Bridging the digital divide

Bridging the digital divide

When Cumulus Broadcasting purchased the Harrisburg, PA, cluster of radio stations in late 2000, the four stations were operating from two facilities. The stations — WTPA, WNCE (now WWKL), WNNK and WTCY-AM — had been under common ownership since 1999, but the planned consolidation of the facilities never took place due to the AMFM-Clear Channel merger, and nearly two years of uncertain status that ranged from being on a divestiture list to being operated by a trust.

Prior to the purchase of WTPA and WWKL, the WNNK/WTCY Harrisburg location was crowded. With 45 full-time employees in a 4,500 square foot building, there was not a lot of room to move. To the amusement of visitors, the continuity director worked out of a converted bathroom, with his filing cabinet in a shower stall. The situation became even more difficult when management decided to move the sales and administrative staff from the WTPA building in Mechanicsburg, at which time we lost our conference room to sales cubicles and began having our meetings in vacant office buildings nearby. We also had aging equipment at both facilities. While we had no reliability issues, the numerous ownership changes had limited our ability to replace much of the equipment that was near the end of its expected life.

The light ahead

By 2002, the pieces were finally in place to start the integration process. We had identified a new location with sufficient room to house all stations and provide some room to grow, and our new owners, Cumulus Broadcasting, were committed to building a showcase facility. There were several meetings with our director of engineering, Gary Kline, to discuss each of our visions for new the facility. We agreed that we wanted digital technology where possible, simplicity of design and maximum flexibility. We also wanted to avoid any single point of failure items that could potentially take the entire cluster off the air.

I became the integrator, calling on contractors and other Cumulus engineers as needed to complete the build. The new consoles were furnished by Wheatstone. We purchased one D-5000 console for WNNK and four D-4000 consoles for WTPA, WWKL and two production rooms. We recycled several analog consoles and a refurbished A-500. The old WNNK console was installed in the WTCY-AM studio. WTCY programs an urban A/C satellite format so the primary use of the studio is WTCY production. We also had two Audioarts R-60 consoles that were in nearly new condition that we installed in our two newsrooms.

The audio system

In our production rooms, we replaced our aging Roland DM80 and DM800 editors with Cool Edit Pro using Lynx2-LS-AES cards.

As former Capstar/AMFM stations, the stations were equipped with Prophet CFS16 systems, which had performed reliably, and in the case of WTPA the hardware was only three years old. Rather than replace these systems with an entirely new automation, we chose to purchase a new server capable of handling all four stations and several additional audio cards to complete the system. All inputs and outputs from the Prophet system are running AES Digital in both production studios and on our three FM stations. I discovered that only a few stations had attempted to run digital in and out of the Antex cards in the CFS system. Part of the difficulty originated from the DIN connector on the Antex cards. To correct this problem, we used an adapter cable that takes the four DIN connections and provides a single DB15 connector, wired like the Audio Science card used in the newer systems. This allows me to mix-and-match newer cards as needed.

We maintain the digital path as far as possible on our FM stations, converting to analog just prior to the preprocessors, which are analog-only. For the D/A converter, Kline specified a high quality unit, the Benchmark DAC 104. It handles two streams per card, so we are able to handle the three stations with two D/A converters. Each of the AES streams is fed from a single RAM 6×4 switcher, which allows fast switching of any digital studio into any of the on-air stations processing. This offers a patch-panel-free way of bypassing a failed console, or vacating a control room for maintenance. Two of the three FMs are then processed and sent to the transmitter via composite analog.

In the case of WNNK, we returned to digital for the STL using a Moseley SL9003. The uncompressed AES audio enters an automatic switcher made by Titus Industries at the transmitter site, and then into the main processor. In the event of STL failure, the Titus will sense the loss of AES and automatically switch to a backup STL, a Moseley 6000 series with 6000 DSP.

We did not install a facility-wide central router. Instead, we installed a smaller system to handle only satellite, RPU and other remote feeds, as well as air monitor routing. These sources are analog, so the SAS 16000 with expansion chassis worked well. The ability to route air monitoring is useful when the air talent is handling production at the same time. Dual remote units for this router were installed in each on-air studio. Production rooms access the router through PC controls.

Full integration

The programming department demands high quality telephone calls. All three of the FMs rely heavily on callers, so we incorporated the Telos 2×12 ISDN dual hybrid into each of our studios. These, like most of the other equipment that does not need to be accessed regularly, resides in the central rack room, offering convenient access for maintenance and troubleshooting. As anyone who has dealt with the local telephone company can understand, it is much faster troubleshooting a suspect ISDN line when you have more than one unit available at a single location.

We did not begin the integration process until September 2002. I was able to take advantage of the delays by planning virtually every aspect of how the facility was to be wired and plan the station moves down to the last detail.

The first station, WTCY-AM moved on Nov. 15. WNNK followed several days later. The last station to arrive was WTPA, which moved in on Feb. 14, two days before a big blizzard hit the northeast.

During the project we relied on many time-saving devices, such as the Broadcast Tools COP and COA devices for wiring satellite receivers. We also used Wheatstone Phase 2 prewire, with the in-studio equipment prewired and preconnectorized to the harness, resulting in savings of many days of time.


Supplee is regional engineering coordinator of Cumulus Media, Harrisburg, PA.

Equipment List

360 Systems Shortcut
360 Systems Instant Replay
Ariane audio processing
Omnia audio processing
ATI Dual 1×6 digital DA
ATI Dual 1×6 digital DA
Audioarts R-60 audio console
Audiometrics CD10 CD players
Belden 8451 audio cable
Belden 89758 18-pair digital audio plenum cable
Benchmark DA104 D/A converter with mainframe
Betabrite messaging signs
Broadcast Tools 1×2 Switcher
Broadcast Tools Connect-o-adapter
Broadcast Tools Connect-o-pad
Broadcast Tools Silence Sense
Comscope 5624 24-pair CAT5 plenum cable
Cumulus Custom Furniture
Cybex KVM extenders
Dell Optiplex PCs
Denon C630 CD players
Denon C680 CD player
EV RE-20 microphones
Event 20/20 BAS powered monitors
Gepco 552624GFC 24 pair digital audio trunk cables
Gepco 5596 EZ digital cable
Gepco D5526 dual digital audio cable
Gepco D61801 dual analog digital cable
Harris monitor mounts
Henry Engineering Super Relay
HHB 800 CD recorder
HHB CDR-850 CD recorder
JBL studio monitors
Krone termination blocks
Liebert 1500kVA UPS
Lynx One and Two sound cards
Mackie HR824 powered monitors
Marantz PMD520 cassette recorder
Middle Atlanic racks
Moseley 6010 and 606 composite STL
Moseley SL9003 uncompressed digital STL
NEC LCD 1550 V 15" LCD monitors
O.C. White microphone arms
Presonus VXP mic processors
Prophet Systems Audio Wizard CFS 16 automation system
Radio Systems 4×4 analog DA
RAM SR64 6×4 switcher
Rolls headphone amplifier
Sage EAS
Samson S-Phone headphone amplifier
SAS 16000 32×32 Stereo Analog Router
SAS dual router controller
Shure KSM-44 microphones
Sine Sytems MBC-1 Message Board Controller
Sony MDS E12 MD recorder
Sony PCM R500 DAT recorder
Starguide II and III satellite receivers
Symetrix mic processors
Tannoy Reveal powered monitors
Tascam 112 cassette recorder
Telos 2×12 ISDN studio telephone system
Telos Xtream
Telos Zephyr
Wheatstone A-500 console
Wheatstone D-4000 digital console
Wheatstone D-5000 digital console

Active Participants

The facility integration was handled by Dave Supplee, with the help of Gary Zocolo, Cumulus - Youngstown who handled much of the detail wiring in the studios. Lightner Electronics of Claysburg, PA, punched down the studio trunk cables and provided several harnesses for the recycled consoles. Alf Long and Mike Mackenzie of Cumulus - Harrisburg assisted in the construction and the move of the stations. IT wiring and satellite work was done by Skyline Communications, Indianapolis, IN. Photos by Scott Giambalvo, HarrisburgPA.com.

Original Article: http://www.radiomagonline.com/automation/0071/bridging-the-digital-divide/25590
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Kline Hits the Road for Cumulus

Kline has improvised his way to the post of corporate director of engineering for Cumulus Broadcasting

Randy J. Stine | Aug 13, 2002

ATLANTA Working as on-site engineer for Learfield Sports in 1991, Gary Kline had the task of wiring Indiana University head basketball coach Bobby Knight for an interview. Sounds simple enough, until one considers that Knight had just emerged from the shower and was in a state of undress.

Kline was faced with attaching a wireless microphone to a naked and famously ill-tempered basketball coach.

"I'm standing there with the lavaliere microphone, and we have just moments before we go live for his talk show, and he's all wet."

So Kline had to get creative. As the coach sat down in a chair, the engineer gingerly rested the mic on Knight's ample stomach.

"By that time he had thrown on a pair of pants, at least," Kline said, laughing.

While he doesn't count the Knight incident as a career highlight, Kline said it's a good example of how engineers are expected to think on their feet.

Engineering destiny

Kline has improvised his way to the post of corporate director of engineering for Cumulus Broadcasting, where he oversees technical aspects of operations at the group's approximately 260 radio stations in 60 markets.

"Ultimately, my responsibility is to keep our stations on the air. I do it with the help of a great engineering staff at the station clusters," Kline said.

Kline, 37, was born and raised in Queens, N.Y. Early on he seemed destined to become a broadcast engineer.

"I played with electronics and took apart radios at my grandparents' house as a kid. As I got older I could actually put them back together. They were happy about that," he said.

Kline played with an old Teac reel-to-reel deck his father owned. He even put together a mock demo tape on 8-track tape. Then he was told about a ham radio club at the Hall of Science in New York. Kline joined at the age of 12.

"That's where I started to learn about current, voltage and tubes in a radio. That really formalized my beginnings in electronics."

Kline got his first glimpse of a radio station at age 14 or so when he called a New York radio station to report signal interference.

"I called WYNY(FM) and told them there was classical music in the background. Their chief engineer called me back a few days later and said they had discovered bleed-over from an STL. He thanked me for pointing out the problem and invited me for a station visit," Kline said.

After seeing radio studios for the first time in his life, he was hooked.

During the summers of his sophomore and junior years in high school, Kline received National Science Foundation grants to attend college.

"I spent seven weeks in the summer of 1980 studying digital and analog electronics with college professors at Ball State University and got college credit for it," Kline said.

The next summer he was invited to study solar-energy engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Kline says the summer studies gave him an advantage when he graduated high school in 1982.

"I don't know if I would go through all of that again, because it was a lot of work; but I'm glad I did. I had a great deal of electronics experience already under my belt going to college."

Business aspirations

Kline chose to attend Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., in part because of its electrical engineering program. But he heeded the advice of his father when selecting a major.

"My father was a civil engineer, and he always told me, 'Gary, go into business. Be the guy who tells the engineers what to do.' So I chose business as my major," Kline said.

Kline worked for Purdue University radio station WBAA(AM) his first year. He announced and learned about equipment by watching the station's veteran engineers.

"I also worked for my dorm's radio station. Each dorm had its own radio station with turntables, a cable modulator and maybe a couple of cart decks ...whatever they could scrounge up to work. I eventually became program director for my dorm's student-run WLAY. I loved it."

His first professional radio experience came at what was then WXUS(FM) in Lafayette, Ind. "I worked the midnight-to-9 a.m. shift Sunday mornings. And yes, that included running 'Powerline,'" Kline said, referring to the long-running Christian radio program from the Southern Baptist Convention Media Technology Group.

Before graduating with a degree in business management in 1991, Kline had helped build radio stations in Indianapolis and worked several summers as a vacation relief engineer for NBC Radio and ABC Radio in New York.

"My schedule during school was incredibly busy. I was so immersed in radio ... I was also working on several projects in Colorado. It slowed my schooling down, and didn't help my grades all that much, either," Kline said.

He joined University Broadcasting while in school and went to work full-time for the Indianapolis-based broadcaster upon graduation.

"The day after I graduated, I was in a car on my way to Fort Collins, Colo., to build some studios as the group's director of engineering," Kline said.

The company, now known as Artistic Media Partners, owned stations in Colorado and Indiana.

Kline especially liked the opportunity to travel.

"I still think the travel is the best part of my job at Cumulus. That's good, because I'm on the road just about every day," he said.

The engineer left Artistic Media Partners in 1994 to work for a real-estate development company as business manager, only to rejoin the broadcaster in 1998 as group technical director after missing radio badly.

In 1999, Kline received an e-mail from Terry Baun, then director of engineering for Cumulus. It would set his ensuing career path. It's a message Kline still saves on his computer.

In part Baun wrote, "We are thinking about hiring another corporate-level person, perhaps to plan and manage build-outs/consolidations and perhaps be our processing guru. Any interest there?"

Kline said he was immediately intrigued. "It felt as if I was working myself to death ... building new studios while working around the clock with very little help. I was ready for a change."

Broad task

The Cumulus Broadcasting job offered plenty of opportunity for travel. The company owned more than 300 radio stations before a series of investor lawsuits in early 2000 forced it to sell off some assets. The Atlanta-based Cumulus now has 260 stations in 60 mid-size and smaller U.S. media markets.

Kline joined Cumulus in the fall of 1999 and originally did a lot of automation system installs and audio processing for its stations.

He officially became corporate director of engineering for Cumulus in January of this year. He had been acting in that capacity and running his own consulting engineering company since Baun's departure in October of 2000.

Kline is responsible for day-to-day technical and special project expenditures and reports to Cumulus Media Inc. Executive Vice President John Dickey.

"I don't have a large staff like a few of the other group engineering directors do. So I have to get out and do most of the travel myself. I'm usually on the road from Sunday night through Friday night," Kline said.

"I still get a kick out of visiting radio stations and seeing what their studios and transmitter facilities are like. And believe it or not, even though I enjoy the new studios we build, I am especially fond of older studios that remind me of the '80s," he said.

Kline said Cumulus has seven regional directors of engineering who are responsible for their own stations and typically stations in several neighboring states. In total, Cumulus has 60 to 70 engineers.

"The majority of our stations have at least one full-time engineer. Many of those are backed up by local contract firms," he said.

Cumulus just completed new studios in Houston, is building a new studio complex in Harrisburg, Pa., and has plans for new studio facilities in Mobile, Ala.; Topeka, Kan.; and Eugene, Ore. Kline said the studio projects will be digital facilities with digital consoles. However, he said the company has not standardized on consoles or other critical studio components for buildouts.

"I like to keep an open mind for new products or other vendors. I'm always open to new concepts in design and technology."

The fact that Cumulus owns automation software provider Broadcast Software International plays no role in his decision-making when it comes to choosing an automation system, he said. Cumulus originally announced plans to standardize its stations with BSI automation software products after acquiring the company in 1999, but later said it would move away from standardization (RW, May 8).

"We choose an automation system based on the needs of the market. That can vary. Sometimes we simply move over existing systems if it is in usable shape," Kline said.

Planning for new studio and transmitter projects includes consideration of future conversions to in-band, on-channel digital audio broadcasting, Kline said.

"When we spec transmitters, every one we buy we consider IBOC. We make sure the transmitter has enough power for combiner loss and that we leave enough space in the buildings to allow for IBOC equipment in the future," he said.

Kline declined to discuss specific IBOC plans for Cumulus. He said the company would have to examine each market to determine return on investment before giving IBOC the go-ahead.

"I expect you'll see some of the bigger market groups spending money on it in the next year. Some people I know are already setting money aside for conversion. I'm just not sure when it's going to happen for us. We'll wait to see what the consumer radio manufacturers roll out."

Kline is proud in particular of the Cumulus Broadcasting mission statement, which includes the following: "We strive to create the next-generation radio broadcasting enterprise, based on great people and technological excellence that will provide high-quality, local programming choices for our listeners."

It's the "technological excellence" part that gets Kline excited.

"That means a lot to me. I tell all of my guys that (Cumulus) takes what we do very seriously and that they recognize the contributions of the engineering department," Kline said. "My goal is to make sure each of our markets has the best technical facilities possible."

Original Article: https://www.radioworld.com/news-and-business/kline-hits-the-road-for-cumulus
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