Radio With Pictures Still A Hard Sell

Believe it or not, there are still some U.S. broadcasters tinkering with the HD Radio protocol. One of the latest is Rick Sewell, the manager of engineering for Crawford Broadcasting’s stations in Chicago.

His latest project involved implementing HD’s “Artist Experience” feature – this is a fancy name for what is basically radio with pictures. AE allows HD-compatible stations to send album artwork and advertiser-images to digital radio receivers along with the audio programming; these are things that digital-native audio streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify mastered years ago.

There’s no coordinated drive from the broadcast industry to implement Artist Experience, and HD’s proprietor, Xperi Corporation, isn’t actively marketing the technology to broadcasters much anymore. Apparently, one of Sewell’s colleagues was down in Atlanta and got a rental-car with an HD-compatible receiver. This guy stumbled across a station that had implemented AE and thought, “we should do this too.”

Thus began Sewell’s saga. He’d initially hoped that he would have time to explore the HD system in more detail, but station management had already started pitching the Artist Experience opportunity to advertisters. The first step was to make sure that the HD airchain of the station on which AE would be deployed was totally up to date. That got figured out after Sewell got over his own “ignorance as well as some misinformation along the way.” Read More

FCC Facilitated Right-Wing Hit Job on Workers Independent News

A year and a half since I tendered my Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Communications Commission on its disturbing foray into determining the legitimacy of broadcast news outlets, the agency has finally responded. And it was with a big middle finger: of the more than 4,200 pages of documentation the agency identified as related to the case, the FCC released a paltry 88 (embedded at bottom).

The vast majority of this release is meaningless. It includes copies of the official orders in the WLS sponsorship-identification case, copies of the spot-sales contracts Workers Independent News entered into with WLS (it spent more than $33,000 to air its newscasts and feature programs on the station over a three-month period), official correspondence between the FCC and WLS’ attorneys related to the initial complaint inquiry, and some redacted e-mail correspondence between FCC staffers regarding the collection of the $44,000 fine assessed against WLS.

However, what little useful information gleaned from the disclosure only heightens the suspicion that the sponsorship-identification case against WLS was not motivated by the station’s failure to disclose (in a fraction of instances) that Workers Independent News had paid for its airtime, but rather by a right-wing operative seeking to muzzle Workers Independent News on ideological grounds. Read More

Regulatory Innuendo as Stalking Horse?

Never before has an FCC enforcement action hit so close to home.

This week, the agency issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for $44,000 to Chicago radio station WLS-AM. The proposed penalty stems from a complaint filed by a listener regarding news programming aired by WLS that originated with the Madison-based Workers Independent News (WIN) service. The FCC accuses WLS of violating its rules by failing to disclose that it was paid for running WIN newscasts.

(Disclosure: I was one of WIN’s founding producers, helping to develop and launch the service between 2001-2004.) Read More

Making Waves Plays Chicago

Michael Lahey’s excellent, award-winning documentary on microbroadcasting, Making Waves, publicly screens for the first time in the Windy City next weekend at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Actually, it’s playing twice, on 8/19 and 8/21. Check the new trailer before you go.

Michael recently moved to Chicago and may be around at the screenings for an afterward Q&A. If you can’t make the screenings, you can still check it out on Free Speech TV, where it’s been playing at least monthly. It’ll play five times on August 24th alone.