CBS Radio Shills for Fracking in Pennsylvania

From the bullsh*t propaganda department: on August 15th, CBS Radio’s Pittsburgh cluster (KDKA-AM, KDKA-FM, WDSY-FM, and WBZZ-FM) will "host" the Marcellus Shale Festival at an outdoor music venue in town.

This is an event wholly designed to put a happy face on the practice of hydraulic fracturing: the messy process of harvesting natural gas that’s spreading throughout the country. The Marcellus Shale Formation extends throughout seven states and is currently one of the most active areas of hydraulic fracturing in the continental United States. In many respects, Pennsylvania has been the ground zero of Marcellus fracking, where wells have been operating since 2005.

The day-long event features "exhibits" such as a screening of FrackNation, a polemical "documentary" from folks with strong ties to climate-change deniers. FrackNation was produced pretty much explicitly to try and impugn two damning actual documentaries about hydraulic fracturing: Gasland and Gasland 2.

There will also be a "town hall" hosted by KDKA-AM midday host Mike Pintek—the reporter who first broke the Three Mile Island meltdown story in 1979—featuring a fracking industry executive who’s admitted using "psychological operations" against opponents (also a regular guest on KDKA’s own frack-pimping show, The Marcellus Shale Hour) and many of the politicians the industry’s already bought and paid for.

The entire shebang closes out with live country music from The Stickers and Phil Vassar, who may be blissfully unaware of their roles in this charade. The list of sponsors for the "festival" reads like a who’s who of companies involved in fracking the Marcellus Shale to oblivion. Read More

Greasing the Skids for AM’s Digital Transition

The National Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention just wrapped up in Las Vegas, and HD Radio proponents used the event to begin the push to make the AM dial all-digital.

At a panel on "AM Band Revitalization" moderated by Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai – the first Commissioner to moderate a panel at the NAB Show – CBS Radio Senior Vice President of Engineering Glynn Walden told attendees that there was no sustainable future for analog AM broadcasting and that the FCC should set a date for an "for a digital AM sunrise and for an analog AM sunset."

Walden has been one of the broadcast industry’s point-people on HD Radio from the very beginning. He helped develop the system’s core technical design and specifications, co-founded the company from which iBiquity Digital Corporation was born, and was instrumental in lobbying the FCC to approve HD as the U.S. digital radio standard. With three HD patents to his name, Walden would like nothing more than to see his baby actually fly after languishing all these years. Read More

LPFM vs. HD Radio: The Curious Case of KGIG

At the turn of the twenty-first century, proponents of HD Radio sold the technology to the FCC by claiming that it used “no new spectrum.” Advocates of low-power FM (LPFM) radio made a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful challenge to this claim. They worried that the digital sidebands of FM-HD signals would interfere with the new wave of community stations the FCC was preparing to unleash. HD supporters dismissed these concerns.

Ten years after both HD and LPFM took to the air, the conflict between the two services is crystal clear.

Brad Johnson is a lot like me: a former participant in the corporate media who made the decision to step away from it following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. One of the careers decimated by post-Telecom radio consolidation was broadcast engineering – Brad was the chief engineer at several Citadel and Clear Channel-owned stations in central California until he was let go in the repeated rounds of downsizing the companies conducted during their station-buying frenzy. Read More

Industry HD Uncertainty Flares in Trade Press

For the most part, radio industry trades have not given much substantive thought or analysis to the debacle that is HD Radio. However, some recent developments seem to signal that the winds of sycophancy may be changing.

It’s all happened in the Radio and Business Report. First, the publication let loose an article, whose sources are “some highly accredited/respected Bay Area engineers,” full of complaints and criticisms of HD Radio and its proprietor, iBiquity Digital Corporation. The complaints raised against iBiquity are numerous and significant.

In addition to reporting that one San Francisco-based AM station has turned off its HD sidebands, the article reports dissatisfaction among iBiquity customers, due to the fact that “iBiquity is not providing the promised updates to its software to repair the ‘bugs’ that have developed in the AM codec. The bugs require reboots of the HD encoders, sometimes daily.” Read More

Interesting Notes of Miscellany

Sporadic news-updates will continue for the next month and a half, as I tackle my last preliminary exam. But the rest of the site is current (save for a batch-check of the links library for broken stuff). So, in the meantime here are some updates on a few of my favorite things:

HD Radio: Industry skepticism of and resistance to the technology is growing. Oppositional broadcast engineers, who used to be considered on the “fringes” are now getting at least a semblance of respect in the trades dialogue. Much of this has to do with the real-world impact of HD-related interference, most notable now on the AM band but soon coming to an FM dial near you, especially when stations are given permission to boost the power of their digital sidebands (at the expense of analog signal quality). Results of an HD signal-related interference analysis commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – the first of its kind to really go into detail about FM-HD-related interference – should have been released by now, but hasn’t yet. Read More