Pai says “No fighting!”

In the putsch to revitalize AM, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai advises that it would be best if we did not argue about solutions.  Actually what was said was this:

On the other hand, if too many broadcasters allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good, our efforts could be doomed by infighting.

That is well and good, so long as the proposed solution does not make things worse.  I would posit that worse is already the enemy of the good, so any proposal that would make things worse should be protested vigorously.

I have written quite a bit about AM, its relevance and possible revitalization.  There is no one sized fits all solution to the problems facing AM broadcasters.  In the final equation, stations should be judged on their viability as a business and service to the community.  Those that fail to measure up should turn in their licenses.

Update: And so it begins. The narrative is already being shaped, as Darryl Parks (original post has been removed) has found out.  After posting in his blog a few comments on the FCC’s revitalization efforts, he was excoriated by several high profile broadcasters calling his comments “Beyond not helpful.”  For those not versed in double speak, that means it is harmful.  While Parks may not have gotten all the technical jargon exactly right, his points are valid and are in agreement with the widely accepted laws of physics.  I know, I know, quoting science is dull and boring, something that conspiracy theorists are well practiced with.


Somewhere, a community has lost its radio station

I am sure that this has happened in more places than one. WZAD 97.3 MHz was licensed around 1990 as part of the 80-90 drop ins.  The 80-90s were the beginning of the end for viable douopoly operations is smaller markets and triggered the huge wave of consolidation that began a few years later.  WZAD started out as a community oriented station, with a free-form format.  DJ’s often brought their own records to the studio and spun anything from classic rock to jazz to disco or whatever.  As such, the station never really caught on.  Listeners would tune in to hear their favorite Led Zeppelin song but here “Ernie’s Classic Polka Show” instead.

A few years later, the station was sold to somebody that changed formats to a satellite oldies format.

The station was sold again and again and again before finally ending up with a major consolidator.

There is a lesson there for all the would be LPFM applicants:  Nail down your programming ideas now, float ideas out among the community and see what will work and what people are interested in.

This is the WZAD studio now:

WZAD studio, Wurtsboro, NY
WZAD studio, Wurtsboro, NY

When was the last time anyone from the station was here or set foot anywhere near the community of license?  The front lobby of the studio is full of garbage and an old dot matrix printer.  It looks like there has been a leak and all the ceiling tiles have fallen down.

The station is being programmed out of the Poughkeepsie studio cluster with an automated country format called “The Wolf.”  There is a live morning show, or at least there used to be, I don’t know anymore.  How is this station serving as a public trustee?

Voice of Russia to cut shortwave

Another government shortwave broadcaster calls it quits.  The Voice of Russia (Голос России, Golos Rossii) will cut its shortwave service as of January 1st, 2014. Originally known as Radio Moscow, it has been on the air continuously since 1922. It will be sad to see yet another shortwave station pull the plug.

Radio Moscow stamp, courtesy of Wikimedia
Radio Moscow stamp, courtesy of Wikimedia

I can remember Radio Moscow being one the first shortwave stations I tuned across on my Uncle’s Zenith Transoceanic shortwave radio.  It was fascinating to me to hear the news from the far away and all too scary Soviet Union.  After a short bit of interval music and a series of beeps counting down to the top of the hour, a man with a deep, sonorous voice came on and said “Zis is Moscow…” It was very dramatic.

The economics of HF broadcasting are daunting to say the least.  Minimum power levels in the US are 50,000 watts into a highly directional, high gain antenna.  Most stations use greater than 50 KW transmitters, which will very quickly use gobs of electricity, becoming an expensive operation.  Other expense include maintenance on transmitters, buildings, land and antennas.  With little or no opportunity to commercialize, it becomes difficult to justify a shortwave operation.  Sadly, those are the state of affairs in HF broadcasting today.

Middle Aged Iron: Cetec/Bauer 701B transmitter

In service as a backup unit at WALL 1340 KHz in Middletown, NY:

WALL 1340 KHz, Middletown NY AM1A on air, 701B into test load
WALL 1340 KHz, Middletown NY AM1A on air, 701B into test load

I believe the Cetec transmitter is from the early 70s. I wouldn’t really call it old, we have much older units in the field that are still in backup service.  WALL itself has been on the air since 1942 from this site. The tower out back was replaced in the mid 90’s and is 147 degrees tall. It broadcasts the “True Oldies Channel” and is currently owned by Cumulus, soon to be Townsquare.

Cetec 701B tube deck.  4-500As.
Cetec 701B tube deck. 4-500As.

The site is also home to sister station WRRV (92.7 MHz) which has a side mounted antenna near the top of the WALL tower. We are currently reconnecting the CCA transmitter as the backup for WRRV. That unit is also from the early 1970’s.

WRRV WALL transmitter site, Middletown, NY
WRRV WALL transmitter site, Middletown, NY
WRRV WALL transmitting tower, Middletown, NY
WRRV WALL transmitting tower, Middletown, NY