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When it comes to the C-band debate, he urges commission to remember how much
broadcasters are doing with limited resources

The author is a consulting engineer in Kensett, Iowa. In the context of the ongoing C-band debate, Schacht urges the commissioners to remember how much broadcasters are doing with limited resources. 

Once when I was in 8th grade, which was about two months before rocks were formed, I sat in geography class and as usual was paying no attention to where Egypt or Mesopotamia were located.

Instead, I was drawing out a schematic of the Class B modulator with a pair of 6L6s that I wanted to build for my 40-meter CW rig. Out of a clear blue sky, I heard my name and looked up. The teacher was looking at me with a quizzical expression. It was obvious he had asked me a question. Of course, it had nothing to do with 807s or 6L6s, so I had no idea what would be a good answer.

After a long, sweaty pause, he finally broke the silence with this little gem: “Mr. Schacht, it’s about time you wake up and smell the coffee.”

That line is again applicable today, concerning the FCC and the C-band debacle.

It seems to me that the agency that licenses and controls all of the radio spectrum would vaguely know what everyone else in the communications industry knows: C-band satellite transmission is the lifeblood of television, radio, CATV and a great deal of data transmissions.

Rather than the commission ask every broadcast station and CATV system to register their antenna (of course, for commercial purposes at an unnecessarily high fee!), the commission should require CATV, radio and television that don’t use C-band downlinks to register! There probably are very few, with the exception of LPFMs (I take care of a big 100-watter that does have a C-band downlink).

The C-band downlink is the lifeblood of every CATV system, so I am sure the commission knows where every one of them is. Why can’t the commission just accept the fact that nearly every broadcast station — TV, radio, commercial and non-com — is using C-band downlinks?

Now, on to the frequency allocation. Take a look at the RF spectrum as is currently allocated by the FCC. (If you’re unfamiliar, you can find it in most radio books and all over the internet.) How much spectrum does “radiolocation” need? Yes, this is radar and the like, but I really think what is listed as “radiolocation” is either unoccupied or being saved for government use. Why not share some of that underused spectrum? There’s a whole bunch of it around 3GHz among other places.

Why do we, the broadcasters, have to keeping making concessions for the cellular and broadband people? Other than because money talks, and they have lots of it.

Do you know why the cellular people and broadband people have so much money to bully the FCC around, and the broadcasters and CATV people have so little? That’s because while we certainly are in the business of making money, we are also community servants.

PRIORITIZING SERVICE OVER PROFIT

Right now, as I write this, we are under a tornado warning and severe storm warning in Iowa. The local radio stations are tracking the storms and I am listening to live coverage. All they are doing is using their licensed facilities to keep people safe and save lives.

The cellular people do none of that; they just rake in money to provide a telephone and an internet service that works “some of the time.”

Sure, they send out alerts. I have two cellular phones from different carriers. I hear severe weather alerts on local radio or television as NOAA trips the EAS system. Anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes later, it might trip one or both of my cell phones. By then, the storm has passe,, or I was sucked up in the tornado I didn’t know about, or the Amber Alert missing child is now three states away.

No, neither the cell phones nor the internet even comes close to what the broadcasters provide in their communities. Unlike the cell companies or the broadband providers, the broadcasters will do whatever is necessary to keep the public informed in an emergency: stations operating from their transmitter sites when the studio was leveled by a tornado, AMers stringing up long wires when their tower is toppled. Local radio and television will be there when the public needs them.

QUESTIONABLE RELIABILITY

Have you ever tried to use the internet or cell service for a program link? Yes, both radio and television do, but it ain’t no match for the reliability or quality you get from a satellite. A few of the stations that I deal with have given up carrying some college football teams because the provider went off the bird and onto the internet, and it just isn’t reliable.

Yes, the internet and cell phones are nice, but as toys. If I need to make an important call, I’ll always go to a landline; it sounds good and I won’t lose the call. Maybe, rather than give the cell and broadband more spectrum, the commission should require that they make what they have work and not keep reducing the sample rate of the calls to make more money by squeezing more calls onto each RF carrier.

So, to the FCC: Maybe you should look at less used spectrum for the broadband people, or take it away from somewhere else.

You have taken our TV ENG channels, our over-the-air TV channels, you have had your eyes set on our UHF RPU frequencies and now on our major source of programming outside the studio, the C-band.

We are doing our damned best to serve the people of our communities, over the air, commercial or non-commercial, in spite of the big money trying to make us stop watching free TV or listen to free radio and services that keep us safe.

I think it’s time for the FCC to wake up and smell the coffee!

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Proposes to create a second regime of protection for full-service FM, Class D, FM translators, FM boosters and other LPFM stations


WASHINGTON — REC Networks filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC calling for changes in how LPFM stations are required to protect FM translators. There’s a lot to digest here, and for those interested in LPFM and its impact on others, it’s worth a deeper read here .

In the June 13 filing (RM-11810), REC’s Michelle Bradley writes that the petition addresses “various issues that had been precluding a more successful deployment of Low Power FM stations, especially in suburban and core urban areas.”

Specifically, “REC proposes to create a §73.815 Regime of protection for protecting full-service FM, Class D, FM translators, FM boosters and other LPFM stations which is available to LPFM stations that specify locations that do not meet the current distance separation requirements of §73.807.”

According to a summary on REC’s website, “Due to the way the LCRA was worded, REC is making a case that a table of lower distances, originally intended for 10 watt LPFM stations was codified in the rules when the LCRA was enacted and that the Commission can use those numbers.” Bradley also notes that many of the suggestions were previously was raised in the 2017 Media Modernization proceeding (MB Docket 17-105).

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the current and proposed second regimes:

Current Regime (§73.807)

  • 50 to 100 watts at 30 meters HAAT. (up to a 5.6 km service contour)
  • Protects full-service stations using specific distance separations.
  • Protects FM translators and LPFM stations using specific distance separations.
  • Because of distance separation, any interference to other facilities is non-actionable. Full-service stations that file subsequent applications can only legally displace an LPFM station if there is LPFM interfering contour overlap in the city grade contour of city of license of the modified full-service station.

Second Regime (§73.815)

  • 50 to 250 watts at 30 meters HAAT. (up to a 7.1 km service contour)
  • Protects full-service stations by contours but must also meet a distance separation using reduced requirements from §73.807.
  • Protects FM translators and LPFM stations using contours.
  • Because of using contours, any interference to or from other facilities is actionable and will be handled through similar rules used by FM translators.
  • Second (§73.815) Regime applies only if the LPFM creates a new or increased §73.807 short-spacing of full-service or translators or if the LPFM wishes to operate with a faciliy that exceeds 100 watts at 30m HAAT (maximum 250 watts at 30m HAAT).

Additionally, the petition sugggests a variety of changes that reflect what they consider to be the “maturity” of the LPFM service, and also “allows LPFM stations more options for changes and presents them in a manner that is respectful to Commission policy and decorum and does not put the grant of any existing cross-service FM translator license at risk.”

In the petition’s conclusion, Bradley urges the commission to “adopt this rulemaking and help move LPFM forward to the next generation in a manner that strikes a balance between community need and crowded spectrum while respecting the status quo.”

Read the full petition online here.

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Filers have expressed concern about difficulties of prepping info for filing

WASHINGTON — To gather more accurate information about existing earth stations and to better determine if access to the 3.7–4.2 GHz band should be expanded, the Federal Communications Commission is giving fixed-satellite service earth stations more time to detail their current usage of C Band spectrum.

Back in April of this year, four FCC bureaus issued a Public Notice announcing a temporary freeze on the filing of new or modification applications for FSS earth station licenses, FSS receive-only earth station registrations and fixed microwave licenses in the 3.7–4.2 GHz frequency band. This was done to give the FCC an accurate snapshot of the C Band landscape. The commission is looking into the feasibility of permitting terrestrial broadband use within this band and will consider an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this issue at its July Open Meeting.

Since the beginning of the freeze, however, many parties have shared their concerns with the FCC about the volume of unregistered earth stations and the difficulties that many of these operators may be facing in preparing information for filing.

These parties indicate that without some relief, many operators will be unable to satisfy the filing deadline and the commission will be without accurate information for its deliberations in the midband proceeding,” the FCC said in a public notice released June 21 .

As a result, the International Bureau has extended the 90-day filing date for an additional 90 days — until October 17 — in order to provide operators with more time to file applications. Keep in mind that only earth stations constructed and operational as of April 19, are eligible for filing during this window.

That original 90-day filing window was due to expire on July 18.The FCC also waived the coordination report requirement for the duration of the freeze and clarified that applications to register multiple FSS antennas in this band (those located at the same location) may be filed by using a single registration form and paying a single fee. The bureau also announced that those who are registering a large number of geographically diverse earth stations can submit a single network license to ease issues with batch filing.

The National Association of Broadcasters has been vocal in expressing its concerns about sharing C Band spectrum with wireless operators. In a filing submitted earlier this month, the NAB urged the commission to require proponents of expanded use to submit specific and detailed technical proposals to the commission. “That is the only way to allow stakeholders to provide informed comments and analysis to guide the commission’s decision-making process,” the NAB said.

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Potential job seekers can register to obtain free entry to the Career Fair and Exhibit Hall


WASHINGTON — September’s Radio Show will feature a Career Fair, Sept. 27 from 12–3 p.m., hosted by the National Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation and the Broadcast Education Foundation.

A release said, “The Career Fair will provide experienced professionals and entry-level job seekers the opportunity to network with major radio companies. Employment opportunities include radio sales, technology, management and on-air positions, among others.”

Potential job seekers can register here using code CF18 to obtain free entry to the Career Fair and Radio Show Exhibit Hall.

Companies interested in participating can secure a booth for $200 by completing an online recruiter registration form . All recruiters receive Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) credit for their participation.

Radio Show, produced by the NAB and RAB, will be held Sept. 25–28 at the Hilton Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf-Astoria Orlando.

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The company is making the moves as it looks beyond the repack and positions itself for international growth

CINCINNATI — GatesAir has announced five personnel moves to build its executive team, including the promotion of Rich Redmond to the role of president, GatesAir International.

CEO Bruce Swail created the executive-level management positions to maintain global revenue growth and profitability, the company said.

The other moves include:

  • Ted Lantz, promoted to VP and GM, Radio;
  • Keyur Parikh, who now is VP and GM, Intraplex;
  • Tony Kobrinetz, who becomes VP of Engineering; and
  • Ray Miklius, who becomes VP and GM, Television

Redmond has held sales, product management and executive-level roles during his more than 20-year tenure with the company across all aspects of the business. Since the formation of GatesAir in 2014, he has served as chief product officer. 

“As we look beyond repack, we see substantial potential in our international markets,” said Swail.

Miklius, Lantz and Parikh have led their respective business units in director roles since the formation of GatesAir.

All five will be based at GatesAir’s U.S. offices in Mason, Ohio, and Quincy, Ill.


Rich Redmond was elevated to president of GatesAir International

View the 5 images of this gallery on the original article

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Licensee allegedly failed to state that station operated at unauthorized power for more than a year

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of apparent forfeiture to a Michigan FM licensee for alleged unauthorized operation, a late-filed special temporary authority request and failure to disclose key information.

The problem seems to have started with flooding. Licensee Roy E. Henderson filed a silent STA application in February 2015 due to an incident of flooding at station WBNZ(FM) in Frankfort, Mich. He told the FCC that WBNZ was forced off the air in January 2015 when a broken frozen water main caused damage and interior flooding to the station. The station would need to remain off the air until repair needs could be determined, he told the commission.

As part of its investigation, the FCC asked for updates on the station’s operational status, but issues arose during the course of the investigation — including a late reply from Henderson regarding exactly when the station came back on the air, initially insufficient proof about how long the station has been off the air, and the revelation that the station was operating at reduced power.

The bureau found that while the station had not been silent for more than a year, the station had operated at an unauthorized power level. The station also failed to request an STA in a timely manner to operate at this reduced power level.

“Licensee merely stated that ‘WBNZ is currently operating at the reduced power of 1.4 kW,’ but failed to state that, in fact, the station had been operated with that unauthorized power reduction for nearly 17 months before filing the engineering STA application,” the FCC said.

After researching the issue, the Media Bureau found three infractions: that Henderson willfully and repeatedly operated WBNZ at variance from its license without commission authority; that he failed to timely file an STA; and he failed to disclose material information regarding the unauthorized operations.

The bureau concluded that Henderson is liable for a monetary forfeiture of $18,000 for the violations.

Specifically, the bureau proposed a $10,000 forfeiture for unauthorized operation, $3,000 for failing to timely file the required STA, and $5,000 for failing to disclose a material fact in the engineering STA — namely that Henderson failed to reveal that the station had been operated with an unauthorized power reduction for nearly 17 months before filing an STA.

Henderson has 30 days to pay the full amount or to file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.

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Just how cheaply can you operate a radio station?



Radio Birdsong “broadcasts” live from a moving vehicle

Quentin Howard is a man with a mission: To work out if he can run a fully-featured radio station on hardware that costs less than $99.

Quentin, who was chief engineer for the UK’s national Classic FM and instrumental in the UK’s adoption of DAB Digital Radio, is running his own radio station as a bit of fun — deliberately using cheap hardware.

“I wanted to run a fully-functional radio station — with a completely automated music schedule, station IDs, encoding and streaming, and pulling in external audio sources. I wanted it broadcasting the time signal at the top of the hour; and for me to be able to broadcast live if I wanted to,” he said.

The system that does this? A £70 (US$94) tablet computer, running Windows 10. The challenge that Quentin has set himself is to ensure that the system runs reliably, and the touch software remains responsive and usable on a 7-inch screen.


A cheap SD player

Keen to experiment, Quentin is testing this using a classical music format. 

“Classical titles are more complicated to music schedule — extreme durations, multiple artists, composers, different versions of same piece, segues in different keys, screeching sopranos, non-English alphabets — so it’s a good stress test of music rotation and playout, which is really what this is all about. If it can do all this well, any pop/rock format station is a doddle!”, he says.

“Announcer breaks are done on my mobile phone, uploaded to Dropbox from anywhere and played out a few minutes later which is, in effect, a one man live-assist OB.”

Playout is handled by PlayIt , a low-cost suite of radio software produced in Cambridge, England. 

“I’ve watched this product evolve over the last few years and I’m still impressed. It’s very stable and resource light. Standard playout software is free (non professional use), voice tracking and more sophisticated networked systems cost literally a few pounds. There’s lots of low cost playout systems of course — I’ve tested over 60! — but I rate this one highly.”

The station, which Quentin has christened “Radio Birdsong,” is streaming live on the internet. “You could hook this up to a £28 (US$37) FM transmitter, and have a fully-functional radio station for less than $140 — no larger than a hardback book,” he adds.

Elsewhere, low-cost radio solutions are already on the air. Ash Elford, manager of the small-scale Portsmouth DAB multiplex in the south of England used a small SD card player — costing less than $5 — to air one simple radio station for three months. The service, Sleepyhead Radio, was a set of looping programs for babies and their parents. The SD card player was purchased on eBay; the micro SD card was “just lying around,” he told me.

Ash also ran a set of automated radio stations called Weather 24/7, which broadcasts the weather forecast on DAB multiplexes in parts of the UK, using reconditioned laptops.

At the other side of the world in Australia, radio technologist Anthony Eden has recently compiled a collection of over 20 pieces of free broadcast software .

From studio clocks, to silence detectors, DAB encoders or playout systems, there are a lot of freely-available pieces of software to assist radio stations. Anthony’s list includes many open-source projects, which enable individual radio stations to add more features to the software or integrate it into existing services.

Meanwhile, Quentin Howard continues to experiment with his service: taking his entire radio station mobile. “I used a Bluetooth data connection to a mobile phone, and was able to stream the station uninterrupted from a moving vehicle,” he said.

“One application I’m developing it for is disaster emergency broadcasting. Pre-programmed FM radio in a tiny box, ready to go and cheap enough to throw away.”

“You could do all this on an Intel core i7,” he adds. “But where would be the fun in that?”

James Cridland reports on international radio trends from Brisbane QLD, Australia.

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The Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act provides additional tools to the FCC to address illegal radio operations

WASHINGTON — The PIRATE Act is one step closer to becoming law.

On June 13, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology unanimously voted to pass the PIRATE Act, otherwise known as the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act, which provides additional tools to the Federal Communications Commission to address illegal pirate radio operations.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly applauded the move, which sends a “clear message that pirate radio ‘stations’ must be eliminated,” he said. “This bill rightfully increases the penalties, requires regular enforcement sweeps, and augments the tools available to the commission to stop illegal pirate broadcasters.

“Today’s mark-up is an important step forward in ensuring the PIRATE Act becomes law and I look forward to seeing the bill take the next step in the legislative process,” O’Rielly continued. 

The decision was also supported by the National Association of Broadcasters, who saluted co-authors Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) and Rep. Mike Tonko (D-N.Y.) for their bipartisan sponsorship of the legislation.

“The bipartisan legislation will increase the ability of the FCC to crack down on pirate activity by increasing fines, streamlining enforcement and placing liability those who facilitate illegal radio broadcasts,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton.

The bill now heads to the Energy and Commerce committee for consideration.

As reported in Radio World, the PIRATE Act proposes to hike the fine for violations to as much as $100,000 per day, with a maximum fine of $2 million. The rules currently allow the FCC to impose a maximum daily penalty of about $19,200 per day.

The bill has been endorsed by several groups including the New Jersey Broadcasters Association and New York State Broadcasters Association, with association President David Donovan telling lawmakers at a subcommittee hearing earlier this year that illegal operators are undermining the nation’s Emergency Alert System, causing invasive and insidious interference, posing potential public health problems due to overexposure to radio frequency radiation, and interfering with airport communications.

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This year’s event has double the learning opportunities, planners say


WASHINGTON — Government Video Expo planners have announced “an expanded schedule of live sessions in two theaters on the expo floor.”

“Not only are we focusing on the latest technology from the video and AV/IT marketplaces, but we are also looking at future-facing opportunities and best practices in order to give attendees a multidimensional experience they can’t find anywhere else,” Future B2B U.S. Chief Content Officer Joe Territo said in a press release.

According to the announcement, attendees will learn about trends, build skills and broaden their professional network.

Programmed by the content directors of Government Video, TV Technology, Digital Video and the Creative Planet Network, sessions on the show floor are intended for audiences active in video production, broadcast and professional AV, with topics including:

  • Emerging production/post-production video technologies;
  • Business strategies for media professionals;
  • Immersive journalism and new storytelling tools;
  • Production advances for higher education;
  • Live event and streaming production;
  • Virtual reality and its potential in education and enterprise;
  • 2019 professional and consumer technology trends;
  • Drone/UAV photography.

Headlining this year will be a keynote conversation with PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff. She will discuss the media climate of 2018 and her high-profile role in it.

“We’ll explore how video technology is transforming government, education and business, creating incredible potential for the professionals, manufacturers and service providers serving this ever-expanding market,” said Future B2B U.S. Managing Director of Content Paul McLane.

The 23rd GV Expo will be collocated with DC Post|Production Conference and the Government Learning Technology Symposium and is scheduled for Nov. 27–29 at Washington’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Registration for the event opened in mid-May.

The event is produced by Future US, an information and event producer for the professional communications, entertainment and education technology markets.

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He says 48 dBµ would be a more appropriate value than 54 dBµ

WASHINGTON — In comments to the FCC, Crawford Broadcasting Director of Engineering W. Cris Alexander argued that the broadcaster “has interests on both sides of the FM translator interference issue” — meaning that the company and its affiliates currently are licensees of 15 AM and nine FM commercial stations plus nine FM translators. This, Crawford says, means they have a “unique perspective on the issue and perhaps a more balanced view.”

In light of that, Alexander submitted comments on behalf of Crawford regarding the proposed amendment of Part 74 of the Commission’s Rules Regarding FM Translator Interference (MB Docket No. 18-119). He expressed support for the commission’s reform efforts and offered additional suggestions. (Cris Alexander also is a contributor to Radio World, which was not involved in the filing.)

[Read about the commissioners’ opinions on the proposed changes.]

First, Alexander, writes: “We believe that the provisions of §74.1203(a) and §74.1204(f) should be harmonized so that predicted interference to existing listeners outside the translator 60 dBµ contour can be addressed prior to grant of the translator application. What constitutes ‘interference’ is well defined in the FCC’s rules by means of codified protection ratios, and we believe these ratios should be applied to predicted interference cases prior to grant of a legitimately-objected translator application.”

He notes that this is advantageous because it would help to prevent “drawn-out and often expensive interference complaint prosecution” by eliminating cases in which “a proposed translator will ‘pass the test’ provided by §74.1204(f) because there is no predicted interference to existing full-power station listeners within the translator 60 dBµ contour, but after operation commences, existing listeners located outside the translator 60 dBµ contour begin receiving interference.”

Additionally, this is important, Alexander says, because ofen “the damage is done in fairly short order after the translator signs on — those existing listeners displaced by the translator interference often tune elsewhere and may not ever return.”

Alexander also supports “the proposed modification of Section 74.1233(a)(1) of the Rules to define an FM translator’s change to any available channel as a minor change as a means of mitigating legitimate interference to an existing full-power broadcast station.” This is consistent with the idea that it’s important to offer “fast and complete resolution of interference issues.”

He also concurs that six is a good minimum number of listener complaints to be used to claim translator interference, saying that a “station bringing this many complaints undoubtedly has a real interference issue.”

Regarding the complaints themselves, Alexander agrees that listener complaints should include sufficient information “for the translator licensee to follow up… determine the listener’s exact location, and make measurements and tests at that location.” He notes that this would also ensure that the complainant is not affiliated with the full-power station.

In fact, Alexander writes that it would be bettter to remove the middleman — the complaining listener — from the process as soon as possible because complaining listeners “ may be uncooperative,” hard to contact or could even be bribed to withdraw their complaint.

Instead, he suggests, the resolution should be determined through “a technical showing that all interference has been eliminated.” Specifically, he writes, “any showing by the translator licensee should include a U/D study based upon the F(50, 50) and F(50, 10) field strength charts contained in Section 73.333, unless the use of the Longley-Rice propagation model is indicated based upon established criteria.”

Also, Alexander argues “there should be a full-power station field strength value beyond which no complaint of actual or predicted interference will be considered actionable.” However, he says that they do not “believe that 54 dBµ is the appropriate value for this cutoff field strength.” Rather, Crawford says, “a better compromise would be 48 dBµ, which represents an electric field strength value of 250 µV/m. We believe this value to be appropriate for all classes of FM stations and do not recommend that a different value be adopted for class B or B1 stations.”

He explains that a recent listener survey indicated that “92% of the respondents regularly listen in areas beyond the 54 dBµ contour and with predicted field strengths well below that value;” and he said the same is likely the case for class B1 stations which are protected to 57 dBµ, “it is likely that there are listeners to even lower field strength signals than to those with a 60 dBµ protected contour.” He cited also cited a 1975 study and report that indicated there was “some argument for a value of 47 dBu” field strength as a cutoff for interference complaints.

Read his comments online here. Comments on MB Docket No. 18-119 are due July 6 and reply comments are due Aug. 6. 

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