Scene Report: California

Skidmark Bob e-mailed recently to let me know that Freak Radio Santa Cruz is hunting for a new broadcast-home (yet again). The FCC dropped a warning-letter on the owner of the property hosting the station’s transmitter (a common tactic that’s gained popularity in recent years), who was duly unnerved and prompted the box to travel.
In spite of last year’s schism, the station appears to be on strong footing and Bob’s confident they’ll have a spot post-haste. Given that Freak Radio long separated its studio from transmitter, the comfy digs remain intact, and the station’s still streaming online. Continue reading “Scene Report: California”

Translators: The Back Up Plan to HD?

Pity the poor FM translator: a book could be written about the way it has been used – and abused – over the years. Primarily just in this last decade. First, there was the religious broadcaster-led Great Translator Invasion; then, AM broadcasters asked for (and received) permission from the FCC to operate their own FM translator stations. Finally, some full-power FM stations that also happen to be running HD multicast streams are finding the analog translator a lucrative outlet for its previously digital-only content.
It is the latter two developments which concern us here, because both are direct offshoots of HD Radio. AM stations petitioned the FCC (via the NAB) to allow them to assemble clusters, if necessary, of FM translators to at least replicate their primary (protected) service coverage areas. Among the reasons given for this was the increasing level of interference on the AM band, part of which has been caused by the implementation of HD Radio. Continue reading “Translators: The Back Up Plan to HD?”

Industry HD Uncertainty Flares in Trade Press

For the most part, radio industry trades have not given much substantive thought or analysis to the debacle that is HD Radio. However, some recent developments seem to signal that the winds of sycophancy may be changing.
It’s all happened in the Radio and Business Report. First, the publication let loose an article, whose sources are “some highly accredited/respected Bay Area engineers,” full of complaints and criticisms of HD Radio and its proprietor, iBiquity Digital Corporation. The complaints raised against iBiquity are numerous and significant.
In addition to reporting that one San Francisco-based AM station has turned off its HD sidebands, the article reports dissatisfaction among iBiquity customers, due to the fact that “iBiquity is not providing the promised updates to its software to repair the ‘bugs’ that have developed in the AM codec. The bugs require reboots of the HD encoders, sometimes daily.” Continue reading “Industry HD Uncertainty Flares in Trade Press”

FCC Field Enforcement: Fourth Amendment Still Rules, Apparently

Last year, in response to coverage that the FCC felt it had the authority to conduct warrantless searches of private property in its objective to clear the airwaves of unauthorized activity, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the agency. It asked the FCC to somehow rectify the quandary between its self-stated authority and the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects the public from “unreasonable” (i.e., unwarranted) searches and seizures.
Last month, the FCC responded to the EFF’s FOIA request, releasing a small cache of well-redacted documents related to the agency’s field investigation techniques. In a document entitled “Basic Investigation Techniques – On-Scene Overview,” the Commission seems to make its position clear: “Agents should never trespass on private property. You do have legal authority to inspect any radio station (broadcast, land mobile, amateur, etc.) at any time; however, you should contact the property owner to gain access.” In a later chapter, properly entitled “Limits of Authority,” the prohibition against trespassing is further articulated and specifies that FCC field agents may be held criminally liable if break this law. Continue reading “FCC Field Enforcement: Fourth Amendment Still Rules, Apparently”