Fourth Quarter 2019 Inflation Adjustment Figures for Cable Operators Using FCC Rate Regulation Form 1240 Now Available
Revision of the Commission's Part 76 Review Procedures; Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative; Revision of the Commission's Program Carriage Rules
The home listening environment has become a hostile place for AM/FM radios. The proliferation of electronic devices such as computers, LED lighting, and especially smart power meters has combined to raise the noise level to the extent that reception is near impossible. That could be part of the reason smart speakers have experienced such explosive growth. Techsurvey 2020 fills in the details, including some opportunities for radio, but also implies there may be a dark cloud in the device’s future.
Their data suggests a close correlation between age and ownership of an AM/FM radio. The silent generation leads with 92%, and that number gradually decreases, ending with 67% for Gen Z. Overall ownership has fallen from 89% in TS 2016 to 81% for TS 2020.
These trends, according to Jacobs data, are almost the reverse for smart speaker ownership. The silent generation owns just 18% of the smart speakers, while millennials own 41%. Gen Z and Gen X are almost tied for second place, with 38 and 37% respectively. Overall ownership has skyrocketed from 11% with TS 2017 to 33% with TS 2020.
Listening to streamed music tops the list of frequent uses for smart speakers; AM/FM radio listening is essentially tied for second. Sadly for radio, data from TS 2020 also suggests that only 38% of smart speaker owners have heard stations promoting the devices.
This comes despite data from Jacobs Media which suggests that radio’s local orientation continues to grow in importance. Fred Jacobs, president of Jacobs Media adds, “While it’s always been true that localism matters, that’s never been more the case than with the coronavirus pandemic we’re facing now. Some broadcasters have really embraced smart speaker technology and promoted it well, while others have their work cut out for them.” He adds that stations who lean into their personalities and really embrace localism may come out ahead of the game when the current crisis has passed.
Despite its meteoric growth, the future is not all bright for smart speakers. Jacobs survey also asked why respondents do not own a smart speaker. “No use for one” led the responses with 37%, and “privacy concerns” was second with 32%.
As Jacobs elaborates, “We started to hear more about privacy concerns with smart speakers in our focus groups, so we added the question in TS 2020. There’s no doubt that the voice activated internet is here to stay, but privacy issues are not going to go away. It’s something that Amazon, Google and the rest of the smart speaker manufacturers will need to come forward and address.”
Beasley Media Group is among the U.S. radio companies cutting jobs and reducing salaries in the face of the business downturn caused by the coronavirus health crisis.
Beasley made cuts Tuesday. Chief Communications Officer Heidi Raphael confirmed in an emailed statement: “Our company, like other broadcasters and our clients, is being directly impacted by the recent unanticipated economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like so many others in our industry, we must adjust to the new and unforeseeable circumstances we now face.”
She said Beasley eliminated 67 positions, and furloughed 18 full-time employees and several part-timers. She did not identify the positions eliminated; RW believes they included about a half-dozen engineers.
The company also reduced salaries for full-time employees by 10% for the second quarter, unless prevented by contractual obligations. CEO Caroline Beasley is taking a 20% reduction. It reduced the hours for full-time hourly employees to 36 hours.
“We anticipate bringing back all furloughed employees at the end of the second quarter or sooner if circumstances permit,” Raphael said.
According to AllAccess and other trade publications, iHeartMedia this week also instituted furloughs and reductions in executive pay.
Ernie Nearman is a veteran broadcast engineer who has been practicing in Honolulu for decades. Like any contract engineer, Ernie sometimes has to be in two places at once, and believe it or not, he’s figured a way to do just that.
Ernie uses strategically-placed IP cameras at his sites to give him “remote” eyes to see what’s going on. He acknowledges that these IP cameras are not cheap, but if you buy the style that provides pan, tilt and zoom features, the camera does a pretty good job of letting you know what’s going on before you arrive at the site.Fig. 2: By selecting a camera with pan and tilt functions, the camera can zoom in to a specific piece of equipment, like this transmitter fault panel.
At one site, the camera is mounted on conduit so it normally faces the door (Fig. 1). Anyone entering the site can be identified. However, with the built-in mechanical adjustments, Ernie can remotely turn the camera to view the faults on a transmitter, as seen in Fig. 2 or point the camera in another direction to check the room temperature and Nitrogen pressure gauges (Fig. 3).Fig. 3: Pan in another direction to check the room temperature and N2 pressures.
After a storm, wouldn’t it be nice to know the surge suppressor took a hit before arriving at the transmitter site? Fig. 4 shows that information. These little snapshots may not seem important, but when you are handling a number of contract clients, IP cameras can help you perform triage.Fig. 4: How about checking your Surge Suppression status, before arriving at the site?
If, for example, a station goes down and you see that the fault can be corrected remotely, your time can be spent on bigger issues. Ernie says this benefit is especially appreciated when a storm rolls through, taking several of his contract clients off the air at the same time. These IP cameras permit engineers to work smarter and more efficiently.Fig. 5: The compact camera fits in the palm of your hand, making mounting a breeze.
Ernie chose the Amcrest IP Camera, Model IP4M, in Fig. 5. It’s not the cheapest but its features include Ultra-HD resolution, remote viewing, two-way audio and night vision. It uses power over the Ethernet.Fig. 6: Compile a screen to show both inside and outside the transmitter site.
Yes, you can find less expensive versions, but buying cheap junk probably won’t give you the features you need. Consider this a diagnostic tool, so don’t fall for the $20 wonders — you’ll be disappointed.
You can find out more by Googling “Amcrest IP cameras” or searching for them on Amazon.***
Have you signed up for the SBE Member Plus membership tier? When you do, you’ll have access to all of the SBE webinars. These broadcasting webinars provide online training in a variety of broadcast engineering topics. Head to www.sbe.org for more information.
April 1 is here. With that in mind, Newman-Kees’ Frank Hertel sent in some tips for using the latest release of Sonus Precarious Audio Software.
He writes that many engineers have yet to experience Sonus Precarious and its quirks. As an experienced user, Frank thought it would be useful to share some of the things that you need to be aware of when considering Sonus Precarious.
- If you download the free version, after three months, you will be required to purchase and install a dedicated Sonus Precarious hard drive to save your work.
- When deleting elements of your work, all mouse buttons and the scroll wheel must be used in reverse order. They provide this as an extra safety feature for jocks, to keep them from accidentally deleting elements of their work.
- All work is saved in the new Sonus Precarious file format. To distribute your recorded work to others, you must attach a document that has a ciphered phrase. That ciphered phrase must be decoded and entered to unlock the recording for playback.
- Sonus Precarious offers a user-selectable series of new bitrates, to enhance the sound of the recorded work. This gives you the sound quality that relates to the year of audio quality development. For example: one of the bitrates is called “64÷8,” and it actually enhances recordings to sound like 1941.
- Be aware that the manual is written in 64-point “Baked Alaska Script” font. They did this because, they explain, “It’s pretty!”
Have a great April 1.
John Bisset has spent over 50 years in the broadcasting industry and is still learning. He handles western U.S. radio sales for the Telos Alliance. He holds CPBE certification with the Society of Broadcast Engineers and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.
The author is communications manager for Radiodays Europe.
COPENHAGEN — Have you seen the YouTube clip of two Glaswegians with strong Scottish accents trying to work the voice controls in a lift? Or the lady sitting in a mid-range car trying to find a radio station using the voice controls, her accent is very strong and she calls the stations by their abbreviated names.Rosie Smith
Those are two, rather old, examples of where voice control doesn’t work. The problems of voice control are well known, but with the rise of the smart speaker the future is most surely voice-controlled so how does your station work with the voice? Can listeners find you? Or is your name and frequency too difficult to find on a voice-controlled device or in a device-controlled system in the car?
Some stations are working on their smart speaker future and with the major smart speaker manufacturers to try and ensure that no matter the listener’s accent, the many ways the station is named (e.g. name/frequency/abbreviation), the speaker gets to the right place and you don’t lose listeners.
The sound of someone’s voice needs to be understood and, radio stations need to do more work to ensure they are the first on the list when “Alexa play…,” is uttered.
The revolution is happening or has happened depending on whom you talk to in terms of the sound of podcasting, “800,000 valid podcasts are now available in Apple Podcasts.”
In addition, the explosion of the podcast market continues with new players entering, new forms of production and a media truly open to all with a microphone and the ability to stand the heat of sitting under a duvet while recording their podcast (production method suggest by “Beef and Dairy Network Podcast” Ben Partridge, RDE Podcast Day 2019) — though apparently kids tents with a duvet over the top works just as well.
The sound of short, home produced podcasts though, like the early days of YouTube videos, are now moving on. With more production houses entering the market the sound of podcasts are becoming more professional, more stylized and may be losing some of the previously and joyously bad production which marked out podcasts in the early days.
That’s not to say that there still aren’t a lot of people out there desperate to know which microphone to use? What makes a podcast sound like a winner is becoming the Holy Grail: How do you make your podcast stand out in a market place where many new podcasts are launched daily?
The sound of the radio in terms of diversity and equality remains an area that needs to be tackled head on in all countries. More stations need more female voices and those from multicultural backgrounds. As local communities diversify so too must radio, bringing a wealth of opinions, experiences and familiarity to their listeners.
If the “woke” generation is the audience of tomorrow, then radio needs to appeal to them and bring the sound of their generation to radio. Podcasts in this respect cater to this demographic bringing with them the multisound world that should be the goal of all stations.
What is the next big thing for sound? In every space the sound you hear is a key part of the experience. But how do you deliver that sound? Will it be on 5G in the future? In the United Kingdom, mobile network operator and internet service provider, EE, has 5G coverage in over 50 towns at the end of 2019; in the United States Verizon 5G has gone live in parts of 31 cities; and in Australia Telestra covered 10 major cities by the end of 2019, according to TechRadar.com. A similar story in many other markets, 5G is coming to listeners and quickly.
Broadcasters are eagerly exploring how they can deliver more on the mobile networks but the issue of a “gate keeper” for your station’s sound is once again being discussed. Also, the question arises: Will listeners pay for radio streaming?
In a recent study by Imperial College London, researchers found “the evolution of modern culture, including pop music, is just as slow as biological evolution.” What do changing tastes mean for music stations? If smart speakers are outselling traditional radio devices what does that mean for radio? If the car of the future is autonomous what will radio sound like?
These are just some of the questions facing radio today. Making “sound” decisions for a station is the preoccupation for every CEO, head of radio and program director. Competition for the ear is growing, though radio still remains in a strong position, how do you navigate this new world of sound?
Sound ideas and sound decisions on all platforms, across all innovations in technology are paramount. Radiodays Europe in Lisbon, now slated for December, will address these issues with examples from radio stations worldwide with a view to ensuring the sound of radio continues to hit the right note.
This free resource is part of Radio World’s “Spring Show @ Home” initiative, helping equipment buyers and sellers keep in touch in an April without an NAB Show.
In the 21st century, radio is enduring, engaging and evolving. So too are the media companies that create all that great content. And so are the manufacturers that make the technologies that are the backbone of our great industry.
The guide is intended to give you a sampling of new offerings that you would have seen if you’d attended the show. It includes ads and Product Previews from our sponsors about technologies they are introducing or highlighting this spring. Also, you’ll find “Exhibitor” listings based on the material that companies had sent us shortly before the physical convention was cancelled.
Thank you for being part of this great industry and of the Radio World community.Read the ebook here.
Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields and Reassessment of FCC Radiofrequency Exposure Limits and Policies
Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields and Reassessment of FCC Radiofrequency Exposure Limits and Policies
FCC Seeks Comment On Proposed Change To Distributed Transmission System Rules To Support Use Of Next Generation TV Broadcast Standard
Wyoming Public Media is among the radio organizations building new pathways and processes for broadcasting from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paul Montoya is director of engineering for WPM, which is part of the University of Wyoming and located in Laramie. It operates 45 transmission facilities; WPR channels covers 90% of the state.
Radio World: I’m told you’ve been doing some live shifts from home yourself. What technologies and products are you using and how do the pieces plug together?Fig. 1: Control Room Zetta screen via secure VPN
Paul Montoya: This is something we have been working on for the last year, primarily for remote broadcasts. The goal has been to control the equipment back at the studio as if you were sitting in front of it. In the past, the most we could do is have someone bring up the remote location on the control room console, then fire “next event” closures when needed to play underwriters announcements, promos or other elements.
So to do this properly you really needed two screens at the remote location — one to remotely control the mixing console at the studio and the other to fully control the automation system. We use a Telos Axia Element console at the studio. For automation we use the RCS Zetta system. At our studios we use the Raritan Dominion KX III KVM to control workstations in all of our studios. This is an IP-based system so devices can be accessed via web browser.
So, to put everything together we first access the Control Room Zetta screen via secure VPN remotely on one screen. We now have a full-function version of the same screen an operator would be using in the studio (Fig. 1). Now we need some way to control the levels, inputs and channel on-off functions of the console.Fig. 2: Telos SoftSurface
Telos Axia makes a piece of software called SoftSurface that accesses remote control of any LiveWire-based Fusion or Element console in a graphical format (Fig. 2). With this software on my second screen I can now control any function on the studio console from a computer on the LiveWire VLAN. Because I don’t want to extend my AoIP VLAN out of the studio, I run SoftSurface on another computer connected to the LiveWire VLAN. I can then access this computer through the secure VPN tunnel (or TeamViewer or GoToAssist).Fig. 3: Comrex BRIC
The final element is a Comrex BRIC for getting my audio back to the studio console (Fig. 3). Now any audio at my remote location can be put on the air. In the case of the studio in my home this gives me access to a CD player and turntable. Now I can pretty well do anything that I could as if I was standing in the studio.
We always been prepared to use a setup like this for a campus emergency such as an “active shooter” situation. Never did we think it could also be used for a worldwide pandemic.
RW: What has the impact of the crisis been on air talent and other staff?
Montoya: We have four audio channels that we deliver. WPR Main (NPR, News and Information), Classical Wyoming, Wyoming Sounds (AAA Music) and Jazz Wyoming. Classical and Jazz have been no problem as they are satellite-delivered formats. Wyoming Sounds has gone 90% voice track with announcers being able to voice-track easily through the Zetta2Go interface that can be accessed through secure VPN. We have been able to do remote programming for live segments through the process I explained earlier.
The WPR Main Channel has been our biggest challenge because of the varied and ever-changing elements of the format, including White House press conferences that come at a variety of times and almost never seem to start on time. Between accessing the Zetta automation system remotely through our secure VPN and changing Axia Livewire audio routing remotely, we have been able to keep up with most functions remotely and safely. “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” in the afternoons are still being hosted live, however we have made plans to host these shows remotely and still have a live feel to the programs.
Fortunately these two programs have fixed clocks and timed breaks so filling these elements remotely isn’t too terribly difficult. The host can record their local newscasts, weather and other timed show elements remotely. These can then be uploaded via secure VPN to an mapped ingest folder for our automation system. Then working in cooperation with our programming and traffic people these can be placed remotely into the proper location in the log. We have not had to try this yet, but it should work.
Reporters have been producing their stories remotely then dropping their stories into “Shared Audio” folders at the studio via secure VPN. Staff meetings are being conducted weekly using Zoom. We do “audio only” Zoom sessions as some people call in by phone. We haven’t found video to be necessary. So far this has worked quite well.
RW: What is the strategy of the WPM technology team to react to the coronavirus, as far as its overall operational and technical processes are concerned?
Montoya: We had a pretty good idea that COVID-19 virus could affect our operation about late February. We had received a copy of a plan put together by Northern California Public Radio that seemed to be similar to the plan we knew we would need. Working with our General Manager Christina Kuzmych, our program director and our news director, I was able to put together a plan that should hopefully get us through this crisis.
The plan consisted of three stages. Essentially Stage 1 was a readiness stage that took preventive measures to keep areas clean. Stage 2 included non-essential people working from home. The only people in studio would be live on-air personnel. Stage 3 would include all personnel working from home.
RW: How “virtual” can your operation get, and how?
Montoya: The plan is that by Stage 3 we would be 100% virtual with little knowledge by the general public that we were operating any less effectively. We have taken the attitude that we are an essential lifeline of information to the Wyoming public during a time of crisis. So far we have not had to operate at a Stage 3 level but I feel that we could.
RW: Any other specific technical obstacles have you encountered?
Montoya: Much of what we are doing, absolutely could not be done just a few years ago. A secure VPN was important. Access to our office VLAN for sharing and exchanging information was very important. Total remote control and access to our automation system was also important. The icing on the cake was remote control of the main mixing console. Access to these systems was very important, but we needed to accomplish this in a secure fashion.
RW: What lessons can other engineers and technical managers learn from what you’ve been doing?
Montoya: Preparing for any crisis is important to station operations. I’ve heard it said by other broadcast engineers that by simply looking around your plant (including transmitter sites) and just trying to imagine what can be done to stay on the air in a variety of emergencies is the first place to start. Just by stepping back and asking yourself, “If my studio was swallowed up by an earthquake, is there any way to stay on the air?”
Sharing your ideas with other station department leaders and general manager to make sure everyone is on board with any emergency is the final element in being prepared for any emergency. You also have to realize that it is almost impossible to plan for every situation and you may just have to “MacGyver” things in some situations. They used to call this a “can do” attitude. Most engineers are quite skilled at this.
RW: Do you think these infrastructure changes will be permanent in any way?
Montoya: I would say that almost everything done during this crisis will stay in place. There is always another crisis looming on the horizon. We may collect up all the extra laptops we have distributed to staff members, but we will hang onto them to keep ready.
We’re looking to tell your story about solving radio technical challenges during the coronavirus crisis. Email us with your story idea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital audio workstation software developer Tracktion Software has launched Waveform Free, a new version of its professional flagship DAW that is free to all music creators.
The new DAW is released with no restrictions, offering unlimited track count, the ability to add as many plug-ins as the user wants, and a sizable feature set. The new DAW is suitable for all three major desktop operation systems; Windows, OSX and Linux as well as the Raspberry Pi.
It is compatible with current-day expressive instruments and also supports MPE. Waveform Free includes many of Tracktion’s recent offerings and features, such as the MIDI Pattern Generator to create synchronized melodies, chord progressions, bass lines and more, the 40SC Virtual Synthesizer and Micro Drum Sampler.
The DAW is supported with a dozens of tutorial videos as well numerous templates such as EDM production; band recording and mixing; location recording for churches, schools and others; and more.