Category Archives: National

EAS Update

There has been lots of talk about EAS these last few weeks, though not much to do … yet. Yes, we had the Text to Speech fire drill, but that was a big to do about nothing for most of us.

The June 30, 2012 deadline to have certified CAP EAS equipment in place, connected to the Internet and polling the IPAWS aggregator, is still looming. If you are a radio broadcaster like me, you have probably been compliant with having your equipment in place and connected to the Internet for quite some time. Like me, you’re probably just playing the waiting game to hear what you need to enter into your equipment for it to contact the FEMA concentrator.

One of the larger EAS equipment manufacturers has published a statement that says, “Looking ahead to June 30, you need to be receiving CAP messages by then. We will have a release of the IPAWS enabled ENDEC software out in a week or two.”

I strongly suggest you check your vendor’s website to see if they have an update for your unit. This information is way overdue from IPAWS, FEMA or whomever, to us in the field. Let’s hope we have more than a week’s notice. Maybe we will get some clues from the IPAWS/NASBA/NAB webinar titled: “Getting Ready for CAP: Countdown to June 30”. This webinar will be held June 6, from 4 to 5 p.m. ET (1 to 2 p.m. PT).

I believe most of us are hoping some of the final instructions about connecting to a concentrator and testing, will be addressed.

Scott Mason, CPBE
SBE EAS Education Committee Chairman
SBE website EAS Page

Approaching the EAS Deadline

(Richard Rudman, SECC Vice Chair and Core Member of the Broadcast Warning Working Group, handed out this informative piece on the status of EAS at our May 16 meeting.)

Looking back on the past few weeks of the EAS story leading up to June 30 and beyond, we can safely say we know more than we did about the roadmap to the CAP-EAS implementation deadline destination, but we definitely need to know more as we ride along that road.

Prior to the NAB Convention we were all wondering if the FCC would rescind theirban on EAS Text-To-Speech (TTS). FEMA petitioned their federal partner, the FCC. A significant number of EAS stakeholders agreed and supported FEMA’s petition. And the FCC did the right thing. Voluntary use of TTS will be allowed.

At NAB, The Broadcast Warning Working Group (BWWG) arranged for a room courtesy of the NAB for a unique workshop targeted on a missing link in what the industry needed to know about changes to the EAS. A group of twenty-five EAS subject experts that included state and local EAS Chairs, EAS equipment manufacturers, broadcasters, and a representative of FEMA met for two hours to start work on a sample state EAS plan that incorporated all we knew at that time about Part 11 changes.

That sample plan is now in its Version 3 stage, posted on the EAS Forum website, and notification that it is available has been sent to state chairs, SBE, NAB, NASBA and other interested parties. This document is by necessity going to be a work in progress, principally because the FCC has not yet given us answers on what state and local plans should say about key EAS plan elements.

As of this writing, the FCC expects state plans to include not only a mapbook, but also “….should include a data table, in computer readable form, clearly showing monitoring assignments and the specific primary and backup path for emergency action notification (EAN) messages that are formatted in the EAS Protocol (specified in §11.31), from the PEP to each station in the plan.”

This seems to some to represent an unfunded twin cost and resources burden on the volunteer groups that sit on state and local EAS committees. More guidance is needed, and a request for this guidance has been made to the FCC by the BWWG.

As the week progressed, attention turned to wondering when the report on the EAS live code test would be announced, and Part 11 decisions we were told will be made based on that report will be made. We did know that many stations (one estimate says 40%) did not file their required national test reports, and that there was no way for anyone to easily find out if their report was on file. Tom Beers, the Chief of the Policy Division, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, noted that the FCC said from the start that they wouldn’t cite or fine stations that had trouble running the National EAS Test but added that not filing the reports was a different matter and could be considered grounds for citations and fines. He also told attendees at the NAB’s EAS session on Wednesday of NAB week that the majority of the nonreporting stations were “low power” stations.

If you are now wondering if your station might be one of the remaining non-reporting stations, Tom Beers announced that the FCC has come up with a way for you to confirm whether they have your report. Timothy May has been designated as the source of information on National Test reports. You can contact him at timothy.may@fcc.gov and ask him whether your report was received. You should keep a copy of his response with your EAS records. And if for some reason you have not responded yet, go to the National EAS Test website at http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/emergency-alert-system-nationwide-test and follow the instructions for “paper filings”.

Some EAS experts say that the success of EAS in the long run depends on forging strong links between the emergency management community, the originators of warnings, and the broadcast, cable and satellite entities subject to Part 11 whose job it is to get those warnings to the public.

FEMA has started the ball rolling with a procedure so state and local emergency managers can send warnings using the federal CAP aggregator:

Take a FEMA online course on IPAWS OPEN, IS-00247.

Take the online exam and pass it.

Apply to their state emergency management agency for approval to originate through the IPAWS OPEN aggregator

State emergency management forwards to FEMA approved applicants.

Origination privileges are granted.

Local and state emergency managers do not need to purchase special EAS equipment to originate. Several software vendors that specialize in selling to government make CAP warning origination tools. At this writing some, but not all have incorporated the IPAWS OPEN profile.

After NAB, the BWWG received word from FEMA that they would take further steps to help forge the vital public/private partnership needed. FEMA has new guidelines for state grant requests that could include funds for training, education projects.

So, while we now know more than we did, there are still many unanswered questions and missing puzzle pieces. We do know that the June 30 compliance deadline is a hard date, and all subject to Part 11 must be able to accept IPAWS OPEN messages either directly or indirectly by that date. For equipment-specific questions, the best advice is to watch the email list servers and stay current with what you equipment manufacturer has to say. The ride is not over yet!

Richard Rudman Vice Chair
California SECC
Core Member, the BWWG

Harris to Sell Off Broadcast Division

Harris to Sell Off Broadcast Division

Written by Gary Stigall

Wednesday, 02 May 2012

Harris Corporation announced yesterday that it intends to divest its Broadcast Communications division. Since its acquisition of Gates Radio in 1957, Harris has remained a serious player in the broadcast electronics field. In the 1990’s, it worked to become an end-to-end solutions provider, acquiring such diverse and quality companies as Leitch, Videotek, Louth, Encoda, Intraplex, and even local audio console manufacturer Pacific Research & Engineering.

Harris Morris, president of the Broadcast Communications Division, released a statement supporting the sale:

“Today, Harris announced its decision to divest the Broadcast Communications business. I fully support this decision and believe that the timing is right for both Harris and Broadcast Communications.

“Operating independently or as part of a broadcast or media-focused enterprise will provide us with strategic investment, increased competitive flexibility, and customer focus to lead the continuing transformation in this competitive marketplace.

“The decision to divest in no way reflects the quality of the work Broadcast Communications performed in support of our customers and our company.  Harris simply determined that Broadcast Communications could provide higher value and operate more effectively under a different ownership model.

“In the interim, Broadcast Communications will continue to be a part of Harris Corporation and operate business as usual. Our valued relationships, both longstanding and new, remain our top priority. The global team will continue to work diligently to ensure our commitment to our customers and partners remains steadfast, our execution to fulfill commitments is flawless, and our progress against strategic objectives remains focused.”

via SBE San Diego Chapter 36 – Harris to Sell Off Broadcast Division.

FCC Retreats from Prohibition on EAS Alert Text-to-Speech Conversions

In late April, the FCC retracted its recent rules that would have prohibited live broadcast text-to-speech conversions. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as broadcast and technical groups, had objected to that part of the FCC’s Fifth Report and Order, saying that less useful information would be passed to the public by automated equipment. The Commission was concerned that automatic text-to-speech conversion could misinterpret emergency information. Text-to-speech conversion can be used by stations implementing CAP technology due for adoption by the June 30th deadline.

SBE Offers New IT Certification

The Society of Broadcast Engineers offers a new engineering level Certified Broadcast Networking Engineer (CBNE) networking certification. Eligible engineers may now apply to take the CBNE exam to become certified.

This exam is intended for those in the broadcast engineering field who work closely with networking. The CBNE is an advanced level certification and therefore the content is more complex than the Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist certification. The CBNE does not replace the CBNT, which is a relevant certification for entry-level networking individuals.

The CBNE requires a minimum of 5-years of broadcast engineering experience in order to qualify for the certification exam. The first exams take place during the June 1-11 exam session with local SBE chapters. Examinees must answer 50 multiple-choice questions and one essay question during the exam.

“The successful completion of CBNE will demonstrate to employers the advanced level of knowledge their employees have in building and maintaining a modern broadcast plant,” said SBE President Ralph Hogan, CPBE, DRB, CBNT.

Hogan and Terry Baun, CPBE, AMD, CBNT lead the efforts to create the new certification level. This is the first time in 12 years that a standalone certification has been released by the SBE.

The SBE CertPreview study tool, quizzes users on over 50 questions similar to those on the actual exam. After the examinee takes the sample test, he or she may reexamine any missed questions. The user is then provided the reference book information used to create the question for additional study purposes. SBE CertPreview for CBNE is available for download or on CD on the SBE website.

The complete list of certification requirements, exam topics, and applications are available in the Certification section of the SBE website.

For additional information contact the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000 or email SBE Certification Director Megan E. Clappe at mclappe@sbe.org.

Road King Larry Bloomfield Dies

Larry Bloomfield, traveling host of the “Taste of the NAB” road show, died November 8th of a massive heart attack in Florence, Oregon, where he had most lately called home. His son Thomas posted a remembrance on Larry’s website, www.tech-notes.com. An obituary is posted on The Broadcaster’s Desktop Resource.

Larry, 72, had served in the Navy as an electronics technician. He had been a broadcast engineer at various western TV stations from KNBC and KNXT (now KCBS) Los Angeles to KCNS San Francisco to KTVZ Bend, Oregon. He helped found now-defunct radio station KBET in Santa Clarita. His “Taste of the NAB” show demonstrated numerous products to SBE chapters around the country, often leaving him on the road for five months straight.

SBE Files to Extend EAS Rules 180-day Countdown

The Society of Broadcast Engineers participated in a coalition of major broadcast industry groups that filed comments on October 21 with the FCC to EB Docket 04-296, petitioning for an extension to the 180-day clock to become compliant with the recently announced changes to the EAS. The filing requested a six month extension to the 180 day clock.

The SBE, NAB, MSTV, PBS, NPR, 46 state broadcaster associations and other major broadcast organizations were all co-signers to the filing.

The group stated that the extension is necessary so that:

a)    equipment certification related to CAP can be accomplished
b)    allow time for a rule-making to modify FCC Part 11 rules that incorporate the use of CAP

Without an extension, the 180 day clock is set to expire March 29, 2011. At that time, stations would need to have purchased and installed CAP-compliant equipment, capable of receiving CAP messages.

A copy of the complete EAS filing is available on the SBE website.

SBE also has an FAQ on this subject on the SBE website.

Have a Peek at Your PSIP

California Broadcasters Association President Mark Powers sent out a puzzling missive Friday afternoon: “The FCC has advised us that they have received complaints that the digital signals of many California stations have incorrect time codes (PSIP).  This is a FCC violation and they have asked our assistance in correcting this problem immediately.  Please check your signal as soon as possible.”

Turns out that a technically savvy San Francisco Bay area viewer complained to the FCC because several TV stations had switched to Daylight Saving Time October 2. Gary Lingren found that the PSIP parameter “DS_day_of_month” was set to “2” on the errant stations before October 2. It should have been set on October 3. This parameter, within the STT, sets the day of the current month that auto time setting devices change to DST. Apparently, one of the major PSIP suppliers set this parameter one month early. DST actually switches on November 2 this year. Your DS_day_of_the_month param should now read “2”, and your DS Status should read “In daylight savings time.” (Actually, it should read Daylight Saving Time, but that’s another conversation.) If it isn’t, you should edit it or notify your PSIP provider, depending on overwriting policies.

It’s not known yet which PSIP contractor set the errant parameter. If you find out, let us know.

A Better TV Reception Predictor

Antennaweb.com revolutionized the concept of predicting TV reception for a new generation of enthusiasts installing over-the-air antennas. It graded reception by color and gave recommendations, if flawed, about what kind of antenna to put up. When they went conservative with the results, those who had put real work into their systems found the predictions only listed a fraction of the stations they could get.

For those who want a little more science, there’s a new kid in town. Try out TVFool.com and for the address you enter, you will get a chart of precisely calculated reception parameters. I especially like the listing of antenna heights needed for line-of-sight (LOS) and -100 dBm thresholds. You also get a marker for all those nasty co-channel allocations we have in SoCal now.

It turns out that for my home just east of La Jolla, predictions come pretty close, though I’m guessing that some transmission antennas outperform predicted levels because of what I see on my flat response receive antenna. For example, I consistently receive KCBS-DT (real channel 60) better than some locals and better than even consistent KTLA-DT 31 on my recently rebuilt Create log-periodic. In reality, there are numerous factors that I haven’t bothered to measure scientifically, but the empirical results match closely enough those of TVFool.

Making Waves Commentary: Gonsett Fights Satellite Receiver Makers

(Commentary) The popular industry email bulletin CGC Communicator published by Communications General Corporation consulting engineer Robert Gonsett ran a series of summary articles this year on the emissions of what he terms “mini-transmitters” used for getting audio from satellite receivers to automobile FM radios. At question was the power and frequencies chosen for the job.

Sometimes taking on entrenched forces of big business and big government becomes a hopeless morass of stonewalling and legal manuevering; the one with the most expensive den of attorneys wins. At other times, the system works. Follow along as we piece together the story of how one person can shed enough light on foul activity to make a difference.

This story began nearly two years ago, shortly after I took the job as Chief Engineer at the XETV Fox 6 studio in San Diego. Disclosure: XETV retains well-known consulting engineer Robert Gonsett specifically to deal with matters of interference, be they intentional or incidental. The actions taken by Bob were largely done by his own initiative, though I am left personally grateful and somewhat astonished from the lesson of power in process and persistence.

The Punching Bag of TV Spectrum

Pity the poor channel 6 over-the-air viewer in San Diego. First of all, the signal’s low band VHF, which means viewers must contend with urban electrical noise and the visual blight of a large antenna, if they bother at all. Then there’s the distance from the transmitter in Mexico to viewers north of Mission Valley. Add that the XETV’s power is split between horizontal and vertical polarization so that unless you have a special circular polarization receive antenna, you can’t receive the full signal. And then we deal with the adjacent band noncommercial FM broadcasters who want nothing worse than to improve coverage for their deserving listeners. The latest assault, however, comes from the proliferation of little FM modulators people use to transfer without wires the audio from their file players and various satellite receivers to a stock automobile FM stereo radio.

Those FM modulators are termed by the FCC “intentional radiators,” which means that their radiation is intended, in contrast to the unintended radiation from, say, your computer’s switching power supply. Under FCC regulation 15.209(a), such intentional radiators must have a fundamental signal within the FM band measured at no more than 150 uV/m at 3 meters distance, and they’re just plain not allowed on TV channels 5 and 6.

The  Journal

2005 – I begin receiving occasional calls from viewers who say that they are watching us when the colors  flash and they can hear music or voices unrelated to the video emanating from their TV speakers. Their interference comes and goes as do their neighbors. Obviously, this must be occurring with other channel 6 outlets around the country.

December 2005 – Gonsett’s newsletter, the CGC Communicator, relays a report from an LA radio chief engineer that a pirate broadcaster he picks up on his car radio is actually an XM satellite receiver FM modulator. “It amazed me how far I could hear the FM modulator….at least 250 feet if not further. This is the second time that this has happened to me while driving around…I strongly question whether these XM modulators are Part 15 compliant because they are able to radiate signals over 250 feet….”

March 11, 2006 – The Philadelphia Inquirer runs a story about the interference to non-commercial FM stations caused by satellite radio receivers. By this time, it is common knowledge that the default frequency on many of those receiver modulators is 88.1 MHz, much to the dismay of stations like KKJZ in Long Beach. Mike Starling, NPR Director of Engineering and Operations in Washington, promotes using 87.9 MHz as a default frequency—understandable in light of the fact that many, if not most, of these mini-transmitters come equipped to transmit only on non-commercial frequencies at the lower end of the FM band.

March 29, 2006 – Bob Gonsett writes a detailed letter to Sirius Radio Public Relations officers, with copies sent to various FCC contacts. In it, he asks that the satellite radio companies provide proof that they have received from the FCC a specific waiver that allows them to market satellite radios with FM modulators, “intentional radiators,” operating outside the FM broadcast band on 87.7 and 87.9 MHz.

March 30, 2006 – TV Technology magazine, in Doug Lung’s RF Report, highlights the FM modulator issue as a result of correspondence with Fred Lass, director of engineering at WRGB channel 6 in Schenectady, N.Y. Doug names the names of several modulator manufacturers that advertise illegal modulators and clarifies the FCC rules regarding continuous intentional radiation either misunderstood or ignored by those manufacturers. Doug reveals that Lass has notified the FCC Office of Technology about these transmitters. Lass tells Lung, “All that is required to find [illegal transmitters] is to do a Google search of ‘87.9 MHz’ to get a list of manufacturers and retailers selling these devices in the U.S.”

April 8, 2006 – Bob Gonsett “gets the ball rolling” by filing a complaint with the FCC in Washington against Sirius Satellite for incorporating 87.7 and 87.9 MHz into the intentional radiator mini-transmitters that are built into many Sirius consumer satellite receivers. He chooses to focus the filing on a single high profile case in order to simplify the process, shed light on the problem, and hope that the FCC would itself broaden the investigation.

April 27, 2006 – XM Radio files an 8-K form with the SEC in which it reveals to investors that it has received an inquiry received from the FCC OET on April 25 regarding the emissions of the Delphi SkyFi2 radio. The company states that it is making an internal review and anticipates “responding to the letter shortly and cooperating fully.”

May 8, 2006 – Bob Gonsett posts on his CGC Communicator an anonymous comment from a Los Angeles FM broadcast engineer favoring modulators operating below the FM band. “My feeling on any small transmitter for an XM, Sirius, HD or MP3 players is that they SHOULD use these out of band frequencies. Currently, FCC Rules do not allow this, but the situation deserves careful examination and consideration. Given the interference these devices cause to mobile on-channel reception of legitimate stations, we should give them out of band authorization (but not above 107.9 MHz). As a user, I cannot find a clean channel to use in Los Angeles for my XM receiver. As a licensee, I would not want them on my channel.” A sort of spectral NIMBY statement, but who wants mass transmitters on his frequency?

May 16, 2006 – Reuters reports that Audiovox Corp. suspends shipments of its Xpress Model XMCK10 XM satellite radio receiver after the FCC says the unit “did not comply with either operating bandwidth or related emission specifications.”

May 30, 2006 – XM Radio files another Form 8-K with the SEC in which it reveals to investors that it has suspended marketing of radios made by Delphi and Audiovox in order to comply with an inquiry received from the FCC on April 25. XM says it will modify the radios in question and submit them for Part 15 compliance testing. “We plan to have modified devices shipping to retailers in the near term.”

May 31, 2006 – Orbitcast.com quotes Sirius Radio EVP/CFO David Frear as saying that “all SIRIUS Satellite Radio receivers are in full FCC compliance. Some letters were sent regarding some Sirius devices that were out of spec. Frear stated that they then went to the receiver manufacturers and took care of the problem a while ago. All SIRIUS Radios are in full FCC compliance. Case closed.” Phewww.

Like the Whac-a-mole amusement at your local Chuck E Cheese, getting a couple of vendors to change their ways through FCC inquiries will inevitably result in another vendor producing a replacement product. After all, consumers demand a convenient way to transfer audio without wires. And none of this activity has yet dealt with the multitude of transmitters out there designed to transmit Apple iPod audio over FM. Some of those mini-transmitters are reported to put out suspiciously high signal levels. The work continues.