When the FCC raided TOUCH FM in Boston this spring, many lamented its demise. But its frequency didn’t stay silent for long: less than two months after the FCC’s sweep of the city, a pop-up station temporarily reoccupied 106.1 FM.
Noises Over Norwell broadcast from a two-story home in Dorchester currently under the receivership of Fannie Mae. Its former owners moved back in with the assistance of City Life/Vida Urbana, a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting economic injustice in Boston. The station was a cornucopia of information, discussion, and creativity about the state of the economy and the surrounding neighborhood; when "dormant," you simply heard the ambient sounds of a lived-in home. Continue reading “Pop-Up Station Pays Homage to TOUCH FM”
When HD Radio was under development and policy-discussions on the technology were in their infancy, proponents of the system bragged about all of the game-changing features it would have. This included audio quality that sounded better than CD and the ability to broadcast a plethora of digital data beyond audio itself.
They also told us that digital radio signals would be more robust and easier to receive than their analog counterparts. This was a critical assertion, because HD Radio works by shoehorning digital signals onto the existing AM and FM bands, right next to analog ones, and thus to avoid interference the HD signal can only be broadcast at just a fraction of a station’s analog power output. But proponents said that was okay: HD Radio only needed a fraction of the power to kick ass and blow minds. Continue reading “Industry Mulls Second FM-HD Power Increase”
The sordid situation of Pacifica Radio took another turn last week, when the owners of the Empire State Building—where WBAI’s transmitter and antenna are located—threatened to pull the plug on the station. According to a report dated June 19th by Pacifica Foundation Interim Executive Director Bernard Duncan, rent payments from WBAI to the ESB for May and June were "returned indicating an imminent eviction." Continue reading “WBAI Facing Eviction from Transmitter Facilities”
I was recently invited to join a new national project devoted to archiving local radio history. It’s tentatively called the Radio Preservation Task Force, and it’s working under the purview of the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board (NPRB), in conjunction with the National Archives and several major broadcast museums.
The task force’s primary goal is "to develop strategies and tools to collect and preserve historical broadcast content"—more specifically, content from "public, educational, local, and regional radio" stations and organizations. In simple terms, ample archives exist of national radio and television broadcasts, particularly at the network level and on the commercial side of the dial. But there’s been no coherent preservation strategy beyond this, and that needs to be rectified. Continue reading “Library of Congress to Expand Radio Archives”
Uh-oh, indeed. Pacifica’s National Board is now soliciting bids to take over the programming and operations of its station in New York City. WBAI is prime real estate, transmitting with 4,300 watts of power from atop the Empire State Building on a choice frequency smack dab in the middle of the FM dial. The station’s worth tens of millions of dollars were it ever to be sold.
This was a long time coming. WBAI, like many of Pacifica’s radio stations, is caught in the jaws of a dilemma as old as community radio itself. Essentially, people can lose sight of the actual goal of running a successful and sustainable community radio station and instead use (and abuse) the station as a battlefield on which to act out some larger sociopolitical struggle. What the station stands for becomes more important than the station itself, and nobody wins. In Pacifica’s case, they stand to lose it all. Continue reading “Here Comes the Hammer: Pacifica to Lease Out WBAI”
If you missed it: last month Sprint made good on its commitment to provide analog FM radio reception in selected smartphones. More importantly, the NextRadio app developed by Emmis Communications to make it useful was formally released to the public.
The initial deal between Sprint and U.S. broadcasters calls for Sprint to sell 30 million FM radio-capable smartphones over the next three years, on which the NextRadio app will be preinstalled. In exchange, the radio industry will pay Sprint $15 million dollars a year in advertising inventory and give the carrier a 30% cut of any revenue NextRadio generates. Continue reading “Radio's Sprint Deal: NextRadio Launches”
The Federal Communications Commission is busy preparing for an onslaught of applications for new low-power FM (LPFM) stations: the filing window opens on October 15th and closes on the 29th. Interested applicants should already be hard at work preparing, because building a radio station from scratch is not a simple process.
But there have been and will be some important info-dumps that can help demystify the issues. In chronological order: Continue reading “55 Days and Counting: Informative Events for LPFM Applicants”
With what seems like increasing frequency, media-pundits are dropping rhetorical bombs riffing on the notion that radio is dying. This inevitably sets off a tizzy within the radio industry itself. But there are still strong signs of life, especially if one steps back and looks at the big picture.
Every quarter, the Federal Communications Commission issues a report on the number of licensed broadcast radio stations in the United States. The graph at right compiles the last 21 years of these reports (from 1992 to 2013).
These FCC reports are available here. I used the agency’s mid-year totals, released every June 30th, for year-to-year consistency. (2000 and 2007 are asterisked because there was no June 30th report archived for those years; these figures come from the FCC’s third quarter (September 30th) report.) Continue reading “The Health of Radio: By the Numbers”
It first seemed to come out of nowhere: a Texas-based company announced last year that it had developed a system it calls "ZoneCasting," which would allow FM radio stations to subdivide their primary coverage area into specific locales using FM booster stations. Each "zone" would serve up geo-targeted advertising.
An initial proposal to the FCC from ZoneCasting’s proprietor, Geo-Broadcast Solutions, asking for a rule-change governing FM boosters (to allow them to originate programming) attracted hardly any comment from within the radio industry. Many broadcast engineers initially seemed skeptical that ZoneCasting could work in a real-world environment.
Things have changed significantly over the course of a year. Continue reading “ZoneCasting Technology and Costs Detailed”
Radio Ink publisher Eric Rhoads penned a frantic and strident report following the magazine’s annual ConVergence Radio Conference earlier this month in which he warns of radio’s impending extinction in vehicles.
On the stage were three representatives of the automotive industry: one from Gartner Research…one from the Silicon Valley offices of General Motors…and one who represents an industry association for the connected car. They were on a panel moderated by Buzz Knight of Greater Media, and they talked about the direction of in-car experiences, the digital dashboard, and what will be coming next to the dash of the car….Then, suddenly, this statement was heard: Continue reading “Radio's Imminent Demise in the Dashboard?”