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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

Put your transmitter site on Twitter

By now you’ve seen that Radio magazine has pages on Facebook and Twitter. Sites such as these are continue to gain in popularity. For some people, it’s easy to spend an entire day just surfing other people’s listings (I’m not one of them, by the way).

It seems there’s more to these sites than just posting that you are going to take a shower or post the pics of a recent drunken outing. Some companies are offering applications to alert the users about things happening at home, such as a plant needing water or that the washing machine has finished.

Personally, I take an active part in my life to know that my plant needs water. I also know that I’m doing laundry at a given time, so it’s not a problem to remember that I have to do something with the wet mass of fabric.

Regardless, an article in Wired discusses some of these uses. Post a message to Twitter and turn off the house lights. Why not set it so a posted message will switch to the backup STL?

There are some security issues obviously, but I suppose there could be a practical use in there somewhere.

How It’s Made

Perhaps you’ve seen the series on the Discovery Channel called How It’s Made. Each 30-minute episode highlights four somewhat common products. Some of the more interesting (to me) items have been guitars, optical lenses and stamps. While these features are created for a general audience, they are interesting and provide a unique view into how these items are manufactured.

I recently saw an episode that explained how a microphone is made. The segment was created at the Neumann manufacturing facility and showed a U87 being built.

If you missed the episode, it appears to be on season 11 episode 7. I found it on Youtube.

Have you seen an interesting segment on this or another episode? Maybe another program?

If you are a manufacturer, perhaps you could create something similar detailing how your product is made. Contact me and we can post it on RadioMagOnline.com.

Another delay for DTV

Feb 17? Not necessarily. Jun 12? Definitely. Really. For sure this time.

The analog shutoff has been promoted as being Feb 17 for years now, yet some people are still in the dark about it apparently.

I think a big part of it is that Congress and the FCC didn’t want to look like the bad guys when Ethel and Homer lost their TV signals. Now the shutoff date is up to the station. Let the station take the blame.

Deadlines are created for a reason. Yes, the coupon program had some problems. Yes, many people don’t pay attention to the daily notices that they might lose their TV signals. Most markets held soft tests to see who might be affected. Many SBE chapters worked phone banks to answer questions about the transition.

Meanwhile, the companies that bought the 700MHz spectrum that will be freed are still waiting to get access to it.

Feb 17 should have been left in place.

Certification required

You’ve seen the help wanted ads that include a list of candidate requirements. Often you will see a list of preferred items. I often see “SBE certification a plus” in job listings.

Unless you live under a rock, you know I’m involved with the SBE. I’m the immediate past president, I served two terms on the board of directors, and I served four years as chairman of the Certification Committee. When Bill Weisinger, my friend from Cleveland, forwarded part of a job listing to me, it made me smile. This job was not asked for certification to be a plus, it was a requirement. Here’s the text Bill sent to me:

    Subject: Jazz88 FM – The World’s Premier Jazz Radio Station, NYC and NJ
    Required Education and Experience:
    * Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Technology or Computer Science or other relevant education in broadcasting, electronics, or computer/IT-related subjects and demonstrated application of that knowledge
    * SBE Certification at the Certified Broadcast Radio Engineer (CBRE) or Certified Broadcast Technician (CBT) level
    * A minimum of five years of hands-on experience in a technical position related to radio broadcasting and supporting or administrating IT computer systems and networks
    * Experience and demonstrated confidence with maintaining FM broadcast transmitter plants

Times are tough, and lots of people are losing their jobs. If you’re looking for a job, having some type of professional certification is a great way to demonstrate your proficiency. It also shows your involvement in and attention to your career.

The annual salary survey from Radio magazine shows that those with SBE certification earn more than those without it. It’s not that certification alone will allow you to earn more money, it’s that the people who are certified are taking an active role in their careers.

But don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to add the letters after your name. Do it now and have it before you need to include it on an application.

– Chriss Scherer, CPBE CBNT

Lunch with someone new

I went to lunch today (nothing new there, I know), and when I got to my table I saw another coworker eating his lunch. He is the publisher in a different group than Radio magazine. I see him in the office regularly, and we have chatted on occasion, but I had not talked to him at any length in some time. I asked if I could join him, and he said yes.

He and I share a similar background in that we both now work in publishing even though our backgrounds are in technical fields. He started his career as an electrical engineer.

After the pleasantries the conversation turned to inquiries about each other’s responsibilities. He asked about Radio magazine and I asked about the electrical power industry publications he covers. We talked about current projects. We talked about our industries. We talked about some of the successes each of us had with our markets.

It was a good lunch, and we exchanged some ideas. I hope to see how I can apply his ideas to Radio magazine. While I don’t think I would just drop by his office and ask him to join me for lunch (I have nothing against him, we just work in different areas), I’m glad I had the opportunity to talk to him. The chance made me think.

When is the last time you had lunch with a different coworker? You probably have a regular set you go with. Why not ask the account executive or the sale manager? Why not ask the music director or news director? Maybe even ask the engineer at your competitor if you don’t already talk to him or see him at SBE meetings? You work on the same goals and projects as these people. Share some ideas. Even if it’s your competitor, you can share ideas without giving away any secrets.

I’m sure you’re being asked to do more with less. You’re probably being asked to think of new ideas and ways to cope with a hard financial time. Talk to someone new and plant the seed for some new ideas.

The sound of sat radio

I was in Atlanta recently to attend the Executive Committee meeting of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. The car I rented had a Sirius radio installed. It’s been some time since I listened to satellite radio, so this was a good chance to catch up, although when I travel I like to sample the local radio offerings.

When I left the rental lot, the radio was already playing a Sirius station. I scanned up and down a few channels and heard some 80s new wave, the heavy metal offering and few others. I liked the song on the 80s station (ahh, the sounds of being in college and college radio), so I left it there to listen. When the song ended, I switched to terrestrial radio and scanned a while.

I found a station I thought I would like, but the next song didn’t hold my attention. I scanned again to find another station. As I scanned, I wondered what was playing on the 80s station I left earlier.

I abandoned my search on FM and went back to satellite. The 80s station (called First Wave) was playing another familiar song. Familiar that I knew it, but not so familiar that I had just heard it 20 times. It was like comfort food. I stayed and listened.

Yes, I succumbed to satellite radio during the trip. It was a good chance to sample the stations that were available in the car. I heard songs that I had not heard on the radio for time. I heard a few new things that caught my interest for a while. I liked having the instant display on every channel to tell me what being played.

What I did not like was the audio coding of Sirius. The average listener probably doesn’t notice the swishy highs and splattered cymbals, but I did on every song. I could overlook it some of the time, but it wouldn’t take long for me to hear it again and again.

While I don’t like the audio quality, I liked the variety. I liked the choices. Would I pay a monthly fee for it? I don’t know for sure, I like the price of terrestrial radio. Would I tire of the service once the newness wore off? Possibly, but I had it for three days and always found something to listen to.

All that said, I can tie this back to terrestrial radio. Sirius promotes its service by having it available in rental cars. Why aren’t we doing the same with HD Radio? Get HD Radio in rental cars and tout the multicast channels. Tout the data. All the listening and data options are not available in every market, but pick and choose a few to start.

Net Congestion

Did you try to watch any of the inauguration events from Jan. 20 online? All the news channels carried coverage throughout the day. The problem is that so many people tried to access feeds that the Internet was just overloaded with traffic. My coworkers tried to watch at the desks. Some had good feeds. Many had jerky video at best.

Meanwhile, broadcast signals carried on without interruption. I know we’re heading to a packet-switched delivery for everything we do, but there’s still something to be said for the unlimited receiver capability of a broadcast signal.

Times are tough, we all know

The word that Clear Channel and Ibiqutiy have thinned their ranks with layoffs certainly makes everyone catch his breath. Who is next?

We all know that times are tough. We’re all being asked to do more with less. We’re all tired of being asked to do that, too. While we want to rebel, the reality of “if you don’t do it your replacement will” usually keeps us quiet. Just keep things rolling.

While this isn’t the best time to apply a risky idea, it’s a good time to consider new ideas. Present something new, especially if it has revenue potential. The wild idea formulated today might become a realistic plan one day. Be ready for that day.

The weakest link

You’ve heard the news that Steve Jobs is taking a leave of absence from Apple for health reasons. Naturally, we hope he’ll be ok. When the announcement was made, I saw several financial analysts say that Apple will be in big trouble if Jobs leaves.

Apple can’t survive without Jobs at the helm?

It’s obvious Apple has its act together. It’s also obvious that the company got there because of its corporate leadership. If Jobs’ absence becomes permanent I expect that the company will go on. But if everything rests on the efforts of one person, there’s a problem.

Let’s take this analysis to something you might be involved in: a volunteer organization. In this case, I mean your local SBE chapter. I have visited chapters that appear to be successful, and their efforts show it, only to see that it’s all because of one person’s effort.

Any effort needs a champion. That leader inspires others and shows the way. That leader also has to be setting the stage to be replaced at some point. It’s easy to get trapped in the thinking that if you don’t do it no one else will. Likewise, it’s easy to just do it something yourself instead of teaching someone else. Either way, you’re promoting a limitation on the long-term success.

Sometimes the system has to fail to show the weakness.

If Jobs leaves Apple, the company may stumble while it finds its new stride, but Apple will go on because of the team already in place.

Build your team and be prepared when a change is necessary.

Not so loud

I saw a movie in the theater this weekend. I don’t see movies in the theater much anymore, mainly because most movie goers have lost all sense of courtesy. It’s not just the feet on the seats or leaving trash everywhere. It’s talking. Chewing. Slurping. Opening the loudest plastic snack food packaging on the planet.

Now I have a new reason for not going. Volume. I’m sure you have noticed how people who work in different sectors of professional audio have different standards of audio levels. Our brethren in TV don’t even call it audio. They call it sound. And even then it’s that component that rides along with the pretty video. Is the sound meter moving? Must be ok.

I’ve always felt that people in cinema push audio levels too high. During a movie there has to be some compromise between whispered dialog and the end of the world explosion, but there’s not need to keep it at 120dB the entire time. The worst part was during the endless pre-show commercials. Those audio levels are all over the place.

I have taken ear plugs to concerts for years. I would like to enjoy the show in its full spectrum glory, but I don’t want to suffer from the constant excess of sound levels. Now I’m going to take ear plugs to the movies (whenever that might be).

Of course in radio we have levels well under control. In some cases, too much control. Is the audio meter still moving on the modulation monitor? Better turn up the processor. Seriously, even though some stations over process, at least the levels are consistent. That makes it easier for the listener to set the final playback level at a reasonable and comfortable level.

Or do they?

We live in a world full of sound now. I see people wearing ear buds everywhere. Some of my coworkers wear them in the office all day. (Some say it’s to mask the other loud coworkers. Gee, more added background noise.) I even see people driving while wearing closed-back, over-the-ear headphones. I sure hope the real world doesn’t interfere with that driver’s touring experience.

I play in several bands, from rock, to concert band and once in a while some small combos. I do my best to keep the stage level to a respectable level. I’m still proud of my hearing. I’m sure I have lost a little high end as the decades go by, and one of these days I actually have it checked just to be sure, although I’m confident I’ll do well.

Hopefully, your hearing is still good. I also hope you’re being careful to keep it that way.

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