Tag Archives: Issue 84

WCMU’s Warm Hearts Provides Winter Warmth

WCMU Public Radio’s (Mt. Pleasant) Warm Hearts, Warm Homes campaign has returned for its fourth season to fuel home-heating assistance across central and northern Michigan.  The campaign kicked off November 28.

The collaberation between Consumers Energy, Isabella Bank and WCMU Public Radio listeners aims to generate $67,000. The matching funds, triggered by donations from WCMU Public

Radio listeners, will be distributed to folks in need of heating assistance by the Michigan Community Action Agency that serves the donor’s community.

“Warm Hearts, Warm Homes has provided home-heating assistance for at least 30,000 families over the past three years,” Ken Kolbe, general manager of WCMU Public Media, said. “As winter weather settles in across Michigan, the generosity and compassion of WCMU Public Radio listeners, combined with the financial support of Consumers Energy and Isabella Bank, will allow us to address the critical need facing the people living in the communities we serve.”

The money pledged by WCMU Public Radio listeners beginning Tuesday, Nov. 28 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Consumers Energy and Isabella Bank to meet the growing need for home-heating assistance. The drive will continue while matching funds remain.

“Michigan Community Action deeply appreciates the commitment by Consumers Energy and Isabella Bank to help families and seniors stay safe and warm in their homes this winter,” Kate White, Michigan Community Action’s executive director, said. “The Warm Hearts, Warm Homes Campaign has been a wonderful and effective community collaboration.”

Warm Hearts, Warm Homes has provided nearly $140,000 to assist with winter heating bills in its first three years. This past May, WCMU Public Radio received the 2017 Community Service Award from MCA for the December 2016 campaign, which raised $68,000 for home-heating assistance for central and northern Michigan residents.

For more information, see the station’s Warm Hearts, Warm Homes webpage here.

NRSC Creates PI Codes for Every FM Translator

The National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC) has unveiled a new resource for broadcasters that utilize FM translators, providing a unique Radio Data System (RDS) Program Identification (PI) code for every FM translator in the United States.

FM translators have been a source of growth for the radio broadcast industry in recent years. Regulatory efforts such as AM revitalization, and the expanded use of HD Radio multicast channels as an audio source for translators, have introduced new uses for translators and have greatly increased their numbers.

Most FM translators broadcast the RDS digital subcarrier, which is used by FM stations to deliver “metadata” such as program format, station logo and/or web address, and song title and artist information to modern FM receiver displays (especially automotive receivers). The use of RDS on FM translators is encouraged, especially since so many vehicles now display RDS metadata when tuned to an FM radio station.

One of the most important types of metadata transmitted by RDS subcarrier is the PI code. The PI code is not displayed to consumers but it is used internally by the receiver to uniquely identify the audio program being broadcast by the FM station. In the United States, the PI code has historically been derived from a radio station’s call sign, however, when FM translators are involved there is a problem.

The NRSC defined the algorithm for calculating a station’s PI code back in the 1990s when the RDS standard was being introduced, and this algorithm is based on a four-character call sign, which is the standard call sign format for full-power FM stations (the exception being some legacy three-character call signs). Here’s the problem – FM translators are assigned a six-character call sign by the FCC, so the NRSC’s PI code algorithm does not work.

To resolve this problem, the NRSC’s RDS Usage Working Group (RUWG) developed a new algorithm just for FM translators, which can assign a unique PI code to each FM translator in the US. This algorithm has been implemented using a web-based tool and a list of PI codes for all FM translators in the United States is now available at http://picodes.nrscstandards.org/. FM translator operators are encouraged to visit this web page and obtain (and use!) the PI code which has been calculated for their translator (or translators).

In the vast majority of cases, these new FM translator PI codes should be used by translator operators, this is very important to help prevent PI code-related receiver issues (such as unintentional re-tuning) which can occur when stations use the wrong PI code. The principal reason why a translator would not use one of the PI codes from the NRSC’s FM translator PI code list is if that translator is being fed by the main channel audio signal of a full-power FM station and is simulcasting that signal (the “traditional” application for translators). In this exceptional case, the translator should use the PI code for the full-power station it is being fed by, calculated from that full-power station’s four-letter call sign.

Cross-service FM translators (that is, FM translators that are re-broadcasting an AM station’s signal) and FM translators being fed by an HD Radio multicast channel should most definitely make use of the PI codes provided on the NRSC FM Translator PI code web page. Here is a screen shot of the web page:

Some comments on the web page:

    • There are over 7,000 translators listed on this page, sorted by “Facility ID;”
    • Translator operators should use the “Filter” function, entering their translator call sign(s) in the appropriate box and clicking on “Filter,” this is the quickest way to find a particular PI code;
    • The algorithm used to generate PI codes utilizes the FCC’s Consolidated Database System (CDBS); once a day the CDBS information is downloaded from the FCC and checked to see if there are any new translators or whether a translator has moved in geographic location or frequency;
    • If a translator moves in either geographic location or frequency, then a new PI code may be calculated, so translator operators should visit the web page if their translator moves location or frequency to see if the PI code has changed.

Please contact David Layer at NAB if you have any questions or comments on the PI code web page.

NWS Detroit Office To Begin Winter Squall Warnings

The National Weather Service’s Detroit office will begin issuing Snow Squall Warnings when necessary beginning January 3, 2018.

As an EAS event, this will only affect broadcasters who monitor the National Weather Service Radio originating from the Detroit office.  This includes stations in the EAS Southeast, East Central and Lenawee/Washtenaw regions.  NWS considers this to be a life threatening issue.

The EAS code that will be used is SVS. This will come from the NOAA Weather Radio SAME.  The NWS has never used an EAS code SVS up until now.  The text will have “Bulletin – EAS Activation Requested.”

As background, the Snow Squall Warning will be issued based on the following:

  1. Visibility 1/4 mile or less for 15 minutes or more.
  2. Sub-freezing ambient road temperatures (or plunging temperatures that would produce a flash freeze).
  3. Gusty winds.
  4. Forecaster judgement of impact, i.e. clear evidence that a snow squall could lead to dangerous conditions and possible multi-car accident (pileup) when one of the above criterion isn’t quite met.

Anyone with questions regarding the NWS warnings should contact  Rich Pollman at (248) 625-3309 x726.

FCC To Review Ownership Caps

According to the NAB’s SmartBriefs, the FCC formally initiated a notice of proposed rule-making to review the national ownership cap for TV stations that limits the number of stations a single entity can own, which is now set at 39 percent of U.S. TV households.

The review of the ownership cap is tied to another decision made by FCC chairman Ajit Pai – the UHF discount — a formula for calculating a company’s TV station holdings against the 39 percent limit — was reinstated by Pai in April after it was eliminated by the previous FCC chair.

“Earlier this year, the Commission reinstated the UHF discount, finding that the prior FCC’s decision last year to eliminate it absent a simultaneous review of the 39 percent national cap effectively tightened the cap without determining whether that was in the public interest. Because the national cap and the UHF discount are inextricably linked, any review of one component of the rule must include a review of the other,” Pai said in a statement.

FCC To Vote on Blue Alerts

According to a report in Inside Radio, the FCC is getting ready to approve the creation of Blue Alerts. The agency scheduled a vote next month that will create the new Emergency Alert System (EAS) code “BLU” which will be similar to codes for civic emergencies and weather events.

The code would give state and local emergency management agencies the option of using the EAS to issue a warning about an imminent and credible threat to police officers’ safety  across TV and radio stations.

Three years ago Congress passed the Blue Alert Act to “encourage, enhance, and integrate Blue Alert plans” nationwide with the Justice Department coordinating the effort. To date, 27 states have adopted a Blue Alert program on their own, including Michigan, which adopted the program in October 2015.

SoundExchange Royalties Going Up for Webcasters in 2018

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,
BroadcastLawBlog.com

The Copyright Royalty Board announced in the Federal Register, here, that the sound recording royalty rates paid to SoundExchange will be increasing next year.  In December 2015, when the CRB set the current royalty rates that apply from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2020 (see our articles here and here), the CRB noted that the rates would increase based on increases in the Consumer Price Index. Last year, the Board determined that the CPI had not increased enough to merit an increase in the royalties. This year, based on the calculations set out in the Federal Register, there will in fact be an increase.

So, for all streaming in 2018, nonsubscription webcasters will pay a per performance royalty of $.0018 instead of this year’s $.0017. For subscription streams, the rate will increase to $.0023, an increase from $.0022 per performance rate. These rates apply to all noninteractive webcasters who pay the statutory royalty (see our article here for an explanation of the difference between noninteractive and interactive webcasters). Thus, the rate increase will include simulcasts of broadcasters’ over-the-air programming.  Noncommercial webcasters who exceed 159,140 aggregate monthly tuning hours (for which they pay $500 per year) will also pay at the $.0018 rate for performances above the tuning hour limit.

Note that these rates apply through the end of 2020. As the CRB proceedings take two years to arrive at new rates, the Board will be starting a new proceeding to determine royalty rates for 2021 through the end of 2025 starting in January 2019. It’s never too early to start thinking about the next proceeding 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.