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Posts Categorised: RF Engineering

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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UK broadcast engineer offers some insights into her career and the broadcast sector


If you are new to the industry or know a budding audio professional who’s looking for a specific direction, broadcast engineer and radio producer Ann Charles has only good things to say about the broadcast engineering sector. The skills you already have in sound might open up a whole new professional path, and “no — it’s not like being a sound engineer,” as she explains…

Broadcast engineering is one of the most creative and flexible jobs in the audio industry — and yet there is a shortage of people taking up the role.Broadcast engineers work in radio or television. They are responsible for the whole transmission chain — making sure that programs are able to be produced in a studio, and then sent to viewers and listeners around the world via transmission networks.

If you are one of the 90% of people who have enjoyed listening to a radio program in the last week, you can be sure that a broadcast engineer was involved at some stage of the process.

WHAT IS A BROADCAST ENGINEER?

Let’s clear up one confusion: in the context of the radio industry, broadcast engineers and sound engineers do not have the same role, although there are overlaps.

Broadcast engineers have a deep knowledge of TV and radio, sound and electronics. They maintain equipment, plan for large events, troubleshoot when things go wrong and ensure the radio/TV network is future-proofed by advising on the station’s technical upgrade plan.

Sound engineers focus purely on producing sound in a studio, and perhaps developing advanced audio-editing skills such as mixing bands or creating imaging for station jingles and promos.

Most broadcast engineers are able to mix live sound but they are also responsible for ensuring the broadcast makes it to air and planning for how the signals will be sent to the listener. In addition, they may be in charge of large equipment and project budgets. Because of this huge responsibility, senior engineers will often be on a station’s management team.

The good news is that if you are already interested in sound, you have some of the essential skills needed for this career already.

RANGE OF SPECIALITIES

All broadcast engineers need to understand how signals get from a microphone through the studio infrastructure and out to the transmission network. If you are used to following signal flow on a sound desk, it’s a similar idea — just scale it up. However, engineers tend to develop their own areas of expertise, too.

In the UK, engineers usually specialize in either working for radio stations, or for transmission providers.If you like being in a live studio environment, enjoy working to tight deadlines and can solve problems under pressure, then station work might be for you.

Alternatively, if you have a head for heights, enjoy working in all weathers and have a strong bladder (essential if you are climbing up a tall mast), then maintaining transmitters and towers may be more you thing. Curiosity is useful, either way.

RANGE OF SKILLS

It’s also possible to specialize further still. Perhaps you enjoy playing with the latest gadgets and are the kind of person who runs the beta version of software on your laptop for kicks? If so, then there are broadcast engineers who specialize in R&D (research and development) — ensuring that audio has a place on devices that haven’t been invented yet.

There is also a need for those with software development skills to create apps for stations and develop the programs presenters and journalists use behind-the-scenes.

If you are the kind of person who has already got the Christmas shopping sorted, then a technical-specialist project manager role might be for you — engineers are involved with everything from upgrading one piece of equipment to multi-million pound projects for new radio station buildings.

GETTING STARTED
There are many routes into a career in broadcast engineering. You may already have an electronics or sound-based degree. If not, then the BBC runs paid apprenticeship schemes at college, university and post-graduate levels.

There is also Radio TechCon, which is the UK radio and audio industry’s technical and engineering conference. The event showcases a range of different broadcast engineering topics, ranging from visualizing studios for under £100 and understanding AoIP, to running solar-powered radio stations in war zones. It’s a great way to meet new people and get a feel for the industry (full disclosure: I’m one of the organizers).

Finally, nothing beats experience and transferrable skills. If you have helped out at a student or community radio station, run sound desks for bands, been a radio set up your own podcast, you will have some skills on which to build.

You don’t have to have come from a “traditional” background to consider a career in broadcast engineering. The UK is one of the world leaders in this industry — is 2018 the year you will come to join us? 

Listen to our interview with Ann and other prominent women in the industry on the PSNEurope Women in Audio podcast on iTunes and at www.soundcloud/psneurope

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It’s a translation of the fourth edition of the “NATE Tower Climber Fall Protection Training Standard”


WASHINGTON — The National Association of Tower Erectors is now offering one of its primary resources in a Spanish language edition.

“Norma de Capacitación de Protección contra Caidas para Trepadores de Torres de la NATE” is the translated version of the fourth edition of the “NATE Tower Climber Fall Protection Training Standard.” The standard establishes the minimum requirements to which all tower climbers should be trained, and the NATE CTS outlines the individual standards for varying levels of tower climber expertise, as well as contains a Course Training Plan to demonstrate how to implement and utilize the NATE CTS and a Definitions section.

The Spanish edition is available online as a free resource for member companies, and the print format is available for both members and non-members to purchase.

“A Spanish language edition of the NATE CTS is crucial for the industry’s growing multicultural workforce. Making it accessible to a larger audience will help ensure all employees are adequately trained and maintain the highest level of safety standards,” Sindy Benavides, chief operating officer and acting CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens said in a press release.

The association also said it plans to translate other resources to Spanish in the future. 

Go to Radio Magazine Online

Educational Broadcast Service spectrum to be used for LTE and 5G

The FCC voted unanimously this month to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that contemplates ways to put mostly “fallow” 2.5 GHz spectrum to use.

The 2496–2690 MHz band constitutes “the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz and is prime for next-generation mobile operations,” according to fiercewireless.com .

Significant portions of the Educational Broadband Service spectrum in this band currently are unused across nearly half of the United States, mostly in rural areas. The commission has limited access to the spectrum since 1995, and current licensees are subject to outdated regulations, according to the FCC.

Efforts have been underway for more than a year to get the FCC to issue an NPRM so that the EBS portion of the 2.5 GHz spectrum could be put to better use, according to the article. In 2014, the Wireless Communications Association, the National EBS Association and the Catholic Television Network got together and submitted a proposal on how to license the spectrum.

Sprint holds licensed 2.5 GHz spectrum assets, and said that adoption of new licensing opportunities for EBS licensees will further strengthen its existing 4G LTE and future 5G deployments.

Go to Radio Magazine Online

This isn’t the first time South Dakota’s Results Radio has lost a tower to the elements

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A late spring blizzard created big headaches for commuters and bigger challenges for two Results Radio —Townsquare Media stations in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The storm knocked down part of the radio tower broadcasting the signals for “Hot 104.7” KKLS(FM) and “The Mix 97.3” KMXC(FM) on April 13, Jeremy J. Fugleberg reported for the Argus Leader . He described the tower as having been “decapitated” when “the top 275 feet of the tower” succumbed to the ice buildup and wind.

According to the article, two weeks later, KKLS is still off the air but is streaming online, but KMXC is again available at a low power. They have remounted antennas for both stations on the remaining 600 foot tower.

This isn’t the first time Results Radio has lost a tower to the elements. In 1996, an ice storm followed by uneven rapid melting felled the previous tower. As a result, the new tower was “built to extreme specs,” according to Results Radio Market Manager and Vice President, quoted in the article. But even those weren’t enough to keep it intact.

Results Radio Townsquare Media also owns KYBB(FM), KSOO(AM/FM), KIKN(FM) and KXRB(AM/FM).

Check out photos of the downed tower here.

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New training initiative intended to fill in gaps for younger engineers with IT backgrounds

QUINCY, Ill. — In May, GatesAir will launch a new training program intended to help “younger, IT-educated broadcast engineers” learn to operate and maintain “next-generation TV and radio transmission sites,” the company announced.

The new training program, launching with an “Introduction to Broadcast Transmitter Technology” course, is described by GatesAir as an adjunct to the its existing “RF:101” program, which was designed for trainees with a basic understanding of RF technology. Because “RF:101” participants increasingly lacked a solid foundation in RF, the company developed a “new entry-level RF training course designed to prepare IT professionals for an RF transmission-centered career.”

[Read about GatesAir’s decision to stop selling new AM transmitters.]

“Since many new professionals entering the field have IT backgrounds, this new introductory training program responds to our customers’ pressing needs to find qualified engineers that can operate and maintain their next-generation, over-the-air content delivery systems,” GatesAir Vice President of Operations Bryant Burke said in the announcement. “We’re addressing broadcasters’ concerns regarding the shortage of broadcast engineers, and leveraging the current crop of IT-savvy engineers for ATSC 3.0 and other next-generation DTV and digital radio networks.”

The course begins with three webinars and is followed by a four-day, hands-on training workshop at GatesAir’s Quincy, Ill., campus. The first session is scheduled for May 22–25.

The program limits the workshops to groups of 8-10 trainees. It covers fundamentals, including maintenance of liquid- and air-cooled solid-state transmitters, digital modulation schemes and troubleshooting/repair of modular transmission components. After these stages, participants receive a certificate of completion.

The program is open to everyone — including non-GatesAir customers — and costs $2,150, according to the training website , where registration is also available.

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“Joint Keynote Address” featured several past winners of the NAB Engineering Achievement Award

LAS VEGAS — New to NAB Show this year is what organizers called an “unconventional keynote session.”

Sunday morning, NAB convened several past recipients of the NAB Engineering Achievement Award to participate in a panel of mini-keynotes. NAB EVP and CTO Sam Matheny acted as moderator, and participants were asked to address “the single most important challenge for the future of broadcasting.”

The participants were: E. Glynn Walden, Entercom consultant; John Turner, principal engineer, Turner Engineering Inc.; Ben Dawson, president of Hatfield & Dawson Consulting Engineers, LLC; Laurence Thorpe of Canon U.S.A.; Ronald Rackley, VP of duTreil, Lundin & Rackley; Ira Goldstone, executive engineer at FOX Studios; Thomas Silliman, president of Electronic Research Inc.; S. Merrill Weiss, president of Merrill Weiss Group; Frank Foti, executive chairman of the board for The Telos Alliance; Mark Richer, president of ATSC; Tom King, president and CEO of Kintronic Labs Inc.; Robert Seidel, vice president of CBS Engineering and Advanced Technology for CBS Television Network; Andy Laird, retired VP of engineering/CTO emeritus for Journal Broadcast Group; Richard Friedel, EVP and GM of FOX Network Engineering and Operations; John Kean, consulting engineer for Cavell Mertz & Associates; and Rich Chernock, chief science officer for Triveni Digital.

As part of the session, Rackley used his time to promote the cause of updating interference standards to reflect modern challenges.For those who could not attend the “Joint Keynote Address: Previous Engineering Award Winners,”

the following is a transcript of remarks delivered by Rackley.

I am grateful for having been able to enjoy my work every day over the past 45 years that I have been a consulting radio engineer, but there is one area of unfinished business that I would like to see receive serious attention while I am still around — revising the requirements of the FCC rules to recognize that it is not the 1930s anymore when it comes to the environment of noise and interference in which AM stations broadcast.

Fortunately, we have the AM revitalization rulemaking that is being considered by the FCC for that, and an FCC chairman who would like to see it taken seriously.

The comments that have been filed with the FCC in the rulemaking contain a lot of well thought-out scientific analysis of both the limitations on AM station coverage due to noise and man-made interference today and how proper administration of revised station-to-station interference standards could help.

But, those comments sit there on the record unheeded — with the rulemaking process at a stalemate — because of pushback from broadcasters that was inspired by the severity of some of the rule changes that were initially proposed by the FCC. Many comments prepared by expert consulting engineers support compromise standards that I think address the controversies well.

I believe the time has come for those with differing perspectives on questions having to do with how AM stations should protect each other from interference to meet together and iron out good solutions, aimed at optimizing AM radio service to the public day and night, that are acceptable to all.

I am going to be so bold as to suggest that the NAB might be able to play a pivotal role in pulling such an effort together. Thank you.

Go to Radio Magazine Online

The auction will begin May 15

WASHINGTON — On March 23, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing a new auction for the small group of mutually exclusive applications left from last year’s window for the filing of FM translator applications by Class C and D AM stations and setting the rules and procedures for that auction. The auction begins on May 15.

While only 26 applications are involved in the auction “it shows that the FCC is trying to rapidly clear its decks of all remaining translator applications,” writes David Oxenford, in broadcastlawblog.com . Also on the FCC’s schedule is an auction of mutually exclusive translators left over from its 2003 FM translator window.

“Singleton” applications (translators that are predicted to not cause interference to any other translator application or any existing station) from the window opened late last year for Class A and B AM stations are now scheduled for filing, along with long-form applications for applicants who were able to work out mutually exclusive situations in the first window so that they did not need to go to auction, according to the same post.

Still to be announced for applicants in that Class A and B window is the settlement period for applications that are mutually with other applications. “Expect that announcement soon,” Oxenford writes. 

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Pre-NAB Show PREC18 event planned for April 5–6

CHARLOTTE — Not to be lost in the maelstrom that leads up to the NAB Show, the Association of Public Radio Engineers will convene their annual get-together, April 5–6, at their new traditional haunt, the Tuscany Suites.

PREC18 , as it’s called, will feature speakers on topics ranging from hurricane recovery to program production and distribution to legal issues to broadcast IT security.

Some familiar names on hand presenting: David Layer, NAB; Keyur Parikh, GatesAir; Michael LeCalir, WBUR(FM); Jeff Holdenrid, DoubleRadius; Stu Buck, Arctic Palm; Tom Silliman, ERI; Steve Dove, Wheatstone; Rob Byers, NPR; and Wayne Pecena, Texas A&M.

[Read: APRE Hands Out Four Scholarships to Attend 2018 PREC]

APRE President Steve Johnston will address attendees and there’ll be an awards session concluding the convention.

Register here .

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The Golden State joins 17 other states with similar legislation in the works

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — New legislation supporting the “right to repair” has been introduced in the California State Assembly this week by Assemblymember Dr. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), according to her website .

The California Right to Repair Act “would require manufacturers of electronics to make diagnostic and repair information, as well as equipment or service parts, available to product owners and to independent repair shops,” according to the press release.

California joins Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia, which have already introduced similar legislation.

“The bill is critical to protect independent repair shops and a competitive market for repair, which means better service and lower prices. It also helps preserve the right of individual device owners to understand and fix their own property. We should encourage people to take things apart and learn from them. After all, that’s how many of today’s most successful innovators got started,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Kit Walsh said in the announcement.

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