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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

IBOC Power Increase: Almost There

After all the discussion, a compromis has been reached to increase the digital sideband power by 6dB. There’s still a chance an additional 4dB will agreed to. Now it’s up to the FCC to allow it.

I have heard the IBOC opponents call this the end of analog radio. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, the digital carriers can cause some interference to the analog neighbors, but when is radio going to either commit to HD Radio or give it up? The little guys say it’s being pushed down their throats against their will. The big guys see HD Radio as the way to stay current with the evolution of consumer media.

We have a partial answer on the digital power level. Unfortunately, it’s still not a final decision. A few stations may be able to move ahead and purchase equipment for the full 10dB power increase, but I think many stations will still be on hold until a final resolution is offered.

This is not quite a full step forward for HD Radio.

More Power: Ionic Batteries

I read recently that Fluidic Energy is working on a new energy cell technology that uses metal-air ionic liquid (MAIL). Another battery technology? This one is interesting because it promises to potentially extend the battery life of portable devices by a factor of 11 when compared to existing lithium-ion batteries.

The secret: it uses an ionic liquid salt to conduct electricity. The technology results in a more stable power source that isn’t prone to drying out.

One of the portable HD Radio challenges has been the power consumption, which has recently been addressed. Add MAIL cells and the portable device has an even longer playing time.

It’s not certain when the technology will be ready for consumer use.

Twenty Ten? Two Thousand Ten? Who Cares?

The New York Times reported on a situation that auto manufacturer marketers are facing now. In these critical times of ensuring a company’s ongoing success, a major item on the table (apparently) is how to label the next model year of cars. It’s soon to be 2010. Should that be said twenty ten or two thousand ten?

We say nineteen ten for 1910. We also say two thousand nine for 2009. Yes, I know some people say twenty oh nine, too.

It appears the two thousand ten verbalization is winning.

I’m so glad that issue has been settled.

Something Sticky for HD Radio Multicast

You have seen by now that some radio groups are being creative with the program sources for their HD Radio multicast streams. When HD Radio first took to the air, many stations created a jukebox player to feed the multicast stream. While that creates a placeholder and puts a niche format on the air, listeners rarely just want a jukebox for an extended time.

In some cases, FM stations will multicast an AM sister station’s audio. It at least provides a cleaner version of an existing program.

So why not take this a step further? Some groups are filling their multicast channels with signals from other markets. One example: Viacom’s KTWV-FM in Los Angeles has been using the feed from its country station in San Bernardino (KFRG).

This does not sit well with a KTWV competitor in LA. That competitor — Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters — has asked the FCC for a ruling to declare that Viacom’s arrangement violates the FCC’s multiple ownership rules and its FM allocation scheme.

The FCC has already ruled to prevent an owner from beefing up his station count to get around ownership limits. An explanation from the Commlaw Blog from Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth summarizes this well:

The Commission held that if a licensee (call it Licensee A) of a station in a market were to broker a multicast stream from another licensee’s station in the same market, that brokered stream would count towards the local radio ownership cap for Licensee A. This would prevent a maxed-out licensee — such as Viacom in this instance — from programming using another licensee’s in-market multicast channels.

It seems the Mt. Wilson claim is pushing the intent of the rules too far. Viacom already owns all the stations in question.

A better argument is that the Viacom is in essence using the LA signal as a full-power booster for the San Bernardino signal, and Mt. Wilson makes this claim as well. Wilson wants this option closed so no group owner will essentially simulcast an out-of-market stream via a multicast channel.

What will happen? Potentially another roadblock for the HD Radio rollout.

Online Looks Good for Radio

Or so says SNL Kagan. Projections from the research firm say radio online revenues are expected to grow by double digits in 2009 to $441 million by year-end, up 12 percent from $394 million annually in 2008.

SNL Kagan projects an annual online revenue growth rate of 20 percent in 2010 to $530 million. As the market matures, growth is expected to level off through 2013, rising to $827 million, or 4.7 percent, of total radio revenues by the end of the five-year period. That compares to 2.0 percent in 2008 and a projected 2.7 percent of total radio revenues in 2009.Kagan Prediction

The projections were published in SNL Kagan’s Broadcast Investor feature and are available via the SNL Kagan Unlimited Information Service.

Despite the rough economy, the analysis expects 2009 to finish ahead of 2008. The group also shows that overall revenues will continue to increase through 2013. That’s good news for radio stations.

Windows 7 is Available

The new OS from Microsoft is on the shelves now. Have you seen it yet? I know some of my colleagues will jump right in and install. I like to wait and see how a new operating system works first.

The initial reports say that it looks good and works well. I might have to visit a shop soon to check it out.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I attended the NAB Radio Show last month. Because the exhibit floor was smaller (that’s not a slam), I had more time to attend some sessions. I noticed something interesting between the engineering and the management/programming sessions.

For the most part, the two tracks covered very different views of radio. The management/programming sessions were full of forward-looking ideas. How to embrace online marketing and distribution. Where the future revenue will come from. Then in the engineering sessions, the topics covered existing ideas. AM transmission systems. The digital power level debate for IBOC.

I’m not saying the engineering sessions were not important. Indeed, some very good information was presented. But while the managers and programmers are looking ahead, the engineers are staying in place or looking back. I understand there are practical issues involved, but after the convention, I can see a manager approaching the engineer to discuss some of the ideas he picked up at the convention, and the engineer looks at the manager with a blank stare.

I encourage engineers to attend non-engineering sessions all the time. We include many of the management session descriptions in our convention preview. And while keeping the current state of the station up and running is important, are you as an engineer doing all you can to help the station prepare for tomorrow?

After the Fall Conventions

Now that the NAB Radio Show, AES, SBE National, Madison and Syracuse shows are behind us, I can get back to the daily work. There are a few fall gatherings yet to go (Tulsa, OK; Columbus, OH; Topeka, KS; for example).

I’m curious: Which of these did you attend? How far are you able or willing to travel to attend a regional event? How much time can you commit to attending (1 day? 2 days?)?

The number of regional events is dwindling. If you could pick a location, where would it be?

Video in Print

Here’s something interesting:
Video ads in print.

Think of having a video demo in the next print issue of Radio magazine.

I’ll bet the green folks will have a fun with this one, too. All that stuff ending up in a land fill.

This is How Rumors are Started

I recently saw an example of cyclical reporting. One news source reported on an event. Another news source had a story on the same event, with most (if not all) of the second story’s info being cited from the first.

Then the first source runs a follow-up article on the story citing the second source.

Will #2 have a similar follow-up to cite #1? Has this created a perpetual motion machine?

And we wonder how bad information is created and spread. The first source is mostly reliable in this instance. The second source tried to be reliable, but I know it has a tendency to interpret things a little differently. It becomes the game of telephone from there.

With this practice of newsgathering, why run any news at all?

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