Industry News

NAB, Critics Duel Over Radio Duplication Rule

Radio World - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 11:17

The NAB says the FCC did the right thing last summer when it eliminated the radio duplication rule for FM as well as AM stations. It is slamming opponents who want to overturn the decision, calling them cynical and retaliatory.

The story so far

In August, the Federal Communications Commission eliminated the rule that restricted duplication of programming on commonly owned stations that operate in the same service and geographic area. However, it unexpectedly did so for FM stations as well as AM, a late change that was criticized at the time by Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks.

Subsequently, REC Networks, musicFIRST and Future of Music Coalition formally asked the FCC to overturn the decision in regards to FM stations. Among other things they basically accused the National Association of Broadcasters of pulling a fast one by seeking to change the terms of the issue at the last minute.

The opponents reminded the FCC that it had proposed and circulated a draft order applying only to AM stations and explicitly retaining the rule for FMs.

“In its Final Order, however, without warning or justification, the commission reversed course, eliminating the Radio Duplication Rule in its entirety,” they argued in November.

They said the elimination of the FM portion of the Radio Duplication Rule would “invite a reduction in diversity of programming, while encouraging corporate radio owners to hoard spectrum.” They believe the economic fallout of the pandemic should not be used as a justification because it is ultimately a temporary situation that could be dealt with through waiver requests, whereas the rule change will have lasting consequences.

And they said the FCC’s “sudden about-face” regarding FM violates federal law on administrative procedures. They said that on the day before the sunshine period, the general counsel of the NAB called senior aides to Republican Commissioners Pai and Carr to argue that the FM rule should be eliminated.

The effect of the timing, they said, “was to ensure that petitioners would not be able to speak to anyone at the commission about the matter on an ex parte basis prior to the commission’s vote. The timing of these actions is an affront to the stated purpose of the commission’s ex parte rules, namely to ‘ensure the fairness and integrity of its decisionmaking.’”

They laid out legal reasoning why a second round of public comments should have been held instead.

NAB replies

Now the NAB has replied formally to the commission.

The association says the critics’ arguments about competition “exhibit a complete misrepresentation of the business fundamentals of the radio industry and the intense competition radio faces, and a total lack of understanding of the market value of AM/FM radio spectrum.”

NAB slammed them as retaliatory: “Once again, we see musicFIRST and FMC file in commission proceedings concerning radio not because the companies and organizations those groups represent care about the proceedings at issue, but rather, to retaliate against broadcasters for those groups failing to convince Congress to enact a tax on radio stations when they play (promote) record labels’ music on terrestrial radio stations.”

The broadcast group also argued that the petition raises no new issues.

“The FCC correctly determined that, even absent the radio duplication rule, radio stations have no incentive to limit their appeal to listeners or advertising revenues by simulcasting the same content on multiple stations in the same market,” NAB wrote.

“To the contrary, the FCC explained that the best way for stations to reach the widest audience possible and maximize profits is to provide distinctive programming on their various stations, which is exactly the practice of broadcasters with multiple stations in the same market.” They said the opponents had not named one instance where a station has taken advantage of the repeal in the way the critics worry about.

NAB said these opponents also disregard the competitive incentives that broadcasters have to provide “diverse, distinctive content.” It said they “insist on demonstrating their consistent misunderstanding of what it takes for radio stations to survive in today’s hyper-competitive audio marketplace …  Both musicFIRST and FMC appeared blissfully unaware of how difficult it is for radio stations to endure in this environment, never mind serve the public interest effectively.”

It said the explosion in audio choices provides consumers with “nearly limitless content diversity.”

NAB also said eliminating the rule provides FMs the ability to “quickly repurpose programming on commonly owned stations,” especially when they need to share critical information during an emergency. There was no reason to retain the rule and force stations to incur the time and expense of pursuing a waiver. Eliminating the rule also could help stations to facilitate a format change on a sister station or more efficiently cover a specific issue of local interest, for a limited period of time.

“Finally,” NAB wrote in its conclusion, “the entire point of the FCC’s media regulation modernization initiative is to modify or eliminate regulations that no longer serve an important purpose. … [T]he rule is a perfect example of an unnecessary regulation that can needlessly hinder broadcasters’ ability to efficiently serve Americans, particularly during crises.”

The debate comes at a time of transition at the FCC, with an incoming Democratic presidential administration and the expectation of a new chairman soon. Chairman Pai will oversee his final FCC open meeting this month. Pai has said that regulatory transparency is one of the hallmarks of his tenure.

The deadline for comments on the opponents’ petition was Monday. Replies must be filed by Jan. 15.

The post NAB, Critics Duel Over Radio Duplication Rule appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

TEGNA In 2020: ‘An Extraordinary Year of Growth and Innovation’

Radio+Television Business Report - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 10:59

Not long ago, dissident TEGNA investor Soohyung Kim was thwarted in his attempt to gain a seat on the company’s board, place his own members on the board, and essentially assume control of a company he had little faith in.

Now, as 2021 unfolds, TEGNA’s C-Suite is taking stock of its COVID-era accomplishments. And, it’s CEO is pretty darn proud of them.

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MacCourtney Is Elected Chair of IRTS

Radio World - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 10:40

Leo MacCourtney of Katz Television Group was elected chairman of the International Radio and Television Society Foundation.

He succeeds Debra O’Connell, president of networks at Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution.

IRTS is a charitable organization “dedicated to building the next generation of media leaders and increasing diversity.” Its academic programs include a Summer Fellowship Program, Multicultural Career Workshop, Broadcast Sales Associate Program and Faculty/Industry Seminar.

MacCourtney is president of Katz Television Group, a television advertising sales organization that is part of iHeartMedia. He has been involved with the IRTS board for 25 years in various roles.

He also has served as chairman of the Television Bureau of Advertising and is involved with the boards of the Emma Bowen Foundation and Washington Media Scholars Foundation. He is the treasurer for the Broadcasters Foundation of America.

In a press release, MacCourtney said, “IRTS provides young people across the nation with meaningful ways to work and connect with high-level executives and companies in the media industry.” I’m extremely proud to help lead IRTS in its mission to support and mentor the next generation of media leaders with diversity at the core.”

Joyce Tudryn is IRTS president and CEO.

 

The post MacCourtney Is Elected Chair of IRTS appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

TEGNA Offers A 2021 Outlook Ahead of ’20 Results Release

Radio+Television Business Report - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 09:59

Set your calendar reminder now for 9am on Monday, March 1, TEGNA investors and Wall Street observers. That’s when TEGNA will formally unveil its Q4 and full-year 2020 results.

What can shareholders expect from the broadcast media company? TEGNA shared its preliminary results on Wednesday (1/6) — along with a preview of what could very much be on the books for 2021.

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FCC Releases Year-End Station Totals

Radio World - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 08:00

Below are the latest totals for the number of U.S. radio stations.

The Federal Communications Commission released its latest count of licensed stations as of Dec. 31, 2020.

We’ve added comparisons to one year ago and, out of interest in the longer-term trends, to 20 years ago.

Picking out a few data points, the total number of full-power stations is off slightly from last year but still well above where it was early in this millennium.

Also we see that the number of FM educational signals almost doubled in two decades. Meanwhile the number of FM translators and boosters far more than doubled in those 20 years (and grew by 238 just in the past year).

And the number of AM stations has continued to shrink, albeit slowly, a little bit each year.

 

AM, FM commercial and FM educational combined*

Dec. 2020: 15,445

Dec. 2019: 15,500

Late 2000: 12,717

*excludes LPFMs, boosters and translators, noted below.

 

AM only

Dec. 2020: 4,551

Dec. 2019: 4,593

Late 2000: 4,685

(In the 1990s, the number of AMs peaked at around 5,000)

 

FM commercial only

Dec. 2020: 6,699

Dec. 2019: 6,772

Late 2000: 5,892

 

FM educational only

Dec. 2020: 4,195

Dec. 2019: 4,135

Late 2000: 2,140

 

FM boosters and translators

Dec. 2020: 8,420

Dec. 2019: 8,182

Late 2000: 3,243

 

Low-power FM

Dec. 2020: 2,136

Dec. 2019: 2,169

Late 2000: n/a

(The LPFM services was created in 2000.)

The post FCC Releases Year-End Station Totals appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

“Create Synthetic VOs Just by Typing”

Radio World - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 06:00
Credit: iStock CinematicFilm

As heard in movies and on TV shows, the stereotypical computer-generated voice sounds awkward and unnatural. But thanks to artificial intelligence, today’s computer-generated voices can sound remarkably authentic and natural, especially if the voice has been generated after analyzing numerous samples of an actual person’s spoken words.

This is the approach being used by text-to-voice companies such as Descript. Billed as a tool to help podcasters edit and generate new speech simply by editing text transcripts, Descript starts out by having its clients read text samples into the company’s database, so that its AI-based text-to-voice engine has accurate sounds to work with.

“You can even create a range of delivery styles using samples of your voice,” said Jay LeBoeuf, Descript’s head of business development. “You could have one file labelled ‘Excited,’ a second labelled ‘Contemplative’ and so forth. Then when you input text that suits a particular style of read, you can tell our system which delivery style to use.”

The ability to create voice tracks from text, without actually stepping up to the microphone and speaking into it, has tremendous implications for the radio and voiceover industries.

In particular, the ability to create audio content from AI-generated “stock voices” (rather than cloned from individual human voices) could turn the market for human announcers upside down.

How good is text-to-voice?

This article was prompted by a Descript email received by Radio World with the subject line “Create Realistic, Synthetic Voiceovers Just by Typing.” It included a link to an audio file named “Descript Stock Voices.” It featured some of the 10 distinct AI-generated female and male voices that Descript offers to its text-to-voice clients for free. (A link to the audio file is at the end of this article.)

The file featured these non-human voices bantering back and forth, to illustrate how natural they sounded to the actual human ear. Again, their spoken words were generated directly from text.

In the subjective assessment of this writer, the AI-generated voices generally did sound authentic, although the need to leave distinct spaces between each of their words added a slight unnaturalness to the delivery.

Overall, the interplay between Descript’s AI-generated voices was impressive. In a short commercial or an on-air announcement consisting of two or three sentences, they would have been good enough to pass muster with most listeners.

Aimed at human announcers

Despite its mention of AI-generated voices, Descript says its services are aimed at human announcers/producers who want to make changes to their recorded content without having to go back to the studio.

“The most common use case for our Overdub voice cloning service is editorial corrections of human-delivered audio content,” said LeBoeuf. “It allows producers to make changes to this content as needed quickly and accurately.”

An image from a demo of Descript Pro Overdub.

Sam Sethi is a U.K.-based radio presenter heard on Marlow FM, BBC Berkshire and several other radio stations. He also podcasts and does voiceovers, and uses Descript Overdub as part of his production process.

“I read Descript’s prescribed text to train their system for 30 minutes, and then Descript created my unique Overdub voice,” said Sethi.

“In a blind listening test, my wife of 20 years couldn’t tell with 100% accuracy which was the synthesized voice and which was my own. I was genuinely amazed by that. Since then I have used my Overdub voice to make small edits or add additional audio quickly by using Overdub.”

Possibilities

As useful as Descript’s Overdub voice cloning is to human announcers and products, it’s the economical AI-generated voices that might get a cost-sensitive radio manager thinking.

Using a text-to-voice portfolio of AI-generated voices, a network could create individualized news, weather and sports casts for each market. The text would be generated by humans at a central location. Stories would be sorted and stored in online folders for each station, organized by playout order and then fed to a text-into-voice system that would generated market-specific audio broadcasts for each location. No announcers required.

In the same vein, station identifications and other branded content that are being created by human voiceover artists could be produced using text-to-voice. (To offset any cadence issues, the station could openly acknowledge that it is using a text-to-voice system: “Hi, I’m Bob, your friendly AI announcer.”)

Meanwhile, local ad campaigns could be changed constantly as required using text-to-voice, allowing stations to provide an unprecedented degree of custom messaging to sponsors.

Fans of human creativity in radio are shuddering right about now. But these scenarios certainly seem credible in an era when big media companies have been known to cut costs.

According to Rolfe Veldman, CEO of www.Voice123.com, an online marketplace for voiceovers, AI-generated voices are already turning up, mainly in advertising.

“There’s an increased trend towards short radio ads and more of them in a given campaign, which is ripe for AI in my opinion,” Veldman told Radio World.

“Meanwhile, the quality of AI-generated voiceovers is improving. Six months ago it was horrible and today it’s already more than okay. So you can only imagine how good it may be in a year from now as the AI-enabled text-to-voice systems continue to improve.”

Veldman says he isn’t concerned about AI-generated voices displacing human announcers in general. But he does worry that the low cost of AI voices will further depress rates for human talent.

“There are already more voice actors available today than there is available work,” Veldman said. “Adding AI to the market will only make things challenging.”

Limit to the technology?

Now that AI-generated voices are here, it seems unlikely that they will disappear. But can a voiceover generated by an AI software program ever match the very best work done by a human?

Gary Kline is a veteran engineering consultant and contributor to Radio World. He’s not convinced that AI can do the job.

“The AI voices are good enough to use for weather, sports, emergency alerting, giving the time of day, and other short-form informative material,” Kline said.

“But I do not think that they are ready to replace your AM or PM drive host. I don’t think they will be voicing commercials either, at least not yet. It remains to be seen if anyone will actually use the technology for true air-talent replacement and if they do, if listeners will accept it.”

Joan Baker is vice president of the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences, and she is similarly skeptical of AI-generated voiceovers.

Joan Baker

“I can see this technology being useful to producers who think they can’t afford the minimal cost for hiring skilled voice talent, and are working on projects where there is no real need to appeal to the emotions and needs of the intended listener,” said Baker.

“Selling to people, however, requires cutting through a very dense layer of cynicism and apprehension. This is why the ‘conversational, natural, non-announcery’ style of voice acting has become so popular.

“Beyond selling, it is also tough to communicate critical issues about public safety, health and many personal concerns over which consumers — the public — are looking for inspired solutions and advice,” Baker said.

“In these cases, only real people can tap into the nuances of emotions that are symbiotic in how people think and feel during one-to-one communications with each other. Can a robotic voice know the difference between saying ‘I love you’ at a time when a person feeling romantic toward his soulmate, and when he is being comforting a friend on their death bed?”

It is hard to imagine that an AI-generated voiceover could surmount the communications challenges outlined by Baker and Kline. That said, not so long ago it would seem unimaginable that AI-generated voices could pass for human. You can assess for yourself how close the Descript Stock Voices audio file gets.

The post “Create Synthetic VOs Just by Typing” appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

MIW Group Opens Mentoring Applications

Radio World - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 05:00

The MIW Radio Group is all about mentoring; and it has now opened the application window for its annual mentoring initiative.

The Mentoring & Inspiring Women in Radio Group chooses four candidates each year from within the radio sales, marketing, programming and digital disciplines, and matches the “mentees” up with experienced female leaders in radio.

The Mildred Carter Mentoring Program was established in 2002. It is sponsored this year by vCreative. Applications are open until Jan. 29.

Here’s how to apply.

Entercom Vice President National Partnerships Lindsay Adams chairs the mentoring program.

The program is named in the memory of Mildred Carter, who, with her husband Andrew “Skip” Carter, founded the first African American owned radio station in the U.S. in 1950 in Kansas City. She ran the Carter Broadcast Group for many years after the death of Skip Carter.

 

The post MIW Group Opens Mentoring Applications appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

Inside the Jan. 6, 2021 Issue of Radio World

Radio World - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 05:00

Radio World helps you kick off your new year with stories about the PreSonus PD-70 microphone; the impact of synthetic voiceovers; and tips for choosing your next console.

Also: In some countries, the “service following” feature of hybrid radio systems raises the possibility of “hidden” streaming fees for broadcasters; developers are working to minimize the impact. John Bisset on maintaining equipment for long life spans. And Doug Vernier offers tips on how to get the most out of a popular V-Soft FM software package.

Read it here.

The post Inside the Jan. 6, 2021 Issue of Radio World appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

Davis Wright Tremaine Bolsters Its Integrated TMT Practice With Lawyer Hire

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 16:32

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP has added a satellite and telecommunications lawyer as a partner in its Washington, D.C., office, bringing new capabilities to its team serving the technology and communications industries.

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Township, Fortview Team for Lone Star FM Buy

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 16:27

Just east of Austin is a Class A FM offering Classic Country programming.

It’s heading to a new owner, pending FCC approval.

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Sinclair’s Top Accountant Joins Tribune Publishing Interim CFO as Virtual Focus Chairs

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 16:21

The Board of Directors of the Media Financial Management Association (MFM) have selected the two individuals who will chair its upcoming, and virtual, Media Finance Focus conference.

David Bochenek, SVP/Chief Accounting Officer at Sinclair Broadcast Group, will serve as 2021 Conference Chair and share responsibilities with Mike Lavey, Interim Chief Financial Officer, Chief Accounting Officer and Controller for Tribune Publishing Company.

The conference will be a virtual affair, beginning on Tuesday, May 11, and concluding on Thursday, July 29

The preliminary agenda calls for sessions on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons along with topic-specific roundtables on Wednesdays. The 11 weeks will offer sessions on subjects relevant to industry financial and credit professionals.

Mary M. Collins, President and CEO of MFM and BCCA, says this year’s theme is “Together Toward Tomorrow,” and is “a nod to both our goals for 2021 and what we expect to be an exciting year of transition for the industry.”

Categories: Industry News

Deb McDermott Sells Her Standard Media Shares

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 15:59

In May 2019Deb McDermott gained the industry’s attention for the acquisition of television stations in Providence, R.I., and Lincoln, Neb., by the company she holds the title of CEO for, Standard Media Group. Six months later, Standard Media added nine properties from Waypoint Media in a deal valued at $59.2 million.

The deals cemented Standard Media’s role as a acquisitor, with McDermott, who is perhaps best-known in the media world for her association with ABC affiliate WKRN-2 in Nashville, partnering with Soo Kim on the company’s build-out.

Now, as 2021 begins, McDermott is shedding her ownership interest in the two stations acquired in May ’19.

A 27-page document uploaded to the FCC’s LMS proposes the transfer of control of 100% of the membership interests of Standard Media Group LLC from McDermott Communications to Paducah Television Operations LLC.

Translation: McDermott’s equity interest is being transferred to Soo.

To illustrate the change, an organizational chart was submitted to the Commission. Pre-transfer, McDermott controls Standard Media Group, and under that WLNE-6 in Providence, R.I., and KLKN-8 in Lincoln, Neb.

The McDermott-led group purchased the stations from Citadel Communications LLC for $83 million.

Post-transfer, Standard Media would be a unit of Paducah Television Operations, housed under Soo-controlled CNM Television Holdings, a division of his Community News Media LLC.

Soo Kim has generated much attention over the last year. As a dissident shareholder of TEGNA, he attempted (and ultimately failed) to win a seat on the board and gain control of the broadcast TV company. He’s also in partnership with Emmis Communications founder and CEO Jeff Smulyan, as Managing Member of the entity holding attributable interest in Mediaco — now the licensee of WBLS-FM & WQHT-FM in New York.

Is there a financial obligation tied to this transfer request, which awaits FCC approval?
Yes. Sort of.

A $55,803,225.17 Amended and Restated Floating Rate Subordinated Convertible Note, dated Dec. 10, 2020, appears to be integral to the transaction. The note holder is Soo’s Paducah, and it is exercising a conversion option.

What does this mean? It’s complex but it appears McDermott is acquiescing her ownership interest in the stations in return for the multi-million dollar loan, which has a maturity date of March 5, 2023.

Why? A plausible explanation is that Soo is assisting McDermott on closing the Citadel transaction consummated nearly 1 1/2 years ago, as some $27,196,774.83 may have been paid thus far in a deal struck before anyone knew the COVID-19 pandemic would strip local TV of ad dollars across much of 2020.

And, with Nebraska and Rhode Island far from political hot spots, the election-year windfall could have been peanuts compared to what was seen in Florida, Georgia or Arizona.

Serving as legal counsel on this transaction is Scott Flick of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. He was not immediately available for comment when reached by RBR+TVBR.

Categories: Industry News

An Exit From Broadcasting Brings Another EMF Market Entry

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 15:59

A broadcasting veteran of more than 50 years is calling it quits, and heading into retirement. But, who in the midst of a pandemic would want to invest in an AM/FM combo serving a rural area of Virginia between Richmond and Lynchburg?

Look no further than the No. 2 licensee by number of radio stations in the U.S.

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Categories: Industry News

Nexstar Selects Its FY2020 Earnings Release Date

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 15:00

What pandemic slowdown?

After dipping to nearly $56 per share on March 18, as concerns surrounding the domestic spread of the COVID-19 virus reached fevered heights, Nexstar Media Group stock started its slow climb back to where it was in early Q1 2020.

While NXST is beginning 2021 roughly $20 per share below where it was on February 12, 2020, investors should hardly be upset. Tuesday afternoon trading saw shares trading in the mid-$108 range.

Now, with news that noted journalist Ashleigh Banfield is joining WGN America to helm a 10pm ET hour-long news and newsmakers show, following News Night, investors should have plenty to cheer about come Tuesday, Feb. 23.

That’s when Nexstar will release its Q4 and full-year 2020 results. The numbers will be distributed prior to the Opening Bell on Wall Street, and a 9am conference call will see C-Suite executives discuss the results.

With a new NBC affiliation agreement just inked and ownership of stations such as WSAV-3 in Savannah, Ga., where political dollars for two U.S. Senate runoff races to be decided today were high, Nexstar seemingly has nothing but positives to share.

That’s what Zacks Equity Research thinks. “Investors might want to bet on Nexstar, as earnings estimates for this company have been showing solid improvement lately,” it said in early December. “The stock has already gained solid short-term price momentum, and this trend might continue with its still improving earnings outlook.”

For Q4, the company is expected to earn $6.44 per share, which is a change of +172.88% from the year-ago reported number.

For the full year of 2020, the company is expected to earn $16.14 per share, representing a year-over-year change of +236.25%.

What’s Zacks’ bottom line? “Nexstar shares have added 28% over the past four weeks,” it said one month ago, when shares were $110.80. “[This suggests] that investors are betting on its impressive estimate revisions.”

Categories: Industry News

Diya Invests In Greater S.F. Bay Area Coverage

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 15:00

In the San Francisco Bay Area, South Asians seeking programming devoted to Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan culture, news and music have had access to Ravi Kapur‘s Diya TV on the DT2 signal of KTSF-26, the multicultural broadcast station led by Jack Schwartz and owned by Lincoln Howell that just inked a fresh measurement deal with Nielsen.

Soon, local viewers will now have another way — and, perhaps, easier way — to view Diya TV.

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Lack of Funding Hampers PIRATE Enforcement

Radio World - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 13:29

The head of enforcement for the Federal Communications Commission says efforts to implement the new PIRATE Act against illegal radio stations have been hampered by the pandemic as well as a lack of funding from Congress.

Rosemary C. Harold, the chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, submitted the commission’s first annual report to Congress about its pirate radio work, as required in the act that became law a year ago.

That law raised the amount of fines the FCC can issue, up to $100,000 per day and $2 million total, and it expanded the definition of who can be fined to include people who “willfully and knowingly” help pirate radio operations.

The commission did report some enforcement activity for the year, as listed below. But Harold identified two issues that have limited its work.

Obstacles

First, the FCC in March implemented a mandatory telework policy. That complicated the work of pirate enforcement, which requires agents “to engage in significant, in-person activities to gather evidence, including witness statements and technical measurements of a pirate station’s operations.”

Second, the commission has received no funding to implement the PIRATE Act, she wrote.

“The Congressional Budget Office and the commission both estimated that it would cost $11 million for the commission to implement the Act,” she said.

“And yet, the PIRATE Act itself contained no appropriation or other funding source to cover its implementation costs. And because the commission’s FY 2021 budget ceiling level was established by the Office of Management and Budget on December 3, 2019, before Congress adopted the PIRATE Act, the commission did not have an opportunity to incorporate costs related to the implementation of the PIRATE Act during the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget process.”

The FCC also is supposed to conduct “sweeps” at least once a year in five markets that have the most pirate radio activity. It began studying this but the lack of funding and the pandemic-related restrictions prevented any sweeps.

Harold said the bureau’s ability to fully conduct the sweeps “will remain subject to obtaining new funding through the appropriations process” as well as the end of the pandemic.

And the FCC was supposed to develop a public database by April 2020 that listed all licensed AM and FM stations, as well as all entities that have received a notice of unlicensed operation, notice of apparent liability or forfeiture order.

But that too didn’t happen because of lack of appropriated funds.

Activities

Nevertheless, the Enforcement Bureau was not idle in 2020.

Harold cited new efforts to inform property owners and property managers of apparent pirate broadcasts from their properties and to describe the potential consequences to the property owner or manager. The first notices were issued in New York last month, as we’ve reported.

“Although these ongoing proceedings are in their early stages, initial discussions with the property owners have been promising,” Harold told Congress. The FCC is also doing more general outreach to educate commercial and residential property owners and managers.

The law also encourages the commission to skip the usual step of issuing a notice of unauthorized operation and proceed instead directly to a notice of apparent liability for forfeiture. The Enforcement Bureau implemented that in December.

And on the enforcement side, Harold listed several actions including the settlement of two long-running investigations. Acerome Jean Charles and Gerlens Cesar separately agreed to monetary settlements including “significant suspended” penalties that would be triggered if they resumed operations.

The post Lack of Funding Hampers PIRATE Enforcement appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

TEGNA Stations Tossed By Mediacom As Retrans Talks Crumble

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 12:29

Mediacom cable TV service subscribers in 12 DMAs across the U.S. presently lack access to at least one of their home market’s Big Four affiliates.

Why? Of course it’s another retransmission consent impasse, which has led Mediacom — by law — to drop such stations as WWL-4 in New Orleans, KARE-11 in Minneapolis and KPNX-12 in Phoenix from its respective market lineups.

The MVPD puts the blame on TEGNA, the stations’ owner. TEGNA feels otherwise.

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“You may have noticed that certain TV channels are currently unavailable to you. Please know these channels have been blocked by their owner, TEGNA Inc.”

That’s how Mediacom is explaining the loss of all TEGNA-owned stations from its channel lineups in DMAs as disparate as Norfolk, Tucson, St. Louis and Des Moines.

In its own interpretation of events, Mediacom assured its customers that the decision to “blackout” the channels “was not made by Mediacom.”

It said, “Our contract with TEGNA expired on December 31, 2020, at 5pm Eastern. At that time, we were ordered by TEGNA to stop carrying their stations, despite the fact that we were offering to pay a significant increase over our previous contract. Under federal law, we can’t carry a station unless the owner grants us permission to do so.”

The last sentence is undisputed as fact. The rest of Mediacom’s statement was addressed by TEGNA in a statement appearing on the websites for its impacted stations, such as WQAD-8, the ABC affiliate serving the Quad Cities of Illinois and Indiana.

The TEGNA station explained, “WQAD is currently not available on Mediacom. That means Mediacom is taking away your access to your favorite ABC programming.”

With agreements in place with Dish, DirecTV and Comcast in the DMA that includes Bettendorf, Moline and Davenport, TEGNA said, “Unfortunately, Mediacom refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us, which is why our station is not currently available on Mediacom.”

Who is correct is likely of little consequence to the “hard working residents of rural Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia” — customers Mediacom said would need to absorb the costs of any price interest it cannot agree to in its quest to reach a retrans deal with TEGNA.

Mediacom, the nation’s fifth-largest MVPD, does not explain why the cost would need to be passed on to customers. Mediacom is privately owned by empresario Rocco Commisso, owner of Italian pro soccer team ACF Fiorentina and the MLS’s reborn New York Cosmos.

Mediacom’s 2019 operating income was $808 million.

According to the company’s annual fiscal report, Mediacom’s revenues were $2.031 billion for the year ended December 31, 2019.

Will a new deal come soon?

Maybe not.

“Mediacom is continuing to work hard to achieve a viable and affordable solution; however, the decision to pull the stations from your channel lineup rests entirely with TEGNA,” it says in an online microsite for Mediacom customers.

Will WQAD ever be back on the Mediacom system?

“We hope so,” TEGNA says. “It is really up to Mediacom to decide. We are committed to reaching a fair deal. If Mediacom is willing to make the same commitment, then we are confident that we can get an agreement that restores our station to the Mediacom lineup.”

Categories: Industry News

The InFOCUS Podcast: Caroline Beasley

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 12:15

Beasley Media Group is officially observing its 60th anniversary.

In this new RBR+TVBR InFOCUS Podcast, presented by DOT.FM, CEO Caroline Beasley shares a little about the company’s legacy — and what will eventually culminate in a special anniversary day in December.

Why did company founder George Beasley invest in an AM radio station in Benson, N.C., and why in December 1961 did he desire to own a radio station?

What is Beasley’s place in history with the growth of FM radio, and HD Radio?

Caroline Beasley shares the answers and more!

Listen to “The InFOCUS Podcast: Caroline Beasley” on Spreaker.

Categories: Industry News

EBU Welcomes New Board

Radio World - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 11:23
The EBU is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The EBU has a new executive board, elected at its General Assembly in December.

The European Broadcasting Union is an alliance of public service media organizations. Its board will serve for a two-year period starting this month.

“Nine board members will join the EBU’s new President Delphine Ernotte Cunci (France Télévisions) and Vice-President Petr Dvořák (Czech TV) to help lead the EBU over the next two years,” it announced.

Headshots of the new EBU board

Thomas Bellut, Monika Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė and Fran Unsworth join the board for the first time. Alexander Wrabetz rejoins after a four-year absence.

Bellut has been director general of ZDF since 2012. Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė was appointed director general of Lithuanian National Radio and Television in 2018. Unsworth runs the BBC’s news and current affairs programming and is a member of the BBC board as well.

Wrabetz has served as director general of ORF since 2007 and was an EBU board member from 2011–2016.

Cilla Benkö has been appointed for her fifth term as an EBU Board Member while Marcello Foa, Giacomo Ghisani, Sebastian Sergei Parker and Gonçalo Reis will be serving for a second term.

Ernotte Cunci noted the “balance of the geographical, economical and cultural diversity of the EBU members” in the composition of the board and that it includes three women for the first time.

Tony Hall of the BBC has served as president of the EBU for the past two years.

Executive Board Line-Up

President: Delphine Ernotte Cunci, CEO, France Télévisions (France)
Vice-President: Petr Dvořák, Director General, Czech TV (Czech Republic)

Thomas Bellut, Director General, ZDF (Germany)
Cilla Benkö, Director General, SR (Sweden)
Marcello Foa, President, Rai (Italy)
Monika Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė, Director General, LRT (Lithuania)
Giacomo Ghisani, Acting Director General, RV (Vatican State)
Sebastian Sergei Parker, Deputy Director General, Channel One (Russia)
Gonçalo Reis, President and CEO, RTP (Portugal)
Fran Unsworth, Director of News and Current Affairs, BBC (UK)
Alexander Wrabetz, Director General, ORF (Austria)

The post EBU Welcomes New Board appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

Andy Luberda Dies, Was Skyview Ops Manager

Radio World - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 11:10

A GoFundMe page has been created to assist the family of Andy Luberda, who died in late December from complications of COVID-19.

Luberda, 51, was the longtime operations manager of Skyview Networks, which announced his death. The support page is https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-andy-luberda.

Luberda joined the satellite distribution and syndication company in 2012 as a board op in its Broadcast Operations department, according to the company.

“In this role, he was responsible for the quality and execution of professional sports play-by-play broadcasts, showing leadership, reliability and passion,” it stated. “His love of sports combined with his approachable and warm personality made him a valued leader and friend to his colleagues.”

Skyview’s Director, Communication & Special Projects Renee Smith said Luberda took on additional projects that included managing ABC News Radio overnight broadcasts.

“In 2015, Andy was promoted to operations manager, where he focused on managing one of the company’s largest clients, TuneIn. In this role, he monitored and managed over 70 collegiate football and basketball live audio streams and 24/7 news and weather content.”

Luberda’s son Kade also joined the company in 2016 as a board operator.

Colleague and manager Aaron Mellis remembered Andy Luberda’s “warm heart and genuine care for his colleagues.”

According to his obituary Luberda was a graduate of Arizona State University. “His passion was being an avid sports writer for a multitude of high schools in Arizona,” the obituary states. “It brought him great joy when an athlete was recognized and signed by a college; but his greatest passion was spending time with his grandkids and just being their Grandy.”

The benefit page is to raise funds for medical and memorial costs and to provide financial support for his son.

The post Andy Luberda Dies, Was Skyview Ops Manager appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

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