Largest US Radio Company iHeartMedia Files For Bankruptcy ( 159

The largest U.S. radio station owner, iHeartMedia, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it "struggles with $20 billion in debt and falling revenue at its 858 radio stations," reports Reuters. The company has reportedly reached an agreement with holders of more than $10 billion of its outstanding debt for a balance sheet restructuring, which will reduce its debt by more than $10 billion. From the report: Cash on hand and cash generated from ongoing operations will be sufficient to fund the business during the bankruptcy process, said iHeartMedia, which owns Z100 in New York and Real 103.5 KISS FM in Chicago. The filing comes after John Malone's Liberty Media Corp proposed on Feb. 26 a deal to buy a 40 percent stake in a restructured iHeartMedia for $1.16 billion, uniting the company with Liberty's Sirius XM Holdings Inc satellite radio service. Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc, a subsidiary of iHeartMedia, and its units did not commence Chapter 11 proceedings. The company had 14,300 employees at the end of 2016, according to its most recent annual report.

The Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy Returns With the Original Cast ( 84

Jonathan M. Gitlin reports via Ars Technica: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy deserves a special place in the geek pantheon. It's the story of hapless BBC radio editor Arthur Dent, his best friend Ford Prefect, and the adventures that result when Prefect saves Dent when the Earth is unexpectedly destroyed to make way for a galactic bypass. Written by the late, great Douglas Adams, THGTTG first appeared as a radio series in the UK back in 1978. On Thursday -- exactly 40 years to the day from that first broadcast -- it made its return home with the start of Hexagonal Phase, a radio dramatization of the sixth and final book of an increasingly misnamed trilogy.

Although Adams died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2001, the universe he gave birth to lived on. Beginning in 2004, the original radio cast was reunited to dramatize the third, fourth, and fifth books. In 2005, a film adaptation was released, and then in 2009 came a final novel in the "trilogy," And Another Thing..., written by the novelist Eoin Colfer. It's this story that the BBC is now dramatizing, again using many of the original cast, along with newcomers like Jim Broadbent, Lenny Henry, and Stephen Hawking. Yes, that Stephen Hawking.


NIH Study Links Cellphone Radiation To Cancer In Male Rats ( 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: New studies from the National Institutes of Health -- specifically the National Toxicology Program -- find that cell phone radiation is potentially linked with certain forms of cancer, but they're far from conclusive. The results are complex and the studies have yet to be peer-reviewed, but some of the findings are clearly important enough to warrant public discussion. An early, partial version of this study teasing these effects appeared in 2016, but these are the full (draft) reports complete with data. Both papers note that "studies published to date have not demonstrated consistently increased incidences of tumors at any site associate with exposure to cell phone RFR [radio frequency radiation] in rats or mice." But the researchers felt that "based on the designs of the existing studies, it is difficult to definitively conclude that these negative results clearly indicate that cell phone RFR is not carcinogenic."

The studies exposed mice and rats to both 900 MHz and 1900 Mhz wavelength radio waves (each frequency being its own experiment) for about 9 hours per day, at various strengths ranging from 1 to 10 watts per kilogram. For comparison, the general limit the FCC imposes for exposure is 0.08 W/kg; the absolute maximum allowed, for the extremities of people with occupational exposures, is 20 W/kg for no longer than 6 minutes. So they were really blasting these mice. The rodents were examined for various health effects after various durations, from 28 days to 2 years. At 1900 MHz: Equivocal evidence of carcinogenicity in lung, liver and other organ tissues in both male and female mice.


Future Samsung Phones Will Have a Working FM Radio Chip ( 215

A few months ago, LG announced a partnership with NextRadio to unlock the FM chip in its smartphones. Now, Samsung is doing the same. Android Police reports: NextRadio made the announcement, rightly explaining that FM radio is essential in areas with low connectivity and in emergency and disaster situations where a connection might be difficult to obtain or maintain and where access to information could be a matter of life and death. With the chip unlocked, users will be able to listen to local radio on their phone using the NextRadio Android app. The press release mentions that "upcoming [Samsung] smartphone models in the U.S. and Canada" will have the FM chip unlocked, however I did find several existing Samsung devices with their FM chip enabled on NextRadio's site.

Norway Becomes First Country To Switch Off FM Radio ( 183

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Local Norway: Norway on Wednesday completed its transition to digital radio, becoming the first country in the world to shut down national broadcasts of its FM radio network despite some grumblings. As scheduled, the country's most northern regions and the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic switched to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in the late morning, said Digitalradio Norge (DRN) which groups Norway's public and commercial radio. The transition, which began on January 11th, allows for better sound quality, a greater number of channels and more functions, all at a cost eight times lower than FM radio, according to authorities. The move has however been met with some criticism linked to technical incidents and claims that there is not sufficient DAB coverage across the country. In addition, radio users have complained about the cost of having to buy new receivers or adapters, usually priced around 100 to 200 euros. Currently, fewer than half of motorists (49 percent) are able to listen to DAB in their cars, according to DRN figures. According to a study cited by local media, the share of Norwegians who listen to the radio on a daily basis has dropped by 10 percent in one year, and public broadcaster NRK has lost 21 percent of its audience.

FCC Repeals Decades-Old Rules Blocking Broadcast Media Mergers ( 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold -- potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies. The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. One long-standing rule repealed Thursday prevented one company in a given media market from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station. Another rule blocked TV stations in the same market from merging with each other if the combination would leave fewer than eight independently owned stations. The agency also took aim at rules restricting the number of TV and radio stations that any media company could simultaneously own in a single market. A major beneficiary of the deregulatory moves, analysts say, is Sinclair, a conservative broadcasting company that is seeking to buy up Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.

FCC To Loosen TV, Newspaper Ownership Rules ( 86

The FCC is planning to vote on rolling back landmark media ownership regulations that prohibit owning a television station and newspaper in the same market and making it easier to acquire additional TV or radio stations. Reuters reports: If approved at the FCC's November meeting, the move would be a win for newspapers and broadcasters that have pushed for the change for decades, but was criticized by Democrats who said it could usher in a new era of media consolidation. The FCC in 1975 banned cross-ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market, unless it granted a waiver, to ensure a diversity of opinions. The rule was made before the explosion of internet and cable news and Republican President Donald Trump and Pai have vowed to reduce government regulation.

"We must stop the federal government from intervening in the news business," Pai told a congressional panel, noting that many newspapers have closed and many radio and TV stations are struggling. Pai moved earlier this year to make it easier for some companies to own a larger number of local stations. Pai said the marketplace no longer justifies the rules, citing Facebook and Alphabet's dominance of internet advertising. "Online competition for the collection and distribution of news is greater than ever. And just two internet companies claim 100 percent of recent online advertising growth; indeed, their digital ad revenue this year alone will be greater than the market cap of the entire broadcasting industry," Pai said.


FCC Ends Decades-Old Rule Designed To Keep TV, Radio Under Local Control ( 223

The FCC on Tuesday voted to eliminate a rule that required broadcast station groups to maintain a physical presence in the community of their primary local coverage area, a move that critics say will help media companies further consolidate their operations and even be a boost to the ambitions of Sinclair Broadcast Group. Variety reports: But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the elimination of the rule has been a long time coming and will produce cost savings for stations. He said the "overwhelming majority" of public input favored the elimination of the rule, citing the support for such an action even from National Public Radio. "Continuing to require a main studio would detract from, rather than promote, a broadcaster's ability and incentive to keep people informed and serve the public interest," Pai said. The National Association of Broadcasters supports the rule's elimination, and has argued that it will free up funds for stations to spend on staff and programming. Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said the elimination reflects how the public currently interacts with local businesses -- not by visiting their facilities, but through telecommunications and social media. The rule dates to 1940. The two Democrats on the commission opposed the change. "There are many broadcasters who do an extraordinary job serving communities during disaster," said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "But let's be honest -- they can only do so when they have a real presence in their area of license. That's not a retrograde notion -- it's a fact."

FCC Silenced Puerto Rico Radio Station's Boosters In March 2017 155

An dochasac writes: WAPA (680 AM) is a radio station in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria took out power, phone lines, cell towers and internet, WAPA was the only Puerto Rican radio station on the air for crucial public emergency communication. But WAPA's signal coverage was significantly cut in March 2017 when the FCC refused to renew the license for synchronous AM booster stations at Arecibo, Mayaguez and Aguadilla in March due to procedural issues with the petition for renewal. This decision limited the coverage, signal strength and signal quality of this station for remote and mountainous parts of Puerto Rico where the need for emergency communications is greatest. The FCC audio division chief who pulled WAPA's synchronous booster license decided to retire a few days ago. The position is open but is focused on legal training rather than technical expertise and experience with emergency communications.

FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states. With IoT, cellular, mesh, satellite, social media and cognitive radio, communications technology is changing much faster than the FCC's legal efforts to regulate it. But its arcane regulations leave Puerto Rico as one of the few islands in the Caribbean without a long distance shortwave broadcast station. With line of sight FM stations offline and WAPA's AM station neutered, post-Maria Puerto Ricans have a better chance of getting news and emergency information from Havana, Cuba than from anything under the FCC's increasingly pointless jurisdiction.

Air Force Gives 10-Year-Old Orbiting Satellite To Ham Radio Operators ( 74

Longtime Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: The U.S. Air Force has transferred control of a 10-year-old orbiting satellite to AMSAT, a ham radio organization, which has enabled it for any licensed ham to use on the air, as the satellite's Air Force missions have ended. Falconsat 3's first mission was science: measuring gravity gradient, spectrometry of the plasmasphere, electronic noise in the plasmasphere, and testing three-axis attitude control using microthrusters. Secondarily it was used to train Air Force Institute of Technology students in space operations, with close to 700 cadets obtaining ham licenses in order to operate a number of Air Force satellites using ham frequencies.

Now in its third mission, control of the satellite has been transferred to AMSAT, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, and all government frequencies have been disabled with only ham ones remaining. The satellite will relay APRS (position and status reporting) signals, it will operate a BBS in the sky, and will broadcast telemetry.


FCC Chief Tells Apple To Turn on iPhone's FM Radio Chip ( 235

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pushed Apple on Friday to activate the FM radio chips in the iPhone. From a report: In the wake of three major hurricanes that have wiped out communications for millions of people over the past month, Pai issued a statement urging Apple, one of the largest makers of cellphones in the US, to "reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria." FM radios that are already included in every phone could be used to access "life-saving information" during disasters, he said. For years the majority of smartphones sold in the US have included FM radios, but most of them have been turned off so that you couldn't use the function. Why? Mobile customers would be a lot less likely to subscribe to streaming music services if they could just listen to traditional, free broadcast radio. This incentive is especially true for Apple, which has a streaming music service. Apple said in a statement: "iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products."

Red Cross Asks For 50 Ham Radio Operators To Fly To Puerto Rico ( 121

Bruce Perens writes: The red cross has asked for 50 ham radio operators to fly to Puerto Rico and be deployed there for up to three weeks. This is unprecedented in the 75-year cooperation between Red Cross and ARRL, the national organization of ham radio operators for the U.S. The operators will relay health-and-welfare messages and provide communications links where those are missing and are essential to rescue and recovery. With much infrastructure destroyed, short-wave radio is a critical means of communicating from Puerto Rico to the Mainland at this time.

Traditional Radio Faces a Grim Future, New Study Says ( 240

In a 30-page report, Larry Miller, the head of New York University's Steinhart Music Business Program, argues that traditional radio has failed to engage with Generation Z -- people born after 1995 -- and that its influence and relevance will continue to be subsumed by digital services unless it upgrades. Key points made in the study include: Generation Z, which is projected to account for 40% of all consumers in the U.S. by 2020, shows little interest in traditional media, including radio, having grown up in an on-demand digital environment. AM/FM radio is in the midst of a massive drop-off as a music-discovery tool by younger generations, with self-reported listening to AM/FM radio among teens aged 13 and up declining by almost 50 percentage points between 2005 and 2016. Music discovery as a whole is moving away from AM/FM radio and toward YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, especially among younger listeners, with 19% of a 2017 study of surveyed listeners citing it as a source for keeping up-to-date with music -- down from 28% the previous year. Among 12-24 year olds who find music discovery important, AM/FM radio (50%) becomes even less influential, trailing YouTube (80%), Spotify (59%), and Pandora (53%). By 2020, 75% of new cars are expected to be "connected" to digital services, breaking radio's monopoly on the car dashboard and relegating AM/FM to just one of a series of audio options behind the wheel. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the typical car in the U.S. was 11.6 years old in 2016, which explains why radio has not yet faced its disruption event. However, drivers are buying new cars at a faster rate than ever, and new vehicles come with more installed options for digital music services.

Guam Radio Stations Accidentally Conduct Emergency Alert Amid North Korea Threat ( 50

the_webmaestro writes: A couple of radio stations in Guam conducted an unscheduled test of the Emergency Alert Broadcast System, sending some residents -- already on edge due to the back and forth between the North Korean regime and the tweets made by the President of the United States -- into a panic. From the Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense Facebook page: "The Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense (GHS/OCD), in conjunction with the Mariana Regional Fusion Center (MRFC), our federal and military partners, continue to monitor the recent events surrounding North Korea and their threatening actions. Residents and visitors may have noticed at 12:25 a.m., an unscheduled test of the Emergency Alert Broadcast System (EAS) was triggered from KTWG/KSTO AM. The message read: 'A BROADCAST STATION OR CABLE SYSTEM HAS ISSUED A CIVIL DANGER WARNING FOR THE FOLLOWING COUNTIES/AREAS: Guam, Guam; AT 12:25 AM ON AUG 15, 2017 EFFECTIVE UNTIL 12:40 AM. MESSAGE FROM KTWGKSTO.' The unauthorized test was NOT connected to any emergency, threat or warning. GHS/OCD has worked with KSTO to ensure the human error will not occur again. There is no scheduled test of the EAS or All Hazards Alert Warning System sirens today."

In addition, the Guam Power Authority (GPA) reported there were two scheduled outages, for emergency interruption of power, at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., August 14: "Unrelated to the EAS unauthorized test, the Guam Power Authority (GPA) reported there were two scheduled outages, for emergency interruption of power, at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., August 14 for customers located in Talofofo located along along Rte.17, Chalan J. Kindo, Vicente Borja Dr., Felix Dydasco St., Henry Simpson area to bus shelter by Bishop Street and other customers in these locations."


The Ghostly Radio Station That No One Claims To Run ( 127

Zaria Gorvett, writing for BBC: In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War. It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, "MDZhB", that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it's been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it's joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues. Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as "dinghy" or "farming specialist". And that's it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz. It's so enigmatic, it's as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as "the Buzzer." It joins two similar mystery stations, "the Pip" and the "Squeaky Wheel." As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

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