Radio Waves: Colombia’s life-saving pop song, FCC Commissioner Pro AM Radio, Experimental Radio News 6, FCC Comments on FM Power Increase, and Leo Laporte Retires

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Colombia’s life-saving pop song (BBC Sounds)

It is 2010 and Colombian Colonel Jose Espejo has a problem. Not only is the Farc increasing its kidnapping activity, targeting police and military hostages, but many of the soldiers already in captivity – some kept in barbed-wire cages and held isolation in for over a decade – are losing hope of ever being rescued.

Colombia’s dense jungle and mountainous terrain mean rescue missions can take months to plan, especially because Farc guerrillas are known to shoot all hostages dead at the first hint of a raid. Colonel Espejo knew that in order for future missions to succeed, he would need to warn the captives that help was coming so they could be ready to make a break for it when the army arrived. But how do you get a message across to military hostages without tipping off their captors and placing them in even greater danger?

The unexpected solution – hide the message in a pop song with an interlude in Morse code that the military hostages could decipher. Soldiers learned Morse code in basic training, and it was unlikely that the Farc, who were not military trained, would know it. This is the tale of Better Days, a pop song with a secret Morse code message that became an actual lifesaver.

Click here to listen to this program on BBC Sounds.

FCC Commissioner Advocates for Preservation of AM Radio (Radio World)

At the NAFB Convention, Simington said AM radio is an “indispensable resource”

FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington met with members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting during their 79th annual convention on Nov. 16. In his remarks, Simington emphasized the importance of AM radio and outlined the steps needed to ensure its future in a changing market.

Simington began his remarks with a more personal anecdote. He said he grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, where “besides the trade papers, there was no media institution more trusted to inform us about all we needed to know than AM radio.”

“AM radio was for us then, and is for the more than three million farmers across the U.S. now, an indispensable resource,” he said.

Simington said AM radio is the “essential spine” of the Emergency Alert System and “lets you know what’s happening not just globally, but locally — from school closures and traffic delays to city council and county management meetings and high school sports games.”

He comments on the growing populations that view AM radio as a “dead” and outdated technology, and why he believes that to be a falsity. [Continue reading…]

Experimental Radio News 6

This issue is devoted entirely to experimental high-frequency (HF) or shortwave radio, including a new FCC docket accepting comments on a license application.

Click here to check out the latest Experimental Radio News issue!

FCC Takes Comments on FM Digital Power Increase (Radio World)

It also agreed to combine this petition with an earlier one for asymmetric sidebands

The FCC wants to know what you think about the proposal by the National Association of Broadcasters and Xperi to allow many FM HD Radio stations in the United States to raise their digital power levels.

The Media Bureau now is taking comments on the petition submitted by the NAB and Xperi in October. [Read the petition.]

The commission also has combined this petition with another filed in 2019 by NAB, Xperi and NPR. That one would permanently authorize FM stations to use HD Radio with asymmetric sideband power levels without the need for separate or experimental authorization. [Read that petition.]

These two petitions now have been assigned MB Docket Number 22-405. Comments can be filed in the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System. Comments are due Jan. 12, replies are due Feb. 13. [Continue reading…]

Leo Laporte, KFI’s ‘The Tech Guy,’ will retire from radio in December (Los Angeles Daily News)

Leo Laporte — “The Tech Guy” — heard locally on KFI (640 AM) Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., announced his retirement from radio effective in December. His last live show will air Dec. 18.

Technically it wasn’t Laporte who announced the retirement … comedian Steve Martin called in to make the announcement for him, during the Nov. 19 edition of the program. Laporte retires after nearly 50 years on the air, the last 19 of which were spent as “The Tech Guy,” giving advice and troubleshooting support to listeners on all things tech.

Replacing Laporte will be Rich DeMuro, who will bring his podcast and KTLA-TV Morning News segment to the radio airwaves. Rich on Tech will replace “The Tech Guy” starting Jan. 7; “Best of Tech Guy” programs will air until then. [Continue reading more radio news in this article…]

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8 thoughts on “Radio Waves: Colombia’s life-saving pop song, FCC Commissioner Pro AM Radio, Experimental Radio News 6, FCC Comments on FM Power Increase, and Leo Laporte Retires

  1. Bob Colegrove

    Ok, here’s my question. When you get in your car, do you dial in an AM station before you fasten your seatbelt? When was the last time you were talking over the fence with your neighbor and mentioned something you heard on AM radio? Maybe the conversation was with a fellow employee at the water cooler, or while Skyping with your mother in Fargo. If you did happen to reveal your source, chances are good you were regarded as some sort of space alien.

    I started DXing AM radio in 1958 during the glory years, a copy of Vane A. Jones’ North American Guide in hand. It listed 5,000 AM stations, which included Canada and Mexico. When FM radio started coming along a few years later and coverage was included on virtually every portable radio, I thought, that’s it for AM. Yet AM radio has persisted for over 60 more years. Today there appear to be about 4,700 AM station in the US – not much of a change. In the meantime, FM has continued to flourish, and now the Internet. So, who’s listening to AM? Better, who’s paying for all the wattage, which has increased a great deal over those years. I’ve been anticipating the demise of AM radio for a long time, just the way it’s happened to shortwave over the past 20 years. Herb Tarlek, you’re a wizard.

  2. mangosman

    Any thing which can radiate electromagnetic energy needs to get FCC approval to be sold in the USA. Why not electric vehicles?
    The other source of trouble is the arcing on high voltage electricity lines particularly in coastal areas where the salt from the ocean lands on insulators. When the insulators are damp eg in fog, they arc causing a buzzing sound as well as in monsoonal zones where lightning is almost continuous just prior to rain.
    Unfortunately with HD radio the digital signal is carried in the adjacent channels which are used by other broadcasters. This means that the digital power must be much lower than the analog power, reducing the digital coverage area compared to analog. In addition analog AM and all digital HD in the AM band use a carrier which is between 67 – 100 % of the transmitted power for analog and 90 % for all digital and the carrier contains no information and is a waste of money. Digital Radio Mondiale even in the “AM” band contains no carrier and will fit into the space used by analog AM. As a result the coverage area of DRM is much greater than for HD radio in both forms. It also applies to the VHF band which includes FM.

  3. mangosman

    The reasons why AM programming is so poor are that the sound quality of FM is so much better that AM is not used for music. ie no stereo, high noise levels and distortion.
    If you wish to continue to use this band, then convert to digital radio mondiale which has none of the above problems. In addition between 67 – 100 % of the transmitted AM power is in the carrier which does not carry any program. DRM has no carrier, so all the power is in the program. Thus reducing costs.

    As of HD radio, the issue there is that the digital signals are in the channels of other broadcasters and vice versa. As a result the power must be low causing the digital coverage area to be much smaller than the FM analog coverage. If listening to HD1 the receivers under poor reception blend back to analog, on HD 2 – HD 4 it just mutes. DRM can also operate in that band as well, without any of the use of adjacent channels and has a much higher data rate enabling images and indexed large amounts of text as well.
    DRM also has an Emergency Warning Function which will wake the radio, the potential victims make a loud announcement in the affected area, show maps and detailed instructions as well, as the radio has a screen which may be a tablet or built into the radio.

  4. Dave Mason

    A few thoughts from someone who “cut his teeth” on AM radio – literally. There were 4 AM stations within 2 miles of my adolescent home. Technology has insulted, abandoned and trashed AM radio severely – but with good reason. Much of the programming on AM is not worth listening to, i.e. not mass appeal. If broadcasters can FIX the programming, manufacturers can FIX the receivers and the FCC can enforce -or create rules regarding RFI then the band can be saved. We can’t expect consumers to shell out money for “radios” that would receive a new “band” or digital AM signal, because time and time again it’s been proven that they won’t.

    On that (new receivers) note, the digital power increase for FM HD signals won’t help unless HD becomes the de facto standard in radio receivers. Since HD radio has been around for nearly 20 years without large scale adoption by the consumer (for myriad reasons) what would the power increase do -except improve the revenue stream for the HD transmitter manufacturers/rights holders? Technology has slightly improved in co-channel interference but it’s still not perfect.

    Broadcast radio has bigger problems without adding to the technology confusion. Let’s fix the CONTENT before going after the other non-critical issues like HD radio. I’m just sayin’

    1. TomL

      Thanks for your thoughtful perspective. I have a quite opposite opinion, perhaps a novel one. I happen to LIKE the unique programming of local markets and cultural differences. The programming, in my opinion needs to be preserved. Having the lowest-cost determine the efficacy of a public policy leads us to situations that compromise the very unique perspectives of the public it serves. Mass consumption leads to SAMENESS through hyper-financialization and hyper-syndication.

      The local programming must be preserved, else it all becomes owned by three or four entities countrywide, who only care about “market share” at the expense of diversity of thought. That is why I am against Digitizing AM since, by nature of digital being more fragile to receive, will just ghettoize each MSA/Region. Then throw in the mass financialization, we will end up with only a highly sanitized group think, devoid of most of the richness of diversity. Technology is a difficult beast because it homogenizes everything in its path. Just my opinion, of course. 🙂

  5. TomL

    FCC Commish comment:
    “The commission should not be shy about asking auto manufacturers to serve the public interest by continuing to serve AM radio listeners, just as the commission helps the auto industry to make possible the next generation of innovation in automotive technology.”

    Finally, he urges the FCC to “have a critical look at AM radio reception on a technical level.”

    Translation – they will ask auto manufacturers to reduce RFI but FCC will continue push to convert to all-Digital AM (using the currently approved “HD Radio” standard) and completely get rid of analog.

    AM will eventually become all-digital and DX reception will become impossible for weak stations. Just my humble opinion.

  6. Jason VE3MAL

    > a commercial provider of low-latency data communications for private investors.


    > (12) This operation is not permitted for stock trading.

    Riiiiight. There has to be some novel use for the HF spectrum beyond shady stock market manipulation. One would hope.


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