The following is excerpted from the Alabama Broadcasters Association's weekly e-newsletter, Monday Morning Coffee and Technical Notes. Thanks to Larry Wilkins, who puts together the content and has shared it with Radio magazine readers. To subscribe to the newsletter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will add you to the database.
ONLINE PUBLIC FILE UPDATE
Now that all radio stations have posted (or should have) their public files on the FCC hosted web site, a reminder to engineers there are a few technical documents that need to be maintained. These documents, while not normally listed as part of the public files can be stored on the site using the "additional folder" tab on the basic information page. This folder is a convenient location to store these documents, so they don't get misplaced.
Annual AM NRSC measurements: These are required for all AM stations and are to be conducted each year (not to exceed 14 months) and retained for a period of two years.
Antenna Structure Registration: All tower structures over 200 feet must be approved and registered by the FAA. Stations will have a Certificate of Registration which includes information about the structure and the all-important Registration Number.
Part 74 axillary license and/or CP: These include STL, TSL, intercity relay and RPU equipment.
Translator licenses and/or CP: These documents should be placed in the additional documents folder for the station that holds the license for that translator. Make sure the "associated facility" correctly indicates the source of the program broadcast over the translator.
ABIP Certification of Compliance: If your station is inspected under the State Broadcasters Associations Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program (ABIP), you can store the Certificate in the additional folder as well. Remember this Certificate is for a 3-year period. Most stations also post in a frame in the station lobby.
Here is a reminder to all contract engineers: If you do any work for LPFM or translator operations, make sure you get a copy of the station license or construction Permit before making any changes or installs.
There been several situations lately where these facilities were constructed and operated which did not meet the specifications on the station authorization. This includes antennas at a different location or height, wrong number of antenna bays or line, and power output incorrect. Also, since a good number of translators operate with directional antennas, one should be careful when installing or moving the antenna to insure it is mounted correctly.
The FCC recently issued a $5,000 NAL to a LPFM that had prematurely begun construction on the proposed site without prior FCC approval. Section 319(a) of the Communications Act ("Act") prohibits the FCC from licensing an applicant to operate broadcast facilities unless that applicant has previously obtained a construction permit from the FCC to build those specific facilities. A construction permit sets out the facilities and operating parameters for a proposed station, including the station's frequency allotment. Though an applicant may initiate certain pre-construction measures, including site clearance and purchase of broadcast equipment that is not specific to the station (e.g., generic studio equipment, but not a frequency-tuned antenna), the applicant may not take more substantive steps until it has a construction permit in hand.
Over the years the question comes up “How often should an engineer visit the transmitter site?” There are no specific rules that indicate how this often this should be done. However, the FCC does spell out in 73.1350 "The licensee must establish monitoring procedures and schedules for the station. Monitoring procedures and schedules must enable the licensee to determine compliance with operating power, modulation levels and where applicable with antenna tower lighting. Licensees should be able to provide upon request made by the FCC, the monitoring procedures and schedules they have established for each station".
Good engineering practice has been to visit the transmitter site once each week. This is an extremely important part of the broadcast operation. Should something go wrong at the transmitter site all the work that is being done at the studio is for naught.
Engineers should learn the "look, sound and smell" of the transmitter site and learn to act proactively and not reactively.
It is a good practice to create a calendar of items to be checked during the year. Things like changing air filters, servicing air condition systems and generators, tower light system inspections, etc.
This time of year is a great time to clean up around the outside of the site, since most vegetation has died.
YES, WE DO NEED ENGINEERS!
In broadcasting, sales departments sell inventory, program departments develop formats, management keeps everyone going in the same direction and engineering makes it all work. Someone must install and maintain the equipment, so the other departments work is successful.
Chris Huff, writing in the "Behind the Mixer" said "It took over 3,000 people 410 days to build the Empire State Building. This includes installation of approximately 17 million feet of telephone wire. If you walked into building when it was first completed, you'd have seen beautiful carpeting and newly painted walls and shiny windows. But what's under the carpeting? Subflooring. What's behind the paint? Drywall and metal. Stuff put up by people doing the grunt work."
Engineers are those doing the "grunt work" keeping the finished product in a form that is sellable to the listeners and viewers. Be proud of what you do and realize It's OK that you're doing the grunt work behind the scenes and know that the Engineering Department is the key department that makes it all come together.