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Tips for Good Due Diligence

Sat, 05/02/2020 - 06:53
Close examination of the technical spaces of the studio facility is at the heart of a good due diligence inspection.

The only constant is change; and our industry has had more than its fair share. But through recurring cycles of contraction and expansion, broadcast properties continue to be bought and sold. “Due diligence” — the process of establishing and evaluating suitability and worth — remains a necessary exercise.

Consulting engineers provide a wide breadth of services, which often include plain and simple guidance, a determination of the best path to proceed. We research, inspect, evaluate and then filter all this through our lifetimes of experience, ultimately lining up the decision chain so that our clients can determine whether they want to put ink on the check or pass. 

Conversely, our due diligence for ownership establishes a defensible asking or listing price when a station is offered for sale. 

Few buyers or sellers use their own funds; so almost without exception, this extensive effort is distilled into a written report for many, many parties to review. Ownership, management, capital sources, risk managers, insurers, key staff members, caterers (kidding) … 

Do an inventory of studio equipment and include a good narrative about the condition of each item.

But your report will go farther and wider than you could ever imagine. The broadcast industry may not be as porous with leaks as Washington politics are; but you will be surprised at the number of people, intended and unintended, who will read your erudite prose.

As nothing is ever really lost on the internet, these reports can have eternal life. If your name is on such documents, they must be factual; and if your opinions or judgment are annotated, they should be identified clearly. 

For the sake of your reputation, they should also be as well-executed as you can make them. Think “crisp report writing” as if you’re sending these pages from the battlefield or the daily log of Joe Friday, “Just the facts, ma’am.” 

Even before you leave the office on your field inspection, you should have:

  • Reviewed the current station license(s) of the instant property … these are the ones that matter
  • Reviewed the technical and ownership history of the station and, if the station is old enough, the PDF file cards from the FCC records.
  • Reviewed the online FCC public file.
  • Done a social media sweep for surprises, such as a lawsuit, collection effort, problems or kudos regards programming as well as public perception (including signal) that goes directly to “goodwill.”
  • Gathered the asset documents, such as the property maps and titles for the station’s facilities.
  • Reviewed the lease and contracts related to technical operations. Will the site lease be lost in a year or two, do they own the dirt under their ground system, or do they just have an easement on someone else’s property?
  • Read the documents pertaining to rented or leased site facilities. Same with any interference codicils and site-share fees, not to mention terms, lease renewal bonuses, etc., which can have a huge impact on operations.
  • Reviewed utility bills. What are the forward going liabilities? Is the plant technically and energy efficient?
  • Inspected coverage maps, both claimed and calculated, with population and demographic overlays.
  • Reviewed interference calculations and spacing if applicable.
  • Reviewed the asset inventory and noted any items that demand a hands-on inspection. Where is that Cadillac Esplanade or Range Rover that supposedly is used exclusively by the CE, or is it really parked in the GM’s driveway for the spouse’s use?
  • Gathered contact information and made appointments with knowledgeable parties to obtain ready access to the facilities. I once made a 1,200-mile trip and then was told that I should have made an advance security appointment — cost $300 — to get onto the roof of a skyscraper to inspect the transmitter plant and antenna
  • Packed two cameras: a video camera for general sweeping information intake and a still camera for details. Think something like a slow video pan of the transmitter room and a close-up still of the “rat’s nest” of wiring in the equipment racks as amplification. Double up on visuals to CYA in the event of camera failure.
Inventory your transmitter equipment carefully. Check for condition and proper operation within licensed parameters.

Every station is different, usually reflecting the personality of management. So when you prepare to visit the facility, have a specific plan of inspection with goals to gather the needed information. 

Above all, be logical and ready to bring back factual notes, not just impressions or recollections. Everyone has an opinion; your business is to gather as many facts as you can.

ON-SITE

Now we’re at the station, so let’s begin:

  • Start your inspection by gathering up exact names, positions and latest contact numbers of responsible personnel, including their FCC attorneys in case you have to reach back for clarifications, etc. Quite often, you have to attribute a statement to a particular party, and you always want to correctly identify these folks. 
  • Review with management the assembled material you have, especially any questionable material and circumstances around that material to double-check the accuracy of these issues. 
  • Inspecting the physical studio/office is akin to a house inspection, so we won’t enlarge on this effort, but important points that must be addressed include safety issues, space per employee (does it comply with local codes?) and efficient work arrangement.
  • We could devote a series of articles to the efficient and qualitative aspects of air/production facilities; this evaluation is a major component of technical due diligence to answer the biggest of all questions: Can the facility function effectively and if not, what’s wrong?  
  • Do an inventory of the actual capital equipment at the transmitter(s). There have been some big surprises in my work: a missing, nearly brand-new top-end processor (it had been loaned to another station, which then loaned it to another one of their stations in a different market) … and in another case, a totally different main transmitter “borrowed” from another station because it sounded better.  
  • At the transmitter plant, liabilities and capital expenditures have big numbers attached to them, and therein lies information that is most often needed. Can this facility do its job, and how long until the next big investment event? What looms next, and what is your vision of the plan at the two poles — “just sufficient (or barely adequate)” vs. what is “optimal”?
  • Possibly the most overlooked concern is how facilities are interconnected for programming and control: STLs, ICRs, internet, satellite, RPU, ISDN, telco copper, tin-cans with string, whatever. And how reliable, effective and hardened with redundancy is this infrastructure? Connection should be 100% reliable, not 99.9%. (One pragmatic CE using the internet for distribution casually mentioned, “We get a few audio hits each day, where we lose programming feed for seconds at a time!”) Silence is the kiss of death on radio, especially when inexplicable and abrupt; the “next-station” button is right there on our steering wheels.

(As an aside, take good care of yourself on these jaunts. Drink plenty of water, eat regularly and well. Don’t overextend yourself. More stations are out there for you to see, and there is always tomorrow.)

BACK AT HOME A good due diligence process takes into account tower paint, lighting and the condition of antennas and transmission lines. A drone and someone with a license to fly it will help.

Unless you’re under the tightest deadline, when you return to the office, write the report Jesuit style: just begin and let it flow, covering the inspection either chronologically or by section. Then go back through, checking your notes to confirm actual numbers. (Was the power supply to the plant 480-volt three-phase, or was it 208?) Polish up your organization, grammar and tense — add what you missed on the first pass. 

Reports of this nature are built essentially on two kinds of sentence: declarative and interrogatory.

For example, let’s discuss the business office part of the acquisition. First, a declarative statement: “Business and sales space is on the second floor, and the usable space (subtracting washrooms, corridors, vestibules, etc.) is 1,200 square feet for 15 cubicles that are approximately 8 by 8 feet, for a total of about 1,000 of that 1,200 square feet.” 

Then, as an interrogative, we pose the question: “Will that be enough if you consolidate business and sales from other stations to this location?” 

You can see where the yin and yang of these reports are built on the two sides of the seesaw.

Once this first effort is completed to your satisfaction and missing information collected and inculcated into the text, your organization has been optimized and your prose falls upon the eyes like a perfect dawn (I think I’m quoting Steinbeck here), let it sit for at least 24 hours.  

Do your final touchup after your head has really cleared. Make a final pass, channeling first your client and their goals, and then a dispassionate reader looking for a document that will allow a considered decision based on factual data and an honest, independent appraisal. 

NEED TO KNOW

Some final general comments about these reports. 

Speculation not based on facts is neither helpful nor appreciated. Without a factual motivation, do not stray from the goals that you were charged with (what are you being paid for). 

Occasionally, you may have cause to include some details you’d discovered beyond the focus of your inspection. The most egregious circumstance I’ve encountered happened after removing a service cover that seemed to have had an awful lot of use (screw heads nearly paint free compared to the rest of the gear). Inside was a notable stash of drugs and weed (very illegal at the time). I put the cover back on and provided a verbal report covering that one point to the prospective buyer.  

Your final filter of review should parallel advice I was given in the military.

For some reason that remains a mystery to me, when my time was up the army really wanted me to stay; and the incentives were great. To show their confidence in me and dangle potential promotion, I was sent to command school. Ordinarily, that set of briefings is for colonels who are candidates for general grade officer. 

So who teaches potential generals what being a general is like but serving generals!  Each of these august and accomplished folks presented an intense 45 minutes on a germane topic. One of these, a fellow who looked like he had been sent over from central casting to play a general, talked about work at a Pentagon level.

At that echelon in making command decisions, “No one is interested in what you think. Everyone has thoughts and ideas. The person in charge, all the people involved in the mission need to know what you know … for certain. Your thinking should focus directly on what do we need to know to make the best decision, and if lacking, what is missing, and how do we find that missing item?”

That experience made for a very interesting two days. It became quite clear to me why these people were generals.

Your final pass should focus on the facts, just as theirs would in your situation.

My word processor here in the office has every deluxe feature you could imagine — spell check, grammar check, word repeat check, composition check. The only thing it does not have is thought check! That’s up to you and me. When the project is complete and if you put out the effort, your best job will be there in the print; and everyone will be well served.

Charles “Buc” Fitch, P.E. is a registered professional consultant engineer, senior member of the SBE, lifetime CPBE with AMD, licensed electrical contractor, former station owner and former director of engineering.

The post Tips for Good Due Diligence appeared first on Radio World.

Community Broadcaster: #GivingTuesday and Radio

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 18:08

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

May 5 is more than Cinco De Mayo, the celebration that takes place in many cities across the United States. It is also a special Giving Tuesday event nationwide. It is your chance to lift up local nonprofits, including community radio stations near you.

Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a day to encourage people to do support nonprofit endeavors in their communities. Most of us may remember Giving Tuesday as the day that happens later in the year, around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As with everything in 2020, though, things are changing up.

Over the past eight years, Giving Tuesday has grown into a wider campaign to encourage people to contribute financially, to collaborate and celebrate generosity of others. More than $2 billion has been raised since Giving Tuesday’s inception. Right now, with so many nonprofits in need of help, you can guess money is the most critical conversation.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Does Music Die?]

With all the issues facing community radio, your station would be forgiven for Giving Tuesday to seemingly come out of nowhere for you. Between remote work, automation system management and helping our wonderful volunteers, plenty of leaders in community media are pretty stretched these days.

Hope is not lost. If you are now scrambling to do something for Giving Tuesday, an email to your donors and social media messaging reinforcing core themes to your ask are a great start. Why should a listener give money to your station during a pandemic? That’s not intended to be a provocative question, but one to stimulate ideas about your relevance. It’s your chance to shine a light on the good things you bring your area, and why you are important to support.

In times like this, your radio station aspiring to raise funds could whip up a case for support to explain to a potential donor why you are raising money right now. For instance, maybe your station is seeing a gap in this year’s operating budget because you’ve had to cancel a big fundraising event or your pledge drive. Or maybe your station needs funds to deploy more staff to cover communities most affected by health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Helping everyone to understand your need is central to good fundraising.

If you are shooting to send out that email previously mentioned, consider targeted messages to your reliable donors and the more infrequent ones. You can acknowledge your regular contributors in your language, and ask less frequent donors to step out with you this time. While concerns about personal finances are natural, those able to give are usually willing and wish to be asked. You may want to craft your message appropriately.

The day before, it would be a good move to meet via video conference with your influential people, such as board members, key volunteers and others who can promote your station’s Giving Tuesday endeavors on the day-of. You can talk with them about your plans, but involve them too. They’ll be crucial to Giving Tuesday success, so lean on them for advice and, of course, reaching out to their own networks for contributions.

If you are feeling a little bolder, doing some livestreaming on social media can be fun. Facebook Live with your station’s on-air personalities can be really enjoyable. You could also consider Instagram Live or Twitter for livestreaming, depending on where your station is strongest and where the best opportunities lie. These livestreams can be fun and give listeners a look at the stories of the people who bring the content they love. However, do not do this livestream without a bit of planning. Like live radio, nothing is worse on a livestream than fumbling and dead air.

Giving Tuesday is going to be a fantastic day for many nonprofits. How great it will be for your community radio station is in your hands.

The post Community Broadcaster: #GivingTuesday and Radio appeared first on Radio World.

FCC Eliminates Its Own Engineering Division

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 17:25

The Federal Communications Commission has elected to eliminate the Engineering Division at the organization in an effort to, as it says, “streamline the organization of the Media Bureau” as part of the public interest.

The commission plans to fold the work of the Engineering Division into the Media Bureau’s Industry Analysis Division (IAD) due to changes in the duties of the Engineering Division.

[Read: FCC Debuts New Seal]

“By incorporating the work and staff of the Engineering Division into IAD, we can better ensure that the bureau’s technical expertise is integrated more fully into the bureau’s adjudicatory matters and policy proceedings,” the commission announced on April 29.

Back in 2002, the Engineering Division was established to conduct technical reviews of media-related matters, including overseeing technical compliance of TV and radio broadcast licenses, as well as things like cable regulatory filings and license transfers. But as the industry transitioned from analog to digital and from paper to electronic filing, the Engineering Division’s tasks have diminished.

Bringing the engineering team into the IAD division will result in streamlined operations and reduce redundancies in management.

There was no word on whether staff cuts will be made. The date that the move will become effective will be set by its publication in the Federal Register.

 

The post FCC Eliminates Its Own Engineering Division appeared first on Radio World.

Isolation Is the Key to Reliable Pi Usage

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 10:50

Read other articles in this series: Pi for Everyone and Everything and Get Email Alerts From an RFEngineer’s Watch Dog Receiver.

Nowadays, many people are playing with the Arduino (and clones) and the Raspberry Pi (and clones), sometimes known as Single Board Computers or SBCs. We’ve even heard rumors lately that they’re starting to show up in some of our broadcast equipment, hidden and embedded down inside the case.

Each has strengths and weaknesses. There’s no shortage of opinion about which is better. If you want mine, the Arduino is better for small machine control applications, and the Pi is much better if you need networking, a GUI desktop, and the buzzers and bells. The Arduino isn’t nearly as powerful, but it’s ideal for a dedicated process controller. Because the Pi is a full-blown (if miniaturized) computer, it’s not as suited for real-time processes. In the end, the choice is yours.

The key question for us is whether it’s reliable. You might say, “I can maybe see a print server or ‘smart’ wireless access point in my studios, but will they work at a remote transmitter site in a corn field?”

Yes, provided you protect the inputs and outputs (“I/O”). Modern microprocessor chips are quite reliable, if you respect their limits. Even if your transmitter is a newer model with logic inputs and outputs, you shouldn’t just connect it directly to the pins on the SBC. You’ve also got to watch your input voltages, regardless of surges. For example, if your SBC’s processor chip is running at 3.3V and you connect 5V to one of the inputs, bad things will happen.

There are third-party I/O boards available for the Pi (traditionally called “hats”) and the Arduino (“shields”). They’re a good place to start experimenting, but most aren’t suited for hostile environments. One analog I/O board that we purchased only had 1K surface-mount resistors between the input terminals and the pins on the A/D chip. That did provide a little protection, but there was no way it would handle a strong surge.

WHY USE AN SBC?

The example that I’ll show you in this article could admittedly be done with a recent-model remote control with network connectivity. The better remote controls — and for that matter, many of the latest transmitters — can now send email or text, offer SNMP control and more. But the biggest advantages to the SBC revolution are:

  1. SBCs are ridiculously cheap. You can buy several and keep spares on hand.
  2. They’re ridiculously small. You can even get nice cases to make your work look pretty.
  3. There is plenty of information online; code samples, “how tos” and more. You will probably be able to find an existing project that will do what you want with only a bit of modification. 
  4. You can give your equipment precisely what it wants with “smart” logic. For example, you may need to send your transmitter a momentary command when a long-term fault occurs, but the faulting device only provides a constant closure. (The little Adafruit Itsy-Bitsy, which is Arduino-compatible, is ideal for this, by the way.)
  5. If your SBC has network connectivity (the Pi does by default; you can add it to the Arduino), it can send email, and/or you can log into it remotely to check on things.

Besides, what if your existing remote control is an older model? What if it has just been destroyed by lightning and you need something right now while you wait for a replacement? Most importantly, what if it’s a special case that your existing remote control just doesn’t address as well as you’d like? (See again advantage #4 in the list above.)

AN EXAMPLE: THE GENERATOR MONITOR

This is an actual Raspberry Pi 3 B+ project that I’ve installed at one of our big FMs here in Alabama. We use a Nautel GV40 transmitter at both of our 100,000 watt FM sites, and for STLs we have dedicated wireless data links. This is ideal for “anywhere access,” because we can (carefully, with a good firewall and some port forwarding) reach our sites over the internet. 

Briefly, here’s the background: Both sites are located at the top of a hill in relatively remote areas. The dirt roads tend to wash out after a storm or have fallen trees block access. The public roads to the main gates are paved, but they can also be blocked by flooding and fallen trees. In a severe storm event, I’m probably on generator, and it’s going to be a while before I can access the site to refuel the generator. To stay on the air, I want to lower power to reduce the generator’s fuel consumption.

Our remote control units are supposed to be capable of doing what I want, but “programming” them is quite time-consuming. It’s not easy to test your work either, whereas with a Pi or Arduino, I can easily simulate the inputs and confirm that it does what I need. 

Long story short, given my background as a programmer, engineer and inveterate tinkerer, I opted for the Pi at one of these sites — less than $50 from Digikey with the “Noobs” Raspian operating system ready to go on an SD card.

The second site uses an Arduino-type processor, and will actually raise and lower the transmitter power automatically. I use a laptop running Linux to monitor the Arduino, and it sends the email. But that’s for a future article; for now let’s just look at using a Raspberry Pi as a standalone monitor. If one of the I/O pins goes low, it will send an email. I’ve set it up so that, if the generator starts running, the program running on the Pi will send a warning. Likewise, once the generator stops running, I get another email. I can then choose to go into the transmitter remotely to lower the power, if I so chose.

LIMITING I/O CURRENT

The key to protecting your Pi or Arduino is guaranteeing that the inputs never see a “hostile” input. That’s the ideal, anyway; we can at least add enough protection to cover us in most cases. This project uses the K827-PH, an opto-isolator available from most supply houses, including Digikey and Mouser. These are typical LED-in, transistor-out units, with four isolators in a single 16-pin DIP package. We only need one opto for this example, but the others are available for later expansion.

Fig. 1: Schematic of the connections between the generator controller and Pi.

Fig. 1 shows the basic circuit for this discussion. This is a simplified version of what I’ve done at the site mentioned above. The whole purpose of isolation is isolation, so I don’t connect the input on the Pi directly to the generator’s “run” contacts. I also do not take the 5V supply from the Pi; that would defeat the purpose of isolation. Instead, I’m using an external 12V supply (in actuality, a simple 12V wall wart) which goes through the generator’s normally open contacts, through a 3.3K resistor, into the K827 isolator.

Look closely at R1 and C3 at the opto’s input. I’ve determined that this is all the protection needed for this particular site. If you have one of those sites that attracts everything from lightning to extraterrestrials with funny hats, you should improve this. Make the capacitor larger. Add a varistor to ground to clamp any high voltages. Split R1 into two 1.5Ks, instead of a single 3.3K, with an extra capacitor to ground in the middle. Add a ferrite or RF choke on the input. I will leave this up to you.

If the generator starts, its normally-open contacts will close, causing about 3 mA of current to flow through the isolator’s LED. This turns on the transistor, which pulls pin 15 low. All we need now is a little program that will check that pin at intervals (I’ve chosen 60 seconds).

Fig. 2: 40-pin IDE-style connector pinout for the Raspberry Pi.

Fig. 2 is the pinout of the 40-pin IDE-style connector provided for I/O on the Pi. At this point, the Raspberry Pi’s documentation can confuse you: there are actually several different naming and numbering conventions for the 40-pin IDE style connector that is provided for I/O. The python library that I’m using wants the “GPIO” numbers. Note that each input can also be assigned different uses, depending on what you’re doing. For this article, we only need GPIO 22 as an input, which maps to pin 15 on the 40-pin connector.

You can download the ready-to-run python program here. Pull it up in an editor and change the email addresses, password, the email server and port numbers as needed. Once you’re done, save the file as genwatch.py, then copy it onto your Pi. In a terminal, in the same directory as that file, enter the command

“chmod +x genwatch.py”

to make the file executable. Now you can run it by entering

“./genwatch.py”

at the terminal prompt, while still in the directory containing the file. The program will continuously check the assigned pin at 1-minute intervals, sending an email if the generator’s status changes. Press CTRL-C to stop the program.

To test it, momentarily short pin 15 (GPIO22) to pin 9 (ground) on the 40-pin connector. You can use a clip lead or a small jumper wire — but be careful! Some of the other pins are directly connected to the power supplies, and you can damage things if you accidentally put 5V on a 3V input, or ground one of the power pins. The classic boo-boo is accidentally shorting pin 1 to pin 2 on that 40-pin connector; you’ll be connecting the 3.3V supply directly to the 5V! You really don’t want to do that one.

I’ve commented the program for you. Python will ignore anything after the hash (#), so comments are a great way to explain what the code is doing. Again, you will need to put in a valid email address and password, as well as the recipient’s email address and the address of your email server. These are also noted in the program.

Get a Raspberry Pi and play with this. You will want the Pi and the Raspian operating system, which is available for download or pre-installed on an SD card. Python will be included with the standard Raspian Linux operating system, so you should have what you need.

More information is available online. You can do a Google search for “Raspberry Pi python” to see a bunch of examples. There are a host of forums available online as well, from the “official” Raspberry Pi forum to special forums sponsored by vendors like Seeed Studio, Adafruit, and others.

If you’re feeling experimental, here’s an idea: Refer to Fig. 2 for the pinouts and try reassigning that “genrun = Button(xx)” line in the program to different GPIO numbers. Then ground those pins; the emails should be sent. For a more advanced example, consider using one of the spare optos to monitor the 12V wall wart itself, and send an additional email if the 12V power supply should fail. In any event, have fun!

Stephen Poole, CBRE, AMD, is chief engineer at Crawford Broadcasting Company in Birmingham, Ala.

How do you use an SBC at your workplace? Tell us at rweetech@gmail.com.

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Radioplayer Italia App Is Now Available

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 09:22

Player Editori Radio (PER) released the Radioplayer Italia app for Italy on April 28.

Originally announced in October 2019, the app, available for Android and iOS, lets some 44 million Italian listeners easily search and access their favorite radio station from a single access point, no matter where they are even out of the coverage area of the selected station.

FASTER AND SIMPLER

Members of the PER consortium include Rai, Radio Mediaset, Gedi, Sole 24 Ore, RTL 102.5, RDS, Radio Italia, Radio Kiss Kiss, Radiofreccia along with organizations Aeranti-Corallo and Federazione Radio Televisioni, which include most local broadcasters.

According to the organization, Radioplayer technology includes faster, simpler and more innovative access to the universe of audio streaming and on-demand offerings, podcasts and offline content of broadcasters.

Radioplayer Italia claims it will not ask the user to register, will make personal data anonymous, will not track listeners’ movements and will not interrupt listening with proposals of any kind.

Furthermore, the content is guaranteed by the broadcasters who will directly supply their own content and associated metadata.

“Radio is once again proving to be the most contemporary medium, capable of making a paradigm shift even in times of crisis” said Lorenzo Suraci, president of PER.

CONNECTED DEVICES

The automotive industry is also involved. Radioplayer Worldwide has been collaborating many automotive brands to design and develop the next generation radio interfaces, accessible through touch dashboards and voice commands.

The Radioplayer data feed will also deliver the Italian stations’ metadata to hybrid radio interfaces in many Audi, VW and Porsche cars. This allows hybrid devices to automatically switch between DAB, FM, and streaming, to keep listeners locked into their favorite radio stations.

Also, says Radioplayer, information coming from this data feed will enable advanced receivers to provide listeners with personalized radio recommendations, search results and catch-up content, in a simple and “natural” way.

Radioplayer Italia will progressively be available on all connected devices. These include smart-speaker platforms such as Amazon Echo, Sonos, Bose, Google Assistant and will integrate with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Chromecast, Airplay, Apple Watch, Android Wear and other technologies.

The post Radioplayer Italia App Is Now Available appeared first on Radio World.

Plan B: Ensuring RF Readiness

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 09:21

Your RF chain is mission-critical. But is it fully protected against failures, lightning, hurricane season and unforeseeable emergencies?

Radio World’s new ebook helps you answer that question. What items should be on your checklist of airchain preparedness?

Cris Alexander writes about major systems to consider, from your STL to your key personnel. Buc Fitch reflects on site “hardening” and keeping the generator fit. Ed Lobnitz shares resources for lightning protection. Engineers like Robbie Green of Entercom, Larry Wilkins of the Alabama Broadcasters Association, Michael LeClair of WBUR and Doug Irwin of iHeartMedia share tips, as do experts from several leading technology manufacturers.

And we get a first look at the new list of 25 best practices for “station resiliency” just published by the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council.

Learn how radio stations can ensure that their RF chains are ready for anything.

Read it here.

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FCC Debuts New Seal

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 19:22

The FCC has updated its official seal ahead of the move to its new offices, featuring new design elements that represent the current state of communications.

The design was a result of an agency-wide contest, with the winning design from Umasankar Arumugam voted for by FCC employees and contractors.

[Read: Pai Explains Commission’s Coronavirus Philosophy]

The design elements include:

  • Communication technologies, like satellites and broadcast towers, that are currently impacting the industry;
  • Four stars on the outer seal border, which was an element on the original seal of the FCC’s predecessor, the Federal Radio Commission;
  • 18 stars on the shield, representing the current number of bureaus and offices in the commission; and,
  • The eagle and shield, which identify the FCC as a federal government agency.

The previous iteration of the seal featured a feed line that comes up the middle between a V-configuration of telephone lines. It connects to three horizontal lines, the middle of which connects to two broadcast towers. The other two connect to telephone lines.

Here is a comparison between the previous seal (on the left) and the new seal (right).

The FCC is expected to incorporate the new seal on business cards, stationary, publications, the FCC website and throughout its new headquarters over the next few months. Official use of the new seal will begin when the move to the new headquarters is completed; the move-in date has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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“This Is Not the Time to Raise Fees”

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 18:56

“To be sure, Mr. Chairman and commissioners, this is not the time to raise fees.”

So says the leader of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the other four commissioners.

Paul Rotella wrote what he called an “impassioned” letter asking that the FCC “hold off on the consideration and imposition of any regulatory fee increase at the next commission open meeting scheduled for May 13.”

He said that an increase in annual fees for broadcasters is not warranted and that “this is certainly not the appropriate time to put any further financial burdens on broadcasters.”

[Read: Hayes Urges FCC Not to Collect Mass Media Regulatory Fees This Year]

The proposed fee schedule calls for about $30 million in fees collected from U.S. AM and FM broadcasters, up from roughly $29 million this year, according to Radio World’s calculation of the FCC data.

Rotella said radio and TV stations have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, with severe reductions in advertisement revenues. “Most broadcasters have sustained declines of 60–70% in ad revenues, and some have lost even more over the past two months. Indeed, some have had a vaporization of revenue altogether in the last 30 days. Even if the economy were restored tomorrow, it would take months to generate and invoice sponsor revenue, let alone receive it.”

Rotella said that fee hikes, “especially during this time of catastrophic economic upheaval, coupled with the precarious economic forecasts ahead, is simply imprudent and will likely further hobble local broadcasters’ efforts to survive in the aftermath of COVID-19.

“If these snowballing fees force stations to go dark, there’s no other local entity that could ever replace them.”

The commission is expected to consider fees for fiscal 2020 at its May meeting, a total of $339 million across industries.

 

The post “This Is Not the Time to Raise Fees” appeared first on Radio World.

Welton Is More Than Just “Tips n Tricks”

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 06:22

Jeff Welton says he was lucky enough to find his dream job not far from where he grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada. 

This year’s recipient of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award joined Nautel nearly 30 years ago and has served the broadcast transmitter manufacturer in several roles.

Welton, 55, regional sales manager Central U.S. for Nautel, is a frequent lecturer and expert on digital radio, radio technology and radio engineering. He has written numerous articles and three chapters in the 11th edition of the NAB Engineering Handbook, and even finds time to volunteer at a local community radio station not far from his home, where he provides some engineering assistance. Many know him for his “Tips n Tricks” presentations, delivered with his warm sense of humor — as captured in the title of one called “How Not to Blow Stuff Up.”

The Canadian has been on a bit of a win streak. In 2018, the Society of Broadcast Engineers named Welton the James C. Wulliman Educator of the Year. In 2019 the Association of Public Radio Engineers handed him the APRE Engineering Achievement Award.   

Radio World asked Welton his thoughts on trends in RF manufacturing and where digital radio is headed in the United States.

Radio World: You spent your first 17 years at Nautel in field service and technical support positions. What is the most important current trend radio broadcasters need to know about? 

Jeff Welton: The biggest trend in transmitter manufacturing is IP connectivity. But most importantly for broadcast is the attendant need for IT security, which people are beginning to be made aware of; but it has been a very slow process.  

At work in 2000.

RW: How big of an issue is the security?

Welton: You have seen all of the news of IT ransomware attacks. There are many more hacks and viruses that happen every day that no one ever hears about. Occasionally I will do an Internet of Things search looking for unprotected devices, and if I search audio codes and search a few of the bigger names in codecs, I will find thousands of units online, and half will be using default user names and passwords. That’s the biggest thing right now for broadcasters to be aware of. 

RW: You’re no longer on the design side of the transmitter business, but where does Nautel see RF design going next?

Welton: You certainly see the trend toward smaller footprints. More power density, more watts per cubic inch, so to speak. That trend will continue, but eventually the laws of physics dictate we just can’t get any smaller. Having said that, the laws of physics can always be challenged, and we will going forward.

RW: Any move by Nautel toward a liquid-cooled design for FM/HD transmitter? Some of your competition, like GatesAir and R&S, have been active in that segment. 

Welton: I really can’t answer that question. No comment. That said, we have looked at liquid-cooling repeatedly over the years, going back as far as at least 15 years ago, if not further. We did a 20 kW design in the late ’90s/early 2000s that was liquid-cooled in the initial prototype. 

Ultimately, at that time, we did decide to abandon it for several reasons. Even today, with the advances in the technology, it’s hard to justify the additional cost of liquid cooling in all but the highest power levels, and even then only in specific circumstances. Definitely there are advantages, but the flexibility and lower cost of an air-cooled system typically outweighs those advantages in most cases. 

However, it certainly is situational. What may be the best cost benefit for a 30 kW station in one market may not apply equally to a similar station in a different market, climate or site situation. 

My recommendation to radio broadcasters is to always get a couple of opinions, then try to sort out what provides the best long-term benefits for your station. 

RW: How about all-digital for the AM band. Does Nautel see promise in that market?

Welton: Definitely, we are behind it and support it as a manufacturer. I think it will be good for the broadcast industry, but I’ll qualify that with one thing. It really all comes down to the content, honestly. I think the technology is great and it has promise, but without the worthwhile content and good programming, it is not going to solve any problems for AM broadcasters in the United States.            

RW: You’re known as the “go to” tech support guy at Nautel, yet your official title is regional sales manager. Tell us more about what you do and how much travel is involved.

Welton inspects a newly installed V5 in Wisconsin in 2010.

Welton: I travel anywhere from 100 to 200 days a year. It can vary quite a bit. I have the formal title of regional sales manager, but I pretty much focus on, as they say, “other duties as assigned.” I do seven to 10 state association shows a year. I do NAB of course. I do a half-dozen SBE presentations and some Nautel-sponsored webinars. I even stop in on sight occasionally to help with HD system installs. So I do get to do some hands-on work still.

RW: So you are out visiting facilities and meeting a lot of radio broadcast engineers. What is the most impressive thing you find about that group?

Welton: I think more than anything you find people who willing to be helpful to others, even their competition. You can find people who are competitors but then willing to help others in an emergency and work together. I’ve found that to be the case even during my tech support days.   

RW: How do you think radio can navigate the problem of losing veteran engineers who have a deep knowledge of RF systems? Obviously this affects broadcasters and how they maintain their RF facilities.

Welton: Well, there is a solution, and it’s hard. We need to get young people bit by the bug. Once you get in this industry it really does get into your blood. You don’t see many people leave the industry once they are in it. Where else can you have so much fun and make a living at it? [chuckles

I think the pay scale is coming up a bit, but the big thing is tweaking the interest of young folks. That might be hosting an engineering table at a state show career fair. You have to get the exposure to draw interest. There are lots of opportunities for people to be mentored and work part time while being in school still. That’s a great way into the profession 

RW: You perform presentations every year on topics like lightning protection, grounding, transmitter site safety and various other subjects. Is there a topic out there you want to teach?  

Welton: One of the big ones for me is HD Radio, AM and FM, and the implementation. The technology has developed so that I would like to put together a booklet and really dig in how to install and what to look for rather than the theory of the operation of the technology. Really it would be a practical application of HD Radio. So now that it is out there, I’d better get to work on it. 

Jeff Welton calibrates equipment during an AM HD upgrade at WNYC in 2005.

RW: Nautel has for some time thought about equipment beyond transmitters as a way to grow the business. Any new broadcast equipment coming down the pipe?

Welton: Not much I can say on the broadcast side. Much of the work we do outside of broadcast is non-disclosure since we are dealing with the military. We find lots of ways to keep busy and we do a lot of things in RF above and beyond radio, which is cool.

RW: Tell us something about yourself that surprises people when they learn it.

Welton: That I have a fully functioning wood working shop at my home right outside my office. I haven’t been able to work out in it much since I’ve been so busy with work. The last thing I built was a vanity for a bathroom remodel. I did all the cabinetry and built all of the drawers into it. That was cool. It’s a far departure from electronics

RW: Anything else keep you busy at home?

Welton: I love to cook. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I got a pressure cooker last year, and loved it so much I augmented that with a second one about a week later.

RW: How did you get your start at Nautel? 

Welton: We had a speaker at my high school one day for career day talking about electronics school in Toronto. I grew up on a farm in Nova Scotia, so as soon as I heard the word “Toronto” I was hooked. He could have been talking about cosmetology school and I would have ended up being a hairdresser. So I went to Radio College of Canada (RCC) for electronics engineering. 

Then I had a few jobs after that, including doing bench repair at Radio Shack. Then in 1990 Kevin Rodgers (now president and CEO of Nautel) was put in charge of building a customer service department for Nautel. By the luck of the draw I ended up there and have been ever since.   

RW: What were your first thoughts upon learning of the NAB engineering award?

Welton: Really of all the people I need to thank for being where I am today. There have been so many people I’ve learned from. Jack Sellmeyer and Tom King come to mind if you are talking directional AM antennas. Gary Cavell has always been willing to answer my sometimes dumb questions. Mark Persons is always willing to share knowledge.   

The one thing I always try to convey to people is that everybody everywhere knows something that somebody else doesn’t. I’ve just been very fortunate to find a bunch of people willing to share the things they know that I don’t. And there is a long list of things. The more I know the more I realize I don’t know it all. Not even close.

The post Welton Is More Than Just “Tips n Tricks” appeared first on Radio World.

How Will In-Car Entertainment Look in 20 Years?

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 02:00

GENEVA — The European Broadcasting Union’s Digital Radio Summit 2020 in February focused on possible future models for radio and audio entertainment.

One of the key topics was the future role of integrated radio and multimedia systems in the connected car.

Antonio Arcidiacono is EBU director of technology and innovation. Credit: EBU

During that event, Antonio Arcidiacono, EBU’s director of technology and innovation, presented the keynote speech. He emphasized the relevance of in-car audio content, both linear and not, which would result from the proper blending of broadcast and IP feeds integrated through appropriate, next generation system and user interface.

TRULY IMMERSIVE

Radio World later spoke to Arcidiacono about how he imagines the car will look 20 years from now. He said he imagines himself sitting behind the wheel, finding himself in a type of semi-mobile living room in which the multimedia system welcomes him and understands his present mood.

According to Arcidiacono, the system will know that he has been in the office and so it’ll begin by providing him with the information he is most interested in, followed by a carefully defined progression of content depending on what he’s most interested in.

The driver will then be able to prompt his or her car with something like: “Well, that’s enough news for now. How long is it to get home?” The car will answer the question and then start playing music again based on the mood of the driver as well as any passengers.

The dashboard of the Sony Vision-s prototype car unveiled at CES 2020. Credit: Sony

“Let me explain,” said Arcidiacono. “I lived in Paris for 30 years and I believe the perfect music to listen to in the car in the French capital is jazz, because the city has a jazz spirit, and people who walk on the street walk with a jazz rhythm,” he said. “This is not necessarily the case elsewhere, so the system would offer an immersive experience that is finely balanced between mood and surroundings.”

On the other hand, if the system understands that his actual mood is tired, maybe he will expect it to play something relaxing like Claude Debussy’s “Moonlight sonata”

BIEN-ÊTRE

In 20 years the car will most likely be autonomous, so there will be no worry about driver distraction. The system will also most likely be able to offer multiple content genres, including visual ones, but always in accordance with the specific situation.

“It’ll be a matter of ‘bien-être’ as the French say,” adds Arcidiacono. “An experience able to offer maximum comfort, and also allow the user to make or receive phone calls.”

In his mind, the system will be able to autonomously detect which calls he will accept and those he won’t, and automatically manage and sort them. In some cases it’ll also be able to answer the phone calls or messages Arcidiacono receives, because it would have learned from him and will know how to appropriately respond to the most common messages and calls.

The idea is that the system will allow the driver to continue living that experience of well-being without interruption thanks to the intelligent behavior of the car and entertainment system.

Holoride is an extended reality (XR) system which enriches visual impressions with real-time physical feedback of the moving vehicle to deliver more intense and immersive VR car experience. Credit: Audi/Holoride

He continued: “Maybe the system will also be able to understand that I don’t want to go home a certain evening, and it’ll subsequently suggest that it take me to a favorite restaurant.”

The car will also share the same proposal with his wife, who at that moment is in a different place and in a different car. If they both accept, the two cars will bring them to the chosen restaurant where they’ll meet at a table already reserved for them, he suggested.

INTEGRATION

If the first-choice restaurant did not have available space, the system will take care of offering a suitable alternative, again in line with their preferences and the mood of that moment.

“Or it could be that, for example, after leaving work I am going directly to a cultural event instead of heading directly home” Arcidiacono continued. The system will understand that the person is going to that particular event, and then during the ride will provide him or her with an overview of what they’ll see and hear, giving expert reviews so they can make the most of their outing.

This integration between information, entertainment and education, which has always been the three fundamental pillars of broadcasting, will therefore continue in the future. Arcidiacono sees them as increasingly integrated with each other.

The EBU headquarters in Geneva. Credit: EBU

However, if at a certain point the driver decides they don’t want the assistance, the person can simply say something like: “Leave me in peace because I want to think and have quiet time,” The car will then understand.

Speaking about the user interface, Arcidiacono thinks most of the buttons will have disappeared. “Maybe there will be only one button to turn everything off if the driver gets nervous, because being in control is also a natural feeling. A big red button to push to say to the system ‘Stop it!’ might be useful,” he concluded.

The post How Will In-Car Entertainment Look in 20 Years? appeared first on Radio World.

Why HD Radio Makes Sense for India

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 15:00

The author is SVP, Engineering — Digital Platforms at Xperi Corp.

Daily radio listening represents more than 60% of consumer media consumption worldwide surpassing even television and content streaming in many markets.

The recent “Digital Radio Vision for India” workshop, held Feb. 12, offered an optimistic view of how India, through its “Digital India” initiative, can capitalize on the nation’s growing radio broadcasting industry.

Ashruf El-Dinary

Xperi was on hand to present its vision of how HD Radio, can support the radio industry’s transition from analog broadcasting to a significantly more robust and diverse digital broadcast platform.

Today some 2400 radio stations in several countries use HD Radio to reach more than 400 million people across North America and other countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa.

But, as the workshop outlined, while HD Radio is helping revolutionize and digitize radio services around the world, India is lagging far behind, with most of its radio stations transmitting solely in analog. The good news is that HD Radio offers All India Radio and private broadcasters an opportunity to accelerate and become world leaders in digital radio networking.  It simply makes sense.

Here’s Why:

Clear Audio, Diverse Programming, Multimedia

HD Radio allows radio stations to transmit multiple programs and other information with quality audio and robust and diverse content. While the analog transmissions that currently dominate radio in India provide listeners with music, news, or talk shows on their radio receivers each analog radio station broadcasts only one audio program per frequency.

The mobile BeatBoy HD101 cell phone.

HD Radio, on the other hand, enables radio stations to utilize advanced technology to send multiple audio programs digitally with higher sound quality, as well as to include associated and relevant digital content and images.

For example, a digital radio receiver or mobile phone can automatically tune to digital radio programming and enable users to select from multiple audio programs on the same frequency, all while still receiving older, analog-only broadcasts.

 HD Radio Can Bring India Together

India has a diverse population, with over 23 different languages and a very mobile population. Radio listening happens on-the-go. HD Radio enables the simultaneous broadcast of programming in multiple languages and allows broadcasters to communicate national, regional, and local information on separate audio channels, as well as offering diverse programming in large urban markets like Delhi and Mumbai.

In addition, it’s possible for the government’s All India Radio broadcasts to transmit the Prime Minister’s monthly Mann Ki Baat message in multiple languages. To access this content, India requires digital radio solutions for mobile handsets, such as the BeatBoy HD101 cell phone sold in the Philippines.

Community-building, Government Communications and Emergency Alerts

As well as offering India’s listeners a multimedia experience, including program-related pictures synchronized with the audio, HD Radio enables listeners to stay in touch with their specific communities through localized entertainment, information, and talk radio shows. These incude emergency notifications and alerts to warn and inform local residents of events such as storms, fires or other threatening disasters in multiple languages.

The HD Radio system can integrate with India’s National Disaster Management Agency alerts infrastructure by importing CAP-formatted alerts into the digital broadcast chain.  These digital emergency alerts can provide critical notifications and text alerts to HD Radio enabled devices, which will “wake up” on detecting an alert message.

Also, HD Radio can help the government notify the public of non-critical information, such as reports on health and environmental matters from various ministries. For example, All India Radio can partner with the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change to provide hourly notifications on air quality index using text and graphic notification transmitted to HD Radio receivers.

Digital India Initiative

Because it is an effective way to reach the general public with audio communications, including sending information and data to millions of devices for infrastructure and IoT services, HD Radio system can help India’s radio industry and businesses. Through the Digital India Initiative, HD Radio can facilitate the development of new applications for local services to enhance control and management of infrastructure and the power grid, send traffic services to trucks and cars to improve navigation and reduce congestion, and access IoT devices with secure unidirectional smart-messaging and control.

The Time is Now Digital Radio and All India Radio

With adults globally listening to an average of 90 minutes of radio a day, it is clear that radio is here to stay, but only so long as it adapts to the digital consumer. India has half a billion of those digital consumers and the opportunities for increasing the scope of radio communications, both locally and nationally all while improving the radio experience — are significant, and potentially of major benefit to India’s population.

The post Why HD Radio Makes Sense for India appeared first on Radio World.

Inside the April 29 Issue of Radio World

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 14:33

Jeff Welton snags a big honor. Dan Slentz worries about the quality of music coming into your station. Scott Gerenser explains “containerization.” John Bisset pulls brush from your satellite dish. And James O’Neal looks at technology that helped launch an industry.

Read it online here.

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

AUDIO FOR RADIO
“An Audio Quality Crisis in the Music Industry”

Decapitating your audio can’t be good for an industry highly dependent on sound quality. So says Dan.

COVER STORY
Welton Is More Than Just “Tips n Tricks”

The newest NAB Radio Engineering Achievement honoree is all about customer service, support and training.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE

The post Inside the April 29 Issue of Radio World appeared first on Radio World.

Leifer and Beaver Chosen as SBE Fellows

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 13:23

The Society of Broadcast Engineers has added two more names to its list of Fellows. At its April 24 meeting, the SBE board of directors voted to elevate James Leifer, CBPE, and Ralph Beaver, CBT, to its highest membership level. There have been 81 Fellows during the course of the SBE’s 56-year history.

Both will be recognized Sept. 23 at the SBE National Awards Dinner, which will be held in conjunction with the SBE National Meeting. This year’s meeting is scheduled during the SBE Chapter 22 Broadcast & Technology Expo in Syracuse, N.Y.

“They both possess and regularly demonstrate the skill, attitude, professionalism and dedication to broadcast engineering that are the benchmarks of an SBE Fellow,” SBE President Wayne Pecena (CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB, CBNE) said in the announcement. Pecena also noted that he had worked with Leifer and followed Beaver’s efforts at the SBE.

James “Jim” Leifer

Leifer is the senior manager of broadcast operations for American Tower Corp. and is based in the Boston metropolitan area, where he moved in 2017 for his present role working on the TV repack. In Florida, he held engineering positions for iHeartMedia, Ion and Paxson.

Because Leifer’s broadcast career kicked off in south Florida in 1987, he initially joined  SBE Chapter 53. In 2008, Chapter 53 elected him chapter chair, a role he fulfilled until 2012.

Leifer is the SBE board’s current immediate past president. He served as president from 2017–2019, and prior to that was the board’s VP from 2015–2017. Leifer was the SBE secretary from 2011–2015, first joining the board in 2009. 

Several of his nomination letters characterize Leifer as a talented, competent and technically capable broadcast engineer, willing to help others. Leifer’s regulatory advocacy is also a standout, according to his peers.

Ralph Beaver

Beaver, NFL general manager of frequency coordination and CEO of Media Alert LLC, is another long-serving SBE Floridian. He moved to Tampa in 1973, and joined Chapter 39 two years later. Beaver is active in the chapter’s Broadcast Engineering Symposium. 

Additionally, Beaver served on the national board  from 2002 until 2012, during which time he chaired the EAS Committee and then the Frequency Coordination Committee. In the latter role, Beaver worked with the SBE/NFL Game-Day Coordinator program, a position he was well suited to, since he had begun working with the NFL in 1999 as the Tampa game-day coordinator and Super Bowl coordinator for that same year. He took on his current role with the NFL in 2011.

Beaver’s nominations highlighted his EAS efforts as well as his frequency coordination work. One letter called him “a master of spectrum allocations and spectrum compatibility studies.”

The post Leifer and Beaver Chosen as SBE Fellows appeared first on Radio World.

Nielsen Audio 2020 Report Is Now Available

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 06:06

Nielsen’s latest report on radio listening in Norway shows that DAB+ continues to gain ground in Norway.

The report, which includes data on 2019 radio listening, finds that last year approximately 86% of Norwegians listened to radio on a weekly basis.

According to the study, more than 3.4 million people (approximately 73% of the population aged 10+) now have DAB radio in their home. This figure includes both regular DAB radios as well as analog receivers with DAB adapters.

In addition, the Nielsen Audio study indicates an increase in the number of in-car DAB receivers. In Norway all new cars sold are now equipped with a DAB radio as standard, and the report stats that in 2019, 67% of the population had access to DAB radio in their car. This is up 9% from 2018. Of those, 82% say they listen to DAB radio at least once a week while in their cars, while almost half listen to it on a daily basis.

The full Nielsen Audio 2020 report is available to download here. A WorldDAB report (updated in February) on the Norwegian radio market featuring the results after the FM switch-off and lessons learned is available here.

The post Nielsen Audio 2020 Report Is Now Available appeared first on Radio World.

Alexander Broadcasting Honors Selma First Responder

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 14:30

Paul Alexander is president of Scott Communications and Alexander Broadcasting. Their stations are WALX(FM), WALX(HD2), WALX(HD3), WJAM(FM/AM) and WMRK(FM).

Alexander told Radio World about how local broadcasters stepped up to honor Robert Skelton, a first responder with CARE Ambulance, who died last week at age 47. Due to social distancing requirements, they were unable to host a traditional memorial service for him, however the Lawrence Brown-Service Funeral Home contacted Alexander’s company to broadcast the service for a drive up funeral. Alexander donated air time from WALX for the service, which featured a eulogy recorded by Kenneth Martin using a voice memo app.

Alexander participated in a Q&A with RW to explain how they pulled it off.

Radio World: Am I correct that the program could be heard both on 101.5 analog, as well as thd HD-2 of 100.9? 

Paul Alexander: Yes, W268BQ is the 101.5 translator for WALX(HD-2). The coverage on HD-2 allowed for a much larger footprint in coverage for anyone wishing to tune in from anywhere in the region with their HD Radio, while the analog translator served the Selma/Dallas County area for listeners without HD Radio. 

Having invested in HD Radio for the communities we serve has offered a true advantage for listeners in the market by allowing us to have additional programming streams on both the supplemental HD audio channels for WALX, as well as the associated FM translators. We have two additional stations that otherwise would not be here without HD Radio.

RW: What was the audio setup to feed the service to the station for airing?

Alexander: In the spirit of keeping station personnel as safe as possible during the pandemic, we elected to try something unconventional that kept our team at the station to do our part. We ended up connecting via FaceTime audio between my iPhone connected to the studio console and the funeral director’s iPhone connected to the podium microphone mix at the funeral. 

At first, I was fairly nervous about not having our Comrex Access at this event, but believe it or not, the audio was better than one might expect… and most importantly, we maintained connectivity the entire 30-minute service.

RW: I see online that the police department was on hand to deal with any traffic issues. How did that go?

Alexander: Many officers from the Selma Police Department and Dallas County Sheriff’s Department were very good friends with Mr. Skelton, so a good many of them were in attendance for the funeral for that reason. The officers actually assigned to the event assisted in making sure that all of the vehicles were parked with at least six feet of distance between them. They also assisted in ensuring that everyone remained inside of their vehicles for the entirety of the service, following Gov. Kay Ivey’s orders, as well as recommendations by state health officials and the CDC. Local law enforcement did a fantastic job in their role.

RW: What kind of reaction from listeners did you get?

Alexander: We received dozens of positive calls, emails, social media messages of gratitude for providing this service. One particular message stands out where a listener said: “It’s so encouraging in these especially difficult times that we can count on our local radio group to pull the community together. Please let your family and all employees of the station know that it is appreciated more than all of you may know.”

We appreciate every “pair of ears” that have tuned in to any of our stations across Alabama and Mississippi, and we also want them to know it’s always about them, and not us. I hope we do a good job expressing that in everything we do.

RW: Did Mr. Skelton die as a result of the coronavirus? 

Alexander: He passed away unexpectedly, but we are told it was not from coronavirus. The cause of death has not been disclosed to us other than it was not due to the virus.

RW: What else should we know?

Alexander: Sue Keenom, with NAB, sent the following message when she received word this had been done for Mr. Skelton and the community: “Thank you so much for sending. What a wonderful way to honor a hero when folks cannot gather for a service. I am in awe of the myriad of ways broadcasters are finding to help during this crisis.

Attendees of the funeral were asked to stay in their vehicles, and tune their radio to 101.5/100.9 HD-2 in order to hear the funeral service message from the minister as well as other notable people delivering a message such as the owner of the Ambulance company Mr. Skelton worked for as well as one of the dispatchers who voiced her last dispatch to him, which said:“Blackhawk down — rest easy, Mr. Robert Skelton, we have got it from here.” 

Coordination of this event was made between the City of Selma, Care Ambulance, The Selma Police Department, Air Evac Life-Team, Scott Communications/KIX 101.5, Lawrence Brown-Service Funeral Home and Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

The post Alexander Broadcasting Honors Selma First Responder appeared first on Radio World.

Check Out These Unexpected Uses for Unlicensed Radio

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 06:35

As part of our series about how very low-power radio transmitters are used during the pandemic, we asked Bill Baker of Information Station Specialists to list some of the types of applications he has seen.

We’ve reported about the use of radio in church parking lots. Bill Baker identified several other uses:

  • Funeral homes — One of the saddest things about the pandemic is that families cannot gather in the traditional way to mourn loved ones. Radio signals are used by some funeral homes to allow mourners to attend in their cars.
  • School graduation and commencement services — Baker said these “often the take the form of parades of graduates who get their diplomas at a stage they drive past and then on through the community.”
  • Official government meetings — These might be conducted indoors but the public can listen outdoors and even participate with a microphone. He cited specific instances in California and Delaware.
  • COVID-19 testing — The state transportation department in New York and a hospital in Ohio have used radio signals to broadcast local information.
  • Theater groups — Performances for people in their cars.
  • Civic events — A city in Utah is planning a Memorial Day parade around a park that people can attend and tune into from their cars.
  • Factories — Baker said at least one organization is using transmitters to communicate with workers returning to the plant after being furloughed
  • Courthouses — In some states radio is being used to provide advisories for people coming into the court complex during the coronavirus.
  • A county jail in New York state put AM transmitters indoors because prisoners were not allowed to congregate outdoors.

Do you know of an application where radio is helping during the pandemic in an unusual way? Write to radioworld@futurenet.com.

The post Check Out These Unexpected Uses for Unlicensed Radio appeared first on Radio World.

Making a Radio Show While Separated by 2,000 Kilometers

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 02:00

OTTAWA, Ontario — It is a truism of the internet age that business people can successfully collaborate over the web, without ever meeting in person. CBC Radio producers Craig Desson and Kieran Oudshoorn recently put this theory to the test, by co-producing the hour-long network radio show, “Us, But Nobody Is Here” while separated by a distance of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles).

Craig Desson and Kieran Oudshoorn in Desson’s Montreal home. Credit: Craig Desson

Available online, “Us, But Nobody is Here” explores the realities of long-distance business and personal relationships at a time where the web is said to bridge all gaps. The program does this through interviews with various people trying to make tech-aided long distance relationships work — including Craig Desson and Kieran Oudshoorn as they craft this show without meeting in person. Their separation was very real. Desson is based at CBC Montreal in Quebec, while Oudshoorn is about more than 2,000 kilometers north of him in Iqaluit, Nunavut; on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

The impetus for “Us, But Nobody Is Here” came from Oudshoorn’s move to CBC Iqaluit after working in southern Canada throughout his radio career.

“I moved to a place that is incredibly physically isolated from my friends and family down south,” Oudshoorn said. “I decided that to find ways to keep in touch through technology, to maintain my relationships in my personal life.”

After Oudshoorn and Desson met through a mutual CBC associate — remotely, of course — the pair realized that what Oudshoorn was dealing with was actually becoming a universal experience due to telecommuting and social media. This insight inspired them to pitch and then win approval to produce “Us, But Nobody Is Here” as a national holiday broadcast for Jan 1.

Craig Desson overlooking Montreal. Credit: Craig Desson

“We’re increasingly living in a world where geography is supposed to be meaningless; where we’re told that you can do anything from anywhere,” said Desson. “With this program we decided to push this idea to the limits, from seeing what the realities of today’s remote relationships are like to the various aids that can help bridge this emotional distance.”

Desson and Oudshoorn started fleshing out their program in March 2019, working out of their respective homes, CBC Radio facilities and local communities. “The initial production process entailed a lot of phone calls and emails,” said Oudshoorn. “We sketched out the main ideas in Google Docs, which allowed us to share the developing storyline over the web and work on it together in real-time.”

EMOJIS MATTER

Working in this way limited the degree between the two producers. Having never met in person they had no real sense of who the other was. This is why Desson and Oudshoorn decided to also connect by videoconferences, “which allowed us to at least see some of each other’s body language,” Desson said. “Sometimes we would go into radio studios in our stations and connect to interviewees in other cities over ISDN phone lines in order to get broadcast quality audio remotely.”

Polar bear tracks leading into Iqaluit, where Kieran Oudshoorn lives. Credit: Kieran Oudshorn

One tool that proved unexpectedly useful were emojis in emails and texts. “There are so many animal layers to in-person interactions, which don’t come across when you are communicating remotely,” said Desson. “Used thoughtfully, emojis can be an effective graphical shorthand to tell the other person what you are feeling as you are writing something.”

Much of the field audio used in “Us, But Nobody Is Here” was captured using a range of Zoom handheld digital audio recorders with built-in microphones. “Kieran is the King of the Zoom recorders,” Desson said. “He’s got about every model that is currently available, and he used them all to record the show.”

A case in point: “Craig and I recorded my remote interactions for use in the program, which included me walking out in the Arctic tundra in the middle of nowhere, talking to him on my cellphone and capturing the audio on my Zoom,” said Oudshoorn.

PRODUCTION LIMITS

The growing multichannel program was mixed on their personal computers using Adobe Audition. Desson and Oudshoorn took turns adding content and making changes, and then shared the updated file with the other via the web.

The sun coming up in Iqaluit. Credit: Kieran Oudshoorn

“This is where we ran into problems,” Oudshoorn said. “There would be disconnects where one of us had done edits and pieces would be somehow go missing in the mix, forcing us to repopulate it all again. What was fascinating was the difficulty we had in communicating editing nuances to each other over the distance. Without hearing the same thing in the same room together at the same time, it was hard for us to understand what each of us was getting at creatively.”

It wasn’t until October 2019 that Craig Desson and Kieran Oudshoorn met in person. They came together at CBC Montreal to finish mastering the program using the corporation’s Dalet audio production system.

“Working in the same space, we were able to get quite a lot done in a short time period,” said Oudshoorn. “But then again, we had already built a relationship remotely that we were able to draw upon. So we were already very comfortable together and on a similar wavelength.”

Having put remote radio production to the test, what did they learn from the experience? And what would they do differently next time?

These answers weren’t evident in the initial interview this reporter conducted with Desson and Oudshoorn during a three-way teleconference between Ottawa, Iqaluit and Montreal. So, in the spirit of remote collaboration, I sent them a draft of this text, so that they could add their own conclusions directly.

“It was a great way to get things rolling,” said Desson. “However, you still feel that remote tech is a lower bandwidth than the real world. It takes longer to communicate ideas and sharing project files has a long way to go. That being said, working remotely opened a door for us to collaborate that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for all these collaboration tools,” he said.

“Out of sight, out of mind: It’s painful how accurate this truism is,” said Oudshoorn. “It takes real intent to break through and connect at a distance. This is one of the lessons I learned, be intentional. My distance relationships are all the more rich now because I now go into them with focused attention.”

“This goes double for working at a distance like Craig and I did,” he added. “We were intentional about the time we took to be friendly and shoot the breeze when we talked, and we were intentional when we got down to business and made sure our work was done. As communication technology continues to change and improve we must be intentional about harnessing its possibilities and minding its pitfalls.”

The post Making a Radio Show While Separated by 2,000 Kilometers appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Presses FCC to Update Its Competition Definitions

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 17:03

The National Association of Broadcasters is asking the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider how it defines media competition in its upcoming biennial report. NAB wants the FCC to factor in technological changes, shifts in consumer behavior as well as the current advertising climate when determining how to treat ownership caps and other rules related to competition.

According to the NAB, many of these changes are “splintering the previously ‘mass’ audio market and diverting audiences to myriad other options, at the expense of traditional radio.”

Some of its radio-specific arguments include: 

  • Broadcast radio now competes against many other types of audio and does so via a variety of devices. OTA radio goes head-to-head against not only satellite radio, pureplay streamers and podcasts, as well as video content that is just as easily accessible on many devices. Additionally, radio broadcasters share their content not just via receivers, but on smartphones, smart speakers, wireless headphones, laptops, tablets and other ways of reaching listeners.
  • As these pluralities are solidified, radio’s dominance is challenged. Both streaming and satellite listenership are up, and the Pandora-SiriusXM merger will likely challenge radio in innovative ways going forward. 
  • Additionally, NAB points to YouTube’s success as a music discovery platform to illustrate how radio is increasingly competing against video providers in ways unthinkable a decade ago. Podcasting is also giving radio a run for its money and its listeners, growing at a faster rate than even streaming.
  • How consumers are listening is also changing what they listen to. Fewer radios in the home has correlated to less AM/FM listening, contrasting with more internet connected devices and more streaming. It’s also important to note that players like Amazon and Google not only make devices but also have their own audio services, and it’s unsurprising that these synergies help chip away at radio’s dominance in their own way.
  • It is increasingly simple to switch from audio to video content (and back again) using one device. Smartphones, tablets, laptops all are used for both listening and viewing. 
  • Digital devices have removed geographic constraints for listening to content. Reception (and therefore the media market) is no longer the determinant of which stations compete against each other for listeners and ad dollars. 
  • The advertising landscape has fundamentally changed to have digital media become a power player and a popular choice for both national and local campaigns.
  • Radio is dependent on advertising in a way that many of its competitors — which can charge subscription fees or have other financial models — are not. 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging an already slow and fractured advertising landscape. Radio is heavily reliant on local businesses and small organizations, which are in turn being hit hard by the financial downturn from the health crisis. Radio listening is reportedly up, but that has not translated into increased revenue for broadcasters, many of which were struggling prior to this development.

With all these factors in mind, NAB is asking the commission to factor in non-broadcast competition in the upcoming report and then again in its quadrennial review.

The post NAB Presses FCC to Update Its Competition Definitions appeared first on Radio World.

FCC Finalizes LPFM Rule Changes in New Order

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 14:15

New technical rules are now in place for the nation’s low-power FM service.

On April 23 the Federal Communications Commission issued a Report and Order revising and clarifying technical rules for LPFM stations, though not all of the proposals proffered in the previous Notice of Proposed Rulemaking made it into the final order.

The commission adopted four main proposals, including expanding the permissible use of directional antennas; permitting waivers of protections of television Channel 6 by a specific group of reserved channel stations; expanding the definition of minor change applications for LPFM stations; and allowing LPFM stations to own boosters. According to the commission, these changes are designed to give low-power FM stations the means of improving their service as well as offering greater flexibility and removing some regulatory burdens.

[Read: LPFM Stations Seek Technical Upgrades]

The use of directional antennas is notable. When the commission created the LPFM service in 2000, it opted to allow only omnidirectional antennas because it wanted to implement service quickly and sought to establish simplified application preparation and processing.

The revised rule allows LPFM stations to apply to use directional antennas to comply with treaty obligations to Canada and Mexico without the need to submit a proof-of-performance document. The revised rule also permits LPFMs to apply to use directional antennas to protect other broadcast stations from interference; in this case, though, an LPFM station has to submit a proof of performance.

LPFM proponents expressed support for directionals because they would provide more flexibility for stations looking to relocate and operate near international borders. Several groups representing full-power broadcasters, including the National Association of Broadcasters, the New Jersey Broadcasters Association and others, opposed the idea, questioning why LPFMs would need directional antennas to reach more listeners given the highly localized purpose of the LPFM service.

But the commission said it found “no compelling reason to continue restricting the use of directional antennas in the LPFM service to TIS [travelers information service] stations and second adjacent waivers.” The commission said that it expects LPFM applicants will use the option primarily in border regions and similar circumstances where the benefits justify the additional expense.

In a statement about the issue, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said he was sympathetic to commenters who expressed concern regarding the potential deployment of more directional antennas by LPFM stations. “[I] have to trust that proofs of performance will provide adequate insurance against misuse,” he said. “Further, I understand that these antennas are expected to be used primarily in locations near our country’s international borders, but this is an important issue that I intend to watch closely as these rules are implemented.”

The commission also moved to redefine the types of LPFM facility changes that qualify as “minor.” The goal here is to provide additional flexibility for LPFM stations to relocate their facilities. Based on the fact that LPFMs typically have 60 dBu service contours with a radius of slightly more than 5.6 kilometers/3.5 miles, and that the contours of two such facilities can be expected to overlap at double that distance at 11.2 kilometers/7 miles, the FCC voted to allow LPFM site changes up to 11.2 kilometers (or to any greater distance that would result in overlapping 60 dBu service contours between the existing and relocated facilities).

The new rules also allow for a LPFM licensee to own and operate FM booster stations. The NPRM tentatively concluded that FM boosters should be available on a nonwaiver basis to any LPFM station that might be able to operate a booster without causing interference to itself. Accordingly, the commission proposed to amend its rules to incorporate guidelines for potential LPFM use of an FM booster in lieu of use of an FM translator. Under the original proposal, such booster stations could receive the signal of the commonly-owned LPFM station by any means authorized in the FCC rulebook.

One area in which the commission elected not to make a change involved eliminating the rules requiring radio stations operating in the FM reserved band to protect TV6. The NPRM proposed to eliminate TV6 distance separation rules for LPFM, NCE, Class D and FM translator stations operating on reserved band FM Channels 201–220 stations after completion of the LPTV digital transition. In a separate finding after release of the NPRM, the Media Bureau asked for comment on the continued use of TV6 for analog audio services. Because that proceeding could have implications to TV6 protection requirements, the commission decided to defer further action on this issue.

The current proceedings sprang from a petition for rulemaking by REC Networks in 2018 that aimed to address various issues that preclude more successful deployment of LPFM stations, especially in suburban and core urban areas. At the time, REC Networks noted two main causes in particular: what it called “unnecessary overprotection” of other broadcast facilities by LPFM stations; and disparity in the relationship between LPFM stations and FM translators, which REC noted should be defined as equal in status.

The resulting Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposed to modernize technical aspects of the commission’s rules governing LPFM radio stations, sought comments on proposals to improve LPFM reception, and requested comments on increasing flexibility in siting of LPFM stations while maintaining interference protection to other radio stations.

 

The post FCC Finalizes LPFM Rule Changes in New Order appeared first on Radio World.

Cruz Proposes Law Limiting Station Language Changes to Eliminate Propaganda

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 12:41

Sen. Ted Cruz (R.–Texas) is proposing that the Federal Communications Commission not grant broadcasting licenses to some applicants who intend to change the language of the station they are purchasing, the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reported last week.

Cruz says this would effectively eliminate a loophole that has allowed foreign propaganda to be spread in the United States. The legislation was prompted by the 2018 purchase of a radio station owned by Phoenix TV — a media outlet connected to the Chinese government — operating under a temporary license and using a Mexican radio tower to broadcast Chinese-language content in southern California.

According to the Free Beacon, the legislation would also apply to those who want to buy radio towers in Canada that would have signals that could reach the United States, as well as Mexican towers.

The Crux legislation apparently would make an exception for language changes when it can be proved that the new owners are “free from foreign government influence,” the Free Beacon says.

This issue was put in the spotlight earlier this spring when a Phoenix TV reporter was allowed to participate in a White House press conference.

The post Cruz Proposes Law Limiting Station Language Changes to Eliminate Propaganda appeared first on Radio World.

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