FCC Affirms First Amendment By Denying Petition Seeking To Suppress Coverage Of White House Coronavirus Task Force News Conferences
The Telos Alliance says the V1.6 update to its Axia Pathfinder Core Pro enables a virtual monitoring and control version of the middleware intended for smaller systems.
The new VML version is equipped for 300 connections and has a lower price point to match, as compared to the larger Pathfinder Core Pro VM system. Both options enable broadcasters to discover and ID compatible devices within a Livewire+ AES67 ecosystem and then serve as an AoIP router after determining potential sources and destinations.
Telos says Pathfinder also “can schedule and trigger events, detect audio silence, issue alarms, and instruct failover routing. It even allows the user to create custom screen-based control and monitoring panels.”
Additionally, the company says Pathfinder Core PRO VM and VML could be installed in “hypervisor environments, including VMware, Hyper-V, VirtualBox, Proxmox and Stratus” at off-site data centers.
WorldCast Systems’ says that software Version 1.1.5 is now available for the Audemat RDS Encoder.
Version 1.1.5, the company says, offers new communication features for higher flexibility and ease of use. Among these functions, there is the additional backwards compatibility with the previous generation FMB80, which facilitates use of mixed networks and sending of the same set of commands.
There are also new capacities for file configuration through FTP, which the firm says, enables compatibility with most third-party automation software, and easier unit configuration with debugging tools integrated for UECP and ASCII commands.
Also new is Version 3.10 for the Audemat FM MC5 FM test and measurement system.
Version 3.10 is compliant with ITU-R SM.1268-5, published in August 2019. This evolution of the recommendation redefines the criteria for validating FM deviation measurements. For an MPX trip measurement to be valid, four criteria are now taken into account, compared to two in the past.
V. 3.10 integrates new measurements as defined by the ITU, such as condition verification before measurements.
In addition to ITU compliancy, the latest software updates aim to improve the user experience. According to WorldCast, these updates include fixed point measurements and a simpler, more complete interface for radio technicians and engineers, as well as a simplification of the analysis of mobile measurement campaigns.
The FCC at its open meeting later this month will vote on new rules to allow low-power FM stations in the United States the use of directional antennas and FM booster stations.
The FCC’s Report and Order will update the technical rules for low-power FM (LPFM) stations and allow them to take advantage of additional engineering options to improve reception, according to the FCC. The LPFM service is two decades old and has grown to over 2,100 stations.
The commission’s vote on the reforms this month would “increase flexibility while maintaining interference protection and the core LPFM goals of diversity and localism,” according to the FCC.
LPFM advocates have been pushing the FCC for technical upgrades to improve reception. The approximate service range of a 100 watt LPFM station is about 3.5 miles, according to the FCC.
The new LPFM rules on directional antenna changes, which are based on a petition from REC Networks, would permit the use of composite directional antennas, as opposed to off the shelf, in certain cases.
Michi Bradley, founder of REC Networks and an LPFM advocate, previously told Radio World the newly proposed rules are “not a carte blanche for all LPFMs” to use directional antennas.
The FCC in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last year said it didn’t think the use of DAs will be widespread: “We believe that directional antennas, whether off-the-shelf or custom models, will not be used widely in the LPFM service due to their higher cost and limited necessity. Nevertheless, the use of such antennas could, if properly engineered, provide significant flexibility to LPFM licensees subject to international agreements and to those that must relocate in areas with few available transmitter sites,” according to the FCC.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a blog post this week pointed out several LPFM radio stations that are providing their communities with up-to-date information during the coronavirus pandemic in this country; specifically mentioning WNQZ(LP) in New Orleans, which has been carrying locally produced public service announcements.
In addition, he wrote: “WOMP(LP) in Cambridge, Ohio, which has been carrying local church services, serving the elderly and low-income Americans who are particularly isolated and lack access to streaming services. And KDRT(LP) in Davis, Calif., which stepped up to serve its community after the local college radio station was forced off the air by the pandemic.”
The FCC’s rulemaking process did draw comments from some observers worried the reforms could bring increased congestion to the FM band. For example, Entercom Communications, in a Notice of Ex Parte Communication, noted during a meeting with FCC Chairman Pai last fall the broadcaster expressed concern that certain modifications to the LPFM technical rules proposed “could bring increased congestion to the FM dial leading to interference to full-power stations.”
The National Association of Broadcasters also wrote about concerns they had with several aspects of the proposed rule changes.
“NAB is concerned that the proposal to allow LPFM licensees expanded use of directional antennas could cause interference to full-service FM stations. We further object to the commission’s proposal to grant a blanket authorization to LPFM operators to use boosters,” NAB wrote in its comments.
The FCC has previously rejected proposals to allow LPFM stations to increase power greater than 100 watts. LPFM advocates, including REC Networks, have previously asked for a 250 watt service (LP250).
The FCC’s April Open Meeting is scheduled for April 23 in Washington.
Radio World: VOA says the health crisis has “forced Voice of America’s nearly 50 separate newsrooms out of studio facilities and into its journalists’ homes across the world.” Focusing on the radio and audio services for the moment, describe the technical challenges that this raised, and how your team has gone about solving them.
Chet Rhodes: Very early during this crisis we had to send half of our radio staff home that operate the radio studios to self-isolate themselves. Staff from all over VOA stepped up to volunteer to run shows as the organization worked to move programing out of the building. As of today, all radio programming is being done remotely. Staff are producing shows at home or in the field and sending in files to be played out of our automation systems. Live programming, such as top of the hour newscasts, are being done with VOIP technology or over the cell phone network.
RW: What general technology platforms and specific products are you using and how do the pieces plug together?
Rhodes: We use a wide selection of software from Audacity which is free, to all the Adobe products such as Audition and Premiere, which have great audio editing tools.
RW: What has the impact of the crisis been on your air talent and on other staff?
Rhodes: People have been very supportive across the agency in working to keep our staff safe but also continue the mission of broadcasting the news to the global audience. Many on the staff have expressed concerns about safety, but at the same time they are offering suggestions on how to operate in this challenging environment.
RW: What is the strategy of the VOA technology team to react to the coronavirus, as far as its overall operational and technical processes are concerned?
Rhodes: By increasing the use of the use of social media and digital platformsk, VOA has been able to focus on moving people from working in the building to enabling people to work from home and produce content while doing so. Another key is to continue to improve the quality of the remote production for our sophisticated global audience.
RW: How “virtual” can your operations get, and how?
Rhodes: With radio, we can get completely “virtual.” All of our radio services have in place digital platforms to deliver content and by using something radio has used for years — a phone. We can still gather sound from anywhere and get it on the air. We are using streaming, podcasting and social media.
RW: Any specific technical obstacles have you encountered that you have had to solve, other than described above?
Rhodes: Working from the field has always been part of radio production, so in many ways we are going back to the basics; while some staff have not had to work at home at this pace before, staff has had to make sure the home environment, the Wi-Fi, the older home computer was ready to support everything needed. VOA has deployed laptops, and many staff also upgraded home systems.Jim Stevenson in the D.C. VOA studio
RW: What lessons can other engineers and technical managers learn from what you’ve been doing these past two weeks?
Rhodes: Even with the staff working virtually, a core technical staff is still needed to work in the building to maintain our operations. Plans have been in place for years for various emergencies, we found that some were outdated, others impractical due to the nature of this emergency. Getting decisions made early on by VOA leadership that we would be working to get almost everyone out of our building was important, so we knew from the start the end goal and have been working towards that.
RW: Do you think these infrastructure changes will be permanent in any way?
Rhodes: The ability for people to work at home for broadcasting has been something looked at for a long time. This might accelerate that to give us more workforce flexibility. All the work done to support that remote workflow will likely remain in place in some way.
RW: What else should we know?
Rhodes: People will be overwhelmed during a situation like this. Support them, and provide the best tools you can and using online collaboration software make sure they can have support to learn how to use them quickly. A lot of training will be needed to support new workflows that are developed.Martha Townes Managing Editor (Internet), East Asia and Pacific Division
RW: Much of the focus in the press release was about how your TV people are setting up remote facilities. Our readership focuses on radio and audio, but your radio teams too probably are “thinking visually” and setting up for on-camera work, yes?
Martha Townes: Because social media is such an important way to engage with our audience, our radio reporters have been “thinking visually” for many years. Our Indonesian, Thai, Lao, Khmer services, for example, regularly take a camera into the radio studio and broadcast their programs live on Facebook.
The shift to working from home has resulted in innovation and ingenuity.
In the absence of sound proof recording booths, our reporters from Korean and Burmese voiced reports in their closet. Our Khmer staff reporting to Cambodia improvised with blankets. VOA Thai replaced their Facebook Live radio show with a hybrid approach. They recorded their program as an mp4 video file that they posted on Facebook. They stripped out the audio from that recording and aired it on their traditional radio broadcast channels.Lekhena Sreng Reporter, VOA Khmer Service
RW: How has the situation changed your workflow?
Lekhena Sreng: I see telework in a positive way except the real life social disconnection but we have social media to reconnect us for now. I started working from 5 a.m. in my living room, gathering all the texts and audios from the newscasters, reporters either in DC or Phnom Penh to record using my iPhone, edit the audio using Adobe Premiere, place the combined 60-minute show in our container for radio.
I talked to some of my friends and family, they all can’t tell I did it from living room but thought I go to work every day.
Radio stations and engineers are hearing a lot of questions from U.S. churches and hospitals inquiring whether they can legally set up low-power radio broadcasts to their parking lots. What’s the right answer?
We talked to Bill Baker, whose company Information Station Specialists provides radio solutions for emergencies and events, Traveler’s Information and Highway Advisory Radio and specialized legal unlicensed operations.
Radio World: This seems like a good time to pause and ask generally what the FCC rules allow.
Bill Baker: FCC “Part 15” rules set the parameters for short-range broadcasts, which can contain almost any kind of content and can operate on any standard frequency as long as interference to broadcasters does not result. A license is not required as long as the equipment bears a FCC certification number.
With the advent of international services such as Amazon, it is relatively easy to inadvertently purchase a foreign-made unit, which is quite illegal in the U.S. So the first question a buyer should ask is whether it has a certification sticker on the product. In this regard, purchasing from a U.S.-based manufacturer is usually the safest move.
This kind of communication service can be very effective at a point in which people are 1) in their vehicles, 2) in a slow-moving line of cars or parked and 3) in need of critical information that is pertinent. Virus treatment information can be critical to our physical health just as spiritual encouragement can be critical on a totally level. Either way, the point of short-range broadcasting is to deliver critical information just when it’s needed most.
RW: Are both FM and AM broadcasts possible?
Baker: Yes. But the reason that AM band FCC Part 15 devices are most often preferred is because per the FCC’s FM Part 15.219 rules, the broadcast distance is so restricted as to make it unusable for more than a few feet. At 100 feet, the signal need to be gone. A drive-through restaurant that has the listener’s car hugging the building perhaps could utilize a FM system of this kind. But most people we talk to require more range to make such a communication system useful.
RW: Your own transmitter product operates under FCC rules Part 15.219, using a 3 meter antenna and 100 mw of power. What other equipment would a user require?
Baker: Short of an audio and a power source, the InfOspot product line provides basically everything else most operators need. You can send line level audio from a sound board or wireless pickup right to the transmitters live input. There is also a voice recorder/player onboard that some COVID test locations use to record messages for a repeating broadcast, on the fly.
RW: What kind of power or range limitations do the operators need to respect, in order to remain within legal limits? You said that there’s a common misconception about Part 15. Can you explain?
Baker: You have put your finger right on it. Part 15.219, while limiting the AM transmitter power and antenna/ground length, does not specify a signal intensity limit the way the Part 15 FM rules do. Therefore, it’s not possible to get out of bounds with the signal distance with a system like InfOspot.
RW: What else should we know?
Baker: Most FM Part 15 systems that you see advertised are not legal for use in the U.S. Buyer beware!
The post Low-Power Radio in the Parking Lot: What You Need to Know appeared first on Radio World.
Waiver of Sponsorship Identification Requirements for Public Service Announcements Related to the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)
Thanks for Dick Taylor’s commentary “Invest in People and Programming, Not More Signals.” If I may use an analogy here: Ocean City, U.S.A., is expanding its boardwalk to accommodate more commercial space for eateries.
Sounds great, right? There is the promise of more variety of food offerings for increasingly diverse populations, young and old. We’ll finally have room for more Asian, Latin, Caribbean and Middle Eastern fare that a number of people have been requesting, for decades.
Here’s the problem. The new spaces are being taken by chain restaurants, with no room for “mom and pop” independent vendors. The “new spaces” will only be an extension of what is already available, up and down the boardwalk: everyone’s favorite Italian and Mexican chain restaurants and another “Big Marty’s” burgers, greasy fries and funnel cake, all because “it sells.”
Sound familiar? That’s exactly how commercial radio has operated since 1996. As with retail in Ocean City, it has nothing to do with adding more variety to the radio dial and everything to do with who controls the radio real estate under current rules and regulations.
We can thank the National Association of Broadcasters for the rider it succeeded in tacking on to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, signed by President Clinton, which increased the number of radio stations that one entity can own in any given radio market in the country (eight stations per major market, and now they want even more station per market). What this did in effect was reduce programming choices across the radio dial, slash payrolls and with it send more and more talented people out on the street.
When I hear someone say they think expanding the number of radio stations we have will improve anything, I laugh, given the current ownership rules. The “big boys” like iHeart own all the “blowtorch” signals everywhere and they homogenize everything they get their hands on.
Under the current “playing field,” expanding the number of radio stations we’d have would only expand the mundane. Instead of “57 channels with nothing on,” we’d have “88 channels with nothing on.” No imagination, no freedom for innovative people, just the same tainted focus group-driven pap.
For just once, I wish “gurus” like iHeart’s Bob Pittman would take a peek back to a time before FM radio became king in the radio marketing world in the 1960s, when circular polarization had just been perfected, but before that groundbreaking technical breakthrough pushed FM radio into the limelight. It was a time when the “inmates ran the asylum” with “underground FM” radio, before the top 40 radio doctors arrived around 1973. It was the most spontaneous, creative and fun time in the history of commercial radio. That is the kind of investment in people and programming that I think Dick Taylor is hinting at in his article; not to dredge up those old album rock tracks, but to bring back that wide-open spirit that has sorely been missing since that contrived “superstars” format arrived to mimic “hip FM” radio in 1973. People see through that kind of plasticity. The numbers show it.
If you want a clue, find a 1972 aircheck from KDKB(FM), Phoenix, to hear unbridled imagination and fun taking place, which included not only cutting edge music of the day, but well-produced (in-house) fake commercials and spoof commentary. It was a golden age of radio for boomers.
The post Reader’s Forum: Bring Back Radio’s “Unbridled Imagination” appeared first on Radio World.
The coronavirus pandemic has ground many cities’ schools, businesses and civic life to a complete stop. Don’t tell that to dozens of fierce community radio stations though. They are continuing to bring news, music and togetherness for their isolated residents.
President Donald Trump has extended nationwide social distancing guidelines until April 30. What was once the White House’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” initiative is now much longer. The administration recommends that Americans avoid gatherings of more than 10 people; work or attend school and other gatherings remotely whenever possible; and avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants. Even states like Florida, which had long resisted such orders have come around to this tactic for halting COVID-19.
That is not to say social distancing has been easy. Employment forecasts are looking dour. Families have had to adjust. And, importantly, our own sense of community is affected by being largely removed from what we traditionally know of where we live.
For community broadcasters, the coronavirus pandemic has also been hard. Scores of college and community radio stations have been impacted by the choice of licensees to protect people and facilities. Some stations have many volunteers in vulnerable populations. Some managers have felt the risk of spreading the illness is too great and opted for full automation. All of these decisions are fair and appropriate. Such calls are rooted in local conditions. There is absolutely no shame in siding with safety.
When community radio stations can balance out health concerns and continue to broadcast their brand of unique programming, it is remarkable.
The New York Times chronicled a range of community radio stations fighting to stay on the air during the coronavirus pandemic, including WFMU, WWOZ and WOMR. But they are far from the only community radio stations doing all they can to continue despite COVID-19. WORT, KPFZ, KDNK, KEXP and WMPG are just a few of the stations delivering a variety of broadcasts involving in-studio volunteers, remote recordings, and other formats.
Their approach may be best framed by General Manager Jessica Evett, whose KRBX is also on the air. She said, “Music has the power to provide a shelter from stress, and we know our DJs and their playlists are a soothing influence that make us all feel closer, despite being apart.”
Ingenious radio stations have created many schema on the fly. Whether it is programming produced at home and uploaded directly to automation, shared via Dropbox, or dialed-in to the live studio, the solutions are as varied as the stations themselves. Unfortunately, several stations have been forced to develop a means to continue broadcasting quickly, because they did not have contingencies. Yet they continue to do admirable programming in a time when they are much needed.
The moment has offered plenty of innovations. For example, KVRU(LP) created coronavirus education announcements in many languages. Stations are creating book clubs, doing virtual town halls and more.
The longtime narrative about community radio is one of want. Our reputation is of small staffing, few resources and operating on the edge. Yet in a time of incredible uncertainty, community radio surety has been outstanding. Stations that have managed to keep original programming in spite of the odds deserve much regard for their commitment and service.
The post Community Broadcaster: Salute to Stations Fighting On appeared first on Radio World.
The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association is seeking presentation proposals for this fall’s Broadcasters Clinic.
The event is scheduled for Oct. 12–15 in Madison, but Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Vice President Linda Baun noted in her proposal solicitation that she expects the “new normal” may distract or delay potential participants. Therefore, WBA is getting a headstart on the process, Baun wrote in her email.
Baun asks, “Do you have unique perspectives or ideas on trends and technologies as we move forward to the future of radio, television, and online media technologies?”
If you have an idea, send an email to Baun detailing your proposed topic, a brief synopsis and the name of the presenter. Submissions are due by April 30.
Baun also highlighted a message of solidarity: “Together, we will make it through these times and look forward to getting us all together again in October.”