An American company promises to realise the dream of advertisers, greedy for information on the audience of broadcasters that would enable them not only to choose on which stations and at what time to air the commercial, but to understand who listened to it and whether they zapped. Television, with smart TVs and set-top boxes, has long offered the possibility of monitoring audience habits down to the last detail. For radio, on the other hand, listening surveys detect the age, socio-economic profile, and musical tastes of the listener but do not offer precise data on when one stops on a station or whether one ‘zaps’ when there are commercials.
The system integrates radio, streaming audio, and TV
Photographing in-car behaviour is now being attempted by Xperi, a giant that holds the patent for the equipment (transmitters and receivers) of digital HD Radio (used on medium wave and FM in the States). The company has launchedDTS AutoStage, an infotainment system that lifts the veil on how people behave in the car. This is important data since in many countries mobile listening accounts for 60% of the audience. The new infotainment system integrates radio, streaming audio and video, promises an immersive experience, and… records what the user does. Joe D’Angelo, senior vice president of broadcast and digital audio at Xperi is excited because the system will offer radio stations and advertisers ‘new revenue opportunities with brands and advertisers‘. Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini
A Texas woman is the host who can boast the longest radio career. Mary McCoy began in 1951: she attended a talent show on station KMCO and told the hosts that she would like to host her own show someday. Four months later she began presenting her own program, continuing uninterrupted to this day. Today she is 85 years old and for nearly 72 years behind a microphone she has entered Guinness World Records. In her interview with the Guardian, she recounted her passion for radio and career memories, such as sharing the stage with Elvis Presley, whom she considered one of the kindest and most polite men she had ever met. Today Mary McCoy is on KVST K-Star Radio, broadcasting on 99.7 from Montgomery, Texas.
Interference on the medium waves generated by battery-powered cars has prompted several manufacturers (Audi, BMW, Mini, Tesla, and Volkswagen) toeliminate the AM tuner in their battery-powered models (we’ve already discussed it here). But new radio disturbances are on the horizon on which it would be difficult to act. Raising the alarm is the ITU (International Telecommunication Union): induction charging systems generate harmonic frequencies between 500 and 700 kHzthat cannot be eliminated by shielding because they are picked up by the antenna. In theory, U.S. law prohibits interfering with licensed stations, so if electric cars disrupt broadcasters, it is up to manufacturers to comply. Technically, however, it is not easy, and since the electric market moves huge interest (by 2030 in the U.S., one out of every two new cars should be electric) the game is wide open.
Heavy interference, but there may be a solution
Induction charging is convenient because it avoids the use of a cable. But the high powers involved (10 kW for a car, 100 kW for a public service bus) produce “robust” phantom signals. There is also DWPT, based on the same technology, which is used to extend the range of cars (now limited to a few hundred kilometers). It relies on coils placed under the asphalt that transfer energy directly to vehicles that do not have to stop at designated charging stations. What to do then? According to Xperi, stations could transmit digitally with the HD Radio system (for which the company owns the patent) because signal processing and error correction provide greater immunity to noise. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
It comes full circle, Michael Mallace told Radio Ink, a US radio newsmagazine. He will direct KVIT-FM, the high school station in Chandler, a city in the Phoenix metropolitan area, where he started his career. In fact, the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) has appointed him as general manager of 88.7 FM The Pulse, the high school radio station that aims to engage students to acquire the necessary skills to make their way in the world of radio. Over the past 30 years, he has run various radio groups in the Arizona capital, not just chasing ratings and profits, but valuing people and nurturing talent.
A very American phenomenon
The Pulse is one of more than four hundred US campus radio stations (one in 15 of the approximately 6400 active FM stations) that have been in existence since the 1960s when the FCC (Federal Communication Commission, the US airwaves regulator) began issuing licences. They operate with an identifier (call number) similar to that of commercial and public stations. In Canada there are 52 of them, in FM and even on medium wave: the first was CJRT, from the Ryerson Institute of Technology (Ontario Department of Education). Known as Jazz Radio, it started in 1949 on 88.3 MHz with a power of 3 kW and today is on 91.0 MHz with 40 kW. The United States and Canada have the largest number of FM student stations, but there are such stations in over 40 countries. Often they operate only on the web because regulations do not offer them space on the airwaves.
Talent hubs and trendsetters
Working in college radio is part of the student experience. Stations are run completely independent but can make use of contributors from the community to which they belong for programmes. Some are set up to train professional radio staff, others to make educational programmes or to be an alternative to commercial and public radio. They often uncover musical trends or emerging artists before they make a name for themselves. One example among many? Music promoter Marco Stanzani writes that Anderson Paak, a pop artist of worldwide notoriety, had been noticed when he was still in the early stages of his career by Italian rapper Mondo Marcio thanks to tracks broadcast on a US college radio station. So much so that since 2010, with his agency Red&Blue Stanzani, he has organised Uniweb Tour – a real live acoustic live tour on the web radios of major Italian universities – to promote the artists he covers.
In YouTube ads, he claimed to be a guru who had led more than a thousand clients to financial independence. But in reality, William Neil ‘Doc’ Gallagher was a fraudster, advertising his financial services from a Christian Protestant radio station in North Texas. With commercials promising returns of between 6 and 8%, he had convinced about two hundred pensioners, listeners of the Christian radio station, to entrust him with 32 million dollars, most of which he ‘burned’ in personal expenses. Financially, nothing new: Gallagher applied the classic ‘Ponzi scheme’, paying interest with money collected from new clients until the castle collapsed. The novelty lies in the fact that Gallagher exploited the notoriety and credibility of the Christian broadcasters (followed in the States by more than 20 million believers) to get rich. But in the end, justice presented him with his bill: the ‘money doctor’, now in his 80s, will have to serve three life sentences, in addition to the 25 years, he was sentenced to in 2020 by a Dallas court.
The abandonment of thermic engines is a mandatory goal to reduce CO2 emissions. The automotive industry is getting ready and among the aspects that are being discussed, there is also radio listening. On electric cars, HF interference is generated primarily by the frequency converter, a device that controls the amount of power delivered by the electric motor by turning the voltage on and off thousands of times per second. This generates signals that fall in the medium wave broadcast band: electrical noises (such as distortion and crackling) similar to those emitted by smartphones, TVs, computers, vacuum cleaners and hair dryers. In addition, static electricity, which creates crackles, increases with the power of the motors. So much so that some manufacturers, such as BMW, Mini, Tesla and Volkswagen have eliminated the AM band on their current cars. Others, like General Motors, are studying the problem, but the solution isn’t around the corner. Xperi Corporation, a leading digital radio company, whose HD Radio standard (a patent it owns) is used both in the FM and AM band, claims that its transmission system is not afraid of interference. And it presented test results at NAB Broadcast Engineering and Information Technology, the annual conference of American broadcasters. According to Pooja Nair, an engineer at Xperi Corporation, a fully digital AM signal resists interference much better than an analogue one.
In order to stem the pressure of migrants on the Mexican border, the USA is also using radio advertising. A State Department spokesman told CNN that more than 30,000 advertisements are aired each month on Central American stations. The aim is to counter the misinformation spread by traffickers and the idea that President Joe Biden is softer on immigration. Up until the spring, 28,000 were broadcast, but this number has risen to over 30,000 due to the ‘discounts’ offered by the broadcasters on the ‘packages’ purchased by the American administration. The radio medium was chosen to reach the largest number of people, and religious leaders and public figures were also involved in the production of the releases. The monthly budget is $600,000. The announcements, broadcast in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, are in Spanish and five indigenous languages and last 40 seconds.
A study of the stock market capitalization shows that in the Twenties of the 20th century the performance of radio companies was comparable to that of today’s technology companies. In the summer of 1920 commercial broadcasters had started their activity in the United States, so it was imagined that the purchase of receivers would have led to a strong development for the industry. The analysis conducted by Jim Reid, a specialist at Deutsche Bank, reconstructs the performance of the stock of RCA (Radio Corporation of America), whose profits had risen from 2.5 million dollars in 1925 to 20 million in 1928, causing the value of the shares to soar by 700% (from cents in 1921 to ten dollars in 1926).
In the first quarter of 2021, the Walt Disney Company will close Radio Disney and Radio Disney Country. Opened in 1995, the station owned 23 medium-wave stations to reach a large audience of young people and teenagers, but with the spread of streaming in 2014 most of the stations (22) had been sold and the signal was being broadcast digitally, on satellite and in some HD Radio subchannels. Radio Disney Country, a secondary streaming brand launched in the autumn of 2015, was no longer on AM as of 2017 because the station broadcasting it, 1110 KDIS in Pasadena (Los Angeles) had changed its name and format, becoming KRDC. The end of broadcasting is also caused by the uncertainties of the pandemic about the future of live music events. Thirty-six employees (full-time and part-time staff) will lose their jobs and the Pasadena station will be sold off. The closuredoes not affect Radio Disney in Latin America.
Audi cars sold in the United States can be equipped with a hybrid car radio (i.e. capable of receiving the signal over the air or streaming via the internet) that maintains the tuning of the preferred station even if the signal broadcast over the air is weakening during the journey. With a traditional device, when you leave the coverage area of a station, noise increases until the audio becomes unintelligible. Cars equipped with the Hybrid Radio® system, on the other hand, allow you to continue listening because when the listening quality starts to deteriorate they automatically switch from the signal transmitted over the air to the digital signal received via the Internet.
The new functionality is available on vehicles in the 2021 series (on sale from September 2020) equipped with the MIB 3 modular multimedia system, which connects to the network thanks to the integrated 4G Wi-Fi hotspot (requires a subscription to the Audi connect® Prime or Plus service). iHeartRadio, a leading U.S. radio company, is making more than 600 stations throughout North America compatible with the Hybrid Radio® system, in order to participate in the project.