This week, Clear Channel (#1 in national radio station ownership) and Cumulus (#2) inked an agreement intimately linking their online broadcast strategies.
Cumulus will integrate the webcasts from its ~560 radio stations under Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio streaming platform, and will actively promote it on-air. In exchange, Clear Channel will cross-promote Cumulus’ SweetJack service, a Groupon-style business the broadcaster is developing in markets where it has stations, both on-air and online. Continue reading “Broadcast Conglomerates Consolidate in Cyberspace”
Clear Channel-owned radio stations in small to medium-sized markets were decimated last week as the company laid off dozens – if not hundreds – of on-air talent. This means that, at some Clear Channel station-clusters, there is literally no local presence on the airwaves anymore.
Clear Channel says it’ll take remaining talent and syndicate their shows across markets, using “custom breaks” and “localized content” to provide a patina of localism on affected stations – a practice otherwise known as voice tracking. The company has also appointed two dozen “Brand Managers” to oversee 11 national station formats. Continue reading “Killing the Human Element”
The New York Times recently ran a canonizing profile on the afternoon-drive DJ at WRIP-FM, a locally-owned Top 40-format commercial radio station in Windham, New York. He conducted a 13-hour broadcast marathon during the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene last month, taking phone calls and disseminating emergency information the old fashioned way – listener by listener.
The Times piece is but the latest in a long string of articles that have justifiably recognized the outstanding local service broadcasters have provided in the wake of this year’s natural disasters. Continue reading “"Heroic" Localism”
This appears to be a first: British broadcast regulator Ofcom is floating the idea of using FM radio spectrum to provide wireless broadband access in rural areas.
The United Kingdom is nearly 20 years into an attempted digital radio transition. It (and much of the rest of the developed world) has adopted a digital broadcast technology that uses spectrum outside the AM and FM bands. However, the development of digital radio is as stalled (or worse) in the U.K. at it is in the United States. Continue reading “U.K. to Refarm FM?”
This spring sees the beginning of the FCC’s license-renewal cycle for radio stations. Stations in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia must begin running license-renewal announcements next month, and file their formal paperwork to renew station licenses by June. (Other states will follow in batches through the next three years – find out the license-renewal deadlines for radio stations in your state in this FCC document.).
Although the license-renewal process has long been pretty much a pro forma exercise, it does provide an opportunity for the listening public to examine and critique the performance of their local radio stations. Continue reading “Radio Station License Renewals Ahoy”
What is LPFM?
LPFM stands for Low Power FM radio broadcasting. In the United States, the lowest minimum wattage a licensed FM radio station may have is 100 watts. There are lower-power FM transmitters in use, though, by some stations who want to increase their coverage area by extending their signal. These are called translators or boosters.
While these may only have a wattage measured in a range from dozens to hundreds, they are not true broadcast stations by the FCC’s definitions – they do not originate their own programming. They rely on a “parent” station to provide what they air.
Ham (amateur) radio uses a similar system called a repeater; people don’t broadcast from it. They shoot a signal into it, and then it gets re-broadcast to an area larger than what ham operators might reach with their own gear. In a nutshell, translators and boosters are the repeaters of FM radio.
LPFM is the common term used to define an FM broadcast station that originates its own programming but has the power of a translator or booster. Under current FCC rules, operating such a station is simply not allowed. You may also see LPFM referred to by other terms – like “LPRS,” “microradio,” and “mini-FM,” but they all mean the same thing. Continue reading “The History of LPFM”
As you may have heard, parts of the state of California are in the midst of its yearly fire season. A nasty blaze is burning near Mt. Wilson, which just happens to be the primary location where most Los Angeles-market radio and television stations site their transmission equipment. As of this afternoon, the “Station Fire” was just a half-mile from the broadcast facilities and closing. Continue reading “L.A. Broadcast Media Dodges Flames”
And not just to adjacent stations – iBiquity’s proposed 10-fold power hike for FM digital sidebands will cause what one commentator has called “honkin’ interference” to an HD parent station’s analog signal. Although the suspicions of just what increasing the signal strength of FM-HD sidebands would do to analog FM radio coverage have been well-discussed in the engineering community for nine months now, the new report from NPR Labs confirms the worst.
The “monumental 18-month study,” involving extensive laboratory and field-testing of increased FM-HD sideband power finds that increased digital interference is simply unavoidable. While the tests do show that increasing FM-HD sideband power by a factor of 10 will make digital service coverage equivalent to (or, in some cases, slightly exceed) the coverage of a station’s analog signal, the modification comes at a price: Continue reading “Raising FM-HD Power Levels Will Cause Increased Interference”
I just updated the Enforcement Action Database: FCC field agents really went on a tear in July, and they are on pace to meet or beat their enforcement record set just last year.
But the really interesting cases I found involved stations who were licensed, let them lapse, and then just kept running as if nothing was amiss. Continue reading “Post-Facto Piracy: Not So Bad”
Two suspicious proposals to expand the FM spectrum have surfaced at the FCC. While on its face the idea seems promising, the devil, as always, is in the details.
The first proposal was filed in late July by the Educational Media Foundation – parent company of the K-LOVE and AIR-1 Christian music radio networks, which can already be heard on more than 150 full-power, low-power, and FM translator stations.
A second, new group, called the “Broadcast Maximization Committee,” which represents the interests of AM broadcasters, followed up with its own proposal within days of EMF’s filing. It is difficult to believe the timing of the filings were coincidental. Continue reading “Translator-Mongers and AM Stations Eye Expanded FM Band”