From the Chair – May 2010

It was off to Las Vegas mid-April for the annual National Association of Broadcasters Convention. Visibly busier than last year, the official attendance was pegged at 88,000, some 6,000 more than last year.

3D technology was the most visible innovation this year. Many of the displays looked like they may catch on with TV viewers, although all of the consumer demonstrations required the use of viewing glasses, using either cross polarized or shutter technology. Hollywood’s release of their blockbuster “Avatar” was visible in many of the demos on the convention floors. My theater experience with Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” convinced me the technology is mature enough for the theater market and will be making in-roads to the consumer market soon.

3d Shuttle at NAB

Working demonstrations of the next generation of EAS equipment were evidence on the show floor and the topic of several technical sessions. One of the highlights was a session titled “Putting the Final Touches on Next Generation EAS.” FEMA officials announced the roll-out of the new Common Alerting Protocol (CAPS) that will allow the same warning message to be delivered for many different warning systems. There was also a discussion on the implementation of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) and its impact on the EAS and broadcasters.

In a related development, SBE National has endorsed the FCC proposal for nationwide testing of the EAS system but cautioned the Commission about new regulatory obligations that could be imposed on broadcasters.

Alert FM, a relatively new emergency alerting system using FM RDS technology was being demonstrated at NAB this year. The system allows emergency managers to deliver alert messages to electronic devices that have FM receivers. The developers, Global Security Systems have been active in pushing for electronics manufacturers to expand the availability of FM on mobile and other devices. One of their devices was being demonstrated at the FEMA booth.

NAB President Gordon Smith met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at NAB this year and discussed the FCC’s proposed “Broadband Plan.” Appearing on Capitol late in April, Smith expressed serious concern over the “voluntary” plan for broadcasters to give up their spectrum space for wireless services and the potential burden it could pose for small broadcasters particularly.

The FCC has set May 10 as the date FM HD Radio stations can implement a 6 dB digital power increase without asking for an STA. However, opposition continues to come in the Commission on the rule changes, some claiming that the power increase will be too expensive for smaller broadcasters.

There are also some proposals coming up before the Commission to improve coverage for the AM broadcasters. One of the proposals would allow day-timers to begin pre-sunrise service early. So far, no one has objected to the proposal.

A unrelated proposal comes from Radio Consultant Richard Arsenault for an increase of AM daytime power ten times, that is, a station operating 5kW day could go to 50kW, and the 50kW operation could go to 500kW. Arsenault says this would offset the ever increasing electrical interference caused by computers and wireless devices. The idea is not likely to get much traction.

Well, that’s it for another busy month in broadcast engineering.

73 Jim Dalke