NAB EVP/CTO Kevin Gage: “We need to offer consumers what they want, where they want it, when they want it. Being flexible will keep us moving forward.” Photo by Jim Peck
wrapup of news from the recent NAB Show. Some information was
reported earlier in a different format.
New and improved
ways for consumers to enjoy broadcast content are emerging. Longtime
standards are being rewritten. And the pace of technological
development is accelerating.
The key to remaining
relevant and adapting to changing consumer needs is flexibility, says
NAB Executive Vice President/Chief Technology Officer Kevin Gage.
“Consumers are a long way from abandoning traditional broadcast
media. They just want their content anytime, anywhere and on any
broadcasters to be flexible and nimble in order to keep up.
Technology teams need to be prepared, fast to market, agile in
development and constant in deployment, he says; and standard-setting
times are being compressed in the consumer electronics world, which
In radio, owners and
engineers are watching competitors in the dash increase dramatically
and are creating content and delivery systems so that consumers can
receive radio on multiple delivery platforms and devices. They seek
help from regulators in some cases to help ease the way, such as
urging the FCC to relax rules concerning AM station infrastructure to
allow those stations to better compete.
are some of the major themes concerning radio and its future coming
out of the recent NAB Show. Look for more convention coverage next
issue as well.
BETTER THAN LATER FOR AM RELIEF
The FCC is reviewing
approximately 165 initial public comments and 55 replies to its AM
An idea for which
there appears to be overwhelming support is a filing window in which
AM owners alone could apply for FM translators, one per AM licensee.
Ajit Pai would like to see such a window “no later than 2015.”
Bryan Broadcasting Vice President/General Manager and NAB Radio Board
member Ben Downs urged FCC Audio Division Bureau Chief Peter Doyle to
act quickly on the concept: “Peter, hurry.”
Doyle says the
commission is reviewing comments on revitalization “to make sense
of what direction we want to go in.” The proceeding is in two
parts, Doyle said. The first involves the simplest possible changes,
like a translator application window; the second would require
Media Bureau Chief
Bill Lake characterized radio’s health as a bipartisan concern. He
said the commission hopes to bring out a report and order on AM “very
The opportunity to
license an FM translator wouldn’t work for every AM owner. Downs
predicts that skywave protection will be controversial, saying Class
As will want to protect that listening, while stations that have to
sign off early or reduce power during afternoon drive to protect the
Class A skywave will not.
In the longer term,
Pai said, AM has “difficult issues” to be decided. But the
commissioner believes the radio industry’s future looks bright in
general. “Radio has an important role to play in the national
culture going forward.”
Mignon Clyburn said that, growing up, she wanted to be a radio
personality, jokingly calling her comment a message “for anybody
out there, when my term expires.” More seriously, she said that the
commission cares “about all platforms,” noting the AM
revitalization initiative was circulated when she was interim agency
SECURITY IS A PRIORITY
It’s been more
than two years since broadcasters participated in the first national
test of the emergency alerting system. Now the FCC is working on a
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to propose changes to its rules based
on those results.
Greg Cooke of the
FCC, Antwane Johnson of FEMA IPAWS and Ari Meltzer of Wiley Rein
discuss EAS. Photo by Mary Ellen Dawley
So says retired Rear
Admiral David Simpson, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and
Homeland Security Bureau. This will lay the groundwork for future
regular testing, he says.
associate chief of the Policy Division of the bureau, thinks the NPRM
will come out “fairly soon — hopefully within the next
Simpson says EAS has
come a long way; but with its additional functionality comes risk.
Last year’s fake so-called “zombie attack,” in which someone
gained access to the EAS encoders/decoders of a few stations
connected to the Internet, made it clear that EAS needs a secure
cyber environment, he believes.
can take down your networks and facilities,” says Simpson. He said
it’s not a question of if, but when. “We don’t believe the
government can set up a moat around broadcasters. You wouldn’t want
A subgroup of the
Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council
hopes to adopt recommendations in June to protect stations from such
attacks. CSRIC advises the FCC on security and public safety issues.
Meanwhile, work to
strengthen the station backbone of emergency alerting continues.
States had asked FEMA for more Primary Entry Point stations, so FEMA
added 38 more, as Radio World has reported.
division director of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning
System, says the infrastructure work to add those 38 as new Primary
Entry Point stations is now complete, for a total of 77 PEPs. He
tells RW that FEMA is now focused on upgrading the equipment in the
oldest facilities. All have backup generators and fuel systems to
enable them to run independent of a station’s power source for
about 60 days.
that the EAS community discuss “everything” related to emergency
alerting, including the direction for EAS in the next 10 years; he’d
like to have that discussion at the fall Radio Show.
The FCC is serious
about its prohibition against simulated or real EAS tones on the air
except during emergencies and tests. The agency recently proposed a
total of $1.9 million in fines against three companies for airing
spots that included EAS warning tones. It says more fines for
comparable violations are coming as the agency works through similar
cases in its pipeline.
wolf,” says Eloise Gore, associate chief of the FCC’s Enforcement
Bureau, about the practice of emulating alerts in advertising. “If
you have people become inured to hearing this tone, when there is a
real emergency, then they won’t pay attention to a real event.”
The FCC began
receiving lots of consumer complaints about this issue about a year
and a half ago, she says. She described the problem as a
multiplatform one that affects radio and television, cable and
“I had consumer
complaints from people who jumped out of the bathtub” when they
heard the EAS tones, “because they live in tornado areas,” Gore
says. “We don’t want to hear any more of this.”
Companies that were
fined did have screening procedures, said Wiley Rein associate Ari
Meltzer, but those safeguards applied only to content, not simulated
EAS tones. The companies will rework their guidelines to screen for
false tones, he said.
LIKES FM CHIP CONCEPT
At least one FCC
commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, supports the concept of enabling
FM chips on smartphones, though she didn’t call for a mandate.
Rosenworcel supports activating FM chip in cellphones. Photo ©NAB
NAB Chief Operating
and Strategy Officer Chris Ornelas says that in ongoing talks with
broadcasters, wireless carriers typically argue that enabling the
chip shortens battery life and that handsets lack room for an
Rosenworcel says, “I don’t think you’ll see a mandate. But
we’re also not just regulators, we’re consumers. I think it would
be really neat to have [an FM chip] on my phone, and I think it would
drain my battery a little less.” Noting that one carrier, Sprint,
has enabled FM chips on some of its smartphones, Rosenworcel said she
hopes that she and her colleagues “will agitate carriers a little
to make that happen.”
Sprint has enabled
FM chips on at least 11 models and pledged to activate more.
President/CEO Gordon Smith asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler if his
commission will have any sway with carriers on the chip issue,
especially given Wheeler’s background as former head of the
Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.
commit one way or the other: “One of the challenges of this job is
realities that existed last week won’t exist next week. So we are
in the middle of trying to come to grips with how you handle the IP
transition in the wired world and wireless world.”
Smith said that when
cell towers lose power during a disaster, radio is a secure source of
emergency information to consumers. Wheeler acknowledged, “we ought
to be having that debate [about] safety in the 21st century. We’ve
got to look at the broad aspects” of the chip issue.
The FCC intends to
keep its current local radio ownership limits, saying they help
promote localism and open doors for women and minority owners. The
limits vary, with up to eight stations allowed in the largest
The agency is asking
for public comment on its tentative conclusion, as well as on costs
and benefits of retaining the current tiered limits.
The text of a Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking released in April puts in writing much of what
became apparent in March. That’s when the commissioners voted 3–2
to begin the quadrennial review of media ownership rules.
Some changes do
appear to be pending; the commission tentatively found no reason to
keep the radio-newspaper cross-ownership ban, and it also proposes
eliminating the ban on radio-TV cross-ownership.
Comments to MB
Dockets 14-50 and 09-182 are due 45 days after Federal Register
The two Republican
commissioners are not happy that the chairman is rolling the pending
2010 media ownership review into the 2014 review, and that action is
not expected until 2016.
Michael O’Rielly remembers when the review was biennial and the FCC
asked to make it every four years. “The promise that we will get to
it in 2016 is not comforting,” he says. “The media landscape has
changed significantly, but that’s not reflected in our rules.”
Pai said, “We just kicked the can down the road for a couple of
years,” though he agrees with the plan to drop the radio
Clyburn, a Democrat, defended the chairman’s timing decision. The
agency’s media ownership data is 10 to 15 years old, she said, and
the FCC needs to know what the current “ecosystem” looks like as
well as the effects new rules might have.
“There does not
seem to be a path to get new data that I would be comfortable with.
That’s a core reason as to why I’m taking a more deliberative
approach,” said Clyburn.
GENERATION OPERATES IN REAL TIME
generation of consumers operates in real time, according to tech
columnist David Pogue; this has implications for broadcasters. Photo
generation of consumers operates in real time; they have on-demand
TV, newspapers and books, and they expect everything “immediately,”
says Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue.
The writer, who’s
also host of “Nova ScienceNow,” said at the show that a
smartphone is so much more than a phone now, and young people often
don’t bother to leave, or listen to, voicemails.
person-to-person economy,” says Pogue. The Internet plays the role
of a giant matchmaker, a trend that started with eBay, which helps
strangers “buy and sell junk” without meeting, he said.
frequently that Spotify is going to “kill radio,” but “that’s
not how things work,” he said. Instant coffee didn’t kill brewed
coffee, nor did DVDs and the VCR make movies obsolete. “Things
splinter,” he continued; and new technology also can frighten
However, he praised
streaming audio services like Spotify and Pandora for enabling users
to make playlists and share content. There’s not enough of that in
terrestrial radio, Pogue said.
He singled out the
NextRadio FM app, calling it “everything radio should be. You
should be on the mountain talking about this app!” He noted that
the app doesn’t use a phone’s data plan and promises to consume
less battery life than does Pandora or Spotify.
more about NextRadio in our next issue.
The National Radio
Systems Committee approved several updates to its RDS usage
Chairman of the RBDS
Subcommittee Dan Mansergh, who is director of radio engineering and
media technology at KQED Public Media in San Francisco, tells Radio
World the biggest change was incorporating guidelines for how to use
RDS for emergency alerting.
addressing emergency alerting and RDS was almost a placeholder,
lacking a lot of detail, Mansergh said. “Recent activity with the
NPR Labs project in the Gulf states shows how an end-to-end
data-driven alerting system complements EAS and the other alerting
systems out there through IPAWS.”
He identified GSS,
which makes the Alert FM system, as another “significant”
contributor. Noting that the GSS system has been deployed for a
while, Mansergh said, “Since we were recognizing that there are a
number of different ways to use RDS for a variety of applications,
it’s useful to explain how the different systems work.”
Stations employ RDS
for revenue-generating uses such as traffic data and iTunes Tagging.
RDS offers flexible sequencing and rotation options, supporters say.
The National Radio
Systems Committee, shown prior to the 2014 meeting, is always seeking
more members. Sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters
and the Consumer Electronics Association, its purpose is to study and
make recommendations for technical standards that relate to radio
broadcasting and reception of radio broadcast signals. Photo by Jim
Milford Smith, NRSC
chairman and Greater Media’s vice president of radio engineering,
says, “This guideline explains how to implement any service that
The guidelines also
clarify specific information about injection levels, especially in
regards to compatibility with FM subcarriers.
“We’ll be looking at that more. We see stations have a desire to
have more RDS services. With higher injection levels comes the
possibility of interference, which could result in data errors.”
The guidelines help stations avoid those.
Mansergh and Smith
describe the overall guidelines as a practical, nuts-and-bolts
collection of best practices that station engineers can use to
implement any service that uses RDS. “It’s something that a radio
station engineer can take to the transmitter site and help him or her
with the setup,” says Smith. The guidelines are free.
The NRSC last
refreshed its RDS usage guidelines about a year and a half ago.
guidelines will be available online (www.nrscstandards.org)
once NRSC sponsors NAB and CEA have reviewed the document.
The NRSC is always
seeking new members, and Gage specifically invited broadcasters to
POLITICAL FILE UPDATE
The FCC reminded
television stations that, as of July 1, they are required to post new
documents to their online political files. Until now, only stations
affiliated with the top four networks in the top 50 markets had to do
“The issue is of
some importance; this is an election year and by July some campaigns
will be well underway,” says Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake.
Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jane Mago anticipates
that at some point the FCC will require radio stations to post their
political files online as well, but there is no date set for that