1st Anniversary – Famous Blog That Got Darryl The Heave-Ho

Darryl_Photo_Crop

It’s been a year already since I received a copy of the “home game” from Clear Channel Media & Entertainment IHeartMedia.  While no reason was ever given, I’m sure the little missive below was reason enough.  I get it and accept the punishment.  I broke ranks.

I thought some about how I would rewrite my most infamous blog.

Referring to the National Association of Broadcasters or N.A.B. Convention as a “circle jerk” may have been a little much. I’ve been to a few of these conventions and had my share of free drinks and nice dinners.  So in the interest of disclosure…

“Industry rags” was insulting and wrong since I consider many who write for these publications friends.  I owe each of them an apology, especially Radio Ink.  While they were never mentioned in the blog, they did name me one of their “Programmers of the Year” three times and honorably mentioned me more than a few times too.

The truth is each phrase was used to get attention.  I guess it worked!  I rewrote the blog numerous times thinking at one point it needed to be “jazzed” up a little.

You will note over a year later, not much has changed for AM radio. No help with interference.  No help from the N.A.B. nor the F.C.C.  As it was over a year ago, the ideas are just a lot of talk, with no intent for any real plans of action.

And of course there’s that brilliant idea of giving AM stations low power FM translators, which won’t help an AM station because the translator is on FM.  Am I being too logical?

So here it is again on its first anniversary.  The blog that got the radio industry buzzing, the bloggers blogging and me a severance package.

Enjoy.

 

If you would allow me the indulgence of being the radio suit that I am in real life for just one blog, because something has me irritated in a major way.

There is finally a call, as the Federal Communications Commission put it recently, to revitalize the AM band.  You know create and ease rules to allow station owners to be relieved of horrible burdens.  You may have read about this in the press or online.  If you’re in the broadcast industry you may have read about it in one of the industry rags.

You think just one of these industry rags would speak the truth about the FCC’s ideas, suggestions and concepts?  Nope.  As Kevin Bacon’s character in Animal House said, “Remain calm.  All is well.”  What a joke the FCC is.  And sadly, what a joke the people in the radio industry are who are nodding along without thought or the ability to intelligently reason the basic concepts of physics.

While AM radio may suffer from numerous other issues, this will focus on technical limitations of the broadcast band and the ideas the FCC has moving forward.

AM radio or “amplitude modulation” was first.  Even back in the 1920’s and 1930’s companies like RCA which sold radios, owned stations and had the NBC Radio Networks knew of limitations on the band, limitations such as “static.”  RCA was so concerned about static they, through a really smart guy they employed, invented FM or “frequency modulation” and then buried the FM technology because they had too much money invested in AM stations.  The “static” you hear on AM radio is interference.

The AM signal travels farther at night than during the day.  Most AM radio stations change their signal patterns and/or reduce power at night to keep from interfering with other stations on the same frequency or adjacent frequencies.  Stations like 700WLW are considered a “clear channel” station, meaning the station’s signal is broadcast in a non-directional pattern and is the only station on that frequency at night.  The power is a booming 50,000 watts.  Stations such as WSM-AM, WGN-AM, WLS-AM and WCBS-AM are also “clear channel” stations.

Today, besides interference from other stations, the AM band is also being interfered with by computers, cell phones, even those new energy savings light bulbs.  This is why it may be more difficult for you to receive a good signal from an AM station these days.

Just last week at the yearly “circle jerk” gathering of broadcasters called the NAB/RAB Radio Show, FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn announced a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” with 6…count ‘em…6 ideas to rid station owners of horrible burdens.  What do these 6 ideas do?  Increase interference!  And no one.  Not one freaking person in the industry press will talk about this.  Obviously, they’re too busy copying press releases for their publications and pretending to be Kevin Bacon’s ROTC character.

Here are the 6 ideas proposed by the FCC.Opening a one-time filing window, limited to current AM licensees and permittees, which will allow each to apply for one new FM translator station to fill in its service area.

An FM translator is a very low power FM signal, normally about 99 watts.  The FCC figures there’s so much interference today on the AM band, as stations interfere with each other, why not spread the pain and cause more interference on the FM band.  BRILLIANT!

Relaxing the AM daytime community coverage rule to allow existing AM broadcasters more flexibility to propose antenna site changes.

Translation:  Stations that are non-viable can change their tower locations.  (1) Non-viable stations probably don’t have the money to move a tower site, which will cost in the millions.  (2) If a non-viable station does change its tower site, rules would be relaxed on these stations allowing for more interference with other stations.  (3) If a non-viable station simply changes its daytime pattern at its current site it will cause more interference with other stations.  BRILLIANT!

Relaxing the AM nighttime community coverage standards, which will also provide broadcasters, who may have difficulty finding suitable sites, relief for towers and directional arrays.

Remember what I said about the AM signal traveling farther at night?  More AM band interference and more difficulty for the consumer to receive and hear programming.  BRILLIANT!

Also, does the FCC really think a non-viable AM station will be moving its tower site?  700WLW’s tower site is 40 acres.  Two towers, one almost 900 feet tall.  What do you think this would cost to build?  This is a non-starter.

Eliminating the AM “ratchet rule,” which requires an AM station to “ratchet back” its nighttime signal to reduce interference to certain other AM stations.

Here’s where I worry about the FCC and attendees at the recent NAB/RAB “circle jerk.”  Really?  You applauded this idea?  They are saying they are in favor of increasing interference on the AM band and making it more difficult for listeners to listen to stations.  WOW!

Permitting wider implementation of Modulation Dependent Carrier Level or MDCL control technologies, which allow broadcasters to reduce power consumption.

I know.  What the f*** does this mean?  Basically, by controlling the algorithms of modulation with the main carrier and the side-bands of the signal the station can reduce its electric bill.  But, as with every immutable law in physics there is give and take.  (1) By reducing the power and use of electricity needed, it makes the signal weaker and creates more interference on the listener’s end.  (2)  The FCC has noted that a reduction in signal power at certain modulation levels “inevitably exacts some penalty in audio quality.”  This means if an AM station uses the MDCL control technology audio distortion is created on the signal.  You guessed it.  More interference.

Modifying AM antenna efficiency standards by reducing minimum effective field strength values by approximately 25%, thus allowing the use of shorter towers.

“Reducing minimum effective field strength values” means a weaker signal.  700WLW’s main tower is what is called a “half-wave tower.”  That’s why it’s so big.  Stations that have shorter towers have what are called “quarter-wave towers.”  A half-wave tower creates a better and stronger signal.  The shorter towers proposed mean?  Yep.  More interference.

Hey FCC.  The answer is not MORE interference.  The answer is LESS interference.  And you do that by turning off non-viable stations.  And before station owners start crying poverty, many of these non-viable AM stations have one thing that is worth a ton of money.  The land their towers sit on.

What do you think those 40 acres in Mason, Ohio are worth?

  18 comments for “1st Anniversary – Famous Blog That Got Darryl The Heave-Ho

  1. Palolo lolo
    November 10, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Well said.At least you received a severance package.I was released for “it’s nothing you did or didn’t do” and got zip from IhateRadio.

    • November 10, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that. “Darryl Parks’ Contract Tip” – Always get it in writing. It not about your relationship with the people you do the contract with, it’s about the people who replace the people you do the contract with.

  2. November 10, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Your passion for AM radio is admirable.

    Another way of venting understandable frustrations, and proposing thoughtful solutions, is to have experts in the radio field say it for you.

    Yes, this takes time to find and interview them, but it can be worth it.

    Surely there are others in radio who feel the same about the “circle jerk.” Quote them. The reader will understand that you feel the same.

    And surely there are radio brokers, owners, etc. who could make a much stronger case for unplugging nonviable stations.

    They could – and should – include examples of ones that went dark. And how that affected the owners’ bottom line, tax consequences, and how that improved the signals of other stations. Real-world evidence is powerful.

    Reality trumps theory.

    Also, the experts must know of other countries and how they solved the problem, like maybe moving all stations to another band or whatever.

    More work for the writer, to be sure.

    But also, making a stronger case that could produce good results instead of some lovely parting gifts, including the home version of “The Big One.”
    😊

  3. Michael
    November 11, 2014 at 5:53 am

    I have always enjoyed your slant on events. Live 10 W of Lexington KY, WLW signal was better than 630 WLAP. Sure miss you. Sorry all in AM radio is so screwed up. Maybe after we retire our “Golfer-in-chief” new blood in the FCC will improve. Good Luck Darryl!

    • November 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Michael, thank you for the kind thoughts. I enjoyed spending time with you and everyone on 700WLW. Honestly, it was the best part of my week. Thank you for checking out the blog. Darryl

  4. Hans von Balkovsky
    November 12, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    I’m no fan of Obama the Kenyan…errrrr Wall Street( Inter) national…..

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-con-man-cornered-obama-and-the-democratic-debacle-of-2014/5413541

    but why take a swing at him if you’re not gonna take a swing at Bush the Elder and his assistance with CC in the destruction of local radio through homogenized consolidation?

  5. November 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks for re-posting, I never saw the original. Maybe you got a little edgy, like the hosts you managed, but you were honest and accurate, which is more than I can say for many hosts.

    As a lefty who was made redundant by the Air America debacle, I really appreciate your recent posts on the sorry state of (conservative) talk radio. You are, once again, honest and accurate, and, again, ignored by the industry.

    My uncle once owned a farm in Mason, just down the road from the WLW xmitter. The locals said that when it went superpower (500kw, as I recall) during WW2 that you could hear it on the wire fences. The water cooling system was neat, too.

    One more thing…you were very generous in letting me use a studio when I came to Cincy to visit Mom…..thanks!

    Peter B. Collins

    • November 14, 2014 at 7:23 pm

      Peter,

      So good to hear from you. I hope all is well.

      The cooling ponds for the transmitter are still there. Funny story a lady once called to complain she was getting WLW on her phone and other appliances in her new house in the area. I asked her how close she was to the transmitter. She said, “I’m looking at the tower through my kitchen window right now.” I responded, “Well. I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but wasn’t that 900 foot piece of steel in your backyard something of a clue? It’s been there since the 1920’s.” We both laughed.

      I hope your Mom is doing well. And you are very welcome. We were glad to have you spend the time in the building.

      Talk with you soon.

      Darryl

  6. Nick
    November 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    It feels like more than a year.

    In Austin, Texas listening to WLW on my phone. Tower? I don’t need no stinkin’ tower.

  7. Jofus
    November 15, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    I recall that three decades ago, there had been some talk about having AM stations 9 kilohertz apart instead of 10, and for a massive frequency realignment that would have seen most daytime stations moved to new frequencies where they could broadcast at night.

    Would the 9-kilohertz spacing have reduced interference and given listeners more of a choice??

  8. spotmagicsolis
    November 19, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    nah, they are all just looking for a reason to fire anyone. Especially if you have a nice salary with bennies and a retirement plan Using your right to freedom of speech is just something to point to. Anyone who sticks their head above the desk now is gonna get it.

  9. Zac
    February 2, 2015 at 11:28 am

    What’s up to all, the contents present at this web page are truly remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the nice work fellows.

  10. July 25, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    A perfect example of low-power FM repeaters fucking up other FM signals can be found in Athens, GA. Athens is about 60 miles east-northeast of Atlanta as the crow flies, which puts it near the edge of the “marginal” (or “distant”) coverage area for B98.5 in Atlanta with it’s 100,000-watt flamethrower. Generally speaking, the signal for B98.5 is still pretty clear and strong in the Athens area, though it begins to show the initial signs of deterioration in low-lying and densely-developed areas. The real signal deterioration doesn’t begin until you go further (north)east into the “fringe” coverage areas of Oglethorpe County and Madison County, however.

    So anyway, I’m listening to B98.5 as I’m driving around town one day, and I start hearing what sounds like a voice bleeding through into this song that I really like. Irritated, I check the adjacent frequencies after the song is done. I turn the dial to 98.3 FM…OK, nothing there. I turn the dial to 98.7 FM…and I get Sean Hannity on a signal that’s clear as the sky in the Sahara Desert. So now I’m wondering exactly who in their right mind thought that having three different stations all carrying Sean Hannity with a clear signal in Athens (WSB, AM 750; WSBB, 95.5 FM; WGAU, AM 1340) wasn’t enough. It turns out that WGAU, Athens’ AM news/talk station, was given an FM repeater at 98.7 FM. Brilliant!

    This is absurd on two levels: First of all, B98.5 still has a fine signal in the Athens area, with only minor multi-path interference in downtown Athens and on the campus of the University of Georgia, but now people in Athens who listen to B98.5 have to deal with adjacent-channel interference in places. Second of all, and even more absurd, is that all four of these stations broadcasting Sean Hannity in Athens are owned by Cox Media Group! And not only does B98.5 still have a useful signal in Athens, but WSBB also happens to be a “rimshot” station with a 100,000-watt flamethrower on a stick that’s just as close to Athens as it is to Atlanta, which means that Athens already got Sean Hannity loud and clear on FM radio in the first place. Somehow the decision-makers at Cox Media Group didn’t realize any of this.

    Another big slap in the face is that this all happened just as Athens is finally about to solve the 97.7/97.9/98.1 adjacent-channel interference problem, in which the signal of an NPR affiliate (WUGA, 97.9 FM) bled into the signals of a Hot AC station (Z-97) and a Rhythmic Top 40 station (Hot 98.1) that both originate in other markets but have useful signals in the Athens area. WUGA now broadcasts on 91.7 FM, and Z-97 and Hot 98.1 don’t have to worry about adjacent-channel interference in Athens anymore, but now B98.5 does. Where’s a “face palm” emoticon when you need one?

  11. fatcat47
    April 17, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Freedom of speech my foot. A good man with years of experience gets fired for telling it like it is. That wasn’t fair to you, Darryl, but I’m glad to see that you landed on your feet. I’m new to this blog, and learning a lot, so I thank you for your time in writing this.

    • April 17, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      Hey Fatcat 47. Such is life. Thank you for reading the blog. I really appreciate it. Have a great week. Darryl

      • fatcat47
        April 17, 2016 at 9:17 pm

        The same to you too, sir. God bless ya.

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