Pictures From The September Meeting
These pictures from the October 6th meeting at Altitude Sports & Crown Media were provided by Duane Evarts.
KRMU-DT CH 20 Durango
On Friday afternoon Oct 1 at 1:28PM Rocky Mountain PBS put KRMU-DT CH 20 Durango on the air for the first time. KRMU is Rocky Mountain PBS' newest digital station, reaching about 46,000 potential viewers in La Plata and surrounding counties.
The transmitter is a Thales Ultimate air-cooled 6kW cabinet with 1.5 kW currently in use. KRMU is sharing building and tower space on Smelter Mountain with KREZ, the CBS affiliate covering Durango.
Attached are some photos from the installation showing the KREZ tower and building, the KRMU equipment, and a view of Durango from Smelter Mountain.
Are You Ready For DHS Alerts From NWR? + EAS Codes Defined!
by Gary Timm
On June 17, 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed an agreement with NOAA/NWS addressing the transmission of DHS-originated emergency messages over All-Hazards NOAA Weather Radio (NWR).
If DHS becomes aware of a threat in a particular state or area of the country, after coordination with authorities in each involved state, DHS will issue an alert to all NWS offices via a link in the Washington, DC area. NWS offices with NWR coverage areas affected by the threat will broadcast the message on NWR, using the DHS-requested EAS/SAME Event Code. Currently, the alert will not be relayed in text form on NOAA Weather Wire Service (NWWS), EMWIN, or any other NWS system.
Although many broadcasters have upgraded their EAS Units to the new EAS Event Codes released in 2002, the second step is that the EAS Units must be programmed to react to the new codes. If broadcasters want to relay these DHS alerts, they will need to know the Originator Code and Event Codes to program into their EAS Unit filters. In reviewing NWS documents (NWSI 10-1710 & NWSI 10-518), as well as information provided by Herb White, Dissemination Services Manager at NWS HQ, the following are the recommendations we felt appropriate at this time.
The Originator Code on all DHS alerts will be CIV, Civil Authorities. (Even though the alerts are first broadcast on NWR, they are originated by Civil Authorities and thus will not carry the WXR, National Weather Service Originator Code. These non-weather alerts will use the CIV Originator Code.)
One of three Event Codes will normally be used. CEM (Civil Emergency Message) or CDW (Civil Danger Warning) will be used to activate the alerts. ADR (Administrative Message) will be used to terminate the alerts. If you want to be on the safe side, Herb White advises you also program the following codes for possible DHS use: EVI, HMW, RHW, SPW, FRW, LAE, and NUW. At the present time, NOAA has requested that DHS use only the CEM code, until we can get the word out into the broadcast community to add these other codes into our EAS Unit programming. Broadcasters should program these new codes into their EAS Unit filters as soon as possible, and all stations are encouraged to share this information with other broadcasters in their area.
In addition to the DHS alerts, a separate agreement between NOAA and the FEMA National Warning Center (NWC) exists for NWR to transmit warnings of nuclear attack as well as other non-weather alerts. Nuclear attack would use code CDW, and the other non-weather alerts could use any of the additional codes which Herb recommends adding above. Using the guidelines above regarding programming for DHS alerts should then cover you for NWC alerts as well. The NWC alerts are separate from any EAN messages issued by the White House.
NWS has also published a very helpful document, NWS Instruction 10-518, which aids local authorities in establishing a relationship with their local NWS Office for the purpose of sending local emergency alerts. Section 5 of the document, Civil Emergency Message, addresses local alerting. It deals with developing procedures, issuance criteria, and sample scripts. Appendix C of this document is a landmark. Someone has finally defined the new specific EAS Event Codes. The definitions in Appendix C will be used as guidance for federal authorities in issuing alerts, and they can be most useful to local authorities as well. State and Local EAS Plans should be updated at this time to not only include the relay of DHS alerts, but also to incorporate these new EAS Event Code definitions. The link to this document is: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/directives/010/pd01005018c.pdf
Looking to the future, NWS is currently working on a system called HazCollect, which it expects to begin deploying in mid-2005. This would be a secure, centralized interface, with backups, which would be used to collect non-weather hazard messages from local, state, and federal authorities and get them into the NWR system. NWS is really going the extra mile to work with local authorities, and it's great to see.
Gary Timm is a Broadcast Engineer at Journal Broadcast Group, in Milwaukee, and is Broadcast Chair of the Wisconsin EAS Committee. Contact him at: email@example.com. For questions on NWR, contact: Herbert.White@noaa.gov Herb is Dissemination Services Manager at NWS Headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.
Random Radio Thoughts
Cross-Border HD Radio
This comes on the heels of a big iBiquity push in the Detroit market, wherein iBiquity offered some big incentives to Detroit-area FM stations to convert to HD Radio by the end of July. Quite a number of stations took iBiquity up on its offer, including Crawford Broadcasting Company, which converted its 50 kW WMUZ to digital. I can't help but wonder if the protest has at least something to do with this, as second-adjacent-channel Canadian stations are bound to have begun receiving at least some increased interference as a result. No mention of FM was made in the new stories about the protest.
It was interesting to see how many speculators were in the mix. The same thirty applicants filed for every channel. There were quite a few others who filed regionally for large numbers of channels. It will be very telling when the FCC releases the list of the qualified bidders who timely made the upfront payment. It will be those entities and only those entities who will be allowed to participate in the auction.
A two-day mock auction has been scheduled for October 29. The real auction begins November 3. All qualified bidders will be eligible to participate, and the FCC encourages bidders to take advantage of the mock auction to become familiar with the FCC Automated Auction System. This mock auction will be conducted over the Internet, and telephone bidding will be available as well. As a contingency plan, bidders may also dial in to the FCC Wide Area Network.
In Colorado, there are twenty auction offerings, including Carbondale, Del Norte, New Castle and Walsenburg. There are seventeen Wyoming offerings, including two in Cheyenne. One of those, however, is part of an allocation proceeding that will likely eventually reallocate it to a wide spot in the road some 100 miles west. Caveat emptor.
The FCC has put licensees on notice that if they miss a license renewal filing deadline, they had better have an excellent reason. They're not granting much in the way of leeway these days, so mark your calendars and make sure you get the filing made on time.
Don't forget last month's warning about the blanket certifications on the renewal form. Be careful about making unqualified blanket certifications, especially about the Public File. One other item that is often overlooked is the requirement to post the EEO report on the station website (if the station has a website).
Crawford has a cluster in Portland and we own one of the nicer communications sites in the market atop Mt. Scott. As such, we have been watching developments related to these fires very closely. Our chief engineer has taken some proactive steps to guard against catastrophic damage in the event that our site falls victim to the arsonist.
While we haven't had any problems of this nature here along the Front Range, there is no shortage of people who hold broadcast towers in very low regard. In recent years, we have seen arson fires target structures here in Colorado that environmentalists perceive as a threat to their cause. In short, it could happen here.
Forewarned is forearmed. We should all take a hard look at our transmitter sites and towers, looking at site security and fire protection systems. A particularly vulnerable point is the building transmission line egress. Fire-stop caulk should be applied around the lines where they leave the building, and a fire shield should be installed under the eave or soffit above the line egress. With these simple measures, at least the building is more likely to survive in the event that an arsonist douses the transmission lines with gasoline and lights them off.
What many broadcasters are less familiar with are the OSHA rules governing tower worker safety. There are actually two standards in the rules. One is the "Telecommunications Rules" contained in 29 CFR §1910.268; the other is the "Ladder Standard" contained in 29 CFR §1910.27. These two standards come into conflict in some areas. For example, did you know that OSHA requires all communications towers equipped with fixed ladders over 20 feet in unbroken length to be equipped with a ladder safety device or cage and landing platforms? There is some case law in this area to which tower owners should pay close attention. I strongly recommend that tower owners retain an attorney to research the applicable law and draft a defensible policy statement. OSHA has cited tower owners in this area.
Last month, the state of North Carolina proposed rules in this area that are actually tighter than the OSHA rules. This was undoubtedly precipitated by several tower accidents in the state. Other states may follow suit. We will keep an eye on the situation as it affects Colorado tower owners.
If you have news you would like to share with the Denver radio engineering community, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Program of Certification - Just the facts - January thru June, 2004
- New Certifications = 257
CERTIFICATON EXAM SESSION DATES FOR 2005
SBE 2004 National Meeting Oct. 26-27
The SBE National Meeting will be held October 26-27 in conjunction with the Bos-Con Regional Convention sponsored by Chapter 11 of Boston. The event will take place at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel & Trade Center in Marlborough, Mass.
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 & dinner) and a broadcast equipment trade show Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday (free!)
Special guest speaker for the SBE National Awards Dinner will be John Lyons, CPBE, Manager of Communications and Broadcast Operations for the Durst Organization. Lyons designed and manages the broadcast tower and facilities atop the 4 Times Square building in New York City. For more information about the SBE National Meeting and the Bos-Con SBE Regional Convention, see www.sbe.org and www.bos-con.com.
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
I finally had an opportunity to drive to Sultan and visit with Ken Johnson and the crew at Seacomm. Was nice to meet Connie who has answered the phone for years. He told me that business was off due to common carriers and some large broadcast companies that have decided to do their own tower/antenna work.
It's official, the FCC is looking to make more changes to the EAS Rules. At this writing details have not been released. There have been a number of recommendations for changes and improvements to our Pubic Warning System since 9-11. This matter should receive your attention.
Borrowing an idea for evaluating the news...
Thumbs Down . . . That's what a federal agency told us the other day about Microsoft when it comes to choosing an Internet browser. Reason, Explorer is the most popular with the masses... and the hackers.
Thumbs Up . . . to Microsoft who awarded our local software outfit $4 Mil in a Spam case. They already have more than a dozen victories in their spam-battles with 60 suits pending and $34 Megabucks in judgments already. It appears that Microsoft is one of the few that is actually getting back at the spammers.
Thumbs Up . . . to Mark Allen and the WSAB for 'grabbing the bull by the horns' and leading the charge for the Amber Web Portal project. The official roll-out for the Portal took place during the recent meeting of the nation's governors in Seattle and received national media attention.
Congratulations to Tim Berners-Lee. Tim was recently Knighted by Queen Elizabeth. In the event that Tim's name is not a household word around your place, the writers of history books are certain to have something to say about him. He developed the concepts of the Web back in 1991. Talk about a creation that changed the world!
Good to see renewed interest in Amateur Radio.... Jim Tharp, WA7KYI, in addition to buying a new rig, has been helping the club on Vashon with their repeater and other events. Nick Winter, WA7IVO, served as field day chair with the Radio Club of Tacoma. Down in the Rose City, in addition to having a broadcast repeater, they have been having a great time with Field Day as well. Many moons ago, we used to have a Ham Radio Repeater in our area where a number of Broadcast Engineers 'hung out'. For those of you that remember, it was on Cougar Mtn on 6 meters. Ernie Opel, W7YTE (SK) and others were regulars. I have to wonder if there might be interest in again having a broadcast-related Ham Repeater in this area again? If there is interest... let me hear from you.
Unpacked a bunch of new Broadcast Tools goodies the other day... could not help but notice the little blue sticker on the box.... Congrats to Don Winget and the crew at Broadcast Tools on 10 years of making some great little problem solvers. Our application called for their DMS-III automatic AES switcher.
On the subject of anniversaries... KPLU is celebrating 20 years playing Jazz and KMPS 30 years playing country. Running the same format for years is something to be noted as many radio stations' formats have undergone several changes over the years. I hate to admit it, but I remember when KOL split off their FM and started playing country. This raised a lot of eyebrows. At the time the big country music station called themselves 'Country KAYO' (AM-1150) and were located on 4th Ave. South. Interestingly, 1150 is now part of the Sandusky group and the call letters, KAYO, are now used by an FM station playing country music.
The 5th generation 8-VSB chips are being talked about now as another newer, better HD is being promised. As a certain sign of the times Techneglas, a division of Nippon Electric, is closing three US plants that have been making picture tubes, laying off 1100. No word on how many are employed making LCDs and Plasma displays. Meanwhile, Mexico has adopted our HD TV system, ATSC.
Congrats to Kent Randles on his joining the Entercom Portland crew. Kent is a.k.a. the editor of the PDX SBE 'Water Cooled Newsletter.'
Also on the 23rd Clear Channel announced that they would start adding HD Radio to 1000 of their stations at an estimated $100,000 per station... this is a bunch of cash! This move is certain to help kick-start HD Radio as many remain sitting on the fence waiting to see if this thing is 'real'. Here locally this means that CC will be joining Entercom, Infinity and some independents as HD Stations. One has to wonder whether this will cause the other groups to 'join the club'.
Spoke with some folks the other day up on Tiger Mt. that operate 2.4 and 5.8 unlicensed point to point systems. He said that these bands are rapidly filling up making non-interference operation increasingly difficult.
Several state associations are joining the battle against XM and Sirius over the issue of local content. Many Broadcasters were content to let these firms become competitors for conventional radio... but the move to add local weather and traffic information was quite another matter. One of those battling this issue in Congress is US Representative Greg Walden who is involved in Broadcast station ownership in Oregon.
One could argue that KPLU has some of the best audio on the air. Could it get better? Yes, if 'audio master' Lowell Kiesow has anything to do with it. Part of their upgrade to HD Radio will involve the installation of a new digital STL system that could well make it sound better. We are about to really hear what HD can do with KPLU's jazz format and KING-FM's Classical. That's not to say that HD Radio does not make other formats sound good... but you can only do so much to 'improve' the sound of today's pre-processed rock and roll. KUOW's HD signal sounds great... the only problem is they only play music on weekends and a lot of that was recorded some time ago. If you have not considered buying an HD Radio for your car... the time has come.
We recently lost a legend with the passing of John Kraus, W8JK, at 94. John's list of credits is a long one. His interest was Amateur Radio, Electrical Engineering and Astronomy (he was a professor at Ohio State). From this came a number of items: the famous two element wire beam, known world wide as an 8JK antenna; the Corner Reflector and Heliax antennas; and some early work in the search for ET via his famous antenna array called the 'big ear'.
Understand that Cox is considering buying back their stock and taking the company private. Cox owns KIRO-TV here locally. In other parts of the country they are involved in Cable and Radio.
The old KUBE, now KRWM, tower on Cougar was recently painted including all the transmission lines. Sure looks different. Gone are the days when a tower can have a mass of back lines that diminish the visibility of the structure. According to Joe Harrington, the job painting all the coax is a real pain. Consider this the next time you are looking to paint a tower.
Are we going to be hearing less commercials on Radio? The media has been receiving a lot of critical comments about commercial clutter and some of the larger groups are responding with promises to do something about it.
Have you noted that rapid passing of recording devices? Seems not that long ago that the world was thrilled with the development of sound recordings (records), movies, etc. Then we entered the tape world. Magnetic Tape gave us audio and video reel to reel, then they put the tape in a box and called it a cassette... again audio and video. Along the way computers were doing the same thing; however most of us can hardly remember when we used a cassette for data. Then came the floppy mag tape wannabe. Now you are hard pressed to be able to buy a computer with a floppy drive; we are rapidly entering the era of "no moving parts" systems and the convergence of personal data devices. The cellphones that transmit pictures and the PDAs that play music and are WiFi equipped. Makes one wonder what the next 10 years will bring... and we thought Dick Tracey's wrist gizmo was science fiction and would never come to pass.
Well, that's it for this month, till next month
Clay, CPBE, K7CR
The End User
The big news last month wasn't the seriously deflated price of Google's IPO, but rather Microsoft's long-awaited release of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. And you've probably read and heard a number of reports about SP2, and have also heard arguments for and against installing this major update to the flagship Windows platform. The question is: Should you install SP2?
I've installed the service pack on 5 of my computers so far-a mix of desktops and laptops, some from major makers and one home-built machine. On each, I encountered varying experiences from "everything is normal" (on the desktops) to "I can't connect to my wireless network" (on one laptop with a PCMCIA wireless card). The latter issue was traced to the use of the card's own utility to configure the wireless connections, and when I changed to "let Windows configure my wireless network", the connection was re-established quickly.
Here's some other things to know if you haven't installed SP2 yet:
* Be prepared to spend about an hour to get the service pack installed. On average, it took about thirty-five minutes per computer just to install SP2. This service pack does more updating than any I've ever seen released from Microsoft. Also, don't expect the "gas gauge" progress meter to be accurate. On my installations, the gauge sat at about halfway for most of the install, then quickly shot to the end.
* When restarting for the first time after installing SP2, you will be prompted to enable Automatic Updates (even if you had it enabled previously). Only two choices are offered: on or off. I prefer to be notified about new updates and then select what to install and when; so when this screen came up, I selected "turn off Automatic Updates" and manually enabled the "prompt when new updates are available" option from Control Panel.
* Expect your computer to take a bit longer to boot after installing SP2. This was especially noticeable on the laptop computers, which have slower-speed hard drives than the desktop boxes.
* Some say SP2 is more like a version upgrade to XP than a bunch of fixes, and you will notice some new and changed screens after installing SP2. One major upgrade of note is the wireless networking controls; they are much simpler to use and clearly show network status and availability. In fact, I found that there were at least two nearby networks which were running without any encryption and using the "default" SSIDs; which means, I suspect, that any increase in OS security can be easily defeated by users who leave their networks wide open. But that's a topic for another column.
So, to answer the question regarding installing SP2: the answer, at least from this end user, is a yes; but be prepared for some possible challenges to resolve once SP2 is installed. In fact, you may want to visit the websites for the manufacturers of any third-party program installed on your computer which automatically accesses the Internet, as most of the reports of "broken" applications center around these programs.
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Planning For The Future
By Tom Smith
In last months newsletter, we looked at who is using a TV broadcasters off-the-air signal. The Media Bureau of the FCC was also looking at the same issue and had an inquiry in progress. The deadline for comments has passed, but its effect may have an impact on how TV broadcasters plan for the future. The Commission and Congress are looking for ways to speed up the DTV transition and shutdown analog TV. Many in Congress are still looking at the December 31, 2006 deadline and the FCC seems to be settling on a deadline of sometime by the end of 2009.
One of the things that Broadcasters have to do is develop and start to implement new business plans for the DTV signal. Is HDTV enough or must broadcasters develop other plans for DTV. Cable and satellite services have already started aggressive promotions of the HDTV offerings even if they are limited in number. Broadcast HDTV may be considered by the viewer as another part of the mix along with other HDTV services such as HBO, ESPN, Discovery, and HDNet. This could come back to haunt broadcasters, because if we are unable to provide a service of value to the viewer and our network partners, those networks could go around us and go directly to cable and satellite services. What are our options for the future? This issue was considered so important to the editors of Broadcasting and Cable that in the August 5, 2002 issue of the magazine, they did a three page editorial on the subject of TV broadcasters taking their place in the future.
HDTV and Off-the Air
In last months newsletter, using numbers from the January 2004 Video Competition Report by the FCC, it was shown that the number of homes using off-the-air signals for all of their TV viewing is about 12-16%, and the total number of homes that have to rely on off-the-air for local TV including subscribers to other TV services besides cable may total 22-27%. There are a great number of subscribers to satellite and other services that may be satisfied with what the service gives them and do not even try to pick-up their local TV stations. So out of the 22-27% that need your off-the-air signal for local TV, you may be losing a few percent of you potential viewers because they not making any attempt to view you and your signal is not placed in front of them like it is on cable or local-into-local on the satellite.
And broadcasters have another problem as we make the transition to digital. We have become too complacent by letting the other guy provide our path into the viewer's home. We have gotten used to most of our audience viewing us via cable or now local-into-local on satellite that we have become dependent on paths that could go away or at the least have made us compete with 50 or more other channels, many that are owned by the same networks that provide our programming. This dependency was the first issue raised in the Broadcasting and Cable editorial. What would happen if must-carry or local-into-local would go away? If they did go away, and that is possible with a change in the law or a court decision, one of the things that could happen is the networks that feed our programs would no doubt sever their ties with the TV broadcasters and go directly to cable and satellite. The current edge that broadcasters have is that with must-carry and the ability to reach all the homes that rely on off-the-air signals, the networks can reach nearly 100% of the population.
Being digital does not help in this potential problem, but HDTV may help to some extent. One of the problems that satellite services have is a shortage of transponder space. Even with the addition of more satellites, there is a limit to slots in space to keep adding satellites. There is also the question of placing more then one dish on the roof. This is where HDTV comes to a TV broadcasters aid. Because of the limited transponder space, it is unlikely that there will be local-into-local for HDTV for quite awhile. This will require those who want HDTV from their local station to use off-the-air. Most satellite receivers that are designed to pick-up high-definition programs on the satellite include a terrestrial HDTV tuner in them. This way, the satellite and broadcaster complement each other and your investment in the transmitting plant could reach 30% or more of the homes in your market. The number of homes using both broadcast and satellite HDTV could even increase as more people drop cable and subscribe to satellite. Satellite dishes seem to be popping up on roofs like mushrooms and at the same time, cable companies are running many ads on how cable is better then satellite, indicating that they may fear loses of subscribers to satellite. The FCC report also showed some decline in cable subscribers as satellite use has increased.
HDTV may help slow the erosion of off-the-air usage and loss of audience to the cable networks, but as the editorial in Broadcasting and Cable stated, broadcasters need a new business plan. That plan may be multicasting. And there are some examples of multicasting that broadcasters can examine. These example include the addition of one or more program streams by individual stations to their DTV transmissions, the Freeview service in Great Britain, and the USDTV service in the southwest US. There have been some announcements of multicast program services by some of the networks also.
Multicasting by local stations is being tried by a number of PBS stations including WMVS/WMVT in Milwaukee. Many other PBS stations carry both their analog program and a PBS HDTV service. A number of stations in small markets are carrying a second network, mostly the WB or UPN, and sometimes FOX. WISC in Madison carries its UPN cable channel as a second DTV program. WDJT in Milwaukee carries both its independent and Spanish language low-power stations in their DTV signal along with CBS programming. During the Presidential Conventions, ABC added a news network to its affiliates for multicast as well as to cable as a digital tier. NBC has proposed a weather network for multicast to its affiliates that would combine both local and nationally produced segments. In all these multicast plans, stations are doing it alone with occasional help from a network.
One of the problems with multicasting is finding programming and dealing with its cost. One untapped program source could be cable. Every year, new cable networks are launched and unable to find a slot on many cable systems. A broadcaster could possibly make a deal with a new network. The biggest hitch would be cost as most cable programmers charge a fee for number of subscribers, from 5 cents to a couple of dollars for a sports network. Even at 5 cents, if a broadcaster had to pay that for every home in the market, the cost would be too great. Any fee would have to be based on DTV penetration or ratings.
In the Broadcasting and Cable Editorial, the main thrust was that TV broadcasters need multiple program streams to compete with cable and satellite, and they would have to cooperate and work together to compete with cable and satellite. Fortunately there are two models to show broadcasters the way.
The first is FreeView, which is a free off-the-air broadcast multicast service. It is formed by the BBC, Crown Castle International, and BSkyB. BSkyB also runs a direct broadcast satellite service in Britain. Freeview carries up to 30 TV channels and 10 radio stations as well as data services using the digital transmitters of the five networks in Britain which are BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. All five networks are carried along with BBC 3 and 4, ITV 2, QVC, and a number of other networks. The other networks include 4 news networks, 2 music networks, 2 kids channels, a channel covering Parliament, a history channel, travel channels and several entertainment channels.
Freeview is the successor to a subscription based digital network that failed. Freeview followed and was successful for a number of reasons. The first is it used the same set-top boxes as the subscription service, the second was that it was free, the third reason was that the set-top boxes costs 50-120 pounds (about $80-200). The fourth reason for success is that there are lots of suppliers of the set-top boxes, and finally cable penetration is not as high as in the United States. There are also a number of websites explaining the service and the British digital transition to the public. Last year at this time, there were a million boxes in homes. Early this year the number was up to 2.5 million with up to100,000 being sold each week. The latest number is 3.5 million boxes in British homes.
Because of Freeview's success, BSkyB satellite service is going to start a free satellite service. The only cost is a 150 pound fee for the dish, receiver and installation. It can be upgraded to the BSkyB pay service. BSkyB has 7 million subscribers.
In the United States, an over-the-air pay service is being started in the Southwest. It is called USDTV and it will use a set-top box that is available at Walmart and a electronics chain in the Southwest. The set-top box is $199.95 at Walmart stores around the country, and not just in the markets that USDTV is currently in. The set-top boxes are $99.95 with a one year subscription and receive all the DTV signals even if you are not a subscriber or drop the subscription. The markets that USDTV is currently in is Salt Lake City –which is the home to the company–as well as Las Vegas and Albuquerque. The cost of the service is $19.99 a month. The service leases part of a number of stations digital streams to supply the programming.
The paid programming includes ESPN, ESPN 2, Disney Channel, Toon Disney, the Food Network, Discovery, TLC, HGTV, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie and Fox News as well as a program guide. In Salt Lake City, there are 10 DTV stations and with those station that multicast their own programming and with the USDTV programming, there are about 40 channels for of-the-air viewers. The number of program streams in Las Vegas and Albuquerque are not as great as there are fewer stations. USDTV is looking to move into more markets and has 8000 subscribers so far.
And EMMIS Broadcasting has proposed a similar multicasting service and has signed on a number of other broadcast groups to develop that plan.
Duopolies, With and Without Limits
Another way to increase multichannel programming is by owning more stations. There are a number of ways of doing that, but for many of the ways to increase any number of potential new stations to own, we will have to wait until the end of the DTV transition, but plans can be made now. The first method is what the FCC allows now, which is multiple ownership of existing stations in certain markets. But to avoid concentration of ownership, this option is limited. There are other ways to own more than one station in a market. The first can be done now to a limited extent and that is the use of low-power stations. A full power station could always own as many low-power stations as they could want. The main problem with attaining new low-power stations was the freeze on new LPTVs within 100 miles of the top 30 markets in anticipation of the DTV transition. That limited new stations, even though some got around it. The other problem was the one kilowatt transmitter limit. That allowed for a maximum of 15 to 20 kilowatts with a omnidirectional antenna in analog. The FCC has raised the radiated power limit to 150 kilowatt analog and 15 kilowatt digital. This can provide somewhat useful coverage; not the same as full power, but with planning, population centers can be covered.
Multiple LPTV transmitters can also be used to increase coverage. A number of small market stations are using LPTV to deliver a second network, normally the WB, UPN or FOX. In Milwaukee WDJT, which operates a full power CBS station on Channel 58, also operates a independent station on Channel 43 with 37 kilowatts, and a Spanish Language station on channel 65 with 137 kilowatts. Both can cover most of Milwaukee from antennas mounted 1100 feet above ground.
Another method for duopolies is to bid on channels 51 to 59 when they are auctioned. One of the allowable uses of the channels is digital broadcasting. Antenna height is limited to 1000 feet and a power limit of 50 kilowatts with an antenna pattern that does not lay down a signal higher than 3000 milliwatts at ground level, one kilometer from the base of the tower. Use of simpler antennas is restricted to one kilowatt radiated power.
Three of the channels have been auctioned off, including the band that is most favorable to local broadcasters. That band was band C, which consisted of paired TV channels 54 and 59. There were 734 licenses auctioned and some of the winners may be willing to sell. Because some of the licensed areas are small, power and coverage could be limited. But because of these limitations, many markets went for very little money. Capitol Broadcasting and Lin Broadcasting both bid and won a number of licenses in this band.
The other band auction was for band D, which is channel 55 only. There were six licenses available and each license covered several states. Qualcomm won 5 of the licenses and the sixth was for Pacific Islands.
There are still three bands left to auction. They are band A, which is channels 52 and 57, band B which is channels 53 and 58, and band E which is channel 56. The downside of these bands is that there are six licenses for each band which cover several states and will cost large amounts; this favors the large wireless communication companies. There may only be a couple of broadcast companies that can afford to bid against the phone and other communication companies that will seek the spectrum.
Finally, even with a smaller TV band, there should be some new channels available in non-metro markets due to the lesser interference restrictions with digital transmission.
The future of datacasting is questionable at best. It would be difficult to compete with the Internet for most data delivery. There are better systems to deliver Internet services and broadcasters do not have a ready return from the consumer. There are push services that broadcasters could do, but from experience with teletext in analog TV unless broadcasters develop and sell devices to receive, save and display the data, there is little possibility of success. The consumer electronic industry in the US is not interested. The European broadcasters were able to launch some successful teletext services because market forces are different there. The teletext experience also helped their transition to DTV by making the public aware of other uses of the TV receiver.
There are two proposals for datacasting that may work. PBS stations would like to use datacasting to supply data to schools intranet servers that is linked to their programming. They also are developing methods for distance education. This could include transmitting a lecture with graphics and audio to a PC or other device for either live or later viewing by the student. The teacher can be inserted in the corner as a video box.
The other datacasting possibility has been proposed by Disney. Disney is proposing to deliver a pay movie service to homes via datacasting. The subscriber would have a hard drive video recorder that would build a video file containing a movie or other program. The file would be built-up over a period of time depending on the amount of space the broadcaster has in their DTV stream for data. It would take more time to send then if it was a regular video stream, but the idea is to load the movie to the box and have the subscriber watch it at their leisure. There may be other potential datacast services, but anyone developing them will have to create the whole system, including the software and hardware.
With the introduction of the latest generation a DTV receiver chip that may give the public truly trouble free reception which has never existed before, the fact that most of the DTV transmitters are now on the air, the future of multicasting, and the requirement that 8VSB broadcast and cable DTV tuners be installed in all new TVs in the next couple of years, there is much to be optimistic about as a TV broadcaster. But, there are still many hurtles to go. The public has to be informed and shown the possibilities of DTV and HDTV. This will include having consumer electronics retailers explain DTV to the buyer and stock the devices to make DTV work, including set-top boxes.
Broadcasters must also do their part in getting the word out. Copy protection has to be dealt with to allow home recording of programming. Consumers are used to their VCRs and TiVos and if there is not a digital replacement for them, the public will not accept DTV. They will not give up the conveniences that they have in analog TV when converting the digital.
But the most important thing broadcasters must do is to form a sound business plan for DTV and start to implement it. Just feeding the DTV transmitter your current programming without any special attention will not give the average couch potato anything to get excited about. We need to spice it up. And now the FCC has given TV stations an opportunity by removing the simulcast requirement for the time being.
In many ways after two years, the Broadcasting and Cable editorial is still relevant. We have met the FCC requirements, but we have not made the big breakthrough in capturing the public's imagination. Broadcast television will never again dominate 100% of the TV landscape as it did when it was the only way to get TV, but it still needs to remain relevant to a significant portion of the audience to survive.
FCC Warns Additional Trucking Firms About 10-Meter Unlicensed Operation
Thanks to Sacramento Chapter 43
The FCC has issued warning notices to five more trucking companies asking them to respond to allegations that their drivers may have transmitted illegally on the 10-meter amateur band.
Amateur Radio News
By Tom Weeden, WJ9H
* The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) on 14.325 MHz has been working hand-in-hand with WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center [www.wx4nhc.org] to relay weather data and damage reports as Hurricane Frances plowed through Florida.
At press time Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) teams throughout Florida continued to prepare for another punishing storm as the state continues to recover from Hurricane Charley in mid-August. Some communities hard-hit by last month's storm were right in the potential path of Hurricane Frances. ARES volunteers were being recruited for shelter and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) communicator duty.
A fairly new all-CW (Morse code) entity, the National Radio Emergency Net (NREN), activated September 3 in response to Hurricane Frances. Net members have been asked to monitor 14,050 kHz and 7050 kHz for health-and-welfare, emergency traffic and hurricane information throughout the weekend. NREN is aimed at providing an alternative public service network geared to low-power, portable and mobile stations.
Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Larry Gispert, KR4X, said in a message to the Tampa Amateur Radio Club that many emergency workers were "very impressed" by what amateur radio volunteers were able to accomplish during Hurricane Charley. "As I have mentioned before, in this day and age of ubiquitous Internet access and prolific cell phone usage, it is still amazing that when the chips are down the only reliable form of communication is a bunch of hams with their radios," Gispert said.
The National Hurricane Center reported a new storm is already in the wings, which could jeopardize Florida again. The NHC was issuing advisories on Hurricane Ivan, which was on a similar path as Frances.
* Broadband over Power Line (BPL) is still a hot topic at the American Radio Relay League. The ARRL has asked the FCC to immediately shut down a BPL field trial in the Cottonwood, Arizona, area because it is causing "severe interference" to amateur radio communication. Electric Broadband LLC and utility APS have been operating the BPL experiment at two Yavapai County sites since June under a Special Temporary Authorization (STA) the FCC granted to Electric Broadband in March. The first amateur radio complaint was filed in June. The ARRL's filing cited testing by the Verde Valley Amateur Radio Association (VVARA) in the 1.8-30 MHz range showing that BPL interference makes attempts at ham radio communication useless.
"The interference on typical Amateur Radio equipment shows received undesired signal levels in excess of 60 dB over S9 on the receiver's signal strength meter," ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, told FCC officials on the League's behalf. "The utility and Electric Broadband were contacted, and no response was received." The ARRL asserted that both companies are aware that the BPL field trial has been causing harmful interference and "neither has taken any steps to either resolve it or terminate the test."
The VVARA and ARRL measurements, ARRL said, indicate widespread interference to Amateur Radio communication in an area within a mile of the BPL field trial and radiated emissions from BPL modems well in excess of what FCC regulations permit. One measurement cited was more than 32 dB higher than Part 15 allows. The ARRL said continued operation of the system while violating the conditions under which the STA was granted constitutes "willful and repeated interference," and both the utility and the BPL provider should be subject to fines as a result.
(Excerpts from the arrl.org and National Hurricane Center web sites)
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For All You Lexiophiles (lovers of words)
A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
A bicycle can't stand alone because it is two-tired.
What's the definition of a will? It's a dead giveaway.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
A backward poet writes inverse.
In democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism it's your count that votes.
She had a boyfriend with a wooden leg, but broke it off.
A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
If you don't pay your exorcist you get repossessed.
With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.
Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat minor.
When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.
The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.
You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
Local Area Network in Australia: the LAN down under.
He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
Every calendar's days are numbered.
A lot of money is tainted. 'Taint yours and 'taint mine.
A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
He had a photographic memory that was never developed.
A plateau is a high form of flattery.
The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.
Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.
When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.
Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
Acupuncture is a jab well done.
Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat.
A scientist, trying to prove his theorem, was doing a large experiment with liquid chemicals when he fell into the vat and became part of the solution.
Some Short Jokes
"Mr. Clark, I have reviewed this case very carefully," the divorce court Judge said, "And I've decided to give your wife $775 a week," "That's very fair, your honor," the husband said. "And every now and then I'll try to send her a few bucks myself,"
The investigation of Martha Stewart continues. Her recipe for chicken casserole is quite efficient. First you boil the chicken in water. And then you dump the stock.
A man is recovering from surgery when a nurse asks him how he is feeling. "I'm O. K. but I didn't like the four-letter-word the doctor used in surgery," he answered.
"What did he say," asked the nurse.
Garneth M. Harris
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