This spring marked the eighth Public Radio Engineering Conference and the second presented jointly by NPR Labs and the Association of Public Radio Engineers.
APRE hopes to incorporate formally this year. Its bylaws committee has completed a draft document on which the founding board will vote. Once bylaws are approved APRE can begin the incorporation process.
NPR Labs Looks at IBOC Coverage Shortfall
NPR Labs has developed a computer-generated coverage prediction model for HD Radio which it used to study the shortfall in IBOC coverage vs. FM analog coverage.
It also used the model to predict interference from stations transmitting IBOC signals to adjacent analog neighbors. The report has been delivered to CPB.
The findings are important as the industry debates whether to push for FCC approval of elevated FM IBOC power. Overall, they show the best IBOC coverage in cars vs. a dramatic drop-off in digital coverage for home receivers.
While a power increase would benefit home listening, the resulting increased interference would likely hurt mobile coverage, senior technologist John Kean said in a subsequent interview. Any power increase would need to be done with care, he said, noting that NPR hasn’t taken a position on the elevated power issue.
Radio World will report on Kean’s findings in more detail next issue.
NPR Seeks Translator Shield if LPFM Expands
Some familiar senators are among those supporting a bill to drop third-adjacent channel protections for full-service FMs in order to create space for more low-power FMs.
S.1675 has the support of Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. and Barack Obama, D-Ill. No floor vote was slated as of early June.
NPR is concerned about the possible disruption to noncom translators if more LPFMs are authorized. Its studies show the majority of new LPFMs would most likely be allocated in the non-reserved band.
There are some 800 LPFMs on the air now, according to the FCC.
In comments to the FCC this spring, NPR said some 9 million listeners receive their local public radio stations via translator service.
We’ve reported the commission has proposed giving LPFMs priority over translators in applications for new frequencies. LPFMs currently are licensed as secondary services but its advocates say stations are tired of being at risk of having to move or go off the air when a full-service station wants to increase power or move.
NPR opposes the change in status.
“It may be one thing to ‘squeeze in’ secondary low-power facilities into a mature broadcast service,” the organization wrote, “[but] it is quite another to reverse decades of commission policy and rules favoring higher-powered broadcast facilities by elevating LPFM stations to co-equal status with full-power stations.
“The laws of physics have not changed, and a system of full-power broadcast stations serves many more listeners with less interference compared to low-power broadcasting,” NPR wrote.
During the PREC meeting, Mike Starling, NPR Labs executive director and NPR’s vice president and chief technology officer, said NPR and low-power advocate Prometheus Radio Project have been in discussions over interference protections as well as protection for translator services.
A compromise reached as a result of the talks reportedly would limit the number of translators an entity could own that could be protected against encroachment from new LPs promising to originate at least eight hours of daily local programming.
NPR said that, due to receiver vulnerabilities, regulators should continue the prohibition against new LPFMs third-adjacent to stations carrying radio reading services. NPR felt it is better to negotiate safeguards to make sure protections are in place for public radio stations than not to negotiate at all.
Building Green Can Save You Money
Building a facility “green” is not only good for the planet, it’s good for business.
That’s according to Peter Bloomfield and Mark Motl of Bloomfield & Associates, a Philadelphia-based architectural firm that specializes in broadcast facilities.
When considering a big facility move, think of the broadcast engineering requirements, they suggested.
At Entercom in Madison, Wis., a new facility was built “green” and located near public transportation.
Among their suggestions:
- Consider adapting an existing building. For example, Entercom in Kansas City renovated the top two floors of a building for studios and leased out the bottom floors to tenants.
- Consider easy access to amenities: CBS Radio in Baltimore located amenities such as food in its new building to help employees cut down on driving.
- Develop effective use of space: Chancellor Media in Cincinnati planned studios and offices around a core, ending up with less space to cool and heat.
The Bloomfield pair also suggested installing LED light fixtures, especially in lobbies that are lit 24/7 and reusing old furniture by repainting or reupholstering to save money.
Ongoing Plant, IT Security Is Vital
The main principles of IT physical plant security are confidentiality, integrity and ability.
A facilitiy’s security should have several layers of redundancy, according to Vermont Public Radio DOE Rich Parker.
Engineers need to be aware of threats from outside, and within, their buildings.
Critical circuit paths, combinations, keys and passwords and credit card data are examples of confidential information that must be protected. Using a password that is available only to certain people helps; but protection of those passwords must be vigilant, he said.
He pointed to an example of loss of integrity for a TV station to illustrate the seriousness of securing an air signal.
In 1987, a TV pirate sporting a Max Headroom mask broke into the broadcast of a “Dr. Who” episode on WTTW(TV), Chicago. The hacker was able to disrupt the air signal for about two minutes and was never caught.
Assess what you’re trying to protect: the air product, tower, studio, emergency information and computers in offices and studios. Protect data with firewalls, virus scanning and e-mail restrictions. Remember back-up data, he recommends.
Also provide ways to maintain and restore information system integrity with alternate servers, back-up studios and transmitter sites and secondary power feeds.
“There is a link between physical security and cyber security. It doesn’t help to have your backup media in the next room if there’s a fire,” said Parker.
“Are users bypassing your defenses?” he continued. Peer-to-peer file-sharing, unknown WiFi addresses, USB drives, iPods, IM and VoIP programs provide pathways into your networked computer systems for viruses, Trojan horses and malware.
Discuss security needs with employees. Educate them about the risks, and provide security tools and workarounds, Parker said.
Jacobs Media: HD-R Awareness Drops
Jacobs Media doesn’t see the “HD Radio awareness” needle moving since last year.
As part of its Tech Poll IV, the rock consultancy asked rock format listeners about barriers to purchasing an HD Radio. Some 40 percent of respondents “don’t know enough about it” and 37 percent said the “radios are too expensive.”
Speaking to public radio engineers about the findings, General Manager Paul Jacobs said there’s a lot of confusion about HD Radio. Familiarity with HD Radio dropped from some 70 percent in 2007 to 60-some percent in 2008, according to the findings.
What are barriers to purchase? Respondents told Jacobs Media they hadn’t heard enough about HD-R, they didn’t know where to buy a radio and didn’t know anyone who has one.
Jacobs said stations need to invest more effort in multicast formats that will differentiate their station and create word of mouth. That in turn may help move HD Radios.
Another suggestion to raise awareness from Jacobs Media is to place HD-R kiosks in malls to help consumers hear the extra channels on various HD Radio receivers.