30 settembre 2007

Silicon and Radio Valley

Pura libidine. Da leggersi d'un fiato, con la radio accesa, questo articolo del San Francisco Chronicle che cerca per l'ennesima volta di chiarire una volta per tutte il mistero dell'eziologia della Silicon Valley. E' una questione che sfugge da anni a una risposta definitiva: "che cosa" rende la Silicon Valley - il territorio che parte dai sobborghi meridionali di San Francisco e arriva a San Jose, includendo anche alcune propaggini intorno alla Baia di San Francisco - la Silicon Valley, capitale mondiale dell'innovazione tecnologica? Il termine risale "solo" al 1971, quando fu utilizzato dal giornalista specializzato Don Hoefler per indicare la zona diventata ricca grazie alle sue fabbriche di transistor. Una epopea iniziata 50 anni fa con la creazione della Fairchild Semiconductors da parte di otto giovanissimi ingegneri. Per molti l'inizio di tutto fu proprio l'invenzione del transistor e prima ancora l'altrettanto famoso garage degli inventori e fondatori dell'omonima corporation (oggi colosso del computer) Hewlett & Packard. Ma secondo due storici della tecnologia, Christophe Lécuyer, autore di "Making Silicon Valley" e Timothy Sturgeon le radici della moderna Silicon Valley risalgono a prima degli anni dieci del secolo scorso, quando a sud di San Francisco si concretizzò un forte interesse industriale per l'invenzione di Marconi, la radio. L'articolo cita il documento di Sturgeon "How Silicon Valley came to be" che fortunatamente si può reperire sul Web.
Intorno al 1910 nasce la Federal Telegraph Co. e l'università di Stanford diventa un polo di attrazione di ingegneri, inventori e visionari della radio, mentre i militari si spingono fino alla California per cercare le prime rudimentali tecnologie che troveranno impiego già nella prima guerra mondiale. La Federal Telegraph fu fondata da Cyril Frank Elwell, lo studente di Stanford che adattò per scopi telegrafici l'invenzione del danese Valdemar Poulsen per la generazione di onde continue, realizzando una delle prime stazioni telegrafiche degli Stati Uniti e iniziando dell'epopea della telegrafia su scala globale. Qui ho trovato una pubblicazione della Stanford Historical Society con molti dettagli sulla storia di questo imprenditore. Fu Elwell ad assumere un certo Lee deForest (già, l'inventore della valvola). In questa zona muove i primi passi l'industria della radiofonia (lo abbiamo visto con il recente post su Charles Herrold). Qui, dalle prime ricerche sugli altoparlanti nascerà, nel 1917, Magnavox.
Negli anni trenta il carrozzone della radiofonia si sposterà verso est, sotto il potente influsso di imprese come la RCA. Vent'anni dopo, a guerra finita, la Valle delle valvole termoioniche, ha un nuovo rilancio grazie ai suoi successori allo stato solido diventando così la Valle del silicio e del computer. Che storia, ragazzi.

High-tech culture of Silicon Valley originally formed around radio
Tom Abate, Chronicle Staff Writer Sunday, September 30, 2007

They weren't out to make history, the eight young engineers who met secretly with investor Arthur Rock 50 years ago to form Silicon Valley's ancestral chip company, Fairchild Semiconductor.
The men, among them future Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, mainly wanted to escape their brilliant but batty boss, William Shockley, who had just shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics for his role in the invention of the transistor.
Shockley, who had started a company in Mountain View in 1955 to commercialize this breakthrough, had bullied and browbeaten his young engineering staff, whose numbers included future venture capitalist Eugene Kleiner, at 32 the oldest of the bunch; the rest of the renegade group were younger than 30.
So when the Traitorous Eight, as they're sometimes called, held their hush-hush meeting in San Francisco, they had reason to fear discovery - but no way to know that by quitting safe jobs for a risky startup, they would earn a place among what Stanford University historian Leslie Berlin calls the "Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley."
But wait. The National Register of Historic Places recognizes the garage in Palo Alto where David Packard and William Hewlett started their company. Isn't that the birthplace of Silicon Valley?
And here's a hitch. Not until 1971 was "Silicon Valley" used to describe the concentration of chip-making firms in the South Bay.
So what is Silicon Valley? How and when did it arise? And most important, perhaps, what is the future of this region that has become a synonym for innovation?
"There is this myth that Silicon Valley was all orchards when the chip companies arrived, but it's not true. It had been building, building for a long time," said Christophe Lécuyer, a Stanford-trained historian who turned his dissertation into a book, "Making Silicon Valley."
Lécuyer, now an economic analyst with the University of California system, said the region's technological awakening began almost a century ago when, not long after the great quake of 1906, the Bay Area - and particularly the Peninsula - began innovating with the then-hot technology of radio.
"The San Francisco Bay Area was a natural place for interest in radio because it was a seagoing region," said Timothy Sturgeon, an industrial researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who described this radio period in a paper, "How Silicon Valley Came to Be."
Lécuyer and Sturgeon argue that, roughly 30 years before Hewlett and Packard started work in their garage, and almost 50 years before the Traitorous Eight created Fairchild, the basic culture of Silicon Valley was forming around radio: engineers who hung out in hobby clubs, brainstormed and borrowed equipment, spun new companies out of old ones, and established a meritocracy ruled by those who made electronic products cheaper, faster and better.
As Sturgeon notes, as early as 1909, Stanford graduate Cyril Elwell was acquiring patents for new radio technologies and persuading university officials, including then-President David Starr Jordan, "to finance a new company" in Palo Alto that would be called Federal Telegraph Co.
That same year in San Jose, Charles Herrold started a school for radio engineers and began broadcasting to radio hobbyists and later to a small local audience to become what a 1994 PBS documentary called "Broadcasting's Forgotten Father." Back then, the region had none of its present cachet relative to other clusters of radio activity like New York, New Jersey and Boston.
But in this rivalry with the industrial powers of the East, the future Silicon Valley would find a powerful customer with deep pockets - the U.S. military.
Sturgeon said U.S. naval officials, impressed by Federal Telegraph's technology, gave the Palo Alto firm huge contracts during World War I - the first but not the last time war would fuel the region's tech firms.
In another hint of the future, Sturgeon writes that around 1910, Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham quit Federal Telegraph "to start a research and development firm in a garage in Napa" to improve loudspeakers. In 1917, they formed Magnavox, which built public address systems for destroyers and battleships in World War I.
The war's end took the wind out of Silicon Valley's sails. The Eastern radio powers, notably RCA, dominated the field during the 1920s and 1930s. The region's entrepreneurial fire cooled but, as history would show, didn't die.

Creation story

The next chapter in the Silicon Valley story involves the familiar tale of how Hewlett and Packard hatched the region's first technology giant in a Palo Alto garage.
Sophisticated versions of this creation epic also credit their mentor, Stanford engineering Professor Frederick Terman.
Terman, who began teaching at Stanford in the late 1920s, would spend the rest of his career formalizing the university-industry collaboration that would come to typify Silicon Valley.
But in the hardscrabble '30s, it was all Terman could do to hold together the ecosystem of tinkerers and researchers who were trying to survive the Depression.
He had help from tech pioneers such as Charles Litton Sr., who in 1932 established a machine shop that made better vacuum tube manufacturing tools. Tubes were the workhorse of electronics before transistors and - according to Lécuyer - Litton's tools allowed San Bruno vacuum-tube-maker Eitel-McCullough to build superior components - and a reputation.
Another seminal event was the 1939 invention of the klystron tube by Stanford research associates and brothers Russell and Sigurd Varian, who would later start Varian Associates. The klystron tube led to more powerful radars, helping the United States and its allies gain an advantage in World War II.
In his 1995 memoir, "The HP Way," Packard himself provides a glimpse of this ecosystem in action, telling how Terman arranged for him to work evenings at Litton's shop.
"Charlie Litton had started with the Federal Telegraph Company in Palo Alto," Packard wrote, adding, "My relationship with Charlie developed into a long and enduring friendship."
Garage-era Silicon Valley also adopted the business model of the radio age - supplying the U.S. armed forces.
"Military funding was critical for the rise of Silicon Valley from the very late 1930s to the early 1960s," Lécuyer said. For instance, he said, Eitel-McCullough had about 15 people making vacuum tubes before the war. That swelled to 4,000 employees in 1943, then contracted to 200 in 1945, when peace crippled demand for tubes.
So, by the time the Traitorous Eight started Fairchild, the recipe for Silicon Valley largely had been written. Still, the notion that they founded the valley is justified by what financier Rock brought to the party - the money to bankroll bold engineers.
"The venture capital sector really arises along with the semiconductor industry," Lécuyer said. "Once the venture capital is in place, it makes all the other things possible."

From Fairchild forward

Investment that rewards risk became the final catalyst for the Silicon Valley we know, where ideas, nourished by money, spawn startups, products, even whole industries, like biotechnology.
The first big wave of startups created by venture investment were the dozens of Fairchildren - chip companies like National Semiconductor, Advanced Micro Devices and Intel - started by engineers who traced their ancestry to the Traitorous Eight.
Intel became the largest of these Fairchildren, and Moore the best known of the eight. But the gang leader was his charismatic colleague Robert Noyce. A technical innovator - in this meritocracy he had to be - in 1961, Noyce designed the first chip that enabled two transistors to work together on a single slice of silicon. Called the "integrated circuit," it is the ancestor of today's billion-transistor chips.
In 1971, when trade press reporter Don Hoefler used "Silicon Valley" to describe the concentration of chip-making firms on the Peninsula, the name stuck. But almost from the start, it stood for more than chip-making.
"Silicon Valley created an environment that allowed ideas and money and people to combine more easily," said AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of the School of Information at UC Berkeley and an expert on the region.
The early chip industry, like the two waves of innovation before, initially depended on military expenditures, Paul Ceruzzi, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, writes in his book "A History of Modern Computing."
Only this time, it was the Cold War that opened the government's checkbook.
The Soviet launch of Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957, prodded the United States to modernize its missile and space program. The newfangled silicon chips were considered vital - albeit costly - components, and Ceruzzi writes that NASA and the Defense Department bought so many "that the price dropped from $1,000 a chip to between $20 and $30."
Falling chip prices fueled development of new electronics for corporate customers and eventually individual consumers. Reliance on military purchases lessened, though defense dollars remained important in spurring research. Thus, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin later dreamed up Google, a defense research grant helped support their work. And when Stanford computer scientists won a robotic car race in 2005, the prize came from the Defense Department.
By the 1970s, therefore, Silicon Valley was poised to capitalize on new civilian technologies like PCs, as exemplified by Apple Computer.
In the 1980s, excitement shifted to scientific workstations and networking devices from firms like Sun Microsystems and Cisco Systems, and to software like the version of UNIX perfected at UC Berkeley.
In the 1990s, the point-and-click browser popularized by Netscape ignited the dot-com boom and, after a painful bust and slow recovery, the recent rise of Google and social networking sites such as Facebook signal another wave of entrepreneurship.

Back to the future

Today, Silicon Valley is showing signs of age. Traffic is bad. Housing is worse. And it's competing with every metropolitan region in the nation - indeed, the world.
Saxenian, the Berkeley dean, is optimistic. Her most recent book, "The New Argonauts," posits that Silicon Valley will remain a design and innovation center by partnering with lower-cost manufacturing centers overseas.
"Viewed from outside the United States, Silicon Valley is an amazing place," she said. "I'd put my bets on innovation coming out of the valley for the next 20 years."
But jobs are a concern. Tech employment hasn't yet recovered from the dot-com bust. The American Electronics Association says California had 1.2 million tech jobs in 2000. Its most recent snapshot found 280,000 fewer Californians collecting high-tech paychecks.
Is it outsourcing? Is it globalism? Is it a problem? Maybe the answer depends on whether you're looking for work or looking to hire.
And more to the point, after all this time, do we know what Silicon Valley is, or better yet, how to keep it vital?
"My biggest hope for the valley is that we continue to have the focus, creativity and capital to reinvent our future and the future of technology," said Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel Corp., the most prosperous of the Fairchildren.
"My biggest fear is that we will get complacent and allow it to happen elsewhere."

E-mail Tom Abate at tabate@sfchronicle.com.

Happy Birthday, BBC Radio

Buon compleanno Radio 1,2,3 e 4! Esattamente 40 anni fa, nel weekend di fine settembre del 1967, sull'onda del trascinante fenomeno delle radio pirata e del loro impatto sul pubblico più giovane, la BBC sostituiva i programmi del Light Programme con Radio 1 e 2, mentre il Third Programme diventava Radio 3 e l'Home Service Radio 4. Per le celebrazioni, anticipate in questo lancio Reuters, potete andare sui siti che le quattro emittenti (Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 e Radio 4) hanno allestito per l'occasione.

BBC radio stations celebrate 40th anniversary
Sun Sep 30, 2007 11:55am BST

LONDON (Reuters) - BBC radio stations 1, 2, 3 and 4 celebrated their 40th anniversary on Sunday by broadcasting a series of special programmes as some of the corporation's former disc jockeys made a nostalgic return to the airwaves.
The BBC launched Radios 1 and 2 on September 30, 1967 as a replacement for the Light Programme, while the Third Programme became Radio 3 and the Home Service was renamed Radio 4.
Sunday's celebrations for Radio 1 included the outspoken Chris Moyles, who has called himself the saviour of the station, co-hosting the breakfast show with Tony Blackburn, who launched Radio 1 in 1967.
A two-hour documentary "Keeping it Peel" pays tribute to the veteran broadcaster, who championed new music trends like punk, before his death three years ago.
Radio 1 has enjoyed a renaissance since managers dropped many older presenters in the 1990s.
"Radio 1 is still seen as the best radio station in the world," former disc jockey Bruno Brookes told BBC News 24. "It's a brand that isn't going to go away - it's got a great future."
Radio 2 broadcast Kenny Everett's first show for the station while DJs Smashie and Nicey -- the comic creation of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse -- will host an edition of Pick of the Pops playing hits from 40 years ago.
The show is a tribute to DJ Alan "Fluff" Freeman who originally presented the show.
On Radio 4 comedian Matthew Lucas and actor Stephen Fry will host a spoof edition of "This is Your Life" telling the history of the station, with contributions from broadcasters John Humphrys, Sue Lawley, Jonathan Dimbleby and Barry Cryer.

La storia di Radio Liberty in un documentario

Davvero interessante il documentario trasmesso tra ieri e oggi dalla spagnola Canal de Historia sulle vicende di Radio Liberty, a partire dalla fondazione da parte della CIA nel 1955 e fino alla recente (2006) distruzione dell'impianto emittente di Playa de Pals a Girona.
Lo segnala oggi su Hard Core Dx José Miguel Romero, che cita anche il sito Web della società catalana che ha prodotto il documentario, Waves of Liberty, presentato anche a Cannes e a numerosi altri festival. Il sito di Canal Paradis presenta una scheda completa del programma con un lungo trailer. Il programma viene presentato anche da El Mundo, il quotidiano spagnolo (anche lì potete trovare un trailer più breve), che ho trovato citato, insieme al nostalgico commento che riporto qui, sul blog spagnolo di Nibarcom. Nibarcom è riuscito a scovare su Radioliberty.org, sito spagnolo con la storia delle antenne di Pals alcune fotografie scattate subito dopo la loro distruzione da parte della società specializzata Control Demeter (se vi va vi suggerisco di dare un'occhiata anche alle foto di Venezia e Milano che Nibarcom ha pubblicato sulle sue pagine di Flickr, sono molto belle).
Apprendo da Canal Paradis che il documentario è stato acquistato anche dalla TSI in Svizzera e mi auguro che venga trasmesso anche da History Channel in Italia. Oltre, evidentemente ma illegalmente, a confidare in San You Tube...

Algunos nacimos al mundo cuando cayó en nuestras manos un receptor de radio con Onda Corta. En nuestro recuerdo quedarán las emisiones de Radio España Independiente (“La Pirenaica”), de La Voz de Canarias Libre, Radio Moscú, Radio Nederland Wereldomroep (acabé enviándoles crónicas durante tres años), La Voz de Alemania, Radio Vaticano… o de cómo estábamos al tanto de la nueva ola musical (aquella New Wave de finales de los 70) con Radio Luxembourg y sus magníficos “jingles”. En fin, la lista sería interminable… También recordamos las emisoras norteamericanas que transmitían para los países del “Bloque del Este”: Radio Free Europe y Radio Liberty.
Ahora podemos escuchar emisoras de todo el mundo gracias a internet, pero aquel pasado de las ondas ha marcado la vida de algunos de nosotros. Por eso me llamó la atención el artículo de El Mundo que ahora reproduzco. Y espero poder ver ese documental lo antes posible. Por cierto: en internet hay un magnífico website en castellano dedicado a la emisora: http://www.radioliberty.org. No dejéis de visitarlo si queréis saber más sobre la historia de Radio Liberty. La foto la he tomado prestada del sitio web de la empresa que demolió las instalaciones de la emisora en Pals. (NB)
‘Radio Liberty’, el azote anticomunista desde la playa de Pals en Girona

MADRID.- Canal de Historia estrena “Radio Liberty” un documental en coproducción con Canal Paradis y TV3, que desvela la verdadera historia de Radio Liberty en España, referente de la propaganda anticomunista desde su nacimiento en 1955 hasta su desmantelamiento en marzo de 2006.
Eran los años de la Guerra Fría, en la que Europa estaba dividida por el mítico “Telón de acero” y tanto el Gobierno norteamericano como el Soviético querían dominar la transmisión de las consignas lanzadas a la población de la época.
Radio Liberty fue creada en 1955 por el Comité americano de Liberación para, según diversos historiadores, imponer en sus mensajes el “modo de vida americano” en contraposición a la falta de libertades de los regímenes comunistas, pero para ello se necesitaba una potente forma de transmisión para toda Europa.
Los programas se producían en Munich y Nueva York, se grababan en diferentes idiomas y se lanzaban por las antenas de Pals. La última emisión de Radio Liberty fue en mayo de 2001.
Partiendo de las imágenes de su desmantelamiento y de la posterior destrucción de las torres y antenas de onda corta de Radio Liberty en la Playa de Pals en Girona, el trabajo recorrerá los 50 años de vida de esta emisora instalada allí por decisión de Eisenhower que consideró la playa un emplazamiento idóneo para instalar antenas de radio y transmitir propaganda anticomunista a la URSS y los países del Este.
Se trataba de una emisora con seis transmisores de onda corta de 250KW cada uno, y su objetivo principal era Rusia y sus países satélites. Mikhaïl Gorbachov reconoció que durante el golpe de estado, a mediados de los 90, cuando estaba cerrado en una estancia, consiguió estar conectado al mundo exterior mediante una pequeña radio del personal de servicio y gracias a las emisiones de Radio Liberty desde Pals pudo seguir lo que pasaba realmente en su país.
El documental mostrará cómo Radio Liberty, emisora financiada por la CIA, desempeñó un decisivo papel durante la Guerra Fría al transmitir noticias desde una perspectiva afín al capitalismo pero, tras la caída del muro de Berlín, en 1989, el nuevo contexto internacional hizo que la emisora perdiera progresivamente influencia hasta que dejó de emitir en 2001.
La producción repasará los hechos cronológicos más notorios de la radio desde el inicio de la Guerra Fría y analizará cuál fue la relación de la emisora con los sucesivos gobiernos españoles, desde la construcción de la estación de Pals en 1958 hasta la cesión de sus instalaciones a Radio Nacional de España en 2002 y su posterior desmantelamiento en 2006.

Foto: el derribo de Radio Liberty en Playa de Pals (Girona). Foto: C & D Control Demeter, www.controldemeter.com

La crisi delle onde medie USA secondo il WP

Il Washington Post torna a parlare con gli ex soci di Bonneville (compagnia di proprietà della Chiesa Mormona di Salt Lake City) per affrontare il problema del declino delle stazioni a onde medie della città. Dopo il divorzio tra Bonneville e il quotidiano, la ex Washington Post Radio su 1500 kHz, col suo nuovo call WWWT, prova a rilanciare con nuovi format di talk radio e nuovi commentatori, cercando di raggiungere il giusto punto di equilibrio tra voci della destra meno incazzosa (non quella di Rush Limbaugh tanto per intendersi) e della sinistra liberal. Ma è una impresa difficile, dice il giornale, perché la talk radio sta stufando e Washington non avendo avuto per anni una squadra di baseball non può contare sulle cronache sportive come leva di popolarità (le cronache di solito sono in AM). Dopo il consueto accenno al fatto che forse (forse) HD Radio potrebbe risolvere il problema della cattiva qualità di ascolto ("se solo la gente acquistasse le radio", è il solito mantra, mica viene in mente che magari è proprio perché HD Radio non risolve il problema della qualità o che la qualità è un falso problema, che la gente non compera le radio), il giornale ipotizza che il destino delle onde medie potrebbe essere quello delle piccole nicchie. Bonneville per esempio, non va in rosso con il suo canale Federal News Radio (1050 kHz), dedicato a chi lavora per gli organismi federali, e altri proprietari di stazioni AM tirano a campare rivendendo spazi a chi vuole raggiungere le diverse comunità di immigrati.

Even the Shouters Are Barely Heard On AM Radio These Days

By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 30, 2007

The newest radio station in town launched this month with a lineup consisting mainly of shows that have already been soundly rejected by Washington listeners.
When 3WT, the talk station replacing Washington Post Radio on 1500 AM and 107.7 FM, announced plans to feature syndicated talk show hosts Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Stephanie Miller and Randi Rhodes, the only novelty was the mix of conservative and liberal shows on the same station. All four of those programs have aired on other Washington stations, and all failed to attract an appreciable audience.
There aren't many new ideas on Washington's ailing AM dial, where audiences are growing older and smaller and more and more stations are renting out their airtime to foreign-language broadcasters, religious groups or the infomercial industry.
AM radio, the birthplace of the medium, was the core of the business until FM radio became standard equipment in cars in the late 1970s. Since then, the superior sound quality of FM and the dominance of music as the primary entertainment format in commercial radio have steadily diminished AM's attraction.
In coming years, with digital radio offering the promise of much-improved sound quality, AM may become more attractive -- if Americans start buying the new HD radios that the industry is pushing. But for now, AM is in a pickle, especially in Washington.
Unlike most big cities, this market never had any of the booming, 50,000-watt stations whose signals could be heard for hundreds of miles around. And while listeners in most cities continued to keep buttons on their car radios set to AM stations if only to listen to baseball and football games, Washington for many years had no baseball team, and its football broadcasts were on the FM dial.
Sports, all-news and talk programming continue to draw large audiences to the AM band in most big cities, but not in Washington, where even the most popular AM station, WMAL, draws fewer than 4 percent of all listeners, according to Arbitron ratings. Like a shopping mall whose department store tenant leaves, Washington's AM band took a hit when all-news WTOP moved its programming over to FM last year.
"That whole audience had no reason to go to AM anymore," says Jim Farley, WTOP vice president of news and programming. "Strong competition is what makes for healthy AM stations."
That's why WMAL, the talk station that is the only Washington AM outlet to show up regularly in the Top 10 of Arbitron's ratings, wanted Washington Post Radio to succeed, according to station President Chris Berry. And Berry now wishes the new 3WT well "because the more people are sampling on the AM dial, the better it is for those of us who own real estate there."
WMAL (630 AM), once the station with the strongest local programming, now airs local shows only in the morning; the rest of the day is filled with syndicated conservative talkers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

But though WMAL has cornered the market on conservative talk, other AM formats that do well in other cities struggle here. Sports talk WTEM (980) hasn't been able to break into the top ranks of local stations, the Redskins' trio of weak-signaled AM and FM stations have made almost no impact in the ratings, all-news is on FM now and political talk stations other than WMAL routinely fail to win listeners.
Clear Channel's two political talk stations, conservative WTNT (570 AM) and liberal WWRC (1260 AM), suffer from weak signals and near-flatline ratings. Bill Hess, who runs the company's AM properties, including WTEM, believes local programming is important to a sports station, but not necessarily for a political talk format. "It comes down to having entertaining personalities," he says. "Any talk show on either the right or the left that is too stridently ideological without being entertaining is a problem."
O'Reilly and Beck, who are most widely known for their cable TV talk shows, may win larger audiences now that their shows will be on a station with a strong signal and a long history of presenting political fare. Bonneville, which owns 3WT, plans to seek O'Reilly and Beck's TV fans by advertising the new radio programs on the hosts' TV shows on Fox and CNN Headline News, respectively. (The station also has a local morning show with David Burd and Jessica Doyle, who are holdovers from Washington Post Radio.)
But AM radio's future may well be in a different kind of information programming, a far more specialized approach. Bonneville is making money from its Federal News Radio (1050 AM), which features programs aimed at federal workers. Several low-powered local stations are paying the bills by renting out airtime to people who want to reach Korean, Vietnamese, Latino, Ethiopian and other immigrants.
"The future of AM may be one of specialized niches," says Farley, who sees inspiration in a new channel that XM satellite radio is launching that is devoted entirely to presidential politics. In its home town of Salt Lake City, Bonneville, which is owned by the Mormon Church, is experimenting with a format devoted entirely to Mormon news and Christian music.

Onde corte RAI, prime reazioni autorevoli

Ieri Ernesto Galli della Loggia ha dedicato la sua rubrica quotidiana sul Corriere, Calendario, alla chiusura delle onde corte di Rai International.

Il famoso notista commette un piccolo ma significativo errore, citando a vuoto l'esempio di Radio Svizzera Italiana (chiusa da anni, prima sulle onde corte e ora anche su Web, sostituita dal portale Swissinfo.org), ma la sua è finora la reazione più autorevole a questa decisione triste. Che suona addirittura scandalosa nei giorni in cui le cronache si concentrano sulla tragedia di 50 milioni di birmani oppressi da una schifosa dittatura militare che ha già tagliato i fili del telefono e di Internet. Ora che Myanmar è una macelleria con la serranda chiusa e solo le voci della BBC, o di Radio Nederland, o di VoA e pochi altri, possono offrire agli ascoltatori birmani, attraverso le "obsolete" onde corte, un lumino di informazione alternativa, un minimo di appoggio psicologico alla rivolta, il silenzio di RAI International è quanto mai fragoroso. L'ironia del declino del nostro beneamato medium internazionale vuole che oggi anche Radio Japan abbia deciso di chiudere i battenti con diverse trasmissioni, quella in lingua italiana compresa. Su Petition Online sta circolando in questo momento un appello a favore dell'intervento delle forze ONU in Birmania. Perché non farne circolare una, molto più sommessa per carità, per una nuova versione del testo della convenzione tra Governo italiano e RAI International in cui alle onde corte sia destinata una parte dei fondi assorbiti dalla tv satellitare? Facciamoci sentire, Radio Passioni si candida da subito come punto di raccolta e coordinamento di ogni forma di protesta.

29 settembre 2007

Interferenze DRM, a quando una regola?

Cari amici ascoltatori,
il 26 settembre prossimo Radio Cina Internazionale sperimenterà una nuova trasmissione in lingua italiana sulla frequenza AM 702KHz della durata di 3 ore, dalle 16:00 alle 19:00, ora italiana. La trasmissione diventerà ufficiale a partire dal primo ottobre. Il vostro ascolto sarà molto gradito!
Da qualche giorno le trasmissioni per l'estero originate dalle redazioni di Radio China International hanno attivato per l'Europa meridionale la frequenza di 702 kHz dal Col de la Madone, in territorio francese ma sotto la gestione del Principato di Monaco. Una location storica che comprende i due impianti a 702 e 1467 kHz (mentre Roumoule ospita il trasmettitore LW su 216 kHz e quello di Fontbonne le antenne a onde corte di Trans World Radio).
Fino alle 17 UTC Radio Cina trasmette in italiano, quando il microfono passa alla redazione francese. 702 era la storica frequenza di Radio Montecarlo e a Milano la si sentiva molto bene nel pomeriggio e di sera. Il segnale è ancora intenso e stabile, anche se verso le 17.30 aumentano il fading e le interferenze di una stazione mediorientale che dovrebbe essere la Turchia. Ma qui a Milano il disturbo viene soprattutto dal test di RAI Siziano su 693 kHz. Col il filtro largo del Degen 1103 i 702 vengono completamente sommersi, col filtro stretto l'effetto è quello di un jammer, roba che non si sentiva più da parecchi anni. E' probabile che i 702 kHz non siano stati scelti dai cinesi per coprire Milano, il loro interesse riguarda forse la costa tirrenica e Roma, ma ecco un caso in cui la comprensibile esigenza della sperimentazione di tecniche e modulazioni digitali, si scontra con la motivazione (parimenti degna) di ascoltare sulle onde medie una trasmissione non locale ma pur sempre in lingua italiana e potenzialmente interessante. Se il DRM, che richiede una postazione di ascolto e decodifica molto complessa, non ci fosse o semplicemente spegnesse nel pomeriggio (quante misure deve effettuare RaiWay?), col mio Degen acquistato per 40 euro potrei ascoltarmi in pace le notizie di Radio Pechino, con una qualità più che accettabile. E' possibile che l'EBU accetti una cosa del genere? L'operatore dell'impianto di Col de la Madone vende air time a CNR sulla base di un contratto di fornitura che, immagino, prevede anche una soglia minima di copertura e qualità. Se su 693 kHz ci fosse una trasmissione analogica, forse avrei gli stessi problemi, ma non ne sono così convinto. Sentirei qualche spernacchiamento, ma con il DRM è proprio come avere sotto la Cina (via Montecarlo) un bel jammer. Molto fastidioso. Per sfuggire alle interferenze dovrei ascoltare in banda laterale, cosa che col Degen risulta macchinoso. E questo solo perché la RAI deve sperimentare (da due anni, senza interruzione) una tecnica che per ora non svolge alcun tipo di servizio pubblico e magari alla fine verrà anche scartata.
Perché non si decidono a regolamentarle, queste sperimentazioni? Spero proprio che questa volta all'EBU arrivino proteste formali.

IBOC sul lago di Lucerna (4 e 5 ottobre)

Purtroppo non potrò partecipare a Lucerna alla seconda giornata dedicata a HD Radio in Europa. Suggerisco però, soprattutto agli operatori radiofonici, di affrontare la breve trasferta oltre-Gottardo per seguire l'evento organizzato dall'amico Markus Ruoss, il consulente elvetico che ha portato Ibiquity in Europa. L'appuntamento è per il 4 e il 5 ottobre, in base al calendario allegato (il 5 il programma è lo stesso ma non c'è la conferenza stampa). Particolarmente atteso è il test guidato e anche l'annuncio dei risultati delle misure effettuate dal Bakom, il regolatore elvetico nel lungo periodo di test dal trasmettitore di Radio Sunshine. Previsto anche un tour per una esperienza di ascolto in mobilità.
A Verona per il Prix Italia circolavano le voci di un possibile test di HD Radio anche a Roma, entro fine anno. Sarà vero? Bisogna dire che l'interesse da parte dell'FM europea nei confronti di IBOC cresce. La European HD Radio Alliance promossa da Ibiquity ha appena annunciato la nomina dei suoi responsabili e a Luucerna ci saranno nuovi incontri. Dentro l'Alleanza le cariche sono ripartite tra Juerg Bachmann (di Radio Z, Zurigo, Chairman), Andriy Karpiy (del 1st Ukrainian Radio Group, vice Chairman) e Perry Priestley (Ibiquity, tesoreria). Segretario generale sarà Markuss Ruoss, ma l'incarico di Generarl Director con la responsabilità per la brand awareness, la pubblicità e gli eventi, va all'italiano Andrea Sentinelli. Un nome che farebbe pensare a un grado di parentela con Mauro Sentinelli, geniale promotore della telefonia cellulare di TIM. Sto cercando di contattare Andrea per approfondire meglio le idee della HD Radio Alliance sulle prospettive di IBOC in Europa.

The programme (status: 27 August 2007)

Hotel Radisson SAS Lakefront Center Inseliquai 12 6005 Luzern

09.45 h Welcome – coffee
10.15 h Media conference/main presentation Markus Ruoss – Ruoss AG (solo il 4/10)
11.45 h HD Radio global perspectives Ibiquity
12.15 h HD Radio with surround sound Olaf Korte – IIS Fraunhofer
12.45-14.45 h Buffet lunch
14.00 h Value added services for HD Radio Ibiquity
14.30 h Laboratory test results Hans-Ulrich Rohrbach – Bakom
15.00 h HD Radio implementation Jürg Bachmann – VSP
15.30 h Detailed trial results Markus Ruoss – Ruoss AG

IBOC negli Stati Uniti: una prospettiva storica

Nell'acceso dibattito che si è scatenato negli Stati Uniti e in Canada con l'abolizione del divieto di trasmissione notturna in tecnica digitale in onde medie, i DXer specializzati nell'ascolto di deboli stazioni su queste frequenze stanno cercando di organizzare una protesta efficace contro HD Radio versione AM. La tesi, abbastanza sostenibile a mio parere, è che il digitale ibrido sulle onde medie è più dannoso che vantaggioso. Le bande laterali digitali rischiano solo di disturbare l'ascolto dei canali vicini, non solo per i DXer puri ma anche per quel milione stimato di persone che di sera si sintonizza (spesso per sentire le radiocronache sportive) stazioni radio che non appartengono al proprio bacino commerciale. L'IBOC AM ibrido non può oltretutto ostentare il cospicuo vantaggio dell'IBOC su FM, cioè la possibilità di trasmettere canali audio aggiuntivi.
Mi è molto piaciuto questo inquadramento storico del canadese Barry McLarnon, ingegnere radiofonico e grande avversario di IBOC (dal punto di vista canadese le interferenze da oltre confine possono essere ancora più dannose). Barry spiega che all'inizio degli anni 90 il NAB, la associazione dei broadcaster americani, aveva preso in considerazione un approccio out of band basato su una nuova porzione di frequenze. Ma i proprietari delle grandi stazioni FM erano insorti, perché ogni ipotesi di attivazione di nuovi canali aperti a possibili nuovi entranti, era inaccettabile. Così partì lo sviluppo di quella che sarebbe diventata la tecnologia ibrida IBOC, un approccio effettivamente molto elegante. La tecnologia non sarebbe stata vendibile se non avesse funzionato sia in FM sia in onde medie, ma secondo Barry, i dubbi sulla usabilità di IBOC in questa porzione di spettro erano fin dall'inizio piuttosto concreti. Con la onda di cielo il rumore digitale è effettivamente problematico.
Il ruolo della FCC a questo punto, sostiene Barry, è stato solo marginale perché nel momento in cui la radio digitale ha smesso di interessarsi a frequenze diverse, il regolatore ha sostanzialmente lasciato che il settore radiofonico si arrangiasse da solo, a patto di rispettare i limiti di protezione dell'ascolto nei bacini locali. Inizialmente gli stessi fautori dell'IBOC hanno fatto in modo che i problemi notturni di IBOC AM non saltassero fuori, imponendo una autoregolamentazione. Lo scopo era quello di tenere i proprietari di stazioni in onde medie all'oscuro degli svantaggi dell'IBOC mentre il sistema si stava consolidando in FM, dove oggi ha una presenza significativa (ma ampiamente ignorata dagli ascoltatori, che di radio HD ne hanno acquistate pochissime). Dopo cinque anni, il blocco notturno è stato tolto e, dice Barry, i problemi sulle onde medie sono emersi in tutto il loro potenziale negativo. Che cosa può succedere ora? Secondo Barry è possibile che l'attenzione del digitale nei confronti di quel megahertz e rotti di spettro delle onde medie si allenti. Le emittenti più piccole non sono contente di sentire tanto rumore sui canali adiacenti e quelle più grosse hanno adottato IBOC per inerzia, ma non ne hanno ricavato un grande vantaggio. La preda più pregiata, lo spettro dell'FM, è stata conquistata, ma le onde medie interessano molto meno e non è detto che qui il futuro di IBOC sia così roseo. Barry invita a non smettere di protestare, garbatamente contro un digitale che in effetti sembra servire a poco.

Back in the early 90's when interest in digital radio was stirring, the NAB looked at the possible technological approaches, and decided that the way to go was to get some new spectrum and use the Eureka-147 system then being developed in Europe. They championed this approach for a time, but then some heavyweight FM owners came along and laid down the law to the NAB honchos: this approach was a non-starter. There was no way that they would support a digital radio technology that might level the playing field in terms of coverage, and which might allow new entrants onto the field. The only approach that was acceptable to them was an "IBOC" scheme, and the NAB was forced to drop the new spectrum idea like a hot potato. There followed many years of development and tests, various players falling by the wayside, etc... eventually culminating in the formation of iBiquity. There was a problem, however.
The NAB couldn't sell this approach to its membership unless it worked on AM as well as FM. The IBOC approach looked feasible for FM, although it involved some serious compromises. If it was adopted, then the days of having analog coverage well beyond protected contours would pretty much be history. Applying IBOC to the AM band, however, looked much more iffy. Even in the early days, it was obvious to unbiased observers that it couldn't be done without causing major problems, including lots of interference inside protected contours. Moreover, performance of the digital system would take a huge hit at night. Nevertheless, without AM IBOC, there would be no IBOC at all, so they soldiered on and developed both systems. Now we come to the evaluation of the prototype iBiquity IBOC systems by the NRSC.
The NRSC committee that did the evaluation was composed largely of NAB staffers, broadcasters who were NAB members (and some who were iBiquity investors), and broadcast equipment vendors, who were entranced by the thoughts of the new markets that IBOC could open up. It's sort of like having a beauty contest in which there is only contestant, and the judges are the parents of that contestant. Now they had to deal with that problem child, AM IBOC. For the most part, they danced around the potential problems with some fancy verbal footwork, and in some cases, they just ignored them. One thing that was clear, though: if nighttime AM IBOC operation was allowed right off the bat, the worst problems would be exposed for all to see. That in turn would reflect badly on IBOC in general, and could stall the rollout, possibly even kill it completely.
The important thing in the early days was to keep the AM owners from knowing the truth about the AM IBOC system, so the NRSC recommended that it not be used at night, pending further studies. Interim IBOC operation was allowed starting in 2002, but it was 5 more years before AM night operation was allowed, giving the FM system lots of time to become entrenched.
In those 5 years, there was exactly one documented AM IBOC night test conducted, lasting a couple of nights and involving only two stations. Yeah, they really studied it to death. Then we have the FCC... they really lost interest in digital radio once it became clear that there would be no new spectrum involved. They were quite content to let the industry (i.e., the NAB lobby) do what it wanted, and they turned a deaf ear to the voices of dissent. If they really had the public interest at heart, they would have ordered an independent evaluation of the IBOC system, but the days of the FCC protecting the interests of the public are long gone. Fast forward to today.
FM IBOC is indeed well entrenched, though the general public is massively indifferent.
AM IBOC, however, now has its ugly underbelly exposed, and it's on the cusp. Now is the time to smack it good. Some small broadcasters are organizing to fight it, and they can use all the help they can get. I strongly suspect that many insiders knew it would unfold like this all along - FM IBOC was the big prize, and now that's it rolling along, they can cut AM IBOC loose. They don't have to string the AM guys along any more. So, keep those complaints flowing, folks!

Prix Italia, "Toast to radio"

Sfogliando il catalogo dei programmi radiotelevisivi in concorso al Prix Italia ho trovato il riferimento a una composizione musicale moderna intitolata Toast to radio (brindisi alla radio). Il brano è stato presentato dall'ente radiotelevisivo serbo, RTS. Sono riuscito a trovare la pagina Web con il link a questo curioso concerto costruito assemblando un infinito numero di citazioni da trasmissioni e jingle, passati e presenti, di programmi radiofonici. Un lavoro molto evocativo per gli ascoltatori delle radio estere, che possono divertirsi a indovinare i jingle conosciuti. Toast to radio è stato realizzato dal regista serbo Arsenije Jovanovich per le celebrazioni sui cento anni della radio in occasione dell'evento Art's Birthday Party 2007.
Nella stessa pagina trovate anche il link a un altro brano "musicale" curioso: la ricostruzione della prima trasmissione radiofonica di Reginald Fessenden, abilmente "falsificata dall'artista (e responsabile di Radio Corax, piccola radio no profit di Halle, Germania), Ralf Wendt.

Africa N. 1 (Gabon): i libici non comperano?

Era stato strombazzato come l'affare mediatico più importante dell'anno per il continente africano. Ora secondo GabonEco sembra che le trattative tra il Gabon e la Libyan Arab Africa Investment Company per l'acquisizione degli impianti di Africa Nr. 1 a Moyabe, si siano già incagliate. E proprio sula questione che stava più a cuore dei venditori: il mantenimento in servizio dei 250 dipendenti attuali

Gabon : Les Libyens se montrent réticents sur le rachat de la Radio Africa N°1

Les responsables de la Libyan Arab Africa Investment Company devant racheter la Radio panafricaine, propriété de l’Etat gabonais, montrent leur réticence à honorer à leur engagement de départ. Ces derniers réfléchissent devant la condition de l’Etat gabonais qui leur exige à conserver les 250 employés de cette station internationale.

Les dernières négociations réunissant quelques responsables de l’administration gabonaise ayant la charge de suivre le dossier de la vente de la Radio panafricaine Africa n°1 à la Libyan Arab Africa Investment (LAAIC) ont enregistré un sur-place sans précédant dans l’évolution de ce dossier.
Les responsables de ce fonds libyen qui ont pris la décision de racheter la Voix de l’Afrique semblent faire marche arrière devant leur engagement de départ, suite à la condition que leur pose l’Etat gabonais de conserver les 250 employés de cette chaîne de radio internationale.
L’information a été rendue publique par l’agence de presse libyenne Mourad info et sur ce point, le guide de la grande Jamahiriya se montre plutôt très réservé.
Lors de sa création, Africa n°1 faisait d’importantes rentrées financières grâce à la location de ses émetteurs en ondes courtes ultra puissants de Moabi, à des radios concurrentes telles que RFI, la Voix de l’Amérique ou la BBC.
L’usage du satellite par les radios internationales a conduit ces clients de la radio africaine à se détourner de ses émetteurs entraînant de facto de grandes difficultés financières.
La Libye, qui a déjà racheté l’agence africaine d’information Pana Presse, envisage concurrencer sur le plan économique la Chine en Afrique en ce sens que l’acquisition de la Radio panafricaine est une des cartes sur lesquelles elle entend intensifier son expansion diplomatique et économique.

Costi di esercizio, il DMB costa la metà dell'FM

Se fossi nella testa della RAI o di qualunque altra stazione radio italiana mi affretterei a imparare il tedesco o a reclutare una squadra di traduttori. LFK, Landenanstalt für Kommunikation Bande-Württemberg, authority regionale del Baden-Württenberg, ha pubblicato un corposo dossier che mette a confronto i principali standard di radio digitale out of band (DAB+/DMB) e di FM digitale (HD Radio, FMeXtra, DRM+). E calcola al centesimo il costo di gestione di una infrastruttura. I risultati sono a dir poco inquietanti, per l'analogico. Con una rete regionale DAB il costo di erogazione del servizio per abitante costa 7 centesimi per programma. Nel caso della FM analogica il costo è di 14 centesimi. Non riesco ancora a capire se il costo è calcolato su base annuale o mensile (il comunicato non lo dice) e ancora non ho letto gli otto documenti che LFK ha realizzato in collaborazione con gli enti trasmissivi pubblici e regionali del Land di Stoccarda; anche perché il mio tedesco è alquanto rachitico. Ma il dato assoluto è che i costi dell'analogico si dimezzano con il digitale tipo DAB. Parliamo ovviamente dei costi di esercizio , in buona parte l'energia elettrica e la connettività per la redistribuzione degli stream digitali, ma i costi sono la metà rispetto all'FM. Non si parla di costi di produzione dei programmi e LFK sottolinea che gli editori devono anche tener conto dell'investimento infrastrutturale iniziale. Ma se le cifre sono attendibili questi risultati devono far discutere. Lo studio LFK è molto dettagliato e ipotizza diversi modelli di erogazione per numero e copertura dei programmi. Probabilmente la stessa ricerca effettuata in Italia porterebbe a conclusioni leggermente diverse. Ma non drammaticamente diverse.
Le premesse, così incoraggianti, spingono il presidente LFK Thomas Langheinrich, a dichiarare che l'obiettivo è riuscire a lanciare la radio digitale DAB+/DMB nel Land già nel 2009. Calcolando che una antenna permette di irradiare 16 programmi Langheinrich si dice convinto che già in Banda III ci sarebbe posto per programmi nazionali, regionali e locali. Mamma mia.
DAB+/DMB soll digitales Radio ab 2009 vorantreiben
LFK stellt neue Untersuchung zu Verbreitungskosten vor

Stuttgart, 28. September 2007 - Auf einer Fachtagung der LFK am 27.09.2007 wurden in Stuttgart die Ergebnisse der Untersuchung von LFK, VPRT und VPRA zu den Verbreitungskosten von DAB+ präsentiert.

Bundesweit erstmalig hatten sich eine Landesmedienanstalt und Verbände des privaten Rundfunks zusammengesetzt, um am Beispiel der baden-württembergischen Hörfunkstruktur die konkreten Vebreitungskosten zu berechnen. Die gewonnenen Zahlen, die, so Walter Berner, Technischer Leiter der LFK und Dr. Bernhard Hock, Geschäftsführer von Radio 7, eine nahezu flächendeckende Versorgung und einer In-Haus-Empfangbarkeit zu Grunde legen, sind bei entsprechender Adaption auch für andere Bundesländer aussagekräftig. Die Kosten pro versorgtem Einwohner sinken bei einem gut ausgebauten landesweiten DAB-Netz pro Programm auf knapp 7 Cent; bei UKW sind dies heute ungefähr 14 Cent. Die Einführungsphase von DAB bedeute allerdings eine hohe Anfangsbelastung der Veranstalter. Auch die Geschäftsführerin des VPRT Ursula Adelt und der Geschäftsführer der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Privater Rundfunk (APR) Dr. Stephan Ory unterstrichen die Bedeutung dieser Kostenabschätzung für die private Hörfunklandschaft.
LFK-Präsident Thomas Langheinrich hob hervor: "Es ist das Ziel, das neue digitale Radio mit bisher nicht möglichen Zusatzangeboten im Jahr 2009 zu starten. Wir gehen davon aus, dass bei einem bundesweit abgestimmten Start des digitalen Radios vier sogenannte Bedeckungen im kostengünstigen Frequenzband III zur Verfügung stehen, die neben bundesweiten und landesweiten Programmen auf einer regionalisierbaren Bedeckung auch Übertragungsmöglichkeit für regionalen und lokalen Hörfunk beinhalten. Eine Bedeckung bietet Platz für bis zu 16 Hörfunkprogramme; bei Integration audiovisueller Elemente in ein Hörfunkprogramm reduziert sich die Anzahl entsprechend." Bei einem koordinierten Start könnten eine Vielzahl von Programmen mit einem echten Mehrwert für die Zuschauer verfügbar sein. Wichtig sei aber, dass die Endgeräteindustrie zum Start eine breite Produktpalette von DAB+/DMB-tauglichen Empfängern bereit halten kann.
Die Präsentatoren der Studie waren sich mit dem Fachpublikum einig, dass DAB+/DMB der zentrale Verbreitungsweg für digitalen Hörfunk sein wird. Wegen seiner eher großzelligen Struktur eignet sich das DAB+-Netz, wie es sich nach der Wellenkonferenz in Genf für Baden-Württemberg darstellt, nicht dazu, die derzeitige, durch die UKW-Frequenzen vorgezeichnete Hörfunklandschaft abzubilden. Viele baden-württembergische Veranstalter sehen allerdings gerade angesichts der sich durch DAB+ bietenden Verbreitungschancen die Möglichkeit, ihre Programme einer größeren Hörerschaft zu präsentieren.
"Es bleibt allerdings eine Aufgabe der nächsten Monate, die regulatorischen und wirtschaftlichen Rahmenbedingungen mit allen Beteiligten zu diskutieren. Hier sind noch viele Fragen offen", sagte Langheinrich. Ein weiteres Schwerpunktthema der Fachtagung war die mögliche Digitalisierung des UKW-Frequenzbereichs (sogenanntes Band II). Hierzu stellte Gregor Spachmann, Geschäftsführer von Radio Regenbogen den geplanten Versuch mit der digitalen Übertragungsart HD-Radio vor. Die alternative Technik FmeXtra soll unter der Regie von Hitradio ANTENNE 1 erprobt werden. Geschäftsführer von Hitradio ANTENNE 1 Achim Voeske betonte das Interesse seines Unternehmen an einem Feldversuch mit dieser Technik.
Detlef Pagel von der Niedersächsischen Landesmedienanstalt NLM stellte im Anschluss daran mit DRM+ eine weitere digitale Übertragungsart vor. Mit DRM+ könnten insbesondere auch kleine lokale Gebiete digitalisiert werden.
Mit der Durchführung der geplanten Versuche auch außerhalb von Labortests erwarten die Veranstalter und die LFK belastbare Erkenntnisse über die Leistungsfähigkeit der erprobten Systeme.
Einigkeit herrschte zwischen Veranstaltern der Tagung und Fachpublikum darüber, dass die Einstellung der analogen UKW-Verbreitung nicht regulatorisch, sondern marktgetrieben erfolgen sollte; nicht die Festlegung eines Abschaltzeitpunkts, sondern der Markterfolg digitaler Übertragung seien für die Frage entscheidend, ob es sinnvoll sei, analoge UKW-Signale weiter auszusenden.

Die Studie von LFK, VPRT und VPRA kann unter www.lfk.de heruntergeladen werden.

Vorträge der Fachtagung für DAB+ und Digitales UKW vom 27.09.07
in der Landesanstalt für Kommunikation:

„Kosten von DAB, DAB+ bzw. DMB -Sendernetzen in Baden-Württemberg“
Studie erstellt von LFK, VPRA und VPRT
zum Download

Kosten von DigitalRadio – Perspektiven für Veranstalter, Ursula K. Adelt,
zum Download

Kosten von DAB-Netzen in Baden-Württemberg Funknetzplanung,
Bernhard Jamborek, Walter Berner,
Landesanstalt für Kommunikation
zum Download

HD-Radio und FMeXtra Fragen und Implikationen, Walter Berner,
Landesanstalt für Kommunikation
zum Download

Kosten von DAB, DAB+ bzw. DMB-Netzen in Baden-Württemberg,
Dr. Bernhard Hock, Radio 7
zum Download

HD-Radio und FMeXtra Vorstellung digitaler Systeme im UKW-Bereich,
Roland Kretzschmann, Landesanstalt für Kommunikation
zum Download

DRM+ Der letzte Baustein zur Digitalisierung des terrestrischen Hörfunks
Dipl.-Ing. Detlef Pagel, Niedersächsische Landesmedienanstalt Hannover
zum Download

Vorstellung des geplanten Feldversuches HD-RadioTM, Gregor Spachmann
Radio Regenbogen Mannheim
zum Download

28 settembre 2007

Tempeste solari, quanto ci costano

Il potente (e da oggi murdochiano) Wall Street Journal si occupa delle conseguenze economiche delle tempeste solari (100 mila dollari per il rerouting di una tratta aerea) interrogandosi in un lungo articolo sull'opportunità di spendere qualcosa in più per le previsioni. Il giornale finanziario dice che il rpossimo ciclo solare partirà nel marzo 2008, raggiungerà il massimo nel 2012 e sarà particolarmente intenso. A proposito: DXLD comunica che lo Space Environment Center del NOAA si chiamerà, a partire dal 1 ottobre, Space Weather Prediction Center. Non so quanto il cambiamento inciderà sulla URL.

Space Environment Center Changing Name to Space Weather Prediction Center

The NOAA Space Environment Center has been approved to officially change its name to the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). The center is one of the nine National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)within NOAA's National Weather Service. The new name aligns the space weather center with the other NCEP centers and more clearly conveys its operational nature. The date for the name change is Monday, October 1,2007.
Our new name will begin appearing in web pages and product headers on October 1. Some web pages will have an updated "look and feel" and use NOAA web page standards, but the data displays and content will not change. Text and graphical products will have Space Weather Prediction Center (or SWPC) in headers, but there will be no changes to the file formats or content.

Digital Age Means We Must Care More About Space Weather
September 28, 2007; Page B1

A moody, middle-age star, our sun has an explosive temperament. Power surges that flare from its roiling magnetic fields send outbursts of charged particles, radio static and X-rays across the 93 million miles to Earth. With little warning, these cosmic tsunamis of energy periodically have disabled commercial satellites, overloaded power grid transformers, blacked out radio communications and sent space-station astronauts scrambling for radiation shelter.
At top, the eruption of a solar prominence, or a cloud of plasma suspended in the sun's corona. The hottest areas appear almost white, while redder areas are cooler. Middle, a widely-spreading solar mass ejection blasts more than a billion tons of matter into space. At bottom, a composite image reveals solar features unique to different wavelengths.
Space weather forecasters are bracing for a new season of intense sunspot activity that could begin by March and peak in 2012 -- and they worry that outages and damage could be even greater this time because the world has become increasingly dependent on wireless and cellular electronic networks. We are, therefore, even more susceptible to these sudden gales of solar wind.
"We are set up for a nasty surprise," said Thomas Bogdan, director of the federal Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., the largest of 13 international space weather warning centers. "There are going to be impacts on all these services in the next few years."
Worries about solar storms are as old as the telegraph. When 19th-century entrepreneurs first started stringing long-distance wires across the U.S., they discovered that the lines attracted so much electricity during peak solar activity that the system could run without batteries and telegraph operators risked electrocution.
In a world in which even temporary service outages can pose problems, commercial satellite operators are often reluctant to discuss the impact of solar storms on their global networks, but technical reports prepared for the U.S. Commerce Department after severe solar storms in 2003 reveal just how widespread such problems can become.
A barrage of 17 major solar flares -- each an interplanetary shotgun blast of charged electrons and protons -- briefly scrambled computer circuits on more than half of NASA's satellites and space probes. The charged particles disabled navigation systems, inserted spurious commands and disrupted computer memories. A few sensors were knocked completely out of commission, while others took days to recover.
The Defense Department lost control of three surveillance satellites over "high-interest areas" for 29 hours, while Japan permanently lost contact with a $640 million Earth observation satellite.
The geomagnetic storms also caused power outages in Northern Europe and a blackout in Sweden. They forced 13 U.S. nuclear power plants to take control-room precautions, so that the electrical surges wouldn't affect reactor operations.
Forecasters at the Boulder facility -- to be renamed the Space Weather Prediction Center next week -- can offer at best a few hours' or minutes' warning of solar disturbances to their 5,700 customers, often not enough time to protect vulnerable systems.
Consequences can be as minor as a sudden shower of dropped cellphone calls or as serious as the loss of an expensive satellite, said University of Colorado physicist Daniel Baker, chairman of a National Research Council panel evaluating space weather's economic impact. With more than 860 satellites in orbit, the losses during the most extreme solar storm could run up to $30 billion, NASA researchers reported this spring in the journal Space Weather.

Changing travel patterns also add risk.

To save time and fuel on flights between North America and Asia, 11 commercial airlines today routinely route planes over the high Arctic, where the aircraft are especially vulnerable to radio blackouts and radiation bursts. In 2005, 3,731 commercial flights took the shortcut over the North Pole -- 10 times the number at the height of the last sunspot season in 2000. As the next solar cycle reaches its peak in 2012, polar airline traffic is expected to grow to 1.7 million passengers a year.
At the height of the 2003 solar storms, polar flights had almost daily communications blackouts, which required that planes be rerouted. The Federal Aviation Administration for the first time also warned pilots on polar routes to stay at lower altitudes to avoid slightly higher radiation levels.
Every flight rerouted due to solar radiation or radio blackouts costs airlines up to $100,000 and, without sufficient warning, airlines must scramble at the last minute to take the necessary precautions. Passengers may be delayed or miss connections. The slightly increased radiation may also pose a health hazard to pregnant women and, over the long run, to flight crews who regular fly the Arctic.
"An airline passenger going over the Pole has to worry," said physicist Douglas Biesecker, chairman of the federal solar-cycle forecasting panel.
Until next spring, the sun is in a periodic lull. Even so, it can catch forecasters off-guard.
Last December, Cornell University researchers reported, the sun unleashed a burst of high-frequency radio waves 10 times as powerful as any previously measured -- strong enough to interfere with Global Positioning System signals world-wide.


-- by Robert Lee Hotz

For the daily solar weather forecast, check the NOAA Space Environment Center, which offers free solar forecasts, warnings and alerts to 5,700 customers. It is the largest of 13 international solar weather warning centers.
* * *
The Space Weather Journal, published online by the American Geophysical Union, is a new journal devoted to the emerging field of space weather and its impact on technical systems, including telecommunications, electric power and satellite navigation.
* * *
NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory is one of a growing number of satellites and observatories that keep a weather eye on the sun. The SOHO home page features images and movies of sunspots and solar activity, as well as animations of interactions between the sun and Earth.
* * *
Hinode (Sunrise) is a project to study the sun, led by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency in collaboration with NASA, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, and the European Space Agency. Hinode's three-year mission is to explore the magnetic fields of the sun and improve our understanding of the mechanisms that power the solar atmosphere and drive solar eruptions.
* * *
Space Weather Resources is an online clearinghouse of sites and background information maintained by Rice University.

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Myanmar, ancora resistenza via etere

Dal BBC Monitoring Service (via DXLD) e Le Monde, altri due articoli interessanti sullo sforzo da parte delle emittenti internazionali per offrire alla popolazione myanma un supporto a distanza attraverso le onde corte. Secondo la BBC, su 50 milioni di abitanti solo due sono equipaggiati con parabole satellitari. Tanto per ribadire il concetto:

Battery-run shortwave radio receivers, unlike internet and mobile phone services, cannot be turned off at a stroke by a central authority. Nor are they affected by the electricity blackouts that are frequent in Burma.

L'emittente non ufficiale con sede a Oslo, Democratic Voice of Burma ritrasmette attraverso Radio Nederland (relay di Madagascar), ma il sito non riporta le griglie dei programmi e non si hanno altri dettagli sul potenziamento dei suoi servizi.

Report by Lewis Macleod of BBC Monitoring on 28 September

Key international broadcasters to Burma are stepping up transmissions in the light of the mass anti-government protests taking place there. The wide availability of low-cost receivers that can be run on batteries during Burma's frequent electricity blackouts makes radio popular and important. Some 38 per cent of Burmese listen to radio at least once a week, according to the BBC World Service Trust. Most Burmese listen to music and radio plays on the country's two domestic radio stations, while they get their news from foreign shortwave services such as the BBC World Service, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma.
Despite being firmly of the "old media", these platforms have nevertheless been utilizing the full potential of internet blogs, mobile phone clips and eyewitness reports, delivering back to Burma the material that most of the population are unable to access themselves by the internet due to restrictions and low penetration.

BBC Burmese Service

In 2005, a BBC World Service Trust survey found that more than two thirds of radio listeners listen to the BBC World Service at least once a week, with 38 per cent listening to VOA.
The BBC Burmese Service, started in 1940, had been broadcasting one hour and fifteen minutes a day; half an hour at dawn and forty-five minutes in the evening. From 27 September, the morning programme has been extended by half an hour and the evening programme by 15 minutes. A first comprehensive independent media survey inside Burma in 2005 found that the BBC Burmese Service had a weekly audience of 23 per cent of all adults, averaging 7.1 million listeners every week; a larger audience than for any other international broadcasters to Burma.

US international radio

Voice of America and Radio Free Asia (RFA) operate under the oversight of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). Voice of America announced on 27 September that it was doubling broadcasts in Burmese from Wednesday 26 September. Broadcasts can also be followed on its web page, http://www.VOANews.com/Burmese. The new schedule and (kHz) frequencies are: 1130-1230 utc 11965, 15540, 17775 1430-1500 utc 1575, 9325, 11910, 12120 1500-1530 utc 9325, 11910, 12120 1500-1530 utc (Sat, Sun only) 1575 2300-2400 utc 6185, 7430, 11980
In a report on VOA's website headlined "Burmese TV blames protests on Western broadcasters," the BBG chairman, James Glassman, said VOA and RFA airtime to Burma had increased because "the Burmese people are starving for accurate information, both about the world's reaction to their struggle for democracy, and also about what is happening in their own land."
VOA is now airing programmes in Burmese for three hours daily up from 90 minutes and RFA's Burmese-language broadcasts have been increased from two hours to four hours daily.
RFA is the US government-funded broadcaster in Asia. Founded in 1996, It broadcasts in nine languages to China, Tibet, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and North Korea. RFA broadcasts about 200 hours per week, primarily on shortwave. It also audio streams broadcasts in all nine languages over the internet.

Burmese exile broadcaster increases transmission hours

The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), an exile-operated shortwave station based in Norway, aims "to provide accurate and unbiased news," according to its website http://www.dvb.no/ This station provides reporting on the activities of opposition parties and exiled political and armed groups, human rights issues, the actions of pro-democracy activists, and other reports on political developments in Burma. The DVB has increased its hours of transmission to report on the continuing anti-government protests. Al-Jazeera English on 25 September broadcast a three-minute video report by Barnaby Phillips, filmed at the organization's studios in the Norwegian capital. Phillips said that radio transmissions had been increased from two to nine hours a day and that the broadcaster was "doing more television, using tapes smuggled out of the country".
Phillips also interviewed the station's chief editor, Aya Chen Naing, who talked of a network of "undercover reporters" who were filing reports by telephone and said that the station was also receiving many secretly filmed pictures of demonstrations, mostly received via the internet.


All four of these international stations broadcast on shortwave. Their broadcasts are also available on satellite or from the internet. But only about 2 million of the population of 50 million are estimated to have satellite dishes, while internet access is tightly controlled by the government, even in normal times.
Battery-run shortwave radio receivers, unlike internet and mobile phone services, cannot be turned off at a stroke by a central authority. Nor are they affected by the electricity blackouts that are frequent in Burma. Source: BBC Monitoring research 28 Sep 07

A Oslo, la radio dissidente DVB vit au rythme du drame birman
LE MONDE | 28.09.07 | 15h32 • Mis à jour le 28.09.07 | 15h32

La rue est calme et cossue, très norvégienne. Au fond d'une cour, un monte-charge grimpe au troisième étage et donne directement sur une tout autre ambiance dans les locaux de DVB, Democratic Voice of Burma. Cette radio dissidente émet depuis quinze ans à partir de la capitale norvégienne en direction de la Birmanie. C'est à quelques centaines de mètres d'ici qu'un an avant sa création, en 1991, les jurés norvégiens avaient attribué le prix Nobel de la paix à Aung San Suu Kyi, principale figure de l'opposition, dont la photo orne toutes les salles de la radio.
Moe Aye, le rédacteur en chef, est assailli de coups de téléphone tandis que les équipes de télévision se succèdent. Sur les murs, des affichettes interpellent : "Ne rapportez jamais les rumeurs." Moe Aye présente ses excuses : aujourd'hui, il n'a pas le temps de tout vérifier dans l'instant, il s'avoue incapable de confirmer le nombre de morts, mais ses correspondants sur place en font état de plusieurs. On parle de quatre moines. Il fait défiler des photos à peine reçues sur son écran d'ordinateur, un moine le crâne ensanglanté, une vidéo où des civils encadrent un défilé de moines. Des images que l'on reverra un peu plus tard sur CNN, diffusée en continu sur une télévision murale.
Dans le studio voisin, Aye Aye Mon présente le journal. DVB diffuse de 9 h 30 à 16 h 30, heure d'Oslo, tous les jours. A l'étage du dessus, on produit une heure de télévision hebdomadaire. La présentatrice diffuse l'interview d'un moine anonyme qui appelle les Birmans à rejoindre le mouvement. "Nous n'abandonnerons jamais. Nous ne pardonnerons jamais le régime", dit-il.
La radio est en contact permanent avec une cinquantaine de reporters professionnels ou volontaires officiant secrètement dans le pays, parfois au sein de journaux officiels. Ils filment avec de petites caméras vidéo, avec leur téléphone mobile parfois, puis vont transférer et diffuser leur matériel depuis des cafés Internet de Rangoun. "L'armée ne peut pas tout contrôler, explique Moe Aye. Et puis la Birmanie est un pays très corrompu, heureusement pour nous." D'autres correspondants se trouvent dans les pays voisins, Thaïlande et Inde. L'équipe compte 150 personnes.


Le rédacteur en chef épluche ses messages, courriels, fenêtres de "chat". Il relance : "Du nouveau sur la pagode de Sule ?" Comme la plupart des autres employés de la radio, il a gagné ses galons de dissident lors des manifestations étudiantes de 1988, qui s'étaient soldées par 3 000 morts. Moe Aye a ensuite passé sept années en prison avant de rejoindre la Thaïlande puis la Norvège. Il lit, soulagé, un message d'un reporter : "Maintenant je suis en sécurité, appelle-moi sur ce numéro."
De l'autre côté de la salle, sous un grand poster d'Aung San Suu Kyi, Htet Aung Kyaw, un reporter, est pendu au téléphone. Lui aussi est un enfant des manifestations de 1988 exfiltré par la Thaïlande. Il sourit en montrant son rédacteur en chef : "Il était prisonnier politique. Moi, je me suis retrouvé à faire dix ans de guérilla dans la jungle. Et nous voilà tous les deux ici."
Les 1,4 million d'euros de budget qu'annonce le comptable, payés par la Suède, la Norvège, le Danemark, les Pays-Bas, les Etats-Unis et l'Irlande, paraissent bien maigres. Les salaires attendent parfois. Moe Aye sourit. Pas longtemps. Il aurait déjà dû, à cette heure, avoir reçu des images de l'un de ses reporters. "Son silence m'inquiète. Je vais attendre", soupire-t-il. Il se dit que, bientôt, il sera 1 heure du matin à Rangoun, et que les gens, là-bas, doivent aussi attendre dans l'angoisse : c'est l'heure à laquelle l'armée procède à ses rafles.

Olivier Truc

L'urlo delle onde corte

Dopo che le notizie sulla chiusura delle connessioni internazionali a Internet in Myanmar hanno fatto grande sensazione in tutto il mondo, la France Presse ha rilanciato, subito ripresa da Le Monde, una dichiarazione di Radio Nederland. L'emittente internazionale olandese, molto autorevole, ha ribadito che le sue trasmissioni in onde corte verso il sud-est asiatico (attraverso i ripetitori di Irkutsk, in Siberia) non sono sottoposte ad azioni di disturbo e rappresentano un prezioso canale attraverso cui le democrazie occidentali possono far sapere al popolo birmano - in rivolta pacifica contro una sanguinaria dittatura politico-militare - che una parte del mondo sta cercando di fare qualcosa. Tenete duro, gente, siamo dalla vostra parte.
Oggi le agenzie hanno anche diffuso l'agghiacciante sequenza fotografica del soldato myanma che elimina un fotoreporter giapponese come se fosse un pupazzo. Un soldatino in divisa verde marcio con le infradito ai piedi. Davanti a questi soldatini senza scarpe e senza pietà, i monaci e la gente nelle strade di Yangon non può collegarsi all'onnipotente satellite. Non può nemmeno più telefonare col cellulare, probabilmente. E nelle case i modem dei dissidenti sono muti. Come si può fare per farsi sentire? Gli mandiamo un fax? In questo blog ricorre spesso il mantra: "con le onde corte basta una radiolina..." Non è una frase vuota, l'ossessione di uno che si è scelto un hobby incomprensibile. In una parte consistente del mondo, le Yangon non sono l'eccezione, sono la regola. Proprio ieri Najat Richdi, durante il convegno sul futuro della radio a Verona, sottolineava che alla radio come medium umanitario e sociale non serve la tecnologia "avanzata". Serve la tecnologia "giusta". E in questo momento, con buona pace dei governi occidentali che "razionalizzano" i loro bilanci cancellando gli spiccioli spesi per trasmettere via radio parole sicuramente più efficaci dei famosi bombardamenti "umanitari", a Yangon le onde corte sono la tecnologia giusta. L'Italia delle tante missioni umanitarie, ha deciso di fare a meno delle trasmissioni.
Le onde corte ci permettono anche di ascoltare la Birmania, anche se in questo momento non so se le due frequenze note attualmente siano attive. Dopo la disattivazione dei 4725 kHz (una frequenza bassa ma non impossibile da ricevere, in inverno, quando da noi il sole era ancora sopra l'orizzonte) diversi anni fa, la radio nazionale si è spostata su 5985-6 kHz, in genere molto disturbata. La stagione tra un po' sarà quella giusta, una finestra di ricezione si può aprire verso le 15.00 quando fino a qualche mese fa venivano riportate le trasmissioni in inglese. Su 5770 invece, alla stessa ora, in questi anni è stata attiva proprio la radio delle forze armate. Frequenza libera, con la propagazione non era un ascolto impossibile. In questa situazione non so se le autorità hanno troppa voglia di farsi sentire e chissà che cosa accadrà se la giunta militare dovesse collassare.

La radio internationale néerlandaise en ondes courtes vers la Birmanie
28.09.07 | 16h52

La radio internationale publique néerlandaise Wereldomroep a annoncé vendredi qu'elle émettait en ondes courtes vers la Birmanie afin que la population puisse continuer à écouter ses émissions en anglais, après la coupure de la principale liaison internet du pays.
"Cela signifie que notre information indépendante passe", écrit la radio sur son site internet, où elle indique ses fréquences, changeantes selon l'heure.
Le rédacteur en chef adjoint du Wereldomroep, Wim Jansen, a précisé à l'agence néerlandaise ANP qu'il était techniquement plus difficile de brouiller des émissions en ondes courtes qu'en ondes moyennes ou longues.
Il espère que par bouche à oreille, les fréquences de diffusion en ondes courtes seront connues de la population.
"Nos fréquences, transmises d'Irkoutsk en Sibérie, n'ont pas été bloquées et pendant trois heures par jour, nous offrons une alternative à la propagande de la junte militaire. Internet est peut-être en panne mais grâce aux ondes courtes nous pouvons battre en brèche son monopole de l'information", précise le Wereldomroep.
Vendredi, après deux jours de violences contre des manifestants dans les rues de Rangoun, un responsable des télécoms a annoncé que la principale liaison internet en Birmanie avait arrêté de fonctionner.

Shout with Short Wave into Myanmar
Add your voice to the forces of democracy by Andy Clark 28-09-2007

10.00 - 11.00 UTC:

13710 kHz 22m band
12065 kHz 25m band
13820 kHz 22m band

14.00 - 16.00 UTC:

9890 kHz 31m band
11835 kHz 25m band
9345 kHz 31 m band

Every day we broadcast via Short Wave into Myanmar, also known as Burma, and that means our independent news is getting through.
Our frequencies, transmitted from Irkutsk in Siberia, have not been jammed and for three hours a day we offer an alternative to the military junta's propaganda. Internet may be down but via Short Wave we can punch a hole in the information stranglehold.
Pro-democracy dissidents are having their say and we've broadcast the comments of world leaders telling the military junta to stop its attacks.
You can have your say too
Let us know what you think of the push for democracy as people in Myanmar/Burma confront the military dictators.
We'll publish your comments here on our Internet page. Please include your phone number too so we can call you back to record your comments as we prepare a special 'Shout via Short Wave' programme.

Aloha, Richard

E' scomparso a 67 anni, nella sua abitazione alle isole Hawaii, da dove segnalava mirabolanti ascolti in onde medie con le sue lunghe antenne beverages, uno dei mostri sacri del DX anglosassone, Richard E. Wood.
Richard non era americano, ma inglese, e la sua professione di linguista lo aveva portato nelle università di mezzo mondo, dalla Norvegia all'Arabia Saudita. Era un instancabile divulgatore dello studio delle lingue a fini radiofonici (per l'identificazione delle stazioni) e viceversa: la radio come strumento di apprendimento linguistico. Il ricordo estemporaneo e toccante che riporto qui viene da un'altra figura storica, John Callarman (autore della foto del National Radio Club qui riportata, che ritrae Wood, sulla sinistra, insieme a Ron Schatz, altro gigante del DX che non c'è più). Come dice Callarman, Wood faceva parte della seconda generazione di hobbysti di alto livello, quelli cresciuti dopo la seconda guerra mondiale.
Addio, professor Wood.

Richard Wood was probably best known as a linguist who shared his knowledge of how to identify languages with DX'ers. His original home was Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, but as a traveling university professor of languages, he taught above the Arctic Circle in Norway, in the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and, I think, several other overseas locations, at the University of Indiana, at a state university in New Hampshire, at a small private university on Long Island, and at Southeast Missouri State University, in Cape Girardeau, Mo., to name a few as he traveled the world, locating for a year or two at the sites he chose.
He was intensely active on shortwave, AM, FM, and TV DX, and attended many radio club conventions in the '60s, '70s and '80s.
When he was at SEMo, less than 100 miles from where I lived for 30 years in Mt. Vernon, Ill., he and I exchanged visits, and he was one of very few DX'ers my wife remembers with positive thoughts. My most successful FM DX was done on a Heathkit tuner (I forget the model number) that I had purchased from Richard.
Richard was not afraid to express his opinions about DX issues, and I understood that some DX'ers were uncomfortable about that, but I had nothing but good vibes from my relationship with him. Of the second wave of DX'ers who became adults after World War II, Richard Wood was one of the true giants.

A weekday morning at Pandora

Il più bel giornale della Silicon Valley, il San Jose Mercury, svela il dietro le quinte di Pandora, la Web radio che trasmette in sintonia con i gusti musicali dei singoli ascoltatori.

Internet radio tunes in to personal tastes
By William Brand

Article Launched:09/28/2007 03:13:42 AM PDT

OAKLAND -- It's 10 o'clock on a weekday morning and sunlight streams through high windows of the offices of Pandora.com on the fourth floor of a 1920s low-rise tucked away on 22nd Street. Around the large room, dozens of casually clad employees sit at computer screens, earphones on their heads.
This is the face of Internet radio: There's a pool table and a sign asking employees not to park their bicycles in the hall.
After years of struggle without cash and with little hope, Pandora now has $20 million in venture capital and is the third-most-listened-to Internet station in the United States, according to comScore, an Internet measuring company.
The once-fledgling business hopes to show a profit in about a year through revenue from advertising on the site, providing a bitter dispute with the recording industry about copyright fees can be resolved.
At Pandora, almost everyone is a musician, and they're analyzing the music, taking apart the bones of songs: melody, bass lines and nearly 400 other elements. They then plug each analysis into a massive database. Listeners log on to Pandora.com and create their own personal radio station, listing favorite artists or songs, to be played on the "station."
Pandora's software can develop a mix of compatible songs to stream to that listener's personal station using the database, built song by song, mostly in 128-kilobyte MP3 files, during the past seven years.
Pandora calls it the Music Genome Project, a database of more than a half-million analyzed songs. It's Pandora's twist on the burgeoning world of Internet radio. Estimates suggest there are more than 20,000 Internet radio stations around the world with an audience of at least 75 million, according to comScore. However, the top 20 make 95 percent of the revenue in the United States, reports SoundExchange, a music industry group.
Pandora's co-founder, Tim Westergren, a former Stanford athlete (soccer, ice hockey), said Pandora, with 8 million registered listeners and 2.75 million unique visitors monthly, ranks behind only Yahoo Music and AOL.
Other Webcast-only stations in the top tier include AOL, Live365.com, Last.FM, Rhapsody and MTV Online, according to the Digital Media Association. Each has a different approach.
For example, Yahoo lets users set up a station at no cost and offers a more sophisticated version for a fee. London-based Last.FM, recently purchased by CBS, analyzes the music collection on a user's computer to determine what he or she likes, then plays tunes for free.
But, Westergren argues, only Pandora offers free music, tailored to what the listener wants to hear. A single person can create as many as 100 stations, each with a different mix of favorite artists or songs, and share them with friends. There's a button on each song to allow a listener to buy the song from iTunes or Amazon.
The music goes nonstop until the user leaves the site or shuts down the computer. The software slides in music from many sources, including songs from independent and small-label performers. The listener can rate songs, trash them or fast-forward to the next song.
Pandora has signed a deal with Sprint, which is offering Pandora.com to its mobile phone subscribers for an extra fee.
There's one major obstacle, however: The U.S. Copyright Royalty Board ordered a sharp increase in the rate Internet stations pay for songs, an increase so severe that some say it threatened the existence of Internet radio. "It would take 70 percent of our income," a Pandora executive said.
There was so much outcry that bills to reverse the decision are pending in the Senate and House. The House bill has more than 140 co-signers, including most of the Bay Area congressional delegation.
The looming legislation sent Internet radio and the music industry into negotiations. Both sides said this week that they're hopeful for an equitable settlement.
Westergren, who worked as a musician with his own band, Yellowwood Junction, and wrote music for independent films after earning a political science degree from Stanford, co-founded Pandora eight years ago with two friends, Will Glaser and Jon Kraft.
It was a heady time. "We got some seed money and we hired about 16 full-time people, plus 40 musicians," he said.
Two years later, they ran out of cash as the Internet boom was imploding around them. "At our worst moment, we were being evicted from our office, sued by four employees for back pay," Westergren said. "We owed almost $1.5 million in back salaries. We were living on credit cards. I was making plans to go to Mexico."
Instead, he went on the road, meeting potential investors, making constant pitches.
Finally, Larry Marcus, managing director of Walden Venture Capital in San Francisco, got on board, followed by Labrador Ventures in Palo Alto. Funding finally came on his 348th pitch, Westergren said.Pandora's listeners e-mail constantly, and Lucia Willow, a musician, who holds a master's degree in Library and Information Science from San Jose State, answers every inquiry. She said one surprise was that many elderly people are among Pandora's listeners.
"People in their 80s -- the oldest person was 93 _-- write in and say, 'I know I'm not in your target demographic, but I love your station.' One said, 'I'm dancing to the music of Benny Goodman at the Hollywood Palladium for the first time since I was 29.'"
"No radio station plays Benny Goodman anymore," Willow said. "But we do, right along with 50 Cent."