too.

If it is so good then why isn’t DRM medium wave conquering the world faster? Maybe it’s about confidence in a new platform. Broadcasters and governments need to market DRM digital radio once signals are on air in their countries.

As for receiver availability and their costs, let us remember how many receivers were on sale in the 1970s when FM was taking over the world. Nowadays, many listeners consume radio in their cars rather than sit in front of a retro looking wooden box. Digital receivers (DRM alone or DRM/DAB+) are a reality and a bigger push for digital would help with volumes sold thus bringing down the prices.

Radio, and therefore medium wave, can and should survive digitally. Digital radio must be an enabler of audio content and information while preserving its ubiquitous and unmatched advantage of providing a service for all.

For that, a bit of imagination, trust and, last but not least, some long-term investment is necessary. Because medium wave is still worth it!

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The post Solving the Medium-Wave Problem appeared first on Radio World.

Deadline Approaches for Reimbursement Requests

Wed, 10/09/2019 - 13:38

Mark your calendars for just before midnight on Oct. 15. That’s the deadline for FM stations looking to file a request for repack reimbursement funds from the Federal Communications Commission.

In August the Media Bureau and the Incentive Auction Task Force released a set of instructions for FM stations, LPTV stations and TV translator stations who are looking to receive reimbursement payments for costs incurred as result of the post-incentive auction repack.

Those instructions clarified which stations are eligible to be reimbursed from the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund and Reimbursement Expansion Act — the latter of which has made it possible for certain FM stations to be reimbursed for repack-related costs. The REA has appropriated an additional $1 billion to the fund for those stations (though the commission determined in a later report and order that payments to Class A stations and MVPD providers would take precedence over FM stations, LPTVs and TV translators).

For FM stations, the deadline is around the corner — stations are required to submit a reimbursement form by 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2019. Keep in mind that the recent extension announced by the Media Bureau is only for low-power and TV translator stations, not FM broadcasters.

A webinar clarifying the reimbursement process was held in August. A replay of that webinar can be found here under the “Education” tab.

 

The post Deadline Approaches for Reimbursement Requests appeared first on Radio World.

Visual Radio: Creating a YouTube Channel

Wed, 10/09/2019 - 12:00

It’s often said that kids keep a person young. I can attest that my three have kept me a bit more in touch with reality than I would have been otherwise from news or focus groups. And whether they belong to you, a friend or a relative, it’s hard to miss that kids are the ultimate harbingers of change.

The YouTube channel of Power 106 Los Angeles, aka KPWR(FM), owned by Meruelo Media. A large subscriber base with low video views equals opportunity to invest in advertising to increase audience, while improving content and frequency of posting.

I first noticed my kids utilizing YouTube for music consumption about six years ago. I recall the jolt at the time; it actually made me feel bad that broadcast radio wasn’t totally meeting their needs.

Like you, I got over that feeling once I accepted the new on-demand enormity of YouTube, then recalled that radio still has a major role to play with its convenience, personalities, information and immediate relevance.

This evolution reminds me of when television first supplanted radio. The industry initially ignored the shift, but over time, adjusted — and when it did, what happened next? We made a U-turn and started advertising our product on TV!

In my previous article, we covered advertising on YouTube; if you haven’t read it, please do (radioworld.com, keyword Lapidus).

Now I’d like to address the importance of having a radio station YouTube channel.

LEARN FROM THE SUCCESSFUL

Wanna hang on to listeners or win over new ones? You gotta go where your audience does.

You execute this all the time when you send DJs to host concerts and events. The issue for many years now is that much of your audience is spending significant time elsewhere — online and with music apps. If you want to go where the fish are, you need a real presence.

The best example I’ve seen of a highly successful radio YouTube channel was created by the BBC’s Radio 1. I’m not alone in loving this channel; it has 6.9 million subscribers. Some videos have millions of views, many have hundreds of thousands of views and yes, they even have pieces in the mere thousands.

“Foul!” you cry. I can hear the haters now, saying in unison: “But the BBC is a fully funded network, propped up by the government. It doesn’t even have to make a profit!”

Can’t deny that. However, everyone needs something to aspire to, admire and emulate. I’m simply suggesting that you click around the channel and notice how they’ve constructed it, what videos are performing, how they promote their broadcast channel, and the amazing outpouring of emotion they get from their audience in the comments section.

If you want to go domestic, take a gander at NPR Music with its nearly 3 million subscribers or the other NPR channels with 206,000, 99,000 and 101,000, respectively. Try looking at your best-in-class format competitors to see what they’ve got brewing and what you’re up against.

It’s interesting to note that Power 106 in L.A. is at nearly a million subscribers but, like Z100 in New York, has a low viewing rate. This could indicate that the stations are not purchasing any YouTube advertising; that their audiences are not diggin’ what they’re posting; or that their frequency of posting (content velocity) is low, so the audience doesn’t actually participate regularly anyway.

CONSIDERATIONS

A few things to debate:

Should a morning show have its own YouTube channel, separate from the main radio station? While there’s no definitive answer to this, my gut tells me that integration is preferable simply because it’s desirous to maintain a steady flow of content velocity. If both the morning show and the station are creating product, the overall posting frequency will increase.

Another advantage is exposing what could be two audiences to one brand. Some morning shows will fight this hard because, from a brand/ownership perspective, they may want their show to fly solo in case at some point they decide to depart the mothership.

What about other streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music? No reason why you shouldn’t offer playlists of your own design or by artists who reside in your format. I’m not convinced it will have the same impact as a YouTube channel, but the effort and barriers to entry are low. Apple Music claims to be streaming 100,000+ radio stations. Is your station available?

Is there money to be made on YouTube? It doesn’t turn into serious change until a station achieves a large number of video views with viewers who will watch full 30-second pre-roll ads. This ad-sense (pre-roll) that you can activate at any time, may be setting up a barrier to entry. It isn’t something that requires serious discussion until you have a substantial audience. Another angle is to integrate sponsors into your content, probably the most appealing, as it could be tied to a station ad-buy.

A highly produced/professional YouTube channel does require an investment in money, time and resources, and I get that not all stations are able or willing to play. It would be very interesting to see if this can be done on a small- or medium-market level — highly localized with raw materials. Would it perform by itself and also help to maintain or grow ratings? Let me know of your own experience.

By the way, this isn’t about being futuristic or obsessing over a passing fancy. YouTube has been growing for years. If we ignore advertising on it, or avoid even the notion of our own channel, it could be at our own detriment.

Mark Lapidus is a longtime Radio World contributor. Comment on this or any story to radioworld@futurenet.com.

The post Visual Radio: Creating a YouTube Channel appeared first on Radio World.

Starks Criticizes FCC Record on Media Diversity

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 14:40

“America’s broadcasters should look like America.”

That was FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, expressing “particular concern [about] the persistent lack of diversity in broadcast media ownership, and among its rank and file.”

The commissioner has been on the job for about nine months and is one of two Democrats on the five-member panel; he spoke Tuesday at the Media Institute Free Speech America Gala. Starks said that the FCC’s controlling statute “demands that we distribute [broadcast] licenses in a way that prevents too many from winding up in the same hands and promotes ownership by women and people of color. This is important. The capacity of broadcast media to empower and inform is indisputable, and it is critical that those exercising this power represent all of us, not a mere privileged or anointed few.”

However, he said, the commission has, “largely and over many decades,” failed in meeting its statutory goals and obligations in this regard. “This isn’t conjecture or political posturing. It isn’t even an opinion. It is a fact borne out by our data.” He noted that of 1,300 full-power TV stations licensed, only 12 were owned by African Americans.

Starks said the FCC currently has an opportunity: “As the Third Circuit Court of Appeals observed in its most recent media ownership decision, Prometheus v. FCC, the commission can and must do better in addressing the impact of its regulatory efforts on the ability of women and people of color to own stations. No longer can it rely on bad data and analysis while ignoring its obligations. The court sent back this FCC’s latest deregulatory efforts and demanded that we get the data and perform the analysis necessary to ensure that we are fully meeting our statutory requirements.”

However, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, head of the Republican majority on the commission, has been harshly critical of the court and of its latest decision. Pai said last month that for 15 years, the Third Circuit has blocked attempts to modernize regulations to “match the obvious realities of the media marketplace.”

Starks on Tuesday also called for the FCC to “redouble” its Equal Employment Opportunity efforts. “For 15 years, the commission has had an open rulemaking proposing to continue a decades-old data collection on the diversity of the broadcast workforce. And for 15 years, while we’ve been stuck in neutral, we’ve elicited zero visibility on whether station management and news teams reflect our communities. We cannot fully engage on this issue when our ability to understand the problem is compromised.”

He said new research, including disparity studies identifying past discrimination in licensing, could be critical to addressing the concerns of the court “and finally making good policy in this space.”

Earlier in his remarks, Starks expressed ardent support for a free press. “The American people have a deeply ingrained urge to seek out and wade through what the Supreme Court has called a ‘multiplicity of information.’ That’s a good thing because it is essential to our democracy that the American people go through the process of hearing from a wide range of sources, ideologies and viewpoints. … What we need, then, is a press that pursues unvarnished facts and, above all else, truth.”

Starks was nominated by President Trump and was confirmed by the Senate in January 2019.

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The post Starks Criticizes FCC Record on Media Diversity appeared first on Radio World.

More on Fire Safety and Prevention

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 13:28

The author is director of engineering for Broadcast Devices.

Your article “Fires, Your Station and You” was a great reminder to take a look around and introduce some common sense into planning for what we hope never happens. As the chief of a volunteer fire department I see lots of foolish and sometimes even borderline criminal things. Our mantra is (unfortunately) “You can’t fix stupid.”

[Read: From the Archives: Fires, Your Station and You]

Here are a couple of quick items to add to the sensible suggestions in that article:

  • All of that wiring and plastic in your station gives off nasty gases when it burns and though the smoke from plenum-rated cable is supposed to be “less toxic” they stop short of calling it “nontoxic.” Even if the smoke is not obscuring your vision there is a good chance you are breathing in stuff that your life insurance carrier would prefer you do not. If you can’t knock down a fire quickly with a single extinguisher consider backing out and make sure you close the door to limit the oxygen supply to the fire. The last part is very important. As you plan your fire escape strategy with staff make sure they understand that exiting the building and leaving every door wide open is a great way to provide all the oxygen that a fire needs to spread.
  • Call the fire department. Not when your station is already on fire but before anything happens. Most fire departments are happy to do a “preplan” walk-through with you and doing so will usually buy you some good will when they point out that you have code violations. Keep in mind that should those code violations be discovered after you have a fire and someone is seriously hurt the consequences will be significantly more unpleasant than the embarrassment of discovering them while you walk-through with the fire department.

A preplan will not only be informative for you and your management but will also give the fire department the opportunity to see the layout of your facility and what hazards might lurk there when they do respond with the building full of smoke and time is of the essence.

  • Fire extinguishers need to be checked and recharged. Since you are going to pay someone to do so, consider having your staff practice with them as part of that ongoing maintenance cycle. The time to learn how to use one correctly is NOT when you actually need to use one.
  • While on the subject of not learning things when you need to use them, also considering bringing in a CPR instructor to do a class for your staff. One of them might save your life and they will certainly be grateful if they save a family member with training you forced them to take.

Radio World invites industry-oriented commentaries and responses. Send to Radio World.

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National VOA Museum Asks for Your Support

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 11:58

Her six massive transmitters may be quiet, but she is far from silent.

Amateur radio operators routinely talk to the world from station WC8VOA in West Chester, Ohio, located about 25 miles north of Cincinnati. This former VOA relay station is now a museum with collections from the Gray History of Wireless Radios; Powel Crosley Jr., and Cincinnati radio and TV broadcasting history; and the Voice of America.

The museum celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Bethany Station in September with a fundraiser to make the first floor of the museum accessible for people of all abilities.

SIT AT THE BOARD

The National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting is open every weekend from 1 to 4 p.m. Tours are given continuously on weekend afternoons by knowledgeable docents. It houses the Bethany station’s last control room and one of the remaining 250 kW Collins shortwave transmitters.

You can sit at the massive audio console that controlled the six shortwave transmitters and literally take a tour inside one of the Collins transmitters. You can view the massive switch gear, built during World War II, that changed Bethany’s 24 rhombic antennas to its six transmitters.

At one time, Bethany Station covered a square mile of property on former farmland. Today the museum sits on 14 acres and the antennas are gone; but with surrounding park acreage, you get a sense of the massive scale the site covered with towers and the miles of transmission lines and antenna wire.

The antennas are a memory, but the site’s spirit lives on.

The museum houses a large collection of radios from the early part of the 20th century, including names such as Hallicrafters, National, Drake and Collins. A large collection of Drake Amateur Radio products is always a must-see by visiting radio enthusiasts and ham radio operators.

Drake radios were produced nearby in Miamisburg, Ohio. An area dedicated to the Crosley Corporation shows off many of the Crosley brothers’ radio, TV and household products that were manufactured in Cincinnati. Crosley contributed heavily to the war effort during World War II, with the production of tens of thousands of portable radios for the U.S. Army and millions of proximity fuses for anti-aircraft ordinance.

Not only did Crosley develop radios, but content as well, with its on-air radio station WLW, which still broadcasts today on 700 AM. WLW transmits from its original site and the large Blaw-Knox tower can be seen from the VOA museum. The museum contains the original 50-watt AM transmitter that WLW started with in 1922.

WLW was the only U.S. station allowed to operate at 500,000 watts of power during the 1930s. The collection includes a bright red Crosley Hot Shot sports car, too. Crosley Corporation developed a number of vehicles during the late 1930s and resumed production after World War II until shutting down in 1952.

An additional area of the museum houses artifacts and memorabilia from the early era of Cincinnati radio and TV broadcasting. The Cincinnati Media Heritage section includes many of the celebrities who got their start at WLW and other local broadcasting outlets. These WLW radio stars, many of whom transitioned from radio to TV, include Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame; sisters Rosemary and Betty Clooney; Eddie Albert; Doris Day; The Mills Brothers; and Ruth Lyons.

Housed in three of Bethany’s old transmitter vaults, the history of broadcasting showcases the talent and equipment that made Cincinnati an early nursery for radio and television entertainment. Artifacts include equipment from a 1930s radio station; a 1950s AM station, including disc jockey’s audio console and turntables; and a 1000-watt transmitter. A very early and massive RCA Victor color television camera is on display, along with other television and video equipment.

RADIO LIVES HERE

Our amateur radio station is operated under FCC license WC8VOA and is manned by the West Chester Amateur Radio Association.

The station has seven operating positions equipped with modern and vintage amateur radio gear. Antennas cover the radio spectrum from two meters down to 160 meters. The former VOA receiving satellite dish has been converted to 10 GHz transmit and receive capabilities for EME (Earth Moon Earth) bounce. Signals are sent to the moon and the dish used as a passive satellite to communicate with other amateur radio operators.

The club participates in radio contests, portable operations and local STEM events. It averages some 6,000 contacts per year, covering modes of voice and digital and CW. The club also operates two FM repeaters on two meters and 440 Mhz.

Operators are in the shack every weekend and hold an open house every Wednesday night for radio enthusiasts and those interested in obtaining a ham radio license. Our WC8VOA call sign is recognized by many of our fellow radio amateurs around the world. We have made contacts from all seven continents and hundreds of countries.

Radio is still an important part of our lives. Whether it is listening to AM, FM or satellite services, radio remains a viable source of our news and entertainment.

CINCINNATI LIARS

Voice of America broadcasts were never intended for Americans. They were targeted to people living in oppressed countries where media was censored to change people’s minds by providing sourced and accurate news.

In fact, the VOA Charter (Public Law 94-350), which was passed in 1976 during the Ford administration, states that VOA news will be “accurate, objective and comprehensive.” It will also “represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.” Last, the VOA is mandated to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”

VOA news and feature stories are still broadcast and transmitted today to more than 275 million people weekly in 40-plus languages in nearly 100 countries. VOA programs are delivered on multiple platforms, including radio, television, web and mobile via a network of more than 3,000 media outlets worldwide.

Broadcasts have aired continually for more than 75 years, along with sister stations of Radio Free Europe; Radio Liberty; Radio Free Asia; and Radio Martí.

Here is the crux of the matter for all of us at the VOA museum: Once Bethany Station began operation during mid-World War II, an infuriated Adolf Hitler was quoted as saying on one of his radio broadcasts to never listen to those “Cincinnati Liars.” We’re proud to be part of the VOA heritage we are entrusted with and even more proud to be related to those “liars” from Cincinnati.

But while we’re proud of our heritage, I must be honest: The museum is housed in an aging, uninsulated, 75-year-old building that constantly needs repairs. We receive no federal funding, and this is our big fundraising push for the year.

Joe Molter

Our workforce of docents, conservators and maintenance crews are all unpaid volunteers. And many of our volunteers come from our local radio club, the West Chester Amateur Radio Association.

Please help us out with a donation. For information on the museum and how you can help with donations, visit www.voamuseum.org. Please donate today. If you’re interested in our amateur radio group, additional information is at wc8voa.org.

Joe Molter, WCARA, N8IDA, ARS Operator, is with the National VOA Museum of Broadcasting.

The post National VOA Museum Asks for Your Support appeared first on Radio World.

Ham Radio Operator Handed $17,000 Notice of Forfeiture

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 11:06

A ham radio operator who was repeatedly warned not to deliberately interfere with other amateur radio operators has been slapped with a $17,000 forfeiture.

Commission’s rules are clear on the issue: Amateur radio licensees may not monopolize the ham radio frequency for their exclusive use. Yet the Enforcement Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission said New York resident Harold Guretzky has not followed those rules and is instead an alleged “repeat offender” who has long misused the local amateur radio service by interfering with other operators.

Guretzky, licensee of station K6DPZ in Richmond Hill, N.Y., has been the center of numerous complaints over the last several years over his attempts to prevent other amateur licensees from using the local ham radio repeater.

[Read: Pennsylvania Ham to Pay $7k Fine for Intentional Interference]

Back in June 2017, the bureau issued a warning letter to Guretzky, advising him of the nature of the allegations against him and directing him to refrain from using the repeater going forward. Additional complaints came forward again in August 2017; the bureau said that Guretzky had also begun making threats against other operators.

Agents came twice in 2018 to Richmond Hill to check on Guretzky. The first time, agents advised Guretzky in writing that he was prohibited from using the local repeater. The second visit revealed that Guretzky was again allegedly interfering again with the local repeater and making threatening comments toward other amateur operators. This was followed by a phone call from the Regional Director of the Region One Enforcement Bureau who cautioned Guretzky, again, to not use the repeater.

The commission moved to take action against Guretzky with a formal notice of apparent liability for forfeiture. The bureau said that Guretzky deliberately violated the Communications Act and the FCC Rules — despite receiving multiple notifications that he cease this activity.

As a result, the commission found that Guretzy’s “repeated, intentional and egregious apparent violations” warrant a fine of $17,000, which is an upward adjustment of the $10,000 base forfeiture often assigned in cases like these. Any future violations by Guretzky may result in additional forfeitures, the commission said.

Guretzky has 30 days to pay the forfeiture or to respond to the commission.

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California LPFM Asked to Explain Alleged Transmission, EAS Violations

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 07:52

A California LPFM station has some compliance steps to consider after agents from the Enforcement Bureau came a calling.

In March 2019, an agent with the Federal Communications Commission observed several alleged violations after visiting low-power station KQEV(LP) in Covina, Calif., including concerns with the station’s antenna, transmitter and its EAS log.

[Read: Arizona LP Licensee Agrees to $1,500 Consent Decree]

Specifically, the agent noted that the station’s transmitting antenna was allegedly 7 meters higher above ground than it should have been and was located at coordinates that were about 40 meters away from its authorized site. The station’s transmitters was also allegedly found to be out of compliance; the model in use is not certified for use at that station, the agent reported.

The agent also noted irregularities with the station’s record keeping logs. Stations are required to keep an entry of each test and activation of the Emergency Alert System and at the time of inspection, the agent noted that no EAS log was available.

The next step for Chinese Sound of Oriental and West Heritage, which is licensee of KQEV, is to provide additional information to the FCC on these alleged violations. That means Chinese Sound must submit a written statement within 20 days explaining each alleged violation and include a timeline for completion of any pending corrective action. The commission plans to use all of that information to determine what, if any, enforcement action will be handed out from there.

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