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The advocacy group called the FCC’s earlier decision arbitrary, capricious and contrary to LCRA

WASHINGTON — While the industry digests the 998 objections that Prometheus and two other advocacy groups filed with the FCC on May 17, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a firm “no” in a separate Prometheus filing — one that may be of interest to low-power FM stations, AM operators, LCRA supporters, and those watching for a future tug of war between AM radio stations and LPFMers.

Last year the Prometheus Radio Project filed a series of petitions with the FCC saying the commission’s 2017 formal order on the siting of cross-service translators for AM stations was arbitrary, capricious, contrary to the goals of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, and insensitive to the needs of community-oriented noncommercial educational LPFM providers.

The issue surrounds the commission’s decision not to adopt a specifically defined distance limit on the siting of cross-service translators for AM stations with a 2 mV/m contour exceeding 25 miles.

As part of its AM revitalization efforts, the FCC amended a rule in February 2017 surrounding the siting of an FM translator that is rebroadcasting an AM station. The draft of this Second Report and Order differed from earlier documents in that it did not include any specific distance limits on the siting of translators.

This was done intentionally, the FCC said, to give AM stations flexibility in using a cross-service translator to serve its core market — assuming that it still did not extend its signal beyond the station’s core service area.

Prior to the circulation of this Second R&O draft, the rules were quite specific: a cross-service FM translator had to be located such that its 60 dBμ contour was contained within the lesser of either the AM station’s daytime 2 mV/m contour, or within a 25-mile radius centered at the AM station’s transmitter site.

As the FCC put it: “refraining from adopting a limit would be consistent with the objective, articulated in the [AM Revitalization Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking], to provide flexibility to an AM station using a cross- service translator.”

Prometheus objected, however. It argued that without the proposed 40-mile limit, expanded siting options for cross-service FM translators would lead to an increase in the short-spacing of low-power FM stations from multiple directions, and would significantly restrict incumbent LPFM stations’ ability to relocate in the event of lost transmitter sites.

The commission dismissed Prometheus’ objections at the time and went ahead and approved the Second R&O without any mention of the 40-mile limit. The commission said Prometheus neglected to quantify the number of LPFM stations that would be affected and noted that the new rules still made space for mandated minimum spacing and contour overlap protections.

Prometheus responded again with a stay petition and reconsideration petition and demanded a freeze on the processing of related applications.

The FCC again disagreed. “Despite Prometheus’s claims, the commission did not fail to account for any adverse impact that the order will have on LPFM stations,” the FCC said. “Rather, the commission found that the public interest benefits of providing greater flexibility for AM stations to locate cross-service translators, even beyond the 40-mile limit, were significant and that nothing in the record, including Prometheus’s February Ex Parte, demonstrated harm to LPFM stations that would outweigh these benefits.”

Nor does the commission agree with Prometheus’ assessment that it violated the LCRA by not adopting a set distance limit on siting of cross-service translators.

“[The order] addresses community needs by allowing improved primary service by AM broadcasters” such that the requirements of Section 5 of the LCRA have been met, the FCC said.

The commission rejected Prometheus in another way: its assessment that the FCC favored expansion of commercial stations, “many of which are controlled by large national ownership groups at the expense of noncommercial local LPFM,” Prometheus told the FCC.

Elimination of the set distance limit does not favor expansion of commercial stations at the expense of noncommercial stations, the FCC said. “The increased flexibility in siting of cross-service translators will benefit both commercial and noncommercial AM stations … [and] the potential for harm to noncommercial LPFM stations resulting from this increased flexibility is remote.”

As a result, the commission rejected Prometheus’s request for reconsideration and dismissed its stay petition as moot.

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Byron St. Clair, 93, Has Died

He was the “father of translators, LPTV and low-power FM” and the president emeritus of the National Translator Association


DENVER — Dr. Byron St. Clair, president emeritus of the National Translator Association, died May 20 in Denver of brain cancer. He was 93.

St. Clair, who served as president of the National Translator Association for 19 years, is known as the “father of translators, LPTV and low-power FM,” the association said.

He worked to serve those living in the mountainous rural western United States with broadcast service and in so doing created a new class of over-the-air broadcasting, which has grown to more than 4,000 stations that serve millions of people.

“Byron was a friend and mentor to all, a man of immense intellect, wisdom, ethics, kindness and vision,” said NTA President John Terrill.

During his career, St. Clair was director of R&D for Adler Electronics and founded and served as president of EMCEE, a manufacturer and installer of TV translators. In 1967, he founded and was president of Television Technology Corp. in Arvada, Colo., which later became Larcan-TTC.

St. Clair obtained a BSEE in 1945 and a master’s degree in physics in 1949 from Columbia University. He earned a Ph.D in physics in 1953 from Syracuse University.

He was a member of the National High Definition Television Subcommittees, Systems Subcommittee Working Party to Field Test Task Force, a board member of the Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance, a member and active participant in the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers. St. Clair also was a member of the board of directors for Denver public broadcaster KBDI(TV).

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering recognized St. Clair in 2017 with its Jules Cohen Award for lifetime achievement.

The NTA is establishing The Byron W. St. Clair Memorial Scholarship Fund in partnership with the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers for promising undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in a career in broadcast engineering at accredited U.S. universities and colleges.

St. Clair is survived by his wife of 71 years, Julie, and daughter Susan Hansen of Arvada, Colo. A memorial service will be held in June. Details were not immediately available.

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Says new insights will enable advertisers to measure and optimize ad campaigns


NEW YORK — The competition among broadcast groups for radio advertising dollars continues to escalate, due in no small measure to new technologies. The revolution began with the introduction of programmatic ad buying, which streamlined what had been a cumbersome process. At the same time, the drive towards better real-time analytics began. RW recently reported about Veritone’s announcement of partnerships with Beasley Media Group, Reach Media, the Tom Joyner Network, Townsquare Media and Results Radio, giving these broadcasters a license to use the Veritone aiWARE platform at their stations to process, transform, and review audio data in near real-time, with ad and content tracking, analytics.

The driving force behind much of this effort is bringing radio analysis to a parity with the traditionally more precise online media metrics. Now, iHeartMedia is jumping in with “iHeartMedia Analytics,” which it claims is the first fully-digital attribution service for broadcast radio. By leveraging the data from iHeartRadio’s digital ecosystem, the company claims, iHeartMedia will enable broadcast radio to measure and show results in the same way as digital media, giving advertisers easy access to campaign performance insights.

Brian Kaminsky, president of Revenue Operations and Insights for iHeartMedia, explained the logic behind this move: “We continue to see advertisers spend money on less effective mediums simply because they provide a perceived level of measurability and accountability. Now, marketers will be able to capitalize on the scale and reach of iHeartMedia’s more than 270 million monthly broadcast listeners. They can receive the same kind of real-time measurements, insights and custom reporting they are accustomed to getting from digital media, quantifying the full power of radio. In addition they can get attribution information that is missing from most of the digital marketplace.”

iHeartMedia Analytics is the latest addition to the company’s marketing optimization toolbox. It also includes SoundPoint, a programmatic real-time radio ad buying platform, and the recently introduced SmartAudio, which enables advertisers to do impression-based audience planning and dynamic radio ad creative that utilizes real-time triggers such as weather, pollen counts and sports scores.

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It’s a translation of the fourth edition of the “NATE Tower Climber Fall Protection Training Standard”


WASHINGTON — The National Association of Tower Erectors is now offering one of its primary resources in a Spanish language edition.

“Norma de Capacitación de Protección contra Caidas para Trepadores de Torres de la NATE” is the translated version of the fourth edition of the “NATE Tower Climber Fall Protection Training Standard.” The standard establishes the minimum requirements to which all tower climbers should be trained, and the NATE CTS outlines the individual standards for varying levels of tower climber expertise, as well as contains a Course Training Plan to demonstrate how to implement and utilize the NATE CTS and a Definitions section.

The Spanish edition is available online as a free resource for member companies, and the print format is available for both members and non-members to purchase.

“A Spanish language edition of the NATE CTS is crucial for the industry’s growing multicultural workforce. Making it accessible to a larger audience will help ensure all employees are adequately trained and maintain the highest level of safety standards,” Sindy Benavides, chief operating officer and acting CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens said in a press release.

The association also said it plans to translate other resources to Spanish in the future. 

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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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Urges commercial stations to register to “make the FCC aware of usage”

Add Westwood One to the list of major radio organizations urging stations to register their C Band downlinks. It says failing to do so could put all of a station’s satellite programming at risk.

It also noted that the registration process does require a $435 filing fee, but that the normal additional requirement for a frequency coordination study has been waived, saving considerable expense.

The big audio network issued a statement calling on major commercial broadcast radio stations to register existing downlinks with the FCC before the commission evaluates the 3.7-4.2 GHz C Band for adding mobile broadband data services. “These potential additional services could create insurmountable interference to programming stations receive by satellite,” Westwood One wrote.

A current window gives users the chance to register by July 18. Westwood One says the FCC believes that if you do not register your downlink during this window, you will not need interference protection in future.

“In our history, we have never had to license and/or register C Band downlinks,’ stated SVP Technology and Operations Eric Wiler in the announcement.

“Yet with the extensive use of mobile devices, Wifi and other data services, there is a constant need for radio spectrum and the government is considering all possible options. All C Band Radio, Television and Data services on every satellite are at risk. Registration is key to helping the FCC appreciate the universe of existing downlinks and potential outcomes of expansion. Westwood One has been working with other networks and satellite vendors to attempt to resolve this situation.”

Form 312 is available at http://licensing.fcc.gov/myibfs . Some stations might use a consultant to help. Westwood One also set up its own help email to answer questions at dishreg@westwoodone.com.

Westwood One is owned by Cumulus Media.

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More news on the aftermath

The news from Norway about results of the 2017 (national) FM switch-off continues to come in. I heard from a correspondent in Norway, the well-known broadcast engineer Eivind Engberg, with some late observations.

“The U.S. radio industry would maybe like to know more about the switch off in Norway. Well, here we have the story from Mr. Ole Jørgen Torvmark, the CEO of Digitalradio Norge AS,” Engberg comments.

“First of all – Mr. Torvmark writes to the telecom authority and would like to express concern about free music streaming services, which he believes affect the use of radio streaming services. As he writes: ‘The use of music streaming services like Spotify has been steadily growing for several years, but after the largest population areas in Norway lost the FM broadcast transmissions, the use of these services increased significantly, from 34 to 36% in 2017 to 43% daily use in January 2018.’”

Eivind concludes that this may very well be a consequence of the FM shutdown.

“However — if you open the survey ‘Digitalradioundersøkelsen 2018 – strømming,’ you will be more shocked:

  • Before the (national) FM switchoff in 2017, 73% of Norwegians used radio daily in the car, 93% used it at least once per week and 97% at least once per month
  • After the switchoff, about a third of listeners are without any way to get DAB. 55% listen to local FM stations (still on-air); 34% use streaming services; 5% listen to FM from neighboring Sweden; 17% chose silence in the car now

(I’m going to assert here that the numbers add up to more than 100% because respondents could use local FMs, Swedish FMs, etc.—Doug Irwin)

How are sales of DAB radios doing in Norway? Well, according to this financial analysis of the chain Mekonomen , not that great. “The first quarter was challenging for the Mekonomen Group. As we communicated already April 9, 2018, we were negatively affected by significantly lower sales of DAB products in Norway and fewer weekdays due to the time of Easter, together with weak Swedish krona,” writes CEO Pehr Oscarson in the report. During the first quarter, a write-down of DAB products in inventories was made which had a negative effect of SEK 20 million on earnings.”

Eivind made one final comment: “…radio in Norway will be dead in 2022 if they force local radio off FM. I do really hope NO other countries follow Norway here…”

An earlier version of this article misspelled Eivind Engberg’s last name.

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Retails for $99.99 and has both FM and AM digital reception


Sangean is out with a new pocket HD Radio that has provides both AM and FM digital reception.

The company calls it the first AM/FM Pocket HD Radio. It retails for $99.99; it shows up via online dealers for around $83.

Features include 40 memory presets, multicast capability, clock and alarm, low-battery indicator and FM antenna; it runs on three AA batteries or the included AC adapter.

It also displays PAD and RDS info.


The FM and AM frequencies including HD Radio are listed on the back.

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Easy fast setup is a selling point

Ahead of the InfoComm show in Las Vegas next month, Barix is highlighting an expanded suite of low-cost, multi-site audio contribution and streaming solutions.

While some of the announcement is focused on retailers, the discussion also pertains to temporary live internet radio services for houses of worship, corporate and other specialty “broadcast” applications.

Barix will demonstrate Instreamer ICE and Retail Player. It said it is pursuing a “unified strategy across its music streaming solutions” to provide users with new options to serve larger audiences.

“InfoComm marks the global debut of Instreamer ICE , which combines the bandwidth efficiency of AAC+ encoding with streamlined integration, thanks to a built-in Icecast server that supports up to 50 simultaneous listeners,” the company said. It’s suitable for specialized online broadcasters. “The enhanced compression of AAC+ encoding allows end users to deliver the same audio quality as mp3 at half the bandwidth, or double the audio quality using the same bandwidth.”

It said Instreamer ICE is believed to be the first product of this nature to combine an Icecast server with the encoding platform.

“This removes the need to download and configure an Icecast server on a separate machine, a time-consuming and often complex process, that enables listeners to receive live streams on their connected devices.” The integrated solution enables setup times of less than five minutes, Barix said.

A partner product, Barix’s Retail Player , combines hardware receivers with a web-based management portal for large-scale retail, hospitality and corporate music applications. Instreamer ICE customers can scale beyond 50 streams with Retail Player, it said. “The combined solution is ideal for private internet radio networks, as well as for businesses that previously turned to less reliable, consumer-grade players due to budget restrictions.”

Listeners can consume live streams on mobiles, laptops and connected devices while Retail Player provides a robust, network-configurable device with automatic playout for business applications.

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Let’s take a look at the progress of DAB across Europe. The primary reference for this article is from the EBU , written by Ben Poor. As a broadcasting union, the organization does want to see broadcasting continue and even thrive, but that’s no reason to unduly charge them with news “spin.”

The year 2017 saw an increase in the number of available services: Figures from the EBU Media Intelligence Service’s Market Insights on Digital Radio 2018 show that the number of digital stations increased by almost 25 percent. Some 468 stations are only available via digital transmission. Most of these are commercial stations “indicating an increasing recognition by private broadcasters of digital radio as a cost-effective place to innovate and reach new audiences.”

“A recent EBU analysis of the distribution costs for covering national populations by FM, DAB+ and Broadband showed that digital broadcast using DAB+ was significantly more cost-effective than the alternatives – even when calculated conservatively,” the article goes on to say. Thus, as digital listening grows, so does the case for planning for DSOs in the various countries.

For Norway: “The predicted drop of daily reach as a result of the disruption turned out to be less than expected.” Bauer Media predicts by the end of 2018 total radio listening and commercial radio revenues in Norway will have increased, and public radio listening will have bounced back. “DSO is disruptive and terrifying but it’s going to have been successful for everyone,” according to Bauer.

Let’s interject another source here. As reported by radionytt.no , in a recent media survey, made by Respons, for Nordic Media Days, 57% of respondents are “negative” that FM was switched off and replaced with DAB. 27% of respondents expressed their positive attitude towards digitization, while 16% of respondents did not know. The survey also shows that many still have not acquired a DAB radio: about 28% of respondents respond that they do not have DAB; 33% have acquired such a radio; 37% have digital radios at home.

Switzerland –in recent years, Switzerland has significantly built out its digital coverage, ahead of a cut-off date for DSO by 2024. “However, thanks to a close collaboration between government, industry and broadcasters, it is expected that DAB+ will be the main distribution platform from 2020,” according to EBU. “…success factors have included ensuring new cars are line-fitted with DAB+ receivers, [and a] a public information campaign and a partnership between public and private broadcasters.” Another reason given is regional layer built out using ‘low-cost’ solutions based on the freely available DAB+ broadcasting tools from OpenDigitalRadio . This has enabled local services to support the move to digital, bringing audiences with them.

Denmark–Denmark has one of the lowest numbers of digital-only stations within countries usually considered as digital radio ‘leaders’, but a plan for a DSO has recently been floated.

“The plan proposes a shutdown of FM two years after digital listening exceeds 50 percent, or in 2021 at the latest. Current figures (2018) put this at 37 percent, up from 31 percent in 2015.” This has followed a full transition from DAB to DAB+ during 2017, and a reorganization of frequencies for existing transmitters. I should also note that this is just a plan—it isn’t written into the law .

United Kingdom—“Digital listening in the UK is huge, with big seasonal spikes in the sales of home receivers and nearly 90 percent of new cars being line-fitted with a digital receiver,” according to EBU. The number of digital-only stations is almost twice the number of its nearest rival, Switzerland, with around 110 stations.

“A long-awaited figure of 50 percent digital share of listening across all digital platforms is expected during 2018.” This should then meet government criteria defined in its July 2010 Digital Radio Action Plan, triggering a process to “consider a decision on whether to set a date for [DSO]”.

The BBC still accounts for around half of all digital listening time and is a key player in any decision on DSO. A widely misreported speech by the BBC’s Director of Radio and Music, Bob Shennan , at the recent Radiodays in Vienna struck an optimistic but cautious tone. Shennan said a DSO plan “should be “audience-led” and that currently “audiences are best served by a mixed economy” of digital broadcast, broadband and FM in a ‘hybrid’ model.”

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