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Airwaves: October 14, 2005

A Shining Star Passes

Tracey Miller, Los Angeles radio newscaster and co-host from 1982 to 2002, passed away last Friday at the age of 51 after a three-year battle against brain cancer.

Her radio career began in 1976 at Albuquerque's KOB, followed by Seattle's KOMO. Not a shabby start, I might add: both stations are well-known. 1986 brought her to KFI, just as that station was making it's meteoric rise to the top of the talk ratings pile.

Other stations blessed with her talent for straight reporting and an understated sense of humor: KABC, KMPC/KTZN, and KLSX. Her last local radio job was at KABC in 2002.

Perhaps her most-remembered job is when she was paired with Terri-Rae Elmer for (what I think is) the first all-female talk program, TNT (Tracey and Terri-Rae). Think of it: two of the best news reporters in he city paired together for a morning show. It was great.

Elmer is survived by her two children, Taylor and Kelsey.


Jay Coffey is o-u-t at KRTH, the station he has worked at for 20 years and which he has programmed, some say into the ground, for the last few. Additionally, Joe McDonnell's contract with KSPN has not been renewed.

What are the long-term changes we can expect for those two stations? What would you like changed? Let me know what you think and I'll give you my opinion next week.

Letter of the Week

Reader Sam Osofsky writes:

"I have been encountering an interesting phenomena.  I listen to XPRS, which I know is from San Diego. I have been listening to them for several years.  Recently, I have been picking up a ever-present hiss on just their frequency (not present on 1070 or 1110).  The hiss is not related to my car, because I have picked it up on other cars.  The hiss was present for about 2 months, went away, and then came back.

"The hiss can go away momentarily while passing objects, yet the radio signal does not seem to be affected.

"Any idea why this is happening?"

What you're hearing is interference from the digital broadcasts coming from, ironically, KNX and KDIS. And you're right, it is ever-present. The reason it went away for a time was because KNX stopped using digital completely for a while, and KDIS was apparently having trouble with equipment at roughly the same time. My understanding is that the interference can be heard even in San Diego, XPRS' home turf.

That is the reason so many engineers and others are concerned about digital broadcasts, also known as "In-Band, On-Channel digital" (IBOC) or "HD Radio," the trademark name from developer Ibiquity. On a special digital radio, the sound is said to be good; on typical analog radios the digital broadcasts cause interference and ringing. Makes you wonder what happens as more and more AM stations adopt the technology.

What can you do? Perhaps a call to the owners of KNX and KDIS would help. But probably not: they don't care if you can receive such a distant station ... and probably would be happier if you couldn't. The FCC is a good place to lodge a complaint, as they are the ones that approved the system in the first place.

But perhaps technology has a solution. I've heard the same problem on almost all of my radios except for two: A Carver high-fidelity AM stereo (and FM stereo) tuner, and a Blaupunkt "Digiceiver" car stereo. Both use special "noise blanking" technology that does indeed seem to stop the interference problem, or at least reduce it. Perhaps if more companies employed such technology, the transition to digital -- if it happens -- will go much more smoothly.


Copyright © 2005 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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