According to a press release, SCMS is now MultiCAM Systems-certified to provide technical service and support.
SCMS’ Matt Cauthen was quoted in the announcement saying that MultiCAM’s offerings are the type of “product that everyone is looking for right now” given the workflow changes spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MultiCAM Systems is headquartered in Paris, and SCMS is a dealer based in Pineville, N.C., with representatives at several locations in the United States.
Wheatstone is expanding its blade offerings with the StreamBlade, a WheatNet-IP appliance that accepts up to eight input steams of native WheatNet-IP audio directly from a sound card or AoIP driver as well as RTP sources and can output each in four streams; providing up to 32 total streams per device.
Output choices include Opus, AAC and MP3 encoders. The company says it is cloud-ready and compatible with standard CDN and streaming platforms, including Icecast, Wowza and RTP.
The StreamBlade has onboard processing with a six-band parametric EQ, a five-band AGC, a two-band final limiter and a stereo width control.
Wheatstone says that the AGC is designed for streaming. Jeff Keith, senior product development engineer for Wheatstone’s audio processing line explains, “Fast time constants (compression) can add intermod sidebands around a sustained note or bass note, which the codec has to spend bits on instead of the signals that are actually part of the program. That can be bad for any stream, but it’s especially bad for low-bitrate streams that don’t have a lot of data bits to begin with.”
StreamBlade can be configured and managed from a laptop and web browser using WheatNet-IP Navigator software. The box has two Ethernet ports, one for direct connectivity into the WheatNet-IP audio network on one end and another for connectivity into a WAN for streaming to a CDN or other service provider.
Dubbed NAB Show Express, it will be held online May 13–14. Registration opens April 20 and is free.
NAB will feature on-demand content including 100 educational sessions organized into three channels:
- BEIT Express, which centers on broadcast engineering and information technology
- NAB Show Experience, offering product showcases, interviews with industry leaders and more
- Tech Talks, produced by Broadcast Beat
Each channel will be populated with eight hours of on-demand content, including interactive panels and some sessions originally slated for Las Vegas.
Additionally, the NAB Broadcast Engineering and IT Conference proceedings will be released online May 13 via nabpilot.org.
This also is the first time the show’s technical proceedings will be available only online rather than also in print; that was a planned change, not related to the coronavirus cancellation, according to NAB Vice President of Technology Education and Outreach Skip Pizzi.
And for those who usually get their gear fix in Vegas, they can check out the NAB Show Express Solutions Marketplace, which will house exhibitor profiles, company-hosted events, press conferences and resources such as white papers, articles, webinars, guides and research reports.
According to Pizzi, the association will also incorporate its award presentations during the digital event. The format and schedule have not yet been announced. The recipient of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award is Jeff Welton of Nautel.
Three related events were also announced Monday. On May 11, NAB and Variety will co-host an Executive Leadership Summit. On May 12, NAB will offer a Cybersecurity & Content Protection Summit. And Post | Production World Online is scheduled for May 17–19.
The 2021 NAB Show is scheduled for April 10–14 in Las Vegas.
The author is president and CEO of Tracy Johnson Media Group, a company that excels in programming and talent consulting that attract fans, grows ratings and generates revenue. In addition to his long career in programming, Tracy managed a group of stations for 10 years and has worked with hundreds of media brands to develop digital content, promotion and revenue strategies.
Everyone knows the world has changed in the past few weeks. Life has been disrupted, and there’s no timeline for returning to normal. The current crisis has had a lasting impact on everyone.
So now what? What’s our new normal?
In our recent webinar, Ken Benson (P1 Media Group), Dave “Chachi” Denes (Benztown) and I shared best practices and ideas for the current environment, provided guidance for the near-term, and offered our forecast for the long-term.
Here are some of the highlights from the webinar.THE NEW NORMAL: PROGRAMMING
In contrast with recent surveys indicating listeners say they are listening to radio more, early ratings results show AQH has declined significantly in most markets. Listeners are now forming new habits, which may or may not be similar to previous habits. The longer folks are at home, the more difficult it will be to re-attract them to our stations when society is more mobile.
Listening to AM/FM radio via streaming and smart speaker usage is higher. Programmers that have not converted to Total Line Reporting to consolidate over-the-air and online listening into one ratings number should do so immediately.
Stations should focus on connecting with listeners emotionally, providing an escape from anxiety, and renew efforts to reflect the local community.
In times of stress, listeners seek comfort. Consider adjusting the music mix to play fewer new songs and more popular library titles. This is a great time to become more nostalgic, familiar and comfortable.THE NEW NORMAL: PERSONALITY
Air talent plays a vital role at this time. Most shows should remain calm, generally upbeat and positive. Don’t ignore the crisis, but find ways to relieve listener stress.
Personalities should continue to be themselves, with a few subtle adjustments. Some segments that were hilarious a month ago (like prank calls) may seem mean-spirited now. Be a little more sensitive with a little less less edge.
Keep your sense of humor. The number one most desired trait listeners seek from radio personalities is someone that makes them laugh. That may be even more important now. But be tasteful. There’s plenty to have fun with, but it’s probably not a good idea to make jokes about the disease itself.
Personalities having a hard time finding content ideas should consider just being the show that listens to the listener. Many personalities are finding connections just by asking “How are you doing today?”THE NEW NORMAL: PRODUCTION
It makes no sense to spend marketing or contesting budgets now. If it hasn’t already been taken out of the budget, save it for when life returns to normal. However, play games on the air. You don’t even need prizes! Just have fun.
Most stations report phone and text activity is virtually non-existent, but social media engagement remains strong. Use that leverage. Create videos. Take listeners behind the scenes into your new normal. Some should consider starting a podcast now.
Plan now for the future. It seems a long way off, but this will end, and life will return to normal. Be ready to take advantage of it. Brainstorm ideas for being at the center of your city’s celebration when life resumes.FORECAST AND RECOMMENDATIONS
From Tracy Johnson: Just when you thought the radio industry had no more room to cut, the COVID-19 event has made it necessary for more changes. This is a painful time for everyone in radio. Some stations will never recover. Some may simply go off the air. There are two major challenges ahead. One is re-attracting listeners to your radio station. The other is finding new sources of revenue, because we can’t assume advertisers will automatically return anytime soon.
From Dave Denes: Radio is going to struggle well into 2021. Smart managers will apply the principles in the Stockdale Paradox by maintaining a balance of reality and optimism. This is the time great leadership steps up to keep their teams positive and inspired.
From Ken Benson: The world has changed as much as it did after 9/11. We need to step back and take a new look at the industry and realize there’s an opportunity for radio to shine. This is the time to pull together and make major differences in listener lives. This could be one of the most exciting and meaningful times in your station’s history.
The webinar is available to watch on demand anytime for free. It includes a 50 minute presentation, followed by 40 minutes of Q&A. Additionally, for more ideas visit the Coronavirus Radio Idea Facebook Group established by Benztown and P1 Media Group.
The post Programming, Personality and Promotion In the New Normal appeared first on Radio World.
LONDON — The United Kingdom’s first radio station devoted exclusively to podcasts has launched in London. Podcast Radio broadcasts on DAB+ digital radio, showcasing podcast content from around the world.The Podcast Radio studio in central London is fitted with a Sonifex mixer. All photos courtesy of Podcast Radio.
The station’s CEO Gerry Edwards explains how the idea was born from his own radio and podcast experience. “Podcasting has intrigued me for years, and I found myself discussing it over and over in everyday conversation. After helping friends and colleagues produce their own individual series and seeing my own co-hosted seven-episode podcast reach the U.K. comedy top 10 on Apple, I felt podcasts needed to be heard over the airwaves.”
OVER THE AIRWAVES
“There are a small handful of brands that have tried placing extended podcast content on the radio,” he said. “Some were tried before the term ‘podcast’ was coined, and others use solely their own podcasts. We really want to work with podcasters and help them market their content with an audience who are looking to discover great new audio.”The guest area features broadcast radio favorite Electro-Voice RE20 microphones.
Anyone can submit a podcast to the station for broadcast, said Edwards. “We don’t want every episode of a podcast series, but a sample so we can feature the podcast and podcaster. Each featured series will have some background information on our app and website, linking to the full series externally. We know ‘downloads and listens’ are the big currency in podcasting, so we want any contributors to experience growth in these numbers every time they are featured on Podcast Radio.”
Edwards’ business partner is radio consultant Paul Chantler, who previously helped set up the station for builders and tradespeople, Fix Radio, in 2017. “The popularity of podcasts and live radio is intoxicating,” explains Chantler. “Radio is a natural way for people to sample different podcast content and find out what they like so they can download more episodes.”Gerry Edwards is the CEO of Podcast Radio.
One of Chantler’s contributions to the station is to create the “podjock,” linking between content segments. “This is speech radio that shares ideas, voices and themes that otherwise wouldn’t make the airwaves,” Podcast Radio’s CEO Gerry Edwards explains.
“Speech radio traditionally sounds quite serious, and while some of our programs may follow this mold, others can take you down an artistic, playful route — or even have you contemplating the meaning of life. Our podjock is there to tie all of these various themes together. He or she is a cross between a DJ and an announcer.The station features podcasts such as “Alien Nation” with Jo Wood.
We don’t want to throw all of our contributors into a washing machine and just see what order they come out. Instead, our team is built up of both broadcasters and podcasters, using real knowledge and experience to help navigate the listener through our day parts.”
Podcast Radio shares its building with other radio stations, on London’s South Bank close to the Tate art gallery. The studio features a Sonifex S2 mixer, Electro-Voice RE20 microphones, Sonifex TBUs and DAs, and a BW Broadcast audio processor.
TECHNICAL CHALLENGESPodcast Radio launched with “Alien Nation,” which featured Robbie Williams.
Edwards says he needed to overcome some technical challenges before launching. “I called upon previous radio colleagues who could help set up the connections we needed and sync up the hardware and software. The systems were straightforward, but the goal posts moved when it came to the DAB carriage providers.
Eventually we found a great home combining and balancing multiplexes, to make ourselves heard London-wide and throughout the neighboring county of Surrey. The short answer to solving this was lots of meetings — and even more phone calls.”The host of “Alien Nation,” Jo Wood, meets Robbie Williams.
The focus then turned to the station’s launch. Alongside an ongoing PR campaign, Edwards said finding the right content was critical. “Like MTV, we were really careful in choosing our first episode. We went with Jo Wood’s “Alien Nation,” in which Robbie Williams was a guest. The two discuss their own encounters with UFOs and explain what they believe is out there. It’s produced by Mike Hanson at Pod People Productions and it’s just brilliant!”
Edwards says the response from podcasters has been positive. “We have several inboxes full of applications and it’s heartwarming to hear the quality content being made around the world. There will also be scope for partnerships with podcast content companies to feature their shows, and we’ve already had interest from U.S. and Canadian companies who saw us announce our launch at the RAIN Summit in London last November.”
There are global aspirations for Podcast Radio, too. “We would love to expand across all of the U.K. and eventually into other countries,” said Edwards.
“Part of the beauty of podcast content is being able to hear different accents, themes and genres from all over the world. It’s a sign that we can sample from anywhere on the planet and enjoy cultures and different characters. Discovery between these borders isn’t easy, and that’s where we come in. When it comes to podcasters, it’s their amazing hard work and programs that we want to showcase.”
Application of The Church of God, Inc. Emmanuel for Renewal of License for LPFM Station WVOY-LP, Jefferson, South Carolina
Logitek has introduced the mixIT-6, a six-fader touchscreen-controlled tabletop AoIP audio console/control surface. The mixIT, like its bigger brother, the 12-fader mix-IT, works in conjunction with Logitek’s JetStream Mini and JetStream Plus routers as well as the new Jet67 AES67 engine. It is also compatible with Livewire and Ravenna. A Dante option is planned.
As with Logitek’s Helix consoles, mixIT-6 provides metering, source selection and scene selects via a 7-inch touchscreens above the faders. Onboard router widgets enable easy selection of transmission, recording or codec feeds. Controls are also provided for talkback to studio/remote, monitor (control room, studio and headphone) and the console’s built-in cue speaker. A program meter simplifies operation by providing indicators for “too high/too low,” enabling at-a-glance setting of optimum levels.
Logitek President Tag Borland said, “mixIT-6 and mixIT-12 are perfect solutions for small broadcast operations or smaller studios in a large broadcast complex, with no hidden surprises in the equipment costs.”
He added, “Many budget-priced consoles require the purchase of external microphone processors, dynamics processing or even networking options. mixIT includes all of the electronic equipment needed to get on-air, offering an intuitive interface for operators while providing easy networking with other studios.”
Lawo’s AoIP Stream Monitor is monitoring software for AES67 networks. It runs on Windows 10 PCs and is VMWare-compatible for multi-instance deployment.
It can display data for up to 16 streams. Information can include LUFS readouts, definable loudness alerts, stream health data track of jitter and packet loss over time, user-definable per-stream over- or under-level alerts along with offering tools such as a silence sensor and an SDP interrogator.
The software adheres to the ST2022-7 standard and can monitor two dual-redundant NICs simultaneously.
The author is co-founder of Ferncast and Binaurics Audio as well as founder of Mayah Communications.
MUNICH — Shareholders of Munich-based Institut für Rundfunktechnik GmbH recently announced they would stop supporting the research facility.Detlef Wiese
Between 1987 and 1992 I was lucky enough to be part of the IRT, developing and exploring audio coding. At the time IRT was already recognized as a prestigious R&D organization. Wherever I presented a paper, being associated with the IRT had great value.
My time as a scientist there was a highlight of my career. The knowledge I gathered in so many fields of broadcasting was overwhelming. Those five years were great! The IRT focuses on the three business fields: AV and production systems, media services and platforms, and network technologies.
It was already very sad to discover the termination of regional public television broadcaster ZDF in 2019. And now with IRT backers (German public broadcasting organization ARD, Austrian ORF and Swiss SRG), deciding to withdraw as shareholders in the organization, the research center will be forced to close by the end of the year.
It’s about the fate of all the 100 employees who do not know about their future. It’s also about the culmination of a prominent, almost 75-year-old research institution. Today Europe needs to encourage innovation in so many fields to stay on track with global developments and remain competitive.IRT’s areas of research
Therefore, I find it incomprehensible and unjustifiable that Germany is giving up another research platform. Freedom of expression in the broadcasting sector and the corresponding technology that derives from it has a huge value and is certainly worth keeping. In addition, when comparing the overall budget of public broadcasters ARD, ZDF, ORF and SRG, one sees that the amount dedicated to the IRT makes up less than 0.5% of that budget.
What’s even more perplexing is that in October, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder announced that the government would invest €2 billion in a research and innovation program for that region.
It’s important to emphasize that in Europe there is a strong political push to increase research in the short- and medium-term. Closing a important research institute that has been operating since 1956 is clearly not in line with this policy.
Detlef Wiese is one of the original inventors of MPEG Layer II and is CEO of Ferncast. He is also musician, entrepreneur and local politician. Contact him via email at email@example.com.
The National Association of Broadcasters announced the election results for the even-numbered districts of its radio and television boards. The terms are effective in June and will continue through 2022.
The newly elected radio board members are:
- Entercom Communications Corp. Executive Vice President/General Counsel Andrew Sutor, representing District 24 (southern California, Guam and Hawaii).
- Guaranty Media President Flynn Foster, representing District 8 (Louisiana and Mississippi)
- Koser Radio Group President and CEO Tom Koser, representing District 14 (Iowa and Wisconsin)
- Bryan Broadcasting Vice President Ben Downs, representing District 18 (southern Texas)
Reelected for another two-year term are:
- Townsquare Media CEO Bill Wilson (repping District 2’s New York and New Jersey)
- iHeartMedia Chief Operations Officer Hartley Adkins (District 6, North and South Carolina)
- Zimmer Radio of Mid-Missouri President/Owner John Zimmer (District 12, Missouri and Kansas)
- Always Mountain Time LLC President/CEO Pete Benedetti (District 16, Colorado and Nebraska)
- Legend Communications LLC Managing Partner Larry Patrick (District 20 , Montana, Idaho and Wyoming)
- Mel Wheeler Inc. President Leonard Wheeler (District 4, Delaware, D.C., Maryland and Virginia) and
- Beasley Media Group Chief Content Officer Justin Chase (District 22, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah)
Last May, Cumulus Media President/CEO Mary Berner and Perry Publishing and Broadcasting Co. Vice President/General Manager Kevin Perry were appointed to the NAB Radio Board, joining Bustos Media Holdings President Amador Bustos, Entercom Communications President/Chairman/CEO David Field and Alpha Media Regional President Bill McElveen.
The author is executive vice president of sales, support, & marketing for the Telos Alliance.
Ever since 2003, when Telos Alliance introduced audio over IP for broadcast, the industry has been transitioning away from analog and primitive digital systems.
For over 15 years, broadcasters have been adopting AoIP infrastructure, both in radio and TV, with system after system being swapped out for truly flexible AoIP equipment. The pace of adoption has been extraordinary, but we expect that it will accelerate even more as a direct response to what broadcasters learn through their response to coronavirus.
At no other time in the history of broadcasting have entire facilities been forced to curtail their operations or even close altogether. This is our new reality as of Spring 2020. What forward-looking broadcast engineers have known for years about AoIP’s advantages, “faster, cheaper and better,” now takes a backseat to urgent requirements for facilities to remotely broadcast, including locations that have never been intended for this use (think spare bedroom or closet).
What forward-looking broadcast engineers have known for years about AoIP’s advantages… now takes a backseat to urgent requirements for facilities to remotely broadcast.
Enter virtualization on a scale we’ve never seen before. Luckily, manufacturers were already moving in this direction. Products that were previously only found in rack-mounted or tabletop hardware are available in other form factors, or as hybrids of software and servers, or even as virtual machines. Broadcasters that were skeptical are now virtualizing studios, and their trepidation at doing so is a nonissue. There is no time for “what-ifs,” and we are impressed by radio engineers who have been able to pivot nimbly to virtual operations. Just as other areas of life will be changed by the pandemic — education, healthcare, technology — so too will radio.
The lure of a virtualized station can’t be denied. Right now, the most obvious benefit is staying on the air even when studios are shut down due to shelter-in-place edicts.
“Every engineer out there was probably waiting for this day, the big emergency, when we can’t broadcast at the studio, but we thought it would be an earthquake or fire or something,” says Paul Montoya from Wyoming Public Radio.BEYOND CRISIS RESPONSE
But the benefits of virtualization go way beyond crisis response. Virtualized systems are easier and less expensive to update than physical equipment. Imagine having four facilities: When a piece of hardware reaches end-of-life, all four sites have to be updated on site, one by one, studio by studio.
AoIP equipment certainly makes this process much easier than the old TDM days. For one, it doesn’t have to be done all at once, but can be implemented gradually, over time. It also dramatically minimizes the amount of wiring needed and is overall faster, cheaper, and better than analog or primitive digital. Virtualization takes all this a step further because software can be updated remotely and/or all at once in a central data center, with software updates pushed out simultaneously to every facility. No physical equipment, no site visits.
Virtualization also has the potential to be more reliable than physical equipment. AoIP is already light years ahead of old analog and early digital systems in terms of reliability. In an AoIP system, there is no single point of failure, making total system failure a thing of the past. Virtualization can kick reliability up another notch by running multiple instances of software concurrently in physically diverse locations instantly available as needed. Redundancy is a highly developed concept in the IT world.
Just like AoIP dramatically reduced the amount of TDM cages and racks needed for a facility, virtualization reduces or eliminates equipment altogether, potentially making those vast equipment rooms — including abundant levels of power and cooling — a thing of the past. And with them, the cost of that associated real estate overhead.Getty/Yuichiro Chino
By removing much of the physical equipment from the equation, on-site radio broadcasts via mobile radio stations also become that much easier, less expensive, with less equipment, shipping and configuration time needed to get up and broadcasting live.
Scaling broadcast operational requirements up or down and only paying for what you need is a big benefit, especially right now. Cash is king at a time when facilities need to save pennies to stay on the air as long as possible, while not paying for the entire studio to be online just for two or three systems to be on air.
From a quality perspective, we all know that audio loses something in the translation from format to format. Virtualization allows the audio packet to remain in its original format with no loss of integrity. Like in an AoIP system, the signal remains pure throughout the air chain resulting in better audio quality.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of a virtualized facility is the ability to interact with products from outside of broadcast, like those from the world of computing — a tablet or Windows computer, for example. By using software, you aren’t tied into proprietary hardware and have more options when it comes to designing your system. Another big plus of software is that because functionality is not hard-coded to a specific button on a console, for example, it’s highly customizable, allowing more flexibility as to functionality.A HYBRID APPROACH
Some of our customers only recently made the move from analog to AoIP, and there are many facilities out there that still haven’t. What we’re seeing now, more than completely virtualized studio operation, is a sort of hybrid setup that uses both physical and virtual gear.
For example, your console might be more than a traditional surface — like an Axia Quasar console with traditional inputs and outputs combined with Axia IP-Tablet Virtual Radio software that puts your most used functions on a touchscreen. Andrew Zarian, CEO & Founder of Guys From Queens Network, uses an Axia Radius console and TeamViewer remote desktop tool to remotely control the surface from any web browser.
Many Axia console operators are using Axia SoftSurface to remotely produce their content during quarantine. SoftSurface was a very early cut of this kind of hybrid back when no one ran their consoles on a touchscreen or computer. It allowed broadcasters to run on a virtual surface yet still have the full functionality of a console. As I write this, SoftSurface is controlling consoles all over the world as broadcasters are forced to leave studios and work from remote locations.
Our IP-Tablet product includes a virtual mixing software module for our xNode that allows users to access the internal mixer inside; change sources and routes; and control the levels of each with virtual faders. When you combine this software with an xNode you get a fully customizable mini mixer. Just like a smartphone, you can add other IP-Tablet Virtual Radio “apps” to create even more virtual radio studio functionality, including those that control other products like the Omnia.9, Telos VX, and more. This software-based approach dramatically enhances the functionality and value of your console. Customized facilities are more available to all broadcasters–not just the ones in larger markets.
It’s remarkable the level of ingenuity that broadcast engineers are tapping into in order to help studios stay on the air right now. We look forward to when all of this is over, when broadcasters have a choice again as to how and where they produce content, and indeed, more choice of virtualized offerings as manufacturers create and refine products to catch up to the current need during pandemic.
The importance of this moment in broadcast history will not be lost on manufacturers. In the meantime, thank you to all the radio engineers out there for keeping us all together through the power of radio, even when we can’t be!
Smart devices such as smartphones are increasingly being used in broadcasting duties. Angry Audio’s Bluetooth Audio Gadget aims to make that interfacing easy.
The BAG can be used on air or in production studios used to play recorded interviews, streams or music into a mixer. It offers bidirectional audio for Skype, FaceTime and phone calls. Sound quality is high courtesy thanks to AAC and aptX codec algorithms.
Audio input comes via a Bluetooth receiver and wired XLR and 3.5 mm-1/8-inch wired inputs. There are balanced XLR stereo outputs along with AES67 digital outputs.
The whole system comes in a heavy-duty steel box.
Cool new native digital devices are all the rage but how to introduce and maintain your legacy analog equipment in an IP broadcast network?
Neutrik comes to the rescue with the NA2-IO-DPRO interface.
Features include two inputs switchable between mic, line and AES/EBU signals plus two outputs switchable between analog line and AES/EBU. Two Dante ports provide for either redundancy or device daisy-chaining.
All connectors are lockable and, together with the removable rubber protection, offer a reliable solution for tough stage conditions. With optional mounting brackets or a rack panel, the box can be mounted below tables, in floor boxes, racks or on a truss.
Operates via power-over-Ethernet.
U.S. radio technologists look forward each April to hearing about new developments from David Layer, the vice president, advanced engineering of the National Association of Broadcasters.
But with the NAB Show cancelled, Radio World asked our correspondent Davide Moro to report on Layer’s presentation in February at the Digital Radio Summit 2020 in Geneva, an annual meeting at European Broadcasting Union headquarters.
That presentation — about HD Radio developments, all-digital AM, hybrid radio and voice platforms — doubles as somewhat of a state-of-the-industry technical report for U.S. radio.
Among other things, attendees heard about potential new costs for U.S. broadcasters that could result from wider deployment of new “hybrid” receivers that combine over-the-air and online connectivity. NAB technologists are involved in research that may help resolve the problem.
They also heard him describe an NAB effort to create a standardized broadcaster database so that stations can interact more consistently with the many new voice-controlled audio platforms.DIGITAL DATA Fig. 2: Spectrum distribution in the FM IBOC asymmetric sidebands broadcast mode.
CREDIT: David Layer/NAB
Speaking first about the status of HD Radio, Layer described continuing uptake in Mexico and Canada. In the United States he noted the proliferating number of receivers, though on the station side, “frankly there’s still work to be done.”
The majority of radio stations in the U.S. are not yet broadcasting in digital. However, FM stations doing so now cover the large majority of the population with their signals, so overall coverage is very good, but many smaller-market broadcasters in particular haven’t converted yet. “We at NAB understand that and are trying to work with Xperi and equipment manufacturers to develop less expensive ways for broadcasters to deploy HD Radio.” Xperi is the owner of HD Radio technology.
On the receiver side, deployment continues to grow at a steady pace, to an overall figure of 70 million receivers sold as of the end of 2019. Layer said roughly 25% of 275 million vehicles registered in the U.S. are capable of receiving digital broadcasts now. Noticeably, penetration is greater in the major markets like New York (37.5%), Miami (35.9%) and Los Angeles (34.3%).Fig. 3: HD Radio mode “MP1” spectrum distribution.
Layer said how those figures are potentially important for AM broadcasters. Awareness of a proposed all-digital option for the AM band is growing, and it is inherently supported in all existing HD Radios. He noted however that when a given station decides to move to all-digital AM, listeners won’t be able to receive those signals on analog-only receivers.
He said solid, well-established digital radio receiver penetration is key if broadcasters are to consider offering an all-digital AM service.
In November, as RW has reported, the FCC announced plans to give AM stations the flexibility to voluntarily adopt all-digital broadcasting, and it has been taking comments from industry about it.ASYMMETRY
Layer also updated attendees on the proposed use of the FM IBOC asymmetric sidebands mode. Under this mode, which currently requires an experimental authorization, FM HD Radio broadcasters in the United States can increase their digital power on just one side of the signal (Fig. 2).Fig. 4: HD Radio mode “MP3” spectrum distribution is the most commonly used by U.S. broadcasters.
When first-adjacent channels are closely spaced on one side of the signal but not on the other, this waveform helps broadcasters achieve better digital coverage since the entirety of the digital broadcast is present in both sidebands. NAB, Xperi and National Public Radio recently filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC asking for a routine authorization for this, but no decision has been forthcoming yet.
Like most digital standards, HD Radio also allows for a number of different operating modes. NAB recently investigated the mode called MP11, which until recently was not supported by commercially available transmission and reception equipment.
Compared to the standard hybrid HD Radio modes MP1 and MP3 (Figs. 3 and 4), which are currently used by most broadcasters, MP11 adds additional digital sidebands (Fig. 5) and offers broadcasters an additional 25 kilobits per second of capacity.
“Working with Xperi and equipment manufacturer Nautel, PILOT, an innovation initiative of the NAB, tested this mode using the PILOT radio test bed, confirming that it works great and manufacturers are now implementing that,” Layer said. MP11 mode also has been demonstrated to have minimal impact on analog FM reception and audio quality, he said.Fig. 5: HD Radio mode “MP11” spectrum distribution, featuring additional digital sidebands.
Layer reported that Xperi is also looking for new operation modes for digital FM broadcast, especially targeting a long-term potential future where FM could be all-digital in the United States. The HD Radio standard dates to the early 2000s. Since then, hardware technology and coding methods have improved and it’s now possible to do much more with the same signal and spectrum, he said.
Xperi and NAB PILOT are investigating new modes that provide much higher throughput, up to 320 kbps (Fig. 6), to support higher levels of service as well as new applications.AM CHALLENGES
In-car listening accounts for more than 50% of overall radio listening in the United States, so Layer also is paying attention to new car and dashboard designs.
“As the great U.S. philosopher Yogi Berra used to say, ‘You can learn a lot by just watching.’ So I visited the November 2019 LA Auto Show, sitting in over 50 cars and operating the radios. I was looking for certain things like the radio button, whether there was a tuner knob, HD Radio capabilities and so on.”Fig. 6: Xperi and PILOT are investigating new HD Radio modes which provide enhanced throughput, up to 320 kilobits per second.
Layer compared the experience with his prior findings from the Detroit Auto Show of January 2017 and provided a brief comparison (Fig. 7). In a couple of years, HD Radio availability in the vehicles on display at these auto shows rose from 78% to 82% while the presence of a physical “radio” button dropped down from 39% to 26%.
In addition, the presence of a physical tuning knob dropped from 54% to 38% while cursor knob presence rose from 31% to 36%. Layer says this expanded use of cursor knobs is evidence of how the dashboard is becoming more like a computer platform.
He also found that Apple CarPlay was more prevalent than Android Auto (92% vs. 70%).
Three out of nine all-electric vehicles he saw did not feature AM radio at all, presumably in part because of issues with electric motors creating interference to the AM signals.Fig. 7: Layer compared the dashboard features he encountered at new car shows 2-1/2 years apart.
At the most recent CES, NXP demoed a solution to solve this issue; but an obstacle for car manufacturers is the cost of these advanced tuners. The challenge for U.S. broadcasters, considering the huge number of AM stations on air, is to ensure there will continue to be consumer demand for AM services based on their content; Layer said this will be the best reason for automotive manufacturers to keep AM radios in electric cars.HYBRID RADIO
Meanwhile, hybrid radio is poised to be of growing importance. Here the term refers to emerging platforms that combine over-the-air broadcast reception with online connectivity that extends a station’s coverage beyond its OTA footprint (with the use of audio streaming), offers the possibility of enhanced metadata and listener interactivity, and provides the ability for analytic feedback to broadcasters about listening.
Layer noted the hybrid radio platform 360L recently announced by satellite company SiriusXM as a remarkable example of hybrid radio capabilities, user experience and listener engagement (see a video tutorial at http://tinyurl.com/rw-hybrid).
But the growing popularity of hybrid radio comes with a major drawback for local U.S. broadcasters. Once a driver tunes to a given station, a hybrid radio receiver may silently look for and stay connected to the broadcaster’s streaming audio signal to support time alignment of the over-the-air and streaming versions of the signal. This is done so as to allow seamless switching to the streaming feed in case the broadcast coverage weakens.
In this scenario, the streaming signal is in use even when a receiver is playing the RF feed and no one is listening to the stream. As a consequence, performance rights costs significantly rise.
“I’ve heard a broadcaster say, ‘This just completely breaks the business model,” Layer noted. “This is a big problem; hybrid radio offers so much promise but there’s a peril for U.S. broadcasters because of the streaming fees.”BROADCAST-ONLY ZONE
NAB is seeking to define a way for broadcasters to try to control such costs. The idea is that the broadcaster creates a description of a “strong signal area” in which streaming is not allowed; the receiver gets information about the broadcast-only area via the internet-delivered portion of the hybrid radio signal, exchanging data with the onboard GPS system.
Thus the receiver can detect the position of the vehicle with respect to the broadcast-only area and, when within that zone, the receiver tunes to broadcast signals only, with no streaming. Beyond this broadcast-only area is a “gray zone” where the receiver selects either source according to RF reception metrics. Outside these two areas, the receiver is allowed to force streaming.
This process would give the broadcaster an opportunity to better manage streaming costs.Fig. 8: A possible implementation of the “broadcast-only zone,” which drives the receiver in tuning to RF-only signals. The orange line visible over the red is created using only 36 points.
Layer believes it may be a challenge to convince receiver manufacturers to implement this solution because it adds cost and complexity. “But it’s very important and it’s something that we’re going to continue to work on,” he said. “Maybe we can come up with a simpler way to achieve the same goal.”
The idea of conditioning a receiver’s action on its geographical position is not virgin territory; it is one of the pillars on which emergency alerting in mobile phones is based. It’s common practice to create a contour and dictate that an alert will only be received by smartphones in a certain area. So the basics are proven, but it has not been applied to radio broadcasting in this fashion. NAB is exploring this with the RadioDNS technical group, Xperi and receiver manufacturers.
Layer believes a basic broadcast-only area can be adequately shaped by using a contour with well under 100 points (an example using 36 points was shown during the EBU presentation), thus making communication to receivers a relatively “light” task.POSITIVE THINKING
Finally, Layer discussed voice platforms, which are becoming a major channel through which consumers receive audio services. When listeners attempt to access broadcast stations using, for example, smart speakers, he noted that they have to face some issues.
Instead of asking for the name of their favorite station, many Americans are accustomed to asking for the frequency on which a station is broadcasting. So, when a listener asks for 97.1, they might end up hearing the wrong 97.1 which disadvantages the local broadcaster and annoys the listener. (Read about an effort to resolve this problem in Australia at https://tinyurl.com/rw-smart-3.)
For the broadcaster, one issue is that voice platforms often connect the listener to a station only via a particular aggregation platform. The audio feed is not coming directly from the broadcaster, meaning it is out of the loop in controlling that experience.
“We are talking to Google and to Amazon,” Layer said, “and we are working at a solution where broadcasters can be more involved in selecting where a stream originates from, maybe from broadcasters’ own platforms.”
Layer feels positive about this process and hopes that broadcasters in various countries can work toward a common approach because the web companies are accustomed to targeting global audiences through global solutions.
With that in mind, NAB PILOT is working on creating a standardized broadcaster database of how voice platforms find and ingest data, with the goal that each station would have a say in what information is shared with the voice platforms, such as station name, frequency, branding, location and market. The database would allow stations to prioritize stream location for voice platforms.
“If we can collaborate on these activities and develop a database that broadcasters have access to and control, I think that would really improve the experience from both the broadcasters’ and listeners’ perspectives,” Layer concluded.
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As the quality of smartphone cameras has improved over the years, many people are now using them to broadcast from their homes or facilities, especially during a time when our mobility is limited. The Video Call Center, a provider of video remotes and production automation for media companies, is among the most experienced in advancing remote production technologies using smartphones.
The company’s patented technology allows seamless connectivity for broadcasting over cellular connections with zero latency. No apps are involved; all that’s needed is a smartphone camera and cellular connection.
Larry Thaler, CEO for The Video Call Center and contributor to TV Technology, said the company was seeing steady growth well before the pandemic.
“We have watched our new, location-agnostic, smartphone- and IP-based production processes steadily gain traction over the past couple of years with sales up nearly 100%,” he said. “Even before the pandemic, our clients found that we offered creative flexibility, while making more effective use of their available budgets. Although we are concerned about the pandemic and our hearts go out to those affected, the VCC’s customer base has grown by an additional 30% and production hours are four times higher than this time last year.”
TV Technology recently spoke with VCC Producer Jonni-Lynn Galietti about her work in helping prepare clients for their live appearances on TV.VCC call producer Jonni-Lynn Galietti manages production for a national news program from her home. (Photo: Video Call Center)
TVT: What’s the first thing you do to help prepare for broadcasts?
Jonni-Lynn Galietti: The first thing we do when we connect with the smartphone is we analyze the connection. Sometimes Wi-Fi is great, but sometimes it’s not, so we would have to switch to data — so there’s really only two options.
It’s really easy to analyze the connection — within the first 10–20 seconds of our conversation, we can see if it’s good or bad. After that, it’s all about propping up the device. We ask them to hold it full screen horizontal and then we really analyze the room. If the first thing I see is light behind the caller, I know that there’s some beautiful natural light coming into the room. But the last thing I want to do is to put it behind the caller.
So we utilize anything we can to have that caller move to use that light, so that the light is in front of them. Window sills are great, as they can prop the device so it’s at 90 degrees. But the real challenge is getting it eye level, so we’ll ask them to use ordinary household items to prop these devices to get them at eye level with the caller. We don’t want any tilts or look up somebody’s nose and we don’t want any ceiling in the shot, so there’s a lot of filters that we really have to go through to get that perfect ideal shot.
If I have my overhead light on in the room I’m using, it’s not really going to provide a balanced light on my face. What matters most is that the person you are speaking with, that their face is lit up. It’s not the overhead, the shoulders or behind them, you want to see their face clearly.
TVT: How far away should the smartphone be placed?
JG: That’s really at the client’s request. I’ve had clients connect with callers at campsites where they want the full body shot, tent and fire in the picture, but the majority of our clients want to match up the caller to the host that is interviewing them.
It’s usually the eyes, and the top part of their chest, maybe a little more headroom, but it’s really based on the client’s request.
TVT: Do clients ever want to use the camera vertically?
JG: We’ve had requests to do it vertically before but we really like to provide horizontal connections because we want the caller to see as much return as possible. I think it’s just as important for the full screen to be taken up in the control room so they can crop it accordingly.
TVT: How long does set-up take?
JG: This window varies. A lot of our clients put very strict time constrictions on us — we’ve had less than seven minutes to connect with the caller to put them on live TV. We’ve had callers in Israel with absolutely no connection and we needed to provide a clear HD signal and we spent hours connecting them to see what the best results were.
As a rule of thumb, we typically ask for 15 minutes just to get it perfect. We know everyone’s time is valuable but we feel confident that we can get a really good signal within 15 minutes.
TVT: Beyond the tech support, how would you describe your role?
JG: I am their cheerleader! There’s a lot of people who get nervous about how they look, but I’m only here to make sure your connection is good and your shot looks good. I’m also here to amp you up.
There’s different challenges every time. Everyone is unique.
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