Second Quarter Activities Get Underway For SBE And SMPTE
Your program committee is moving the second quarter of activities to the front burner. Following an April hiatus for the National Association of Broadcasters convention, we get underway in May. Our May gathering will be with Interact TV, a local startup will discuss their technology-Ken Fuhrman, Principle and founder ground breaking technology that integrates WEB, Terrestrial Television, Cable TV, and Server functions for the consumer market. Location and time will be announced on the Web site at www.smpte-sbe48.org and on the RSVP line at 303.836.7787.
Then join us from June 10 through June 14, 2002 for a variety of events during the SMPTE Engineering meetings in Denver. Sessions are open to the membership. Check the Web site for details. The membership is invited to a reception on Wednesday, June 12th hosted by AT&T and SMPTE for a social evening where local folks will have the opportunity to network with committee members.
Please mark your calendars for this important opportunity to observe first hand what SMPTE is about and engineering efforts at an international level.
Hatfield Is The Real McCoy As Telecom Policy Expert
4/21/2002 4:39:00 PM
On April 1, Dale Hatfield stepped down from his position as chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Telecommunications at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He had held the position since leaving the Federal Communications Commission in December 2000.
A major voice in U.S. telecommunications policy, Hatfield's experience in government has included heading the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology. He also was deputy administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which helps determine U.S. wireless spectrum allocation.
Hatfield will remain a presence on campus as an adjunct professor at CU while working on diverse consulting projects related to telecom policies.
His new challenges will range from helping countries such as Morocco develop telecommunications policy regimes to acting as a special investigator on wireless 9-1-1 issues for the Federal Communications Commission. Hatfield won't be moving from Boulder, his home of nearly 40 years.
Q: What's the state of telecommunications competition today?
A: The difficulty I have is that it still looks like a duopoly between the cable company and the local telephone company. While a duopoly is certainly better than a monopoly, it's not enough to get a dynamic market like you have in cellular. What do we have, seven carriers in Denver right now? That's made for robust competition that's really benefited the consumer. It's questionable that we can get there with a duopoly.
Q: What sort of challenges face wireline broadband regulators?
A: If it were really competitive, if we had seven or eight suppliers, you'd walk away and take a very deregulatory stance. If there were only one, you'd treat it as we have in the past, as a common carrier, and put a whole panoply of regulation on it to provide for openness. But we're stuck in this middle ground. As a policymaker, it's very hard to know what to do.
Economists can't tell us much about situations where there's just a handful of competition. We've got to be careful. We don't want to over-regulate. But on the other hand, I have sympathy for those who are saying, 'Oh my goodness, this market's not developing competitively and the government must take steps to make sure it remains open.'
Q: How about high-speed, third-generation (3G) wireless as an alternative?
A: The question is whether you can afford it. That spectrum itself is valuable. Providing services means lots of overhead and complexity. So it's sort of questionable in my mind that that will ever be an effective competitor with fixed solutions.
Q: How serious is the spectrum bottleneck?
A: We're facing a crunch. My old boss, (former FCC Chairman) Bill Kennard, called it a spectrum drought. Demand for spectrum keeps going up. There's a range between 300 megahertz and 3 gigahertz that's the best spectrum for mobile. If you go lower, you run into antenna size problems, skip interference and so on. If you go higher, radio waves begin to look increasingly like light waves and are blocked by foliage and buildings and mountains. The spectrum between 300 megahertz to 3 gigahertz is what we call the beachfront property.
Q: How do you create more beachfront property?
A: There are four techniques available to us as a society to get more usage out of spectrum. One is real location. We got PCS spectrum by moving private microwave users out of their bands. But you've got to find someplace for people to move, and we're running out of space.
Second is getting more efficient use of the spectrum. Some engineers are doing some really clever stuff along those lines. As a society, we've got to do more R&D to encourage more efficient use of the resource.
Third is moving higher in frequency, like opening up new land, moving west. The trouble is you go higher, it gets more difficult to work with. The range gets shorter. Rain or snow blocks the radio signal. The devices get more expensive, and it's harder to generate the frequency as well as to receive it.
The fourth is sharing, where you force the incumbent to share spectrum. This gets you into increasingly political complexities. We've got to do more of it in my opinion, but it's tough.
Q: What's to induce a company to share spectrum?
A: What if we allow you to lease your spectrum, where I come to you and say look, I've got a new technology and I can guarantee you that I won't cause interference and I'll pay you to lease your spectrum? This is the notion of market-driven spectrum allocation. When I was at the FCC, I was a big proponent of a proceeding that proposed the facilitation of leasing spectrum.
Q: How important is the spectrum issue?
A: It's not unlike water rights that people fight over out here in the West. Water is vital. Those that get it can grow and expand, and those that don't get it whither away.
This article was first published in Front Range TechBiz, Volume 1, Issue 39, April 22 - 28, 2002 and appears here with permission. A subscription for Front Range Techbiz is free by clicking on www.frtechbiz.com.
Sun To Shine On SBE Membership Drive
The SBE Membership Drive is still on. There's plenty of time for you to participate and win a great prize. The Drive began on March 1 and continues through May 31. The Grand Prize will be a trip for one to the SBE National Meeting in sunny Phoenix this fall AND a Panasonic TV, compliments of SBE and Panasonic! 1st prize is an entertainment package that consists of an RCA 27" Stereo Monitor-Receiver TV, compliments of Thomson Multimedia Broadcast & Network Solutions, a DVD Player, compliments of Acrodyne and a Freeplay, Freepower Radio, compliments of Broadcast Richardson. Other great prizes will be awarded and all recruiters will receive $5 off their 2002 SBE membership renewal for each new member they recruit, up to $25. Full details on the Membership Drive were mailed to each SBE member in February. For more information, contact Angel Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 846-9000.
Amateur Radio News
By Tom Weeden, WJ9H
Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum signed AB368, the FCC PRB-1 Amateur Radio Antenna Protection Act, into law last week. The governor's stroke of the pen April 2 makes the Badger State the 16th to incorporate the language of the limited federal preemption known as PRB-1 into its statutes. The new law became effective immediately. AB368 mirrors the language of the limited federal preemption. It requires that ordinances or resolutions affecting the placement, screening or height of amateur radio antennas or support structures have a "reasonable and clearly defined aesthetic, public health or safety objective." Such an ordinance or resolution also must represent "the minimum practical regulation" necessary to accomplish the locality's objectives and must reasonably accommodate amateur radio communication.
"After summarizing the contents of the law, Governor McCallum made a special point of noting the important role that Wisconsin hams play in providing emergency and public communication support throughout the state," said ARRL Wisconsin Section Government Liaison Jim Lackore, AD9X, who was present at the signing. The Amateur Radio antenna bill was one of six pieces of legislation that McCallum signed into law April 2 during a ceremony at the Oshkosh Senior Center.
The FCC has again targeted amateur radio's primary allocation at 2390 to 2400 MHz for possible sharing or use by other radio services. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (WT Docket 02-55)-released in mid-March but not yet available for public comment-invites comments on either sharing the band with public safety services being displaced from 800 MHz, or moving amateurs elsewhere.
The FCC says increasing incidents of harmful interference to public safety systems in the 800-MHz band prompted the rulemaking proceeding. To alleviate the problem, the Commission now is exploring the possibility of restructuring the 800 MHz band and moving some occupants elsewhere.
"In this proceeding, if commenting parties believe that incumbent amateur services cannot co-exist with relocated 800 MHz services," the FCC said, "we seek comment on whether incumbent amateur services could be relocated, what spectrum could be used for their relocation, and what procedures would apply to such relocation." The FCC NPRM identifies the 2390-2400 MHz band as an "Unlicensed PCS Band." Unlicensed, asynchronous PCS devices were authorized there in 1995, but amateur radio remains primary on the segment.
(Excerpts from "The ARRL Letter" and the www.arrl.org web site)
The NFL In HD
By Andy Rothschadl
In the past 3 years of operating several satellite trucks, the experiences have been plentiful. One extreme is getting Al Gore's ear wax on my ear piece while talking to Tom Brokow. Another is just hoping for a green light on a weigh station scale in Quebec, because I couldn't understand the other options. But on March 22nd, this was one of the more technically 'cool' jobs I was able to work on. HD Net is on DirecTV's channel 199. It is available with a HD receiver while also looking at their secondary orbital location at 119 degrees west. It provides 16 hours a day of HD programming. Among the choices they offer is live programming that usually consists of sports with an occasional concert in the mix. They own two identical trucks with their own uplinks on the tractors that usually provide the live programming. Unfortunately for them, during the week of March 17th, they mangled their dish on unit HD-1 after a NHL game when the driver attempted to drive the tractor back to the trailer with the dish still pointed at AMC-3 (GE-3 for us in the business that don't like changes). Bad for them, good for me.
HD Net has a detailed website at www.hd.net. Rather than repeat the specs and show pictures of the vehicles and the network, I'll elaborate what I learned about the network and what they go through that isn't on their informational site. The network hopes to televise 65 NHL games, and this upcoming season televise 80 baseball games. This includes 3 from Milwaukee in April. To do this, each of the two trucks does a show every 3 days.
The HD-1 unit was used as NBC's HD master control during the Olympics. When I was connected to it, it was providing an HD feed of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks at the St. Louis Blues hockey game at the Savvis Center in the downtown area. HD Net has an agreement to work with Fox Sports Net for National League Hockey, Major League Baseball, and La Crosse. The network tries not to be the only truck at a venue. Rather, they always try to piggy-back off the standard definition feed. This way they use the main announcers and use their graphics. The graphics are upconverted for the HD broadcast. The "Fox Box" (scoreboard and clock, nowadays almost always keyed in) is positioned into the top left corner of the 16:9 screen. Full screen graphics are stretched to feed the switcher. Unfortunately, this mutates logos a bit. The HD truck also grabs a few camera sources and program output from the main truck. This video will be used for any highlights missed by the five high definition cameras. When the SD video is used, it is DVE'd on top of the 16:9 live video in a 4:3 box with a title underneath, "standard television."
The two trucks were built by the staff at the network. They are a little different than any of the other 40+ production trucks that I have connected to. The most noticeable difference is the 50 inch Panasonic wide screen in the middle of the production monitor wall. The tape "room" is only a bench behind the main row that consists of two Sony HD decks and a Sony MAV-555 (one channel) sunk into the console. Everything else is pretty consistent with a "B" size production truck. The cameras are hooked up with a transmit and receive pair of fibers run to each camera position. Each camera position is powered locally instead of from the truck. This enables them to not be dependent on Sony's expensive camera cable that has the fiber and copper in the jacket. The cameras needed to be slightly modified to run in this configuration. A safety feature that only allows the camera's laser to transmit while connected to the original cable was bypassed by a 1k ohm resistor across the connection. HD Net is having several venues wired with fiber for this purpose.
The Savvis Center is mostly a fiber-only venue for feeding live productions due to local politics and a lack of unobstructed parking for uplink trucks. Unfortunately for HD Net, Vyvx still cannot carry the packet structure of a HD feed. The transmission path started in the equipment area of the trailer. The main and backup encoders are located there that provides a 20 mb data stream. At this venue, to get to my uplink truck involved a few pieces of glass and copper. From the production truck, a 100' 75 ohm cable went to a Telecast Viper fiber termination near the production truck area under the parking ramp. From there, the fiber went about 1500' to the south side of the arena to another termination near where my uplink truck was parked on the sidewalk. Now, back on copper cable, the signal was brought into the truck to the modulators borrowed from the crippled uplink tractor. The outputs from the main and backup modulators then went to my upconverters' combiners. A second later, the signal was seen in HD Net's production center in Denver.
In Denver, video and audio for the network's one commercial customer, Mitsubishi, and promotional material are spliced into the encoded signal. The program is then sent on a dedicated DS3 circuit to DirecTV in LA. The signal is never decoded until it gets to the viewer's receiver at the home. The whole process takes about 12 seconds to get to the viewer. HD Net claims the lack of decoding and encoding keeps the quality above any other network. The HD Net engineers claim NBC's Tonight Show comes close. The Tonight Show's signal goes straight from LA to the satellite and then to the affiliates.
The crew of HD-1 were very open and willing to answer the many questions I had. They said it was part of their mission to help people get interested in High Definition Television. This openess is part of the reason that the co-creator of the network, Mark Cuban, is paying for the start up costs to get more events in HD. Check out their web site and swing by their truck in Milwaukee during the Brewers games on April 16th, 18th, or 19th. I'm sure they won't mind.
Powell Proposes Actions To Speed DTV
By Tom Smith
FCC Chairman Michel Powell sent Senator Ernest Hollings (Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation) and Congressman Billy Tauzan (Chairman of the House's Committee on Energy and Commerce) letters that propose voluntary deadlines to speed the transition to DTV. In the proposal, he asks that ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, HBO, and Showtime provide 50% of their primetime schedules in high-definition or value-added programming, beginning with the 2002-2003 season. Value added programming would include interactive or innovative multicasting.
The Chairman would ask that by January 1, 2003, DTV stations of the big four networks in markets 1-100 have equipment to pass network DTV, including HDTV without degradation, and to promote DTV on their analog stations.
Cable systems would be asked to provide the signals of up to five stations that carry value-added programming, if their plant has 750 MHz channel capacity or higher. They are asked to lease or sell set-top boxes that would allow the display of HDTV. The cable systems are asked to promote the digital programming on their system and in their billing.
Direct Broadcast Satellite is asked to provide five channels of digital value added programming during 50% of the primetime schedule.
Equipment manufacturers are being asked to meet the demand for digital cable set-top boxes that allow for the display of HDTV, and market broadcast, cable, and satellite DTV options at point of sale. Manufacturers are also asked to provide DTV tuners in 50% of sets 36 inches and larger by January 1, 2004 with 100% by January 1, 2005. All sets 25 to 35 inches would have DTV tuners in 50% of the sets by January 1, 2005 and 100% of the sets by January 1, 2006. All sets 13 to 24 inches would have to meet the 50% requirement by December 31, 2006. All HDTV capable TV receivers and displays would need to have digital inputs (either 1394/5C and/or DV1/HDCP by January 1, 2004. The intent of the Chairman is to increase digital content and make the content available to cable subscribers. He also does not plan to wait for copy protection and plug-and-play cable compatibility issues to be resolved before moving forward.
From FCC Release (www.fcc.gov).
The Secret Life Of Timecode
By Steve Paugh
The BIG MYTH regarding timecode is that it is a time-of-day clock. Timecode is not used for telling time, it is used for consecutively numbering frames of video. Unlike film, where you can hold a strip of film up to the light and count the frames, videotape, no matter how you hold it to the light, does not show any visible image.
Timecode was invented 1967 when most TV was black and white, and consisted of images that flashed on the screen 30 times a second. Actually, the flashing of images occurs 60 times a second; this is the "interlace" thing. An image flashing at a repetition rate of 30 will appear to the viewer to be "flickering" or pulsing. At a rate of 60 flashes per second, the human eye blends the images together into an apparently constant intensity. Some people claim that they can still see flickering at 60 images per second, and others proposed an even higher repetition rate (especially the computer types), but that is a topic for another time.
As an aside, movies are projected at 24 frames per second. Each frame is projected twice, giving 48 frames per second. That is why when you look up at the projection booth in a theater you can see the projector beam flickering in the darkened theater.
Back to the topic at hand. To more easily edit videotape we need a way to "number" the frames of video. All video tape machines record a signal on the tape called the control track. This is not done for our benefit, but is used by the innards of the tape machine to properly play back the tape. The control track is a pulse recorded on the tape, one pulse per video frame. Every control track pulse looks like every other control track pulse. The pulse caries no information, it is either there or not there.
It is possible to edit using only control track pulses. This is done by "counting" control track pulses. If you mark an "in," and then play the tape forward from that point, each frame of video will add one count to the display. Since each frame of video has one control track pulse associated with it, we can move forward or backward on the tape, adding or subtracting counts from the counter display. Of course, if the tape slips a little or looses contact with the "control track head," your count will be off. That is why control track editing systems will have an accuracy of +/- one frame at best. And if you eject the tape, the count is lost.
Now if we could uniquely identify each control track pulse we could somehow tell them apart. This would allow us to uniquely number each and every frame of video on the tape. One way would be to call the first frame of video number one. That would make the last frame of video on a 30 minute tape number fifty-four thousand. A spot 1 minute, 18 seconds and 21 frames into the tape would be frame number two thousand, three hundred and sixty-one. There are actually devices that use such a scheme. What really makes sense is to use a numbering system based on the universal quantity; time. This scheme worked out very nicely since video originally ran at 30 frames per second. Every time we counted 30 frames, we know that one second has elapsed. Sixty seconds make a minute, and so on. Each frame of video is then labeled as hours, minutes, seconds and frames. The short hand notation that we are familiar with is HH:MM:SS.FF. [Technical Aside: the timecode signal is not recorded on the control track, it is usually recorded on a separate audio channel specially designed for timecode. Some older machines that did not originally support timecode record the signal on one of the normal audio channels, usually CH2.] We now have a system where tape time coincides exactly with earth time. Then along came color TV and our "tape clock" no longer coincided with earth time. Let's see why. To do this, we need to define the concept of the "Master Clock" The master clock is the source of all time. The master clock is divided down to give us an easy to count signal. For the earth clock we have the concept of the second, or the "tick" and the "tock." The pendulum of the clock is designed to have a period of one second. The gears of the clock count the ticks and tocks and display the count on a dial marked in hours, minutes and seconds.
Science has learned to generate ticks and tocks electronically through the use of devices called oscillators. Oscillators are sometimes called clocks, but not all clocks are oscillators. An example of a clock that is not an oscillator is the electric clock on your desk. Electric clocks get their "master clock" signal from your local power company. The master clock frequency is 60 cycles per second. Every time your desk clock receives 60 pulses from the power company, one second is added to the clock display. (Battery powered clocks have little tiny power companies built in called crystal oscillators.)
To make the discussion of clocks and oscillators easier we need to introduce the topic of frequency. Frequency is the rate at which some thing happens. The fundamental unit of frequency is the cycle. We further define frequency as the rate at which something happens in a particular unit of time. The unit of time we prefer to work in is the second. This then makes the complete definition of frequency as the number of cycles per second of some event. If the power company delivers power at the rate of 60 pulses per second, the frequency of the power supply can be expressed at 60 cycles-per-second, or 60 c.p.s.
Obviously, cycles-per-second is way too descriptive of what we are talking about and "outsiders" may actually begin to understand what we technical types are up to. Therefore we need a "secret code word" to use when we really mean cycles-per-second. The secret word chosen was Hertz, abbreviated as Hz. Now 60 cycles-per-second becomes 60 Hz and no one knows what we are talking about. I trust you will keep the secret safe.
Back to the master clock. Back in the days of B&W television, the master clock frequency chosen was 15,750 Hz. This is called the "line rate". Another number chosen was 525, for the number of lines in a picture. Using the interlace method, the 525 lines are divided over two "fields". These two fields make a one complete picture, which we call a "frame". To get the frame rate we divide the line rate by the field rate, (15,750/262.5) which gives us, TA-DA, 60 Hz, same as the power company. TV time then matches earth time.
When the National Television Systems Committee (NTSC!) met to write the rule book for color TV they choose a new number for the master clock frequency. The number chosen was 3,579,545 Hz. This number we call the "Burst" frequency. A nickname for this number that you might have heard is '358', a type of engineer shorthand for 3.58 which is pronounced 'three-point-five-eight'. When we say 358 we really mean 3.579545 Mhz. The former just rolls off the tongue easier. If we divide 3.579545 Mhz by 59,718.75, we come up with a frame rate of (hold on to your hat) 59.94. Then they said close enough. There are some very good technical reasons for them having done this, but it sure complicated our life in timecode land. [Technical aside: You really don't want to know where 59,718.75 came from, it is a true story, but who needs the truth if it's dull.]
If the power company were to send you 59.94 Hz power instead of 60 Hz power your clocks would be running slow. How slow? How about 1 minute and 26 seconds a day, or 43 minutes a month. There you have it-with the advent of color, TV time and earth time no longer agree. Now one "hour" of TV (or tape time if you prefer) equals one hour and 3.6 seconds of earth time.
Video production people are not too upset if a 30 minute program really runs 30 minutes and 1.8 seconds TRT (Total Running Time), but broadcast people require that 30 minute programs run exactly 30 minutes, no slop allowed. The solution to this problem is the invention of the dreaded "drop-frame" time code.
To make tape time agree with earth time, we need to "speed up" tape time. We do this by making the tape timer skip ahead every so often. In fact we need to skip ahead one count on the timer one hundred and eight times each and every hour! We get 108 frames by multiplying 3.6 seconds by 30 frames per second. If we drop 108 frames per hour (drop-frame, get it?) then tape time once again equals earth time. If we don't drop 108 frames per hour we have, TA-DA, non-drop frame time code, or NDF in secret code. Instead of saying earth time we usually speak of "time of day" or TOD. The "dropped" frames need to be evenly spaced over one hour, we can't just go from 00:59:56.12 to 1:00:00.00 even. The official drop frame policy is to drop 2 frames each minute, except at 00:00:00.00, 00:10:00.00, 00:20:00.00, 00:30:00.00, 00:40:00.00, 00:50:00.00. OK, so what does that mean? When you are in drop frame mode (DF from now on), the tape timer starts at 00:00:00.00 and increments one count at a time until you reach 00:00:59.29 and then the counter jumps to 00:01:00.02, skipping 00:01.00.00 and 00:01:00.01. The counter skips 2 frames each minute, except at the even 10 minute intervals listed above. As an editor, it means that 00:01:00.00 is not a valid DF time code. Computer based edit systems will automatically enter 00:01:00.02 if you try to enter 1 minute even. Some times you have to manually calculate edit durations if you need an effect lasting a certain number of frames that crosses one of the drop frame windows. If a tape machine refused to search to a specific point it might be because that timecode number does not exist! Remember, in DF mode, some timecode numbers are not allowed. The non-allowed numbers are the really neat ones too, like 1 minute, zero frames even.
To recap, DF timecode can be used as a time of day clock, especially is we ignore the frames digits. NDF timecode is effectively running slow with respect to TOD to the tune of 3.6 seconds per hour. To put it another way, a tape recorded in NDF mode until the timecode display reads 1 hour will really have 1 hour and 3.6 sec of video recorded on it! If you record in DF mode until the display reads 1 hour, you will have 1 hour of material. If you record the same scene with two cameras, one in DF and 1 in NDF for 1 hour of TOD time measured with a stop watch, both cameras will have tapes with 1 hours worth of material on them. Choosing DF or NDF does not cause any type of tape time warp, 1 hour is still 1 hour! The difference is when you watch the timecode displays on playback. At the end of 1 hour of play the VTR with the DF tape in it will read 1 hour, the VTR with the NDF tape in it will read 59 minutes, 56 seconds and 12 frames. This is why NDF timecode can not be used as a TOD clock!
In the above example, the editor will go nuts trying to do match frame edits on a 2 camera shoot with one recorded in DF and the other in NDF. Most edit systems can intermingle DF and NDF source tapes. It is usually the human editor who ends up getting their brain scrambled. There are pocket calculators available that can convert between DF and NDF. These calculators can also add and subtract times and even convert between film and video rates. In a multiple camera shoot it is very important that everyone be in the same mode. In the edit session, we can edit on to tape that has been blacked in either DF or NDF mode as desired.
All tapes produced for broadcast should be in DF timecode mode. In fact, some of the more popular tape based commercial insertion machines will not accept tapes with NDF timecode! Editors usually prefer to produce in NDF mode, and for a 60 second spot we have an error of less than 2 frames.
Hope this explains how we got into the DF/NDF mess. By the way, high definition television includes 29.97 frame rate in the table of possible formats, rather than changing it back to 30 frames. Ah, progress.
Book On 9-11 To Benefit Families Of Wtc Broadcast Engineers
Bonus Books has released a book titled, Covering Catastrophe, Broadcast Journalists Review September 11. Written by five New York City broadcast journalists, the book describes the events of September 11 in New York, Washington, D.C and Pennsylvania through the eyes of reporters, news anchors, cameramen and others who covered the stories that day. All proceeds from the book will be donated to two charitable funds that benefit survivors and their families. SBE and the Ennes Trust are pleased to have the Broadcast Engineers Relief Fund, established on September 13, as one of those funds. The other is the CitiGroup Foundation Scholarship Fund. The epilogue of the book is dedicated to the six broadcast engineers who lost their lives while working in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Top Ten Web Sites
By Tom Smith - Chapter 24
At the March meeting of Chapter 24, I presented a program on using the Web to find information on actions of the FCC and other government agencies. I also showed a number of sites that can provide information useful in a broadcast engineer's daily job. At the end of the meeting, I was asked to come up with a list of my top ten web sites.
In this article, I will give the sites that I have found useful for finding information about the FCC, Congress, and other government actions. Some of the sites are good sources on information about stations in your area or in other parts of the country. There are also sites that help in finding technical resources and manufacturers information on equipment.
What makes a good web site that can help you do your job better or keep you informed on changes in the industry that will affect your future? There are a number of things to ask yourself when selecting a web site. Does it have information that I can use to do my job? Can it answer questions or help me plan a project? Will it give me information on government or business actions that may affect the future of my job or broadcasting? Finally, not all sites that give you information about broadcasting are broadcast related. Some are for other industries regulated by the FCC, while some are general news sites.
Web site number one on my list is the FCC. It is found at www.fcc.gov and from there you can link directly to the various bureaus, the Commissioner's web pages, and to FCC releases and documents that are headlined on the home page. As broadcasters, we should have the Mass Media Bureau (www.fcc.gov/mmb) book marked on our computer. This page has links to a search engine for license information such as transmitter information, ownership information, and copies of recent applications. There are links to notices and actions on rulemakings, station applications and press releases. Another bureau of the FCC to have bookmarked is the Wireless Bureau (www.fcc.gov/wtb). It licenses everything other than broadcast stations, including your STL and remote pick-up units. Besides links to information on its actions, it has databases for tower registration, auctions, and the biggest database of the FCC, the Universal Licensing System, that is supposed to allow you to find information on all wireless licenses. It still seems to be a work in progress and takes a lot of time to learn to use.
The final page at the FCC web site that is highly useful is www.fcc.gov/updates.html and is exactly what the URL says. This page will link you to a number of pages that will give you daily updates on actions by the FCC. In fact, you can subscribe to the daily update link and have it e-mailed to you every business day. It will give you direct links to many notices that are released by the FCC everyday.
Web site number two in my top ten is the U.S. Government Printing Office (www.access.gpo.gov). It gives access to many documents published by the government, including the FCC Rules and the FEDERAL REGISTER (www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html), which is published daily and is the official notice of a FCC or any government rulemaking inquiry or action.
Web site number three is BROADCAST.NET (www.broadcast.net) which links to just about everything in broadcasting, including most manufacturers, trade groups including state broadcasting associations, chat groups, the FCC, and SBE chapters around the country. In fact, BROADCAST.NET hosts many broadcast groups, including many SBE chapters.
Web site number four is Cable (www.cable.doit.wisc.edu), which is run by Dave Devereaux-Weber of the University of Wisconsin's computer center DoIT. Dave's site is to cable and computers like BROADCAST.NET is to broadcasting. There are links to cable, fiber, and computer manufacturers, trade groups, and other cable and computer sites. Links are provided to local broadcasting and cable operations as well as channel and frequency tables.
Web site number five is one of two station search pages. TV Radio World (www.tvradioworld.com) is a site that lists all TV and radio stations with web sites. But, the more interesting part of the site is that it directly links to all of the separate information sites of the FCC. If you want license information, just point your mouse. The same goes for a map of the transmitter site or application information. This site greatly reduces the time spent searching for FCC information. Web site number six is the second of the two station search pages. 100,000Watts ( www.100kwatts.tmi.net) lists all the radio and TV stations in the US by either state or market. This site lists the technical information of each station, with a link to a map of the transmitter site and a link to their web page if the station has one. While not as deep with its links as TV Radio World, all stations are listed along with a page listing recent FCC changes to the station, such as call letters.
A third license search site that can provide some aid is Radiostation.Com (www.radiostation.com). This is the first license search site that I used. It originally was for AM and FM stations, but later added TV with the addition of the Kodis search site. The Kodis site will find and map all stations with a selected radius of particular location, which can give a nice view of the distribution of stations in area. The problem with this site is that it has not been updated for quite a while and is somewhat out of date.
Web Site number seven is the NEW YORK TIMES (www.nytimes.com). The NEW YORK TIMES is a good source to follow both technology and business news that affects our industry. A non-broadcast news source gives a different perspective to what is going on, plus it is more timely than most trade sites. The arts and the opinion pages have some interesting stories, and comments on broadcasting or technical issues from time to time and are worth a check on a daily basis. You need to register online with the NEW YORK TIMES to access the site, and a daily e-mail headline service is available that can be customized to your tastes. The only charge is for the use of the online archives.
Web site number eight is the WASHINGTON POST (www.washingtonpost.com), which gives regular coverage of the FCC and Congressional actions on broadcast and spectrum issues. They have a page covering technology and the FCC called WASHTECH.COM (www.washtech.com). The nice thing about the WASHINGTON POST is they archive for a number of months, while the NY TIMES only archives for seven days and then charges to download articles from longer than seven days.
Web site number nine is GEBBIE.INC (www.gebbieinc.com). This is a great site to find newspaper or radio web sites. They publish a directory of the news publishing industry and have a nice search engine for finding papers, both weeklies and dailies.
Web site number 10 is REELRADIO (www.reelradio.com), which is an audio site that has archived old radio airchecks from the sixties, seventies and eighties. You can hear Cousin Brucie, Larry Lujack and most of the great disc jockeys of the past, including clips from Milwaukee's WOKY.
Those are my top ten, but there are a few that I would not like to leave out. Because what happens in land mobile and wireless communications affects spectrum issues in broadcasting, there are a few sites that I visit regular. They are WIRELESS WEEK (www.wirelessweek.com), BROADBAND WEEK (www.broadbandweek.com) and MOBILE RADIO TECHNOLOGY (www.mrtmag.com).
The last site that I would like to list is one for that day when work is going bad and you start daydreaming about your own little radio station. The site is called Buy Sell Radio (www.buysellradio.com). This web site lists small and medium size stations that are for sale-from 250 watt daytime AMs to 100,000 watt FM stations. So far, I have not found one that I can afford (which is next to nothing) in or near Wisconsin.
If you haven't noticed, there are not any websites that are purely technical in nature. They are mostly either news sites or sites to research information on a particular station or product. That is because there is plenty of information on technical changes to the industry in most of the broadcast engineering journals and at various conferences.
I believe that news sites are important because actions by Congress, the FCC or business leaders have more sudden impact on the broadcast industry than technology does. Technology changes happen over a period of time, mainly because no facility has the capital to convert a plant overnight. Most of us usually upgrade a little each year until we get to a point that a major piece of the plant is needed to complete the project. But, the FCC or Congress can issue an edict such as DTV or ownership rule changes and our industry and jobs are quickly impacted. Keeping track of these changes is important for both business planning in your station and planning your career.
Finally, you do not have to spend a lot of time to keep up with these news sites. Most of them have a daily e-mail headline service with links to the stories on their web sites. If you don't wish to have the e-mail service, the use and organization of bookmarks in your web browser can get you through a fair number of sites quickly. Visit the sites at the end of the day when you make a final check of your e-mail for the day. It will only take five to ten minutes to skim most of the web site and read the few new articles that appear each day.
Management Training For Broadcast Engineers!
SBE, in conjunction with leader skills trainer, Dick Cupka, has been providing opportunities for broadcast engineers to receive training in management skills since 1997. SBE has scheduled the two-part Leader Skills Seminar for June and August 2002. Course I will be held June 5-7 and Course II, August 7-9. Both courses will be held in Indianapolis at the Marten House Hotel and Conference Center. Dick Cupka has instructed management training and leadership skills specifically designed for broadcast engineers for more than 30 years. More than 1,000 broadcast engineers have participated in his Leader Skills seminars sponsored by SBE and previously, by NAB. To register or for more information, call Angel Bates at the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000 or e-mail Angel at email@example.com. The seminar fee for each course is $475.
Certificaton Exam Session Dates Announced For 2002
The SBE National Certification Committee has announced exam session dates for 2002. Check the list below for the exam period that is best for you. For more information about SBE Certification, see your Chapter Certification Chair or contact Linda Godby, Certification Director at the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
Before I begin my column I wish to make the following announcements-
Portions of my last column apparently offended some parties, for which I am very sorry. It is never my intention to offend anyone and I pray that those that feel offended in any way will accept my apology.
As I write this month's column... March is indeed behaving like the lion of lore. It's snowing with lightning and thunder. Like a lot of other residents of this neck of the woods I just don't get it! Can't anyone explain how a place that cannot have a white Christmas can have a white March? Once again travel to the top of West Tiger mountain (now the home of 12 FMs and 4 TVs) is severely restricted. Only those hardy types now even attempt it. If you have looked at the faces of those that do go there, Terry Spring and Me, for example... you may have noticed a crop of facial hair... this is not for style... it's for WARMTH!
The crazy weather has not only been making travel inconvenient... but has been a pain in the ____. Up at Cougar Mt., the crew from Fisher found that a big blow dropped a BIG Doug Fir right across their generator building. It appeared the concrete block walls took the load, but it did a real number on the roof. Meanwhile over in the swamp a couple of 'sky-bolts' worked over the Sandusky 1150 operation creating some 'crispy critters'.
Work at Cougar Mt. to put up the new KNHC antenna system was scheduled for just after the middle of March. At this writing I wonder if John and the Seacomm crew will want to pass... but then again I remember that day in April back in 1988 when they started putting up the first broadcast tower on West Tiger... in 2 feet of fresh snow. We will see.
The next big item on the agenda for many of us is the planning that goes into our trip to Las Vegas for the annual Broadcast doin's. This will be a few days FULL of activities for me, meetings and more meetings, and some time at the SBE booth, which is, by the way, now located down the hall from where it's been the last couple of years. Do stop by. For those of you that do make it to the Big Show... please come to the next SBE meeting (delayed a week for those that are in LV) and share with us what you found that you cannot live without.
I received a flyer from Renton Technical College the other day... a class caught my eye... Electronic Troubleshooting. Now there is a class offering! At times I get the feeling that this is a lost art form. Glad to see RTC doing this one.
It was great to see a lot of old friends at the annual Mike and Key Club flea market at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. This year I was once again selling and not buying... and like last year I was selling the equipment of a departed friend. This year the estate of the late Paul Crittenden, W7LJG. I was able to raise just under $1400 for his family and have a few more items to go, not the least of which is a couple of large boxes of vacuum tubes (in the event you need some). It was certainly gratifying work. One of Paul's daughters even came up with a picture of Paul standing in front of the old Channel 11 transmitter at View Park (the North 40) that a lot of folks took time to look at (seen to the left here). My sincere thanks to John Price and Nick Winter who helped with this project.
Before I leave the subject of Amateur Radio.... The annual event in Seaside, Oregon will be May 31, June 1 & 2 of this year. I've got my reservations.
Amateurs are mounting a large response to the suggestion that a portion of the 440 band become home to RF Tags. This proposal (ET Docket 01-278) would permit attaching a zillion little inventory tags to things. This band is not exclusively Amateur spectrum and is shared with the military. In this day and age of increased military awareness it's surprising that the FCC is even thinking about it. And- Don't forget the SBE HAMnet on 20 meters. 14.305 at 0000 hrs.
Network TV was certainly in the news this past month as the David Letterman matter was played out. This all got me to wondering just how long the 'Old-3' networks will continue to be in the news business. Network TV is sorta like old time radio when every station tried to be all things to everyone... one by one they dropped their news in favor of a more narrow focus. Local TV has done this also to a great extent... as have some of the newer national networks that are non-news. This most recent Letterman deal got me to thinking that perhaps the time will come that CBS and ABC will let news fade away. With their two cable networks it seems that NBC is becoming the more newzy of the Nets.
A bit more about EAS... the ABC program 20/20 featured a piece about EAS. I guess you could say that it was a ROAST. The tragic thing about it was the amount of inaccuracy; for example, they said that EAS was a Federal Agency with a budget etc. To be honest I have never seen so many know so little about anything in my life. I honestly believe the average person could better explain the propulsion system of a flying saucer than EAS. In my effort to work this problem a bit... I have accepted an invitation to conduct a half day EAS workshop in Kansas City on June 7th.... I keep trying. Nice to see Kris McGowan and Gary Hart back from toiling with the Olympics... they will have some interesting stories to tell, I bet. [Editor's Note: See Announcement of the April Chapter luncheon meeting.]
The FCC has announced that March 25th is the date for the re-organization of their bureaus. According to their press release these changes will make the FCC ...."more effective, efficient and responsive".... OK. Broadcasting is now handled by the Media Bureau which was formally the Cable Services and Mass Media Bureau. The press release of March 8th has a listing of all the bureaus and a list of names and phone numbers, good reference material. The new chief is W. Kenneth Ferree. Boy, has XM drawn the ire of NAB. Early on NAB was concerned that the new XM system would be used for local origination. The NAB pressed this concern with the FCC at every turn. Now XM has patented a process that would allow its repeaters to transmit locally originated material. There is likely to be a lot of angry words before this one is done.
I see where a number of local stations have filed applications to extend the time for completion of their DTV facilities. On the list are KSTW (14), KWPX (32) and KTBW (36). Terry Spring was telling me that they lucked out on this one with their HD channel right next door making use of the same antenna possible.
The Consumer Electronics Assn. (CEA) has filed comments with the FCC supporting IBOC. This is another feather in the cap of those that hope to get the digital radio system off the ground. As we move along the IBOC 'club' is growing... meanwhile some of the national remailers are busy debating the licensing costs that Ibiquity is proposing.
BE has announced that they are releasing new equipment for FM IBOC. In last year's show at L.V. the company showed that they have been doing a lot of work in this area with prototypes to see and touch. I expect to see that both of the Quincy outfits, BE and Harris, will have the most to show at the April doin's.
If you think that Harris is big in Broadcasting, they are REALLY big with the FAA with their weather radar work. By 2004 the FAA deal could total some 125 Megabucks.
Locally, Metawave appears to be going the wrong way, with local press releases about the local antenna company looking pretty gloomy.
As if Radio needed something else to battle, the matter of putting radio on the Internet continues to be a battleground. All was going pretty well until the matter of payment to talent came up... since then it's been pretty rough. Many broadcasters are now considering what to do. Some of the small Internet only stations will be forced to go away due to the ever-increasing costs of doing business on the 'Net'. At one time the Internet was sort of like the old free-form radio... but not anymore. I am sure that many will feel that it's been ruined.
Congratulations to those stations that are finalists for the annual Crystal Radio Awards. In scanning the list a couple of Northwest stations pop out: KWJJ and KPAM in Portland and KIRO in Seattle. Well, time to leave you with something totally educational and informative. Whereas by the time you have read this piece... my odometer will have turned over another decade, and yes, this is the decade in which I will retire (wow that came fast) I found this item to fit the bill.
GREAT TRUTHS ABOUT GROWING OLD
* Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.
And the FOUR STAGES OF LIFE
1. You believe in Santa Claus.
Take care of each other and please THINK SPRING!
The End User
First off this month - please take a few minutes to take the Chapter's Waveguide distribution survey. We want to be sure you're getting the Waveguide in the most convenient format - your input is greatly appreciated! The survey is on the Chapter home page [Link Here to the Survey].
Picture this: You're checking out the latest in Mac hardware at one of the "big-box" stores, when you spot a young man walking toward you listening to an iPod, Apple's neat new portable audio player. He stops at one of the Macs on display, hooks up his iPod and clicks some icons on the desktop. You're curious as to what he's doing - so you move in for a closer look, and see he's copying the entire Microsoft Office for OS X suite to his iPod. Thanks to the Firewire connection, the copying only takes a few seconds. He then disconnects his iPod and leaves the store. Presto- this teenager just bootlegged a $500 software package. When the shopper alerted store personnel to this "virtual shoplifting", they looked at him like he was nuts. Was this a scene from a new techie movie? Nope. A customer at a store in Texas observed this incident first-hand this past February. It turns out that Apple, which put anti-piracy guards for music files into the iPod, didn't include protection for other types of files-probably because Apple never envisioned the iPod as a software-pirating device! The incident above brings to light the newest form of data theft: local connections to a computer. With the proliferation of high-capacity storage devices, like the iPod and the USB keychain drives, along with high-speed external interfaces like Firewire and USB 2.0, local data theft is developing into a real concern for computer users. Within a matter of seconds, your e-mail, confidential documents and even credit card numbers can be quickly copied to one of these storage devices.
So how do you protect your computer's files from being stolen? "Lock down" your computer when you leave it unattended, even if it's in a "secure" area. At a bare minimum, set up a password-protected screen saver and activate it when you leave your computer. And set the system security to not allow changes except by password. The Mac can be easily configured to allow only administrators to make changes, as can Windows XP and any Microsoft NT-based OS. If you're using Windows 9x or Me, get a third-party computer-lock utility. You can download some for free from shareware sites like Tucows or Cnet's download.com.
Speaking of security, Micron has introduced a line of laptops with a built-in biometric fingerprint scanner. If the fingerprint scan doesn't match, the computer doesn't start up. The scanner can also be used to enter passwords, grant file access, and even fill out forms on Web sites. Micron's not the first to provide a fingerprint scanner on a computer, but according to tests done by the computer magazines it works well and didn't grant access to non-authorized users.
Computer industry experts are predicting that 1.2 million recordable-DVD drives will be sold in 2002. That's double the number sold last year. But a format war is taking place with recordable DVDs-there's no fewer than FIVE formats: DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD+R. And, of course, none are compatible, and there isn't one drive currently available that supports all formats (although some manufacturers are promising future compatibility through firmware upgrades). Unless you really need to have a DVD-recordable drive, it's probably best to wait a few months for the formats to shake out, and the prices to drop.
You may have heard about the FCC's recent rule change that will reclassify cable broadband Internet access as an "information service", freeing the cable industry from regulations such as opening their networks to competitive ISPs. Now, a group of ISPs and consumer groups are considering filing a suit to protest the FCC's decision, which they say limits consumer choice. The FCC ruling doesn't appear to affect AT&T Broadband's plans to offer their Seattle customers Earthlink's high-speed Internet as an alternative ISP. Both Seattle and Boston AT&T customers should have the Earthlink service available later this year. Currently, Earthlink is offering service on selected Time Warner and Charter Communications networks.
While we're on the subject of the Internet: it seems like more of the free services we've all become accustomed to are going away. From MLB's streaming charges (increasing to $15/year in 2002) to paying for cards at AmericanGreetings.com, more and more formerly free Web sites are implementing fee-based services. One of the latest is CNN, which is now charging $40 a year to access once-free video clips on their Web site. I wonder: if I have to pay to access a Web site will those darn X10 pop-under ads go away? I just hope Google doesn't start charging a fee....
Finally, if you're concerned about the increasing amount of restrictions being placed on use of digital media then you should check out DigitalConsumer.org. This association, formed by two of the cofounders of Excite.com, proposes that a "Consumer Technology Bill Of Rights" be passed to allow people fair use of digital media they purchase-uses like creating "mix CDs" and transferring audio to portable MP3 players. DigitalConsumer's contention is that these activities are permitted in the analog domain but are being, or will soon be, severely restricted in the digital world. The site has a lot of information on the DMCA and the recently proposed Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA). There's also a link from which you can fax your thoughts on these issues to your representatives in Congress. The URL is http://www.digitalconsumer.org. That's it for this month. Please feel free to send your comments and suggestions to email@example.com. All the best to you!
SO YOU WANT A VACATION DAY?
Contributor's name withheld so HR won't find out! :-)
So you want a day off? Let's take a look at what you are asking for.
There are 365 days per year available for work. There are 52 weeks per year in which you already have two days off per week, leaving 261 days available for work.
Since you spend 16 hours each day away from work, you have used up 170 days, leaving only 91 days available for work.
You spend 30 minutes each day on coffee break; that accounts for 23 days each year, leaving only 68 days available for work.
With a one hour lunch period each day, you have used up another 46 days, leaving only 22 days available for work.
You normally spend 2 days per year on sick leave. This leaves you only 20 days available for work. We are off for 5 holidays per year, so your available working time is down to 15 days. We generously give you 14 days vacation per year wich leaves only 1 day available for work and I will be darned if you're going to take that day off!
Garneth M. Harris
Newsletter archives are available
Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Societies, its officers, or its members. We regret, but are not liable for, any omissions or errors. The Denver SBE and SMPTE Newsletter is published approximately twelve times per year. It is prepared with a combination of text and graphic data. Submission deadline is 10 days before the last day of each month. Other SBE or SMPTE chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the original authors, sources, and/or the Denver SBE/SMPTE Newsletter.