Broadcasting, Features

Raising the Rhythm

Indian-American Rahul Walia shares excerpts from his experience of being the first FM broadcaster to debut atop World Trade Center

By Anisha Gakhar

The avail of FM translators has enabled many stations limited to kHz-based broadcasts, to conceive improvised ways of obtaining an accessible on-air home for a HD multicast channel, given the difficulty faced by the radio broadcasting industry to bring HD Radio to consumers.
In the country’s top radio market with arguably the most crowded spectrum, one translator owner has been able to carve out a substantial signal for his FM translator W284BW, a 99-watt facility at 104.7 Mhz. Indian-American Rahul Walia, who owns two other radio frequencies in New Jersey, has become the first FM broadcaster to transmit programming from atop the new World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, New York City.
GeoBroadcast Solutions is finding new ways to help broadcasters launch FM radio services in populated areas with a crowded spectrum. This is the case with 104.7 FM in New York City, which has become the first FM radio broadcaster to transmit programming from One World Trade Center.
The translator is enables a two hour long loop of New York City themed songs being fed from Spanish Broadcasting Systems’ 93.1 WPAT-HD2 Paterson NJ. While many television stations have made the move to the new World Trade Center antenna, the translator is the first licensed FM there.
Several New York City television broadcasters returned to One World Trade Center earlier this year, thanks to a joint effort between The Durst Organisation and the Port Authority. “We are pleased to welcome Touchdown Venture’s W284BW to the World Trade Center broadcasting facility, the pre-eminent broadcasting facility in New York City, broadcasting from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere,” said John Lyons, AVP and director, Broadcast Communications, The Durst Organisation.

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EARLY LIFE
Just as every music aficionado swears by the radio in his childhood and teenage years, Rahul Walia also developed a liking for the radio. “Since my college days, I had always been fascinated by radio and wanted to venture into the same. I started my career in the USA by launching the first 24/7 Indian format station. Because that was on a NCE-FM station, it cleared out the way for the fact that translators could be the solution,” he commented.
Apart from 104.7 FM, Walia owns 92.7 FM and 100.7 FM translators that broadcast the Indian format in New Jersey; both broadcast as ‘Radio Asia.’. He also runs a multicultural advertising and PR firm that specialises in delivering to the Asian and Indian demographics.
Walia partnered with engineering firm GeoBroadcast Solutions (GBS) and leveraged company executives’ past experience in developing FM spectrum and site infrastructure for broadcasters in Chicago, Las Vegas and other cities, find spectrum in the crowded New York City market. Upon establishing spectrum and an RF infrastructure at One World Trade Center, Walia relocated the station’s FM translator, W284BW, from its Perth Amboy, New Jersey location.
Walia has been in the radio domain in the United States since 1999, when he helped launch the country’s first and only 24/7 Indian programming radio station in New Jersey. He has never looked back since, and went on to launch and sell many other media companies. He now runs a multicultural advertising firm, Touchdown Media, and leases out his frequencies to ethnic programmers.

RAISING THE BAR
Walia partnered with engineering firm GeoBroadcast Solutions (GBS) and leveraged company executives’ past experience in developing FM spectrum and site infrastructure for broadcasters in Chicago, Las Vegas and other cities,
find spectrum in the crowded New York City market.
Upon establishing spectrum and an RF infrastructure at One World Trade Center, Walia relocated the station’s FM translator, W284BW, from its Perth Amboy, New Jersey location. Until now, W284BW was airing South Asian programming being fed by the HD2 signal of Spanish Broadcasting System’s WPAT-FM 93.1 ‘Amor.’ The GBS team leased its HD2 sub-channel to support the 104.7 FM broadcast. Since the W284BW is characterised by height, it could reach most of New York’s Five Boroughs and New Jersey communities surrounding the Hudson River. Walia turned to GeoBroadcast Solutions to ensure the translator reaches the areas of desire.
“The previous limitations of our Perth Amboy signal have been eliminated since it has relocated to New York City, which has enabled us to reach an essential part of the New York City market. The signal is now heard from lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, parts of Long Island and Staten Island to North and Central New Jersey,” said Walia. “GBS has a wealth of experience with translator move-ins, and their guidance will be key in identifying and leveraging the right format for 104.7 FM moving forward,” he added.
It was a requisite for GeoBroadcast Solutions to ensure that W284BW does not interfere with the Top 40 station immediately to the north of New York City. WSPK’s signal covers the Mid-Hudson Valley and most of the lower Catskill Mountains and northern New Jersey. It also can be heard in much of the Bronx, and into upper Manhattan.
“GBS has a wealth of experience with translator move-ins, and their guidance will be key in identifying and leveraging the right format for 104.7 FM moving forward,” Walia noted.GBS will be transmitting from the southwest part of the tower, which they believe protects the WSPK signal. The antenna design is directional, and the steel and metal behind the antenna further protects the signal from going further north than 110th Street in Manhattan, according to a spokesperson from GBS.

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THE CONTOUR
Walia and the GBS team worked relentlessly to secure the 104.7 MHz signal and make sure it stays within the bounds of its designated area, and without interfering with K104. Ensuring no loss of signal for K104, as seen in this contour map courtesy of Radio-Locator.com, will be the prime focus for the teams. For W264BT, the effective use of the facility has been made easy, inspite of its proximity to another Pamal station: 50kw AC WHUD-FM 100.7. Licensed to Peekskill, N.Y. and using a Class B transmitter from atop the radio terrace, WHUD is 61 miles to the north. The Class B WLEV-FM 100.7 flanks the western edge.GBS aided Walia in managing a fine balance between FM translator owners and fully licensed signals.
“We are focussed on helping broadcasters find new homes in major markets where valuable spectrum is at a premium, and we were excited at the opportunity to work with Rahul,” said Bert Goldman, industry consultant, GeoBroadcast Solutions.
“Once the deal was confirmed, the GBS team carefully managed the design of the signal to maximise the station’s coverage potential throughout the New York City region. This has been a two-year process to formulate and execute this project to support the first FM broadcaster from atop the tallest building in North America,” he added. The tedious task now, is to ensure that the signal does not reach beyond the areas it is intended to serve.
“There is a definite need for immigrant communities to have a voice and I believe radio provides that to new immigrant communities like ours. It is the reason we partnered with GBS and also launched frequencies to serve the Asian-Indian community in Chicagoland,” said Walia.

THE OUTCOME
Rahul Walia’s W284BW (104.7 Perth Amboy) serves the South Asian community as ‘8K Radio EBC,’ and is expected to surpass the New York Harbor. It is anticipated to broadcast from the gaff that is about 1776 feet above street level, at 1WTC. From the 1WTC site, W284BW transmits with 99 watts at 1551 feet above ground level, using a two-lobed directional pattern aimed southwest at New Jersey and eastward at Brooklyn, whilst radiating minimal northward toward WSPK (104.7) up in Poughkeepsie.W284BW’s programming source was shifted from the HD2 sub-channel of WQHT (97.1) to the HD3 of Emmis sister WBLS (107.5), enabling it to heard on WWTR (1170 Bridgewater) and several other translators in New Jersey.
The installation will ensure rhythm reaches regions sans complexities. As they say, spread love, spread cheer and spread music!

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