Forward: What’s Next for Radio?

September 11, 2015 Leave a comment

I read the trades and hear the talk of the future of radio.  The competition between Internet radio and broadcast radio.  Many years now we have had this radio stigma that we are the best.  Best at what?  All of it to me is a moot point.  Looks like we in radio are better at content providing than leading the charge to innovate and improve technology.  The future will soon see a paradigm change that will split radio as a whole into Content Providers and Content Delivery (technology).

I have talked with some colleagues and manufacturer reps about the future of radio.  I get asked the question all the time.  Many focus on the immediate future, but I think about the real future as I see it.  We are at the beginning with HD radio and I watch closely as other countries move to digital.  I watch the trends of our own digital development.  I see we keep putting a band aid on old technology like the new RDS2, granted is really cool, and we keep adding to the HD sidebands.  This is not enough.  I see the trends of where and how content is consumed.  I see a change.  As we move to all digital, we are looking at the analog carrier going away and becoming one large digital carrier.  We can split digital sidebands into multiple channels.  Look what we can do with a single digital carrier.

We take a digital carrier and we can split it into a number of channels.  For the sake of argument, we choose 100 channels.  Yes, that may be too many for a single carrier and it may take a wider bandwidth, consuming the adjacent radio channels as we saw in the Nautel presentation at the NAB show earlier this year.  Open you mind and let this sink it.  100 channels.  What does that mean?  100 streams of content.  Place 10 FM stations on the air with 100 channels each.  1000 streams of content.  We see a change.  One facility as we know it no longer can handle 100 channels.  Content providers must split from the content delivery mechanism, or hardware provider.  A large radio group becomes a large content provider group.  Look at iHeartMedia.  They have an app for that.  Content being pushed across all mediums.  They are unloading transmitter sites no longer wanting to be the landlord.  What next?  The transmission systems themselves?

Yes.  The transmission systems.  The delivery systems.  A new business model emerges.  Content providers will lease from the “delivery” providers, or Content Delivery companies.  The delivery folks will offer bandwidth for a price.  No more maintaining a technical department, the providers now can concentrate on content, advertising, business.  The deliverers, or whomever you want to call them, maintain the delivery systems.  This splits open a whole new world for the providers.  They can concentrate on what they do best.  The content delivery companies do what they do best.  They provide a means to get that content to the masses.  They do it now.  They just do not have the mass delivery capabilities, but they will.

Who are these delivery companies?  Look at your mobile device, and you have found the new content delivery company.  AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, even Sirious/XM  You name it, the game is, or will be, in their hands.  The paradigm shift; these companies will hold the licenses to the “big sticks”.  This will give them the means to get the mass, one direction, streams off their standard network, and put it out there on their “broadcast” network.  It will be the same data we see today, but it is now totally wireless.  New “radios” will be capable of picking up and “tuning” into any stream a user/consumer wants, seamlessly between the off-air network and the Internet network, as they will become one and the same.  These same companies own their wireless cell networks.  They have 4G LTE, 5G, or whatever.  These cell sites fill in the gaps and supplement the broadcast signal.  The radio hardware will be capable of switching between the two or three delivery paths.  The hardware will allow the consumer to provide feedback, or interact, with the content because there will be a return path, the cellular network.  The two, broadcast and cellular, will work side-by-side, hand in hand, seamlessly.  Look at the connected vehicle.  A single point to receive content.  A single point to respond and have an input.  The mobile phone, or smart phone is the other.  The device becomes the center of interaction, and the content provider will now have a direct connection to their “audience”.

This may be difficult to digest for some.  This is a paradigm change.  Many little changes will take place.  The obvious is the physical hardware of the transmission facilities.  All digital transmitters will most likely mean lower transmitter power output (TPO), so a currently licensed 50kW ERP facility may be now become 20kW ERP or less.  The licenses will transfer from traditional owners to the new content delivery companies.  Imagine an AT&T or Verizon owning a broadcast license.  Difficult to imagine, but it will happen in this shift.  The very heart of regulation will change, too.  The Federal Communications Commission media bureau will have to change.  The rules will have to change.  The way emergency information is spread will change.  Go back to our original 100 channel block.  A low bandwidth channel may be set aside for emergency information only.  The “receiver” will automatically change to that channel if an alert is issued.  Alerts can be issued to specific geographical areas.  It can be done. The old ways will change, and that will leave a bad taste for many, but it will have to happen if radio will survive, and it is human nature to detest change.  Change is painful, but constant.

This change will not happen tomorrow, or even 5 years from now.  It will be slow, but it will happen. It is very exciting to think about this paradigm shift.  Consumers will be happy getting, and interacting, with what they consume.  No more ambiguity for advertisers on how and where their audience is.  Content providers will get the metrics they need directly from the devices in cars, in pockets, on belts.  It is all data.  The delivery companies are already in place doing what they do, delivering content to their network subscribers.  A win all around. These are some of the thoughts I have.  Maybe I have too much time to think, and maybe now that my thoughts and concepts are out there I can get credit for this paradigm changing concept of the future.  (That’s my ego talking.)

Stay connected and I will pursue posting more thoughts on this as it develops.

Cheers!

 

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Step Forward, Then Back

Another week has gone by and wouldn’t you know it, that exciter of last week made me take a step back.  That Superciter was working just dandy on the bench when I shut down on Friday of last.  I had it up to 30 watts running happy as a clam (wherever that phrase came from) into a load.  All afternoon it ran until I pulled the plug for the weekend.  Come Monday of this week, Mr. Murphy struck.

As usual with these things, I felt I should run another bench test before calling this exciter good.  Plugged it in and let it run.  It started out just fine at 30 watts.  I’m happy that nothing changed while it sat doing nothing for a weekend.  We all need time off.  I wander through the shop while doing other things.  I walk right by the bench late morning and stop.  Take a couple steps back and look at the forward power.  16 watts!  Huh?  Fan is working and I pop the top open.  Not heat.  Shoot, it’s even sitting under an air conditioning vent.  Time to pull it apart and take the test point readings.  I start to see a couple of anomalies, though for the most part all readings were good.

I sit down with the schematic and refresh my brains on the previous week pointers on what drives what and who and where.  Take a couple more readings as I watch the power drop down below 10 watts.  Something is failing and failing slowly.  No faults, just no power.  OK, if those don’t get enough drive what happens?  I’m starting to get the feeling there is a drive issue.  Why it didn’t show last week is interesting.  I have a brief email exchange with GatesAir.  I describe the situation and how it changed from last week.  The same conclusion that something is not giving enough drive.  We are going t concentrate on the RF drive produced by the FM Synthesizer board.  I have a couple of parts ordered, so we wait until they arrive.  Let’s see if this takes care of it.

In the meantime, we had our annual fire inspection.  Meetings.  A last minute invite to Al Salci’s (of SAS fame) presentation of AVB (Audio Video Bridging) was a highlight.  Great presentation if you get a chance to witness it.  At least I had time off from wrestling with that exciter!  Every week is a learning experience, so take advantage when you can.  Next week more meets and greets.  Let’s see what I learn and maybe even get an exciter repaired.

Cheers!

Categories: Equipment, Management Tags: , , ,

Engineering Week Successes

Motivation has been lacking.  Been waiting a while for the sale to go through, so now we are a new company.  Very cool and it looks to be quite fruitful with the resources that appear to be had.  Many little/minor repairs have been done since my last post.  If you read the trades much in terms of streaming and connected media.  While all that goes on there is still radio and still needs to be met.  As a broadcast engineer the main deed is to keep our stations on the air!

Granted I had no off air time this week, I did have to deal with a couple of issues.  One is an auxiliary exciter that decided not to produce power.  This bad boy is an old Harris Superciter.  I believe it to be a post-Digit exciter and dates back to 2006.  As I had a spare Digit I was able to bring the Superciter to the shop for work.  Acquiring the schematics and manual was fun, and I dug up a schematic set, but no manual.  GatesAir was able to forward me a manual and another set of schematics.  After poking around I got frustrated as I did not know what readings I needed to see as certain points to determine what direction to go.  A few more emails and a better understanding led me to testing each stage.  Eventually I got really curious, so when I got to the Power Amp (PA), I began static testing the transistors which began to look good.  As this exciter is an Aux and just sits there with a quarterly turn on and run I figure it was time to really look for dirty contacts everywhere.  Anything I saw I cleaned.  I reconnected everything and had forward power!  Crossing my fingers, I put the box back together thinking it won’t turn on when I do.  Luck on my side, it came on again.  Ran it for over an hour into a load without issue.  I’ll fire it up again Monday to verify and plan on taking it back to the site.

As if this exciter thing was a pain, one of my main transmitters started doing something odd: It began having power fluctuations.  This is an “old” Nautel NV20.  Yeah, remember, I have the oldest ones out there at 6 1/2 years old now, so I get to experience the aging process.  No faults were showing except for PA module foldbacks and, sitting down, “Module # not responding.”  If a PA module is not responding there must be some fault somewhere.  I looked at everything.  I ran it into the load and watched it.  It didn’t matter which module it just randomly picked on as not responding, or two, three….  What else can I do?

I did what anyone would do.  Shut it down.  Remove each PA module and reset it.  While I did that I also checked the fans on each, though not showing failures, I’ve had a couple fail from old age already.  Found 2 that showed signs of failing and replaced them.  I check the connections to the exciter.  All good and tight.  Flipped the disconnect back on and let the AUI boot up.  I took it slow and selected a low power preset.  I stepped to to a low power with HD preset.  I went for the gold to full TPO of 10 kW.  I watched it with eagle eyes.  I dared it to do something.  Rock solid.  Heated that room up good running it into the load for 20+ minutes.  Time to put it back on the air, and it came right up.  Again I eyed it.  Both via front monitor AUI and via remote web browser, one on the main screen and the other on the status screen just waiting for it to mess up.  Rock solid.  Absolutely no power wavering.  I watched that thing for an hour, and then called it good.  The conclusion:  Even 20 kW Linux computers need to be rebooted, from a cold boot, on occasion.

Hope all your repairs turn out to be as simple and successful as mine have.  Look for the signposts while troubleshooting and take the proper path.  The repair becomes easy.  (Oooh, a Zen moment there.)

Cheers!

Categories: Equipment Tags: , , , ,

Interesting Read/Refresher from EEP

When given the time I will click through my Links column and see what may be new or of interest.  Also, to check and see if they are still valid.  This morning I ran across EEP, Electrical Engineering Portal, as they always have something interesting power related.  We all need and use power.  Without power we have nothing to do.  Today’s feature article is 5 Types of Equipment Which Generates the Most Harmonics.  Head on over and get a refresher on what they find.  We all know most of these and how they interfere with RF, especially AM radio.

What is very nice about this article is it doesn’t just brush by the topic.  There is some good detail in there.  For example I was able to refresh my understanding between on-line, off-line, and line-interactive UPS’s.  It may be obvious, but a little refresher keeps them brain cells up to date.  All in all, a good read.

 

Marantz PMD Thoughts

Seems there are still many users of the old Marantz PMD 570 recorder. This surprises me a lot as the technology has improved so much it is not really worth maintaining these old machines. I admit, we still have a couple in use. Not used much, but still in use.

1. They are obsolete.
2. Even though the update expands your choice on CF card size, the machine will develop issues. One we have is card corruption; randomly at that.
3. Our smartphones have better technology in them.

Let me get to the requests and please be patient. I have a bunch of catching up to do now that trips, NAB, and meetings are complete.

Cheers!

NAB 2015

That was quick! NAB 2015 for me is over. The last few days flew by! The other thing that made it a little a foggy was this bug I picked up. That said I was mixed about the what I saw. Did I see some cool equipment? I did. Did I see the same old things? I did. You might say I had a neutral experience this year.

The tease is the cool items I saw I cannot talk about! What? Am I joking? Not at all. One of these was on display but I am still figuring out how it really works and if it justifies a $15k price tag. And that it is not a secret, is the 25-Seven Voltaire. I am quite curious on how that box works. Bet Nielsen is too. The second item I cannot disclose. Sorry. I’m sure we will be hearing about it soon.

Deva Broadcast now has an HD monitor. I talked with them last year and they had issues with iniquity being slow to approve. Glad to see they have it now. My first reaction was it is not as robust as their analog, but as it sank in, it is still a very good unit.

Gates-Air was showing a liquid cooled FM. I know purple with space consideration will like that. R&S had one to, BTW. Elenos continue to pack power in a small space with a 4 RU 10kW rig. If I was analog only, I would consider this. Nautel continues with improvements to their lines. I did enjoy their future forward thinking with 15 audio streams.

In the tiny arena of microphones, I looked the Shure that plus directly into an iPhone or iPad. The line is called the MOTIV. It uses a lightning connector and plugs right in. For monitoring you can use the mini jack, but use headphones only add a built-in mic there is active too. They also added the MVL lavalier mics with the 3.5mm connector for Android devices. No use of headphones with those, though. Still a cool idea and quite useful for news gathering.

And I can’t finish without mentioning the drones. Quadcopters everywhere! Well, 4, 6, and 8 blades. Fingers hackers galore! I dig these things. For use in radio they seem limiting, but for promotions, web content, and other content gathering there is potential. I still like the idea of quick tower inspections. The done fest has decent talks on the myriad of uses. Two man teams, one flying, one controlling the camera, really does the flexibility of these things. Let’s see how these proliferate as the FAA slowly approves and regulates these. I know lawyers are waiting in the wings, too.

That’s my quick rundown of the NAB Show. Deeper thoughts to come as I settle down an my mind clears from this cold bug.

Cheers!

Categories: Equipment Tags:

Mager Kizziah

February 16, 2015 3 comments

Three years ago I posted the following regarding Mager being back in business.  He was excited to be back as the economy for his services began to improve.  We chatted and planned new things.  As recently as this year, we were planning to improve the broadcast booth at Petco Park.   It is with great sorrow to post that Mager passed away last week of lung cancer.

If I receive any details, I will pass them along.  For now, Mager, rest in peace my friend.

Post from 3 years ago:

Under the name of Mager Concepts, LLC, Mager Kizziah is back building studio furniture.  I’ve used Mager for a number of projects ranging from truly custom to the bare necessities.  He does it all.  He works with you.  He does it right.  And, it doesn’t cost a lot.

Visit his website, Mager Concepts.  You can also find it in my list of links.  You can see from my website’s homepage a picture with a studio we created.  Yes, he is known for his solid surface custom builds, but he does wood laminate, too.  I had to modify a room with wood laminate which required a return on the backside.  I gave him the specs, the laminate color/style, and molding requirements.  I had the item quickly and it matched perfectly.

And, yes, I consider him a friend, so you guys get the cheap plug!

Cheers!

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