Radio Tech Guys Blog

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The recent movement by the FCC known as “AM Revitalization” is taking our industry by storm. And with good reason. I am a firm believer that we will see the end of AM transmission during my career in radio, and quite possibly see AM completely shut down in the next 10-15 years. That explains the Commission’s aggressive posture on pushing AM broadcasters to find other alternatives for the content on their AM stations.

Many multi-station operators who operate HD FM stations have been re-broadcasting their AMs on secondary HD channels for years, and with the new FM translator rules in place for cross-band translators, many groups are taking full advantage of the newfound grace from the FCC. (Our group alone has purchased, and are moving into our various markets, five translators for our AMs this year). However, just a few short years ago, it was the same broadcasters who were fighting furiously against the LPFM movement over some of the very same technical issues surrounding turning up more low power stations all over the FM band.

LPFM

In 2007, the National Association of Broadcasters and its members lobbied the FCC to keep existing third-adjacent protections firmly in place when considering LPFM applications. NAB’s EVP Dennis Warton said at the time, “Though this is a recommendation identical to one made several years ago by the FCC, NAB continues to believe that statutory third-adjacent channel protections are critically important to protect listeners against interference. The idea that hundreds, if not thousands, of additional LPFM stations can be shoe-horned into an overcrowded radio dial without causing considerable interference simply defies the laws of physics.”

However just nine years later, apparently the “laws of physics” no longer apply. We are about to turn up an FM translator on a second-adjacency to an in-market Class A. Legally. And our case is not the exception.

While I am certainly in favor of the responsible path to end AM transmission, and moving those broadcasts to other transmission mediums, I am concerned about the damage that we are causing to the FM band in the process. From the addition of IBOC sidebands on many high-power FMs in recent years, and now with the introduction of thousands of new low power translators, many on second-adjacent frequencies in-market, the potential for additional interference and increased noise floor is almost guaranteed.

So I find it somewhat hypocritical as a collective industry that we are gobbling these frequencies up as fast as we can, ignoring the long-standing protections that had been in place, and a very short memory to many of the objections we had over LPFM. That’s business I suppose, but it’s still bad for the FM band.

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As I mentioned in previous episodes, and in my bio, I came in to radio (and broadcast in general) as a true outsider. I was a listener, but really never gave a lot of thought about how that radio signal made it to my car. Frankly, that’s how it should be for the listener. The goal is a completely transparent experience from the jock to the listener’s ears. I could have never imagined how much it takes to get that song, or those words, that newscast to my radio. It’s truly astonishing!

As you already know, my area of focus is IP. I don’t get too deeply involved in the RF side of broadcast. Frankly, it scares the pants off of me. But I’m always happy to lend a hand (from a distance) when one of the RF guys needs it. It’s astonishing what it takes to create AM/FM signals. I know it’s true for me, and I assume it’s true to others, but no matter how much I learn about the inside of a transmitter and what every little piece does, in the end it still seems like there is some sort of magic that happens. Might just be my lack of understanding, but either way, it’s pretty magical!

However, transmission is just the last step. What about everything that happens before that? On this weeks episode of “The Radio Tech Guys” we are going to dive head first into Audio over IP or AoIP. It’s a huge topic, but we hope to share some victories, failures, funny stories, ideas, cautions, and some other stuff all related to the magic of audio routing. Hope you’ll join in the conversation!

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Alex Reunion 2015

 

I will fully admit, when I was offered a job by a radio company, I didn’t know much if anything about radio. I certainly didn’t know about the “magic” that it took to create an award willing broadcast. I walked in knowing IP Addresses, and DHCP, and Active Directory. But it didn’t take long to understand that radio is something special. And lucky for me, all those skills I walked in with would come in handy too!

There are so many points between the jock, the microphone, and the listener. Mostimg_0341 people would never think about what it would take for you to hear the latest Rihanna tune, or Rush yelling about something. And that’s how it should be! The listener shouldn’t know that that single passed through a mic processor, and maybe a profanity delay, and through a console, then on to a switcher, or maybe an IP audio device, then beamed though the air many miles to a lonely building up on a hill with a gigantic lighting rod beside it, then passed through an audio processor, maybe a PPM encoder, and I won’t even name all the parts of the transmission equipment itself! But it does. It’s takes so much thought, and planning, and trial and error to get that song from our studio to your eimg_0606ars. THAT is fascinating! So very quickly I learned that while my job was going to continue to be IP addresses, and DHCP, and Active Directory… it was also going to be so much more.

Chris will tell you, and I’m sure you’ll hear us talk about it as well. Radio is 24/7, round the clock demanding, and can be unbelievably stressful. But we have so much fun solving the problems, putting the pieces together, and figuring out what makes this thing tick (or not tick… and that’s usually a bad night). I can’t wait to share the humor, tragedy, laughter, and complete confusion that is the radio industry. We are both very much looking forward to hearing from you, and sharing said experiences!

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I’m a 38-year-old, busy lifestyle guy. It is only recently, thanks to my beautiful wife Rebecca (pictured below), that I discovered podcasts. I mean, I knew what they were, and understood them. I just didn’t know how much I’d enjoy listening to them regularly.

My wife, Rebecca, shot on my Polaroid SX-70.

My wife, Rebecca, shot on my Polaroid SX-70.

What I’m finding is that I love to hear/watch/experience people talking about things that I’m passionate about. When I am into something, I can’t get enough content about it. And it doesn’t have to be from authoritative, top-end experts in the field, either. I just want to hear everyday people talking about things that I enjoy and am interested in. I believe that this is where being able to freely create content and distribute it worldwide so affordably changes the culture. It gives everyone a voice and a medium to create content about everything. No longer are we limited to content creators creating mass-appeal television and radio programming. Every one of us now has the potential to be a broadcaster from our very own homes; creating content that is relevant to us and those like us.

I’m also falling in love with the idea of shared experiences, beyond the normal subset of people we interact with on a daily basis. I think the more we can share with each other, the better. And what a better way than creating a show that highlights so many of the experiences that are the fondest to me. Looking forward to many episodes to share with each of you.

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