Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #114

Feb. 5

Norway, which announced last year that all analog FM transmissions will cease in 2017 -- the start of the end is to be January 11, 2017 -- is already seeing some FM stations disappear.

In their place is all-digital broadcasts on an entirely new band known as DAB+ which is being used in Western Europe, Australia and China but which was not authorized for broadcasts in the United States.

Radio in Norway is far different than in the United States, with broadcasts dominated by networks affiliated with the government. The first stations to shut down, though, are independent, and seem to be doing so out of cost-cutting motives; RadioWorld.Com says that the FM stations owned by Bauer Media featured two local broadcasts while the replacements will be just one national digital station.

Prior to the decision to adopt the HD Radio system for digital broadcasts in the United States, there was debate on whether we, too, should go with DAB. In the end FCC was swayed by arguments that keeping traditional radio alive benefits listeners today, while HD Radio can broadcast in a fully digital mode as well, making today’s frequencies viable in the future.


I gave BMW engineers some flak last year for being unable to do what engineers at other carmakers can do: provide AM radio reception in a hybrid car. Yet still the BMW i3 arrives in the hands of buyers without that AM capability. It would seem that BMW shares engineering with the diesel group over at at Volkswagen.

It turns out, however, that AM reception is not impossible, it is just turned off. BMW considers this a “feature,” as explained by company spokesman Dave Bunchko when the issue first materialized:

“We learned from our experience with MINI E and BMW ActiveE that the electric motor causes interference with the AM signal. Rather than frustrate customers with inferior reception, the decision was made to leave it off. HD Radio is standard on the i3 and through multi-casting, many traditional AM stations in key markets are available on secondary and tertiary HD signals.”

Interesting that Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and all others were able to make it work. Regardless, AM is available on the i3 after all, as long as the owner can do some tinkering. You can read about it here: http://tinyurl.com/BMW-AMRadio, though without owning one I have no clue what is involved in accessing the system.

And, He’s Gone ... Again

I’ve gotten a few letters and emails on the subject, so it’s worthy of an explanation.

Fans of Art Bell, original host of Coast to Coast AM heard overnights locally on KFI (640 AM), were excited when he returned to the air via SiriusXM satellite radio in September, 2013. That show lasted six weeks before he decided to end it. Then they were excited when he launched an internet program -- later carried by KABC (790 AM) -- in July of last year. That program ended December 11th.

As always, the reason was “security,” as he and his family  were allegedly subject to trespassing on his property -- and threats -- from someone he believes wants him off the air. Far be it for me to doubt him, but personally I think he -- while a popular host with a true knack for entertainment -- is a few kilohertz short of a frequency. 

Jan. 29

The Radio and Television News Association of Southern California honored numerous broadcast stations in the area at their 66th Annual Golden Mike Awards held January 23rd at the Los Angeles Universal Hilton Hotel.

The Golden Mikes are presented annually by the RTNA, the non-profit group representing broadcast newsrooms in Los Angeles, San Diego, and all of the other markets from Fresno to the Mexican border. The group also coordinates pool coverage of major events and fights for broadcast coverage in courtrooms, and provides scholarships for the next generation of broadcast journalists.

The Golden Mike is Southern California's most prestigious -- and most coveted -- broadcast journalism prize. What sets the Golden Mikes apart from other competitions is the Standard of Excellence: Unlike most awards contests in which winners are determined by selecting which entry is the "best" among all those submitted in each category, winners of the Golden Mike Awards must also meet the Standard ... if the judges decide that no entry in a category meets this "Standard of Excellence", then no award is given.

Awards are split by news department size, Division A being radio stations with six or more full-time news staff members and Division B consisting of stations with five or fewer full-time newspeople. Here are the 2016 winners, recognizing the accomplishments of 2015:

Best News Broadcast over 15 Minutes (Div. A): KNX (1070 AM) (B): No Award

Best News Broadcast Under 15 Minutes (A): KPCC (89.3 FM); (B): K-BEACH (88.1 HD3)

Best Sports Segment (A): KFWB (980 AM); (B): KVTA (1590 AM)

Best Traffic Report (A): KNX; (B): No Award

Best Sports Reporting (A): No Award; (B): KCLU (1340 AM, 88.3 FM)

Best Spot News Reporting (A): KFI (640 AM); (B): KCLU

Best Live Coverage of a News Story (A): KNX; (B) No Award

Best Documentary (One Division): KNX

Best News Public Affairs Program (A): KPCC; (B): KKJZ (88.1 FM)

Best News Reporting (A): KPCC; (B): KVPR/Fresno (89.3 FM)

Best News Reporting by a Radio Network or Content Syndicator (One Division): Westwood One

Best Hard News Reporting (One Division): KPCC

Best Feature News Series Reporting (One Division): KVPR

Best Investigative Reporting (A): KPCC; (B) No Award

Best Serious Feature Reporting less than one minute (One Division): KFI

Best Serious Feature Reporting one minute or longer (One Division): KPCC

Best Light Feature Reporting less than one minute (One Division): KFI

Best Light Feature Reporting one minute or longer (One Division): KPCC

Best News Special (A): KPCC; (B): No Award

Best Entertainment Reporting (A): KPCC; (B): KCLU

Best Business and Consumer Reporting (A): KNX; (B): KCLU

Best Government and Political Reporting (A): KPCC; (B): No Award

Best Medical and Science Reporting (A): No Award; (B): KCLU

Best Use of Sound (A): KPCC; (B): KCLU

Of note is K-BEACH, the student-run station out of Long Beach State, winning Best News Under 15 Minutes for its Hi-Definition News. That’s two years in a row for the station, which broadcasts as a secondary HD channel on KKJZ’s digital stream.  That’s right ... students. Maybe there is a future in radio!
Holiday Ratings

The results are in: KOST (103.5 FM) owned the airwaves in Los Angeles during the December Holiday season which basically covered most of December. For the month, KOST was more than twice as popular as the second-highest station, with a 12.3 percent share of the audience compared to KBIG’s (104.3 FM) 4.7.

And you wonder why it starts to sound a little like Christmas earlier and earlier every year ...

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