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2016 IEEE Broadcast Symposium Curtain Rises in Hartford

Audio practices and manmade RF noise issues dominate opening day

John Kean Photo: James E. O’Neal

The 66th IEEE Broadcast Technology Society Fall Symposium got underway Wednesday in Hartford, Conn., with the group’s President Bill Hayes welcoming some 190 attendees, which included 40 students and their professors from Quinnipiac University and the University of Hartford.

The symposium quickly got down to business with a session on audio metrics chaired by Greater Boston Media’s Paul Shulins, and leading off with a presentation by Cavell, Mertz & Associates’ John Kean on the evolution of broadcast audio metering technology over the past 75 years or so, along with reasons for the development of the measurement methodology now in use today.

Next on the bill was NBC Universal’s Jim Starzynski, who described changes in television audio practices taking place since the industry began to shift to digital broadcasting in the early 2000s.

Increasing RF noise pollution is a concern to almost everyone now, and the symposium program reflected this with presentations on manmade noise from Wisconsin Public Radio’s Director of Engineering and Operations Steve Johnston, and Tom King, president of Kintronic Labs.

Johnston described measurements of indoor and outdoor RF noise levels and how such interference is creating problems that are not just limited to the AM broadcast band.

“The growing level of noise is hurting otherwise receivable AM, FM and TV signals,” said Johnston. “Streaming is not really the solution, as this is not always available in rural areas.”

King provided an update about efforts by a number of groups to help curb interference, noting that more and more spectrum is being impacted due to the increasingly higher operating frequencies used in switching power supplies. He concluded by stating that “the FCC needs to take action to remediate this noise floor situation.”

Tom King Photo: James E. O’Neal

Tom Gallagher, CEO at the American Radio Relay League, journeyed from the amateur radio support organization’s base of operations in nearby Newington, Conn., to deliver a luncheon address about the ARRL’s history, services and ongoing projects, which include efforts to help clean up the RF interference problem.

Manmade radio frequency noise remained a topic as afternoon sessions got under way, with the first presentation from Ed Hare, ARRL’s test lab manager, who describe ongoing efforts to help identify and remediate noise problems. He noted that powerline companies are big offenders and aren’t always cooperative when confronted with evidence of the problems their distribution systems cause.

David Layer, senior director of advanced engineering at the NAB, followed Hare with a presentation on “noise” of a slightly different nature — co-channel interference to experimental all-digital AM broadcasting operations.

The BTS Fall Symposium, which was launched in the early 1950s, features presentations by some of broadcast engineering’s top professionals and is tailored to provide attendees with cutting-edge information on the latest technical developments in both radio and television.

The 2016 symposium continues through Friday, Oct. 14.