by Nick Kettman
The Chicago Section met on March 20, 2007, at the Q101 (WKQX-FM) and the Loop (WLUP-FM) radio stations in Chicago's Merchandise Mart Plaza. The two stations are owned by Emmis Communications, which also operates stations in Los Angeles, Austin, New York, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Terre Haute, Indiana. A.J. Bautista, Director of Integrated Technologies for Emmis' Chicago stations, spoke on the history of radio broadcasting and the challenges which broadcasters face today. Patrick Berger, Director of Engineering for Emmis' Chicago stations, took attendees on a tour of the two radio stations, which are co-located at the Merchandise Mart.
Mr. Bautista presented a brief, illustrated history of radio communication technology. The first radio communication was sent by an Italian engineer named Marconi in 1895. Radio was first used to transmit voice in 1903, allowing one person to communicate to many. In 1934, the U.S. Congress passed the Communications Act, parts of which are still in use today. The AM transistor radio, invented in 1954, provided for the first time a way to make radio portable. Today, radio broadcasters face competition from devices which are not only highly portable, but which also provide "audio on demand." Such devices include the ubiquitous Apple iPod and cell phones with integrated music playback capabilities. Broadcasters must update the traditional radio broadcasting model in order to compete effectively in the "dot com" world. This will likely include new forms of nontraditional revenue.
Mr. Berger's tour of the facilities included a look at the Q101 on-air studio, numerous editing suites, Jonathon Brandmeier's on-air studio at the Loop, and the Lava Lamp Love Lounge, an acoustically isolated room designed and built by Mr. Berger for recording and broadcasting in-studio performances.