Believe it or not, there are still some U.S. broadcasters tinkering with the HD Radio protocol. One of the latest is Rick Sewell, the manager of engineering for Crawford Broadcasting’s stations in Chicago.
His latest project involved implementing HD’s “Artist Experience” feature – this is a fancy name for what is basically radio with pictures. AE allows HD-compatible stations to send album artwork and advertiser-images to digital radio receivers along with the audio programming; these are things that digital-native audio streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify mastered years ago.
There’s no coordinated drive from the broadcast industry to implement Artist Experience, and HD’s proprietor, Xperi Corporation, isn’t actively marketing the technology to broadcasters much anymore. Apparently, one of Sewell’s colleagues was down in Atlanta and got a rental-car with an HD-compatible receiver. This guy stumbled across a station that had implemented AE and thought, “we should do this too.”
Thus began Sewell’s saga. He’d initially hoped that he would have time to explore the HD system in more detail, but station management had already started pitching the Artist Experience opportunity to advertisters. The first step was to make sure that the HD airchain of the station on which AE would be deployed was totally up to date. That got figured out after Sewell got over his own “ignorance as well as some misinformation along the way.” Continue reading “Radio With Pictures Still A Hard Sell”
A year and a half since I tendered my Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Communications Commission on its disturbing foray into determining the legitimacy of broadcast news outlets, the agency has finally responded. And it was with a big middle finger: of the more than 4,200 pages of documentation the agency identified as related to the case, the FCC released a paltry 88 (embedded at bottom).
The vast majority of this release is meaningless. It includes copies of the official orders in the WLS sponsorship-identification case, copies of the spot-sales contracts Workers Independent News entered into with WLS (it spent more than $33,000 to air its newscasts and feature programs on the station over a three-month period), official correspondence between the FCC and WLS’ attorneys related to the initial complaint inquiry, and some redacted e-mail correspondence between FCC staffers regarding the collection of the $44,000 fine assessed against WLS.
However, what little useful information gleaned from the disclosure only heightens the suspicion that the sponsorship-identification case against WLS was not motivated by the station’s failure to disclose (in a fraction of instances) that Workers Independent News had paid for its airtime, but rather by a right-wing operative seeking to muzzle Workers Independent News on ideological grounds. Continue reading “FCC Facilitated Right-Wing Hit Job on Workers Independent News”
The market for FM translators reached a new peak recently when a two-watt translator sited on the Willis Tower in Chicago sold for $4.6 million. Who made the killing? Calvary Radio Network, the de facto Midwest representative of the Calvary Chapel godcast franchise. Continue reading “FM Translator Market in Bubble Mode”
Never before has an FCC enforcement action hit so close to home.
This week, the agency issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for $44,000 to Chicago radio station WLS-AM. The proposed penalty stems from a complaint filed by a listener regarding news programming aired by WLS that originated with the Madison-based Workers Independent News (WIN) service. The FCC accuses WLS of violating its rules by failing to disclose that it was paid for running WIN newscasts.
(Disclosure: I was one of WIN’s founding producers, helping to develop and launch the service between 2001-2004.) Continue reading “Regulatory Innuendo as Stalking Horse?”
Michael Lahey’s excellent, award-winning documentary on microbroadcasting, Making Waves, publicly screens for the first time in the Windy City next weekend at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Actually, it’s playing twice, on 8/19 and 8/21. Check the new trailer before you go.
Michael recently moved to Chicago and may be around at the screenings for an afterward Q&A. If you can’t make the screenings, you can still check it out on Free Speech TV, where it’s been playing at least monthly. It’ll play five times on August 24th alone.
It’s been nearly four years since the radio industry began feeding on itself, but it really didn’t hit home until just this month.
As a child, it seemed that WMAQ Radio (AM 670) was always on in my mother’s kitchen. The station had been around almost since radio broadcasting was born. WMAQ took to the air in Chicago in April of 1922. With 50,000 watts of power, WMAQ easily boomed through to southern Wisconsin, where I grew up.
WMAQ is probably best known for its firsts – it was the first station to broadcast a live transatlantic conversation; the first to do play-by-play of professional baseball games; it hosted the first educational radio program (FM radio broadcasting was still more than two decades away from reality). Continue reading “The Sound of Silence”
It is disturbing to see how consolidation in the radio industry is leading to the gobbling up of radio stations by major companies. Evergreen Media just swept through the Chicago market, taking a gangsta-rap station and changing it into born-again gospel overnight!
However, there is a small way to fight against the tide. Granted, not all the ways may be legal, but they are doable.
Raid the chief engineer’s closet.
A lot of stations, after being bought out by the some monolith, traditionally do some downsizing. There’s been a lot of outcry about the dwindling amount of local programming available on the airwaves, but station engineers are getting hard hit, too. Why keep one person on the payroll for each station if it’s not necessary (FCC rules now allow for unattended operation), or contracted technicians can do the job at half the cost? Continue reading “The Plus Side of Radio Monopolies”