Archive for Overmodulation

Out there in the audio radiance

KCSC, the classical-music station at the University of Central Oklahoma, changed its call letters to KUCO a couple of weeks ago; I’m frankly surprised they’d stuck with the old calls for so long, inasmuch as the school hasn’t actually been Central State College since the early 1970s. However, the RDS display still reads “KCSC@UCO.”

This should tell you that Gwendolyn had a spa day today — the dreaded MIL, attention to which has never, ever cost me less than $600 — and that they turned me loose in a ’13 G37, a competent handler with a fairly dumb seven-speed automatic and, yes, an RDS display. And I had plenty of time to enjoy the radio, since traffic on the Lake Hefner Parkway was moving at around 15-20 mph. Southbound. This, of course, is impossible, since the Hef’s main purpose in life is to provide an alternative to the Broadway Distention, three miles east, which funnels people out of downtown and into Edmond at that time of day; hardly anyone ever goes south on the Hef during the evening rush.

Near Britton Road — I’d come on at 122nd — I saw the issue. A flat slab of yellow plastic, maybe the size of the similarly colored rack where my dishes dry by evaporation, had been dropped on the line between the center and right lanes. Every swinging Ricardito for two miles had slowed down to get a good look at it. This, I decided, was the first really good argument for self-driving cars, which can’t engage in rubbernecking unless it’s part of their program. (What’s the over/under on them programming them to do exactly that?)

Spa day continues until Nissan can find an EGR valve.

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Some renaissance this is

The Friar drops in at Norman’s Medieval Faire, and spots a rolling anachronism:

A local TV station’s “storm chaser” truck and weather frou-frou display, because heaven knows we don’t have enough reminders that we’re entering storm season in Oklahoma and that if we watch some other channel we’re all going to die.

The least they could do is give the guy — they never seem to send the women for some reason — a proper broadsword.

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U can’t watch this

One of the great mysteries of contemporary life is how, as Springsteen put it, there seems to be 57 channels and nothing on. This is explained, I think, by the concept that they seek to cover every conceivable demographic except yours:

[T]here’s the “channel for men” (or so it used to be called), the channel for teens/twentysomethings, the LGBT channel, a couple kids’ channels, a tween channel. I wish there were a “middle aged spinster channel,” but I suppose we don’t count demographically. And anyway, what would they show? Programs about cats? (Maybe Hallmark is actually the middle-aged spinster channel, now that I think of it). I just wish there were still a channel that actually showed educational programming that was actually educational. PBS does sometimes, though most of the daily block here is taken up with kids’ educational shows rather than ones aimed at adults. I also wish HGTV still occasionally showed quilting or crafts shows, instead of just the “couples arguing over what home they want to buy” programs. (Why are so many programs now about conflict? I have enough conflict and arguing in my day-to-day life that I want something just kind of soothing for my entertainment.)

And of course you have to pay for all 57 of them, even the ones you wouldn’t watch if you were stuck on a desert island and nothing else was within range. Beyond that, there are additional tiers of service, presumably called that because when you see what they do to your bill you will weep.

Then again, I’m old enough to remember A&E as the Arts & Entertainment Network, which occasionally provided entertainment and once in a while some actual arts. And nobody would dare program like this anymore:

Among the programs broadcast on SPN were Video Concert Hall, an early music-video show (before the launch of MTV); News from Home, a program for Canadians in the US, hosted by early CNN news anchor Don Miller; The Shopping Game, a Nicholson-Muir game show produced in Nashville and hosted by Art James; The Susan Noon Show, featuring celebrity interviews; Nutrition Dialogue, hosted by Dr. Betty Kamen; Sewing with Nancy; and Moscow Meridian, a current-affairs program produced by Soviet authorities and hosted by Vladimir Posner. Reruns of old situation comedies and movies, mostly from low-budget studios, rounded out the schedule.

The Satellite Program Network, to give it its full name, was born in 1979; its rotting corpse is still operating as CNBC.

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One of those “weird tricks”

You may even have heard this on the radio. Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News certainly has:

It’s a simple ad. No music or special effects. Just an announcer talking. But he speaks with an urgency that grabs your attention:

“If you’re a baby boomer or a senior, please listen closely to this important message. Politicians in Washington are quietly plotting to decrease your Social Security payments drastically. And they want to do it soon.”

This is consistent with current Washington policy, which is to beggar the middle class, buy off the proles, and enrich the elites; but Social Security’s third-rail status tends to insulate it from the worst governmental ideas.

Also current Washington policy: the War of All Against All. From that same radio spot:

“In fact, despite rising prices at the gas pump, grocery store and doctor’s office, retirees have received a mere 1.3 percent annual increase to their Social Security checks. Meanwhile, food stamp recipients have seen their payouts increase over 30 percent under the Obama administration. That’s shocking.”

Which latter was part of the dubious “stimulus package,” long since expired; SNAP has since been trimmed back a bit. But that’s not what they came to tell you:

“So when we stumbled upon a weird trick that could add up to $1,000 to your monthly Social Security checks, we knew we had to share it with you. To get started, simply go to [link redacted].”

And if you go there?

If you go, you’ll discover this is just a come-on to get your credit card number for a trial subscription to financial newsletters. And those newsletters tout even more government freebies.

Of course, those terrible people in Washington can take away those freebies more easily than they can cut Social Security, but you’re not supposed to know that.

And if you’re supposed to resent all those freeloaders on food stamps, yet you send away for all this stuff to get your very own government cheese — well, what does that say about you?

(Via this Jeff Greenfield tweet.)

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The nearest faraway news

Champlin’s KZLS 1640 — not to be confused with Champlin’s KZLS 99.7, once the True Oldies Channel, now classic-country outlet KNAH (is Serutan sponsoring?) — is moving to a news/talk format, and they’ve hired KTOK expat Reid Mullins to do the morning show.

I’m not quite sure how well this is going to work out. The KZLS tower, east of Hennessey, reaches the Oklahoma City metro decently in the daytime, what with 10,000 watts to work with; however, they have only 1,000 watts at night, which barely gets them to the middle of Guthrie. Then again, who listens to news/talk at night? I suspect KZLS will have far more listeners to their Internet stream than to their actual radio signal.

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Air apparent

Welch, Oklahoma, not so hard by the Kansas border north of Vinita, is about to get a low-power community radio station:

Voice of Welch Communications, Inc. (VOW) has been granted a construction permit by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a low-power FM (LPFM) radio station serving the Welch and Bluejacket areas.

VOW president, Tyson Wynn, said, “Providing radio service to my hometown area has long been a dream of mine. Since first working at Vinita’s KITO during high school, I have been in love with the medium of radio and its ability to provide immediate coverage of local news and events. I’m also thrilled that LPFM is designed to be a very local operation. Welchkins, including Welch school students, will have the opportunity to learn the craft of radio. Dave Boyd trained me and put me on the air at KITO when I was 16 years old, and we’re going to give another generation of young people that same opportunity.”

I’ve met Tyson Wynn, and his enthusiasm is genuine. And I’m definitely pleased that radio service, which has been migrating from small towns to big cities for many years, is showing up in a community of 600.

The Welch facility will broadcast on 94.7 MHz with 100 watts. It will not quite reach Vinita or Miami, the two nearest cities. (And in case you’re wondering, KITO, while still licensed to Vinita, broadcasts nothing of particular interest to Vinita; it’s now just a relay for the Sports Animal’s Tulsa — actually Muskogee — facility.)

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Hanging off the edge of the dial

I was glancing down the news listings at RadioInsight, and this little bit of broadcast history caught my eye:

WLFM-LP [Cleveland] debuted the locally oriented “Sound” format in July 2012, as one of the so-called Franken-FM’s. These are low-powered analog television signals operating on Channel 6 using the fact that its audio signal on 87.75 is able to be tuned by many radios. These signals are required to convert to digital operation by September 1, 2015 at which point they will no longer be able to operate as a radio station.

“Are there any more of these?” I wondered. More than a dozen, in fact, including WNYZ-LP in New York, about which an “out of date” Wikipedia article says:

During most of its life, the station has been operated more as a radio station than a television station; though WNYZ-LP broadcasts video, it is usually silent movies that are repeated throughout the day, and only to fulfill the Federal Communications Commission requirement that some sort of video be broadcast on the frequency. Since the digital transition, WNYZ broadcast color bars, a legal ID, and a message telling viewers to listen to 87.7 MHz, the audio of the digital channel. It is the last remaining analog television station in New York City.

So what’s on? It’s Danu Radio, billed as “The Only Russian-Speaking Radio Station in North America.” At least, that’s what it is Monday through Friday, according to the schedule; presumably something else (Caribbean?) fills up the weekend.

And at some point, we’re supposed to hear, maybe, the lovely Tatyana Rodos:

Tatyana Rodos of Danu Radio NYC

She has Twitter and Facebook presences, but hasn’t done anything with either of them lately.

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FCC awakens

Does this smell funny to you?

Cumulus Media has sold 104.1 KTDK Sanger, TX to Whitley Media.

The station currently rebroadcasts Sports “1310 The Ticket” KTCK to the northern suburbs of the Dallas/Fort Worth market.

The sale price will come in two parts. At closing of this sale, Cumulus will receive $100. Whitley will then turn around and resell the station at which point Cumulus will receive all proceeds from that sale minus all expenses incurred in the operation of the station and from marketing and reselling the station.

The FCC has now decided it wasn’t going to allow this sort of thing under its collective nose:

[This transaction], by providing for Whitley to be reimbursed out of the sale proceeds for any losses and expenses he incurs in operating the Station, makes it clear that all of the economic risk of operating the Station would remain with Cumulus. Likewise, because Whitley is required to remit to Cumulus all of the proceeds from the sale of the Station, less his expenses and his brokerage fee, Cumulus would retain all of the risk of loss and potential for profit from the sale of the Station to a third party. Whitley will receive his brokerage fee and no more, whether the Station is sold for $1 million or $10 million. Given these “economic realities,” we conclude that the agreement between Cumulus and Whitley cannot be reasonably characterized as a proposed $100 sale of the Station to Whitley and that Cumulus would remain the owner of the Station.

Oh, and Cumulus was just about to close on a local marketing agreement with another local sports station, pending the approval of this sale. Uh-oh.

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What is it Now?

Tyler Media’s K243BJ, otherwise known as Now 96.5, is billed, on its Web site anyway, as “Hit Music For OKC.”

And apparently it is literally so:

Now 96.5 coverage map

The 70 watts reach about to my back door.

Then again, they have a construction permit to go up to a startling 120 watts and relocate their stick to the northside. Still, right now, the selling point is “40,000 songs in a row!” — which, if they stick to it, would put their first commercial around New Year’s Eve.

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Piratas de radio

Doc Searls finds something unexpected, or at least unlicensed, on the radio in New York:

I went to RikaFM.com, where a graphic at the top of the page says “‘FCC Part 15 Radio Station’.” Part 15 is what those tiny transmitters for your mobile device have to obey. It’s an FCC rule on interference that limits the range of unlicensed transmissions to a few feet, not a few miles. So clearly this is a claim, not a fact. I’ve listened in the car as well, and the signal is pretty strong.

“A few feet” is putting it mildly: the rule specifies a maximum field strength of 250 microvolts per meter at a distance of 3 meters, down in the microwatt range. My wireless router has more coverage than that. Then again, it doesn’t operate on the FM band.

And they’re streaming live, albeit in mono, on their Web site. It’s a bit more interesting than the canned regional-Mexican stuff we get down here on the legit Spanish-language stations.

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The call of the Yankee dollar

The New York Mets are about to lose their radio flagship:

As reported by Neil Best of Newsday, the Yankees and CBS Radio are close to a deal that would put the Yankees on WFAN starting in 2014, a person familiar with the negotiations told Newsday.

The arrangement would bump the Mets off the station that has carried their games since WFAN’s inception in 1987.

Of course, it’s a matter of money:

The Yankees currently are carried by WCBS Radio, which like WFAN, is owned by CBS. The current one-year contract is believed to pay the team $13 to $14 million.

The Mets are believed to earn about half what the Yankees do in rights fees but have been a money-loser for WFAN, which inherited the team when it took over WHN’s 1050-AM signal in 1987. The Mets then moved down the dial with WFAN to 660-AM in 1988.

Where the Mets would end up is still unclear, though I’m betting on WEPN, the ESPN Radio outlet in New York at 98.7 FM.

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Peremptory Claus

Fercryingoutloud, we only just got through with Labor Day, and already we got Christmas on the radio?

Clear Channel’s 100.9 K265CA Albuquerque is now “Santa 100.9″ via 104.1 KTEG-HD2 Santa Fe. The translator recently completed its upgrade to 250 watts from Sandia Peak giving it a signal comparable to a Class A FM.

Stunting, perhaps? Probably not:

Normally we’d expect a Christmas microformat this early in the season to likely be a short-term deal, however when you add translators to what is already a market with more signals than normal we can easily see Clear Channel going for the publicity it will get by starting Christmas music before the Fall book even begins.

To which I have now contributed. I hereby denounce myself.

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We just don’t give a [bleep]

In fact, for all you fans of Life in the Fast Lane, we take out the whole doggone line:

But on 101.3 FM, this is what we heard instead: We’ve been up and down this highway / there were lines on the mirror, lines on her face … Yup. They cut out the entire line mentioning the word “goddamned.”

This is not precisely what Pink Floyd called “goody-good bull—,” but I suppose it could have been.

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Al-Jazeero

Mediabistro has the Nielsen numbers for the first few days of Al-Jazeera America, and they are, shall we say, not promising:

Not surprisingly given the low-rated channel it replaced (Current TV), and the fact that it lost a few million homes from AT&T before launch (it is currently in just over 40 million homes), AJAM’s launch ratings were pretty low by traditional cable news standards.

The highest rated show on AJAM last week was the Thursday evening edition of “Real Money with Ali Velshi,” which drew 54,000 total viewers.

The 2 PM Saturday edition of “News Live” averaged 48,000 viewers, while “Inside Story” Thursday at 12:30 PM averaged 41,000 viewers. “News Live” Thursday from 12-12:30 averaged 40,000. The debut edition of “The Stream” on Tuesday averaged 38,000 viewers, below Nielsen’s accuracy threshold, while the debut of “America Tonight” averaged 34,000 viewers.

Of course, it’s an uphill battle with any new cable channel, although you have to figure they’re not happy with drawing one-eighth the audience of a random My Little Pony rerun.

AJAM bought the inside front cover and Page 1 of The Week this past week to try to drum up some business, brandishing this slogan: KNOW MORE ANGLES / NO MORE SIDES. Wouldn’t work in an audio ad, I suppose, but that’s not a bad little shibboleth. And they’re still listing a channel number on AT&T U-verse (189), though a ZIP search for AJAM around here produced the usual “Request from your provider” link for AT&T. A scan of the local Cox channels produced nothing; then again, they didn’t carry Al-Gore Current TV either.

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Fog at Clear Channel

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding Reed Mullins’ departure from KTOK, and perhaps a bit less of it regarding the apparent conversion of KTST “The Twister” into an automated jukebox for some dayparts.

Lest you think this was a local phenomenon, however, you might want to check RadioInsight, which has been documenting scores of Clear Channel layoffs in markets major and minor — just within the last week.

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You don’t watch this

“Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” the 1953 episode of I Love Lucy during which Little Ricky was born, drew 44 million viewers, a remarkable achievement considering there were barely 61 million viewers at the time. Of course, there were only three and a half networks in those days. (DuMont wasn’t dead, but it was coughing up blood, and it would go on the cart in 1956.) Today, there are more networks than you can count, or would care to count anyway, and really big audiences are not so big:

Read online entertainment news or even print entertainment magazines and you might think that HBO’s Game of Thrones and Girls were shows that most of the country was watching. But Thrones’ rating highs during season three were between 5.5 and 6 million viewers. The May 14th episode of NCIS (spoiler: Gibbs wins) racked up more than 18 million watchers. That same night, the shows Grimm, Body of Proof and Golden Boy all had as many or more people watching them as the Thrones high, and the latter two of those have been cancelled. Girls is even more of a niche item, with its high-water viewer mark around a million and usual audience about the size of Oklahoma City.

Consider, if you will, According to Jim, which ran eight seasons on ABC despite never getting mentioned by Big Media except in the context of “Is that still on?” At the end, it was drawing about three million.

Of course, HBO is happy to charge you a monthly fee for its services: the best ABC can do is make you pay through the nose for ESPN.

As for Girls and its OKC-sized audience, well, let it be known that the series in which I have the greatest interest — hint: largely female cast — pulls in Wichita-sized numbers most of the time.

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Rock erosion

The new, pitifully shrunken KRXO, sandwiched in at 104.5 between Magic 104.1 and Wild(ish) 104.9, is delivering, at least at my location, the sort of reception I’d expect. The Cambridge 88s have no problems pulling it in. The Big Receiver, now 39 years old, awards it a 4 on its arbitrarily calibrated signal-strength meter; the maximum realizable in practice is about 4.8. (Minimum bearable stereo signal is about 2, which is what I get from Power 103.5, a 100-kilowatt stick stuck out in Anadarko for the usual spacing reasons.) The little portable I keep on the fridge for emergency purposes couldn’t find it at all.

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Sunset over England

It’s truly the end of an era:

David “Slightly Less Insane” Payne presumably will fill Gary’s slot, if never, ever his shoes.

Update: TLO’s full story.

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Your home for classic gravel

From Mel Bracht’s straightforward Oklahoman story about the upcoming bloody dismemberment of KRXO in favor of yet another sports station:

Classic Rock KRXO, which had been at 107.7, will move to a new frequency at FM 104.5, the company announced. According to the news release, KRXO’s lineup of Bob and Tom, Cara Rice, Buddy Wiley, Kelso, Unkle Dave and Rick Caldwell are expected to move to a much smaller signal on 104.5.

How much smaller? A query to the FCC and a subsequent Google Maps overlay produced this map of the station’s “60 dBu Service Contour,” which defines the area in which a station is protected against interfering signals on the same frequency, and which is generally considered to be the station’s service area:

Service area for K283BW translator to carry KRXO programming

And there are stations on 104.5 at Pryor (this is Z104.5 the Edge in Tulsa), Mooreland, and eventually Wynnewood. I’m sort of amazed they could squeeze even a 250-watter (which is what this is) in the midst of all that.

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What are we dealing 4?

And the other shoe drops:

Tribune Co. agreed to buy Local TV Holdings LLC’s 19 television stations for $2.73 billion in cash, the biggest U.S. broadcasting deal in six years, to get better negotiating leverage with advertisers and cable companies.

The acquisition of Local TV, principally owned [by] Oak Hill Capital Partners, will almost double the number of Tribune’s stations to 42, according to a statement today. The Local TV assets include 16 markets, with top-rated stations in Denver, Cleveland and St. Louis, the companies said.

In that portfolio: KFOR (channel 4) and KAUT (channel 43) in Oklahoma City, which were last sold in 2007.

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Lost without translation

When New York City’s classical station, WQXR, moved down the dial, it also gave up some of its service area. A couple of translators in the fringe area have helped a bit, but station management has other plans as well:

New York Public Radio has acquired 90.3 WDFH Ossining, NY from Hudson Valley Community Radio for $400,000.

Then again, this isn’t a big signal boost — yet:

WDFH currently operates with 53 watts at 145 meters. As part of the asset purchase agreement, NYPR has agreed to file with the FCC an application to increase power to 250 watts. FCC approval of that application is a condition of the sale to close.

The main WQXR signal is only 610 watts, but it has the advantage of 416-meter height — on top of the Empire State Building, that is. The current 53-watt version of WDFH makes it almost all the way to Mount Vernon.

(Via a Doc Searls link pile.)

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When you hope both sides lose

Received from the local cable provider:

We know you’re concerned about the availability of KFOR (NBC affiliate) and KAUT (FREEDOM 43 TV) on Cox’s cable lineup, and I want to reassure you that we’re actively negotiating to continue offering it to our customers. Cox is fighting for you and trying to ensure that we are able to continue offering KFOR and KAUT at fair and reasonable terms.

The dispute between Cox and Local TV, KFOR and KAUT’s parent company, is all about how much you, the customer, should have to pay for the ability to see free over the air broadcast TV on your cable lineup. Local TV is holding its signals hostage by refusing to grant Cox permission to offer it unless we agree to pay 300% more than what we currently pay today. We don’t think that’s fair, especially in this economy.

Especially, you know, since these are local over-the-air stations, and therefore must be offered on the lowest-priced service tier.

As for Local TV itself, its owners are trying to fatten it up for market:

Oak Hill Capital Partners has put its Local TV LLC stations on the block.

Station staffs are being alerted across the Local TV footprint. The group says the process may take up to a year, and told staffers to go about their business as usual in the meantime.

What better way to jack up the price than to be able to show a hefty bulge in cash-flow projections?

At some point during my lifetime — and I’m pushing sixty, so it’s not that far off — both these business models will have been rendered irrelevant. And I’m not taking bets on who, if anyone, is going to survive the Coming Television Shakeout.

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News you can’t use

The problem with national media, apart from the fact that television looks pretty much identical whether you’re in Concord or Capistrano, is that they make for national causes and national haranguing on behalf of same. You could ignore the lot of them, I suppose — apart from the random afflictions on the set in the office breakroom, I watch basically nothing anymore except basketball and ponies — but the tube has insinuated itself so far into the culture that for all I know, I may be the last remaining outlier. (We all know people who say they “never” watch television; want to guess what’s in their Netflix queues?)

There’s probably no cure for this, either:

I could suggest that we start more locally-oriented papers, radio, and television stations, but such things have been made into guaranteed losing propositions: acts of civic charity that few persons will bother to read, listen to, or watch. Similarly, I could suggest that the civic-minded resolve to ignore the nationalized media, but in our era that’s like asking a man to hold his breath for a week. Now that all politics is national — sorry, Tip ol’ buddy — inattention to the national news would be catastrophic for such freedom-loving Americans as still remain. For now, all I can do is point at the cancer; I know of no tool capable of excising it.

The FCC destroyed “locally-oriented,” at least the over-the-air type. Consider these rules, in effect through the 1970s:

  • No entity could exceed the rules known familiarly as “7-7-7″: seven AM stations, seven FM stations, and seven TV stations (no more than five of which could be VHF — channels 2 through 13);
  • No owner of three VHF stations in the top 50 TV markets could purchase other such stations without a showing of compelling public interest;
  • Newspaper owners could not acquire radio or television stations in the same market;
  • No owner could operate more than one station of the same service in the same market.

“VHF,” of course, is meaningless today: the vast majority of stations claiming a channel between 2 and 13 are actually out in the same UHF cloud as their no-longer-lesser brethren. And the chances that these rules will be reinstated are essentially nil. But other than doing my part to encourage the wielding of the sword of bankruptcy, I don’t see any way to untie this particular knot.

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Beer instead

KINB, the peashooter in Kingfisher that has yet to make hay with any of a dozen different formats, has given up standards (“The Martini 105.3″) in favor of CBS Sports Radio, there being an obvious dearth of sports on the air in this town (a mere three AMs and now two FMs).

What’s disheartening is not that the standards format failed, but that it was the only such station around, and this experience will tell all the programming types in town (who are mostly out of town anyway) that trying something different is simply Not Done.

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Decidedly mixed signals

In the days of Ralph Spoilsport Motors, having both AM and FM in your car was not only optional at extra cost, but damned well worth it. Now, maybe not so much:

A Mark Kassof & Co. survey of radio station owners, general managers and group executives finds that 41% of them identify internet access in cars as the biggest “threat” to AM/FM radio. Following in descending order were: Pandora 18%; Sirius/XM Satellite Radio 13%; iPods/mp3 players 13%; podcasts 8%; iHeartRadio 7%; and YouTube 6%.

YouTube? Really?

The most discouraging aspect of this, perhaps, is that iHeartRadio, which actually aggregates content from major radio stations, is considered an actual threat to them.

Meanwhile, minor radio stations continue on the path to extinction, or at least format changes. The new owner at KKNG — Tyler had to sell it off to meet the government’s laughable ownership limits after buying Renda’s Oklahoma City cluster (KOMA/KOKC/KRXO/KMGL) — has dropped the classic-country twang in favor of religious programming. Atypically for this part of the world, though, it’s Catholic religious programming.

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The last D

3-D Danny has departed:

Danny Williams, known for that rapidfire delivery, for his decades on Oklahoma City radio, and for sitting beside Mary Hart for three years, has passed away at 85.

WKY Radio Survey March 1967

The quintessential morning man, he was, before radio decided it wanted a zoo instead.

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The original radio dial

In the January Automobile, Jamie Kitman bewails the current (sub)standard for AM radio in cars:

I have to be careful lest I start sounding like the guy who rhapsodizes on the wonders of vacuum tubes over solid-state circuits and vinyl versus streamed MP3 files, but AM car radios in their heyday sounded pretty good, and — counterintuitively — their reception was much, much better than in most new cars today. New cars all seem to retain an AM radio function — presumably for the day the nuclear weapons go off — but almost all of them suck. I kid you not. I get dramatically better reception in my 1962 MGA and my 1963 Jaguar Mark II than in the $127,000 BMW M6 convertible I drove last week. The BMW is not alone.

We will stipulate that vinyl is by design better than streamed MP3 files, but it’s hard to get vinyl to work in the center stack of a car.

The manufacturers, OEM and aftermarket, have pretty much decided that AM is a talk-only medium now, and they provide only enough frequency response to reproduce something resembling voice. There are only two AM stations I’d bother with for music around here, and one of them, a daytimer, has a 24-hour FM translator with 99 watts.

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One of the earlier birds

Lileks was showing off some 1950s radios yesterday, and by golly, I had one of these:

Westinghouse 541T5 clock radio

This little darb dates to 1956; it was moved into my bedroom when the parental units got a Better One. Thirty bucks (about $250 today) for an AM radio that would actually switch on at a prescribed time. (If you wanted it to switch off, well, that was $5 more.)

Said Lileks of this design:

“Modern styling” means the face reminds you of TV and the letters are elongated to the point of absurdity.

And that includes the figures on the actual dial, except for the CONELRAD indicators at 640 and 1240. After a period of heavy use, the top of the case began to droop, the plastic unable to retain its shape after being exposed to all those vacuum tubes (five, including rectifier) for so long.

For that contemporary $250, you can buy a pretty decent AM radio that also gets FM. Assuming, of course, you have some reason to listen to radio.

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No visuals, please

Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, once put out a video called Faces Made for Radio, a celebration of all things Car Talk, with the possible exception of “Stump the Chumps.”

The implication, of course, is that some people are on the radio because nobody could stand to look at them. Then there’s BBC Radio 5′s Victoria Derbyshire:

Victoria Derbyshire of BBC Radio 5

It’s her forty-fourth birthday today. And apparently as of yesterday she’s quit smoking.

Me? I have a voice made for magazines.

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No news from Winder

I was following a news item on wsbtv.com, and this semi-nifty little map appeared in the sidebar, offering “County by County News”:

Local coverage on WSB-TV

Note that Clarke County is sitting out there to the east all by its lonesome, while several closer counties — Barrow, Oconee, Walton — are apparently spurned by WSB-TV. My first thought was “Maybe they have a translator out there,” and as maybes go, this is one of the more definite examples: there is indeed a WSB translator licensed to Athens, which is in Clarke County — in fact, Athens and Clarke County were consolidated in 1990 — though the actual broadcast site is outside Winder, in Barrow County.

Then again, nothing here is quite as amusing as the shape of Fulton County, which resembles a lolcat peering around a corner.

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