'Practicality' Is Theme for PREC 2009

Up for Discussion: Moving Digital Audio, Challenges of Increased IBOC Power
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LAS VEGAS This is the first year the Association of Public Radio Engineers is taking the lead role in planning and executing the Public Radio Engineering Conference, after three years of executing those duties jointly with NPR Labs.

The transition was planned to coincide with APRE becoming incorporated as a non-profit organization; it did so last fall. APRE's purpose is education and outreach for non-commercial radio engineers.

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At PREC 2008, panelists discussed proposed elevated FM IBOC power levels; from left, Geoff Mendhall of Harris; Gary Leibisch of Nautel; David Layer of NAB and Ted Lantz of Broadcast Electronics. Photo by Leslie Stimson PREC sessions will occupy only one day this year, Friday, April 17, to help make the conference more affordable to non-com stations, many of which have had travel budgets reduced. The event will be held in the Las Vegas Convention Center in Room N232 of the North Hall.

Discounted registration for the full 2009 NAB Show, including the Broadcast Engineering Conference and other conference sessions, was available with PREC registration until March 10. After that date, applications were to be accepted on a space-available basis for an increased fee. Discounted registration for the standalone PREC (including April 18 SBE/Ennes sessions) closed on April 3. After that date applications would be accepted on a space-available basis at an increased fee.

The SBE/Ennes sessions are on Saturday, April 18, ahead of the NAB show.

Although details of sessions were still being worked out in March, subject areas in the draft agenda included sessions about getting audio to the station and to the transmitter with representatives from APT and Telos/Axia; the consequences of using transmission methods for audio with DTS/Neural Audio; and moving digital audio around the plant with speakers from Wheatstone, Logitek Systems and Telos/Axia.



Weekend plans

Several updates on HD Radio also are planned.

APRE Vice Chair Dan Mansergh, who is director of engineering of San Francisco's KQED(FM) and a Radio World contributor, said the program includes a transmission session Friday to complement Saturday's Ennes Workshop discussions about an IBOC FM power increase (see RW, March 25). APRE's focus will be on practical, long-term planning issues.

"In particular, the implications of the manufacturers' findings that the two most viable methods of achieving higher digital power with reasonable operating costs are low-level and space combining will be of interest to the large number of stations that are operating high-level or split-level combined systems, and the requirements for isolation for space-combined systems, including a discussion of circulators, will be covered," Mansergh said.

Representatives from Dielectric, Shively, Myat and ERI will take part in the FM IBOC power increase discussion.

Overall, conference planners say they are striving for a focus on practicality this year — how to actually get IP-based digital broadcasting and transport integrated into facilities, how to reduce distribution costs for a station group by delivering HD Radio over satellite, how to avoid problems with multiple audio codecs in the production and air chains, and how to make smart investments in the RF plant given what is now known about IBOC broadcasting.

Paul Brenner, president of the Broadcast Traffic Consortium and Emmis vice president of integrated technologies, will update attendees on the BTC rollout, using RDS and HD Radio to deliver traffic information. He will talk about the value of station participation to encourage attendees to be included in the deployment. Public radio stations are seen to be critical to meeting the BTC's coverage objective as it begins to roll out to mid-size and small markets, according to Mansergh.

Steve Johnston, director of engineering and operations for Wisconsin Public Radio, will discuss how his station handled opposition from environmentalists when it went to replace an aging tower for its flagship station, WHA(AM), Madison, located in a wetland in a nature preserve. "This dual-use of the property has gone very well for many years so I never expected environmental opposition to the project. But that's what we got — lots of it. My presentation will be about that experience," said Johnston.

The annual engineering dinner takes place Saturday evening. For more information, go to: www.nprlabs.org/apre.

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