FMX: Not all broadcast innovations come to fruition

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who shares the following in-depth article from Tedium.com:

The story of FMX, the wannabe radio standard that was taken out in a very public way

Attempts at standard-building in the radio industry have come up repeatedly over the years, and few of them have stuck, not even in the nobody-knows-about-it way that AM stereo has made its mark.

Perhaps the most fascinating of these attempts to improve the radio signal, however, is that of FMX. Formulated in the late 1980s as a more pristine version of the FM dial, it intended to solve a major problem with FM that had been lingering since stereo had been added in the early 1960s: When you move to the edges of the coverage area, the sound quality gets really low.

As you can probably tell by the fact that it’s generally still a problem in many vehicles today, FMX failed to solve that problem.

But the reason why it failed to solve that problem is more complicated than saying it didn’t work. There were both technical and political issues at play.

The technology, for what it’s worth, did have the right folks supporting it: The brainchild of Tom Keller, an engineer with the National Association of Broadcasters, and Emil Torick, who worked in the same role for the CBS Technology Center, FMX was intended to fix stereo’s weaknesses in low-quality areas. The best part? It was backwards compatible. It would reduce noise and improve the fidelity of FM stations for stereos with upgraded equipment, but those with cheap beater radios would still have the same staticky-in-outlying-areas experience that they did before.

Paul Riismandel, a radio industry observer who co-founded the industry news outlet Radio Survivor, notes that the FMX technology wasn’t the first of its kind. For example, Dolby attempted to bring its noise-reduction technology, common in cassette tapes, to radio stations in the 1970s, but its offering was generally ignored due to the fact that proprietary equipment was needed. (Over at the Internet Archive is a sample of what Dolby FM sounded like during a 1978 Minnesota Public Radio broadcast.)

But FMX likely got further than most due to two factors that became apparent in the 1980s: The fuzziness of radio stations in fringe parts of the broadcast areas, and the pristine sounds of the compact disc, which was becoming popular at the time.

“FMX was a way for radio to compete with this new digital technology and adapt to listener expectations,” Riismandel noted.

But the FMX technology proved controversial within the radio industry due to two separate incidents that cost the technology its momentum.[…]

Read the full article on Tedium.com.

In Sweden, Ambulances testing system to jam car radios

(Source: BBC News via Richard Langley)

Ambulances in Stockholm are testing a system that interrupts in-car audio systems to warn drivers that they need to get through.

The solution was developed by students at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in the city.
It broadcasts a voice warning, while a text message also appears in the radio display.

It uses an FM radio signal to jam drivers’ speakers and stop music playing.

It will only be able to alert cars that have their radios turned on. It can also interrupt CDs and music connected via Bluetooth.

The radio transmission is sent from the emergency vehicle to nearby FM tuners that are equipped with RDS, a communications protocol for embedding small amounts of digital information in FM radio broadcasts. It is most commonly used to display the station or song title.

[…]The city will begin testing the system in a limited number of ambulances and fire engines, with plans to expand across the country later this year.

The warning system can work out how far in advance messages need to be heard depending on the speed of traffic.

Continue reading at BBC News…

Citing a diminishing audience, US to close Iranawila Station in Sri Lanka

(Source: US Embassy in Sri Lanka)

The United States values its strong relationship with Sri Lanka and our bilateral partnership over the past 60 years. The Iranawila shortwave station, managed by an independent U.S. agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), is an example of this partnership. The shortwave station has transmitted Voice of America programs from Washington through shortwave radio signals to audiences around the world, bringing them news, music, and special interest programs about the United States. Without the support of Sri Lankan governments over many years, Voice of America could not have succeeded in its mission of telling America’s story to the world.

Over time, however, the audience for shortwave broadcasts has diminished. People are increasingly turning to other sources of news and information – including, but not limited to FM radio, satellite television, websites, and social media – often delivered via mobile phones. The BBG is committed to reaching audiences on their preferred media. Given changing audience habits and the increasing costs of operating shortwave transmission stations, the BBG decided to close the Iranawila station.

The land where the station is located was leased from, and is being returned to, the Government of Sri Lanka. During the time of its operation, the U.S. government has developed the Iranawila property, building roads, clearing and levelling the land, building drainage canals, fences, and modern office buildings. The U.S. government has also installed service connections to public utilities and 4.2Mw of onsite self-generated power. All of these improvements have significantly increased the property’s value, and the flexibility of the site to serve many roles in the future. The United States government is returning with gratitude its lease of over 400 acres of property in Iranawila back to the Government of Sri Lanka in its entirety, including any and all improvements.

Voice of America provides trusted and objective news and information in 47 languages to a measured weekly audience of more than 236.6 million people around the world. For nearly 75 years, VOA journalists have told American stories and supplied objective news and information about the US, their region and the world. For more information on VOA – www.voanews.com

Herrington sale features Grundig shortwave radios

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, for sharing a link to this sale at Herrington, where a number of Grundig models have been discounted.

Looking through Herrington’s selection of Grundig radios, I feel the best deal is the Grundig Edition Field Radio above. It’s on sale for $99.95, but you must also account for shipping which could add an additional $15.95 (for a total of $115.90).

Amazon is selling the same Grundig Edition Field Radio for $129.99 shipped, but is also selling the upgraded version, The Grundig Edition Field BT–which includes Bluetooth connectivity–for $98.92 shipped.

I have not reviewed these receivers, so can’t comment on performance.

Click here to view the sale at Herrington.

Ross knows firsthand the importance of ABC/Radio Australia shortwave

Yesterday, we posted a news item regarding the importance of the ABC’s shortwave service to those working and living in the Australian Outback. It appears the ABC has no intention of reversing the decision in any meaningful way. A follow-up piece from The Guardian:

The ABC has remained steadfast in its decision to scrap the shortwave radio service, despite pleadings from federal Labor politicians in a meeting with the managing director, Michelle Guthrie.

Federal senator and cabinet minister Nigel Scullion has joined the calls for ABC to reverse its “city-centric” decision and maintain the service.

[…]“It was certainly a good meeting in terms of being able to thrash out the concerns of the people of the Northern Territory and stakeholders, but in terms of the outcome, it certainly wasn’t a positive outcome,” she said. “The ABC has disappointingly continued to forget about the people of the Northern Territory and those concerns.

“They’re still going ahead with the decision to remove the shortwave at the end of the month due to contractual issues. Michelle Guthrie is keen to come to the Northern Territory but clearly not until after the removal of shortwave.”[…]

[Read the full article at The Guardian.]

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ross, who has first-hand experience in rural, remote regions of Australia and shares the following:

As someone who spends a fair amount of time in remote areas of far Western Queensland and SE Northern Territory I regularly listen to Radio Australia broadcasts on my Pioneer 2 SW band truck radio.

The only reliable signals in English are Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand and China Drive Beijing. Local MW radio is virtually non existent during daylight hours with severe fading, FM just forget it , line of sight and no local transmitters for 100’s of kilometres.

Once again the city-centric values of Sydney/Canberra are imposed on those of us who live without the manifold benefits the coast and major cities take for granted.

A 100KW AM station broadcasting local ABC throughout Western QLD and southern territory would give us the road conditions, news, weather, flood/storm and fire warnings so necessary in a remote environment where conditions change quickly. [B]ut again HF facilities already exist, $1-2 million is a small cost and not if but when the digital/satellite networks fail HF will be more capable of maintaining communications.

Alternatively, smaller MW repeater stations relaying ABC maybe using microwave relay sites?
As for the comment that many of the complaints came from amateur radio ops , many of us use HF transceivers to keep contact over these large areas whether it be via the VKS-737 outback radio service, Royal Flying doctor radio service or the amateur radio network in an area where mobile telephone service is nonexistent and Satellite phones are not always reliable during severe weather events.

My point being that many of us have taken up HF for local and communications in comparison to other more populated parts of the country out of necessity for contact that city based politicians take for granted.

Not many homesteads (stations) in outback Australia without UHF and HF comms equipment and therefore the ability to tune in to the only reliable radio signals from R’Aust.

I have written to the local Federal member Bob Katter in MT ISA who I know is well versed in outback needs and trust he may be able to bang a few heads together in Canberra!

Regards,

Ross AKA Farmlad.

Thank you for sharing your comments, Ross.

Are there other SWLing Post readers who live and/or work in the Outback of Australia?  Please comment.