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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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Reps from the Center for International Media Action, Common Frequency and the Prometheus Radio Project believe the FCC has had its eye off the ball since 2014

WASHINGTON — The FM spectrum wars seem to be heating up.

Three organizations that support low-power FM stations in the United States have filed objections to 998 applications by full-power stations that want to extend coverage via FM translators.

Representatives from the Center for International Media Action, Common Frequency and the Prometheus Radio Project believe the FCC has had its eye off the ball since 2014 as it has handled translator applications.

This is the latest development in a years-long tug of war over U.S. FM spectrum management that often finds LPFM advocates and translator licensees pitted against one another a situation and that has gotten worse first as the LPFM service expanded and then as FCC policies encouraged further proliferation of FM translators for full-power stations including AMs.

The groups argue that after the Local Community Radio Act expanding the LPFM service was signed into law in 2011, Congress ordered the FCC to ensure that urban areas had opportunities for LPFM and translator applications and that the two types of radio facility be treated equally.

While the FCC previously had carefully modified translator processing procedures so that applicants could show that they were honoring the LCRA, argued Paul Bame of the Prometheus Radio Project in a letter on its website , “since 2014, something switched and they have allowed a giant spectrum grab by repeaters without regard to future LPFM opportunities.

“The congressional mandate is still in force, but seems to have been forgotten by the FCC,” he wrote.

According to the three groups, the FCC is supposed to serve as a referee between the interests of stations that wanted to extend their coverage with “repeaters” and new LPFMs looking to get a start in broadcasting.

“And from 2011 to 2013, they got it right,” the groups wrote. “Unfortunately, the referee has stepped off of the field, and incumbent owners are grabbing up everything they can, hoping no one will remember Congress’ mandate.”

They assert that the LCRA had determined that translator and LPFM services “remain equal in status” and “secondary to existing and modified full-service FM stations,” and thus, the groups argued, the FCC cannot enforce rules that give one service preference in relation to signal engineering.

Said Todd Urick with Common Frequency: “The rule of law still applies, and the FCC is bound by the orders that Congress gave it. Our objection to these 998 applications is a reminder that there was no sunset on compliance with this law in 2014 — it is still on the books and must be obeyed.”

Specifically, the groups said the FCC has informally sanctioned the practice of allowing translators to short-space existing LPFM facilities — i.e., allowing translator proposals to be spaced shorter than what LPFM services are allowed to propose to translators — without legally testing the issue. “This, by definition, affords a higher status to translators,” the groups said, a practice they say violates the LCRA.

In the case of a short-spacing, the groups said, a translator applicant “is free to propose endless minor changes and modification around the LPFM in perpetuity, but the LPFM is locked into its coordinate position from moving any closer to the translator.”

“The bias preemptively deems service preference to the translator party, with the LPFM party saddled with one-way mutual exclusivity,” the groups said.

Common Frequency, Prometheus and CIM are calling for all the applicants they list in their filing to confirm that their engineering requests meet the demands of the LCRA Section 5. They should demonstrate this prior to licensing, the group said, or be subject to dismissal or rescindment.

A list of the applicants are listed in in Appendix A of the group’s filing, and include applicants from all over the contiguous United States as well as Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

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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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Organization says there will soon be 1 million cars equipped standard

The number of cars with DRM-enabled radio sets installed as standard equipment on  Indian roads is nearing 1 million, according to Digital Radio Mondiale.

All India Radio, the public broadcaster, has engaged in the past few years in what it calls the largest radio digitization rollout in the world; with 39 high-power DRM transmitters operational, AIR is covering a large part of the subcontinent and an estimated 600 million people, DRM says.

It argues that, like elsewhere in the world, digital radio in India is driven by listening in cars and is important for the success of India’s digital rollout program. DRM says the receiver industry has invested millions of dollars in development of DRM-capable receivers and that the rollout of DRM-equipped cars is “growing quickly by the month”

DRM also noted that Communications Systems Inc. of India, manufacturer of the Avion DRM digital receiver AV-1401 , has started its second production run after undertaking enhancements to the device.

The AV-DR-1401 has been upgraded with a new PCB design for enhanced sensitivity and an improved FM signal, it said. The manufacturer also upgraded the software for the Emergency Warning Functionality, so that it can be used when the receiver is in standby as well; and, the receiver is now able to pick up weaker signals and deliver those in better digital audio quality. Improvements have been done also on the antenna by providing a complete new design, also according to DRM news .

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Educational Broadcast Service spectrum to be used for LTE and 5G

The FCC voted unanimously this month to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that contemplates ways to put mostly “fallow” 2.5 GHz spectrum to use.

The 2496–2690 MHz band constitutes “the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz and is prime for next-generation mobile operations,” according to fiercewireless.com .

Significant portions of the Educational Broadband Service spectrum in this band currently are unused across nearly half of the United States, mostly in rural areas. The commission has limited access to the spectrum since 1995, and current licensees are subject to outdated regulations, according to the FCC.

Efforts have been underway for more than a year to get the FCC to issue an NPRM so that the EBS portion of the 2.5 GHz spectrum could be put to better use, according to the article. In 2014, the Wireless Communications Association, the National EBS Association and the Catholic Television Network got together and submitted a proposal on how to license the spectrum.

Sprint holds licensed 2.5 GHz spectrum assets, and said that adoption of new licensing opportunities for EBS licensees will further strengthen its existing 4G LTE and future 5G deployments.

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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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