It is the Thanksgiving holiday week, including Giving Tuesday, the biggest day for nonprofits in the United States. It is also the season we take time with our families, in however we define them, and give thanks for all we have received during the year.
Surely, 2019 has been a year of much commotion. National scandals, local elections and the personal triumphs and tribulations in our daily lives are part of our memories. Yet the end of November is that time when each of us looks beyond the troubling times to embrace the things that make our lives rich and fulfilling.
For me, loved ones, friends and family are endlessly appreciated each day. I’m thankful many of those individuals have come through various physical and emotional difficulties this year, and come out even better, all told.
I am also thankful for community radio and my local nonprofit organizations.
Why should we be grateful for nonprofit organizations in our communities? I’m partial to Vu Le’s reflections on the importance of local nonprofits. “I often say that [a] nonprofit is like air, whereas other sectors are like food,” he writes. “People can see food, can taste it, so they value it and take pictures of it and put it on Instagram. The work that you do is often invisible, so most people do not see it, even as they benefit from it.”
Indeed, we sometimes overlook the many local nonprofits that beautify and fortify our cities and towns. Yet they’re still there, doing good works we appreciate. They educate our children, help hungry people, find homes for dogs and cats needing new families, clean up our parks, and countless other good works we sometimes never notice. They make us proud to live where we do, and ask little in return.
Like all nonprofits, noncommercial radio stations serve a vital educational and civic purpose. While our endeavors are more outward facing and thus more observable, radio too is almost invisible. Nevertheless, we serve our communities proudly and with empathy.
Radio is so much a part of our lives that we almost take it for granted. It is the soundtrack for our roadtrips. It is part of our happy childhood memories of being driven to our first day of school. Radio is there for those mornings and evenings we will never forget, even when we wish we could. Look no farther than the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s public collection of recordings for a glance at the country’s time capsule. But the funny part? Radio is something we may just not notice, and yet it is there.
Community radio stations are something to be thankful for because they focus on radio as a medium with meaning. With missions devoted to championing music discovery, offering a gathering place for locals to share a space together, or serving as a broadcast platform for arts, culture and news, stations are devoted to public service first. In the advent of news deserts, community radio fills a vacuum in many communities. And, while you think about the many wonderful nonprofit organizations in your city, consider that community radio is the only nonprofit dedicated to broadcasting their efforts, in essence amplifying valued missions far beyond the walls of those beloved institutions.
Where else but on community radio and college radio is the experimental, iconoclastic spirit still alive and well in broadcast media? Who other than community radio station DJs are keeping alight the flame of freeform, courageous radio? This call-back to our imaginations and most rebellious selves may be one of the best reasons to be thankful for community radio.
While we take the time to appreciate our blessings, let us all give praise to the many community radio and college radio DJs, volunteers, staff members, donors and founders. Our nation owes them all a tip of the hat. A donation would be nice as well.
The post Community Broadcaster: Be Thankful for Community Radio appeared first on Radio World.
The author was director of engineering at Drake-Chenault Enterprises Inc. from 1974–1989.
A recent Tom Vernon article (“The Time Has Come to Talk of Many Things, of Reels and Carts and Carousels, and Automation Things,” Oct. 23, 2019) touched on the history of automation. At the invitation of Radio World, I’d like to share thoughts about my own experiences that readers may find interesting.
Drake-Chenault Enterprises was a successful producer of music formats for automation, with about 300 clients stations across the country. The production of music programming tapes for automated radio stations at Drake-Chenault evolved into a highly regimented process that produced a polished, consistent product week after week, month after month. A typical automated broadcast station could be airing tapes that were anywhere from one week to one year old. There needed to be absolute consistency in programming, studio engineering and tape duplication in order for the final product to sound seamless on the air.Terry Tretta in Studio E.
In 1974, Drake-Chenault produced music tapes for several formats: XT-40 (Top-40), Hit Parade (AC), Solid Gold and Classic Gold (Oldies) and Great American Country. There were two “house announcers” who did the voicing for these formats. Billy Moore voiced XT-40, Hit Parade, Solid Gold and Classic Gold formats; Bob Kingsley voiced Great American Country. Once a week, Billy and Bob would come to the studios and record the voice tracks (VTs) for all the music reels to be produced that week. The music librarian would pull the LPs and 45s that were needed for each reel. The studio engineers would then mix the music from records with the VT tape to produce a finished master reel. The masters were recorded using 1-mil tape, so we got up to 90 minutes, usually 20–25 songs, on a 10-inch reel.ONE SECOND EARLY
Broadcast automation equipment of the ’60s and ’70s was usually limited to “easy listening” music formats, because the hardware of the era wasn’t capable of executing a tight, fast-paced pop music format. With easy listening, it was OK if there was some silence between songs; not so with Top-40! Top-40 needed tight segues, jingles, spots, time announce, weather and other elements in rapid succession. The problem was how to make an automation system run tight and quick?
The answer was developed by D-C: We put the 25 Hz “cue” tones at the end of each song one second early, so the automation equipment had a “one-second head start.” This would compensate for the start-up delay of the reel-to-reel playback decks, and yield tight segues without any “wow-in.”Closeup of a three-track mastering recorder.
The next challenge was to figure out how to put those inaudible 25 Hz tones at the end of each song, but precisely one second early. The answer will explain why we used multitrack mastering decks in the D-C studios.
Master tapes were recorded at 7.5 inches per second on custom three-track recorders. At the end of each song on the tape, a cue tone was recorded on a separate track. However, it wasn’t the usual 25 Hz cue tone and it wasn’t recorded one second early. It was a 1 kHz tone that was recorded in “real time,” i.e., at the logical segue point for the song, not one second early.[Read more great articles from the Nov. 20 issue of Radio World]
Because this tone was audible (through a “cue” speaker) and was on a separate track, it was easy for the studio engineer to place it at the proper segue point, tight against the end of the song. The cue tone could be re-recorded as necessary until it’s placement was appropriate to the song ending. The one-second advance would happen when the master tape was duplicated.Custom three-track heads used on mastering recorders.
Drake-Chenault’s standards for technical quality were absolute, and our studio engineers were perfectionists. We carefully watched levels, double-checked cue tone placement, fixed fades and manually edited out tics and pops! The studio staff would spend hours with a razor blade removing tics, pops and other noises that were common on vinyl records. LP tracks were often used (after editing, to match the 45 “hit” version) because the quality of LP vinyl was usually superior to the poly-plastic used to press 45 rpm singles.
To ensure technical consistency, a full set of Level, EQ and head alignment tones were recorded at the head and tail of each master tape. We went to great lengths to be sure that there was no phase error in the audio, which would cause a degraded signal when a stereo station was heard on a mono receiver. All audio was checked using a vectorscope to ascertain mono-compatibility. We would often discover phase error in 45s and LPs; it was corrected before transferring the audio to a master tape. The turntables were equipped with Shure V15 cartridges and Marantz “audiophile” preamps. The audio path was clean and direct, without any “house EQ” or level compression. Voice tracks were recorded using Shure SM7 microphones.DUPLICATION
Once a master tape was produced, we made second-generation copies that were shipped to our client stations.Dan Musselman loads the Tape Duplicating System.
Tape duplication was done in-house, using 25 Technics RS1500 two-track recorders. The system ran “tails-out” so the audio was actually being recorded in reverse. A three-track master deck was used to play the master tape, which had left, right and cue channels. When the system sensed a 1 kHz cue tone on the master tape, it triggered the 25 Hz tone, which was injected into the left channel audio. When the 1 kHz master cue ended, the 25 Hz tone generator would stay on for one additional second, hence “stretching” the 25 Hz cue tone so it started exactly one second before the 1 kHz cue on the master. This one-second pre-roll was controlled electronically, so it was exact and consistent.
The duplicating system produced copies that were flat to 15 kHz, and typically had less than 30 degrees of phase error at 10 kHz. To achieve this level of quality, each “slave” recorder was hand-aligned to each new “pancake” of tape before the duplication process was started. The duplicating engineer would align the record head of each recorder for zero phase error. Then the master tape would be started and the duplication process would begin. After duplication, each tape copy’s alignment tones were checked on a special “QC” deck. We again verified level, stereo balance, EQ and phase (head alignment) before the tape was shipped.
Drake-Chenault produced about 1,000 music format reels each week. In the 15 years I was there, we never missed a deadline!
Russian broadcasters took a deep dive into the realm of digital radio with a conference, “Digital Broadcasting Standard DRM: Results of the Experimental Zone and Development Prospects in the Russian Federation,” held in St. Petersburg on Nov. 18.
The conference featured a number of speakers who provided insights into where digital radio stands in Russia.Victor Demyanovich Goreglyad is deputy director general of RTRS.
Viktor Demyanovich Goreglyda, deputy director general of RTRS, gave a presentation about the prospects of Digital Radio Mondiale in Russia, which he believes would work as the technology to switch the FM band to digital broadcasting. He specifically highlighted that using DRM will not created new digital channels while also allowing for the transmission of additional information.
RFmondial’s Albert Vaal had two reports that he gave to the conference, the first focused on reviewing the DRM standard and the second talked about the experiences other countries had in implementing the standard, like India and China.
Other speakers at the conference included Sergey Sokolov of Digital Systems LLC talking about the plan for transmitting part of the DRM Simulcast complex; Sergey Myshyanov from St. Petersburg State University of Telecommunications shared the results from Russia’s experimental zone; Vasily Gerasimov of GPM Radio explained additional services are available with digital radio; and sound engineer Densi Davydov talked about the different approaches to multiband dynamic sound processing for analog and digital broadcasting.
In addition, Professor Alekseevich Kovalgin of SPbSUT shared info on sound data compression algorithms for digital broadcasting systems; Oleg Guminsky, a student at the school raised issue of market availability of DRM receivers; Igor Hvorvo, associate professor at ITMO University touched on regulatory support for digital broadcasting.
The conference also offered two demonstrations of digital radio broadcasting that compared the sound of FM and DRM formats.
The conference was organized by FSUE Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network, Digital Systems LLC and St. Petersburg State University of Telecommunications.
On this week’s show, we take a trip back to the early 20th century to learn about the recording industry’s intertwined relationship with radio and music culture. Our guest is Kyle Barnett, Associate Professor of Media Studies in the Department of Communication at Bellarmine University.
Barnett’s forthcoming book, Record Cultures: The Transformation of the U.S. Recording Industry, looks at the early history of the recording industry in the United States. On the episode, Barnett shares tidbits from his research and reminds us of the complexity of the media landscape, calling for scholars to not neglect exploring how industries are interconnected. Along the way, we learn about phonograph parlors, the differences between public and private listening, and why some record labels asked their artists to stay off the radio.Show Notes:
- Record Cultures: The Transformation of the U.S. Recording Industry
- Kyle Barnett on Twitter
- Radio Survivor Podcast #186: African-American Preachers on Wax
- Radio Preservation Task Force
The post Podcast #221 – The Intertwined History of the Radio and Recording Industries appeared first on Radio Survivor.
John Schneider’s epic Radio Historian’s calendars are always a treat for radio aficionados.
His latest, the Radio Historian’s 2020 Calendar, is no exception. Perhaps the best ever, it is packed with colorized black and white photos of radio facilities, mostly studios and mostly pictures taken in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Highlights include the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, Orson Welles and Burns & Allen.
Also outstanding are facility pictures of Powel Crosley’s WLW and Edwin Armstrong’s New Jersey FM test site.
Not to be missed and it makes a great Christmas gift (assuming the intended hasn’t already beaten you to it!).
WRSU(FM) 88.7 FM is the student voice of Rutgers University, with studios on the main campus in New Brunswick, N.J. The station broadcasts from the Student Center as it has done since 1969.
Over those 50 years, WRSU navigated the challenges inherent in using analog equipment that often was near the end of its life cycle. But originating a broadcast schedule that includes three daily newscasts, music shows, live performance programs and more than 150 local and remote sports broadcasts a year was difficult under any circumstances; and the station felt that its product needed more focus on its audio luster.
Mike Pavlichko is the broadcast administrator and advisor for WRSU. “Our main studio was done [rebuilt] 10 years ago, but nothing else had really been touched in 30 years,” he said.Program Director Kelly Brecker, Music Director Bennett Rosner, DJ Blake Lew-Merwin, GM Justin Sontupe, Jake Ostrove (sports) from left, on the night of the first broadcast from the new FM studio. Station Advisor Mike Pavlichko said, “We played a legal ID followed by ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,’ which also was the first song that we played when WRSU switched from carrier current AM to FM in 1974, followed by ‘Turn Your Radio On’ by The Suburbs.”
There were three 2-inch conduits interconnecting the studios; the conduits were full of wires, many of which weren’t connected to anything after years of patches upon patches being applied to equipment to keep the station on the air.
Nick Straka’s company NS Engineering had done projects for WRSU including a news production studio and a transmitter upgrade; he was called in to help plan what would come next. Straka is an SAS field applications and sales engineer, with much of his work done in the greater New York City area (there are large SAS installations at iHeart NYC, New York Public Radio, CBS News Radio, Fox News Radio and ESPN). Straka also heads broadcast integration company DNAV, along with Daniel Hyatt.
“The more we went through the planning phase, said Straka, “the more it became obvious to put the station on auto-pilot and gut everything out.”MASHED AND SMASHED The Core64 connects WRSU’s Air, Production and News studios through a single length of Cat-6 cabling. The Core64 allows operators and engineers to fine tune program source selection and intercom/talkback choices on the fly.
Photo by Nick Straka
For two and a half months over the summer break in 2019, the station played recorded programs on the air while every bit of legacy analog wiring between the three studios was removed. WRSU transitioned from an analog plant with some digital sources, to an AoIP plant with some analog sources.
At the beginning, they found that legacy wiring was unlabeled, and used nonstandard connections.
“We found daisy chained distribution amps; each (audio) bus had a different AGC looped on it. By the time the audio got to the Orban Optimod 8600 at the transmitter, it had been mashed and smashed,” Straka said.
After the removal of analog equipment and installation of the AoIP architecture, all audio between the studios (newsroom, production and air) is now carried on one Cat-6 cable in one conduit.Music Director Bennett Rosner sits at the SAS iSL 28.3 console in the WRSU air studio, with General Manager Justin Sontupe, left, and news anchor Ryan Margolis during the “R U Awake” morning show.
The heart of WRSU’s facility is an SAS Core64 Audio Engine. Straka says the Core64 provides dependable flexibility and expandability for future expansion (up to 512 by 512 channels). “If more AES67/Dante capacity is needed, it’s easy to slide in another card in the frame,” he said.[Read: John Storyk on Podcast Studio Design]
When WRSU wanted to add a second preparation-and-playback personal computer in the air studio for the morning show, the installation was no more complex than downloading a driver for the PC and connecting that PC to the SAS crosspoint map. That process took two minutes.The WRSU Air Studio was reconfigured when the legacy analog equipment, wiring and technical racks were removed. Custom furniture by Studio Technology and increased space allow guests and operator to face each other in the studio.
Photo by Paul Kaminski
In the Main and Production studios, SAS 28.3 iSL consoles (bearing the Rutgers scarlet color) are installed in custom furniture from Studio Technology. Each of those consoles are connected to SAS Rio Bravo IP engines. All of the 24 main sources have their own faders, which makes training and operation easier for WRSU’s students and community volunteers.[Read other great articles from the Nov. 20 issue of Radio World]
Now any audio source in the plant can be called up for broadcast, and the consoles can be reconfigured quickly to meet programming requirements.
For more flexibility, Henry Engineering Multiports are installed in each studio, so programmers can connect their audio sources from personal music collections, and play those sources through the console. Denon DN-C635 CD players were recycled from the previous installation.
The 50-year-old space in the Student Center is concrete block, so moving walls to facilitate the installation wasn’t possible. Technical equipment was installed in the main studio. Once that equipment was relocated, Straka says Studio Technology took custom measurements to design and build an air studio that, for the first time, allowed guests to sit across from the hosts.
General Manager Justin Sontupe said, “We are kind of the college radio sound. If you go on Spotify, you can find different playlists, top 40, etc. Here, we have some of the not-as-popular music, not as mainstream. What you hear on 88.7, you’re not going to hear elsewhere.” To help Sontupe and the music department support that content, WRSU installed an RCS Zetta automation system with RCS Gselector music scheduling software.RCS Zetta automation and RCS GSelector training in the production room at WRSU. The automation and software gives the music programmers flexibility in scheduling, and helps maintain the station sound in certain dayparts.
Photo by Paul Kaminski
Automation is used to run overnights and assist with live programming. The RCS system is being loaded with a library of tens of thousands of songs to reduce the reliance on CD playback, or worse, streaming a song from YouTube. Once the library is in place, students will learn voice tracking to fill the overnight hours.
Connections to the outside world are made with Comrex Access and Access NX codecs, which get a workout during football and basketball seasons. Telephone connections are made through a Comrex STAC phone system.[QMusic and Joe Inaugurate New Studios]
The audio from the Student Center Studios feeds an STL consisting of a Harris Intraplex T1 as the main feed with Comrex BricLink as the backup. The STL feeds Orban Optimod 8600 processing. From there, WRSU uses two GatesAir FAX3 transmitters (main and standby) with ERP of 1,400 watts from a 190-foot tower on Rutgers property off Route 1. The station broadcasts from its original tower, three-bay antenna and concrete block building dating from its FM sign-on in 1971.
The cost for the upgrades for WRSU were estimated to be around $250,000.With one of these Henry Engineering Multiport Audio Interfaces in both the Main and Production studios, programmers of specialty shows can bring their own music on a jump drive or laptop. The bi-directional interface makes it easy to aircheck as well.
Photo by Paul Kaminski
The flexibility, digital wizardry and remodeling that went into this rebuild do more than future-proof the facility; they give the students an idea of what they may face in the broadcast environment off campus.
“That’s what we want to give them, the real-world experience. They’re going to go out and they’re going to have a leg up for that internship. They’re going to know how to use an automation system and audio over IP.”Equipment Sampler
SAS Core64 Audio Engine
SAS iSL 28.3 Consoles (Main and Production)
SAS iSL 12.2 Console (Newsbooth)
SAS Rio Bravo IP engines (Main, Production and Newsbooth)
Pioneer PLX 500 Turntables
Henry Engineering Multiport
Yellowtec Mika! Mic and monitor arms
Comrex Access and Access NX IP codecs
Comrex STAC studio phone system
RCS Zetta Automation
RCS GSelector music scheduling software
iMedia Logger by Win-OMT
Studio furniture by Studio Technology
Acoustic Treatment by Sound Seal
Paul Kaminski, CBT, has been a Radio World contributor since 1997. Twitter: @msrpk_com Facebook: PKaminski2468.
MADISON, Wis. — It’s undeniable that streaming radio, something that has been around for quite a while, is steadily becoming more and more important in our daily lives. Especially when you consider the huge influx of smartphones and smart speakers in the market over the past five years.
Until recently, it has required quite an investment to stream your radio station online, both in terms of equipment and in the time it takes to configure the server properly. Let’s face it, streaming can be a bit of a pain to get going for engineers of any skill level, even with the most basic setup possible.
When we started discussing how to improve our streaming configuration at Wisconsin Public Radio, I was tasked with finding an easy-to-use, robust and reliable solution that would integrate with our new audio over IP installation. I had considered using a custom-built system with custom software to run the stream, but the problem with custom solutions is that 90% of the time they are not easy to use and not as reliable as they need to be. Ruling out custom solutions led me on the search for a mysterious box that did it all, one that had the reliability, ease of use and tight integration with our AoIP system we were looking for.
This search ended with the Z/IPStream R/2 from The Telos Alliance, the streaming encoder that satisfied all of the requirements and more. The R/2 allows us to reliably integrate directly with our AoIP network with a simple web interface while leaving the option open for analog or AES inputs.[Read: How to Process Audio for Streaming, Properly]
There were several things that set the Z/IPStream out from the competition. Most notably is the option to have Omnia.9 processing built into the box, letting you really get full control of your station’s streaming sound. If you don’t need the full power of the Omnia.9, there is an Omnia-based three-band processor available in the box as well.
Another factor that sets it apart is the ability to run multiple different stream-encoding settings with the same audio source with multiple different output types like Icecast, SHOUTcast or RTMP servers without even having to think about if you are running the correct software. I can honestly say the R/2 lets me sleep better at night. I know that if we need to change streaming providers, all I have to do is set up the stream in the easy-to-use web interface, and we will be up and running in minutes rather than hours or days if we had to configure or build a new streaming box just to change providers.
I believe it is critical to invest in a proper streaming infrastructure; it may be just as important as a transmitter in the coming years. While streaming radio is changing the way radio stations work, there is one thing that will never change, whether the equipment is analog or digital, living at a transmitter site or in a datacenter: Engineers will always need a solution they can rely on for critical applications. For Wisconsin Public Radio, the R/2 is just that. It has been running in our datacenter for close to six months and it has been exactly what we needed for a reliable and powerful streaming solution.For information, contact Cam Eicher at The Telos Alliance in Ohio at 1-216-241-7225 or visit www.telosalliance.com.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Digital Radio Mondiale transmissions began from Budapest, Hungary, last June. Although two Hungarian broadcasters previously tested DRM on medium wave, the transmissions are the country’s first DRM trials on shortwave.The antenna used in the trial is located at the Budapest University of Technology.
The Department of Broadcast Info-Communications and Electronic Theory at the Budapest University of Technology is conducting these latest trials. Csaba Szombathy, head of the broadcasting laboratory, is also head of the project, which will last for at least 12 months.
While the 11-meter 26,060 kHz frequency is well known for use in local broadcasting, it’s rarely implemented for international broadcasting. Both World Radio Network (now owned by Encompass Digital Media) and Vatican Radio conducted DRM trials on shortwave in the 26 MHz range in London and Rome in 2005 and 2008 respectively. Researchers have also performed tests in this frequency to measure coverage and determine optimal mode and bandwidth on various occasions in Mexico and Brazil. The new Hungarian trials will add to this research.The Department of Broadcast Info-Communications and Electronic Theory at the Budapest University of Technology began testing DRM trials in June.
Szombathy initially operated the transmitter with just 10 W of power into a 5/8-inch vertical monopole. Radio Maria, a Catholic station, is providing a 25-hour program loop, while a Dream DRM software-based encoder broadcasts the signal using AAC encoding. In spite of the low power, the program was reportedly received in the Netherlands.
In early September, Szombathy moved the antenna and transmitter to a slightly different location to improve coverage. He increased the power to 100 W.
The second stage of the project is demonstrating DRM’s multimedia capabilities. Germany’s Fraunhofer IIS loaned the laboratory a content server, which provided a substantial upgrade to their setup. Szombathy’s station is transmitting with a xHE-AAC codec. The project also features Journaline data service, which Fraunhofer describes as “hierachically structured textual information.”A diagram showing the compact DRM shortwave setup.
Although a number of Indian medium-wave stations broadcast in xHE-AAC, the Hungarian station is the only shortwave station with regular xHE-AAC transmissions. Fraunhofer previously supported a German university station broadcasting in xHE-AAC. That station, Funklust, is no longer on shortwave.
Szombathy says he welcomes any DRM receiver manufacturer or developer to Budapest to conduct field tests using any receiver they are working on.
The station may go on beyond its one-year project. “It depends on what we archive or where we get during this year,” explained Szombathy. “If I can generate sufficient interest, there’s a chance it’ll transition into a permanent, live broadcast.”
Hans Johnson has worked in the broadcast industry for over 20 years in sales, consulting, and frequency management.