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Yesterday Our Privacy, Today Our Radio

Radio World - Fri, 04/03/2020 - 07:51
Roger Lanctot

The author is director, automotive connected mobility of the Global Automotive Practice of Strategy Analytics. 

As technology consumers we make tradeoffs.

We let Google peer into our online activity and email communications and we even accept annoying advertisements tied to our browsing activity in order to access free email and browsing. We tolerate smartphones with diminishing performance from Apple — even after Apple admits that the diminishing performance is deliberately-inflicted obsolescence to push us into our next iPhone upgrade. We accept Tesla’s privacy violations in exchange for an awe-inspiring driving experience and software updates.

Along the way we have surrendered our privacy and so much more. Now Tesla Motors may be asking us to surrender free over-the-air broadcast radio.

According to the notes describing the latest software update for owners of 2018-made Tesla’s and earlier (using MCU-1), the latest optional software update (which carries a $2,500 price tag but adds Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Twitch) removes AM/FM radio and SiriusXM. 

This is the often-cited downside of software updates — the potential to obtain improved system performance while sacrificing previously desirable functionality.

While Tesla’s decision only impacts older Tesla’s, it nevertheless highlights the strangely tortured relationship between the broadcast radio industry and Silicon Valley. The issue is a common thread traceable to Apple’s refusal to activate the FM chips built into its phones — and Google’s decision to ignore “terrestrial” radio as part of either Android Auto or Google Automotive Services.

Google, Apple and Tesla have all turned their backs on the broadcast radio industry in spite of the wide reach of radio — a reach that exceeds that of television — and the fact that it is free, localized content ideally suited to consumption in a mobile environment. Tesla’s decision likely only affects a sliver of Tesla owners given the cost of the optional upgrade and the limited in-vehicle enhancements, but it has the ominous tinge of something more sinister.

The Tesla software update, focused as it is on adding streaming video and a $9.99/month subscription — for owners not already on the company’s premium service tier — points to a streaming-only approach to content delivery. Just as satellite broadcaster SiriusXM felt compelled to offer an IP version of its content, Tesla appears inclined to shift all content delivery to IP reception.

The strategy makes sense for a company delivering cars on multiple continents with varying local broadcast protocols and metadata. Shifting radio reception to IP delivery vastly simplifies the in-dash configuration and, in the long run, may enable some hardware content reduction in the form of deleted tuners and antennas. This is particularly relevant in the run up to 5G adoption — a technology upgrade that will require the additional of multiple antennas.

Tesla vehicles in North America have always come with TuneIn — so, now, TuneIn becomes the preferred radio IP broadcast point of aggregation. In fact, it is quite possible that Tesla has leveraged user data from its own vehicles to determine that radio listening in its vehicles was sufficiently minimal to be worth risking some minor resistance.

More importantly, the software update removing the radio experience is optional. Maybe the offer is a test to determine the customer reaction to a tradeoff of streaming video and improved user interface performance with the sacrifice of broadcast radio for $2,500? Is the offer a bit of a market research project? Anything is possible from Tesla, which has altered its pricing and discounts on multiple occasions in response to market conditions.

But the inclination to delete radio is a popular behavior pattern in Silicon Valley where Google and Apple have treated broadcasters with disdain. 

Is this approach sustainable? Is it tolerable? Where can an outraged consumer turn to protest?  Will there be consumer outrage? Should there be? Is it time for an in-vehicle radio mandate to ensure that emergency communications — at least — can be broadcast into cars?

I’m not going to cry wolf. And I’m not going to play Chicken Little. I will say that the radio industry offers   contextually relevant and reliable content delivery with a broad reach across a wide range of devices and listening environments. Deleting radio from cars — terrestrial or satellite-based — tears at the fabric of our social connectedness.

The marginal cost of preserving terrestrial broadcast connections — particularly in the context of radio’s ongoing global digital transition and the resilience of the medium during emergencies — ought to place this particular content reception experience in a non-delete category. Tesla doesn’t appear to share this view and Tesla is not alone. Once again, Silicon Valley is asking us to surrender one thing in exchange for another. Yesterday it was our privacy. Today it is the radio. Tomorrow it will be our freedom.

Roger Lanctot posted this to his blog in early March; it appears with permission.

The post Yesterday Our Privacy, Today Our Radio appeared first on Radio World.

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Comment and Reply Comment Dates Set for Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regarding Recordkeeping Rules on Cable Operator Interests in Video Programming

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The Commission seeks comment on rules requiring cable operators to place records of their attributable interests in video programming and their carriage of such programming on cable systems they own in their online public inspection files

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Entercom Joins in Radio Industry Job Cuts

Radio World - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 15:37

Entercom Communications will eliminate or furlough a “significant” numbers of employees, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“The nation’s No. 2 radio chain, which reaches 170 million listeners, also will temporarily cut employee pay by 10-20% for those earning more than $50,000,” the Inquirer said.

It said CEO David Field will cut his salary 30%, and that bonuses will be eliminated for the first half, as will its 401K match.

Entercom’s headquarters are in Philly, and it owns several radio stations in that market.

The radio industry is reacting to a decline in ad sales commitments in the face of the national health crisis. The paper quoted Field saying, “Better days lie ahead. With the tough but necessary actions we are now taking, we are doing what is required for us to preserve the health of the company and ensure that we are strong when we get to the other side.”

[Related: Beasley Cuts 67 Jobs, Furloughs Others]

The post Entercom Joins in Radio Industry Job Cuts appeared first on Radio World.

Techsurvey 2020 Says Home Stations Leads the Streaming Audio Pack

Radio World - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 13:15

Streaming audio and video are relatively new players in the media ecosphere, but Techsurvey 2020 says AM/FM radio is holding its own against them very well.

Even though radio is not a steaming brand per se, it has been inserted in the Jacobs brand pyramid for comparison. It’s clearly a leader with 90%. Facebook is the next closest competitor with 72%.

It’s no surprise that everything in audio and video streaming is trending upwards, and skewing to a younger audience. The percent who watch streaming video weekly or more has jumped from a total of 62% in TS 2016 to 74% in TS 2020. In the lead is Gen Z with 96%, followed closely by millennials with 93%.

TS 2020 says that just under half of their respondents listen to streaming audio daily, with 50% of the silent generation, and climbing to 77% for Gen Z.

And more good news for radio, TS 2020 says nearly two-thirds of respondents listen to their home station’s stream. That’s way ahead of Pandora, YouTube, Spotify and iHeart Radio.

A key reason they give for listening to AM/FM radio is that it’s free. That is especially important at a time when the survey also suggests that six in ten feel that subscription fees for audio and video fees are a concern.

Fred Jacobs, president of Jacobs Media sees this as a golden opportunity for radio. “We see two forces combining here. First, the coronavirus has increased the already strong interest in local radio and its personalities at a time when most are forced to stay at home, and are probably listening more. Second, many have either lost their jobs, or been without income for some time. When their credit card bills begin to arrive, they may question whether they should, or can afford to pay for several streaming services every month. All of that can work to radio’s advantage.”

[Read: Techsurvey 2020 Tracks Smart Speaker Success]

He adds that some stations have not promoted their streams well in the past, either because they don’t understand how to monetize them, or because they believe it might detract from their ratings numbers. Here’s Jacobs’ to-do list: clean up your stream — in the home it’s the only way many can listen; if you can switch to TLR, do so, it’s a better experience for most stations; test drive your smart speaker commands then heavily promote them and finally think local, it’s the “secret sauce” that none of the other media platforms can provide.

 

The post Techsurvey 2020 Says Home Stations Leads the Streaming Audio Pack appeared first on Radio World.

Alex Roman Named CTO of MediaCo’s NYC Stations

Radio World - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 13:12
Alex Roman

MediaCo Holding has named Alex Roman as the new chief technology officer for New York radio stations WBLS(FM) and “Hot97” WQHT(FM).

MediaCo Holding is a public company owned by investment firm Standard General and Emmis Communications.

[Learn more: Biggest Station Trading Deal in Q3 2019 Was MediaCo Creation]

Roman was named Emmis’ director of integrated technologies in New York in 2011. While working for Emmis, the company said, he led efforts to modernize WQHT, WBLS and WLIB, including creation of digital media production spaces and transitioning to AoIP. Roman was also in charge of the team that rebuilt the Empire State Building transmitter facility and added an auxiliary transmitter site on 4 Times Square.

During his career, Roman also served as chief engineer for WKTU(FM) and as director of engineering for Citadel Broadcasting. He began his engineering career 24 years ago in California.

In the announcement, Emmis Communications and MediaCo Holding President/Chief Operating Officer Patrick Walsh called Roman “invaluable” as the broadcaster moves ahead with the creation of “multichannel digital platforms for WBLS and Hot 97.”

The post Alex Roman Named CTO of MediaCo’s NYC Stations appeared first on Radio World.

Steve Sheley Dies, “a True Icon” in Illinois Radio

Radio World - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 12:13

Steven Lee Sheley died Monday after a lengthy battle with leukemia.

“Steve was a true icon in the southeastern Illinois and southwestern Indiana radio business,” said colleague Bill Shrode.

According to his obituary, for many years Sheley was the morning DJ for WAKO in Lawrenceville, Ill., after having worked an earlier stint there in the evenings. He also did a stint at WYER in the late 1980s.

Sheley started as a newsman for WNOI(FM) in Flora, Ill., in the early 1970s, and entered the broadcasting program at Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, Ill. Among subsequent call letters on his resume were WVJC, WREY(AM) and WAKY.

Steve enjoyed radios, DXing, travel and assisting veterans. Affiliations included Moose, Eagles, and Sons of the American Legion.

A celebration of life will be announced at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to the Lawrence County Cancer Resource Center & Wig Shoppe. Emmons-Macey & Steffey Funeral Home in Lawrenceville, Ill., is in charge of arrangements.

 

The post Steve Sheley Dies, “a True Icon” in Illinois Radio appeared first on Radio World.

Work From Afar With Wheatstone ReMix

Radio World - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 09:38

Working remotely has inspired Wheatstone to release ReMix, a remote mixing application.

ReMix is a Windows PC or tablet app that can access a WheatNet-IP audio network from afar.

According to Wheatstone, ReMix provides an affordable, quick alternative to a physical home studio for remote broadcasting and voicetracking by remotely accessing existing equipment at the station, such as codecs, hybrids, and playout systems.

Wheatstone Director of Sales Jay Tyler said, “ReMix is proving to be a great little application for all our broadcasters who need to get talent up and operating from home quickly and securely.”

The application can be installed on a Windows desktop, laptop or tablet in a home or remote studio or on a station PC that can be accessed by talent remotely through a secure VPN.

ReMix provides a direct user interface to the utility mixers found in the I/O Blades that make up the WheatNet-IP audio network. Each I/O Blade includes two built-in 8 x 2 stereo mixers, the inputs and output busses of which are available as resources on the network. The WheatNet-IP utility mixers are accessible anywhere in the audio network for simple functions such as summing, splitting, and level adjustment, performing crossfades and segues between sources, as well as creating custom mixes or intercom systems.

I/O Blades also include Wheatstone ACI (Automation Control Interface) for third-party control of automation systems and other Wheatstone partners’ gear and can be used for functions such as routing, ducking, panning, logic control, mixing and silence detection.

Info: www.wheatstone.com

The post Work From Afar With Wheatstone ReMix appeared first on Radio World.

Broadcast Pix Shows Visual Radio Package

Radio World - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 09:33

Visual radio system developer Broadcast Pix calls its new RadioPix a voice-automated, integrated visual radio production solution.

The new system combines the company’s Media Aware macros with voice-automation to turn a radio station’s host into a video producer. The package includes two new RoboPix PTZ cameras with 20X zoom and plug-and-play operation. Users plug them into two of the included Lenovo Tiny PCes five NIC ports using Cat-5 cables, connect to the local audio network for automatic triggering and receiving station output and then onto the internet.

Jeff Adams, RadioPix product manager, said, “It’s the behavioral intelligence that makes RadioPix unique. Show hosts don’t usually have time to also produce the video content, so RadioPix automates the production process, keeping it visually appealing.”

He explained, “By detecting microphone activity through the Dante interface, Broadcast Pix’s visually aware macros can be triggered. For example, activity on all mics could trigger a wide shot. Then, there is the ‘boredom’ macro, useful when a guest is speaking for longer than a minute. The shot could pull back, bring up the lower third title graphic, go to a wide shot, and then go back to a close up to keep the output interesting.”

The host can override the behavioral intelligence from optional touch screen panels, MIDI interfaces or even footswitches.

On initial startup, the system is ready to go, but a period of user consultation is included to help create the station’s look and feel. For example, import and position the station ID, choose suitable video clips and graphics elements and finally program the behavioral intelligence.

Broadcast Pix is pegging the price at $15,000.

Info: https://broadcastpix.com.

The post Broadcast Pix Shows Visual Radio Package appeared first on Radio World.

Exploring the Inovonics 674 AM Monitor Receiver

Radio World - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 07:19

As the radio broadcast ecosphere shifts towards streaming and digital delivery, the number of new products for the AM broadcaster seems to be on the decline. That’s why it was a delight when Inovonics unveiled their 674 AM Monitor Receiver in 2019. Part of the INOmini series, the 674 fills the niche for a versatile but inexpensive AM confidence monitor.

This software-defined DSP receiver has many cool features. 

As a global product, it can either tune in 10 kHz increments for the Americas, or 9 kHz increments for Europe. Audio outs are available in analog and digital, each with independent level adjustments. 

The multicolor, backlit LED display continuously shows received signal strength and audio levels. Combined with the jog wheel, this display also facilitates system setup. The 674’s programmable front-panel alarms with rear-panel tallies indicate low or no signal and audio program loss. 

Alarm conditions also cause the display to flash against a red background, a move guaranteed to get your attention. Tweaks and upgrades to the firmware are easily uploaded through the front-panel USB port.

Around back, there’s an F connector for the 50 ohm antenna input as well as terminals for the alarm tallies, including ground, +5 volts, low signal and audio loss. There’s also an AES digital audio output and analog line outputs labeled left and right. 

And no, analog AM stereo is not making a comeback, these are really dual monaural outputs that are adjustable from –15 dBu to +15 dBu. The logic behind the left/right nomenclature is that most studios are wired for stereo, whether the programming is or not. 

Finally, two paralleled coaxial power connectors can take the +12 VDC and daisy-chain it to two additional INOmini devices, useful if the 674 is rack mounted with two companion units.

The front-panel headphone jack will accommodate any stereo phones with a 3.5 mm plug. When the headphones are plugged in, the LCD menu will automatically switch to the headphone volume screen, and you can adjust volume with the knob. Press the knob again and you’re returned to the previous menu. 

Menu screen 6 gives a bargraph presentation of program audio level. The meters are peak-responding with a floating peak-hold function. One-hundred percentcarrier modulation corresponds to 0 dB. 

GETTING THE SIGNAL

As  a practical matter, the 674 can operate with just about any type of antenna. The 50 ohm antenna connector is insulated from the rear panel to create a quasi-balanced configuration. The instructions recommend connecting the shield to an external ground. 

Getting a strong, interference- and noise-free signal can be difficult in some locations, and Inovonics offers as an option the 637-01 passive AM loop antenna, with a figure 8 pattern, which can assist with some of the more challenging AM reception environments. 

Two menu screens determine how the 674 will sound. The standard NRSC truncated 75 µs de-emphasis may be switched in or out. The manual suggests making a decision based on which sounds best to you. A second screen enables selection of  IF bandwidth. Your options are 2, 3, 4 and 6 kHz. These settings mark the –6 dB points. 

Your selection is really a tradeoff between background noise and fidelity, with the 6 kHz setting being as close to high fidelity as you’re going to get. 

The days when you could troubleshoot broadcast equipment and make the repairs yourself are long gone. As with most modern gear, the Inovonics 674 is designed around surface-mount technology and chips with firmware, so the company recommends returning equipment to the factory for repairs. 

Nevertheless, curiosity dictates that it be taken apart just to see what it looks like inside. The board work, sheet metal and paint jobs are all up to Inovonics’ usual high standards.

Our evaluation 674 performed well with a long-wire outdoor antenna. The use of the traditional cold water pipe as an antenna ground turned out to be ill-advised. Smart meters dump large amounts of noise into the ground wiring. A stake driven into the ground outside the window worked much better. 

As expected, local stations could be set for NRSC off and 6 kHz with good fidelity and no noise. The AGC range of the 674 is broad enough to seamlessly handle day/night power reductions and antenna pattern changes. Although not intended for DXing, distant stations can easily be received, and are listenable with NRSC on and reduced bandwidth. Of course, noise from summer electrical storms is always a problem.

While the firmware in the 674 works as expected, other features could make it much better. As it stands, there is no way to store settings for multiple stations. That could make it inconvenient for users who work for a cluster. A preset function would also be useful if you want to do an A-B comparison between your station and the competition for the purpose of setting up audio processing

While the 674 is geared to a global market, the display is only offered in English. A menu selection of languages might make it more user-friendly outside the United States and other English-speaking countries.

Your happiness with the 674’s performance may depend to a large degree on how much thought and planning has been put into its antenna. Back in the day, a frightening number of stations used a short piece of wire and a clip lead as an AM antenna for EBS and EAS boxes, and even for mod monitors. It was never a good idea. 

Today, the proliferation of smart meters, LED and fluorescent lights, computers and switching power supplies all combine to create very high noise levels across the LW, MW and SW frequency bands. An outdoor antenna connected to the 674 via coax is almost mandatory for good reception. 

PRODUCT CAPSULE: Inovonics 674

Monitor Receiver

Thumbs Up

+ Independent audio level controls for analog and digital outputs

+ Programmable front alarms with rear-panel tallies for low signal and audio program loss

+ De-emphasis and IF bandwidth options for best audio quality

Thumbs Down

– English-only display

– No presets or easy to A-B compare stations

Price: MSRP $880

 

Contact: Gary Luhrman at Inovonics at 1-831-458-0552 or visit www.inovonicsbroadcast.com.

The post Exploring the Inovonics 674 AM Monitor Receiver appeared first on Radio World.

DAB+ Lends a Hand in a Time of Crisis

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

The author is president of WorldDAB.

Patrick Hannon

As people around the world are faced with a global pandemic, the full extent of which has yet to be determined, governments are increasingly looking for new ways to keep their citizens informed and out of harm’s way, while enforcing strict stay-at-home regulations.

As one of the oldest communication platforms available, radio has always played a significant role in times of crisis. Today, the role of DAB+ digital radio is more important than ever — keeping citizens informed, and providing some sense of belonging and togetherness to the most vulnerable people who are faced with a lengthy spell of uncertainty and isolation.

HELPING THE MOST VULNERABLE

In this time of crisis, we are seeing more and more ways by which DAB+ digital radio is helping broadcasters address issues such as loneliness, due to long period of social distancing and self-isolation.

A graph highlighting the number of national radio services on air (DAB/FM) in some European countries.

In the United Kingdom, BBC local radio has partnered with manufacturers, retailers and a loneliness charity to offer free DAB radios to the most vulnerable people aged over 70. The campaign has been a huge success, with local radio stations receiving more than 8,000 calls a day from members of the public.

NEW SERVICES

One of the key benefits of DAB+ is that it offers listeners a wider pool of content to choose from — both on a national level and in specific regions. In the U.K., a new DAB+ service broadcasting important information on the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 has just launched on a number of small-scale multiplexes across the country.

Named Health Info Radio, the DAB+ station broadcasts a mixture of updates on COVID-19 symptoms, myths and social isolation rules and guidelines, as well as interviews designed to help listeners through the national lockdown. Produced as a public service in London, the station is already available in a several major cities across the U.K.

Similarly, in Austria’s capital Vienna, DAB+ is being used to broadcast announcement loops with crucial information related to COVID-19. In addition to the announcements that run continuously in German, there are also several information stations on air in English, Turkish and Romanian, as well as an “Emergency Warning Functionality” (EWF) station broadcasting in Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian.

When on air, the EWF station — a special service dedicated to disasters and matters of the utmost importance — can break into the majority of receivers, including radios that are in sleep mode.

In Germany, the commercial radio station Schwarzwald Radio (Blackforest Radio), broadcast nationally on DAB+, has announced the launch of the first nationwide game night on DAB+. Schwarzwald Radio’s aim is to provide some distraction and boost the morale of German citizens who are currently confined to their homes.

CONGESTED NETWORKS

As millions of people remain confined to their homes, telecoms operators are struggling to cope with the surge in internet and mobile phone usage, and the network congestions that come hand in hand with them.

In Britain, the biggest telecoms companies have set aside their rivalries and launched a national campaign to tell the public how to manage this surge with the hope of reducing congestion. DAB+ does not require internet, and as such, helps alleviate some of the pressure building up on telecoms operators as internet usage continues to grow.

DAB+ allows broadcasters to combine classic content with digital diversity, without the need for internet connectivity, freeing up much needed internet bandwidth. More importantly in this time of crisis, it offers a wide range of news, safety guidelines, tailored information and distractions to the population — both nationally and on a regional level — all much needed at this time.

The post DAB+ Lends a Hand in a Time of Crisis appeared first on Radio World.

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Rules Governing the Use of Distributed Transmission System Technologies; Authorizing Permissive Use of the "Next Generation" Broadcast Television Standard

FCC Media Bureau News Items - Wed, 04/01/2020 - 22:00
FCC adopts a NPRM seeking comment on whether to modify the Commission's rules governing the use of distributed transmission systems by broadcast television stations

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