All posts by Gary Stigall

March 2007 Meeting – Dielectric

Thanks to all for attending. 20 local radio group engineering executive and friends ate a fine lunch and heard a few words from Al Jason of Dielectric on their RF Scout and tower LED beacon products. Craig Caston of Salem Communications won the Sangean HD-Radio provided by SCMS. Thanks to Doug Tharp for the lunch and radio!

FCC Enters Consent Decree with KFMB-TV Over Captioning Fine

The FCC has entered into a Consent Decree with Midwest TV, owners of KFMB-TV in San Diego, canceling a $20,000 Notice of Apparent Liability issued after the station was accused of failing to make emergency information available to people with hearing disabilities during the October 2003 wildfire news coverage.

In the decree, KFMB-TV admits no wrongdoing, but would agree to an Emergency Visual Presentation Policy set for staff members that will be overseen by the News Director. The policies require timely Closed Captioning or open captioning of aired emergency information through any means available, including “handwriting on a blackboard.” The decree also requires KFMB-TV to make an $18,000 “voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury.”

The FCC also issued NALs to KUSI and KGTV in 2005 of $25,000 and $20,000 respectively. To date, those Notices have not been settled.

Making Waves: DST Means Work for You and Me

On March 11, 2007, Daylight Savings Time starts earlier than last year. Congress moved the date with a simple vote. Now you and I have to do all the dirty work to make our computerized world fall into place. Are you ready?

When I was 15 and enthused about ham radio, I bought from Allied Radio one of those 24-hour wall clocks and set it for Greenwich Mean Time. Yeah, I was that geeky. What that clock showed me is that all the fuss about time zones and daylight saving time is completely unnecessary. Why couldn’t the whole world run off one time and change their local school and work times to whatever they wanted? Does it really matter if they’re going to work at 0800 in London and we’re going to work at 1800 in San Diego? Instead, governments and corporations spend enormous resources tracking zone boundaries and daylight saving periods. DST serves only as a way to change the numbers on the clock, and is more meaningless the closer you get to the equator where sunrise and sunset times don’t change much. If safety and conservation are important at the upper latitudes, why don’t we just change the starting times of the school or work day to suit the daylight available?

In 1973, they messed with daylight saving time briefly because oil supplies were squeezed. They wanted more daylight in the afternoon so that we didn’t run so many lights at work. But what I remember is that we were suddenly getting up in utter dark, running the heat and lights at home an hour earlier than before. The problem was that at the 45th parallel, there was only so much daylight. At the time I worked at a small daytime only Class IV AM station in Oregon, and during December and January I would sometimes work weekends from the 8:30 AM sign-on to the 5:30 PM sign-off. According to Wikipedia, studies of the effects of DST have variously concluded savings of energy and traffic deaths as well as loss of savings to economic efficiency and increased energy peak loads at sunrise.

On March 11 this year, we’re changing from the usual early April changeover to DST to March 11. The United States change is part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Again the justification is to synchronize the workday to the hours of daylight available so that we are less dependent on Middle East oil.

The international ramifications are interesting. Canada decided to adopt the U.S. plan to move DST; Mexico did not. For the first time that I can remember, Tijuana will be in a different time zone from San Diego from March 11 until April 1. My station, XETV Fox 6, will be in the uncomfortable position of advertising programming times to its majority U.S. audience in Pacific Daylight Time, while the country of license observes Pacific Standard Time.

You may have work to do in preparation for March 11 this year. If you run Windows XP or Vista on the internet, you should be able to download their normal maintenance update to change the automatic DST switch date. If you run a machine isolated from the net, you’ll have to schedule a download or just change the time zone of the workstation in question.

It turns out that the Dallas Semiconductor real time clock (RTC) chips that control time in many computers have hard-coded DST changeover dates so that can’t be overcome except by manually changing the time or GMT offset.

You can program Macintosh computers to change automatically on the correct dates by editing the /etc/localtime file. Instructions can be found here. Linux.com has a clock howto with DST information.

If you depend on Java runtime applications, see Sun’s DST FAQ. It appears that if you accept the Java RT update being pushed to your workstations this month, you should be okay.

You’d do well to look around for time-dependent systems that may need your intervention. Some vendors are offering software upgrades to automate the GMT offset at the new time. Triveni, for example, is asking $500 to upgrade its PSIP management software that includes revised DST changeover dates. If you have a collection of similarly needy boxes around your broadcast facility and you can’t get away with simply changing the GMT offset yourself, this time change is going to cost you.

FCC Busts Oceanside Church

According to the FCC citation, the San Diego office received a complaint of a signal on 1610 kHz in Oceanside. On November 2 last year, investigating agent Bill Zears found on Canyon Drive a Part 15 compliant 3 meter long antenna, but a 30 meter ground system. The FCC named Iglesia de Dios Ebenezer ("Ebenezer Church of God") as subject of the citation.

San Diego HD-Radio Progress Report

Digital radio broadcasting seems to be catching on in San Diego despite the high cost of installation and low listenership. Ibiquity Digital Corporation, sole provider of the FCC-approved IBOC system, built into its growth plan heavy financial incentives, including lower or no license fees for early adopters. Large groups like Clear Channel endorsed the move to IBOC, too.

Ibiquity is working the backend, too. We’re beginning to see and hear commercials boosting HD Radio and mentions of commercial-free subchannels. And radios with digital capability are showing up at Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Fry’s.

So what’s going on in San Diego radio?

Here’s a table of San Diego HD-Radio stations, courtesy of Ibiquity:

89.5 KPBS-HD1 FM News/Talk/Info San Diego State University
89.5-2 KPBS-HD2 FM Groove Salad from NPR San Diego State University
93.3 KHTS-HD1 FM Top 40 Clear Channel Radio
93.3-2 KHTS-HD2 FM Mega Spanish Clear Channel Radio
94.1 KMYI-HD1 FM Hot AC Clear Channel Radio
94.1-2 KMYI-HD2 FM Variety Clear Channel Radio
95.7 KUSS-HD1 FM Country Clear Channel Radio
95.7-2 KUSS-HD2 FM New Country Clear Channel Radio
97.3 KSON-HD1 FM Country Lincoln Financial Media
101.5 KGB-HD1 FM Classic Rock Clear Channel Radio
101.5-2 KGB-HD2 FM All Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw Clear Channel Radio
105.3 KIOZ-HD1 FM Rock Clear Channel Radio
105.3-2 KIOZ-HD2 FM Rock Clear Channel Radio
107.1 KSSD-HD1 FM Spanish/CHR Entravision
600 KOGO-HD AM News/Talk Clear Channel Radio

I asked three San Diego engineering managers about their HD-Radio projects:

Leon Messenie, KPBS

When did you first hit air?

July 29, 2005

What is on your subchannel?

Groove Salad – KPBS’s secondary digital channel. Groove Salad, a 24-hour music station, is a partnership between National Public Radio and Soma FM; and the result is, well, “groovy.” (From our WEB site, not my wording)

Any notable project stories?

The one thing that sticks in my minds was the first morning we were digital. The newscast came up to the point where we cue the traffic report and there was nothing but silence…dead air…. It seems that none of us Engineering or Programming types thought about the newly induced digital delay in the analog signal. This is done to align the analog and digital program streams for a seamless switch between them. This delay is about 8 seconds.

So here is what happened: The Traffic service listens to KPBS-FM off air. When they heard their cue it was already 8 seconds past the real point when they should have started talking. This confused them so much they just stopped talking for the entire report. The Engineering cell phones lit up like a Christmas tree. Needless to say emergency orders for dedicated mix minus phone lines between KPBS and the Traffic office were installed. I am just glad the Traffic service did not have a helicopter….

Recommended receivers?

Not that I recommend them but we use the Boston Receptor HD desktop receiver. They work pretty well with an outside antenna.

Are you considering a closed service for your reading service?

In May 2006 KPBS-FM was part of a test with NPR to test what is being called the extended digital service. We put the KPBS Radio Reading service into this area and then compared the sound quality and reception to that of the analog Sub Carrier receiver. This test was presented at the IAAIS conference at a hotel in Mission Valley. The Mission or as we in radio call it Missing Valley hotel was the perfect place to test this. In a room with about 150 people we listened to first the analog SCA receiver. The sound quality was terrible and you could barely hear the KPBS Radio Reading Service. When we switched the room audio over to the audio from the digital feed the room of people just gasped. The sound was perfect. It was very cool to be a part of something that was such a success. Work is being done now to make this a closed system in order to broadcast Radio Reading Services around the country without violating copyright laws.

John Rigg, Clear Channel Radio

When did you first hit air?

The Clear Channel San Diego stations were on in May of 2006, with the exception of KGB and KOGO which were on in early 2005.

Any notable obstacles?

No two installations were the same, even though the application for HD is software written by Ibiquity, manufacturers integrate differently and apply their own GUI to the exporters and importers.

Any warnings?

Planning, Planning, Planning.  If someone has already done this in your group, ask lots of questions, no need to re-invent the wheel.

Recommended receivers?

I have a JVC KDR1 in the car. It’s a great radio, no RDS on the analog though. I’ve heard great things about the Sangean Component Tuner although I’ve not personally seen one.

Is your group adding more HD-Radio stations?

Clear Channel is currently adding stations to the digital offering. I’m not sure of the schedule, but hey, Tucson just did an install.

Eric Schecter, Lincoln Financial Media

 

What stations have HD-Radio broadcasting? What format?

KSON-FM has country on HD-1. We don’t have an HD-2 yet

When did you first hit air?

December 22, 2006, just in time for Christmas.

Any notable obstacles, funny stories, warnings?

Yes, several. The obstacle that was eventually overcome was getting the data to the Harris Flexstar Exciter from the studio where the Exporter (fancy name for a Linux box with soundcards) lives. We use 7 of 24 time slots in a T-1 Intraplex  multiplexer to accomplish this. It appears that the the module adaptors that present a 10 Base T interface only operate at half duplex. In the end, we used a hub rather than a switch at the studio end, and everything seems happy.

In the warning department, first some background: Our transmitter is a Harris HTHD+ and it utilizes a 4CX20000C tube biased AB1 (sort of) to make 18kw transmitter power output (TPO). The FM+HD signal combining occurs in the Flexstar Exciter. This is known as low-level combining. In order for the transmitter system to make spectral compliance, the exciter uses RTAC, or Real Time Adaptive Correction. While you can get away with some VSWR on a regular transmitter, a hybrid digital system really needs to have a flat transmission system (antenna, feedline, fittings, switches) to achieve optimal performance. We have work to do to optimize a system that is about 25 years old.

Recommended receivers?

I’ve evaluated the Boston Acoustics Receptor. With a good antenna, it’s a good performer. With a short piece of wire close to the radio, the display electronics tend to de-sense the receiver, and it’s as deaf as rocks. BA is now supplying folded dipole antennas based on NPR Labs tests. It receives both AM and FM. There are some good hidden menus for the experimenter in all of us.The price point for this fine sounding radio is $299.

I’ve also evaluated a professional tuner by ADA. It’s actually two tuners in one chassis, and is made for tech centers in the stations. It will do both AM and FM HD, displays RDS and HD PAD data, and is a finer performer. Price tag is about $3500.

Do you plan to outfit your other stations?

Yes, KIFM and KBZT.

Mike Prasser, CBS Radio

Which of your stations have HD Radio?

Currently neither of my stations in San Diego are broadcasting HD. We are looking at second quarter of this year for both. The HD2 formats have not been finalized.

Recommended receivers?

Most of the receivers on the market are good. The most exciting thing that I saw at CES last week was a company called Sideport. They have created a single HD chip that contains all of the components needed for HD with a much lower current draw for $20. Currently there are two chips needed one at $15 and one at $20. So this make HD Radio smaller and cheaper to make.