Readers have shared memories of respected broadcast engineer Ron Rackley, who died April 12. Send your own remembrances and photos to email@example.com. This article will be periodically updated to reflect additional submissions.Mario Hieb:
Yes, Ron Rackley was a giant.. He was a classically trained engineer who understood the RF world at great depth. Ron had a particular passion for AM radio systems and was well regarded for the many improvements he developed. We’ll miss you, Ron.Geoff Mendenhall:
I am deeply saddened and shocked at the loss of my good friend, Ron Rackley.
Ron was the top expert in bandwidth optimization of AM broadcast antenna arrays for HD Radio and DRM transmission. I had the opportunity to work with Ron on several interesting broadcast engineering projects, and we both enjoyed our amateur radio antenna projects. He taught me so much over the decades that I knew him.
One of my favorite, fun memories of Ron was when we went together to Skycraft surplus electronic parts store in Winter Park, Fla., in search of ham radio goodies. We were like two kids in a candy store!
I am truly glad to have known and worked with Ron. He contributed so much to the broadcast engineering profession and is greatly missed.[Learn more about Rackley’s life and career.] Glynn Walden:
I am so saddened to learn of his passing as he was a friend and mentor. He always had time to explain and share his incredible knowledge, a two-line email from me led to a long multi-paragraph explanation of the problem or situation and his thoughts on solving it.
On Thursday of last week, he sent me a picture of the former AM site on Gomer Road where our first AM IBOC demonstration on KUSA took place. The picture that he sent shows that site is now a housing development. We talked on Thursday morning about our long nights at the site with Dave Hartup and Hilmer Swanson.
Ron lived his life as a Christian. I will miss the gentle giant and the broadcast industry will be less without him.John Sadler, retired FCC Communications Specialist, writes:
It is hard to believe that the broadcast world has lost an industry icon. Ron was a real gentleman and a hard worker. He was a good friend of mine for over 50 years.
I first met Ron at one of the NAB engineering seminars on directional AM antennas in which we both participated. He was a very knowledgeable individual and always had time for everyone should they have questions relating to antennas.
During my 26 year tenure at the FCC, I had many opportunities to consult with Ron regarding reports that he had submitted to the FCC for review. My son Jim and his wife worked for the Rackley firm for several years, until the company relocated to Florida from Washington. Thanks to Jim’s experience with Ron’s firm, he still enjoys working in the industry at Carl T. Jones.
Ron will be sorely missed by those working in the broadcast business.James Walker:
I had the honor and pleasure of working with Ron on a number of projects. He was always ready to talk about the philosophy behind the applications when there was time. I have found this to be the best way to learn a subject.
He was generous will all sorts of info. I had picked up a Wayne-Kerr b601 at the Dayton Hamfest. The unknown terminals are a bit complicated on that device. We were working on a new D.A. in Los Angeles, and I mentioned I had this bridge but no instructions. Ron talked at some length about that device and its virtues and weaknesses vis a vis devices such as the genrad 1606. A few weeks after I got back to my office in Cincinnati, a package arrived from Sarasota with a nicely bound copy of the Wayne-Kerr manual — with a note from Ron that said simply, “Hope this is useful.” (I still have the book with the note attached — and the bridge.)
For several years, I handled the network broadcasts of Cincinnati Reds’ spring training in Sarasota. I would invite Ron to lunch every year at his favorite local Mexican restaurant. Each of these occasions lasted for several hours as we just talked medium wave engineering. (He talked, I listened). These were fascinating experiences — some of the very best of my career — like going to an oracle.
Ron Rackley’s death has rocked radio engineers and others in the radio industry’s technology circles. Rackley passed away unexpectedly on Friday night. He was 66.
The veteran consulting engineer was the champion of AM radio and its revitalization efforts. He worked on high-power medium wave antennas systems around the world and served as a consultant to USA Digital Radio during the early stages of in-band on-channel (IBOC) digital testing in this country.
AM broadcast system design and optimization was Rackley’s passion, according to industry friends. He graduated from Clemson University with an electrical engineering degree and was a former radio station CE and antenna designer for Kintronic Labs Inc. In 1983 he co-founded du Treil-Rackley Consulting Engineers, with Bob du Treil, which later merged with A.D. Ring & Associates to form du Treil, Lundin and Rackley.
Rackley grew up in Greenville, N.C., and worked as a duty operator for several local AM radio stations while still in high school.Ron Rackley
“I had plenty of time to read various engineering reports and study contour maps while on duty. Radio always seemed like magic to me. It seemed less like magic after I took mathematics in college,” Rackley told Radio World during an interview in 2006 acknowledging his NAB Engineering Achievement Award, which he shared that year with his friend Ben Dawson.
Rackley said, “I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t interested in radio.”
Touching tributes to Rackley appeared over the weekend, including one from his daughter, Elizabeth, posted to her father’s Facebook account: “My father passed away unexpectedly Friday night. Please pray for my family, and especially my mother. My dad was definitely the most intelligent person I have ever known.”
“He did work in his field of electrical engineering that only a handful of people in the world were capable of, and was renowned for it. I will remember my father as an incredibly wise and loving father, who always knew what was best and who loved and appreciated his family. I have annoyed so many people bragging about my dad, and I have no shame for it. He deserved every word of appreciation,” she wrote.
Rackley, who was at the NAB Show in Las Vegas early last week, told Radio World during an earlier interview that he was a “self-professed introvert uncomfortable speaking in front of crowds,” yet delivered countless speeches to radio engineers on how to troubleshoot and maintain AM antenna systems through the years.
“I’ll do it if I can help other engineers understand what AM is all about. Professionals are supposed to share information and to share knowledge,” he said.
Rackley was a regular at broadcast engineering conferences, friends say. David Layer, the NAB’s VP of advanced engineering, told us, “It was devastating news that Ron Rackley had passed. I am so glad I was able to see him last week at the NAB Show and of course now wish I had spent more time with him. Ron was one of the gentlest souls I’ve ever encountered, a true gentleman and scholar, his brilliance as an AM broadcast engineer was world-renowned. He will be greatly missed by me and I expect everyone who knew him.”
The broadcast engineering community flooded Rackley’s Facebook page with condolences. Veteran broadcast engineer Richard Rudman posted the following: “I had the great fortune to know this man and work with him on a research project. Ron was more than a brilliant radio engineer who I swear could visualize complex solutions as Smith Chart displays, a form of analyzing that require mere mortals to use expensive test equipment. Ron was wonderful teacher with a folksy down home style. He will be missed.”
Jeff Littlejohn, executive VP, engineering and systems integration of iHeartMedia posted his condolences: “One of the nicest, most intelligent and professional people I have ever met. The broadcast industry lost a giant.”
Art Sutton, president of Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting, told Radio World in an email: “I first became acquainted with Ron, like many did, when needing help with an AM signal matter. No one knew amplitude modulation better. In addition to just being a hell of a nice guy, he was a great broadcast historian. We shared many enjoyable communications about the history of this business we love and the prominent role radio broadcasting has played in the development of our great nation.”
Rackley lived with his wife, Dorothy, in Sarasota, Fla. The couple has four children. His family is currently planning a Celebration of Life service.
LONDON — There is no shortage of news reports bemoaning broadcast radio’s demise at the hands of streaming media.Rüdiger Landgraf is Kronehit’s program director. Credit: Kronehit
A case in point: “Since 2010, around 840,000 15 to 24-year-olds have switched off for good, according to research from Enders Analysis,” reported The Guardian newspaper in an article with the witty headline, “Is streaming killing the radio star?” “And among the 6.5 million or so who do still tune in, the amount of time they spend listening has plummeted 29 percent between 2010 and 2018. The problem is even more acute at the BBC, with total listening hours among 15 to 24-year-olds falling 40 percent over the same time period.”
This sense of doom and gloom was reflected by Bob Shennan, the BBC’s director of radio and music, in a May 15, 2018 speech to the Radio Academy. “Streaming services are the new best friend to music. After all they have transformed the financial fortunes of a sector that was on its knees,” he said. “But they have set their sights on radio.”
Worse yet, “Whereas in years gone by my predecessors would today be eyeballing their competition across the United Kingdom radio sector, our competition isn’t even based on this island,” said Shennan. “The new competitive set is global.”
NOT NECESSARILY THE BAD GUY
Based on the warnings about streaming media such as those delivered above, it is easy to assume that listeners accessing audio content by the web is bad news for broadcasters.
But this isn’t actually the case, because streaming media is merely a delivery platform that is indifferent to the content is carries. In other words, streaming media itself is no more an enemy of broadcast radio than it is a friend: It all comes down to the specific content being streamed, and how that affects broadcast radio’s audience share.
This point is not lost on James Cridland, radio consultant.
“Are Spotify, Deezer, Pandora or other streaming music operators hurting radio? Yeah, of course they are — if your radio station just plays music,” Cridland told Radio World. “I can get a much better ‘10 great songs in a row’ from Spotify than I ever could from your station — with the benefit of personalization and skipping songs I don’t like. The same goes for YouTube, which gives a pretty good music service these days too, and YouTube’s free.”The studio at Austrian radio station Kronehit. Credit. Kronehit
“If you are a radio station and you don’t offer anything beyond ‘10 great songs in a row,’ then the growth of these streaming services should concern you,” he noted. “They account for a significant chunk of at-work listening; including mine.”
CAPTURING APP MAGIC
On the flip side, are TuneIn, Radioplayer, and other websites that aggregate and stream radio stations hurting broadcast radio? “Absolutely not,” replied Cridland.
“First, it’s another place for your radio station to be found. Second, aggregators like TuneIn or Radioplayer get your station into places that you, yourself, can find much harder to reach. Everything from smart speakers to better experiences in the car are all enabled by aggregators like this.”
The takeaway: Streaming media can be a boon to broadcast radio if their stations are easily available on TuneIn, Radioplayer, and other aggregator sites; and made accessible online and via apps to people at their computers, in cars, and on their smartphones.
Radio apps are increasingly popular with listeners in general, and particularly the Millennials that broadcasters are so desperate to reach.
Don’t take our word for it; check out what’s happening in the U.K. according to RAJAR [Radio Joint Audience Research]; the country’s official radio audience measurement agency.
According to RAJAR’s Spring 2015 MIDAS [Measurement of Internet Delivered Audience Services] survey, 19 million people (35 percent of the U.K.’s population) had downloaded radio apps. This included 4.1 million (49 percent) of 15–24-year-olds and 4.3 million (49 percent) of 25–34-year-olds.
AN APP MASTER
Jump ahead three years to RAJAR’s Spring 2018 MIDAS: Now 28 million people (52 percent) of the U.K. population) had downloaded radio apps. This total includes 5.1 million (64 percent) of 15–24-year-olds) and 6.2 million (69 percent) of 25–34-year-olds.
On the good side, radio apps (those delivering broadcast radio streams via the mobile internet), are gaining ground among U.K. listeners of all ages; including the much-sought-after Millennials. On the bad side, listeners can also tune into streamed radio using “aggregator apps” offered by TuneIn and Radioplayer; apps that let people easily tune to other stations besides your own.
Don’t lose heart: “If you want your listeners to come to your station’s app, then they will,” said Cridland; “but only if you make your app better than the aggregator apps, and at least maintain ‘feature parity’ with them.” In other words, a broadcaster’s radio app has to offer “all the bells and whistles” that are in TuneIn’s app, he said. “Got Chromecast? Android Auto or Carplay functionality? Does it work with your watch? Listeners want all this stuff too.”
“Do your own apps hurt ‘radio’?” he queried. “Only if you believe radio is defined by having a transmitter in a field.”
Austrian Top 40 station Kronehit has embraced James Cridland’s approach and then some, by ensuring that their free Kronehit app is not only as better than TuneIn’s but also able to match the music selection features offered by Spotify and Pandora.
MAKE STREAMING YOUR FRIEND
Specifically, Kronehit’s radio app allows listeners to skip songs they don’t like, just as they can with Spotify. When the replacement song has finished, Kronehit’s streaming feed automatically rejoins the show in progress; keeping listeners locked into Kronehit’s unique broadcast environment.
“We let people jump over the song, while remaining with the live feed,” said Rüdiger Landgraf, Kronehit’s program director. “In this way, they don’t lose out on our live weather and traffic information; something that makes broadcast radio so much better than automated streaming media. Live content like this is what makes broadcast radio so much better than music streaming. With the Kronehit app, our listeners get the best of both worlds.”
If there’s a moral to this tale, it is that streaming media can be broadcast radio’s salvation, rather than the cause of its demise.
The key to attaining this salvation is for broadcasters to go all-out in replicating the very best features that streaming media web sites and apps have to offer, and then topping them with the live information and personality-driven content that radio excels at.
James Careless reports on the industry for Radio World from Ottawa, Ontario.
For parts of the Salem Radio Network, the dish is going the way of the dodo.
Salem Radio Network announced that it plans to transition its Christian programming platform to an all-IP receiver platform later this year, effectively eliminating the stalwart satellite dish for more than 500 stations.
A note from Salem executives in early April alerted affiliate stations that Salem plans to replace existing Wegener satellite receivers with ATX (formerly Pico Digital) XDS Pro receivers that offer internet protocol network capability allowing for full-time IP program delivery. The plan will go into effect in mid-2019 with harder switch planned for fall 2019. Salem Radio Network provides audio production and national distribution over satellite and IP platforms for both networks and independent programmers.
The media company said it will continue to utilize the existing SES-2/Wegener satellite platform while migrating to the new XDS IP receivers and expects to end the SES-2 satellite feed in early 2020. The change will impact Salem’s current Wegener users, those receiving Salem’s programming, but will not impact current recipients of third-party Westwood One programming via the XDS pipeline.
“We’re seeing industry standards change,” said Derek Anderson, network operations manager and director of satellite services for Salem, about the phasing out of the dish era. “The old guard of satellite still has a place in broadcast distribution but with IP hardware becoming more efficient and web bandwidth expenses dropping, we may see a mass migration very soon.”
According to the company, scheduling and program feeds will be delivered by internet connection only — meaning Christian programming stations will no longer need a satellite dish or antenna hardware to receive Salem’s Christian network feeds. The new XDS receivers will give stations the ability to record and play back all programming as well as integrate with local automation systems. According to Salem, full control of programming will be maintained by individual stations via web-based scheduling.
“And maybe best of all,” the company said in its note to stations, “terrestrial or weather interference — sun outage/rain fade — is eliminated.”
According to Anderson, the decision came about as the company began thinking about the benefits of IP networking over the long term.
“Salem Media Group has historically been an industry leader in broadcast distribution,” he said. “As our current satellite platform has worked well for us, we’ve been moving forward with a plan to transition from satellite to full IP in 2019 for our Christian teaching and talk and music platforms.”
The initial rollout in 2019 will migrate more than 500 stations from satellite to IP receivers “with more added as we fully transition this platform to IP only,” Anderson said.
By migrating to the XDS Pro receiver platform, stations will gain greater control over their programming, he said. The system will integrate fully with stations’ local automation systems with a simple web connection, he said.
Anderson said there are cost benefits for both networks and affiliates. “Program distribution via IP will provide us an expense savings over satellite and stations will see savings in local dish and hardware lease/maintenance costs,” he said.
Affiliates should be aware that despite the major technology change, Salem plans to continue the same quality of service to national affiliates as it transitions, Anderson said.
Anderson said the network has used XDS Pro receivers as its general market satellite platform on Westwood One for many years. “It’s proven itself to be the industry standard,” he said. “Our affiliates prefer the ease of use of the XDS web-based scheduler over all other platforms and honestly, no other platform provides such a robust system than XDS.”
He said the company’s Christian programming platform has been due for an upgrade for awhile. “We knew we were headed to IP and once we had full integration with our uplink provider Microspace, we felt confident in making the jump,” he said.
While there’s no concrete plans to expand the program to any other general market news/talk stations, Anderson said he expects other networks to realize the benefits of moving from satellite to IP. “Many are now using IP as backup to satellite feeds and we foresee more moving over in the near future,” he said.
Editor’s note: Salem Radio Network’s model also includes distribution with outside clients. Those looking for more information can contact Derek Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post Salem to Move Its Christian Stations to IP Platform appeared first on Radio World.
The Society of Broadcast Engineers board has elected a new Fellow: Senior member and Ventana Television Chief Engineer John Collinson was approved for the society’s highest membership level at its April 7 meeting.
SBE President Jim Leifer, CPBE, said, “The peer accolades expressed for John show the highest esteem of an SBE member, and recognizing him with the membership grade of Fellow is a testament to John’s skill, attitude, professionalism and dedication to broadcast engineering.”[SBE Ups Jerry Massey to Fellow]
Collinson (CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, CBNE) joined the society in 1976. He is a member of SBE Chapter 39 Tampa Bay Area, which he is credited with reviving in the 1990s. Collinson also served as chapter chair from 1999 to 2001 and as chapter certification chair since 1995.
Collinson will be recognized for his election to Fellow during the SBE National Awards Dinner on Oct. 16 in Madison, Wis. He is the 79th member to attain this rank.
The author is senior manager, broadcast operations, Astro Radio.Jude Dawson
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Astro Radio, a commercial radio network based in Malaysia and owned by Astro Holdings Bhd., has been revolutionizing radio in Malaysia since its launch in 1996 when we introduced format specific programming (i.e. format-radio to our listeners).
We began operations with five FM radio stations, eight satellite radio stations with 25 regional commercial splits with the (then revolutionary and now legendary) Optimod-FM 8200 digital audio processor. Much has been said and written about this amazing piece of technology, it is sufficient for us to simply state it was the best decision we ever made to go with Orban.
The 8200 made our stations the consistently best-sounding radio network on the FM-dial in Malaysia. We’re pleased to say that even after 20 years in the transmission chain, the Optimod FM 8200 still performs better than any competitor’s current products.The Astro Radio facilities in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Today, Astro Radio operates 19 radio networks, which cater to a diverse range of musical tastes and demographics. Our stations broadcast to our listeners on three primary delivery platforms — FM, satellite radio and online.
Our flagship brands, namely hitz, My, Lite, Mix, Era, Sinar, Melody, Raaga, Gegar, Zayan and goXUAN, combined reach 16.2 million radio listeners, 17.5 million social media followers and 56.3 million on Facebook.
To deliver steady high-fidelity audio over these platforms, we deployed Orban’s extensive arsenal of digital audio processors with great success.Orban units at Astro Radio headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
For FM broadcasts, we utilize the 8700i, 8600, 8500, 8500-FM and 5500 audio processors in tandem with the 5518 stereo encoders.
For satellite-radio audio processing we chose the 8685 (yes, the one which does surround-sound). We also still use the 8200 to process audio for some of our satellite-radio stations!
To dominate and tame the online streaming platform, we use a combination of Optimod-PC 1211 cards as well as Optimod-PCn StreamS software.
In total, we use 96 units of rackmount Orban Optimods as well as 27 PC-based Opticodec cards across multiple locations in Malaysia to deliver the sweetest, cleanest, distortion-free and regulatory-compliant sounds. We’re very pleased that our stations sound clean and loud but don’t distort.
We have been able to achieve and maintain these high standards simply because of excellent technical support and sound product advice over the years from many of the experienced, talented and knowledgeable people at Orban.
Simply put, Orban’s audio processor solutions just work beautifully for Astro Radio.
For information, contact Orban in Germany at +49-7141-2266-0 or visit www.orban.com.
KPAC is another reason why San Antonio, Texas is a great place for classical music and classical radio.
The post When it comes to classical music (and classical radio), don’t mess with (San Antonio) Texas appeared first on Radio Survivor.
Ron Rackley, a luminary of the U.S. broadcasting engineering community, has died.
Rackley passed away Friday at his home in Florida, according to an announcement by the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers, of which he was a former president.
Current AFCCE President John Lyons shared the news with colleagues via email on Sunday. “I first worked with Ron in the early 1970s in a project at WWRL(AM) in New York,” Lyons wrote. “Since that time, we worked on several projects over the years and spoke regularly about issues affecting broadcasters.”
Rackley was AFCCE president in 1987-88 and was the 2006 co-honoree with colleague Ben Dawson of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award. Rackley also was a board member and as vice president of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society. In 1983, he co-founded duTreil-Rackley, which later merged with A. D. Ring & Associates to form duTreil, Lundin and Rackley.
Lyons said he saw Ron Rackley just a few days earlier at the recent NAB Show.
Radio World is gathering memories and reflections about Rackley’s career. We welcome yours via email to email@example.com.The partners in du Treil, Lundin & Rackley are shown at the 2006 retirement celebration for Robert du Treil Sr. in a photo published in Radio World. Top, from left, are John Lundin, Ron Rackley, Jeff Reynolds and Charles Cooper. Robert du Treil Senior and Robert du Treil Junior are seated.
Consulting engineer and Radio World contributor Buc Fitch said, “One of the giants has passed.”
Rackley worked in radio and television stations from an early age, according to a bio on the duTreil Lundin & Rackley website. He attended Clemson University. “His natural progression and graduation made him attractive as an engineer to consulting firms,” the site states. “He eventually went to work as a staff engineer at Jules Cohen & Associates and that is where he met Bob du Treil. The two would pair up for a life-long professional relationship.”
He was considered one of the country’s premier experts in AM engineering, and was vocal on AM regulatory issues including the FCC’s “revitalization” initiatives in recent years.
Channel Lineup Requirements - Sections 76.1705 and 76.1700(a)(4); Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative
At Foothill College radio station KFJC-FM where I am a volunteer DJ and Publicity Director, we are in the midst of 100+ hours of all-vinyl programming as part of College Radio Foundation’s 4th annual Vinylthon. As Paul outlines in his post this week, the official Vinylthon celebration of vinyl records is scheduled for Saturday, April […]
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Most press coverage of low-power FM focuses on particular stations, or the flourishing of the medium in the last half-decade. Not unexpectedly, rarely do articles delve into the deep history, which goes all the way back to 1948, with mileposts in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, leading up the FCC’s eventual creation of the […]
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It started in college radio and now is sweeping stations around the world. No, I’m not talking about R.E.M. It’s Vinylthon! This Saturday, April 13 – which, not coincidentally, happens to be Record Store Day – 140 stations will feature programming with only vinyl records, some going all day long. The ones that clock in […]