Migration/upgrade to ARC Plus and AutoPilot software succeeds
The author is chief engineer at Minnesota Public Radio.
Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media are headquartered in downtown St. Paul, Minn. within sight of the state capitol.
It operates 49 public radio stations and 42 translators serving listeners in eight states. MPR delivers three services for broadcast via satellite. The APM program portfolio reaches nearly 20 million listeners each week. Notable programs delivered live include BBC World service, “C24” and “Marketplace.”
During my 10 years with the company I have seen the Gentner/Burk GSC system migrated entirely to Burk ARC Plus Touch, ARC Plus SL and ARC Solo at 37 sites.
Flying on AutoPilot
The decision to continue with Burk for a complete remote control system update was not automatic but made sense. The GSC-to-ARC transition was aided by using the Plus-X GSC Adapter which made transition at many of our sites plug-and-play.
While most of our sites are transmitting facilities, we also have a Burk system installed at our Network Operation Center in St. Paul, which monitors codecs, satellite uplink and downlink, building temperatures and UPS status, and at the Public Radio Satellite Systems (PRSS) NOC in Washington, where our live streamed network contribution is nominally uplinked.
Our St. Paul NOC uses AutoPilot to watch over sites on multiple computers. This gives our NOC operator a machine to use while a member of the radio network team is on another machine remotely. Sites I need to see regularly are best viewed with AutoPilot from my PC. ARC units reliably report to multiple AutoPilot instances. Additionally, the Warp Engine Polling feature minimizes processor load and IP bandwidth on computers running AutoPilot. I am aware of the smartphone options that Burk has but so far have not added that to my device. While we have the relative luxury of a full-time NOC operator, I will probably avoid that.
Transmitter sites require a primary and backup remote control connection, so most sites still have a POTS line to provide a modem connection in the event of an IP failure. We have recently seen situations where the POTS line will not work reliably with the modem and there are a couple of sites that use the Burk RSI voice interface for backup. Burk works well at sites that use wireless internet as well.
I am a big fan of Custom Views in AutoPilot. One red spot on a screen will stand out even among hundreds of statuses and meters. I have created small custom views for specific purposes, like switching between two transmitters sites or keeping a close eye on equipment experiencing issues.
We are getting more versed at employing SNMP, which is taking over transmitter M and C. Our GatesAir FAX transmitters and Intraplex IP Link codecs get along well with Burk SNMP Plus. Our XDS/ATX-Networks satellite receivers display lock status and Eb/No using SNMP on multiple AutoPilot Custom Views.
In conclusion I can say we are pleased with Burk Technology products and are consistently imagining new ways to use this system.
Radio World User Reports are testimonial articles intended to help readers understand why a colleague chose a particular product to solve a technical situation.
For information about this product contact Matt Leland at Burk Technology in Massachusetts at 1-978-486-0086 or visit www.burk.com.
Some immediate reaction and notes about what the FCC did and didn't do
Here’s some immediate reaction and followup to the announcement that the FCC will allow AM radio stations to use all-digital transmission if they wish.
THE CHAIRMAN LOVES AM
Ajit Pai hasn’t lost his lifeline affection for radio. In an official statement after the vote, Pai wrote: “Freddie Mercury memorably sang in Queen’s 1984 hit Radio Ga Ga, ‘Radio, someone still loves you.’ Thirty six years later, that remains true; I love radio, as do millions of my fellow Americans. And that love extends to the AM band.”
Pai repeated his frequent praise for stations that cover local events and sports, provide a forum for discourse, offer foreign-language programming and provide information in emergencies. He reminded us that in the AM revitalization initiative, more than 2,100 FM translators are on the air rebroadcasting AM signals, with another 700 pending. “Countless AM broadcasters have told me that their FM translators have given their stations a new lease on life.”
APai said that a transition to all-digital service “presents a singular opportunity to preserve the AM service for future listeners.” He also thanked Ben Downs of Bryan Broadcasting, the proponent of this proposal who hosted Pai at his stations in Texas years ago “and planted a bug in my ear about this idea.”
WHAT WILL BEN DOWNS DO?
Radio World reached Ben Downs this morning as the FCC was set to vote. “I’m glad we had a chance to be a part of this proceeding,” he told us. “David Layer at NAB conducted tests on the system over a period of years and Hubbard’s WWFD was the proof of concept.
“To me it just seemed we needed a slight push to take us to the next step. The FCC staff apparently agreed that this was a well-tested and proven system. Regulator changes never happen as fast as you might like, especially with the burden of Covid, but the FCC staff moved really quickly to get this to today’s vote. The fact it was unanimous shows that the work done was based in solid engineering.”
I asked Downs if he will convert his own stations. “I have two of four that makes sense to convert,” he replied. “My decision tree says that if it’s a full-time station with a backup cross-band translator, then it’s an easy decision to choose to convert. Especially if you’re playing music.
“Two of my AMs have a very good sized footprint and would benefit from being able to broadcast without that noise and narrow bandwidth that defines today’s AM radio,” he said. “And, to the best I can determine, their RF facilities will require only minor adjustments.”
Just how many others will get on board is uncertain. The FCC sounded optimistic, writing that “AM broadcasters overwhelmingly support the proposal to allow all-digital AM broadcasting, as do broadcast engineers; technology companies, and some individual listeners.”
It said that “commenters believe that all-digital operation will increase the format choices that AM broadcasters can offer to their audiences, including the option of music programming (in full stereo if using enhanced mode). Hubbard asserts that all-digital operation will also allow AM broadcasters to provide program and station information along with the main audio stream more reliably than in hybrid mode. Finally, commenters note that the all-digital mode is designed to potentially support an HD-2 second programming stream.”
But Radio World is eager to hear from stations that are planning to make this move anytime soon. Anecdotal evidence has suggested to me that there may not be many stations ready to jump. I certainly have sensed no wave of pressing interest. And comments I have received personally have been doubting or downright negative. Now that the window is actually open, advocates can put their money where their mouths have been.
Email me at [email protected].
MIKE RAIDE ON THE INVESTMENT
On the topic of what adjustments stations will need to make, Radio World also checked in with Mike Raide of Xperi. We asked him: If an AM station has HD Radio equipment installed, what technical changes and further investments will they need to make now in order to go all digital?
“They will need to make sure their antenna system is capable of handling an HD signal,” Raide said. “The antenna system will need to meet the required bandwidth to properly transmit an MA3 signal. This may require some additional components to properly increase the bandwidth, and some consulting work done by some familiar with AM antenna systems.”
What about stations that do not yet have any HD Radio gear? “They will need to reach out to the equipment manufacturers for the necessary equipment,” Raide replied.
“The required equipment at least would be an exciter or exporter and a transmitter capable of transmitting an MA3 signal. An MA3 signal places greater demands on a transmitter, even more so than an MA1 hybrid signal. A station would have to reach out to an equipment manufacturer to see if their solid-state transmitter is capable. A vacuum tube transmitter is not capable of any digital signal and would have to be replaced.”
On the subject of costs, the FCC wrote this in its order: “We note that all-digital broadcasting places fewer new demands on the transmission system than hybrid operation, therefore minimizing the technical and equipment costs of conversion. Kintronics sets out in detail the system parameters that would be needed for all-digital conversion, concluding that ‘the measures required on the antenna system for many sites will be minor, and the majority of antenna systems should be capable of digital transmission.’ The cost of conversion for AM stations that are already broadcasting in hybrid mode is likely to be minimal. For facilities requiring a major overhaul to accommodate all-digital transmissions, however, the costs will be considerably more.”
The commission noted that Xperi currently offers AM stations a perpetual license to use HD Radio technology with no initial or recurring costs, as we’ve reported.
FURTHER NOTABLE DETAILS
There are extensive technical discussions in the order under headings for nominal power, digital spectrum emission limits, power measurements, use of digital subcarriers, carrier frequency tolerance standard, prohibited interference and remediation procedures, night operation, EAS and other facets.
You can read the order here.
But here are a few notable takeaways:
-All-digital operation will be allowed both day and night.
-There’s a 30-day waiting period before converting to all-digital “so that transitioning AM stations can provide adequate notice to the commission, consumers and other potentially affected stations.”
-The order requires each all-digital station to “provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast.” Beyond that though, digital subcarriers can be used for broadcast or non-broadcast services, including song and title information.
-Stations will be able to use their additional digital bitrate capacity for broadcast or non-broadcast services, with the capacity varying depending upon the mode of operation. “WWFD initially operated in core-only (reduced bandwidth) configuration while it modified its facility to enable transmission in enhanced mode (greater bandwidth),” the FCC noted. It will permit each broadcaster to select either mode as their situation dictates. (It opted not to require that additional digital data capacity be used only to enhance audio fidelity, particularly stereo audio, as some had requested.)
-Each digital station still must participate in the national Emergency Alert System. The station must ensure that any others that monitor it can still receive and decode an all-digital EAS alert, or adjust their monitoring assignments to receive EAS alerts from another station.
-The commission declined requests to consider Digital Radio Mondiale for AM digital operation, saying there has been no fully developed proposal or testing. “We approve the HD Radio MA3 mode, but do not foreclose the future consideration of alternative transmission technologies.”
-The FCC agreed to use average power of the all-digital signal (including the unmodulated analog carrier power and all of the digital sidebands) to determine whether the station is complying with the nominal power limits set out in the rules. This was a change from its original plan. “We find that this nominal power limit is technically feasible, as demonstrated in the NAB Labs experiments and WWFD’s experimental operation.”
-About interference, it wrote: “Although testing indicates that the digital signals may cause some increased degradation to analog signals, in most cases this will be masked by the noise floor, and in any case there is no evidence that interference will occur within service areas that are currently protected under our rules.”
-The FCC did not impose stricter spectral emissions limits as had been proposed in the NPRM. It said the consensus was that existing emissions limits will adequately protect stations on adjacent channels. Also, “the record indicates that these stricter HD Radio emissions limits may not be set at technically feasible levels and may need to be revisited in light of field data from all-digital experimental operation.” The FCC said stricter limits could hamper deployment of all-digital service but said it could revisit that later.
-The FCC declined to incorporate the NRSC-5D Standard by reference into its rules, for several reasons. Among them: “If we were to consider incorporating by reference the NRSC-5-D standard in the future, we would likely aim for consistency across services, and thus would consider AM all-digital, AM hybrid, and FM hybrid technical standards at the same time.” But it emphasized that it was not trying to undermine confidence in it as a voluntary standard.
-And the FCC declined to take certain other actions that had been urged upon it, saying these were beyond the scope of the proceeding. These ideas included increased enforcement to reduce noise floor levels; the sunset of AM translators; establishing a Low Power AM service; waiving regulatory fees for all-digital AM stations; allocating television spectrum for FM replacement facilities for AM broadcast stations on a primary basis; allowing translator rebroadcasting from an all-digital AM primary station to originate programming; disallowing use of HD Radio hybrid mode; authorizing AM programming on audio-only channels in ATSC 3.0 TV broadcasts; widening the FM band; other AM revitalization-related proposals, such as eliminating third-adjacent channel protections; and receiver standards.
FCC says WJUP was over power at wrong location with no EAS and didn't provide timely access
A low-power FM station in Jupiter, Fla., is facing a whomping $25,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission — whomping, at least, for most LPFM stations.
The Enforcement Bureau issued a notice of apparent liability against Jupiter Community Radio and its station WJUP(LP).
It said Jupiter operated the station at the wrong power level, with the wrong antenna and from the wrong location; that it failed to make the station available for timely inspection as required; and that it didn’t have EAS equipment in place.
Agents from the Miami bureau found that WJUP was broadcasting from the roof of a multi-unit residential building more than a quarter mile from its licensed site and that it was using a two-bay antenna rather than its authorized one-bay model.
After some problems reaching Jupiter President Wayne Manning, the agents eventually were able to do an inspection and reported that the station also had a transmitter power output of 100 Watts and effective radiated power of approximately 177 Watts, compared to the licensed TPO of 45 Watts and ERP of 20 Watts.
They also said the station did not appear to have any EAS equipment. Manning told them that the EAS equipment was at the studio, which is on the premises of a local church that has its own LPFM station, WOIB; but despite several requests the agents said Manning provided only logs for WOIB, none for WJUP.
The bureau noted in its summary of the case that Manning had sent them e-mails and letters to advise that Jupiter had “turned down” the station’s transmitter, replaced the antenna with the correct model and “taken care of the violations.” But the FCC said none of these included a declaration attesting to the accuracy of its responses, as required by its earlier notice of violation.
Thus it says the station violated four sections of FCC rules. “These types of violations make it difficult for the commission to manage the radio spectrum, to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the technical data in its licensing databases, to fully investigate violations and to ensure compliance with the commission’s rules by entities subject to the commission’s oversight,” it wrote.
“At any time, Jupiter could have cured these violations or could have sought authority from the commission, such as through an application for special temporary authority or an application to modify the station’s license; yet it did not.”
The licensee has 30 days to reply or to pay the fine.
Read about the case here. DA-20-1248A1.docx
Will allow HD Radio MA-3 mode, but the uptake outlook is unclear
The Federal Communications Commission will allow U.S. AM radio station owners to convert their stations to all-digital HD Radio transmissions if they choose to do so.
The commission voted unanimously in favor today at its October open meeting.
Industry observers will be watching to see if any owners large or small take this step. All HD Radio receivers in the market are capable of receiving the MA3 signals; but making this switch would end analog listening on the given frequency.
The order establishes technical rules to protect existing stations from interference. Stations that want to convert will be required to notify the FCC and the public 30 days in advance.
“These stations must provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast,” the FCC wrote in a summary. “They also must continue to participate in the Emergency Alert System. The order envisions that AM broadcasters will decide whether to convert to all-digital operation based on the conditions in their respective markets.”
The Texas broadcaster who pushed the FCC to allow voluntary all-digital transmission on the AM band has said this would be a “uniquely positive” one in AM revitalization.
Ben Downs, VP/GM of Bryan Broadcasting in Texas, petitioned the FCC in March 2019 to make this move. “The option to convert to all-digital isn’t a magic wand for an AM station, but it is a tool we can use to compete,” he told Radio World today in expectation of the vote to approve. “Those of us with AM stations have been limited to spoken word and niche formats because AM is just not suitable for mass appeal music formats. This changes that fact, and gives us many more options.”
He said there are 70 million radios in the marketplace that will receive AM digital now.
“I’m certainly happy about this. For AM stations that couldn’t find spectrum for a cross-band translator, this is a great option. It will probably benefit large markets with a crowded radio dial that still have the need to compete using an AM signal.”
This change is the latest in a series of “revitalization” steps that the commission has taken to help broadcasters that operate in the AM band, which is troubled by declining listenership, noise and changing consumer habits.
As we’ve reported, three AM stations have received experimental authority to operate in all-digital. Hubbard’s WWFD in Frederick, Md., has actively promoted the format and made presentations about its experiences. Another, WIOE in Ft. Wayne, Ind., experimented but ended its digital transmissions. A third, WTLC in Indianapolis, owned by Urban One, wanted to rebroadcast multicast channels of the AM test signal over FM translators, but the commission didn’t allow that.
The National Association of Broadcasters praised the decision. “Radio broadcasters are grateful to Chairman Pai for championing AM radio during his tenure at the FCC and thank him for successfully implementing policies to help revitalize AM stations.”
[Take a closer look at details of the order and hear what Ben Downs is planning to do with his own AM stations. Read that here.]
Accounting firm along with law group and satellite comms company to oversee repack cost claims
The post FCC Chooses C-Band Repack Money Clearinghouse Operators appeared first on Radio World.
The FCC has picked the companies to operate the clearinghouse for payments to those affected by the C-Band spectrum repack in the 3.7–4.2 GHz range.
Radio and TV stations will be able to finally recoup costs incurred in changing equipment as the result of spectrum changes and elimination.
CohnReznick, an accounting and business services company, will lead with Squire Patton Boggs LLP, a Washington law firm, and Intellicom Technologies, a satellite communications specialist, supporting.
The FCC had stakeholders such as satellite companies such as Eutelsat, Intelsat License, SES Americom and other interested parties such as the NAB, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, American Cable Association, CTIA, Competitive Carriers Association, and Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, form a committee for the selection process.
The companies will collect claims for the costs from entities such as radio and TV stations and make apportionment decisions for the claimants. It can also resolve disputes.
The post FCC Chooses C-Band Repack Money Clearinghouse Operators appeared first on Radio World.
Following in the wake of the established SM7B, the new MV7 aims to entice content creators
The post Shure Launches MV7 Hybrid XLR/USB Podcast Microphone appeared first on Radio World.
Shure has launched its new MV7 Podcast Mic. As the company’s first hybrid XLR/USB microphone, the MV7 is aimed at content creators who are involved in podcasting, VO and more. As an entry-level microphone, the MV7 is designed for a simplified user experience, while providing audio quality commensurate with pro users’ expectations, the company says.
An integrated touch panel optimizes control for quick adjustments, allowing users to adjust the gain, headphone volume, monitor mix and mute/unmute, with an option to lock customized settings. Also onboard the mic is Auto Level Mode, which sets gains in real time, so the output levels stay consistent. This enables creators to focus on the content, and not on their mic technique. Auto Level Mode also acts as a virtual audio engineer and adjusts audio levels on the fly, giving audiences a more consistent listening experience.
The microphone works in conjunction with the new, free Shure MOTIV app for desktop, which offers a variety of preset modes. Users can select a tone (dark, natural or bright), depending on if they want a deep “radio” voice, or a crisp and clean sound. These settings are available in Auto Level Mode and can be selected in the MOTIV app. Similarly, users may select their mic distance from the MV7 (near or far), depending on how they are positioned. The Shure MV7 is also certified by VoIP technology developer TeamSpeak.
The mic offers an XLR output for use with interfaces, mixers and professional audio equipment, but also supports a USB-A and USB-C output for Mac and PC. When mobility and on-the-go recordings are needed, the MV7 works with select Android devices. A Lightning cable is available separately for use with iPhones and iPads.
The Shure MV7 Podcast Microphone comes in two colors (black, silver) and is available for US$249.
The post Shure Launches MV7 Hybrid XLR/USB Podcast Microphone appeared first on Radio World.
Three see some bright linings despite revenue drops and business uncertainty
CEOs from three of the largest U.S. commercial radio groups believe their industry is well positioned to move past the COVID-19 pandemic when the time comes.
Mary Berner, president and CEO of Cumulus Media; David Field, chairman, president and CEO of Entercom Communications; and Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia participated in a group conversation for the recent 2020 Radio Show, which was produced online by the Radio Advertising Bureau and the National Association of Broadcasters.
The business leaders gave their views about the massive business disruption and the challenges and opportunities it has presented.
They described a phenomenon that many Radio World readers have experienced directly: The pandemic has accelerated some aspects of the industry’s technological evolution through forced adoption of work practices that increase efficiency and flexibility.
And their conversation touched on further possible changes as more of the radio air chain moves into the cloud.
The conversation never steered far from the economic environment caused by COVID-19, but the CEOs sought to project a positive attitude.
“Radio has persevered as it always does during times of crisis. This has provided us an opportunity to be stronger and better. The audio industry is in great position to thrive and move ahead faster than when we went into it,” Field said.
In some ways, said Bob Pittman, “We’ve actually strengthened our relationship with the consumer. We have seen this before. Following a disaster or tornado, radio come outs of it with a stronger relationship with the consumer because we are a reliable companion.”
Cumulus describes itself as “an audio-first media and entertainment company,” and Berner’s choice of words in the conversation echoed that theme.
She says the industry’s ability to serve listeners from “anywhere and everywhere” has made the medium stronger during the crisis. “The audio platform has been extraordinarily resilient. Consumer behavior radically changed during the shutdown but yet audio has remained a vibrant part of the day-to-day lives of our listeners,” she said.
“People weren’t in cars as much, for broadcast radio listening dipped a bit, but that was more than set off by increases in streaming, listening on at-home devices and podcasting. Listening just shifted as opposed to going away.”
As Americans started getting back on the road, Berner said broadcast listening had rebounded to over 90% of pre-pandemic levels.
“The economic uncertainty is probably the biggest challenge the industry is facing. Nobody has a crystal ball. We are not sure what is going to happen. We all have to be very focused on the generation and preservation of cash and building up liquidity and shore up our balance sheets,” she said.
Shedding some insight into their power-player relationship, Berner disclosed that in the early phase of the pandemic, she spoke with Field and Pittman by phone “several times a week” as broadcasters began modeling what-if scenarios for operating in their new normal.
“We came together as an industry — for instance, in working together with Nielsen to determine a fair measurement of listening during this time of so many unknowns,” she said.
“I think we need to keep working together. We are all making decisions very quickly that may have taken months and months to consider. Some of them might have been uncomfortable in the moment, but they will be beneficial to the business in the long run.”
She also noted that “broadcasters won’t need the real estate footprint they thought” once they go back into their physical spaces.
Technological change coming
David Field of Entercom said the company is focused on what it will be when it emerges from the economic malaise of the pandemic.
“There is technological change coming, and the competitive dynamic is evolving. Consumer trends are evolving. Our companies have enormously powerful audio platforms of local and national celebrities, podcasting and digital audio,” he said. “We need to harvest that and become growing vibrant organizations on the other side” of the pandemic.
Accelerating the use of data analytics and attribution is crucial, Field said, to ensure that radio can become a more meaningful part of advertisement spending.
“Radio has often been the kids in the other room trying to get in. We were being held back by several things. One of those reasons has been scale. We didn’t have the scale as organizations in a highly fragmented industry,” Field said.
“Now Bob and Mary and our company can go to advertisers and to play at a much different level. We all have deep podcasting lineups and strong digital audio platforms. Our offering is much more robust and impactful. Now we have the data to go in and demonstrate how radio advertising works.”
All three companies reported significant fall-off in revenue as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic during the second quarter of 2020.
For example, for the three months ended June 30, Cumulus reported net revenue of $146 million, a decrease of 48% from a year ago. iHeartMedia Q2 revenue also was down by nearly half.
All three broadcasters were forced to institute cuts that included layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts earlier in the year. In addition, Cumulus and iHeartMedia recently sold off a number of broadcast tower holdings to raise cash.
The roundtable, moderated by Stephanie Ruhle of NBC News, briefly touched on possible policy changes regarding ownership rules and further deregulation of the broadcast industry.
“We are always navigating policy,” Pittman said. “It’s hard for policy to catch up with technology. Today we are still regulated as if all the technology is in one radio station and all that we do is with a transmitter and tower. The idea that we have all of the equipment in one location ignores that fact that the cloud is where everything is going.”
He continued: “If I have the studio in the cloud, then what do we have left in the building? And what regulations are related to that and which ones are not? It’s the inertia of what it was, and we have to change it to what it will be.”
Berner said broadcasters are still “really limited by policy to what we can do with consolidation and other moves we could make to strengthen the industry.”
The Supreme Court recently announced it would hear an appeal by the FCC and NAB seeking to reinstate several updates to the broadcast ownership rules. In November 2018 the commission decided to abolish the newspaper-broadcast and radio-TV cross-ownership rules and rework the radio AM-FM subcap regulations. However, those changes were blocked when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the commission had not thoroughly analyzed the potential effect of the changes on female and minority ownership of stations.
Field said ownership rule changes would help ensure the long-term survival of the industry.
“The ownership rules around radio continue to be reflective from a different era from a competitive standpoint. We must preserve the sanctity of the AM/FM band.”
The panel chafed a bit when asked if innovations have been derailed because of the pandemic.
“I don’t think we stopped (innovating),” Berner said. “In fact, in some ways we have accelerated our adoption of new technologies and work scenarios. We want to be where the listeners are. We need to deliver great audio content wherever and whenever it’s needed. We have doubled down on smart speakers and invested in our podcast platforms.”
iHeartMedia is leveraging its stations to promote its iHeartPodcast Network, typically one of the top podcast publishers in the United States each month. In fact, the network had the most downloads and streams in September as measured by Podtrac.
“Nothing has the growth rate of podcasting,” Pittman said. “Our podcasting revenue grew 100% in the second quarter of this year (from 2019). Our usage is up 35% to 40% in that same quarter.
“It’s no secret that radio is having success with podcasting because it is very much a radio experience. It’s a host chatting about something,” he said.
“And the silver lining right now to this terrible situation we are in is that we have an opportunity to get people to try our new products like podcasting.”
The state of the economy is the ultimate challenge, Berner concluded.
“While better, it’s certainly not to the level pre-pandemic. We have a long road ahead of us, but fundamentally I think we are well positioned.”
And Field added a bright note, saying the pandemic disruption for now has lessened. “We have seen a substantial amount of pickup in demand for advertising into the fall. I’m optimistic we are climbing out of this.”
A look at the technical side of 1920 KDKA
Much has been written about the program, performers and setting of KDKA’s “big broadcast” of Nov. 2, 1920, including our recent story “Radio Broadcasting Becomes a Reality,” but precious little is documented about the technical aspects of the equipment package that made it possible.
With the aid of detailed photographs; magazine articles about the station and its progenitor Frank Conrad; and a published account by an eye/ear-witness to what transpired, it’s possible to piece together many of the missing details.
Perhaps most useful is a 1955 American Heritage article by Donald Little, a Westinghouse engineer who helped to construct that first KDKA transmitter.
“During the fall of 1920, Dr. Conrad had me design and help the model shop at the works build the transmitter. The transmitter had a power of about 100 watts. They built a room on the roof of one of the taller buildings at the East Pittsburgh works and put up an antenna and counterpoise from a steel pole on that building over to one of the powerhouse smokestacks. The antenna and transmitter were completed only a few days before the presidential election of November 2, 1920.”
The association between Little and Conrad extended back some three years when Little, who had been working for what was then called the National Bureau of Standards (now the Institute of Standards and Technology) was dispatched from Washington to East Pittsburgh to oversee the development and production of transmitters and receivers by Westinghouse for the U.S. Signal Corps.
(While Little consistently refers back to “Dr. Conrad,” it was not until 1928 that the University of Pittsburgh bestowed an honorary doctor of science degree upon Conrad.)
No schematic diagram or construction details of the Westinghouse “broadcast” transmitter exist. Based on the “state of the art” at the time, coupled with knowledge of the radiotelephone rig constructed by Conrad for his ham station, it doubtless employed the “constant current” system of modulation developed earlier by Western Electric’s Raymond Heising.
The radiotelephone transmitter Conrad constructed for his amateur radio station is documented in a Sept. 1920 article in amateur radio publication, QST. It’s believed that the one constructed at Westinghouse was more or less a scaled-up version (100 Watts output versus the 50 stated for the ham station rig).
Conrad (and Little) would have employed state-of-the-art power triodes developed by General Electric and manufactured by Westinghouse’s “lamp works” during the First World War, when patent and licensing issues had been temporarily tossed aside to ensure a plentiful supply of “strategic materials.”
Lud Sibley, a vacuum tube expert and editor of the publication Tube Collector, opines that the power oscillator was likely “the humble AT-50, Westinghouse’s production of GE’s UV-211.”
Sibley also believes that Westinghouse’s AT-21 (equivalent to a GE UV-203A) could have served admirably as the modulator.
If these tubes were used in paralleled configurations, the transmitter could have easily delivered 100 Watts of modulated RF.
It appears from one of the surviving pictures of the rig that filaments may have been heated with pure DC from an automobile storage battery. (It’s likely that the battery was continuously “float charged” to ensure that the heavy filament current drain didn’t deplete it before the broadcast ended.) Three “brick” type dry cell batteries are visible behind the transmitter and just to the right of the six-Volt storage battery. These could have served as a source of bias voltage for the triodes, and due to the size and number, also as a plate voltage for the transmitter’s “speech amplifier” (audio input stage),
The picture of the radio room, sans people, also sheds some light on the high voltage supply for the power tube anodes.
Immediately to the right of the transmitter panel board, a heavy-duty pushbutton switch is visible. It’s safe to assume that this controlled a motor-generator set located remotely so that its very audible operating noise didn’t get transmitted along with the election commentary. (Later, Westinghouse manufactured a line of motor-generators for broadcast transmitter applications, as I described in my 2011 Radio World article “How Transmitter Power Supplies Evolved.”)
A more comprehensive description of the KDKA transmitting antenna — at least as it existed less than two years after the 1920 broadcast — was offered by Little in a 1922 article in Radio News about the station’s technical facilities:
“[It consists of six wires] 90 feet in length on 20 foot spreaders. This antenna is supported 210 feet above the ground by a brick smoke stack at one end and by a 100-foot pipe mast on a nine-story building at the other end. A counterpoise [elevated radial] which is a duplicate of the antenna in construction is placed 110 feet beneath the antenna. The down lead from the antenna and the counterpoise lead are made up of eight strands of No. 14 copper wire equally placed around 1.5 in. diameter wooden spacers. The natural period of this aerial system is approximately 412 meters. A condenser … in series with the antenna and sufficient loading inductance [was] added to obtain the desired wave length of 360 meters.”
Conrad used a similar antenna/counterpoise system at his ham station.
The microphone was essentially a telephone “transmitter” (carbon mic) backed up by the necessary battery and a one-stage triode pre-amplifier, most likely the newly developed UX-201, which later, along with a lower filament current version, the UX-201A, became the tube of choice for many 1920s commercial and homebrew receivers.
PROTOTYPE BROADCAST “TURNTABLE”?
The transmitter room picture does present something of a mystery.
A windup phonograph was used as a source of “fill” music so there would be no dead air when announcer Rosenberg was waiting for election results to be updated; in the photo from that night it can be seen to the right of the transmitter panel, its crank visible next to John Frazier as seen in Fig. 4.
What makes this otherwise nondescript record player interesting is a length of “twisted-pair” lamp cord that connected the transmitter to an object (electrical phonograph pickup?) attached to the “arm” on the phono. The cord is visible in Fig. 5.
History tells us that the first electrically recorded records (and electrical pickups for reproducing them) didn’t appear until 1925, stemming from research at Western Electric and Bell Labs.
Did Conrad and Little somehow jump the gun and invent an electrical pickup half a decade before Bell?
In his 1955 writing about the 1920 inaugural broadcast, Little seems to clear up this mystery:
“It was thought that election news would not occupy the whole time so a hand-wound, spring-driven phonograph and a selection of records were provided for fill-in purposes. I arrived at the station about 6 P.M. the night of November 2, 1920, in plenty of time to be sure all would be in readiness to start the program at, as I remember it, 8 P.M. To my dismay, I found that the gooseneck of the phonograph tone arm had disappeared. It was never found and to this day I do not know whether it was maliciously stolen or simply mislaid accidently. It was obviously up to me to provide some sort of substitute which I did by rushing down to our laboratory and putting together a clamp and hinge gadget that hinged the microphone to the tone arm. It was quite satisfactory and was used for the opening program and several later ones.”
What Little cobbled up that evening may have been much more complex, however.
A careful examination of a blowup of the phono portion of the photo indicates that Little may have manufactured a true “electrical” pickup.
Clearly visible is an “outrigger” bar with a clamp for the microphone that has been attached to the phono horn’s acoustic coupling “stub,” with the “stub” only serving to support Little’s contrivance above the record grooves and allow it to track across the record.
Seen at the bottom of the device are a chuck and a thumbscrew for holding the “needle” (stylus). Quite prominent in the photo is a “U”-shaped rod that appears to be used for coupling needle movement to the microphone element.
I don’t claim expertise on early mechanical (acoustic) phonographs, but the conventional “diaphragm” that was coupled to the needle and translated needle movement to sound pressure waves “amplified” by the phono’s horn (actually an acoustic transformer) is not visible in this photo.
I shared the photo with a restorer and conservator of early recording and reproduction apparatus. He said, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
If the device that Little fabricated was really a carbon mic driven directly by the needle, the audio reproduction of the recordings would have been considerably better than that achieved previously by just placing the mic in front of the phono horn. (It would have also prevented pickup of conversations and other background noise in the radio room while the records were played.)
I leave it to others to decide exactly what did or didn’t happen in this respect.
The author thanks Rick Harris, chairman of the Conrad Project at the National Museum of Broadcasting, for his help with this article.
[Related: “What, Exactly, Was ‘First’ About KDKA?”]
A paper by Jim Dalke and Stephen Lockwood tells how KARR is doing it
Much of AM radio has been in dire straits for some time. It has seen profits decline when faced with new competition from streaming broadcasters and better-quality FM signals.
At the same time, many stations are losing their long-established transmitter sites and being forced to relocate. For them, the options usually don’t include finding another high-quality site, but instead locating a space where they can put a minimal signal into their city of license.
It’s no wonder that the number of licensed AM stations is declining. Over the past decade, their numbers have decreased by 224 — to 4,680 as of September 2020 — while both commercial and NCE FM totals have increased, according to FCC data.
The driving force behind many AM relocations is the rising cost of real estate in what was once farmland or a swamp in the middle of nowhere. Environmental restrictions involving aesthetics, radiofrequency exposure and local zoning restrictions can also be contributing factors.
For some stations, co-locating with other AM broadcasters on a common tower and connecting via a diplexer or triplexer can work, provided the common location will provide adequate service.
Another option is “Co-locating AM Transmitter Facilities With Cellular Monopole Towers,” which is the title of a paper by James A. Dalke of Dalke Broadcast Services, Inc. in Bellevue, Wash., and Stephen S. Lockwood, P.E., of Hatfield & Dawson Consulting Engineers in Seattle.
It was to be presented at the spring NAB Show this year before world events intervened.
The plight of many AM broadcasters is typified by KARR, 1460 kHz, licensed to Kirkland, Wash.
On Feb. 28, 2014, after nearly 50 years of broadcasting, KARR went dark and seemed to have little prospect of returning to the air.
The station had begun broadcasting in 1965 as a 5 kW daytimer with a three-tower array in the rural residential Rose Hill area of Kirkland, Wash., across Lake Washington, east of Seattle. When it was built, Kirkland’s population was about 10,000 and the six-acre transmitter site was on farmland.
In the 40-plus years since, the area has developed into a dense residential area, with the transmitter site one of the only significant areas zoned for residential development but not developed. The population of Kirkland is now 85,000. The property had become far more valuable for residential use.
Because of the residential development, relocating the transmitter site became increasingly problematic. The Class B license requires co-channel protection for KUTI, a 5 kW Class B in Yakima, Washington, a hundred miles southwest of KARR, and adjacent channel 1 kW Class C stations KONP, Port Angeles, 70 miles northwest, and KSUH, Puyallup, 34 miles south.
Protection required for these stations required a traditional array of least three towers on six plus acres of suitable land. In order for KARR to return to the air, a more non-traditional solution needed to be explored. Fortunately, there was help available from the FCC.
In the commission’s ongoing “AM revitalization” effort, three rules in particular affected the KARR relocation.
The FCC relaxed the minimum daytime Community of License (COL) coverage standard from 80 percent to 50 percent of the COL, and for nighttime operations, eliminated the coverage standard for existing AM stations, and reduced the standard to 50 percent for new stations.
The FCC found that these changes would make it easier for stations to cover a community that has expanded beyond the reach of existing facilities, as well as relocate antenna facilities to improve coverage.
Second, the FCC eliminated the “ratchet rule,” which required AM stations to reduce their signal strength when they make facility changes to modify their signal. They found that the rule has not achieved its intended goal of reducing interference.
The commission has generally granted waivers when a station was forced to relocate because of circumstances out of its control, such as the loss of transmitter site lease; the recent rule change simplified the relocation application.
Third, the rules allow authorized AM owners to acquire and move an FM translator up to 250 miles from the AM station’s location to rebroadcast the AM station programming.
While the new rules have enabled an FM translator to rebroadcast KARR, it does not provide any advantage in relocating the AM transmitter facilities. The AM broadcaster with an associated translator must still maintain the licensed AM broadcasting facility.
SLANT AND SHUNT
Cellular monopole towers with a slant or shunt feed have been a solution for AM broadcasters facing the same challenges as KARR, and the slant wire method has been the subject of several research papers.
Ten years ago Ben Dawson of Hatfield & Dawson Engineers in Seattle authored a paper titled: “The Slant Wire Shunt Fed Monopole: A Neglected but Invaluable Technique.” It is available on the Hatfield & Dawson website at https://tinyurl.com/rwee-slant.
In this paper, he concluded that the slant wire feeds are simpler electrically than other ways of feeding grounded based structures. The slant wire technique also imposes far less structural load and is less susceptible to weather related damage in hostile climate conditions.
Dawson also concluded that the shunt fed monopole provides convenient impedance matching, good bandwidth, and efficient radiation patterns.
A viable ground system is also a key component of AM antenna systems.
For many years, it has been apparent that the standard ground system for AM radio using 120 quarter-wavelength ground wires was excessive to providing an effective ground system. This was covered in a paper by Dawson & Lockwood. Using NEC-4 it was possible to model ground system with each individual ground wire.
The FCC has allowed a simplified model for a ground system using an equal area model, which uses a circular model that has an area that is equal to the irregular area of the property. This is useful if the tower is offset from the center of the land or there are other obstructions that require use of a shortened ground system. Where a more detailed simulation is desired, the location of each ground wire can be calculated and the antenna system can be modeled to learn the effects of the compromised ground.
As part of the AM revitalization proceeding, the antenna efficiency requirements have been reduced. These changes have enabled more options for using electrically short antennas and sites that have less area to provide a standard ground system.
Many of the techniques used in colocations of other radio facilities with AM stations have been standard processes, and there are many techniques used to accomplish this. These changes, along with the change in FCC policy to allow slant wire feeding of an AM antenna, allows for use of a tower without a base insulator or a skirt wire arrangement.
Slant wire feed systems were somewhat common before 1960. After that, FCC policy did not allow use of this feed system because it was assumed that there was some asymmetry of the field produced from a slant wire shut fed tower.
These policy changes have greatly expanded the options for dislocated AM stations. While these facilities are a compromise from an ideal facility, they remain a viable option to continue to provide service, and may be the only feasible option for some licensees.
BACK ON THE AIR
Utilizing the slant wire feed and improved ground system modeling, Jim Dalke, the current owner of KARR, along with Stephen Lockwood of Hatfield & Dawson, obtained the construction permit to install the Hatfield & Dawson-designed slant wire fed cellular monopole.
Unfortunately, the COVID crisis hit before construction was complete. Installation will continue as soon as restrictions are lifted. The station is licensed to operate with 740 watts daytime, and provides good coverage for the Kirkland area.
In order to obtain approval from the commission, the engineering application had to demonstrate that the facility meets the FCC requirements for a non-directional antenna.
This is best done by using NEC-4 to model the ground system to calculate the efficiency and radiation pattern above the horizon. All AM antennas have radiation patterns that produce fields that are directed above the horizon. The antenna system must also comply with the f(θ) curves provided in the familiar Fig. 8 of FCC rules (47 CFR § 73.160 and 73.190).
This also will model the effects (if any) of the slant wire feed system on pattern circularity. As pattern circularity was better defined in moment method rule making process and the use of moment method for re-radiation analysis from other communication towers, this is defined at ± 2 dB.
The tower can be modeled to include the cellular antenna platforms and other changes from a uniform cross section guyed tower. This helps to account for any additional “top-loading” that these fixtures provide. There could be situations where the sectionalized tower and top-loading flags used in the FCC database to describe unusual antenna might be employed. This was not the case for KARR, as the modeled radiation pattern was enclosed within the f(θ) curves for a tower height of 80.2°. The modeled elevation pattern in several pertinent azimuths is compared to the standard pattern and f(θ) curves to assure that it does not exceed these limits.
The H&D drawing shows how the shunt feed is connected between the transmitter and the 150-foot monopole antenna (see Fig. 2 at bottom). The cellular antenna array at the top actually provides some “top loading.”
While the AM coverage from the new site will be significantly less than the original site abandoned in 2011, KARR has an FM translator associated with the AM license under the FCC’s revitalization rules.
Terry Harvey offers his defense of why Nov. 2, 1920, should be celebrated
I read with interest the debate over the KDKA centenary. I appreciate that many individuals and organizations were involved in the origins of what we now know as broadcasting. But I feel that a few important facts have been overlooked.
Radio depended up a number of technically sophisticated inventions. The vacuum tube was essential. The three leading industrial organizations with the research capability and certainly the patent portfolio to address the complicated and multifaceted process of radio communications were Western Electric, General Electric and Westinghouse.
Through World War I, each made significant progress in the art of electronics.
Western Electric was responsible mainly for land-based telephone equipment and their development of the high vacuum tube was essential for telephone repeater equipment.
General Electric provided the Fessenden alternator constructed by Ernst Alexanderson. Alexanderson proceeded to design larger RF alternators for point-to-point radio communications. Their sale of these machines to American Marconi for international communications led to the creation of the Radio Corporation of America in 1919.
Westinghouse was well known for providing the first successful alternating current generation and power distribution systems and through Westinghouse employee Nikola Tesla, provided the induction motor.
All three companies were engaged providing radio equipment under contract to the military during World War I. It was after the war and returning to civilian life the technology was to be put to use elsewhere.
Western Electric dabbled in radio but proceeded to provide public address systems and shortly technology for the first successful electronic audio recording technology. RCA meanwhile was exploring worldwide point-to-point communications. Westinghouse first attempted to enter this market but was thwarted by RCA’s monopolizing the market. So here was Westinghouse with a considerable degree of expertise and a large patent portfolio looking to apply it to a profitable business need.
Radio broadcasts in 1920 were intermittent, often highly publicized events for radio amateurs and experimenters. These broadcasts were often crudely done and I am not aware of any serious effort to sustain such efforts as there was no business plan.
The importance of Nov. 2, 1920, and KDKA was that it was the first time an industrial manufacturer with a business plan conceived of the entire process of creating regularly scheduled news and entertainment programming they could “broadcast” to the public, financed from the sale of consumer receivers, which were manufactured in large quantities by Westinghouse. Vice President of Westinghouse H.P. Davis saw that there was an interest in Westinghouse Chief Engineer Frank Conrad’s amateur broadcast activity, and Davis thought there was a business in it.
The question of how to adequately finance this business was a tricky one in radio’s earliest days. Westinghouse in 1921 joined the “Radio Group” that comprised General Electric, and shortly, Western Electric along with others. To finance broadcasting the sale of receivers and perhaps a tax or license was considered. When Western Electric New York station WEAF experimented in 1922 with “toll broadcasting” or allowing payment to WEAF in return for advertising over the airwaves, the revenue garnered by toll broadcasting allowed Western Electric to secure better talent and more listeners. That is another interesting story in itself and you can see where this is leading.
I would like to assert that Westinghouse therefore began the “business” of broadcasting on Nov. 2, 1920.
The author worked for PBS member station KAET and PBS/NPR stations WSIU/WUSI as chief engineer, and was director of engineering for the PBS member station NY Joint Master Control.
Comment on this or any story to [email protected].
Also, troubleshooting a Harris Digit CD Exciter
This is a good time of year to service air conditioning systems at your studios and transmitter sites.
Of particular interest is the condensate drain. Algae can form a tight plug, preventing proper drainage and causing the condensate pan to overflow and drain into your studio or transmitter.
Take five minutes to remove the cleanout cap, shown in Fig. 1, and using a bottle brush, make sure the drain tubing is clear in both directions.
A little Clorox brand or other disinfecting bleach in the trap will guard against algae formation.
Anti-algae tablets for the drain pan are available at big box stores or online. Search for SimpleAir Clean Flow HVAC Drain Line Treatment Tabs (less than $10).
Down at the car wash
Speaking of water, readers were 50/50 divided on whether our anecdote about running a transmitter through a car wash was a joke. (Editor in Chief Paul McLane emailed me asking if it was for real. My reply: “Absolutely. The best way to get years of grime out of a transmitter.”)
Edd Monskie, senior VP of engineering with Hall Communications, had a chuckle when he read the tip.
He recalls that when he moved to Lancaster, Pa., in 1977, he lived in a rented ranch house along a beautiful creek. After a deep snowfall followed by a day of heavy rain, that cute creek became a flooding torrent. The entire ranch house was flooded with mud and dirty flood waters, up to 48 inches deep.
Edd figured that everything he owned was ruined but he had no flood insurance, so with nothing to lose, he decided to take a garden hose and open every item one by one to wash the mud out. Kitchen appliances, radios, tube television and even a washer and dryer.
He says almost all of these continued to work once they were allowed to dry completely, even the old tube console. The TV worked for another two years. The washer and dryer were good for at least another five years. Furniture that came unglued continued to serve once he reglued it.
Edd marveled at what he was able to save with a good washing, lubrication if needed and a full drying.
K-Love/AIR1 Engineer Scott Todd remembers seeing Mike Dorrough of DAP Processor fame cleaning an old transmitter with a garden hose and sprayer at his cabin in northern Wisconsin some 30 years ago. Scott says all the heavy iron was out of it at the time to be replaced when everything was dry.
Bill Bowin is the chief engineer for North American Broadcasting Co. He too enjoyed the note about washing old transmitters at the car wash.
Many years ago, an engineering mentor told Bill about the time he had purchased a load of studio equipment that had been exposed to a station fire. While the equipment hadn’t been damaged by heat, it was covered in soot and a creosote-like substance that had dripped from the ceiling.
Bill’s colleague said he carefully removed transformers and meters from the gear, took the remains to a car wash lot and coated them liberally with Easy-Off brand oven cleaner. After waiting 15 minutes or so, he hosed off the grime. The equipment looked like new, and after it had dried and been reassembled, it actually worked.
Bill adds that Dave Mathews is one of his assistants and is perhaps the best bench tech that he has worked with. You will remember Dave’s YouTube video about retuning a Moseley 6010/6020 STL. Bill says that STL is in use on WMNI(AM), where it replaced a Marti STL-8 dating to 1973.
Dave himself writes in to say that he has posted a new video about fixing a common problem with a Harris Digit CD FM Exciter. The fix involves a resistor in the PLL (Phase Locked loop) section that has changed value. The video also shows how Dave figured out the problem with common sense and basic equipment.
He has nearly a hundred videos posted over three years on www.youtube.com/AERVblog. As you peruse them, be sure to watch his video describing a repair of a broken thumb drive. It’s fascinating.
Dave provides a unique service to broadcast engineers, and we appreciate his sharing the link.
Keeping things neat
It probably goes without saying that most engineers abhor messy wiring.
Loxdo is marketing an inexpensive wire management system that uses 3M brand adhesive on small plastic forms for wires to snap into. In addition to keeping single runs of wire straight and neat, there’s a bracket that snaps onto the edge of a counter or table to secure a charging cord so it’s not always falling on the floor. This also eliminates the need to drill holes in furniture or countertops.
Their site has videos with ideas about how these can be used; visit www.loxdo.com and search for “finisher wire clamp.”
The 20-piece kit comes in white, clear and black plastic; at this writing it is on sale for $12.99, and less in quantity.
John Bisset has spent over 50 years in the broadcasting industry. He handles western U.S. radio sales for the Telos Alliance. He holds CPBE certification with the Society of Broadcast Engineers and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.
Workbench submissions are encouraged, qualify for SBE Recertification, and can be emailed to [email protected].
Artificial intelligence technology is poised to redefine radio advertising ROI
The post AI Is the Next Step in Redefining Radio Ad Sales ROI appeared first on Radio World.
The author is managing director, Enterprise Radio Solutions, for Veritone. Radio World invites industry-oriented commentaries and responses. Send to Radio World.
The plight of modern radio advertising can be summed up by a quote that’s more than 100 years old.
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half,” John Wanamaker, an early marketing pioneer and merchandising maven, once lamented.
Decades after Wanamaker’s merchandise empire became part of Macy’s, the struggle remains — advertisers are skeptical of the ROI of their radio spots. With no data-backed method of attributing leads or new traffic to a format like radio, advertisers have historically been unsure whether their investments are lost to the airwaves, while at the same time, almost every dollar spent and impression achieved on digital is measurable. Like Wanamaker, they’re stuck guessing how much budget is actually wasted.
But artificial intelligence technology is poised to redefine radio advertising ROI. By digitizing the airways and making content searchable, radio station advertising operations can finally give their clients the data they need to connect the dots on the ROI of their spend.
AI in Action on the Air
Rapid advances in speech-recognition and transcription have created opportunities for ad managers in the past. But a digital transcript does little to reveal value for advertisers on its own.
When we talk about AI in radio advertising, we’re looking at advanced applications that analyze and standardize transcript and programming data in near real-time — usually in the form of software or a cloud platform. Typically, these platforms also give ad managers a dashboard with a suite of tools to analyze placements — allowing them to break down ad attribution in new ways for existing clients and uncover opportunities to find new ones.
But the real power comes from directly attributing ad spend to website traffic. With AI enabled technology, advertisers can see when a radio spot or mention is driving people to their website — in real time. AI is the only reliably effective way to track and record both unscheduled live reads and organic mentions and report on their metrics. This level of depth can influence how advertising content is made and when it’s aired, and allow advertisers to test the effectiveness of these shifts in strategy.
AI Allows Ad Managers to Be More Savvy
AI isn’t a far flung concept in radio — many applications and use cases are already creating proactive and creative opportunities for radio advertising departments. Some examples of what’s possible include:
- Connecting to Client KPIs: Advertisers have their own internal business goals they’re trying to accomplish with a campaign, along with a set of metrics they use to measure success. AI applications can help prove the effectiveness of their placements toward these goals.
For example, AI along with website analytics can correlate traffic spikes to a client’s websites with the timing of an ad placement. Instead of the traditional estimated reach and value, it’s now possible to show how advertising spots and campaigns track with client goals.
Powering Earned Media Measurement: From host reads and testimonials to contests and promotions, radio has long been known for its ability to deliver creative and valuable advertising integrations beyond just a spot buy. As advertisers ask for more added value in today’s current economic climate, up until recently, earned media couldn’t effectively be measured. AI can detect these earned media integrations and automatically apply them to the delivery goals of the campaign in terms of placement, frequency and impressions delivered. This allows the earned media to be part of the advertiser’s ROI calculation so radio gets the full credit it deserves.
- Enabling More Strategic Placements: Advertisers are increasingly sensitive to where and when their ads appear, and AI can help promote contextual targeting and enhance brand safety. With the advent of digital audio and podcasting, many advertisers are purchasing digital audio ads programmatically and targeting based on a combination of first and third-party audience data.
Increasingly, advertisers also want to be associated with topics and content that are complementary to their brands and business –– for instance, a fitness center that wants to target episodic content focused on health and wellness. AI can automatically determine the prevalence of topics and keywords discussed in each episode, allowing an advertiser’s ads to be associated –– or disassociated –– accordingly.
AI is reshaping the way we talk about radio advertising ROI, and the discussion isn’t dealing in hypotheticals. AI applications in radio are already firmly in place at many stations across the country — are you prepared to keep pace?
The post AI Is the Next Step in Redefining Radio Ad Sales ROI appeared first on Radio World.
According to iHeart CEO, the acquisition will accelerate the growth of its podcasting platform
iHeartMedia has announced plans to acquire Voxnest, a podcast and analytics organization. The acquisition will provide iHeart’s podcast infrastructure with new features including a new podcast analytics platform, enterprise publishing tools, programmatic integration and targeted ad serving for the growing podcast market.
As of press time, the terms of the acquisition have not yet been released.
With the boom in podcast consumption over the last few years, iHeartMedia said this acquisition will allow it to provide podcast advertisers with additional targetable inventory at scale. Through Voxnest’s programmatic platform, iHeart will be able to more successfully monetize content across iHeartMedia’s podcast inventory, the company said.
According to Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia Inc., the combination of iHeart and Voxnest will ensure critical mass for the podcasting platform and accelerate its growth. “As we continue to invest in podcasting and lead the industry, we anticipate this acquisition will have an important impact on iHeart’s ability to more fully monetize its podcast inventory, and will also benefit the other podcast publishers that are part of the Voxnest network and the advertisers who are using it,” he said.
The acquisition of Voxnest’s technology is an important addition to the iHeart digital product ecosystem, Pittman said, which includes iHeart’s SmartAudio suite of broadcast radio advertising solutions, the iHeartRadio digital platform and the company’s position as a commercial podcast publisher.
According to iHeart, this acquisition will also allow the company to drive greater monetization for creators of podcast content — independent of wherever they currently publish their shows — by connecting Voxnest’s ad technology with multiple publishing platforms across the industry.
According to Voxnest, the advertising technology capabilities it brings to the table include dynamic ad insertion; content targeting to listeners based on demographics, territories, devices and interests; programmatic podcast buying across audio platforms; and a full podcast analytics platform.
The podcast marketplace has been fragmented, with supply and demand spread across multiple platforms, which creates scale challenges for marketers who want to buy podcasts, said Francesco Baschieri, CEO of Voxnest. Despite the significant growth of the podcast industry, podcast creators and networks have not had an effective way to fully monetize their content and brands, he said. “With this combination, for the first time there will be one podcast technology platform that can bring together all of the demand sources with the largest supplier of podcast inventory — creating the only podcast technology platform that consolidates all the podcast markets into one, making buying more efficient for buyers and sellers of podcast advertising, and creating a unique benefit for the 10,000-plus podcast publishers that are part of the Voxnest network today,” he said.
The acquisition is not the first time that iHeartMedia has worked with Voxnest: the media company owned a minority stake in Voxnest prior to this acquisition.
Nov. 6 virtual symposium will include broadcasters, lenders, policymakers
The post FCC Continues Programs for Small/Diverse Broadcast Finance appeared first on Radio World.
“The Path to Media Ownership and Sustainability,” an all-day virtual symposium on Nov. 6, is the FCC’s next program in its initiative “to empower disadvantaged communities and accelerate the entry of small businesses, including those owned by women and minorities” into the media and programming industries. In addition to financial speakers and station executives, the program will include Capitol Hill staff members who will outline policies to expand media ownership diversity.
The Nov. 6 symposium comes on the heels of Oct. 23’s “Tech Supplier Diversity Opportunity Showcase.” Both events are being organized by the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE).
For the “Access to Capital” program, which will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time, the focus will be on broadcaster financing and sustainable revenue. Media executives and lenders will describe current tactics to obtain financing for broadcast station transactions “in today’s challenging financial circumstances,” according to the FCC announcement of the program. In addition, experts will examine the history of the previous broadcast tax certificate policy and the potential for a new tax certificate policy to increase ownership diversity.
The symposium will include presentations from Nielsen Global Media, led by senior VP for Community Alliances Stacie deArmas and Senior VP for Product Leadership Bill Rose. Their panel will examine ratings measurements for multi-ethnic broadcast stations and will feature a discussion of how small and diverse broadcasters can attract increased advertising revenue.
Caroline Beasley, CEO of Beasley Media Group and chair of the ACDDE Access to Capital Working Group will open and close the day-long program. The lineup of speakers and panelists includes Jeffrey Smulyan, chairman/CEO of Emmis Communications; DuJuan McCoy, president/CEO of Circle City Broadcasting, LLC; Raúl Alarcón, president/CEO/chairman of Spanish Broadcasting System, Inc.; Russell M. Perry, CEO, Perry Broadcasting; James Winston, president of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters; Tomás Martinez, co-owner, Solmart Media; Adonis Hoffman, founder of The Advisory Counsel, LLC; Wiley Rein LLP partner Anna Gomez (representing the Hispanic National Bar Association); Wiley Rein LLP partner and former FCC Commissioner Henry Rivera; and Maurita Coley Flippin, president of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and a member of the ACDDE Diversity in the Tech Sector Working Group.
In addition, Congressional staffers will offer updates on pending legislation intended to increase diverse media ownership.
Additional information and registration is available from Jamila Bess Johnson, the Designated Federal Officer for the ACDDE: 1-202-418-2608; [email protected] or at the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment web page.
The post FCC Continues Programs for Small/Diverse Broadcast Finance appeared first on Radio World.
New AES digital in/out USB audio interfaces
The post StreamS Unveils IOdigi2X, IOdigi8X Audio Interfaces appeared first on Radio World.
StreamS has introduced its new IOdigi2X/IOdigi8X audio interfaces. Currently available, the AES digital I/O USB interfaces can provide a XMOS-based AES digital audio interface to Apple, Linux, MSFT and all mobile operating systems.
They are USB Audio Class 2-compliant devices that use native system drivers, eliminating proprietary driver installs. A free, custom Windows Driver with advanced features is available as well.
This is the easiest way to get pristine digital audio in and out of Windows, MacOS, iOS, iPad OS, Linux and Android computers, the company says.
StreamS IOdigi2X is a stereo synchronous device and can use either an internal or external clock. Sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz are supported. It can be used for any audio record/play application, and for test applications. This includes AES FM MPX radio applications, digital audio workstations, streaming audio encoders, SIP applications and audio analyzers.
Meanwhile, the StreamS IOdigi8X is a multichannel asynchronous device allowing more flexibility with sample rate converters on all four inputs. It can be used as a four-stereo input and output device for stereo 2.0, or as a single multichannel input and output device for surround 5.1/7.1. Input sample rate converters allow it to interface to any digital audio source from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz.
StreamS IOdigi2X/8X uses a XMOS xCORE audio engine, and is thought to be suitable for pro audio, broadcast, netcast and consumer applications.
The post StreamS Unveils IOdigi2X, IOdigi8X Audio Interfaces appeared first on Radio World.
KVNO maintains as much normalcy as COVID times make possible
The post College Media Spotlight: University of Nebraska, Omaha appeared first on Radio World.
While we live in uncertain times, one thing is certain; the students at college radio station MavRadio.FM KVNO 90.7 HD2, based at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, have shown they can learn, be innovative and adapt to the challenges presented by COVID-19. Radio World spoke with Jodeane Brownlee about the college radio station and its operations during COVID-19. Brownlee is the faculty advisor for MavRadio.FM KVNO 90.7 HD2, a lecturer, a faculty advisor of Women in Media and executive producer of “The Omaha News.”
Radio World: Please describe your media operations, including the physical plant. How many studios, and how are they equipped? Where is the transmission facility; how is it equipped?
Jodeane Brownlee: The radio station is on campus and is adjacent with two teaching labs and an area that houses the “whisper room.” This is a production area where students and faculty [produce] their voiceovers for radio, television and creative productions. The studio has four microphones to accommodate guest and live artists.
RW: Who makes the executive decisions for the station? What role do the students have in station operations?
Brownlee: At MavRadio.FM, we have a volunteer staff. Depending on the semester, and how many students are involved, we have a general manager, operations manager, production director, music director and sports director.
RW: Are students on campus now or learning and operating remotely?
Brownlee: Students are still on campus for their shows and specialty programs. We celebrated World College Radio Day with one live host at a time, but all the interviews were voiced tracked. This turned out to benefit the program as we simultaneously aired the interviews on our podcast, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
We also have two more live, specialty shows in October. Because we are limited to the number of students in a single room, our staff meetings have all been via Zoom. Sports have been another Achilles Heel. We’ve had none so far this semester, and our athletic department is in the early stages of planning basketball and hockey tournaments. It’s been challenging to plan, that’s for sure. In the meantime, we’ve worked with our state association to call high school playoffs and championship games.
The other issue I see is trying to cover all the sports this spring. From the sounds of it, we will make-up all fall sports as well as continue with spring sports. Honestly, I don’t know how we can do it all! But, we will. I have the best staff I know!
RW: Is the station currently on the air? What means and products (software or hardware) are being used?
Brownlee: MavRAdio.FM KVNO 90.7 HD2 has stayed on the air via RCS NexGen automation software.
RW: What impact has COVID-19 had on the station? Challenges due to social distancing?
Brownlee: The biggest challenge for our staff is the fact that we can’t have meetings on or off campus with more than 10 students. Typically, we spend several hours a week together working on production, music, sports and overall planning. The simple fact is it’s far more challenging to work as a team in this environment. However, the safety and well-being of our staff, faculty and students is our number one goal.
RW: If the students are operating remotely, how are you making that happen? Can you give examples?
Brownlee: Last spring, our students lead a two-hour Earth Day special on Earth Day. We did this via Zoom and it was fairly impressive. We had two hosts, and 10 reporters. Those reporters put together voice packages with interviews, research and natural sound. Because we were in lockdown, all of us were relegated to our homes, which was the essence of what was happening to everyone. It was impactful and innovative. There was some post editing involved as the stories and some graphics had to be incorporated later, but it looked great on YouTube and the audio worked well for our podcast audience.
I mentioned World College Radio Day earlier, and we plan to use the same format for our Haunted Heartland broadcast Oct. 29. We’ll have two hosts, in studio, and a producer. The reporters will be on the scene, normally in small groups, for their live remote. This year, however, we will send reporters out alone and shorten the broadcast from three hours to two.
We also have a 24-hour marathon Oct. 28–29 for a fundraising event. The plan is three-hour shifts with a single jock. We’ll also utilize social media for this. In fact, social media has given us the power to stay relevant and in front of our audience.
We’ve also had a sports team cover our professional league soccer games (Union Omaha). They recently traveled to Wisconsin, from Nebraska, for the championships. Again, the important aspect is giving the students experiences in the face of the pandemic.
RW: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Brownlee: College radio is more viable and relevant than ever. With social media platforms, the voices can compete with other influencers. It’s not “should” college radio be on social, it’s a “must.” Reporting must be local, vigorous and objective in a world of conglomerates, retweets and bias.
The post College Media Spotlight: University of Nebraska, Omaha appeared first on Radio World.
Co-locating AM with a cell tower, good bones and hybrid radio synchronization
The post Inside the October 21st Issue of Radio World Engineering Extra appeared first on Radio World.
In this issue we learn how Jim Dalke and Stephen Lockwood are co-locating an AM station’s facilities with a cell tower. Hal Kneller describes the creation of a unique quasi-SFN using GatesAir Intraplex gear. And Buc Fitch helps you build an unbalanced-to-balanced converter.
Prefer to do your reading offline? No problem! Simply click on the digital edition, go to the left corner and choose the download button to get a PDF version.
Jim Dalke, the owner of KARR, and Stephen Lockwood of Hatfield & Dawson obtained a construction permit to install a slant wire-fed cellular monopole.
From the Editor
Cris Alexander has seen a few ugly things when conducting due diligence visits, such as transmitters with their side and back panels removed and interlocks jumpered out so that lethal voltages are exposed. How would your site shape up?
Also in this issue:
- Hybrid Synchronization in the Sunshine State
- Repack Impact: How Has It Affected Wireless Mics?
- Build an Unbalanced-to-Balanced Adaptor
The post Inside the October 21st Issue of Radio World Engineering Extra appeared first on Radio World.
Pay attention even to small things for the health of your site
From time to time, my travels take me to transmitter sites of radio stations that are not part of our company, because I have been asked to come in and do some antenna work or perform a due diligence inspection.
Some of these sites are designed, built and maintained well, a credit to those responsible.
Other times, sadly, what I find is anything but.
Many of these facilities are run down, overgrown and infested with insects and rodents. Some are downright hazardous to be in or even around.
The list of issues can be quite long, including weeds, brush or even trees grown up in the tower base areas; base fencing that, if it exists at all, is damaged or deteriorated; transmission lines falling off the ice bridge or supports; tower paint that has faded far out of tolerance and/or is flaking off; infestations of mice and other rodents in transmitter building and equipment; evidence of snakes, spiders and flying, stinging insects in residence … and on and on.
Sometimes, the equipment and facility wiring is in bad shape.
I see electric panels with the covers removed and wiring exposed, audio and remote control wiring is hanging loose with connections twisted together. I’ve seen transmitters with side and back panels removed and interlocks jumpered out so that lethal voltages are exposed. I’ve seen phasor cabinets with their doors removed and RF components exposed for anyone to touch.
How does this happen?
STATE OF DECLINE
Sometimes the answer is obvious. The station is in a state of decline, barely hanging on in a small community with little business and competition coming from several other directions. In those cases, there’s often no money to spend on maintenance, and the situation becomes one of self-perpetuating decline.
Other times it’s not so much a matter of money as of resources. A solo engineer, employee or contract, is stretched between many facilities, oftentimes scattered over a large geographical area, competing for attention and each receiving very little.
And sadly, at times it is what I would characterize as indifference. A person charged with the care and feeding of the site or station just doesn’t care and does the bare minimum to get by. The station is on the air, and nobody sees the transmitter site but the engineer; so no one is the wiser that there are big problems there resulting from neglect or worse.
Fortunately, these situations are by far the rare exception, but they do exist.
In a lot of cases like those I’ve described, the bones of what used to be are still visible.
At one time, it was a very nice, well-engineered facility that was undoubtedly well maintained, the pride and joy of the engineer given charge of it.
And unless there are structural or other issues that go beyond cosmetics, there often is hope for such a run-down and neglected facility. It may never shine as in its glory days, but it can be a safe, functional, well-maintained, reliable transmitter site.
STATE OF HEALTH
There’s a psychological element to such a situation that goes well beyond the physical condition of the site.
The worse shape a facility is in, the harder it is for even the most dedicated engineer to gin up any level of concern. It looks hopeless, so in his or her eyes, it really is. At some point, the roof will fall in and nature will reclaim the place, leaving little or no trace that it was ever there… or so it seems.
But clean the place up, plug the holes, remove the critters and their leavings, and that same engineer starts to feel better about the place, becoming hopeful. Maybe he or she even begins to take pride in it.
In years past, an FCC agent in charge of a western field office was the self-described “master of the ten-minute inspection.” He was a great guy, super to work with and always helpful and courteous.
If he walked into a transmitter site and found it clean and well-maintained, he wouldn’t look very hard for minutia or hidden violations. It was his view that if the company and engineer in charge cared enough to keep the place clean and maintained, it would very likely be in compliance with the rules.
He was right. While I can’t speak for current district Enforcement Bureau people, who might not admit to it anyway, I suspect they would agree.
So there may be another benefit to sprucing up a run-down site.
I mentioned the self-perpetuating nature of neglect. It also works in the other direction, although it requires some input of energy. If a facility is in good shape, most engineers will want to keep it in good shape or even improve it. We like to feel good about the facilities we maintain; and like it or not, those facilities do reflect on us.
The point is that if you have in your area of responsibility a site that is in some state of neglect or deterioration, you can very likely reverse it, without spending a lot of money. That reversal will pay big dividends, both in your own attitude, in the longevity and reliability of the facility and even in the sound and performance of the transmitter signal.
Start with a “to do” list developed by taking an objective walk-through of the site. What are the problems and issues?
Take the list and prioritize it logically. For example, if there is a rodent or insect infestation, first figure out where/how they are getting in and deal with that before you start to work cleaning up the rodent or insect mess or you’ll have to do it twice.
A good trick is to go to the site at night, and turn on the lights inside the building, tuning house or ATU. Then go outside and shut the door, with all outside lights off.
Wherever you see light escaping, even a pinhole, is a potential entry point for critters and bugs. Of course there may be entry points beneath, perhaps at a conduit or telco cable entry penetration where the light trick won’t help you, but those should be readily identifiable.
Plug the holes, then suit up (Tyvek suit, gloves, mask and eye protection) and start cleaning. Remove the bigger stuff by hand, then use the shop vac, then go to (safe) solvent cleaners/disinfectants and paper towels.
The work may take some elbow grease, but when you’re done, you’ll be amazed how much better the site looks and feels!
After that, focus on prevention. I’ve found mothballs help keep the critters away (they help keep me away, too, but it’s a small price to pay). Clear vegetation from the building or ATU cabinet, and put out an insecticide barrier, replenishing it regularly. An herbicide can also be applied to keep vegetation from growing back up close to the structure and providing critters a close-by habitat.
A lot of sites, both AM and FM, have good bones. Even if they have fallen into neglect, they can often be restored to a condition that an engineer can be proud of, despite the equipment being decades old. In most cases, the result is well worth the effort.
Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB, is tech editor of RW Engineering Extra. He is the director of engineering for Crawford Broadcasting.
Audio performance recalling radio history will air during 2020 AES Fall Show
The post Watch Out! The “Phantom Power” Is Coming This Halloween Season appeared first on Radio World.
All those cryptic buzzes and beeps your engineer has been hearing over the years may be coming from a mysterious source.
Maybe it’s the “Phantom Power.”
That’s the amusing scenario being proposed by an audio play called “Phantom Power: A Brief History of the Ghost in Our Machines,” which will be performed live online on Oct. 29 during the AES Fall 2020 Show. Group-produced by the HEAR Now Festival, Soundbooth Theater and SueMedia Productions, this original audio play was created to celebrate [email protected], the 100th anniversary of commercial radio broadcasting in the U.S.
The backstory: Exactly 100 years ago — on Nov. 2, 1920 — an audio engineer was trying to get the very first commercial broadcast on air. Somehow, his work ended up pulling him into the machine itself and he found himself trapped forever in the radio waves. This engineer, nicknamed Phantom Power, spends the next 100 years fighting off the ghosts that live in the machines — and all those cryptic buzzes and beeps — and trying to get free.
When the play’s story begins, it’s the year 2020. It’s Halloween. And strange things are beginning to happen at the fictional radio station WDMB.
The ghostly hero, Phantom Power, begins to make his presence known at WDMB. A few days shy of the 100th anniversary of commercial radio broadcasting, the ghosts that live in the machines — that only Phantom Power can defeat — begin to appear. The morning show team at WDMB, who have since March 2020 been quarantining together at the studios while continuing to broadcast, begin to reminisce. They ruminate about broadcast history and previous technology, and in doing so acknowledge all the accomplishments that have come before them — of the engineers, DJs and producers that have curated and cared for radio over the last 100 years.
The idea for this production came about when producer Sue Zizza of SueMedia Productions was asked by AES Broadcast Chair David Bialik to create a special event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of commercial radio. Zizza has been producing special educational and performance events for the AES Broadcast Track, which has been a staple at the AES annual convention, since 1997.
After an email exchange with Ralph Scott, the public relations chair for the HEAR Now Festival, the team brought in audio playwright Butch D’Ambrosio to create a play that looks back on commercial radio’s rich history. This is familiar territory for D’Ambrosio” At last year’s AES show, D’Ambrosio wrote “An Intimate Evening with Tesla and Twain,” an audio performance about Nicola Tesla and Mark Twain.
This year’s production differs from other live audio productions in part because it creates the impression that the audience is together in the same room, Zizza said. “Working with Soundbooth Theater has made this production feel as if we are together in the theater or studio,” she said. “This past June, when HEAR Now went virtual and took the festival completely online, we found that Soundbooth had been experimenting with live performance and had found ways to minimize latency issues that can defeat many ‘zoom performance’ events.”
The production features cast members Jeff Hays, founder of Soundbooth Theater, as well as actors Gary Francis Furlong, Annie Ellicott and Laurie Catherine Winkel. Soundbooth’s Ahmed Mahmoud will be engineering the live performance using a variety of software including StreamYard and Steam Deck. David Shinn of SueMedia Productions is the event’s technical director, who will ensure the performance’s web stream will be accessible to AES attendees. HEAR Now intern Rory Stevenson has created the prerecorded sound effects.
By honoring radio’s past, Zizza said, today’s radio professionals can be a better shepherd in the future.
“We should appreciate those who came before, their inventions, and the time they invested to give us the ability to reach each other over the airwaves,” she said. “If we continue to honor the past, we will get to create the future and the next 100 years of broadcasting, wherever that leads.”
Those interested in listening in to “Phantom Power” can register for the AES event here.
The post Watch Out! The “Phantom Power” Is Coming This Halloween Season appeared first on Radio World.
Workers became trapped 1,300 feet in the air
The post Alabama TV Tower Accident Results in One Death, Two Rescues appeared first on Radio World.
A rescue mission unfolded on the afternoon of Oct. 20 as three maintenance workers ended up trapped high up on a television tower in the Elsanor/Rosinton, Ala., area. It unfortunately ended tragically, with the death of one of the workers, according to the Baldwin County Sheriff department.
According to WPMI(TV), the local NBC affiliate, the workers had climbed the tower, which houses the antenna for WJTC television and a local radio station, to repair a guy cable as part of an ongoing maintenance project. Witnesses on the ground reported that at about 1,300 feet debris may have struck one of the individuals, with the other two locking in place.
Two of the workers were able to be rescued and sustained nonlife-threatening injuries. The other worker unfortunately died before being brought down.
The maintenance workers were from a company in Texas. No names have been released.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.
For more information, read coverage on myNBC15.com.
The post Alabama TV Tower Accident Results in One Death, Two Rescues appeared first on Radio World.