One U.S. AM station is operating in all-digital, under experimental authority. What can it tell us about reception, listener reactions, the impact on advertising, as well as how to prepare an AM antenna and transmitter system?
We also contacted broadcast engineers, manufacturers and FCC staff to ask: Why explore all-digital? What benefits might it bring? What technical issues would be raised, what regulatory steps? What do observers now say is the chance of it happening?
Among those quoted are engineers and other experts with Beasley, Townsquare, the FCC, Cavell Mertz & Associates, Hubbard, Xperi, C. Crane, duTreil, Lundin & Rackley, Kintronic Labs and Nautel. While the discussion focuses largely on developments in the United States, we also note the use of Digital Radio Mondiale, a system intended for all broadcast frequencies up to 300 MHz including longwave, medium-wave (as in the United States) and shortwave. And broadcaster Ben Downs lays out his arguments for why the FCC should allow all-digital AM now.Read it here.
The author is director-general of NABA.
It has been a busy time for the North American Broadcasters Association, with our Radio Committee focusing on two major projects for 2019; our Technical Committee responding to comments regarding C Band and 5G; and our Legal Committee’s progress on the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty, on top of a full agenda of other issues and initiatives.VALUE PROPOSITION OF RADIO IN A CONNECTED WORLD
NABA’s Next-Generation Radio Working Group, led by Michael Beach of NPR, is in the last stages of finalizing a paper on the “Value Proposition of Radio in a Connected World,” which defines the value proposition of radio, its strengths and future (e.g., should radio stay as a hybrid analog/digital service or should it move towards the full digital switch). Work is wrapping up on this paper, and it will be distributed within the coming weeks and posted to the NABA website.FUTURE OF RADIO AND AUDIO SYMPOSIUM
NABA has formed a partnership with the National Association of Broadcasters to have its next Future of Radio and Audio Symposium as a part of the Broadcast Engineering and Information Technology Conference at the Las Vegas NAB Show this year. We are excited to be part of the NAB Show, and we have lined up three sessions of great content for the attendees.
The first focuses on the “Next Generation of Radio” and will use the “Value Proposition of Radio in a Connected World” paper as a jumping-off point. The second session focuses on “Digital Radio Around the World,” the third looks at the impact of “Connected Car/Audio on Demand/Advertising and Big Data.”
We have confirmed speakers from North America, Europe and Australia; it’s a truly international review of radio’s future, and I think you’ll be most interested to hear how radio embraces its next-generation moment.
Register for the conference with the NAB, and we’ll see you on April 7. (NABA members may receive a free pass to the three FRAS sessions).C-BAND COMMENTS ON 5G
NABA filed comments in the FCC’s NPRM on making C-Band spectrum available for 5G (spectrum that has been, up to now, dedicated for the distribution and collection of television and radio content), and then went on to submit a reply to comments made by others.
Our Spectrum Subcommittee worked on our submissions for much of last year, all coordinated by Robert Weller. NABA remains concerned that new terrestrial uses in the C-Band downlink spectrum can cause significant harm or disruption to existing satellite users and again emphasizes that the principle of no harm to the broadcasting ecosystem (and the public that it serves) must be at the core of any rulemaking considerations concerning the allocation of spectrum that historically has been used by broadcasters for delivery and collection of content and services. This principle goes beyond technical compatibility in allotments and assignments and must include full compensation for any required changes to operations or equipment.
We have yet to hear a response to these submissions from the FCC, and while our satellite partners are working hard to accommodate both potential 5G deployment and existing broadcast requirements, rigorous technical field testing and careful allocation of available spectrum will define how everyone may be accommodated.
Broadcasters have used satellite delivery in the C Band for about as long as there have been commercial satellites available for this use. So by definition it’s an old technology, but it’s an old technology that really works well. Our worry is that, by introducing a sharing scheme, something that has worked well for decades won’t do so anymore.
While the FCC initiative focuses on the continental United States, we are already seeing spectrum regulators in Mexico and Canada moving towards similar initiatives in their countries, so a North American C-Band reallocation is not an unrealistic conclusion. And the impact may be seen in the Caribbean and South America for years to come.WIPO BROADCASTING TREATY
The World Intellectual Property Organization continues to work on a broadcasting treaty to protect broadcast signals from piracy in the digital environment. This is an area where we have spent many years trying to realize a positive outcome. This past year saw proposals from a number of countries, including the United States this fall, which advanced the work to a point where 2019 may see significant movement towards a diplomatic conference, which could realize this goal.
The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights is where this work gets done, and NABA and the other broadcast unions have NGO status. Representatives of our Legal Committee participated in the late November meeting with our colleagues from the other broadcast unions in the World Broadcasting Unions. There is a strong sense that WIPO member countries can build on the proposals presented, and make progress towards a diplomatic conference in 2020. As a NGO, we don’t have a vote, but we are there as a resource and to underline the importance of protecting our signals in the digital IP environment where we now reside. The activities this year should help pave the way to a positive outcome.ATSC 3.0 — IMPLEMENTATION AND REPACK
For many years now, NABA has been involved with ATSC 3.0 work (including helping to define broadcast requirements for the new technology). Now that it has arrived and the beta sites of Phoenix and Dallas are up and running, along with NAB’s Baltimore site, we continue to support our members both at home and internationally with demonstrations in Mexico, CITEL meetings (in Brasilia in December), briefings to the Canadian regulators and government officials, and supporting Sinclair Broadcast and ATSC in their efforts to get the new transmission standard recognized by the International Telecommunications Union.
A market rollout of a new technology is not without its challenges, not the least of which is beginning implementation at the same time as the repack of frequencies is taking place within the mandated FCC schedule as a result of the spectrum auction. There are also border consequences for Mexico and Canada, and these were shared at our Technical Committee and board meetings.
The repack is at about the halfway mark, and many suggest the heavy lifting is yet to come, with basic resources like tower crews already stretched to the limit. Our aim is, to the extent possible, to share information and solutions so that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train.
This work will continue well into the future and we are just now getting some interesting consumer expectations for Next Generation Television. Based on work commissioned by Pearl TV, we learned at our AGM in New York a few weeks ago that consumers want smart TVs, UHD TV and immersive sound and, if they get it, they are prepared to invest in new sets. Hardly revolutionary, but this kind of core research helps our industry tailor the implementation to consumer expectations — it’s a good initiative by Pearl.
And as Sinclair and the advertising industry tell us, data applications and mobile television will be critical to future revenue opportunities and consumer expectations. So whether you are a station group or a network, this is a time for developing new ways of doing our business, including sharing spectrum and experimental initiatives. Our role in NABA is to help facilitate these ideas and provide the space for discussion, reflection and, where appropriate, action in support of and to the benefit of our industry. It is an interesting and challenging time but full of opportunity as well.FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS
Media-over-IP and all-IP production and distribution facilities will very much define our industry over the coming years. Already we are seeing IP facilities from CBS, Telemundo, NBCUniversal, ESPN, CBC/Radio-Canada and many others, either in development or nearing completion. Specific projects like news operations or sports have dominated initial efforts but full broadcast plants like CBC/Radio-Canada in Montreal are soon to become the norm.
All of this is happening in an environment where some of the IP standards are still in development; that truly is a pioneering experience for those who are embracing an IP future. NABA has done work in the MoIP area with a task force on broadcaster requirements and a workshop in partnership with SMPTE, Video Services Forum and Alliance for IP Media. With the pace of IP clearly picking up, we think more workshops, education and sharing is needed over the next few years, particularly focusing on areas which need resolution and industry consensus. To that end, this will be a continuing brief for our technical committee.[McEwen: Radio Technology Offers New Opportunities]
And at the same time, IP poses further cybersecurity risks to our operations and services. As much as we’ve done at both the network and station level over the past years, the challenges of IP the cyber risks to new levels. Our Cybersecurity Subcommittee of specialists will guide our discussions on this subject offering potential technical and operating solutions that improve our practices and thus our security.
Workflow continues to remain at the core of our technical/operations work. We have pretty well completed common metadata specifications for file formats and put them into the relevant SMPTE standards (IMF and BXF) so they can be implemented by broadcasters in the next capital cycle; UHDTV common metadata specifications are currently being written into the SMPTE standards. This has been and continues to be a lot of work taken on by busy people, but the benefits make our operations more efficient; this more than saves the resources on a recurring basis that was spent on doing this work on a one-time basis.
The last area we need to tackle is developing the common metadata specifications for advertising (formats) and we will be doing that with Ad-ID and other advertising partners in the coming months, so stay tuned.A CONCLUDING THOUGHT
When Radio World Editor in Chief Paul McLane asked us whether we had something to contribute in this issue, my original thought was that probably everyone knows what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
But on reflection, I don’t think so.
Our industry, at best, is in an evolution on steroids, and at worst, a revolution in just about every broadcast technology, operational area and program genre. When I had a look at the past year and the present and future challenges, it is truly remarkable; the volume of issues and the speed of change is breathtaking. In this environment, NABA does and will continue to provide a space for frank discussion that leads to actions which respond to broadcast needs, provide solutions and strategies for the inevitable change and provide consensus representation to regulators, policymakers and global institutions to ensure broadcast interests are at the table.
Comment on this or any story. Email email@example.com with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject field.
The author is senior solutions consultant for The Telos Alliance
Most of radio’s operational systems can now be “virtualized” or soon will be capable of it. The implications for broadcasters will be either minimal or staggering, depending on each broadcaster’s business and operational models in the future.Kirk A. Harnack
The transition to virtualization — the first form of it — actually began in the late 1980s with simple PC-based automation systems replacing tape cart machines. Long gone are squeaky pinch rollers, worn tape heads and lubricated tape sliding against itself in endless loops. And while the transition to all-digital storage and playback took nearly two decades, we learned a lot along the way. Just as other industries have demanded, and now use, better computing hardware and more reliable operating systems, radio broadcasting benefits from the same improving technology as other business-tech sectors.
Are computers perfect replacements for the purpose-built equipment we’ve come to romanticize? Hardly. Yet despite their shortcomings, PCs have proven to offer better overall usability, reliability and audio quality than the cart machines, reel-to-reel decks and turntables they replaced. And today’s PC-based playout systems are even better than the CD players — and their audio skipping — of the 1980s and 90s.
Over the past 20-plus years, we’ve “virtualized” the operation of many devices that were previously “purpose-built.” And while PCs proliferated throughout broadcast facilities, some vexing problems attended the PC takeover.
The life cycles of hard drives, cooling fans and power supplies conspire to bring regular failures to any facility that depends upon dozens of PCs for continuous operation. Seems we’ve replaced purpose-built audio equipment with PCs performing specific duties, and our device count may not have changed much from our older scenarios.
Tech businesses in other sectors have had similar challenges. Many of these challenges have been addressed using far more robust computing platforms than PCs. “Server-grade” hardware — including motherboards, CPUs, cooling fans, hard drives and power supplies — provide a level of performance and reliability not found in PC-grade systems. But server-grade hardware is expensive — too expensive for many broadcasters to replace their consumer PCs with a similar number of server-grade computers.
This price point is where computer virtualization raises its hand to say, “Hey, I have your solution right here!” That solution involves virtualizing those very systems even further by moving their functions out of numerous dedicated PCs and into a server-grade platform, plus a full backup.
These servers run multiple virtual “PCs” internally — anywhere from two or three systems up to several dozen. Some broadcasters began shifting their internal business processes onto multi-platform servers as far back as 10 years ago. But moving real-time audio processes to virtualization servers is just now gaining interest.
One early experimenter — and then early adopter — has been BBC Local Radio. The BBC operates “local” radio stations in about 40 cities across England.
In 2014 the BBC embarked on a quest to reduce the difficulties and expenses associated with local equipment capital and maintenance costs, as well as a shortage of engineers to refit 80 complex studios. The result is “ViLoR,” short for Virtual Local Radio. The local studios operate about the same as with the old, legacy equipment, but the underlying broadcast infrastructure lives within two data centers in London and Birmingham. Automation playout, talkshow systems, audio codecs and even live on-air audio mixing are handled at the data centers by high-reliability servers. Redundant data connections and dual studios / data centers assure six 9’s of uptime.Radio control room virtualization using IP-Tablet software.
The BBC is using resources more efficiently than before in terms of capital costs, maintenance and monthly expenses such as HVAC. The new ViLoR system maintains audio in digital perfection with extreme ease-of-use for the on-air talent. Serendipitously, ViLoR affords a renewed emphasis on talent, content creation and effective multi-platform distribution.
Recent developments are bringing broadcast infrastructure virtualization to more broadcasters — even those without large budgets. Since “virtualization” embodies several definitions and manifestations, broadcasters can virtualize a few things now, then move toward radical virtualization of their infrastructure when the time is right.
A contemporary example of virtualization is moving the audio console surface plus phone interaction and other studio controls to a touchscreen. Today’s multi-touch screens offer effortless and accurate control, and the layouts are customizable for each show or on-air talent. They can be less expensive than the traditional controls they replace.Multiple radio automation systems operating in a robust and redundant VM server.
Another form of virtualization is to move automation playout systems onto Virtual Machines (“VMs”) running on powerful, server-grade platforms. Some automation manufacturers are supporting this scenario already, and most are planning on it.
At Delta Radio in Mississippi, hardened servers are running five instances of the Rivendell automation system. Audio and GPIO signalling is done entirely in Livewire Audio over IP, so no sound cards or GPIO cards are needed at the server. The server offers four 1 Gb Ethernet connections, of which only two are used — one for the Livewire AoIP network and the other for VNC access, audio and log file transfers, and other command/control functions. Once set up and tested, these automation systems have worked flawlessly. Two of the stations are entirely automated while three have some local, live-assist shifts.
All of these stations ingest voice-tracking files daily, as well as some long-form programs, hourly weather forecasts and daily local news files. Actually, the automation systems running in VMs all share a Network Attached Storage (“NAS”) server. Ingest and formatting of new audio isn’t duplicated by each station; rather it’s done once by another VM running an automated ingest and quality-control application called WebGopher. This application has freed up our local talent from the tedium of manually dubbing the hundreds of audio cuts that are updated daily. Now they can focus on their shows, voice-tracking and doing frequent remote broadcasts from local events and advertisers.
A further virtualization scenario appears when we replace audio mixing hardware (dedicated console “engines”) with audio mixing engines running on PCs — or better yet, on VMs. Audio over IP technology is making this quite doable. As mentioned, the BBC began such operation nearly five years ago. When mixing engines are virtualized, radio studios may have simple audio mixing control surfaces, along with mics, headphones, touchscreens and button panels; the heavy lifting of the rest of our typical infrastructure will all be virtualized in clean, safe data centers, either on-site or in a secure off-site facility. Webcasters are already operating some of their facilities entirely in the cloud. The features and functions that broadcasters need are being developed now.Conceptual connectivity and functions involved in a fully cloud-based radio broadcast infrastructure.
Will virtualized broadcast infrastructure be better, more reliable, cost less? Will it allow talent to focus more on their craft — and do that from anywhere? Stay tuned. The future does look virtual, and that’s a reality we’ll have to deal with.
Alabama Media, LLC, applications for construction permit, special temporary authority, and license to cover for FM translator station W299BX, Dothan, AL
Public radio and TV engineers will participate in a new collaborative event in Las Vegas next week.
It is a joint “Night Owl” event of the Public Radio Engineering Conference and PBS TechCon, taking place on Thursday, April 4, at the Flamingo, and is open to all attendees of the PREC or TechCon.
Victoria St. John, president of the Association of Public Radio Engineers, and Kevin Ruppenthal, director of technology communications and engagement for PBS, organized the evening, which is funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
We asked St. John for more info:
Radio World: Why is it notable or different from past years?
Victoria St. John: We are excited to get the technology teams for both radio and TV in the room for networking and collaboration. Conducting sessions on topics that cross all of our many content platforms, we can share knowledge and cross-pollinate ideas. CPB challenged us to work together across our respective events, and we’re making that happen with informative content and quality networking. Our attendees tell us the most valuable part of our events is the time spent directly working with peers.
RW: Who is the intended attendee?
St. John: Public media technologists working across all the various platforms of radio and television. Engineers looking to develop skills and network with peers.
RW: How would someone register?
St. John: PREC [Public Radio Engineering Conference]: Register at https://www.apre.us/
TechCon registration will be available onsite beginning Wednesday, April 3, near the Sunset Ballroom on the 3rd floor at the Flamingo.
RW: What else should readers know about the programs of the PBS TechCon and APRE/PREC?
St. John: We at the APRE are dedicated to advancing the art and science of public radio engineering through research, education and public service. PBS TechCon serves as the premier educational event for anyone in public media serving an audience with technology. With record numbers of registrants, station staff, stations represented and presenters in 2019, these technology conferences continue to grow to serve the educational needs of public media staff.
The Association of Public Radio Engineers next week also will present Jeff Welton of Nautel as its 2019 recipient of the APRE Engineering Achievement Award.
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As expected, this year’s Infinite Dial showed continued growth for podcasting. Most notable, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital, is that listening to podcasts became a majority behavior with 51% of respondents 12 and over. That would project out to about 144 million nationwide. That’s a big jump from last year’s 44%. Monthly podcast listening showed the largest gain in the history of the Infinite Dial, jumping from last year’s 26% to 32%, about 90 million listeners.
Infinite Dial’s demographics for podcast listening showed growth in all three age groups. 12–24 showed 33% growth, significant, according to Edison and Triton, because listenership for this group has historically lagged the 25–54 demographic.
Why did this happen? The data may not be able to pinpoint an exact cause, say Triton and Digital, but a strong association appears when examining 12–24-year olds who also use Spotify. Among that group, listenership was at 32% in 2018, but increased to 53% this year, a time when Spotify was doing a great deal to promote podcasting to a younger age group.
The dramatic growth in podcasting presented in this year’s Infinite Dial is underscored by the increases in categories when compared to last year. The report claims that an additional 17 million Americans ages 12+ are familiar with the term podcasting. An additional 20 million have ever listened to a podcast. 17 million more have listened to a podcast in the past month, while 14 million more listened in the last week.
When the weekly listeners were asked how many podcasts they listened to over the past seven days, the mean was seven. That’s the same as last year, up from five, which had remained unchanged for several years previously.
One of the key takeaways from this data on podcasts and audio books, according to Edison and Triton, is the apparent increased trend towards spoken word consumption.
The post Infinite Dial: Podcast Listening Now a Majority Behavior appeared first on Radio World.
The Association of Public Radio Engineers has named Jeff Welton as this year’s APRE Engineering Achievement Award honoree.
In the announcement, APRE President Victoria St. John said, “Jeff helps make possible what we do, representing the approach to the ideals and engineering practices and training that APRE stands for and promotes. He is well deserving of this honor and recognition.”[Nautel Looks to the Future for NUG Inspiration]
Welton is well known for sharing best practices in the areas of lightning protection, grounding, transmitter site safety and other important subjects via articles and presentations. He also wrote the chapter on Facility Grounding Practice and Lightning Protection for the 11th edition of the NAB Engineering Handbook. In light of that work, the Society of Broadcast Engineers recognized him with the 2018 James C. Wulliman Educator of the Year Award.
In addition to his efforts educating the broadcast community, Welton works as the central U.S. regional sales manager for Nautel. He has worked for the transmitter manufacturer for nearly three decades, 17 of which he spent in field service and technical support positions, as well as assisting with design review. Today, it’s not unusual for Welton to both sell and install a transmitter, and he also performs some site inspections and repairs, despite changing to a different department.[PREC 2019 Adds Saturday Sessions]
APRE will present the award to Welton during the Public Radio Engineers Conference Dinner in Las Vegas, April 5.
Previous honorees include NPR’s Bruce Wahl, KQED’s Dan Mansergh, ARPE Founding President Ralph Hogan, NPR’s Ralph Woods and Bud Aiello, Gray Frierson Haertig, WBUR(FM)’s Michael LeClair, Mike Starling, KBIA’s Roger Karwoski, Minnesota Public Radio and APM’s Donald Creighton, WAMU(FM)’s Richard Cassidy, Wayne Hetrich, WDUQ’s Chuck Leavens, Marty Bloss, Cincinnati Public Radio’s Don Danko, NPR Labs’ John Kean, NPR’s Jim McEachern, KUVO’s Mike Pappas and V-Soft Communications’ Doug Vernier.
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Broadcasters attending the 2019 NAB Show have the chance to hear from four members of the Federal Communications Commission.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will deliver remarks Tuesday, April 9, at 3 p.m. during the NAB: We Are Broadcasters Celebration. FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks will offer their insights Monday, April 8, at the “Raining 3s: A Q&A with FCC Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr and Starks.”
Named chairman by President Donald Trump in January 2017, Pai has set a regulatory course aimed at making sure the agency’s rules reflect the realities of the existing marketplace, NAB said.
Pai, who was appointed an FCC commissioner by former President Barack Obama in 2012, has worked to update media regulations to match the changing media market, it added.
During their session, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr and Starks will offer their views on the current regulatory and legislative agenda, NAB added.
More information is available on the NAB Show website.
The post Pai, O’Rielly, Carr, Starks to Offer FCC Perspective at NAB Show appeared first on Radio World.
This is our big NAB Show preview, featuring tech sessions, connected car news, booth listings with product previews and more. It’s also a podcasting special edition, with three stories exploring various facets of that fast-moving medium.TECHNOLOGY
Next-Gen PRSS System Is on the Way
Public radio engineers all over the U.S. have been waiting for the next-generation satellite distribution system; now it’s pending. The system will add important features to improve reliability and flexibility of program distribution. Michael LeClair asked NPR Distribution VP Michael Beach for details about the platform and its deployment timetable.PREVIEW
NAB Show 2019 Technology & Trends
The industry’s biggest trade show and convention is one of the best places for broadcasters to learn about technological challenges and solutions. Preview some of the big topics, including podcasting, digital radio expansion, connected car developments and more.ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:
- Virtualization Adds Flexibility to Radio
- Farm Radio: Boyer Nurtures Personal Relationships
- Solving the Missing Link
Broadcast management and engineering deal with countless moving parts and people. Anyone in the broadcast world can attest to seeing a GM in a sales meeting one minute and heading out to a remote broadcast the next. The engineers are busy with IT tasks, transmitters, studios and fixing toilets.
While on-air presentation is basically what we “do,” the question is: What is tangible about our line of business? What is most at risk? The answer is, the station license. It is, quite literally, everything.
The license from the FCC does far more than hang on the studio wall. It is the document that says a broadcast entity has the legal right to occupy a specific part of the government-regulated broadcast spectrum. We should be reminded that the government has unfettered oversight concerning the legal operation of a broadcast plant. While it’s no secret that a random FCC inspection is a potentially gut-wrenching experience, there are reasonable steps that management and engineering can take that will ultimately protect the station license.ANTENNA REGISTRATION
Jim Dalke, the administrator of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program, served as an ABIP inspector in the state for 10 years.
He found that one of the most common regulatory infractions uncovered by inspectors centers around antenna registration requirements. For example, a station is held responsible for proper tower painting and lighting regardless of whether the tower is leased or owned by the station.[In Washington State, Celebrating AMs’ FM Translators]
The station is most certainly responsible for correct signage and fencing. Dalke encourages stations to keep tower sites mowed and clean. An inspector will appreciate a well-kept tower site.
Other common inspection problems include improper power monitoring (especially for TV and AM broadcasters) and improper EAS monitoring assignments. Logging of missed sent and received tests is important.
The public file must be in order. However, the recent ruling that public files be kept and made available online has forced stations to do better, and Dalke indicates that public file infractions are far fewer of late.
In the past, many stations kept a copy of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, in the facility. This has become unnecessary as CFR 47 is now available online for quick access and reference.THREE STEPS TO TAKE
In his presentation at the NAB Show called “Protecting the FCC Station License,” Dalke suggests that there are three key considerations.
The first is proper installation of a qualified Designated Chief Operator. The DCO, most commonly a chief engineer, is an employee or contractor who can knowledgeably execute FCC regulations. At a time when full-time engineers may be hard to keep on the payroll, a contract engineer can equally serve as the DCO. The key is that the DCO knows the broadcast operation well, is aware of and able to implement FCC regulations properly and can effectively guide an FCC inspector through the facility during an inspection.A rough estimate, courtesy of Jim Dalke, of how violations break down.
The second key component is satisfactory completion of the FCC Self-Inspection Checklist. The checklist is available for easy download and has specific sets of requirements for AM, FM, TV, LPFM, translator and booster stations. Caution, the FCC Self-Inspection Checklist is not exhaustive and indeed parts of it are out of date. It will, nonetheless, allow the broadcaster to address the most frequently violated broadcast regulations. The checklist is best completed by the DCO.
The third key component that will help protect the FCC license from regulation discrepancies is to enroll the station into the Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program. ABIP is provided by most state broadcast associations. Scheduling an ABIP inspector is, by far, more settling than undergoing an actual random FCC inspection. It is not a free service, but well worth the quick application process and financial investment.WHAT TO EXPECT
The ABIP inspector is a qualified engineer who is approved by the regional FCC field office. The inspector comes to the facility at a scheduled time and generally spends four to six hours going over items specific to the Self-Inspection Checklist and CFR 47.
The inspector will review his or her findings with the chief operator and management and suggest avenues to take that will lead to a successful FCC inspection should that day come. As opposed to a real inspection, the ABIP inspector will allow a reasonable amount of time (as much as 90 days) for the station to resolve its compliance problems.
Once everything checks out, the station will receive a Certificate of Compliance and will be immune from random FCC inspections for three years.
However, there are caveats. First, the inspector generally will steer clear of inspecting lowest unit rate, EEO compliance and RF radiation exposure measurements. Inspectors will take only a cursory look at the online public file. Finally, the ABIP will not insulate a broadcaster from an FCC inspection that results from a filed complaint.
Broadcasters may not be necessarily aware of their FCC license value. Without it, they are out of business. The license represents trust granted to the broadcaster by the FCC, and in order to keep that trust, there are rules to be followed. As humans we are bound to miss some of those rules, whether through complacency or pure accident. The best ways to be ready for an FCC inspection are actually very simple. Have the right people in place and go through the paces with the Self-Inspection Checklist and ABIP.
Chris Wygal is a radio engineer and Radio World contributor.
The post Protect Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Station License appeared first on Radio World.
Audio codec manufacturer Tieline has released a new firmware upgrade v2.18.76 for its Bridge-IT and Bridge-IT XTRA codecs.
The new features include support for STUN servers; the ability to import/export individual programs; upgraded security features including CSRF protection and enhanced firewall settings; updates to GPIO functionality, including virtual IOs and enhanced rules functionality; support for asymmetric encoding and codec host names; and improvements to speed dialing.
Tieline VP Sales APAC & EMEA Charlie Gawley said, “This new firmware release adds to an already impressive range of features in Bridge-IT and Bridge-IT XTRA codecs. … For new and existing customers we have upgraded IP security settings, plus we have new features which improve codec flexibility and usability.”
Tieline firmware downloads can be found here.
NAB Show Booth: N7199
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On this week’s episode, scholar Lerone Martin shares with us the fascinating history of African-American preachers who distributed their sermons on 78rpm records during a time when they had limited access to the radio in the 1920s-1940s. Martin, Associate Professor in Religion and Politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at […]
The Edison Research and Triton Digital The Infinite Dial’s latest report showed, among other things, an uptick in online listening in the car environment, as well as a continuing adoption of smart speakers. This begs the question, what audio brands are people listening to? Considerable time and research went into finding the answers.
It’s probably no surprise that Pandora leads in the area of audio brand awareness, at 89%. Apple and Amazon are tied for greatest increase in awareness over the past year, jumping from 60% to 74%. Every brand on the list enjoys greater awareness than last year, except Deezer, Tracker and 8Tracks.
Pandora also leads in monthly usage with 30%. And even though Apple, Amazon and iHeart Music each enjoy greater awareness, more people say they use Spotify on a monthly basis. The three-year trend shows Pandora declining slightly from 32% in 2017, while all others enjoy slight increases.
Monthly usage broken out by demographics in the 12–34 age group shows Spotify and SoundCloud as the clear winners. The picture shifts a bit when examining the 35 to 54 demographic. The use of Pandora is increasing, as is the consumption of all others. iHeart Radio is also trending up more consistently with this group.
The three-year trend of weekly listening shows Pandora holding on to its lead with 22%, but Spotify has almost closed the gap with a big increase this year from 16% to 20%.
Most people think of YouTube as a video brand, but the company has made significant inroads into the audio market. YouTube launched its music service in the first half of 2018, with features such as a premium, ad free service, along with the ability to listen to music while a phone is locked, making it more competitive with Spotify and Apple Music. Most of YouTube’s gains have been with younger demographics. Among the 12–34 group, listening increased from 66% to 70% over the past year, while the 35–54 group saw an increase from 47% to 51%.
The latest federal budget proposal has created waves in the noncommercial media space. Once again, the president recommends an end to public funding for educational broadcasting.
If you read the headlines and feel like you’ve heard about this before, you are not wrong. This is the third budget by President Donald Trump to seek an end to the generations-long commitment to public radio and television. He’s not the first to try this reduction either. Vanity Fair recently explored how public funding for noncommercial educational broadcasting has been a focus of politicians since the 1970s.
Picking this fight now is puzzling. These days, there are many disputes over the media. The average American’s trust in their local radio or television has waned in poll upon poll. The exception has been in noncommercial media, which has seen gains in audience nationwide. Appreciation for noncommercial TV and radio stations in communities is boosted by the many stations who do in-person engagement work and storytelling, such as the Minnesota stations profiled by Current.
The last two Trump administration efforts to cut federal funding failed. This time, how far this budget gets is questionable.
Joshua Benton notes precisely why this task may face an uphill climb. In addition to a swing of Congressional control to the Democrats, there is a perception gap. Americans largely like and trust noncommercial media. Republicans rejected the same cuts when they ran Congress, in part because the elimination was a minuscule part of the federal budget. With major races for office coming next year, you can assume that lawmakers might be hesitant to anger voters or offer rivals an opening.
Then there are the Beltway machinations. Regardless of administration, budget proposals are a statement of priorities and a wish list, to a lesser degree. Federal budgets will be reviewed by Congress, debated, amended, reviewed again and again and, eventually, be voted on by our elected representatives. What President Trump signs off on may end up radically different than what left the White House months before.
Nevertheless, the occasion has proven to be a good time to remind everyone just how valuable the noncommercial educational broadcasting system is to the nation.
Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, issued a statement on the proposal. In it, she highlights many of public media’s good works. The statement reads, in part, “As a trusted partner within communities and states, public media has covered issues before they became national concerns. For example, public media stations in all 50 states have produced thousands of hours of local broadcast and online coverage on the impact of opioid addiction and have hosted hundreds of town halls and other events with local community partners focusing on solutions. Through the CPB-supported American Graduate: Getting To Work initiative, stations are creating local content focused on the essential skills needed for students and workers to succeed in the job markets of today and tomorrow.”
Harrison is spot on in her assessments. The American Graduate program, devoted to “shine a light on pathways to graduation and successful student outcomes,” has demonstrated huge impact. The public financial support for educational radio, television, digital and teaching platforms has yielded undeniable results.
Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have seen the wonderful work of stations over the years. Many have surely discovered this funding as money well spent. As Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma told Variety, “If you look at the range of services it provides, the quality of programming and the points of view it expresses, I just think for the amount of money we are talking about here, and the multiplier effect, it is able to sustain itself. I don’t see Congress having the desire [to cut funding] because they reflect the desire of the American people.”
In fact, the tangible successes and goodwill from the public is enough to make you ask what greater work CPB and the noncommercial educational media system could do as a whole with greater and expanded commitments. With people like America’s Public Television Stations President Pat Butler advocating for increased funding from Congress and more stations, especially rural ones, encouraging better dialogues about support, this may be the year to see some wins in Washington for noncommercial educational radio and television.
Angry Audio will be a new name to many but the widget maker might bring some smiles to faces with its problem-solvers.
Debuting for the NAB Show audience are two tools — the Guest Gizmo (shown) and the Bidirectional Balancing Gadget.The Guest Gizmo is a multifeatured RF-resistant metal panel for studio guests. It has a cough button and a headphone amp with volume control. According to Angry Audio cough circuit can connect to a small mixer’s insert jack, or to the muting logic of a broadcast board. The Guest Gizmo can even light up a mic arm tally, according to the company. It can be installed in a cable/grommet hole.
Angry Audio says that its Bidirectional Balancing Gadget has exclusive “Ground-Breaking” technology suppresses ground loop noise while converting unbalanced signals to pristine, broadcast-grade balanced audio. It converts one stereo pair from unbalanced to balanced, and a second stereo pair from balanced to unbalanced — for things such as recording devices or computers.
NAB Show Booth: C1722