The scalable Android Automotive OS enables access to on-board apps and services, including Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play Store. Radioline says its Hybrid Radio app integrates into this environment to offer a “seamless experience” between FM, DAB+, HD Radio, IP stations and podcasts.
This means users can now access international and local programs, via catalogs and a search engine. They can also locate stations, shows or podcasts saved in their “favorites” list. In addition, the content displays EPG and metadata, offering information like names of shows, presenters and albums.
“This is very exciting opportunity for Panasonic Automotive to demonstrate our competencies in leading edge tuner performance on Android Automotive OS,” said Yoshi Nakao, President Panasonic Automotive Systems Europe.
Radioline has also developed a Full IP radio app (IP content only) that’ll be available in the Google Play Store for Android Automotive OS-powered vehicles. It says some 90,000 radios and podcasts from 130 countries are available on the service.
The post Radioline Launches Hybrid Radio on Android Automotive OS appeared first on Radio World.
The only constant is change; and our industry has had more than its fair share. But through recurring cycles of contraction and expansion, broadcast properties continue to be bought and sold. “Due diligence” — the process of establishing and evaluating suitability and worth — remains a necessary exercise.
Consulting engineers provide a wide breadth of services, which often include plain and simple guidance, a determination of the best path to proceed. We research, inspect, evaluate and then filter all this through our lifetimes of experience, ultimately lining up the decision chain so that our clients can determine whether they want to put ink on the check or pass.
Conversely, our due diligence for ownership establishes a defensible asking or listing price when a station is offered for sale.
Few buyers or sellers use their own funds; so almost without exception, this extensive effort is distilled into a written report for many, many parties to review. Ownership, management, capital sources, risk managers, insurers, key staff members, caterers (kidding) …Do an inventory of studio equipment and include a good narrative about the condition of each item.
But your report will go farther and wider than you could ever imagine. The broadcast industry may not be as porous with leaks as Washington politics are; but you will be surprised at the number of people, intended and unintended, who will read your erudite prose.
As nothing is ever really lost on the internet, these reports can have eternal life. If your name is on such documents, they must be factual; and if your opinions or judgment are annotated, they should be identified clearly.
For the sake of your reputation, they should also be as well-executed as you can make them. Think “crisp report writing” as if you’re sending these pages from the battlefield or the daily log of Joe Friday, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
Even before you leave the office on your field inspection, you should have:
- Reviewed the current station license(s) of the instant property … these are the ones that matter
- Reviewed the technical and ownership history of the station and, if the station is old enough, the PDF file cards from the FCC records.
- Reviewed the online FCC public file.
- Done a social media sweep for surprises, such as a lawsuit, collection effort, problems or kudos regards programming as well as public perception (including signal) that goes directly to “goodwill.”
- Gathered the asset documents, such as the property maps and titles for the station’s facilities.
- Reviewed the lease and contracts related to technical operations. Will the site lease be lost in a year or two, do they own the dirt under their ground system, or do they just have an easement on someone else’s property?
- Read the documents pertaining to rented or leased site facilities. Same with any interference codicils and site-share fees, not to mention terms, lease renewal bonuses, etc., which can have a huge impact on operations.
- Reviewed utility bills. What are the forward going liabilities? Is the plant technically and energy efficient?
- Inspected coverage maps, both claimed and calculated, with population and demographic overlays.
- Reviewed interference calculations and spacing if applicable.
- Reviewed the asset inventory and noted any items that demand a hands-on inspection. Where is that Cadillac Esplanade or Range Rover that supposedly is used exclusively by the CE, or is it really parked in the GM’s driveway for the spouse’s use?
- Gathered contact information and made appointments with knowledgeable parties to obtain ready access to the facilities. I once made a 1,200-mile trip and then was told that I should have made an advance security appointment — cost $300 — to get onto the roof of a skyscraper to inspect the transmitter plant and antenna
- Packed two cameras: a video camera for general sweeping information intake and a still camera for details. Think something like a slow video pan of the transmitter room and a close-up still of the “rat’s nest” of wiring in the equipment racks as amplification. Double up on visuals to CYA in the event of camera failure.
Every station is different, usually reflecting the personality of management. So when you prepare to visit the facility, have a specific plan of inspection with goals to gather the needed information.
Above all, be logical and ready to bring back factual notes, not just impressions or recollections. Everyone has an opinion; your business is to gather as many facts as you can.ON-SITE
Now we’re at the station, so let’s begin:
- Start your inspection by gathering up exact names, positions and latest contact numbers of responsible personnel, including their FCC attorneys in case you have to reach back for clarifications, etc. Quite often, you have to attribute a statement to a particular party, and you always want to correctly identify these folks.
- Review with management the assembled material you have, especially any questionable material and circumstances around that material to double-check the accuracy of these issues.
- Inspecting the physical studio/office is akin to a house inspection, so we won’t enlarge on this effort, but important points that must be addressed include safety issues, space per employee (does it comply with local codes?) and efficient work arrangement.
- We could devote a series of articles to the efficient and qualitative aspects of air/production facilities; this evaluation is a major component of technical due diligence to answer the biggest of all questions: Can the facility function effectively and if not, what’s wrong?
- Do an inventory of the actual capital equipment at the transmitter(s). There have been some big surprises in my work: a missing, nearly brand-new top-end processor (it had been loaned to another station, which then loaned it to another one of their stations in a different market) … and in another case, a totally different main transmitter “borrowed” from another station because it sounded better.
- At the transmitter plant, liabilities and capital expenditures have big numbers attached to them, and therein lies information that is most often needed. Can this facility do its job, and how long until the next big investment event? What looms next, and what is your vision of the plan at the two poles — “just sufficient (or barely adequate)” vs. what is “optimal”?
- Possibly the most overlooked concern is how facilities are interconnected for programming and control: STLs, ICRs, internet, satellite, RPU, ISDN, telco copper, tin-cans with string, whatever. And how reliable, effective and hardened with redundancy is this infrastructure? Connection should be 100% reliable, not 99.9%. (One pragmatic CE using the internet for distribution casually mentioned, “We get a few audio hits each day, where we lose programming feed for seconds at a time!”) Silence is the kiss of death on radio, especially when inexplicable and abrupt; the “next-station” button is right there on our steering wheels.
(As an aside, take good care of yourself on these jaunts. Drink plenty of water, eat regularly and well. Don’t overextend yourself. More stations are out there for you to see, and there is always tomorrow.)BACK AT HOME A good due diligence process takes into account tower paint, lighting and the condition of antennas and transmission lines. A drone and someone with a license to fly it will help.
Unless you’re under the tightest deadline, when you return to the office, write the report Jesuit style: just begin and let it flow, covering the inspection either chronologically or by section. Then go back through, checking your notes to confirm actual numbers. (Was the power supply to the plant 480-volt three-phase, or was it 208?) Polish up your organization, grammar and tense — add what you missed on the first pass.
Reports of this nature are built essentially on two kinds of sentence: declarative and interrogatory.
For example, let’s discuss the business office part of the acquisition. First, a declarative statement: “Business and sales space is on the second floor, and the usable space (subtracting washrooms, corridors, vestibules, etc.) is 1,200 square feet for 15 cubicles that are approximately 8 by 8 feet, for a total of about 1,000 of that 1,200 square feet.”
Then, as an interrogative, we pose the question: “Will that be enough if you consolidate business and sales from other stations to this location?”
You can see where the yin and yang of these reports are built on the two sides of the seesaw.
Once this first effort is completed to your satisfaction and missing information collected and inculcated into the text, your organization has been optimized and your prose falls upon the eyes like a perfect dawn (I think I’m quoting Steinbeck here), let it sit for at least 24 hours.
Do your final touchup after your head has really cleared. Make a final pass, channeling first your client and their goals, and then a dispassionate reader looking for a document that will allow a considered decision based on factual data and an honest, independent appraisal.NEED TO KNOW
Some final general comments about these reports.
Speculation not based on facts is neither helpful nor appreciated. Without a factual motivation, do not stray from the goals that you were charged with (what are you being paid for).
Occasionally, you may have cause to include some details you’d discovered beyond the focus of your inspection. The most egregious circumstance I’ve encountered happened after removing a service cover that seemed to have had an awful lot of use (screw heads nearly paint free compared to the rest of the gear). Inside was a notable stash of drugs and weed (very illegal at the time). I put the cover back on and provided a verbal report covering that one point to the prospective buyer.
Your final filter of review should parallel advice I was given in the military.
For some reason that remains a mystery to me, when my time was up the army really wanted me to stay; and the incentives were great. To show their confidence in me and dangle potential promotion, I was sent to command school. Ordinarily, that set of briefings is for colonels who are candidates for general grade officer.
So who teaches potential generals what being a general is like but serving generals! Each of these august and accomplished folks presented an intense 45 minutes on a germane topic. One of these, a fellow who looked like he had been sent over from central casting to play a general, talked about work at a Pentagon level.
At that echelon in making command decisions, “No one is interested in what you think. Everyone has thoughts and ideas. The person in charge, all the people involved in the mission need to know what you know … for certain. Your thinking should focus directly on what do we need to know to make the best decision, and if lacking, what is missing, and how do we find that missing item?”
That experience made for a very interesting two days. It became quite clear to me why these people were generals.
Your final pass should focus on the facts, just as theirs would in your situation.
My word processor here in the office has every deluxe feature you could imagine — spell check, grammar check, word repeat check, composition check. The only thing it does not have is thought check! That’s up to you and me. When the project is complete and if you put out the effort, your best job will be there in the print; and everyone will be well served.
Charles “Buc” Fitch, P.E. is a registered professional consultant engineer, senior member of the SBE, lifetime CPBE with AMD, licensed electrical contractor, former station owner and former director of engineering.
Howard Stirk Holdings, LLC; HSH Flint (WEYI) Licensee, LLC; and HSH Myrtle Beach (WWMB) Licensee, LLC
May 5 is more than Cinco De Mayo, the celebration that takes place in many cities across the United States. It is also a special Giving Tuesday event nationwide. It is your chance to lift up local nonprofits, including community radio stations near you.
Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a day to encourage people to do support nonprofit endeavors in their communities. Most of us may remember Giving Tuesday as the day that happens later in the year, around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As with everything in 2020, though, things are changing up.
Over the past eight years, Giving Tuesday has grown into a wider campaign to encourage people to contribute financially, to collaborate and celebrate generosity of others. More than $2 billion has been raised since Giving Tuesday’s inception. Right now, with so many nonprofits in need of help, you can guess money is the most critical conversation.
With all the issues facing community radio, your station would be forgiven for Giving Tuesday to seemingly come out of nowhere for you. Between remote work, automation system management and helping our wonderful volunteers, plenty of leaders in community media are pretty stretched these days.
Hope is not lost. If you are now scrambling to do something for Giving Tuesday, an email to your donors and social media messaging reinforcing core themes to your ask are a great start. Why should a listener give money to your station during a pandemic? That’s not intended to be a provocative question, but one to stimulate ideas about your relevance. It’s your chance to shine a light on the good things you bring your area, and why you are important to support.
In times like this, your radio station aspiring to raise funds could whip up a case for support to explain to a potential donor why you are raising money right now. For instance, maybe your station is seeing a gap in this year’s operating budget because you’ve had to cancel a big fundraising event or your pledge drive. Or maybe your station needs funds to deploy more staff to cover communities most affected by health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Helping everyone to understand your need is central to good fundraising.
If you are shooting to send out that email previously mentioned, consider targeted messages to your reliable donors and the more infrequent ones. You can acknowledge your regular contributors in your language, and ask less frequent donors to step out with you this time. While concerns about personal finances are natural, those able to give are usually willing and wish to be asked. You may want to craft your message appropriately.
The day before, it would be a good move to meet via video conference with your influential people, such as board members, key volunteers and others who can promote your station’s Giving Tuesday endeavors on the day-of. You can talk with them about your plans, but involve them too. They’ll be crucial to Giving Tuesday success, so lean on them for advice and, of course, reaching out to their own networks for contributions.
If you are feeling a little bolder, doing some livestreaming on social media can be fun. Facebook Live with your station’s on-air personalities can be really enjoyable. You could also consider Instagram Live or Twitter for livestreaming, depending on where your station is strongest and where the best opportunities lie. These livestreams can be fun and give listeners a look at the stories of the people who bring the content they love. However, do not do this livestream without a bit of planning. Like live radio, nothing is worse on a livestream than fumbling and dead air.
Giving Tuesday is going to be a fantastic day for many nonprofits. How great it will be for your community radio station is in your hands.
The Federal Communications Commission has elected to eliminate the Engineering Division at the organization in an effort to, as it says, “streamline the organization of the Media Bureau” as part of the public interest.
The commission plans to fold the work of the Engineering Division into the Media Bureau’s Industry Analysis Division (IAD) due to changes in the duties of the Engineering Division.
“By incorporating the work and staff of the Engineering Division into IAD, we can better ensure that the bureau’s technical expertise is integrated more fully into the bureau’s adjudicatory matters and policy proceedings,” the commission announced on April 29.
Back in 2002, the Engineering Division was established to conduct technical reviews of media-related matters, including overseeing technical compliance of TV and radio broadcast licenses, as well as things like cable regulatory filings and license transfers. But as the industry transitioned from analog to digital and from paper to electronic filing, the Engineering Division’s tasks have diminished.
Bringing the engineering team into the IAD division will result in streamlined operations and reduce redundancies in management.
There was no word on whether staff cuts will be made. The date that the move will become effective will be set by its publication in the Federal Register.
Read other articles in this series: Pi for Everyone and Everything and Get Email Alerts From an RFEngineer’s Watch Dog Receiver.
Nowadays, many people are playing with the Arduino (and clones) and the Raspberry Pi (and clones), sometimes known as Single Board Computers or SBCs. We’ve even heard rumors lately that they’re starting to show up in some of our broadcast equipment, hidden and embedded down inside the case.
Each has strengths and weaknesses. There’s no shortage of opinion about which is better. If you want mine, the Arduino is better for small machine control applications, and the Pi is much better if you need networking, a GUI desktop, and the buzzers and bells. The Arduino isn’t nearly as powerful, but it’s ideal for a dedicated process controller. Because the Pi is a full-blown (if miniaturized) computer, it’s not as suited for real-time processes. In the end, the choice is yours.
The key question for us is whether it’s reliable. You might say, “I can maybe see a print server or ‘smart’ wireless access point in my studios, but will they work at a remote transmitter site in a corn field?”
Yes, provided you protect the inputs and outputs (“I/O”). Modern microprocessor chips are quite reliable, if you respect their limits. Even if your transmitter is a newer model with logic inputs and outputs, you shouldn’t just connect it directly to the pins on the SBC. You’ve also got to watch your input voltages, regardless of surges. For example, if your SBC’s processor chip is running at 3.3V and you connect 5V to one of the inputs, bad things will happen.
There are third-party I/O boards available for the Pi (traditionally called “hats”) and the Arduino (“shields”). They’re a good place to start experimenting, but most aren’t suited for hostile environments. One analog I/O board that we purchased only had 1K surface-mount resistors between the input terminals and the pins on the A/D chip. That did provide a little protection, but there was no way it would handle a strong surge.WHY USE AN SBC?
The example that I’ll show you in this article could admittedly be done with a recent-model remote control with network connectivity. The better remote controls — and for that matter, many of the latest transmitters — can now send email or text, offer SNMP control and more. But the biggest advantages to the SBC revolution are:
- SBCs are ridiculously cheap. You can buy several and keep spares on hand.
- They’re ridiculously small. You can even get nice cases to make your work look pretty.
- There is plenty of information online; code samples, “how tos” and more. You will probably be able to find an existing project that will do what you want with only a bit of modification.
- You can give your equipment precisely what it wants with “smart” logic. For example, you may need to send your transmitter a momentary command when a long-term fault occurs, but the faulting device only provides a constant closure. (The little Adafruit Itsy-Bitsy, which is Arduino-compatible, is ideal for this, by the way.)
- If your SBC has network connectivity (the Pi does by default; you can add it to the Arduino), it can send email, and/or you can log into it remotely to check on things.
Besides, what if your existing remote control is an older model? What if it has just been destroyed by lightning and you need something right now while you wait for a replacement? Most importantly, what if it’s a special case that your existing remote control just doesn’t address as well as you’d like? (See again advantage #4 in the list above.)AN EXAMPLE: THE GENERATOR MONITOR
This is an actual Raspberry Pi 3 B+ project that I’ve installed at one of our big FMs here in Alabama. We use a Nautel GV40 transmitter at both of our 100,000 watt FM sites, and for STLs we have dedicated wireless data links. This is ideal for “anywhere access,” because we can (carefully, with a good firewall and some port forwarding) reach our sites over the internet.
Briefly, here’s the background: Both sites are located at the top of a hill in relatively remote areas. The dirt roads tend to wash out after a storm or have fallen trees block access. The public roads to the main gates are paved, but they can also be blocked by flooding and fallen trees. In a severe storm event, I’m probably on generator, and it’s going to be a while before I can access the site to refuel the generator. To stay on the air, I want to lower power to reduce the generator’s fuel consumption.
Our remote control units are supposed to be capable of doing what I want, but “programming” them is quite time-consuming. It’s not easy to test your work either, whereas with a Pi or Arduino, I can easily simulate the inputs and confirm that it does what I need.
Long story short, given my background as a programmer, engineer and inveterate tinkerer, I opted for the Pi at one of these sites — less than $50 from Digikey with the “Noobs” Raspian operating system ready to go on an SD card.
The second site uses an Arduino-type processor, and will actually raise and lower the transmitter power automatically. I use a laptop running Linux to monitor the Arduino, and it sends the email. But that’s for a future article; for now let’s just look at using a Raspberry Pi as a standalone monitor. If one of the I/O pins goes low, it will send an email. I’ve set it up so that, if the generator starts running, the program running on the Pi will send a warning. Likewise, once the generator stops running, I get another email. I can then choose to go into the transmitter remotely to lower the power, if I so chose.LIMITING I/O CURRENT
The key to protecting your Pi or Arduino is guaranteeing that the inputs never see a “hostile” input. That’s the ideal, anyway; we can at least add enough protection to cover us in most cases. This project uses the K827-PH, an opto-isolator available from most supply houses, including Digikey and Mouser. These are typical LED-in, transistor-out units, with four isolators in a single 16-pin DIP package. We only need one opto for this example, but the others are available for later expansion.Fig. 1: Schematic of the connections between the generator controller and Pi.
Fig. 1 shows the basic circuit for this discussion. This is a simplified version of what I’ve done at the site mentioned above. The whole purpose of isolation is isolation, so I don’t connect the input on the Pi directly to the generator’s “run” contacts. I also do not take the 5V supply from the Pi; that would defeat the purpose of isolation. Instead, I’m using an external 12V supply (in actuality, a simple 12V wall wart) which goes through the generator’s normally open contacts, through a 3.3K resistor, into the K827 isolator.
Look closely at R1 and C3 at the opto’s input. I’ve determined that this is all the protection needed for this particular site. If you have one of those sites that attracts everything from lightning to extraterrestrials with funny hats, you should improve this. Make the capacitor larger. Add a varistor to ground to clamp any high voltages. Split R1 into two 1.5Ks, instead of a single 3.3K, with an extra capacitor to ground in the middle. Add a ferrite or RF choke on the input. I will leave this up to you.
If the generator starts, its normally-open contacts will close, causing about 3 mA of current to flow through the isolator’s LED. This turns on the transistor, which pulls pin 15 low. All we need now is a little program that will check that pin at intervals (I’ve chosen 60 seconds).Fig. 2: 40-pin IDE-style connector pinout for the Raspberry Pi.
Fig. 2 is the pinout of the 40-pin IDE-style connector provided for I/O on the Pi. At this point, the Raspberry Pi’s documentation can confuse you: there are actually several different naming and numbering conventions for the 40-pin IDE style connector that is provided for I/O. The python library that I’m using wants the “GPIO” numbers. Note that each input can also be assigned different uses, depending on what you’re doing. For this article, we only need GPIO 22 as an input, which maps to pin 15 on the 40-pin connector.
You can download the ready-to-run python program here. Pull it up in an editor and change the email addresses, password, the email server and port numbers as needed. Once you’re done, save the file as genwatch.py, then copy it onto your Pi. In a terminal, in the same directory as that file, enter the command
“chmod +x genwatch.py”
to make the file executable. Now you can run it by entering
at the terminal prompt, while still in the directory containing the file. The program will continuously check the assigned pin at 1-minute intervals, sending an email if the generator’s status changes. Press CTRL-C to stop the program.
To test it, momentarily short pin 15 (GPIO22) to pin 9 (ground) on the 40-pin connector. You can use a clip lead or a small jumper wire — but be careful! Some of the other pins are directly connected to the power supplies, and you can damage things if you accidentally put 5V on a 3V input, or ground one of the power pins. The classic boo-boo is accidentally shorting pin 1 to pin 2 on that 40-pin connector; you’ll be connecting the 3.3V supply directly to the 5V! You really don’t want to do that one.
I’ve commented the program for you. Python will ignore anything after the hash (#), so comments are a great way to explain what the code is doing. Again, you will need to put in a valid email address and password, as well as the recipient’s email address and the address of your email server. These are also noted in the program.
Get a Raspberry Pi and play with this. You will want the Pi and the Raspian operating system, which is available for download or pre-installed on an SD card. Python will be included with the standard Raspian Linux operating system, so you should have what you need.
More information is available online. You can do a Google search for “Raspberry Pi python” to see a bunch of examples. There are a host of forums available online as well, from the “official” Raspberry Pi forum to special forums sponsored by vendors like Seeed Studio, Adafruit, and others.
If you’re feeling experimental, here’s an idea: Refer to Fig. 2 for the pinouts and try reassigning that “genrun = Button(xx)” line in the program to different GPIO numbers. Then ground those pins; the emails should be sent. For a more advanced example, consider using one of the spare optos to monitor the 12V wall wart itself, and send an additional email if the 12V power supply should fail. In any event, have fun!
Stephen Poole, CBRE, AMD, is chief engineer at Crawford Broadcasting Company in Birmingham, Ala.
How do you use an SBC at your workplace? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Player Editori Radio (PER) released the Radioplayer Italia app for Italy on April 28.
Originally announced in October 2019, the app, available for Android and iOS, lets some 44 million Italian listeners easily search and access their favorite radio station from a single access point, no matter where they are — even out of the coverage area of the selected station.
FASTER AND SIMPLER
Members of the PER consortium include Rai, Radio Mediaset, Gedi, Sole 24 Ore, RTL 102.5, RDS, Radio Italia, Radio Kiss Kiss, Radiofreccia along with organizations Aeranti-Corallo and Federazione Radio Televisioni, which include most local broadcasters.
According to the organization, Radioplayer technology includes faster, simpler and more innovative access to the universe of audio streaming and on-demand offerings, podcasts and offline content of broadcasters.
Radioplayer Italia claims it will not ask the user to register, will make personal data anonymous, will not track listeners’ movements and will not interrupt listening with proposals of any kind.
Furthermore, the content is guaranteed by the broadcasters who will directly supply their own content and associated metadata.
“Radio is once again proving to be the most contemporary medium, capable of making a paradigm shift even in times of crisis” said Lorenzo Suraci, president of PER.
The automotive industry is also involved. Radioplayer Worldwide has been collaborating many automotive brands to design and develop the next generation radio interfaces, accessible through touch dashboards and voice commands.
The Radioplayer data feed will also deliver the Italian stations’ metadata to hybrid radio interfaces in many Audi, VW and Porsche cars. This allows hybrid devices to automatically switch between DAB, FM, and streaming, to keep listeners locked into their favorite radio stations.
Also, says Radioplayer, information coming from this data feed will enable advanced receivers to provide listeners with personalized radio recommendations, search results and catch-up content, in a simple and “natural” way.
Radioplayer Italia will progressively be available on all connected devices. These include smart-speaker platforms such as Amazon Echo, Sonos, Bose, Google Assistant and will integrate with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Chromecast, Airplay, Apple Watch, Android Wear and other technologies.
Radio World’s new ebook helps you answer that question. What items should be on your checklist of airchain preparedness?
Cris Alexander writes about major systems to consider, from your STL to your key personnel. Buc Fitch reflects on site “hardening” and keeping the generator fit. Ed Lobnitz shares resources for lightning protection. Engineers like Robbie Green of Entercom, Larry Wilkins of the Alabama Broadcasters Association, Michael LeClair of WBUR and Doug Irwin of iHeartMedia share tips, as do experts from several leading technology manufacturers.
And we get a first look at the new list of 25 best practices for “station resiliency” just published by the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council.
Learn how radio stations can ensure that their RF chains are ready for anything.Read it here.