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Opportunity

My son and daughter are playing ice hockey this winter. Which means that every Saturday morning I have to get up very early and haul them off to the rink for practice and a game.  It is actually a lot of fun because I love watching them play.  Having played a certain version of pond hockey in my youth, it brings back good memories.

In any case, last week, after they finished their game and changed out of their hockey gear, my son wanted to watch the older kids play.  Thus, we sat down in the bleachers for a few minutes to watch the 12-15 year olds play against a traveling team.   Most hockey leagues are mixed, that is to say girls and boys playing on the same team.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but the girls can be decerned not only by their pony tails but also the pink stake laces or pink hockey gloves.  I also noticed that the girls seem to play a more cerebral version of the game, which is a joy to watch.

Not soon after we sat down, a fast break play developed at mid ice.  It was truly a thing of beauty.  A player from the home team intercepted a pass from the opposing team and took off down the ice.  She was followed closely by another player from her own team.  As they crossed the opposing red line, the other team closed in.  I watched the lead player move fast toward the goal then fake out the goalie, lifting her stick oh so much as she made the shot.  The goalie was completely fooled and dove for the non-existing puck, which was left on the ice for the following player, who neatly scooped it into the goal under the goalie’s leg.  It was over in a flash of white jerseys and pink laces.  I thought to myself; these are kids are great!  You do not have to watch an NHL game to see good hockey and sometimes the so called “professional” sports is overrated anyway.

Which got me to thinking about LPFM.  How many budding journalists, play by play announcers, DJs and presenters are out there waiting for an opportunity to show their stuff?  An opportunity that they may never get because most commercial and many public radio stations are locked into an increasing automation loop.  Locally originated programming is constantly being cut and replaced by satellite syndicated formats and or out of market voice tracking.  It is truly a shame, because the strongest leg that terrestrial radio can stand on is localism.

LPFM can be that opportunity to return radio to its community of license.  It will not be easy, clearly the rules were written to prevent LPFM from ever competing with commercial or even public radio stations.  Restrictive power levels, odious interference rules, and limited fund raising capability will keep all but the true believers and perhaps ignorant souls from attempting for a license.  It will be hard, but not impossible and the true believers will make a go of it.  The October 15th, 2013 filing window will very likely be the last opportunity for community organizations to establish a local radio station.  After that, the remaining spectrum crumbs will be divided between translator aggregators to create ever larger networks of mostly redundant content.

Terrestrial radio may well go through an evolutionary change.  As more and more broadcasters are finding out, once a license is owned, there is a great deal of expense in operating a station.  Things like employees and office supplies can be cut, however; towers need to be maintained, transmitters and antennas need to be replaced periodically, electricity bills must be paid, etc.  The larger the station, the more operating costs are involved.  Another serious economic downturn like 2008 and the crazy train will be off the rails.  The inexpensive to operate, volunteer run local LPFM may indeed be the last radio station(s) standing.  I have heard many decry this type of station as “amateurish” or “not professional.”  Here is what can happen if you give a bunch of amateurs a free hand:

Good stuff.  Big picture stuff.

About community radio

Because of this post, I have received some e-mail asking why I am against community radio.  I am not.  In fact, I support community radio.  I think that community radio done well is a wonderful tool in our democracy, giving a voice to those that are watching government.  It also promotes other locals interests, events, music, etc.    I would like to see more failing stations bought by community broadcasters and turned into something that is a public trust and responsive to the local population.

What I was trying to get at in the previous post was that over crowding the FM band with more and more small signals will degrade it.  There is no ifs, ands or buts, removing third adjacent protections on the FM band will increase the noise floor.  This will lead to more interference on the average FM radio, which will lead to more people getting fed up and tuning out.

Here is why:  You cannot change the laws of physics.  FM transmitters have output filters that attenuate side band energy, that is to say, energy transmitted on 1st, 2nd and 3rd adjacent channels.  A 50,000 watt FM station on 100.3 MHz will have side band energy on 100.1, 99.9 and 99.7 MHz as well as 100.5, 100.7 and 100.9 MHz.  Due to the limitations on the components used to construct those filters, they can only be designed with the accuracy of the components used.  In other words, most electrical components have a tolerance given in percent, example +/- 10%.  That means that the value of the component will change, usually because of heating.  Therefore, output filters cannot be constructed to limit emissions to only the main channel and say one adjacent channel, they would drift off frequency.

Also, creating a brick wall filter that cuts everything off at the second adjacent channel will cause distortion of the RF signal on the main channel.  With analog AM and FM transmitters it cannot be done.  Digital transmissions are another story, but that is not what we are talking about here.

That is an engineer’s point of view.

One other thing about adding hundreds more LP FM signals.  There should be something that stipulates most (say >50%) of the programming be locally originated.  Recorded for later playback is fine.  Having thousands of LP stations broadcasting the same syndicated shows or running voice tracked automation 24/7 would be a recreation of the AM band as it currently exists.  If you want to listen to that, then it already exists, help your self.  I, on the other hand, would like to avoid the AMization of the FM band.

That is all.

Axiom


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

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...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.
~Alan Weiner

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