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Commentary: Buffer Compromise Would Boost FM Class C4

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 11:59

The author is CEO of SSR Communications, owner of WYAB(FM) in central Mississippi.

Matthew Wesolowski has told the FCC that hundreds of FM Class A stations would be able to double in power thanks to a Class C4, “and would gladly do so if given such an opportunity.”

A proceeding currently before the Federal Communications Commission to provide eligible Zone II Class A commercial FM broadcasters an opportunity to upgrade from 6 kilowatts to 12 kilowatts has not attracted a great number of headlines this year, but that has not prevented the FM Class C4 proposal from making some significant strides as of late.

Most noteworthy, the Class C4 FM idea has attracted some powerful allies. In January, the proposal won the backing of Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, sitting chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the congressional body that maintains direct oversight over the FCC.

Sen. Wicker noted that the power increase could be of particular benefit to “small and rural radio stations” in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. In his February 2019 reply, Chairman Pai agreed by saying that the FM Class C4 option “could be especially important for small, minority-owned stations that currently cannot serve their entire communities.”


Sen. Wicker now joins the list of approximately 130 small broadcasters who filed comments in full support during the FM Class C4 Notice of Inquiry (MB 18-184, FCC 18-69) filing windows in September, 2018.

Several years prior, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai first advocated for the new station class in September, 2016 at the NAB/RAB Radio Show in Nashville, Tenn., and going back further, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) supported the effort in 2013 when it helped author the original proposal.

Predictably, a turf war has erupted between the small broadcasters that the FM Class C4 proposal would benefit, and larger license holders who generally control the biggest signals in any given market.

The National Association of Broadcasters did not support the introduction of a new station class, which is unsurprising, as that same organization vehemently opposed the creation of the FM Class C0 allotment type some 20 years earlier. Although larger companies stopped short of endorsing the idea fully, some nationwide broadcasters did come out in support of the FM Class C4 concept, including Educational Media Foundation, while iHeartMedia did not oppose the new station class in its comments.

The current sticking point in the FM Class C4 proceeding appears to stem from a component of the proposal that would give certain underbuilt Section 73.207-licensed stations a Section 73.215 designation, provided that the affected station has operated under its maximum antenna height, power level or equivalent thereof, for a period of 10 years or more.

Under the current FCC rules, a neighboring station looking to upgrade that is adjacent to an underbuilt Section 73.207-licensed station must treat that station as if it were fully built out, whereas a Section 73.215 station can be protected assuming its actual antenna height and power level.

The practice of treating underbuilt stations as if they were fully constructed can have large implications for smaller adjacent stations wanting to upgrade in power or situate their antenna sites more favorably. For example, a full FM Class C1 station is able to broadcast with 100 kilowatts of power from an antenna height above average terrain of 299 meters. If that station were to have an antenna height of only 200 meters above average terrain, then its primary service contour would be about 5 miles short of what a fully built FM Class C1 facility could reach. Any competing neighboring station looking to upgrade is compelled to protect that underbuilt station for five extra miles of coverage that it does not (or if underbuilt for more than 10 years, likely will not ever) serve.


In August 2019, SSR Communications Inc., which co-authored the FM Class C4 petition with MMTC, presented a revised version of the Section 73.215 aspect of the proposal to the FCC’s Audio Division.

The amended plan would still call for redesignation of certain underbuilt Section 73.207 licensed stations as Section 73.215 authorizations, but would also provide a 3 dB protective “buffer zone” to allow the affected stations an opportunity to relocate or build out more fully in the future. The buffer zone would create a protective bubble around underbuilt stations, usually amounting to anywhere from 3 to7 miles, depending on how severely underpowered or under-height the affected station may be.

This 3 dB buffer zone “compromise” would resolve the controversial aspects of the FM Class C4 proposal and should allow the proposal to advance.

The buffer eliminates almost all scenarios in which an affected reclassified Section 73.215 facility could be hemmed in and blocked from making future service improvements or tower relocations. It would also disincentivize the Section 73.215 conference procedure for stations seeking such towards neighboring underbuilt Section 73.207 facilities in almost all cases, except for those involving Section 73.207 stations that are the most decidedly underbuilt with respect to their class. Indirectly, the buffer prevents almost any scenario in which a secondary service could be affected by the Section 73.215 component of the FM Class C4 idea.


Meanwhile, an alternative waiver-based path towards a FM Class C4 equivalent facility may also soon exist. In July 2018, WRTM(FM) 100.5 MHz asked the Federal Communications Commission to consider allowing the station to double in power from 6 kilowatts to 12 kilowatts. If granted, the WRTM waiver application would establish new precedent and provide certain Class A FM stations an opportunity to enjoy an improvement in coverage.

Unlike the FM Class C4 proposal, the WRTM application (BPH-20180716AAC) suggests that, in order to double in power, a Class A FM licensee should guarantee that its upgraded signal would not impact vital LPFM and FM translator services. Also departing from the Class C4 FM proceeding is the idea that a neighboring Section 73.207-licensed station could still be reclassified as a Section 73.215 facility if it is not built out fully, but only if that station has been operating below its antenna height or maximum power level for a period of 30 years (the FM Class C4 proposal states that a 10-year window is appropriate). The WRTM filing backs this argument by saying, “No zoning problem, FAA issue, or cost consideration could not be resolved within 30 years if the desire is truly there to build out fully.”

Whether moving forward “as is,” as an amended proposal with a 3 dB buffer zone consideration, as a waiver-based procedure for eligible stations, or something else altogether, what will happen next in the FM Class C4 proceeding is anyone’s guess.

What is clear is, however, that hundreds of FM Class A stations would be able to double in power and would gladly do so if given such an opportunity. With support in high places, it seems as if a breakthrough is just around the corner, and it could be sooner than later that the FM Class C4 idea moves from concept to reality.

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Beasley to Receive Award From Broadcasters Foundation

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 11:50

The patriarch and founder of the Beasley Media Group, George Beasley, will receive the Broadcasters Foundation of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Mike Award Gala, March 4, 2020, at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

Beasley started with an AM daytimer in Benson, N.C., in 1961, building his company into a top radio group owner with more than 60 stations in nine states. While the company is listed on the NASDAQ, family members, notably daughter Caroline and son Bruce, are closely involved in the day-today operation; making it seem more like a family-owned broadcaster.

Broadcasters Foundation of America Chairman Dan Mason said, “Starting off with radio stations in small market America and expanding to major cities, George built the company that bears his name with ingenuity, integrity, and innovation. We are delighted to recognize his leadership in our industry.”

The announcement quoted Beasley, “I fell in love with radio early in my career, and I have been fortunate to be a part of this wonderful business as it has grown and expanded.”

He added, “Giving back is an important tradition in our family, and it is an honor to support the mission of the Broadcasters Foundation to help those in our industry who need it most.”

Beasley has long been involved with the foundation, having served on its board for many years. He has been recognized with awards by several state broadcasters associations and inducted into many associated halls of fame.


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NJBA: FCC Must Protect Full-Power Stations

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 11:40

The New Jersey Broadcasters Association has a clear message for the FCC: It opposes any modification of the existing LPFM service rules that would increase the potential for interference to higher full-power radio broadcast stations, such as might be the case in a densely populated area like New Jersey.

In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the New Jersey Broadcasters Association expressed concern about the commission’s July 2019 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning proposals to improve the low-power FM service. In short, the rules must be followed when it comes to secondary services not interfering with full-power radio broadcast stations in other classes, the NJBA said. Referring to another secondary service whose expansion has caused friction in some places, NJBA CEO and President Paul S. Rotella said, “In effect, the abundance of FM translators has created ‘holes’ in the audiences of full-power radio broadcast stations by causing interference to those stations.”

[Read: FCC Finalizes FM Translator Interference Rules]

The NJBA asked the FCC to continue to pay close attention to the tenants of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 and the resulting statutory protections that are afforded full-power commercial radio stations.

The NJBA said that interference also compromises the integrity of the Emergency Alert System “since many LPFMs do not have the equipment necessary to receive, propagate and broadcast critical EAS messaging” — an issue the organization said is particularly worrisome due to New Jersey’s high population density and its broadcast audience’s reliance on local radio for emergency information and other important local news and information.

Referencing perceived listener behavior on another interference issue, the NJBA said, “many listeners of full-power stations may be deprived of the service provided by their local full-service stations, and therefore simply tune into the plethora of other nonbroadcast programming sources available to the public today — rather than taking the time to file interference complaints …”

The NJBA also expressed concern that the changes to LPFM engineering requirements proposed in the FCC’s July NPRM will exacerbate these dangerous “holes” in full-power station audiences.

The NJBA said that the commission must keep in mind that LPFMs were originally positioned as a secondary, noncommercial radio service with a community focus.

“The need for further expansion and competition from LPFM services is dubious at best, given that the radio broadcasting industry has already been subjected to increased competition from the recently enacted FM translator rule changes, digital media, satellite radio, podcasts, internet and other media sources,” the organization said in its filing. “Moreover, the changes proposed in the NPRM will likely only serve to increase interference with full power stations.”

“Accordingly, when it comes to balancing the equities, the FCC must ensure that the balance falls on the side of full-power broadcast licensees, whose station licenses and construction permits were granted under a licensing regime in which they were promised — and therefore should be accorded — full protection from secondary service interference,” the organization said.

The NJBA believes the commission should consider increasing power for New Jersey Class A FM broadcast stations from 3 kW to 6 kW to “mitigate existing power inequities [that]  threaten the survival of Class A FM broadcasters, coupled with the ongoing allowances given translators and the rules being now contemplated for LPFMs.”

Responding specifically to the FCC’s request for comments on the NPRM, the broadcast association said LPFMs should not be granted expanded usage of directional antennas because those antennas could interfere with the signal patterns of co-channel and first-adjacent full-power FM stations. “The very nature of directional antennas conflicts with the original purpose for the LPFM service — i.e., reaching smaller, community-oriented audiences in highly localized areas,” the association said.

The NJBA also opposes redefining the phrase “minor changes” for purposes of expanding the ability of LPFM stations to relocate — unless that redefinition excludes relocations that could potentially affect full-power stations and their 45 dBμ contour listening audiences. The organization also expressed concern about permitting the cross-ownership of LPFM and FM booster stations without considering the implications of such a rule change on Class A FM broadcast stations.

In short, NJBA believes that the expansion of LPFM service through the proposed rules in the NPRM is contrary to the limited, secondary nature of that broadcast service, the association said. “Nevertheless, to the extent the commission chooses to adopt such rule changes, it must also adopt explicit protections for full-power radio broadcast stations and more importantly Class A FM broadcast stations,” the group said.

The comments were submitted as part of Media Bureau Docket Number MB Docket No. 19-193 via the FCC’s ECFS comment database.


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Radio TechCon Unveils Attendee Deals, Additional Sessions

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 09:01

With Radio TechCon 2019 just a few weeks away, the conference has unveiled a few ways that interested attendees that may still be on the fence can attend this year’s conference.

First, through what it calls the Organization Bursary, Radio TechCon has supplied three tickets each to the Community Media Association, Student Radio Association and Sound Women Network to award to their members as the see fit. Also, there is an Individual Bursary, which is offering nine spots that anyone can apply for here; deadline to apply is Wednesday, Nov. 6. A limited travel and accommodations fund is also available as part of the Individual Bursary.

In addition, Radio TechCon has announced a number of new sessions that will be held during the conference. These include a talk from Leslie Gaston-Bird, AES Governor-at-large; “Building Your Own Small-Scale DAB Mux;” a presentation on BBC Internet Fit radio; and a live demonstration of super sound bars. The full session lineup will be announced soon.

Radio TechCon 2019 will take place on Nov. 25 at IET London. Tickets are available at


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Podcasts, On-demand Challenge Traditional Radio

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 22:00

LONDON — Podcasting and on-demand services are challenging traditional live radio, but also offer exciting opportunities for broadcasters, the audience at the annual “Drive to Digital” conference has heard.

Steve Ackerman (right), managing director of production company Somethin’ Else talks to Matt Deegan at Drive to Digital 2019. All photos: Vincent Lo

More than 200 delegates gathered in London’s British Library for the annual event, organized by Digital Radio U.K., and hosted by broadcaster Penny Smith.


Clare McNally-Luke from United Kingdom’s media regulator Ofcom opened by showing radio listening’s weekly share of audio time at a healthy 72%. However, she sounded a note of caution, suggesting that disruption was underway, with new services challenging the definition of radio.

Belinda Doyle is program director at United Kingdom digital station JACK Radio.

Other audio platforms were borrowing from traditional radio strengths, she said, citing the example of Spotify’s “Your Daily Drive” playlist launched in the United States, which adds news podcasts from the Wall Street Journal and NPR to personalized music, to emulate the content of a radio show.

The BBC’s Alison Winter spoke about its new “BBC Sounds” app, which launched last year to replace BBC iPlayer Radio. It combined three separate offerings of live radio, music, and on-demand podcasts, which she said was crucial to attract new users to BBC Radio content, in addition to existing radio lovers. Winter revealed that BBC Sounds was now attracting 2.7 million weekly users.

[Read: Radio Techcon Opens Registration]

Belinda Doyle of JACK Radio suggested that podcasts could complement linear radio by helping to bolster brands. The U.K.’s JACK Radio is a digital station playing all-female artists, which has recently added “The Offside Rule” — an award-winning female-fronted football podcast produced by Muddy Knees Media — to its schedule.


On technology, Simon Bryant from Futuresource Consulting reported that they expected 12 million home audio sets to be sold in the U.K. in 2019, breaking all previous records. Smart speakers are driving this growth at 5.3 million units this year, and radio the fourth most popular activity on them.

The Drive to Digital podcast panel: (left to right) Matt Deegan, British Podcast Awards; Steve Ackerman, Somethin’ Else; Sadia Azmat, Comedian & Writer, “No Country for Young Women”; Iain Macintosh, Muddy Knees Media; and Leanne Alie, In-clued Consulting

Meanwhile, for in-vehicle listening, Kurt Dusterhoff of SBD Automotive reported that U.K. drivers still want radio, with FM as the most popular source. But in their next car, this desire is shifting to internet radio, with FM dropping five per cent, and IP radio rising 10%, mirroring trends in-home.

The event closed with a podcasting panel. Asked about the popularity of podcasts, Leanne Alie from In-clued Consulting pointed to the increasing diversity, and said the format allowed people to tell their own stories and perspectives, which hadn’t been the case previously for traditional radio.

Steve Ackerman from production company Somethin’ Else said that “once you have the on-demand habit, you can’t go back.”

Head of Audiences for BBC Radio & Education, Alison Winter

He was confident of the sector’s future, adding: “The audience growth is so aggressive and obviously the money is following, with big entertainment companies joining. It’s a global marketplace for ideas — for the first time, there’s a value to global IP rights. You can now test an idea and show there’s an audience, as we can see hour by hour analytics.”

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SBE Sets 2019–2020 Committee Chairs

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 13:16

The Society of Broadcast Engineers Board of Directors, led by newly elected president Wayne Pecena, have announced the committee chair appointments for the next year. All were approved during the annual SBE Membership Meeting, Oct. 15–16.

The committee chairs are as follows:

Awards — Tom McGinley, CPBE, AMD, CBNT

By-Laws — Charles “Ched” Keiler, CPBE, 8-VSB, CBNE

Certification — Ralph Hogan, CPBE, DRB, CBNE

Chapter Liaison — Mark Fehlig, CPBE, 8-VSB

Education — Geary Morrill, CPBE, CBNE

Fellowship — Troy Pennington, CSRE, CBNT

Electronic Communications — Roswell Clark, CPBE, CBNT

Finance — Roswell Clark

Frequency Coordination — Ted Hand, CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB

Government Relations — Kevin Trueblood, CBRE, CBNT

International — Charles W. Kelly Jr.

Membership — Steve Brown, CPBE, CBNT

Mentoring — Chris Tarr, CSRE, AMD, DRB, CBNE

Nominations — Jim Leifer, CPBE

Publications — Jason Ornellas, CBRE, CRO

Social Networking — Kirk Harnack, CBRE, CBNE

Sustaining Membership — Vinny Lopez, CEV, CBNT

Technologies — Shane Toven, CBRE, CBNT

Hogan, Pennington and Kelly do not serve on the SBE Board of Directors.

“The skill and experience of the SBE Board of Directors and committee chairs is wide and varied, and I look forward to drawing on their abilities to continue forward progress of the SBE as we implement plans from the 2018 strategic planning conference and develop new opportunities for our members,” said Pecena.

In addition to the committee chairs, Pecena appointed Roswell Clark and Geary Morrill as directors to serve on the SBE Executive Committee. They will join other committee members Pecena, Vice President Andrea Cummins, Secretary Kevin Trueblood, Treasurer Ted Hand and Immediate Past President Jim Leifer.


The post SBE Sets 2019–2020 Committee Chairs appeared first on Radio World.

Digital Radio Developments

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 13:00

What’s happened with digital radio over the last year? And what’s next?

This latest Radio World ebook offers insight into digital radio progress to date. It looks at opportunities, challenges and future goals for DAB+, Digital Radio Mondiale as well as HD Radio.

In addition, “Digital Radio Developments” highlights the particulars of each standard, give tips on how to integrate the Emergency Warning Functionality into a national alerting network as well as how to build a sound digital radio distribution strategy, and more

Learn more in the latest free Radio World International ebook. Read it free now click here.


The post Digital Radio Developments appeared first on Radio World.

Inside the October 23rd Issue of Radio World

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 12:59

Tom Vernon takes a deep dive into the history of radio automation systems. Matthew Wesolowski touts the benefits of a compromise proposal for FM Class C4. Paul Kaminski gives you a look at the dashboard of the Hyundai Kona, the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year. Buyer’s Guide explores new offerings in remote control, signal monitoring and test. This and plenty more.


Is There an Afterlife for “Franken FMs”?

TV licensees that present themselves as radio stations at the low end of the FM dial consider the term “Franken FM” disparaging. They believe they provide an important service. But their future is in doubt.


Go on the Road With a Nomad

A Canadian engineering firm thinks it has a faster, simpler way to measure FM/HDR antenna performance.



The post Inside the October 23rd Issue of Radio World appeared first on Radio World.

The Time Has Come to Talk of Many Things

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 12:27

Here in the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine broadcast automation without thinking of computers; you can’t have one without the other. But it wasn’t always this way.

Computers and automation systems have both been around for a long time but the two worlds didn’t begin to merge in a big way until the mid-1970s, when IGM introduced the 750 system with a DEC PDP-8.

Most of the hardware, playback media and terminology of these earlier analog systems is long gone and forgotten. That means it’s time for a ’70s flashback.


Let us don our wide-lapeled, burgundy, three-piece polyester suits, set the date for April 1974 and dive headlong into the time machine.

We emerge just in time for the opening of the NAB show of 45 years ago, and we visit the Sparta booth to see what’s new in broadcast automation systems.


Three or four racks of equipment were typical for a mid-sized automation system.

At first glance the three racks of equipment look intimidating. But when we break it down, we see that it’s just audio tape reproducers, a controller or some sort, and ancillary devices such as silence sensors and logging equipment.

The first thing we’ll look at are playback systems.

Unlike the digital audio files of today, there were different tape media for different lengths of content. Most of the music, especially for the popular beautiful music and easy listening formats of the day, was recorded on larger 14 -inch NAB reels of 1/4-inch tape.

Beautiful music and easy listening stations usually relied on playback decks that could handle the larger 14-inch NAB reels, such as the Sparta Corinthian.

Sparta’s Corinthian was one such machine. With 1 mil tape rolling at 7.5 inches per second, six hours of content were stored. Foil leader at each end of the tape would reverse the machine at the end of three hours and switch tracks. Stereo decks were available in half- and quarter-track configurations. The capstan was direct drive with a synchronous motor, giving a timing accuracy of 99.8%.

While Sparta built their own 14-inch playback machines, other automation system manufacturers used the popular Scully Model 270.

With other formats, some stations preferred to have reels with music from different categories, and conventional playback-only recorders with 10-inch reels and auto-reverse were employed. Again, Sparta manufactured their own machines, while other companies used a variety of recorders, from Revox A-77s on the economy end to Ampex 440s on the premium side.

In addition to the standard NAB “A” carts, automation systems used “B” and “C” carts for station IDs and time announcements.

Commercials, PSAs and jingles usually were recorded on NAB “A” size carts, which could hold about 10 minutes of tape. Several commercials could be be recorded on each cart, so they could be played in rotation. Carts were loaded into Sparta RS-224 carousels, which held 24 carts each. Depending on the size of the station, format and commercial load, there could be as many as four carousels in an automation system. Automation often had a separate rack-mounted cart machine that could handle A, B and C carts, dedicated to top-of-the-hour station IDs.


One of the criticisms of early automation systems is that they lacked a “live” sound. But:

Here at the 1974 NAB, we see that problem being addressed.

There in the rack of Sparta’s demo automation system is a TA-581 time announcer. And what an amazing piece of equipment it is. When the salesman slides it out on the drawer, we see two C-size carts that hold the time announcements, one for odd minutes, the other for even. Time checks can be programmed as events. We’re told that we can purchase pre-recorded carts with the time announcements, or make up our own, for a more localized feel.

The Sparta TA-581 time announcer had two “C” carts for even- and odd-minute time announcements, as well as a quartz-controlled clock.

The clock is controlled by a crystal oscillator, making it super accurate, according to the salesman. The only reference time signals available to us in 1974 are from the National Bureau of Standard’s WWV, and the network tone at the top of the hour. That oscillator may drift slowly, so once a month, the salesman explains, it’s good to check it against the network.

The geek in us wonders though: What happens to that clock after a power failure?  Won’t it give inaccurate time announcements, ruining the illusion that we’re a live operation?

 No worries, explains the salesman. The time announcer is disabled after a power failure until reset, so inaccurate time checks are never aired.

Master clock and network join functions were performed by the Sparta DC-24.

A fairly new arrival in automation systems is a net join, enabling automated stations to join the network for news, then break away for the next event. Sparta’s DC-24 has an LED display for 12- or 24-hour time, driven from a clock that is almost identical to the one found in the time announcer. Plug-in time cards or thumbwheel switches are available for selecting program fade, network join and break times. The DC-24 can control up to four timed events per hour. It also provides timing signals for program time correction. And just in case something goes horribly wrong, pushbuttons on the front panel can manually do the network join functions. Although we don’t see one on the show floor, there are other network join devices that work off the tones sent by the network just before the newscast begins, and immediately after it ends.

Every station’s requirements for automation are different, depending on format, commercial load and market size. Each Spartamation system is custom-built to customer requirements using the aforementioned components.

That just leaves one question. How did automation systems do all of this, and more, without the use of computers?

The short answer is that it was fairly easy, albeit without much of the flexibility that we take for granted today.


The brains of Spartamation (also spelled as Sparta-Mation) was the 1052 automatic program controller. It delivered automatic start/stop control and overlap audio switching for 10 sources, plus two special channels for network and fill music. The basic model had a 52-event format capability, with an 11 x 52 matrix board for the format information.

For greater flexibility with carousels, the RS-250 Random Access could be purchased, as it acted as a sub-programmer for the 1052 controller. Once it was installed, two carousels (48 carts) appeared as a single source to the 1052. The 250 determined which carts would be played, which skipped and in what order. When there was no commercial scheduled for an availability programmed into the 1052, the “skip” setting on the 250 would cause the controller to ignore the play command.

Sparta’s 124 and 224 carousels featured 24 cart capacity, teletype logger output and maximum shift time of 4 seconds from cartridge stop to next ready. Maximum drum rotation time was 22 seconds.

The 250 also featured “search-ahead cueing,” which insured that the other carousel had the correct cart loaded ahead of time, so carousels could play back to back with no dead air. An LED readout displayed carousel and tray number to play next. Event position was programmed via a series of slide switches located in a slide-out drawer. This was the 1970s equivalent of non-volatile memory; event programming would be preserved during power outages.

Carts that were produced for automation made use of the secondary and tertiary cue tones. The 150 Hz secondary tone was added at the end of the audio, and it was the signal to the controller to start the next event. Also, a logging encoder was used to record the five-digit code on the cue track that was used for identification. Selection of the correct digits for encoding was usually made via  rotary switches on the encoder.


While a number of syndication companies, such as Bonneville Beautiful Music, TM Programming, Drake-Chenault and Century 21, distributed pre-recorded music tapes, some stations preferred to create their own. In addition to the usual production facilities, making your own music tapes for automation required additional items. Stations recording 15-inch reels needed a recorder that would handle the larger reels. Also necessary would be an EOM generator to record a 25 Hz tone at 5 dB below reference level for 1.5 seconds on the left channel.

The right combination of cart and tape playback systems, along with a controller and random access, could give a smooth-running automation system. Other essentials included a silence sensor, line amp, 25 Hz filter and program logging.

Sparta’s 1052 Automatic Program Controller used a diode pin matrix board for a 52-event capacity. An FX-52 Format Expander could be added to the system to handle an additional 52 events.

In Sparta systems, the AP-2 alarm panel would beep and flash a warning light whenever the auto restart function of the automation system had been triggered. Auto restart would advance the program controller by one event when a silent period was sensed. This could be the result of brief power outages or tape/equipment failures. In any event, the operator on duty needed to check the tapes and reset the clock if necessary.

The LAM-1 line amp provided VU meter monitoring of both program and cue levels in addition to the traditional line amp function. Optional plug-in 8-watt monitor amplifiers were available for loudspeakers. Also optional was the HP-40 40 Hz high-pass filter. It would remove the 25 Hz EOM tones from the program output. Otherwise, they could be quite audible over the air.

Greater flexibility with tape cartridges was possible by using a random access such as the Sparta RS-250. It would combine two carousels as a single source to the 1052 Automatic Program Controller.

The demo system at our Sparta booth would have had a CBS Audimax connected to the output to ensure a reasonably consistent level between sources. This was a fairly common practice. Gates systems of the same era usually came with two Sta-Level amps.

The FCC regulations for maintaining program logs applied to automated stations in the same way they did for live operations. Just because a commercial was scheduled to run on automation was no proof that it did run.

A logging system would “listen” to what was played, and create an FCC-compliant program log. For carts and tapes, information encoded on the cue track was coupled with a timestamp in 2400 format from the digital clock. We note that these logs follow the letter of the law, if not the spirit.

A typical log printout might include an entry such as “1317  05218.” To figure it out, we would need the encoder directory, usually maintained by the sales department when commercials were recorded. In this case, we discover that at 1:17 p.m. (i.e., at 1317), the automation played a McDonald’s :60 (because the encoder had assigned the cart for the McDonald’s spot a five-digit code of 05218).

Carts were encoded for logging with the Century series record/playback machine and encoder (right). The teletype printer (left) would print out the time stamp from the digital clock, along with the five-digit code that was recorded on the cart.

Logging systems in later years would by advertised as English language, meaning that the tedious task of looking up five-digit codes had been eliminated, and the logs could be easily read by someone who didn’t speak binary.

Dot-matrix printers would not be readily available for a few years, and the program log was usually printed out on a teletype machine, similar to the one used at stations for the AP or UPI news service. Some systems used a printer that used a 2-inch roll of paper and looked similar to an adding machine.

As we head back up the aisle toward the time tunnel and our return to the 21st century, we marvel at all the things that were possible with broadcast automation before the integration of computers. We also wonder: Whatever happened to Spartamation systems, since Sparta isn’t recalled as a major player in the automation market? And for that matter, what happened to Sparta itself?

In 1976, just two years after our visit to the NAB, Sparta had become part of the Cetec Broadcast Group, which was a union of five California-based companies.

Cetec Jampro manufactured TV and FM antennas, Cetec Vega made wireless microphone systems, while Cetec Audio continued with Sparta’s line of consoles, including its Series 10 quad boards. Cetec purchased Schafer automation, and it became Cetec Schafer.

Some of the important automation accessories for 1974 Sparta automation include the LAM-1 line amp/monitor panel (top), AP-2 alarm panel (middle) and 25-SEN sensor/filter (bottom).

Cetec Sparta dropped its automation product lines and focused primarily on transmitters. Sparta had been doing pioneering work on solid-state AM and FM transmitters during the early 1970s, and their SS1000A was the first solid-state AM transmitter type accepted by the FCC. The Sparta AM line featured 1, 2.5 and 5 kW units, while their FM transmitters were solid-state at 250 and 500 watts, and solid-state up to the final tubes at higher power levels. The company also continued to manufacture its Century II modular cart machines, available as triple deck (one motor) desktop and rack-mount units.

Tom Vernon is a longtime Radio World contributor. He wrote here in the previous issue about the history of transmitter remote controls.

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Is Radio the Last One to Add New Songs?

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 08:16

Radio and music junkies have long claimed that by the time radio stations start airing a song, it’s been playing on Spotify for weeks, and that radio is falling behind the curve. Can that be true?

Music research company Integr8 Research decided to get to the bottom of this story. To do so, they compared Spotify’s numbers to data from the Nielsen-BDS powered Billboard Radio Songs chart during the same period to see if radio really is late to the party, or if something else is going on. The data set they used was the top 200 most-streamed songs on Spotify from January through August 2019.

But first, some background is in order, in the form of an earlier post from Integr8, Is Spotify Replacing Record Stores or Radio Stations? Spotify users, claims Inegr8, are comprised largely of an artist’s fan base, who are anxious to check out their latest project. There are also music fans who are anxious to see what all the excitement is about. Integr8 says that radio listeners, on the other hand, are a more diverse group, and it takes longer for them to discover and warm up to new songs.

The difference, they claim, is in usage patterns between the two media. Integr8’s research suggested that new songs are released at about the same time on radio and Spotify. It further claims that the average lifespan of a top 10 song on Spotify is under nine weeks, while the average lifespan of a top 10 song on the radio is over 16 weeks.

Comparison of song cycles between Spotify and radio.

That being the case, says Integr8, if one simply compares what’s #1 on Spotify to what’s in radio’s power rotations, radio is always going to appear to be on a slower timetable.

What can we learn from all of this? According to Integr8, the critics are wrong about radio being the last to release new songs. The key, they say, lies in understanding the difference in consumption patterns. That’s not to say there aren’t lessons for radio in this research. Integr8 believes that music directors will need to carefully weigh both the impact on listenership and on their brand when the listeners have mixed reactions to songs that skyrocket on Spotify.

And what does that mean?

The answers will be forthcoming in a Integr8 webinar that will air Nov. 13 at 2:00 EST/11:00 PST entitled “What Radio Can Learn From Spotify.”

The key topics include:

  • What are the different consumption patterns for new music on Spotify — and how radio can use those patterns to spot real hits;
  • When should radio start — and stop — playing songs;
  • Why Spotify is replacing record stores more than radio stations — and why it matters for how radio programmers interpret Spotify data;
  • How new releases have a major impact on music consumption that’s often ignored by radio.

The webinar can be registered for here.


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Community Broadcaster: Are You Listening, FCC?

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 16:00

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at

Could you imagine holding a presidential election and leaving out rural America from the polls?

What about steering a boat through a storm, but telling the most resilient of the crew to take refuge in the ship’s hold?

In either of these scenarios, none of us would dream of leaving out important voices in decision making, or not accepting helping hands in a moment of need. Yet radio is seeing just such a pivotal event.

When the nation’s leader in the media space convenes stakeholders on Nov. 21, it is incumbent that community, religious and noncommercial educational media be included.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Facebook Needs Community Radio]

Later this month, the Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau will host a “Current and Future Trends in the Broadcast Radio and Television Industries” summit. It could be one of the most interesting gatherings for broadcasters in some time. Streaming, internet disruption, podcasting and regulations are among the big conversations in radio as a whole. Each presents a unique challenge that radio together can respond to, and discuss our collective needs with the country’s media policy leader.

However, the FCC must ensure community media is at the table.

According to the announcement, the objective of the event is “to hear from industry experts and participants about the current and future trends, challenges, and opportunities facing the broadcast radio and television industries.” The FCC promises a pair of panels representing large and small broadcasters, as well as many media analysts.

Names of panelists are apparently yet to be released (as of press time). Invitees have not been announced yet either. However, involving the diversity of full- and low-power community radio stations, noncommercial broadcasters, public, education and government (PEG) television and others in the community media ecosystem must be a priority.

Community broadcasters nationwide are an important part of the media world, albeit not as attention grabbing to some media watchers. However, their service to cities and towns like yours is valuable and historically noteworthy. Consider radio stations like WORT, KGNU and many others welcoming community voices onto the airwaves. KUVO in Denver and WNCU in Raleigh have been legacy jazz stations serving their respective communities, while also trying to pioneer sounds for new audiences for noncommercial media. And then there is the vibrant low-power FM scene, with many locally engaged and intelligent stations with a reach far beyond their 100 watts by virtue of the relationships they’re building in their communities.

Where else in terrestrial media does the hybrid of community-sourced and curated content flourish so well, or at all? Who else has figured out that puzzle-like community media? It is not all perfect, of course, but big players could listen to these stations a bit more. The upcoming symposium seems like a perfect setting to do it.

I do not make the argument that these voices should be added to the exclusion of the many large and medium-sized broadcasters the FCC has traditionally tapped for such meetings. Anyone who’s been there knows the FCC offices are large. There is plenty of room for everyone. I merely suggest community media should be considered an important part of the conversation, too.

2019 has been a powerful year for media. And community media will be part of a lively 2020. Are you listening, FCC friends?



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Adventures in 1970s AM: Curses! Locked Out!

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 14:37

One of my first jobs at the mighty WOHO(AM) was that of nighttime disc jockey, doin’ the bits and playin’ the hits! The year was 1973 and our little Class B was the number two station in Toledo, Ohio, according to the now-defunct-but-then-quite-vital C. E. Hooper ratings.

We’re number two! We’re number two!

While nationally many stations were still using turntables and playing scratchy 45s, WOHO had moved to an all-cart system for our 40 current hits and 500 golden oldies. This allowed our chief engineer to invent an ingenious automation system.

Each of our five cart machines in the control room was fitted with its own GraLab timer. These were large analog clock-like devices normally used in the film development process but which were perfect for us. Since the exact length of each song was noted on the cart label, we would place a cart into a machine and set its timer to that song length. When the cart started, so did the timer. As the hand on the clock swept around the dial it would give the DJ a visual cue as to when the tune was going to end. But each timer was then further custom-fitted with a magic green button that if pressed, would automatically trigger the next cart machine in sequence when the first timer clicked to zero. For example, when the song in Cart Machine One was through, it could start the song in Cart Machine Two.

[Read: Adventures in 1970s AM: Diary of a Mad Talk Show Host]

It was an unseasonably cold one October night and I was alone at WOHO, stuck on the air from 7 p.m. to midnight. Due to bad planning on my part, by 9 p.m. I was hungry. The Freeway Drive-In was a diner we jocks frequented, certainly not for the high quality of its offerings but rather for its convenient location just a mile from our studio. While I was waiting for a song to end I got out our phonebook, looked up the Freeway and called in my order: a double hamburger with everything, fries and a vanilla shake. I told the waitress who answered the phone that I’d be there in 10 minutes, and that I’d be in a hurry. And here is where the automation system comes into the picture.

I grabbed the two longest oldies we had, “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris and “American Pie” by Don McLean, and put on my coat. I then set our timers to play two scheduled commercials, a “WOHO golden” jingle and then both of these songs, which I figured would give me 15 minutes to get into my car, drive over to the Freeway, pick up my grub and return.

Ken and the dreaded though life-saving automation system

Let me pause here to say that I was well aware of several infractions of station policy I was about to commit. I was leaving the station and transmitter unattended, vacating my post in the studio, not telling anyone where I was going, and probably several others. I knew also that there was a chance I would not make it back in time. However, youth and stupidity go hand in hand and as I was 22 at the time I proceeded.

I started the first cart and ran out of the front door to the station into the parking lot which by now had a light dusting of snow. Because I was in a blind rush, I did not notice that the big glass door had swung shut behind me and locked. I got into my 1969 red VW Bug and drove at a “high rate of speed.” In short order I pulled up at the Freeway, left my engine running and ran in to get the food. I now had seven minutes to get back to WOHO and start the next song. As I drove, my car radio was set to 1470 to make sure there was still something on the air.

Whew! Home safe with two minutes to spare! I locked my car in the parking lot, grabbed my now-greasy bag of health food off the seat next to me and ran up to the front door which, as you may recall, was now locked. Of course I was not in possession of a key. My heart rate shot up about 30 beats.

Improvising, I made a mad dash around to the back door, which was required to be locked at all times. Fortunately in yet another violation of station policy, it was not. However, the cold weather had caused it to become stuck closed. I roughly unjammed it and ran inside just as Don McLean was fading out. Were I unable to get there in time I knew that the station limiter would kick in and bring up dead air which would quickly produce an ungodly loud hum.

I ran to my seat in front of the board, slammed on the mic and in a breathless voice said “That was ‘American Pie,’ here on the mighty 1470!” As I was intoning this brilliant ad lib I reached blindly for a cart, any cart, and substituted it for one of the carts that had already played. The one I selected turned out to be a public service announcement for hat safety or some goofy thing like that. That bought me 30 seconds to get another song ready.

And as the show rolled on, I continued to “entertain” the masses for another few hours with no one the wiser.

Ken Deutsch is a writer who lives in sunny Sarasota, Fla., and has a book of these tales available, “Up and Down the Dial.” 


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Hyundai Kona Offers Big Capability and a Simple Interface

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 11:48
Hyundai’s KONA, the 2019 North American Utility of the Year, has a simple interface for its connected car and entertainment systems.

We wrote about Hyundai’s infotainment systems in November 2016. My recent test of the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year for 2019, Hyundai’s Kona, included its top-of-the-line infotainment system.

Pictures of the center stack of the dashboard show a simple interface used to access all the features. The user experience interface is simple by design.

Cason Grover is senior group manager, vehicle technology planning for Hyundai Motors America. He is responsible for the developments in multimedia infotainment audio, connected car (BlueLink) and active safety technical features.

When I asked him about the simplicity of the interface, he said, “Ultimately, we are all about ease of use; we don’t want to change things for the sake of change. We want to keep ease of use high, frustration low and keep as much familiarity as we can while continuing to adopt the latest features.”

That interface includes voice activation and control, touchscreens, buttons and knobs.

“Almost every vehicle on the road has some redundancy in terms of controls, by which I mean you have volume on the steering wheel, modes on the steering wheel and buttons or knobs or touch sliders for volume,” said Grover. “We’ve got a nice labeled radio button that will cycle through the bands and mixed presets.”


Hyundai was the first manufacturer to incorporate Android Auto connectivity, in the 2015 Sonata, and in 2016 it added Apple Car Play connections. HD Radio reception capability is standard on more than half of Hyundai’s models including those with navigation. Besides the multicast capability, Hyundai is using HD Radio as a data pipeline for traffic information.

Unlike some manufacturers that have deprecated or deleted AM radio reception in audio systems in hybrid or full electric vehicles, Hyundai offers AM radio reception as a standard feature. “We don’t have plans to change that in the near future,” Grover said.

In-car internet (Wi-Fi) is still being studied, but with no announcement on the horizon. As for native, preloaded apps like Spotify, Grover says streaming is best handled by the driver or passenger connecting their Android or Apple device, or streaming through Bluetooth connections.

One issue that’s important — to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and to car manufacturers — is that of driver distraction. Grover says Hyundai develops its interfaces based upon NHTSA guidelines and that the introduction of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay gave users access to phone functions “with voice and screen capability that has been developed within the NHTSA guidelines. We consider that a critical element in reducing driver distraction.”

In a 2019 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, Hyundai ranked first as a brand with the fewest audio, communication, entertainment and navigation problems. J.D. Power defines a problem as a design defect or malfunction.

Radio seems to be an important part of Hyundai’s entertainment offerings. Their vehicles provide a simple-to-use platform for driver and passengers to listen to the radio and other devices.

As always, whether drivers keep the radio button pushed will depend too on what’s being transmitted (compelling content) and how it’s being transmitted (signal quality and reliability).

The 2020 Hyundai KONA carries an MSRP of between approximately $20,000 and $28,000 depending on model.

Paul Kaminski is the host of’s “Radio-Road-Test” program. He has been a Radio World contributor since 1997. Twitter: msrpk_com Facebook: PKaminski2468.

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Best of Show Up Close Sofia 568 FM HD Radio SiteStreamer+

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 11:18

“Best of Show Up Close” is a series about participants in Radio World’s annual Best of Show at NAB Awards program.

Inovonics received a Best of Show Award for its Sofia 568 FM/HD Radio SiteStreamer+, a web-based remote signal monitor. We asked Gary Luhrman, sales and marketing manager for Inovonics, about the Sofia 568 and more.

Radio World: The Sofia 568 FM/HD Radio SiteStreamer+ was featured at spring NAB and took home a “Best of Show” Award there. You said the 568 is the first in a series; so to begin with, what are SiteStreamers?

Gary Luhrman: SiteStreamers are web-enabled receivers for remote signal monitoring. They are installed at a broadcast transmitter site, or any remote location with an internet connection. Streamed audio is accessible from any web-enabled device.

The new Sofia 568 is a SiteStreamer+ — meaning that has everything our SiteStreamers have but with much more processing power for more streaming options along with outputs — such as analog L/R, AES3 digital and AoIP streaming audio outputs. There’s a unique web-based user interface for visualizing in real time the HD Radio album artwork, station logos and similar visuals. Multiple stations can be sequentially monitored using the programmable StationRotation feature.

[Read: Best of Show Up Close: Broadcast Partners Smart Processing]

RW: You describe 568 as having several firsts. What are they and what else sets the product apart from other offerings in its class?

Luhrman: The Sofia 568 is the first FM/HD Radio receiver in the market to support AES67 AoIP, allowing broadcasters using Axia or Wheatstone equipment to incorporate the Sofia 568 into their AoIP network.

It collects histograms of signal parameters and displays HD Radio album artwork, station logos and similar visuals via the web interface. Multiple stations can be sequentially monitored using the programmable StationRotation feature.

The Sofia 568  includes a built-in band scanner, a real-time clock and full SNMP functionality. It also delivers important RF and audio signal measurements and dispatches email or text-message alarms for out-of-limits conditions and other reception errors.

Here are some of the unique features of the Sofia 568:

  • Remotely monitor full-time off-air FM and HD Radio signals;
  • Displays HD Radio graphics and related text data on web interface;
  • Adjustable off-air output levels for L/R analog, AES3 digital and Dante/AES67 AoIP;
  • Internet-listening stream for up to 10 listeners at once;
  • Monitor multiple transmissions sequentially with StationRotation;
  • Alarms and notifications sent via email or SMS messaging;
  • Enhanced alarm logging with no limit to the number of alarms that can be logged;
  • Easy set-up and operation; full SNMP support.

RW: What does it cost? Is it available now?

Luhrman: List price is $2,400. And, yes, it is available. We are shipping from stock for a quick turnaround of orders.

RW: More generally, what do you see as the most important trends or changes happening in how broadcasters use remote signal monitors?

Luhrman: The ability to use a smart phone to remotely monitor stations is a great help to radio engineers who are always on the move and strapped for time. It allows them to avoid needless trips to transmitter sites and have a better understanding of problems when they occur. IP connectivity and support for SNMP are becoming obligatory for products.

The streaming capabilities for remote listening along with alarms and notifications allow engineers to know when there is a problem and to listen remotely in real-time to analyze and confirm a problem.

Surprisingly, the Sofia 568 is also being used as a sales tool to help sell advertising on HD Radio channels. The unique web interface on the Sofia 568 allows station sales reps to visually demonstrate the value of combining the advertising message with visual images that appear on listener´s radios.

RW: You recently noted an anniversary for your InoMINI line. Tell us about that.

Luhrman: Inovonics is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the INOmini. After 10 years the INOmini family of products has grown to 20 distinct models and continues to grow year after year with unique problem solving solutions for radio broadcasters.

It started at NAB 2009 with our INOmini 703 RDS Encoder. The success of the 703 confirmed a market for the small INOmini concept and new products were added each year to the family.

The economically-sized INOmini occupies just 1/3-rack space allowing broadcasters to optimize their rack space with unique INOmini solutions for audio processing, RDS encoding, and monitoring for AM/FM/RDS/HD Radio/ DAB+. Three units can be racked together in the optional 1 RU shelf to provide a customized solution specific to the broadcasters´ needs.

RW: What else should we know?

Luhrman: Inovonics continues to innovate with new products each year — six new products in 2019. All of our products are designed, manufactured, and assembled at our factory in Felton, Calif. Be on the lookout for more in 2020.

The Future Best of Show Awards program honors and helps promote outstanding new products exhibited at industry conventions like the spring NAB Show. Exhibitors pay a fee to enter; not all entries win. Watch for more coverage of participating products soon. To learn about all of the nominees and winners, read the 2019 Best of Show Program Guide.



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User Report: Burk ARC Plus Touch Flexes Its Muscles

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 16:17

Radio World User Reports are stories by users who share their reasons for choosing a particular product.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Here at the Bible Broadcasting Network we have 46 stations using the Burk ARC Plus Touch for our remote control and monitoring. We ungraded from the VRC2500; therefore we are using the Plus-X GSC adapter as our physical interface for the wiring for metering, status and control. This eliminates a total rewire at our existing stations. This system was a positive upgrade because of its versatility and flexibility.

The value of any product is more important than just the cost. All technology has a price tag, and sometimes price will exceed value. With advances in the technical features and flexibility of the ARC Plus Touch and the Plus-X line of I/O adapters, the price is fair because of the value.

The direct internet connectivity of the product has been a great feature since any notifications can be sent over the internet. As you would expect, you can program each channel however your application needs to be set. In today’s world of smartphones and other portable devices with internet access, it is great to get an alarm notification without having to have a telephone ring during in a business meeting. However, we did add the optional voice interface.

It is good to have calls from the Touch as a dual notification system. A great feature when adding the voice interface is the vocabulary of words the unit has available. These words are audio files of a person speaking, not a crude text-to-speech interface. In addition to the built-in library, you can create your own custom library and incorporate both libraries. Also, if the internet is down and the phone lines are working you will still get notified of any problems at the station.

There is an option for using SNMP interface with your transmitter or other equipment. We have added this option at two of our stations because of the other equipment. However, when we did, we also added more data information from the transmitter than we would normally have because of the number of channels we could use with hard wiring options.

When I began at BBN, we were still using Gentner VRC2000 products. The Burk VRC2500 was a tremendous step up in technology. The one feature that the VRC2500 had that I miss in the Touch is the ability to program it off-line. With the Touch you need to make an internet, or local network, connection to the unit and use the Autoload Plus software while connected. You can then save the unit configuration onto your computer without making the changes in the Touch itself; of course the changes can be saved to the unit also.

In addition, we often change who will get the notifications because of the regular person taking vacation. This means connecting, editing and then saving. However, once that is done the new configuration can be saved with a different file name and uploaded when necessary.

Burk is very responsive to suggestions in the addition of features. There have been several that I have suggested that have been incorporated.

For information, contact Matt Leland at Burk Technology in Massachusetts at 1-978-486-0086 or visit

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Seeing Sounds — How to Create a World-Class Audio Brand in Five Steps

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 14:36

The author is CEO of Benztown.

Andreas Sannemann

Every great audio brand tells a story, and makes listening to a radio station an experience far beyond just accessing a format. In this age of countless choices in entertainment and audio jukeboxes in the form of digital and on-demand music services, radio imaging is more critical than ever to creating an experience and world that listeners want to spend as much time with as possible.

Audio branding and imaging reinforce a station’s story with detail, nuance and frequency, identifying and differentiating the brand from its competitors in a strategic and engaging way. Imaging is the character or vibe of a radio station that everything else is built upon, the nucleus of the brand that communicates brand personality with the audience more often than when the mic’s open.

That said, audio branding, radio imaging and sound design are highly abstract, artistic and subjective areas. So how do we evaluate such a complex, intangible medium? What is the difference between a good audio brand and a great audio brand? Would it help if we could see sound?


“Seeing Sound” is a blueprint for Benztown’s creative team. It is a five-step process developed over the years to deconstruct, understand and create world-class audio brands and to transform good audio brands into great audio brands.

This process is characterized by the visualization of sounds, and allows imaging directors to visualize their brand and define it for their program directors, general managers, and production team.

It is not a one-size-fits-all recipe for sound design. Every station has a unique market, format, positioning against web competition and other differentiating factors that need to be evaluated individually and as a whole. But it all starts here and helps drive the tremendous success we have building great audio brands that listeners love with our station clients and partners.

Step #1: Know who you are, what you do and for whom you are doing it.

Define the core values of your program and brand characteristics by developing an on-air positioning statement. Are you optimistic or informative? Is your goal to be an opinion leader or a friendly neighbor? Great audio brands are useful to the listener, as well as being entertaining and fun. Audio branding has your station’s values at heart, and those values drive every audio expression of the brand.

Once you know who you are as a brand, develop a core listener profile by identifying who is currently listening and whom you wish to reach. That is where reliable research comes into play and informs the process and your brand strategy.

You also need to know the competition and market dynamics. Be as specific and detailed as possible in your descriptions to draw a clear visual picture of your brand and the listener landscape. The clearer you are, the better your brand will be. This step is essential to creating an audio brand that hits the mark and resonates with listeners.

Step #2: Translate these values into sounds.

Use sounds to effectively tell your brand’s story, creating a visual image in the listener’s mind. This is where the art of sound design comes in. It is key to not only understand the music, but the demo and lifestyle of listeners; to speak to them directly through jingles, custom imaging and promos that tell the story through effective and original use of sound; and build upon that story, week after week.

Step #3: Compile all these values into a world-class audio brand identity and an outstanding sound logo.

Deconstruct and define how your sound will be produced in relation to genre, instrumentation, mood, rhythm and tempo (it never hurts to do research to guide your decisions). These choices should be reflected in all station-related audio, including jingles and voiceover artists.

Step #4: Identify your station’s touch points with listeners through audio branding. Every interaction is an opportunity to make an emotional connection with your listeners and create affinity for your brand.

Hitz Malaysia has 20 interactions with the listener in an average hour on air — 20 distinct opportunities to connect and reinforce the brand.

For example, our client Hitz Malaysia has 20 interactions with the listener in an average hour on air (see graphic). Those 20 interactions are 20 distinct opportunities to connect, cut through the noise, get the message delivered successfully and reinforce the brand.

Don’t forget to consider all the non-linear touch points your audio branding has with your audience, including online, on demand, and at events.

Step #5: Create a world-class audio brand!

Strategize your audio branding and imaging by defining its boundaries and style. Create a vision that fits all the core values you have identified through research.

Strategize your audio branding and imaging by defining its boundaries and style, and creating a vision that fits all the core values you have identified through research. The more thought you put into it, the more successful you will be in creating a great audio brand that listeners love, remember and choose to spend time with.

Benztown is a radio imaging, production library, programming, jingles and voiceover services company. See

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Hot Docs Podcast Festival Features Nonfiction Storytellers

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 02:00

TORONTO, Ontario — Some of the world’s best podcast creators and thousands of their avid fans will be in Toronto Nov. 6–11 for the 4th annual Hot Docs Podcast Festival.

The recurring event, which is being held at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (named for the late Canadian media mogul Ted Rogers; son of Edward Rogers, who invented the “batteryless” AC-powered AM radio), demonstrates how popular the podcast has become in its short lifetime.

“This year’s festival features live events in which the world’s best podcasts perform live episodes for Toronto’s passionate community of podcast-lovers and a three-day industry conference (the Creators Forum) in which accomplished podcast professionals from across Canada and around the world come together for industry panels and networking events,” said Will Di Novi, the Hot Docs Podcast Festival’s lead programmer.

“Podcasting is, simply put, the hottest medium in nonfiction storytelling right now, with rapidly growing audiences, thrilling new creative developments under way, and huge potential from a business development standpoint.”

The Hot Docs Podcast Festival is structured to meet the needs of podcast creators (“the industry”) and the fans who adore this new medium (“the public”).

“On the industry side, we are offering exciting opportunities to hear the insights of some of the most important experts and decision makers in the international podcast industry — and to do so in an intimate setting where there are real opportunities to meaningfully engage with them and their expertise,” said Di Novi.

“At this year’s Creators Forum, we’re thrilled to be featuring panels, fireside chats and interactive workshops with brilliant folks like Mia Lobel, executive producer at Pushkin Industries (Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast studio); Sarah van Mosel, chief revenue officer at Stitcher; Leslie Merklinger, senior director of audio innovation at CBC; Mimi O’Donnell, executive producer of scripted content at Gimlet Media; David Stern, director of product development at Slate; Kenzi Wilbur, head of original programming at Luminary; and Steve Pratt, co-founder of Pacific Content.”

The public will participate in the Hot Docs Podcast festival by sitting in on a range of live podcast productions.

“We are offering the opportunity to see and hear some of the world’s most exciting audio storytellers live and in the flesh, such as Jon Ronson, Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham (from the New York Times’ Still Processing), former Daily Show correspondent Mo Rocca (presenting his Mobituaries podcast) and Canadian broadcasting legends like Ian Hanomansingh (Uncover), Jesse Brown (Canadaland) and Anna Maria Tremonti (presenting the exclusive world premiere of her new podcast More with Anna Maria Tremonti),” Di Novi told RWI.

The festival expects about 7,000 members of the public to attend this year’s event, plus hundreds of podcast creators and related personnel from around the world. It occurs at a time when podcasting has come into its own; fed by the public’s appetite for long-form nonfiction audio programs such as “Serial,” The New York Times’ “Caliphate” and Canada’s “Missing and Murdered.”

[Read: MXL Releases Podcasting Bundle]

Such podcasts “do for the audio space what the bingeable masterpieces at studios like HBO, Netflix and Showtime have been doing for prestige television,” said Di Novi.

The paradox is while “we’re seeing all this huge growth at the high-end, macro-level, emerging and mid-career podcasters especially those who work as freelancers or for independent outfits — are still struggling to make a living in the industry and struggling to monetize their independently produced passion projects.”


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Updated IPAWS Certificate Released For DASDEC, OneNet

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 16:19

FEMA has approved the release of the new Federal Bridge certificate bundle designed for Digital Alert Systems DASDEC and OneNet CAP EAS devices to receive IPAWS messages. A deadline of Nov. 8 to install the certificate has also been announced.

[Read: Broadcasters Need to Keep Eye on Latest EAS Updates]

This was revealed through an email from Digital Alert Systems’ Edward Czarnecki, the company’s senior director of strategy & government affairs, to Society of Broadcast Engineers members.

The certificate is needed to ensure proper validation of CAP alert message from IPAWS. It is a free update and it works with software versions 2.6, 3.x and 4.x.

“We are aware that Nov. 8 leaves very little time — however, the final confirmation from FEMA to release the certs to EAS users was given a few hours ago,” said Czarnecki.

DAS has posted the certificate on its website, included with instructions and download links.


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NAB Accepting Nominations for 2020 Technology Awards

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 16:06

Now is the chance to recognize individuals and organizations that have significantly contributed to the television and radio industries by nominating them for the 2020 NAB Technology Awards. The nomination window is open between now and Jan. 13, 2020.

These four annual awards consist of the Radio and Television Engineering Achievement Awards, recognizing individuals for their outstanding accomplishments in each industry; the Technology Innovation Award, which acknowledges an organization showing an advanced technology or exhibit at the 2020 NAB Show that has not yet been commercialized; and the Best Paper Award, honoring the author(s) of a paper published in the Proceedings of the 2020 Broadcasting Engineering and Information Technology Conference.

The awards are presented each year as part of the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

“It is an annual highlight to present these awards to deserving individuals and organizations in celebration of our industry’s technical and engineering achievements,” said Sam Matheny, NAB’s executive vice president and chief technology officer. “I look forward to again recognizing the success that foster progress in broadcast technology and broadcaster innovation at the 2020 NAB Show.”

Nominations are due by Jan. 13, 2020. Nomination forms and award rules are available at

The 2020 NAB Show will take place from April 18–22, 2020, in, as always, Las Vegas.


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FCC to Two AM Licensees: Pay Fees or Nixed Licenses Could be Next

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:46

The Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission is asking two licensees to clarify why they haven’t paid years’ worth of regulatory fees — in one case, for more than a decade — and warned the owners that the next possible step could be loss of the stations’ licenses.

In both situations, the backgrounds are similar. Cox Broadcast Group and La Favorita Inc. are being questioned by the FCC over allegedly unpaid regulatory fees. For Cox station WCGA(AM) in Woodbine, Ga., the FCC said that the licensee allegedly failed to pay regulatory fees for fiscal year 2010, 2103, 2016, 2017 and 2018 resulting in unpaid regulatory fees totaling $11,531.21. Despite the fact that demand letters have been sent to Cox, no payments have yet been made, the Media Bureau said.

[Read: Virginia FM Handed $15,000 Forfeiture for Alleged Filing Violations]

A similar situation has occurred with three AM stations in Georgia licensed by La Favorita Inc. The Media Bureau said the licensee has unpaid regulatory fees stretching back more than a decade — from 2007 through 2018 — for stations WAOS(AM) in Austell, WLBA(AM) in Gainesville and WXEM(AM) in Buford. The amount of unpaid fees totals $79,457.69 for those years. The bureau said that demand letters have been sent to La Favorita but to date have not been paid.

In both cases, additional charges will continue to accrue on these debts until they are paid in full, the bureau said, which includes a penalty equal to 25% of the amount of the original fee.

The commission also has the authority to revoke a station’s license for failing to pay regulatory fees and penalties. As a result, the commission has asked Cox and La Favorita to file documented evidence within 60 days to show that that it has paid or to show cause why payment should be waived. The FCC warned that failing to provide such evidence within the next two months may result in revocation of the stations’ licenses.


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