Category Archives: November 2017

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 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,

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.

Lisa Knutson Named Scripps CFO

Lisa Knutson

E.W. Scripps has named Lisa Knutson as its new executive vice president and chief financial officer.

“Lisa has been an instrumental player on our management team for more than a decade,” said Scripps president and CEO Adam Symson. “She served in key roles during the spinoff of Scripps Networks Interactive and the double-spin, double-merge transaction with the former Journal Communications that divested Scripps of newspapers and doubled our broadcast holdings.”

The company also has promoted its controller and treasurer, Doug Lyons, to senior vice president, controller and treasurer.

Knutson will step into the role after filling the position since the former CFO, Tim Wesolowski ,left in early October.

Knutson was appointed chief strategy officer in August. She has since added corporate development to her prior responsibilities as chief administrative officer where she led enterprise-wide strategic planning, consumer insights, human resources, information technology and corporate communications-investor relations.

Scripps owns and operates WXYZ-TV/WMYD-TV in Detroit as well as WSYM-TV in Lansing.

WKAR Gifts Digital Playtime Pads to Kindergartners

Photo credit: Amanda Pinckney / WKAR-MSU

Soon, a thousand Lansing kindergartners will literally have an exciting new education tool in their hands thanks to WKAR and MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

WKAR Director of Broadcasting and General Manager Susi Elkins talking with students at Kendon Elementary School in Lansing. Photo credit: Amanda Pinckney / WKAR-MSU

On November 13, kindergarteners at Lansing’s Kendon Elementary received the first batch of Playtime Pads, which are 7-inch Android tablets, available at retailers.

The Playtime Pad Research Project studies the effectiveness of tablet-based learning in early childhood math literacy. The pads used in the study include preloaded PBS KIDS educational game apps, but are also customized to include a special math game study app, designed by PBS KIDS software developers, in consultation with MSU early childhood education researchers. The app includes a mix of math games.

“We are honored to be working with the Lansing School District on this exciting outreach program and tablet-based learning study,” said Susi Elkins, Director of Broadcasting and General Manager at WKAR Public Media, which is housed in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “This project brings quality PBS educational games and programming from the PBS KIDS Playtime Pad to Lansing kindergartners through new technology that children love, and allows us to strengthen the community connection between MSU, WKAR and the Lansing schools.”

Prabu David, MSU ComArtSci Dean; Susi Elkins, WKAR Director of Broadcasting and General Manager; and Robert Floden, MSU College of Education Dean. Photo credit: Amanda Pinckney / WKAR-MSU

Amy Parks, associate professor of teacher education, and Laura Tortorelli, assistant professor of teacher education, will lead the research. They will collect anonymous data from the app, from periodic surveys of parents and teachers and from LSD’s AIMSWEB testing program.

The study is unique because widely available PBS KIDS math apps will be tested for effectiveness, Parks said. Most studies of this kind are based on specially designed applications rather than what is publicly available.

“Our goal is to see what teachers choose to do with the tablets and look at the impact on student learning,” Parks said. “We expect there will be variation in how engaging various applications are, as well as variation in the extent to which these applications impact learning. We also expect applications will impact different kids in different ways.”

In addition to the research component of the project, the partnership gives teachers, parents and students access to the latest technology and PBS KIDS digital learning tools.

The Lansing School District is the largest public school district in mid-Michigan, with 17 elementary schools.

“This project is about partnerships,” said Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “MSU, WKAR, Lansing schools and PBS KIDS have come together to empower our students, families and teachers by introducing a new technology in the classroom. I’m excited about the possibilities these tablets offer for instruction and research.”

Funding for the project is provided by the National Science Foundation, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, WKAR Public Media, Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at MSU and the Lansing Rotary Foundation.


Tom Szczepanski Appointed DPTV COO

Tom Szczepanski

Tom Szczepanski has been named Chief Operating Officer of Detroit Public Television.

Szczepanski’s appointment to the new position is effective immediately, said Marty Fischhoff, director of communications for DPTV.  He will oversee all aspects of the station’s operations, including developing growth strategies.

Duties of the COO role had been handled by the executive vice president of productions and operations Jeff Forster, who left the role last year but continued on as an adviser. The role has since expanded to include more responsibilities.

Szczepanski, 58, has been assistant vice president of development at the University of Michigan since 2010. There, he led marketing for the school’s $4 billion fundraising campaign. Before that, he worked in advertising for 25 years with management roles at J. Walter Thompson, BBDO, Ross Roy and other agencies. He also worked for the Detroit Free Press in advertising sales and marketing research.

He is a native of metro Detroit and University of Detroit Mercy graduate.

“With Tom joining the DPTV team, we are even better positioned to tell the story of Detroit, which we believe is, today, the most important city in America,” said Rich Homberg, president and CEO of DPTV.

How Landing Pages Can Help Your Radio Station Accomplish Its Digital Goals

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

The first step in any radio station’s digital strategy is to define the station’s goals. In short, what do you want listeners to do when they come to your radio station’s website? You can read more about setting digital goals here.

Once you’ve decided what your station’s digital goals are, the next questions is: How do we get listeners to do what we want them to do? When a website visitor completes a goal, such as signing up for the station’s email newsletter, it is called a “conversion.” So if ten people sign up for the newsletter today, you have “ten conversions on the email newsletter goal.”

How can you increase the number of conversions on your goals?

There are two general steps that will go a long way towards making that happen: Make the call to action really obvious. Remove the other options.

This is what a website landing page does. A landing page is a webpage that drives a visitor towards a specific action, such as signing up for an email newsletter. They are sometimes called “squeeze pages” because they remove other options and push the visitor in a specific direction.

On the Jacobs Media website, the main goal of our website is to drive registrations for our email list. We frequently use landing pages to do this. For example, here’s what a typical blogpost on the Jacobs Media website looks like:

This is not a landing page. From here, a visitor can easily browse the site. But if you were to click on a link to one of our upcoming webinars, you would see a page that is formatted like this:

This is a landing page. Notice the key differences from our other webpages:

  • The links in the header, including the main navigation and the search bar, have been removed.
  • The sidebar is gone.
  • The footer, along with all of its links, is gone.
  • The call to action is emphasized with a headline and a big orange button.

Once you get to this page, your options are limited: Register for the webinar or click your browser’s back button. We’ve removed all other distractions to encourage people to take the action that we want them to take — register for our webinar and, in the process, sign up for our email list.

If your radio station’s website is built in WordPress, you can design a landing page template that drives people towards your goals. In the WordPress backend, it is easy to select a template for pages (not posts) with a dropdown menu:

You may also want to look into landing page software such as Leadpages.

Where to Use Landing Page Templates
Most of the pages on your website will not use a landing page template. Save it for when your listeners navigate to a page that leads directly to a goal. You want to use landing pages to tip the ball into the basket. Here are the webpages you may want to use a landing page template on:

  • The email newsletter signup page
  • Contest entry forms
  • Station event pages where the goal is to sell tickets
  • Station merchandise pages where the goal is to sell stuff
  • Advertising info pages where the goal is to capture sales leads

By strategically using landing page templates, you can significantly increase your radio station’s website goal conversions.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.