Rocky Mountain Update
Amanda Hopp, CBRE
Be a Team Player
As I have been working on getting things to a good place at each of my transmitter sites I can’t help but think that if you are in this business as an engineer, you have to be willing to do the little stuff, the mundane, the things you think you are too good for. I was raised to be that way and my dad leads by example. He is at the corporate level at our company and he still goes out with me at times to help me with mowing, with plumbing issues, even with cleaning at times. He knows, as do I, that if we don’t get the work done, no one will. You should never just leave it to the next person.
With that mindset and the fact that I am a one woman show now, I was able to take a couple days and mow at one of my tower sites. This site is a trouble site with mowing in that if the Canadian thistle gets too long and goes to seed, the county will write us a love letter. They don’t like it when the seed gets into the river because it then gets into the farm crops. I had mowed in June and typically we only mow once a year. But this year, with all the rain, things grew up again. Thankfully it didn’t go to seed but I still needed to get it taken care of. The whole site wasn’t grown up so it only took about a day and a half to finish. My next step is to spray some hard core herbicide that should take care of the thistle the rest of this year and next. We are looking at rain this next week so I will have to time it so the herbicide doesn’t get wasted. This will be my first time doing something like this. We typically use RoundUp or something of the sort and spray small areas, mainly in the tower bases. The trick will be speed and making sure I don’t run out of water since I can’t see the actual sprayer while pulling it.
Breath of Fresh Air
September brings fall, yes, it’s near the end of the month, but it is something to look forward to. We get a break from all the heat and some of you have had record heat this year. Fall brings the wind that will take the leaves off the trees. Fall also brings a sigh of relief. The year is winding down. Any projects at work have more than likely been completed. I am now having to plan ahead for 2024 and get any requests turned in in the next month.
I will close this with the reminder to not be too good to do the little work. If you are able to do it, just get it done. Don’t ever think you’re too good to do the work asked of you. Be a team player.
Random Radio Thoughts
Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB
Regular readers have no doubt seen in these pages that we are converting WYDE(AM) to the MA3 all-digital AM mode effective September 1. In preparation for that, we had to file a notification with the FCC that subsequently went on public notice. The trade press picked up on that, so you may have seen bits in different trade pubs about the change as well.
Apparently, this conversion will make our station only the third in the nation to be (currently) operating as all-digital. That really puts us on the bleeding edge.
What are our expectations from this? As I told our friends at Radio World and Inside Radio, our expectations are totally based on what we’ve heard and read about Hubbard’s five-year “experiment” with all-digital AM on WWFD in Frederick, MD. The results there have been encouraging, but so much is dependent on factors beyond the technical.
For one, is the number of HD receivers in the Birmingham market significant, or are there just a handful? That’s hard to determine with any certainty, but with so many auto manufacturers including HD Radio in their entertainment systems these days, our bet is that a lot of people have the capability but don’t know it.
Some of the results are dependent on us and our ability to get the word out by way of on-air promos that we have the all-digital offering. I have a couple of thoughts on that, and I need to really flesh out those ideas in the coming days.
My initial inclination is to run an aggressive schedule of on-air promos (that will air on both the all-digital AM and on both simulcast FM signals) telling listeners that we have an all-new totally digital signal up on 1260 kHz and encouraging listeners with HD Radio capability to tune in. The all-digital AM coverage will undoubtedly eclipse that of either of the FMs.
I don’t, however, want to do that until we have had an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the performance ourselves. We certainly would not want to send listeners to listen to this cool new digital signal if it sucks. I’m not too concerned about that, because we did run some brief overnight tests and know that it does work, but in the presence of skywave interference and with limited time available in the experimental period to drive the signal, we got only a cursory look.
So… by this time next month, we should have a much better idea of how well the all-digital signal performs, and hopefully we’ll get some good listener feedback as well.
Licensing and Management System
Well, they finally did it. Sort of. In late July, the FCC moved AM to its Licensing and Management System (LMS). They moved TV to that system before repack, then followed with FM some time later.
We were all dreading the transition of AM to the new system, and I was hoping they would give up and just leave it on the Consolidated Data Base System (CDBS), where it had been running so well for many years, but it was not to be. The move has been made, and while it has not quite been an unmitigated train wreck, neither has it been a smooth, seamless transition.
LMS has been a long, long time coming. I remember attending an NAB Radio Show in Washington, DC many years ago and watching an LMS demo provided by the FCC’s Jim Bradshaw. It was exciting, and it seemed that the transition was somewhat imminent even back in the late-2000s, but here we are almost 15 years later and are just now completing the transition.
There are a lot of good features in the system. It provides “one-stop shopping” for Media Bureau filings, which is very handy. Even AM direct measure applications can be filed online in LMS, a huge improvement over the paper filings that we were stuck with in CDBS.
The problem from my perspective is that the transition was made just a bit prematurely. One critical table in the database, the one that has information on international coordination, is not populated. This is important information, as the international coordination status of applications, permits and licenses affects how we deal with them in various studies, particularly night limit studies.
For example, if Mexico or Canada sends an application to the US for coordination and we object because it would produce impermissible interference to a US station, the US would object to that application and it would, in the database, carry an objected status. When running a night limit study, we would ignore that application in night limit calculations. But without that information in the database, we don’t know how to treat foreign records in night limit studies.
So what do we do? The FCC pretty much told us (offline) to continue to use CDBS for night limit studies. That works pretty well. There are very few new filings in the LMS AM database since late July, so the CDBS database is still mostly current. We just have to also run the studies in LMS to make sure that there are no new records that must be considered. And that extra step requires making some judgment calls that make any such study anything but automated.
I really don’t know what the holdup is here.
It would seem to me a fairly simple matter to propagate the LMS table with data from CDBS, but there must be something else going on. The FCC folks assure me that the fix is coming. We just don’t know when.