Tag Archives: FM

Activating mobile phone FM: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s remarks at NAB symposium

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who shares the following:

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s remarks at the North American Broadcasters Association’s Future of Radio and Audio Symposium from today have been posted at

http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2017/db0216/DOC-343529A1.pdf

I found the most interesting info in the statement is only 44% of the top selling smartphones in the US have an FM Chip activated have them activated. This figure pales in comparison to Mexico, where 80% of the top selling smartphones have the FM Radio chip activated.

Chair Pai goes on to state:

“You could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone. The former head of our Federal Emergency Management Administration has spoken out in support of this proposal.

[…]I’ll keep speaking out about the benefits of activating FM chips. Having said that, as a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don’t believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it’s best to sort this issue out in the marketplace. For despite the low numbers, we are seeing progress; in the last two years, the percentage of top-selling smartphones in the United States that have activated FM chips has risen from less than 25% to 44%. “

Which leads me to this question for the SWLing Post community: would the benefits, emergency and otherwise, of mandated, activated FM Receiver Chips in new Smartphones sold outweigh the free market arguments?

Feel free to share your comments!

Please note: our SWLing Post comment moderators keep this site a safe haven from partisan politics–after all, we’re here to talk and play radio! Sometimes, however, local/international politics and radio intersect, but please leave partisan discussions or any animosity for specific politicians for a political site. 🙂

Making broadcast towers safer for birds

(Source: NPR)

It’s likely the only time you really notice one of your neighborhood broadcast and cell towers is at night when they’re lit up with conspicuous bright red lights.

Those lights help pilots see the huge metal structures that can reach 1,000 feet into the air — but they can spell disaster for birds.

In 1976 in Gun Lake, Mich., one tower killed over 2,300 birds in one night, says Caleb Putnam, who works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He says for reasons scientists still can’t quite figure out, birds kept flying headlong into towers.

“If that many are dying at one night at one tower and yet there are thousands of towers across the country and as you go across the world, the numbers are staggering,” he says.

Putnam says in North America alone it’s estimated that 7 million birds smash into towers every year. But until recently scientists didn’t know why it was happening.

[…]”We were able reduce the numbers of bird fatalities on communications towers by simply extinguishing those non-flashing lights,” she says. “Those fatalities were reduced by as much as 70 percent.”[…]

Click here to listen/read this full report on NPR.

The past, present and future of UK pirate radio

Radio Caroline circa 1960’s.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn who shares this excellent article from Dazed:

The influence of pirate radio has endured despite government crackdowns and the rise of legitimate alternatives – today, it continues to thrive, both legally and otherwise

Drive around some parts of London today and you’re still liable to hear mainstream radio broadcasts drowned out by fleeting bursts of unfamiliar music. Pirate radio stations have been illegally hijacking the FM dial since the 1990s, but while the pirate scene is far smaller than it was in its heyday, the movement is still thriving on a local scale, while a vibrant array of online-only stations are inspired by the energy and spirit of the pirates. To put it simply, pirate radio never left London.

The UK’s pirate radio story starts with Ronan O’Rahilly’s Radio Caroline back in the 1960s, famously avoiding the authorities by broadcasting from international waters, but it was really the 1990s that paved the way for pirate radio in this country. Its evolution loosely follows that of the underground rave scene, which mainstream radio wouldn’t touch in its early days. “It’s the closest thing to mass organised zombie-dom,” BBC Radio 1 DJ Peter Powell said of acid house. “I really don’t think it should go any further.” Needless to say, it wasn’t going anywhere, and between 1988 and 89, pirate radio stations rapidly started to appear to serve a youth hungry for new sounds that weren’t being catered to by mainstream radio. By 1989, there were over 60 pirate radio stations operating in London alone.

While the first pirates – from Sunrise to Centreforce to Fantasy – mostly played music from America and European countries like Belgium, it didn’t take long for the British youth to start doing their own thing. “The UK kids realised people were making music in their bedrooms and they thought ‘I can fucking do that!’” exclaims Uncle Dugs, one of the UK’s leading authorities on pirate radio. Having been involved in radio (both legal and otherwise) for over 20 years, Dugs’ new book Rave Diaries and Tower Block Tales documents life as a young raver turned award-winning DJ after years on the pirate scene. As he explains, by 1991, London’s underground music landscape had become “99% UK producers and DJs,” transforming from acid house to hardcore and then to jungle. As London’s underground grew, so did its pirate presence, with legendary stations like Weekend Rush, Kool FM, Pulse FM, Innocence, and Defection springing up by the end of 1991. “You could flick through the radio and at every .2 on the dial there was a pirate station,” Dugs laughs. “There wasn’t even space on the radio for a new one.”[…]

Click here to read the full article at Dazed.

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…