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Radio Currents Online - Jun 28 - Jul 4, 2004
Radio technology news updated as it happens.
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FCC Releases NOI on Localism
Washington - Jul 1, 2004 - The FCC has released a 26-page Notice of Inquiry to investigate the localism efforts of over-the-air broadcasters. According to the NOI, "The concept of localism derives from Title III of the Communications Act, and is reflected in and supported by a number of current Commission policies and rules. Title III generally instructs the Commission to regulate broadcasting as the public interest, convenience, and necessity dictate, and section 307(b) explicitly requires the Commission to 'make such distribution of licenses, frequencies, hours of operation, and of power among the several States and communities as to provide a fair, efficient, and equitable distribution of radio service to each of the same.' "
During the FCC's review of its structural broadcast ownership rules, the agency claims that it heard concerns from the public that broadcast stations may be failing to meet the needs of their local communities. The FCC states in the NOI that, "there is a correlation between certain classes of broadcast station owners and certain characteristics of localism exhibited by those stations, such as the quantity of local news and public affairs programming."
The purpose of the NOI is to address behavioral rules that promote localism, regardless of identity of ownership. This effort appears to be the result of Sen. John McCain's statement at a localism and the public interest hearing: "[The Senate Commerce] Committee has spent considerable time examining and debating the role of ownership limitations to achieve public interest goals. Today's hearing is to consider whether Congress should use other means to achieve these goals, such as putting 'teeth' in the public interest standard."
The Commission has already assembled a Localism Task Force to gather empirical data on broadcast localism and to advise the Commission on concrete steps to promote this policy goal. The task force has held three events in Charlotte, NC; San Antonio, TX; and Rapid City, SD.
The NOI seeks direct input from the public on how broadcasters are serving the interests and needs of their communities; whether the FCC needs to adopt new policies, practices or rules designed directly to promote localism in broadcast television and radio; and what those policies, practices or rules should be.
The following topics are referenced for comment: Communication with Communities; Nature and Amount of Community-Responsive Programming; Political Programming; Underserved Audiences; Payola; Other Sponsorship Identification; Voice-Tracking; National Playlists; License Renewals and Additional Spectrum Allocations (LPFM).
Read the text of the NOI at hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-129A1.pdf.
MB Docket No. 04-233
Voice of Russia Announces DRM Expansion Plans
Moscow - Jul 1, 2004 - At the Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) consortium's first-ever board meetings in Russia, the Voice of Russia announced the successful implementation and planned expansion of its DRM broadcasts on short-wave and medium-wave. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov recently signed an order allowing for the Voice of Russia's DRM progress. The consortium held its quarterly meetings at the headquarters of the Russian Television and Radio Network (RTRN) and the Voice of Russia in Moscow from June 16 to 18. The Voice of Russia has been a DRM member since 1998.
Voice of Russia currently transmits DRM broadcasts in Russian, English, German and French toward Europe, using a short-wave transmitter in Taldom, Russia, operated by RTRN's Moscow Regional Centre, and a medium-wave transmitter 603kHz in Zehlendorf, Germany, operated by DRM member T-Systems International Media and Broadcast. The medium-wave transmitter, made by DRM member Telefunken, has been modified to operate in single-channel simulcast mode, which means that the Voice of Russia's broadcasts can be sent in analog and DRM formats. The Taldom broadcasts can be heard within parts of Russia.
The Voice of Russia will expand its reach within and beyond Europe in the near future, using additional transmitters that have been adapted for DRM. This network includes a second short-wave transmitter operated by the Moscow Regional Centre, a short-wave transmitter in Irkutsk, a short-wave transmitter in Khabarovsk, and a T-Systems International medium-wave transmitter, built by Telefunken, in Wachenbrunn, Germany.
Homeland Security Uses NOAA All-Hazards Network For Alerts And Warnings
Washington - Jun 17, 2004 - NOAA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate signed an agreement that allows Homeland Security to send critical all-hazards alerts and warnings directly through the NOAA All-Hazards Network. The network supplements the existing alert and warning resources and the capability serves as an additional delivery mechanism for sending life-saving information nationally, regionally or locally. In addition, Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency will continue to manage the Emergency Alert System.
Under the agreement, Homeland Security now has the authority to develop an alert and warning message that can be delivered directly to NOAA and broadcast to affected areas. The system is capable of reaching more than 97 percent of the United States territory on a 24/7 basis through broadcasts in 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and Saipan. Radios and televisions currently equipped with Specific-Area Message Encoding (SAME) allow listeners to pre-select the categories of alerts they wish to receive in chosen listening areas.
In addition, the agreement provides that same message, distributed through NOAA, will be distributed via the Emergency Alert System.
The Consumer Electronics Association views Public Alert as a sophisticated outgrowth of the Emergency Alert System, stating that EAS broadcasts warnings at the discretion of the individual broadcaster. In contrast, Public Alert devices provide commercial-free, on demand, local and national alert information 24 hours a day, and are triggered by warnings received directly from government sources. Since 2003 the CEA and NOAA have collaborated on related industry standards and a corresponding Public Alert Certification and Logo Program for consumer electronics products equipped to receive the emergency messages.
In December 2003, the CEA and its R3 Audio Systems Committee released CEA-2009, the "Receiver Performance Specification for Public Alert Receivers," which establishes voluntary industry standards for consumer electronics products designed to receive digital Public Alert signals. Following that standards-setting process, CEA also established a Public Alert certification and logo program that started appearing on products this spring.
Changes at the FCC?
Washington - Jun 30, 2004 - Speculation is rising that FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell will step down from his post this winter. The speculation is causing a rush to present issues to the agency for consideration.
The Los Angeles Times reports that at least two other commissioners may leave as well, significantly altering the political makeup of the five-member commission. The Times reports that Powell has denied that he had any immediate plans to leave.
An election year usually causes some stir at the FCC. Powell was appointed to the FCC by President Clinton and made chairman by the current President Bush. If Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry is elected, the FCC will shift from a Republican-dominated (3-2) group to a Democratic one. It is not uncommon for a chairman of the opposite to voluntarily step down, as was the case with Powell's predecessor, William Kennard.
The other two Republicans at the FCC, Kevin J. Martin and Kathleen Q. Abernathy, are also considering leaving. Also, the term of Democrat Jonathan S. Adelstein officially expired in June 2003.
The Times reports that Abernathy, a former telephone industry lobbyist, wants to return to the private sector, where she could substantially increase her salary. In addition, Martin appears to be happy at the FCC but might leave if he isn't appointed chairman, a move that Powell opposes.
PPW Reduces Efforts
McLean, VA - Jun 29, 2004 - Following 9/11, the Partnership for Public Warning (PPW) was formed to address shortcomings in the public warning system and to make recommendations for improving it. The PPW, now frustrated by federal inaction on the group's efforts, considered disbanding. The group held a meeting on June 29 to discuss its future.
Kenneth Allen, executive director of the PPW, provided the following statement to Radio magazine:
"The PPW Board of Trustees decided to keep the PPW as a legal entity but reduce its activities to the available resources (i.e. whatever can be accomplished with volunteers). Basically this means that interested persons will continue to pursue Common Alerting Protocol under the PPW name and the PPW website will be kept online.The Partnership for Public Warning is a not-for-profit, public-private partnership established to save the lives and property of people at risk from natural disasters, accidents and terrorism by improving the nation's alert and warning capabilities. The PPW provides an objective, consensus-based forum where all interested stakeholders - public and private - work together to develop processes, standards, systems and strategies to ensure that the right people have the right information at the right time.
"As of May 31, 2004, PPW did not have the funds to support a paid executive director. I have volunteered to donate up to five hours a week to answer phones and check e-mail while I look for another position."
Skywaves Research Forecasts Satellite Radio Growth
Ann Arbor, MI - Jun 28, 2004 - Skywaves Research Report released a report forecasting huge satellite radio subscription growth by the end of the decade.
Skywaves Research releases its annual long-term growth forecast every June. Based on Bass Model of consumer adoption rates, the researcher reports that satellite radio broadcasters XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio together could serve more than 42 million net subscribers by the end of 2009.
Bob Richards, Skywaves' director of research said, "The growth rates have built so quickly that we have dropped our minimum forecast scenario because it proved too conservative."
Based on channel checks and additional analysis, Skywaves Research estimates that XM could reach a year-end total of at least 3.1 million subscribers and that Sirius could reach a year-end total of at least 910,000 subscribers.
The complete report can be purchased from Skywaves Research at www.skywavesresearch.com .
Proposed New Copyright Law Targets File Sharing
Washington - Jun 28 2004 - In a bipartisan initiative, Senate leaders have launched a new assault on video and music file-sharing services. Proposed legislation, introduced last week, would make anyone who induces illegal copying just as liable for breaking copyright law as someone who makes the copies.
The legislation, backed by Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Minority Leader Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), is intended to stop the free file-sharing services that the recording and movie industries claim are costing them millions of dollars in lost sales.
But, according to the Washington Post, legal experts argue that the bill is worded so broadly that it threatens numerous electronic devices and software products that enable copying of digital entertainment. Opponents worry that the bill is being hustled through the Senate without sufficient hearings and debate.
File-sharing software allows users to trade music, video and other software files. Kazaa, the largest of the networks, claims more than 30 million users who have downloaded more than 1 billion files. Although music companies have sued more than 3000 people who use file-sharing software, the entertainment industry has so far failed to convince judges that services such as Kazaa, Grokster or Morpheus should also be held responsible.
Instead, in a key ruling late last year, a federal court in California said that as with copying machines or other devices, the fact that some consumers use file sharing for illegal purposes does not mean the networks themselves are liable.
The bill will be taken up by the Judiciary Committee, headed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who is the legislation's chief sponsor. Hatch said the bill is partly in response to the California decision, which the entertainment industry has appealed.
Jessica D. Litman, a law professor at Wayne State University, said the California decision rested on an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision on videocassette recording technology which found that if a device has a substantial legal use, its makers cannot be held liable for how people use it.
"This is something else," she said. "It's a new kind of third-party liability for people who wouldn't be liable" under current law.
Under the bill, someone would be liable if he or she intentionally "aids, abets, induces or procures" illegal material. Intent is defined as what a reasonable person would determine based on "all relevant information about such acts...including whether the activity relies on infringement for its commercial viability."
Susan P. Crawford, a professor of Internet law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, said that any lawyer advising device makers, software or even Internet service providers would be compelled to warn them that they could face secondary liability if they know their products might get used for illegal purposes.
Federal Appeals Court Overturns FCC Media Ownership Rules
Washington - Jun 28 2004 - The nation's smallest broadcasters won a big victory last week when a federal appeals court stopped the FCC from enforcing its new media ownership rules. In a 2-1 decision, the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia said the FCC failed to justify the rules and sent them back for reconsideration. Large broadcasting and publishing companies, which have lobbied and litigated for years in an effort to ease these rules, will not be able to expand.
The new media ownership rules would have lifted a restriction on a company owning a newspaper and television or radio station in the same market. In the largest cities, the rules would have allowed companies to own as many as three television stations, eight radio stations and a cable operator, as well as a newspaper.
The appeals court found that the FCC had established the new rules in an arbitrary and capricious way and criticized the FCC's formula devised to measure the diversity of media markets. "For all its efforts," the court said, "the commission's cross-media limits employ several irrational assumptions and inconsistencies."
The court decision was a win for smaller broadcasters and a coalition of labor, consumer, religious, artistic and civil rights organizations, which have said that the relaxation of the media ownership rules threatened to reduce the diversity of voices on the airwaves and would lead to declining standards in television and radio programming.
Soon after the new rules were approved in June 2003 in a party-line vote, with Republican commissioners favoring and Democrats opposing relaxation, the agency was sued by small media companies and the broad consumer coalition on the ground that the new rules were too loose. Some broadcasters and news organizations also sued, arguing that the easing of the regulations did not go far enough.
The large media companies never had a chance to take advantage of the new rules. Late last summer, shortly after they were adopted, the appeals court temporarily blocked them while it considered the challenge.
Government sources who support the new rules told the New York Times that the FCC now has two options: redraw the rules or seek Supreme Court review of the decision by the appeals court. The appeals court precluded a third option — a review of the decision by all of its members — when it said that too many of the judges on the circuit had to disqualify them from the case. The court did not elaborate, and lawyers involved in the proceeding presumed that many of the judges had to recuse themselves because they own stock in media companies.
Neither of the two available options would be quick or easy. A new round of rulemaking at the FCC could take many months. And the decision does not present the kind of issues — like a split in decisions among different courts or a major constitutional issue — that are normally of interest to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Clear Channel Makes List of Junk Patents
Jun 30, 2004 - The Electronic Frontier Foundation has named the top 10 patents that it wants to at least redefine if not eliminate altogether. The EFF belives that the 10 patents are in some way illegitimate and are being used to limit free expression. The list is the result of the group's Patent-busting Contest.
The junk patents were selected because they are registered to owners that are threatening and filing suits against small businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizaitons, as well as threatening free expression and innovation. The top 10 are listed in order of importance to the EFF.
1. Acacia Research, http://www.acaciatechnologies.com
Audio and video receiving and transmission system; threatening dozens of small companies, including many home-grown adult websites.
2. Clear Channel, http://www.clearchannel.com
Instant Live, a system and method of creating digital recordings of live performances; claims to own a monopoly on all-in-one technologies that produce post-concert live recordings on digital media.
3. Acceris Communication, http://www.acceris.com
The voice over IP technology patent describes a method and apparatus for implementing a computer network/internet telephone system; threatening 14 VoIP companies with expensive legal disputes if they do not pay licensing fees.
4. Sheldon Goldberg
A system and method for playing games on a network; threatening small online gaming websites.
5. Ideaflood, http://www.ideaflood.com
System apparatus and method for hosting and assigning domain names on a wide area network; Threatening community site LiveJournal, with 3 million users who each have their own subdomain.
6. NeoMedia Technologies, http://www.neom.com
System and method for automatic access of a remote computer over a network; threatening small info-aggregating companies such as ScanBuy, AirClic and LScan Technologies.
7. Test Central, http://www.test.com/phoenix/pr_2003_01_28.htm
Method for administering tests, lessons, assessments; claims it should receive licensing fees from companies, universities or individuals that administer tests over the Internet. 8. Nintendo, http://www.nintendo.com
Software implementation of a hand-held video game hardware platform; threatens reverse engineering of video games to promote interoperability and emulation by hobbyists.
9. Firepond, http://www.firepond.com
System that uses natural language processing to respond to customers' online inquiries by e-mail; patent uses basic natural language processing techniques taught in introductory computer science courses.
10. Seer Systems, http://www.seersystems.com
System and method for generating, distributing, storing and performing musical work files; currently threatening small companies trying to innovate in this field.
Infinity Drops Out of Arbitron PPM Test
Jun 30, 2004 - Infinity Broadcasting has declined to participate in the Houston Portable People Meter trial scheduled for early next year. According to an article in Media Week, Infinity cites that there are too many unanswered questions relating to the system - how much the service will cost stations, when it will rollout and how Arbitron will manage two services. Infinity owns four stations in Houston.
Radio One, which owns two stations in Houston, has also resigned from the Houston PPM test. Arbitron plans to go ahead with the text anyway.
Broadcast Electronics to Host HD Radio Seminar at NAB Radio
Quincy, IL - Jun 30, 2004 - Broadcast Electronics will conduct an HD Radio seminar in San Diego on Oct. 6, 2004. The seminar will be held in conjunction with the NAB Radio Show. Among the topics to be discussed will be IBOC signal generation from the studio and new delivery methods.
The seminar is the latest of more than 35 Broadcast Electronics-sponsored national seminars started two years ago that focus on the developing technology of IBOC. In addition to HD Radio developments, the BE seminar will cover transmission technologies, installation and integration, antenna technologies and field reports.
The seminar is free and will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown, 601 Pacific Highway, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on October 6. Reservations can be made via e-mail to HDR@bdcast.com.
Cedar Rapids BPL Trial Ended
Cedar Rapids, IA - Jun 29, 2004 - According to BroadbandReports.com, a broadband over power-line trial in Cedar Rapids, IA, has been ended prematurely as a result of several interference complaints. The trial has been cited as one of the more well coordinated efforts between radio hobbyists and the energy industry working together to solve the problems with the technology.
Earlier in June 2004, the ARRL aided Jim Spencer, an amateur radio operator in Cedar Rapids, who operated very near some BPL-activated power lines, to resolve the interference that Spencer received from the BPL test. The ARRL filed a complaint with the FCC, but the FCC took no action.
Radio amateurs in the area are claiming a victory. The companies conducting the test state that their evaluation of the technology is complete, but admit that the complaints played a role in the early end date.
The efforts to eliminate interference issues are costly, so many power companies hope that they can get by without making the extra efforts. The costs to prevent interference – to amateurs, AM broadcast stations and possibly emergency communications – reduce the profit potential for the power companies so they are obviously not a welcomed step in the process.
Link Srl Opens Link USA
Orlando, FL - Jun 29, 2004 - Link Srl, founded in 1987 in Rome, Italy, has opened Link USA in Altamonte Springs, FL. Marco Piromalli, president and co-founder of Link, made the announcement.
The company has been formed to support the growing demand for Link's LK Connectors and Eurocable products in North America. Link USA will be managed by Craig Beyrooti, who has a long history with Link and who has been the North American distributor of Eurocable products for several years.
While Link will continue to offer LK Connectors through its existing U.S. distributors, the Eurocable product lines will be distributed directly by Link USA through a network of rep companies and dealers.
Ibiquity Approves Circle Surround for IBOC
Santa Ana, CA - Jun 29, 2004 - SRS Labs and Ibiquity Digital have completed the joint testing of SRS Circle Surround technology as a compatible surround sound format for Ibiquity's HD Radio broadcast technology. The announcement marks the completion of the joint testing process announced in January 2004 at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where the two companies announced their strategic technology partnership.
Circle Surround for HD Radio allows radio stations to encode any multichannel content into two-channel stream for broadcast over the HD Radio system, which can then be decoded into surround sound with a decoder. Up to 6.1 channels can be decoded with a CS II decoder. CS encoding is fully compatible with mono and stereo.
Snapstream Media Adds Live365
Houston - Jun 25, 2004 - Live365 has been added to the Snapstream Spotlight, a new addition to the Firefly PC Remote package. Firefly PC Remote provides access to online movies, radio, news and music via a PC and the Internet. Snapstream Spotlight serves as a portal to online media providers.
Lynx Studio Technology Releases OSX Driver
Newport Beach, CA - Jun 30, 2004 - Lynx Studio Technology has released the OSX Core Audio drivers for the company's Lynx Two, L22 and AES16 products. The final release allows the Lynx products to use the power of Apple Computer's Core Audio protocol, and operate with all G5 model computers. The driver can also store and recall complete mixer scenes and settings, and full real-time metering, and includes volume control and full mixing and routing capabilities using the Lynx Mixer.
The OSX driver is now shipping with all AES16, Lynx Two and L22 interfaces. Current owners can download the driver from the Lynx website at www.lynxstudio.com/download.html.
Mackie DXB-200 Now Shipping
Woodinville, WA - Jun 30, 2004 - Mackie's DXB-200 digital production console is now shipping to dealers. The interface features a dual touch-screen interface, 96kHz operation (optional to 192kHz), on-board automation and DSP, 25 100mm Penny+Giles touch faders, configurable I/O card cage and a Fire Wire I/O card option for streaming to/from desktop or laptop computers.
U.S. and Mexico Reach Telecommunication Agreements
Washington, DC - Jun 25, 2004 - The United States welcomed senior Mexican telecommunication officials to Washington on June 23 and 24 for meetings of the U.S./Mexico High-level Consultative Commission on Telecommunications.
The United States and Mexico resolved a substantial AM radio interference problem that had adversely affected millions of Americans. As a result, the Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transportation required four AM radio stations in the Mexican state of Baja California to reduce power or otherwise bring their operations into compliance with bilateral agreements governing AM broadcasts along the common border. For its part, the United States has pledged to review its own radio licenses to ensure that U.S. stations do not cause harmful interference inside Mexico.
The United States and Mexico also adopted a new Emergency Action Plan to eliminate radio interference in public-safety communications systems in the border area. Cooperation in advance of this meeting has already allowed firefighters battling brush fires in California to secure temporary augmentation of critical radio spectrum from Mexico. The United States and Mexico also discussed satellite issues; broadband infrastructure and competition; UHF spectrum and new technologies; community connectivity indicators (teledensity and Internet penetration); as well as digital television.
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