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Happy New Year

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and hopefully, a prosperous 2014.

Another year has gone by, and there were few things remarkable about it. Among those are:

From the digital radio front; HD Radio continues to be a non-factor in the bigger broadcasting picture.  FM HD Radio continues to make very small inroads, especially with public radio groups who’s HD Radio expenditures are mostly tax payer subsidized.  AM HD Radio continues to backslide slowly from it’s high water mark of 310 stations in 2007.  It is difficult to nail down the exact numbers of AM HD Radio broadcasters, however, Barry McLarnon notes that 177 stations are currently transmitting AM HD Radio.  No official numbers are available from either the FCC or iBiquity itself.

The great 2003 translator log jam (Auction 83) was finally fixed so that the FCC could move ahead with the LPFM application window in October.  In the end, some 1,240 translators were granted, with more conflicting applications still in the works.

The LPFM filing window opened in October amid the government shutdown.  Many groups were predicting 10,000 new applications for 100 watt LPFM licenses.  The actual number is closer to 2,800.  The final number of Construction Permits issued with likely be somewhat lower as defective and competing applications are dismissed.  This number seems low to some LPFM proponents.  When I approached a local interest group about launching a low power radio station, I was basically met with indifference.  With a very complex set of application guidelines and operating rules, plus very low power levels, it is not surprising at all.

The NAB and the FCC have been working diligently on revitalizing the AM broadcasting band.  Results of these efforts are yet undetermined as the proposal works it’s way through the regulatory process.  The so called “analog sunset” still lurks in the background somewhere, waiting to be trotted out at the most opportune moment.  I remain skeptical of the current proposal.

Cumulus Broadcasting purchases Dial Global and renames it West Wood One.  Some people lose their jobs.

Nielson buys Arbitron rating service and renames it Nielson Audio.  Some people lose their jobs.

Clear Channel tries to fly under the radar with “staff reductions.”  Some people lose their jobs.

Long time online radio forum “Radiodiscussions.com” ceased existence.  Starting out as Radio-info.com in the mid 1990’s, radio discussions was largest, longest running radio forum in the country.  It held tens of thousands of posts on almost every radio topic under the sun.  Unfortunately, it was bought and sold a few times over the last few years and the new owners could not figure out how to monetize it.  The end.

Bernie Wise passed away on December 13th.  This is truly unfortunate as Bernie was a character perfectly suited to the radio business.  He started working for RCA and is responsible for UHF television broadcasting in the US.

On the blog front, we continue to grow in page views and readers.  As of this date, Engineering Radio gets approximately 540 page views per day and has 227 RSS subscribers.  The split is 60/40 percent domestic/international readers.  The top five international traffic sources are; Canada, UK, India, Germany and Brazil.

2013 stat counter image

2013 stat counter image

There are some 634 articles with 2,640 legitimate comments and 429,600 spam comments.

Regarding site outages, there were 343 minutes of server down time.  Two DDOS attacks lasting six and three hours respectively and one incident of a corrupted .htaccess file rendered and error 500 message for six hours.  Total down time 1,243 minutes or 20:43 hours which gives a 99.87% availability for the website.  Not bad, but we can do better as the uptime goal is 99.99%.

On a personal note, my college studies are progressing well.  I have three more classes or 10 credit hours left until I am done.  My GPA is 3.90 which is not terrible considering I am working full time and going to school almost full time.  Truth be told, I cannot wait until it is finished.

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4 comments to Happy New Year

  • Hal Kneller

    Hi Paul. Always enjoy reading your comments. This year, as well as last year, and for the most part of 2011, there has been no government funding for public radio digital conversions (to HD Radio technology). First, the PTFP program was discontinued as of 2011 (http://www.ntia.doc.gov/legacy/otiahome/ptfp/application/appprop.htm). This program for many years was the primary grant program for public radio (and television) stations and covered all sorts of needs from studios to antennas. Along the way the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) began providing grants specifically for the conversion of public radio stations which were CPB qualified (i.e. had to meet certain qualifications to become eligible for various CPB programming grants and then became eligible for HD Radio grants) to build out HD Radio and in the final round, permitted a second trip to the well for HD Radio power increases. However, that last round from CPB was about 3 years ago and they have not and according to my sources, will not grant further HD Radio conversion or power increase funding. Instead their more limited money these days has been going to public television stations for such uses as common master control sites and program archiving. All this being said, the public radio stations in general were early adopters of HD Radio technology and early providers of multicast programs. While commercial stations typically were “clustered” especially in larger markets, and enjoyed common ownership, it was the exception that public radio stations had multiple frequencies in their markets, hence the multicast idea was germane to them. They were then able to provide several formats rather than trying to either super-serve one audience, or block programming a station which results in not keeping anyone happy all the time.

  • Lee Rust

    Like it or not, our culture has decided that communications and entertainment should be digitally created, stored, transmitted and received via cellular or internet connected devices. Instant personal gratification and consumer convenience have trumped all other considerations.

    The mass market is not particularly interested in privacy, independence, resilience or durability, so those of us who value these inherent characteristics of older technologies will be consistently and overwhelmingly outvoted.

    Traditional technical infrastructures and communities are shrinking and consolidating at a terrific rate right now, but probably will come to persist indefinitely at very low levels. Going forward, inventive and energetic characters like Bernie Wise will continue to be the keepers of many, many flames.

    Paul, best wishes for 2014 and thanks again for your thoughtful and informative posts here!

  • Bill Frahm

    As a kid obsessed with radio I never thought I’d be close to retirement at the same time as the end of broadcasting as we knew it. In some ways the big radio groups are ahead of the curve. Consolidating and contracting in response to and not necessarily causing the very different media future where radio is less and less a factor. Radio advertising is becoming obsolete? It’s more and more important a company show up on search engines and social sites than direct mailers and 60 second commercials.

  • Paul Thurst

    Hal, you may be right about funding, but it is hard to say for sure because the CPB website does not have any funding information for 2012=2013. 2013 is no surprise, no information for 2012 is a bit of a head scratcher. Even so, I know that public radio has gotten the most use out of HD Radio, where commercial stations seem to be indifferent for the most part.
    Lee, thanks. I think that radio stations that make an effort to be locally relevant will be rewarded with listeners. Those that choose the autopilot sattalator route will not.
    Bill, I don’t think radio advertising is becoming obsolete. I think radio is making itself irrelevant. Not all radio, mind you.

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A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

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~Rudyard Kipling

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...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
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