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Is AM All-Digital Right for Your Station?

Radio World - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 19:03

The author is director of broadcast business development for HD Radio intellectual property holder Xperi.

There is an important AM digital comments filing approaching on Monday. That means it is time to get serious about all-digital AM broadcasting.

And that means that with all you may have heard recently about the pros and cons of going all-digital with your AM station, it’s about time for some plain talk about what kind of AM station this conversion could potentially benefit, and where it might not yet make financial sense.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, as a 50-year broadcast veteran with a large collection of working antique AM radios, I have to admit to mixed feelings about any AM station dropping their analog signal for all-digital. I was that kid in the Midwest who grew up listening at night to WABC in New York, WCFL in Chicago, KDKA in Pittsburgh, WLW in Cincinnati, WOAI in San Antonio and so many other 50 kW clear channel stations.

[Read: Dates Set for Comments on Digital AM Proposal]

But that was before computers, cellphone chargers, CFL light bulbs and so many other new gadgets that just happened to radiate noise smack in the middle of the AM broadcast band. It may rub you the wrong way to have to get an FM translator to keep your AM station viable in the 21st century, but our business has always been one of constant change. We’ve always had to evolve, and there have always been naysayers predicting the end of our medium every time we faced a new challenge.

First it was TV, then it was 8-tracks, then it was cassettes, then the Walkman, then iPods … the list goes on and on. But in the spring of 1969 when I was a senior in high school, Arbitron data showed that some 95% of persons 12+ listened to radio in a given week. Fast forward 50 years to spring 2019, and that number has plummeted to … 92%! That’s right — only 3% attrition in 50 years, while newspapers have suffered critical losses and continue to fold left and right, and TV viewership has become so fragmented that the major networks have all suffered double-digit audience losses. But unlike TV and print, audio listening has never been a zero-sum game. More choices have always meant more listening to more audio sources.

Radio has maintained its commanding share of market by constantly changing, growing and evolving. Consider the option of going all-digital AM as just another possible marketing tool in your arsenal, one with several unique ramifications to consider:

First: Does your AM station currently simulcast on an FM translator? This is a key piece of the puzzle. Providing an alternative place to hear your station, one not noise-challenged, can go a long way to keeping listeners and advertisers happy. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to own your own. There are many organizations that own multiple translators in certain markets, and may be willing to lease one to a noncompetitive station. Don’t forget, there are some translators operating at 10 or 20 watts because they are being fed remotely, but might be capable of going up to a full 250 watts if they are being fed from a local program source.

Second: It’s not enough to just simulcast on that translator, but to make sure all your listeners know that there is a noise-free alternative way to hear your station. Weaning your listeners off of your AM signal and onto your FM translator where possible is a vital part of stemming audience erosion. You need to extensively promote your “alternative” FM signal. Keeping your FM simulcast a secret defeats the whole purpose of having a translator.

[Read: Is the Time Right for All-Digital AM?]

Third: Technically, is it cost-effective for you to go all-digital? If your current antenna and transmitter setup are digital-capable, it is worth considering. If it just means replacing an aging AM transmitter with limited operational life left, it may be worth considering. But if your current transmission plant is not capable of passing a digital signal, and it isn’t feasible to replace transmitter and antenna right now, then all-digital may not be a reasonable option to consider at this time.

Obviously, AM all-digital doesn’t make sense in every case, but there are several scenarios where it may make financial and long-term sense to consider conversion at this time. The benefits can be significant, especially if your market has significant HD Radio automotive penetration. Right now, an average of 21.4% of all the cars on the road in the U.S. have an HD Radio receiver, and 100% of those receivers can receive all-digital AM broadcasts. But many individual markets have much higher penetration numbers, with several exceeding 33% — basically one car in three! And many of those AM HD Radio receivers have the ability to show album art and advertiser logos when in all-digital mode just like their FM counterparts:

In addition, currently there is no associated licensing cost to go all-digital. Through at least July 2020, Xperi is waiving the license fee for AM stations that go directly from analog to MA3 all-digital mode. And since the technology does not currently support multicasting on AM, there are no future licensing costs associated with going all-digital.

But perhaps the strongest argument for at least considering all-digital is the real-world experience of the Hubbard station in Frederick, Md., WWFD(AM)/820 kHz. For the last 18 months, they have been operating in all-digital mode under special experimental authority from the FCC. They have an FM translator, but it is worth noting that even though they had been simulcast with their analog FM translator since the fall of 2017, prior to commencing MA3 mode all-digital operation, the station had not appeared in the local Frederick, Md., Nielsen rating book in recent memory.

[Read: Fowler: Let “Mr. Market” Decide Best AM Digital System]

But beginning the very first survey period after starting all-digital operations, WWFD began showing up with measurable listening audience in that Nielsen survey. Nielsen measures the Frederick market twice annually during the spring and fall survey periods using their diary methodology. In both the spring and fall 2019 surveys, WWFD (and their associated analog FM translator) showed up with measurable listening audience.

In prior surveys dating back to before the station began their simulcast with their analog FM translator, they had never showed up with any measurable audience. This new audience is another example of how voluntary transition to MA3 mode enables better services for consumers and can breathe new life into the AM band. Content has always been king, and the eclectic music selection of “The Gamut” has become a destination format for WWFD listeners. The AM all-digital sunrise has made this music format viable on the AM band.

But are they listening to the all-digital AM or the analog FM? Who cares? As an advertiser, what you really want is to reach the most people, the most times, for the fewest dollars. As a station operator, what you really want is to continue to run a viable business, provide a service to your local community, and deliver a solid advertising vehicle for your advertisers, all while generating a modest profit.

For today’s increasingly signal-challenged AM station, all-digital may be just be the solution you didn’t know you were looking for.

The post Is AM All-Digital Right for Your Station? appeared first on Radio World.

Lauren Rooney Passes Away

Radio World - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 18:15

The Radio World family lost a former colleague recently.

 Lauren Rooney, a freelance writer for Radio World and TV Technology from 1995 to 2005, passed away on Feb. 27, after a three-year battle with cancer. The following was provided by her husband, Don Rooney.

Lauren’s background included work as an on-air personality at radio stations in New Hampshire, Kansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania. She spent seven years as news director of WNNK(FM) in Harrisburg, Pa., where she won over 35 Associated Press awards for newscasts and coverage; five years as South-Central Pennsylvania regional news director for then Clear Channel radio, based at WHP(AM) in Harrisburg; and three years as assignment editor and producer at Clear Channel’s WHP(TV) Channel 21 in Harrisburg. She appeared on-camera at Hearst’s Lancaster, Pa., WGAL(TV) Channel 8 in the late 1990s, delivering 60-second news updates.

In addition to her work for Radio World and TV Technology, Lauren wrote for the Radio and Television News Directors Association newsletter, including authoring an article about how to interview children at the scene of a disaster.

From 2000 to 2003, she served two terms as president of the Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association, sponsoring broadcast writing workshops and organizing the annual awards competition and luncheon.

In 2009, Lauren went to work as a media specialist for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, producing news releases and newsletters for representatives. In 2011 she became executive director of the Pennsylvania House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, a position she held at the time of her death. As executive director, she worked on legislation, as well as on solutions for problems brought in by constituents. In 2018, a bill she authored was signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. That legislation established a state-sponsored online data base providing a list of services to aid grandparents raising grandchildren by themselves.

Lauren’s hobbies included cooking, gardening and playing the ukulele. She is survived by her husband Don, children Brian, Christopher and Jonathan, daughters-in-law Kristina and Kaitlin, and granddaughter Selena.

 

The post Lauren Rooney Passes Away appeared first on Radio World.

Community Broadcaster: Four Top Fund Drive Fumbles

Radio World - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 17:10

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.

This month kicks off a time-honored tradition in community radio: the spring pledge drive. Many stations will succeed. Others will be less successful. Seeing fundraising wins may require you avoid three common pitfalls.

In my three-and-a-half years with the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, I have listened to pledge drives coast-to-coast. Before that, I was part of a major-market noncommercial station’s pledge campaign for more than a decade. I have been asked to appear with many stations to boost their on-air fundraising. And, as strange as it sounds, I love the pledge drive. I love stating the case for community radio and encouraging audiences to lift up local stations.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Coronavirus Education]

So, I can speak with a little heft when it comes to pledge drive missteps. I have heard many, and the most common ones are absolute killers during a campaign.

What moments happen most frequently?

Focusing on “me,” not you. Anyone who has heard a community radio pledge drive has heard this before. Someone at the microphone says how your donation makes it possible for them to come play music or share some news with you. The problem? I, as a donor, can get music and news on a $30 smart speaker for free. And what if I only like every third song you play, or I think you’re biased but I listen because I am in the car but wouldn’t otherwise? Messages should center why donors give, not what DJs get.

Not offering more. This is one of the most difficult issues, because the message we have ingrained in community media is the notion that people give to support fill-in-the-blank. That blank could be news, music, talk shows and so on. However, all of those things are available free elsewhere. Instead consider your message as one of you talking about donations increasing community impact and results, e.g. “Your donations supported investigative reports on City Hall;” “Your donation made a live concert series possible.” Quantifying where dollars go and went is more compelling than telling people they’re simply funding you to keep the lights on.

Lacking fire. Nothing is less inspiring than hearing a community radio DJ who sounds out-of-place during fundraising; who clearly has not thought about what they’ll say before the mic goes live; and does not respect a listener enough to even sound engaged during pledge drive. I have heard this more times than I care to admit. They’re not bad people. They sometimes have too much going on, or do not understand how crucial fundraising is to a station. And in a notoriously nice but evasive community radio culture, no one has the heart to tell these folks anything. So they just go on, sounding distant and unfocused. But pledge drive is a time to be proud of your station, be excited to talk to others about a station’s value to its community. Successful programs have reasons why people should give, sound happy to be there and like that the audience is supporting a local resource; as you should too.

Striking the gift balance. Weak shows either wander through the book of gifts available for a donation (overwhelming the listener) or never mention thank-you gifts available during the drive (missing the incentive a gift represents). What is the magic formula? Pick a gift or two to feature each hour, research the gift and be able to discuss it especially in cases of books and music, and be flexible and prepared enough to change on the fly if needed. Many people won’t pick up the gifts at all, but having something interesting to motivate donors never hurts.

Community radio stations rely on pledge drive. Many stations raise their operating funds, staff pay and money for their many initiatives through donations from listeners. The stakes for fundraising are high. Good pledge drives make the difference between new endeavors or a period of uncertainty.

Skipping these stumbles ensures stations have a happy spring.

The post Community Broadcaster: Four Top Fund Drive Fumbles appeared first on Radio World.

Public Radio Engineering Event Is Still a “Go” in Vegas

Radio World - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 16:55

Public TV engineers won’t be able to gather at TechCon this year. But their radio engineering counterparts are still planning to meet.

The Association of Public Radio Engineers put out a statement by President Victoria St. John about their PREC event, held in Las Vegas right before the NAB Show each year:

“APRE is wishing for everyone’s safety in this time of concerns for the COVID-19 and the ever changing landscape it presents to our industry.

“The Public Radio Engineering Conference 2020 is currently on for April 15-17 at the Tuscany Suites in Las Vegas as planned. We are consulting with our board and presenters to ensure that this year’s Public Radio Engineering Conference continues in the rich tradition of 20 years of excellent engineering interaction and high quality session content.

“The Board of the APRE is aware of the fluidity of the situation and will plan the conference with health, safety and quality of the conference for the members and presenters.

“We are sorry to hear that PBS has opted to cancel their TechCon meeting for 2020 due to concerns over issues related to COVID-19. APRE had plans to share meetings and sessions as a part of our PREC experience, but we still have a strong set of presentations in store.

“Our policy is to extend no refunds, but if at a future time APRE does opt to cancel the PREC 2020, we will offer full refunds to attendees or attendees can apply this year’s registration fees to the 2021 conference fees.”

[What Radio Exhibitors at NAB Show Are Saying About Coronavirus]

The post Public Radio Engineering Event Is Still a “Go” in Vegas appeared first on Radio World.

NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Darrin Paley, Senior Sales Engineer, Western U.S.A. and Canada, Wheatstone

Radio World - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 14:35

The spring NAB Show is approaching. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Darrin Paley is the senior sales engineer for western U.S.A. and Canada for Wheatstone.

Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s NAB Show?

Darrin Paley: Last year we did our biggest project ever in terms of complexity, size, scope and innovation — WTOP. We also found ourselves putting together packages for smaller and mid-sized stations, and I think that’s because the broadcast industry is changing at such a fast pace. Everyone needs technical solutions to those changes and they’re looking to the Wheatstones of the industry to provide it. It definitely keeps us thinking of new ways to stay ahead of the curve.

[Read: 2020 NAB Show: Schedule, Exhibitor Info, Updates]

RW: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?

Paley: The trend seems to boil down to “how to do more with less.” There’s a lot of interest in how to share studios, content and resources across distances. Broadcasters tell us they’re looking for ways to reduce real estate costs and hardware upkeep. At the same time, they’re adding more services, like streaming, and, of course, all of that falls under the AoIP umbrella. The look of the studio itself has changed as well, due in large part to virtual mixers like our Glass LXE. A number of projects I worked on this year didn’t actually have a physical console in one or more studios, and that, along with AoIP appliances to bridge studios separated by distance are creating real opportunities for broadcasters to impact their bottom line.

RW: The last year has proven rather rocky for much of the radio industry with the largest group owner making a big move to chart a new business/operational model. Stepping away from your particular segment, what is your feeling for the overall health of the radio industry?

Paley: Overall, we feel the radio industry is stable for the most part. What we saw in the last year was an industry stepping back to reevaluate how it was going to remain relevant for the foreseeable future given the change in consumer habits over the past few years.

RW: You’ve been active in the radio broadcast equipment market for many years. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?

Paley: I think the biggest challenge for all of us in this industry is to recognize that we have to be open to new ideas. We can’t continue to do what we did five years ago. We have to keep moving forward because listeners are continually moving forward. At Wheatstone, we are constantly pushing the limits of what AoIP can do because we have an R&D department that’s made up of both engineers who have been with us since the beginning and understand the business, and also systems engineers who know about enterprise and telecommunications technology. That serves us well in being able to provide a path forward for broadcasters.

RW: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit N3317?

Paley: Last year we introduced several appliances for our AoIP system that bridged studios separated by distance and we developed some interesting interfaces to the network that made workflows much easier. This year, we’re taking it to the cloud in some unique ways that we think will change how broadcasters operate and will solve a few of the challenges we discussed earlier. We’ll be demonstrating WheatNet-IP and our virtual solutions at booth N3317.

RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2020 NAB Show?

Paley: Virtualization and cloud. This seems to be a part of almost every conversation I have with broadcasters today, and for good reason. We are at an unprecedented time in broadcast history where we are just beginning to tap into technologies like cloud and virtualization that can make a real difference in the future of radio and television.

RW: Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?

Paley: I am looking forward to the BEIT session “Studio Elasticity, From Hardware to Virtual to Cloud,” presented by our senior software engineer, Scott Gerenser. It’s Tuesday afternoon, and he covers a lot of ground, including important trends and how broadcasters can start planning now for virtualization. I believe it starts at 3:45 p.m. in room N258, Tuesday of the show.

RW: You’re a show veteran, how has the show changed since your first visit?

Paley: My first NAB Show was in 1995 and I have been to the NAB in Las Vegas every year since, as an attendee and an exhibitor. The NAB Show has changed dramatically since 1995 in many ways, the biggest being the actual attendees. With the internet, consolidation, and the workload put on the engineers, not to mention the tighter budgets, there doesn’t seem to be as many attending. I remember how many local engineers, from small to large markets and from all over the world attended, and now it’s generally the group DOEs and the occasional local engineer who is researching equipment for an upcoming project.

 

The post NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Darrin Paley, Senior Sales Engineer, Western U.S.A. and Canada, Wheatstone appeared first on Radio World.

Most People Don’t Have a Cybersecurity Plan, Tarr Warns

Radio World - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 13:21
Chris Tarr

Radio engineers and technologists worry about whether their networks are adequately prepared to defend against cybersecurity incursions. We talked to Chris Tarr, CSRE, AMD, DRB, CBNE, director of technical operations for Wisconsin at Entercom, which was one of several radio groups in the United States that have suffered recent ransomware attacks. Opinions are his own and not necessarily those of Entercom.

Radio World: How well prepared is the radio industry?

Chris Tarr:  There’s still a mentality that you can protect yourself and make yourself completely invulnerable. It’s never a matter of whether it’s going to happen to you; it’s a matter of when

Do what you can to fortify your systems, [but] you can put up the best fortress in the world, and once they’re behind that wall, everything is fair game. A lot of companies do a good job of preventing people from getting in from the outside but not doing anything about people who actually get inside. The theme that I’ve seen [in other attacks] is nobody had a plan. Always assume someone is going to get in.

Always assume someone is going to get in.

Everybody says, “Oh well we have backup so we’re okay.” A lot of people who have backups never check them. They never validate them, they never make sure they’re working; and they don’t realize how long it takes to restore that stuff. A lot of people get by with, “We’ve got antivirus, we’ve take backups of everything. We’ve got a firewall, we’re good. Worst case is we just restore from our backups.” 

If backups are part of your plan, do you have a plan to check those every day, every two days? What’s your plan for how many times a week you backup? Do you backup [only] certain files? Even if you’re on the cloud, are you able to roll back if something gets attacked? 

We haven’t even gotten to the network part yet.

RW: Once a manager knows they need a plan, what’s the next step? 

Tarr: A plan is only as good as how you execute it. So what are the vital components of your operation? Once you’ve identified those, what happens if those were all to fail? How would you restore those? Even better, is there a way to really harden the network?

For example, by now everybody should be segregating their automation networks from their office networks. However, you can’t do that 100%, you have to be realistic. Short of sneaker netting, and using thumb drives and stuff that can kill the infection, how can you get files from Point A to Point B? 

Something as simple as “How many file shares do you have, and how many do you really need?” Does everybody need to have access to everything? Really take a serious look at the roles of each individual in the organization. What do they truly need access to?

Then how can we isolate things? We know that an automation system isn’t going to get the ransomware on its own, so look at what kinds of actions people could take to infect the network. 

What if the program directors want access to the computers on that automation network? In the old days we’d just throw on another network card, put their computer on there and they’re good to go. You can’t do that anymore. So you look at maybe a thin client on your desktop, where there really isn’t any services other than sharing a video feed between the two machines. 

Where do you keep your financials? Where do you keep HR stuff? How do you segregate that? Again, most of that is going to have to live on a network somewhere; what do you do to keep those files safe?

That’s step number one, getting things locked down, network segregated, backup plans. You can’t do just a single backup and hope for the best; you need to rotate backups, take backups offline so they can’t ever touch the network. That’s saved me more than once, where my backup was a disconnected drive so it never got touched. I was able to restore cleanly without any problems. 

You want to validate those backups to make sure. There’s nothing worse than putting a backup up, and realizing that it hasn’t run for three months because of not paying attention.

How will you communicate [after an attack]? Most of the time your email is going to be down, everybody’s computers are going to be off; so how do you communicate what’s going on? How do you communicate to your advertisers so that everything is okay? Because the word will get out. How do you put logs together? 

Assume that everything involved in your operation is off and there’s nothing you can do right now about that. How do you manage that? Do you set up a Twitter account for employees? Do you prepare a list of their personal email accounts so that you can do a mass email with “Here’s what’s going on” status updates on what’s functioning and what’s not functioning?

 Have you thought about how you’re going to play back audio if your playback machines, heaven forbid, get hit? How are you going to bill clients? Spots, how are you going to bill them? A file server backup could take hours to days to restore. What do you do? 

That’s the holistic approach people are missing. 

RW: I do have the sense that more organizations are trying to raise awareness on this.

Tarr: Unfortunately, there hasn’t really been a lot of discussion, because companies are afraid to talk about it. Companies that have gotten hit are afraid to talk about it; they don’t want to talk about where they went wrong for fear of somebody thinking that they’re weak or incompetent. 

That public station [KQED] that got hit a year or two ago, they really were upfront about the challenges that they ran into. But nobody has really taken the time to talk about from a broadcasting point of view, what the best practices should be. 

When this happens to you, be clear and say, “Yes, it’s a very common thing. Yes, we got hit by ransomware and everything’s okay, data is secure, we have a plan and we’re implementing it.” 

Getting hit with ransomware is not unusual. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The success stories are in how you limited how you were affected, and how quickly and efficiently you restored your systems. How quickly did you get your traffic system back up? We were scheduling spots on Monday following the weekend. That’s where planning comes in. There will be things that’ll be out of order for a week or two because they’re low priority. [But] how quickly can you get your critical functions back up?

There’s not enough dialogue about that in broadcasting.

RW: Ransomware catches people’s attention. Should a broadcaster ever pay a ransom?

Tarr: No, you shouldn’t. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to work. 

There’s a school of thought that the person who wrote ransomware is going to unlock it if you pay them, because it’s their — for lack of a better word — reputation; but you just don’t know. And payment encourages them; there’s a potential to make yourself a bigger target. 

That’s why it’s so important to focus not only on prevention but on response. If you can respond properly and you have a good plan, you don’t need to pay the ransom, you will have all of the things you need to rebuild. 

The only thing that I would completely harden in this environment would be your automation system, your bread and butter. That’s easy enough to do because you don’t have to have that on a public network

The problem that exists these days is that security is inconvenient. Unfortunately a lot of the people on the other side of the building, the creative people, the sales people — they understand inconvenience, they don’t understand security. When you say, “No you can’t move those files around, and no, you can’t connect to that automation system,” it’s inconvenient, and they put up a fight. There has to be education there. 

As long as your automation network is segregated physically, you can at least stay on the air. That is the number one. You can always hand-write logs, you can hand-write billing, but if you’re not on the air, you’ve got a problem. 

As long as your automation network is segregated physically, you can at least stay on the air.

That’s how you have to approach it: Different levels of importance. Being on the air is most important. Second, would be billing, how do we get the billings on, how do we reconcile? Then everything else. It’s trivial to backup office computers and restore them. Nine times out of 10 there is nothing so critical on them that if you’ve got a three-day-old backup, it’s not the end of the world. We had computers that were offline for a week or two. When we got to it, we got to it.

RW: You mentioned automation but there are other vulnerable mission-critical systems, right? Remote control transmitter, interfaces, EAS. 

Tarr: Those need to be firewalled and password protected. They’re not going to get affected by ransomware, but you need to be smart about them. What a lot of people are turning to now are firewalls and virtual LANs so these devices are kept onto a separate subnet and you’re only opening ports that are necessary to access them, changing default passwords. 

I used to be able to love to get to my stuff from the outside world when I’m driving around or wherever I’m at, being able to log in and do stuff. Those days are over because if I can do it, anybody can do it. So now we’re doing VPNs and virtual LANs to separate them from the office networks.

A lot of the stories you see, EAS boxes getting hacked and those Barix boxes getting hacked, was just because of sloppiness. We have a lot of engineers who are not IT guys, and a lot of IT guys who aren’t engineers. It’s one of the bigger problems in our industry, speaking of firewalls: We’ve built this firewall between IT and engineering. They don’t understand each other’s goals.

I’m lucky that I have a background in both, but in a lot of places, either engineering runs everything and you’ve got firewalls open and ports open, or IT is in charge and the engineer can’t do anything.

A lot of IT guys don’t understand broadcast stuff. For example, PSD or RDS data. Before point-to-point firewalls were common, you’d have a DSL connection at a translator site or whatever, you’d send that data over the public internet. More than once I’ve had an IT guy say, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Actually you can and you have to. And they just don’t understand that. 

Make sure that engineers and IT guys understand each other’s goals. The IT guy has to know that there are going to be some things that have to get done that may require special consideration on the engineering side. Engineers are going to have to understand you can’t throw a bunch of ports open so you can get to your Burk. VPN or something else is going to be required. 

A lot of security rides on that relationship.

RW: But when the head of a radio group reads a headline about a competitor being hit by a ransomware attack, calls the engineer in and says “How do we make sure this never happens to us,” the answer can’t just be, “We need a better relationship between engineering and IT,” right? What does the engineer say to the CEO?

Tarr: You need to get stakeholders together and come up with a plan. It’s hard to act as one cohesive unit if you’ve got these varied departments with their own priorities. You can’t even set up a security plan if you’ve got the program directors insisting they must have access to this or that. 

Let’s be honest, in a broadcast situation, a lot of times the engineers don’t carry a lot of power, so they can’t tell the program directors, “No, you can’t do that.” You need to get buy-in from the CEO all the way down to the part-time guys. Get everybody together in a room and say, “First of all, let’s talk about how this could happen,” or bring in a security consultant to talk about those things. The second part is to know that if this happens, we know what we’re going to do, we know what the expectations are. To be able to say, “Yeah, we if we get hit, we’ll be down for a day, but here’s what we’re going to do and here’s the steps that we’re taking to make sure that that plan can be executed.” That makes you more confident: “We could get hit and you know what? We’ll be okay.”

[Ebook: Cybersecurity and Studio Disaster Recovery]

RW: People reading this will be well aware of the attack on Entercom. Knowing you can’t talk about every aspect, what can you share about what the company did or learned? 

Tarr: Well, unfortunately I still can’t. There’s really not much I can divulge. The only thing I can say personally is that I was very proud of how we responded internally. We were back up and running very quickly. We had a solid plan. We worked over the weekend, we implemented the plan and it was a success. 

We didn’t look at this as a failure by any means. That’s the mindset people have to have. It wasn’t a failure that we got hit with ransomware; it’s going to happen, it happens to everyone. Had we not been able to respond to it and had it crippled our business for a month, that would have been a failure. 

The biggest thing I can say is, “Don’t think for a minute it’s not going to happen, or that just the basics are going to help you.” This is a rapidly changing environment. A good security consultant is worth their weight in gold. Hire one and have them look at what you’re doing, talk about what your job function is and what you want to achieve as a company. Get that advice.

RW: Other specific best practices to mention? 

Tarr: I’ll probably get in trouble with my boss for saying this, but I’m not a big fan of password changing. Once your password’s out, your password’s out. Password complexity is good, but the 90 days rule may not be very effective. It’s not like a password gets leaked and then they sit on it for six month.

Obviously, education. Make sure that people understand: If somebody sends you a link to something, verify with them, call and say, “Did you send this to me?” Today’s viruses and nastyware always look like they came from somebody you know. Unless somebody says specifically “I’m going to send you this,” don’t open it til you verify that they actually did. 

We talked about hardening your automation network. Do not plug it in to the office network at all. And if you do, make sure that it’s firewall blocked and that you’re only opening the ports you need to open. Make sure they don’t touch each other, other than what you absolutely need. 

Third, physical security. My server room is locked up because who knows what could happen, sabotage wise or information security wise? Even just curious part-timers can get in and wreak havoc. 

Backups. Take lots of backups and verify them regularly. Preferably have a backup offsite. At the very least make sure you rotate and what I call “air gap” backups. Have a backup that’s not connected to anything. Rotate them off. If the infection spreads, you’ve got a good clean backup to the restore from. 

Obviously antivirus, those sorts of things. There’s new software specifically for detection of malware or ransomware; they detect the moment that the malware tries to change a file, it throws out a couple of honeypot files and as soon as it touches one of those files and attempts to change it or lock it, it shuts everything down. 

Antivirus is great but it’s not a firewall and it doesn’t really do anything for ransomware. It’s kind of one of those “inch deep mile wide” pieces of software. You really want to get specific and look into smart firewall appliances that will stop it at the door. Short of having a security consultant, that’s the next best thing: Have a firewall that inspects the packets coming in, and get something with a subscription to a database that keeps that up to date. If you could stop this stuff from getting in the door, that’s 90% of the issue.

We all think we’re the smartest guys in the room. Engineers are notorious for that. There’s someone out there smarter than us working on what they’re going to do next. Don’t assume that because you’ve read the latest books and read the latest information that you’re safe, because there’s always somebody smarter and they’re always out there trying to wreck your stuff. Part of a complete plan is assuming that it’s going to happen. And if it doesn’t, that’s great. If it never happens to you bless you, but assume that it will and know what you’re going to do, know how you’re going to respond and make it automatic. Write the plan down, make sure everybody knows what the plan is, and then you ready to execute it when it’s necessary.

 

[Get more tips and insider information about cybersecurity best practices in this ebook.]

The post Most People Don’t Have a Cybersecurity Plan, Tarr Warns appeared first on Radio World.

Brazil’s Marcos Pontes on Radio’s Future

Radio World - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 10:19

Brazilian Minister of Science and Technology Marcos Pontes opened the second National Forum of Brazilian Broadcasters on March 5. In Portuguese, the event is known as the Fórum Nacional de Radiodifusão MCTIC.

Pontes is an Air Force pilot, engineer, astronaut and author. He became the first South American to travel to space in 2006.

Digital Radio Mondiale Chair Ruxandra Obreja traveled to Brasilia for the event and had the opportunity to interview Marcos Pontes on behalf of Radio World. Obreja is a frequent contributor to Radio World International, and she also shared a clip of the interview. Watch it now.

http://www.radioworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/videoplayback.mp4

 

In the video, Pontes explains the purpose and importance of this forum for the Brazilian radio broadcast industry. He said hopes the forum will be an opportunity for broadcasters to share their ideas for how the government can improve, as well as what the Ministry of Science and Technology is getting right. For example, Pontes said he is seeking feedback on what broadcast technologies the country should standardize on and what types of regulation radio broadcasters believe is necessary for their success.

Pontes also provides an update on the country’s near-term plans for the sector. In his address, Pontes said that the time has come for digital radio in Brazil. Obreja pressed him on the question of timing. Pontes demurred to provide a specific timeline, but said he hopes for a “short term” solution to emerge and said they “are getting there.”

Pontes also noted that many Brazilian stations are still in the process of converting from AM to FM. Obreja added that she hopes digital will be the next step for these stations. Pontes appeared to agree, but emphasized the need to choose the right technology to make that happen.

The post Brazil’s Marcos Pontes on Radio’s Future appeared first on Radio World.

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Tesla Offers Infotainment Upgrade That Removes Radio

Radio World - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 15:08

Radio broadcasters have long feared that self-driving cars would threaten their dashboard dominance. A new optional infotainment system upgrade from carmaker Tesla proves that these concerns are well founded.

Some older Tesla Model S and Model X owners are now able to purchase a $2,500 update that the company says improves user experience, enables video streaming and supplies an expanded Tesla Arcade but will remove broadcast AM/FM radio and Sirius/XM reception. (Broadcasters will likely wince when they see “Removes AM, FM and Sirius XM radio” under the “Improvements” heading of its software breakdown.) 

Currently, the offer is available by emailed invitation only, according to Tesla Service. U.S. vehicles with Autopilot Computer 2.5 featuring Full Self-Driving Capability will be first in line, while those running Autopilot Computer 2.0 should be contacted later this month.

In response to this news, Strategy Analytics Global Automotive Associate Director Roger Lanctot wrote a LinkedIn article titled “Technology Tyranny and the End of Radio.” 

According to Lanctot, “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.” Perhaps this conclusion is a bit hyperbolic, but Lanctot concedes that the strategy has a logical side. He writes, “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.”

Additionally, it may be “a market research project” to determine customer demand for OTA radio. Why? Tesla is an international company dealing with a variety of broadcast standards while also preparing for 5G rollout; an attempt to simplify its technology offerings makes sense for the manufacturer, if not for the consumer, Lanctot reasons. Nonetheless, it’s clear that he believes radio should remain prominent in the car dash.

This isn’t the first time radio has worried about Tesla’s in-dash plans. As far back as 2017, rumors have circulated that Elon Musk’s tech-car company would remove radio. That fear proved to be overblown for the Tesla 3, but this time, it appears Tesla is indeed moving in a radio-less direction. The 2020 Tesla Model 3, for example, does not offer AM radio, according to Car and Driver. Note that Tesla isn’t the only car company experimenting with removing broadcast radio. In 2014, BMW removed AM reception from its electric i3 models, to the chagrin of organizations like the National Association of Broadcasters and AM enthusiasts.

RW has requested comment from Tesla and will report any reply.

 

The post Tesla Offers Infotainment Upgrade That Removes Radio appeared first on Radio World.

FCC Suspends Travel to “Large Gatherings” in Coronavirus-Related Move

Radio World - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 11:23

The FCC says it will be limiting access to the FCC as a preventative measure in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and will be suspending FCC participation in any large gatherings.

According to the commission, anyone who has been in any country in the previous 14 days that is subject to CDC level-three travel warnings will not be allowed to enter FCC facilities. Currently that would exclude recent visitors to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

[Read: What Radio Exhibitors at NAB Show Are Saying About Coronavirus]

That includes FCC employees and contractors as well as visitors.

The FCC has suspended all noncritical FCC domestic and international travel and for the near term is “suspending until further notice any FCC involvement in noncritical large gatherings that involve participants from across the country and/or around the world.”

An FCC spokesperson was checking at press time on whether that means the chairman won’t make it for his Q&A at the NAB Show next month or whether that is considered a “critical” gathering. That is still six weeks away, so there could also be a change in the virus status by then.

It is certainly a large gathering, drawing close to 100,000 people from home and abroad.

 

The post FCC Suspends Travel to “Large Gatherings” in Coronavirus-Related Move appeared first on Radio World.

What Is Replacing Shortwave?

Radio World - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 02:00

The author is chairman of Digital Radio Mondiale.

Analog shortwave will celebrate about 100 years of existence in 2028 when many hope 5G will have been properly defined, tested and applied, though broadcasting is low on its long list of perceived advantages.

A screenshot of Dream software showing the technical evaluation of a DRM signal (BBC transmission) received from a transmitter located in Singapore. Photo courtesy of Dr. TK Rao.

It’s true that shortwave was typically a medium of the Cold War that peaked in 1989 and that afterward its listenership dwindled. Many international broadcasters gave up on it as the post-war transmitters got rustier and the energy bills kept mounting.

After all, when budget cuts are needed, no transmitter will go on strike or write to the press, as happened when the BBC World Service tried to unsuccessfully close its Hindi shortwave transmissions in 2011. In 2020 these broadcasts stopped, when committed BBC Indian listeners, writers and thinkers who opposed it in 2011 did not protest too much.

The slow death of shortwave has been blamed on the internet and satellite. As technology and content are inextricably linked, shortwave created its type of content that is no longer favored by the savvy FM listener, internet user and cellphone obsessed.

WHAT HAPPENED?

First, came the great partnership of international broadcasters with local FM stations. International programs could be suddenly heard in big cities in very good sound quality. The drawback was that the programs were often very short, often scheduled at unreasonable hours.

“Radio should address each and every one in cities and far away rural communities, whether to inform, entertain or alert to emergency situations.”

Branding was also an issue for the big international broadcasters now piggybacking on a local station with its own identity. There was also the danger that the local station could object to this partnership for political or content reasons and drop the international program at very short notice.

In some European cities, international broadcasters have also become local ones as they have gone on DAB multiplexes, more of a prestige move than an audience growing measure.

Photo courtesy of Encompass Digital Media.

Most of these international broadcasters are streaming and throwing their lot with another 30,000 or more stations that listeners have to choose from but only if they have electricity, a laptop, an internet connection and sometimes the patience to cope with buffering.

So, shortwave and its long-range advantage were replaced mainly by the one-to-one sophisticated internet and the cheaper, clearer but very local FM or the DAB+ option in band III, in this way undermining the very essence of their wide coverage and appeal.

At first, it might seem that these are cheaper and more modern options. But, in reality, energy-hungry FM and the multiplexed DAB+ are not that cheap either. Streaming uses an expensive digital electronics setup for something that broadcasting, as one-to-many, can do more cheaply, preserving the anonymity of the user, an advantage that is becoming increasingly relevant in many societies.

NEW REALITY

The greater danger of replacing wide-range coverage with local broadcasting is a different one, though: Radio that should address each and every one in cities and far away rural communities, whether to inform, entertain or alert to emergency situations, becomes patchy and leaves those, who need it most, out of range.

Some international and powerful public and state broadcasters still opt for wide-range coverage, however. One example is China, which might be still pursuing its local digital broadcasting version but to give full coverage on the roads and in the areas between large cities, it has opted for DRM shortwave.

China National Radio broadcasts 80 hours a day from five existing and upgraded sites with seven or eight transmitters sending shortwave DRM to most areas of North China, East China, South China and Southwest China. Russia is also airing DRM in shortwave over huge areas of Siberia.

India has three DRM shortwave transmitters and is looking at increasing this number for national and international reach. There is also interest in Indonesia and renewed questions are coming from Brazil that has been using analog shortwave to cover mainly its Amazonian region.

Vanuatu, a small country in the Pacific, has recently gone for DRM shortwave to save lives in disaster situations by using its integrated emergency warning capability. And a site in the United States has recently started broadcasting in DRM the popular Radio Marti programs toward central and Latin America.

It thus appears as if a few big up and coming countries are rediscovering the value of shortwave radio, unlike much of the Western international broadcasters who dropped it 10 or 20 years ago.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE?

DRM was the big hope for shortwave when the excellent engineers with vision first invented it. In its digital variant, DRM, shortwave becomes a new modern platform using up-to-the minute coding, which produces a very clear sound. In effect, DRM shortwave is like FM over very large areas. More than one good audio channel is available and can be accompanied by data and other digital services.

In digital shortwave the energy bill is cut drastically as compared to the analog invoice, and the new transmitters are very efficient. Even the not so old transmitters can be upgraded. Some broadcasters saw these opportunities and went this route while patiently waiting for receivers to become available and affordable.

Now together with the extra shortwave DRM transmission services we are seeing the rise of DRM receiver solutions (with shortwave support as well) from countries like China, India, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.

Some of these solutions are inexpensive and energy-efficient designed to serve a whole community by using a digital shortwave station receiver disseminating the broadcast via Wi-Fi.

[Read: The Power of Digital Radio in Emergencies]

Therefore, today shortwave is positioned differently. While the interest of most Western countries has waned, other parts of the world have stuck with the platform and are adapting it for their own use.

In fact, we are at a point where shortwave may just be ready to turn the corner, especially if digital shortwave can be made available in cars. Surprisingly, electric cars might be better suited to receiving the digital signal than the current cars on the road.

Questions remain though: Is it too little, too late for shortwave? Or is this a new digital platform that we should simply call “digital radio” and that we can confidently and courageously embrace and use?

The post What Is Replacing Shortwave? appeared first on Radio World.

Media Bureau Announces Fourth Disclosure Deadline for United States-based Foreign Media Outlets

FCC Media Bureau News Items - Wed, 03/04/2020 - 21:00
The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019 amended the Communications Act of 1934 to require all U.S.-based foreign media outlets submit reports every 6 months to the Commission regarding the outlets' relations to their foreign principals

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