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Monday: Getting the Data Right

Sessions also explore microcasting, IP audio and VLAN segmentation

The Radio Engineering Forum on Monday at the Broadcast Engineering Conference of the upcoming NAB Show will be all about data and how it works in every aspect of radio broadcasting.

The sound coming out the speaker may be analog, but just about everything else in the audio chain is now digital, and some of those technologies are shifting even as others settle in for the long haul.

The technologies you need to watch will be the subject of a two-part Radio Engineering Forum presented as part of the Broadcast Engineering Conference.

The morning session is moderated by Mike Cooney, vice president of engineering and CTO for Beasley Broadcast Group.

“Two sessions are tailored more towards broadcast engineers interested in managing an IT network as it relates to data management and segmentation,” Cooney said. “The third session is a real-world report on the data bandwidth capabilities and limitations on the HD signal.”

Don’t compromise

Each day, Internet connectivity becomes both faster and more widely available. The first morning presentation will be “Internet Deployment of IP Audio Without Compromises.

Presented by Rolf Taylor, an applications support engineer for APT, this session looks at the increasing use of IP audio for a variety of radio tasks, including remote broadcast and STL backup. Taylor will explore the meaning of Quality of Service (QoS), as well as the compromises that can and can’t be made with respect to IP audio. Taylor also plans to cover metropolitan Ethernet links and the first wide-scale North American deployment of MPLS virtual network links for IP audio distribution.

Roswell Clark of Cox Radio Tampa. ‘Consumers have come to expect data associated with audio, and radio must meet that need.’ As stations gain experience with HD Radio, clever broadcasters will find new ways to use the signal to generate revenue. The first step in this process is to understand just how much data capacity is available to HD Radio broadcasters, which is the subject of the next presentation.

Titled “Data Delivery Capacity Over FM” and presented by Roswell Clark, director of technical operations for Cox Radio Tampa, the next session looks at quantifying the street-level data capability of HD Radio.

“Data is to radio as audio is to TV,” Clark said. “Consumers have come to expect data associated with audio, and radio must meet that need and expand it into areas not directly related to the audio channel.”

Nothing is static, so you can be sure that manufacturers and engineers will strive to squeeze the last bit of data out of this potentially valuable broadcasting resource.

“Refinements in data compression techniques and efficiency will open up the ability to carry many more services inside existing channels,” Clark said.

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An image from Roz Clark’s presentation.
The final morning session will be “Virtual LAN (VLAN) Segmentation for Radio Broadcasters: What Your Network Administrator Needs to Know.” Presented by Paul Shulins, director of technical operations for Greater Media Boston, this presentation will focus on how segmented and routed IP networks can better ensure that real-time audio gets priority over less time-sensitive data. He’s joined by George Waters, president of information tech company GWANDA.

Data is certainly the key word for this session and a gut-level feel for data and its distribution is needed to compete in today’s radio economy. The Radio Engineering Forum will address data management techniques to keep a station competitive.

Break out of the ghetto

The forum continues Monday afternoon with sessions dedicated to various aspects of digital broadcasting. They are moderated by Jeffrey Smith, supervisor of broadcast/studio systems for Clear Channel Radio-New York City.

“In today’s job market, an engineer who does not have an understanding of new technologies will not survive,” Smith said. “This session, along with all of the BEC sessions, help give the engineer the tools they need to succeed.”

Jeffrey Smith of Clear Channel. ‘It is more important than ever to understand how to monitor [PPM] to make sure that your station gets all the credit in the ratings it deserves.’ The first afternoon presentation will be “Leveraging Standard IP Protocols for Audio Sharing,” delivered by Tag Borland, president of Logitek Electronic Systems. With different audio console manufacturers taking slightly different approaches to implementing IP protocol, Borland argues, a network from one manufacturer is a ghetto in which there is usually no communication with networks from the competition. Users are increasingly demanding interoperability, and this paper will describe the protocols now in use and how they compare with each other.

Frank Foti, president of Omnia Audio, takes over with the next presentation, “Cleaner… Yet Still Loud!” Decades of improvements in broadcast audio processing have led to stations that are loud, often at the expense of quality. Foti will examine the effects of distortion, particularly intermodulation distortion, created by aggressive audio processing. Audio demonstrations will give an A/B comparison to see which processing techniques yield the most sparkling audio.

Are you thinking of using IP links for remotes or an STL? Up next is “20 Things You Should Know Before Migrating Your Audio Links to IP,” presented by Thomas Knuchel, sales engineer for APT. This will be an overview of 20 significant issues involved with implementing an audio-over-IP link. If you have questions about migrating to IP and using the public Internet, this is a place to start looking for answers.

Many stations are operating with first-generation digital equipment that is 10 to 15 years old, and finding that support for aging digital technology is increasingly scarce and expensive. “Next-Generation Radio Networks” addresses the question of whether you should update or replace this older equipment. Presented by Frank Peters Sengers, managing director of International Datacasting Corp., this discussion will address the questions of how and when to replace aging digital systems.

Next up is “MicroCasting: Applying Automation With Customization to Radio Station Affiliates,” presented by Kamy Merithew, vice president of marketing for Wegener. As some broadcasters build centralized scheduling and automation systems, individual stations may want specific local content, a feature known as “microcasting.” This presentation will discuss how new networking architectures push the benefits of centralized automation down to the local level, making microcasting more flexible.

Anyone who has done a remote with a POTS line or RF link understands the promise of remotes via IP audio. The next presentation, “Send a High-Quality Audio Feed From Anywhere” by Andrew Janitschek, director of program and operations support for Radio Free Asia, will discuss how remotes can be done from virtually anywhere in the world at low or no cost. Janitschek will present a real-life case study of how RFA sends and receives audio from affiliates around the globe.

Competition is everything

Radio is a competitive business and ratings are what the competition is all about. The afternoon’s moderator, Jeffrey Smith, noted that understanding the latest rating technology will help in the fight for every last rating point.

“With the Arbitron PPM system being launched in more markets and replacing diaries, it is more important than ever to understand how to monitor it to make sure that your station gets all the credit in the ratings it deserves.”

The next presentation will examine the Arbitron PPM system and how it reports the stations that a listener hears. Delivered by Dwight Douglas, vice president of marketing for RCS and Media Monitors, this topic is titled “Understanding and Using PPM Technology.” Knowing how an audience reacts to content creates a unique tool to program to the needs of the listener.

This will be followed by a second presentation on the PPM system, “Practical Strategies for Effective Remote PPM Monitoring.” Delivered by Stephen Dinkel, director of North American Sales for Burk Technology, this will discuss the nuts and bolts of PPM technology, including detecting failures, corrective actions and accurately reporting in the presence of a failure.

The final presentation of the afternoon will be “Tests of Digital Radio Broadcasting Potential to Cover a Large Area (Alaska) With Shortwave Signals,” by Donald Messer, an independent radio engineering consultant. Last year, as RW has reported, the FCC issued an experimental license to test the possibility of covering 500,000 square miles of Alaska with a single digitally modulated HF transmitter. This presentation will discuss the test plan, including the antenna, test methods and data evaluation.

Although the radio that we grew up with is still out there, it’s clear that changes in the air are now on the ground and growing sturdy roots. Jeffrey Smith, the session’s moderator, notes that “different” doesn’t necessarily mean that what you learned a few years ago is now obsolete.

“Radio is still about the sound of the product you deliver,” Smith said. “What is different today is most of that audio is delivered over a data stream. It doesn’t make the audio any less important, it just adds to the big picture.”