IBC2021 convention organizers are welcoming the latest announcement from the Dutch government relaxing COVID-19 social distancing measures and removing quarantine rules for vaccinated travelers.
The convention is scheduled for Dec. 3–6, having been pushed back earlier from its original calendar slot this month.
“From Sept. 22, fully vaccinated international visitors from very high-risk areas will no longer have to quarantine on arrival in The Netherlands,” the organization wrote in an email to its show community.
“From Sept. 25, The Netherlands will no longer enforce social distancing rules of 1.5 meters apart or mandate mask wearing in inside areas. To this end IBC has updated the exhibition protocols on its website to reflect the latest rulings and to uphold its commitment to being the gold standard in live event safety.”
The unpredictable behavior of the pandemic has made it hard for many event planners to promote their events with certainty. For instance in July the Dutch prime minister had apologized for relaxing restrictions too soon.
With the latest changes, IBC notes that the country will make wider use of coronavirus access passes. It posted more details on its website, which also states that face masks will no longer be compulsory.
The organization also updated its safety guidelines for exhibitors.
“Seventy percent of IBC’s audience already have easy access to the event, being part of the EU COVID travel block,” IBC wrote in its email. “The removal of the international travel quarantine rules means that IBC will now be accessible to almost 100% of its usual audience.”
The unpredictable behavior of the pandemic has made it hard for many event planners to promote their events with certainty. For instance in July the Dutch prime minister had apologized for relaxing national restrictions too soon.
Pandemic conditions in the United States led the NAB to cancel its previously postponed 2021 NAB Show for Las Vegas.
Excellent article in Radio World by Mark Persons (“Analog veterans in the digital world,” May 12 issue).
Count me among those who started out in the analog world but quickly became “digitally native.” I would be hard-pressed to recommend a new analog buildout these days, even for smaller stations. It just makes so much sense and is so much easier to make changes after the fact.
The biggest drawback is that unfortunately, digital equipment does tend to have a shorter lifespan than analog, simply because of the rapid pace of technology improvements, and often quicker part obsolescence.
Lifespans of 10 to 20 years for some equipment have now become more like five to 10, or three to five, not because it has failed but because technology has improved.
That said, in some cases the labor saved in maintenance and ongoing changes can often offset some of this cost. It’s just something that needs to be budgeted for, much like upgrades to desktop computing technology.
The letter writer is senior broadcast engineer at Educational Media Foundation.
Wireless microphone system maker Shure has issued a firmware update for the recently released ADX5D wireless receiver.
Now available in the dual-channel portable receiver is a party dial feature that enables users to enables users to
Construct a custom group of frequencies, for instance open channels at a venue, and rapidly move between them.
In addition, the menu structure has been “optimized” to make frequently used features closer to each other and shortcuts are dedicated to most popular items.
Send your new equipment news to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Copyright Royalty Board judges on Monday issued the public version of their final determination for webcasting royalty rates and terms.
Those are the royalty rates for webcasters that stream sound recordings from 2021 through 2025. This is one of the final steps in the process of implementing rates that we told you about earlier.
The document released by the judges is a deep dive into a legalistic discussion over how rates for entities like Spotify, AM/FM broadcasters, colleges and other streamers are calculated. The public version of their document is available here. Some confidential information has been redacted.
The document includes an extensive discussion of why the judges rejected the NAB’s idea that simulcasters should pay lower rates. They ruled that simulcasters and other commercial
webcasters “compete in the same submarket and should be subject to the same rate.
Granting simulcasters differential royalty treatment would distort competition in this submarket,
promoting one business model at the expense of others.” (That discussion starts on page 218 of the document.)
The rate for commercial subscription services in 2021 is $0.0026 per performance. The
rate for commercial nonsubscription services in 2021 is $0.0021 per performance. Subsequent rates will change based on a Consumer Price Index.
Noncommercial webcasters that don’t exceed a certain total number of tuning hours per month have a flat rate of $1,000 annually for each station or channel.
Public broadcasters and certain educational webcasters previously reached their own separate rate settlements for the five-year period with SoundExchange; the CRB approved those last year.
The DRM Consortium is characterizing its own data from recent FM-band trials in India as “extremely positive and very encouraging.”
Digital Radio Mondiale is one of two digital systems being considered by AIR (All India Radio) for local and regional services on the country’s FM band. HD Radio is the other platform in the running.
AIR is expected to make a recommendation to the country’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Tests and trials of DRM were done in February and March.
The AIR R&D organization did its own measurements but the DRM Consortium says it took measurements too. “While the final official recommendation of the AIR Committee is still awaited, the DRM Consortium has gathered and visualized the data and measurements it recorded in parallel with AIR in New Delhi and Jaipur,” the consortium said in an announcement Monday.
“The measurements clearly demonstrate that DRM as the global all-bands digital radio standard can deliver an unmatched number of digital audio services in the given spectrum (up to three audio plus one multimedia service per DRM signal block), while allowing for maximum utilization of the FM band spectrum (with every DRM signal occupying only 96 kHz spectrum bandwidth, half the bandwidth analog FM requires for a single audio service).”
It said that the trial confirmed that DRM transmissions would not interfere with ongoing analog FM services. “Also, DRM as a pure-digital radio standard proved its ability to efficiently broadcast multiple DRM signals side by side from a single transmitter (multi-DRM transmitter configuration), and for operating in flexible configurations alongside an analog FM signal from the same transmitter (simulcast transmitter configuration).”
Further, it said DRM could deliver Journaline advanced text service in multiple languages, “to be ready for delivering Emergency Warning Functionality (EWF with CAP interface), and to efficiently enable traffic, travel and online teaching services over broadcast, without requiring internet connectivity.”
DRM said reception in the FM band was demonstrated on various receivers of various types including car receivers and mobile phones. “It was proven that existing receiver models, already supporting DRM in the AM bands as adopted by India, can support DRM in all bands by a simple firmware upgrade without hardware modifications.”
The consortium has posted its overview of these findings (PDF).
All Marketron services were offline as of Monday morning due to a “cyber event.”
Whether this was the result of an attack or another kind of issue is unclear, though the company is using a cybersecurity firm to resolve it. It wrote overnight on its website that it had invested heavily in recent years “to prevent a situation like this.”
This is a significant outage, given that the company serves approximately 6,000 media organizations and, according to its website, manages $5 billion in annual U.S. advertising revenue.
The company’s products include sales and traffic management software tools used by broadcast and media organizations.
“Marketron is experiencing a cyber event, which is impacting certain business operations,” the company wrote in a tech update on its website.
“Currently, all Marketron customers may experience an interruption in services as a result.”
As of 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, all Marketron services were offline.
Marketron Traffic, Visual Traffic Cloud, Exchange and Advertiser Portal were all affected. The company said it decided to take down RadioTraffic and RepPak as well “out of an abundance of caution.” Its Pitch platform was not affected.
The company wrote that it had been unable so far to confirm the root cause of the problem and that it was working to identify the scope of the event and whether there was any threat to customer data.
“Marketron and an industry leading third-party cybersecurity firm are working around the clock to restore service. Our only priority as a business is to get your business up and running. We hope to have a better sense of timelines on Monday morning.
“We understand that any impact to your business is unacceptable.”
Supply Side is a series of occasional interviews with industry manufacturers and service providers,
Ben Barber is president/CEO of Inovonics Inc.
Radio World: What’s the most significant technology trend for radio stations in your part of the business?
Ben Barber: Monitoring of their stations. That is the biggest growth sector in equipment that we see. Engineers are spread thin, and they need to know what is happening at their remote stations.
RW: How is the company approaching that?
Barber: Inovonics has two new HD Radio Modulation Monitors. Model 551 is a 3U box with lots of meters and diagnostics on the front panel. The Model 552 is a 1U box that is more for the remote site where you use it to log in remotely to obtain all the pertinent data you need.
RW: How are these different from what’s on the market?
Barber: Both models, 551 and 552, have web interfaces so they are accessible from any web-enabled device and not from a PC application. This makes them much easier to monitor and remotely operate. Second is SNMP functions for everything in the box, both monitoring and control.
As I mentioned, monitoring your station’s modulation and overall signal health has become a larger part of our sales over the past year or two. I think the reasons are twofold.
Engineers are stretched more thinly and the ability to know what is going on at stations they can’t easily monitor is essential. Secondly, more and more networks are centralizing their operations and they want to know what is going on in remote markets. So, for the single engineer monitoring a number of local stations or the large network wanting to monitor all of their stations, the needs are very similar.
For years, engineers have approached us to come out with an HD modulation monitor with a number of key features that have been missing from current offerings.
- The ability to check your FM/HD modulation from any web-enabled device, and from anywhere. Having a PC application is fine but what about when you’re using your tablet or smartphone and you need to check modulation levels, Artist Experience or other transmission metrics? A comprehensive web GUI can’t be beat.
- SNMP. This is a huge piece of the pie that has been missing. More and more remote controls are using SNMP to aggregate alarm data and then feed that information to engineers. Networks that have NOCs (network operation centers) need to be able to poll all of their sites to get up to date information on their health. SNMP is the way to do this.
- Monitor multiple HD Channels simultaneously. Both of our new HD modulation monitors can monitor 4 x HDs simultaneously in real time and supply metrics and audio back to the engineering team.
- Meter History. Our monitors can show the past 24 hours of RF metrics, audio metrics and alignment measurements. This is very useful in seeing trends and finding problems in the field.
RW: How has the pandemic affected Inovonics’ business?
Barber: Sales were where you would expect them for such a year. The shutdowns of 2020 were hard on us, though we all came through with our jobs intact! The good news is that we were able to focus on product development.
David Honig is a civil rights lawyer practicing before the Federal Communications Commission and federal appeals courts. David co-founded the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC). He currently serves as MMTC’s President Emeritus and Senior Advisor, focusing on broadband adoption, literacy, redlining, and employment and ownership diversity.
He was interviewed by Suzanne Gougherty, director of MMTC Media and Telecom Brokers at the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. Answers were edited for clarity and brevity by Veronica Devries, MMTC Earle K. Moore Law Fellow. MMTC commentaries appear regularly in Radio World, which welcomes other points of view on industry issues.
Suzanne Gougherty: Decades ago, the minority tax certificate program was an economic incentive provided to broadcast companies to sell their stations to potential minority buyers — was it successful?
David Honig: It was very successful. It quintupled the number of minority-owned broadcast stations in the 17 years the program was in effect.
Gougherty: Please explain how the tax certificate program worked for broadcast companies.
Honig: If you sold a radio/television station or a local cable system to a minority-controlled entity, you would be given, by the FCC, a certificate which states if you had a capital gain on the sale you can defer payment of the tax on the capital gain if you reinvest in comparable property. It was a way of incentivizing sales to minorities.
The history of it is interesting. In 1970 the FCC was requiring companies that exceeded the station ownership caps (the number of stations you can own in a local market) and other local ownership rules to divest in order to comply with these standards. Because these were compulsory divestitures, to make it go down somewhat easier, the commission said capital gains taxes could be deferred on these compulsory sales.
Subsequently, this tax certificate was extended to voluntary divestitures. In 1977, then FCC Chairman Dick Wiley convened a Federal Advisory Committee to examine whether there were more aggressive steps that could be taken to diversify broadcast ownership. He did this because there were very few minority-owned stations at the time (one television station and 60 radio stations in 1978 when the program was announced). I helped staff that committee. In 1978 the tax certificate program was extended to sales to minority-owned companies. In that way it built on existing framework that the industry was familiar with. The economic impact was spread widely, and it was certainly an incentive to sell to minorities. The program was announced in 1978 and continued until 1995.
Gougherty: Did broadcast companies use the program to increase their ownership portfolio into larger markets or stations?
Honig: Yes, there are examples of it being used by incumbent minority broadcasters to expand the size of their portfolio or the markets they were able to be in so that they could leapfrog up from medium markets to large markets. That was a common use of the economic incentive.
Gougherty: Why was the program stopped?
Honig: Suffice it to say that there was a misinformation campaign.
For 26 years, we have been trying to get the program back. This seems to be the year that has the greatest chance so far of having it come back in some form.
Gougherty: There is a proposal pending in Congress by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Sen. Gary Horsford (D-Nev.), Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to bring back the Tax Certificate program. Is it basically the same program; if not, what’s different about this current proposal?
Honig: It is no longer a race-conscious program. It focuses on the eligible companies, that is who can be a buyer, as being socially disadvantaged individuals. There’s extensive case law that points out how an agency must justify a finding that people of color or women are socially and economically disadvantaged and it tracks those standards very closely. It also provides for reports to Congress, to assure that the program won’t be abused. I looked at more than 200 tax certificate deals at the time and there was only one deal where there was fraud, and the FCC did punish that company eventually.
There is also a new provision in the Senate version of the bill that would allow a station owner to receive a tax credit equal to the value of the station, if he or she donates the station to a training institution such as an HBCU. A tax credit is a very valuable thing: it’s tax you don’t pay. This is a way to help small broadcasters especially, and we are hoping this provision will make it to the final version of the bill after both houses of Congress come together.
Gougherty: What will be the process to ensure fraud does not occur with the certificates — such as the involvement of a nonminority entity using a “front” person, who does not have any activity with the organization at all?
Honig: There’s very high visibility with a program like this. It’s a small industry in terms of the number of companies. Everyone would be watching them to make sure that no one is playing games with the program or trying to create a fraudulent buyer. The commission has been very aggressive in cracking down on frauds in other contexts. It would be very stupid for anyone to think they can try and outsmart the FCC Enforcement Bureau.
Gougherty: Is there any opposition to the bill?
Honig: First, the NAB has been wonderful helping to organize support on this issue. All 50 state broadcasting associations wrote a letter to the members of Congress endorsing the return of the tax certificate policy. That has never happened before. No one has come out in opposition. That doesn’t mean there won’t be opposition, but no one has chosen to go public and oppose it. We hope that its value will be recognized in a bipartisan way. We note, for example, that nine former FCC chairs voiced their bipartisan support. There was a voice vote on the House version in the House Commerce Committee that passed with no dissents. So, all the Democratic and Republican members were at peace with how the legislation was presented in the House a few months ago.
Smarts Broadcast Systems grew out of a radio station in Emmetsburg, Iowa, and introduced its first software in 1983. In an interview for our recent ebook about trends in automation, we spoke with software developer Johnny Schad and the company’s manager Debbie Kribell.
Radio World: What do you see as the most important trends or capabilities readers should know about in automation?
Debbie Kribell: Working remotely.
John Schad: Yes. Remote control of systems, remotely contributing content, remote management of content, being able to distribute data throughout multiple systems.
Another big item is security. Our systems are Linux-based, so that puts us a little ahead of the game versus Windows-based systems, which are much more susceptible to viruses, such as CryptoLocker-style viruses.
We can still get hit with them though. We have a couple of [products] we’re about to release that will help safeguard data as much as possible. And because we’re Linux-based, we have the network monitoring tools to investigate people trying to attack our systems. We can see them trying from all over the world.
So far we’ve had a pretty good track record of data recovery and blocking the attackers, but we see this as a big issue, especially as we work towards more distributed system, where you’re constantly interconnecting with other machines.
RW: With that in mind, any particular advice for users?
Schad: If you’ve got a system dedicated to, say, production, in your automation system, or any Windows system, be very, very cautious about Trojan Horse emails — somebody emails you saying, “Hey, you’ve won a contest, click here.”
Kribell: Or free music.
Schad: A warranty. Some of them look very deceptive.
Kribell: They’re getting pretty good at it.
Schad: “There was a problem with your bank statement, click here to figure it out.” And in short order, a system can be compromised
Stations adopt virtual private networks, where they put their entire organization essentially behind one LAN that’s spread out over the internet. This is great for functionality, but it also introduces a whole different side of security.
Laptops are most commonly a problem, they’ll get infected and then log into your VPN, bypassing the firewall, and they can contaminate your entire empire if you’re not careful. So really scrupulous use of internet tools.
Kribell: And backup. You can’t have too many.
Schad: There’s no CryptoLocker virus in the world that can stand up against an offsite backup that you’ve safely put in a bank vault somewhere.
Our normal systems have at least two or three automated backups; and we have a product called “Super Paranoid Backup” that allows customers to cycle through USB drives, put those on the server and take them offsite.
RW: Will automation eventually all be in the cloud?
Schad: Sure. Although one has to remember what the cloud means. All the cloud is, is somebody else’s computer. Stations should make use of cloud services; but when it comes to 24/7 automation, and maybe it’s just a control freak in me, but I would rather have the computer that’s running my station under my own roof.
A lot of our customers are located at their transmitter facilities, in rural locations with iffy internet connections. Failure in an internet connection really compromises your ability to get to the cloud.
Kribell: I deal a lot with the traffic, and it’s so important to have control of that data. As Johnny said, the cloud is just somebody else’s computer. If you have a backup on a flash drive, you can pull that out of your purse, because every day you take it home with a new backup on it. It’s much easier and faster than trying to figure out who has it, did we pay for it, trying to find your password. That all takes time; and you’re not in control.
Schad: That said, the cloud will be extremely useful for convenience. We have services now — you could call them in the cloud, although they predated that term — for internet transfer of audio files and storage. But to your question of entire automation being cloud-based, I don’t know that I would recommend that at this stage.
RW: One engineer told me, “Ninety-nine percent of problems I’ve had are caused by Microsoft messing around with the operating system.” You probably have a unique take on that.
Schad: There’s a reason we didn’t choose Windows. And it was not an easy decision. All of our competitors were and are in Windows.
But in the DOS days when we were trying to make the leap from Microsoft DOS to one of the many versions of Windows, we weren’t happy with the result. Windows was meant to have a person sitting in front of it, interacting.
A system could be brought to a screeching halt with a modal dialogue box, where some kind of an error where the whole system comes to a halt or makes a big “dunk” sound on the air.
With Windows you don’t have the control over the sound system the way you do over a system like Linux, which we were able to customize.
That was a big learning curve for us, but we really appreciate what Linux has done for us, because we have complete control over the hardware and software in the operating system. We don’t have to worry about software updates, we control what gets updated and when.
RW: If your users have a need for technical support, what’s in place to help them quickly?
Schad: In some ways I see tech support as our product. It’s almost consultation-level interactions with our customers. Often we are the number they call when they just don’t know what else to do; and often a problem has nothing to do with us, we just happen to know.
I just had a call from a customer a 4 o’clock Sunday morning. He had no audio over the air. We troubleshot everything with the Skylla system and found audio on the program channel but no audio on the external air monitors. I sent him after his STL link.
We don’t just say, “It’s not our problem, call us back when you fix it.” We want to get to know the customer. And when you get to know the customer, you don’t leave them hanging.
Kribell: Our normal support is 8 to 5 Central time, but we do emergencies 24/7. They are not just a number, they’re a person to us, almost like family.
RW: Do people have a contract for a monthly fee, or is it a one-time thing?
Kribell: You get free support for six months when you buy the system, then you can pay it monthly, quarterly or annually. It’s very reasonably priced. We’re like a way cheaper employee.
RW: On the traffic and billing side, what are the important trends?
Kribell: Being able to access your data remotely. EDI, the Electronic Data Interchange, has been a big one with agencies, we’ve been doing that for quite a few years, though I still get people who have never used it.
Traffic is still at the basics — getting that order in, getting it on the air, then billing it, doing your affidavits to verify that it ran. That’s not really changing.
RW: How do you feel about the health of the U.S. radio industry and the customer base that you rely on, the people who are your clients and our readers, this whole ecosystem that we work in?
Kribell: I feel good. It depends on how you’re doing it. If you are taking care of your local market, doing the ballgames and the remotes and the home shows, you’re present, you’re not just music on the air. You are involved in the community, fundraisers, the parade downtown in the summer.
When they are involved in the community, I see them continuing to grow.
Now, the pandemic has absolutely kicked every one of us. This hurt, none of us were expecting this. But those stations that turned around to help, they’re staying alive.
We had stations giving away advertising to keep their clients alive on the air. When they’re doing local, they’re not only helping themselves, but they’re helping that community.
Schad: I grew up in radio and I have been hearing predictions of radio’s demise since I was a kid. MTV — video is going to kill the radio star, that kind of thing.
The industry is amazingly flexible and resilient, and it has found a new home online. It’s feeling out what it can do there, but everybody has hit on the idea of content provision as being key to its survival and relevancy.
The people we market to most are small- and middle-market stations. That’s definitely our strength. These are the most resilient people, they come up with all kinds of crazy ways to keep their stations relevant in the community. We love being a part of that.
RW: You mentioned a pending new security offering.
Schad: We’re calling it Portcullis, like the gates at the castle that close down. We think that it’s going to help secure our stations against certain kinds of attacks. Nothing is 100%, but we sure want to cut down on vulnerability.
It’s going to be distributed in stages, the basic version first. Later updates will be free.
RW: What else should readers know?
Schad: The industry is losing a lot of its engineering talent, and as engineers retire, it’s getting harder to find willing people to step in. The IT world is a seductive one. Your average IT person isn’t going to be standing on a metal transmitter floor below a thousand-foot lightning rod in the middle of a thunderstorm trying to get a transmitter back on the air.
It’s a difficult job and it’s getting harder and harder to find engineers. That’s something the industry has to contend with.
Kribell: Also, sometimes people can get in — for lack of a better way to say it — a rut. If you’re still doing certain things manually —your weather, or countdowns or health shows manually — we have ways to automate that.
Schad: Sometimes, users already have features that they didn’t know they have.
AKG has unveiled the Ara, a two-pattern USB condenser microphone that should find use with content creators and musicians.
Ara captures 24-bit/96 kHz audio, offering two pickup patterns that allow users to either focus on a single source or everyone in the room. As the mic is largely intended for podcasters, bloggers, gamers, videoconferencing and for recording voice and instruments at home, the directional front (cardioid) pattern captures sound directly in front of the mic while rejecting sound from other sides. Meanwhile, the Front + Back (omnidirectional) pattern picks up sound evenly from all sides, enabling the recording of interviews with multiple speakers.
Ara’s essential functions, including pattern selection, mic mute and a headphone volume knob, are located on the front of the mic for easy access; a 3.5 mm-1/8-inch headphone jack allows latency-free monitoring.
Ara’s compact footprint and mounting options aid its use in both desktop and studio scenarios, allowing users to set it on a desktop using the included yoke and base stand, or attach to a boom or standard mic stand. They can also record on the go with a mobile device and optional adapter.
Included accessories include a two-meter USB-C to USB-A cable, a 3/8-inch to 5/8-inch threaded mic stand adapter and a free registration card for Ableton Live 11 Lite recording software. Ara works with all major live-streaming, video conferencing and music-recording applications. Price: $99.
Send your new equipment news to email@example.com.
(This article originally was prepared as part of Radio World’s preview of the NAB Show so it cites only sources who planned to present at that convention. The NAB Show subsequently was cancelled. — Ed.)
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are rapidly carving out an important place in the toolkit that radio broadcasters use to manage tower sites more efficiently.
Drone-based tower structure surveys are used widely now to diagnose the health of RF systems and broadcast structures. In addition, tech departments use drones to take elevated RF measurements to analyze signal coverage and validate antenna radiation patterns.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved the commercial use of drones in August 2016. Industry experts say this unleashed an industry loaded with potential applications for broadcasters, including using video and still photos of broadcast antennas and their structural components for preventive maintenance measures.
“This is still a relatively new industry, where there’s so much creativity and potential. The integration of the technology has made a dramatic impact on broadcast operations,” one executive-level engineer told Radio World.
The FAA’s small unmanned aircraft rules (Part 107) allow a range of businesses, such as radio broadcasters, to use unmanned aircraft that weigh up to 55 pounds including their onboard systems. Drones must remain within line of sight of the remote pilot and be used during daylight hours.
The maximum altitude is 400 feet, though an exception allows more height when operating within 400 feet of a tall structure such as a broadcast tower.
“When surveying a tower, a drone is commonly permitted to fly an additional 400 feet above the top of the tower, if the aircraft remains within 400 feet of the tower laterally,” according to one expert.
Advocates say drones can more easily determine the integrity of transmission lines via infrared camera inspections and more safely and accurately assess antenna performance by limiting the amount of tower climbing and drive-by coverage analysis. While nothing can replace an actual physical inspection, they say a drone can help reduce the number of climbs, verify asset locations and heights on a structure, and increase safety.
A number of broadcast tech companies have expanded into unmanned aircraft services since 2016 as UAS have gained in popularity.
Paul Shulins, president of Shulins Solutions, said drones, used effectively, can help cut costs and increase safety margins for both humans and broadcast systems.
“The main operations that broadcast engineers use drones for are visual tower inspections, thermal tower inspections and antenna pattern verification measurements.” He said broadcasters are quickly discovering the advantages.
“Costs for tower crews vary wildly across the country, but in general it is fair to say that drones are less expensive to operate than hiring a tower crew. They can also be deployed with very little notice, operate in a wider range of weather conditions and provide perspectives not possible with a tower crew,” Shulins said.
Unmanned systems are becoming a preferred method for RF pattern verifications, he said, for reasons of both cost and safety.A drone-based FM and HD Radio measurement system from Sixarms.
“Drones have a clear advantage because typically these measurements can be made within a single day, where ground-based measurements can take several days or even weeks to accomplish. Helicopters are commonly used for pattern measurements as well, but are much more expensive to operate and are limited on how low they can fly.”
Recently, affordable, gyroscopically controlled infrared cameras have come on the market at a reasonable cost, Shulins said, though he added that drones will never replace human tower climbers for certain operations.
“What (drones) can do is help tower crews by pointing out areas in advance where problem exist though photos, saving time and labor.”
Jason Schreiber is managing director of RF measurement and consulting firm Sixarms, which has developed specialized RF measurement payloads to attach to drones. He says new RF measurement instrumentation can be adapted and installed on a drone and allow for automation and reliable data capture. In addition, the data can be used to optimize antenna patterns and verify radiated power.
“The automation, accuracy of signal capture, ease of flight, large altitude range and easy deployment make drone-based RF measurements a more attractive setup than the traditional van with a 30-foot pump-up mast. All broadcast standards can be measured, including AM radio, DRM, FM and HD Radio, VHF and UHF ATSC and DVBT as well as DAB,” he said.
Sixarms uses its off-the-shelf Airborne Radio Measurement Systems (ARMS) software and hardware to measure and characterize broadcast antenna patterns to help identify any installation and manufacturer defects.
He said the use of machine learning and AI to capture critical RF information will continue to grow and further expand the applications of drones for RF measurement.
Drones are being used not only to perform visual tower inspection but to identify damage and structural defects, Schreiber said, by making use of thermal imaging for hot spot analysis as well as being fitted with LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to help with automated structural analysis.
“Sophisticated capture algorithms interweaved with drone-based positional data allow for unprecedented accuracy and reporting functionality.”
The burst of drone activity in U.S. broadcasting is leading to more innovative tools and ways to use data, said Phil Larsen, VP of airborne operations for QForce, part of QCommunications.
“The RF contour is not just a report to be filed away anymore. It is now a tool, one to assist broadcast engineers and help the listener receive a better signal. The drone allows for engineers to review data immediately upon the aircraft landing,” he said.
Larsen hopes to see the broadcasting industry reach the point where a fixed drone is stationed at all tower locations that can remotely operated or programmed to fly routinely or whenever needed.
“Drones and the sensor capabilities are by oneself growing expeditiously, thus the use case will increase.” He said QForce offers a means of installing a drone at each location and the ability to fly inspection operations at any time of day all year long without the need of a pilot, autonomously. “This is specifically useful for hard-to-reach locations.”
There are some limitations to using drones near broadcast towers. The FAA has specific rules surrounding the inspection of broadcast towers. Operators must be familiar with FAA Part 107.65 rules, experts say.
In addition, Larsen said some broadcast tower applications do require FAA waivers or special permissions.
Keith Pelletier, vice president of antenna manufacturer Dielectric, said drones are a much more economical way of collecting data than traditional field measurements and equipment.
“Dielectric has developed a way to characterize the antenna azimuth and elevation patterns with the data collected by the drone. Typically this was done with a van with a large mast, which included multiple runs of data and thousands of points of collection to be analyzed to determine if the antenna was performing per the antenna manufacturer’s specifications,” he said.
The company’s involvement began when drone measurement companies started having difficulty with the waivers required and time spent on waiting for approvals. Dielectric came up with a method of collecting all the data required at the 400-foot level so no waivers were required.
Dielectric is able to assess whether electrical characteristics of the antenna are correct when measured only in the near field. “The Dielectric solution is to draw the entire array to analyze the near-field elevation pattern and compare that data to the near-field elevation pattern measured by the drone. The 3D rendering and analysis is done utilizing High Frequency Simulation Software, or HFSS,” Keith Pelletier.
Essentially the antenna’s far-field elevation pattern as simulated in HFSS is compared to what Dielectric measured at the factory to validate if its modeling is correct, said Pelletier.
“We then take the near-field elevation data collected by the drone to see if it matches up to the same cut in HFSS; and if so we know the far-field elevation pattern when formed is correct.”
There are several training programs available to get FAA Part 107 licensing, which is required for any type of commercial work. The exam requires an applicant to become familiar with FAA airspace regulations and a variety of other rules.
“It’s important to keep airspace safe. The hobby-type drones are fun but are not necessarily safe around towers, guy wires and high RF environments,” Shulins told Radio World.
“Either training and licensing yourself to operate a drone, or hiring a skilled licensed pilot with the right equipment and skillset to safely fly your tower and accurately interpret the results, is the smart thing to do.”
The perception of any given consumer is apt to change over time about any number of things, be it brand quality, trustworthiness or favoritism.
But a new study proposes that consumers’ perception — at least when it comes to media consumption and revenue — may be a permanent change.
This new study claims significant shifts in how American consumers perceive, consume and pay for media content. It also reveals media executives’ predictions for the media sector and how well they think they can address emerging challenges.
“Future of Audience and Revenue” polled more than 2,000 Americans, nearly 200 media executives and a series of focus groups about five key verticals: radio, TV, social media, digital publishing and esports.
“This study reveals tectonic shifts in how media is being produced, perceived, consumed and purchased across all levels of society and media,” said Daniel Anstandig, CEO of Futuri Media, which conducted the survey. “The message is very clear to media executives: now is the time to accelerate innovation to keep pace with media’s evolution, or risk being left behind.”
The survey looked at audience habits, media reliability, and the impact of radio broadcast streaming and radio, among other areas.
One of the survey’s most interesting finds: that media consumers now seem to use the terms “radio” and “TV” fluidly when describing media content, regardless of its true source. While it may have been quite clear to consumers 20 years ago as to what they were watching (watching cable vs. watching network TV, for example), focus group members consistently highlighted non-broadcast content when asked to describe their experience with “radio” and “TV.” Consumers used the terms interchangeably when describing audio or video sources. This suggests an evolution in terms of defining what actually is “radio” or “TV” programming.
When it comes to reliability, however, there is no confusion. The study offered that local radio and local TV are considered reliable for clarity and facts. More specifically, when consumers were asked to consider a range of audio and print brands, those respondents named local radio as the most reliable source for clarity and facts. Specifically, the study found that a majority of those responding said they depend on radio for their pandemic news, a finding that seems to demonstrate the medium’s importance for critical updates.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the study found that content consumption has grown even while content teams have been downsized and revamped. And now consumers want even more content. According to the survey, 57% of respondents watched streamed content more often over the past few months. Approximately, 30% listened to local AM/FM stations more often as well as more TV (51%) and social media (48%).
The study also said that the media executives that responded are nervous about the future. There are gaps between emerging issues that media executives considered to be important and their confidence in the industry’s ability to address them. For example, 84% believe it’s important to respond to new and disruptive competitors. Unfortunately, only 54% feel confident in the industry’s ability to do so.
The study also explored the impact of self-driving cars, 5G, broadcast and streaming radio, music streaming, eSports and gaming.
The study was conducted by Futuri, a provider of cloud-based audience engagement and sales intelligence software. They were aided by SmithGeiger Group, a market research specialist. Additional details on the study will be released on Sept. 23. There will be a series of in-depth webinars on Oct. 12.
The Federal Communications Commission has a critical role to play when it comes to addressing the nation’s challenges of climate change, cybersecurity and energy resource management, said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.
During a disaster, lives may depend on the nation’s public communications sector and those networks rely on power, Starks said during a speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2021 Virtual Annual Legislative Conference on Sept. 14.
Given the importance of these issues, the FCC must update its rules when it comes to preplanned coordination with energy companies, which includes potentially requiring them to provide some sort of access to backup power during an emergency, he said.
Starks also pointed out the importance of working aggressively to counter cybersecurity threats. He noted President Joe Biden’s recent National Security Memorandum, which calls for a broad government and industry cybersecurity initiative across multiple infrastructure sectors. For the FCC’s part, it is in the process of engaging with federal partners to identify network vulnerabilities.
For example, the commission has started proceedings to block certain foreign telecom companies from being responsible for carrying communications within the U.S. And Starks said the commission has begun the process of finding and replacing nearly $2 billion worth of equipment from what he called “untrustworthy vendors” in the wireless telecom market.
Taking the obvious next step — revoking the authority to import or sell equipment from those same vendors — could impact devices like sensors, webcams and routers used by business, including energy companies. “The energy sector needs to know that our telecom networks are secure and resilient,” Starks said in his speech.
Starks pointed to smart meters as an example of how the energy sector is already using advanced telecom networks. Smart meters not only allow energy companies to monitor the sturdiness of a communications grid but these devices give energy companies the opportunity to easily inform consumers about their energy usage and warn about potentially high energy bills before they are incurred.
Starks’ colleague, Acting Chairwoman of the FCC Jessica Rosenworcel, has already taken steps to address security in communications across the U.S. Rosenworcel recently named members to a key advisory panel to a federal advisory committee that provides recommendations to the FCC to improve security and reliability of communications systems in the U.S.
Rosenworcel called the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council “one of the nation’s most impactful cybersecurity partnerships.” The revamped council will include government departments, public broadcast stations, private companies, telecoms, industry organizations and private organizations.
“I see deep parallels between the energy sector and telecommunications sector — both face some serious challenges, but the future also holds tremendous promise,” Starks said in ending his speech. “Let’s keep pushing to fulfill that promise.”
The post FCC’s Starks: Climate, Energy and Safety Are Key Priorities appeared first on Radio World.
From the People News page: Kristen Delaney will retire from iHeartMedia Albany at the end of the year.
She is area president for iHeartMedia Albany, a position she has held for more than 10 years, overseeing 15 stations in Albany, Poughkeepsie and Sussex, N.J.
According to a company summary of her career, she began in broadcasting in 1989 as an account executive in Utica, N.Y., and worked in sales until 1996 when she was promoted to local sales manager.
She joined what was then Clear Channel Radio in 1999 in a general sales manager role in Albany, and later was director of sales and then market manager there.
She is also on the board of the New York State Broadcasters Association and the Capital District Radio Association.
“Throughout her time at iHeartMedia, Delaney, along with her teams, helped raise millions of dollars for the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center and WGY’s Christmas Wish,” the company said.
iHeartMedia Markets Group President Hartley Adkins was quoted in the announcement saying, “Rarely do you see someone so inspiring and skilled at their profession as Kristen Delaney.”
Send news of engineering and executive personnel changes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supply Side is a series of occasional interviews with industry service providers and manufacturers.
Jamie Ashbrook is marketing manager at Radio.co, based in Manchester, U.K. He replied to questions via email.Jamie Ashbrook
Radio World: For those unfamiliar, what is Radio.co?
Jamie Ashbrook: Radio.co is a platform to host and manage your own radio station online. Think of it like the middleman between you and your listeners.
But let’s face it, talk is cheap. Take a tour of what we can actually do. From choosing your station’s name to broadcasting live to thousands of listeners worldwide, Radio.co has your online radio needs covered. So take a quick on-demand tour.
RW: Who started the company, and who owns it?
Ashbrook: James Mulvany (on both fronts). He’s the man with the plan. Mr. Head Honcho.
Having a love for both radio and business, a fresh faced James launched Wavestreaming way back in 2008. Starting off as a one-man band, the company quickly grew along with the product. In just a few years, thousands of broadcasters were using the platform. But there was a problem: Technology moves fast, quickly outdating the system.
To simplify things and stay ahead of the curve, Wavestreaming was torn down, then rebuilt into an easier solution that anyone could pick and use. In 2015, Radio.co was born.James Mulvany
James was there every step of the way. And I feel that’s a good thing, to see a founder who owns the company and gets actively involved to improve things on a day to day level.
RW: Your website is headlined “Want to start a radio station?” and it seems targeted to those who want to create audio streams on the internet. Are there offerings for actual broadcasters as well?
Ashbrook: Yup. So there are actually a variety of people from different walks of life that use Radio.co. Whether that’s small community stations like Shady Pines Radio, big Glastonbury style pop up events like ComplexLand or student-led radio like the University of Manchester’s Fuse FM, there’s something for everyone.
RW: What is Radio.co’s flagship product, and what sets it apart?
Ashbrook: Tricky question. There’s no one aspect that’s considered “flagship.” Radio.co is designed to be an all-in-one solution for broadcasters. But what makes it stand out is how easy everything is to get up and running. If you were gonna time yourself, it’d take roughly two minutes to launch your own station.
In saying that, there are a few features that spring to mind:
- iOS & Android Apps: Put your station in listener’s pockets.
- Talk Shows: Invite guests to record collaborative shows in your browser.
- Alexa Skill: Let listeners tune in with their voice on compatible Amazon Echo devices.
- News Bulletins: Play news on the hour every hour from your preferred news provider.
- Mixcloud Integration: Upload your DJ Mixes directly to your Mixcloud account.
- Listener Requests: Take song requests from listeners automatically for playout on your station.
And probably a load more I’m forgetting about. Not to mention, there are plenty of help guides, new features, and quick support that makes Radio.co the ideal package for broadcasters no matter the size.RW: Who are some of your customers that we would recognize?
Ashbrook: We’re not one to kiss and tell (ok, we are a bit). But we’ve had some awesome people and businesses walk through our doors over the years.
(Deep breath) A.C. Milan, VICE, Parker’s Kitchen, The Barbican, Australian Government Department of Health, Primavera Sound, M&C Saatchi, Soho Radio, Honest Burgers, Whiskas, Hotel Coastes, Smoke BBQ, Brit Asia TV Café Mambo, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Whalebone Magazine, Everton FC, Cult Records, PHMG, and Complex.Users of Radio.co at Shady Pines Radio
And a load more we can’t talk about just yet. But there are a few independent stations you might not know like Boogaloo Radio, Melodic Distraction, Diversity Radio, and Foundation FM that are worth checking out.
RW: What is the most important trend or challenge in 2021, for the people who are your customers?
Ashbrook: Covid changed everything. Most people have been stuck at home, so they turned to the internet to stay connected with others. The result? We saw 10 times more broadcasters every month than we usually do.
In terms of challenges, the biggest ones are those nearest to the starting gate. Things like how to set everything up, equipment needed, and reaching the right audiences. But all are addressed in our Radio University, Blog and even over on YouTube.
RW: What else should we know?
Ashbrook: Radio changes. No matter what medium comes along next, radio has adapted ever since its inception in the late 19th century.
Frankly, Radio.co is just one piece of the puzzle. But we’re happy to help broadcasters share their voice to a wider audience. Whether that’s a local community, nationwide or internationally, I’m just excited to see what happens next.
In saying all that, I’m always happy to chat, so if you’ve got any questions (yes you, the reader), drop me a message at email@example.com. And hopefully I can help.
Nielsen says people who only listen to podcasts every week or two are an increasingly important part of the growth of podcasting.
“Today, almost half (49%) of U.S. podcast listeners are light users who are presumably new to the medium: people who listen anywhere from one to three times a month,” the company says in highlighting results of its latest Podcasting Today report.
“That’s a notable contrast to a typical podcast listener five or 10 years ago when most listening came from people who were more likely to listen to each and every episode from their favorite titles — episodes that are oftentimes released once a week.”
Nielsen says this finding “highlights two important storylines.”
It says consumer interest in “new, engaging content” from all forms of media continues to grow, and that podcast content “has proven to be an attractive option” during the pandemic.
It also says the pandemic “paused the growth of heavy podcast listeners,” because of changes in lifestyles and schedules. “Yet while the percentage of heavy listeners declined slightly last year, we’re now seeing it increase, rising from 25% earlier this year to just under 30% as of May.”
Nielsen believes the pandemic has not had a negative impact on overall podcast engagement.
“While listener growth flattened somewhat during the second half of last year, it has ramped up notably in 2021, largely due to an increase in at-home listening, which is attributable to light listeners checking out the medium. The rise in at-home listening is also somewhat counter to historical podcast engagement, and again, speaks to the transformation of industry to a broader audience.”
The company asserts that brands and agencies need to be tracking engagement with podcasting and putting the platform to use.
The NAB Show may have been cancelled, but industry manufacturers still have an opportunity to highlight their new products this season.
The Best in Market Awards offer a platform for the many products and solutions in the marketplace that could not be seen at major trade shows this year. The program will serve in place of the “Best of Show” Awards that would have run at the convention.
The program is open to all manufacturers of professional radio, TV and AV products and solutions, regardless of exhibitor status at major events.
The Best in Market awards will be judged and presented by Future brands Radio World, TV Technology, TVBEurope, Next, Mix, Broadcasting & Cable and Sound & Video Contractor.
These awards are intended to honor and help companies promote outstanding products launching in 2021.
The deadline for nominations also has been extended to Oct. 7.
From our Who’s Buying What page: FM station WAWE in the Chicago market is using a GeoBroadcast Solutions MaxxCasting System.
The station, based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., is owned by Educational Media Foundation and is part of its Air1 Radio Network. GBS said management wanted to improve WAWE’s signal quality and audience.
The equipment for this synchronized-node booster system was purchased through Doug Tharp at SCMS, U.S. distributor of GatesAir/PR&E systems.
“The recently deployed enhancement improves the reach into the lower west side of Chicago in an area quite problematic for its broadcast signal troubles at the convergence of the city’s three major expressways,” GBS said in its announcement.
“The signal improvement … was strategically implemented through a four-node network using the MaxxCasting system. The coverage now reaches the University of Chicago, Rush Medical Center and the historic Pilsen community.”
It quoted EMF Senior Broadcast Engineer Shane Toven saying the station had been coverage-challenged, especially “between the Loop and O’Hare.” He said GBS designed the system for the Chicago market and that EMF worked with GBS to launch a similar one in Boston at WKVB, including HD Radio subcarriers.
“After licensing that system, GBS helped us finish up the WAWE nodes to significantly improve our coverage in the Chicago market and reach deeper into the community,” Toven said.
GBS also said that with these MaxxCasting nodes in place, the same infrastructure could be used to diplex similarly located stations that want to improve coverage. Its Director of Infrastructure Deployment Vern Egli was quoted: “The convergence at the expressway interchange notoriously has had poor reception, due to the concentration of broadcast signals emanating from Chicago’s large towers and the amount of daily automotive traffic.”
MaxxCasting uses nodes to reduce interference between main and booster FM transmissions. It deploys a cluster of high-power, directionalized and synchronized node sites.
Audacy and Cumulus Media struck a content distribution partnership.
They said Cumulus’s 413 radio stations and family of podcasts will be available on the Audacy digital platform.
The announcement was made by Larry Linietsky, senior vice president of digital operations and business development and Cumulus, and Corey Podolsky, VP of business development for Audacy.
Podolsky said the addition of Cumulus radio stations “enhances and bolsters Audacy’s position as the fastest growing digital platform for radio listeners” and that Audacy “looks forward to building on this initial partnership with Cumulus.”
The Audacy app has about 2,000 stations including Audacy’s own 230 or so, plus podcasts and other programming.
Barix introduced the first in a new set of Exstreamer products, the Exstreamer M400 IP audio decoder.
It says the existing line of Exstreamer AoIP codecs are popular for radio broadcast applications including studio-to-transmitter links, studio-to-studio links and remote contribution, and that the new hardware offers a more modern, extensible version with more support for current standards.
The announcement was made by Product Manager Davide Nossa, who said the platform provides “more processing power, enhanced security features and greater extensibility, alongside expanded support for audio formats and technology standards including Opus and AES67.”
Features include stereo, line-level, analog audio output with RCA-type connections. It can decode streams in MP3, AAC-HE, FLAC, PCM, Opus and Ogg Vorbis formats.
AES67 support enables the decoder to be configured as a dedicated AES67 receiver and decoder, enabling integration into AES67-based AoIP networks and interoperability with Dante-compatible devices.
“The Exstreamer M400 incorporates the full AES67 interoperability guidelines including RTP audio delivery, multicast addressing and PTP-based synchronization with a separate master clock device,” Barix said.
“Supported discovery methods include SAP (Session Announcement Protocol), mDNS (multicast DNS) and RTSP, enabling the decoder to automatically identify and list available streams from Dante, Ravenna and other audio over IP solutions that use these protocols. SDP (Session Description Protocol) information can also be manually inserted for interoperability with third-party solutions that do not support these standards.”
It said the Linux-based IPAM 400 audio module provides significantly higher processing power and a more programmable, software-driven architecture that allows easier expansion, prototyping and customization. “A larger buffer size and advanced buffer management technology can be configured to further bolster the Exstreamer M400’s resilience to network performance disruptions in applications where minimizing latency is not critical.”
It also cited expanded support for IT security standards, IPV6 and internal audio file storage with externally triggered playback.