Tuesday, August 23, 2011

FCC Ends Fairness Doctrine

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced the official removal of the Fairness Doctrine, a rule that hadn't been enforced for more than 20 years, from the books. For reference, here are a few links to news and blog articles on the subject:

Fairness Doctrine is Really, Really Gone
The Fairness Doctrine Fallacy
FCC Officially Kills 'Fair and Balanced' Broadcast Rules
Off the Books: FCC to Delete 'Fairness Doctrine'
Outdated US media rules to be taken off the books
FCC Eliminates Fairness Doctrine
FCC removes Fairness Doctrine from the books

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tribute to Bruce Elving

By Kimberly Misson

Like my sisters, I remember the games Dad used to play and the bike rides he loved. I also remember my sisters locking me out of the play room because they didn’t want their baby sister bugging them. Dad would lift me over the baby gate and tell them they had to include me. And when my sisters were too old for Barbies, I’d carry my dolls upstairs to Dad’s office and ask him to play. He’d sit on the floor and play with me—but he was a horrible Barbie doll player. He always made them say the wrong things and do the wrong things, until I’d get fed up with his manner of playing and go back downstairs. (Pretty tricky evasive measure, huh?)

My dad was a one-of-a-kind character. He saw the world differently than most people and marched to his own drumbeat. When I was a kid, I was sometimes embarrassed by his radio obsession and the huge words he insisted on using, but as an adult I came to appreciate his unique style. How many people can turn their zany little hobby into a full-time career that supports a family of five? He was a champion to the “underdog” and accepting of people who sometimes had trouble fitting in. He was supportive to me when I became a young mother, and he had a special relationship with my daughter. He had lots of interests, and right up until the end he was active physically and involved in the community. (Even in California, he wasted no time acquainting himself with the community, meeting people, and finding ways to get involved.)

It’s fun to think about childhood games and family stories from years ago, but my fondest memories of my dad came in my adult years. He enjoyed the anniversary party we threw for him and Mom last year & he laughed heartily four years ago when we surprised both of them with a surprise birthday party for my mom. This summer while my parents were in California, Kyleigh and I went to visit them for several days. My dad told me he was trying to make sure they did everything Mom wanted because he knew this trip was mostly for him, and he wanted to make it the best experience possible for her. (Mom also told me she wanted to join him in all of his activities because she didn’t want to feel as though she were holding him back.) I came home from that visit with a sunburn, a few souvenirs, and happy memories of swimming in the ocean with Dad, exploring the mountains, and driving on insanely busy highways. The happiest thing I saw in California, though, was the peace that my parents had together. I remember telling my friend afterwards that I saw an example in my parents of what I want in my future: love, mutual concern, and self-sacrifice.

Radio lovers everywhere will agree with me when I say that a small corner of the world is a better place because my dad was here.

And I am who I am because my dad was here.

Tribute to Bruce Elving

By Karin Clements

Some of my earliest memories of my father involve playing games such as “rubber baby buggy bumpers," “log and an airplane,” and “swinging on daddy.” He would hold us, and we would put our arms out pretending to zoom around the room like an airplane. Then he would get close to a bed or couch, at which time we would turn into a “log,” and he would drop us down. "Swinging on Daddy" involved him holding us and swinging us while singing, “Swinging on Daddy, We shall go rejoicing, swinging on Daddy,” similar to the “Bringing in the Sheaves” tune. He seemed to always have time to play with us. As we got older, he played “pig in the middle” with a bouncy ball with us as well as went on bike rides with us.

Since he worked at home, I would go to his office sometimes while he worked and pretend to read his customers' letters (before I could read). He would always be amused by that. We used to awaken (too early usually for our liking) often to the sound of his radio DXing, which involved a lot of static-filled music, and the sound of him jumping around singing, “All the joy!” He was a morning person but didn’t seem to go to bed too early either.

I remember holding his hand and going to the library with him, where he would make me go ask the questions I had to the librarian instead of doing it for me. Being a shy child, it was helpful to me to be pushed like that.

I remember him reading the newspaper on the couch, and when bored he would read the encyclopedia for fun. We would play a game with the atlas where we would try to guess and learn the colors of different countries’ flags. We really enjoyed that for some reason. He would read children's books to us, too, with
great gusto. Our favorites were Winter Hut and The Princess Who Never Laughed. When he was visiting
me in 2009, he read the latter to my kids. At night we would run to him for “Daddy time,” which would spare us a few minutes before the dreaded bedtime. Sometimes he would ask me to tell him about cartoons I saw to bore him to sleep. It seems I could go on and on about The Flintstones for quite awhile.

When I started playing the flute at 12 years of age, he always took an interest in my concerts and activities.

When I got back from Bolivia, he was so excited that I could speak Spanish that he would go up to random strangers that looked Hispanic and try to get me to speak Spanish to them.

He was unpredictable, quirky, and unconventional, and I wouldn’t have wanted any other father.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SCA: FM Radio's Alter-Ego—The Radio the FCC Doesn't Want You to Own

By Bruce F. Elving, Ph.D.
Originally published in Monitoring Times, March 1989

It has been ignored by the consumer press. The high fidelity and stereo industry doesn't talk about it. Certainly, few FM listeners are aware of it. "It" is a medium of communication available free for the taking in almost all parts of North America—namely, FM subcarrier broadcasting.

First demonstrated in 1953 by FM's inventor, the late Edwin H. Armstrong, multiplexing of more than one program on a single station's carrier was authorized to begin in the United States by the Federal Communications Commission in 1955. Long since eclipsed in the public eye by another multiplexing development, FM stereo, subcarrier FM has been largely the province of special interest groups, instead of the public.

FM-SCA listening has enjoyed a steady growth in the last 30 years, thanks largely to magazine articles showing how to assemble FM subcarrier construction kits and to companies supplying the components and radios to make such listening possible.

Indeed, the distinction between FM-SCA and FM stereo, both of which can take place on the same FM station, is blurring. Both are "multiplexed" transmissions, and both can be enjoyed by the public in large numbers, the difference being that stereo FM is identical to the regular FM program, while SCA FM is (almost always) different from the regular FM station's programming.

Not all FM stations make use of an SCA, but I am sure more would, if the owners had personal access to SCA radios in order to explore the fascinating and often money-making things that can be done with this wonderful medium. SCA can be received as clearly and reliably in the local service area as the regular FM station.

My FM Atlas and Station Directory has publicized the existence and nature of SCA programming, and this led to curiosity as to how SCA-FM can be received. This caused us in 1977 to explore the business, legal, and technical aspects of SCA tuning-in. In the years since, we've offered SCAdapter devices to the public, as well as conversions of radios to pick up SCA transmissions.

In our early days we fought off several threats of lawsuits from entrenched SCA interests who would like to keep SCA private and out of the public's radios. More recently, the FCC deregulated SCA, allowing more uses of the SCA signal, including data services, and freeing stations from having to get specific advance approval before embracing an SCA (Subsidiary Communications Authorization). That term was changed to SCS (Subcarrier Communications Service), with this article using the letters SCS or SCA interchangeably. Canada has a similar service called SCMO.

In deregulating the medium, the FCC utilized our data showing the degree of SCA utilization nationally by broadcasters. In so doing, the FCC announced its intent to encourage broadcasters to make greater use of SCA, and it created a new SCS channel, 92 kHz, which enabled broadcasters to make greater use of their station bandwidth.

The two common subcarrier frequencies are thus 67 kHz (the granddaddy of them all), and 92 kHz. One FM station can send out all three programs simultaneously—a stereo program to its regular audience and two separate programs on SCA, such as a radio reading service to the blind at 67 kHz and foreground music on 92 kHz.

Another channel—57 kHz—is in use exclusively for data. Data includes highway-condition alerts in many metro areas and digital paging. It is a channel not favored by at-home listeners, because it is devoid of talk or music programming.


Because FM-SCA is a technology which is multiplexed and "readily available" to large numbers of the public, tuning in its transmission is no more sinister than owning and using a police radio, public service band scanner, radar detector, listening to FM stereo, or watching color television. Virtually all laws prohibiting the use of such devices have been struck down by the courts as being in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Apparently, however, government can control where you can use these devices, such as forbidding the use of scanners in private automobiles. Similarly, you should be able to listen to background music on SCA in the privacy of your home but not in a business that you own if it might deprive the music company of rental income for equipment to play the music in the store.

You enjoy further legal protection if the radio, even though modified with an SCA circuit, is a radio designed primarily to tune in other transmissions (like regular FM and AM), rather than designed solely for subcarrier reception. Anybody questioning the legality of tuning in SCA should contact local broadcasters for a letter of permission authorizing tuning in their subcarriers for noncommercial, hobby purposes.

All FM stations known to have an SCA are listed in the latest edition of the FM Atlas. The very distinction between who is an "authorized user" and who is a "pirate" is a fine one, and one that even the courts would probably shy away from.

Although at this writing the FCC is unwilling to encourage the use of tunable SCA radios, the FCC noted that the frequencies received by many electronics devices, including scanners, can be used for unprotected communications as well. "Thus, the suggestion that the Commission require that reception of certain frequencies be blocked or filtered is not a practical one." The FCC pointed out that it is not a guarantor of any electronics privacy protections. It is even legal to eavesdrop on cellular telephones, using commonly-available UHF TV sets in the channels 79-83 range.

SCA or SCS is a valuable and relatively unexploited resource available to the public and to the FM broadcaster alike. Despite the use of better transmitting equipment, some broadcasters still entertain prejudice against SCA, thinking that subcarrier use will somehow compromise the quality of their main channel signal. The FCC has helped by allowing stations to increase their overall modulation to compensate for having an SCA, and there is no evidence that having an SCS will decrease a station's ratings.

The needs of a growing population to be better informed about specialized matters will dictate more uses of SCA, rebounding to the benefit of FM stations and the public alike. By taking SCA "out of the closet," our efforts could result in SCAs being included in every FM radio sold in the United States in the future.


SCA's programming has considerably broadened since 1977, when most of the use of the medium was background music to stores. Radio reading services to the blind were just getting underway; they are now found in most metropolitan areas, or across entire states, usually on the subcarriers of public stations. Overlapping reading services can be tuned in in such areas as Wichita, Kansas, and along the Minnesota-Wisconsin borders.

It is a pity that most SCA radios are fixed tuned, getting only one station, and not allowing blind citizens who travel or who live in areas having overlapping signals to tune in all that they could. There is ethnic programming in many major markets, at either 67 or 92 kHz. Foreground or light rock music predominate on 92 kHz. Many stations have an easy-listening SCA at 67 kHz. With the demise of easy-listening from many commercial FM stations, SCA remains the only way for millions of people to hear that format on radio.

In certain areas of the country, you can tune in religion, medical news, relaying of sports and special events, or even AM stations on SCS. With many AM stations having financial troubles, it might make sense for them to direct their efforts to being on the SCA of a nearby FM station than face the prospect of ultimately closing down.

Listeners with radios so equipped could hear the regular FM program and then, flipping a switch, hear an SCA containing their favorite AM station. SCA has a monaural signal with a bandwidth up to 7,000 Hz, or about as good as the best AM stations send out. Its benefits include coverage range similar to the main station stereo signal, and the ability to broadcast a whole new program without having to create new transmitters, build new towers, or pay the power bills necessary for running a complete radio station. SCS is truly a piggyback service.

With the FCC concerned about "deregulation," and removing artificial restrictions in broadcasting, the time is ripe for broadcasters and the public alike to turn to FM-SCA. Let its crystal-clear signal peal out with music and information in clear voice—content that can inform, uplift, extoll, or even upbraid.

To computer activists, SCA offers a world of data, whose unencryption can challenge the most technically adept. Broadcasters, however, know the world of sound, and it is talk and music services which they should consider when addressing SCA opportunities. By offering alternative programming, whether for profit or not, they can complement what they are doing with their main channels.

A public station could provide music on its SCA while carrying news-magazine programs on the main channel. A commercial station could offer its regular music format while broadcasting sports on SCA, or vice versa. A rock station could offer its easy-listening or talk formatted AM signal via SCA, especially if the AM has coverage problems, or if located in areas having high concentrations of high-rise buildings with steel construction, making for poor AM reception (but unimpaired FM-SCA reception).

The fact that hundreds of thousands of folks are out there with tunable SCA radios, as is the case in the New York city area alone, should be of little concern to the stations or the SCServices. The public at large may have some curiosity about hearing the reading service station, ethnic programming, medical news, or background music, but this is a transitory interest, far eclipsed by the tunings-in of those to whom such broadcasts are intended. Indeed, this large audience is something that could be programmed to and nurtured.

Third parties can get into the SCAct by approaching the manager of a local FM station with ideas as to how its SCS could be providing a profitable or meritorious service in exchange for a nominal monthly rental to the station. SCStations are free of such FCC restrictions as the equal time requirement in political broadcasting, although ultimately the FM station licensee is responsible to the FCC for the contracts it has with the people to whom it leases an SCA, and for having a general knowledge of the nature of the SCA emanations, including foreign language or what type of data is being sent out to computers, pagers, and similar instruments.

Reading services on SCA get away with audio pornography that would not be tolerated by most stations if it were on a main carrier, and you can pick up private point-to-point messages on SCStations having tone-and-voice paging services.

To the casual listener or would-be SCA broadcaster, the opportunity is there for a new form of electromagnetic discovery. Not only are the programs different, but the reception characteristics differ. Some stations run their SCA only part of the time. Others run different services on the same channel at different times, while still others experiment with it, sometimes turning the signal on seemingly only for the engineer's amusement.

Even trying to find out information from some SCA stations can be far from routine. Not everybody employed at the station knows that an SCA exists or what it is used for—and, even if they know, they may be paranoid about it and not tell you. Yet it behooves those employed at an FM station to find out about its subcarriers. The SCA may be helping to make the station more profitable, and make possible the paying of your salary.

Listeners should be aware, too, that many a public or religious FM station that may be begging you for funds could be raking in the dollars by offering for-profit data, music, paging or other services—something they're not very likely to mention, but nevertheless a significant source of income or potential income.

Being able to tune in SCA at home, on a portable, or on a car radio is the absolute elitism in radio listening. You are in a class unlike 99 percent of your neighbors. Considering that SCS is sent out with only 10 percent of the energy that the main FM station uses, reception of SCS under most conditions is surprisingly good and uncritical when the receiving equipment is properly installed and used, although it does suffer from multipath distortion and crosstalk problems. To get good reception, place your radio in a spot getting a clear signal from the FM station with no multipath interference.

Until the day comes that you can visit your favorite store and buy an FM-SCA radio, you may have to use some ingenuity in tuning in SCA. It should be well worth the effort to familiarize yourself with this medium—and the best way to do so is with your own FM-SCS radio or adapter unit.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Radio World: Bruce Elving, DXer, Publisher

Radio World: Bruce Elving, DXer, Publisher

Doc Searls on Bruce Elving

In his blog, Doc Searls fittingly described my dad as a champion of the underdog. That applied not only to FM radio when AM was more popular and to DXing in the Internet age but also to people.

Scott Fybush on Bruce Elving

In NorthEast Radio WatchScott Fybush commented on his friendship with my dad:
So it was a blow to the DX hobby, and to the FM radio industry, to learn of Dr. Elving's death in late July, of a heart attack suffered while he was in southern California for cancer treatment. . . .

He was also a longtime friend of this column and your editor, frequently quoting NERW items in FMedia! and supplying information we used in NERW as well - and we had the pleasure of visiting him at his "Publishing Estate" outside of Duluth during our 2005 Big Trip.

Comments about Bruce Elving

I appreciate the things that people are saying about my dad in blogs and online forums. Here is a link to a thread on the WTFDA forums: Bruce Elving Passes.

In Memory of Bruce Elving

By Kristine Stuart
July 25, 2011

Before my husband proposed to me, he decided to take the old-fashioned approach and ask my father for permission to marry his daughter. My father was not a conventional sort of guy, however. When Dave called him on the phone (because we lived too far away for him to visit in person), he wasn't sure what to think when my dad asked him, “What radio stations do your parents listen to?”

That was a typical question from my dad, even as a criterion for accepting a prospective son-in-law. FM radio was one of his greatest passions for most of his life. He had even translated his enthusiasm for FM into a business, publishing a directory (beginning the year that I was born) of all the FM stations in North America and later publishing a supplemental monthly newsletter between editions of his book, as well as selling radios that he had modified to receive subcarrier signals. He also had a hobby of DXing--tuning in distant stations, which to the rest of the family usually sounded like just static. When I was very young, I loved turning the knob that rotated his outdoor antenna. We would say that we were giving rides to the birds that were sitting on the antenna.

Some of my earliest memories are of holding out my arms and pretending to be an airplane while my dad zoomed me around, and then I would put my arms against my sides and turn into a log, and he would roll me onto the couch. Sometimes he would sing silly songs like “Yellow Submarine.” Sometimes he would read to me; one of our favorite books was Winter Hut. Before I learned to read, we played a game that he called “Book Identification,” and, of course, he included his book, FM Atlas, in the game. When I was a little older, our favorite activity together was riding our bikes. By the time I was nine, I was going on 15-mile bike trips with him.

My dad was not always easy to get along with. In fact, he used to declare, “I thrive on conflict,” and he wasn't joking. But when I think of him, I'll remember the simple pleasures that we shared and the funny things that he said. I'll remember collaborating with him on his newsletter while I edited it for a couple of years during his semi-retirement. I'll remember the articles that he wrote for a local publication, reminiscing about sledding down the city streets of Duluth, Minnesota, during his childhood and sharing his more recent ice-walking experiences on Lake Superior. I'll remember the kids' fond nickname for him--Grandpa Brucey. And I'll remember his concern and caring for my mom during his last years.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

I look forward to that time when death and sorrow will pass away. Until then, rest in peace, Dad. I love you.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Obituary: Bruce Elving

Bruce F. Elving, Ph.D., 76, of Esko, Minnesota, died Sunday, July 24, 2011, in Loma Linda, California.

Bruce was born in Two Harbors, Minnesota, April 19, 1935, to Fred and Mildred Elving. He graduated from Duluth Central High School in 1953 and the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 1957, earned his M.A. From Iowa State University in 1962, and earned his Ph.D. from Syracuse University in 1970. He was a college professor, FM-radio enthusiast, and publisher of FM Atlas since 1971.

He was a member of the Duluth Seventh-day Adventist Church, Arrowhead Stamp Club, Duluth Coin Club, Swedish Cultural Society, and Mended Hearts Chapter 104.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Bruce is survived by his wife of 41 years, Carol; daughters Kristine (David) Stuart, Karin (Daniel) Clements, and Kimberly Misson; and six grandchildren.