Category Archives: Engineering

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.

Michigan Broadcaster to Receive $16k in Energy Rebate from Power Company

Buying a New Transmitter? Substantial Energy Rebates Available Through MAB!

You may be able to get a refund from your energy company if the new equipment that you plan to purchase or have purchased within a year saves energy. Knowing that many of you will need to purchase a new transmitter as part of the repack, and the equipment will most likely be more energy efficient than the ones that you have, MAB is filing with local energy companies to create a special category for broadcasters to receive cash back.

You already pay into this account as a surcharge on your electric energy bill, everyone does. Electric Energy companies are required to place the money into a special account and use it to provide refunds and incentives for energy conservation. These incentives will help the energy companies to reach their declared energy reduction plans. You pay into the energy fund on your bill, so why not try to get a little back?

Example: One MAB member radio station will see a one-time rebate from Consumers Energy in the $16,000+ range by replacing its transmitter with a more energy-efficient unit.

Here’s how it typically works: Your power provider will measure usage with your present equipment and then once the new equipment is operational, will do another measurement. The power savings are then calculated and a one-tme rebate is set up for energy savings.

The rebate can be usually estimated in advance of these measurements with equipment manufacturer efficiency data.

Call the MAB at 1-800-YOUR-MAB and we will set you up with our Energy Consultant Don Johns, EnStar Energy. Don is an expert on all things energy and he can help you traverse the paperwork to see if you qualify. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Reminder: Register your C-Band Satellite Dishes

Radio and Television stations that receive programming via large C-band satellite dishes   should consider registering their downlinks prior to July 18 to protect their reception.

On April 19, the FCC issued a public notice freezing the filing of new or modification applications for fixed-satellite service (FSS) earth station licenses, receive only earth station registrations and fixed microwave licenses in the 3.7-4.2 GHz frequency band. The purpose of this freeze is to preserve the current landscape of authorized operations in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band pending Commission action as part of its ongoing inquiry into the possibility of permitting mobile broadband use and more intensive fixed use of the band.

In a post on the Barry Mishkind’s BDR (read here) Broadcaster and tech consultant Karen Johnson of LinkUp Communications  says it’s about the proposed new 5G wireless service, and “in a nutshell, broadband companies like Verizon and Google are putting pressure on the FCC to hand over or sell all of these frequencies to major Internet providers.” So there’s a 90-day freeze on new receive-only earth stations in the C-Band, while the FCC sifts through comments.

Johnson advises that in the short-term, “Take care of business…if you own one or more C-band downlinks, make sure each one is registered.” The deadline for that is July 18. More about the situation (and how to register existing earth stations) from attorney Michelle McClure at CommLawBlog here.

In an article on Tom Taylor’s daily newsletter “Tom Taylor Now,” its reported that National Public Radio (NPR) told FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly that its PRSS (Public Radio Satellite System) is “an indispensable link” between it and hundreds of NPR member stations. And that “the non-commercial, non-profit public radio system cannot afford alternative means of program distribution, such as terrestrial/fiber networks.” Those alternatives are not just more expensive. It says “for the “rural and remote part of the country where fiber does not reach, there are no alternatives to satellite distribution, regardless of cost.”