SBE Booth Events and Prizes

Be sure to stop by the SBE Booth today from 9 am – 6 pm for your chance to win a $200 Fry’s Electronics gift card courtesy of Nemal Electronics.

Today, Government Relations Chair, Ched Keiler will be at the SBE booth from 12:30 – 2:30 pm to answer any questions.

How do we grow our own Transmitter Engineers?

It’s 02:00 on a rainy morning and you are in a transmitter building on a cow pasture working to get the transmitter back on line.  What is not to love about that?

Well, having been in that situation a time or two in my career, maybe I can see why some would not find that a fun thing to do on a rainy morning.  Looking back, I’m not so sure I did at the time.  It did feel great to save the day and get us back on the air.

This is my dilemma, as I am sure it is for many of you hiring managers – “How do we grow our own transmitter engineers?”  Where can we find this special breed of engineer?  If like me, you have noticed we are getting older, grayer and closer to retirement every day and there are very few that follow in our footsteps.

Most of the new “engineers” are coming to me looking to be “Broadcast IT Engineers”; they don’t want to go outside if they can help it and never mind getting them out to the remote sites at a moment’s notice to repair a transmitter.

In my case, I have 17 radio transmitters and 9 TV transmitters scattered all over my state.  My concern is how to replace the retiring transmitter engineers.

How are others doing it?  Are they doing it?  Where are you going to find them?

If you have any ideas, please post them here.

Album Art

In the past few months, I’ve made several business trips to Los Angeles.  Invariably, these trips require renting a car, and I have been lucky to have been upgraded to either a 2013 GMC Acadia or its closely related sibling the Chevrolet Traverse.  Both vehicles are made by General Motors, and offer HD Radio with Artist Experience as a standard feature.

Needless to say, I have always taken interest in new radio receiver technology, and these days my work with Clear Channel Media + Entertainment has me involved with it more than ever.  That being said, it’s nice to finally see a product or feature the industry has been waiting for actually realized in a final product.  What’s more, since GM is offering these as a standard feature in 2013 and presumably future models of this vehicle, obtaining one of these for evaluation or purchase is now easier than ever.  While I have seen this receiver before on the demonstration floors at the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES and NAB, it’s one thing to have a few minutes in the car at a trade show compared to driving the vehicle for a few weeks.

Album Art as seen on a 2013 GMC Acadia. Photo by Alan Jurison.

Album Art as seen on a 2013 GMC Acadia. Photo by Alan Jurison.

As an added bonus, for those stations that are not HD, GM has a very good implementation of RDS features with PS and RadioText (RT) support on analog-only FM stations.  A feature I would like to see GM to consider in the future is adding RadioText+ (RT+) to allow for analog-only FM broadcasts with RDS to provide a very similar “look and feel” on the display to put it near par with HD stations using PSD.

Focusing directly on the HD implementation of the radio, GM has done a fantastic job.  I’ve found in my cursory driving the blending to analog and digital is graceful.  The performance of the audio on HD stations, MPS (HD1) and SPS (HD2, HD3, etc) stations all works great.  The AM side sounds good too.  LA has several stations that provide AM HD, and it’s a real pleasure driving around the market blending into AM HD.  And in a few rough spots under bridges downtown, I found when the radio blended to analog on some of the 5kW AM HD stations in the market, I couldn’t wait for digital coverage to resume.

But the real hero of the day is that GM has a very solid implementation of Artist Experience (album art) via HD with this radio.  I noticed no issues with the implementation.  It also offers full station logo support.  I think the trickiest part is to stay on an HD station long enough to initially acquire the station logo.  Of the three rentals I’ve had, one was very low mileage and did not have any of the LA station logos acquired.  I had to resist the urge to go channel surfing on stations I know are transmitting station logo in the market and wait until the logo was acquired.  That’s because the station logo is often sent very infrequently to conserve bandwidth for other HD services.  The typical/default configuration from iBiquity is a send of one station logo image per channel per every fifteen minutes. This requires you to stay on the HD1 or HD2 (etc) of a specific station for that time period for acquisition of the logo.  The idea behind that is that this is something that, once acquired, will not change frequently, and also will be stored in permanent memory of the receiver.  For your core listeners, this condition will not be difficult to satisfy.  GM does a great job with the permanent storage.  Between driving sessions (morning and evening) it retained all the station logos I had acquired all week.  Subsequent rentals with higher mileage on the vehicle had most of the station logos available in the market acquired.

With the station logos acquired, the receiver seamlessly goes from an album art image for a song, to the station logo, and into the next song’s album art image.  GM’s implementation of Artist Experience and Station Logo has been perfect under my observations in the past few weeks.  Better yet, it puts a very nice graphical face to radio – and offers a comparable experience to when the system plays songs off your iPhone or iPod with album art.  It really puts a nice face to radio.

Perhaps most concerning is that as of my last check (mid June 2013) only seven stations in the Los Angeles area were transmitting Artist Experience via HD.  Of these seven, six of them belong to my employer, Clear Channel.  You may have heard iBiquity and others indicating automotive receivers that support HD and Artist Experience are coming, well, they are out there.  GM offers it in select models now as standard, and the list of other OEM’s out there with HD and Artist Experience in vehicles is growing rapidly.

Stations that do not have this technology implemented are at a serious disadvantage.  My employer, Clear Channel Media + Entertainment and I have been a very active proponent in providing the industry with suggestive tips on how to implement this technology.  At the NAB Show in April 2013, I presented on this topic, and I also wrote an in-depth white paper on the implementation of this technology in the NAB Broadcast Engineering Proceedings (available from purchase from the NAB).

I’m pleased to be partnering with the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) to provide an in-depth, live, interactive webinar on this topic on Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 2pm Eastern.  Registration details are available (here).  This presentation will be at least an hour in length, and talk about implementing Artist Experience via HD in three parts.  First, what types of receivers are out there that support this technology today.  I will provide some pictures of various units and speak about their implementations.  The second part of the presentation will focus on the technical details of how Artist Experience works.  And finally, I will discuss implementation strategies of Artist Experience to help you relate the theory behind the technology into reality.  This will draw on the experience that we have collectively learned at Clear Channel as we rapidly implemented Artist Experience via HD Radio nationwide in 2012.

  Alan Jurison is a senior operations engineer for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment’s Engineering and Systems Integration Group. He holds several SBE certifications including CSRE, CBNE, AMD and DRB. His opinions are not necessarily those of Clear Channel or The Society of Broadcast Engineers.

Now this is some serious Satellite Uplink training!

The SBE has partnered with the NAB in offering the long running Satellite Uplink Operators Workshop. This 4 day intensive course, held annually at the NAB headquarters in Washington, DC, provides in-depth information on the theory of satellite communications and all operational aspects of the ground equipment for uplink and downlink facilities. It is applicable to distributing signals for both analog and digital television and radio. Because it is useful for satellite operators to have a basic understanding of all parts of the broadcast system, this seminar provides significant background information on digital television (DTV) and, in particular, high definition television (HDTV), which has increasing importance through all parts of the broadcast television chain, from production to distribution to the home. This workshop takes place September 30-October 3, 2013. Click here for more information.

EAS violations are happening more than you think. Here are some tips –

As an ABIP inspector, I continually find violations at stations regarding EAS.  What’s puzzling about this is that the rules are straight forward, and the EAS devices do most of the work for you! 

One of the first issues I usually find is with logging.  The device keeps an electronic log, which is all well and good.  But I recommend that station personnel print this log once per week for two reasons.  First, you can sign the paper copy, meaning that you looked at it and paid attention to it.  Second, I, at least, find it easier to print the log and then compare it to a calendar to see if anything is missing for a given week.  If you find, for example, that you did not receive a RWT in a given week from your second monitoring source, you need to find out why (maybe the station made a mistake and did not send a test that week), and you need to log the reason for the missing test.  Printing and signing the log forces you to put it in a folder.  Therefore, appending the log when you find something wrong becomes a simple matter. 

The next thing I find are stations monitoring the wrong monitoring assignments.  Note the word ASSIGNMENTS.  The stations you monitor are assigned, usually by a committee associated with your State Broadcasters Association.  EAS is a daisy chain, with some stations higher in the pecking order and others below them.  If you are monitoring the wrong stations, you may not properly receive crucial data and break the chain.  Check with the Broadcasters Association to find out who you should talk to, and make sure you are monitoring the correct stations.  If you cannot receive one of your assignments, you need to inform the Committee.  They will suggest other stations for you to monitor so the chain isn’t broken.  And if a monitoring assignment needs to be changed, the Committee will send you a note to this effect and inform the FCC of the monitoring change.  If the FCC were to inspect your station, they will look to see what stations you are monitoring.  If they are incorrect, this is a violation and your station may be subject to a fine.

Next, you need to be polling the FEMA CAP server.  I have run into one station where their corporate IT department will not unblock the FEMA CAP server, so they cannot receive it.  This is a violation of the rules.  If their IT people don’t seem to understand the regulation that monitoring the CAP server is a requirement, alternative measures, such as installing a separate DSL service, must be implemented. 

And, of course, you must send a Weekly Test every week – with the following exceptions.  You do not need to send a RWT in a week when a RMT (Required Monthly Test) is run, or if you activated EAS for any reason.   And the RMT must be forwarded within 60 minutes of receiving the test.

Any questions you have can be answered in 73 CFR Part 11 of the FCC rules.  It is available on several online sources and is worth the time to read it.

Tom Ray, CPBE, DRB, AMD 

Tom’s views do not reflect those of the SBE, or its Board of Directors.

Pecena presenting day-long session on IP Networking for Broadcasters August 30 in Los Angeles

Wayne Pecena, a member of the SBE Technical Presenters Group, is presenting IP networking to broadcasters on August 30.  Thank you to SBE Chapter 47 and NBC Universal for working together to bring this program to their area. The cost for members of the SBE is $49. 

This full-day intensive class will focus on TCP/IP based networking fundamentals in an Ethernet environment. Topics covered will include understanding RFC’s, TCP and UDP fundamentals, IP addressing, IPv4 subnetting, an introduction to IPv6, switching fundamentals, VLAN use, routing fundamentals, quality of services (QoS) Basics, and networking security concerns.

Emphasis will be placed upon understanding and applying IP subnetting techniques, understanding when to switch, and understanding when to route in an IP network. Where appropriate, the application focus and practical use cases will be oriented towards a broadcast technical plant. Theoretical principals will be reinforced through practical exercises, network use cases, and a design practical to close out the day.

Class size is limited, so reserve your spot today!