Sirius XM has obtained a waiver from the FCC to use compression technology on four of its audio channels, even though this means EAS header codes on those channels won’t activate downstream decoders monitoring such alert transmissions. But the FCC says the waiver will do no harm.
The commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau granted the waiver to Sirius XM to authorize transmission of certain truncated Emergency Alert System alert data on its four Instant Traffic, Weather and Alert channels.
The commission said the waiver will have no impact on the EAS’s functionality or operations, in part because no EAS participant is currently authorized to monitor those channels, and because keeping even compressed EAS alerts on the Instant Traffic, Weather and Alert channels serves the public interest.
The ruling is a technical and legalistic one that will be of interest mostly to alerting experts and engineers who follow the nuances of EAS infrastructure. But for them it’s fun reading, including the footnotes. Find it here.
“National EAS alerts will continue to be transmitted over all of Sirius XM’s channels, including the four Instant Traffic, Weather and Alert channels using compression, and will be audible to Sirius XM’s subscribers (and nonsubscribers on its non-subscriber channels),” the commission emphasized, adding that the satellite system will continue to serve as a PEP station, initiating national EAS alerts encoded pursuant to the EAS Protocol on its other channels, including free preview channels that are authorized as monitoring sources for alerts.
The post Sirius XM Gets EAS Technical Waiver on Four Channels appeared first on Radio World.
Attendees of the upcoming AES show in New York will have a special treat — on display will be an element from the “Alford Antenna,” a pioneering master antenna which ringed the observation deck near the top of the Empire State Building from 1965 until April this year.
The element has been donated to the AES.An element of the Empire State Building’s Alford Antenna like this one will be on display at AES New York 2019.
“The Alford Antenna is an important part of what made broadcasting as we know it today possible, and the Empire State Building is excited to share this special piece of history with the Audio Engineering Society,” said Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust.
A release explains the significance of the antenna, designed by Andrew Alford: “When the Alford master FM antenna was installed around the 102nd-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building in 1965, it was a revolutionary development in broadcast technology. Instead of operating at lower power from various rooftops and hilltops around the city, for the first time multiple FM stations could operate at full power from a single shared antenna system atop what was then the tallest building in the U.S., carrying the signals of more than a dozen top New York radio stations to tens of millions of listeners in the tristate area.”
The AES New York 2019 show runs Oct. 16–19 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.
Future plc will acquire SmartBrief, expanding Future’s presence in the United States and in business-to-business media.
Future is based in the U.K. and describes itself as a global platform for specialist media. In 2018 it launched an effort to be a bigger presence in B2B as well as grow its U.S. footprint when it acquired NewBay Media, titles of which included Radio World and sibling publications, such as TV Technology and Broadcasting & Cable.
Now, Future told investors, the SmartBrief acquisition enhances its proprietary technology stack through the addition of automated email marketing and more than triples its B2B subscriber database.
The acquisition is expected to be completed this week.
“Future is dedicated to building specialist brands, and SmartBrief complements their global B2B portfolio with highly relevant and credible newsletter content,” Future stated in the announcement.
The total price of the deal is up to $65 million, depending in part on subsequent performance, according to an investment summary. The initial cost is $32.2 million cash plus $12.8 million in shares. The majority of SmartBrief’s current shares is owned by three founders, one of whom, Rick Stamberger, is active in the business as CEO; Future said he will remain with SmartBrief. The other founders were Dan O’Brien and Tom Wheeler. Zillah Byng-Thorne is CEO of Future.
SmartBrief, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a digital media publisher of targeted business news and information by industry. It produces news products for trade associations, professional societies and corporations. It is familiar to many in broadcasting as publisher of NAB SmartBrief in partnership with the National Association of Broadcasters.
In making the acquisition, Future noted that SmartBrief owns a database of 5.8 million subscribers “made up of senior executives, thought leaders and industry professionals,” and that it creates and distributes more than 250 digital newsletters.
The post Future, the Parent Company of Radio World, Acquires SmartBrief appeared first on Radio World.
The in-vehicle user experience group at consulting firm Strategy Analytics recently surveyed consumers in six major countries about their use of audio infotainment sources in the car. Among its headlines was that “radio usage is in fast decline across the U.S., Europe and China, even though in the West it still remains important for some key consumer segments.”
Radio World invited Roger Lanctot, the company’s associate director in the Global Automotive Practice, to comment about that conclusion, other results of the study and their implications for the radio industry.Roger Lanctot writes, “Both Google and Apple are themselves groping for the ideal user interface.”
The ongoing and intensifying struggle for control of in-vehicle dashboard displays between projected smartphone content and embedded terrestrial radio sources (and satellite, in the U.S.) has taken on an East vs. West tinge with a demographic edge.
U.S. and E.U. listeners continue to support broadcast radio sources, while drivers in China are shifting en masse to smartphone-based listening of streaming or owned content while driving.
At stake is determining what the dominant source of content in the car will be over the long term and, eventually, in automated or shared transportation scenarios. Surveying consumers across the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy and China, Strategy Analytics found that after several years of explosive interest, consumer appetite for smartphone mirroring systems has finally levelled off.
As more mirroring systems come to market in high-volume cars, and more non-early-adopting segments are exposed to them, their limitations are becoming apparent. Despite this, most embedded systems still do not provide better user experiences than these mirrored systems, according to Strategy Analytics researchers.FINDINGS
The key findings of the Strategy Analytics study include:
- Radio usage is in fast decline across the U.S., Europe and China, even though in the West it still remains important for some key consumer segments;
- Car owners are sending mixed signals on the next-best “must have” after radio. Flat user interfaces that allow easy access to all audio/media sources will be more important than ever for the next model turn;
- In the search for a successor to the CD player, streaming media has shown a remarkable surge in usage and interest, relative to owned media on portable devices;
- Not surprisingly, older demographic segments continue to lean toward broadcast radio content, while younger populations prefer streaming or owned media.
The reason this matters so much to broadcasters and carmakers is the reality that as much as 50% of radio listening today occurs in cars. Understanding the in-car experience of radio listening or, rather, all listening is essential to understanding how consumers are interacting with content sources in an increasingly connected world.Strategy Analytics finds that in terms of daily in-car use, streaming music services and portable owned music have overtaken AM/FM radio in China. In Western markets, AM/FM radio is still the most-used in-car source, though in the U.S., satellite radio and streaming music are relatively close behind.
According to the study, “Radio still rules, but car owners are sending mixed signals on the next-best ‘must have.’”
Google with its Android Auto smartphone streaming platform for use in cars and Apple’s CarPlay are seeing rapid uptake in the market with availability rapidly approaching saturation in the U.S. and E.U.
While this is occurring, digital radio is seeing its own robust rollout in the U.S. and a long overdue uptake — country by country — in Europe. Combining all of these trends means that carmakers have their work cut out for them facilitating access to new content sources with little or no historic guidance in the distraction-laden automotive environment.[A Peek at Tomorrow’s Car Radios]
The confrontation between broadcast, streaming and brought in content comes down to a user interface exercise involving software, operating systems and a substantial toolkit including steering wheel controls, hardware controllers, touch screens, gesture recognition, speech recognition, drop-down menus and digital assistants. Each interface has its strengths for particular applications, which must be correlated to consumer preferences, which vary.
Apple and Google have taken strong stances in seeking to create uniform in-vehicle experiences across the displays of different carmakers. In fact, both companies now have certification control over how their systems are deployed and displayed in cars.
It is almost comical to note that Apple recently shifted its UX toward a more flexible display capable of simultaneously showing navigation and content sources — more along the lines of Android Auto’s look and feel. In the process, Apple signaled its intention to move away from on-screen icons — oriented toward touchscreen use.
Google, meanwhile, cast aside its dynamic Google Now-style interface in favor of a more “old-style” Apple CarPlay icons-on-screen look.
The clear message for carmakers is that both Google and Apple are themselves groping for the ideal user interface.TURNING POINT
For carmakers and broadcasters, the onset of digital radio (HD Radio in the U.S. and DAB in Europe) marks an important turning point and an opportunity to redefine the radio experience. European broadcasters are introducing listeners to narrowband content as DAB enables an expanded assortment of broadcast channels. U.S. broadcasters, too, are expanding their broadcast portfolio.
But digital radio enables an additional range of capabilities suited to the new connected listening environment presented by automobiles. Digital radio comes with more metadata identifying stations and artists and enabling search for the first time.
The onset of digital radio has also opened the door to hybrid radio experiences capable of switching between streaming and broadcast sources for the same station. Digital radio also comes with a healthy dose of driving information encompassing everything from traffic and weather to local gas prices.
The key to unlocking the value of digital radio — which is intended to level the playing field with streaming and satellite sources — will be the user experience in the car. Global carmakers today are tasked with determining how to use the array of existing user interfaces and on-screen cues to facilitate a re-engagement of all demographic segments with broadcast content.
The first step forward for carmakers and broadcasters will be integrating broadcast sources with mirrored smartphone systems and digital assistants, such as Alexa. The next step will be to refine the built-in radio interfaces to make exploring the expanding range of broadcast content easier and more fun to use.
Radio is changing, and carmakers and broadcasters must change with it.
Roger Lanctot is a connected car and mobility services expert with 30 years of technology research and consulting background. He is a frequent blogger at www.linkedin.com/in/rogerclanctot/detail/recent-activity/posts/. He will speak in late August at Radiodays Asia in Kuala Lumpur, see www.radiodaysasia.com.
The company says the unit is an “advanced solution for broadcasting audio quality and offers the benefits of low operating costs.”
Ecreso FM 3kW is a fully digital transmitter for analog FM housed in a modular 3U chassis design.
According to WorldCast Systems, the Ecreso FM 3kW allows broadcasters to benefit from efficiency of up to 76% thanks to its 6th generation MOSFET and new planar design, built-in redundancy and easy maintenance with hot-swappable parts. In addition, system features include a direct-to-channel digital modulator, dynamic RDS encoder, five-band sound processor, MPX/Composite over AES, and patented Artificial Intelligence for FM radio, SmartFM.
With SmartFM, broadcasters enhance the listening experience for the most sensitive content, save 10 to 40% on energy costs, and reduce their CO2 consumption.
IBC Stand 8.C58
The post IBC Sneak Peek: WorldCast Ecreso FM 3kW Ensures Efficiency, Redundancy appeared first on Radio World.
It’s new equipment season — get ready!
This annual feature is all about new gear that has come onto the market in recent months, especially during spring convention season.
Check out this installment of products.Lawo Power Core Mixing Engine
The Power Core was initially introduced as a DSP mixing engine and modular I/O system for Lawo’s Ruby radio consoles, but, the company says, many broadcasters were using the system as a gateway between legacy audio formats and standards-based IP media networks.
This was possible because “The ST2110-30 standard ensures seamless interoperability of audio and video equipment in combined radio/TV broadcast plants,” it said in a release.
New features recently added to Power Core include: Dante card with dual-redundant ports and sample rate conversion; dual-redundant front-panel SFP ports for AoIP; choice of optical or copper network connections; ST2022-7 seamless protection switching; and twin active links to guard against audio loss.
Expandable, Power Core lets clients add more capacity with eight rear-panel card slots, which allow “a la carte” addition of analog, AES3, MADI and Dante interfaces, and the Studio I/O card that provides mic inputs and headphone and monitor outputs, the company says.
Info: www.lawo.comSummit Technology SideCAR Logger
SideCAR, developed by Summit Technology Group, is a software-based logger.
The company says that it, “designed SideCAR with a station’s engineering and management teams in mind to provide a means of regulatory compliance logging.” Besides compliance duties, Summit President Paul Stewart says, “Reporters and producers were using the product to create best-of-show airchecks, podcasts, or simply upload a select piece of audio to their website.”
SideCAR uses ENCO’s enCaption speech-to-text engine and its performance should be near real-time, according to the company.
The company adds that it should integrate with AoIP equipment of many, if not most, manufacturers. It is also compatible with automation systems. SideCAR is scalable from a single station to networks.
Info: www.summittechgroup.comSolid State Logic SiX Mixer
The Solid State Logic SiX is described as “a condensed professional console for use in the studio, post-production, on stage and for podcasting,” SiX packs some big desk features into a package small enough to fit into a backpack. It could find a home with radio production studios looking for high-quality audio production.
SiX offers two recording channels with SSL’s SuperAnalogue mic preamps, a one-knob version of the classic SSL Channel Compressor, a new two-band Channel EQ, inserts and 100 mm faders.
There is a two-knob version of the SSL’s G-Series Bus Compressor on the main mix bus and the company’s Listen Mic Compressor on the talkback. In mixdown mode, the unit can also serve as a 12-channel summing system.
Niall Feldman, SSL director of new products, noted, “The big challenge then was how to deliver those values and features in a compact product. Working with a great team and focusing on audio quality, workflow and flexibility, the resultant SiX mixer is one our proudest achievements.”
“SiX is everything an SSL console should be, but at a price point that makes the SSL audio pedigree more accessible,” opined James Gordon, CEO of Audiotonix, the company that owns SSL. “When Fusion launched last year, we hinted it was the start of a new line of studio offerings and SiX is step two of that commitment.”
Info: www.solidstatelogic.comPoint Source CO2 Confidence Microphones
Tested on live stage, the CO2 Confidence Collection microphones from Point Source Audio are dual-element wireless microphone with a number of features for broadcast use.
Besides redundant dual elements, they are IP 57 waterproof-rated with a nearly “unbreakable” that can be rotated almost 360 degrees — all featured in a slimline design. The omnidirectional waterproof elements are 3 mm and matched feature precisely matched elements to a near identical ±0.5 dB difference, according to the company. They can be nested to appear as a single element.
They are available in headset, lavalier and ear-mount and in black, beige and brown. Connections to wireless hardware are made with the company’s locking X-Connectors.
The DARC Surface 12, from Arrakis Systems, is a 12-fader control surface.
It is designed to work with Arrakis’ DARC Virtual Console controller software and an AoIP network. It is Dante- and AES67-compatible.
Included is an LED meter bridge. Small OLEDs are used for channel displays and LED switches for switches. Faders are conductive plastic.
There are two output busses. Arrakis’ Simple IP AoIP I/O hardware package is available for the DARC Surface 12 though it will work with most any AoIP hardware.
The Digigram Iqoya Talk is a portable IP audio codec for remote live operation, featuring a smartphone-like user interface allowing remote reporters to perform key actions in just two clicks. Operators can manage live reporting or commentaries with studio-quality interviews for up to four journalists and guests. The company adds that the user interface is designed for journalists not engineers.
Digigram says that the Iqoya Talk comes as a part of a comprehensive package, including studio and OB van applications, a range of four rackmountable IP audio codecs, or the company’s flagship multichannel audio IP codec for a large number of streams.
It also features a smartphone application and accessories for mobility; a web codec solution to connect a guest from anywhere, anytime; a suite of web applications to allow technicians to control and manage the entire fleet of codecs; and a secured infrastructure that enables interconnectivity between all the IP codecs.
Info: www.digigram.comV-Soft Probe 5 RF Signal Propagation Measurement Program
This latest version of Probe will now process at 64 bits. That should increase its calculating power to take advantage of computer RAM greater than 2 GB.
The company says that users can configure every aspect of Probe 5’s maps including down to the street level to provide high detail. It also says that features such as, highway colors, line-thickness, road markers, city names, lake and ocean colors, font names and sizes are fully selectable. It features USGS topographic maps.
The program now includes “industry standard” NSMA OHLOSS propagation algorithm. Incumbent propagation methods include: Other propagation methods are standard FCC, Longley-Rice, Okumura/Hata/Davidson and COST-231/Hata, point-to-point path profile analysis, line of sight/shadow, the FCC’s PTP and PTP2 methods and ILLR Satellite Home Viewers Act.
A 2016 FCC forfeiture charge of $25,000 for not properly maintaining and lighting two antenna structures against Pentecostal Temple Development Corp., the licensee for AM station WGBN in Lincoln Borough, Pa., has been made official as a result of what FCC describes as “procedurally deficient shenanigans” in a forfeiture order filed on July 23.
Following the originally proposed fine on Dec. 30, 2016, for violating section 303(q) of the Communications Act of 1934 — relating to the station’s tower lighting issues — Pentecostal Temple would have recurring filing errors in the procedures and possible payment of the fine. According to the commission’s account, the company failed to file a proper response to the original notice and failed to send copies of its Petition for Reconsideration of Notice to the FCC as instructed, resulting in neither documents being processed and returned to Pentecostal Temple.
The licensee also had issues when it came to setting up planned installment payments for the fine, failing to send it to the FCC’s chief financial officer, the commission said. While it was eventually forwarded to the CFO, an installment plan was never executed.
In addition, no response to the Notice to the Bureau was filed, as Pentecostal Temple mistakenly filed to the Office of Managing Director. The FCC notes, however, that even if it had been addressed appropriately, the filing still came after the 30-day window originally established.
These missteps led to the FCC to affirm the $25,000 fine against Pentecostal Temple, which it has 30 days to pay. If not paid within that time, the case may be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The post AM Levied Forfeiture of $25,000 Following Procedural “Shenanigans” appeared first on Radio World.
Jon Yinger and Dan Ramos have both predicted the AM radio band will be sunset by the FCC. I would hope that they are wrong. AM radio is still a viable method off reaching out to a broad area of the country.
Here on California’s Central Coast clear channel stations can be heard from San Francisco and Los Angeles. From 25 kW KNZR in Bakersfield to 50 kW KMJ, KFIG and even 5 kW KGST in Fresno come in with listenable signals albeit with some background noise.
Night-time the listening range can extend to several surrounding states. These stations, especially the 50 kW operators provide continuous signals while driving long distances. In times of an emergency like widespread power outages they could be the only information source available.
During a two-county power outage a couple of years ago the only source in information came from KNX in Los Angeles. All the local stations were off the air. Cellphones were limited to text messaging and for five hours we sat by candlelight not knowing what was going on. Fortunately the local hams started relaying information and after almost two hours KNX reporters finally had reports from PG&E.
I don’t think AM radio should go away. I think the local low-wattage operators should fold up shop. They don’t appear to be good stewards of broadcasting. Many times they are off the air or they have a carrier but no modulation for hours at a time. One weekend a station’s automation hung up and aside from a backfeed of news from the network on the hour there was no program material or station ID for two days until I called them on Monday morning, when the receptionist arrived. No one was monitoring the operation and no live answering service.
This kind of stuff goes on all the time. Why bother taking up space? We need to give the big stations more power and encourage the low-budget operators to leave the band.
Radio World invites industry-oriented commentaries and responses. Send to Radio World.
The year was 1972 and WOHO(AM) was second in the ratings to the legacy market leader in Toledo, Ohio, WSPD(AM), a stuffy bastion of Frank Sinatra records, call-in recipe shows, all pushed by air talent well past its prime.
WOHO held weekly announcer meetings during which we would be scolded by our program director for not beating WSPDs 5,000 watts with our puny 1,000 directional watts that mostly couldn’t be heard at night. A jock I’ll call Gary interrupted the familiar harangue with an idea for a contest that would, in his words, “set Toledo on its can.” Little did we know then that Gary would be the one getting canned.
“OK, guys, we’ll take our jingle package and edit out the Os from our call letters and just replace them with silence,” Gary said. “Then we’ll get on the air and play the edited jingles and say that someone stole the Os from our call letters and buried them somewhere in Toledo. We’ll give clues as to where they are, and whoever guesses the location will win $500.”
“Hold on there, pal,” said our program director. “Let’s make that prize $250 because that’s all the general manager will pop for.”
So we marched down to the GM’s office to let him know how we were going to finally beat WSPD. When presented with the idea, our general manager, a man I’ll call Mr. Leonard, screamed “That’s crazy. How can you bury the Os from our call letters? It doesn’t make any damn sense!”
“Look, Mr. Leonard,” I explained. “No one will really be burying anything. We give clues about a secret location in Toledo and people just guess it to win.”
“OK, but make that prize $150, boys,” said Mr. Leonard. “You can throw in some of those free drive-in movie tickets we get every month. And for Christ’s sake, don’t be caught out there burying anything!”
And so it began. We started airing our WOHO PAMS jingles, the ones from which I had removed the Os. “One forty-seven, W_H_, the station with the happy difference.”
We made no other comments on the air, just played the doctored jingles. The jocks began asking on their shows, “Hey, anyone out there know what happened to our call letters?” Listeners phoned the announcers and were put on the air to offer their theories. We feigned puzzlement and allowed this to go on a few more days. In fact the Toledo Blade, the local daily paper, put a mention of our phony predicament in its entertainment section.
Things were going well, so we sprang the next phase of the scheme, wherein we presented the rules in on-air promos like this:
(Brass stab!) Voice 1: “Someone has stolen the Os from WOHO’s call letters, and we need your helping finding them!”
(Tympani roll) Voice 2: “We received a note in the mail and here is what it said:
(Mysterious background music)
‘Your call letters are in a secret place.
Guess where it is and begin the race.
Go west and look for a big brick tower,
The one that tolls this very hour.
Locate the letters and win a prize,
But don’t use your hands, just use your eyes!’”
(Tympani) Voice 1: “Tell WOHO in a postcard where you think the missing call letters are, and if you’re right, you can win $150 and free movie tickets from the home of the good guys! Send it to WOHO, Broadcast House, Toledo, Ohio!”
(Jingle out:) “W_H_, Toledo”
The location we had in mind was the bell tower at the University of Toledo, a well-known landmark. But before any postcards were received we got a panicked call from a security guy at the University of Toledo.
“Hey, what’s going on over there?” the man wanted to know. “We got people digging up the lawn over here and they said WOHO was going to make them rich!”
I replied that I’d look into it, but at that point I didn’t take this report very seriously. Who would be stupid enough to do that?
The next call was from the Toledo police department, asking the same question. That got my attention. While I was dealing with the cops, the program director walked into my office and said he’d gotten calls from three TV news departments asking if we were really telling people to dig up the lawn at UT. This was now officially out of control.
The program director called an emergency meeting of the air staff and told us that all contest promos were to be taken off the air immediately. He had made a return call to the police telling them there was a misunderstanding by a few listeners and that we were sure the problems would stop very soon. That’s when he was informed that there were about 70 cars in the parking lot at the university and people were not only tearing up the grounds but also blocking traffic.
Now we got on the air and announced that under no circumstances was anyone to dig anywhere in the city. We said we would announce the contest winner shortly. The doctored jingles came off the air and in fact no jingles were played.
That seemed to calm things down, but that was not the end of the tale. Gary, the poor jock who suggested the contest in the first place, was given two clear messages by the general manager: get out and stay out.
A couple days later a few listener postcards trickled in, but none of them guessed the correct location of the never-to-be-spoken-of-again “missing call letters.” The local newspaper editorialized about “poorly planned radio contests that endangered our citizens,” and WOHO was mentioned specifically. We had to pay landscapers to repair the damage at the university and embarrassingly, we were forced to air an apology. This was the Titanic of radio contests.
I managed to emerge from this fiasco with my job intact, but only by keeping my head down. I still have that tape I made of our jingles with the missing call letters, but don’t ask me to play it for you.
Ken Deutsch is a writer who lives in sunny Sarasota, Fla., and has a book of these tales available, “Up and Down the Dial.”
The post Adventures in 1970s AM: WOHO’s Missing Call Letters appeared first on Radio World.
There was big news recently on the podcast front for community media outlets. Community radio hosting service Radio Free America emailed its partners to announce a pilot project in collaboration with a nonprofit journalism funder to adapt programming from its member stations for podcast distribution.
RFA’s announcement is perhaps the first real rocket fuel as far as developments in community media podcasts go. According to the message, Radio Free America will format a station’s terrestrial originated radio programs for wider podcast distribution at no cost.
RFA’s Jeff Abrams, a former head of community station KRBX/Radio Boise, commented for Radio World, “In addition to providing free access to thousands of archived community radio shows every week, Radio Free America is now working with stations to serve new audiences by adapting their locally-produced public affairs programming for podcast distribution. RFA feels that by using all delivery mechanisms, stations and producers can stretch the reach of their content, and thrive at a time when audio is bigger than ever. It’s really just another way to accomplish their local mission. It’s the natural extension of their core area of expertise. There’s no reason why great radio shows should only be heard on the radio.”
Abrams adds that Radio Free America does expect to introduce advertising inserts of various types, but has not decided how these messages will be implemented or what the editorial nature of them will be. However, RFA expects to consult with stations ahead of making any decisions regarding ads. In addition, RFA’s monetization model does include revenue sharing with its participants and other content partners “at an appropriate juncture.”
RFA moves from its traditional archival vertical into a relatively wide-open space. Virtually none of the known podcast players have been associated thus far with community media, either radio or the Public, Educational or Government (PEG) television side. How this absence came to be bears examination.
Truth be told, there are some dynamic community radio podcasts for sure — check out superlative podcasts like WXPR’s “We Live Up Here,” Marfa Public Radio’s “West Texas Talk” or WTIP’s “Boundary Waters” podcasts as some of the best in class. However, it is fair to say there may be some unrealized potential so far. There are perhaps a dozen or more quality community radio productions that would flourish brilliantly as podcasts, but lack the wherewithal to make a splash in the already crowded podcast system.
It is possible community media’s pace may be a deterrent. Why has community radio approached podcasting so gingerly? Literally every station certainly has high-quality gear and studios that would make any podcast sound good. Instead, the hesitation may be due to resources, lack of clarity on digital capacity, or any number of issues. Potential partners could see this lack of in-house skillsets and local investment in podcasting to be a major obstacle. In this regard, RFA’s commitment to handle the production end of the work and give technical know-how may be exactly what community radio stations with the right talent need to get ahead in the podcasting space.
As an intervention of sorts, content quality has to also be acknowledged as a stumbling block. Unfair though it may be, it is not hard to find those who perceive community media content to be inconsistent and at points marginal. It can be on occasion, and more than occasionally in some pockets. Addressing this issue may simply come down to stations countering that perspective by delivering more with what they have, where possible, and zeroing in on audience needs over internal inclinations, which may favor a bygone sound. To be clear, there are many stations offering top-shelf podcasting and content. May they inspire others to raise the bar locally.
As more radio listeners and younger demographics are being wooed to podcasts, rarely has there been a better time for community radio stations to hop into podcast offerings. These podcasts could be original productions or repackaged radio programs — and more studies indicate audiences like to hear traditional radio shows in an on-demand fashion as podcasting inherently provides. Audience interest is growing. Stakeholders such as governing boards love a station in the podcasting game as well. In addition, radio station donors want to see their dollars put to work keeping a station up with the times, as podcasts undoubtedly are doing for organizations like KPCC, which just launched a local podcast studio.
Still, it is incumbent on a community radio station to consider where podcasting fits into its strategic plan for its content and programming. Stations have so many competing priorities at any given moment that each needs to decide the time, resources and attention station podcasts can occupy. Such may call for a review of a station’s long-term objectives and its allowances for emergent needs. With proper focus and balance of all the demands at the station level, however, there are many wins to be had.
When Cumulus Media made the decision to sell the WMAL(AM) transmitter site that was located adjacent to the beltway north of downtown Washington, D.C. to a real estate developer, they contacted Stu Graham, P.E., with Graham-Brock Inc. to investigate possible host stations in the market where they could potentially diplex their popular news station. Mr. Graham identified WSPZ (now WWRC) with their transmitter site located in Germantown, Md., as a viable host station, and he designed a four-tower DA-1 pattern for WMAL utilizing the WSPZ array geometry to produce a southeast-directed pattern toward downtown Washington.Fig. 1: WWRC day directional pattern. Fig. 2: WWRC night directional pattern. Fig. 3: WMAL directional pattern.
Figs. 1 and 2 illustrate the day and night WSPZ patterns, respectively, and Fig. 3 illustrates the WMAL pattern.
Once a lease agreement was consummated between the owners of WSPZ and Cumulus Media, Regional Engineer Dave Supplee contacted Kintronic Labs to inquire if it would be possible to diplex WSPZ on 570 kHz with WMAL on 630 kHz, with only 60 kHz separation at the low end of the AM band.
One consideration in this decision was that both stations utilized a talk format, which is not as demanding on the audio bandwidth of each station as would be the case if they were music format stations. Following a preliminary design effort, it was determined that the diplexing of these two stations would be feasible while realizing that the audio bandwidth of both stations would be reduced due to the impact of the filters required for isolation.
A site survey was conducted, after which the available space for additional networks at each tower base was determined. The decision was made to proceed with plans for a prefabricated transmitter building for WMAL due to insufficient space in the existing WSPZ transmitter building to accommodate two 10 kW transmitters plus the directional antenna phasing system. Following receipt of the construction permit, Kintronic Labs (KTL) was awarded a contract to supply the required diplexed antenna system as well as the prefabricated concrete tuning house required for WMAL.SYSTEM DESIGN
Rob Elder, Kintronic Labs contract field engineer, conducted open and short impedance measurements of the four towers at 570 kHz and 630 kHz. Final site layout plans were completed by Dave Supplee to establish the transmission line lengths for WMAL. Fig. 4 shows the routing of the transmission lines for WSPZ in red and for WMAL in blue.Fig. 4: Transmission line routings and lengths for WWRC (red) and WMAL (blue).
Jim Moser, senior RF design engineer at KTL, proceeded with creating a model of the four-tower array using GNEC. A method of moments (MOM) simulation for the WSPZ day and night patterns and for the WMAL pattern utilizing the open and short tower measurements was conducted to yield the tower operating parameters for each pattern.
During the course of this project, WSPZ was sold, and the station call letters were changed to WWRC. We will therefore refer to WSPZ as WWRC for the remainder of this article.
In reviewing the design of the WWRC day and night antenna systems, we noted that the drive impedances of Towers 3 and 4 were in the single digits, and the associated power to these towers was very low compared to Towers 1 and 2.
These low-resistance towers typically have a negative impact on the common point buss impedance, resulting in a relatively narrow band common point input impedance. As a result a tower pre-matching “T” network was added to raise the resistance of these towers, which had the effect of enhancing the common point input on the patterns of both stations. These networks were added between the common output of the two series isolation trap filters and the tower feed for each tower.Fig. 5: Tower No. 3 pre-matching network. (Click here to enlarge.) Fig. 6: Tower No. 4 pre-matching network. (Click here to enlarge.)
Figs. 5 and 6 include the pre-match networks that were added to the Tower No. 3 and 4 tower feeds, respectively.
Series trap filters were designed for each station to facilitate the diplexing of the two stations. In addition, separate shunt filters were designed for installation at the output of the 570 kHz and 630 kHz transmitters in order to achieve a minimum of 60 dB of isolation between the two transmitters for the purpose of keeping any possible intermodulation products to an FCC-compliant level. A phase rotation “T” network was also added at the 570 kHz common point input to yield a left-facing impedance sweep contour on the Smith Chart at the final amplifier location.Fig. 7: WWRC transmitter shunt filter to pass: 570 kHz/reject: 630 kHz and phase rotation network installed at the output of the WWRC transmitter. Fig. 8: WMAL transmitter shunt filter to pass: 630 kHz/reject: 570 kHz installed at the output of the WMAL transmitter.
Fig. 7 includes the portion of the RF schematic of the 570 kHz pass/630 kHz reject shunt filter and phase rotation network installed at the WWRC common point input. Fig. 8 shows the 630 kHz pass/570 kHz reject shunt filter installed at the WMAL common point input.Fig. 9: Measured rejection of each WWRC and WMAL series and shunt filter.
The measured rejection of each series and shunt trap filter in the diplexed directional antenna system is listed in Fig. 9. Note that the sum of the rejection of each series trap filter for WWRC or WMAL together with that of each respective WWRC or WMAL transmitter shunt filter yields a total port-to-port isolation of >60 dB. This was a major accomplishment for two frequencies only 60 kHz apart!Fig. 10: Measured (left column) versus predicted (right column) common point input SWR for the WWRC day and night patterns.
Fig. 10 compares the predicted versus measured common point VSWR values at Fc ±5, 10 and 15 kHz for the WWRC day and night patterns. It was a significant achievement to obtain VSWR values of <1.55:1 at Fc ±5 kHz for both WWRC patterns. An expanded Smith Chart display of the WWRC day and night common point sweeps is shown in Figs. 11 and 12, respectively. The red circle indicates a 1.5:1 VSWR.Fig. 11: WWRC day pattern predicted (top) vs. measured (below) common point impedance sweep. Fig. 12: WWRC Night pattern predicted (top) vs. measured (below) common point impedance sweep. Fig. 13: Measured (left column) versus predicted (right column) common point input SWR for the WMAL single pattern.
Fig. 13 compares the predicted versus measured common point VSWR values at Fc ±5, 10 and 15 kHz for the WMAL pattern. In this case, the sideband VSWR values at Fc ±5 kHz are < 1.37:1, which is a result of network optimization techniques utilizing the Kintronic Labs CKTNET and ARRAYPAT software design tools together with LTSPICE. Fig. 14 is an expanded Smith Chart display of the same input common point sweep data. The lower sideband that is closest to 570 kHz is asymmetric relative to the upper sideband due to the effects of the WWRC transmitter output shunt filter.Fig. 14: WMAL single pattern predicted (top) vs. measured (below) common point impedance sweep. SETTING IT UP
All of the phasing and matching system adjustments were made utilizing the four-port network analyzer technique that was ingeniously developed by Ronald D. Rackley, P.E. (see Reference  at the end of this article). The instrumentation suite included a Hewlett Packard 8753 series network analyzer, a Tunwall Radio directional coupler set designed by Rackley, and an ENI linear amplifier.Fig. 15: WWRC day pattern bandwidth (top) and night pattern bandwidth (bottom).
In addition to the Fc ±5 kHz common point impedance optimization for both stations’ patterns, we also predicted the carrier and sideband pattern bandwidth utilizing the Kintronic Labs ARRAYPAT software tool. The pattern bandwidth results for Fc ±5 kHz for the WWRC day and night patterns are shown in Fig. 15, where the carrier pattern is shown in red, the lower sideband in blue and the upper sideband in green. As you can see, the carrier and lower sideband patterns in the main lobe are overlaid whereas the upper sideband pattern, which is closest to the WMAL lower sideband, is reduced in field intensity relative to the carrier due to the rejection filter attenuation.
The solutions for phase budget were iterated to determine the reference tower phase which would result in the minimum field intensity variation versus frequency and minimum sideband VSWR for the WMAL pattern. The WMAL predicted pattern bandwidth is shown in Fig. 16. In this case, as you would expect, the lower sideband closest to the WWRC upper sideband is the most deviated sideband pattern from the carrier pattern.Fig. 16: WMAL predicted pattern bandwidth. IM MEASUREMENTS Fig. 17: Measured intermodulation products.
Following completion of the on-site adjustments for each pattern according to these optimized target values, a Potomac Model FIM-41 field intensity meter was utilized to measure all of the possible intermodulation products between the two stations. The results of the intermod measurements are shown in Fig. 17. The two frequencies that were slightly above the -80 dB threshold were WRVA on 1140 kHz and an unidentified station on 1320 kHz. The final impedance sweep data presented above was collected once these measurement results were verified.WMAL PREFABRICATED CONCRETE TRANSMITTER BUILDING
Due to the lack of sufficient space for the WMAL transmitters and phasor in the WWRC transmitter building, Cumulus Media decided to install a pre-fabricated concrete transmitter building adjacent to the WWRC transmitter building in the location shown as a blue rectangle in Fig. 4. The building was sized to accommodate two Nautel NX10 AM transmitters, a Program Input Equipment (PIE) rack, a 15 kW dummy load and the WMAL common point and phasing/power divider networks in a shielded section of the building. Fig. 18 shows a foldout layout of the transmitter building.Fig. 18: A foldout layout of the WMAL prefabricated transmitter building. (Click here to enlarge.) Fig. 19: A photo of the installed WMAL prefabricated concrete transmitter building.
The two transmitters and PIE rack are centered in a row in the left end of the building and the open panel and shelf phasing and matching system encompassed in an expanded metal enclosure with interlocked access door is located in the right end of the building. A backup diesel generator and tank were installed outside the building closest to the electrical distribution panel and automatic transfer switch. A photo of the installed prefab building with the diesel generator located to the right of the building is shown in Fig. 19.Fig. 20: A rear view of the transmitter building showing the weatherproof feedthrough ports for the transmission and sample lines.
The transmission and sample lines were routed to the four towers via a bulkhead ground panel located in the upper rear wall of the building as shown in Fig. 20.
Figs. 21 and 22 show the phasing system installed inside an expanded metal shielded enclosure and the row of transmitters and racks, respectively.Fig. 21: The installed WMAL common point, phasing and power division networks. Fig. 22: Dave Supplee works on his computer in front of the installed Nautel NX10 main/standby transmitters and PIE rack.
A photo typical of the installation of the WMAL matching and filter networks at the base of one of the WWRC towers is shown in Fig. 23. The large white weatherproof enclosures house the RF components for those networks. An array of STL isocouplers is shown to the left of the matching and filter enclosures.THE VERDICT
The use of a combination of strategically designed common pre-matching networks at the towers, series and shunt trap filters with offsets, slope compensation elements and phase rotation networks resulted in the successful diplexed directional operation of WWRC and WMAL with only 60 kHz separation on the low end of the AM band. The final result accomplished a system with:
- a Fc +/- 5 kHz common point VSWR of < 1.37:1 for both the WWRC day and WMAL patterns;
- a Fc +/- 5 kHz common point VSWR of < 1.55:1 for the WWRC night pattern; and
- no measured out-of-limit intermodulation products.
This article is based on a presentation to the 2019 NAB Show Broadcast Engineering and IT Conference. A sampler of session papers is provided in the Conference Proceedings, which are available for purchase on USB Flash Drive at www.nabstore.com, keyword proceedings.Fig. 23: Tower diplexing equipment located outside one of the original tuning houses. REFERENCE
 “Evaluation and Improvement of AM Antenna Characteristics For Optimal Digital Performance,” Ronald D. Rackley, PE, duTreil, Lundin & Rackley, Inc, Proceedings of the 2003 NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference.
The post Diplex Two Four-Tower DA Stations 60 kHz Apart? No Way! appeared first on Radio World.
The Society of Broadcast Engineers has revealed some of its 2019 honorees, all of whom will be recognized in October at the SBE National Awards Dinner in Wisconsin. The dinner is part of the association’s annual meeting, Oct. 15–16, run in conjunction with the Wisconsin Broadcasters Clinic.
SBE members nominated and ultimately named Charles Wooten as this year’s Robert W. Flanders SBE Engineer of the Year. The Panama City, Fla., engineer is credited with maintaining iHeartMedia radio signals in Bay County, even after Category 5-rated Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle on Oct. 10, 2018. His efforts helped the stations remain online after the storm, while most other terrestrial and wireless communications and all utilities lost power. Excellent work, indeed!Bill Hubbard
Green Bay, Wisconsin’s Bill Hubbard was also chosen as the 2019 James C. Wulliman SBE Educator of the Year. Although Hubbard is recently (officially) retired, he is a charter member of SBE Chapter 80. Hubbard has volunteered much time working on the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Clinic program committee, for which he helped create semi-annual educational seminars. Additionally, he helped form a seminar to train new graduates in the basics of broadcast engineering, dubbed the Media Technology Institute. His efforts also included a plan to incentivize Chapter 80 members to gain SBE certifications, using chapter funding to reimburse participants for certification exams and study materials.
Radio World is also pleased to note that Chapter 47 member and Radio World contributor Doug Irwin has been recognized for Best Technical Article, Book or Program. Read the first installment of his winning series on the spectrum repack here.
Read about the winners of chapter and individual awards on the SBE website. And if you want to start assessing your colleagues’ performance, nominations for next year’s awards open in February, the announcement notes.
The post SBE Acknowledges Wooten and Hubbard With Top Honors appeared first on Radio World.
CLEVELAND — ISDN is out, audio over IP is in.
Major telecom companies have announced plans for the sunset of ISDN and the service has been terminated by several providers in the U.S. in the past 18 months.
In place of ISDN is a wide variety of audio over IP solutions. Even though AoIP has moved studios into the IP realm, converting that IP audio into a routable codec solution has been a clunky bolt-on solution. In many cases, broadcasters have had to resort to running separate codecs or software on computers in the studio with sound cards wired directly into the console.
By 2016, VoIP was making an enormous difference in corporate telecommunications, both in terms of speech quality and in the range of services available. SIP was already being implemented across different codec manufacturers for interoperability, so a solution of SIP-enabled codecs combined with the Opus open source codec seemed to hold the promise of being a reasonable replacement for ISDN distribution.
We were looking for a way to take WheatNet-IP audio in our studio facilities and seamlessly integrate bidirectional codec functionality into the architecture. The ideal solution would operate natively in both environments — presenting fully-connected AoIP channels on the studio audio side and functioning as fully-featured AoIP SIP/Opus (VoIP) codec for audio connectivity outside the studio facility.
Nothing like this had been developed before, so we enlisted the help of Wheatstone and its partner Radiomation, an Irish company that had already been doing pioneering work linking Wheatstone equipment to existing ISDN and POTS telecommunications equipment.SOLVED
The result was SwitchBlade, an AoIP appliance that seamlessly integrates 24 remote AoIP connections directly into the WheatNet-IP audio network at the studio. SwitchBlade is a single 1RU unit chassis with a 24 software codecs routed to any source and destination on the WheatNet IP-Audio system.
By the end of October 2017, SwitchBlade had been demonstrated as a proof-of-concept at the iHeartMedia Engineering facility in Cincinnati. After NAB in 2018, SwitchBlade’s next stop was the iHeartMedia studios in Cleveland, where we performed beta testing and drove further development, resulting in a widespread deployment across iHeartMedia in 2019.
SwitchBlade has allowed iHeartMedia to proactively migrate away from ISDN to audio over IP for remote audio connectivity. Standardizing on the open standard of SIP for initiating the connection, and the wide adoption of the open source Opus codec, has resulted in interoperability with many different existing codecs in the field.
SwitchBlade has the intelligence to be controlled using all the WheatNet-IP programmability. All 24 internal modules can be individually controlled by custom console interfaces; the Wheatstone ACI; ScreenBuilder, Wheatstone’s widely-used programming environment; and integration into RCS NexGen and other automation systems for automating the various remote AoIP connections for each show.
Among the many unique qualities of this appliance is its ability to dynamically assign and pass any of 78 GPIO closures, and have serial network cues associated with satellite-delivered program travel with the program audio, arriving at the remote end still perfectly synchronized with the content. This was achieved by embedding the signals directly into the audio stream so that signals and content are always perfectly synchronized regardless of any delays to the signal path.[Solving the Missing Link]
Being driven by the iHeartMedia Engineering team for the past two years has made SwitchBlade into a world-class solution — a fact recognized by the National Association of Broadcasters, which gave it the “Product of the Year Award” in the Audio Production, Processing and Networking category at NAB Show 2019.
SwitchBlade has not only met and exceeded the “ISDN-Replacement” challenge, it has changed our thinking on everything from satellite program distribution and telephone contributions to inter-facility content distribution.
For information, contact Jay Tyler at Wheatstone in North Carolina at 1-252-638-7000 or www.wheatstone.com.
The internet is such a useful tool for today’s broadcast engineer. Here’s another case in point:
Bill Bowin is the chief engineer for North American Broadcasting Company in Columbus, Ohio. He relates that his assistant Dave Matthews picked up an Andrew dehydrator at the most recent Dayton Hamvention. Dave figured that even if the unit didn’t work, the price was right, even if just for spare parts.
After getting the dehydrator on the bench, the only problem Dave could find was that the cooling radiator had corroded, as seen in Fig. 1. Hoping to get the “radiator” repaired, Dave took it to the station’s resident car guru, who commented, “Hey, that’s an oil cooler!”Fig. 2: Amazon to the rescue with this replacement oil cooler for $30.
A quick search on Amazon revealed a virtually identical replacement for under $30. Fig. 2 is a picture of the actual box, including the part number. The replacement oil cooler fit perfectly in the dehydrator, which will now have a new home keeping a transmission line dry.***
RW Editor-In-Chief Paul McLane occasionally passes on some great tips of his own.
This one is borrowed from the June 24 issue of PC Magazine. Because so many engineers use the Raspberry Pi computer, readers will be pleased to know that the new Raspberry Pi 4 laptop computer comes with three times the processing power of the previous generation. Plus, it has the capability to drive two 4k HDMI displays at once, as well as providing a Gigabit Ethernet port and offering USB 3.0 connectivity.
If you haven’t explored the Raspberry Pi, head to www.raspberrypi.org. For $35, you’ve got a full-fledged computer, and the site provides both tutorials and a number of projects.
If you’ve experimented with a Raspberry Pi in the past, another feature is this new version is backward-compatible. So, if you have older Raspberry Pi projects, this new version can be easily exchanged. What a concept!
Have you used the Raspberry Pi in a broadcast setting? Let our readers know about it. Send me your project information, along with high-resolution photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org.***
Frequent contributor and project engineer Dan Slentz sent another link for acoustic foam panels — this time from Home Depot. Dan writes that he is amazed how much “studio” gear is found on non-broadcast websites.
Go to www.homedepot.com, and enter Acoustic Panels in the search block. You’ll find a variety of acoustic panels by several manufacturers including Auralex. Are you looking for a non-foam sound diffuser? Enter “sound diffuser” in the search block and scroll down for a variety of products.
Of course, readers of Radio World should patronize our broadcast industry suppliers first, when all other things are relatively equal. A non-industry supplier may or may not be more expensive. Keep in mind too that Home Depot may have neither the range of options or the expertise to help you.
But a box store might help you out when you need something this minute. Remember, Radio Shack probably wasn’t your first choice in the old days if you needed a connector, cable or cheap mic. But it was comforting to know you had that option as a complement to your relationship with a favorite radio industry distributor.***
Ham Brian Beezley (K6STI) commented on the Stellar Labs Yagi that we mentioned in a previous column. From his perspective and measurements, it lacks the tremendous directivity and forward gain promised by the manufacturer. Brian also questions whether it would survive a harsh winter, even though it is constructed of tubular and not rolled metal.
Brian modeled the antenna, and its performance, along with a suggested modification to improve the performance. His results can be found here: http://ham-radio.com/k6sti/stellar.htm.
Brian also modeled the performance of over 25 Yagis, and their individual performances can be compared here: http://ham-radio.com/k6sti/curves.htm.
As to the Stellar Labs product, Brian writes that its availability and low cost are perhaps the most valuable features.*** Fig. 3: How long has it been since you’ve seen these? Do you even know what they are?
In the previous column, I challenged readers to identify Fig. 4 (shown as Fig. 3 here). I noted that it was a commonplace in radio and TV stations but might be hard to find anymore.
These are adhesive labels that were used not just on file folders but to label audio tape cartridges, which we inserted into endless-loop cart machines to play back spots, jingles and music.
Ask a broadcasting veteran how much fun it was trying to scrape off all that adhesive when trying to remove the labels! (That was one of my first jobs in radio.)
By the way, I checked; Avery still manufactures these labels, just in case you need them for file folders — or that stack of carts in your basement! Head to www.avery.com and search for “file folder labels.”
Contribute to Workbench. Send Workbench tips and high-resolution photos to email@example.com.
Author 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 is SBE certified and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.
Educational Media Foundation has named a new, permanent CEO. Bill Reeves will now take the reins of the parent company of K-LOVE and Air1 radio networks. He replaces Interim EMF CEO and President Alan Mason, who took over soon after former CEO Mike Novak announced plans to step down in 2018.
In the announcement, Mason highlighted Reeves’ media experience and said it “complements radio as we [EMF] take our first step toward becoming a more diversified media ministry.”
Additionally, the press release noted that EMF has issued a letter of intent to acquire The WTA Group, a development and marketing firm founded by Reeves in 2009, and where he currently serves as president.
If all goes according to plan, WTA Group will remain in Nashville, Tenn., while Reeves and his family will move to Rocklin, Calif., where EMF is headquartered.[EMF Innovates in Creation of National Network]
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of this expanded role with EMF,” Reeves said. “K-LOVE and Air1 have tremendous impact on our culture, and I look forward to continuing to grow that impact and reach both through the radio networks and through new media in the future.”
EMF was established in 1981 with its first station in Santa Rosa, Calif. Four decades later, EMF now has two Christian-formatted divisions (K-LOVE and Air1) that broadcast on approximately 900 signals in 50 states. However, the majority of the company’s 400 employees are based in Rocklin, Calif.
Credit: Jim Peck
We’ve all heard the hype about the connected car and how the internet will transform the dashboards of new cars coming soon to dealers everywhere. If you’ve been driving a car with a standard AM/FM radio or even a newer model using Bluetooth and a USB port for your smart devices, you’ve no doubt been wondering what the dashboard and radio will look like in your next car purchase.
It is evident that there are some dazzling new offerings on the market or coming soon. At this year’s NAB Show, the In Vehicle Experience pavilion attracted attention and a high volume of attendees; so before the spring show disappears entirely in our rear-view mirror, let’s summarize what we saw at that pavilion.
Four companies featured their own unique dashboard experiences inside a sleek new automobile in a simulated new car showroom setting. Show-goers were able to sit in most of the cars and get a hands-on demo with a rep explaining the new look and feel, plus all the available options. The entire Las Vegas radio market was on full-throttle, real-time display. In addition to the four-wheeled eye candy and radio demos, a speaker’s forum featured panels with experts discussing a range of topics related to the in-vehicle entertainment experience.
Certainly, the internet will play a major role in U.S. automobile dashboards very soon, as it’s already doing in Europe. But most broadcasters here are more concerned about how their radio stations of today will be accommodated in the dashboards of tomorrow’s new models.VISUALS AND METADATA
Since RDS, perhaps the most important feature added to the car radio dashboard in recent years is the display of station logos, song titles and artists, album art, traffic report maps, commercial ad brand logos and other metadata related to the real-time programming. HD Radio was the first to implement an on-screen display of this program-associated data in car radios. SiriusXM has since followed that lead along with many streaming services now available in recently introduced IP-connected radio models.
One of the challenges for the car radio screens of tomorrow is presenting a consistent display of this information to the consumer. Xperi, the publicly held company that acquired DTS after the latter purchased the HD Radio platform from iBiquity, is positioning itself as the global metadata aggregator and integrator for all players. Those include Radio DNS, Arctic Palm, The Radio Experience, Jump2Go and others. By using IP connectivity in the vehicle, the DTS Connected Radio will integrate directly with broadcasters and those third-party platforms to deliver a consistent metadata experience around the world.
Dave Casey, program manager for the DTS Connected Radio project, told us, “Automakers are looking for a consistent user experience for their drivers when they are listening to the radio. Xperi is planning for the DTS Connected Radio to be the leading source of aggregated metadata, from broadcasters, to the manufacturers and their radio hardware suppliers.”SOLVING THE MENU PROBLEM
Another major challenge that has confronted new car radio designers is how best to present an easy-to-use and intuitive menu of stations and services available to choose from in a specific listening area.The radio screen in a 2019 Mercedes A-Class model at the NAB Show pavilion. Artist Experience from HD Radio delivered station logos, displayed here in “carousel” fashion.
Credit: Jim Peck
Xperi has developed “Live Guide,” which actually uses two discrete radio tuners to make this happen.
The first tuner connects at startup, using the location to determine and list all available terrestrial radio services. Signals in the list are then sampled and validated in only one second, eliminating stations that are too weak or undetected.
The second tuner is the CREU (Connected Radio Evaluation Unit)-based reference radio. This is Xperi’s SDR developmental platform, which uses an integrated SDK-API software package to deliver a continuously scanning display menu of available stations on a touchscreen user interface.
Live Guide allows the user to see a clean list of all stations in their listening areas with metadata, including station logo, station name and what is playing on the station at that time. This feature demonstrates the importance of station metadata and how that impacts the radio listening experience.
Juan Galdamez, Xperi product marketing director, automotive and radio technologies, said, “If stations deliver rich metadata, radio designers can then use features like this to design compelling and intuitive radio experiences in future vehicles.”
NAB’s Pilot program has been using the DTS Connected Radio platform to show car radio manufacturers and the industry examples of the possibilities for car radios of tomorrow. Pilot has also used the DTS Connected Radio platform at several automotive hackathons around the country to create new radio listening experiences.[A Look at the Mercedes-Benz Comand Infotainment System]
The main attraction in the pavilion was Xperi’s new widescreen HD Radio in a 2019 Mercedes A-Class sports car. This model did not integrate IP connectivity to include internet streams in the menu, but Casey told us this addition is under construction and should be implemented by next year.
The impressive new on-screen menu provides a panoply of options that goes far beyond any present-day car radio’s capabilities. As the user “tunes” the dial by finger scrolling, stations across the band are all displayed with call letters and frequencies, plus whatever metadata they’ve chosen to add like slogans, logos, format, song title/artist, album art, etc. A typical user not familiar with all the area’s choices will likely be more attracted to a station displaying the most eye candy and useful information, as opposed to one with nothing but call letters and frequency.
The intuitive menu allows the user to choose and lock in their favorite stations by touching the heart icon. They can also select filters to display only the formats and genres of interest during the scanning process.
Since it’s all software-driven, new features can be added as they are invented and become available.
Joe D’Angelo, Xperi senior vice president, radio, said, “As the DTS Connected Radio Platform evolves and achieves widespread acceptance, it will help to accelerate adoption and the manufacturing of a standardized integrated radio product for most all new cars.”HD RADIO’S POSITIONING
Xperi’s dashboard demo in the 2019 Mercedes A-Class was a real eye-opener that showed off the power and capabilities of HD Radio. HD supplemental channel stations are automatically awarded a level playing field in the new scanning menu platform and are displayed in the same manner as their primary HD host stations, including the HD Artist Experience. That alone should breathe new life and value into HD2 and HD3 specialized formats that until now have struggled to generate significant ratings and revenue.Xperi also demonstrated HD Radio’s Emergency Alerts feature in a Mercedes. This is the first factory-installed implementation of the emergency feature by an automaker; the feature expands EAS with images and text to the vehicle in a time of emergency.
Credit: Jim Peck
This Mercedes also was equipped with HD Radio’s Emergency Alerts feature that will allow for EAS alerts to automatically turn on the radio in a time of need.
A quick note to the audio purists reading this: When HD Radio as well as SiriusXM and streaming radio services began ramping up, the audio quality was roundly criticized by many. The early codecs used back then have been upgraded and replaced. As with other first-generation technology rollouts, problems are addressed and bugs are flushed out. The HE-AAC with SBR algorithm variations used in today’s codecs have largely eliminated the degraded audio quality complaints associated with most digital and internet based services.OTHER MARKET PLAYERS
While the Mercedes demonstration on the show floor did not include IP/internet integration this year, several others did.
A very flashy and very expensive ($130,000) black Karma Revero was showing a prototype DTS Connected Radio integration. Xperi worked with Karma to design an all-new radio experience with DTS Connected Radio, though due to technical issues, the demo shut down before the end of the show.
Audi unveiled a very impressive demonstration of its hybrid 4G-LTE internet connected radio with AM/FM integration. Audi appears to be in the lead with connected car technology, having introduced its first model in Europe almost three years ago. They plan to add their newest version of a continuous tuning, touch screen menu driven dial that integrates AM/FM, SiriusXM and the internet next year for U.S. model delivery.
By far, the most innovative feature of the Audi hybrid radio shown in a kiosk next to an Audi eTron was the simulated fail-over of the terrestrial FM reception to its internet stream as the FM signal became unusable. They call it “Service Following Online,” which uses special buffering to allow a seamless transition. The rep told us the Audi eTron, including the new radio, is available in Europe, and they are taking orders now. It’s priced around $75,000.
Audi, along with most of the European car radio manufacturers, is now using the UK-based Radio Player that hosts Radio DNS as the metadata integrator. Radio Player is a nonprofit group that had a rep and booth in the pavilion. They claim a presence in 11 European countries, with 80% of all German stations using the service, and came to the NAB Show hoping to sign up U.S.-based companies.[Strategy Analytics Report Finds In-Car Terrestrial Radio at Risk]
General Motors partnered with Avis Car Rental in the pavilion, showing a new Buick Enclave SUV. The stock HD Radio demonstration featured the addition of a software app that emulates the DTS Connected Radio platform touchscreen, complete with the same look and feel as the real radio demo shown by Xperi in their booth. The software was developed by Open Path in collaboration with NAB Pilot.
Avis rents 600,000 cars in 180 countries worldwide. The new GM/Avis radio offering is targeted at “road warriors” who frequently rent a car and travel in unfamiliar cities and are looking for radio stations based on favorite formats and genres. A trial for real consumers driving Avis vehicles is slated for the third quarter of this year in Kansas City, Mo.MINIMAL PHYSICAL INTERACTION
As mentioned, the In Vehicle Experience pavilion included panel discussions by experts on pertinent topics. Radio World’s Paul McLane moderated one of the more fascinating panels; it tackled the question of what should be the most pressing priorities for the connected car radio of the future.
John Vermeer of iHeartMedia said, “The connected car radio dashboard interface must be simple but fast to deliver desired content to the user with minimal physical interaction.” With that in mind, James Buczkowski of Ford Motor Company cited voice command interaction, à la electronic assistants like Alexa and Cortana, as perhaps the best way to control the connected car radio going forward.
Many kinds of consumer devices that use voice commands are becoming popular and widespread. Buczkowski suggested, “Voice commands eliminate the need for multiple button pushes to get what the user wants quickly.” And it reduces driver distraction — no messing with the radio instead of looking at the road ahead.
So where do we stand with the internet connected car radio rollout schedule? We’re all wondering how soon the impressive new receivers shown at the NAB Show will arrive in new car company showrooms. If you live in Europe, you can buy one now. U.S. consumers will have to wait until at least sometime next year. At the spring show, we learned that LG is now building a connected car radio for a major U.S. car company to be unveiled in 2021 models.
However the connected car with internet integration shapes the car radio experience of the future, it is still safe to conclude that over-the-air terrestrial and satellite radio reception with augmentation of internet streams and interactivity will be the most efficient, reliable and diversified audio entertainment platform available to consumers for many years to come.
If there’s one thing broadcasters seem to agree about, it’s paperwork. They hate it. For those who may question this assertion, I offer this example: the joint comments of 82 different broadcasters and licensees.
In an industry full of opinions, it’s rare to get so many different entities to sign on to one document, but that’s the case for the “EEO Enhancements” filed at the FCC in response to the FCC’s EEO Compliance and Enforcement Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in MB Docket No. 19-177. The joint comments were submitted July 18 by Womble Bond Dickinson attorneys John F. Garziglia and Gregg P. Skall on behalf of their clients and other broadcasters.
These broadcasters are very, very clear that they have no problem with Equality Employment Opportunity compliance or with hiring a diverse staff. Instead, the issue is the mandated mountain of paperwork that is required to comply with the FCC’s EEO rules mandate.
They are especially offended by the idea that the commission thinks a station with as few as five employees be required to fill out as much paperwork as a media company with multiple stations in one market. According to the commenters, “the proposals envision a re-allotment of the EEO paperwork and burdens” to assign the greater effort to stations more likely to have the manpower necessary to cope with it.
However, the joint comments put forth three proposals to remedy or at least ameliorate the situation while furthering the commission’s diversity goals “with pragmatism and equity.” The commenters also encouraged the FCC to not look upon these suggestions as a buffet of options, but rather as a prix fixe menu to be “served” to the broadcast community together.[FCC Eliminates One EEO Report Filing Requirement]
Surprisingly, the commenters’ first proposal is to add a requirement! Well, they want to remove an anachronistic exemption. Simply put, the commenters want every full-time radio job vacancy to be listed on a website that gets a reasonable amount of traffic. This, they argue, will spread out the pool of potential applications through greater exposure, and thus, theoretically increase diversity. As a bonus, they say, this may help diminutive stations in smaller markets find more candidates to fill positions, as well as help people find entry level positions to launch their broadcast careers.
Next, they want to change the FCC definition of a “station employment unit” to reflect the commission’s dismissal of the main studio rule, which means stations are no longer required stations to have a physical presence at their city of license or even market. That means some big broadcasters end up documenting and filing less EEO paperwork than their much smaller counterparts.
To remedy this, the commenters say the employment unit should be changed to consider all stations — including affiliates, subsidiaries and parents — as one employment unit. Therefore, they would be required only to file one “omnibus Annual EEO Public File Report” and set of documents per broadcaster that also breaks down the individual stations, so that the same information is ultimately delivered to the FCC and the public. (Multiple reports would also be accepted, if broadcasters so choose, according to the commenters.)[Commission Moves EEO Efforts to Enforcement Bureau]
Finally, the joint commenters also seek to change what constitutes a small station. Rather than the current five full-time employees, they are argue that the commission should update its rules to reflect the general consensus of human resources professionals. HR and other regulatory bodies typically bring the small business cap to 50 or fewer employees before more burdensome requirements kick in. Once a broadcaster has at least 50 employees, it is reasonable to assume that some type of human resources department would exist and thus be able to handle EEO reporting and documentation, rather than have the task fall to someone as part of “other duties as assigned.”
The joint commenters say that these changes would help struggling broadcasters, many of who are seeking qualified employees, not keeping people of diverse backgrounds “out of the industry through any nefarious means or even omissions.”
Regardless, the filing says the commenters want these ideas to spark “a starting point for a frank discussion of what works and what does not work in attracting a diversity of employees to our broadcasting industry.”
The post 82 Broadcasters Want to Change the Definition of a Small Station appeared first on Radio World.
Summer brings vacation time, but the technical regulatory issues facing radio broadcasters never seem to take a break. The Society of Broadcast Engineers is keeping tabs on a number of spectrum issues facing radio broadcasters in the second half of 2019.
The FCC earlier this year adopted new FM translator interference rules and streamlined the complaint process, so SBE has scratched that topic from its list for now. But other major spectrum concerns remain including pirate radio, EAS compliance, ambient noise in the AM band, the C-band versus 5G broadband at 3.7–4.2 GHz, and what the SBE perceives to be FCC compliance abandonment.
The society, which has more than 5,000 members and 114 local chapters, offers educational and certification programs for broadcast engineers, operators, technicians and broadcast IT professionals. But the non-profit also closely tracks technical regulatory topics of interest to its membership.“FACELESS AND NAMELESS”
Chris Imlay, SBE general counsel, said the group has identified several top areas of concern, including ever-increasing ambient noise in the AM band.
“It seems like we always come back to that issue. I don’t think the FCC wants answers to questions it has asked in the past but never taken steps to explore and investigate,” he said.
“I have preached for years that the typical listener of the AM band is not going to reach out to the FCC to complain about interference issues in the AM band, they will simply not go back to AM.”
Anecdotally, ambient noise in the AM band has grown dramatically worse in the past 15 years due to the proliferation of Part 15 RF devices, RF lighting and deteriorating infrastructure of power lines, Imlay said. SBE’s experiences typically concern ambient, man-made noise in the medium-frequency, high-frequency and VHF bands.
The FCC’s Technological Advisory Council opened a noise floor technical inquiry in 2016 to determine if there is such an increasing problem. Part of the council’s work was to determine the methodology for a noise study.
Imlay said the FCC opened a docket and took comments but never took further action.
“All of a sudden, the docket disappeared and you can’t find it anymore. The FCC gave no further explanation. I don’t think they wanted the answers. It could have revealed the effectiveness of their rules on unlicensed devices. They’re obviously ineffective. Maybe the FCC felt the problem is too big to solve already. Meanwhile, the ambient noise levels are growing worse,” Imlay said.[Read SBE’s official comments at the time, including a summary of prior FCC discussion of the topic, at https://tinyurl.com/rw-sbe-noise.]
Also, Imlay cites the FCC’s “compliance abandonment” as a growing issue in the field for radio broadcasters.
“The loss of the FCC’s field offices has hurt. They were staffed with experienced engineers. (FCC) lost a huge knowledge base with those moves,” Imlay said.
What the FCC replaced the field offices with was a “faceless and nameless” complaint system, Imlay said, void of any relationship-building.
“The online complaint filing procedure has been a dismal failure. And the FCC even acknowledged up front that they would put in place this new online complaint system but wouldn’t necessarily take any action on individual interference complaints. They said it would be more of an information gathering site,” Imlay said. “It’s really a slap in the face to radio broadcasters.”
And illegal stations remain a major issue, Imlay said.
“Pirate broadcasting is pretty much out of control. Again, that brings us back to the complaint system in place now,” he said.
Imlay acknowledges improved en- forcement of illegal broadcasts early in FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s tenure, but he feels that less being done in that regard today.[FCC Media Bureau Upholds Its AM Revitalization Translator Policies]
“Pai is a friend of radio, but I wonder if the FCC’s anti-pirate initiative is still underway. The closing of the field offices remains a big issue,” Imlay said.
The FCC closed more than a dozen field offices beginning in 2017 as part of a restructuring plan in the face of budget reductions. The move was expected to result in the commission trimming up to 44 positions.
Imlay said that he is hopeful the FCC will one day bring back some of the agents it let go in the cuts. “You don’t need the brick and mortar offices to reopen, but additional agents on the ground with mobile vehicles would really help matters. The industry suffers from a lack of bodies and the talent they lost.”
Imlay said the PIRATE Act, which would increase fines illegal pirate operations pay per violation, is making its way slowly through Congress and would help the situation. The bill passed the House of Representatives in February and the Senate Commerce Committee passed it in May. However, the full Senate has yet to take action on the act, after which it would go to the president.“STILL NERVOUS”
Broadcasters and other users of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz band remain worried about the FCC’s designs on the spectrum as it seeks means to further feed the appetite of wireless and broadband companies and the 5G rollout.
“A lot of radio users who depend on C-Band distribution for programming are still nervous about what the FCC wants to do,” Imlay said, “and how to ensure the existing C-band operations are fully protected, if some of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz spectrum is going to be shared with wireless carriers.”
Several compromises have been floated from both camps, according to observers, and Imlay said he expects a final ruling from the FCC before the end of this year.
Other regulatory technical issues SBE is tracking include the discussion over whether to create a new Class C4 for FM and whether an upgraded or new Class C4 station be required to protect existing FM stations to their 45 dBu contour in the same way that was just ordered for FM translators, as some observers hope. SBE hasn’t taken a position on the creation of the new FM class.
In addition, Imlay said with the TV UHF auction completed and TV repack work well underway, there is very little spectrum left in UHF for wireless microphones, which is an issue SBE will track.
MEYERTON, South Africa — South Africa-based public broadcast signal distributor, Sentech, shutdown its shortwave station in Meyerton at the end of March. The closure was planned and follows years of financial losses.
The state built Meyerton decades ago and in the post-apartheid era and operated it as a brokered station for both international and South African customers.
As a result of the termination, Channel Africa, the country’s international service to Africa, is no longer on shortwave. “Our joint efforts with BCC World Service to discourage Sentech from switching off fell on deaf ears,” explains Solly Phetoe, the station’s general manager. The Sentech-sponsored weekly transmissions of the South African Radio League have also come to end.Curtain antennas at the Meyerton relay station.
Radio Sonder Grense is a domestic service broadcasting in the Afrikaans language. It relied on shortwave to reach the remote areas of the country’s Northern Cape province. “From our estimates and from the amount of complaints I’ve received it [the audience] was very little,” said Johann Pieterse, station producer. But the Mybroadband online South African publication reported that Radio Sonder Grense’s closure means “many South Africans living in the Northern Cape” now have to rely upon the “BBC and other international broadcasters for reliable news.”
Sentech’s shortwave facility had annual revenues of around US$2 million. The amount of annual broadcast hours had slowly dwindled to less than half of what it was a decade ago.The entrance of the Meyerton relay station.
In April 2013, Sentech launched a three-year plan to gain shortwave profitability. The company’s goal was to carry profitable services only and restructure staffing to reflect the reduction in total services. The effort failed.
Sentech attributed the decline in its shortwave business to the internet and satellite broadcasting. Facing what it described as high maintenance costs and viewing analog shortwave as an obsolete technology, Sentech changed course in 2017. It approved a plan to shutdown the site as well as a transition to Digital Radio Mondiale. A conference was held in May 2018 to examine its impact and to discuss alternative funding methods.The switch house roof top at the Meyerton relay station.
Phetoe suggested radio advertising at the event, but traditionally large shortwave stations have not succeeded in advertising products and services.
Any DRM conversion will require substantial capital investment given Sentech’s aging transmitters and have to take into account the lack of DRM receivers.
Will Channel Africa find a new site? “We are negotiating with Sentech to provide an alternative shortwave platform,” said Phetoe.
Hans Johnson has worked as a shortwave broadcast consultant and frequency manager for over 20 years.[Want more information like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get it delivered right to your inbox.]