WKAR Hosts ‘The Future of Television and Data Delivery’ with ATSC 3.0

(L-R) Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences Prabu David and WKAR’s Director of Broadcasting and General Manager Susi Elkins at the start of NextGen TV Day.

On September 19, WKAR Public Media and MSU ComArtSci hosted a NextGen TV Day at their East Lansing studios.  The long session featured ATSC 3.0 demos, with presentations from partners working with WKAR’s experimental ATSC 3.0 television station.

Gaian Solutions Founder/CEO Chandra Kotaru discussed ATSC 3.0’s ability to provide rich media in education for those without cable or who may live in rural areas.  ATSC 3.0 allows providers to deliver targeted content, not just video.  He also covered emergency alerting in the ATSC 3.0 and that it can target alerts to specific audiences.  As an example, it can deliver traffic alerts to people in cars in specific locations.  There was a demonstration of a weather alert popup on the television monitor, again delivered to a specific geographical location.  Kotaru also stated that automobile manufacturers are waiting for broadcasters to begin using this new technology that they can incorporate it into their vehicles.  He also showed slides of highway signage fed by a ATSC 3.0 data stream, including speed limit signs that can be changed on demand when weather conditions and/or traffic require.

Fred Engel, Chief Technology Officer of UNC-TV Public Media in North Carolina discussed his group’s work with the public safety opportunities that will be available with ATSC 3.0.  In one demonstration, he showed that in today’s world, it may take up to 67 seconds once a 911 call is made for a dispatcher to alert fire fighters of an emergency, going through analog channels.  But with ATSC it can happen in as little as 1 second.  He also said that in today’s environment, multiple emergency alerts can stack up on analog channels, whereas with ATSC 3.0, they can all be immediately sent.

ATSC 3.0 weather alert popup delivered to television set.

Mark Corl, Sr. VP Emergent Technology Development of Triveni Digital discussed his work with WKAR on the station’s Curious Crew series and the experiments going on that can make the program more interactive with its viewers.

Later in the day there was a demo of the ComArtSci Virtual Reality Lab, a ribbon-cutting for the Media Innovation Lab created by MSU and WKAR, with MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.  This was followed by a tour of the MSU Spartan Mobility Park.  Its purpose is to drive mobility research and development to advance smart-vehicle technology and better understand the human element.

Midwest Communications Relaunches WFAT

Radio Insight reports that Midwest Communications has brought back the WFAT call letters and imaging to Michigan.  “The Fat One” has returned with a classic hits format via AM/FM translator simulcast WFAT-AM (930)/W274AQ (102.7) in Battle Creek.  The stations had been simulcasting WNWN-FM (1560)/W238AL (95.5) (Kalamazoo).

The WFAT calls were last in Michigan on what is now WZOX-FM (96.5) (Portage-Kalamazoo) from 1992 to 2008.

WXYZ Holds ‘If You Give A Child A Book’ Telethon

On September 12, E.W. Scripps Broadcasting’s WXYZ and WMYD-TV (Detroit) held their annual “If You Give A Child A Book” Telethon.  The effort is part of the nationwide If You Give A Child A Book effort conducted by parent company, the E. W. Scripps Company, and the Scripps Howard Foundation.  Viewer donations were targeted to put a new, age-appropriate book into the hands of children in need.

In an editorial, VP and General Manager Mike Murri said, “Children are now back in school and back to the books. Their development and success will depend on something very fundamental: Reading books of all types. Now is the perfect time to get books in the hands of children in our community who need them.”

“We’re proud that our employees here at WXYZ & WMYD, donated more than $11 thousand for the “If You Give a Child a Book” campaign. Those funds will be matched by the Scripps Howard Foundation. All proceeds will be used to buy books for children in Metro Detroit.”

“Today (9/12) we’re hosting a telethon to give viewers a chance to participate in our book drive. We sincerely thank you for your generosity and your desire to make a difference in the lives of children.”

“By practically all accounts, Michigan needs to boost its literacy rate. And now, by state law, this is especially important for the third-grade school year evaluations. But good reading skills and a thirst for knowledge begins at home at an early age. Easy access to books around the home is a must. When children read on the own or are read to by an adult, it helps to develop their language and vocabulary. Age-appropriate books help children explore the world and introduces them to information and ideas. Reading can also develop a child’s social skills.”

“Simply put, books can positively change a child’s life and put them on the path to a successful life. We hope you join us in our effort to make an impact in the lives of our community’s children. Every child deserves this opportunity.”

Jackson Radio Works Hosts Free Community Career Day

On Tuesday, Jackson Radio Works’ WKHM-AM/FM and the Commonwealth Commerce Center hosted a Community Career Day from noon to 6 p.m. at the Commonwealth Commerce Center in downtown Jackson.

Over 20 employers and businesses in a variety of industries as well as staffing agencies were on hand to accept resumes, possibly have on-site interviews with the right candidates, and share information about jobs available and services they provide to those looking for a job or career change. This event was free and open to anyone.  Job-seekers were asked to come prepared with copies of their resume, writing utensils, note paper and to dress to impress!

Cornerstone University Breaks Ground on New WCSG Studios

WCSG.com; Used with permission.

Listener-supported WCSG-FM (Grand Rapids) will soon be broadcasting from a new home with ceremonies on September 12 marking the beginning of a $5.7 million remodel of a former church building on the Cornerstone University campus.  The new building will provide radio employees with over 12,000 square feet of usable space and promote a refreshed vision for ways to encourage the station’s listener community on-air and in person. Staff is expected to relocate into the renovated building as early as May 2020.

In a story on the station’s website, Executive Director of Radio Chris Lemke said, “This new facility is a longtime dream come true. To me, it’s a promise fulfilled to not only the staff of WCSG but to the staff of Cornerstone. It’s not just about bricks and mortar; it’s a huge morale booster. It shows that we care enough about our people that we want to make sure that growth continues to happen, and we’re going to do what we need to do to ensure that growth is going to take place.”

With staff expansion, the station has outgrown its current 7,100-square-foot radio facility built more than five decades ago. The addition of new staff over the years has led to an overcrowded office complex that includes three double-wide trailers adjacent to a brick office of the fastest-growing formats in all of radio. Specifically, Lemke noted that there are in excess of more than 37 million listeners to Christian radio each week.

Lemke added, “With a new building comes a new cultural mindset. WCSG will go deeper and wider. By deeper, we’ll go deeper into our existing footprint, deeper into Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek through partnerships with church and parachurch ministries. We’ll also go outside of where we already exist to look at other market opportunities in Michigan and develop content for new platforms such as video.”

Here’s an Example of a Very Well Designed Broadcasting Website

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler,
Jacobs Media Strategies

This week, I’ll publish the first episode of season five of the Worldwide Radio Summit podcast. It’s a conversation that I had with Julie Talbott, the President of Premiere Networks, that was recorded at the conference in the spring. Towards the end of the interview, we discussed the Broadcasters Foundation of America, a fantastic organization that she is involved with which assists broadcasters facing financial hardship.

As I prepared to publish the interview, I looked up the foundation’s website, and I was very impressed by what I found. From a design and usability standpoint, this is one of the best broadcasting websites I’ve seen. Here’s why:

1. It’s clean.
In my role as a digital consultant, I see a lot of radio station websites with homepages that are overstuffed, as if every single thing the station does is equally worthy of being right up front. In fact, some things are more important than others, and only the most important information should be on the homepage. The Broadcasters Foundation demonstrates this nicely: if you want to know more about the staff or things the organization has done recently, you can navigate to those, but all that’s secondary to the organization’s mission, which is front and center on the homepage.

I am not a fan of slideshows on homepages, but the Broadcasters Foundation avoids the most common pitfall of this feature: It is not using the slideshow to settle disputes among the staff. Too often, radio stations use slides as a means of appeasing staff members who want their projects on the homepage. As a result, the website’s most valuable real estate becomes a mish-mash of Dunkin’ Donuts promotions, morning show stunts and C-level bands with upcoming concerts. These things are not worthy of this space.

The Broadcasters Foundation could have done the same thing, using the slideshow to showcase its latest hire or last month’s fundraising event, but it doesn’t. Instead, the foundation does it right; it uses its most important space to send its most important message with slides that are permanent fixtures.

2. I immediately know what they do.
Speaking of the mission, I love that it is clearly stated in a single sentence on the most prominent piece of screen real estate. With a glance, I immediately know what this organization is all about. This is a sharp contrast to many radio station websites, where I often struggle to figure out what kind of music they play, what city they’re located in, and, in some cases, that they’re a radio station and not a celebrity gossip site.

3. The primary calls to action are obvious.
When I talk to radio stations about their digital strategies, the first question I ask is, “When people come to your website, what do you want them to do?” Many stations haven’t given any thought to that question, and the design of their sites reflect that; the primary calls to action are buried.

By contrast, it looks like the Broadcasters Foundation knows exactly what it wants people to do when they come to its site, because the primary calls to action are called out in big bold colors: They want people to “Apply for Help” or “Donate.” There’s a third call to action, “Hurricane Relief,” which may not be a permanent fixture on the homepage but makes a lot of sense in the wake of Dorian. Notice how these calls to action are set apart on the screen through the use of color, space, and direct language. Plus, they’re repeated in the website’s footer, so if you scroll down, they’re still on the screen.

Radio stations should follow suit, first figuring out what their primary calls to action are — for example, “Listen Now,” “Join the Email Club,” and “Advertise with Us” — and making those dominant on the homepage.

4. The language in the main navigation is clear.
As I scan the main navigation, I know exactly what I’ll get when I click on each item:

  • Who We Are
  • How We Help
  • Support Our Mission
  • News
  • Events
  • Our Stories

Radio stations, on the other hand, sometimes use confusing language in their main navigation. For example, they might say “On Air,” when what they really mean is “DJs” (after all, the music, commercials, and shows are all “on air”). Or radio stations will use branded language that will be unfamiliar to people who are not regular listeners. For example, a station might say “Hot Club” instead of “Email Newsletter.” Finally, notice that the main navigation on the Broadcasters Foundation website does not have a “catch-all” item where it stuck all of the pages that didn’t fit under the other headings. (Even our website has a “catch-all” in the main navigation: “Resources.”)

Kudos to the Broadcasters Foundation for not only serving an important mission, but for having a fantastic website to boot! If you’re a broadcaster, pleaser consider supporting their fine work.

Visit the Broadcasters Foundation

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Governor Looking for Budget Bills

The Associated Press reported  on Tuesday that Governor Gretchen Whitmer urged Republican legislative leaders to quickly send her budget bills before their weekend “getaway” for a GOP political gathering, saying she needs as much time as possible to review and sign them by a September 30 deadline.

Republicans countered that they would take final votes on the measures next week.  On Thursday, the House-Senate conference committees were scheduled to advance remaining bills that were not voted on last week.

As reported in last week’s MAB News Briefs, talks between Whitmer and majority Republicans in the Legislature broke down last week, even after the sides agreed to table discussions over a long-term road-funding plan. At this point, the GOP-led Legislature is planning to send spending measures to her desk, while she is leaving open the possibility of vetoing parts of the budget.

Republicans will meet on Mackinac Island from Friday to Sunday for the biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are among those scheduled to speak.

“Over the summer, you took a two-month-long vacation instead of coming to the table to negotiate a budget,” Whitmer wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield. “Now, time is of the essence and it is your responsibility to pass all of your budgets and send them to me prior to your weekend getaway.”

This past Monday, Michigan Public Radio Network reported that state government notified Michigan’s 48,000 state government workers of potential temporary layoffs in case the budget is not enacted in time. About 32,000 could be temporarily laid off.

FCC Delays Due Date for Biennial Ownership Reports – But Don’t Forget Other Important Dates for Reg Fees, EAS Test Forms, and New FM Application Forms Next Week

David Oxenford - Color

David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

On September 17, the FCC announced that the due dates for Biennial Ownership Reports, which had been December 1 of this year, will now be January 31, 2020. The Order announcing that action is available here. The FCC notice says that this additional time is needed to make updates to the ownership forms in the LMS database in which they are filed. The window for filing these reports will open on November 1. The information to be reported in these biennial ownership reports needs to be accurate as of October 1, 2019, which is unchanged from the requirement before yesterday’s announcement. The FCC is attempting to create a stable database of the ownership of stations, taken on October 1 every two years. While this is not the first time that the FCC has delayed the actual filing date for the Biennial Ownership Reports (see for instance the delay moving the last filing date from the originally scheduled 2017 into early 2018), they always want a snapshot of broadcast ownership as of October 1 of odd numbered years – even wanting reports from owners of stations on October 1 who sold those stations before the report filing deadline.

While the FCC has given broadcasters more time to file the Biennial Ownership Reports, broadcasters should not forget the three important dates next week that we have highlighted in recent days. These dates are:

  1. The FCC also announced last week that FM radio (including translators and LPFM stations) will now use the LMS electronic filing systems for all applications for construction permits and license applications. This is another step in the FCC’s transition from the CDBS database that broadcasters have used for years, to LMS.
  2. Broadcasters need to remember to file by Monday, September 23, their ETRS Form Three. This form reports in detail on the station’s experiences in August’s Nationwide EAS Test. For more details, see our article here.
  3. Finally, commercial broadcasters need to remember to submit their annual regulatory fees by next Tuesday, September 24. For more information, see our articles here and here.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.

WPBN Celebrates 65 Years

Ad in 1963 Broadcasting Yearbook

The past Friday, September 13, WPBN-TV (Traverse City) celebrated its 65th anniversary. The station began broadcasting on February 13, 1954 on Channel 7 and was owned by the Biederman family and their company, Midwest Broadcasting, along with WTCM-AM 1400 (now 580). Company president Les Biederman had signed on WTCM, Northern Michigan’s oldest radio station, in 1940. Over the next decade, he bought or signed-on several other AM stations throughout the area. These were known as the “Paul Bunyan Network,” with WTCM as the flagship station. Since channel 7 covered much of the territory covered by the radio stations, Biederman decided not to call his new station WTCM-TV (for Traverse City, Michigan) but rather WPBN-TV (for Paul Bunyan Network).

Simulcast sister station WTOM-TV, Channel 4 (Cheboygan) was added in May of 1959.

The station is currently owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

To celebrate, the station interviewed Beverly Gravlin and Terry Braverman, who were among the station’s first on-air talent … see that video here.

The MAB congratulates WPBN-TV on this wonderful milestone. If your station is celebration a significant anniversary, we’d love to hear about it. Let us know at [email protected].

FCC Approves Nexstar-Tribune Deal; WXMI-TV Goes To Scripps

On Monday, September 16, the FCC approved the sale of Tribune Media to Nexstar Media Group.  The company closed and began operating the former Tribune stations on Thursday.

As part of the deal, Nexstar was required to spin-off stations in certain Tribune markets where they already had stations, including Grand Rapids. WXMI-TV, formerly owned by Tribune, is now owned and operated by the Scripps TV Group. Scripps acquired eight stations in seven markets from Nexstar.

In a press release, Perry Sook, Chairman, President and CEO of Nexstar, commented, “The completion of our accretive acquisition of Tribune Media increases Nexstar’s geographic diversity and audience reach with national coverage and an expanded presence in top 50 DMAs, while offering complementary media assets and investments, scale driven synergies and further cash flow diversification. Nexstar Media Group is now the nation’s leading creator and distributor of local news, entertainment, sports, lifestyle and network programming through its broadcast and digital media platforms based on U.S. TV household reach with pro-forma 2018/2019 average annual revenue of approximately $4.3 billion.

The E.W. Scripps Company released a statement saying they have closed its acquisition of eight television stations in seven markets divested from the Nexstar Media Group, Inc. transaction with Tribune Media.  The acquisition grows the Scripps local television station footprint to 60 stations in 42 markets, making it the nation’s fourth-largest independent broadcaster with a reach of 31% of U.S. TV households.  Since January 1, Scripps has added 27 television stations to its portfolio, and it now expects 2020 company free cash flow to be in the range of $225 million to $250 million. The stations diversify Scripps’ affiliate relationships, expand its political advertising footprint and bring durability and geographic reach to its television station portfolio

In Michigan, Nexstar currently owns WLNS-TV (Lansing), WOOD-TV/WOTV (Grand Rapids) and WJMN-TV (Escanaba-Marquette). Tribune-owned WXMI-TV (Grand Rapids) will be spun-off to the E.W. Scripps Company, who also operated WXYZ-TV/WMYD-TV (Detroit) and WSYM-TV (Lansing).