Category Archives: Local

KOGO Begins Nighttime IBOC AM

KOGO (AM) 600 kHz began nighttime digital broadcasts on the first legal night, September 14, 2007, confirms Clear Channel San Diego Market Director of Engineering John Rigg. They haven’t experienced any problems or heard any complaints to date. John said tuning around the dial, he was surprised to receive a steady HD-radio signal from KFBK at 1530 kHz. He was also able to clearly receive from El Cajon the analog-only KTAR Phoenix at 620 kHz, alternate channel from the KOGO carrier.

Other digital outlets picked up locally include KNX Los Angeles at 1070 and KSL Salt Lake at 1160. No other local AM stations have yet installed IBOC equipment.

FAA Tower Light Outage Reporting System Unreliable

A new report claims that the FAA’s tower light outage procedure has not only changed to a privatized system, but the new phone system used is dangerously unreliable. In June, Lockheed Martin took over the FAA communications for Southern California, making it necessary to contact their call center in Arizona to report outages. The following text is from Bob Gonsett’s CGC Communicator.

New Procedure for Reporting Tower Outages

(From CGC Communicator #809) According to the FAA, the operations of the Flight Service
Stations have been privatized to Lockheed Martin.  The new
procedure for reporting tower light outages is as follows:

  1. Dial (1) 877-487-6867.
  2. When prompted by the phone tree, say the state where the light outage is occurring.  (If you say “California,” the tree will then ask if you mean northern California or southern California.  Southern California, we are told, means the bottom third of the state including Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.)
  3. You should then hear a recording that says, “Please wait while I connect you with a flight briefer.”  You should then be connected with a briefer in Prescott, AZ, where the workers are Lockheed Martin employees and are on duty 24/7. Give the briefer the outage information and they will issue a NOTAM (Notice to All Airmen) advising pilots of the tower light failure.

It would be appreciated if the FCC issued a Public Notice to alert tower owners of the fundamental changes listed above.

Beware: The New FAA Lockheed Martin Phone Tree is Unreliable

The FAA Lockheed Martin phone tree described above has reportedly been in place for about two weeks and is erratic and unreliable.  Callers have trouble getting through.

To test the system, CGC called the 877 number a dozen times on September 17 & 18, 2007.  We always worked our way through the phone tree and were always told to wait for a flight briefer. In five of the test calls, we were connected to a briefer within seconds, and when we immediately called the 877 number again, we got through again.  In the other seven calls, the phone tree put us on hold for about a minute and then disconnected the call. When we called again seconds later, the same thing (disconnect) happened again.  So, sometimes the system works, sometimes it fails.

An FCC employee independently tested the 877 number and agrees that the system is unreliable and in urgent need of repair.  In three FCC attempts to reach a briefer, two failed. However, the mode of the phone tree failure was different from CGC’s experience.  After the “please wait” announcement, the FCC agent waited over 15 minutes, never got disconnected, did get music on hold and announcements, but never got through to a live person.

The 877-487-6867 phone tree is indeed in urgent need of repair because it handles safety-of-life information.  Hopefully the current round of problems will be resolved soon, but Murphy lives and the FAA should consider putting a plain old telephone (POT) on the wall of each of the Lockheed Martin call centers so we have an alternate means of contact.  Just common sense.

Normal Town – Setting Audio Levels for San Diego TV

If Bob Vaillancourt, Engineering Manager for local NBCU O&O KNSD has anything to say about it, San Diego’s TV audio is about to improve. In spite of great new pictures with high definition broadcast TV, one of the lingering complaints about the technology is the audio. It’s all over the place. Compressed commercials can blow out the audience after a soft dramatic scene. Local material doesn’t always match network material in an automated master control. And different local stations can have very different levels as viewers surf through channels.

Bob said he had recently spoken with NBCU’s Advanced Technology guru, Jim Starzynski, who laid out a plan to address loudness using the Dolby dialnorm setting that is a part of the Advanced Television Systems (ATSC) standard. That plan starts with each of the ten network owned and operated stations, but he said it needs to spread to the other digital stations in each market, and ultimately to all ATSC stations.

Dolby dialnorm is part of the specification written into ATSC that helps normalize audio levels based on metadata that rides along with the audio. Normalization, unlike compression or limiting, doesn’t change the dynamic range—only the level of audio. Researchers learned that people who watch TV like to set their volume levels based on dialog instead of music or background. Dialog normalization, or dialnorm, attempts to automatically adjust dialog levels based on the standard of the source. Without dialnorm, Dolby interprets the dialog amplitude as being averaged around -31 dBFS. With a Fox dialnorm setting of -25, they are commanding the end viewer’s Dolby decoder to release its audio to the amplifier with a 6 dB attenuation. With a local setting of -23, the decoder attenuates the local material 8 dB.

How do you derive those settings? That’s where Bob comes in. NBCU bought for KNSD a Dolby LM-100 Loudness Meter that specifically reads loudness with respect to digital full scale only during dialog. Bob sampled all the San Diego area English language DTV stations over a two-week period in early July. He took readings during primetime, fringe, daytime, and even overnight. He put the readings into a large spreadsheet to share with local broadcasters.

The results are interesting. First, all the stations in the market except KNSD and KPBS had their dialnorm settings on their Dolby encoders at the Tandberg default of -27. KPBS had theirs at -31–the setting that signals Dolby decoders not to normalize levels. Bob had set KNSD’s dialnorm at -22 to begin with, then adjusted it during the week to -23. He recommends XETV FOX6 set its dialnorm to -23 based on an average of 43 loudness readings ranging from -20 to -29. Readings at KPBS swung the most, as you might expect of a public station with widely varying content and no dialnorm action. Readings at KUSI were the most consistent, as you might expect of an independent station heavy with news and talk content.

XETV has adjusted its dialnorm to -25 based on a recommendation from Fox Network, though we intend to adjust that figure after analyzing it more. Jim DeFilippis, Fox VP of Engineering, said that they will be working with affiliate stations and the other networks to implement dialnorm. FOX6 will soon be applying normalization to all local recorded content.

Bob says that they now have the Dolby Loudness Meter at their ingest station where operators use it to help them set levels. He is looking forward to working with all local engineering crews to get their dialnorm settings programmed. Once this is done, viewers should hear more consistent loudness when switching between stations as well as when the stations switch between local and network content.

You can learn more about dialnorm in this Broadcast Engineering magazine article.

 

KSDS Now Burning at High Power

KSDS (FM) started transmitting at its newly permitted 22 kW ERP as of late June. The station, managed by City College and transmitting on 88.3 MHz from a tower at Mesa College in Linda Vista, should now cover much of San Diego County with their full-time jazz format. Now they’re on par with their commercial brethren, and with neighboring KKJZ in Long Beach at adjacent channel 88.1. That’s a long way from the 830 watt powerhouse they were before May 2000.

KSDS installed a new Shively 5-element half-wavelength spaced array at 160-feet above ground. The antenna has a cardioid pattern with shallow (60%) null to the southeast.

The radiation will remain vertically-polarized to provide some protection to nearby circular-polarized XETV channel 6 in Tijuana. While most closely-spaced channel 6 – NCE-FM combinations around the U.S. have co-located to reduce interference, such an arrangement wasn’t possible due to the international boundary here. The FCC only recently allowed the increase in power, saying that international treaties don’t specifically deal with FM-to-TV adjacent channel conflicts.

Larry Quick, CE at KSDS, says they have set-up an email address and phone number to deal with viewer complaints. Both KSDS and XETV are hoping that with the high adoption of cable, satellite, and digital TV, the interference problem will be minimal.

Disclosure: The author is employed by Bay City Television, U.S. operators of XETV Fox 6, a subsidiary of Televisa and party in recent interference FCC filings involving XETV and KSDS.

FCC Issues Forfeiture Order to San Diego 96.9 Pirate

The FCC issued a Forfeiture Order in the case of the Free Radio San Diego FM pirate on 96.9 MHz from the South Park area of San Diego east of Balboa Park. Donald Payne, registered as the owner of the property at 1937 33rd Street near Grape Street, was ordered to pay the FCC $750. His fine was reduced from $10,000 after he filed income documents that demonstrated to the Bureau that he couldn’t afford the higher fine. The latest document indicate that FCC inspectors had been monitoring the illegal station from April to December of 2006. Payne was issued a Notice of Apparent Liability in late December of 2006. He told the FCC that he did not operate the station but the FCC holds him responsible as the property owner.

We interviewed the pirate broadcaster known as “Bob Ugly” two years ago. Free Radio San Diegoclaims they are currently off-the-air, webcasting only.