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NAB Radio Show - Fall 2013

From the Floor!

Some comments on NAB's Fall Radio Show 2013
Alan Alsobrook reporting.

(The Fall Radio Show for 2014 has been announced for Indianapolis: 9/10/14 to 9/12/14.)

[9-17-13]  I'll do this one as day zero as I actually was under the Impression that there was going to be some activity today. Apparently I was incorrect. Not much happening other than picking up my badge.

High point: They did offer a free drink to everyone that picked up a badge.

While I was there I did see quite a few faces, but only a few I could recognize. Bob Groome with RF Specialties was the first person I spotted,

 
David Rusch, Bob Groome, and Bob Cauthen in the back                                The Main Hallway                                    

Gary Liebish of Nautel as the next. Last but certainly not least was Jerry Dowd of WBT.

Looking down the session list, the majority of it is management, programming, and sales. I am most interested in the technology session on AM Technical Enhancements, with David Layer, Steve Lockwood, and Ron Rackley.

[9-18-13]  DAY 1 

Unfortunately, this update will be a bit short, apparently I did not realize that I did not quite have everything configured correctly to download some of the videos I took today. After spending five hours to correct that issue left little time was left to properly cover what when on at the show today.

THE BIG STORY

Should I save the best for last, or go ahead and spill the beans up front?  I will say this much now, It could be good news when the Chairwoman for the FCC is the headliner for the Opening Remarks & Keynote. 

When I arrived today after making my way though the Chilies (the restaurant chain) and Checkers (you guessed it, the fast food place) conventions, I got to the far end of the convention center to find the NAB Radio show.  It did not take long to start seeing familiar friendly faces.

I had a chance to talk to many of my fellow engineers from the North Florida area, as well as plenty from across the country.  

AM REVITALIZATION
 
The main topic of interest was the AM revitalization sessions.
 
The first session moderated by Ben Downs, with Panelists Mark Denbo, Michael Cooney, and Glynn Walden. They discussed several strategies to help revitalize AM radio. The final item they discussed was the all digital mode of transmission. I will not be able to get into the complete summary on this update, as that will have to be a full article to scratch the surface. As they say "Coming soon!"

During the session, we did hear audio from the recent all digital test performed at WBT in Charlotte. Receivers from New England to Florida locked right into the signal when the switch was made. On the face of it this would seem to be very exciting news for the industry. Call me a bit skeptical, but I would want to see what happens when you have several all-digital signals operating on the same frequency at night. WBT has a very big signal, and fairly quiet channel but as I said I am a bit skeptical about what will happen if there are several co-channel class C stations operating at the same time. I will note the NAB is asking for Class C volunteer stations (that already have IBOC capability) to step forward and allow testing of the all digital mode.

My personal feeling at the moment is that hybrid or even all digital IBOC is likely to not work as expected, especially as the noise floor increases from multiple IBOC signals.

 

The second session AM technical enhancements was hosted by John Marino, with David Layer, Steve Lockwood, and Ron Rackley as panelists. 

 

This group presented several ideas for ways to improve the AM band, and explained the impact of each. For the most part the topics covered were mentioned again later in the afternoon by Mignon Clyburn (acting FCC Chairwoman). 


Ron Rackley

 

Later in the evening it was time for the Keynote address, with the Headliner being Acting Chairwoman Clyburn. She had a big announcement that brought much applause from the audience.  

 
She announced she had initiated proceedings for a NPRM (or multiple ones) that would:

  • Open a window for AM licensees to file for a FM translator

  • Relax AM daytime coverage rules

  • Relax AM nighttime community coverage standards

  • Eliminate the AM Ratchet Rule

  • Allow MDCL with simple notification

  • Reduce AM minimum radiator efficiency by approximately 25%.

All-in-all, quite a gift to AM Radio!

Now we just have to see how long it takes for the FCC to take actual, erm, action.

(Editorial opinion located here)

[9-19-13]  DAY 2 

Attendees were still trying to digest all the parts of the AM Revitalization program, even as the Fall Show came to its conclusion. Before leaving, I made a circuit of the booths on the floor.

I hope everyone will forgive me, for the delay in posting about the events of Thursday, and a lack of Friday information. It seems I ate something I should not have and it did not go well. At least I did make it home and seem to be recovering.

One transmitter caught my eye was the new Rohde & Schwarz THR9. This is a water-cooled transmitter that can be configured in may different ways. It can be set up as multiple transmitters in a single unit, or it can be a high power unit up to 40 kW analog. R&S specs it as up to 75% efficient AC to RF, not to mention that the transmitter waste heat is removed from the building via the water circuit. Where I see this transmitter being the most valuable is when you have to fit quite a bit of power, or several smaller transmitters into a small space.  The cabinet is only 24” wide and 44” deep, and just under 80” tall.

Before my downfall Thursday, I was able to spend a few moments on the floor with Ron Rackley and Steve Lockwood, and talked with them about the implications of the Commissioners’ announcement.  Both of them were of the opinion that this would be a good move for AM, but that there were a few things left out. Expect comments from both once the NPRM is published. I received the opinion that if this goes as it seems to be going they will be very busy assisting clients with changes made possible by the rule changes.

Along that line stations that have been locked down by the current rules would likely benefit from keeping a close eye on these proceedings, and be ready to move quickly when the rules come in force. 

Unfortunately, I did not make it to the show Friday so I cannot say anything about the Radio Luncheon. 

Overall if you get a chance to make it to the Radio Show in the future, you will find it is a nice  show. While it is much smaller than the Spring show, it is also much friendlier - and at the Radio Show there was plenty of food on the floor, along with beverages, such that you were not hungry or thirsty. 

In recent years it seems like the NAB has been trying to make the Radio Show into strictly a management event, by holding it in venues that are out of the price range of many staffers that would like to go. I was happy to see it in Orlando where there is plenty of inexpensive housing nearby, making it easier for engineers and air staff to try out the experience.

Some more pictures from the Radio Show floor:

    
Who is this stranger?  Wait! It's the Hultsman!   Gary Liebisch, Chuck Kelly, and friends                 Tony Peterle    and        Kyle Magrill

   
    Jerry Dowd                 Al Kenyon                                        The Lunch Mob                                           Bill Gould

 

 

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