Nautel has acquired LookingGlass, a specialized FM monitoring product created by Leif Claesson and Alex Hartman.
The company stated on its website that it was “wowed” by the capabilities of the product when it was demonstrated at the spring NAB Show a year ago. “We are pleased to say it is now the Nautel LookingGlass, manufactured and supported by Nautel.”
According to Nautel Product Manager Matt Herdon, LookingGlass was acquired from Modulation Arts. “Nautel felt that it was a strategic fit and a valuable contributor to our mission of ‘worry-free transmission’ for our customers.” Terms were not disclosed. Co-creator Alex Hartman now works full-time for Nautel.
LookingGlass is a 3 RU unit that monitors, records and analyzes up to 30 discrete frequencies simultaneously. It captures the spectrum of analog FM; then a powerful processor and 13 TB hard drive turn the airwaves into recordings, to be analyzed with software tools available on the front-panel touch screen or remotely using its Windows-based software.
Herdon called it an “amazing” tool. “We believe people will find even more creative uses for it once they get their hands on one. The likely fit is larger organizations and consultants, but let’s see what happens. Two ways you could view the usage are inward and outward facing: You could use it monitor your own stations or analyze the eco-system your stations operate in.”[Read RW’s 2019 interview with Alex Hartman]
“The original design by Modulation Arts was excellent, so Nautel’s value-add is production, QA, distribution and support,” Herdon said. “The beta units were manufactured at our Hackett’s Cove facility. Over time we will expand its functionality, but for now let’s see what people use it for and then show us where they want it go.”
The original system was priced from $15,000 to $23,000 depending on configuration. The Nautel system is in beta and its pricing has not been finalized. Herdon said a limited run of beta units are available.
Nautel has scheduled a webinar to introduce it to the industry on May 7.
Off-site operations can increase the risk to your cyber safety, and the Society of Broadcast Engineers wants to help stations protect their equipment, particularly emergency alerting gear.
It has published an article by Larry Wilkins, the chair of the SBE EAS Advisory Group, to help engineers fend off such hacking before it happens.
For instance, he writes, “Although it is tempting to place the EAS equipment on an outside static IP address, this gives an open door to those wishing to do harm. If you don’t have an IT staff or someone who understands IT systems, you might ask, ‘How can I check to see if my EAS device is directly accessible from the Internet?’” Wilkins goes on to explain.
He also covers software updates including FCC compliance updates, security patches and bug/functional updates.
Wilkins, who retired from Cumulus Media in 2007, writes the technical newsletter for the Alabama Broadcasters Association and has been active in EAS, Amber Alerts and Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program; he is a past recipient of the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award.
People are turning more to local radio right now, says Cox Media Group.
The company, which owns radio and TV stations, streaming video and digital platforms, said it conducted a research study the week of March 30.
“During this time of crisis, consumers are turning to local radio for information, entertainment and companionship more than any other media source.”
It found that one-third of participants are listening to radio more since the outbreak. “Since the outbreak, 94% of participants indicated that they have tuned into local radio more than any other streaming service for music, talk and information, demonstrating that as radio continues to evolve, ‘local’ ranks as one of the most important differentiators.”
The study sought to measure the impact of radio and other audio content during the coronavirus crisis; it was conducted online with some 11,000 respondents 18 to 54 years of age.
Cox said that with consumers having more options to move from one device to another, audiences since the outbreak are listening more or the same amount of time with a smartphone (81%), desktop/laptop (67%), radio station app (57%), car radio (55%) and home radio (54%) almost evenly split, a tablet (48%) or a smart speaker (36%).
“As always, content is key regardless of the delivery platform,” the company stated. “The topics listeners are most interested in receiving from their local radio stations include feel-good stories, things to make them laugh and local virus updates.”
The author is president of American Christian Network, ACN and LBS Radio Networks.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Our part of the country is dotted with large farms located great distances from any size city. Therefore, our AM stations, which are affiliates of our faith-based radio network, are critical for reaching our listeners. Our terrain encompasses many high hills and mountains, so FM does not work well for the large areas that we need to serve.
Our programming comes to us from many sources and at a huge variance of overall volume. Our old processing simply couldn’t keep up with the changes that well. In attempting to maintain a high level of modulation, I could not eliminate the rushing sound or what listeners say is “heavy breathing.” Frankly, those artifacts drive me nuts and have to be avoided!
When I heard through Broadcast Supply Worldwide that Bob Orban had developed a new AM processor that would allow correct modulation, balance low- and high-input signals without distorting, all without the rushing sound of breathing, I wondered how that was possible technically. But having met him when I was a director of the NAB, I knew he was brilliant and if anyone had found an answer to this problem, it would be Bob.
I asked BSW if I could test the new Orban XPN-AM processor at KTBI, our 50,000 watt clear channel daytime station on 810 kHz, located in the Wenatchee/Ephrata region of Washington state. They agreed and sent Orban’s Mike Pappas to assist with the installation. When Mike arrived, I told him I was somewhat doubtful that all of my concerns with AM modulation could be solved, but I was ready to learn.
Mike installed the XPN-AM at KTBI and trained Bill Glenn, our engineer, on its use. Not only did the XPN-AM ensure proper modulation and eliminate the “heavy breathing” artifacts, it improved our coverage! While I could always tell KTBI was on the air in my car around Spokane (about a two-hour drive from the transmitter), now I could actually listen to KTBI there … and areas where I was not able to hear KTBI well at all, were now listenable.
On a recent trip back from California, I was amazed at areas in Oregon where KTBI, once hardly audible, was now really listenable. I drive that same area several times a year so I knew what our 810 signal was like.
Needless to say, I was immediately “sold” and told BSW to forget the test, I was keeping the XPN at KTBI.
Next, I wanted to see what the XPN-AM would do for a great low AM frequency, 630 kHz, that was hampered by limited daytime power, 600 watts or so. Mike was again enlisted to install the unit at KTRW (known as KTW) in Spokane. We had a loyal listener in a rocky area in a little town to the northwest of Spokane who could receive our 630 signal, but with a lot of noise. I contacted that listener the day before Mike installed the XPN-AM and told her I wanted a comparison with her reception the next day.
After Mike got the XPN-AM on the air, I emailed our listener and learned she was thrilled that now she could hear 630 without all the background noise.
In case you’re wondering, when we were testing the XPN-AM we wanted to make sure that we were comparing our former processing when it was operating at its peak performance, so I asked Mike to adjust the old processor before he switched over to the XPN-AM so that it would be a fair comparison. Without a doubt, the XPN-AM has outperformed the older processor. Our audio quality is also cleaner than it was. It has always been good, but the XPN-AM is very clean and is able to handle a wide variation of gain from a range of programming sources without distortion. I am fussy about our audio because I still find time to do some on air work as “talent.”
I don’t know what sorcery Bob Orban developed for AM processing, but it is magical. We run the same program on one of our FMs and an AM with the XPN-AM and it is difficult to tell the difference in audio quality. I don’t hear that from other stations.
I have to say, too, that Orban’s customer service is second to none. I could not have conducted these tests without their expert help. A little “mom and pop” operation like ours — a growing rarity these days — really needs this kind of expertise and it’s greatly appreciated. I can’t say enough about their support.
Bottom line? The XPN-AM is worth the price for both high- and lower-power licensed AM stations.
For information, contact Mike Pappas at Orban in New Jersey at 1-856-719-9900 or visit www.orban.com.
The post User Report: Orban XPN-AM Improves Coverage for Rural AMs appeared first on Radio World.
What do listeners want during this time of coronavirus and stay-at-home mandates? According to several recent surveys, they want reliable information, entertaining hosts, a little less COVID-19 coverage and a healthy dose of local coverage.
Several recent surveys reveal what listeners want right now from AM/FM radio. These include a listener survey conducted by the Radio Advertising Bureau and Jacobs Media; the March 2020 Nielsen Portable People Meter Survey; and a Westwood One survey that polled more than 1,150 listeners between March 31 through April 8, 2020, about their listening habits.
The key takeaways: Listeners are still tuning in. They are flocking to their home stations. But many listeners aren’t aware of exactly how to tune into their AM/FM station on a secondary device like a smartphone or laptop computer. That presents stations with an opportunity to intensify education efforts around how to access AM/FM radio on different devices — particularly now that many of those listeners may be sheltering at home.
One key finding as part of the Westwood One survey was that listeners may be a bit tired of round-the-clock coronavirus updates. By nearly a four to one margin, listeners say they prefer normal programming over coronavirus updates. Among regular listeners to a variety of AM/FM radio formats, between 72% and 78% said they preferred to hear normal programing. The survey revealed that listeners to urban format stations reported the strongest desire to hear programming focused on coronavirus.
The survey also found that listeners like what they like: They still want to hear their favorite music, and they still want to be entertained by funny, lively AM/FM radio personalities. The Westwood One survey found that music, personalities and information continue to draw listeners. When asked about why they listened to their favorite AM/FM radio station in the past seven days, 56% of heavy AM/FM radio listeners chose “they play my favorite music” as the main reason.
Radio also scored high marks when it came to providing localized programming. According to the Westwood One survey, AM/FM radio is closely linked with local news and information. A total of 27% of listeners surveyed said they consider AM/FM radio as the media most likely to provide information specific to their locale.
AM/FM radio was also considered to be a key outlet for reliable, enlightened information about current events. The RAB and Jacobs Media study found that for coronavirus information, consumers place their greatest trust in government medical organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health followed by their favorite AM/FM radio station. Social media ranked lowest on the trust scale — at 1% versus 54% for the CDC and 48% for a listener’s local radio station.
The survey also found that radio is still reaching a wide swath of commuters despite the shelter-in-place orders that exist around the nation. The Westwood One survey found that 60% of heavy AM/FM radio listeners who normally work outside the home are still commuting to work. Though might come as a surprise, 47% of those who normally work outside the home are still making the commute to work.
“AM/FM radio is the soundtrack of the American worker,” according to the Westwood One survey. “Those who are still working away from home are power AM/FM radio users. The more people listen, the more likely they are still working away from home.”
Radio stations should also be aware that a sizable number of those surveyed still do not know how to listen to AM/FM radio on certain devices like a smart speaker or desktop computer. The Westwood One survey found that one out of four smart speaker owners do not know how to listen to AM/FM radio stations on their device. The same is true for smartphone owners — one out of five of those individuals don’t know how to listen to AM/FM radio on their phones. The trend continues when it comes to laptop/desktop users as well as tablet owners: 17% of laptop/desktop owners and 26% of tablet owners do not know how to tune in to an AM/FM radio station on those devices.
There’s one listening format in particular that could use a dose of smart speaker education: country radio listeners. But those listeners are not alone. A large swath of listeners of oldies/classic hits, adult contemporary and rock formats also do not know how to listen to AM/FM radio stations on their smart speakers.
The Nielsen survey also revealed a happy trend: Even after states like California issued shelter at home orders in mid-March, listenership to AM/FM radio proved to be much stronger than some have predicted. According to Nielsen, when comparing March total audience deliveries to February, the survey found that American AM/FM radio maintained nearly all of its audience.
Specifically, AM/FM radio retained 96% of its reach and 90% of its average quarter-hour audience between February 27 and March 25, 2020. Cume and average quarter-hour audience retention was consistent across demographics, race and ethnicities, the survey said.
The post Amidst Stay-at-Home Orders, Radio Listenership Remains Strong appeared first on Radio World.
Radio World will launch a free four-part series of weekly webcasts exploring how major broadcasters are reinventing their workflows and air chains to support remote operation. The first will stream April 28.
“The world of radio has just changed dramatically,” said Editor in Chief Paul McLane. “Remote broadcasting isn’t just an option anymore. It’s a mission-critical part of the industry because of the global health crisis.”
The series is called “Broadcasting From Home.” Each 45- to 60-minute webcast explores how prominent broadcasters moved fast to create new solutions in the face of the unprecedented threat to their normal business practices.
The first episode, available April 28, explores how Bonneville’s Sacramento cluster built its remote workflow. Featured are Jason Ornellas, director of engineering for Bonneville Sacramento, and Nate Mumford, director of sales engineering for sponsor RCS.
The post Radio World Launches “Broadcasting From Home” Web Series appeared first on Radio World.
David Julian Gray is NPR’s senior product manager, content production. Before the coronavirus crisis hit, he was preparing to lead an NAB Show session about radio metadata including the value proposition for metadata through the content lifecycle
Radio World: Let’s start by updating our understanding of what the term means in 2020. How do you define radio metadata in this context?
David Julian Gray: A classic definition of metadata is “everything but the thing itself,” meaning all the descriptive and technical information about an object.
In terms of radio, and media production and distribution in general, “the thing itself” is a media file or a stream, often called the “essence.”
All the information that helps identify and describe the essence is its metadata. The station ID, the origination producer, program, season, episode, story, by-line(s), voices, subject tagging, production data such as component files and production staff. Technical metadata includes container format (e.g. MPEG-4), encoding format (e.g. AAC), sample rate, bit rate, etc.
RW: The description for the session that didn’t happen called metadata “both the glue and lubrication of digital workflows and distribution.” Expand on that.
Gray: That something can be both “glue and lubrication” may seem counter-intuitive, but that’s how metadata enables and enhances media workflows, and why it’s essential for digital workflows.
To take a step back: In ancient times “the thing itself” was a reel or cassette of tape, or sheets of copy; something material we could hold in hands. How do we get ahold of a digital essence? With metadata. The name of the file, its storage location, that’s “lubrication” — getting the system to flow.
But to go from an idea to a program stream to the listener requires a multitude of systems, and that’s where metadata as glue becomes important. Assigning Guaranteed Unique Identifiers (GUID) and other standardized identifier conventions that can be shared across systems “glues” media objects across systems and contributors, ensures the correct media is used through its lifecycle, production, distribution, reuse. Standardized semantic tagging helps with discoverability, aids end users to find the content they want.
RW: What role does metadata play at NPR?
Gray: At the most basic level, again, metadata answers the question: “Where’s my stuff?”
As a modern media organization we present and collaborate with our members and other partners across a variety of platforms: broadcast, podcasts, smart speakers, mobile apps. To navigate this multiplatform landscape, NPR uses a variety of systems for production, distribution, archiving, and support functions like analytics, identity management, etc.
Metadata is essential for integration and efficiency. Our most mature systems automate capture and generation of descriptive metadata to ease the burden on users; and we’re also starting to automate use of semantic tagging from controlled lists curated by our team of information scientists. Not every system is this developed, but as our systems evolve and mature, increasing use of standardized metadata from common, authoritative sources, improves that efficiency and enables new opportunities.[Related: Put Your Best Foot Forward in the Digital Dash] The Artemis archive system used by NPR Research Archive and Data Strategy shows auto-tagging of semantic metadata.
RW: Can you discuss another example of the kind of application that typifies metadata trends?
Gray: A key focus of the North American Broadcasters Association’s Future of Radio and Audio Symposium is hybrid radio. That is an umbrella term to refer to a range of technologies melding broadcast and internet.
Last year NABA published “The Value Proposition of Radio in a Connected World,” which addressed how metadata is essential for success with hybrid radio, connected cars and apps on mobile devices. There are a variety of technologies, RDS, IBOC, RadioDNS, available for broadcasters to link additional data and images to broadcast streams. These can range from whatever they can put in RDS’ 128 characters all the way to entire interactive websites synchronized to the broadcast stream. Many folks are already familiar with artist name, title and album art available from the HD Radio Artist Experience. With emerging technologies like 5G and smart speakers moving to cars, media producers can link content across platforms — so a song or interesting story they hear in their car can be tagged to be finished on a mobile device later, or additional, related material can be tagged to be explored on another platform or device.
RW: What would you say is a key takeaway from this discussion?
Gray: Capture your metadata early and often, and keep it handy; it’s the glue that ties your supply chain together and the lubrication that moves your content through it. We talk a lot about the importance of metadata to enhance the listener experience and create opportunities for audience and revenue growth. That assumes metadata is available. Consider the entire lifecycle, from initial idea to audience discoverability to long-term preservation, and best practices in the care and feeding of enabling metadata.”
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BRUSSELS — Extraordinary situations require innovative solutions.
Since March 13 Belgian Dutch-language broadcaster VRT introduced safety measures in view of the Covid-19 crisis. In addition to the station’s radio editorial and technical staff, some 10 presenters plus a number of sidekicks have been working from home.Daan Masset uses the On-Hertz LUMO virtual radio studio with a little help from his son. All photos courtesy of VRT.
All of the VRT’s radio channels are making use of remote technology to continue the program content flow, from alternative/rock Studio Brussel to the Klara classical channel, MNM, Radio 1 and Radio 2.
“Alongside its national programs, Radio 2 continues to work from the regional centers, informing and entertaining the Flemish audience,” said Kris Van Veeckhoven, of the VRT’s production facilities department.Daan Masset uses the On-Hertz LUMO virtual radio studio.
“As part of the safety measures, we have a minimum occupancy in our offices. Our editorial staff continues its work work from home — in addition to the usual software package with Dalet, Pluxbox and MusiciMaster, we have provided every staffer with a Skype For Business account. This allows them to record interviews and store them directly in a Dalet folder.”
Whereas some presenters are using AETA’s Scoopfone via 4G or LAN, Radio 2 Limburg’s Daan Masset morning DJ hosts his program using LUMO, the virtual radio studio developed by On-Hertz.
“We may continue to use these applications in the future,” continued Van Veeckhoven. “That’s the advantage of this situation: You start to use new systems, simply because you have to. And we learn things rapidly. In the case of Radio 2, we see the growing popularity of the Radio 2 app and the use of Quicklink. This VoIP solution was meant to be introduced step by step, and is now used all over the VRT’s radio channels.Guy De Pré produces his Sunday morning show from home.
Quicklink provides an easy link between studio and user/interviewee. We have been using the technology for Radio 2’s living room concerts, who were then were streamed over the Radio 2 app to some 50,000 users per day.”
The “teleworkers” are using Pulse Secure connectivity a secure link between radio staff and the VRT.Radio 2 “Radio-inspector” Sven Pichal enjoys the view from his living room.
Radio 1 presenter Ayco, and StuBru host Fien Germijns worked from their bedroom studios, KlaRa host Bart Stouten produced his program in his living room, like Daan Masset. “You actually smell and feel when you make radio at home. Another advantage is that I don’t have to get up at 04:30 to catch a train,” added Stouten, who uses the AETA Scoopfone.
Guy de Pré, host of Radio 2’s iconic “De Préhistorie” Sunday morning radio show, produces his program in his home studio. “The program isn’t broadcast live, although this would be possible,” De Pré explained.KlaRa presenter Bart Stouten says “You can smell and feel when you make radio at home.”
“Instead, I puzzle all elements like audio fragments, jingles, music and presentations together. It’s quite time consuming as it takes about four days work to put together a two-hour radio show.” The final version is routed to VRT’s DaletPlus system and then broadcast on Radio 2.Radio 2 studios are continuously disinfected for health reasons.
Christophe Delplace, head of VRT’s technical radio support division, said that in the case of an emergency, the regional broadcast hubs are able to serve as broadcast centers. “When the emergency plan is activated, the Radiohuizen (radio houses) in Ghent and Louvain serve our five
Ben Barber is president/CEO of Inovonics, based in Felton, Calif. This is one in a series of interviews about how industry people are managing during the health crisis.
Radio World: Well Ben, normally we’d be chatting in the aisles at the NAB Show today. What is the world like at Inovonics right now — are you open for business?
Ben Barber: Very unique. No one alive today has seen a worldwide pandemic like the one we are currently going through, so everything is different.
We are open for business. Inovonics does not interact with the public in any way so there is no fear of infecting the community that we live in. As long as UPS, FedEx and USPS are still picking up and delivering, we are able to ship product.
RW: You sent an email Monday to your customer list. What was the main point?
Barber: We had three reasons for sending it.
One, to let our industry know that we are still in business, both shipping gear and supporting our customers who already have our products. Two, to let our industry know that Inovonics has not abandoned our employees. We sent everyone home five weeks ago as a safety measure. Those that can work from home are doing so, and those that can’t work from home, Inovonics continues to makes sure their financial needs are met.
Three, to publicly show our appreciation for radio engineers who are keeping their stations on the air, and for those in the healthcare industry as well as stores that are continuing to serve the population. You have our thanks!
RW: How has your manufacturing process been affected?
Barber: Our production has stopped. Years ago we made the decision to build for stock and not for orders. This means we have all of our products on the shelf, rather than scrambling to build something when we get the order. Under normal circumstances this makes work life less stressful and we can plan out our builds. This has worked well over the years, though there will be a push to ramp things back up quickly on products that may have gotten low during this shutdown.
RW: Are you as a supplier affected by any problems in access to supplies of components?
Barber: Not currently. Again since we build for stock, we buy our components in advance so we have them in inventory when we’re ready to build. I can’t think of anything we are behind on or waiting for in order to put product on the shelf other than the green light to once again have our team in the office building gear.
RW: Are Inovonics products being used in different ways than before, as a result of the pandemic?
Barber: I would say no. Inovonics’ products are ones “that go with transmitters,” so unless stations are expanding their signals (which I don’t think many currently are) then our equipment would not necessarily see an uptick in sales or applications. The segment of our industry who are making microphones, headphones and audio codecs are probably a different story!
RW: What else should readers know?
Barber: I want your readers to know that we are grateful to them for all the work they do, every day, not just during a pandemic. I have not talked to one engineer who is sitting on his hands doing nothing. Instead, most are working harder than ever to not only keep their signal on the air but to keep the air talent connected to the stations so they have meaningful content. To them I want to say, thank you, job well done! We are going to make it through this time together.
It was clear from the beginning that Congress had not found enough money to prevent small businesses — defined as those with fewer than 500 employees — from feeling the pain inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. As legislators continue to negotiate a second round of funding, broadcasters of all sizes are speaking out, hoping to get their portion of the loans in order to stave off further financial disaster.
Hawaii Media Owner George Hochman feels strongly that Congress should authorize more funding for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Hochman is dedicating air time to encouraging listeners to express their own support for the PPP, running a spot 18 times per day from 6 a.m. to midnight on all 15 of his stations in the Hawaiian islands.
Listen to Hochman’s spot now using the media player below or download it here.http://www.radioworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Paycheck-Protection-Program.wav
Hochman encourages other small radio stations to participate in this effort.
“Owners/managers, get on the air, use your airwaves to get your listeners off the fence and support this program. Now is the time to use the power of our voices and let the public know that they need to call their representatives and tell them to refund” the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program “and do it now, so their employees can get back to work,” Hochman wrote in an email to Radio World.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters is supporting a bipartisan letter from U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.) that is urging their colleagues to open up future SBA loans to broadcasters and news publishers with more than 500 employees.
The original PPP legislation excluded any businesses of this size or larger from applying, but NAB and the senators say that local news outlets are being hit especially hard by the pandemic, despite playing a critical role in informing listeners, viewers and readers.
The senators explain their rationale for seeking the exception in the letter: “Even though these news outlets may be owned by larger groups, they operate independently.” Therefore, they write, “Waiving SBA’s affiliation rules for local newspapers and broadcasters and ensuring that financial assistance flows to the local affiliate, not the parent company, would allow these small, local operations to be eligible for much-needed financial relief.” This change would allow broadcasters the same carve-outs created for the hospitality and restaurant industries, which the Washington Post reports have already drawn significant criticism.
A NAB press release quoted NAB President Gordon Smith as saying, “America’s broadcasters are providing trusted and credible lifesaving coverage to keep citizens safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet local stations are suffering advertising losses of historic proportion that will undermine this critically important service. We urge Congressional leaders to support this proposal to provide immediate SBA loan eligibility to more local radio and TV stations,”
A similar effort is being led by U.S. House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (D, RI) and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R, WI) in the other Congressional chamber.It is important to note that 97% of the original program’s $349 billion was allocated in less than two weeks, according to the Financial Times. However, the amount of funding floated for the next round is likely to be significantly smaller — closer to $310 billion, according to CNBC, despite increased demand as the effects of COVID-19 hit more sectors.
The deadline to nominate in the Special Edition “Best of Show” Awards has been extended to May 1.
“We’ve pushed the deadline by two weeks in light of the just-announced timetable for a virtual version of the NAB Show, to give all interested companies the chance to participate,” said Paul McLane, managing director of content for B2B Media Technology brands.
“The Best of Show program has always been conducted during the NAB Show, and when the physical show was cancelled we established the Special Edition version to help fill that gap. Now, with the timetable set for NAB Show Express, it makes sense for us to sync to its timetable. We will announce the winners during that week in mid-May.”
The Special Edition Best of Show Awards program is an initiative of our parent company Future plc to showcase new, innovative products introduced this spring for specialized technology users.
Companies can nominate products for awards presented by the following publications and websites: TV Technology, TVBEurope, Digital Video, Government Video, Video Edge, Radio World, Pro Sound News, Sound & Video Contractor, B+C, and Next TV.
Companies seeking guidance about which brand to enter for can find guidance here.
Winners will be selected by panels of professional users, technical experts and editors based on descriptions provided by companies via the official nomination form. Companies pay a fee to enter; not all products are selected as winners. All nominees and winners will be featured in a Program Guide sent to readers this spring.
“Our thanks to the many companies that are participating in the 2020 awards despite the disruption caused by the pandemic,” McLane said. “Our media technology marketplace is a vibrant place, and there’s clearly plenty of innovation and hard work going on, judging by the nominations to date. Meantime we’re also all looking forward to being back in Las Vegas next year for a more traditional spring show.”
For more information about the Special Edition Best of Show Awards, visit the official website.
The post Deadline Is Extended for “Best of Show” Special Edition appeared first on Radio World.
The long-standing feud over newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership could be headed to the Supreme Court if the FCC, NAB and a group of media companies have their way.
On April 17, the Federal Communications Commission petitioned the Supreme Court to review the latest decision made by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned many of the commission’s media ownership deregulation decisions made in 2017. At that time the court said the agency “did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.” Soon after, the National Association of Broadcasters and the FCC joined forces to seek a full-court hearing of the court’s ruling. That request was denied.
The FCC responded in its April 17 filing that reforms of FCC media ownership rules are not only long overdue but are part of a larger mandate by Congress that the FCC revise or repeal media ownership rules that are no longer necessary.
“It’s unfortunate that the same divided panel of the Third Circuit yet again has blocked the commission’s efforts to modernize our media ownership rules,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, making this decision the latest “obstruction of commission action and congressional intent” over the last 17 years.
The court’s most recent decision continues to freeze in place decades-old ownership restrictions, Pai said, which have outlived their competitive usefulness in the digital age.
“Absent further action by the Supreme Court, broadcasters will continue to be saddled with outdated regulations,” he said. “The Supreme Court’s intervention is necessary to restore the commission’s discretion to regulate in the public interest and modernize media ownership regulation for the digital age.”
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly concurred. “The commission’s efforts for well over a decade to modernize media ownership regulations have been stymied at every turn,” O’Rielly said in a statement. “It’s time to settle this issue and bring our regulations into the twenty-first century.”
The group of media companies that also petitioned the Supreme Court over the Third Circuit’s findings include Bonneville, Connoisseur Media, Fox, News Corp, the News Media Alliance, Nexstar, The Scranton Times and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The post Supreme Court Asked to Weigh In on Media Deregulation Decision appeared first on Radio World.
Credit: Getty Images/Gerardo Mora/Stringer
The massive technical recalibration of iHeartMedia earlier this year — when it shed over 1,000 jobs and moved to a more centralized content distribution system — was viewed by some industry observers as one possible blueprint of commercial radio’s future.
And that was before coronavirus hit the country hard.
This article is about the long-term implications of that reorganization, though such discussions now must carry additional caveats about the unknown impact of the health crisis, over coming weeks as well as years to come.
It’s certain that similarly sized radio broadcast companies were already watching closely to see if iHeartMedia’s cloud-based top-down programming structure would succeed. Now iHeart and every other company is also struggling to adapt to the public health dangers and the economic downturn.
iHeartMedia has said that its new “AI-enabled Centers of Excellence” or network operation centers would allow the company to pivot and embrace the capabilities of artificial intelligence. This doesn’t surprise radio experts since it is in line with corporate America’s love of automation. The company didn’t describe the exact role of the hubs in press releases describing the changes.
The technical modernization allowed the company to eliminate many jobs on the programming side; and in March it was still not clear how many technical and engineering positions were affected. It is possible iHeartMedia has added some podcast producers and data scientists to fill out new digital teams, industry observers say. Those comments preceded fresh news at the end of March that the company would institute furloughs due to the coronavirus and that company head Bob Pittman would not take a salary for the rest of the year.AI-DRIVEN
iHeartMedia has more than 850 stations and also owns online music service iHeartRadio. It now has a Markets Group organizational structure, which allows for the grouping of clusters of stations that are geographically close and culturally similar, according to a press release.
Company officials have declined to speak about specifics, but it appears at least part of the technical modernization is based on a music-mixing AI system offered by Super Hi-Fi, according to Radio World’s previous reporting. The system allows for music to be segued with voice-over capabilities along with other algorithmic options.Getty Images/ipopba
“Technology-powered” is how iHeartMedia now characterizes itself, according to a variety of press releases. It plans to use its “unique scale” to take advantage of its position in the audio marketplace.
“The company has made significant technology investments to change everything from how it sells advertising to how it utilizes data and builds new businesses like its digital platform, podcast platform and robust data platform,” it stated in early 2020.
Since the company has been slim on details, Radio World asked several veteran technical observers for their views about what iHeart’s new technical strategy might look like. Though most of them spoke prior to or early on during the disruptions of mid-March, their focus was on longer term anyway.
The most obvious result is that iHeartMedia would likely have little live programming except in its larger markets, they said, looking ahead. AI-enabled Centers of Excellence will program smaller markets. Some markets could be left with only a sales staff and no building.
“The technical consolidation of programming origination on a massive scale, never before seen, might be a possibility,” said one technical observer. “I would further guess that in many smaller and medium-sized markets of iHeartMedia, possibly also in the larger ones that only a sales force would possibly remain.”
The radio industry’s subsequent rush to enable wide-scale telework now would seem likely only to accelerate any such changes.
iHeartMedia, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019, revealed little new information about its plans during an earnings call for investors in late February. There was a lot of talk about “de-leveraging balance sheets” and “improving capital structure,” but iHeartMedia executives again gave scant insight into that transformative shift in business operations and jobs cuts.
According to a 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that predated coronavirus, it still had 11,400 employees. The modernization initiatives were expected to deliver $100 million in cost savings by the middle of 2021, according to a financial release.
iHeartMedia said then that it was anticipating real estate expenses to jump this year as it possibly consolidates some broadcast facilities and downsizes others.
But by the end of March the company had withdrawn its full-year fiscal guidance. “iHeartMedia had a strong January and February before the effects of COVID-19 began to unfold into a global pandemic in early March,” it said then. “The challenges that COVID-19 has created for advertisers and consumers has impacted iHeart’s revenue in recent weeks, creating a less clear business outlook in the near term.”“COOKIE-CUTTER”
Longtime radio observer and iHeartMedia critic Jerry Colliano reported early last month that the broadcaster was at least considering building out “cookie-cutter office and studios” that would be very similar in each market.
“While iHeart tries to negotiate out of leases and/or sell property it owns, according to those familiar with developments, the intention is to create a new build in every city. Presumably that even includes major markets,” Colliano wrote then.
iHeartMedia’s new network operation centers likely consist of management, program origination, commercial and imaging production as well as log preparation and billing, said another industry observer.
“AI in its most basic form has been part and parcel to current program automation systems, music scheduling and log preparation for some time. There will have to be significant expansion and integration to enable (iHeartMedia) to use over a large number of stations,” this expert said.
A sophisticated distribution network would also be essential to the delivery of program content and technical functions, this person said.
Technical monitoring could also be centralized with “virtualization of all studio functions” clearing the way to have a functioning radio station with no studios, according to another technical expert. “The FCC’s deletion of the main studio rule makes such operation possible and entirely legal now,” he said.
Another industry observer said that over time, he suspects there will be many fewer iHeartMedia stations managers and programmers “artfully shaping compelling content” to appeal to a local community.
“They are likely to be replaced with AI distilling local social media to sound as though the station is connected to the community,” he said.
Even local sales teams could be eliminated in some cases and replaced with a more regionalized approach to selling, according to the expert.
There are examples of such a “move to the cloud” with broadcast groups operating stations remotely, he said.
“TV has embraced AI more so, but EMF [Educational Media Foundation] feeds the same programming to all of their local stations and centralizes technical monitoring at their master control facility near Sacramento, Calif. Obviously, iHeart would take this a step farther and use a common facility to produce most if not all programming for multiple local facilities,” the technical expert said. “The result will probably be regional sanitized content.”DISTANCE NOT AN “ISSUE”
iHeartMedia’s turn toward a more centralized system of program delivery does raise the question of whether the company can improve its bottom line without jeopardizing local ratings in each market, observers said. In fact, financial analysts on February’s earnings call raised the issue of localism and whether the broadcaster’s ratings could be hurt following the earlier staff cuts.
“We don’t think the quality will go down, but rather it will go up. We want the best programming in each market. Distance is no longer an issue in our business, and our ability to project the best talent we have to any location any time is a substantial advantage for us,” said Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia.
Pittman mentioned personalities Ryan Seacrest and Bobby Bones and their national syndicated morning shows during the earnings call and remarked about the quality they bring to any radio station.
“We will continue to find those opportunities where we think we can improve quality or create leverage out of great talent,” Pittman said. “To the listeners it is local and we will continue to serve our local communities.”
In addition, Pittman said building music logs and selecting music for each individual iHeartMedia radio station is a lot of work, which can be made easier by using AI to streamline operations.
“Now that we have so much data, the problem is absorbing all that data. By using AI to help us with that, I think it improves the music, and it will free up iHeartMedia programmers to do other things that make radio great, like imaging and promotions. And working with the talent, no matter where the talent is located.”
By the end of March, the business world had changed. But there was no sign of a change in the company’s long-term plan described above. Rich Bressler, the company’s president, COO and CFO, said then, “We fully appreciate the unprecedented challenges posed by this crisis, however, we remain confident in our business, our employees and our strategy. With our experienced management team and our leadership position in the audio sector, we are committed to navigating this period while serving our audiences and other constituents.”
The post How Will iHeart’s “Centers of Excellence” Strategy Play Out? appeared first on Radio World.
Today, in the third decade of the 21st century, I am noticing disturbing things about our industry and AM radio. We are seeing stations being turned off and licenses turned in because owners are not making enough money to cover operating expenses. It is a shame to hear that an antenna’s real estate value exceeds the value of a station business.
AM radio reception is not getting better, especially in cities where high-rise structures dominate the skyline. In the “old days,” one would try to position an AM radio by the window to get good reception. Today, many structures have reinforced glass in their steel structures, which does not allow reception.
Second, the stations’ audio fidelity has not improved. Once again, in the old days, the station cared about fidelity (granted, most were transmitting music). Today, a station is sending anywhere from 10 kHz to 15 kHz of bandwidth (if they’re lucky) to the transmitter, and it’s compressed with almost no dynamic range.
This is a recipe for listener fatigue, and nobody wants that! Listener fatigue causes the audience to block out the content, including advertising.
Third, and this is a generational problem, the sales departments do not understand AM reception and thus have difficulty selling it. A high-power AM may have better coverage than an FM, but AM has an image of the radio your grandparents listened to.
Granted, there are some successful AMs out there, but not many.
In contrast, streaming is growing, with a lot of the credit going to the smart speakers (thank you, Amazon and Google). The internet is prevalent in homes and the workplace, where radio reception may be limited.SUGGESTIONS TO THE STREAMS
Many AM broadcasters are streaming audio but only going through the motions. Some are promoting it! Some are even selling it! Will listenership grow? It is inevitable.
What do these stations need to do?
First, realize that the parameters of a stream are not equal to broadcast.
Adjust the audio processing of your stream differently from your over-the-air broadcast. Let it have an audio signature!
The days of a tuning knob to go up and down the dial are gone. There is no need for a loudness war; streaming is now a destination!
If you are playing music, ensure all the instruments can be heard. How often can you say you hear the cymbals, oboe or the cow bell? If you are a talk station, let the transients of the host’s voice be heard with dynamic range.
This can improve total listener hours. All stations want to tell their advertisers that people are listening more. Who knows — the station may even make more money.[Related: Tesla Offers Infotainment Upgrade That Removes Radio But Pushes Streaming]
Second, many stations are doing dynamic ad insertion. The internet allows for ads to be targeted to the specific listener and location. This can sound good and natural, if done right. The station needs to match the loudness level of its content with the inserted ads, which is not easy but possible. The station must have reliable metadata to cue the ads and adjust the timing so the breaks sound good. These adjustments take time but are well appreciated by all.
Also, the announcer can no longer talk up to the post of the commercial. This sounds great on the air, but is a train wreck on the stream, since the commercials are different than over the air. Yes, this is a downfall of dynamic ad insertion.SMART SPEAKER ADVANTAGE — THE FUTURE IS NOW
The fastest adoption by the public of a new technology has been the smart speaker. Significantly, sports leagues like the NFL recognize the value of smart speakers and are restricting sports rights, since they realize this is a new profitable market.
Many people use smart speakers to listen to radio stations. Here’s a revelation — this is streaming. You are not seeing a growth in radios in the home, but you are seeing more smart speakers. In fact, the technology is even beginning to creep into cars.
Smart speakers are the new home radio. Can they sound good — yes! Will more models emerge — yes![Read more: Techsurvey 2020 Tracks Smart Speaker Success]
Can streaming save AM radio? Maybe. For many years, radio has said they are now content providers, now radio has to believe it. Currently, many are calling for AM to be turned off. Others are calling for AM to go “all digital.”
Why turn it off if AM can eventually evolve into a streamed source with growing listenership (not today, maybe tomorrow)?
Why go all-digital with HD Radio? Deep pockets will be needed to fund it, and the shift will require major education to the sales staff and the listeners. And even then, how would sales earn their commissions? Plus, who will teach the local Best Buy clerk that the features exist!
AM is the immediate problem, but issues for FM will follow shortly — especially with translators populating every free spot on the band.
These are some of my reasons for saying that streaming with smart speakers has the capability of saving the AM broadcaster. Of course, I will also say: Content is still king.
David Bialik is the co-chair of the Audio Engineering Society’s Technical Committee for Broadcast and Online Delivery and is a Fellow of the AES. He was the director of stream operations for Entercom Communications and CBS Radio. Bialik is available for consulting at (845) 634-6595 or email@example.com.
One in a series of articles celebrating radio’s first century.
Nov. 2, 1920, traditionally is recognized as the start of radio broadcasting in the United States. It’s the date that station KDKA broadcast the Harding-Cox election returns from a primitive transmitter atop a Westinghouse factory building in Pittsburgh. But in reality, broadcasting had been taking place on an experimental, irregular basis for more than 10 years prior.
Notable early experimenters included Reginald Fessenden in Massachusetts, Charles Herrold in California, Vincent Kraft in Seattle and Frank Conrad in Pittsburgh. And perhaps the most prominent of these early experimenters was Lee de Forest (1873-1961), the radio scientist noted for his invention of the triode vacuum tube.“ELEMENTS OF CULTURE” Lee de Forest transmits into an early arc transmitter, about 1910. Two telephone microphones are joined in parallel to create a double button carbon mic. The arc chamber is attached to the right side of the transmitter cabinet. To the right is an Audion receiver.
De Forest had envisioned the concept of broadcasting news and music to an unseen audience as early as 1907, while experimenting with the transmission of voice using primitive arc transmitters.
“I had in mind its great usefulness as a means for broadcasting news and music entirely in addition to the use of the wireless telephone as a means of two-way communication by voice,” he wrote later. “From the beginning, (as) a great lover of opera and fine music, I was intent on developing the means and methods for broadcast distribution of these elements of culture to widely scattered audiences.”
De Forest conducted a number of demonstrations of voice transmission between 1906 and 1910, principally for the U.S. Navy, in which he broadcast phonograph music as well as the live voices of opera singers. In 1910, he broadcast a live performance from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, although the sound quality was poor and almost no one heard the broadcast.
In 1914, Lee de Forest sold his “Audion” vacuum tube patents to AT&T, but he wisely retained the rights to use tubes for distribution of news and music, and to manufacture devices capable of receiving these broadcasts. AT&T foresaw no commercial value in broadcasting, and so readily conceded to this clause in the contract.Here is de Forest with one of his first Oscillon transmitters, similar to one used at Highbridge. Before 1915, de Forest and others used arc transmitters, and he was apparently the first to develop a tube transmitter. (Perham de Forest papers, History San Jose)
Then de Forest established a laboratory at 1391 Sedgewick Avenue in the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, where he developed a high-power vacuum tube capable of radio transmitting, which he called the Oscillon.
In 1915, de Forest received an experimental station license with the call sign 2XG and began experimental transmissions of concerts and news bulletins on a wavelength of 800 meters (375 kHz). It was the first radio station to use vacuum tubes instead of obsolete arc or spark technologies.
In October of 1916, he made a cross-promotion agreement with the Columbia Gramaphone Company, and 2XG began broadcasting the latest Columbia recordings three nights a week.
Carl Dreher, a young amateur operator, later recalled being a regular 2XG listener: “The quality was quite good, and I used to listen to the station for hours at a time.”De Forest with singer Mary White, broadcasting from 6XC at the California Theater in San Francisco.
On Nov. 7, 1916, de Forest broadcast the returns of the Woodrow Wilson-Charles Evans Hughes presidential election, four years before KDKA. De Forest later wrote: “The New York American ran a wire line into our office so as to have the up-to-the-minute reports. I myself served as one of the announcers. At 11 o’clock that night we signed off, after assuring our invisible audience that Hughes had been elected president.” The next morning, he was horrified to find out that late results from California had in fact reelected Woodrow Wilson for a second term.
It was estimated that 7,000 people heard de Forest’s broadcast that night, including listeners as far away as North Carolina.RADIO SILENCE Soprano Ruth Phipps sings over 6XC in San Francisco.
After the United States entered the World War, all private radio stations were ordered off the air on April 17, 1917. The operators were instructed to take down their antennas and disassemble their transmitters. The general public was even prohibited from operating a radio receiver. As a result, all other early broadcast experimentation was halted.
Lee de Forest’s 2XG was shut down, along with the stations operated by Frank Conrad in Pittsburgh and Charles Herrold in California.
The receiver ban was not lifted until April 15, 1919, while the restriction against transmitting ended on September 26. De Forest immediately reopened his 2XG Highbridge station, and on Nov. 8 he broadcast the play-by-play results of a Wesleyan-New York University football game. Popular New York vocalist Vaughn De Leath also made the first of a series of live broadcasts, earning her the title of “The Original Radio Girl.”Vaughn De Leath, the “Original Radio Girl,” first broadcast over de Forest’s station 2XG in 1920.
Early in 1920, de Forest moved the 2XG transmitter to the top of the World Tower Building in Manhattan, giving him improved coverage and easy access to performers in the city’s theater district. But Radio Inspector Arthur Batcheller ordered 2XG to cease operations because he had not requested prior government approval for the move. “There is no room in the ether for entertainment,” Batcheller declared.
Undaunted, de Forest packed up his equipment and took it to San Francisco, where he opened 6XC in the California Theatre, the city’s most opulent motion picture house. His 1,000 watt transmitter broadcast on 1260 meters (238 kHz) into an antenna suspended between the theatre building and an adjoining bank building. On Jan. 28, 1920, he wrote: “California Theater radiophone is in pretty good shape. Antenna on Humboldt Tower is not ideal, but the music has been heard 1,200 miles out to sea.”
By April of 1920, six months before KDKA, 6XC was airing daily broadcasts of Herman Heller’s 50-piece orchestra live from the stage of the theatre.
A microphone attached to a large Magnavox horn was hung 40 feet above the stage to pick up the music. Live singers also performed into individual microphones, and harp and piano soloists were broadcast. To allow the transmission of phonograph records, a steel needle was connected directly to the diaphragm of a microphone mounted on the tone arm. Demonstration receivers were set up in clubs, hospitals and hotels around the area to introduce the public to the potential of radio broadcasting.
In September, ARRL President Hiram Percy Maxim addressed the 6XC audience, predicting that radio broadcasting would one day serve audiences in the millions.OTHER INTERESTS Late in 1921, Lee de Forest closed 6XC at the California Theater. It was relicensed as KZY by the Atlantic-Pacific Company, and installed in the Rock Ridge neighborhood of Oakland. Seen here is the de Forest 1 kW transmitter, left, and an Interpanel receiver at right.
But de Forest was beginning to lose interest in radio. His professional interests were being directed towards the development of his “Phonofilm” sound-on-film technology, and his radio work was delegated to others in the company.
And so in late 1921, after originating more than 1,500 separate broadcasts from the California Theatre, 6XC was shut down and the equipment was transferred to the Atlantic-Pacific Radio Corporation, the de Forest Radio Telephone and Telegraph Company’s Western representative. A new station was installed in the company president’s home in the Rock Ridge area of Oakland, and KZY, “The Rock Ridge Station,” soon debuted.
KZY went on the air at midnight on Christmas Day, 1921, broadcasting several hours of Christmas carols. It quickly developed a large and loyal following in the Bay Area, and was heard clearly at night throughout the Western states. Live and recorded music programs were supplemented by news reports provided by the San Francisco Call and the Oakland Post-Enquirer.
But soon, like so many pioneer broadcasters, the new operators lost interest in funding the high cost of a radio station without any incoming revenue, and KZY had ceased operation by the end of 1922.
Back in New York, one of de Forest’s employees, engineer Robert Gowen, assumed responsibility for the company’s broadcasting activities. He built station 2XX at his home in Ossining and broadcast phonograph and live music each night at 11 p.m.Lee de Forest works on his invention of the “dynatherm,” a medical device used on radio waves, in 1937.
Vaughn De Leath again was heard on the New York airwaves, and news reports were broadcast nightly. 2XX operated from December 1919 to May 1921 with 300 watts on 330 meters, and was heard by amateurs around the country.
In 1921, the Department of Commerce became concerned that too many amateur and experimental stations were broadcasting programs intended for the general public, and so in the fall of 1921 it created a new “Limited Commercial” license class specifically for broadcasting. All stations were required to share just two frequencies: 360 meters (833 kHz) and 485 meters (619 kHz). All other classes of licenses were forbidden from broadcasting music and news.
And so, in order to continue broadcasting, the de Forest Company closed 2XX and obtained a Limited Commercial license on Oct. 13, 1921, with the randomly-assigned call sign WJX. But apparently, the station was never a serious venture and appears to have operated only sporadically. The license was finally deleted in June of 1924, marking the end of Lee de Forest’s radio broadcasting activities.
The renowned inventor spent the majority of his remaining career on the development of his sound-on-film system. It fell to the big electrical corporations — General Electric, Westinghouse, RCA and AT&T — to develop radio broadcasting into a solid commercial technology.
John Schneider is a lifetime radio historian, author of two books and dozens of articles on the subject, and a Fellow of the California Historical Radio Society. He wrote in Radio World in December about KJR in Seattle, perhaps the first station in the U.S. to achieve a century of continuous broadcast activity.
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
- “Father of Radio” by Lee de Forest
- “De Forest — King of Radio, Television, and Film” by Mike Adams
- “The Airwaves of New York: Illustrated Histories of 156 AM Stations in the Metropolitan Area, 1921–1996” by Bill Jaker, Frank Sulek and Peter Kanze
- “Radio News” Magazine, June, 1921
- “Pacific Radio News” Magazine, July 1920
- “Radio” Magazine, February, 1922
- San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 1922
- Wikipedia: “Radio 2XG”
- “Post-war Experimentation and Development” by Thomas H. White
- “Chronology of AM Radio Broadcasting 1900-1960” by Jeff Miller
The author is founder, College Radio Foundation and College Radio Day, and a professor at William Paterson University, New Jersey.
For many of us who started our broadcast careers in college radio, we still recall the memories of the experiences we had and the extraordinary bonding we shared with other students at the radio station. For most of us, it was in that environment that we not only learned or confirmed that we wanted to work in radio as a career, but we also created some friendships that would last a lifetime.
That all feels suddenly on hold for college radio students today. It seems that the very heart of their campus experience has been ripped away from them. Right now, most college radio stations studios are empty. The music director’s office is silent. The newsrooms are shut down, and the lounge area has empty sofas and chairs, with things left out on desks and tables, such as open magazines with half-read articles, unchecked lists of tasks that needed to be completed before spring break, and schedules for shows that will likely never take place. It’s like stumbling onto the Mary Celeste, a place that has been hastily abandoned on short notice.
“Our students were on Spring Break when the world began to shut down. Their belongings were still on campus, and the uncertainty of what was next was definitely a huge factor on their anxiety levels,” said Anabella Poland, GM at WMSC, Montclair State University in New Jersey. “As information began to trickle down from authorities, there was a shift to first sadness, grieving their loss of community, loss of togetherness, and for some, the loss of their last semester on campus and all the celebratory activities this semester would bring.” For many involved in college radio, the shutdown was a massive blow.
For example, at the radio station that I manage, WPSC — Brave New Radio, at William Paterson University in New Jersey, we have had to cancel all our planned major events for the rest of this academic year. No more Braveathon, no annual Alumni Weekend (devastating for the alumni who love coming back), and no game coverage for our sports crew that lives and breathes competitive sports.
But there is hope, a resistance to the circumstances that the students now find themselves in. The COVID-19 situation may have resulted in campuses closing across the country, and the world, but students are not staying silent. Many students involved with college radio have quickly adapted and are finding new ways to create radio and find a way to communicate that to their audiences. It’s heartening to witness their passion combined with sheer ingenuity, to create and share content that provides information and comfort to a listening audience.
That’s true at WMSC, whose staff went from a period of mourning their losses to switching “to strength and sheer determination, to not let this time define us, and to explore the available options to continue to service our community,” said Poland. The students quickly committed to continuing their meetings and creating content, and “While emotions do vary day-to-day, based on news headlines and on each student’s individual circumstances, the group’s morale when they come together in virtual meetings and shows is good.” Poland shared, “I am not a psychologist, but I always begin my meetings asking how everybody is doing, I validate their shared feelings.”WMSC’s Anabella Poland is creating programming from home.
At Neumann University in Pennsylvania, close to Philadelphia, resiliency is a way of life. Director of Neumann Media, Sean McDonald, has been very busy. “Morale at my station (WNUW) has progressively gotten better,” he says. After the sudden shock of the situation, “The initial response was dead air. Nobody wanted to do anything,” said McDonald. But now the students are back to creating content.
“Because of my background in broadcast engineering, I quickly go into problem solving mode,” and so right now, “WNUW is fully operational, even though I am the only person legally allowed into the station. I took home a bunch of equipment and created my own remote studio/master control, and have complete control of our TV and radio studios. My students are doing both prerecorded and live radio shows in a variety of methods,” he explained.
Those methods include using Discord to record shows, as well as Skype, Zoom or MS Teams. But because of McDonald’s engineering background he has been able to set-up a lot of technology from his home. “I have been using Axia’s SoftSurface over our school’s VPN client to control our Axia Fusion console. I set-up our record bus to a recorded feed in our iProfiler system, so I can hear callers that may call the studio through the Live Player app, and I have VPN access to control our RCS Zetta system … I’ve also given the more tech-savvy students access to the Comrex FieldTap app, and they can dial into one of my other Comrex units to get on the air. Like I said, having a broadcast engineering background certainly comes in handy during a pandemic!”Sean McDonald with his home studio setup.
Poland is also using similar strategies and technologies to keep WMSC on the air. “We began broadcasting via Zoom on FB Live and uploading the shows to YouTube and SoundCloud, and then our chief engineer procured the necessary software to remote us into the station. Now we do our morning show live Monday through Friday. We also host two other news shows live. As we get more comfortable with this new modus operandi, we are adding prerecorded shows to our RCS NexGen lineup.”
Both Poland and McDonald have been working together to develop a project called the College Radio News Network (CRNN), which was conceived by Poland a while ago, and was already being used to share content and programming for celebratory occasions such as the annual College Radio Day and Vinylthon events. But the current situation now offers a perfect scenario for people to collaborate and share material that would help stations in this difficult time. The CRNN could be a vital tool for college radio stations during this time of social distancing, allowing students from college stations across the world to connect, share content, and participate in each other’s broadcasts.
So, looking to improve the process, Poland reached out to McDonald at Neumann University, to create a space that would allow for easy content sharing. “In order to keep the CRNN free to use and access, I had to find a way for stations to be able to contribute content that would not take too much time — I was looking for a way for people to easily upload and download content. Sean’s extensive technological background was vital to creating that space,” said Poland.
McDonald was able to set-up a space on a secure server at his university and was happy to help Poland take her idea to the next level. “The College Radio Network is the baby of Anabella Poland. We all have different perspectives, coming from all over the country. The idea of the website is to share copyright-free material created by college radio, for college radio. Newscasts are how this started, but we’re also looking to share coronavirus content in various forms. From interviews with front line workers, to diaries of how you’re feeling, to play-by-play of your mother in the kitchen making pancakes (true story), we want to give content to stations to share and to be the voice of the pandemic. There’s no obligation or pressure, just another resource to use during this strange time in our world,” said McDonald.
Other initiatives are also taking place, such as the College Coronavirus Coverage Awards, organized by four major journalism organizations — The Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Collegiate Press, the Society for News Design, and College Broadcasters Inc. — who have joined forces to recognize college journalists who are “admirably covering a pandemic for little or no money while struggling with online classes.” The awards invite content from students “about COVID-19 that informed your audience of students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni,” according to the website.
All these developments and initiatives are evidence that this difficult time can be met with responses of ingenuity and determination to connect with others. “Bringing my studio to my house has made me excited to go to work, and excited to problem solve,” said McDonald. He added, “Right now I’m loving what I’m doing and I’m making the best of it!” There is the belief that college radio should not be silent during this time. As Poland says, for her students, “There is a sense of urgency and duty to be on the front lines covering a historic moment, and to not allow the virus to take that from them.”
Perhaps something good can come from a bleak moment in time, and college radio can step up and help fill the silence.
One small pleasure denied us with the decision not to hold the NAB Show in April was that we aren’t able to see the new expansion of the LVCC under construction. But when broadcasters do come back to Vegas, we won’t be able to miss it.
With nearly 2 million square feet of exhibition space, the Las Vegas Convention Center has always been a spacious facility for NAB Shows. But thanks to the $980 million expansion project now underway, the LVCC is adding 600,000 square feet of exhibition space called the West Hall, an outdoor plaza and a new grand atrium. What was spacious before will be even more vast.
The expanded LVCC will have an entrance facing the famous Las Vegas Strip. For those familiar with the city landscape, the 60-year-old Riviera Hotel and Casino was cleared to make room for this new facility.
But that’s Vegas, a one-of-a-kind destination that is constantly reinventing itself.BIG, BIG, BIG
“Las Vegas is a city built for moments that change lives, and now we’re expanding to better serve the moments that change business,” said John S. Schreiber, vice president of business sales with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The LVCVA is the owner/operator of the LVCC.The future West Hall exterior.
“These additions and improvements will keep Las Vegas as a top destination for meetings, events and tradeshows.”
To put it mildly, the expanded LVCC will be huge, so huge that it will include a three-station underground loop tunnel system traversed by self-driven Tesla electric vehicles to move convention-goers around.
Las Vegas is the kind of town where a tourist can clearly see their destination but then spend half-an-hour walking towards it without making much apparent progress.
The current LVCC with its North, Central and South Halls fits into the city’s “Big, Big Big!” tradition. And when the West Hall opens in January 2021 — its first event will be CES 2021 — it will push those limits even further even by Vegas standards.
Construction of the new LVCC West Hall, outdoor plaza and grand atrium is in full swing. “The project is currently more than 70% complete,” said Schreiber in early 2020. And once it is done, the LVCVA will start renovating the current North, Central and South Halls to bring them up to the West Hall’s standards; that work is scheduled to be finished in 2023.
(Target dates in this story were gathered prior to the global coronavirus emergency but an LVCVA official said in late March that the dates remained valid so far.)PHASED COORDINATION
“The LVCC expansion and renovation project was designed in phases to accommodate the needs of all shows utilizing the facility with minimal disruption,” Schreiber told RW.
The work was not expected to have an effect on the 2020 show, according to Chris Brown, the NAB’s EVP of conventions and business operations. Construction was to be limited to the new West Building. “The LVCVA has done a good job of coordinating with major shows like ours to minimize the effects of their construction and renovation plans. They have set their schedule to work around the big events.”
Looking farther ahead, Brown said that he anticipated “one year of challenge” in 2022.
“We will lose access to the Central Hall as it is taken off-line to undergo much-needed renovations,” he said. “This means we will be in a situation where we will use West, North — renovated at that point — and South. So we will need to come up with supplemental transportation options to help move people between the three halls.”A free underground system will move attendees quickly among three station stops.
The underground tunnel loop being built by Elon Musk’s Boring Company should be online by 2021.
Excavation of the first of the two vehicular tunnels was completed in February. The boring machine tunneled 40 feet underground for nearly a mile over three months, then broke through a concrete wall near the West Hall expansion. The project is designed to transport up to 4,400 convention attendees per hour.
“This is an exciting new transportation concept and will provide a highly-advanced and unique underground transport option to move people from one corner of the campus to the other using Tesla vehicles,” said Brown.
“It will ultimately move a high volume of people at rapid speeds. For instance, it will only take a couple of minutes to go from the tip of West to the tip of the South Hall.”BIGGER, BETTER SHOWS
Once all phases of the LVCC expansion and renovation have been completed in 2023, the facility’s extra room will allow for bigger, better NAB conventions.
“We are excited about the expansion as it will not only provide access to more space, but to more flexible space,” said NAB’s Brown.
“For instance, the new West Building includes a large, centralized meeting room complex that includes great swing space and some larger room options. This opens up some possibilities for us, including moving our Main Stage programs to that area or maybe adding a second spot for larger sessions. We are also considering some creative uses of that space; perhaps using it for more experiential purposes, special demo areas, combo learning and networking areas.
“Another great feature of the new West Hall is a sizable outdoor balcony space that is perfect for receptions and other networking,” Brown added. “So we will definitely be incorporating the West Hall immediately.”
Adding more floor space potentially means more walking; would NAB add other options such as Segways, electric carts or other people movers to help delegates get around the larger LVCC more comfortably?
“Some of that will depend on how we are using the space from one year to the next,” replied Brown. “In 2022 we will likely have to consider some of these options to help facilitate flow between the buildings. The Boring system will certainly help in all scenarios, but we also understand it won’t cover the need entirely.”
Brown expressed excitement about the long-term impact.
“The plan is being undertaken not just to add the space, but to create a more modern facility with better and more flexible space. And at a point in time where we are very focused on evolving and enhancing the experience that we deliver through the NAB Show, those enhancements will have a very positive effect.
“It is also true that more space means more options for us, both in terms of what space we choose to use and how we use it. The rest, the getting around part, is all an operational challenge — and I think our team is pretty good at figuring out how to manage those challenges.”
Before it starts to get too hot, now is a good time to check your cooling systems — both at the transmitter and for the studio and rack room.
Studio air handlers can be wedged above the actual studio or technical operations center, which can be a nightmare should the condensate drain get clogged with algae and then overflow.
Whether you do the maintenance yourself or you contract an HVAC company, schedule it now.
If you’re doing the work, remove the PVC cleanout cap atop the drain trap (shown in Fig. 1). With a bottle brush — buy one in the housewares/kitchen supply section of a grocery store — clean out the trap. Pour clean water down the trap as you go to speed the process. After cleaning, store the bottle brush next to the condensate drain, so it will be handy next time.
Once the trap is clean, I’ve seen some HVAC techs pour a little bleach into the drain. The big box stores sell an alternative, Air Conditioner Drain Pan Tablets. These tablets are placed in the drain pan and last about a month. Their chemical makeup prevents the buildup of algae, slime and scale, keeping the drain clear. Two hundred tablets run about $30; smaller quantities are available for about $1/tablet.
We write a lot about redundancy. In a large transmitter building, your cooling backup may consist of a second air conditioner. An alternative is forced air cooling, as pictured in Fig. 2, should the air conditioning fail.Fig. 2: High-efficiency filters combined with a louvered air intake can keep a transmitter site cool, should the air conditioning fail.
An air vent, even if it’s filtered, would defeat the job the air conditioning does, so adding motorized louvers is recommended. As shown in Fig. 3, the louvers are controlled by a thermostat, which drives a motor to open them when high temperature is detected. You’ll probably need to remove the air filters to inspect the operation of this seldom-used backup system. Maintenance includes lubricating the linkage that controls the louvers, and watching for smooth operation as the louvers open and close.Fig. 3: Inspect the thermostat, motors and linkage that open and close the louvers on your backup air system.
If you’re not using high-efficiency air filters, as in Fig. 2, consider doing so; they’re worth the extra cost. We don’t get to transmitter sites as often as we used to, and these filters will keep your equipment cleaner. While you’re at it, measure the filter sizes of your transmitters and convert them to the higher-efficiency filters as well.
You can reduce cost by buying in bulk. Once you have your filter sizes, search online for bulk air filters. Of course, Amazon sells a variety, but also check acFilters4Less.com; they offer free shipping.
We’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating: With so many sites to cover, keeping track of the filter change dates can be difficult. With a Sharpie-type permanent marker, write the date of install on the new filters. Depending on the local conditions, plan on inspecting their condition every month and replacing as needed. Most sites can get by with a quarterly filter change.
You’ll find a variety of air conditioning maintenance videos online — just search for air conditioning maintenance.***
Veteran San Francisco contract and projects engineer Bill Ruck enjoyed reading Frank Hertel’s tips regarding rodent control in transmitter buildings. Bill adds two things.
First, regarding rat poison. A poisoned rodent goes looking for water and may die outside. The body is then eaten by one of their natural predators, and the poison kills the predator. Natural predators like coyotes and raptors control rodents for free, so think hard about the effects of using poison.
Engineers will find this useful: Bill’s wife Siobhan shared a website called R.A.T.S., which stands for Raptors Are The Solution. Their home page www.raptorsarethesolution.org encourages you not to use toxins for controlling rodents. As you will read, poison not only kills birds of prey, but also dogs and cats.
If you feel it necessary to kill rodents, Bill suggests snap traps. Bill is one of many volunteers at the KPH Project, the Maritime Radio Historical Society. The National Park Service, which owns the society’s sites, prohibits the use of poison, so Bill says they had to seek out alternatives. They have found that electric traps also work well, especially for larger rodents.
Bill’s second point refers to airborne disease. He says Frank was lucky that he only got a bacterial infection and not Hantavirus after his rodent experience.
There is no cure for Hanta, and the mortality rate is 38%. Keep that in mind if you encounter a site littered with mouse droppings.
Bill offers a suggestion when cleaning up mouse droppings: First, wet them down with a dilute chlorine bleach solution. It’s best to wear a respirator. Then, wear gloves and use paper towels to clean up the mess. Dispose of the used towels carefully, preferably in a plastic bag that you seal.
There’s useful information about Hantavirus on Wikipedia and the Centers for Disease Control. He also recommends a PDF from the CDC. It explains Hantavirus, how it’s spread and safe procedures to clean up, should you encounter a rodent infestation.
Bill concludes that the best overall long-term solution for mice infestations is to follow Frank’s tips for prevention, especially never leaving any food or drinks or anything that smells of food (like fast food wrappers) in your transmitter building. Practice good housekeeping.
John Bisset has spent over 50 years in the broadcasting industry and is still learning. He handles western U.S. radio sales for the Telos Alliance. He holds CPBE certification with the Society of Broadcast Engineers and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.
For the millions who are stuck at home, the National Recording Registry has a few new suggestions on how to inspire nostalgia or arouse baseball fervor — and much of it came to you through your radio.
The U.S. Library of Congress recently named more than two dozen recordings as national aural treasures worthy of preservation because of their cultural, historical and aesthetic importance to the nation’s recorded sound heritage.
What makes that list? The opening melody from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood;” the thrilling play-by-play of the 1951 National League tiebreaker between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers and even the Village People’s international dance anthem “Y.M.C.A.” Those are among the newest recordings recently inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
“The National Recording Registry is the evolving playlist of the American soundscape. It reflects moments in history captured through the voices and sounds of the time,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. The library received more than 800 nominations this year.
Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the librarian, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), is tasked with annually selecting 25 titles that are for culturally, historically or aesthetically significant and are at least 10 years old. The new recordings bring the total number of titles on the registry to 550, a small part of the Library’s vast recorded-sound collection of nearly three million items.
Of the different genres and formats, listeners can find old radio sportscasts, classical recordings, jazz music and songs so knowable that it only takes a few notes to decipher its origin — take, for example, the disco hit “Y.M.C.A.” The new group of recordings also include the vibrant 2008 “Percussion Concerto” album and Dr. Dre’s debut studio album “The Chronic” (1992). Other selections include the 1920 jazz swing “Whispering” by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra; Puccini’s “Tosca,” performed by Maria Callas; and the first commercial digital recording of symphonic music in the United States by the Cleveland Symphonic Winds. Several recordings on the list were made by some of America’s female changemakers, including Memphis Minnie, one of the most popular female country blues singers of all time and her single “Me and My Chauffeur Blues,” which was recorded in 1941.
Also on the list: comedy radio classics. Allan Sherman’s comedy classic from 1963, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” made the registry this year, a fact that would have astonished its author, said Sherman’s son, Robert Sherman. “It’s still something that people care, sing about. It would have amazed my father, 50-plus years since he wrote it.” Other ’60s classics include the original version of “Wichita Lineman,” written by Jimmy Webb and recorded by country music singer Glen Campbell in 1968.
Recordings of several radio broadcasts made the list too: an episode of “Arch Oboler’s Plays,” one of the earliest American old-time horror radio programs, and the announcement of the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy made by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor during the recording of a live performance on Nov. 22, 1963.
And lest we forget the appeal of our nation’s pastime, the Library of Congress selected Russ Hodges’ call of the 1951 National League tiebreaker between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.
In that game, the Giants were down two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the final game of the three-game playoff. Ralph Branca was pitching for the Dodgers, Bobby Thomson came to bat, and Willie Mays was on deck.
“Ralph was a good, good pitcher. Didn’t have a real good curve but a good fastball,” the legendary Mays said to the Library of Congress. “And he placed it a lot, so I thought they would do the same thing with Bobby. Walk him and pitch to me because they knew that was my first year.”
They didn’t. Instead, Thomson hit a walk-off home run — the “Shot Heard ’Round the World” — and gave the Giants one of the most dramatic victories in baseball history.
Registry titles are preserved at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, a facility with more than 7 million collection items where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings.
Here are two well-known recordings that made the list.
The 1951 National League Tiebreaker: New York Giants vs. Brooklyn Dodgers — Russ Hodges, announcer (Oct. 3, 1951)
In 1951, the New York Giants won 37 of their final 44 games to catch their crosstown rival Brooklyn Dodgers, forcing a three-game playoff for the National League pennant. The teams split the first two games, setting up the decisive tiebreaker at the famed Polo Grounds. In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Dodgers led 4 to 1. The Giants had scored a run and had runners at second and third with one out when third baseman Bobby Thomson stepped into the batter’s box. Ralph Branca’s first pitch was a called strike. As he released his next pitch, Giants announcer Russ Hodges said, “Branca throws…” and then shouted, “There’s a long drive. It’s gonna be, I believe — the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” This game was actually covered by several legendary announcers, including Hodges (Giants radio), Ernie Harwell (Giants TV), Red Barber (Dodgers radio) and Gordon McLendon (the national broadcast). But it is Hodges’ call that is most remembered and which so vividly captures not only the action on the field but also the excitement of the moment — truly the thrill of victory and one of the greatest calls in all of sportscasting.
WGBH broadcast of the Boston Symphony on the day of the John F. Kennedy Assassination, Boston Symphony Orchestra (1963)
The ageless adage of “drawing comfort through music” had never been more thoroughly tested than on the scheduled afternoon broadcast of the Boston Symphony, with its conductor Erich Leinsdorf, on Nov. 22, 1963. That day, just after concluding Handel’s Concerto Grosso in B flat major and a second short piece, Leinsdorf was forced to break with normal concert protocol and, stoically, address the large audience with a change of program and to share the tragic news of Pres. Kennedy having been killed in Dallas only minutes before. For those in the audience and thousands more listening to the broadcast over the radio, it was their first news of the president’s assassination. In the hall, and over the airwaves, shock and gasps rang out. As everyone in the hall — including the musicians — processed this news, the sheet music for the “Funeral March” from Beethoven’s 3rd symphony was distributed to the orchestra, which bravely performed. The next day, Margo Miller of the Boston Globe reported, “The ‘Eroica’ marcia funebre is one of the great moments in music. The dread beat of the march cannot be disguised. Yet there is a middle section of the movement, a time of incredible energy and involvement, somehow, or so it seemed Friday, expressing eternal hope.”
Final List — 2019 National Recording Registry
“Whispering” (single), Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra (1920)
“Protesta per Sacco e Vanzetti,” Compagnia Columbia; “Sacco e Vanzetti,” Raoul Romito (1927)
“La Chicharronera” (single), Narciso Martinez and Santiago Almeida (1936)
“Arch Oboler’s Plays” episode “The Bathysphere.” (Nov. 18, 1939)
“Me and My Chauffeur Blues” (single), Memphis Minnie (1941)
The 1951 National League tiebreaker: New York Giants vs. Brooklyn Dodgers — Russ Hodges, announcer (Oct. 3, 1951)
Puccini’s “Tosca” (album), Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Angelo Mercuriali, Tito Gobbi, Melchiorre Luise, Dario Caselli, Victor de Sabata (1953)
“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” (single), Allan Sherman (1963)
WGBH broadcast of the Boston Symphony on the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination, Boston Symphony Orchestra (1963)
“Fiddler on the Roof” (album), original Broadway cast (1964)
“Make the World Go Away” (single), Eddy Arnold (1965)
Hiromi Lorraine Sakata Collection of Afghan Traditional Music (1966–67; 1971–73)
“Wichita Lineman” (single), Glen Campbell (1968)
“Dusty in Memphis” (album), Dusty Springfield (1969)
“Mister Rogers Sings 21 Favorite Songs From ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ ” (album), Fred Rogers (1973)
“Cheap Trick at Budokan” (album), Cheap Trick (1978)
Holst: Suite No. 1 in E-Flat, Suite No. 2 in F / Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks / Bach: Fantasia in G (Special Edition Audiophile Pressing album), Frederick Fennell and the Cleveland Symphonic Winds (1978)
“Y.M.C.A.” (single), Village People (1978)
“A Feather on the Breath of God” (album), Gothic Voices; Christopher Page, conductor; Hildegard von Bingen, composer (1982)
“Private Dancer” (album), Tina Turner (1984)
“Ven Conmigo” (album), Selena (1990)
“The Chronic” (album), Dr. Dre (1992)
“I Will Always Love You” (single), Whitney Houston (1992)
“Concert in the Garden” (album), Maria Schneider Orchestra (2004)
“Percussion Concerto” (album), Colin Currie (2008)
Many cities and states are reaching the conclusion of their stay-at-home period. Whether that period is extended or not, community radio stations need to start planning what they will and need to do when their communities reopen.
Virtually every community radio station has been affected in some way by the coronavirus. From complete switches to automation systems to staggering staff and volunteer presence for health and safety, community radio has had to adapt during this extraordinary time. Our programming and community service have been impacted. And, though we all crave getting back to what we love to do, community radio stations have to be especially diligent, considering their many constituents, volunteers and donors.
Pres. Trump has said in recent press statements that he intends to defer to the states, though he’s also expressed his desire to restart the economy amid growing unemployment. Many states indicate they will approach the reopening of businesses and public spaces with caution.
How will community media organizations that have been on reduced operating and programming capacity return to normal operations?
You should strongly consider again reviewing existing documentation on these issues, as well as advice from federal, state and county officials. Communicating with those on the frontline is going to give you the most informed look at what your city is facing, and the risks to your staff and volunteers. Those leaders may say it’s too risky right now, or may involve you as part of phased returns.
In March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an excellent guide for preparing workplaces for COVID-19. Though it came out before the peak of public awareness, its lessons are important for everyone. At the top of the list is developing an infectious disease emergency plan, in the event of an outbreak. Your station’s plans should consider and address the level of risk associated with various areas of your building and the tasks staff and volunteers perform there.
For example, a locked engineering room is unlikely to have a lot of foot traffic and volunteer presence. Your live studio will have both. Will you be open to the general public to come in? Should on-air volunteers come back all at once, or in waves? How can your station put cleaning and other safety rules in before reopening fully? How can you educate your staff and volunteers about the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends ongoing safety protocols like face masks and social distancing. It also suggests a standard for sick individuals in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In this context, your station will also want to consider the welfare of its volunteers, staff and visitors. Whether and where people came from after travel and if they are in vulnerable populations may be significant if they are coming to your station. If your station has been dependent on preproduced programming, what programming can continue to be preproduced and what needs to be live in the studio? And how can you respectfully include those volunteers who still do not feel safe or are in an at-risk group?
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, radio has been a trusted service. So, our return to business must come with an appreciation for the faith listeners put in us. Our returns must thus come with attention, care and compassion.