Feed aggregator

Broadcast Actions

FCC Media Bureau News Items - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 22:00


FCC Media Bureau News Items - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 22:00


FCC Media Bureau News Items - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 22:00


FCC Media Bureau News Items - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 22:00

NAB Offers Exhibitors a Partial Refund or Rollover Options

Radio World - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 14:35
A conversation at the AEQ booth during last year’s NAB Show. Photo by Jim Peck

Companies that had paid to exhibit at this year’s spring NAB Show are hearing this week from the association about refunds and rollover options.

Several radio floor exhibitors confirmed that they’ve received an email from NAB, each containing the same offer: The exhibitor can choose a 66% refund now — an amount it said was “calculated after covering NAB’s expenses incurred up to the time of cancellation to plan and produce NAB Show” — or apply the full amount toward booths at the next three spring shows, with 66% applied to the 2021 convention and the balance over the next two years.

[Related: “Decision to Abort Makes for ‘Poignant Moment’ for NAB”]

The email said “additional options” are available for companies exhibiting at NAB Show New York, without giving details.

“Thank you for your patience as we worked to finalize the best possible refund options for you,” the association wrote in the email. “We remain committed to doing right by you, our industry, and all of our partners and stakeholders, especially under the current challenging circumstances. Nothing is more important or rewarding for our team than working with you to create a vibrant marketplace for the global media and entertainment industry.”

Radio World reached out to NAB for comment and will report any reply. The association recently announced plans for a virtual event, NAB Show Express, in May.

The annual convention is huge, with an estimated 1,600 companies last year. Reports in other trade press have estimated annual spring show revenue at $46 million to $48 million, based on tax documents. An NAB spokesman speaking with RW earlier this year declined to estimate the potential cost of cancelling the2020 show or to discuss any insurance arrangements, other than saying at the time that “It’s obviously a financial hit.”

The post NAB Offers Exhibitors a Partial Refund or Rollover Options appeared first on Radio World.

Strong Storm Knocks Down Arkansas Radio Tower

Radio World - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 13:21

Major storms have caused headaches for Jefferson County’s PB Radio LLC. According to Deltaplex News, the tempest took out the radio tower for KPBA(FM) “99.3 The Beat” on April 12. The station is currently still off the air. 

Prior to this weekend’s destruction, the Pine Bluff, Ark., tower stood at 151 feet above ground level and 361 feet above sea level, according to Radio Locator. The station is licensed for an effective radiated power of 6000 Watts and a non-directional antenna. 

Under normal operation, this tower also relays the signals for KTPB(FM), KTRN(FM) and KDPX(FM), and engineers are working to adjust the STLs. 

All four affected stations are licensed to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Bluff City Radio (co-owned with Paul Coates). However, Bluff City Radio entered into a local management agreement for all four stations with PB Radio LLC in April 2018, according to reporting from The Pine Bluff Commercial

The article also noted that PB Radio is owned by Mike and Alpha Horne; Alpha Horne died in March 2019. Prior to this investment, The Commercial says Mike Horne served as the acting manager for the stations, and before that Horne owned radio stations elsewhere in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas, and also had served as the chief operating officer for the Crain Media Group.

[From 2019: Arkansas Plans New Local SBE Chapter]

As of Thursday morning, April 16, the insurance adjuster had visited the tower site, and General Manager Greg Horne confirmed in a phone call with Radio World that a tower crew would be coming out later in the week. When asked about a timeline for getting the station back on the air, Horne said, “We’re working as fast as we can” but that there is nothing concrete to report.

KTRN is now on the air, broadcasting news and weather updates, as well as other programming.

The post Strong Storm Knocks Down Arkansas Radio Tower appeared first on Radio World.

Robert McDowell: A COVID-19 Survivor’s Story

Radio World - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 13:03

When communications attorney Robert McDowell started feeling a little under the weather last month, he chalked it up to seasonal allergies and related bronchitis and got the usual antibiotic from his primary care physician. Then his symptoms worsened.

It wasn’t seasonal allergies.

After a trip to the hospital and back home again, the former FCC commissioner was readmitted with what turned out to be COVID-19-related double pneumonia.

Throughout the arc of his escalating illness he was tweeting occasional status reports that had his many friends in Washington communications circles concerned, then emailing each other with many questions and no answers as his tweets stopped for several days. His silence was understandable in retrospect.

Still regaining his strength (he lost 12 pounds during the ordeal) and with a slight cough and what he calls a “shipwreck survivor” beard — he declined to provide photographic evidence — a gratefully recovering McDowell talked with Radio World’s sister publication Multichannel News in an exclusive interview on those harrowing times and how he eventually made it home.

In a scene straight out of a Hallmark movie, that homecoming was marked by a double rainbow (see photo), a return he credits to the prayers and support of his friends, timely Facetime telemedicine from a lifesaving doctor outside the hospital, continuity of care from another lifesaving doctor inside the hospital, and some serious self-advocacy.

Multichannel News: When did you first notice symptoms?
McDowell: It was March 14. I felt like I had my usual allergy-induced bronchitis, which I get every couple of years. I called my doctor and she put me on Azithromycin [an antibiotic] as usual. I took the normal cold decongestants.

MCN: Walk us through how this escalated from “Oh, this is seasonal allergies” to making burial arrangements.
McDowell: I felt OK, like I had bronchitis, but I was totally functional March 14 and 15. On March 16 or 17 I sprouted a mild fever, which, again, isn’t unusual when I have bronchitis. But in the back of my mind I was thinking: “I’ve been on antibiotics for three days. This shouldn’t be happening if I am on antibiotics.” But other than that I felt fine, though a little bit slowed down.

On the 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, my son reported that his friend, who had been a houseguest of ours March 6–8, had tested positive for COVID. I was grateful to him for getting tested and letting us know. He deserves a gold medal for that.

MCN: And then the light began to dawn?
McDowell: That prompted me to call my doctor, Dr. Connie Le. She’s fantastic and a hero in this whole story, big time. She saved my life.

She had me come in — it is now March 18 — and they arranged, after a lot of work over a few hours, to get me tested at an Arlington County Health Department drive-through COVID testing center. [Arlington is one of the Virginia counties with the highest incidence of COVID-19.] It was very difficult to get. It was their first day of operation. I got a throat swab like you get for a strep test.

I got more congested and an increased cough, so I Facetimed Dr. Le on March 20 — at this point we were only seeing each other via Facetime — and she saw something she didn’t like.

MCN: So, this clearly demonstrates the value of telemedicine and connectivity?
McDowell: Yes, this was the mobile internet. Thank goodness for all those spectrum auctions I helped promote.

So, Dr. Le sees something she doesn’t like on Facetime and says: “You’ve got to go to the ER.” I protested, saying “Look, I feel fine. I just have an increased cough and increased congestion.” But during the week my temperature had been starting to yo-yo from normal to 103, then back down to 99 and then 101.5, then normal again.

MCN: Were you thinking COVID-19 yet?
McDowell: Yes, but I’m thinking I don’t need hospitalization. I’m a healthy 56-year-old, I go to the gym. I run, I don’t have any of those compromising conditions. So, technically I guess I was in denial. But thankfully my doctor had an amazing ability to perceive something over Facetime. There was nothing obvious that I knew, but she saw something. Maybe it was a sixth sense.

MCN: Did she tell you what she saw?
McDowell: I didn’t ask her to try and deconstruct it because I didn’t want to bug her. I knew she had a lot of other patients. I will someday, though.

She sent me to the ER just before midnight Friday night the 20th. They took a chest X-ray and found a spot of pneumonia in my left lung. I have never had pneumonia before. And, that’s kind of serious, so you’re thinking: “I’ve got COVID-related pneumonia.” Remember I’m still not officially diagnosed because the test results aren’t back [they would ultimately confirm it was the virus]. The hospital gave me their own COVID test at that point.

So, they put me in a normal hospital room. I was not yet getting oxygen at this point.

On Sunday, March 22, the doctor in charge, they are called “hospitalists,” who I never saw or met and who did not examine me — he was keeping track of my numbers, my blood oxygen saturation level, heart rate and blood pressure —– discharged me. I was happy with that, so I didn’t resist and went home.

On Monday, March 23, I was coughing more and still having a lot of congestion. Dr. Le kept asking me [again via Facetime] if I felt short of breath. I said, “Well, I have pneumonia so there are times when I feel a little winded, but I am coughing, too, a lot, so what’s the difference?” She again saw something she REALLY didn’t like this time and so she called 911. She didn’t tell me or ask me. She just did it, then called my wife to say “be ready in two minutes.”

The amazing Fairfax County EMTs came in all their protective gear, absolutely fabulous, and put me on oxygen right away. I felt better right away. It’s amazing what a little oxygen can do. And off I go to the ER again. They take X-rays again, and I have full-blown double pneumonia and my lungs are filling with fluid. Meantime, the doctor tells my wife that I have less than a 50% chance of survival.

MCN: And did you feel like someone with less than a 50% chance of survival?
McDowell: I didn’t feel like a dying man. Thankfully I remained conscious and had my wits about me. Jennifer, my wife, probably knew more about my condition than I did at that point. But in the ER, I could see very grim looks on the faces of the doctors. There was an older doctor, a guy who had been an ER doctor his entire career and you could tell he had seen it all, and he kind of kept looking at me out of the corner of his eye as though he didn’t like what he saw, either. Then another pulmonologist came in who was very alarmed when she saw that I was on five liters of oxygen. The more oxygen you need, the less well your lungs are functioning as they should to transfer oxygen to your bloodstream.

This is where self-advocacy came into play.

MCN: Did they bring up the possibility of intubation.
McDowell: Yes, after I was out of the ER and up in my room. But while I was still in the ER, and to give you some background, in 1992 I was kicked by my horse and severely injured, rupturing my kidneys, liver and a lung. That put a hole in my lung. This is where I learned, when I was in intensive care back in 1992, that the interplay between your blood oxygen level and the amount of oxygen they are feeding you is a very key indicator of whether or not they are going to intubate you or not.

So, while I was still in the ER, I convinced the doctors to turn down my oxygen because nobody took ownership as to why I was at five liters. I said, “Well, turn me down to three and see what happens. If I turn blue, you can turn it back up,” which you can do in a second in the ER. I said I am going to try some meditation and prayer and see if I can try to keep it above 90%. It was a gamble. At first they resisted because I think I was in such a nosedive they didn’t want to take any chances. But I think I was sentient enough, and said it in a constructive, collaborative way — I wasn’t glowering at them — that they tried it. I never needed to go back up to 5 liters again, because my blood oxygen level remained above 90% [with one brief exception noted below].

To get back to your question, eventually I get to the hospital room. It’s a sealed room where you are all by yourself, right. Nobody is allowed in. Your primary care doctor is not allowed in the building. Family is not allowed in the building. I would advise people to bring your [phone] power cord so you can stay in touch.

They asked would you prefer Jello or broth? I said, “Well, I can’t have either because they are both full of MSG and I get migraines from MSG. How about something to eat like just grilled fish.” They said, “No, we need to keep you on a clear diet.” Why do you need to keep me on a clear diet? “Because the doctor is preparing to intubate you.”

That is how I found out. And that became a pivotal moment because I knew that if I was headed toward intubation, odds are — statistics are all over the place — but odds are I won’t be coming home.

MCN: How did you react?
McDowell: That was a moment for me to really kind of rally and keep my oxygen levels up. They were preparing to intubate me and preparing to wheel me up to the ICU. I think I was in a stepped-up, sort of intermediate level, not intensive care but not a regular room.

They had this sort of SWAT team of registered nurses who walked around with backpacks. I don’t know if they were defibrillators or oxygen. But once, when my blood oxygen dipped into the 80s, this big burly guy with a backpack shows up at my doorway to check on me. We had a pleasant conversation and I got my oxygen level back up then, so he was able to go away.

MCN: You said on Facebook you got the antimalaria drug that has been much in the news?
McDowell: Dr. Le was fighting for me to be put on hydroxychloroquine. The hospitalist, Dr. Borgschulte, was also seeing very positive results at the hospital when they administered the drug. I was all for it. They had not changed my medication from March 14 to March 23. I was in a nosedive. When I knew I was possibly going to be intubated, I was preparing my family for my demise and giving burial instructions. Keep in mind that my wife had been told I have a less than 50% chance of survival.

MCN: You had to do this over Facetime?
McDowell: Yes.

MCN: Not to give away the ending, but you got better.
McDowell: I think the hydrochloriquine was first administered on the 23rd. That was the only change. I had been on the same antibiotic, azithromycin, from the 14th to the 23rd, when I was given less than a 50% chance of survival. The antibiotic is meant to prevent a secondary bacterial infection. It doesn’t do anything with the virus.

MCN: What happened next?
McDowell: So, the next morning [the 24th], I woke to a very gentle yet strangely powerful finger on my forehead making the sign of the cross. So I said to the priest, “Hi, are you giving me the last rites?” He said “something like that.” It is unclear whether it was the last rites — the [Catholic] church doesn’t call it that anymore — but it was a step above the anointing of the sick. The day before I had asked for a priest, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue.

I also got a call from a priest at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. It turned out that former FCC commissioner Mike Copps’ wife, Beth, works there and Mike and Beth very sweetly had arranged for a priest from the shrine to call. That was incredibly thoughtful of them. Former commissioner Jonathan Adelstein also texted me to let me know he was praying for me in Hebrew.

But on the 24th, I pulled out of my nosedive and began to stabilize. I was no longer deteriorating, but I wasn’t gaining altitude either. That took a few days, which is why I was there until April 1.

Photo: Griffin McDowell

MNC: You talked in a Facebook post about a rainbow.
McDowell: I came home April 1 and my son had to help me up one flight of stairs. I had to stop three times to catch my breath. We just rebuilt our house last year and there is this suite next to my office that my wife decided was perfect for COVID isolation. So, that evening near sunset I got a call — that’s how I communicate with my family — to look out my window.

There was a quality to the sunlight that was lighting up the trees in this brilliant, color-rich fashion that I hadn’t seen before. And they said, “Look. There’s a rainbow.” I had to kind of look out the window at a steep angle, and It was a double rainbow. So my son, Griffin, went outside and took a picture.

It was really nice to see that. People can say what they want, believe or not believe whatever they want about it, but it was rather remarkable. I’ve lived on this property for 56 years and I’ve never seen anything like that before. It was very inspirational.

MCN: So, how are you now [this interview was conducted April 8] and how long will you have to self-isolate?
McDowell: I checked with my doctor and I will have to stay a few more days in solitary confinement out of an abundance of caution. [McDowell coughed as though on cue.] I still have a persistent cough, which you can hear, and the doctor says it could take 10 or 12 weeks before I feel like myself again. I do go outside once a day to stroll around, and even jogged up a steep slope only 72 hours or so after having to stop three times to climb a flight of stairs. I had to prove it to myself. I was totally gassed and my heart was pounding, but I did it. I don’t do that every day. I’m not stupid. But I do walk around every day to pick up sticks and watch the birds and try to get the lungs expanded and the heart pumping.

And I am doing a little bit of work each day [McDowell is currently a partner and co-leader of Cooley LP’s global communications practice in Washington], reviewing documents and doing conference calls. I don’t have much stamina. I get very fatigued, but that is all apparently normal. We don’t know if I have permanent lung damage. It’s a possibility, but we won’t know for weeks or months.

MNC: Have you been tested again to see if you are negative?
McDowell: No, I have to do that at some point. I am not sure exactly how that works. But I have not been tested. I want the family to get tested for the antibodies, too, because I assume everybody has the antibodies, the five of us, since we had a houseguest who was contagious and the day I first came down with symptoms they were all around me.

MCN: You had tweeted in early March about traveling to New York and eating in a favorite restaurant amid the virus “panic.” In hindsight those tweets sound like you thought the virus might not be the threat it ultimately was. Was that the case?
McDowell: I was definitely taking all the precautions that were prescribed at the time [March 8]. So, I wasn’t shaking hands, social distancing, though I don’t think they were saying six feet at that point. I knew there was some risk going to New York. I don’t know if that’s where I caught it. I did have to go through Penn Station. But, yes, in hindsight I should not have gone to New York.

MCN: What would you say to anyone now who thinks that we are overreacting to the virus?
McDowell: We’re not.

MCN: Would you have any issue with the government using your personal info to build a COVID database or tracking your movements or others as part of a mitigation effort?
McDowell: I have already arranged for all of my relevant medical information to be used for studies. It depends on what they want, but I would be happy to provide all relevant information that could be helpful. And as soon as I am healthy enough I will be donating plasma in hopes that it can actually save somebody.

MCN: Do you have any advice from your experience, other than bring the power cord to the hospital?
McDowell: You don’t know how it is going to affect you if you are exposed to it. So, on paper this should not have affected me this way — a healthy 56-year-old with no underlying conditions. There is something about my makeup. Maybe it is the Type A blood. One theory is that males with Type A are hit harder by this and have a higher mortality rate. There is some evidence showing that.

It seems as if most people aren’t horribly affected by this. But there is enough data showing that it unexpectedly hits some people you wouldn’t expect to be so vulnerable really hard, and kills them.

My other advice is for people who are symptomatic. For me there were two “cliff” days. My doctor said that day seven, after the onset of symptoms, is a cliff day, meaning that if you are still sick and notice any degradation whatsoever, however slight, in your condition, on day seven go to the hospital. For me that was true. Then day 10 was another “cliff” day.

The point being is you can think you are just weathering a tough case of the flu for a week or more when in reality what’s happening is your lungs are filling up and you can end up in a tailspin all of a sudden.

Let me say one other thing. Knowing there were hundreds of people, maybe more, praying for me, people from all faiths, gave me a sense of comfort, resolve and strength. It was emotionally overpowering. People were texting me, direct-tweeting me, calling Jennifer. So I want to thank everyone, many people I don’t even know who they are. I felt like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

MCN: What are you binge watching?
McDowell: I try not to, but I did binge watch some “Twilight Zone,” the original. We’re all living in it anyway.

Social (Media) Distancing

The arc of the virus and McDowell’s journey through it to a double rainbow on the other side was reflected in his tweets, beginning March 8.

One benefit to the asymmetric fear of #coronavirus: this is a great time to travel. I’m headed to #NewYork today for business (yes, the economy is still working: 273K new jobs in Feb.!) & there are no lines at the airport. Many #fearless people working though! pic.twitter.com/EZYa1soxFG

— Robert M. McDowell (@McDowellTweet) March 8, 2020

So there’s no way to sugar coat this: my doctor had me go to the ER last, and good thing. I have mild pneumonia due to likely #COVID19 infection. Docs are giving me IV antibiotics and the aim is to not remain here long. #CarpeDiem #GodBlessAmerica 🇺🇸 #Freedom

— Robert M. McDowell (@McDowellTweet) March 21, 2020

Update: after three brutal days battling pneumonia and likely #COVID19 in the hospital, I’m being discharged to go home into isolation. Thanks for the plethora of messages – too many to respond to. I’m still quite weak and will need my sleep. Please respect that. #GodBless

— Robert M. McDowell (@McDowellTweet) March 22, 2020

I am back in the hospital with double pneumonia and likely #COVID19. Please don’t text or tweet me. Prayers welcome.

— Robert M. McDowell (@McDowellTweet) March 24, 2020

Back Home, Take Two! After being in the hospital since March 23 for the 2nd time, I’m back home – quite feeble and isolated, but home. FYI, #COVID19 almost killed me last week. You’re prayers saved my life. Thank you. I’m so #grateful.

— Robert M. McDowell (@McDowellTweet) April 1, 2020

In my ongoing #gratitude towards all who helped bring me back from the edge of my grave due to #COVID19, I’m grateful to my primary care doc, Connie Le, MD. She was a superhero, saw things other didn’t and doggedly advocated on my behalf – all remotely. Thank you, Dr. Le!

— Robert M. McDowell (@McDowellTweet) April 3, 2020

#OnThisDay in 1973 @MartyMobile stepped out onto 6th Avenue to make the world’s first public call on his new invention: the cell phone. He changed the world & brought #freedom to billions. The mobile #Internet will help bring us out of the #COVID19 crisis. Thank you, Marty!

— Robert M. McDowell (@McDowellTweet) April 3, 2020

The post Robert McDowell: A COVID-19 Survivor’s Story appeared first on Radio World.

Hayes Urges FCC Not to Collect Mass Media Regulatory Fees This Year

Radio World - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 12:29

Maine-based communications attorney Richard “Rick” Hayes has shared a letter he sent to Sen. Susan Collins (R – Maine). In it, he urges Congress to request that the FCC suspend the collection of the 2020 mass media regulatory fees in order to help stations struggling from complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic

In an email to Radio World, Hayes writes, “As a communications attorney for 37 years, I have seen recessions and wars affect how radio stations operate. I’ve never witnessed anything like the almost-total business shut-down occasioned by the coronavirus. This crisis is an existential one for many broadcasters.”

Hayes hopes others in the broadcast industry will join him in contacting their representatives about this matter.

Read his letter in full below.

April 15, 2020

The Honorable Susan Collins

413 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Collins,

Radio and Television stations in Maine and in all of the United States are facing extreme hardship during this virus crisis. Local radio and TV stations depend on advertising revenues in order to operate and serve their communities. With local businesses shut-down, advertising revenue has evaporated leaving many stations unable to pay their bills and retain their employees. The CARES Act provides much needed relief, especially the PPP program. Without this life-line, many stations would have signed-off the air, by now. 

I represent radio station licensees before the Federal Communications Commission with clients in most states. My clients are worried about another bill which will come due for them, in September. That bill, the annual FCC Regulatory Fee, is due to be paid in September. These fees are quite impossible for most stations to pay, given the current crisis. These fees could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many of them. Non-payment of these fees can and have resulted in a few stations losing their licenses. 

Annual regulatory fees are mandated by Congress, pursuant to Section 9 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. Section 9 requires the Commission to collect regulatory fees to recover the regulatory costs associated with its enforcement, policy and rulemaking, user information, and international activities.

These fees will be collected in September, 2020. Stations are struggling to keep the lights on and working hard to retain their employees. These stations, from Portland to Presque Isle  — as well as from Maine to Hawaii, need relief but that relief needs to come from Congress. An amendment to the Communications Act needs to be considered to eliminate the requirement to pay the 2020 regulatory fees. The relief would enable stations to continue to serve their communities, without interruption. 

For example, an AM station in Portland, Maine, would pay as much as $4800 while an FM station would pay $5,325.according to MM Docket 19-105, Report and Order and Notice of Further Proposed Rulemaking, August 27, 2019. According to that same FCC document, a tiny AM station in Presque Isle would pay $950! An FM station in the same town would be required to pay over $1,000! Many stations simply cannot afford to make these payments, this year.

Your help with this suggestion could save many stations from ceasing operation. 

Can we count on your support?


Richard J. Hayes, Jr.



The post Hayes Urges FCC Not to Collect Mass Media Regulatory Fees This Year appeared first on Radio World.

Digital Radio Mondiale Announces Webinar

Radio World - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 10:31

Digital Radio Mondiale in collaboration with Asia-Pacific Broadcast Union and Arab States Broadcasting Union will jointly host a two-part interactive webinar session.

Dubbed “DRM Benefits in Times of Crisis,” the first session takes place on Thursday April 23. A second session follows on Thursday April 30. Both will begin at 4 p.m. MYT (9 a.m. BST).

Discussions will focus around DRM features, which include the Emergency Warning Functionality, monitoring map and content server programming using Journaline. They’ll also highlight the usage of DRM in public signage.

In addition, presenters will outline how it’s possible to use DRM datacasting technology in education, particularly in regions without a stable internet or television signals.

Speakers include Ruxandra Obreja, DRM chair; Alexander Zink, Fraunhofer IIs, DRM vice-chair; Yogendra Pal, chair Indian platform), Simon Keens, Ampegon; Jan Bremer, NXP; and Radu Obreja, DRM Marketing Director.

“This webinar duo is a first for us as our long and fruitful cooperation with ABU is now being enriched with that of ASBU,” said DRM Chairman, Ruxandra Obreja.

“Many people are under lockdown now so we believe a webinar provides an excellent opportunity for those interested to learn more about DRM and its advantages, beyond audio, that are particularly useful in times of crisis.”

Register here.

The post Digital Radio Mondiale Announces Webinar appeared first on Radio World.

Broadcasters Get Behind All-Digital AM Option

Radio World - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 06:32
Getty Images/monsitj

The U.S. broadcast industry, it seems, wants AM radio stations to have the option to turn on all-digital transmissions, if they wish, on a station-by-station basis.

Comments filed with the FCC by major broadcast entities generally have been supportive. This article provides a sampling, collected by Radio World. Comments to the FCC about all-digital AM (Docket MB 19-311) were due March 9. Reply comments are due April 6.

The U.S. broadcast industry, it seems, wants AM radio stations to have the option to turn on all-digital transmissions, if they wish, on a station-by-station basis.

Comments filed with the FCC by major broadcast entities generally have been supportive. This article provides a sampling, collected by Radio World. Comments to the FCC about all-digital AM (Docket MB 19-311) were due March 9. Reply comments are due April 6.

— HD Radio developer Xperi said the technology provides many benefits over traditional analog radio, including crystal clear, static-free sound, multicasting, enhanced metadata — including artist, song title, and album information — traffic services, and enhanced digital emergency alerts.

The company is offering AM stations a license to use all-digital technology in perpetuity without any initial or ongoing licensing fees. 

“Nevertheless, the cost to upgrade a station’s facilities to accommodate all-digital operations will vary by station. By providing broadcasters with the flexibility to transition if they want and when they want, however, the commission will facilitate a transition driven by market forces rather than regulatory fiat.”

Xperi said that because all-digital signals have less spectral occupancy, the potential for interference is greatly reduced as compared to hybrid mode. “Moreover, the HD Radio system was designed to operate in a mixed environment of analog, hybrid and all-digital stations, with all-digital signals designed to protect analog and core digital services within their protected contours.”

— Hubbard Radio has been testing all-digital AM broadcasting on its WWFD(AM) outside Washington, D.C., since July 2018. According to the broadcaster, the ride has been mostly a smooth one. 

Hubbard says the MA3 signal of WWFD, which operates in full-time all-digital under special temporary authority, has proven to be much more robust than the hybrid mode of HD AM broadcasting, and with improved signal coverage. The company says it has received positive feedback from listeners about the fidelity and reliability of their signal.

“In Hubbard’s experience, the data conclusively confirm that all-digital MA3 operation provides an improved, consistently high-quality listener experience, in terms of audio fidelity and signal robustness,” according to the filing.

The station, which broadcasts at 820 kHz, has seen ratings gains since launching the all-digital signal. “WWFD broadcasts an Adult Album Alternative music format. The station had no ratings in its home market of Frederick, Md., for the five years it was an analog station with that format, but now that it is operating in MA3, the station is ranked by Nielsen in the market,” it wrote.

Hubbard is using the MA3 technology to transmit auxiliary data and metadata to listeners of WWFD, it says. “The secondary and tertiary carriers of WWFD can provide stereo audio information, data services such as station logo, album artwork, and other artist experience information, as well as multicast channels.”

In addition, earlier reliability issues with the secondary and tertiary carriers on WWFD have been resolved, Hubbard said. The station fixed the issues by “installing a replacement transmitter, a Nautel NX-5, with a pulse duration modulator that runs at a sufficiently high rate to pass the secondary and tertiary carriers, allowing the full MA3 waveform to be transmitted.” 

WWFD in December tested an HD-2 multicast channel, according to Hubbard, transmitting musical track data and a station logo image as well. Future versions of enhanced EAS alerting will use the secondary and tertiary carriers to supplement the data transmitted on the Primary IBOC Data Service Logical Channel (“PIDS”) carriers.

“Hubbard believes that these continued improvements in the MA3 delivery system will mitigate any concerns about secondary and tertiary carrier issues, and that these technologies will continue to be expanded to better serve listeners,” it stated.

Hubbard believes all-digital AM technology will help WWFD compete in the dashboard of the connected car. “Trends in vehicle entertainment system receiver designs are converging on ‘tuning by visual metadata,’ where listeners select an audio program by pressing a thumbnail image of the desired program. MA3 allows AM broadcasters to have both aural and visual parity with other broadcast services in the automobile dashboard.”

In conclusion, Hubbard told the FCC the MA3 mode provides “far more manageable solutions” to any unintended interference with neighboring analog AM stations in the band when compared to the MA1 mode. In fact, WWFD “has never received any interference complaints from co-channel or adjacent channel stations,” it reported.

— National Public Radio “generally supports” the voluntary transition but believes the commission needs to go further on how it would handle interference complaints from neighboring analog stations in the band. 

About 80 AM public radio stations are affiliated with NPR or receive operational funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, including WNYC(AM) in New York City. 

NPR says it has significant interest in any measures to help AM broadcasters better serve the public by improving the listening experience.  

“Facilitating the expansion of HD Radio and its additional functionality for program and public safety information and services would serve the public interest, provided the transition to all-digital HD Radio operation does not cause harmful interference,” NPR wrote. “As it has in the past, NPR supports the expansion of HD Radio, but not at the expense of current analog AM service.”

NPR goes on to note the “concerns of others in the FCC record” over the potential for interference. “NPR urges it to collaborate with industry to monitor both the progress of stations that adopt all-digital AM and the effects of such deployment on all-digital stations’ analog neighbors. 

“Second, NPR suggests that the commission consider periodically disclosing general information about the number of stations transmitting all-digital AM signals, the number and type of interference complaints it receives, and how such complaints were resolved to help stakeholders understand the full landscape,” NPR commented.

NPR acknowledges certain FCC policies might prevent it from disclosing specific facts about complaints it receives.

“Finally, NPR encourages the commission to issue a public notice on or about the first and second anniversaries of the effective date of any rules it adopts here, seeking comment on the positive and/or negative effects of any all-digital AM deployments.”

— A group of smaller-market AM owners support the idea and cautioned the commission against repeating the AM stereo situation of the 1980s.

The collection of broadcasters — in all 25 licensees — consists of groups such as East Texas Broadcasting and Georgia-Carolina Broadcasting that typically operate AM stations in smaller markets.   

The comments were submitted by attorney John Garziglia of Womble Bond Dickinson LLP. They say broadcasters can control their own destiny by deciding whether to invest in all-digital AM technology. They cite the “significant” harm to AM listenership from interference and reception issues, and the availability of higher-fidelity alternatives.

“The AM broadcasters believe that allowing for all-digital AM operations is one means by which this listener erosion may be stemmed in the future. The undersigned AM broadcasters ask the FCC to make the all-digital AM mode of broadcasting available to them to use at their option.”

The group recognizes that listenership could potentially drop since people with analog radios will be unable to receive the new signals, but they argue that it is broadcasters, not the FCC, that can best discern what mode of broadcasting is most likely to attract audiences now and in the future.

All-digital AM operation should be allowed “both day and night,” the broadcasters say. They also are asking the FCC for some flexibility to be built into the new rules: “That any decision by an AM station to operate in an all-digital mode is discretionary and reversible, so that no station is required to operate in an all-digital mode, nor is any station who chooses to do so locked into that mode of operation.”

But the broadcasters said that mistakes made during the launch of AM stereo in the mid to late 1980s should be avoided. 

“The undersigned well-remember the listener and broadcaster confusion that surrounded the failure to adopt a specific AM stereo standard some decades ago, and have no wish to foist that uncertainty once again on the public and broadcasters,” they wrote. “Therefore, the undersigned AM broadcasters fully support the FCC’s decision to reject in this proceeding any comments advocating for a different AM digital mode of broadcasting.” 

Digital Radio Mondiale has asked the FCC to allow DRM to be considered for use in the United States. The FCC has stated in a footnote to the current NPRM that it declines to reconsider the choice of IBOC HD Radio as the U.S. standard.

—The California and Missouri Broadcasters Associations urged the FCC to adopt the MA3 digital operation rules as promptly as possible. They believe that this proceeding is especially important to small towns and diverse communities where local AM remains the most relevant source of local news and information.

“AM broadcasters provide unique, community-based programming that distinguish them from other media sources in an increasingly competitive mass media market,” they stated. “Many local communities still have but one ‘community-oriented’ resource: their AM station.”

The groups also said that the MA3 mode can produce a respectable HD2 signal that has the ability to support a second local translator with a second, independent stream of programming, a benefit that Xperi has recently been emphasizing.

“A small town’s single AM station can, therefore, effectively become a second local station supporting a second FM signal, multiplying the local sources of news and entertainment,” the associations wrote. “[A]ll-digital AM technology will improve the ability of diverse communities to better receive specialized programming tailored to their needs.”

The post Broadcasters Get Behind All-Digital AM Option appeared first on Radio World.

HRadio Exploits Hybrid Technology for Radio

Radio World - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 02:00

BRUSSELS — Against a backdrop of increased competition from streaming services and declines in listening from younger audiences, an EU-funded project is working to develop new radio services.

The HRadio demo kit at IBC

HRadio — “Hybrid radio everywhere for everyone” — seeks to exploit the full potential of hybrid technology to deliver time and location-independent linear radio services.

By combining IP and broadcast signals, listeners can interact with their radio station, receive personalized content such as news and weather updates, and easily pause or substitute broadcast radio with on-demand content.


Jaco van der Bank, the project’s researcher at IMEC and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), said there were three sets of challenges for the project to overcome.

The first was technical integration. “FM does not converse well with other media,” he explained. “Because of a lack of integration options into digital platforms, there’s a strong risk that FM radio will remain an analog island in the digital ocean of modern mobile digital systems.” Van der Bank also said the project concluded that hybrid radio depends on good and consistent metadata. “This turned out to be one of the most important challenges to solve. Without the availability of metadata, very few scenarios could be released.”

The second challenge was service harmonization, Van der Bank said. “The integration of service features in the radio world is often not satisfying. Radios are radios, and IP radios are IP radios — both are often sold together as a single device, but a real integration has never happened. Regular IP radios do not deliver the same ‘super-easy’ experience as a standard DAB/FM device, which simply plays radio after unboxing. IP radios require connections and aggregators, and permanent updates of streaming URLs for radio stations.”

Guests meet HRadio at IBC

Van der Bank believes that stations are being forced into competition with sophisticated services such as music streaming and on-demand content. “In order not to be perceived as the ‘old’ radio service, broadcasters must combine their traditional linear services together with their IP-based on-demand content in order to provide an integrated service which matches the expectations of end users.”

The hand-drawn HRadio stand at IBC in Amsterdam

The final challenge for the HRadio project was user engagement. “Radio applications on mobile platforms enable broadcasters to get in direct contact with their listeners and increase audience engagement — yet the transition into this domain is not easy,” explained van der Bank.

“Besides enabling more interactive features, such as personalization, targeted advertising, games and voting, this also opens up the new market segments and revenue models. Very few have successfully managed this level of engagement.”


To overcome these challenges, the HRadio consortium created 47 different hybrid user scenarios, which were analyzed and clustered into 10 categories. From there, 29 user scenarios were ranked by both end-users and the consortium, according to what they found to be the most interesting, and the industry relevance. These were mapped onto user and technical requirements, grouped and distributed over two pilot phases.

This translated into seven products that were tested by end users on Open Mobile Radio Interface (OMRI) architecture, which integrates and harmonizes FM with streaming features using web-based DAB over IP Player.

“For the harmonization between DAB broadcast and IP signals, we achieved this with DAB over IP — this was really a challenge,” said van der Bank

HRadio now has working prototypes that it is testing with end-users in Belgium with the VRT, and in Germany with RBB. “From there we will integrate the results, learnings and feedback to fine-tune the prototype” he concluded.

“Through our commercial partner Konsole Labs, we are providing interested broadcasters a proof of concept, and started a round of limited testing with broadcasters outside the current consortium in March.”

The post HRadio Exploits Hybrid Technology for Radio appeared first on Radio World.

Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative; Expansion of Online Public File Obligations to Cable and Satellite TV Operators and Broadcast and Satellite Radio Licensees; Standardized and Enhanced Disclosure Requirements for Television Broadcast...

Federal Register: FCC (Broadcasting) - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 00:00
In this document, the Commission makes non-substantive, editorial revisions to the Commission's rules to eliminate regulations that have become unnecessary because they no longer have any applicability. These relevant provisions are now without legal effect and therefore obsolete due to the completion of the transition from local hard copy public inspection files to online public inspection files.


FCC Media Bureau News Items - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 21:00

Broadcast Actions

FCC Media Bureau News Items - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 21:00


FCC Media Bureau News Items - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 21:00


FCC Media Bureau News Items - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 21:00


Subscribe to REC Networks aggregator