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An excerpt from this week’s Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes

The following is from the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to ABA’s Larry Wilkins. To subscribe to the newsletter, email lwilkins@al-ba.com.

LICENSE RENEWAL

The FCC has announced that the license renewal schedule will begin next year. Station licenses are granted for a term of eight years after which all stations must file for a license renewal. Alabama and Georgia will need to file their renewal application by Dec. 1, 2019.

The reason for this early reminder is so that stations can have time to review and correct any issues with your Online Public File. All radio stations outside of the top 50 markets were required to place their public files on the FCC hosted website by March 1. If you have not done so we urged you to make sure you address this as soon as possible as this could affect your license renewal next year.

If you have any questions about the online filing contact the ABA office or your communications attorney.

C BAND REGISTRATION 

For the last several weeks we have been reminding broadcasters about the importance of registering all C band satellite downlinks.

The FCC has begun to look at the possibility of allowing mobile broadband operations in the 3.7–4.2 GHz frequency band, known as the C Band. This is the satellite downlink band used by all major networks and programmers.

If this takes place radio and television stations could lose their satellite signals due to interference from the mobile broadband operations. The FCC needs to understand how important the C band is to all broadcasters.

The NAB, SBE and state broadcast associations are urging stations that presently have C band satellite dishes to register them with the FCC. As NAB points out

normally applications for earth station licenses, or registration in the 3.7–4.2 GHz band, would require a frequency coordination report demonstrating coordination with terrestrial stations, however the Commission has waived the frequency coordination requirement for the applications for a 90-day period ending on July 18.

Applications must be filed electronically through IBFS at http://licensing.fcc.gov/myibfs . You will need the station FRN number and password to log into the site. Once logged in select and complete Form 312 Schedule B, remit the statutory application filing fee, and provide any additional information required by applicable rules. The filing fee is $435.

Listed here are detailed instructions, provided by space providers SES and Linkup Satellite, that you can follow to complete registration.

AIR FILTERS AT TRANSMITTERS 

As summer gets started, engineers are reminded to keep a close watch on the air filters in the transmitter and air handling equipment. Overheating is major cause of equipment failure, so clean or replace air filters as often as necessary to maintain sufficient flow of air.

If your site has a central A/C unit or wall pack, have your local A/C service center conduct a thorough inspection on the units. A little preventive maintenance now could save the station money and lost air time.

EPOCH???

Epoch may sound like the latest in the flu virus, but it is how the time synchronization counters in digital audio and video are linked together.

Epoch means the beginning of a distinctive period in the history of someone or something. Unix epoch time is the number of seconds that have elapsed since Jan. 1, 1970 (midnight UTC/GMT). Highly accurate counters are used in the creation and synchronization of among other things analog to digital convertors.

Epoch is the “start point” in time that defines the “zero” count. Time is then measured from the Epoch to the present using a precise frequency of any unit desired.

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An excerpt from this week’s Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes

The following is from the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to ABA’s Larry Wilkins. To subscribe to the newsletter, email lwilkins@al-ba.com.

REGISTERING C-BAND SATELLITE DOWNLINKS

The Federal Communications Commission is working towards making 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz mid-band frequencies – spectrum that is coveted by U.S. mobile operators – available for 5G.

This frequency spectrum is the C-Band service used by most major networks and programmers to deliver content to radio and television stations 

Michael Ha, deputy chief of technology at the FCC said he expects the Commission to issue a notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM) “by summer,” which will then be followed by a public comment period. 

All broadcast stations (radio and television) that presently utilize C-band satellite for program reception are encouraged to register their downlink site with the FCC. The deadline to register is July 18.

Listed here are detailed instructions, provided by space providers SES and Linkup Satellite, that you can follow to complete registration.

These steps are in response to the recent FCC ruling which determined all C-band downlink Earth stations across the US must be registered with the FCC no later than July 18, 2018. There is a $435 registration fee per C-band downlink. (However, if you are a Non-Commercial Educational (NCE) and your FRN indicates this designation, the $435 registration fee should be waived.)

EAS NOTES 

A reminder that when setting incoming alert filters in your EAS decoders, always set the area to “local area”. Local area tab is where the counties in the station service area are selected.

This helps filter alerts that are not for your service area. If you select “all of State” then some alerts not for your area could trigger a outgoing message relay.

JOB OPENING AT MOODY BROADCASTING 

Moody Radio currently has an immediate opening for a chief engineer to care for their West Coast of Florida radio group, full time.

Contact Mark Williames Director of Engineering P: (312) 329-4303.

IMPORTANCE OF GAIN STRUCTURE 

Gain Structure is a term mostly used by professional sound engineers or FOH (front of house) mix engineers. However it should be something the broadcast engineer take note of as well, even in digital operations.

Gain structure is exploiting the dynamic range of audio equipment to its best advantage, to minimize noise and unwanted distortion.

We need to ensure that the gain in each stage of electronic processing within a signal path is optimized to keep the signal level well above the noise floor, but comfortably below the circuitry’s clipping point.

Optimizing gain structure where several pieces of gear are connected together is even more demanding, as we need to ensure that every circuit is running at its optimum signal level, while still leaving the appropriate safety margin.

We have mentioned this in previous articles, but it’s worth repeating. Start with drawing a signal flow chart for your station; include every device the signal goes through from the console to the transmitter. Next refer to the specification sheet for each device and write down the “clip level” for each one. The lowest clip level for a device in the path becomes your maximum “plant clip level”. If the maximum plant clip level is +24 dBm then deduct 12 dB for head room. Your operational clip level will be +12 dBm. 

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An excerpt from this week’s Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes

The following is from the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to ABA’s Larry Wilkins. To subscribe to the newsletter, email lwilkins@al-ba.com.

TRANSLATORS FOR AM UPDATE

Last week we made mention of the change in the FCC rules covering permissible locations for FM translators used by AM stations. As a follow up, here is a more detail description of the change.

Basically the FM translator can be located any place where the translator service contour of 60 dbu (1 mV/m) is within the 2 mV/m contour of the AM station or 25 miles from the AM transmitter, whichever is more.

Even if the station’s 2 mV/m contour only extends about 12 miles out, you will be able to locate a translator at any point as long as the edge of the translator service contour remains within 25 miles of the AM station.

FM translators are still limited to 250 watts ERP and are still subject to interference scrutiny from existing stations (full power, translator and LPFM).

[Read: FCC Schedules Auction for Mutually Exclusive Translator Applications]

THUNDERBOLT 3

If you going to connect any external device to a computer, normally it would require some type of a port. Most common is USB (Universal Serial Bus), but there are others such as Firewire, Mini Display Port and Thunderbolt.

Computer hardware developers are working towards a “one type port fits all” system. Thunderbolt 3 is the latest version of Thunderbolt, and it uses the same design as the familiar USB Type-C connector.

Thunderbolt 3 allows for connection speeds up to 40Gbps, double the speed of the previous generation, USB 3.1 10Gbps, and DisplayPort 1.2. It also offers USB speeds of up to 10Gbps, and it can connect up to two 4K displays, outputting video and audio signal at the same time. It also supports DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, and 10GbE fast networking. Plus, Thunderbolt 3 is backwards compatible to Thunderbolt 2.

TELEVISION REPACK UPDATE

The Television repack is underway with the first phase of stations due to be completed by 11/30/18. If you are keeping a playbook we have compiled a database with all the television stations in Alabama along with their status in the repack schedule.

We ask that all television engineers review this list and let us know of any errors or changes. It is available here and will also be updated and posted on the ABA web site shortly.

NAB SHOW NEWS

The National Association of Broadcasters annual convention is coming up April 7th – 12th at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It appears from all the reviews, that this year will focus on everything IP! Great advancements are being made by all vendors to create, transmit and receive everything via IP.

If you have never been to an NAB Convention, this should be the year to go. Not only will you be able to view, first hand equipment and services from over 1700 vendors but also you can network with 100,000+ other broadcaster professionals like yourself.

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An excerpt from this week’s Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes

The following is from the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to ABA’s Larry Wilkins. To subscribe to the newsletter, email lwilkins@al-ba.com.

ERIC SMALL

We are sad to report that Eric Small, co-developer of the Optimod FM processor, founder of Modulation Sciences Inc., and holder of several patents, is dead at the age of 71.

On March 15, Small was leaving a Publix grocery store in Delray Beach, Fla., around 5:09 p.m., when the driver of a car lost control and accelerated towards the store. The car struck Small first and then crashed into the Publix, according to the Palm Beach Sheriffs Office report. The driver and Small were transported to Delray Medical Center, where they both died from their injuries.

WIRELESS USE ABOVE 600 MHZ

We mention last week about the discontinuance of use of frequencies above 600 MHz for wireless use. The Federal Register published a rule late last week that requires consumer disclosure, including specific consumer alert language, regarding changing requirements for selling wireless microphones operating in the 600 MHz band. 

The mandated alert message is written to advise consumers that wireless microphone users must cease operations in the 600MHz band no later than July 13, 2020, or earlier if their use could interfere with wireless operations in the band.

This rule will become effective April 11.

[Read: Was the Incentive Auction Necessary?]

FM TRANSLATORS FOR AM UPDATE

AM stations that filed for FM translators in the January 2018 window, who were deemed to be”singletons,”i.e. their applications are not predicted to cause interference to any other translator applicant, must file their “long-form” applications (form 349) during a window from April 18th through May 9.

PIRATE OPERATORS — BE READY FOR MORE FINES

Pirate Radio operators continue to operate with disregard to FCC rules. The current $10,000 maximum fine for operating an unlicensed station isn’t a big enough deterrent. Now Congress is taking the first steps to boost the maximum fine for pirate radio to as much $100,000 per day, per violation with a maximum fine allowed by law of $2 million.

Under the proposal, the FCC would be required to conduct at least twice-a-year enforcement sweeps in the top five radio markets — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas — for the purpose of “identifying, locating, and terminating such operations and seizing related equipment.”

And as for the rest of the year, Congress would direct the FCC that it wouldn’t be allowed to “diminish regular enforcement efforts.” And as for any equipment seized from alleged pirates, the law would give the Enforcement Bureau the authority to destroy it within 90 days from the date that it was taken away from an unlicensed broadcaster.

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An excerpt from this week’s Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes

The following is from the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to ABA’s Larry Wilkins. To subscribe to the newsletter, email lwilkins@al-ba.com.

ATSC 3.0 NEWS

The Next Generation of Television Broadcasting (ATSC 3.0) is gearing up to get started. The ATSC committee is putting the final wraps on all the standards and the FCC voted on March 5th to authorize the transition.

One of the sticking points still to be worked out is how the service will actually be rolled out. The Commission has already determined that it will be voluntary.

Because ATSC 3.0 is not backward compatible with our current system (ATSC 3.1) stations will be required to transmit both formats at this time. Stations implementing the new transmission will initially have to simulcast both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 with in-market TV station partners. One channel would transmit both stations ATSC 1.0 signal and the other channel would transmit both stations ATSC 3.0 signal.

TV REPACK AND RADIO

As a large number of television stations start their transition to new channels per the Television Repack, radio stations that share space on a television tower need to sit down with television engineers and map out the construction time table and decide what their options are for staying on the air during the construction work on the tower.

Some may have to construct temporary sites on another tower, which would create expenses that where not in the stations budget. The good news is that Congress is working on a bill that first of all increases the reimbursement to television stations for their construction and will also have funds available to help offset any expense incurred by radio stations.

Now is the time for radio stations to get a plan in place and not get caught at the last minute on this project.

WIRELESS EQUIPMENT

In addition to the situation discussed in the article above, all users of wireless equipment (microphones, IFB systems, in ear monitors) are reminded that because of the TV repack the frequencies above 608 MHz are no longer available for use by wireless devices. While the deadline is 2020 cell companies that received the use of these frequencies have already begun to bring their systems online.

The problem is not just for broadcasters, but churches, theaters, convention centers, stadiums and anyone that use wireless systems will be effected.

Engineers should check all their wireless devices and if any are above 608 MHz, replacement units will have to purchased. Several of the major wireless manufacturers are offering rebates for upgrading to new units.

REVIEW OF SMPTE ST2110 STANDARD

SMPTE ST2110 is a standard that will be a major part of ATSC 3.0. It is designed to allow each part of the signal to be in a different stream. This means video, audio channels, and ancillary data will all be separately routable, allowing recipients to ask for exactly what they want, and get only that.

This differs from ST 2022-1/2/3/4: MPEG-2 Transport Stream over IP and ST 2022-5/6: SDI over IP, which are “multiplex” standards, where the video, audio, and ancillary data signals (plus blanking and padding) are wrapped up into a single IP stream.

ST 2110 is broken down into six different groups:

  • 2110-10: System Timing
  • 2110-20: Uncompressed Video
  • 2110-21: Traffic Shaping Uncompressed Video
  • 2110-30: PCM Audio
  • 2110-31: AES3 Transparent Transport
  • 2110-40: Ancillary Data

We encourage you to watch a most informative tutorial by SMPTE Fellow John Mailhott, CTO Infrastructure Imagine Communications.

CHIEF OPERATOR RULES

FCC rule 73.1870 states that the “licensee of each AM, FM, TV or Class A TV broadcast station must designate a person to serve as the station’s chief operator. At times when the chief operator is unavailable or unable to act (e.g., vacations, sickness), the licensee shall designate another person as the acting chief operator on a temporary basis.” In addition, “the designation of the chief operator must be in writing with a copy of the designation posted with the station license.”

This designation (with the most current information) can be posted with the station license at the control point and/or placed in the additional documents folder under the basic station tab on the their online public file site.

The basic requirement of the chief operator is to “Review the station records at least once each week to determine if required entries are being made correctly. Additionally, verification must be made that the station has been operated as required by the rules or the station authorization.”

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An excerpt from this week’s Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes

The following is from the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to ABA’s Larry Wilkins. To subscribe to the newsletter, email lwilkins@al-ba.com.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?

Well it is that time again….time to change your clocks. Daylight Savings time starts next Sunday, March 11, at 2 a.m. Clocks move ahead by one hour. Engineers and program directors need to make sure the required changes made to remote control units and station automation equipment.

Daylight Saving Time was originally instituted in the United States during World War I and World War II in order to take advantage of longer daylight hours and save energy for the war production.

RADIO PUBLIC FILES ONLINE

Hopefully everyone completed their public file upload by the deadline of March 1st. I spoke with several SECC chairmen around the country and they were still taking phone calls even the day after. It was the same way in Alabama as well.

It was actually a painless process with most stations only needing to upload their Issues and Programs list from 2012 to present.

SPRING CLEANING

With spring on the way trees and bushes will start to leaf out. Now is a good time to clean out around you transmitter site, especially around the tower and guy anchors. If you guy paths have grown up it will be easier now before the new foliage starts to fill out to remove trees and other growth along the path. Recommended width is ten foot either site of center line of guy line

While visiting the anchor points inspect them closely to see if there are any broken/missing clamps or bolts, ground connections, rust buildup, or damage to the preforms. Inspect the concrete to check for cracks and proper water runoff from guy point.

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An excerpt from this week’s Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes

The following is from the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to ABA’s Larry Wilkins. To subscribe to the newsletter, email lwilkins@al-ba.com.

EAS NOTES

Most engineers are aware that Emergency Alerts are not only transmitted to broadcast and cable operations but quite often to mobile devices as well. This process is WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) which is a public safety system that allows customers who own certain wireless phones and other enabled mobile devices to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area.

There have been some complaints about WEA messages getting stuck and repeating the message over and over. AL Kenyon, Customer Support Branch Chief IPAWS Program Office in a post on the SBE EAS list server , indicated the problem most likely is in the customers handset and not in the distribution system.

RADIO ONLINE PUBLIC FILES

Deadline for all radio stations to have their pubic files placed on the FCC online web site is this Thursday March 1st. The process is not difficult and most stations only have to upload only one set of documents, that being the issues and program list from 2012 forward.

While we are speaking about filings with FCC, a quick reminder that the stations ownership reports are due no later than Friday, March 2.

TOWER AUDITS

Unless your broadcast operation leases tower space for your antenna, you own a tower! If this tower has been up for several years, then more than likely there have been additional antennas and transmission lines added.

It is easy to loose track about these additions, especially if you rent space out to other broadcasters and/or non broadcast tenants. Keeping a detail database of the attachments on the tower is a must do item. If you don’t have an up to date tower database, then you need to conduct a “tower audit.”

According to Rich Redmond with GatesAir, “a tower audit is a complete review of a tower including cataloging all antennas and transmission lines and such located on the tower. This can also include a structural analysis of the tower with the antennas and lines with respect to the current tower loading standards, review of anchors, and overall condition of a tower.”

Transmission lines at the base of the tower should be tagged identifying the owner either by attaching line tags or simply using colored weather resistant tape. A thorough inspection of the transmission line mounting and proper grounding should be included in the audit. As the tower owner it is your responsibility to set guidelines on proper attachment and routing of of lines on the tower.

Your “tower database” should include information about the tenants, including contact information of who to call should a problem arise with their antenna or transmission line.

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An excerpt from this week’s Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes

The following is from the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to ABA’s Larry Wilkins. To subscribe to the newsletter, email lwilkins@al-ba.com .

RADIO ONLINE PUBLIC FILES

March 1st is the deadline for radio stations to have their public files posted on the FCC hosted web site. I know we sound like a broken record, but checking the web site, there are not very many that have posted their files yet. Remember February only has 28 days this year….so March 1st will be here soon. If you haven’t gone to the site yet, we encourage you do it today. The URL is publicfiles.fcc.gov. For a complete tutorial on how to log in and upload your files watch the ABA video here

GOOD NEWS OUT OF WASHINGTON

With all the activities that television stations are saddled with surrounding the re-pack and ATSC 3.0 the FCC has issued some good news. Since everyone including the Commission recognized that the funds that were allocated for the repack was way short of the real world cost the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a bill that plugs holes in the original legislation authorizing the incentive auction and relocation of about 1,000 U.S. full-power and Class A TV stations.

It also establishes a Translator and Low Power Station Relocation Fund, sets up the FM Broadcast Station Relocation Fund and creates a Broadcast Station Relocation Consumer Education Fund.

STATIONS GETTING READY FOR ATSC 3.0

As television stations start making plans for ATSC 3.0 they need to formulate an educational plan for both consumers and retailers. While visiting a big box store the other day I mentioned ATSC 3.0. The salesperson said they were all ready for it with plenty of sets in stock. I commented “oh really”? They said see all these sets on the floor has 4k and HDR. I calmly said something about the type of tuner….to which I got the “deer in the headlight” look.

REVIEWING THE REQUIRED EQUIPMENT PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENTS

Stations are reminded that FCC rules part 73.1590 requires that licensee of each AM, FM, TV and Class A TV station, except licensees of Class D non-commercial educational FM stations authorized to operate with 10 watts or less output power, must make equipment performance measurements for each main transmitter upon initial installation of a new or replacement main transmitter; upon modification of an existing transmitter made under the provisions of 73.1690 and most importantly annually, for AM stations, with not more than 14 months between measurements.

The data required, together with a description of the equipment and procedure used in making the measurements, signed and dated by the qualified person(s) making the measurements, must be kept on file at the transmitter or remote control point for a period of 2 years, and on request must be made available during that time to duly authorized representatives of the FCC.

This is especially important for AM stations that must conduct the measurements annually and keep the last two reports on file. 

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