Random Radio Thoughts
We all know better...
On August 23, 39-year-old Robin Thomas, an engineer from the Cheyenne, Wyoming area was installing an FM transmitter at a remote site near Red Feather Lakes in northern Colorado. He was working alone, something we all know we shouldn't do but sometimes we must. Sadly, Mr. Thomas was electrocuted and killed. While the body was found on August 24, the incident evidently happened on the 23rd. Our deepest sympathies to Robin's family.
More KNRC News
In late August, the News filed an application with the FCC for a four-tower 50 kW daytime facility for the station. The app specifies the existing site, south of Cherry Creek State Park, using the existing nighttime tower line (120-degree spacing on a 102-degree line). Not surprisingly, no height increase is proposed for the short (140-ft.) towers, which are height limited by the proximity to Centennial Airport. The proposed pattern just barely makes minimum efficiency with those short towers. As long as their losses stay at or below one ohm per tower, they will be fine.
As Colorado license renewal filings come due later this year, be careful when answering the Public File question on the renewal form. It asks the applicant to certify that everything that was supposed to go into the file was placed in the file at the appropriate time. KALW got into trouble by making this certification when an "outside third party" alleged missing documents on her first three visits to the file. The documents "miraculously" appeared on her fourth visit.
Consult your communications counsel before checking "yes" on the Public File question. Can you certify, without a doubt, that everything was placed in your Public File at the proper time and has remained there ever since?
If you have news you would like to share with the Denver radio engineering community, email me at email@example.com.
SBE Certification Program Hits All-Time High
August 27, 2004
Indianapolis, In -The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) has conducted a certification program available to both members band non-members since 1975. What started out as a program that struggled to gain acceptance in the industry now boasts 5,400 current certifications on record. That marks the association's highpoint in the 29 years since the first certification was granted.
SBE grants technical and operator certifications in eleven different levels and broadcasting disciplines. All require recertification every five years to ensure that the individuals who hold them keep up with changes in technology, accepted practices and regulations. Newer certification levels that the Society has unveiled over the last ten years have addressed the changes in technology and station operation as well as the need to provide a standard for individuals working in master control. These have included the Certified Broadcast Networking Technician, Certified Radio Operator and Certified Television Operator. Hundreds of engineers and operators now hold certifications in each of these levels.
Chriss Scherer, CSRE CBNT, the SBE's national Certification Committee Chairman, expressed optimism with the announcement of the lofty total of certifications. "This achievement shows that the broadcast industry truly values SBE Certification. After ongoing, incremental successes with SBE Certification, an accomplishment like this is a proud moment for the Certification Committee."
Scherer also listed several other initiatives SBE has been working on in the area of certification. "The new CertPreview practice test software was released earlier this year, replacing the original DOS version with a Windows format. It's a great way to prepare to take the actual exam. We have also put together a Power Point presentation that clearly explains the SBE Program of Certification. Each chapter certification chairman has received a CD containing the program and many chapters will be viewing the program this fall at one of their upcoming meetings."
Scherer also said that a broadcast engineering sample curriculum, for use by post-secondary schools as a guideline, has been developed and is available free to any school that is interested. This is an effort to help ensure that colleges and trade schools include all of the important aspects necessary today in radio and television engineering in their degree programs.
SBE's Certification Committee held a strategic planning meeting earlier this year to examine how the program can continue to provide for the needs of broadcast engineers in the future. In the process, many broadcast engineering industry leaders were surveyed about their perception of the SBE certification program and how it could be strengthened and improved to make it an even more valuable means to evaluate and recognize knowledge and experience.
"SBE provides a number of important services to the broadcast industry. It's safe to say that our voluntary certification program is what we are most widely known for," said SBE President, Raymond Benedict, CPBE. Benedict went on to say, "Our Certification Committee and staff have done a wonderful job in keeping the program current with the changes in technology and the local volunteer chapter certification chairmen are the backbone of our delivery system. We look forward to continuing to supply broadcast engineers with a certification program that will help provide the recognition they deserve and assist in their career development."
The Society of Broadcast Engineers is the professional organization for radio and television engineers and those in related fields. SBE has more than 5,500 members in 108 chapters across the United States. There are also members in 30 other countries. Most chapters meet monthly and offer educational programs and an opportunity to network with their peers. SBE offers the largest and most recognized certification program for broadcast engineers, operators and technicians. SBE's Certification Program is certified by the National Skills Standards Board.
For more information about SBE, contact John L. Poray, CAE, Executive Director at 317-846-9000 or visit the SBE web site, www.sbe.org.
SBE National News
AWARD RECIPIENTS ANNOUNCED
A full rundown of the winners can be found in the August issue of the SBE SIGNAL.
CHAPTERS TO RECEIVE SBE 40th ANNIVESARY CD
SBE MEMBERSHIP HITS NEW HIGH
5,400 SBE CERTIFICATIONS!
COURSE II OF LEADER SKILLS SET
SBE 2004 NATIONAL MEETING
The SBE National Meeting includes the fall Board of Directors Meeting, annual Fellows Breakfast, Annual Membership Meeting and the National Awards Reception and Dinner. The regional Convention includes an Ennes Workshop on Tuesday (only $25 to attend and includes lunch) and a broadcast equipment trade show Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday (free!)
Everyone is invited but we especially hope that many SBE members in the New England area will attend the event. Marlborough is easily accessible by car. For those of you who plan to fly, Marlborough is approximately 45 miles west of the Boston airport, 50 miles north of the Providence, RI airport and 50 miles south of the Manchester, NH airport. Check all three to get the best rates and arrival and departure times from your location.
SBE TO EXHIBIT AT IBC
SBE International Committee Chairman, Chuck Kelly, CBT, worked with IBC organizers to provide SBE with a complimentary booth. This paved the way for SBE's participation. Executive Director, John Poray will represent SBE at the show. Poray will be promoting SBE membership, certification and other services to the more than 39,000 people who are expected to attend. SBE currently has members in 30 countries besides the United States.
If you will be attending IBC, plan to visit the SBE "Stand," #8.196, which is in the Audio/Radio Hall. The booth will contain many of our free literature items, explaining SBE benefits and programs including the many technical books we have available.
Certification - How It Began
From the Chapter 40/BABES Website – San Francisco
The FCC tests for 2nd and 1st class licenses were locked in a time warp that only a WWII Signal Corp. tech could appreciate. I recall memorizing several oscillator circuits that were certainly historic but neither had been used in years. As the decades passed, the question as to how these tests applied to the industry kept coming up. There were plenty of license mills to coax people through the rigors of the tests but what you got was someone who had the piece of paper and that was about it. SBE decided to step in and create tests that would show an employer what an applicant actually knew.
Initially those who were licensed and experienced were covered under a grandfather provision from taking the test. They had to demonstrate credits to stay certified. I was one of those individuals.
I'd recently taken up teaching and so was picked to be the cert chair for chapter 40. Imagine my surprise when I opened up the package of tests in the library at the College of San Mateo to find a modest request enclosed. "The proctor should take both the radio and television engineering tests so we can check their validity." Mind you I hadn't studied anything. Fortunately I passed both of them.
A few years into the cert program I had only one applicant for that particular test and I went to an apartment in Alameda to proctor it. The applicant was Dane Ericksen, who was with the Enforcement Division of the FCC in those days. The FCC was interested in what we were doing and encouraged their employees to check us out. I guess the report must have been good as some years later they exited the testing and license business.
Sometime in the 1980s my name showed up on the letterhead of the National Committee. I have no recall as to how that happened or even what year. My main contribution has been to rewrite questions that weren't very clear in their original form. The National Committee had late into the night marathon sessions where we cull or recast questions in the database.
Now we are working on creating tests for specific specialties in broadcasting. That's driven by employers who need employees with certain skills. We may get into tutorial mode as well because a number of technical books are out of print.
Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians and Radio Operators
Job applicants face strong competition for jobs in major metropolitan areas, where pay generally is higher; prospects are better in small cities and towns.
Technical school, community college, or college training in electronics, computer networking, or broadcast technology provides the best preparation.
About 32 percent work in broadcasting, mainly for radio and television stations, and 16 percent work in the motion picture and sound recording industries.
Evening, weekend, and holiday work is common.
Nature of the Work
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators set up, operate, and maintain a wide variety of electrical and electronic equipment involved in almost any radio or television broadcast, concert, play, musical recording, television show, or movie. With such a range of work, there are many specialized occupations within the field.
Audio and video equipment technicians set up and operate audio and video equipment, including microphones, sound speakers, video screens, projectors, video monitors, recording equipment, connecting wires and cables, sound and mixing boards, and related electronic equipment for concerts, sports events, meetings and conventions, presentations, and news conferences. They may also set up and operate associated spotlights and other custom lighting systems.
Broadcast technicians set up, operate, and maintain equipment that regulates the signal strength, clarity, and range of sounds and colors of radio or television broadcasts. They also operate control panels to select the source of the material. Technicians may switch from one camera or studio to another, from film to live programming, or from network to local programming.
Sound engineering technicians operate machines and equipment to record, synchronize, mix, or reproduce music, voices, or sound effects in recording studios, sporting arenas, theater productions, or movie and video productions.
Radio operators mainly receive and transmit communications using a variety of tools. They also are responsible for repairing equipment, using such devices as electronic testing equipment, handtools, and power tools. One of their major duties is to help to maintain communication systems in good condition.
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators perform a variety of duties in small stations. In large stations and at the networks, technicians are more specialized, although job assignments may change from day to day. The terms "operator," "engineer," and "technician" often are used interchangeably to describe these jobs. Workers in these positions may monitor and log outgoing signals and operate transmitters; set up, adjust, service, and repair electronic broadcasting equipment; and regulate fidelity, brightness, contrast, volume, and sound quality of television broadcasts.
Technicians also work in program production. Recording engineers operate and maintain video and sound recording equipment. They may operate equipment designed to produce special effects, such as the illusions of a bolt of lightning or a police siren. Sound mixers or rerecording mixers produce the soundtrack of a movie or television program. After filming or recording is complete, they may use a process called "dubbing" to insert sounds. Field technicians set up and operate portable transmission equipment outside the studio. Television news coverage requires so much electronic equipment, and the technology is changing so rapidly, that many stations assign technicians exclusively to news.
Chief engineers, transmission engineers, and broadcast field supervisors oversee other technicians and maintain broadcasting equipment.
The transition to digital recording, editing, and broadcasting has greatly changed the work of broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators. Software on desktop computers has replaced specialized electronic equipment in many recording and editing functions. Most radio and television stations have replaced video and audio tapes with computer hard drives and other computer data storage systems. Computer networks linked to the specialized equipment dominate modern broadcasting. This transition has forced technicians to learn computer networking and software skills. (See the statement on computer support specialists and systems administrators elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators generally work indoors in pleasant surroundings. However, those who broadcast news and other programs from locations outside the studio may work outdoors in all types of weather. Technicians doing maintenance may climb poles or antenna towers, while those setting up equipment do heavy lifting.
Technicians at large stations and the networks usually work a 40-hour week under great pressure to meet broadcast deadlines, and may occasionally work overtime. Technicians at small stations routinely work more than 40 hours a week. Evening, weekend, and holiday work is usual, because most stations are on the air 18 to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even though a technician may not be on duty when the station is broadcasting, some technicians may be on call during nonwork hours; that is, they must handle any problems that occur when they are on call.
Those who work on motion pictures may be on a tight schedule and may work long hours to meet contractual deadlines.
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators held about 93,000 jobs in 2002. Their employment was distributed among the following detailed occupations:
Audio and video equipment technicians: 42,000
Broadcast technicians: 35,000
Sound engineering technicians: 13,000 Radio operators: 3,000
About 32 percent worked in broadcasting (except Internet) and 16 percent worked in the motion picture and sound recording industries. Almost 1 in 10 were self-employed. Television stations employ, on average, many more technicians than do radio stations. Some technicians are employed in other industries, producing employee communications, sales, and training programs. Technician jobs in television are located in virtually all cities, whereas jobs in radio also are found in many small towns. The highest paying and most specialized jobs are concentrated in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC—the originating centers for most network or news programs. Motion picture production jobs are concentrated in Los Angeles and New York City.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
The best way to prepare for a broadcast and sound engineering technician job is to obtain technical school, community college, or college training in electronics, computer networking, or broadcast technology. In the motion picture industry, people are hired as apprentice editorial assistants and work their way up to more skilled jobs. Employers in the motion picture industry usually hire experienced freelance technicians on a picture-by-picture basis. Reputation and determination are important in getting jobs.
Beginners learn skills on the job from experienced technicians and supervisors. They often begin their careers in small stations and, once experienced, move on to larger ones. Large stations usually hire only technicians with experience. Many employers pay tuition and expenses for courses or seminars to help technicians keep abreast of developments in the field.
Audio and video equipment technicians generally need a high school diploma. Many recent entrants have a community college degree or various other forms of postsecondary degrees, although that is not always a requirement. They may substitute on-the-job training for formal education requirements. Working in a studio, as an assistant, is a great way of gaining experience and knowledge.
Radio operators do not usually require any formal training. This is an entry-level position that generally requires on-the-job training.
The Federal Communications Commission no longer requires the licensing of broadcast technicians, as the Telecommunications Act of 1996 eliminated this licensing requirement. Certification by the Society of Broadcast Engineers is a mark of competence and experience. The certificate is issued to experienced technicians who pass an examination.
Prospective technicians should take high school courses in math, physics, and electronics. Building electronic equipment from hobby kits and operating a "ham," or amateur, radio are good experience, as is work in college radio and television stations. Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators must have manual dexterity and an aptitude for working with electrical, electronic, and mechanical systems and equipment.
Experienced technicians can become supervisory technicians or chief engineers. A college degree in engineering is needed in order to become chief engineer at a large television station.
People seeking entry-level jobs as technicians in broadcasting are expected to face strong competition in major metropolitan areas, where pay generally is higher and the number of qualified jobseekers typically exceeds the number of openings. There, stations seek highly experienced personnel. Prospects for entry-level positions usually are better in small cities and towns for beginners with appropriate training.
Overall employment of broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2012. Job growth in radio and television broadcasting will be limited by consolidation of ownership of radio and television stations, and by laborsaving technical advances such as computer-controlled programming and remotely controlled transmitters. Changes to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations now allow a single owner for up to eight radio stations in a single large market, and rules changes under consideration may have a similar impact on the ownership of television stations. Owners of multiple stations often consolidate the stations into a single location, reducing employment because one or a few technicians can provide support to multiple stations. Technicians who know how to install transmitters will be in demand as television stations install digital transmitters. Although most television stations are broadcasting in both analog and digital formats and plan to switch entirely to digital, radio stations are only beginning to broadcast digital signals.
Employment of broadcast and sound engineering technicians in the cable and pay television portion of the broadcasting industry should grow as the range of services is expanded to provide, such products as cable Internet access and video-on-demand. Employment of these workers in the motion picture industry will grow rapidly. However, job prospects are expected to remain competitive because of the large number of people who are attracted by the glamour of working in motion pictures.
Projected job growth varies among detailed occupations in this field. Employment of broadcast technicians is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012, as advancements in technology enhance the capabilities of technicians to produce higher quality radio and television programming. Employment of radio operators is expected to decline as more stations operate transmitters that control programming remotely. Employment of audio and video equipment technicians and sound engineering technicians is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. Not only will these workers have to set up audio and video equipment, but it will be necessary for them to maintain and repair this equipment.
In addition to employment growth, job openings also will result from the need to replace experienced technicians who leave this field. Some of these workers leave for other jobs that require knowledge of electronics, such as computer repairer or industrial machinery repairer.
Television stations usually pay higher salaries than do radio stations; commercial broadcasting usually pays more than public broadcasting; and stations in large markets pay more than those in small markets.
Median annual earnings of broadcast technicians in 2002 were $27,760. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,860 and $45,200. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $14,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,970.
Median annual earnings of sound engineering technicians in 2002 were $36,970. The middle 50 percent earned between $24,330 and $57,350. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,510.
Median annual earnings of audio and video equipment technicians in 2002 were $31,110. The middle 50 percent earned between $22,670 and $43,950. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,420.
Median annual earnings of radio operators in 2002 were $31,530. The middle 50 percent earned between $24,000 and $41,430. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,340.
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators need the electronics training necessary to operate technical equipment, and they generally complete specialized postsecondary programs. Occupations with similar characteristics include engineering technicians, science technicians, and electrical and electronics installers and repairers. Broadcast and sound engineering technicians also may operate computer networks, as do computer support specialists and systems administrators. Broadcast technicians on some live radio and television programs are responsible for screening incoming calls, similar to the work of communications equipment operators.
Sources of Additional Information
Links to non-BLS Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
For career information and links to employment resources, contact: National Association of Broadcasters, 1771 N St. NW., Washington, DC 20036. Internet: http://www.nab.org
For information on certification, contact:
Society of Broadcast Engineers, 9247 North Meridian St., Suite 305, Indianapolis, IN 46260. Internet: http://www.sbe.org
OOH ONET Codes
27-4011.00, 27-4012.00, 27-4013.00, 27-4014.00
Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition, Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians and Radio Operators, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos109.htm (visited August 21, 2004).
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
Since we last met 'tween these pages I have attended the SBE Executive Board meeting in Indy, visited Entercom's stations there, spent a couple of days working in Milwaukee and attended the SBE doin's in Chicago... whew!
Around here we are still working toward getting all the new HD Radio stations on the air at West Tiger. Think I could write a book about subjects that I never thought I'd have to know about... like 'The effects of power levels and ambient temperatures on thermal drift of high powered circulators'. Radio, like TV, is becoming something that your grandfather (or maybe dad) would not recognize. Hopefully by the time you read this we will be done with this project... for a while.
I have another passing to report. On July 7th, Henry Perozzo, W7UD, passed away. Hank, as he was known, was the owner of the Puyallup radio station (then called KAYE) in the 50's and 60's and was involved with a number of others over the years. He also worked with religious programs and duplication. On the ham radio side he was known as 'Uncle Dudley' from the letters in his ham call. I can remember Hank on the air on the little Puyallup station, doing the morning show, using the air-name of Earl E. Riser. For those that knew him, or had just met him once, he left a lasting impression.
So what's up with HDTV? According to an article I read the other day there is a ton of confusion about the medium. The term Digital Cable has not helped with this problem. Here are some 'stats' to chew on: Most HD set owners don't even have HD on the screen. Less than 25% of HD set owners actually subscribe to a service that will bring HD to their set. Many are buying HD sets that do not have tuners to pull in local stations that may be broadcasting HD. Many HD set owners feel they are watching HD on their new set when they are not, i.e., they go out and buy an HD Monitor and brag about having HDTV.
Some retailers, like Best Buy, are now making an effort at sorting out the SE/ED/HD mumbo-jumbo by including easy to understand definitions about the different 'definitions'... and they help consumers understand the difference between HD Ready and HD Built In. Jerry Whitacre, reporting on HD and the work of the ATSC at the recent Chicago SBE workshop, reported the following stats about HD: 1216 stations are on the air in 207 markets covering 98% of America's households. More than 50% of TV households are in markets with four or more DTV Signals. To help understand what's going on here we need to remember that early HD displays were not required to have DTV tuners. This is changing with more 'plug and play' sets reaching the marketplace. Now there are over 90 sets available with integrated tuners. An encouraging sign is that there is more money being spent on HD sets than Analog. I have to wonder if Radio will ever be able to make that claim?
The FCC is asking for input for what will become HD Radio rules. In the process they must determine a number of issues... the most 'grabby' being what to do about HD for AM at night. Unlike FM-HD ... the AM band's night propagation can impact a lot of stations over a very large territory. Both systems utilize the emission-mask that permits lower powered emissions on what are actually adjacent channels. On AM this can spell trouble. For years AMs have used directional antennas and power reductions to stay out of each other's way... but with HD the adjacent channels are in play. An example of how bad this can be was brought to light at a recent session on the subject in Chicago. Near there, there are two stations that are on adjacent channels where their existing 5 mV contours overlap. In another case, stations that on adjacent channels in Detroit and NYC are likely to clobber each other with AM IBOC at night. In this case they are co-owned, here they are considering the installation of directional antennas for their adjacent channels.... who would have thought?
For radio there is good news as a number of manufacturers are either building or have announced plans to build radios for the new modes. Like satellite radio, the initial wave of new hardware is meant for vehicles... perhaps later will come radios for in-home use. I suspect that HD FM Radio will, like satellite radio, have issues with building penetration due to the 20 dB analog to digital power ratio. On that subject, KUOW's Capital Hill transmitter site may well help them in this area. Thus far it appears that KUOW's rather modest elevation is restricting their HD Radio coverage to Seattle and its immediate suburbs when compared to the other HD facilities on West Tiger, proving that when it comes to propagation on 100 MHz there is nothing like elevation, especially with our area's topography.
In recent local FCC activity...
K218AS is to be a translator for KNHC at about 112th and SR-512 in Tacoma, very near Pacific Lutheran. A translator is planned for White Center for KSVR in Mt Vernon. KUOW has filed regarding their antenna change... and KJR was granted a license for their new facility on Vashon.
Another tower felled by Vandals. This time a 100-footer in Vermont belonging to WDOT. The new structure will be a monopole.
Clear Channel dropped Howard Stern... but Infinity is apparently sticking with him as shock jocks take on the characteristics of a hot-potato. About 45 stations carry Stern nationwide, 27 of them Infinity. In Seattle he is aired on Entercom's KISW. On a related subject, Infinity's owner, Viacom/CBS, may gain 'nailed' $550,000 over the Janet Jackson 'flash'.
XM continues to grow with their subscriber base now totaling over 2.1 Million.
Ever notice how you are hearing more foreign languages on today's radio dial? According to a recent survey some 13% of the folks in our state speak a language other than English. Spanish language stations have been popular in the Yakima valley area for many years due to the number of agricultural workers there. Perhaps surprisingly, there are now between 50 and 100 thousand in King County alone. For more info check out www.mla.org.
The Department of Homeland Security made a lot of friends in Redmond recently with the announcement that for security reasons browsers other than Internet Explorer be used due to its vulnerabilities to hackers.
Think that you have a lot of computers these days around the plant? Check this out. The Continental GT (it's a car) has 70 microprocessors and 35 computer control units. The Continental is the new Bentley which is now owned by VW. For $150K you can own one of these 552 horsepower critters that will do zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds and do just under 200 mph. That is unless you have to re-boot something.
You hear that inflation is in check... well not so fast. The FCC recently increased the maximum monetary forfeiture penalties to $32,500 per violation or per day not to exceed $325,000... the reason for the change... to reflect inflation. On that subject, the Commish recently nailed an LPTV station for not having EAS equipment and DirecTV to the tune of 87.5 Grand for moving their bird without authorization.
Remember those new Mexican stations that showed up on the AM band and were clobbering US Broadcasters? Well some progress has been made... however, one (XESS) moved from 780 to 620. Now they are clobbering KTAR in Phoenix.
Congratulations to SBE Members in Eugene. Chapter 76 is now officially up and running.
Looking back 50 years... July 4th 1954, KTNT-TV Channel 11 moved its transmitter site from 11th and Grant, Tacoma, to View Park south of Port Orchard. The site, known as the 'North-40' was operated until the station moved to its present Capital Hill site in Seattle. Yours truly was the last one to work at that site.... Loved those GE controls... let's see... you push the button that is lit...
By the time you read this... Dave Ross will be history at KIRO. He announced he was signing off on July 23rd to run for Congress. Will Seattle Radio ever be the same?
Outta space... gotta run... Enjoy SUMMER!
Clay, K7CR, CPBE
PDX Radio Waves
by Michael D. Brown N7AXC CSRE
It's summer, and (if we're lucky), there is more time on the beach and less time with a head poked inside a PA cavity. Lately, I've been entertaining and shuttling nieces and grandkids all over the state, and took a few moments to query them - ages 9 to 14 - on their listening and viewing habits. They can't conceive of a time or place with less than 50 TV and nearly as many radio stations, have never seen rabbit-ears and wouldn't know what to do with them, never listen to AM, don't know what voice-tracking is (except that some stations are "boring"), and immediately switch the channel when a commercial comes on. There was unanimous agreement that there were FAR too many commercials on radio, a fact that Clear Channel now seems to realize, with their recent announcement to set much lower limits for their stations. Clear Channel's sheer size means it can set the tone for all of radio - on this issue, and probably also on IBOC. CC has announced that they'll be fast-tracking conversion of about 1000 of their AM and FM stations to IBOC, within 3 years. CC owns 10% of Ibiquity.
I just got back from a lobbying trip to DC, on the LPFM 3rd-adjacent bill. At press time, it had just passed through the Senate Commerce Committee unscathed, except for an amendment that would essentially keep 3rd-adjacent LPFMs out of New Jersey. Action by the full Senate and House is still needed, which may not happen this year. It seems that concerns about interference are waning, but other side issues - such as questions about the ability of the FCC to police hundreds of additional LPFM stations - still come up. The NAB, whose attentions lately have been mostly elsewhere, managed to produce and circulate another questionable 11th-hour recording, attempting to show how "harmful" 3rd-adjacent interference from LPFMs might be. Their test interfering station, WWZZ in suburban D.C., is a 20 kW flamethrower (200 times the maximum ERP of an LPFM), and there was no indication as to how far they were from its tower when they made the recordings. http://www.nab.org/Newsroom/PressRel/Releases/LPFM072104.htm
The FCC Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that we mentioned last month exploring the issues of LPFM vs. translators, covers far more than that. A whole range of technical and non-technical issues that might affect localism were touched on, including voice tracking and what actually constitutes "local" programming, the general decline in news, public affairs, and political reporting and programming, payola schemes, and vertical integration of radio stations with concert promotion. While nothing concrete is likely to come out of this NOI this year, it's a good start.
The multi-tiered FCC Report and Order that includes move-ins to Covington (Seattle) and Gladstone (Portland), has been reissued with only minor changes. KMIH, the Class D station in Mercer Island, WA, gets no relief, and will apparently expire. Seattle and PDX will get their new stations. New allotments will be added to Manzanita, Ilwaco, Trout Lake, and Moro, as backfill. Stations in Eugene, Coos Bay, Portland (KPDQ) OR, and Long Beach, WA, will change frequencies. Happy reading: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA_04_2054A1.pdf
SBE Chapter 67 Presents Broadcast Equipment Expo 2004
October 22-23, 2004
Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center
Booth space is still available !
Contact Sandy Sandberg at 214 343-5786
The Battle Over BPL Heats Up!
Everett E. Helm W7EEH CPBE
In a strongly worded editorial in QST, the ARRL has really laid out the facts of interference to licensed services as conveyed in Part 15 of the Communications Act. There does not appear to be any "wiggle" room for any communications provider that causes ANY interference to licensed services, including amateur radio, to continue to operate. [Begin RANT mode] The hitch in the getup is with the FCC, which has sole jurisdiction in cases of interference. The interfering offender is not required to terminate the emissions until ordered to do so by the FCC. AND, as we all know, the current FCC spectrum management policy is highly suspect: so much money is involved that instead of shutting down the service and then resolving the problem, the offenders are given until nearly eternity to "fix" the problem. In my opinion, corruption is so rampant in our government today, that I seriously doubt that the Commission will ever deal out any $10K per day fines, which in the current big scope of things is just the cost of doing business and a small fraction of the amount passed under the table to certain members of Congress and the FCC.
Between BPL (Broadband over Power Lines), which will affect any radio amateurs who use the HF bands, and the scheme to drop in broadband wireless services on unused TV channels in the broadcast bands, which will ultimately affect over the air reception everywhere, just about everyone of you reading this will potentially be damaged in some way. Please stay aware, and keep the heat on your Congressional delegation, which will probably not be responsive, since the general consensus in government is that the American people don't know what's good for them. But wait, our elected representatives know what's politically correct, and what's good for the country. Certainly, the appointed Federal Courts do? OR DO THEY?) [End RANT mode].
The End User
If you're planning to install a wireless network, you may want to avoid hardware that advertises speeds of "up to 108 Mb/sec" on the 802.11g platform. The Wi-Fi Alliance (an international group comprised of over 200 member companies) has announced a new policy which will pull Wi-Fi compatibility certification from devices that use "proprietary extensions" to achieve the higher speeds. The concern is that use of these devices will cause compatibility problems with hardware not using the extensions.
It's probably a good idea to avoid the "turbo" or "super" 802.11g hardware anyway, since achieving even the fastest speeds on just the standard platform requires a very strong signal with little or no interference— a scenario which very few end users will encounter in their homes or offices.
While we're on the subject of wireless: here's a tip to improve the security of your wireless network, and it works whether you use WEP or WPA. Implement the "MAC Address Control" or "MAC Address Filtering" feature on your wireless router. This feature enables limiting access to your wireless network to interface cards specifically identified by you. You can find the "MAC Address" on the card itself, or the wireless utility in Windows (with IPCONFIG or WINIPCFG) or that came with your card can also identify the MAC.
In DVD recording, dual-layer burners, which enable capacities of 9.4 Gb on a single DVD disc, have hit the market. In many cases, the dual-layer drives are just a few dollars higher in price than their single-layer counterparts and are fully compatible with single-layer blank discs. Dual-layer blanks, unfortunately are still scarce and expensive, but if a DVD burner is in your future you may want to consider getting a dual-layer drive.
And to wrap up this month, a mention of the demise of one of the oldest technology shows: Comdex. For the last twenty or so years, the fall expo in Vegas was the place to unveil new tech products and innovations. But Comdex attendance has fallen off in recent years, and the show organizers decided this spring to pull the plug. Maybe Comdex was a victim of the very technologies it was exhibiting...
The YXZ Report
By Kent Randles K7YXZ CBRE
Required reading for radio engineers. Starting on page 8 of the July 2004 issue of Radio Guide: The Canadian View - A Look at the Digital Horizon, by Barry McLarnon. One of Canada's foremost experts on digital radio broadcast systems explains what IBOC really does to adjacent channels on both FM and AM, complete with graphs and spectrum analyzer pictures. Find out why IBOC may kill every stations' fringe coverage. See http://www.oldradio.com/jul.pdf for the entire issue.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: ASCII DEVELOPER HITS THE ESCAPE KEY
(from Amateur Radio Newsline(tm) Copyright 2004 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/arnewsline/ ) Bob Bemer, a computer pioneer who published warnings of the Y2K problem in the early 1970s and helped invent a widely used coding system, has died. This, following a battle with cancer.
While not a radio amateur, Bemer played a major role in how the world's computers operate and, indirectly, in how hams communicate today. He began his career in 1949 working at companies including Rand, IBM, and Honeywell. He also helped develop the ASCII coding system that is used to represent letters, numbers and other characters in the data world. He also contributed the escape key and the backslash to the computer language.
Bemer first published warnings of the Y2K computer problem in 1971 and again in 1979. He also made several public appearances to discuss the issue in the years leading up to the millennium.
Bob Bemer died Tuesday, June 22nd at his home some 120 miles west of Dallas, Texas. He was 84. (From published news reports)
AMBER ALERT LINKS UP TO THE WEB
By Richard Willing, USA TODAY
The nation's Amber Alert system will be connected to the Web starting today [July 19], a major technological boost that users say should make it easier for the system to thwart child abductions by transmitting messages over pagers, cell phones and BlackBerrys.
"The tag line on all this is, 'We'll all be looking for you,' " said Chris Warner, president of E2C, the Scottsdale, Ariz., company that has engineered Amber Alert's Web portal. "This unbelievable technology is going to make that possible."
Until now, Amber Alerts have been based on radio technology, meaning that messages have depended on the nation's old and sometimes unreliable emergency alert system to notify citizens of natural disasters and other civil emergencies.
The new Web-based system can process and transmit emergency information more quickly and to a wider variety of devices. It comes with software that pinpoints the location of an abduction and sends out emergency messages targeted to that locale.
Amber Alert managers in 11 states will have access to the new portal beginning at 5 p.m. ET today, Warner said. Use of the system is expected to expand to the 49 states that have statewide Amber Alert systems. Hawaii has no statewide system but has several local alert networks.
Targeted messages could help overcome one of the current system's weaknesses: a scattershot technology that sends emergency messages beyond the area where they are most relevant.
"If there's an abduction in Kansas and the message goes right away to Maryland, that can be counterproductive," said John Rabun, a former police officer and chief operating officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "It desensitizes people to the alerts."
The Web portal plan is expected to be announced in Seattle at a meeting of the National Governors Association.
Amber Alerts are named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was abducted and killed in 1996 while riding her bicycle near her home in Arlington, Texas. To aid in her search, local police commandeered the area's emergency broadcast system, posting descriptions on radio and television.
Since then, the system has attempted to get messages out through several radio methods, including interactive highway signs and even state lottery machines. It has succeeded in recovering 137 abducted children since 1998, when the first safe recovery was recorded, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Speed is considered vital in recovering an abducted child. The Justice Department estimates that three of every four victims are killed within three hours of being taken.
Based on a study of 1999 statistics, the Justice Department in 2002 estimated that 797,500 children were reported missing, including 203,900 who were taken by family members. About 58,200 were abducted by non-family members, the report said, though only 115 were victims of "stereotypical kidnappings."
Who's Watching Your Transmitter?
By Tom Smith
With the FCC Media Bureau's inquiry of whom are the people who rely on broadcast TV for their TV viewing and the talk about an earlier shut-down of analog TV, it may be time to look into how many sets are using over-the-air TV–either directly or indirectly to receive their local TV service. Broadcasters have spent large amounts of money on transmssion plants, most recently adding second transmitters for DTV. Each year there are louder claims that our transmitters and the spectrum they use is more irrelevant due to the large number of homes that subscribe to cable or DBS. It would be helpful to know what the true number of homes are that rely on over-the-air signals for local TV, and what the potential loss of viewers would be if analog TV goes away before a substantial number of off-the-air viewers have purchased DTV receivers.
Every year, the FCC issues a report on the use of various video program sources such as broadcast, cable, satellite, home video and others methods of receiving video such as broadband services. The first thing about trying to figure out where everyone is getting their TV service is that the numbers are not exactly accurate. Just determining the number of homes is difficult. The Census Bureau claims that as of July 2002, there were 119.3 million households in the US. The FCC in their report says there were 106,641,910 TV homes as of the end of 2003. Nielsen claims there are 108.4 million TV homes as of the end of June, 2004, as printed in the weekly TV ratings chart in Broadcasting and Cable. The number of these homes that do not watch off-the-air local TV and get their TV from subscription services is normally given as 85%.
The next thing to look at is the number of homes that subscribe to each subscription service. According the FCC's numbers either 65.9 million homes or 70.49 million homes subscribe to cable. In the text of the FCC's report, they listed the number as 65.9 million several times. In a chart at the back of the report, the number of 70.49 million was given–which is a difference of about 4% of the homes with TV. Direct broadcast satellite had 20.36 million homes as of the end of 2004, with more than another couple of million added since the beginning of the year. Satellite Master Antenna Systems (SMATV) service about 1.2 million homes, MMDS serves 200,000 homes and is fading fast. C-band satellite dishes are in 502,000 homes and those numbers are decreasing also. C-band satellite also serves 3500 hotels and 3000 SMATV systems. MMDS and C-band have lost 2.6 million homes, mostly to DBS. SMATV has lost about 400,000 homes to cable and DBS.
Adding up the 65.9 million cable subscribers, 23 million DBS subscribers, and the 1.9 million SMATV, MMDS and C-band satellite subscribers, the total comes to 90.8 million homes that subscribe to a TV service or 84% of the homes. The number goes to 95.4 million homes when the larger cable number is figured in. This is equal to 88% of the homes.
The next question is how many of those subscribers get their local TV station from their subscription service. First we know that all of the cable subscribers get their local stations from their cable company for at least one or more of their TVs. MMDS may or may not transmit the local stations. C-band users do not get any local TV on their dish. SMATV subscribers get local TV from their provider, but as this service mainly comes via C-band, the local stations are received from an off-the-air antenna in the apartment or condo complex. Finally, DBS subscribers may be able to receive local stations from their dish depending on the TV market they live in. According to the FCC report, 58% of all DBS subscribers do receive local stations via their dish with that number running at 75% in the markets that the local-into-local service is an option. Some DBS users outside of any TV market get local stations from other parts of the country. All of the subscribers to cable or DBS may be getting their local stations off the air indirectly as most of the pick-up points for DBS use off-air signals, as do many cable systems. It is mainly the large metropolitan cable systems that receive local stations via cable or fiber from the stations' control room. Small rural and systems at a distance from the stations usually receive their signals over-the-air.
If we add up the 13 million to 17.6 million homes with no subscription TV service, the .5 million C-band users, the 1.2 million SMATV subscribers, the 200,000 MMDS subscribers and the 42% or 9.7 million DBS subscribers that don't get local into local, the total is 24.6 million homes or 22.6% of the homes with TV. If you use the smaller cable number, the total number of homes getting their local TV from off-the-air is 29.2 million or 26.9 percent of the homes with TVs. The 108.4 million homes figure from Nielsen was used for the total number of homes.
Now we need to look at the overlooked numbers in measurement of TV audiences. These include sets in TV subscribers homes not hooked to the subscription service, TVs in hotels, dorms, second homes, and places of business. In most single family homes with cable, most of the sets are hooked to analog cable service. A number of years ago, that may have not been true when cable systems charged an additional fee per outlet, but since per outlet fees have gone away, most of the sets are now hooked to the cable. That may change as some systems are going to all-digital and existing analog sets will require a digital set-top box to receive any cable TV. Cable service in apartments is another story. In many apartments, there is only one cable outlet in the living room, so any TV in another room such as a bedroom relies either on rabbit ears or a cable run down the hall. Homes with DBS differ from cable homes as far as sets that receive local TV from the DBS provider. We know that 42% of the homes do not get local-into-local service. When all markets get the local-into-local service the number should drop to the 25% level that currently exists in the markets with local-into local. But because many families are dropping cable and getting DBS to cut costs for subscription TV services, they may opt to use off-the-air instead of paying another 4 or 5 dollars. Also because it costs 5 dollars more per month to activate each additional DBS receiver plus the additional cost to purchase the receiver, not all sets in the home may have a DBS receiver. Finally all those DBS subscribers to VOOM and the subscribers to DirecTV and Dish Network hi-definition services will need to use off-air DTV services to receive hi-definition programming from the broadcast networks. It is doubtful that there will ever be enough transponder space to provide local-into-local HD service to all markets.
The most forgotten users of off-the-air reception are places of business. One reason for this is that Nielsen does not rate the viewing of TV in hotel and dorm rooms or in offices. More and more hotels are subscribing to program packages from DirecTV or Dish and receive the local stations off-the-air. Both Dish and DirecTV provide local-into local to business, but many opt for off-the air to avoid the cost of additional satellite receivers and modulators. Many sports bars follow the same pattern. Other business must rely on off-the-air because the cable does not run past their building. Many cable companies did not run the cable in business or industrial districts because there were few potential subscribers. When was the last time you waited for you car at a dealership and saw a TV that did not use rabbit ears in the waiting room? Because of cable modems and the Internet, cable is now being extended to these areas.
The last place that may not be counted for over-the-air reception would be second homes. How many people would pay for cable or DBS for a place they may only use several times a year. Even if they use it more often, unless the vacation home is on a lake shore or other built up area, the cable probably does not pass the vacation home anyway.
When you add the 23 to 29 million homes that get local TV off-the-air, add the second, and possible third and fourth set in those homes, the sets in DBS local-into-local homes that are not connected to receivers, the millions of TVs in hotels and other places of business, then the National Associations of Broadcasters estimate of 80 million TVs out of more than 300 million TVs in this nation are using off-the-air signals may be true. This would make your transmitter more important than just securing must-carry rights that broadcasters are required to receive. It also means that there would be large numbers of sets that would loose access to local TV service if analog transmitters are required to be shut down before the marketplace is ready.
Broadcasters need to know exactly whom they are serving to justify the costs of operation and updating of their transmitter plants, to be able to lobby for realistic shut-down of the analog service, and to justify the use of the remaining TV broadcast spectrum. The stakes are high as local broadcasters are the only providers of diverse local programming in all but a handful of markets in this country. Cable provides local programming in a few markets and those numbers are decreasing. Cable access only provides limited service and for the most part is of low production and technical quality.
There are also job and economic considerations to contend with if broadcast TV were to lose it's ability to reach all viewers, as it is a 40 billion dollar a year business–with the networks earning 22 billion dollars. The ability to reach all the homes in the US no matter how the viewer gets the programming is what makes broadcast TV as important and valuable as it is. There are 1726 stations in the US that are transmitting TV programming, along with hundreds of low-power TV stations and thousands of translators that make up this service that is in many ways taken for granted.
Some information from the 2004 FCC Video Competion Report (www.fcc.gov)
The Lament of the Golfer
In my hand I hold a ball.... white and dimpled, rather small....
Oh, how bland it does appear.... this harmless looking little sphere....
By its size I could not guess.... the awesome strength it does possess....
But since I fell beneath its spell.... I've wandered through the fires of hell....
My life has not been quite the same.... Since I chose to play this stupid game....
It rules my mind for hours on end... A fortune it has made me spend....
It has made me swear and yell and cry.... I hate myself and want to die....
It promises a thing called par....If I can hit straight and far....
To master such a tiny ball.... should not be very hard at all ...
But my desires the ball refuses.... and does exactly like it chooses....
It hooks and slices, dribbles and dies.... and even disappears before my eyes....
Often it will take a whim.... to hit a tree or take a swim...
With miles of grass on which to land.... it finds a tiny patch of sand....
Then has me offering up my soul.... if only it would find the hole....
It's made me whimper like a pup.... and swear that I will give it up....
And take a drink to ease my sorrow.... but the ball knows.....
I'll be back tomorrow!!!!
Garneth M. Harris
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