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Readers Weigh In

We received letters about recent issues of note


iStockphoto/kjolak Hats off to Mark Lapidus for hitting the programming target (“Step Up and Be a Trailblazer,” Dec. 3).

He wrote: “It has never been easier to record, edit and schedule audio for broadcast, and yet, outside of public radio, I don’t hear many real people speaking. Voice tracking is the norm for so many music stations, and while it can be perfect, it is also mostly sterile.” (My emphasis.)

Please thank him for pointing out the advantages of today’s recording and editing methods, but also the disadvantages. He’s so right; with proper use, a “live” person can reach out, edit and comment on listener’s thoughts and enrich any format.

We’ve forgotten the listener while chopping costs. the same technology that creates such seamless and click-snap-pop programming can be used to actually create a warmer, more personal broadcast style that will captivate the listeners.

Listeners listen to and react to people, and they’re aware when the programming is automated, no matter how cleverly done. We need to bring back the real-time “live” announcer, whatever the format.

Don Kennedy
Crawford Houston Group Inc.


On and off, I keep mulling over a couple of things that the commission has done that make very little sense. Like allowing LPFMs to enjoy the same four-letter W and K call sign scheme that commercial and noncommercial operators enjoy.

I know that the idea was to give these LPs the illusion of real radio, to appease those that desire a voice and have the appearance of being a real station. Ever try to select a call sign? These LPs are eating up a major portion of the alphabet.

While we’re talking about call signs, what about translators? I understand the unique designation (something that LPs should have gotten).

Here’s an idea: If the FCC is going to open up a translator window for AM stations and they want to make sure that the translator is forever linked to its AM “parent,” affix the AM’s calls to the translator. Pretty simple and straightforward, huh?

One thing that grinds me is that we pay an annual fee for our 2MV/M contour. However, that contour is not really being protected against all of the interference by items that the commission regulates. What are we paying for? A fee is being extracted for an AM contour that is becoming increasingly noisy. Bottom line? The two could soon be a listener-less portion of our coverage, yet we are paying for the bodies within that area.

I’d better quit before my blood pressure takes off.

Jonathon R. Yinger
Flint, Mich.


As a long-time radio hobbyist, amateur radio operator and telematics system engineer in the OEM automotive field, I too think AM radio needs drastic change.

But at some point, people seem to have conveniently forgotten that the quality or even range of an AM signal is not what’s killing listenership.

I have an extensive collection (more than 100) of beautiful 1930–1949 tabletop radios, more than half of which I have restored. But I have not restored even one of that collection now for nearly a decade.

Why? Because I don’t listen to AM radio anymore. It’s just tough to justify the time and expense on a project when it won’t be functionally used. It looks just as nice on the shelf, working or not.

The reason I, and many of my friends and colleagues, do not listen to AM anymore is the content. Not the frequency response, not lack of channel separation or a poor SNR.

I have my homebrew Wilkinson monoblocks and Klipsch Cornwalls to listen to when I want quality.

 Highly polarized emotional diatribes, complaining and hating on one AM channel, the next three filled with 100-percent philosophical advertising/propagandizing for one religious interest or other, the next one extolling a one-sided political agenda from one side or another … The list goes on and on.

I’m only 48, but AM radio was not like that when I enjoyed building crystal radios as a kid and learned to repair tube sets in my teens. I loved hearing the news, the ballgames and talk shows. They were not offensive in tone or content to anyone. They were also not so targeted. It felt like there was far less advertising — oh it was there, but not every 6.3 minutes as it is today.

 Like it or not, advertising, the lifeblood of the industry in the U.S., is largely to blame as large corporate media owners have bought up most all AM stations and automated everything to connect to central feeds. This to allow them to slice and dice markets to a fine degree — “serving the community,” but really so the advertisers could get a more targeted audience. This has also contributed to a polarized public — each hearing only what he or she wants to hear — and nothing much balancing it out.

 So many people I know complain about how sour the AM band has become…. but I have never heard anyone, not a single person, say they’d listen more if it just sounded better. In that, we are really missing the point. Somewhere, sometime, the art of broadcasting to the public has evolved to become just media channels for the industry.

And the public is not impressed. No amount of sales of new broadcasting gear, marketing know-how and FCC rulemaking to force the industry to make cheap AM digital chipsets will bring back an audience with so many alternatives available, unless there is something there worth listening to.

Dan Brasier, N8ZJV
Audio/Bluetooth Systems Engineer
Visteon Electronics
Holland, Mich.


The vast public of one potential GM product buyer is bereft, shocked and dismayed (“GM Drops HD Radio From Some 2015 Models,” Aug. 27). A petition against the GM move is online and is being underwhelmed to the point that the server has capacity of which only 1/10th will ever be reached.

Big consolidators took promotion, advertising, positioning, branding and marketing seriously by only promoting on their own free air. They have run thousand of hours on their O&O stations for even greater sums of dollars with no help from print or other complementary, cross-pollinating media. The die is cast.

How’s that working out for ya?

Dave Burns
Richmond, Ind.

I have HD Radio in my VW. I enjoy it, as a ham and radio buff, but the problem is that the power level of the digital is too low, so you get the st-st-stutter when the radio goes from digital to analog.

The programs should be matched on the streams, but often aren’t. I live about 40 miles from the NYC transmitters in the hills, so there is a lot of on/off digital-analog.

The other issue is that the subchannels drop off a cliff and are all or nothing. Near the city, they work well, but out in the hills, you really can’t use it. Pity too, as many of the subchannels are interesting.

The hybrid system is just annoying. Go full digital, or stay full analog.

On another note, there is not currently produced a stand-alone HD receiver for the home. What is up with that?

Casey Raskob, Esq.
Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.


I’m not sure what you have experienced with HD Radio but my experience in Atlanta is very good (“HD Radio on LPFM: Could It Be?” Sept. 1).

Even running –20 dBc IBOC gets reliable coverage on HD when using in-dash car tuners with outside antennae. Stations like mine that run –14 dBc or better can be heard out to the 54 dBu with very few dropouts.

I was under the impression that HD was not legal on a translator. But the FCC has basically thrown the rules out the window, so who knows.

I agree with the others who advise concentrating on the analog signal first. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Many of the LPFMs in Atlanta have gone off the air.

Tom Taylor
Chief Radio Engineer

If you could run a whole 100 watts in HD Radio you might have a chance; but remember, most HD stations run 1 percent digital, which would be one stinkin’ watt; even if they could run –10 dB or 10 percent of their signal, that’s only 10 watts to work with.

You might get something out of that, based on a 1 kW AM here that had a 10-watt HD signal — if FM can even obtain that four-mile range that the AM had (before they shut it down).

John Pavlica
Toledo, Ohio


A brilliant engineer who has had an impact on many organizations, not the least of which was the NFL (“Bill Ruck Joins Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame,” Aug. 20). His sponsorship of the budding NFL Frequency Coordination Group so many years ago was the motivation needed to successfully launch that new program for the NFL.

I have known Bill for those many years and am grateful for his brilliant engineering skills that helped so many frequency coordination engineers around the league. When in doubt, Bill is a go-to guy. He deserves these accolades and then some.

Jay Gerber
Mt. Laurel, N.J.

Jay Gerber is former vice president of operations for NFL Films and founder and former manager of NFL Frequency Coordination Group.