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Blog Central

Mickey Mouse Radio with Scott Fybush

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Sep 8, 2014 10:39:00 AM

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TWiRT 224What does it mean for radio - particularly AM radio - when Radio Disney announces the shutdown and sale of 23 of its 24 AM stations? Scott Fybush is our guest. He and Chris Tobin add perspective to this week’s headlines about Disney’s announced exit from most radio ownership. We also get a tour of an RCA-BTA-50F transmitter just before dismantling. The good news is, it’s going to a museum!


 

 

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Kirk Harnack: This week in Radio Tech, episode 224 is brought to you by the Telos's Z/IP ONE, Automatic IP audio codec. Easy to use and it's automatic. By Lawo, maker of the new crystalCLEAR virtual radio cons, intuitive, progressive, focused. crystalCLEAR is the radio console with a multi touch touchscreen interface. And by Axia. Consoles, mixing engines, intercoms, phones, audio processes, only Axia connects to so much so easily.

We're talking with Scott Fybush, editor of Northeast Radio Watch about the near end of Radio Disney, and what that portends for the rest of the radio industry.

Hey, welcome in to this week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack your host. This is the show where we talk about broadcasting technology on the audio side, the radio side of things. Everything from the microphone here in front of the talent. I guess we should talk about needles and styluses and styli and turntable sometime. That's a great subject. We were talking about that yesterday at a convention.

This show we talk about radio technology and all the stuff that brings audio entertainment to millions of listeners around the world. And we cover so many little parts of that. I'm Kirk Harnack, the host of the show. Our host is brought to you by three terrific sponsors, glad to have them on board. First of all the folks at Lawo, and their crystal clear console. Also brought to you by the folks of Telos who employ me, and this week the Z/IP One IP Audio Codec. Got a great success story for you too so stick around for that. And also Axia, leading the way in so many ways in technology for audio over IP.

All right let's bring in our co-host, the best dressed engineer in radio, from New York its Chris Tobin. Hey Chris, welcome in on this fine Thursday.

Chris Tobin: Fine Thursday it is. Thank you Kirk. It actually here in the New York City area, blue skies and a couple of puffy clouds. Very nice, very moderate weather.

Kirk Harnack: Are you in your office, are you stealing somebody else's again?

Chris Tobin: No, today I'm in my office. Very subdued, very plain.

Kirk Harnack: Spartan.

Chris Tobin: Spartan, yes. Spartan but not to be confused with the folks from Sparta.

Kirk Harnack: You need to get your lovely wife in there to do some decorating. Is she the decorator in the family?

Chris Tobin: Oh, certainly. No I'm not. I, I have inputs and I've been told it's very decent but final say as we all know goes the other way.

Kirk Harnack: I'm usually told thanks but no thanks.

Chris Tobin: I've been very fortunate. I guess I have somewhat of a creative side that it does come out once in a while.

Kirk Harnack: The extent of my decorating around the Harnack household is Kirk, can I have your checkbook please?

Chris Tobin: That's a common decorating tool for everybody.

Kirk Harnack: I'm so pleased to introduce our guest today. And I look forward every time that we have Scott Fybush on the show. Scott is a great friend and he is a friend to everybody in broadcasting. If you've been broadcasting any time at all, you know this guy's name. Scott, welcome into the show. Glad you're here.

Scott Fybush: Nice to be here again.

Kirk Harnack: And where is here for you? Are you calling from your home, your office at home?

Scott Fybush: I am at home in my incredibly messy office. I'm not going to turn the camera around and show you the rest of it. It's a disaster in the moment. But yes, I am at home in Rochester, New York. If you listen real carefully we've got an airshow going on this week. We have the Thunderbirds doing some practice runs over the house about an hour and a half ago so we'll see, maybe we'll catch them again before the end of this.

Kirk Harnack: Wow, that's awesome. Have you guys got a ton of rain, or did just Long Island get all the rain?

Scott Fybush: We didn't get the flooding that they did but we've had the brief afternoon monsoons every day for a couple of days running now.

Kirk Harnack: Got you. Scott, you know. I don't know where I came across your name. It might well have been in association with your calendar. This annual calendar that every month you get a new tower. But Scott, tell us, for those who don't know, tell us a little bit about Scott Fybush and why do so many people know your name?

Scott Fybush: I describe myself as a news guy whose learned how to speak fluent engineer. My background is actually in the news business. I started out in Massachusetts at WCAP in Lowell and at a little station called WBZ in Boston that you might have heard of. And I was a news writer and an editor and then came back home to Rochester, went slumming in TV for a couple of years. You can see obviously this is not the face you want to see necessarily doing TV. We'll leave that at this point to Kirk and his little weather moonlighting.

And I realized along the way I enjoyed writing about radio and started writing for Paul McLane over at Radio World. And had been doing my own column since even before the web really called Northeast Radio Watch that's been going every week. We just hit the 20th anniversary of that. And then the calendar and Tower Site of the Week has shown up every week on the website since I think 2000 or there abouts, and somewhere there I still keep my finger in radio too. I do some work at WXXI here in Rochester, filling in anchoring once and a while when I need to get behind briefly. I keep fingers in a lot of different places.

Kirk Harnack: Cool, cool deal. I want to jump right in and we'll get our first sponsor announcement done. And our first sponsor is the Telos Z/IP ONE. Now I've got a Z/IP ONE right here behind me and this is a one rack unit IP audio codec. Now of course there are plenty of audio codecs on the market. Hey, in the last four, five years a number of them have come on the market. You know, we used to do all our audio from place to place, what, over equalized phone lines? When we did an outside broadcast, when we got audio from the studio to the transmitter site, and from equalized phone lines, at some point in technology the phone company actually went to a digital transmission between points.

they still took it in as analog, and gave it back to you as analog. But in between, it was a digital circuit. Often time using an apptech sound rhythm card that would go in their box. Then we, of course we moved into ISDN and lots of folks used that because ISDN cost per minute, not many people used that for STL transmission but rather just for temporary connections for ball games or symphony concerts or remote broadcasts. But you know, ISDN is going away too. Hey in the U.S. they're talking about completely pulling the plug in 2019 and a couple companies aren't even taking any orders now anymore for new ISDN. And that's ISDN BRI.

So what's replacing it? Well IP is replacing it. That is sometimes the public internet. Or it could be a private IP connection, could be an IP radio. And no matter what kind of connection it is, there's probably going to be some kind of irregularity going on. You know these services from the phone company tended to be guaranteed.

The good news was they were guaranteed, the bad news was if it didn't work then you couldn't do a thing about it except call the phone company. Probably they'd fix it but you know, service isn't what it used to be. IP connections have good and bad points. The bad point is it may not work like you want and it seems like it's out of your hands, the good news is you have options. If you're going to get IP from one place to another, you probably can do it more than one way. And you can choose the equipment that's going to connect to that IP connection.

The Z/IP one is a great choice. And some of the reasons why we'll just walk you through a couple of them here. First of all, it's easy to use. My goodness, you get the Z/IP One plugged into your network, hook it to the internet, give it a friendly name and bam it's connected to our Z/IP server. Which is free to use. That means there's presence information. You can hide that if you want to behind a password protected group if you like. But I can make a Z/IP call to another unit. Gee, how about we call this one in Austria. That's right I just connected to Austria. And, oops. That's the audio coming from somewhere in Austria. Still not exactly sure who it is but I call them every now and then.

The Z/IP one can give you great audio IP connections using any one of a variety of codecs from a low bit rate codec like G.722 to super fast linear connections if you want to do linear. AAC, the whole family. MPEG layer 2 is in there as well, so there's lots of great options. Plus it's compatible with other codecs and other pieces of software. Like Luci Live on your smartphone. That's a great option to use if you want to go out and do a live remote and certainly people are doing that now. So check it out on the web if you would at telos-systems.com. It's the Telos Z/IP ONE.

I got a, oh I can't find it, oh yeah I did. I got a great letter from a customer of the Z/IP ONE. And he says "Hey Kirk, I spoke some weeks ago about me selling my Z/IP ONE because I'm not going to start my company after all. Well, I turned around. I did start the company and I've been cranking out work. And guess what? I've been using the Z/IP ONE almost every day in session." He says "I'm a super fan of this box even though I've heard good things about," and he mentions a couple competitors, "I still love using a hardware box with its floating point bandwidth. Just wanted to let you know. Honestly, it's the coolest thing since sliced bread." By the way, this guy's in the number one market in the country. He's in New York up there with you guys. Z/IP ONE, check it out on the web at telos-systems.com.

All right, let's get right into the show with Scott Fybush and Chris Tobin with us. Scott, the big news that's been on the headlines the last couple of days is Radio Disney.

Scott Fybush: Yes, they've announced yesterday that they are going to sell off their remaining radio stations. They've been doing this in bits and pieces. At one point I think they've owned 70 or 80 stations around the country. They sold off the small ones, and then they sold off the ones in the 50 sized markets. They said we're going to stick with radio in the top 25 markets. As of yesterday, they said now, come September they're going to sell everything they have except they're keeping one station in Los Angeles I think so they can pay lower streaming rates so they can still be a broadcaster. But they said, you know what. We did a survey and we figured out, out of everybody who tunes into Radio Disney over the course of a week, you know what the percentage was that was tuning in on terrestrial radio?

Kirk Harnack: Chris Tobin, you have any idea? Take a stab? He's speechless. Chris is absolutely speechless.

Chris Tobin: Well I have to say I was there in the beginning with Radio Disney. So, yeah I'm speechless. No, yeah. It was probably like a negative one I guess, listing.

Scott Fybush: It was better than that. 18%.

Chris Tobin: That's good.

Kirk Harnack: Oh really?

Scott Fybush: 18%, the majority at this point I think Sirius XM was responsible for about 30%. Various streaming services, another 30% or so. They make it available on a whole bunch of other platforms. And so they're saying you know what? This is no longer worth it to us to continue to maintain all this steel and all these transmitters and all of these AM sites which for the most part are only reaching part of these markets anyway, especially at night. We're moving off this platform, we're going to focus on other platforms. So that was a pretty big shock. So these stations will all be put on the market. Disney will go off of them as of September 26th. If there's a buyer in place, they'll start with a new buyer right then. If not, they will go dark until somebody makes a bid and is ready to take them over.

Kirk Harnack: I want to make sure I got that figure right. You said 18%. That's 18% of Radio Disney listening was done on the AM station. Nobody had an 18 share, right?

Scott Fybush: No, none of these stations for the most part register at all on the ratings. You know cause the audience they're looking at is generally too young to factor in even to sometimes 12 plus. I know for instance in this household my daughter was a Radio Disney listener until she hit about the age of nine or so and then she transitioned into top 40 radio on FM. So that went away for her pretty quickly. It's tough, what they were playing a lot of cases, their music has become top 40 music. Look at what's on the charts right now and it's a lot of artists that got their start there. So they're not abandoning Radio Disney per se, they're just saying this is not the platform for us.

And I think you have to look at it to a certain percent historically. Because you're talking about a network that started in 1996. And I've asked the question repeatedly, if it's 1996 and somebody says to you I want to start a national audio service and I want to reach as many people as I can in the top let's say 100 markets around the country, and I want to do it as efficiently and economically as I can, how would you do it in 1996? And their answer at that point was we'll get a lot of AM stations because they're cheap and we'll put it up there. But it was never meant to save AM radio. It was meant simply to be an economical platform. And at the point where it ceased to be an economical platform for them they said okay, we'll move onto what's next.

Chris Tobin: That's absolutely true.

Kirk Harnack: Was Radio Disney ever on FM channels?

Scott Fybush: They've had a couple over the years. One of the stations they're selling off in Indianapolis was an FM. They had one, I think Little Rock was FM. They had a couple of affiliates but think about again, the period when they were really building this network, say '96 through 2000 was the point where FM expenses, you couldn't buy an FM for under $100 million in a big market. Even AMs they paid a lot for. 1516 New York. The old WQXRAM. Later WQEW. They paid $40 million for that radio station when they bought that from the New York Times. They're not going to recoup anywhere near that when they go to sell it.

Kirk Harnack: Chris Tobin, what was your involvement with Radio Disney? Had to do with ABC Radio Network?

Chris Tobin: Yes. I was at the Network and we were the engineering team in New York and Dallas was tasked with building out the infrastructure and programming and taking care of on location broadcasts and you name it, we did it. We distributed a lot of the audio via the satellite channels. Yeah, I was there in the beginning with the folks and it was meant to be a distribution to get the Disney brand out. That's basically it. So Scott's absolutely right. When it became no longer economically feasible, time to move on. But 1996, that was the best choice they had and it made sense at the time.

Kirk Harnack: Just thinking about in a little over two weeks, I'm taking the family to Disney in Florida for a day. I guess they're advertising...

Scott Fybush: Hit up AM 990, it'll be the last time you get to hear it.

Kirk Harnack: I will, okay. Yeah, yeah. 990 in Orlando.

Scott Fybush: Yes, that's one of the facilities they're selling off. It's amazing because each of the facilities has its own unique little quarks to it. There are some like that Orlando facilities where they're selling a license. They don't own the tower site. I believe Cox owns that tower site. Which is an interesting site, we should talk about this one sometime because it's one of the rare community FM sites that's also got a direction AM. So it's a modern, if you've been in one of these new community transmitter buildings, the long concrete block corridor with everybody's individual rooms off on one side, most of them have FMs in them and then you open one door and there's a 50 kilowatt Nautel on a phasor sitting next to it that's feeding out to a six tower array out back I'm told.

There are others where the station will come with land. Cleveland I think comes with a land, San Francisco comes with a land. There's one, the Seattle station just lost its nighttime site and I'm not sure what they're going to do up there.

Kirk Harnack: What, these Radio Disney stations, were a lot of them rather high power station or were a lot of them in the five and ten kilowatt range?

Scott Fybush: A lot of them were right in that sort of middle ground. There was a couple of 50s in there. New York City, N1560 was a full time 50,000 watts. The station that serves Philadelphia out of Southern New Jersey is 50 day and it drops down at like 1500 watts or something at night. It's not especially powerful at night. But a lot of these, what they could buy when they were able to buy were these regional stations. And at one time, a lot of them had been major players in the markets. The old WTAE 1250 in Pittsburgh is one of them. The old WIXI 1260 in Cleveland is another one. The old KDIA in Oakland is one of them.

And these are the stations, and I wrote about this and we can, I think we'll get into talking a little bit about the AM improvement proceeding, when I filed my comments with the FCC about it one of the things I pointed out was there's this whole group of stations now that aren't the big massive 50,000 watt double USMs or WLWs or what have you. And they're not the little local kilowatts that can still manage to serve a small town very adequately. They're all these stations like the 1300 in Chicago for instance is one of them. That covers a chunk of the market by day, covers a smaller chunk of the market by night, but it's not a full market station and it's going to be very interesting to see what kind of buyer comes forward and says it's worth it for me to pay two million, three million, five million for me to get my hands on this thing.

Kirk Harnack: How many of these will go Spanish?

Scott Fybush: I think you'll see some go Spanish. I think based on what's happened with a lot of their previous sales, a lot go religious. We know looking around the country that various Catholic broadcasters have been extremely, extremely aggressive in station purchasing. And some of these are markets like Philadelphia that don't yet have a robust Catholic radio presence. So they probably will be buyers as they were with some of the previous Disney facilities that got sold off. I think you'll see other foreign language groups too. It's interesting up in Minneapolis and there's a Disney station up there that will be sold. They're about to get their third Hmong station. The Laotian, they came out of Laos, the Hmong community that got resettled very extensively in Minnesota, there are now three A.M. stations surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul that are broadcasting to that community.

Chris Tobin: Wow.

Scott Fybush: It's great local radio. It's wonderful, full service local radio. It's just not a language you or I would understand.

Kirk Harnack: Yeah.

Scott Fybush: Unless you speak Hmong. Which perhaps you do.

Kirk Harnack: No, I didn't even know it existed until you just mentioned it. Wow. I was just looking at it. Indeed there are some 50 kilowatters. You mentioned a couple of these already. Tempe, Los Angeles, Pasadena, where else? Orlando [inaudible 00:18:52]...

Scott Fybush: Los Angeles is the one they're keeping.

Kirk Harnack: Which one?

Scott Fybush: The LA one is the one they're keeping.

Kirk Harnack: LA, got you. Got you.

Scott Fybush: Tempe is an interesting one. Remember KNIX, the Buck Owen station? That was the AM station there and that thing is a monster across the west at night. The trouble is when you're up there and you're the shortwave with a highly directional AM, there's half the Phoenix market that doesn't hear it at night.

Kirk Harnack: Oh, yeah.

Scott Fybush: So it's a challenge for somebody. Somebody will do something with it. Another neat one is the one in Detroit, which is the old WFDF out of Flint. And Disney spent a lot of money on that one. They moved it from Flint down to south of Detroit. They built a brand new, I forget if it's six towers or eight towers, but a brand new from the ground up 50,000 watt directional plant for that one. And shoehorned it into the Detroit market. So again that'll be an AM that's useful to somebody in Detroit. Whether it's a mass market thing or niche, I don't know yet.

Kirk Harnack: Would you say that most, if not all of these Disney facilities, you say AM transmitter sites, are they in really good shape? Some of them you said have been totally rebuilt.

Scott Fybush: Say this for Disney. They put a lot of money into upgrading these facilities. Ground systems got replaced. They tore down in some cases I know facilities where they tore down entire aging transmitter buildings. And rebuilt, a lot of them got new transmitters. All of them were set up for [inaudible 00:20:20]. I think every last one of them was running HD at one point or another. And so they broadbanded the antenna arrays and cleaned up ground system. So, facilities people are getting should be in decent shape. You can't say they neglected the transmission side of their operation by any means.

Kirk Harnack: And, you know there's a, on the listing I'm looking at, it's on streamingradioguide.com, a list of all the Disney AM stations, do all of them have HD radio on AM? Or did they have it for a while and dropped it?

Scott Fybush: They were all equipped with it, I'm pretty sure Disney put that in corporate wide. Most of them were running it. It actually sounded pretty good. I got to hear some of them in HD and you know, with that music format, the codec was very friendly to music and it sounded pretty good. Some of them I understand have been running it intermittently on and off. A couple I think have turned it off. I know most of the ones they sold, even though they sold them with the HD plant in place, a lot of these owners don't want to invest in a licensing fee and don't really see a return on it. So a lot of them have gotten turned off after they've been sold.

Kirk Harnack: Fascinating. And we live in some interesting times here. It's the end of an era for Radio Disney on AM, on the AM band. You explained why, that's understandable. But plenty of other people will look at this as an opportunity. You mentioned the religious broadcaster, perhaps Catholic radio. Large populations of Catholic people in some areas, and now you've got a signal to hit them all. Or a large chunk of them. And then foreign language stations. Going to be interesting to see who picks these up and what they do with them and who as business people who get new opportunities.

Now these Disney stations, did they sell local advertising or was it all pretty much network 24/7?

 

Scott Fybush: They had had local ad sales at one time. My understanding for the most part is that they had pulled back from that. These were never, and this is part of the reason I think why people who look at this and say oh this is some kind of demise of the AM band, these were never designed to be radio stations as we understood them. These served the same function for Disney as a billboard does. It serves the same function as a trailer for a Disney movie did.

The idea was that the product that these stations were advertising was Disney by the artists that we have on our record label. Go see the movies that we got coming out. Go buy the DVDs that we're releasing, come visit our theme park, so on and so forth. So they were really intended more to be, the whole thing probably showed up at some point on some ledger somewhere as promotions for Disney in general because that's really what it was meant to do. So they weren't as focused on selling spot time, there was a little in there. But for the most part what they were selling was Disney. And they did a pretty good job of it. It was a good sounding station.

Kirk Harnack: Sounds like, Chris Tobin, what do you think about this? It sounds like the people who were likely to pick these stations up, to buy them from Radio Disney and put their own programming on, a number of them may not be in the business of selling local ads either if they go to Catholic or other nationwide religious distribution. And if they're selling, if they're selling Hispanic language, they will have, probably a different audience of businesses that they'll be selling ads to than the non-Spanish stations or so. So I guess what I'm getting, Disney hasn't been a threat to other radio stations in a market, typically. Low listenership and little or no ad sales, and whoever buys them may be the same picture.

Chris Tobin: Well once they buy them it won't be a Disney brand anymore. So it'll be just a radio station as they choose to do. If it's part of a network, a lot of these small regional, I shouldn't say small, regional networks do do local sales. It's targeted.

When I was with the Disney group, and that whole project launched, as Scott pointed out, it was meant to be an extension of the branding we'll call it. The brand campaigns of Disney. And they did have some local sales, but it was not local sales as most radio stations call it. It was just targeted. If it tied into a local event that Disney was introducing, a movie was coming out or a play on Broadway, then there was local buy in, but other than that, Scott's right. It was just basically an extension, a billboard if you will. And I think people buying the property, the assets that are being released, you know, if it's a religious group. Yes they're probably part of a network because I've worked with several with them. And they still have local, but its different locals. Not what traditional, we'll call local sales team does.

And I think in the Hispanic community, when I worked for Spanish broadcasters, we did both network and we had local and the local was again very targeted, very different approach that I'm custom to working with, oh, say traditional local sales. I think it's a great opportunity for people. People broadcast, business people who get it. Not large group that's just looking to turn numbers.

Kirk Harnack: So Scott, we've been talking about the Disney station sales. All these A.M. stations. That's a good segue into AM improvement. And that's been a hot topic for a couple of years now. There's an FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, who is very interested in A.M. improvement. Let's say it, I'm not real optimistic myself. I'm an AM station owner. I own one at the moment. No, two. I own two AM stations at the moment. I'm not real optimistic except for very niche formats. I, well, sure, big cities where you've got major news outlet, those are still very very viable. Maybe I'm less optimistic than I should be. But what are you looking forward to with AM improvement? Give us a bit of the picture of what's on the table, what are people talking about to improve AM?

Scott Fybush: The big picture what's on the table. There was a report and order, or actually a rule making proceeding that the FCC put together. We basically said okay, we have a bunch of ideas that we want to get comment on from broadcasters, and they laid them all out and there were some that were extremely technical. One of them for instance said hey, let's get rid of the ratchet rule which is something that, beyond the people who are watching Tort, probably nobody else, even in the industry knows what the ratchet rule is.

But if you've ever tried to upgrade an AM facility, especially an older AM facility, and you run afoul of this rule that says you have to reduce the interference that you are causing to other stations by 10% in order to have this approved. It was a great idea, it was well meaning. It didn't work in practice because it restricted a lot of older facilities from upgrading because they provided so much interference for everybody else who came in after them down the road. So they said well do we want to get rid of that?

They asked questions about do we want to loosen the main studio requirements for AM. They asked questions about should we open a window for new translators applications that would be limited specifically to existing AM licensees. Give them the first crack at getting whatever FM channels are still available out there. And there aren't very many of them after all the various translator and LPFM windows that we've had. And they got quite a response, the filing deadline for this if I recall correctly was late February, I think it might of got pushed into March a little bit. And they got a couple hundred replies. It's fascinating. You can go through on the FCC website and read these. There are a lot of different ideas out there.

One of the things the commission did was they said we also want to hear other things we should be considering and a lot of people came in with opinions about what to do with HDAM which has been obviously questionably successful at best over the years. So these comments were fascinating. I filed a comment, I filed was about 22 pages in and of itself just kind of laying out some historic groundwork saying here are the classes of AM stations that are doing well. Here are the classes, primarily these old five kilowatt regionals in the middle that just aren't well suited right now to be major players in a market the way they once would have been. And here's the relief they ought to get to be able to get to improve.

And so far at least over the last few months now it's just been sitting at the commission waiting for that next step to come. And that next step could come next week. It could come later this year. It could conceivable not come at all.

Kirk Harnack: So, [inaudible 00:28:44] his remarks to Ohio Broadcasters, Ajit Pai was hoping for a vote by October for some of these things. I don't know, I'm not optimistic about incremental improvements at all. I think incremental improvements don't go far enough to offset the much larger incremental loss of listeners to AM. But you know, of course I'm biased toward my own listening habits. I'm not a big AM listener anymore. Used to be a lot in the 80s and 90s and just don't listen to AM anymore myself. I'm surrounded by gear that makes it a little difficult. So I'm a bit more in favor of an all out brand to scrap it and replace it with digital but I realize that would be extremely painful. Chris, what are your thoughts about AM improvement. You got any?

Chris Tobin: Unfortunately, full disclosure, I do not own any AM properties or FM broadcast properties. So I can't speak with pain that some do have owning such things. But from what I can gather reading and following on various different industry websites, I think incremental, well, you know, if it makes sense, maybe. I agree if you try to do a full blown digital conversion as some people have suggested, that would just be a nail in the coffin or a nail in the heart because the cost would just be too much. We saw that with HD. HD was supposed to be the I guess an incremental to eventually evolving evolutionary step to improving the broadcast spectrum in general. FM and AM I still am a component if there's something worth listening to, it won't matter if it's AM or FM, people will come to it. And I think that's where it hurts.

The hard part is we have become an industry of people that have just lost sight of what it took to get that listener. You know, Scott knows, and you know and me and many others who are watching and listening, 20 years ago, 25 years ago now it seems scary when I think of it, I worked at radio stations where we did things that by today's standards, by today's, we'll call them the broadcast groups and what they believed to be the way of doing business, you couldn't even present at the table with a general manager and expect a response other than "Are you nuts? Get out of here, we're not going to do that. That's going to cost us." And that's what I think is part of the problem. The crux of it.

You said AM stations in major markets that are, say a format of news or sports. They're surviving. Or actually they're just barely surviving. They just happen to have momentum from their 40 years of being around. It keeps them going. But they're hurting as well because people have moved to other places to get the information because the broadcasts haven't done the same.

You said yourself, you can get stuff on a digital platform somewhere else that you want to listen to and do things. Why haven't broadcasters done the same thing? Instead they've given away their branding to other third parties to do it for them and they have to pay a price to do it so I think it's great that the attention is brought to the AM industry. They're told it's still viable, but I don't know what the answer is at this point.

Technically, AM has its pitfalls but so does FM. But AM has a lot of ways to improve it but nobody in the industry is willing to push it. And I've read Scott's notes and what he's proposed and mentioned and talks about and how he tries to stimulate the thought process and he's spot on. But it's going to be a tough climb unless the industry itself really want to do something. You know, you don't see much coming out NAD.

Kirk Harnack: Scott, what if other countries...

Scott Fybush: What's interesting, if I can just say. What's interesting, Chris talks about the industry and one of the interesting things is that it has splintered so much. Much more so than in the days back when nobody could own more than five or ten stations. And nowadays they're really kind of two industries because you've got the really big guys, you know, who operate their major market stations that are still pulling in huge revenue numbers, there's still a lot of money being made there. And there are actually a surprising number, you don't hear about them that much but there are a surprising number of broadcasters operating in fairly small towns, sometimes really small towns who are making amazing amounts of moneys with little small town AM stations. Sometimes accompanied by translators.

I know of stations, little thousand watt graveyard stations in communities of 20, 30,000 people. Some of them are still pulling in 300, 400, $500,000 of revenue a year on a staff of five or six people. So it can be done. There's still a demand for it. But the problem is that the kind of regulatory thing that would help a kind of station like that has absolutely nothing to do with whatever regulatory changes might benefit a WABC or a KNX or a WLS so you have that problem of how do you craft something that applies somehow to both of these completely different sets of operations now. So it's a huge challenge they're going to face if they even really have the willpower to address AM radio in detail. Which every opportunity the commission's had in the past 30 years, they've thrown up their hands and said we'll let the next guys deal with it. It's a big challenge.

Chris Tobin: Well the old perception is reality. I think that's part of what's hurting it and you're right. There are two factions to the industry. And I have met people who are making money and doing very well and enjoying a very nice lifestyle with their broadcast operations. But the perception is overall that AM is dead. And as long as that continues to be perception, people that may have the willingness or funding to do something are on the fence and it's a shame. And it's a shame but you're right, there are a lot of folks that are benefiting and doing very well for themselves but the regulatory landscape is such that that's perception that it's gone or useless or that it's a waste of time is going back a lot. And maybe if somebody could just step up and just say hey, it works. It's happening, here are the success stories. Let's do something to make those success stories move across the entire landscape. That's just my entire opinion.

Kirk Harnack: Guys, you are watching or listening to This Week in Radio Tech. It's our 224th episode. Scott Fybush is our guest and Chris Tobin is our co-host along with us. I'm Kirk Harnack. And our show is brought to you by, the folks, in part by the folks at Lawo. I want to tell you about their crystalCLEAR audio console. Check it out at Lawo.com. L-A-W-O. That's how you spell it, L-A-W-O. Lawo is how you say it.

The crystalCLEAR is this gorgeous console because well, the brains of it are, it's a one rack unit box that goes on the rack. And that's where the audio [inaudible 00:35:38]. But the part that you use, the part that your disc jockeys, the part that you touch and use and mix with, it's a touch screen. Not only that, it's a multi touch touch screen. Not only that, it's a standalone P.C. If something happens to it, if it just doesn't boot up one day, guess what? You're still on the air. You can bring another one in. It's just networked to the main unit. The 1RUDSP box.

So the crystalCLEAR has all these incredible features. Just one after another. It's got, as I said, the multi touch enable control panel, intuitive controls. You touch something and you know what? If it needs to bring up some options? It does. If it just needs to do what you touched it to do, that's what it does. So it's context sensitive in terms of things that you're touching. It does what you need to do when you need it to do it.

There are three mixing groups of course, like so many consoles. Program one, program two, and a record bus. There's a Q or pre-fader level available. Programmable SCENE presets recall every detail. The meters on it are precision stereo PPM meters. That's peak program meters. Euro and U.S. operating modes for fader start or button start depending on how you like to do it, and maybe where you were taught radio, in Europe or the U.S. Large time or day clock of course, synchronizable to an NTP server. Talk buttons that automatically, automagically appear on mix-minus channels. So if you need to talk, you can't talk to a turn table, or a CD player or even an automation system. But if you got a codec or a telephone hybrid or maybe a reporter coming in by satellite feed and there's a talk back path through cellphone, touch the talk back button and you're talking back to that person at the other end.

Has an optional RAVENNA Ao.I.P. interface that is AES67 compliant, so it works with other brands of gears that are AES67 compliant. It has some analog inputs and outputs. Some AESEBU digital inputs and outputs. Power supply redundancy. That's very important for some people. You've got two power supplies. And GPIO contact closures for on air lamps and input for cutting your speaker if you cut the speakers off, low noise mic pre-amps, just a whole list of features. But the coolest of which is that touchscreen. Multi touch and just very intuitive operation.

Lawos showed this at the NAB Show. Mike Dosch has been our guest there. He was part of the final design of this product and you ought to check it out. Go to Lawo.com. L-A-W-O dot com. And look under products and radio consoles. It's called the crystalCLEAR. And they're calling it a virtual radio mixing console. I think they have bigger plans for it in the future but if you want to check it out for your own studio, do so now at lawo.com. Thanks very much Lawo for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech, where we're all about technology for radio.

All righty, let's move, we've got some throwback Thursday to use a Facebook term on us here. We've got some throwback Thursday to go to. Scott, you have brought along with you some pictures, I'm not sure if I've forwarded these to our producer yet. I think I did, but maybe I didn't. Let me go check. Andrew, if you're handy, did I, I didn't send you this link. Oh, you do? Okay good. Scott, set this up for us and maybe Andrew you can pop a picture of two up when we do.

Scott Fybush: What we're about to see here is one of the last RCA. BTA 50F transmitters still in captivity.

Kirk Harnack: Okay.

Scott Fybush: These were kind of the last of the big Art Deco RCAs.

Kirk Harnack: Is it working?

Scott Fybush: It was. It is within a few hours it will be in pieces. So what you're seeing here is the station that is now known as WKNR 1220 in Cleveland. This is the old WGAR. That's probably the call sign everybody remembers it as. And at one time, it had two of these beasts, believe it or not. There was one in front that's long since gone away. It went to another station, I think it's out of service. But this one you're seeing here was brought in as a backup in around 1973 and it came out of Dallas/Fort Worth. This was the transmitter that powered the old WBAP and WFAA. Remember when they shared time at 8:20 with the cowbell they rang to switch from one station to the other.

Kirk Harnack: Oh, yeah. I'm not that old of course, but yeah, I've heard of that.

Scott Fybush: Well I'm not either. But this was, major piece of radio history here. So this was the 50,000 watt transmitter that was on there. 820 frequency. And the transmitter site was being taken so they could build DFW airport. If you've ever changed planes at DFW you've probably gone right past where this transmitter was. And the engineers at WGAR were basically told get down to Dallas, take this thing with you and get it out of here. They had to build an addition to their building. This thing by itself is 20 some feet long. So they build an addition onto the back of the building to house it. It was an alternate main for many years, and then a backup, and has now been retired.

And the good news is that it is being donated to a fellow named Jim Davison who has a nonprofit that's building a museum of Cleveland radio. And in just a few short hours, I almost ended up going to Cleveland to watch them do this tonight, in just a few short hours, some of the same engineers who were around in 1973 and helped installed this are going to be back there in Cleveland helping to take it apart and at least some big pieces of it get preserved.

Kirk Harnack: Andrew, do you have more pictures ready? There's one.

Scott Fybush: There we go, that's a neat one right there. Go back one. That one's neat too. There were four of this 5671 transmitter tubes in there. And there's actually the transmitter came with a pneumatic cart because you can't lift that thing out by yourself if you're trying to change out that tube. That weighs a lot more than you can possibly lift by yourself. So there's a cart that actually slides in underneath it and raises up the tube so you can get it out of there. The transmitter is essentially its own backup. There are multiple tubes in there, some of which can serve as backups and you could wire it up just like with a Westinghouse 50 HG of the same vintage, you can wire that up as a 100 kilowatt transmitter if you wanted to.

Kirk Harnack: I take it that's air cooled.

Scott Fybush: Yes. That is definitely air cooled.

Kirk Harnack: Figures. Now these tubes, now younger engineers like myself, the things are upside down. I never got to work on a transmitter that had these tubes that had the connections on the topside for the filament and the grid and that's what we're looking at here, isn't it?

Scott Fybush: I believe it is. Would you like to suspend that much weight and try to get underneath it?

Kirk Harnack: I guess not.

Scott Fybush: I wouldn't. The rectifier stacks, I believe they were, yeah we're seeing the rectifier stacks there. And it's interesting, if you look, as we scroll through these pictures. The transmitter is big enough, it actually has a door in the middle of it. One of the transmitter panels right now you can see in its closed position there, one of those panels is actually a door. And in this photo here that we're seeing, we've actually walked through the door and we are behind the transmitter looking at the back end of it. Essentially the building was built around the transmitter. I don't know if you wanted to get that out in one piece. I'm not sure you even could anymore.

Chris Tobin: So those the rich fire stacks, one of those might be a door?

Scott Fybush: Yep, right there if you look sort of that next one, you see where the WGAR cork board is there, and the door it's in front of. The door just to the left of that is actually a door, and you can walk right through there and into the back of the transmitter for maintenance. Because it took up an entire wall of a building. There is one of these, there we go, there you can see the door.

Kirk Harnack: It's open, yeah yeah,

Scott Fybush: There was one, WCFL in Chicago had one of these. And they took out, one of the issues with these transmitters obviously is they were pretty heavily loaded with PCBs in the transformers. So they removed the guts of the things and they realized if we're going to take the guts out, they would have an entire empty wall of their transmitter building. And so they left the front of the transmitter there so it's just a facade in Chicago with nothing behind it. But they left the facade there.

This one, that whole facade is going to be removed and taken away to a museum and hopefully at some point, right now it goes into storage, but hopefully at some point it will get resurrected and at least manage to make it light up. I don't think it will ever run again and make 50,000 watts but you'll at least be able to get a sense of what was. Cause there are not many of those out there anymore. They're few and far between. I think KOMO in Seattle still has one. There's a 50E which was the predecessor to that one which we want, KOB in Albuquerque, that's in a museum now in Farmington, New Mexico. But other than that there are not many out there.

Chris Tobin: What else is there in terms of pictures here?

Scott Fybush: Oh there we go. There are power tranformers. In a lot of cases, a lot of these installations those would have been down in the basement. In this particular case they were just put behind the transmitter in a big open area there. Now that I think maybe had once been a garage. But imagine at one time there were two of these at WGAR and a full time staff that was on duty pretty much 24/7 keeping them running. And nowadays there's a Nautel Amphet there that just kind of goes.

There's a good shot, you can see the door right there. That's where it would have walked in to service it. There's the view from the other side of the room.

 

Kirk Harnack: Yeah. Different perspective there. Look at those big, beautiful meters. You can see those from across the room.

Scott Fybush: There's the nameplate. Thankfully that will be saved. Those things by themselves have really become collectors items. There are people who kind of scavenge those and make sure they're taken care of, and in fact...

Kirk Harnack: You've got one yourself.

Scott Fybush: This one, this is cheating a little bit. This one is from a TV transmitter. But this one came from channel 13 right down the street from me in Rochester. And this was their original TV transmitter in 1962 when they signed on. And when they decommissioned it when they went digital, they were kind enough to let me have it. So I've got that sitting here. But yeah those RCA logos by themselves are very coveted by collectors.

Kirk Harnack: Wow. Wow. Thanks for that bunch of pictures and the tour. Now the, I'm sorry, this R-what year do you think that BTF 50F was made?

Scott Fybush: Early to mid 1950s I think the last of them came off in 1955. I think this one dates from 1953, 54, somewhere in there. But it's been very well kept up over the years. My understanding is that at least until recently, it could still run which is pretty cool because there aren't many of those of that vintage that could still run. It's like with those Westinghouse's too. There are still a few of them around, but the only one I know of that can still power up and go on the air is at Lowell in Fort Wayne. It was a beautiful, beautiful beast.

Kirk Harnack: I've been there but I missed the tour of that particular transmitter. Chris Tobin, having been up to the Northeast there, like Scott has. You've been around some big 50 kilowatt AM transmitters that are probably pretty old. Tell us about your experience.

Chris Tobin: Yeah, I've had a chance to work around some of the old AM 50 kilowatt RCAs. The early Collins and Continentals. Not that the Continentals are old. But some of the early stuff. Darty transmitters, those are the AMs. I've had a couple of, let's see, there was a Westinghouse, there was also that was German, it was, is it Westinghouse, or GE copy the German version of an AM transmitter with the glass front with the fluorescent lights in it?

Kirk Harnack: I think that was GE.

Chris Tobin: That was GE yes. Yes. I got to work on that, it was interesting because it was vintage 1940s, 1950s and the wiring vulcanized the rubber, plastic, whatever they were using in the day, so the harnesses started to collapse and short out. It made for an interesting light show at [inaudible 00:48:00]. So you tried not to go into the cabinet if you didn't have to. But yeah, had fluorescent lights. Long, tubular lights on either side of the glass face that looked into the RF cavities so you could see the transmitter tubes when they illuminated, and it was fun. But yeah, I...

Kirk Harnack: What about...

Chris Tobin: What was that?

Kirk Harnack: Okay, so the transmitter we were just looking at, that RCA BTA 50F, I guess broadcast transmitter AM 50 kilowatts and the F version of that. I take it, Scott, that it used high level plate modulation, with a big modulation transformer.

Scott Fybush: Right, that's my understanding of it.

Kirk Harnack: Yeah, so...

Scott Fybush: So we saw some of those transformers in back in this case.

Kirk Harnack: So typically the big iron would be high voltage power supply transformer that, you know, took in 480 or 240 or whatever it took in. Probably three face 480 and bumped it way up to some high voltage for the plate voltage. And then you had other big iron would be chokes. So you had big capacitors and big heavy iron chokes with big heavy windings in those to give you smoother DC instead of pulsating DC. And then the other big piece of iron would be the very critical modulation transformer. And this would be the transformer that would actually buck or boost the plate supply for the modulation, I'm sorry, for the RF tubes. So the RF tubes would basically receive audio varying B plus. That was one way to do it. They also could do some modulation schemes with the grid or the screen to tweak things. But a plate modulation transformers basically as I described.

Does, do we know when the ampliphase transmitters came along? These were transmitter that would come out or consume a constant amount of powers. But two amplifiers would change their phase relative to one another and their combination would then produce amplitude modulated RF, which is what they were trying to get. Chris Tobin, you got any ampliphases in your history?

Scott Fybush: No. That was the generation of...

Chris Tobin: The only one I visited way back in the day, I think was WHN 1050 here in the New York area. Those of us who've work on them, and I did, I work on them extensively, but I have friends who did. They used to be known as the amplifuzz. Cause the audio quality would shift. But you had to keep everything linear. If I remember correctly, that transmitter power supply, voltages, everything had to stay very very high tolerance or otherwise it would move around. It took a lot to maintain, but it was an interesting transmitter.

Scott Fybush: There was, if I remember my RCA history, that was the generation after this one. I think the 50G was the ampliphase 50. And KFBK out in Sacramento had a prototype. Their claim to fame out there, they built a lot of their own stuff. The McClatchy stations out in California. And their claim to fame was that they were the first one who adapted what had been this European, I think it was actually a French design originally. And they had built their own, and RCA had modified it based on what McClatchy had learned. So that, believe that is where that came out of. It was right around that same era too that, that was when Gates was doing the Vapor Phase 50 as I recall. I think that was right around late 50s, early 60s somewhere in there.

Kirk Harnack: Scott, you're very accurate. Especially with the McClatchy information. I was just reading, I was reading Wikipedia while you were talking thinking Scott must have written this entry in Wikipedia. The F Phase design was proposed, not built, but proposed back in 1935. That's when somebody thought of doing this. We need to have a whole show on ampliphase because I've never worked on one, but I think it's a fascinating technology. And engineers who knew how to keep ampliphases running, apparently they sounded great cause they didn't have all the difficulty with modulation and audio linearity because it was two constant amplifiers just changing phase with relation to one another and then combining. There'd be a reject load also, so you had wasted power, but what came out toward the antenna, if everything was working right, would be beautiful AM modulated RF. So.

Chris Tobin: Yeah, and they did require careful set up and tuning to reduce, to keep that distortion to a minimum so they had a great sound. They were a more efficient method than plate, than traditional plate modulation. But the hard part was keeping them tuned and properly cared for. That's where the amplifuzz moniker came was just a, you had to work it, you had to work the box.

Kirk Harnack: We'll do a show on old AM transmitters. That's great. Good to see those pictures, Scott. Thanks for that. Hey, Scott, in your calendar you show tower sites. Do you get a chance to show transmitters in those tower sites or is it always land and towers?

Scott Fybush: Not so much in the calendar itself. Where the transmitter show up is on my website. If you go to Fybush.com, you go to tower site of the week. Every Friday, there's a tour inside somebody's studios or somebody's transmitter site. That's where we get more deeply inside with the transmitter and the studio facilities and sometimes some even more interesting behind the scenes. Right now, the one that's up there right now from this past Friday, is KBRT. The Crawford station out in Los Angeles. The new site that they built when they moved off of Catalina Island. And they went up to their new site in the hills above Orange County.

The one, actually, interestingly that goes up tomorrow, as soon as I finish writing it and get ready to go up there, one of the things that we're going to see is another RCA that's being rescued. A five kilowatt of about the same vintage that was just rescued out at KOGO in San Diego. Clear Channel was going to get it out of their building and a buddy of mine named Scotty Rice managed to save the entire thing and spent a lot of late nights out there dismantling it. And he's got it in storage looking for a place that can go at least back up for display so some of this history can be preserved.

Kirk Harnack: Wow. Hey, I, you know, I've got to tell you. I forget to look to look at this website. I forgot about the Tower Site of the Week. Scott, I'm sure you have enough to do. But if you could schedule an announcement on your Facebook page, then I'd see it.

Scott Fybush: It's put up there.

Kirk Harnack: Yeah, pardon?

Scott Fybush: its put, every Friday morning it auto posts there. It's the magicness of Facebook. Whoever knows you post something, you never know who actually sees it is the problem.

Kirk Harnack: To remind me that, yeah, pardon? It does? I need to bookmark, I know. I need to make you one of my extra super special friends and monitor everything you do. Like, I need to stalk you.

Scott Fybush: Yeah. There you go.

Kirk Harnack: This is cool. I've got to put this on my to do list and for Fridays, is to go look at Scott Fybush's Tower Site of the Week. Now Scott, we've just got a few minutes left in the show, but what part of your work is available at no charge by going to your website, and what part do you have a paywall for some of the information you provide to broadcasters?

Scott Fybush: The paywall goes on the current issue of Northeast Radio Watch, which is the column I've been doing since way back in 1994 already. And that chronicles everything that's going on. Engineering, station sales, personnel moves, so on and so forth. Basically everything east of Ohio, and north of Maryland and up into Canada. And I think of it as the tribal drum of the industry.

But tower site of the week is available for free. The archives for it, if you're a subscriber, you get the access to the index that lets you go through and find everything that I've posted over the last 15 years or so, but each individual piece that goes up on Friday goes up for free. It's a tradeoff. I like to make the stuff as available as I can. At the same time, it's nice to be able to keep a roof over the head too.

Kirk Harnack: Sure, sure, cool. All right. We're going to talk about keeping a roof over the head and the calendar, and also one more news item to talk about over the break. And that is, the MAB has made a plea to BMW. We're going to explore that in just a minute.

For now, let's talk about Axia. Axia, the folks, part of the Telos alliance. The folks who invented a practical audio over IP for broadcasters. And practical in terms of broadcasters means low latency. Check out the website axiaaudio.com and you'll see of course the equipment and pictures of studios and ideas on how to build a new studio if you've got an STL transformer that's on a penthouse in the next building down the block. Ways to get that done. Lots of ideas on building efficient and easy to take care of and perfect sounding broadcast studios and routing systems. And the reason that Axia's in a position to do this is because of the leadership position that the folks at Axia, the engineers, the executive management, the example set by Steve Church, the founder of Telos and Axia, in putting AoI.P. for broadcasters.

A couple things that are worth talking about in terms of Axia's leadership. Greg Shay the chief science officer for the Telos alliance, he's actually one of the patent holders on the original idea of LiveWire, and LiveWire uses very standard protocols. What's patented is the timing scheme that lets everything talk to each other over a jittery local area network. Jittery, compared to the actual audio and packets. But there's an article about this on the website. If you look under Telos alliance's Greg Shay says, A.E.S.67 is absolutely safe. And more on the leadership side, Telos, the Telos Alliance, and Greg Shay were finding members of the X192 committee that then became the A.E.S.67 standard. And by the way, that was no rubber stamp committee. We had manufacturers and designers and theoreticians from several different disciplines working together to come up with the standard that is now known as A.E.S.67.

Axia had the first broadcast product in the U.S. with A.E.S.67 compliance and that's the Axia xNode. We get more partners all the time at Axia. Logitech, the console manufacturer is now a partner with Axia, as are a bunch of other companies. You go to a partner's page on the Axia website and you'll just see company after company that has brought on board the LiveWire standard. Company like [inaudible 00:58:54] in Paris France, they're a big integrator and they make their own equipment too. A company called Axial Technologies. Broadcast electronics, BSI, Burli, DAViS, Dalet, DAViD systems, Digimedia, Digispot, iMIS Corporation and some of their cool products there, OMT, Op-X, Rivendell, I'm putting in a Rivendell system now. It's fully Axia compatible and just as cool as can be. VoxPro, WideOrbit, Zenon-Media.

And then Hardware manufacturers like [inaudible 00:59:28], Nautel, of course, Omnia is Paravel makes a routing box. Studer, SOUND4, Xi Audio. It's all about who you can talk to. And when you're building studios, you need to add this equipment or that equipment, its great when you don't have to break it out to analog or even break it out to AES. You can just network the stuff together. And that's where Axia's leadership role has really lead to convenience for broadcast engineers like you and me to be able to assemble studios, put them together quickly, get all the functionality you could ever want or imagine. As we heard, for example, last week on last week's show with Rob Chickering about all the functionality that he's able to get just by doing some configuration on network connected broadcast devices.

So hey, if you want to get just a little example of how Axia is leading the charge and demonstrating leadership in AoI.P. for broadcasters, check out the website. It's axiaaudio.com. There's news items in the bottom left corner. There's a whole series of white papers and how to papers. If you'll go through and just skim those, you're going to be impressed as to how Axia's helping broadcasters just get it done. And that's all I got to say. Axiaaudio.com. Thanks for being one of the sponsors on This Week In Radio Tech.

All right Scott, there's some rumblings about the N.A.B. saying, please B.M.W., don't do that. What are they talking about?

Scott: They are talking about BMWs flashy new hybrid card, I guess actually all electric car which reportedly is not going to have an AM radio in it. Because the engineers at BMW are saying they can't find an economical way to make AM radio work in a car with all this electronic stuff going on around it. And the NAB is making a plea to have them rethink this decision and find a way to put in whatever filters they need to put in or DSP they need to put in to make it work and make AM radio available.

Kirk Harnack: Wow. Chris Tobin, what are the problems when you've got big electric motors powering you down the road, and AM radio reception?

Chris Tobin: Lots of noise. You don't even have to worry about the motors themselves. There's noise everywhere else these days that's being generated in the car, let alone the engine itself.

Kirk Harnack: Noise from square waves, from computer circuits? Charging systems?

Chris Tobin: Heck yeah. Yeah, the little, what do they call that, that computer language protocol for car diagnostics. That computer alone makes noise.

Kirk Harnack: CANbus? Or something else?

Chris Tobin: Not the CANbus, but there's a name for it. When you buy the little adapters you can plug it.

Kirk Harnack: Gotcha.

Chris Tobin: Yeah, there's a lot of noise in the cars. I've, one of the cars I got into, a rental recently, I just had my AM portable, my little Sony I carry with me and AM FM portable and it picked up, I could move it around and listen and sniff out the noise all around the interior of the car. I was like, oh, look at that. It's a tough one.

Kirk Harnack: So wow. Makes me think, do cars have to comply with some kind of rules about generation or emission of electromagnetic spectrum. On the other hand, you shield all this stuff. I mean, look, square waves. And that's what digital technology is, a lot of square waves, square waves make noise. Square waves are noise. Square waves have broadband noise contained in them because they're square. And this stuff leaks out.

Hey, as a manufacturer, Telos and every other manufacturer has to test their gear to make sure it doesn't emit too much and doesn't receive interference. We spend a lot of time and money making sure that, if you ever get a piece of gear and there's 80 screws in the top cover. Well believe me, the manufacturer had no desire to put 80 screws in the top cover but to make it meet emission standards, it had to have enough screws up there to keep any short wavelength from getting out of that connection between the top and the sides.

It's a tough job, and what is AM but just a receiver of, if there's no signal there, of noise? Do you see a way around this Scott or Chris?

Scott Fybush: This actually come backs, if you go in and start reading a lot of the comments in the FCC AM proceeding, a fair number of them basically say hey FCC, you have these standards that are set out in Part 15 for what are called unintentional radiators, how about you start actually finding a better way to enforce them and the problem is, and it's a problem for the industry now. People are much more interested at this point in having their devices and having their chargers for their devices and having their, I mean I love my big flat screen that I have downstairs. I don't want to give that up even if it makes some noise on the AM band and I also don't want to pay a significant amount more for it to make it quieter.

Well maybe I do but the average consumer doesn't. And so it's something that was very much let out of the bag and to go through now and try to make those standards work again. You know, Chris talked about some of the challenges of having to start from ground zero. That would be a start from ground zero kind of thing. It would be very difficult and expensive to do good at that.

Kirk Harnack: Does, if AM went all digital, does that solve any of that problem? Or does it just hide it until it gets too bad?

Chris Tobin: It would probably hide some of it. I mean there are digital systems out there, radio systems used in other industries that do mask a lot of the noise in the environment they work in. But if the noise floor reach a certain level those digital receivers do collapse. So it'd have, you know, error rates that can't be recovered. It's hard to say. I mean, in the current state the digital radio that's available for broadcasters, I'm not sure how robust that is. My experience has not been very good with it, so I don't know, but again we're trying to enforce something that should have been done over time, over, during the normal course of business. Now we're playing catch-up, it's going to be a tough one.

Scott Fybush: You can do a lot with digital signal processing, even to try to clean up an analog signal. The challenge is you've got to chip the costs some amount of money, and manufacturers who are extremely cost conscious about every piece of equipment especially that goes into a car. We may look at it and say well it's only 2 or $3 more to add this DSV chip. They look at it and say yeah, two or three bucks across a production run of millions of cars costs us real money. Tell us why it's in our interest to do that? And our industry has not necessarily been good at speaking with one voice and saying here's why, whereas something like satellite radio for instance comes in and says here's a very large check that tells you why.

So it's kind of a challenge for the industry as a whole as fractured as it can be sometimes, it's good that the NAB is getting involved in this maybe to find a way to come in and say we still want to be a presence on these dashboards of the future, somebody's got to help pony up to make it happy.

Kirk Harnack: Exciting times, depressing times, good times for interesting opportunities. We're talking about AM broadcasting. We've got to go. Our time's up. Scott Fybush, thank you very much for being on the show with us. And if I want to pre-order my catalog for 2015, my signature addition, what do I do?

Scott Fybush: We just opened pre-ordering on them, they should be shipping I'm hoping middle of September, maybe end of September. Fybush.com. F-Y-B-U-S-H.com. You click on the shop link. Lisa's just been busy rebuilding the store and we've got that up and running in much better fashion now and you can go ahead and pre-order. Supports the work that I do. And put something pretty on your wall for next year. You get to see on the cover, I'll give you a preview of the cover, you get to see an AM quadplex.

Kirk Harnack: A quadplex, wow. I complained about no transmitter and there's a good close-up of a transmitter building. This was in the April 2014.

Scott Fybush: Spokane, Spokane Washington.

Kirk Harnack: KXLY.

Scott Fybush: Yup.

Kirk Harnack: Kixlay.

Scott Fybush: Yeah. Part of the KXL network that was all through the Northwest. There were a whole bunch of them.

Kirk Harnack: Wow, nice. Chris Tobin, thank you for being with us. Appreciate you being there. The best dressed engineer in radio, and how can folks get hold of you?

Chris Tobin: Just, as some folks have already done this week, support@ipcodecs.com. I'll be more than happy to get back to you from there.

Kirk Harnack: The man with email and no website.

Chris Tobin: Yes.

Kirk Harnack: Support@ipcodecs-plural dot com. And you want to figure out this IP thing, Chris is your guy. He'll help you figure it out. Scott, thanks for being with us. Hope things are getting better for your family and auto situation and I'm very delighted that you are part of our industry and I get to do a very tiny part of supporting your efforts. I really enjoy it. Thanks for being there.

Scott Fybush: Much appreciated. Thanks for having me. Always a pleasure.

Kirk Harnack: And thanks to our sponsors on This Week At Radio Tech. Axia Audio, also the folks at Lawo, makers of the crystalCLEAR console. And The folks at Telos, and the Telos Z/IP ONE. Check them all out. The links will be on the website on every episode.

Thanks to Andrew Zarian and the terrific GFQ network for distributing this show, making it possible for us to do it. Really appreciate Andrew and all the work that he does. And we've got to go. We got to go. We're going to see you next week on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye everybody.

Topics: Radio Industry