Category Archives: Engineering

Alpha Media’s Geary Morrill Featured on This Week’s TWiRT Podcast

Alpha Media Regional Director of Engineering Geary Morrill, based in Saginaw, was the featured guest this week on Kirk Harnack’s TWiRT (This Week In Radio Tech) Podcast, discussing the rise of his career beginning in the ’70s and the process today of finding, hiring and training new engineers.

Special thanks to Kirk Harnack for sharing.  You can find the TWiRT podcast library here (it is a wealth of great tech information and ideas).

Watch below:

Show description:

How did we broadcast engineers learn our craft? What experiences, resources, and people helped become broadcast engineering professionals? Geary Morrill got started with the likes of Steve Church, Vern Post, and Dave Gorman. Now Geary joins us with ideas and solid advice for finding and encouraging the next generation of audio, video, RF, and IT engineers.

Show Links:

SBE Mentor Program – Developing Tomorrow’s Broadcast Engineers

Cleveland Institute of Electronics Broadcast Engineering

SBE MemberPlus (access to all broadcast engineering webinars)

Information about the late David C. Gorman – one of Geary’s mentors

Steve Church – tribute video

ATSC 3.0 Build Out Plans Announced for Top 40 Markets

At the 2019 NAB Show, a broad coalition of broadcast television station groups – including both network owned-and-operated stations and affiliates, as well as public broadcasters — today announced plans to deploy Next-Gen TV in the 40 largest U.S. TV markets by the end of 2020.

The announcement includes Fox Television Stations, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, Univision, SpectrumCo (whose members include Sinclair Broadcast Group and Nexstar Media Group) members of the Pearl TV business organization (including Cox Media Group, The E.W. Scripps Company, Graham Media Group, Gray Television, Hearst Television Inc., Meredith Local Media Group, Nexstar Media Group and TEGNA Inc). Additional supporting broadcasters include America’s Public Television Stations (APTS), Capitol Broadcasting, Hubbard Broadcasting, News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting, and public broadcasters participating in the Phoenix Model Market Next-Gen TV test.

The market-driven effort builds on the testing and rollouts that have already taken place not only in Phoenix but in Dallas, Baltimore, East Lansing, Raleigh and Santa Barbara. It reflects the strong commitment of commercial and non-commercial broadcasters across the country to bring advanced television services to the public.

An expanded launch of Next-Gen TV will greatly enhance over-the-air services for viewers, while bringing together broadcast and broadband functionality to give audiences more content and choice. Next-Gen TV also provides groundbreaking opportunities for TV broadcasters interested in offering new features and serving new markets. Deployment of ATSC 3.0 will provide information and entertainment to ATSC 3.0-equipped television receivers, to automobiles and to other digital and mobile consumer devices.

Next-Gen TV is powered by the new Internet Protocol-based ATSC 3.0 standard, which allows consumers to integrate the most popular and pervasive video service – broadcast television – into their digital lifestyles.

This first wave of over-the-air Next-Gen TV service will begin with several markets slated for launch this year, with dozens more planned through 2020. This timeline will make Next-Gen TV service available to tens of millions of viewers and is concurrent with the anticipated 2020 introduction of consumer devices equipped to receive the advanced signals.

Subject to final engineering and required approvals, consents and FCC license modifications, the participating broadcasters have identified the first stations that will convert to ATSC 3.0 service in this rollout. Primary broadcast programming currently broadcast on the stations planning to upgrade will be hosted by other stations in their respective markets.

Top 40 Markets where the first transitioning stations have been identified (ranked by population) include:

  • Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Seattle-Tacoma, WA
  • Detroit, MI
  • Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL
  • Portland, OR
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Raleigh-Durham, NC
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Nashville, TN
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Kansas City, KS-MO
  • Columbus, OH
  • West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Austin, TX

Work is now underway to identify Next-Gen TV stations in these Top 40 markets (ranked by population), with details to follow in the coming months:

  • New York, NY
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Washington, DC
  • Boston, MA
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Tampa-St.Petersburg-Sarasota, FL
  • Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN
  • Miami – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Denver, CO
  • Cleveland-Akron, OH
  • Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • San Diego, CA
  • Hartford-New Haven, CT
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Greenville-Spartanburg, SC – Asheville, NC

Additional TV markets where stations have been identified for Next-Gen TV service (ranked by population) include:

  • Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, VA
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Albuquerque – Santa Fe, NM
  • Grand Rapids – Kalamazoo, MI
  • Memphis, TN
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Providence – New Bedford, RI
  • Little Rock – Pine Bluff, AR
  • Mobile, AL – Pensacola, FL
  • Albany-Schenectady – Troy, NY
  • Flint-Saginaw – Bay City, MI
  • Omaha, NE
  • Charleston – Huntington, WV
  • Springfield, MO
  • Rochester, NY
  • Syracuse, NY
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Charleston, SC
  • Burlington, VT – Plattsburgh, NY
  • Davenport, IA – Moline, IL
  • Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – San Luis Obispo, CA

“We know consumers are excited about all the benefits ATSC 3.0 will deliver,” said Brian Markwalter, senior vice president, research and standards, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)TM. “And we expect CES® 2020 will feature a wide variety of reception devices – integrated 4K Ultra HD TVs, gateway receivers, portable devices and more – optimized for reception of Next-Gen TV signals.”

“Broadcasters across America will utilize the advanced capabilities of Next-Gen TV to both delight our audiences with the best entertainment while performing a valuable public service,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. “One of the most compelling features of Next-Gen TV will be the life-saving alerting functions that will give our nation’s first responders the ability to use the broad reach of local television to keep viewers informed during emergencies. Our members’ news departments will come to rely on the advanced capabilities of Next-Gen TV as a resource to forge even stronger connections with the citizens we serve every day.”

Patrick Butler, President and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations:

“Public television stations see ATSC 3.0 as a boon to our public service missions of education, public safety and civic leadership. The new standard will make possible advances in distance learning, emergency communications through datacasting, connectivity service to Smart Cities,

and more. We can’t wait, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in commercial broadcasting to make all this happen as soon as we can.”

Joe Di Scipio, SVP, Legal and FCC Compliance, Legal for FOX Corporation:

“ATSC 3.0 is integral to the success and longevity of our business. We are thrilled to be on the forefront of this movement with our partners in expanding the access and footprint of Next-Gen TV broadcast. This is yet another example of our commitment to innovation and our viewers.”

Emily L. Barr, President and Chief Executive Officer of Graham Media Group:

“Graham Media Group is proud of its innovative approach to serving and covering our local communities and is looking forward to working with fellow broadcasters as we adopt Next-Gen technology across our markets.”

Pat LaPlatney, President and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Gray Television, Inc.:

“With Gray’s focus on operating leading televisions stations with continued growth in mind, we are proud to be a part of Pearl TV and the efforts to move to the ATSC 3.0 standard. We know the advanced technology will allow us to better serve our communities with Ultra High Definition content, delivery to mobile devices, enhanced audio experiences, and emergency communications. Additionally, these efforts will lead to more sustainability for local broadcasters in the future as they continue to compete with international online and digital services. We look forward to working in our 90+ markets with other broadcasters to bring the ATSC 3.0 technology and its benefits to the viewers in our communities.”

Patrick McCreery, President of Meredith Corporation’s Local Media Group:

“We’ve seen amazing things from our involvement in the Phoenix Model Market, and we are excited to continue forward progress on ATSC 3.0 with Pearl and its partners in other large markets across the United States.”

Eric Bradley, VP of Business Development, News-Press & Gazette Company:

“News-Press & Gazette Company is encouraged to see other broadcasters join us as we ride the road to ATSC 3.0. The potential of ATSC 3.0 as lifesaving technology is a great benefit to our viewers in Santa Barbara and other NPG markets as we look to the future of television broadcasting. We are proud to serve our communities as the local source for news and information daily and at the times when it matters most!”

Perry A. Sook, Founder, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nexstar Media Group, Inc.:

“With a culture rooted in entrepreneurship and an overarching commitment to localism, Nexstar has long understood the importance of innovation in driving the growth and success of our business as well as the entire broadcasting industry at large. Next-Gen TV services will enable us to deliver new value and capabilities to viewers and advertisers, while creating new business opportunities to support the continued growth of our industry well into the future. That is why Nexstar is proud to join together with many other television broadcasters in an effort of unprecedented industry collaboration to facilitate the successful roll-out of ATSC 3.0 across the United States.”

Anne Schelle, Managing Director of the Pearl TV broadcast business group:

“Our Consumer Lab Research clearly shows excitement for Next-Gen TV, driving interest in broadcast TV and enhanced audio and video and interactivity. Today’s announcement helps to solve the ‘chicken or egg’ question about the introduction of new, higher-quality television services. Now consumer technology companies have a clear roadmap for Next-Gen TV, allowing them to innovate and introduce the first receivers for U.S. consumers in 2020.”

Chris Ripley, President and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group:

“Sinclair is proud to join other leading broadcasters and television stations across the country to launch Next-Gen TV – the most important upgrade ever of the nation’s broadcasting infrastructure. Sinclair was instrumental in pioneering ATSC 3.0 and is committed to bringing its many benefits to consumers across the country with an aggressive rollout schedule. ATSC 3.0 allows broadcasters to combine the infinite flexibility of Internet Protocol with the unparalleled efficiency and quality of broadcast distribution. The combination will allow Sinclair and all other broadcasters to provide vastly improved television service to our communities while creating entirely new services to diversify revenue and better serve the public.”

John Hane, President of SpectrumCo:

“SpectrumCo is proud to have helped organize Next-Gen TV rollouts in many of the first wave markets announced today. Broadcasters large and small, commercial and public, from coast to coast have invested countless hours of analysis, planning and coordination to develop the rollout plans announced today. The industry is enthusiastic about the game-changing opportunities to improve the broadcast experience for consumers, better serve advertisers and subscribers, and diversify into new businesses and new sources of revenue. SpectrumCo will continue to support the industry as stations execute on these plans in 2019 and 2020.”

Dave Lougee, President and Chief Executive Officer, TEGNA Inc., representing PearlTV:

“PearlTV’s 300 local broadcasters, along with our network partners, are aligned in our support of Next-Gen TV, which opens up new opportunities and business models while ensuring that local broadcasters remain a vital and forward-looking resource in our communities. We are honored to join other broadcasters in leading the rollout of Next-Gen TV to additional markets across the country.”

John Buergler, SVP of Growth Initiatives, Univision:

”Univision is excited to continue supporting the NAB and the broadcast industry as we transition to Next Gen TV in several markets in 2020. Our partnership with the broadcasters of Pearl Group in Phoenix and the SpectrumCo group in Dallas has helped create an easily replicated template for other broadcasters to follow in many more markets in 2019 and 2020.”

Reserve Your 2019 ABIP Inspection Now

Scheduling has begun for the Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program (ABIP).  The MAB conducts these alternative inspections regionally from April to October.

Every broadcaster wants to be in full compliance with FCC rules, but finding out that you are not in compliance by receiving an FCC fine, can be a costly learning experience. The Michigan Association of Broadcasters’ Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program (ABIP) is a unique partnership between the MAB and FCC under which stations that pass their inspection will receive a three-year exemption from routine FCC inspections.

SAVE Money!
Stations that have successfully completed the program are exempt from routine FCC inspections and possible fines for a three-year period.

SAVE Staff Time
Now that the public inspection file is online, it is easier than ever for the FCC to inspect it without prior notice. It is not uncommon for the FCC to spend a day or more at a station. That would involve significant time from several key staff members. MAB’s inspections are set ahead of time and by appointment. They are learning experiences, without the risk of a fine.

SAVE Worry
A station’s successful participation in the ABIP is evidence of the licensee’s positive attitude toward regulatory compliance. The inspector also provides feedback to management that station personnel are performing important duties in an adequate manner.

The inspector uses inspection criteria that have been set by the FCC and are uniformly used in the many ABIP programs administered by State Broadcast Associations throughout the U.S.

If you have questions or would like to schedule your 2019 Alternative Inspection, contact Ann Walters at 517-484-7444 or [email protected].

Sage Releases ENDEC Firmware Upgrade

RadioWorld reports that EAS equipment maker Sage Alerting Systems has announced a firmware upgrade for its ENDEC Model 3644.  The upgrade, #89-32, adds Blue Alert functionality. Blue Alerts are warnings about police that may be in trouble or are issuing a related emergency message. They are currently voluntary.

The company adds, “The release notes also address a check that you will need to perform if you have used the old “new event” option in the settings file.”

Sage has provided release notes here.

The Importance of Assessing the Safety and Security of Broadcast Stations and Their Personnel

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,

A topic not much discussed among broadcasters, but one that should be paramount in the future planning of all broadcast companies, is insuring the security of their stations and the safety of their employees. This is an issue on which all broadcasters should be focusing. Last month, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for the second time featured a panel at one of its conventions dealing with this topic. While many might think that security issues won’t arise at their stations, in fact it can be an issue at any station in any market. Listening to the stories told by the participants on these panels, and in later discussions with audience members at the two WBA conferences where the panel has now been featured, and judging from news reports, the topic is clearly one that all broadcasters should be considering. Video of the panel held last month is available here.

While the panel was premised on protecting journalists who often are the highest profile “faces” of a TV station, from the discussion it was clear that the need for security planning is one that applies not just to TV stations with news operations, but even to radio stations and other media outlets that can, for one reason or another, be targeted by someone with a grudge against the outlet or one of its personalities. We have seen high profile incidents like the shooting of the Roanoke TV journalists or the employees of an Annapolis newspaper, and we have seen just in the last few weeks pipe bombs sent to news organizations and threats against cable TV hosts. But, as discussed at the WBA panel, there have been many less publicized incidents. Two of the panelists discussed their experiences, one a shooting at a small community-run radio station and the second an intruder making threats and smashing station property in broad daylight at a small market TV station. These incidents, beyond simply raising questions of employee safety, raise both practical and legal issues for all broadcasters.

As discussed in last month’s panel, the practical issues can be as simple as the question of how to conduct operations when your station has become a crime scene. The manager of the Wisconsin community radio station where a night-time intruder shot the on-air DJ discussed not only the security review that the incident prompted, but also the operational issues that resulted from the incident. While police investigated the incident, station employees could not get into their building to operate the station. This highlighted the need for disaster and emergency planning for all stations, not just because of incidents like this, but for any eventuality (e.g. flood or chemical spill) that could make a studio inaccessible. How does a station deal with the lack of access to their main studio? Can they keep operating if that happens? Have they made plans for such an event?

On these panels, law enforcement officials emphasized the need for planning and staff training sessions so that employees know what to do if a threat arises. Many businesses already undertake this kind of training, and local law enforcement authorities are often willing to help conduct the sessions. In the small market TV incident discussed on the panel, a stranger started banging on the front door of a TV station and then retreated to the front lawn of the station using a crucifix he had stolen from a local church to start attacking the sign identifying the station. In the video show during the discussion, a station employee can be seen running out to confront the attacker. Questions were raised as to whether the better and safer approach might have been to shelter in the studio building until law enforcement authorities trained in dealing with such situations arrived on the scene, especially without knowing what other weapons the individual might have had. Would your employees have known what to do in such a situation?

The discussion looked at other instances where stations should be assessing the safety of their employees. While technology has made it possible for station employees, by themselves, to broadcast from all sorts of remote locations, should they do so? Should the station be thinking about security before sending an employee to do a broadcast from a news scene or any other remote location – especially if the employee is going on their own?

Planning for these situations is important, and as I said in my remarks, there are already lawyers thinking about potential liability for stations that don’t do enough to keep their employees safe. Stations should be thinking about how to ensure a safe workplace, and taking active measures to reduce risks. Some companies have already started to review social media accounts of their stations and their on-air employees to try to identify threats early – as some online remarks may be indicative of real potential threats to station personnel. The FCC has eliminated the requirement that stations have a manned main studio accessible by the public during all business hours. While some stations feel that they need to maintain an accessible main studio to show their connection to their communities, others have decided that security is more important. Stations should make educated decisions about such matters, assessing the security implications of their choices.

These are not easy decisions, and there are no clear answers as to what stations need to do to keep their employees safe on the job, while still interacting with the community to provide the localism on which broadcasting thrives. In today’s world, journalists and broadcast companies are often vilified by public figures and even by private individuals who do not, for one reason or another, like what is being broadcast. Because of the attention they get, stations need to be thinking about these issues, and planning for the security issues that may come their way. We will be writing more about these questions in future articles, but start thinking about these issues now.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.

C-Band Filing Window Extended

The FCC has announced that it is extending the C-Band earth station filing window by two weeks to October 31 because the “large influx of earth station applications filed near the deadline” is causing “intermittent difficulties” that have prevented some stations from filing.  The FCC is trying to determine what users are in the C-Band (aka the 3.7-4.2 GHz band) as it is trying to maximize its use and may want to consolidate or otherwise modify protections afforded to existing users. Any user not registered by the deadline may not be protected against any future users of the spectrum.

C-Band Satellite Registration Deadline Next Week

A reminder to broadcasters that next Wednesday, October 17 is the deadline to register C-Band satellite dishes.

The FCC is exploring allowing additional users into this spectrum, and has warned that only registered users of the spectrum will be entitled to any protections against any new users who may be authorized.

As previously published in MAB News Briefs, the FCC issued a reminder to all operators “of fixed-satellite service (FSS) earth stations in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band that were constructed and operational as of April 19, 2018″ that the filing window to license or register such earth stations closes on October 17, 2018. This band and is commonly referred to as the “C-Band” and many of the “FSS earth stations” are satellite dishes that receive programming used by both radio and TV stations.

The FCC also stipulated in the public notice that those being protected not only need to have been operating by April 19 and registered by October 17 to be protected, but those entities will need to certify that the information in their registrations is correct on a form that will be made by the agency at a future date.

Michigan Engineering Day September 21

Note:  this event is presently full, but interested attendees may place their name on a waiting list in the event of cancellations.

Nautel, in conjunction with Comrex, Double Radius, ERI, Munn-Reese, Optimized Media Group, Wheatstone and the MAB, are hosting a one-day series of engineering sessions for engineers in northern Michigan. This will be a full day of non-sales-oriented training, focused primarily on smaller market broadcasters who must get every watt they can out of every piece of equipment.

The event is scheduled is September 21 at the Hometown Inn in Indian River.

This is being provided at no cost to attendees, with breaks and lunch included, and will consist of eight presentations, each running 40-45 minutes, with 10 minutes at the end of each time slot for questions/discussion – a short “round table” period where attendees can discuss what was presented and add their own thoughts/ideas.

Presentations planned are as follows:

8:45 – 9:40 a.m. Alex Hartman, Optimized Media Group: “Studio maintenance and optimization”

9:40 – 10:35 a.m. Comrex: “Audio over IP – the hows and the whys”

10:35 – 10:50 a.m. Morning break (pastries and beverages)

10:50 – 11:45 a.m. Mike Erickson, Wheatstone: “Getting the most out of your processor and what to do when it just doesn’t sound right”

11:45 a.m. – 12:40 p.m. Double Radius: “STLs and wireless IP – best practices”

12:40 – 1:10 p.m. Lunch (sandwich assortment with deli salad)

1:10 – 2:05 p.m. Ed (E.T.) Trombley, Munn-Reese: “LTE interference mitigation for when the cell company calls”

2:05 – 3:00 p.m. Don Roudebush, ERI: “Care and feeding of the FM antenna system”

3:00 – 3:15 p.m. Afternoon break (brownies)

3:15 – 4:05 p.m. Jeff Welton, Nautel: “Lightning protection and facility grounding practices”

4:05 – 5:00 p.m. Round table/Panel – Welton/Trombley/Hartman: “Transmitter maintenance and cost of ownership/operation”

In keeping with the theme (Engineering on a Budget), this will be a no-frills day of hardcore engineering topics. Attendance is limited to the first 25 to sign up.

As the event is currently “sold out”, you may still get on the waiting list by contacting Jeff Welton at Nautel ([email protected]), or Jacquelen Timm at MAB ([email protected]).  Email timestamps are used to select the first 25 for this session, as well as using the total count of registration requests received to determine if there is enough interest for the MAB to continue this as a yearly tradition. Please include: Name, Email, Phone and Company (Station).

 

FCC Extends Satellite Receiver Filing Deadline

Stations now have more time to register their C-Band satellite dishes.  The FCC has granted a request that it keep a filing window open until October 17. That’s 90 days beyond the previously-announced July 18 deadline. The International Bureau is also making it easier to make “batch” filings and clarifying other rules in a way that should save some broadcasters money.

The NAB and others have said the three-month window wasn’t enough time to get every radio stations to register their satellite receivers, in part because it’s something that was never asked of the industry before. The association said without every station meeting the filing deadline, it would leave the FCC without accurate information as it considers opening the C-band to mobile broadband services. International Bureau chief Tom Sullivan agreed, and said in a four-page notice that the additional 90 days should help address those concerns.

The FCC also announced that it will continue to waive the $1,500 coordination report fee during that extra three months, however the required $435 filing fee associated with Form 312s remains in place. The NAB had been lobbying the FCC to drop the filing fee, calling it an “undue and unfair burden” on stations. While it declined to do that, Sullivan clarified the agency’s policy explaining that a broadcaster with multiple receive-only antennas at a single location can file all of the antennas on a single application and only pay the $435 filing fee once. “This filing option provides financial relief from application fees for operators with multiple co-located antennas at a single site,” Sullivan said.

Even with broadcasters still submitting their earth station filings, the Commission is moving ahead with its plan to begin opening the C-band. FCC chair Ajit Pai announced this week he’ll bring to a vote at the Commission’s July meeting a proposal that would repurpose 500 MHz, allowing for what he described as “more intensive use” of the spectrum. Pai wrote in a blog post that wireless companies have come up with a number of “creative ideas for making better use” of the C-band spectrum. The item may be a precursor to a wider opening of the mid-band frequencies to wireless companies.

The potential downside for broadcasters in the extended deadline is that it means the temporary freeze preventing the filing for new earth stations or modifications of existing ones that’s been in place since April 19 will also continue until October.

MAB Holds ABIP Inspector Workshop

ABIP workshop attendees at inspection of WKAR-TV (East Lansing)

On June 14, the MAB held  a workshop  for prospective Alternate Broadcast Inspection Program inspectors, as well as for station engineers who were interested in the process.

The workshop was conducted by Dennis Baldridge, an SBE certified broadcast engineer who has been a contract engineer, consultant, and ABIP inspector since the 1980s.

Over the course of the day, the first half of the workshop was held at a local hotel meeting room.  Following lunch, Baldridge and the attendees moved to the studios of WKAR-TV in East Lansing to begin an actual inspection.  Following the studio visit, attendees then went to the WKAR transmitter site.

Our thanks to Gary Blievernicht of WKAR for allowing the MAB to conduct an ABIP inspection of his facility for this workshop.