Prose on the counterpoise

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Nice article in the March 2003 issue, John [Environmental, Ground Systems Problems]. We use an elevated radial system here at WRNJ-AM. It was designed by Clarence Beverage of Communications Technology in NJ.

To date, we have had no problems with it. I didn't care for the idea at first, having always been associated with in-ground systems. But the cost and time to install an in-ground system changed my mind and we went elevated. I hope you'll do an article on these systems some day soon.
Larry Tighe
Hacketstown, NJ

The RF expert


I have read your RF Engineering articles for a long time, and I have saved many of them for future reference — you know, when you have a problem and you can't remember the answer or the solution to the problem. So many times I think that I have read that someplace, then I look in my John Battison file and the solution is usually there. Thank you for sharing all of your expertise and knowledge in the engineering field. In the past, I often rushed into fixing a problem, usually doing something even though it was the wrong thing to do.

Now that I am a little older and more experience from reading your articles, I analyze the problem first and then stand back and take a good look before doing anything. The best time to not do anything is when there is a problem with the antenna pattern and you think it is with the antenna phasor. Now I know: don't adjust it. The phasor settings are usually low on the list of things that go wrong. I have never forgotten your advice in that department. I wanted you to hear some thank yous for all that you have done to prevent problems in the RF engineering field. I'm glad you are there.

Keep writing those articles, John; I will keep reading them.

By the way, your column is the first page that I turn to when I get the magazine.
Stan D. Culley
Powell Broadcasting
Sioux City, IA

Tip of the iceberg

History is an excellent teacher. If you live long enough, you will see it repeated.

My father was in broadcasting for 30-plus years. Though he was in educational radio, he had to deal with the same paperwork and requirements from the FCC as the commercial stations. He hated the FCC. He felt that they were a bureaucracy out of control, seeking only to make themselves bigger via rulings (read: making and enforcing their own laws) and intimidation tactics. He felt that the FCC was the broadcaster's biggest enemy. Little did he know what the future held.

Forward into the past‥

Sony was a hardware manufacturer who realized decades ago that home entertainment hardware is useless unless there is program material the average person use with it. When the company came out with the compact disc, it expected resistance from record companies. Sony thought things over very carefully since it didn't want another VHS-Betamax format war. It realized that the big money was in the mass market; it is easier to sell a million people something for $10 than it is to sell one person something for $1,000. Ultimately, Sony realized it was in the entertainment business, and started making deals to buy entire companies for existing program material in the form of music and movies to support the new hardware. This general tactic remains among the best of ways to eliminate opposition to technological change.

Record companies aren't stupid. They realized long ago that the real money is in the distribution deals rather than the actual physical production of a tape or disc. They learned from their close cousins the motion picture industry. When the old studio system ended, the large studios started to shed the expense of developing talent and creating a finished product. Record companies figured this out years later, and by the 1980s they also no longer sought out undeveloped talent. While it could be argued that the quality of the finished product went down, the bottom line is they made more money. Risk was now placed on the independent artists and producers. If the product didn't sell, it was their loss.

What do they want?

I don't believe record companies solely want to collect more royalty fees for artists from broadcasters. (starving or otherwise) It has been clearly demonstrated by budding Internet radio ventures that the royalty cost for them now is in excess of 200 times the per capita price for a public radio station. This is well above what the traffic can bear for a new market. Knowing that few business enterprises can survive with that kind of burden, why would they pursue a course of action akin to squeezing blood from a stone? It doesn't take too much to figure out what the record companies want.

Record companies know full well that the future market is in digital transmission; currently Internet/satellite radio and some form of virtual jukebox that the user pays a flat fee for every month. We also know that record companies would love to increase revenue to the point where broadcasters are paying a lot more than they already do…. but is that really the ultimate goal?

The current system of advertising via selling commercial time and royalties grew out of technological limitations that existed up until roughly a decade ago. When broadcasting first came into being, it was not possible to collect from each listener without passing a lot of unpopular legislation whereby receivers would be taxed at the time of sale and/or some form of barely-enforceable licensing system was in place. When tape recording hit with a vengeance, blank media taxes proved just as unpopular.

Then there were the hokey analog hardware spoiler systems, all of which needed equally unpopular legislative muscle to make a reality. Record companies still actively pursued these avenues, but I'm sure the top dogs knew they were only buying time.

With digital technology and modern cable/satellite TV digital technology, it becomes a lot easier to incorporate billing and control systems inexpensively at a software level for each listener/user. It is also fairly easy to manage the data for billing. This is the first time in history that this can be done. Knowing that the record companies know they can now bill effectively at a user level, don't you think that they might want to eliminate the middle man? Getting a predictable cut of everyone's paycheck is the ultimate goal of every business and government. If you're a record company, why settle for what a broadcaster will give you when you can get a hook in everyone's paycheck directly?

I feel that the record companies want Internet/satellite radio providers (and their closely-allied cousins, the MP3 digital music stores) out of business. They know the market is going in that direction, so what do you think they will try to do? Answer: legislate the current providers out of business, and take over via what is essentially a government-enforced monopoly. DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) was pretty well authored by the record companies. Make no mistake about this: they got what they wanted. With just a small legislation change, almost every broadcaster could be out of business overnight.

The royalty issue is an old one. Many years ago, broadcasters had a problem with ASCAP. They formed BMI, and only broadcast material from member artists. As broadcasting flourished, ASCAP took quite a hit, and they eventually rolled over and cut a deal. Though the ultimate goal of record companies is to put the broadcasters out of business, the solution is darned similar.

There are plenty of excellent artists hidden in this country. They range from teenagers in garage bands to 50-somethings who have a family and play folk music on weekends. They are talented individuals with much to offer. They would love to sign a waiver for broadcasting royalties, just so they could be heard. They haven't a chance of securing a major label contract, and would be thanksful for exposure that would generate sales for them. It would be in their best interests to participate, and both sides can only gain from the relationship.

If the broadcasting industry banded together and created a new organization for the waivers and royalties, they could probably survive and keep the market share they have. If they don't, the record companies will take away their cookies, and remnants of broadcasting will only be found in museums and history books.
Ben Torre
via e-mail

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