TEGNA earnings, and its growth plan, have come under scrutiny by one renegade shareholder: Soohyung Kim-controlled Standard General.
His efforts to gain influence on corporate decision-making have been thwarted, twice, as shareholders overwhelmingly rejected his TEGNA Board of Directors nominees in 2020 and again in 2021. Now, TEGNA has released another positive quarterly earnings report that further hinders his desire for change at the broadcast TV station owner.
The author is manager of broadcast systems at WBUR Boston University and former technical editor of RW Engineering Extra.
This past year-plus has been an experience in survival for everyone, with the pandemic affecting all of us in our work and personal lives.
Reflecting back on the last 14 months, I’m proud of the work we did at the height of the virus panic to convert the large majority of our on-air staff to working from home during the period from April to June of 2020. The need to protect both the staff and station operations was unarguable in those early days, when we knew little about a new virus that was spreading worldwide beyond almost anyone’s control.
For some, remote operations may become the “new normal.” Radio broadcasters have shown they can do more remotely than they believed possible. It’s of value to look back, consider what worked best and how we might continue to employ these remote techniques going forward.Prevention success
What did we learn from moving as many people from the building as possible? Well, for one it was a fairly effective way to reduce virus infections.
Our facilities are crowded, with about 200 plus people occupying just under 40,000 square feet of office and studio space. We have the typical open office areas with small cubicles laid out in grids for most of the support staff, combined with about 10 control rooms (some just large enough for voice-over work and others designed for a full complement to support a live news magazine style program with live phone call-ins). We had to get most people out of the building over a short period of time.
At the lowest point, we had one or two hosts in the building on sequential shifts and perhaps four to six audio engineers/producers to support all the live operations. Everything else involved in creating content for a full-service news station, including three hours of daily national programs, was coming from staff working out of their homes.For more on the lessons that radio organizations have learned from the past year, read the free ebook “Remote Radio Phase II.” Click the image image.
That meant that we were down to less than 10% of our staff that would normally be in the building. As far as I know, there were no cases of COVID that were traced to our building, although at various times there was a need to have people “self-quarantine” for periods of time. Very effective prevention when we think about this result.
Our employer, a large university, invested in laboratory facilities that were capable of delivering test results for COVID tests within about 24 to 36 hours, considerably better than most public labs were able to do for most of 2020. Anyone working in a university building was tested weekly to allow effective contact tracing. Personally, I felt this testing was a huge assurance that the people I met in the building were safe; if not “certified” perfectly safe, the chances the virus could spread undetected for weeks amongst all of us were small if not negligible.
We maintained the well-known CDC recommendations. Masks were required by anyone moving around in the building or in common spaces. Social distancing was observed and barriers installed for safety when tasks dictated staff working in close proximity to one another.School for remotes
From a technical standpoint, as many have noted, the pandemic showed that much of the work done in the office could be effectively done at home, if the right conditions existed.
Allowing people to work from home released an unexpectedly large groundswell of popular response from the staff. The removal of daily commuting and expensive local parking from the daily work routine was like the removal of a heavy burden, the existence of which was only acknowledged once it was absent. Combined with the additional safety this provided the staff, while maintaining their employment, working from home made employees quite grateful. For parents, whose children could no longer attend public school, it was the only solution possible.
We provided equipment for about 18 hosts to broadcast from home (some were part-time or fill-in for various lengths of time). Equipment was available for pickup without the hosts having to enter the office building. Training was required for the majority of the hosts, virtually none of whom had ever touched a mixing console in their entire careers. This training was carried out by appointment in the garage below our offices. This meant that we had to figure out ways to bring in power and Internet service to the garage area to allow actual connections to be demonstrated as we walked our hosts through the use of the equipment.
A few of our hosts had previous experience with Comrex Access portables and were assigned those since they already knew how to use them. Combined with our Access units we used the Beyer DT-297 headsets primarily. These headsets feature a condenser type microphone and comfortable earpads that can be worn for extended periods of time (a typical shift might be 4–6 hours for a host, including pre-production and live broadcast portions). While some are uncomfortable with the plosive performance of condenser mics, we found that with some coaching over Facetime or Zoom it was possible to get the mic placement working well. Many of our listeners and staff reported they felt the sound quality was hard to distinguish from the studio.
The Comrex units were supplied with at least one wireless modem and a network cable for connection to the home firewall/router.
Most of our staff used Comcast or Verizon as their home internet service provider. Over the first few weeks of operation it quickly became apparent that wired connections were always preferred over the wireless; but the ideal connection was to use both a wired and a 4G connection with the Comrex CrossLock protocol.
We already had substantial depth of experience doing live reporting using an existing fleet of Comrex portables. We slowly learned there are differences between delivering a short debrief from a news event for insertion into a news program, and setting up a host with a continuous connection to do a multi-hour show. Achieving reliability for these longer time periods required at least two ISPs.Resource demand
As we did conversions, we soon realized our supply of Comrex equipment would not be enough. We added to our stock, but not unexpectedly those quickly became unobtainable during the first few weeks of the pandemic. Our studio inventory of Access rack units was also in demand and stretched to its limit on most days.
Since we did not have enough Comrex equipment to support the number of hosts required we had to look elsewhere and ended up putting into service a number of our legacy Suprima ISDN codecs. We own six of them and they date from the halcyon days when ISDN service was the de facto standard for studio interconnections.
Unfortunately, in our region of the U.S., Verizon discontinued ISDN years ago after the Hurricane Sandy flooding of a major central office terminal in New York City. Many people actually retired their Suprimas (sold in the U.S. by Musicam USA but made by Prodys), and forgot the Suprima’s ability to do IP connections as well as ISDN.
We had used this capability for years doing live broadcasts with the complementary Musicam USA product known as the Road Warrior which similarly supported by IP and ISDN connections. The Road Warrior was designed as a portable mixer that featured many of the capabilities required by remote hosts, such as sportscasters.
As demand increased, we brought out our working stock of Road Warriors with several of our hosts, with the requirement they be used only with wired connections. Again, these were provided with a headset microphone. By using stereo connections, and analog patch bays, we were able to add in interruptible foldback and talkback functions that replicated the controls in our studios, without having to use any add-on gear.
[I use the terms TB and IFB with the following definitions. IFB is the communications channel that goes from the studio to the remote host. It will typically allow interruption of one ear of the mix-minus program audio to allow a producer to give audible cues and other information to the host without having to type it into a chat window and hope it catches the host’s attention. TB is the communications channel used by the host that mutes their microphone and outputs a separate audio feed to the studio which does not go on air. We patched this over to a Fostex portable speaker in the control room so that engineer and producer could hear it separate from the mixer cue bus. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably and it can be confusing.]
With full TB and IFB functions, the hosts could carry on their typical conversations with their producer and ask questions about timing and program continuity. For good measure, the Road Warrior also allows mic muting to replicate the studio Cough button. These features are very popular with talent, producers, and audio engineers. In my opinion, having these features reduces errors and improves host performance due to improved communication.
As we rolled these out with good success, we realized we needed more equipment. I reached out to industry stalwart Jim Peck, of SCMS, who was able to work out an arrangement that allowed us to purchase more of the remote mixers made by Prodys directly from Spain. While the Road Warrior mixer is no longer available, there is an updated version known as the Quantum. Prodys wisely provided reverse compatibility with the older Suprima studio codecs.
I believe I may actually have bought out the entire remaining stock of available units in May and June of 2020, a total of five units. This gave us enough equipment to handle the rest of our host needs. Taking apart remote kits, we added enough studio units to cover the time periods when demand was at its highest.
Some of these studio units were added with patch cord adapters into our main patch bays since we didn’t have enough staff to put in permanent wiring at the time. While many studio sites no longer are built with patch bays, we found in an emergency they were very flexible and adaptable to the new requirements. We carefully pre-tested each of these setups with the home ISP and worked with talent to get the most reliable connections for them.Not quite digital heaven
Personally, I was a bit surprised at the average low performance of typical home ISP connections.
In recent years more attention has been devoted to telephone type devices for consumers and the state of the art for home computers in many households seems to have ossified somewhere around 2010. With this change in demand has come a huge emphasis on wireless routers for all data connections (who puts their phone into a wired connection, right?).
As our deployments grew, we identified common problems that were experienced by all of our users by studying the statistical data plots of their connections to our studios. It wasn’t necessary to run audio over these connections; the host could go about their business as long as they dialed in and left the connection up for an hour or so. These data plots revealed that most of our host connections performed in a mediocre fashion initially.
The most common problem was the use of a consumer wireless router that was more than a year or two old. These older routers operating in overused frequency bands initially deployed for home Wifi no longer can keep up.
The best solution was to locate the router and plug directly into it with a wired connection. For some locations, this meant a 50 to 100 foot Ethernet cable and not the most attractive arrangements in how it connects to equipment (in at least one case a wire was initially run up a staircase, with temporary attachments to the wall).
It also affects the choice of room to work in. In households with small children it can be a considerable problem to locate within wired distance of the router while still being able to keep a private space for broadcasting without interruption.
The second most common problem was low bandwidth, especially on upload. Most users forget that residential ISPs will provide a very fast burst for download speeds, but the corresponding upload speed is typically 20% or lower. We found sites where the “100 Mbps” upgraded service only provided 5–10 Mbps on upload.
This is important. Recall that under these conditions we would get fairly reliable mix-minus returns to the host but the host audio destined for air would drop out at lower levels of utilization.
In households with more than one working adult at home (pretty typical) the demand on the ISP was continuous and spiky. Add in children doing multiple Zoom sessions from home for school and there were parts of the day when a good connection degraded into something unworkable. To the degree possible we had hosts limit simultaneous users, but in some cases we had to upgrade their internet service to something much more powerful. Fortunately, in our region Comcast took the pandemic very seriously and was offering rapid service upgrades. The costs for these were typically borne by the station.
Finally, we found some homes still using ISP connections (like DSL) which simply didn’t work reliably at all. To provide technical support for these locations we had to separately purchase a business class service for the home, if it was available. Since we were paying for it, we requested these services be used exclusively for broadcasting and generally they provided excellent results.Then there’s “home sound”
One other comment on hosts from home.
Residences are not typically designed with acoustics in mind, and indeed this was a consideration for our plans. One of the reasons we went with headset microphones was that mic placement was controllable with some training and attention. Another reason was that headsets designed for use in very loud venues like stadiums are actually quite good at controlling external noise just by their design. Keeping the microphone close to the talent helps minimize acoustic interaction with walls and windows.
We used simple techniques such as having people stay away from room corners, large plate glass windows, and mirrors.
It’s worthwhile to mention the 3:1 rule of microphone placement. If a reflective surface is within a distance up to 3 times the distance between the microphone and their mouths it can create audible cancellation effects.
For those mathematically inclined, think of sound pressure waves as radiating in a circle of equal amplitude, where the intensity will decrease by the square of the radius. The intensity translates directly to the voltage generated by the microphone element.
Converting this into decibels, an increase in distance of 3 times will reduce the pickup by just about 20 dB. It’s impossible to get comb-filter effects by summing reflections that are 20 dB reduced from the main incident sounds. I like to aim for a ratio of 4 or 5 to 1.
For example, if the mic is placed two inches from the mouth of the announcer, then a distance of 10 inches from any reflective surfaces should provide sufficient attenuation to eliminate audible phase cancellation, a requirement that should be easily met.
This in no way means that keeping the TV on in the back of the room while announcing won’t be heard (it will!) but it removes some of the black art of getting a voice to sound clean and clear. In comparison, think about the use of a tabletop microphone on the desk at a distance of 8 inches from the mouth and it’s easy to see how walls, windows, and even a laptop computer can cause audible effects.Behind the scenes
With the hosts settled, we also had to address the other production requirements for a busy news and sales operation. We settled on high-quality FTP servers to handle many of these needs, but in moving these functions out of the building it’s essential to carefully consider the workflow for each and to apply automation wherever possible to simplify it.
As an example, we had to support the tracking and story assembly efforts of a team of dozens of reporters. Typically, a story will be constructed by having a series of short elements mixed with location sound and interspersed with narration from the reporter. Reporters used their portable recorders and handheld microphones to voice track and gather sound. Using a laptop and the Audition, each of these elements is generally cut into an individual wav file segment in the field. From there, all the pieces are uploaded to an FTP server with folders assigned to individual reporters to keep stories sorted. An editor then can review the story and forward this material to one of the on-site production engineers for mixing. The assembled piece then gets sent to an editor for final content adjustment. The editor on site can then load a completed piece into our BE AudioVault on-air delivery system.
Some reporters would produce their own final mixes in Audition. We created automation to allow these pieces to directly import into AudioVault with included metadata. This automation made the editor’s job much easier. Without specific metadata, it is not advisable to allow anyone to import audio directly into an on-air delivery system. The most likely outcome is that it will be lost. Worse, mistakes can be made on versions of audio, intro scripts and the content of various cuts. Metadata is how everything is organized in the digital world.
We needed to support the interviewing of newsmakers in the home via telephone or other means. Generally, we found it possible to use something like a JK Audio handset coupler to go from phone to recorder. Our Tascam DRM100 recorders can be set up to do split tracks to capture the reporter on one channel and the phone isolated to a second channel which avoids the problem of someone accidentally talking over an interview and corrupting the sound.
Also required is the ability to record a live stream on the internet for news purposes, such as a press conference or speech. These days this is best done by using a capture software program, such as Audio Hijack; without this, most consumer computers do not allow the user to do it outside of using oddball external wiring schemes that feed the headphone audio back into the input on the laptop. Of recent note, more expensive external USB interfaces sometimes come with an internal client mixer that allows this in software (an example is the Focusrite Clarett within the Apple ecosystem). These USB interfaces bring with them greatly improved microphone pre-amps, support for phantom power and ability to record directly into a laptop, while costing more and adding complexity to the reporter setup.Not for prime time
What really did not seem to work was the use of programs like Zoom on the laptop and trying to separate out the audio for use in an interview.
While having a visual connection was desirable for the reporters, the audio limitations of Zoom and all its processing of sound to control multiple sources resulted in constant upcuts and at times a complete breakdown of their codec into echoes and flangy feedback. Yuck.
While Zoom seems to have changed the workplace in terms of meetings (many feel that it has made meetings more convenient but slower), its limitations with audio make it a poor tool for production.
We do have some producers successfully using Zoom but it seems to be a small subset of the ones who have tried. By shutting off many of the features in Zoom that affect the audio improvements are possible. I would not at this time recommend its use for live radio. There are many other programs out there that work better than Zoom, but it is not always a given that the person being interviewed will have them available.
For studio interviews we make heavy use of our Comrex Opal units. It’s a simple operation for a producer to send a link to the desired person who then uses a standard browser to log into a server that provides a high-quality link.Long strange trip
It’s hard to believe we have been doing so much from home, and continuing to perfect our methods, for more than a whole year.
Personally, I feel that it’s too early to declare that studios are a thing of the past. As much as our solutions have shown that it CAN be done, this new world has many of its own problems as noted above.
What goes on in a studio with an experienced team of professionals, who can see each other and know how to respond as a team to immediate concerns or unexpected problems, is nothing less than magic. Breaking up this team is like cutting off a limb: You can still do things, but it’s harder than it used to be.
Live production is better suited to the comfortable support of a studio. When the time comes and we can do it safely.
Thus far, the release of first quarter 2021 earnings reports from audio-focused media companies has yielded one not-so-surprising trend: digital growth is booming, while core advertising dollars are mired in a long, slow recovery from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Entravision, digital is driving the company’s revenue. Now, Townsquare Media is on the verge of having digital become its biggest revenue generator.
Lawo has issued a software update for users of its radio mixing consoles, Power Core mixing engines and On-Air Designer configuration software.
“The new radio software, v6.6 PL-003, represents a major upgrade to On-Air Designer, the configuration software used to customize the functions of Lawo’s radio mixing consoles and audio cores,” including the ruby radio console, it said in its announcement.Lawo Ruby
The ruby console (the company writes its name in all lower-case) provides snapshots for recall of saved parameters and settings, with motorized faders that automatically recall saved positions and context-sensitive user keys that can be customized using On-Air Designer software.
“The new software adds the ability to selectively load snapshots using extended logic functions, enhanced AES67 stream tuning tools, and integrates control of Lawo A__line audio I/O devices into the radio workflow,” Lawo stated.
This update also adds features to the configuration web pages of Power Core, Lawo’s Ravenna / AES67 mixing engine and I/O gateway device, as well as enhancements for Lawo’s VisTool GUI Builder Software.
It was announced by Senior Product Manager, Radio, Johan Boqvist. Radio v6.6 software applies to Lawo radio products including ruby, sapphire, sapphire compact, crystal and crystalCLEAR mixing consoles, Power Core and Nova17 MK2 engines, VisTool MK2 GUI Builder software, and the On-Air Designer console customization tool.
Release notes and a software download are available at the Downlinks link at the Lawo website.
Univision Communications has priced its offering of $1.05 billion aggregate principal amount of 4.500% senior secured notes due 2029.
The offering is expected to close on or about May 21, subject to customary closing conditions.
The Notes will be general senior secured obligations of the company and will be guaranteed by all of Univision’s wholly-owned domestic subsidiaries that guarantee the obligations under the company’s existing senior secured credit facilities, existing senior secured notes and its expected new term loan facility.
The offering is part of the financing for the proposed business combination of Grupo Televisa with Univision’s businesses, announced on April 13.
Upon consummation of the offering, the net proceeds of the offering will be deposited into a Univision escrow account and Univision will deposit into this escrow account “an amount of cash that, when taken together with the net proceeds of this offering, would be sufficient to fund a special mandatory redemption of the Notes on the applicable escrow outside date.”
Should the Televisa-Univision business combination not be consummated on or before the applicable escrow outside date or prior to such date the Transaction Agreement is terminated, the company will be required to redeem all of the Notes at a redemption price equal to 100% of the issue price of the Notes, plus accrued and unpaid interest, if any, to, but excluding, the date of redemption, and, in such event, the escrowed property will be applied to fund such redemption price.
ENCO Systems has announced several improvements and updates to its WebDAD and enCaption products.
WebDAD is an HTML-5 browser-based native remote control companion to the DAD automation and playout system. “Across both the DAD and WebDAD products, passwords with special characters are now supported, which will help many use a more secure password to better conform with their station’s data security policies,” Media Solutions Account Manager Bill Bennett said.
“Along those lines, we’ve added button and deck security within WebDAD so the log-in follows button security for normal DAD users.”
For those who like to edit arrays and libraries and manipulate assets within the WebDAD interface, they can now download library cuts via the HTML client directly to their remote computer. And WebDAD’s user interface has also been updated.
enCaption is an automated captioning and transcription platform used by television and radio broadcasters to make their programming more accessible. Bennett said the system now inserts a chevron into captions to indicate when someone new is speaking.
“We’ve also integrated a powerful new punctuation detection feature that inserts commas, exclamation points, periods and question marks automatically, based on voice characteristics.”
To change input and output signal mapping across various types of sources, or to change between sources across live and file-based content, the user can now save each configuration mapping as a unique profile and call it back up, manually or by API call. enCaption also now has improved word filters and an updated optional CEA-608/708 Embedding capability.
Larry Langford is the owner of WGTO AM in Cassopolis, Michigan, and W246DV South Bend, Indiana. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Shall we sweeten the pot to entice single- mode AM digital?
I was and still am very opposed to Hybrid AM digital (IBOC).
It kills other stations. It sounds bad and the coverage is lousy. But just like late night TV commercials say, “Wait there’s more!”
Of course, the more is — single-mode digital.
Now that is a horse of a different color. How does it sound? Great!
How is the coverage? Better than analog and, yes, it is stereo.
But as we also know the biggest drawback is the rather pesky problem of rendering analog radios obsolete.
That reminds me of the story of radio pioneer RCA engineer Edwin Armstrong and FM. Armstrong was a giant in the industry who gave us the super regenerative circuit and his work on the superheterodyne receiver (apologies to Lucien Levy!) When tasked with finding a way to get rid of static in radio reception while at RCA, he created the noise-free transmission method of frequency modulation (FM). RCA boss David Sarnoff was happy until he found out it would obsolete every radio already sold. So, his answer to Armstrong was, NO!
Well, there is no David Sarnoff in the game now and AM digital seems to be the way to go if the AM band is to remain an active player in the media game. But we still must face the problem of rendering millions of radios as nothing more than doorstops or white noise generators.
I have read the data that shows that newer cars are being equipped with radios that will play AM digital and given a few years, market penetration in cars should be reasonable. But for the mom-and-pop stations that still rely on analog to cover the market it is just not worth it yet to sound good for a few and be gone for most.
The best scenario for AM operators, especially small- to medium-sized stations is to have a good FM translator. If coverage
mimics the analog AM coverage, it’s a no brainer — turn off the analog and switch to digital!
But that is not good for everyone. While some of the AM stations in major markets own or have partnered with a full power FM to carry the AM programming, smaller AM stations may have only one translator and need another to even approach the coverage of the analog AM. And there are a number of AM stations that missed out on the window to move a translator into their market and have none. Going all-digital takes some investment and the FCC should do what it can to encourage putting analog AM to sleep, while making the change viable for those who have struggled so long.
Well, here comes the sales pitch. I would ask the FCC to make an offer AM operators cannot refuse.
If a licensee agrees to go full-time single-mode digital for a minimum of five years with no switch back to analog, the commission will allow a limited window to acquire and move an existing licensed translator from a 250-mile radius into the coverage of the AM station going digital as long as the 60 dB contour is within the 5 mV contour covering the city of license. And the 60 dB contour does not overlap an existing translator that currently has the AM station as the primary. The parameters are of course negotiable, but the point is to allow AM stations willing to make the digital leap a safety net to remain viable as the digital radios increase in the market.
In this way your smaller AM stations could get another chance to cover the old analog area with FM while the automobile market catches up to the new all-digital method. I would also offer a sunset provision that would force the AM stations to surrender the translator after, say, seven years, depending on market penetration of AM digital. LPFM groups would have first dibs on getting the surrendered translator frequencies.
Look, we are going to have to be creative to keep AM owners alive while the newer digital ready radios gain market share. It is not going to happen overnight and AM stations making the leap need assurances the hometown still gets something analog radios can hear. Allowing a move window for 250-mile import of translators will help solve the problem while getting some spectrum grabbing network “satellators” moved and repurposed to support AM digital and in many cases open up LPFM opportunities where “satellators” were originally parked.
It is a win-win as I see it. Small AM stations get another shot at a translator to cover the analog listeners, we can get rid of some “satellators” that are keeping LPFMs from serving local areas and AM stations start making the big migration to single-mode digital, saying goodbye to static, poor frequency response, lack of stereo and most importantly, the listening public finds a real reason to listen to the AM band again. This to me would be the best example of AM revitalization where it is the actual AM band that gets the makeover!
Newman-Kees Consulting Engineer Frank Hertel always has one or two innovative tips to share.
He recently came across an interesting compound that can help you when you need to remove concrete or rock.
You drill holes in the concrete, then take Dexpan Expansive Demolition Grout, mix it with water and pour it into the holes.
The chemical reaction with the water expands the compound, exerting 18,000 psi expansive strength into the drilled holes. The force breaks up rock or concrete slabs, even if rebar is present.
The process is amazing, watch the time-lapse video at dexpan.com to see the “after” photo.
For anyone who has demolished concrete with a jackhammer or even a sledge, you’ll be amazed at this efficient alternative method. A bucket of the compound is less than $50 and is available from Amazon or Home Depot. Enter “Dexpan” in the search block.Finger trap
Wayne Eckert is with the Rural Florida Communications Cooperative. He spends a lot of “hands-on, in-the-field” time dealing with communications issues.
In the Oct. 28, 2020 issue we talked about asking your tower riggers to check for problems while they are the structure to change bulbs. As an example, we ran a picture of a cable that had pulled free from a liquid-tight electrical box.
Wayne says the photo revealed an installation problem waiting to cause a serious light/electric failure.
Looking closely, he believes both cables were installed improperly and that the connectors were sized incorrectly or were not intended for supporting flexible cable.
The cable on the side of the electric junction box was bending tightly under its own weight, which, after a while, will cause the jacket to crack and permit moisture to enter the cable, compromising the insulation of the conductors.
A much better solution would be to use a connector with a strain relief, as shown in Fig. 2. These connectors look like a standard liquid-tight connector with a stainless steel loom added to it.
Wayne said the stainless steel loom works like a Chinese finger trap: Stick a finger in each end, and when a child tries to pull them out, the loom tightens up holding the fingers in place. Great fun, unless you are the kid with the stuck fingers!
The connector works the same way. Pull the loom back, and push the cord up and into the connector, leaving enough slack to be spliced in the box. Then release the loom. It grips the cable evenly over the entire length, securing it tightly to the box.
The loom will also prevent the cable from forming a tight bend, eliminating the potential for insulation to crack.
To select the correct size, note that the cable outer diameter may be listed metrically, thus 3/8-inch equals .375 and 1/2-inch equals .500. Also consider the size of the knockout hole on the junction box.
Wayne cautions that dust-tight connectors are for dry, indoor use. Deluxe grips are liquid-tight for outdoor use but can also be used indoors.
The Hubbell Company manufactures these products. Find wire mesh grips and strain relief grips at www.hubbell.com.Tube memories
We recently featured a photo of a tube tester on display at the California Historical Radio Society museum in Alameda. Commonly seen in drug stores back in the day, they were available for customers to check their vacuum tubes at no charge.
Dave Costanza, CBNT, works in the video facility of the Pennsylvania Senate. The picture reminded him of a similar but smaller tester that his father built from a kit in the early 1950s.
Shown in Fig. 3, this tester is in remarkable condition. Dave says one of these days he’ll “fire it up” and test a few tubes.
Dave joins scores of other readers who thanked us for the memory.
Speaking of memories, New England broadcast engineer Bob Meister saw our mention of the lifetime guarantee for Realistic vacuum tubes.
Workbench readers may remember that Motorola two-way radios also had a lifetime warranty on the “PermaKay IF filter” used in the receivers.
Bob wonders, “Whose lifetime were we talking about? The part’s lifetime, or the company’s?”
John Bisset, CPBE, has spent over 50 years in broadcasting and is in his 31st year of Workbench. He handles western U.S. radio sales for the Telos Alliance and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.
Workbench submissions are encouraged and qualify for SBE recertification. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Federal Emergency Management has confirmed a date for the next national test of the Emergency Alert System, this summer. For the last month or so, there has been chattering about a 2021 EAS test. FEMA says this year’s test will happen on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 2:20 p.m., Eastern. A backup date on Wednesday, Aug. 25, has also been rolled out.
For radio stations, it is time to prepare, and even catch up on things you may have forgotten about during the pandemic.
Blanked on the EAS test? You’re likely not alone. With remote work taking over radio everywhere, surely some of you may have wistful memories of that old EAS gear. Consider the next few months as your time to get reacquainted.
What do stations need to do in the months leading up to this summer’s test?
Updating firmware for your EAS equipment is a top priority. Sage and other manufacturers have posted firmware updates over the last 12–18 months. In a few instances, getting the newest version may require your station to be current with its support subscription. However, no one can blame you if those subscriptions lapsed during the shutdowns brought on by the pandemic. So, it would be prudent to skim your email archive and office mail bin to ensure your relationship with your equipment provider is current.
Your next step will be to dust off and review your EAS processes and policies. For some stations, EAS tests are automated, but others prefer, or have by circumstance, manual runs of weekly tests. Does your staff need a refresher of how to run its test? Or has your studio setup changed, as many stations did in tweaking their facilities during COVID-19? Especially as stations are welcoming back staff and volunteers, you may want to update your operations guidance.
Finally, and most importantly, proper education and messaging with staff and volunteers about the upcoming EAS test is critical. The test is more than tones over your broadcast. The national EAS effort is a chance for radio stations to remind audiences about our valued role in the nation’s media infrastructure. Where internet access remains spotty, radio is there. Where communities search for trust, radio is present. The national EAS test is our time to remind listeners of our place in their lives.
No matter who you are in radio, the EAS is your obligation. Community radio stations, low-power FM stations, everyone is required to participate and complete the appropriate reporting once the EAS test is over. You have a few months to resolve any issues before you.
Don’t wait until August.
Swiss hearing care equipment manufacturer Sonova has acquired Sennheiser’s Consumer Electronics business. The move comes three months after Sennheiser announced it was searching for a new corporate partner that would take over the consumer division — a move that would allow Sennheiser to focus on its Neumann, pro audio and business communications business units.
Sonova Holding AG, headquartered in Stäfa, Switzerland, is a global provider of medical hearing solutions with three core businesses — hearing instruments, audiological care and cochlear implants. Founded in 1947, it has a workforce of more than 14,000 employees and generated sales of ₣2.92 billion [Swiss francs] (US$3.27 billion) in the financial year 2019/20 as well as a net profit of ₣490 million (US$543.2 million).
As part of the partnership, a complete transfer of the consumer electronics business’ operations is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. Roughly 600 Sennheiser employees work for the Sennheiser consumer business.
With the takeover of the Sennheiser consumer business, Sonova is adding headphones and soundbars to its product, which includes hearing aids and cochlear implants, among other hearing solutions. A “permanent cooperation” is planned under the joint Sennheiser brand umbrella in order to continue offering Sennheiser customers first-class audio solutions in the future, and a license agreement for future use of the Sennheiser brand has been made.Sennheiser co-CEOs Daniel (left) and Andreas Sennheiser.
The move to partner with another company for the consumer business was not a rushed decision, co-CEO Daniel Sennheiser told Pro Sound News in February: “Looking at [our] different business units in more detail, we realized we need different strategies to make them successful. How we can develop all four business segments at the same time with the necessary power, so all markets that we’re in have great growth opportunities? We saw that the consumer part can be really driven to the full extent if we can find a partner and focus on the pro part.”
Sennheiser co-CEO Dr. Andreas Sennheiser noted, “The combination of our strengths provides a very good starting point for future growth. We are convinced that Sonova will strengthen the Sennheiser consumer business in the long term and capture the major growth opportunities.” Both partners see potential for speech-enhanced hearables and for true wireless and audiophile headphones.
Arnd Kaldowski, CEO of Sonova, says: “I am very pleased that Sennheiser has chosen Sonova to further develop the well-renowned consumer division. We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues and to building on the combined strengths of both organizations to successfully shape our joint future. The fast-growing market for personal audio devices is rapidly evolving. Combining our audiological expertise with Sennheiser’s know-how in sound delivery, their great reputation as well as their high-quality products will allow us to expand our offering and to create important touchpoints with consumers earlier in their hearing journey.”
Three companies with radio stations among their holdings released their third quarter earnings reports following Thursday’s Closing Bell on Wall Street. One enjoyed exceptionally strong digital growth, Entravision. Another saw digital prowess while its recovery across its streaming and broadcast radio assets came in ahead of expectations.
That would be iHeartMedia, and its stock soared on Friday. In contrast, the closest peer it has in the audio media world, Audacy, saw its stock decline on a disappointing Q1 report.
While the “whip antenna” on two General Motors truck lines gets attention for the one and only reason the automotive company kept it there for its newest models, GM is also attracting eyeballs for something that could eventually impact in-car audio consumption.
Self-driving vehicles are coming.
A blog devoted to General Motors trucks this week anwered a most intriguing question: Why do the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks still use a “whip antenna”?
The answer was simple: AM and FM radio reception in rural areas demands it.
Earnings reports from major radio broadcast groups this week show the damage to the bottom line caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is easing a bit as the economy recovers and advertisers return.
iHeartMedia in its financial report on Thursday said consolidated revenue clocked in at $707 million for the first quarter of 2021, which is better than it expected but still down 9.5% compared to Q1 of 2020. Take out political and revenue dipped 7.2% in the quarter, according to the broadcasters filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Those numbers appear to be a little better than several of iHeartMedia’s major competitors. Audacy (formerly Entercom) said today its net revenues for the first quarter were $240.8 million, which is down 19% year-over-year. Audacy’s broadcast radio revenue was down approximately 24% in the quarter. Meanwhile, Cumulus reported overall revenues declined 11.5% in the first quarter of this year, but its radio revenue declined 23.8% compared to Q1 last year.
iHeart Media recently realigned its reporting segments and for the first time broke out three specific sectors of its business on its first quarter balance sheet. The company’s Multiplatform Group, which includes its 860 broadcast radio stations and Premiere Networks, reported Q1 revenue was down 20.9% compared to the same quarter in 2021. Specifically, broadcast revenue was down 22.3% year-over-year while network revenue declined 6% YoY, according to the company.
The largest radio broadcaster in the United States said operating expenses for the Multiplatform Group decreased 17.8% in Q1 compared to the same period in 2020 primarily due to lower employee compensation and other cost-reduction initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That included staffing cuts in iHeartMedia’s engineering department earlier this year. Observers at the time noted the company appears to be relying on a more regional approach to engineering staffing.
The iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group, which includes all digital assets like podcasting, grew revenue by 69.8% year-over-year. iHeartMedia says the digital audio business encompasses approximately 22% of the company’s consolidated revenue. The sector was led by continued growth in podcasting, which increased by 141.9% YoY, according to the investor report.
iHeartMedia Chairman and CEO Bob Pittman said during Thursday’s call the Digital Audio Group is “well on its way to becoming our most profitable segment.”
Meanwhile, the company’s Audio and Media Services Group, which includes Katz Media Group and RCS, saw revenue decrease 8.5% comparative to the same quarter last year. Katz specifically was hard hit in Q1as a result of the presidential election in the year prior. Excluding the impact of political, revenues in the sector were actually up 0.7%, according to the company’s balance sheet.
Pittman told investors the company continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and expects to see a full recovery to 2019 levels by the end of this year.
Watchers of iHeartMedia stock saw positive signs in the past month when a bullish analyst report raised its rating on the audio company. BofA Securities media analyst Jessica Reif Ehrlich bumped her rating up to Buy from Underperform. The company’s stock price immediately jumped about 13% and has held relatively steady since mid-April. It opened Friday at $19.86. The stock returned to the public markets in July 2019 following its emergence from bankruptcy.
Despite the positive stock news the audio company is still loaded down with debt, according to its SEC report. iHeartMedia had total debt of just over $6 billion at the end of March. iHeartMedia President and COO Rich Bressler said Thursday the company’s “interest expense will be approximately $335 million to $345 million” for 2021.
Bressler also discussed cap-ex spending by the broadcast giant: “Due to the significant real estate reductions we are working on to drive meaningful savings, our capital expenditures in 2021 will be $165 million to $185 million and then return to normal levels in 2022. Due to the timing of the real estate consolidation, capital expenditures will be heavily weighted to the second half of (2021).”
You could pardon iHeartMedia executives if they wanted to present investors the abridged version of the company’s Q1 results on Thursday and quickly move on to discuss their projections for the second quarter. The company says April 2021 revenues were up approximately 85% year over year. Keep in mind the company says that April 2020 was the month hardest hit by COVID. Company leadership expects second quarter revenues overall this year to be up around 65% YoY.
iHeartMedia also completed its acquisition of Triton Digital, a digital audio publishing, advertising and audience measurement business, during the first quarter. The company says the move will help tie together its various lines in the digital infrastructure space.
In fall 2017, a subsidiary of New Directions Broadcast Group agreed to convert an LMA of a group of radio stations in the Branson, Mo., area into an outright purchase. The buyer? A licensee 51% owned by the corporate director of sales for Earls Family Broadcasting from 2004-2010. The other 49% was held by a former U.S. presidential candidate and syndicated talk show host.
Now, that former Earls sales pro is exiting the partnership, handing all of his stake in the company to Mike Huckabee.
On Wednesday, the judicial body responsible for the prosecution of all crimes that occur in the city of Baltimore moved forward with an action designed to bring a bit of justice, in its view, to a matter it claims involves “biased, inflammatory coverage” of Maryland’s biggest municipality.
The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office moved forward with sending a formal complaint letter to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel against Sinclair Broadcast Group’s flagship broadcast TV station. Specifically, it seeks an investigation into the broadcasting practices and media content distributed by the station, WBFF-45.
The FOX affiliate sees it much differently, and responded with a fresh news report that assails the SAO’s lead prosecutor, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, for attacking a media source for its reporting on her.
As a significant shareholder in TEGNA, Soohyung Kim and his Standard General has, for more than a year, sought to convince those holding company stock that it is on the wrong growth path. Thus, board of directors nominees it presented warranted shareholder approval.
Those efforts have failed to gain the support of TEGNA investors once again.
TEGNA announced Friday that, based on a preliminary vote count by its proxy solicitor, shareholders have “overwhelmingly re-elected” all 12 of its “highly qualified nominees” — verbage that’s clearly a swipe at Kim — as directors to serve for another term ending at the 2022 Annual Meeting.
They are Gina Bianchini, Howard Elias, Stuart Epstein, Lidia Fonseca, Karen Grimes, TEGNA President/CEO Dave Lougee, Scott McCune, Henry McGee, Susan Ness, Bruce Nolop, Neal Shapiro and Melinda Witmer.
“We are deeply gratified by this clear vote of confidence from our shareholders, and we continue to benefit from the input we received from the many shareholders we engaged with,” said Howard D. Elias, TEGNA’s Chairman of the Board. “Receiving even greater support in this year’s election than last year is a powerful endorsement of the board’s oversight of TEGNA’s financial performance, management’s execution of our strategy, and our continued progress in making TEGNA even more diverse, equitable and inclusive.”
Lougee added, “We are pleased that our shareholders recognize the successful execution of our value-creation strategy, which is delivering record results. We value the productive partnership we have with our investors as we drive TEGNA forward for the benefit of all stakeholders. Beyond our financial performance, we are pleased that our shareholders support the company’s ongoing work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion. As demonstrated by our extensive actions to date and the quantitative goals we’ve set, we are fully committed to continue improving in these important areas so that TEGNA effectively represents all of the communities we serve. I also want to thank our employees for all their efforts and their focus during this time – the work they do has never been more important.”
In addition to re-electing all of TEGNA’s directors, shareholders also approved the company’s proposals concerning the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers as the company’s independent registered public accounting firm for the current year; an advisory vote on the compensation of TEGNA’s named executive officers; and the elimination of supermajority voting provisions in the TEGNA Charter.
The preliminary vote count is subject to certification by the Independent Inspector of Elections.
But, it puts to rest a second effort for Kim to gain more sway at TEGNA. This included the planting of one Adonis Hoffman as a board nominee in a move that exposed conduct judged by Hoffman to be racist by Lougee — all because of a case of mistaken identity at a valet stand several years ago. Rather than spark a D&I initiative and investigation leading to Lougee’s removal, which likely would have pleased Kim, the story quietly faded away.
Standard General is the third-largest institutional shareholder of TEGNA stock, at a reported 7.7% as of the end of 2020. Blackrock Inc. holds 11.2% interest; The Vanguard Group owns 9.4% of TEGNA stock.
As of 11:14am Eastern, TEGNA shares were up 1.2% to $20.35; TGNA goes ex-Dividend on June 3.
It’s been quite the 12 months for The E.W. Scripps Co. Its reborn Court TV attracted a huge segment of viewers seeking gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. It completed its merger with West Palm Beach-based ION Media, consolidating the companies’ digital multicast networks. On the final day of Q1 2021, it completed the sale of Triton to iHeartMedia.
These actions were just some of the catalysts that helped Scripps meet or exceed its guidance “by every measure,” President/CEO Adam Symson said as he opened the company’s first quarter earnings call on Friday.
As the first quarter of 2021 neared its conclusion, the audio media company that for more than 50 years was known as Entercom changed its name, and that of the Radio.com platform it acquired via its CBS Radio merger and largely rebuilt.
Now Audacy, the Philadelphia-based company led by David Field is seeking to build on its momentum as a podcast and streaming audio leader. Still, its chief revenue driver is Radio. And, in its final quarter as Entercom, that reality is a punishing one. The company’s revenue missed Wall Street estimates, while its earnings per share fell short of expectations by 2 cents.
Dave Kolesar shares this photo to update us on field testing at all-digital AM station WWFD.
In the background is the Xperi test van and Xperi’s Mike Raide. They’re at the transmitter site in Frederick, Md., where they’ve started another round of HD2 testing on the station at 820 AM.
Kolesar is senior broadcast engineer at WTOP/WFED and program director of the format “The Gamut.” He and Raide have worked together extensively on the digital project at WWFD, as we’ve reported.
“The testing is being done to determine coverage of an HD2 MA3 signal, as it’s not quite the same as a main channel, unlike FM HD,” Kolesar told us.
“It involves driving along selected radials and noting where the HD2 audio fails, taking field strength readings at those points. Test gear includes the calibrated loop antenna on the roof, a FIM-4100 field strength meter, a spectrum analyzer, and an Xperi test receiver capable of receiving the HD2 signal.”
He said it takes about a half-day to drive a typical radial, so testing will be going on over several days.
“When we’re done, what we learn will incorporated into WWFD’s report to the FCC under its experimental authorization, as well as being submitted for publication at this year’s BEIT conference at NAB.”
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