Anyone Home?

AM Radio discussion. Directional arrays are FUN!
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Larry Milliken
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Anyone Home?

Post by Larry Milliken » Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:23 am

I traveled from California to Tennessee via Interstate 40 this summer and was startled by the number of neglected AM stations seemingly abandoned by their owners. It reminded me of orphaned children needing adoption. Many stations’ had their carrier on with no modulation…really? Yes. Others were improperly identified. For example, this is “WXYZ FM 101.5 Small Town USA, and AM 1060-where are the calls for the AM? They are not WXYZ FM, even if the call letters are the same. Why doesn’t the city of license immediately follow the call letters? Some never mentioned the AM period! Most insulting was heritage station KKOB giving their FM top billing followed by the AM calls, but at least they identified properly. I longed for the days when a combo AM and FM had to program separately. If these licensees value their properties they ought to pay attention or loose it. Now, in all fairness some combos were decently operated and the FM bias was not present. Several AM stand alones were also decently programmed and sounded great. My point is this-and I know my grey hair is showing-station owners operate a public trust for the benefit of the community they are licensed to serve. Don’t act like you’re not home and don’t care.

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Deep Thought
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by Deep Thought » Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:04 am

Welcome to the wonderful world of "AM Improvement". While some station operators use their newly-minted translators to increase the reach and hours of operation, many pretend they no longer have an AM station. Problem is, if you tell your customers your product is shit, they'll believe you. You're the expert.

Soon you'll see a lot of these AMs not operating at all with their translators soldiering on, illegally.
Mark Mueller • Mueller Broadcast Design • La Grange, IL • http://www.muellerbroadcastdesign.com

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Shane
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ID Rule

Post by Shane » Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:01 pm

There are two exceptions to the rule (actually not exceptions - it’s part of the rule) for the COL to follow the call letters:

1) the frequency may be inserted,
2) the licensee name may be inserted.

So, technically, the 101.5 station was properly identified IF “-FM” is part of the call sign. If not, and since the hyphen isn’t there (but we can’t hear that!) the “FM” could be considered part of the frequency. That would be a fine point probably subject to the opinion of an individual field agent.

Still, the AM is not identified.

The presence of many AMs with carriers and no audio is troubling, to say the least. Why not save on the electric bill if you’re going to be illegal anyway?

A seemingly little-observed detail in the FCC’s opinion on unattended operations (and to attended ones that use a dial up line to access remote control) is the requirement for an alternate means of shutting off the transmitter. Usually this is accomplished with some sort of silence sensor with a long delay (VOX delay, if you will) or the squelch of a microwave STL. The litmus test is whether the alternate method can be relied upon to accomplish shutdown (or correction) within 3 minutes.

With all the dead carriers out there, obviously some are flouting this requirement, too.
Mike Shane, CBRE
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kcbooboo
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by kcbooboo » Tue Jul 03, 2018 3:21 am

Another "stretch" of the ID requirements that seems to be prevalent in my state, is to have a news break at :15 and :45 and put the "legal" station ID there, even though they have a two-minute commercial break at the top of every hour, where they throw in a promo that mentions the station's slogan/pen-name, as in "106.4 - The Stone". Seems to me they have plenty of time at the top of the hour break for a legal ID (within 5 minutes of the top of the hour) yet their programming gurus demand that it go elsewhere.

Bob M.

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Bill DeFelice
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by Bill DeFelice » Tue Jul 03, 2018 4:30 am

It's even more hilarious when I hear the local AM carry a Yankees game where there's dead carrier throughout the game except for the commercials, which fire off and play fine. Considering this particular station is owned by a major group who recently shed a billion off their debt you'd think they'd be able to make things work now.

The joke use to be that this particular station was so popular that people would listen to it if it broadcast white noise - how about a dead carrier? I doubt they have many listeners in Southern Connecticut these days. I wonder if things will improve once they get their translator, assuming they can keep the pirates off that frequency.
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RodeoJack
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by RodeoJack » Tue Jul 03, 2018 10:21 am

kcbooboo wrote:
Tue Jul 03, 2018 3:21 am
Another "stretch" of the ID requirements that seems to be prevalent in my state, is to have a news break at :15 and :45 and put the "legal" station ID there, even though they have a two-minute commercial break at the top of every hour, where they throw in a promo...
Bob M.
That does stretch the meaning of "natural break".

I don't know of anyone in the Northwest that's playing around with IDs these days... except for a little creative equalization to bury the COL a bit. Even then, it's not as blatant as that kind of stuff used to be.

Gotta blame the FCC for this kind of nonsense though. If they got out and actually enforced the rules, this would stop pretty quickly... and they'd bring in more than enough in fines to cover the extra personnel. If they get their million or two for pirate violations, you can bet the rest of the rule book will go out the window.

It's amusing to me to think that, back in the early '70s, when I started in this business and had yet to earn my First Phone, I believed the FCC would somehow know if I made even inadvertent contact with a tuning or loading knob as I walked past in the late evening or a Sunday, and would descend upon me with the hammer of Thor... likely between 8 and 5 on the next business day. During those same years, I worked at a TV station, where the master control operator was chastised by the Chief for briefly leaving me alone in the control room with the transmitter's RC, as he walked 18 feet over to change a video tape reel.

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Shane
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by Shane » Tue Jul 03, 2018 10:52 pm

Bill,

Do you mean there’s no game, just commercials then dead air where the game is supposed to be?

Wow, how far ol’ Service 6 has fallen. (I’m surmising that’s who we’re talking about.)
Mike Shane, CBRE
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kcbooboo
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by kcbooboo » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:36 am

All that dead air is an unfortunate result of all the automated unattended stations these days. I know of some other Yankees radio network airers that have had similar problems when the board op (back when they thought it was important to have one) headed home during the post-game show but the end-of-game cue tone never made it, and the station aired a combination of "This is the Yankees Radio Network" and 1000 Hz tone, from around 11pm until the morning show started at 5am. Since there was no dead air, the silence detectors were quite satisfied but the station wasn't thrilled to lose the overnight income. They've modified their automation schedule so it forces a switch back to "regularly scheduled programming" after 5 hours, regardless of the situation. Cheaper than hiring a board op, and that's where AM broadcasting puts its priorities these days.

Bob M.

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kkiddkkidd
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by kkiddkkidd » Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:37 am

Deep Thought wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:04 am
Welcome to the wonderful world of "AM Improvement". While some station operators use their newly-minted translators to increase the reach and hours of operation, many pretend they no longer have an AM station. Problem is, if you tell your customers your product is shit, they'll believe you. You're the expert.

Soon you'll see a lot of these AMs not operating at all with their translators soldiering on, illegally.
I am already seeing quite a number of AM's operating at reduced or crippled coverage while, as you say, the xlator soldiers on. I haven't came across any AM's that were totally off for any period of time but it is probably coming soon.
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by w9wi » Wed Jul 04, 2018 6:21 am

kcbooboo wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:36 am
...and the station aired a combination of "This is the Yankees Radio Network" and 1000 Hz tone, from around 11pm until the morning show started at 5am.
This is not at all unfamiliar to DXers, who encounter this kind of thing on various frequencies with amusing and frustrating frequency...

========================================================

Not to suggest stations should ignore rules they disagree with, but is it possible the legal ID regulation is obsolete? What's its purpose? Has that purpose changed over the years?

Government-assigned call letters of course predate broadcasting. They provided a means of avoiding duplicate self-assigned calls. (amateurs had been using their initials as call letters. There are 39 Douglas Smiths holding amateur licenses in the USA today. That doesn't count any Donald Schmidts or Dana Schuylers or ...) They were shorter than spelling out the entire name of a vessel or shore station. (critical if that vessel was sinking!)

Once broadcasting came along, call letters were a means of knowing what station you were listening to. There are roughly 16,000 radio broadcasting stations in the USA today, but at the end of World War II there were fewer than a thousand. Many communities didn't have a local station. Radios weren't tuned digitally, so you really had no way of knowing whether you were tuned to 1370, 1380, or 1390. It was only by hearing "WRJN, Racine" you knew that report of knee-deep snow was coming from southeastern Wisconsin and not somewhere in Minnesota or Michigan.

And stations were proud of their call letters. Station IDs were prominent and frequent. (Apparently WHA has an audience letter in their records chastising the station for IDing *too often*...) You knew the station you wanted to listen to by its call letters.

-----

There are roughly 16,000 radio broadcasting stations in the USA today. (that doesn't count translators or TV.) You're not listening to an out-of-town station. You know that snow report is local long before you hear the legal ID. The free market has led many broadcasters to develop their own identities. It's "104-5 The Zone" -- I doubt more than a literal handful of listeners know what the legal call letters of the station are -- even though they *do* comply with the ID rule.

The "principal community" has lost most meaning. (making it another rule whose time has probably passed) Again I doubt more than a literal handful of listeners know 104-5 The Zone is not, technically, a Nashville station. Both the call letter and city-of-license portion of the legal ID are, really, pointless.

Does the ID regulation exist to allow listeners to identify a station for filing a complaint? With improved radios you now do know what frequency you're tuned to, and a search on the FCC website makes it quickly obvious what station you're hearing. Not that there are many grounds for an audience complaint anymore.

Nor are the call letters necessary to identify a specific station. The aforementioned 104-5 The Zone is known to the FCC not by call letters, but as Facility ID #16893.

-----

I'm suggesting the Commission consider repealing the legal ID regulation. I think it's become pointless.
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by bmcglynn » Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:38 am

It's disappointing to see what the AM band has turned into. Between unpoliced noisy electronics, lack of interest in AM radio, overcrowding, and poor product - many AM stations are just wasting electricity and spectrum.

Some stations do well with a translator in major markets where the originating AM has a very poor signal. I would gladly turn in the AM license for WRSB-AM to save on the cost of maintaining a complex 5 tower array. Most of the daytime signal is over Lake Ontario giving a daytime 2mV/m population of 40,000 (people - not fish) while W248BH has a 24 hour 60 dBu population of 650,000.

It would be interesting if the FCC, as part of revitalization, were to give fully-licensed status if the associated AM station turns in their license. This might help clear up the band a little and allow upgrades to AM operators that care about their station.

As an example, I would invest in powering-up WOKR if some of the operators that hem us in would migrate to FM - which I am certain many would jump at the chance. Despite the perception issue of AM radio with ad agencies and some buyers, there are genuine technical concerns. WOKR's coverage drops from 450,000 in the day to 65,000 at night which poses a major issue for us at 43 degrees north when daytime starts at 7:30 in December.

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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by TPT » Wed Jul 04, 2018 9:14 am

WRSB--which has an app to change from 1590 to 1600 with 300 watts non-D-Day (DA-N),--is probably a good example of what will happen with many AM stations. Once the translator is on, it makes more sense to either simplify the DA by reducing power, or even just go non directional day only-since the translator provides most of the audience.

Then it makes good sense for the Commission to give a more protected status to these translators. Note the new translators are "tied" to their companion AM for a period of 4 years, under the terms of the license. It makes sense to at least give these translators some protected status in order to encourage the downgrade (or, as suggested, the cancellation) of the AM license. Thereby allowing other stations on the channel to improve their daytime facilities. & reduce nighttime interference.

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Deep Thought
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by Deep Thought » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:00 am

TPT wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 9:14 am
Note the new translators are "tied" to their companion AM for a period of 4 years, under the terms of the license.
The new Auction 99/100 translators are tied to the AM in perpetuity. The move-ins are tied for 4 years of actual operation (not just calendar days). The FCC could change those rules if they wanted to but why would anyone want to risk their whole business on a low-powered unprotected transmission facility that can be blown off the air by one whiny complainant. Oh, wait...

The FCC won't convert these translators to protected stations because they can't. The LPFM people would be up their asses so fast it would be in court forever. The LCRA would also have to be modified and I don't see Congress even looking at it.
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TPT
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Re: Anyone Home?

Post by TPT » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:15 am

Note the pending rule making to tighten the rules for complaints--e.g. 6 complainants, must be from areas inside the 54 dbu contour of the full power station. Also note that LPFM's must protect translators existing at the time a window opens (and translators, to some extent, must protect LPFM's.

In my area we had 6 low power-s. Two turned in their license, one is on an STA to remain silent--for over a year now, once has been off air for over a year, status unknown--leaving just two on the air (one basically a satellite fed station). Soon will have 5 active translators. As a practical matter, all 5 are relatively immune from being "blown out of the water" by future full power facilities changes. The band is mostly mature.

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