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Letters: Digital Radio, Shortwave, EAS and More



 When Sirius and XM began their separate services, the hope was that they would bring back the atmosphere and entertainment value that characterized radio … a value not easily available on terrestrial stations. They each individually began to do that, with personalities giving life and human interest to the various broadcast styles.

Now Sirius XM has in many cases become a jukebox in a similar mode to Pandora, etc. Sirius recently terminated many of its “live” hosts — the very broadcasters who gave the service some personality to help it to rise above the hundreds of other music sources available online and on the air, hosts who gave the broadcasts knowledge, taste and listener anticipation.

Therein lie the fates of not only Sirius but terrestrial broadcasters as well; for broadcasting of all kinds is now controlled not by programming people but by sales and legal folk who strive for instant profit without regard to the product.

For these front-office folk, the product has become less important as they automate the operation to save money. Some stations (and much of Sirius) are operated without live people, often unattended. As I view it, this is no longer radio but an electronically controlled playlist-based series of programs devoid of human warmth, creativity, information and entertainment factors.

Sirius will, in my estimation, eventually strangle itself when listeners discover they offer an increasingly sterile product available on so many other platforms. I fear for its stockholders for, in the snail-like ways of business, even they will eventually discover the paucity of not only Sirius’ content but broadcasting’s failure overall.

It may be part of the general impersonalization of America. A broadcaster not afraid to reinstate human personality into programming, to bring back the entertainment factor, will perhaps begin to change the radio landscape.

Don Kennedy
Crawford Houston Group Inc.


I enjoyed the comment in the story about “working in and loving radio engineering,” concerning the dark suit (“Engineering Offers Moments of Magic,” July 2 issue).

John Toler, W0PKP, ex-W9PKP, was an engineer at KMOX(AM) in St. Louis. He said working there was like the guy following the circus parade with a wheeled trash can and broom saying, “WHAT? Quit show business?”

David R. DeSpain, P.E.
Fort Worth, Texas


Sounds like a sound testing plan to lead up to a nationwide test (“FEMA IPAWS Targets 2015 for Next National EAS Test,”, July 28). Many things went on behind the scenes after the last test to make future tests, and actual EAN usage, work as they are supposed to. It doesn’t look like anyone is rushing into anything here so there should be few if any surprises.

Rod Zeigler
Director of Engineering
Nebraska Rural Radio Association
Lexington, Neb.

Ziegler is a past board member of the Primary Entry Point Advisory Council.


An informative piece (“VOA/RFA/RFL Make Shortwave Cuts,”, July 1). I wonder if shortwave was ever a popular mass medium to begin with, except during major wars?

The problem with this BBG analysis is that it overlooks the fact that the medium has always catered to a type of person who wants to be in the know, even of the words of their foes, and friends uncensored by their own local or national government — the minority.

Listening to Radio Peking in 1975, for example, in the U.S. or U.S.S.R. would not be exactly the type of thing you would announce to the local FBI or KGB. Today, there is still some of the old intrigue out there picking up some of those pirate broadcasters and more.

Additionally, shortwave’s modern appeal is its mix of old relatively simple old technology with modern-day improvements, such as the SDR and mini radios.

Robert Berger
New Jersey


The Inland Northwest EAS Operational Area of the Washington State Emergency Management division usually only does statewide alerts like Amber (“Residents Also Ask About EAS in Washington State,”, July 25).

Each local area normally does their own activation, using the state as a backup. Speaking for the Inland Northwest area, if emergency management knows the procedure, it doesn’t take that long to do an activation.

Washington State has one of the best EAS systems in the nation. It’s tested and works. The only failure is to not use it. The state has a system set up with a company called “Alertsense” providing a CAP server and a completely operational analog radio system as a backup.

Marlin Jackson, CSTE
Assistant Chief Engineer, RF Systems
The KXLY Broadcast Group
Spokane, Wash.

Jackson is chair of the Inland NW Local Emergency Communications Committee in Spokane.


I know I’m late to the party, but all the AM stations I know are still on the air (“Is This the Year for AM Relief,” July 2 issue). As someone in broadcasting, radio and television since 11 years old (that’s another story) and now retired in New Mexico, I have a few suggestions for saving the MW AM band.

Number One: Content! Air what listeners want to hear; and that’s not just right-wing low-information bigmouths.

A small number of AM stations have very clean audio to the modulator; others are using new solid-state transmitters with better quality audio. With less compression, all music formats can sound fine, even on low-quality radios.

Number Two: Stay on the air! Half the MW stations here [in my local listening area] broadcast dead air in midday. Dump that old automation, buy a new PC and buy new automation software.

Number Three: Force or tell the FCC you want to double your ERP and you want to stay full power at night too. These low-power rules protect no one, except maybe the FCC and their cranks. The FCC doesn’t give a damn for the radio listener by enforcing Part 15 for RFI, in-band noise generators. It should stop the sale of these “noise transmitters.” The FCC needs to allow the broadcaster to increase their power.

As an old radio collector (both old and old radios), some with wideband capability, I can tell you AM MW can sound just as good as FM as long as the in-band RFI noise generators are shut off. I use a wideband low-power transmitter, and even low-cost All American Five AM radios can sound very good.

Richard Majestic
Las Cruces, N.M.


Responding to “Commentary: Nothing Less Than 100 Watts Please,” July 2 issue:

I live within 2 miles of a station that goes down to 20 watts. It comes in quite well on most radios here, but I totally agree that the power should be upped. This is the best idea I’ve heard in years.

However, it will stop my jokes about the station using old series-string radio tubes in the final. I mean, how often can you joke about a 50C5?

Duke Evans
Duke & Banner Oldies Show
Santa Rosa, Calif.


Responding to “Ericsson 5G Reaches 5 Gbps,”, July 18:

So one could use up one’s entire monthly data allowance (several GB) in about ten seconds. And then continue to rack up $157,000 in overage fees in about eight more minutes.

The mobile data industry might need to look at the pricing plans. Otherwise such technology is impractical.

Jeffrey Harvey
Military Communications
Halifax, Canada

Sorry. No data so far.