sowny.net | The Southern Ontario/WNY Radio-TV Forum


You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?

January 23, 2019 10:34 am  #1


Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

I’m not a huge listener to WBEN-AM but I tune in once in a while to see what they’re up to. But lately I’ve noticed they’re very hard to receive, with lots of static and what seems like a weaker signal. The station has always come in pretty well here over the years, so what’s going on?
 
According to the station, something is.
 
I had a brief chat on Wednesday morning with one of the engineers at AM 930 and I’m still trying to decide if I understand (or even believe) what he told me. But maybe someone here can explain it better.
 
According to the person I spoke to, Entercom has installed some kind of relatively new technology that actually slightly lowers the power of the station whenever someone stops talking – even for a breath pause - or there’s any kind of dead air, even for a few seconds. He claims it allows the station to save on hydro and that people on the fringes of their 5,000 watt signal (like us) will hear more interference and have problems getting them whenever it happens.
 
He says it’s a recent technology that they’ve been experimenting with for about a month and it may not be permanent.

I’m not sure I buy any of this. It sounds ridiculous. Yet I can’t deny the signal is worse than it’s ever been here and it sounds like the kind of thing a cheapskate company like Entercom might attempt. (My words, not his!)
 
I’ve done a lot of things in radio, but engineering and the technical stuff it entails isn’t one of them. Does this sound possible? Or do you think he was just having a bit of fun with a wayward listener on the other side of the border who doesn’t count in their ratings? 

 

January 23, 2019 12:08 pm  #2


Re: Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

Up and down wattage all day - that cant be good for the transmitter.  

 

January 24, 2019 10:29 am  #3


Re: Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

The real and currently employed broadcast engineer has arrived on scene to explain...

The have deployed MDCL.  Modulation-Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) control technologies or algorithms, used on AM transmitters to reduce transmitter power consumption.  Broadcasters reported seeing anywhere from 20 to 40% savings on their power bills.  This is usually deployed on high power stations (50 kW). 

So before we call Entercom cheap... maybe understanding how much money is involved will give you the understanding on how this is mot a bad business decision and could be good for the environmentalists out there.

As an example, BC power rates are far less than Ontario.  My former 50 kW Nautel transmitter sent me a hydro bill of just under $5,000 a month.  God only knows what that would be at Hydro One rates.  However, the last time I was running a solid state AM in Ontario (a late 80's vintage Nautel) just about the time Hydro One introduced a 28% increase around 2012, the power bill was around $ 2,500 a month on a 10 kW transmitter.  In practice I have heard you really save about 21%.  So shaving $500 a month off the power bill for a free feature (on recent Nautel transmitters) that is FCC and ISED approved is worth a try. 

So, a 10 kW transmitter is worth $500 a month in power savings or a 50 kW could see $1,500 a month savings. In one example that is 6 grand a year, in the other 18 grand a year.  Sure maybe the mother corp is just going to put it into bank, but it could also a significant contribution to paying for a new transmitter if the one you have is getting to its 20 or 30 year mark of service.  Now since I don't have power bills in frot of me, I'm not sure what kWh load that takes off the grid, but it is also a significant amount of power.
 

 

January 24, 2019 12:31 pm  #4


Re: Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

When we installed a new transmitter a few years ago here in Rochester at WXXI(AM), we ordered the MDCL option from Nautel. Even at 5 kW, it's delivered the power consumption savings it promised, and driving the signal very extensively around the market, I haven't noticed any change in the quality of the received signal. The savings were especially dramatic coming from the old (1980-vintage) Harris MW5A transmitter that the Nautel replaced. 

 

January 24, 2019 9:16 pm  #5


Re: Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

Thanks for those great answers. I really wasn’t sure if what the 'BEN engineer told me was technically possible, let alone feasible. But apparently, it was. I wonder if any of the GTHA-area radio stations are doing the same thing. (Which could explain why CHAM has been putting out such a weak signal into Toronto at night of late…)
 
As for my snide comments about Entercom being cheap, I wasn’t entirely referring to this transmitter energy reduction thing. While the company airs a number of local shows, a lot of what they put on the air these days is syndicated programming – meaning they’re saving salaries on producers and hosts, among other “inconveniences” who all have the nerve to demand a salary for their work, or relying more on automation and voice tracking in the case of their music stations.   
 
It’s a sad reflection on what one company has done to one market, by owning what used to be the three biggest and most successful outlets in the city. WGR, WBEN and WKBW (now WWKB) are shadows of their former selves.
 
I realize the glory days of Top 40 radio is long gone, but if you’d heard these stations during the 70s, you would have been astounded at how good they were. (In fact, WGR-AM won the Billboard Station of the Year Award on numerous occasions and handily deserved the honour.)
 
But far more importantly, they were in fierce competition with each other, going after their rivals full bore, 24 hours a day. That made all of them better and they just kept improving as they had a singular goal to become the #1 station in town.
 
Now that the same owner controls them (and admittedly the formats are different) that competitive spirit is completely gone. "Just OK" is good enough and we don’t have to spend anything on them, because there are fewer companies to compete with, so why bother?
 
Yes, I’m an old fogey, I suppose. Or at least I can see him from here. But I miss those days when the major Buffalo stations were actually competing for an audience. Now, that audience has little choice if they want to hear over-the-air local radio. And frankly, none of them are really worth listening to these days. Full power or not.

     Thread Starter
 

January 24, 2019 9:40 pm  #6


Re: Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

The purchase of WWKB by Entercom was a total waste of time in my opinion.  If was supposed to be used as an outlet for programming that could not be carried by WGR due to other contractual commitments.  WGR has the rights to NFL football, but the games never air on either station when the Buffalo Sabres are playing.  Instead, WWKB carried drivel from ESPN radio, or worse, a Current Affairs show which has nothing to do with sports.  The rights to NFL broadcasts must be inexpensive, because Entercom blows off about half of the games.

I definitely have fond memories of the competition between WGR and WBEN.  In the early nineties, WGR used to air commercials boasting about its 24 hour news room and used to ridicule WBEN about the fact that the news staff had gone home when major stories had occurred overnight.

 

January 24, 2019 10:02 pm  #7


Re: Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

And talk about knowing your audience. Buffalo has a large Polish population and WGR was probably the only Top 40 station in North America that actually had a PAMS jingle sung entirely in that language! It was just one of the things that made them so unique and helped them win that Billboard Award. 

     Thread Starter
 

January 25, 2019 12:13 am  #8


Re: Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

RadioActive wrote:

And talk about knowing your audience. Buffalo has a large Polish population and WGR was probably the only Top 40 station in North America that actually had a PAMS jingle sung entirely in that language! It was just one of the things that made them so unique and helped them win that Billboard Award. 

http://i65.tinypic.com/2wmpds6.jpg


"GR 55 had great jingles, like this one...

http://rockradioscrapbook.ca/wgr-gladyourealive.mp3
 


"The radio craze ... will soon fade." - Thomas Edison, 1922
 

March 7, 2019 7:19 pm  #9


Re: Is This Really Why You’re Having Trouble Getting WBEN-AM In The GTA?

Bobbie Boogie wrote:

The real and currently employed broadcast engineer has arrived on scene to explain...

The have deployed MDCL.  Modulation-Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) control technologies or algorithms, used on AM transmitters to reduce transmitter power consumption.  Broadcasters reported seeing anywhere from 20 to 40% savings on their power bills.  This is usually deployed on high power stations (50 kW). 

So before we call Entercom cheap... maybe understanding how much money is involved will give you the understanding on how this is mot a bad business decision and could be good for the environmentalists out there.

As an example, BC power rates are far less than Ontario.  My former 50 kW Nautel transmitter sent me a hydro bill of just under $5,000 a month.  God only knows what that would be at Hydro One rates.  However, the last time I was running a solid state AM in Ontario (a late 80's vintage Nautel) just about the time Hydro One introduced a 28% increase around 2012, the power bill was around $ 2,500 a month on a 10 kW transmitter.  In practice I have heard you really save about 21%.  So shaving $500 a month off the power bill for a free feature (on recent Nautel transmitters) that is FCC and ISED approved is worth a try. 

So, a 10 kW transmitter is worth $500 a month in power savings or a 50 kW could see $1,500 a month savings. In one example that is 6 grand a year, in the other 18 grand a year.  Sure maybe the mother corp is just going to put it into bank, but it could also a significant contribution to paying for a new transmitter if the one you have is getting to its 20 or 30 year mark of service.  Now since I don't have power bills in frot of me, I'm not sure what kWh load that takes off the grid, but it is also a significant amount of power.
 

Many posters answered this query and I appreciate their input. And then today, I found this new story published online.

A Unique Approach to Cutting AM Costs 

     Thread Starter