Category Archives: DRM

Radio Waves: RIP Phil Erwin, Federal Watchdog Targets Pack, Eclipse Festival of Frequency Measurement, and VOA testing DRM

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Dave Zantow, Michael Guerin, Eric McFadden, and Dan Robinson for the following tips:


The voice of Phil Irwin will be greatly missed (Rappahannock News)

Where wasn’t the presence of Phil Irwin felt in Rappahannock County?

A constant of virtually all proceedings of the Rappahannock County community and government, cherished innkeeper of Caledonia Farm – 1812, founding member of the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection, regional director of the Virginia Farm Bureau, committee member for both Rappahannock County Farmland Preservation and the Agricultural Forestal District, Rappahannock tourism advisory member — for 25 years chief of morning broadcasts for Voice of America (VOA) — Irwin was found dead Thursday at his working cattle farm north of Washington.

“What a contribution Phil made to our county over his many years here,” Huntly friend Ralph Bates reacted upon learning of Irwin’s death. “He will live in our memories as we drive and see how well our viewshed and environment has been protected because of his commitment and work.”

Former Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan recalled “a good man and such a part of the Rappahannock fabric. His love for this county, and commitment to it, was unmatched.”[]

Federal watchdog finds ‘substantial likelihood of wrongdoing’ by Trump appointees overseeing Voice of America (NBC News)

The federal watchdog’s findings mark the latest rebuke of the Trump-appointed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Michael Pack.

WASHINGTON — A federal watchdog agency has found “a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” by Trump administration appointees who oversee the Voice of America and other U.S.-funded media outlets.

The finding from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent government agency charged with safeguarding federal employees’ rights, marks the latest rebuke of Michael Pack, who President Donald Trump appointed to run the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent agency to VOA and other broadcasters.

A federal judge last month ordered Pack to stop interfering in the newsrooms of VOA and other media outlets and found that he had jeopardized the First Amendment rights of journalists that his office had targeted for investigation. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and press freedom groups have blasted Pack over his actions since he took over in June, accusing him of undermining the broadcasters’ editorial independence and defying congressional authority.

After reviewing allegations from current and recent employees, the Office of Special Counsel wrote to the whistleblowers Wednesday saying it had demanded Pack and the U.S. Agency for Global Media conduct an investigation into the allegations.[]

The December 2020 Eclipse Festival of Frequency Measurement (HamSCI)

Changes in ionospheric electron density caused by space weather and diurnal solar changes are known to cause Doppler shifts on HF ray paths. For example, see Figure 7 in Boitman et al., 1999. HamSCI’s first attempt at a measurement of these Doppler shifts was during the August 2017 total solar eclipse. We plan a careful measurement during the 2024 eclipse. As part of the WWV centennial, 50 stations collected Doppler shift data for the original Festival of Frequency Measurement, demonstrating the value of volunteer participation in collecting this data. During the June 2020 Eclipse Festival, we enlisted participants around the globe and experimented with different data collection protocols. This winter, we request that all amateur radio stations, shortwave listeners, and others capable of making high-quality HF frequency measurements help us collect frequency data for the December 14 total eclipse.[]

USAGM, VOA Testing Innovative Digital Radio Platform (Inside VOA)

A few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the world, broadcast engineers in Greenville, North Carolina, launched a test of digital radio signals. The U.S. Agency for Global Media began aiming a digital broadcast at Cuba and Latin America, which included Office of Cuba Broadcasting and Voice of America content.

With this 2020 test, VOA embarked on a new phase of global innovation on a platform called Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), a versatile digital signal not well known in the U.S., but the only one that can cover the entire spectrum: shortwave, mediumwave and longwave, as well as VHF (FM). As digital radio emerged in the 1990s, VOA was among the first broadcasters testing a signal that promised to even out shortwave radio signals that often faded in and out and were marred by static.

VOA tested the DRM signal in the 1990s at the agency’s Morocco transmitter site, one of five facilities opened in a period of expansion in the previous decade. However, other digital signals became the standard in various markets around the world. The U.S. standard audio digital platform is called HD.

Around the world, as other digital radio platforms were adopted, DRM was held back by the marketplace. Nobody was making commercially available receivers.

By the end of the 1990s, VOA innovation focused more on television, the platform that promised larger audiences, even in some places in the world where shortwave dominated. By the early 2010s, the rallying cry became “Digital First,” as VOA strived to attract readers for its language service websites and began tapping into the growing audiences on new social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

By 2020, however, DRM had come full circle.

“You’re no longer limited to just reading the news or playing music,” says Gerhard Straub, supervisory director of the USAGM Broadcast Technologies Division.

Straub, along with Gary Koster, Broadcast Radio Technician and transmitter expert and Macon Dail, Chief Engineer at the Greenville Transmitting Station, set up the test broadcast in February of this year, not long before the COVID-19 pandemic grounded global travel. The trio put up a DRM signal with Radio Marti and VOA audio along with scrolling text messages and rotating images.

Engineers have received reports of a clear signal as far south as Brazil.

The USAGM test, says Straub, is “coasting along” in the pandemic, but additional content will be added when technicians can travel again. Straub says the VOA signal was taken off in the initial test to concentrate on the OCB digital content and to keep the signal robust. Now that there is good reception data, he noted, the digital bit rate can be increased and VOA content added back into the test in 2021.

Because DRM operates at lower power, more radio stations and digital signals can be broadcast on a single transmitter. The platform is starting to grow in countries of interest to Western international broadcasters. DRM signals will soon cover all of China, though its government is expected to attempt to control the stations accessed by its citizens. India built 39 transmitters and, more importantly, 2.5 million vehicles already are equipped with DRM radios. Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil and North Korea all have nascent DRM operations.

Religious broadcasters, who sometimes target audiences similar to those sought by Western governments, are experimenting with the technology. For example, a missionary group, TWR.org, sent the Bible’s Gospel of Mark from Guam to Cambodia via DRM shortwave.

“You have to stop thinking of it as radio, because it’s not,” says USAGM’s Straub. “We are now broadcasting digital data. Just like we broadcast digital data on the internet, we can broadcast digital data over shortwave without being hampered by an internet firewall that maybe limits what we can send to a particular country.”

Reason enough, Straub believes, for VOA to continue leading innovation in a new-again technology.[]


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Radio Waves: Guardians of Early Recordings, VOA Firewall, New DRM-Based HF Station, and Breakfast on BBC Essex Features Amateur Radio

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Kim Elliott, Benn Kobb, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


Meet the guardians of the world’s earliest musical recordings (LA Times)

The voice seeps in as if from another dimension, hissy and distant, like an AM radio broadcaster transmitting through late-night static.

“‘The Ambassador March’ by Brown’s Orche-streee for the Los Angeles Phonograph Company of Los Angeles, California,” a man announces with a gentlemanly accent. After a moment’s scratchy pause, a violinist opens with a melody, and a small orchestra jumps in. Led by a Long Beach-based bandleader named E.R. Brown, the song dances along for two minutes.

The fidelity is primitive by today’s high-definition audio standards, a quaint toss-away. But “The Ambassador March” and the Coke-can-sized wax cylinder upon which it was etched into permanence in the late 1800s open a portal to another era.

That wax cylinder and others like it — rescued from rural estate sales and dusty attics — have survived earthquakes, heat waves, mold and indifference. They feature Mexican folk songs; military band marches; minstrelsy songs of the kind that preceded American blues, folk and country music; and the voices of former Lincoln cabinet members, Southern senators, popes, preachers and comedians. Their survival is emblematic of a revolution that allowed sound to be freed from its origins. Once untethered, the world would be forever changed.[]

US international broadcasting: Rebuilding the firewall in the new administration (The Hill)

by Kim Andrew Elliott

President-elect Joe Biden, who as a senator had a key interest in U.S. international broadcasting, is looking at its future.

He named Richard Stengel, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, to head the transition team for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Under USAGM are the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc., Radio Free Asia Inc., Office of Cuba Broadcast (Radio/TV Martí to Cuba) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc. (the Arabic-language Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa).

With government officials under President Trump instructed not to cooperate with Biden’s teams, the transition for the time being will have to be done from afar. The Trump-appointed USAGM CEO Michael Pack, whose leadership has fomented several controversies since he was installed in June, might decide to be a benign, if uncooperative, caretaker until the new management comes in. Or he could impose personnel changes and alterations in content that could diminish the credibility of the USAGM entities, a situation that could take years to repair.

During his campaign, Biden promised to fire Pack. Pack might try to serve out the three-year term stipulated in the legislation that replaced the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with a politically appointed CEO (Pack being the first). If such an attempt ends up in court, a June Supreme Court decision overruling the fixed term of the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, a victory for the Trump administration, could, ironically, be the undoing of any plans by Pack to stay on at USAGM.

Pack has already left his mark by rescinding the firewall “rule” published in June by the outgoing BBG. The rule, however, was not an act of Congress or a presidential directive. It was simply language placed in the Federal Register “to codify and memorialize definitions and practices associated with the firewall.” On such shallow roots, this tree was easy to fall. In October, Pack issued a repeal, which waved away the firewall rule as readily as it was instituted.[]

A New HF Station that’s Similar, but Different (DRMNA.info)

On October 21, 2020, DPA Mac LLC filed a FCC license application for a new, DRM-based International Broadcast Station to be located in Maple Park, IL. The principal is San Francisco entrepreneur Seth Kenvin and its technical consultant is Tamir Ostfeld of Raft Technologies, an Israeli developer of low-latency HF systems for so-called algorithmic trading.

No station devoted to algorithmic trading has ever been authorized for regular commercial operation in the U.S., as there is no formal radio service or spectrum allocation for that purpose. Several such stations have been licensed in the Experimental Radio Service (ERS), which is ostensibly for scientific studies only.

If the FCC licenses DPA Mac, it will be the first such station to make the transition from the ERS to regular, non-experimental licensing. This station would be the successor to experimental station WI2XXG. Other than the license document, the FCC has withheld most of WI2XXG’s records from public disclosure since it was first licensed in 2017.

DPA Mac is similar to other DRM stations on which we previously reported: WIPE in Alpine, NJ, which is built and is waiting on its FCC license; and WPBC, proposed for Batavia, IL. With regard to their use for non-broadcast, private data transmissions, those stations made general and non-descriptive representations to the FCC. On the other hand, DPA Mac’s license application is fairly transparent. The station aims to transmit “investment data from points within the United States to locations outside the United States carried over a channel immediately adjacent to the HF broadcasts…a low-power, low-latency digital data transmission service provided to private investors, including small- and medium-sized firms.” [Continue reading…]

Amateur radio on BBC Radio Essex

On Tuesday, November 24, CB and amateur radio featured in Sonia Watson’s popular Breakfast show on BBC Radio Essex

Among those interviewed was the Chair of Essex Ham, Pete M0PSX, who talked about the resurgence of interest in amateur radio.

Listen to the interview at 1:38:20 in this recording
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08xv7dv

You can find out more about amateur radio and the free Essex Ham Foundation Online training course at
https://www.essexham.co.uk/train/foundation-online/

You can follow Essex Ham on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/EssexHam

 


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FCC’s AM digital order did not include DRM

This news item expands on our previous post.

(Source: Radio World)

No Luck for DRM in the AM Digital Order

Digital Radio Mondiale was hoping that the Federal Communications Commission would consider allowing its technology as an all-digital option for AM stations in the United States, along with HD Radio. But the FCC disappointed it.

[…]“Many commenters agree that all-digital AM broadcasting should be allowed but object to HD Radio as the sole authorized transmission technology,” it wrote.

“Specifically, commenters urge us to consider the Digital Radio Mondiale all-digital transmission technology on the grounds that it: (1) offers equal or better sound quality to HD Radio at lower bitrates; (2) can transmit metadata as well as emergency alerts, multicast subchannels, and a data channel; (3) is energy- and spectrum-efficient; (4) uses a superior audio codec; (5) is not susceptible to interference; (6) is not owned or controlled by a single company; and (7) has been used successfully in other countries and is the approved technology for shortwave broadcasting in the United States.”

But the FCC said the request was “beyond the scope of this proceeding.”

It said it needed to move expeditiously on this all-digital proposal; and that if parties believe that it should re-evaluate HD Radio and consider alternative technologies, “we would need to evaluate a fully developed proposal including data such as laboratory and field testing, similar to the petition for rulemaking that formed the basis of this proceeding.”[]

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

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New DRM Transmission and DXer Programme from KTWR Guam

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who writes:

SWLing Post readers might be interested in learning that KTWR in Guam
has announced new DRM transmission details including a new DXer’s
Program named “Love Asia By Radio” which is scheduled to first air on
October 25, 2020 on their 1026-1057UTC English DRM broadcast to India
on 13800kHz. I just posted a question on their blog asking if the
program audio will be made available online to potential listeners
who can’t receive the broadcast, but haven’t heard back from them
yet. If I do, I’ll share that info.

KTWR New DRM Transmission Details and DXer Programme

Effective from Sunday 25th October, KTWR, Guam will continue its DRM
broadcasts to India, China and Japan. It will include a brand new
programme produced specially for Dxers. Click here for more details.
http://ktwrdrm.blogspot.com/2020/10/new-dx-program.html

Love Asia By Radio

Guam Shortwave Transmitter Station – KTWR

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

New DX Program

People have asked us to air a DX program for many years. KTWR had
done this a few decades ago, but we had no one to produce a new
program. Now, one of our listeners, Arun Kumar Narasimham has begun
production of the “Dxers Diary”. The first airing will be on 25
October 2020 in our 1026-1057UTC English DRM broadcast to India on
13800kHz. We are glad that Arun has stepped in to fill this
longstanding gap in our programming. We hope you enjoy it and
continue to enjoy the DX hobby.

Thank you for the tip, Ed, and we’ll look forward to any updates you might have.

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University of Brasilia and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to experiment with 2.5 kW DRM transmitter

(Source: DRM Consortium)

A new era begins for Brazilian radio broadcasting with the arrival and installation of a first shortwave digital radio DRM transmitter developed and manufactured in the city of Porto Alegre by BT Transmitters. The transmitter will be sited at the public broadcaster (EBC) Rodeador Park, near the capital Brasilia, to be connected to one of the huge HF antennas of EBC (National Amazon Radio is transmitted from there).

The equipment (a transmitter of 2.5 kW) will be tested on an experimental and scientific basis with the help of the University of Brasilia (UnB) and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The National Radio of the Amazon broadcasts from Brasilia especially to the Northern, Amazonian region of Brazil. The signal will be also available in the neighbouring countries to the north of Brazil. This is primarily a domestic shortwave digital project aimed at the Amazon where about 7 million riverside and indigenous people live. They are far from any other means of communication as there is no mobile phone or internet coverage.

Rafael Diniz, the Chair of the DRM Brazilian Platform, thinks that: “Shortwave digital radio (DRM) for the Amazon region will ensure a new level of communication and information as Nacional’s programming is both popular and educational. It brings audio and much more at low energy cost to whole communities there. With the adoption of digital radio, one of the major problems, that of poor sound quality affecting at times shortwave, will end. Listeners will be able to enjoy DRM broadcasts in short wave with a quality similar to that of a local FM station together with textual and visual multimedia content.”

“This is a huge step forward, says Ruxandra Obreja, DRM Consortium Chair, “not just for Brazil but for the whole of Latin America. When everything else fails or does not exist, DRM will provide information, education, emergency warning and entertainment at reduced energy costs.”

Click here to read this article at the DRM Consortium website.

As a side note, I do hope the DRM Consortium or the University of Brasilia and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation somehow make DRM receivers available to the “7 million riverside and indigenous people” they hope will eventually benefit from their broadcasts. At this point, however, this sounds more like a university experiment similar to those conducted at the Budapest University of Technology in Hungary.

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New DRM portables announced at IBC 2020

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who writes:

SWLing Post readers might be interested in reading the Digital Radio Mondiale Newsletter of September 2020, which covers DRM developments announced at IBC 2020.

These include DRM transmitter developments and deployments, and lots of new DRM receivers–such as eight (8) AM/FM/DRM portables, (1) AM/FM/SW/DRM portable, an automotive AM/FM/DRM model, a low-cost automotive AM/FM/SW/DRM model, and an AM/FM/SW/DRM development module with “High quality Tuner Frontend and Audio DAC” from Starwaves in Germany.

URL for newsletter: https://us10.admin.mailchimp.com/campaigns/show?id=5196729

URL for PDF describing new DRM receivers: https://www.drm.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/DRM-Receivers-@-Virtual-IBC-9-Sept-2020.pdf

Thank you for the tip, Ed!

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Radio Waves: Questions About New HF Stations, Towers Damaged after Hurricanes, Evolution of Ham Radio, and The Vintage Radio Repairman

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Ed, Paul, Bennett Kobb, and Kanwar Sandhu for the following tips:


Questions Remain as New HF Stations Wait for Licenses (DMRNA.info)

Here is the story by Bennett Kobb:
As previously reported here at DRMNA.info, the New York company Turms Tech LLC has applied to the FCC for a license for International Broadcast Station WIPE in New Jersey. The license would cover a station already built under a FCC Construction Permit, and would allow it to begin regular operations.

The FCC announced on August 13, 2020 that this license application was accepted for filing, a routine stage at which the FCC examines the application, and might even visit the station, and if everything is in order it will be licensed.

We’re not sure everything is in order. The application for Construction Permit placed the transmitter site at N 40° 57′ 40.38″, W 73° 55′ 23.97″, the broadcast and communications center surrounding the famous Armstrong Tower at Alpine NJ. Its Application for License, however, specifies N 40° 51′ 40″, W 73° 55′ 23″. (Hat tip to Alex P for noting this discrepancy. More about him below.)

While the substitution of 51 for 57 in the coordinates might seem a simple typo, the FCC typically has no sense of humor about coordinate errors. Commission examiners may wonder why a station intended for a historic radio-TV facility ended up among some Manhattan apartments.

The deeper question with WIPE and another, apparently similar station WPBC, is what these stations are really for and what that means for the FCC Rules. WIPE was extremely vague about its program plans, but told the FCC that it will transmit data obtained from third parties using Digital Radio Mondiale. Putting that tidbit together with exposures in a series of public articles in the media and tech blogs, it would seem that audio programming will not be the central mission of this peculiarly named station, whose principal is a financial executive and forestry entrepreneur without any broadcast experience we could find.

We suspect instead that the WIPE data stream will be used not for broadcasting to the public — the only function permitted to International Broadcast Stations under FCC Rules — but instead will be used for private communication with foreign exchanges for high-speed trading.[]

KSWL-TV tower crashed into buildings near 210 Interstate Hwy (Brad Dye)

Images of tower damage in Lake Charles, LA Bottom photo by KATC-TV of KSWL-TV tower crashed into buildings near 210 Interstate Hwy

After bombarding coastal areas of southern Louisiana with wind gusts up to 130 mph and a storm surge over nine feet as a hurricane, Laura swept north while also spreading over Arkansas Thursday. Laura weakened to a tropical storm early Thursday afternoon, with winds at 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Laura is predicted to move through the Tennessee Valley and the Mid-Atlantic today into tomorrow.

Power outages from the storms totaled over 900,000 as of Thursday afternoon, according to PowerOutageUS. The site collects data from utilities nationwide. The bulk of the outages were in Louisiana and Texas, according to ABC News. Mississippi reportedly had over 9,400 customers without power as of Thursday morning, reported the Clarion Ledger.

Louisiana and Texas had the most cell site outages as of Thursday mid-day, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System. Of the 4,650 cell sites served in Louisiana, 380 were not working. Over 200 of the site outages were due to a lack of power, 141 had a transport issue and 16 were damaged.

Calcasieu and Cameron counties were hit especially hard. 140 sites (75 percent) were not working in Calcasieu County and 20 (69 percent) were out in Cameron County.

Of the 17,621 cell sites served in Texas, 113 were non-operational.

Jefferson County was the hardest hit, with 39 (15.8 percent) out of 247 sites not working. Just over 45 of the non-working sites were out due to a lack of power, 41 for transport reasons and 20 were damaged, according to DIRS.

Cable and wireline companies reported 192,915 subscribers out of service in the affected areas; this may include the loss of telephone, television, and/or Internet services.

Three television stations, five FMs and one AM reported they were off-air.[]

Ham radio is dying! No it’s not, it’s evolving (K0LWC)

I’ve heard ham radio is dying since as far back as I can remember. It’s one of those common sayings you always hear. Like, “get off my lawn,” and “kids these days.” But is it true? Is there any evidence to support this? Let’s take a closer look.

Data from the ARRL shows that ham radio licensees are increasing. When you look at the chart above, you see two significant markers that are likely driving this growth.

  • The removal of the code requirement by the FCC.
  • The economic collapse of 2008.

The Morse code requirement was always an intimidating part of obtaining your General FCC license. Learning Morse code is like learning a second language. It takes time and effort to learn, and that’s not a bad thing. However, it doesn’t change that it scared many people away from the hobby. When the FCC removed this requirement in 2007, I believe it opened the door for many who spent years on the fence. Then you have the economic downturn of 2008. What does that have to do with ham radio? A lot.

After the economic downturn, the United States watched as survivalism, now commonly calling “prepping,” entered mainstream culture. People were worried as the country was involved in multiple wars and our economy was on the brink of collapse. Citizens stocked up on food storage, water, firearms, and…communications equipment. As our country spiraled into more turmoil ham radio licenses steadily increased to more than 750,000 by the end of 2019.[]

The Vintage Radio Repair Man (Great Big Story–YouTube)

Click here to watch on YouTube.


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