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LP-1 Issues with Nielsen PPM and EAS

By Dana Puopolo

I recently had an email exchange with Nielsen regarding PPM encoding of streams.

Right now, Nielsen does not allow the same PPM coding on FM and Internet streams, even if they are a 100% simulcast. This is both dumb and dangerous (and might also possibly be illegal) for reasons I shall set forth below.


The PPM system uses a unique encoded watermark that is made up of ten modulated carriers, output changes according to a unique algorithm designed by its contract developers, Martin Marietta, a top tier defense contractor. 

The design criteria was to make these carriers robust to the PPM receiver, while being transparent to the audio content of the program.


This largely works - with ONE GLARING PROBLEM: PPM encoders mess up the transmissions of EAS data (“Duck farts”). Put a PPM encoder after an EAS encoder and no one else can pick up any transmitted EAS message.

This is a big problem for LP-1 EAS stations. I am CE for one of these (a class B FM that is the LP-1 EAS station for half of an East Coast state) and we failed our 2019 National test for this reason. No one listening to us picked up our test, including three TV stations.

Moving the PPM unit before the EAS box quickly fixed the problem.


But now we get to the Nielsen problem – by putting the PPM in front of the EAS it is impossible to run EAS on a station’s stream without also having that PPM watermark on that stream also.

To rewire things so the audio is split before the PPM encoder means that the radio station will have dead air on its streaming during any EAS test or alert. With smart speakers (Alexa) becoming the home radio of 2020, I think this is a bad thing for the general public. Not to mention that I know of at least a dozen mom and pop FMs that are using an FM tuner to feed their streaming, meaning the radio stations PPM watermark is on that stream by default.


It is well past time for Nielsen to converge with reality and realize that a 100% simulcast is just that – a 100% simulcast. The main reason that this is not a bigger problem is because most stations do not have  other stations monitoring their EAS.

Unfortunately, some stations are LP-1s – and lots of other stations do monitor us.

Dana Puopolo

What do you think? Let us know what is on your mind

    More thoughts:
Issues at LP-1s with Nielsen PPM and EAS - Dana Puopolo
Are C-Band Changes the Death Knell for Radio? Ron Johnson
FCC Makes C-Band Move - Without the CBA - Karen Johnson
What Broadcast Engineering Was - Ron Schacht
The 2019 NPT EAS Test - James Walker
AM Dying? - Gary Northrup
Another Response to Mr. Potter - Ron Schacht
Regarding Mr. Potter's Essay - James Walker
Can Radio Survuve in Small Towns - James Potter
FM Tuners and AM Radio - Ron Schacht
EAS - James Walker
How About Channel 1? - Larry Todd
No AM Radio - James Walker
Who is Killing the AM Radio Star? - Richard Rudman
Emergency Communications - Ron Schacht
AM radio EAS - Mark Miller
What about low(er) tech solutions? - Chris Hays
Ineffective Warning Cost Many Lives - Mark Miller
The Problem is Not Only with Emergency Managers - Rod Zeigler
Broadcasters Do Not Have To Wait for EMs - Gary Smith
Emergency Alert Warnings that work! - Hank Landsberg
Warnings Are A Lost Cause For Many People - James Potter
60 Years with a Helpful FCC - Ken Benner
Charlie Goodrich Remembered - Dwight Morgan
FM Class C4 Helps Local Radio - Matt Wesolowski
Repacking the C Band - Clay Freinwald
The FCC is Owned - Bill Shrode
Too Much for Too Little -Tom Miller
FCC Wake Up! - Ron Schacht

By Ron Johnson

Karen Johnson's article reinforces discussions a fellow en-gineer and I had in the 1980-90's. The discussions addres-sed all broadcast, cell phone, amateur radio, and a common band plan for public service - government communications.

Digital AM/FM/TV was in its infancy. Cell phone modula-tion was in a state of flux. Amateur Radio Operators and engineers were experimenting with digital. We discussed the increasing volume of users and need to optimize spectrum use.


Was realignment of assigned bands in the future? What would be the fiscal impact to broadcasters and how would consumers react to the analog to digital changes? Weaker analog TV gave you snow, but digital signals would either be strong or not make the receivers work.


Would mega companies rule with unlimited funding? Would lobbyists influence FCC, and Congress, or would citizens and broadcasters be sheep unto slaughter and given no real voice? Analog broadcasting was still king, though AM was having fiscal and real estate problems. There was a concern over exposure to all forms of RF radiation. Cell phones, RF, MRI's CT scans, and X-Ray radiation all were said to cause brain and other cancers.

We questioned if all this was a ploy by mega companies to intimidate citizens and tacitly and overtly control Congress and the FCC. What did the FCC and government want to do with all forms of broadcasting? Were they planning to shift all entertainment and communications to the Internet, effectively silencing all broadcast and private radio commu-nications?

We realized the importance of radio in our lives as the cornerstone of quickly informing the public in emergencies, and it's value as entertainment. Broadcast AM was plagued by natural and man-made interference and propagation.

We concluded all radio was on its death bead and it was only a matter of time before broadcasting and amateur radio met its death. It appeared cell phones would survive and most communications be shifted to other modes (the Internet.)

Broadcasting's Headstone would read: RIP - You didn't die without fighting.

Ronald Johnson

What do you think? Let us know what is on your mind



by Karen Johnson

It is the fourth quarter of the year, so - yes - we were expecting some kind of movement in the C-Band/5G battle over Mid-band spectrum, but the information recently released by the FCC was a shock.

In fact, it is not a stretch to say that those who have been following the proposed 5G expansion into the Mid-band spectrum were completely floored by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s abrupt announcement about the C-band spectrum — and the broadcast community’s reaction to said announcement.


On Monday, November 18, Pai indicated that the FCC has decided to move forward with the C-Band Alliance’s (CBA) idea of auctioning off 280 MHz of the Mid-band frequency and giving it to broadband industry, without the assistance of the CBA.


Instead of having a private auction of the 280 MHz (as urged by the CBA) with funds raised going to the transition of all incumbents into the remaining 200 MHz of space, the Chairman stated there will be a public auction of 280 MHz of C-Band spectrum, with the monies going into the US Treasury.

Even more surprising? The repack and planned public auction has gained the support of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and eight major broadcast compan-ies. This, in spite of no real plans announced as yet on how much of the funds raised in the repack will go to protecting the signal of C-band users in the remaining 200 MHz, and who will be in charge of distributing these funds.

The emerging plan would see satellite-delivered audio and video services currently operating on the C-Band repacked into its upper end. The downsizing of audio and video content distribution from 500 to 200 MHz will involve more than just the relocation of the Mid-band frequency (3.7-4.2 GHz). FCC officials said the plan is based on a 20 MHz “guard band” that would serve as a barrier between broadcasters and the 5G services.

A Conditional “Thumbs Up”

Though the NAB and major broadcasters (which include CBS, Fox, Viacom, The Walt Disney Company, Univision, NBCUniversal, A&E Television Networks and Discovery) throw their support behind the FCC, their joint statement subtly holds the FCC accountable to the incumbents who have operated within this spectrum for over three decades.

In the letter, the NAB stated, “We appreciate Chairman Pai’s commitment to protecting services delivered via the C-Band, including working to make the transition effective and workable for satellite operators and their customers, thus ensuring that services that rely on the C-band can be maintained and protected throughout the transition.”

A Task of Epic Proportions

The clearing of 300 MHz of spectrum for broadband use will be a major undertaking.

To make it happen, the NAB and broadcast companies emphasize that everyone involved must work together, and that, somehow, the FCC will need to get all parties on board, including the satellite companies that make up the rejected C-Band Alliance.

How much involvement the FCC will grant the CBA in the Mid-band repack remains to be seen. This, in spite of the fact that the CBA has spent three years and millions of dollars in research and development to create not one, but two transition plans - the only plans developed, in fact, designed to both embrace 5G and allow C-Band users to continue to send and receive programming unhindered.

To complete this transition correctly, a complex plan involving testing and oversight must be developed. To do so requires clear leadership and money – lots of it.

In their proposal, the CBA had stated that stations and satellite owners should be compensated for all costs they incur in the transition, including the purchase of filters and high-price tag items like the launch of new orbital satellites. Whether or not the FCC agrees remains to be seen.

Taking Sides

Throughout this process, the desire to quickly facilitate the deployment of 5G broadband has been the goal of nearly everyone inside the Beltway, including the White House, Congress and the FCC.

And, yes, protecting those who continue to use C-Band for content delivery has been listed as a FCC “to do.” But is this lip service, or is the FCC serious?

In his letter to Congress outlining his plan for Mid-band, Chairman Pai seems to clearly be reinforcing the import-ance of 5G and broadband users over C-Band incumbents who are contractually in the space.


Pai writes, “First, we must make available a significant amount of C-Band spectrum for 5G.

"Second, we must make C-Band spectrum available for 5G quickly.

"Third, we must generate revenue for the federal govern-ment.

"And fourth, we must protect the services that are currently delivered using the C-Band so they can continue to be delivered to the American people.”


Ever since Marconi’s first transmissions in 1895, radio - followed closely by television - have been the backbone of broadcast communications in the US.

They still are.

Yet Chairman’s Pai’s list of principles the FCC plans to advance in their upcoming Rulemaking clearly gives 5G - as usual - the distinction of “favored” child.

What exactly that Rulemaking will encompass will be made evident in the next few months, perhaps sooner. But for this to work for the American public, the FCC must develop a plan that equally protects C-Band users and the rights of the satellite owners while embracing the expansion of 5G.

Karen Johnson at Linkupsat

What do you think? Let us know what is on your mind




What Broadcast Engineering Was

by Ron Schacht

I have been at this game pushing 60 years and today while making up Type N jumper cables with RG214 for an STL project I started thinking: "If I had a dollar for every one of these connectors that I have assembled ... "

Well, I probably did but I have spent all of those dollars.


But here is the question: how many guys are there who can still put these together?

I am not talking about the crimp-on ones that fall off when you get them 500 feet up on a tower, but the nice Amphenol ones with the nut, the washer, the red rubber washer, and the solder on pin.

You know the ones I mean. 


I spend about 20-30 minutes on each one of these little jobbies - carefully measuring so the pin is exactly where it should be - that I have cut all of the wayward strands of the shield with my trusty scissors and then tightened the backing nut just right.

Ahhhh, a work of art - it should be hanging in the Louvre. I would sign it...

I would bet that a 4-foot grid dish could fall off of a tower and hang there only by the cable if it were one of my connectors.


These are the kind of things that keep me in this business.

Not the digital crud. That stuff is never fixed, its just "made to work." That is not like the 5 AM calls from the morning man at the AM daytimer in the dead of winter that the rig will not come on. You get out of a nice warm bed and race to the site  to find the AC line fuses blown because the morning man was late and did not let the 575's or the 866's vaporize and a flashover took out the AC fuses.

Yes, that is the stuff that makes it fun, it can be fixed and I earned my keep.


Changing pinch rollers and motor bearings in cart machines was another engineering "high."

Or, getting to the football stadium 5 minutes before game time to change a 12AX7 that went out in the remote amp, That is what we do.

Someone once told me that if you replace the capacitors in an ITC cart machine cue board at the same station more than once, you have been there too long. Well, I changed them three times at one of the stations I was at.


I hope the next generation of broadcast engineers can have as much pleasure as I have had. But in my eyes, with this digital stuff, I think most of the future engineering travel time will be to the post office or UPS to ship items back for repair, since most of the products now come without a schematic - and most studio gear can be replaced for less than employing an engineer anymore.

Repairing the transmitter seems to be the one place where an engineer can save a lot of money for the station.


The problem I see here in the Midwest anyway is a lack of the younger people interested in RF.

I think in my time, every broadcast engineer was a ham, built his own rigs and knew at least CW and AM theory. Today, I only know of one high school age person who has a ham license and his experience is the two meter HT he bought from China.

I think its imperative that we ,the few remaining real broadcast engineers search out suitable replacements before we "sign off" for good. Yea, the pay is not great, and the hours stink.

But it is a job that cannot be sent overseas so let us all see if we can find and mentor at least one kid in the field.

Ron Schacht

What do you think? Let us know what is on your mind


AM dying?

by Gary Northrup

I started in radio at 13 on a Provisional license, 3rd Class at 14 and our Chief drove me 200 miles to Kansas City for my First and Radar Endorsement at 15. We were a little Ozarks 1kw daytimer but I remember feeling like I owned the airwaves. At 16 we added an FM, automated during the day, but live free-form at night. I went off to college, worked part time at some major stations in the East and Southeast then settled into a career as an Engineer for a semiconductor company.

I retired early and had an opportunity to grab up an LPFM license ... and felt like I'd never been out of the driver's seat. In the city where is live, AM is a wasteland of interference, sodium and MV lights, unregulated electronics and substations so leaky they can stall your car when driving by. I had a chance to be in the small town where I started out. Kids still gathered at the local hamburger joint and cruised the square...and I was stunned to hear them listening to the local AM station (which had obtained night time authority of 61 Watts) playing oldies rock (real oldies from the 60's and 70's) and the kid were loving it. The signal was clean (in my 66 Mustang) and the jock was obviously a high school kid that was having the time of his life.

AM is still there, but it's rural, where it matters that folks get to hear the local football games, local voices on the air, and ads for burgers and shakes at the local hang out. I could go into a technical dissertation about what will save AM, technically, but I'm thinking that what IS saving AM is little local stations, with real voices, having fun...with the same magic that drew me to radio as a kid.

Yes, the FCC needs to crack down on interference, No, we do not need a proprietary HD scheme to go digital AM and break more little radio piggy banks. I had the great fortune to be in India and experience Digital Radio Mondale (DRM) and was simply stunned at the quality of broadcast and even more impressed that the station I was listening to was a traditional AM station retrofitted (inexpensively I might add).

Perhaps "old" AM is dying, but AM as a broadcast medium is still alive, thriving in small towns and has the capacity to be revived with a little forward thinking, some minor investment, and understanding the need this country has for AM broadcasters in the middle of the country where FM just doesn't have the range or penetration that we need. The FCC requires that broadcasters operate "as a trustee of the public interest"...why not let us do so?

Gary Northrup

    2019 NPT EAS TEST

By James Walker

20+ years in service and "still needs to be worked on" ?!?!

A friend owns several stations in the mid south.  According to his people the audio announcements were undecipherable.

This is Radio folks.  Unintelligible audio does not work for emergency messages.  I suppose those folks with Babel Fish or FIPS decoders in their ears were well served.

(Perhaps we should require that EAS messages - not tests - be sponsored.  Then there would be incentive to get the audio quality right.)

I have been hammering away at this for years. More squeaky wheel : Either fix it - now - and test it to be sure (lots of effort and probably money spent) - or get rid of it! (Less expensive.) I do not take this position purely from a save-money perspective.  Fire departments are expensive and necessary - but the fire truck hoses have to squirt water.  Otherwise its only good for a parade.

Emergencies are - by their nature - uncontrollable and unpredictable.  ("Emergency Management" is a funny and silly concept when you understand this - it should be "emergency response".)  EAS can only - at best - respond after the fact.  (A tornado or flash flood warning may be exceptions to this.)  A system for disseminating lifesaving information MUST be robust, reliable, and understandable.

Or it is of no value.

James Walker

Regarding Mr. Potter's Essay

By James Walker


I, too, take care of some smaller local stations.  The most successful of them is a small town AM with only 53 Watts at night.  They never stopped doing the things they have done for 40 years: Live AM and PM shows, ball games, remote broadcasts at town events and festivals, and live, call-in interviews with local folk.  The station is a vital part of its community.  When I was building new studios for it a few years back I was constantly interrupted by local folks bringing in pies or offering a cup of coffee.  You can feel the love.

The places destined to fail are the ones that went with computer automation or satellite programming - nobody's home.  And they deserve to fail

James Walker


    Another Response to James Potter

by Ron Schacht

Yes James, unfortunately you are 100 % correct.

But that's not only the case with the AM stations - also FM's.

We all know that when listening to the alleged "live and local" stations be it AM or FM, the voice tracked weather from 3 days ago is still running and the voice-tracked out-of-date comments are still running. Yes, 10 stations in one building with a total of 3 on-air employees who do nothing but voice-track is what made local radio sound as bad as satellite radio and the rest of the streaming crud.

Fortunately there are still some one-owner AM stations (the big guys don’t know what AM is because most of them are fresh out of college) that still believe in live, real people on the air at least for most of the day - and they serve their community. Their loyalty shows in, like you said, listeners stopping in with pies, sold out commercial inventory, and a dedicated staff.

The hope is that the destined to fail groups with 50 stations in one building will sell off their AM holdings to local people who want to own a radio station and things will get better.

Remember back in the 60's, FM was a toy. The guys who owned stand-alone FM's experimented because they didn’t know what else to do, AM was the big business. Now that has reversed, FM is the big business (in this case, though, run by investors not broadcasters as AM used to be) and AM is becoming the innovative band.

I worked in radio as many did through the era of 24/7 live jocks, a News Department of a few people, maybe a record librarian, at least one First Class Radiotelephone operator, plus the myriad of support people, traffic, billing ,sales. The stations made money and were great.

It can still work, it’s just greedy investors that are the problem.

Like any physical product you buy, make more with fewer people, cheaper components and make a big profit. In 1960 you could buy a television made in the US and if you turned it on today, it would still work because the tops of the electrolytics wouldn’t have blown out like the televisions you but today do after a year.

Money, Money, Money - make as much as you can, quality be damned!!

Ron Schacht
Contract Engineer - Northcentral Iowa and Southcentral, MN


FM Tuners and AM Radio

by Ron Schacht

The article on FM tuners that will work in high RF environments is timely for me as I had a similar problem but with a 100 kW at 500 feet and a 25 kW at 200 feet, 1/2 wave spaced about 500 feet behind the studio, hearing our Class A 30 miles away was impossible even with the Dayton.

I got a test drive with one of those little Inovonics Ino 632. Works absolutely perfect and at about $800, it gives HD, RBDS and anything else you could want. 

Meanwhile, here we go, letting the silly auto makers dictate broadcast facilities again.


GM did a great job with OZ4 (remember them)12 Volt plate tubes that had the sensitivity of a crystal set, horizontally polarized antennas in the windshield.

Later, AM stereo radios that picked up half of the stations (none of the 50 kW Clears that were using the Kahn system on the East Coast) and now, no broadcast antennas at all, just a rubber duckie stuck in the middle of the satellite radio antenna. (Yes, the car dealers get a percentage of every satellite radio contract they sell.)

I personally love AM radio. Why? Because FM for the most part is a barren wasteland of programming and over processed MP3 annoying audio. Yes it is a step above satellite radio quality but more and more that step is getting smaller and smaller.

AM on the other hand rolls off in most radios at 3-5 kHz. I expect that, I know what it will sound like, I am ok with that because that rolloff masks all of the rotten artifacts of poor digital audio.

AM is not dying from technical deficiencies. AM radio is still a place where I can find real formats, not the usual corporate crap on FM. By far, AM is now the "experimental" band where I can always find something that I like.

AM is what FM was in the 60's its variety. Sure, there is a lot of talk, too much in my book, I listen to AM a lot between 1 and 6 am and if I liked sports, which I do not I would be in my glory.


But deep down in all of that nonsense is real radio, easy listening, classical, alternative rock, oldies, everything you could want.

I am an audiophile, having engineered several classical music stations - and those are critical listeners - but I do not care if it is FM, HD, quad or something from the Moon: if I do not like the format, I will not listen.

I am not saying that all FM stations stink. There are still some good ones around, mostly the ones not gobbled up by big money. 

If people tolerate 8-track tapes, cassettes, satellite and MP3 audio and think it is good, they have no clue. AM failures were caused by its success: 40 minutes of commercial time an hour when FM had no commercials at all led people gravitated to FM to get  away from the commercials.

Now the coin has flipped. I like AM for the coverage, no multipath, no picket fencing and I can tune in one station out here in the Midwest where the conductivity is 30 for 200 miles.

Besides what old timer cannot say that listening to a baseball game on AM in a thunderstorm does not remind them of a summer day on the front porch as a kid with Dad's radio tuned to the Yankees game.

Ron Schacht


    Can Radio Survive in Small Towns?

by James Potter

From my general radio industry experience plus my advertising business, I am aware of small- to medium-market AM stations still succeeding in what they do, and again, it's [drum roll, please] the Live-n-Local factor.  There are many towns in rural and suburban America that would welcome and could benefit from a really local radio station to promote local merchants (to the extent they exist); high school sports remotes; remotes for business 'grand re-openings;' local news and views, including town council and school board meetings; live church services, Talk To The Mayor, and, yes, Swap Meet of the Air. You might convince that 18-year old to put down his iThingie if his high school basket ball team were on-air at night and his girlfriend was playing. One of the things that killed AM radio was wall-to-wall spots -- way, way too many and too few records, news and sports.  Greed helped poison the Golden Goose that was AM radio. 

My little town in the Southern Missouri Ozarks is a vacation and retirement destination, dominated by boaters in the summer on Table Rock Lake, and year-round seniors. We have nine churches of all denominations.  But we have no OTA voice in this town.  If I could find a frequency, I'd build a little AM station operating 24/7 featuring mainly local programming of general interest.  This COL of 2,500 souls in a small radius could be nicely covered by 1KW day, 250 night - enough RF to overcome the cellphone charger and other spectral pollution.  I'd use the satellite dish only for network news at TOH, otherwise live personalities.  There are a lot of adults who would love to bloviate all day, plus college kids to staff the mic. This idea could be replicated around the USA. What's stopping me?  The absurd silly nonsense of the 'filing window' being nailed shut until the FCC decides to open it. 

Granted, advances in OTA technology and other information and entertainment conveyances have eclipsed the miracle that was radio a century ago.  And gone are the Mexican and Cincinnati Border Blasters of the past. But while the big city blow torches struggle to stay alive with syndicated programming, the small towns of America have been left behind.  Is there critical mass of advertising revenue to support a small town radio station?  Maybe, and maybe not, depending on the local retail situation.  But with modern studio and transmitter equipment (low electric bill) and an efficient, inexpensive antenna system (my preference is a cellular pole with a skirt and elevated 4-wire ground system) one could get an AM station up and on-air for an amount of $$ comparable to starting any other local enterprise, e.g., auto repair shop, rental store, grocery store, etc.

The essence of my thesis is think small, live-n-local.  Be one with the people of the town, not some VT from the John Hancock building in Chicago. As with any retail business, to succeed you need to establish a bond with your local customer base and keep that bond evergreen by serving value to your customers, in this case, listeners.  Not an armchair quarterback, but a realist with business experience and a friend in my town. But don't plan to make $millions every year by using outside program content and zero live talent.  That is a failed busi ness plan, although it gets re-fertilized every day in radio around the country. But the fruits are stillborn.  One man's opinion...

James Potter


Why Not Use TV Channel 1?

By Larry Todd

WRNJ, Hackettstown, N.J., will be filing a petition with the FCC requesting they explore moving AM band stations to the near-vacant 45 to 50 MHz VHF band.

The AM band is no longer capable of providing a quality service to its communities for several reasons. Noise, skip, overly expensive antenna systems, varying hours of operation, and directional patterns to name just a few immediate issues. And lack of listeners!

WRNJ suggests the FCC consider the digital transmission DRM+ system, along with a simple vertical only, non-gain antenna. The VHF 1 band is ideal for local/regional coverage. Exactly the local service that was expected during the early days of AM would return.

Overcoming DAB+ SFN Challenges

The two-way radio licensees of the 45-50 MHz band have all but fled the band for either trunked or cell service. This ended the expense and maintenance of low band FM mobile radios for the many users. Also, Motorola and Kenwood, it is reported, no longer manufacture low-band equipment. A scanner covering 45 to 50 MHz at a tower with reception from New York City to Philadelphia can go days before hearing a single carrier.

International regulations for ITU Regions Two and Three already call for broadcasting between 47 and 50 MHz. As previously mentioned, the band is ideal for local/regional coverage and can provide Americans with the latest technology from their local stations.

It would be wise for broadcasters to familiarize themselves with all the capabilities of the DRM+ modulation scheme; it?s far from just an audio transport. Many countries in (ITU Regions Two and Three) are already embracing the DRM+ standard, which is so far superior to anything we?re presently using the USA. Why should we wait any longer?


In July 2008, the Broadcast Maximization Committee published the results of their study on AM and proffered the concept of converting the Channels 5 and 6 to digital AM?s, LPFM, NCE?s (See

That was 12 years ago and nothing has been done about it.

With this proposal, we would avoid AM noise, nighttime interference, adjacent channel issues and eliminate the awful fidelity issues. There is occasional skip on the proposed band. Adjacent TV channel 2 survived it for 50 plus years. Skip is infrequent and probably won't have the deleterious effects experienced with analog. There is skip on the AM band every night!

Additionally, DRM+ channel efficiency is more compact than present channel spacing. Spectrum efficiency vastly exceeds anything we?re using today. The implications of that efficiency are evident. Far more information can be packed into DRM+ in much less space.

A basic explanation of DRM+ can be found here. A more technical explanation can be found at this location. Note in the video that 1 kW ERP of DRM+ equals the same coverage as a 5 kW conventional installation. An efficient system lowers the electric bill. The proposed vertical antenna of unity gain reduces tower loading and or rent.


There are no receivers! Right. However, the current state of the art in chipsets is such that most new receivers could be capable of decoding both DRM+ and HD Radio systems.

In light of this, we propose a transition period of years for this to come to fruition. American broadcasting has spent tens of millions on moving TV facilities, and the market responded to the shifts in frequency and modulation schemes. The AM band, too, was extended and radio manufacturers responded. Simply stated, if not now, when?

The AM band is beyond practical (economical) use at this juncture. The transmission systems are onerous, to say the least. We have to live within the bounds of physics, and that, simply put, eliminates today?s AM band as it is currently structured.

Japan will soon be amongst the nations that terminate AM radio at the request of AM operators! Italy is converting to DRM+, too.

We propose that AM operators simulcast the new and old band until the market dictates the AM shutdown of dual facilities. We propose the system be local and that any who might wish to stay with AM be free to stay there.

Also, with this migration, we expect the AM band may again have a chance for wide area service from those who can increase power and coverage upon spectrum availability resulting from the migration to DRM+ VHF. The FM band would be relieved of the congestion it's now experiencing from translators. We would hope that the ownership remain local and avoid the dereliction of local community service that came with ownership-consolidation.

Is there any better time to start this than now? I can?t think of one real negative, can you?

We look forward to your input if and when the FCC moves forward with the petition for rulemaking.

Larry Todd


by James Walker

The real problem with EAS is not the latency or the audio quality or any other internal problem.

It is the audience - or lack thereof.

The public (the audience) neither knows nor cares what EAS is or what it does - or is supposed to do.

Mr. EAS guru:  leave your office or den of preparedness and go out into the real world:  a bar, a county fair, a church meeting, gather up a few non-broadcasters, and ask them what they think EAS is and does.

You will get mostly blank stares.

People are not sitting next to their entertainment radios alertly waiting for OFFICIAL NEWS AND INFORMATION.  I just checked with two people here at my local public library and they didn't know what EAS is and they're not rushing out to buy radios.

Do you get "push" notices on your cell? Betcha do. And even if cell towers are less reliable than broadcasting (pretty risky speculation) there are lots more of them and whatever kind of hell breaks out more cell towers are likely to survive and keep working than broadcast towers just based on the population statistics.

Any system - no matter how perfect and reliable (which EAS is demonstrably not very) is of little value if people do not use it.

Maybe they should (coulda, shoulda, woulda) but that's not the point.

Without a MASSIVE program of advertising, education, and politicking you're not going to get the majority of the public's attention or compliance.  And that'll cost a bunch of money.  Better to spend that money, if at all, on systems already in place that people are moving to rather than away from.

5G is here now.

Also, in  a free society, folx are free to be as uninformed as they wish.  They may bitch and moan at the consequences of such behavior and that's part of the freedom.  The First Amendment also guarantees your right  not to say anything and not to listen either.

One final point:  When EAS was still a gleam in the eyes of its procreators, one of those fellows - whose office was next to mine at the time - avowed that in addition to all of the wonderful features the EAS boxes for broadcasters would have that there would be (indeed they were under active development at the time) radios for the consumer which would turn themselves on when an EAS alert was received.  Like a weather radio.

In the 20+ years since I have yet to see such a consumer product.  (see paragraph 7 above)  Its actually kind of hard to find a stand-alone radio for sale outside of a hamfest anymore.

But my cell fone does.  And I carry my cell with me.

Perception is reality.   And everybody's perspective is different.  Both fire extinguishers and condoms are ineffective if improperly used or not used at all.

Same for EAS.

James Walker


Who is Killing
the AM Radio Star?

by Richard Rudman

Reading Rollye James article on NAB 2019, I have to add my take on her line, “I shudder to mention the blank stares I got in response to questions about the role of AM radio in the new landscape.”

That was just the memory jog I needed to write about the gleaming, polished Audi parked in the North Hall that have everything you could want for in-car entertainment except an AM tuner in the dash. This was either a way to ferret out Industry sentiment on scrapping the AM tuner, or a harbinger of the automotive industry putting their corporate thumbs on the scale weighing the future of AM.

I think harbinger.


The booth person told me that “a number of people” saw something was missing and make no secret that they were not happy.

I added myself to that hopefully long list. I doubt that it is going to make a tailpipe’s worth of difference to the corporate “Audifiles” to whom the booth person promised to report our displeasure. Turns out Audi, who markets the hybrid line named A3-etron, is apparently unwilling to invest in a sufficient amount of ferrite and other shielding technology to make AM reception possible. After talking to other radio colleagues, the consensus was that pure electric and hybrid autos may succeed in killing the “AM Radio Star.”

Contrast this with the focus on all digital AM that was prominently featured in at least one radiating product on the show floor. Full disclosure: I am not a fan of turning off analog AM across the band. There might be a future where we have a mix of pure digital AM’s, AM-only AM’s, and AM’s like we have today with analog carriers and digital HD radio technology, but not if dashboard radios start coming out in quantity without AM tuners. It will not matter if there is an HD demodulator in the radio, if the radio is blind to signals from 540 to 1700. kHz.


There is still a reason to make sure AM tuners survive in dashboards and other places; last ditch emergency communications to the public.

Victims of Hurricane Sandy might agree. When power, cell phones, and utility power went out, many in the areas ravaged by Sandy went to their vehicles to tune in AM stations that were their only source of emergency information.

Besides that, I feel I am not the only broadcast engineer who would miss hearing demodulated AM when standing next to an ATU cabinet at an AM tower base.

Richard Rudman



No AM radio

by James Walker

Yes, many auto manufacturers no longer offer AM radio on their car entertainment systems.

One reason is interference.  With more and more data running around inside today's smarter cars AM radios in those cars would be full of locally generated gunk - just like in an office building.  Even with an external cowl  mounted antenna there would be problems.  Most gasoline powered cars nowadays use multiple coilpacks for ignition not the old distributor.  Again - more mf noise.  Finally I have experienced noise on AM car radios generated in the exhaust system on BMW's.

One of my sons is a plant engineer for a biggie auto maker at an assembly plant.  His car - bought on the "brass hat" plan has no AM radio (nor a cd player.)  The company told him (he asked) that there was little or no buyer demand for those modes of entertainment.  (he missed the cd player way more than AM - he has no use for talk radio)  it doesn't do iboc either.

Very few automobile purchasers are worried about the signal at the atu.  (including me – and I've designed and built a few atu's)  I miss the cd player more too.

Fact is - most car buyers worry more about the color of the paint.

James Walker



What about low(er) tech solutions?
by Chris Hays

As I read about the hand-wringing about reverse 911 failures, EAS failures and the like, I am struck by the fact that no one is looking at older technologies that we have abandoned in favor of newer technology. 

New technology depends on infrastructure that is always in danger of being compromised in a disaster. So my modest suggestion is, what about sirens?

I really think that none of the systems in place currently can respond quickly enough to start evacuation in the presence of a fast moving wild fire like the Camp Fire.

Sirens have the advantage that they don't require any end-user technology to work. If residents know that the sirens mean an evacuation alert, they can immediately get into motion and turn on their portable radios to get information (by the way, we are living in the era where many young persons do not own a radio receiver, portable or not -- big problem). At least most cars have radios.

If the cell phone was left in the kitchen and they are in bed, they know to get it into their hands. I see only two real down sides. One obvious one is deaf or hearing impaired coverage. Also there is the need for power and signaling to activate the sirens. It is possible to harden these devices so that loss of power could be dealt with by a fairly small generator set. If wireless signaling were used, the generator would be sufficient. Such systems could be built in areas that have a high risk of wild fires.

Of course these days, they need to be designed to be as non hackable as possible.  That is one reason I specified a radio link, not the internet! That needs to be true of everything remote accessible.

I'm old enough to remember the scheduled testing of the air raid sirens in the cold war era. Regular tests would be required of course.

In closing, I'd like to point out the error of discarding old ways.  Two examples:

Because of GPS, the military shut down and in some cases dismantled loran-c, which was a functional radio location system. Now they realize that because of the weak satellite signals from GPS, it is easily jammed or faked by an enemy. Now they are scrambling for funding to get e-loran (improved system) installed as a back up for GPS. Had they not discarded loran-c, a more gradual upgrade might have been possible while all along having a terrestrial working system in place.

Remember morse code? Shortly before it was abandoned there was in incident where a vessel off the coast of Alaska had a fire in the engine room.  They got the fire out, but it left them with no power to run all the modern technology on board leaving them adrift. But what they did have on board was an emergency battery operated morse set and an operator who knew how to use it. The only "processor" needed was a trained human brain, and they were able to call for help. The call was received by coast station KPH who was able to notify the coast guard.

Sometimes, simpler is better.

Chris Hays

Let us know what is on your mind


Emergency Communications
by Ron Schacht

Yes, to Chris' article on simple and older is better.

I chuckle every time there  is a cell phone or Internet failure panic. Even though the millenials do not know what radio is, especially AM radio, the day will come when it will save their hide.

Most broadcasters are committed to keeping a signal on the air no matter the circumstances or disasters. Both the cell phone people and the Internet people rely on "wires" or fiber optic or some other easily damaged link.

In contrast, Radio has always performed the necessary service to keep information flowing to the people that need it. The Internet cant do it, Cell phones cannot do it, Satellite radio or Television cant do it and with most other people not using off air television anymore (satellite or catv) television with the exception of viewers with real antennas, cannot do it.

I wonder how many billions of lives AM radio has saved in its almost 100 year history. In 100 years, I doubt if cell phones will still be around, they will be implants and will still only work 50% of the time at 50% of the locations.

If I am caught in the middle of a disaster, give me a good old 1960's transistor radio and a couple of spare 9-Volt batteries, forget the rest of the technology "cr*p"

Ron Schacht
Contract Engineer - Northcentral Iowa and Southcentral, MN

Ineffective Warnings Cost Many Lives
By Mark Miller

[Editor's Note: Reports from the recent California fires indicate that government agencies apparently chose to ignore EAS in favor or "opt-in" reverse 911 systems. In some areas of the Camp Fire, over 90% of residents did NOT receive warning. Mark Miller sees the failure to activate EAS as a large factor in the fatalities.]
I am a contract engineer based in the North Sacramento Valley area. I have worked for small market commercial and public stations from California to Alaska.
When the Carr Fire ripped thru the edge of Redding, CA recently there were several things regarding the evacuation notifications that drew my attention. Among them were notifications that did not go to the Redding area from some stations that covered Redding but their community of license was not Redding. Conversations with the CEs have hopefully rectified this but this is an indication of how the EAS is in need of some oversight.
Paradise California was a beautiful and affordable small mountain town near Chico, CA with many older residents. Those residents close to myself received reverse 911 warnings, and within a few minutes, mandatory evacuation calls for the Camp Fire. They were lucky that the telco power and lines were still available. Few cell users received the warning calls. Almost all of the 80+ fatalities were elderly. 

The EAS was NOT activated even though the County officials had IPAWS terminals and the mandatory trained personnel to operate them, which could have sent the evacuation orders to stations instantly. One wonders how many of the nearly 90 fatalities might have been able to escape had they been able to see or hear the alert on their TVs and radios. The fire was very fast moving, and our dedicated 911 personnel certainly had their hands full with this, as well as the previous evacuations of the Oroville Dam spillway failures and other recent wildland fires but we could do better.

The EAS is supposed to be a "volunteer" program. Of the dozens of stations that I have been associated with over the years, none have opted out, although most of them view the EAS as a low priority, unfunded mandate for small markets, in a time when media revenues have shifted to internet outlets. Local area chairpersons are often busy with their "day' jobs."   'Volunteer' really just means 'unfunded.'

* I propose that all authorities that are equipped to activate the EAS via  IPAWS be required to send weekly 'log-only' EAS tests.  This would keep this valuable resource at the front of their minds in the chaos of a major emergency.

* Stations that stream their programs should be required to stream the local EAS emergency activations.

* The FEMA should support the system by funding local EAS chairpersons expenses and oversight costs.

* The FEMA should subsidize EAS equipment for the smaller market stations for updated encoders/decoders when they are needed and provide free decoders for LPFMs.

* FEMA should revitalize their defunct emergency generator program.

Efforts to divert funds from the FEMA for other projects should be stopped. As we cause planetary level changes to the environment, and we have, there will be repercussions.

A flawed emergency system is sometimes worse than no system.

Mark Miller

Let us know what is on your mind

  The Problem is Not Only with Emergency Managers
By Rod Zeigler

While the body of the article does bring up an important point, the solutions are well outside the purview of broadcasters, the FCC, and FEMA.

These incidents have been discussed ad nauseum on many EAS forums and it comes down to one main problem in all cases: local Emergency Managers do not have the training needed to originate meaningful alerts. They are trying to manage the emergency by coordinating responses to mitigate the emergency.

They know they need to let people know, but they do not know or understand the best way to do that. Instead, they have purchased, or have access to, tools such as Reverse 911. These tools were purchased with local tax dollars, and as such are the "go-to" techniques so that the purchase of these tools is justified. I can't blame them for doing so. To this point there is not a comprehensive "Alerting Technique and Deployment" syllabus in any training offered by anyone.

The EM's are inundated with vendors who offer wondrous alerting programs. These vendors then sell the product, show the EM's how to use it, and go cash the check.

No one is teaching the EM's when, why, who is charged with sending the alerts, and the most effective way to use these products in their jurisdictions.

That is why we have Reverse 911 that doesn't work due to downed phone lines and other problems that arise during an active event.

I am NOT blaming EM's completely for this. These people have budgetary and political considerations that they also have to deal with during these events. After the event they are tied up with everything involving the restoration as well as endless reports to various agencies. Without taking all of the above into consideration prior to the event, and making detailed plans that can be followed during the next event, it seems that lessons are not learned.

As far as SECC's and LECC's receiving support from FEMA, they are not under FEMA jurisdiction. These groups are called for by the FCC, then created and operated at the State and Local level. A little remuneration would be nice, but in today's real world of tight finances it is unrealistic.

EAS itself is also under FCC jurisdiction, not FEMA's. Supplying EAS equipment to individual stations should, if anything, be a State and Local function.

Remember, EAS was established by the FCC for only one purpose, to propagate EAN's across the country. Period. State and Local agencies are allowed to use EAS for State and Local alerts, but only as a secondary service to the Federal government.
Licensed broadcasters can no longer opt-out of EAS. That option was removed at the same time that the new EAS boxes with CAP were required.

FEMA did come up with IPAWS and allows State and Local agencies to send alerts via public internet to broadcasters and cable operators, but that is a passive function, with security protocols, due to the nature of the public internet. It is not a source to be counted on when a disaster takes down the internet for a myriad of reasons. It is great on a blue sky day, but beyond that it should be the last option for sending alerts.

In closing,

  • Yes, there were issues with alerting at almost every large disaster over the last few years.
  • Yes, there needs to be a comprehensive training syllabus available to EM's.
  • Yes, the funding for this training needs to be made available.

The training and funding will probably be coming in the near future given the bills in Congress as well as reports by others that have targeted the lack of training, and other things, as problems that can and should be resolved in the coming months and years.

Until this happens we have to work with what we have and do our best at all levels.  

Let us know what is on your mind


am radio eas
By Mark Miller

AM radio will always be with us despite what some European countries are doing. It is a backup and an outlet for media like talk that does not compete well with other modes. 

Unfortunately the power trains of our new generation of vehicles emit so much noise in the AM band that some electric autos are coming out without AM radios at all. 

Maybe part 15 rules should apply to these cars. 

Mark Miller

  Broadcasters Do Not Have To Wait for EMs
by Gary Smith

As a participating station, each station is authorized to originate an EAS alert at their discretion. The FCC Rules permit this and will back a broadcaster that takes the initiative when the local or state emergency officials fail to originate an alert or alerting infrastructure fails.

At KTAR in Phoenix we used Alert FM. It is an elegant, simple solution that operators can learn quickly. Our step by step guide left little room for error. In the newsroom we had 16 people trained to use it. While on the CSRIC full council we reviewed numerous software options that did a commendable job.

Broadcast EAS lacks the targeted alerting of WEA, but insures all the bases are covered.

State and local emergency management needs to step up and fulfill the purpose of their creation.


Emergency Alert Warnings that work!
by Hank Landsberg

Re: the recent failure of EAS and cellphone/text evacuation warnings during the Paradise fire in California: About 10 years ago, I built a TIS radio station for the City of Sierra Madre, CA.  It's main purpose was to provide emergency evacuation info in the event of a wildfire or other emergency. 

It's AM radio! Low-tech, hi-reliability! Anyone can hear AM radio, at home, work, in the car. You don't need any tech infrastructure, just a simple AM radio and batteries to run it. 

It's an ideal use for TIS! 



Let us know what is on your mind


  Warnings Are A Lost Cause For Many People

by James Potter

Barry posted an article by Richard Rubman titled: 'EAS Alert / CA Fire Sparks Key Discussions.'  The piece is well-written and researched, and outlines numerous ideas and discussions regarding changes and improvements to warning systems to alert the public in fire zones to evacuate.

Having lived in Carlsbad, CA (35 miles north of the city of San Diego) a decade ago and watched large airborne embers stream past my condo, and seeing the morning sun turn red and the beach turn black, I tell you fire on that scale is a fearsome and terrifying thing to behold.   But
so is cancer. Despite the discussions in the referenced article, it is highly probable none of the improvements and changes will have any material effect. 

Why not? Because of human nature to deny the real
possibility of losing all your possessions to fire or your life to lung cancer due to smoking.  It's too terrifying to think about -- people harbor hope against hope that the fire and tumor will stop just short of their house or chest.  People will only flee for their lives when they see the flames high in the sky over their neighbor's garage, then jump in the car and join the Conga line to the freeway -- and burn up in

No amount of complex alerts on iThingies or the EAS annos on radio or TV will motivate the vast majority of home owners to abandon their properties well ahead of the firestorm. Folks just won't do it until they feel genuinely threatened -- like when the house across the street
goes up in flames -- then it's way too late to escape. 

What does make sense it to have your vital papers and computers and basic clothes and toiletries and a $grand or so readily accessible to be carried to your car(s) to beat it the hell outta Dodge when the fire is 15 miles away but still spreading. Get the wife and kids and the dog into the wagon(s) and head down/up the freeway to a Motel 6 for a while and keep tabs on your own burg by watching TV. 

If your house is consumed in the flames, at least you have your lives and can rebuild them -- somewhere else.

My ten year stay in Carlsbad was idyllic for many reasons, and the most lovely and beautiful living experience of my life. I loved it there. But just like many other places in the country or on earth, there are natural disasters waiting to strike. In California's case, it's both fire and the San Andras Fault which one of these fine days is going to pop and California will slip into the sea. People live in California fully well aware of the risks of fire and earthquake, but do so anyway, ignoring the risk. 

Earthquake warnings are another absurd joke.  Can you imagine all of California attempting to escape using the 101 or Interstate 5 in a panic?  Heck, ordinary drive time traffic is a parking lot. Such is life.  You pays your nickel, and you takes your choice of where to live and what risks to accept.  And nobody gets out of this life alive.


Let us know what is on your mind

60 Years with the Very Helpful FCC
by Ken Benner, CBRE, NCE

This month marks the anniversary of my first experience with staff members of the FCC back in 1958. I was stationed at a U.S. Navy teleprinter relay facility on a mountaintop in North Africa.  Some of us had obtained our MARS (Military Affiliated Radio Service) licenses to exchange teleprinter messages with our families back home.

To communicate verbally during a period of excellent sunspot ionospheric activity, using a rotatable beam antenna on the 20-meter American phone band, we were able, for about six hours each night, to arrange phone patches with a fellow “ham” operator in New York, to avoid the $15 per minute transatlantic cable costs. The operator would simply place a phone call to the serviceman's loved ones for a live 8000-mile chat.

I needed a U.S. amateur operator license to operate and with the cooperation of the FCC, I was granted my first FCC amateur radio license following a couple exam tests. This was my first experience of extraordinary cooperation with the Commission that continues to this day with never the slightest problem.

On more than one occasion, I have requested the presence of an FCC regional engineer/inspector for seminars conducted at broadcaster conventions.  Each request was always promptly granted.

While on the road conducting Alternative Inspections, I would frequently be confronted with a question I could not address.  A simple phone call to either the regional FCC office or their offices in Washington promptly provided the information to resolve any problem or question.

On more than one occasion following my certification of a station’s compliance, a problem between a station and the FCC would develop. Such was almost always the result of a complaint filed with the FCC by a competitor seeking the forfeiture of a license, a disgruntled former employee, or a party unhappy with a station's program resulting from a disturbing news item related to the complainant. 

In every instance, once I was made aware of such issues, following a review of my inspection reports for the victim stations, I was able to satisfactorily document, admittedly some times under oath, the reality of the station’s innocence resulting in a satisfactory review of a possible fine.

The staff of the Federal Communications Commission are willing to assist any station with helpful suggestions for anyone approaching them with absolute integrity.  Indeed,  such has been my experience for the past 60 years.

Charlie Goodrich Remembered

by Dwight Morgan

It is with much sadness that I read that Charley Goodrich has passed. 

He helped me many times (at all hours) with needing parts or help with a radio station that was giving me fits. I once had a station with the transmitter in a 2-story log house in Gunnison, CO., that had some tube problems and he was the patient engineer that talked me through the tube and socket replacement. 

I have had his phone number for many years in my address book and today it was erased in the book, but not in my memory.

(Have a Charlie Goodrich story? Share here.)

The Impact of MB 18-184 
The FM Class C4 / 73.215 Proposal

by Matthew Wesolowski
SSR Communications, Inc.

From now until August 13th, the Federal Communications Commission is accepting formal comments in the FM Class C4 / 73.215 (MB 18-184) Notice of Inquiry proceeding.  The NOI seeks to ascertain the demand for a new Zone II FM station power class, the "FM Class C4" allocation, and if changes to 73.215 are warranted for certain long-underbuilt FM facilities.

Approximately 800 FM Class A radio stations could be eligible to upgrade from a maximum reference effective radiated power level of 6,000 Watts to 12,000 Watts under the proposal.  In many cases, the 73.215 changes would further enhance the ability of small stations to improve their facilities.

The National Association of Broadcasters, iHeart, and all of the other "usual suspects" are not apt to support the plan.  The "big guys" already own prime radio real estate, and collectively, only operate a handful of the nearly 800 stations that could benefit.  There is simply no reason for larger broadcasters to be enthusiastic about the proposal.  In short, a turf war is brewing between independent stations and the broadcast megacorps.

Still, over seventy-five small broadcasters have already submitted their comments in support of full implementation of the MB 18-184 proceeding, and with several weeks to go until the comment deadline, it is likely safe to assume that more positive letters are coming and that the demand is clearly there for the adoption of the MB 18-184 proposal.

Even if just 200-300 stations actually take advantage of the changes, the benefits would be almost exclusively for smaller "Mom and Pop" and independent operators.  These are the broadcasters who didn't sell out to the larger groups and are still very viable in their communities.  In other words, the smallest commercial class of broadcasters stand to gain the most.

Though it very well may be the case that some stations use this proceeding as an opportunity to become rimshot signals to larger markets, for the most part, any station with that goal in mind would likely have to move further away from an urban core in order to upgrade to a FM Class C4 license, as the separation tables are greater for the C4 class.

The proponents are a "rag tag" bunch, to be sure, but the opposition is very well funded and will not want to see any increased competition from the small Mom and Po
p and independent stations.  By and large, the big guys will not want a new station class, nor will they want to cede any potential bandwidth to a (seemingly) meeker broadcaster.

The MB 18-184 FM / Class C4 and 73.215 proposal represents a tremendous opportunity for responsible small broadcasters everywhere.  It is the precise type of relief that independent operators seek, and the exact tool that would help the "little guy" regain a competitive toehold in the industry to which they have exhibited their total devotion

Repacking the C-Band

by Clay Freinwald

Sitting just a few feet from FCC Chairman Pai at NAB recently I came away thinking that he is not anti-broadcast…Then I learned his position regarding C-Band (3.7-4.2 Gig) Called Mid-Band by the wireless industry.  Once again we are in a defensive position in terms of spectrum.  The wireless industry is not dumb – They want additional spectrum and they consider any of that is not heavily used fair-game…On the surface, apparently, our C-Band qualified.

Remember the battle over the 2 Gig spectrum when the wireless industry set its sights on that band?  Broadcasters were scrambling to show the FCC that we did indeed use the spectrum a lot more than they thought.  The issue was the lack of information regarding the number and location of receivers.  Frankly, we were caught short on this one…As a result we experienced our first dose of ‘repacking’…(even if it was not called that).  In the end, we lost spectrum.

Then it was deemed that Broadcasters were never going to use all the TV spectrum they were allocated….and, on top of that, the FCC had done a poor job of spectrum management with the switch from analog to digital and the case was made to ‘re-pack’ TV….One more time, we lost ground.

Now the wireless ‘cross-hairs’ are on C-Band.  This spectrum has been used for a very long time for program/network distribution and, in the minds of many, is un-utilized…..”Wireless Speak’ for ‘We want it’.  Much like the 2-Gig issue, broadcasters have laid back thinking that the FCC was never going to let anyone else use this band…Nothing to fear.  All it took is for the Wireless crowd to assert that the band was under-utilized and contend that, at least, it could be shared by them.  IMHO, much of the blame here rests with Broadcasters, in particular Radio Stations, that have sprinkled satellite receiving antennas all over the land and not bothered to have any formal data documenting all this use.  This ‘under-counting’ is proving to be dangerous.  Now, all of a sudden there is this scramble to try and make a case that this is not a suitable location for shared use.  Whether or not we will be successful at beating back this threat remains to be seen.

History has shown that, when confronted with this kind of a situation, that we may well be looking for a loss of spectrum in exchange for a smaller piece of the pie with some protection.  Several organizations are involved in this battle – NAB, NPR, iHeartMedia, program distributors, networks etc.

Has this has put the FCC in a position that, perhaps, they did not see coming?

On the Wireless side – they are making it clear that they need the spectrum, and this particular piece is ideal for their new 5G systems.  Seems to me that this pits the desire of new ‘Gee-Whiz’ wireless toys up against old fashioned systems that are frequency hogs anyway.  Let’s face it – 5G is being pre-sold as the do-all, end-all, wireless system that’s likely exciting to the policy makers while Broadcasting is being pushed to the rear of the bus as old technology.

We were being told that the FCC would be voting in July on the proposal….Then we got word that the filing deadline had been extended to October 17.  As a lot of media coverage has pointed out.  Our C-Band systems impact a huge amount of Radio and TV operations.  A lot of fingers are crossed – My Guess – Standby for more re-packing.  See GN Docket Nos. 18-122.


The FCC is O&O By Non-Broadcasters

by Bill Shrode

Fact plain and simple. The current FCC is owned and operated by the cellular industry and the current administration.

Actually, the FCC has been in the "real estate" business ("spectrally" speaking) since the Reagan era (which I refer to as "de-Reagan-ulation") There has not been a genuine engineer on the FCC in decades.

Knowledge of what and how the spectrum is and does should be required.

Too Much Money for Too Little Promise

by Tom Miller

As an owner of a small group of stations, I am not sure I want to draw attention to myself and my licenses, but as background, I will tell you that I have been on the air for almost 40 years. I have owned my own stations for more than 20 years, and I am a two-time past president of our state broadcaster's association.


Ron Schacht's editorial echoes several of my concerns with this whole C-Band dish issue. I have one 3.8 meter Comtech dish out back, that drives several receivers, and at this point, I am not planning to spend the $435.00 to register the dish, nor the $1200.00, plus or minus, for the frequency coordination. I have discussed this with my lawyer, and with a couple of NAB rep's, and I cannot figure out what I am getting for the money that they are asking me to spend.

The following is a copy & paste of my thoughts in an e-mail conversation with my broadcast lawyer...

"The $435 is a filing fee. It does not license my receive dish. It does not guarantee any rights or protections... nor does the frequency coordination.

I think it is disingenuous for the FCC to ask for information, and then put up a monetary impediment to my providing that information. I would gladly send them the information - it is not a secret dish - but I am not willing to pay them to take the information, especially with no guarantee for protection to follow it up.


(NAB rep) estimated 25 thousand dishes could be registered... times $435 is over $10 million dollars, and I am frustrated that the FCC is encouraging the industry to send that kind of money to the Treasury for no reason, no return, no promise, no kiss at the end of the night.

We could apply the same logic to AM revitalization. Let us register all the whip antennas on all the vehicles so we know how many are out there, and then we will "protect" them from interference.

At the end of the day, this will all be decided well above my pay grade.

The satellite owners are licensed to operate in those frequencies. If they choose to sell off portions of those frequencies, it affects their business models, but maybe they make enough money off the sale to not care, and take the buyout, which is not affected by my $435 dollars.


All of the programming providers who distribute through those satellites will have to find another way to reliably distribute their services - in my case, three music formats, CBS News, NBC Sports, and three sports networks. Streaming is not reliable enough for longform live programming, and nobody is singing the praises of KU band.

Maybe 5G will become the distribution means. If C-Band is screwed, so are these guys, and registration of my dish will not matter, because they will have to find a different way for their customers to get their product."

Food for thought.

FCC: Wake Up About C-Band Use!

by Ron Schacht

Back when I was in 8th grade, which was about two months before rocks were formed, I sat in Geography class and, as usual, was paying no attention to where Egypt or Mesopotamia were located. Instead, I was drawing out a schematic of the class B modulator with a pair of 6L6’s that I wanted to build for my 40 meter CW rig.

Out of a clear blue sky, I heard my name and looked up.

The teacher was looking at me with a quizzical expression. It was obvious he asked me a question concerning something and, of course, it had nothing to do with 807’s or 6L6’s so I had no idea what would be a good answer. After a long sweaty pause, he finally broke the silence with this little gem “Mr. Schacht, it's about time you wake up and smell the coffee.”

Well, that line is where I am going with this thought concerning the FCC and the C-Band debacle.


It seems to me, that the agency that licenses and controls all of the radio spectrum would vaguely know what everyone else in the communications industry knows: C-Band satellite transmission is the lifeblood of television, radio, CATV, and a great deal of data transmissions.

I would have to say, rather than the Commission ask every broadcast station, and CATV system to register their antenna (of course for commercial purposes at an unnecessarily high fee) CATV, radio and television that do not use C-Band downlinks should register!

There probably are very few excepting LPFM’s (although I do take care of a big 100 Watter that does have a C-Band downlink) so why cannot the Commission just accept the fact that every broadcast station, TV, radio, commercial and non-com are all using C-Band downlinks? C-Band is also the lifeblood of every CATV system so I am sure the Commission knows where every one of them exists as well. 


Now, about those frequencies.

Take a look at the RF spectrum as is allocated by the FCC. You can find it in most radio books and all over the Internet. How much spectrum does “radiolocation” need? Yes, this is radar and the like but I really think of what is listed as “radiolocation” is either unoccupied or being saved for government use. Why not share some of that underused spectrum? There is a whole bunch of it around 3 GHz. along with lots of other places.

More importantly, why do we, the broadcasters have to keeping making concessions for the cellular and broadband people, other than money talks and they have lots of it?


Do you know why the cellular people and broadband people have so much money to bully the FCC around and the broadcasters and CATV people have so little?

The reason is because, while we are certainly in the business of making money, we are also community servants. Right now, as I write this, we are under a tornado warning and severe storm warnings in Iowa. The local radio stations are tracking the storms and I am listening to them do live coverage. What broadcast is doing is using their licensed facilities to keep people safe and save lives.

On the other hand, the cellular people do very little of that, they just rake in money to provide a telephone and an Internet service that works ”some of the time.” Sure they send out alerts. I have two cellular phones from two different carriers. I hear severe weather alerts on local radio or television as NOAA trips the EAS system.


Anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes later, severe weather might trip one or both of my cell phones.

By then, the storm has passed, or I might have been sucked up in a tornado I did not know about, or the Amber Alert child is three states away.

Neither the cell phones nor the Internet even come close to what the broadcasters provide in their communities. Unlike the cell companies or the broadband providers, the broadcasters will do whatever is necessary to keep the public informed in an emergency - Stations operating from their transmitter sites when the studio was leveled by a tornado or AM’ers stringing up long wires when their tower is toppled - Local radio and television will be there when the public needs them.


Have you ever tried to use the Internet or cell service for a program link?

Yes, both radio and television do but it is no match for the reliability or quality you get from a satellite. A few of the stations that I deal with have given up carrying some college football teams because the provider went off the bird and onto the Internet and it just is not reliable.

The Internet and cell phones are nice but as toys. But if I need to make an important call, I will always go to a landline, it sounds good and I will nott lose the call.

Maybe, rather than give the cell and broadband more spectrum, the Commission should require that they make what they have work and not keep reducing the sample rate of the calls to make more money by squeezing more calls onto each RF carrier.


So, my message to the FCC: maybe you should look at less used spectrum for the broadband people.

Take it away from somewhere else. You have taken our TV ENG channels, our over-the-air TV channels, and have had your eyes set on our UHF RPU frequencies. And now, our you are focusing on the major source of programming outside the studio, C-Band. We are doing our damned best to serve the people of our communities, over the air, commercial or non-commercial, in spite of the big money trying to make us stop watching free TV or listen to free radio and keep us safe.

I think it is time for the FCC to wake up and smell the coffee!!       

Ron Schacht
Contract Engineer - Northcentral Iowa and Southcentral, MN

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