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Hey Radio!

Here Comes the

TV Repack October 2017

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From the Publishers of Radio World


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Service Outages? Power Reductions? Site Relocations? by Tom Vernon Even though it’s called a TV repack, the impact on some FM broadcasters in the United States may be profound. The FCC’s spectrum incentive auction was set up to repurpose large chunks of the existing TV broadcast spectrum. By encouraging television licensees to move from UHF to VHF channels or to share channels, the plan is to free up large contiguous chunks of spectrum at the higher end of the UHF band. These will be turned over to wireless carriers, while TV will be concentrated in the lower end of the spectrum, hence the name TV repack. The commission allotted 39 months for this work. The clock has been ticking since March and the deadline is July 3, 2020. It sounds good in theory. In practice, it involves a lot of tower work, removing and changing out TV antennas as well as installing new transmitters and transmission line in many cases. Because FM transmitter chains often are co-located on TV towers or close by in antenna farms, they face outages and/or power reductions of unknown duration October 2017 Sponsored by From the Publishers to protect tower crews from excessive RF radiation. of Radio World Shively Labs There is also a potential for short-term or permanent site relocation, along with a host of other issues. Some FM stations have auxiliary facilities that can reduce downtime, or are building them with the repack in mind. Others do not; and the costs of constructing a new aux facility are generally not considered reimbursable by the federal government’s Incentive Auction Broadcast Relocation Fund, the money set aside by Congress to help the TV industry through this process. Whether radio stations eventually will be able to receive such federal help is unknown; many observers advise against counting on it. So especially for stations without aux facilities, the remaining 33 months could be challenging. For this eBook, Radio World spoke with industry experts about how stations should prepare for the repack and what they can expect. Several of these observers also attended the IEEE Broadcast Symposium in Arlington, Va., this fall, where the repack was discussed. They share their perspectives on the readiness of the radio industry for the process. Read all 37 of the eBooks in the Radio World library at radioworld.com/ebooks.

Hey Radio!

HeRe Comes tHe

tV RepaCk


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Bridgton, Maine 04009 USA

- An Employee-Owned Company since 1995 -

Cover Art Credit: iStockPhoto.com/12521104

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


Plan for Disruption, Understand the Options FM operators get their minds around practical implications of the 39-month window by Tom Vernon

These are soft numbers; the analysis was based on location information in the FCC’s database, which has known inaccuracies and limited precision. For example, the database may show a TV and an FM antenna on separate towers with no impacts, but in fact they are on the same tower. In any event, hundreds of FM stations will be affected. A separate report by Meintel, Sgrignoli and Wallace, prepared for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and released in February 2017, listed likely situations that could affect radio:

A general appreciation of the impact of the TV repack on U.S. radio broadcasters has grown over the past couple of years. In a commentary last year in Radio World, GatesAir estimated that “approximately 1,200 tower sites accommodate shared TV and FM operations. The exact number of FM radio stations and translators on these sites at 2,368, of which 1,300 are full-power stations.” It concluded that “FM broadcasters can and should begin planning for disruption now, and understand the options that exist to combat service interruptions.” The National Association of Broadcasters, also seeking to raise awareness, commissioned V-Soft Communications to conduct a study that was released this summer. It found 678 FM stations that may be affected by TV stations changing channels or going off the air. [Read the list of FM stations affected by TV station channel changes (PDF) and the list of FMs affected by TV stations going off the air.]

• RF radiation compliance — Stations would need to reduce power or go off the air • Tower rigging in the aperture of FM antennas — FM antennas may need to be removed temporarily • Transmission lines may need to be relocated • Tower structural loading changes may require permanent removal or temporary relocation of antennas • New structural loading standard — Towers that can’t meet it may need to be replaced • Removal of decommissioned antennas and transmission lines • T V station auxiliary or temporary antennas — TV stations that can’t make the repack deadline may need to install temporary antennas, which can affect radio • Use of helicopter lifts may require stations to go off or reduce power • All stations on the same tower may not be scheduled together — TV stations may make changes at different times, months apart • Facility AC power system modifications — transitioning to new circuits may entail outages for radio • Tower crew availability may be limited, so routine or emergency antenna work for radio may be delayed

NAB – V-Soft Communications

Appendix I d by TV Station Channel Summary of FM Stations Affecte Changes in Repacking TV (Channel)

FM (Channel)

WSFA-D (12) WHLW (282) WZHT (289) WCOV-TV (20) WHLW (282) WZHT (289) WMPV-TV (20)

WTKX-FM (268) WMEZ (231) WXBM-FM (274) WRGV (297)

WJMY-CD (25)

WTUG-FM (225) WFFN (237)

WKRG-TV (27) WHIL (217) WRKH (241) WABD (248) WMXC (260) WTTO-D (28) WPYA (247) WBHK (254) WZZK-FM (284) WERC-FM (288) WBPT (295) WUHT (299) WLGA-D (30) WVRK (275) WEAC-CD (34N)

WVOK-FM (250)

WABM-D (36) WPYA (247) WBHK (254) WZZK-FM (284)

Summary of FM Stations Affected by



Montgomery Luverne Troy Montgomery


Luverne Troy Mobile Pensacola Pensacola Milton Pensacola Demopolis Northport Coaling Mobile Mobile Mobile Mobile Mobile Homewood Gardendale Warrior Birmingham Hoover Homewood Birmingham Opelika Columbus Jacksonville Oxford Birmingham Gardendale Warrior Birmingham

TV Channel Changes for Repacking

Facility ID 13993 6655 8649 73642 6655 8649 60827 61243 73256 32946 63931 30283 54796 54797 73187 61999 53142 70657 8696 74138 71417 65227 48724 62278 5355 6401 11113 39457 64338 73609 16820 71417 65227 48724

There are further questions raised by other observers. Paul Rotella, president and CEO of the New Jersey

- 4/21/2017 - Page 1 of 37

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


A circularly polarized television antenna is hoisted from ground level for a top-mounted installation at WEHT in Henderson, Ky. Courtesy: ERI

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


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An FCC bar chart shows the 10 phases of the TV repack transition timeline.

Liebisch says such groups are planning and budgeting for off-site or alternate tower facilities for their FMs. “Those without a close relationship to a shared TV tenant are a bit further behind and may not yet have a plan,” Liebisch said. “It could be that they are underestimating the impact, thinking a simple power reduction will be all that is necessary.” Keith Pelletier, vice president and general manager of Dielectric, agreed that “cross-owners” are most aware. “These groups have comprehensive plans in place, and keeping FM stations on the air during the repack is at the forefront of their minds.” They are preparing new auxiliary systems lower on towers or on adjacent structures; they are scheduling maintenance on existing FM arrays including system sweeps. “However, the level of preparation across all stations vary greatly; some are in the wait-and-see mode,” he said. “It is Dielectric’s belief that a lot of structural studies have yet to be completed.” Dielectric has produced some 2,000 television proposals and is in final stages on maximizations. “Structural analysis have to be completed quickly to meet the FCC 39-month window.” The company is deploying low-power FM antennas and also is producing a large broadband auxiliary array that will be used during tower maintenance and allow multiple stations to remain on-air during tower work. Angela Gillespie, vice president of Shively Labs, said customers are finding creative ways to address some of the issues.

Broadcasters Association, wrote in an email to Radio World: “First and foremost is the public safety issue. We have a situation where several TV and radio stations in the same market might be off the air at the same time. What happens if there is an EAS alert? What if one of those is the EAS primary station?” A second concern, Rotella said, is ratings. “How will PPM be affected? What if some stations are off the air or at reduced power while others are not? How accurate will these ratings be? Is any kind of notification going to be sent out?” Finally, Rotella wondered about unforeseen interference issues. “When everything comes back on line, there may be interference problems. If these can’t be resolved quickly, some stations may need to remain dark longer than expected as these issues are worked out.” Such direct and unintended effects on radio led Rotella to add his voice to those advocating for a reimbursement program for radio similar to what has been set up for television. “OPPORTUNITY TO START FRESH”

In the thick of all this are RF equipment manufacturers and tower companies. We checked with several to ask whether and how their customers are preparing. Not surprisingly, vendors say, broadcasters who own both TV and FM stations appear to be most on top of the situation. Nautel Eastern Regional Sales Manager Gary

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


have the additional crews available to address this bubble in work load as the repack progresses,” said Harland. He believes that completing all work within the schedule is an achievable goal for the industry. Site preparation is an important but often overlooked part of the process, according to Harland. “It’s very important to make sure the site is ready before a tower crew arrives. That means ensuring that the anchor points aren’t overgrown, and that there aren’t weeds, vines or trees growing on or in the guy wires. Also, the road needs to be in good repair and accessible to any large vehicles that the crew may need to bring onto the site.” He said these problems are more common than one might expect because engineers don’t spend as much time at transmitter sites as they once did.

“A group of five FMs pooled their resources and have ordered a permanent auxiliary master antenna system from us with panel antennas and a combiner. Also, we’ve had two stations go together and order a broadband, low-power antenna and combiner, which may or may not be permanent, depending on how tower logistics and the rent work out.” While some stations may see the repack as an unwelcome financial and logistical burden, Gillespie said there can be a more positive, opportunistic perspective as well. “For stations with aging antennas and transmission line, this would certainly be an opportunity to start fresh. Many stations have antennas that have been up for 20+ years, so there is definitely a replacement market. On the minus side, when stations with directional antennas move, there are significant site survey, consulting and engineering expenses to contend with.”


— Angela Gillespie, Shively Labs

After attending the recent IEEE Broadcast Symposium conference, Jim Stenberg, principal engineer, RF broadcast for American Tower, said, “Most of the TV groups are well-prepared at this point, but some may be holding back until the FCC releases the funding.” (The first money was released in mid-October, though it was not clear when TV stations would receive those checks.) “The other

Being prepared is key; Gillespie too senses a stratification in response from broadcasters. “Most of the large groups started planning for this and building auxiliary sites about two years ago. In smaller markets, a lot of independent stations are still struggling to figure it out. Many are also waiting till the last moment to spend the money. Some are hoping that some sort of federal funding may become available. “We’re geared up to turn antennas around for customers pretty quickly, but I would be concerned about the availability of tower crews, transmission line and other supplies in the middle of crunch time.” According to Bill Harland, vice president of marketing for ERI, whether FMs are forced to relocate depends to a large degree on the affected TV station’s channel assignment. “Stations moving to a higher frequency will most likely be using a smaller, lighter antenna, so that lightened load demands may work in their favor. On the other hand, a move to a lower frequency will typically bring with it a larger, heavier antenna, and it is within the realm of possibility that FM antennas will need to be removed from the tower permanently to accommodate the higher load factor.” With 33 months left to complete the TV repack, will tower crews be available for other radio work, if needed, over the next several years? “At ERI, we have expanded our tower business, and

This Burk Technology Jet Active flowchart was used to create a means to shut off a main transmitter and switch to an aux at a different location; remote control systems at each site perform the transfer via IP network.

For stations with aging antennas and transmission line, this would certainly be an opportunity to start fresh.

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


“It’s not just about adding or removing antennas from a tower and then calculating the load. You can actually remove an antenna from a tower, and have it fail a structural analysis. Guyed towers are complex systems, and safe loading has more to do with where antennas are placed in relation to the guys.” For towers less than 1,000 feet that are not overly complex, American Tower uses internal computer simulations and modeling, and the results are interpreted by the company’s structural engineers. Towers greater than 1,000 feet in height or with highly complex loading can be even more difficult to analyze; to determine safe loads for those structures, outside firms with specific broadcast antenna experience are called in. Another concern is whether there will be enough tower crews to handle other radio station work over the next several years. Stenberg didn’t speculate on that but said, “There are very few qualified rigging companies that can work on tall and/or complex broadcast towers. Only those that meet ATC’s rigorous safety standards are allowed to work at our sites.”

issue that has yet to play out is maximization.” While the FCC assigned TV stations new channels and power levels, there is a one-month window, ending Nov. 3, 2017, when stations can apply to increase power and change patterns. If these changes don’t create interference with other stations, they are likely to be approved by the FCC. On the other hand, if two or more stations submit proposals that will result in interference between their signals, the dispute will need to be arbitrated. Until the dust settles on this maximization process, said Stenberg, TV stations are likely to hold off on purchase of transmitters, antennas and transmission line. This additional bureaucratic delay only adds more fuel to the burning question of whether all the TV repack work can be completed in the months that have been set aside. Many sources contacted by Radio World for this story, including Stenberg, refused to speculate on that point.

Build an off-site aux now, don’t wait for the money to show up, because it may not happen.


Large radio companies have been preparing for the repack for some time; yet challenges remain in planning, logistics and uncertainty about reimbursement. Conrad Trautmann, senior vice president, technology for Cumulus Media, said the work started with list-making. “We’ve studied all of our FMs to see which ones are co-located at TV station sites and could be impacted. Armed with that list, our regional engineering directors are working with our markets to initiate conversations with their TV station counterparts to determine what their plan is. From those conversations, we will assess the overall impact to the company. We’re in the process of doing this right now,” he said in October. Given that repack-related expenses may be both considerable and unavoidable, how will engineering projects planned for the next few years be affected? “If we have to dedicate capital to build auxiliary tower sites to remain on the air, it will cause us to defer other capital requests in order to remain within budget,” Trautmann said. With a large number of moving parts and players involved with tower work, good communications and teamwork are essential. “I’d like to see committees coordinating things at the local level. Given that this is a television station initiative, it would be nice if they took the lead on setting up those committees.” Given the current work force in the tower industry, Trautmann is uncertain whether the window will be sufficient to take care of the needs of both TV and radio stations. “I have no idea, since I really don’t have a clear picture of the total scope of work necessary industry

— Jim Stenberg, American Tower

Out of the 987 TV stations involved in the repack, Stenberg says, American Tower has 218 of them on 133 towers. “We’re geared up. We’ve got about 30 people on our repack team, and we’ve also hired additional general contractors and tower crews.” He expects its work load to peak next year. Stenberg offers two key points for radio broadcasters. “First, build an off-site aux now, don’t wait for the money to show up, because it may not happen.” Second, cooperate with fellow broadcasters, even the ones you usually consider your competitors. “Don’t ignore those who ask for your cooperation; there may well be benefits for you down the road.” A frequently asked question is how many of the affected towers have been brought up to the current “G” standard. Stenberg has no exact numbers but said, “Many broadcast towers probably have not, however we work hard to bring ours up to the current standard whenever loading changes are made. This is a localityby-locality issue. Some localities are not yet required to be up to that standard. I anticipate that many, if not all towers will require some level of work to be brought up to code.” He sought to dispel one popular conception about tower loading.

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


So... just how long can your FM station afford to be off-air? Worried about how the TV Repack will affect your FM station? ...we can help! Are you likely to be ‘temporarily’ displaced? Need an AUX antenna? ...we can help! Looking for a manufacturer who values your FM station, regardless of power level? ...we can help!

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Bridgton, Maine 04009 USA

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main transmitter site. But if your goal is to stay on the air during repack outages, that might not be a good plan, and you’ll need to pick an alternate site. This has the added advantage down the road of keeping your signal on the air during tower work, power outages or other emergencies at the main site.” An auxiliary transmitter site must meet a few criteria. “The coverage pattern of the aux site must replicate or be less than what is licensed for the main site. As a practical matter, you also want to put a solid signal into your core listening area.” After that comes the usual RF study, filing with the FCC for a construction permit and finally equipment installation and testing. Beyond that, there are the financial considerations. Siegler agrees that stations may well not be reimbursed for this work and should expect to absorb all costs incurred. This must be balanced with the direct impacts

wide. Does anyone have that visibility at this stage?” Given its current financial constraints, we asked how Cumulus will finance costs associated with the repack on their facilities, particularly if Congress doesn’t step up with additional funding. “As we do with all of our other business decisions, we will prioritize how we allocate our capital funds to minimize any negative impact to our business.” PLANNING AUX SITES

Dave Siegler is vice president, technical operations for Cox Media; he spoke about repack considerations at the fall Radio Show in Austin, Texas. He said it’s not too late for most stations to get an aux site ready in time. “It really depends which phase of the repack your market is located in. The first step is to find a site. Often, the auxiliary transmitter and antenna are located at the

A Shively 10-bay 6810 FM antenna is on the test rack at the company’s Bridgeton, Maine, facilities.

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


A TV antenna is shown with an FM mounted beside it. Courtesy Dielectric.

of the repack. “You need to ask: ‘If I’m off the air for two weeks, how much revenue will I lose in terms of advertising dollars?’ And balance that against the costs of constructing an auxiliary site. But there is also the more intangible cost of the impact on your listeners. For example, ‘If we are off the air for two weeks, and our listeners tune in to a competitor, how many of them will come back when we return, how many will we lose, and how much might that cost us in terms of ratings and lost advertising dollars down the road?’” Construction of an auxiliary transmitter site at a different location from the main usually entails, among other things, expanding the remote control system. One of the big concerns is being able to switch seamlessly between transmitters at the two sites so that there are no outages of signal. Chuck Alexander, executive vice president at Burk Technology, said there are basically two ways to accomplish this. “Some of our customers want to be in charge of the switching. They want the remote control to send them a text message that the main is off, and then they can access the remote control via smartphone, tablet, PC or touch tone phone and make the switch themselves. Others want the process to be entirely automated so there is an immediate response, and they just get a message afterwards that the switch has taken place. Remote controls at different locations typically talk to each other via an IP connection.” In the case of Burk users, the control path can be designed using Jet Active to create flowcharts. Broadcasters can design a range of automatic functions by drawing flowcharts to describe how the remote control should respond to different conditions.

reluctance on their part to move forward until the financial picture is more certain.” Weller is confident that most TV broadcasters will be able to complete the repack process in a reasonable timeframe. But, he cautions, “We might expect that about 15 percent will miss the deadlines for reasons that are out of their control. For example, any delays early in the process can have a rippling effect that will cascade down the line.” While the funds for TV are still in limbo, Weller urges radio broadcasters not to give up on financial assistance. “The NAB has been advocating for increased funding so that impacted FMs will be covered. There is support for this idea on Capitol Hill, and bills have been drafted in both the House and Senate,” he said in October. “How quickly they will move forward remains uncertain.” While the bulk of the tower work will be complete at the end of the TV repack, Weller cautions that there may be some aftershocks. “Over 100 TV stations either turned in their licenses or elected to share a channel with another broadcaster. Many of these antennas will need to be removed from the towers. This work is less time-critical than the repack, and so hopefully it can be scheduled during overnights or at times that will be less disruptive to radio.”


Bob Weller, NAB’s vice president of spectrum policy and co-chair of the IEEE Broadcast Symposium, feels the industry is generally well prepared for the TV repack. “However, a big concern expressed at the show was money. The FCC has yet to release any of the repack funds. [TV] stations have submitted their requests by the July deadline, and three months have gone by since then. Right now, it appears that they will get about 50 percent of the funds they have requested in the initial allocation. “At the same time, these stations will face significant cash outlays for antennas and transmitters at the start of the repack process, with no idea of when they will be reimbursed, or for how much. There is clearly a

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


Nautel FM transmitters.

Very soon after the repack work is complete for TV, and even before, cellular companies will be installing their new 600 MHz antennas on some of those towers. “Most of these cellular antennas will be located well below radio and TV gear, so any impact from tower work should be minimal. There is however the possibility of harmonics from FM stations causing interference to the cellular 600 MHz receivers, either actively or passively (in the 600 MHz receivers) and those issues will need to be resolved.” Of course, the impact of the TV repack will be felt differently across the country. “As you might expect, the states with the largest number of TV stations have the most FM impacts: Florida, California, New York, Texas all have more than 30 FM stations affected,” Weller said. “On the other hand, there are seven states with no expected impacts: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wyoming.” When it comes time for tower riggers to work on antennas, nearby FMs will need to sign off or at least significantly reduce their power. Weller noted how the human body responds to exposure to a strong RF field. Heating of the body is the established effect at high levels. Tower rigging is hard work, and is already stressful on the body, so avoiding the added stress of high-level RF exposure is important as a safety matter as well as being a legal requirement.


An often-overlooked aspect of the repack is informing the public about how their viewing and listening experiences will be affected. Michelle Lehman, NAB’s executive vice president of marketing, said, “Recently, the NAB launched a website to help inform consumers of the upcoming spectrum repacking process, TVAnswers.org. We’ve sent all our TV stations messaging tools to help them communicate the upcoming frequency moves to their viewers. In early 2018, we plan to release both TV and radio spots that stations can customize and use to educate consumers. “This is a very complex process, so NAB’s goal is to give our stations the tools they need to simply and effectively communicate what is happening.” Dennis Wallace at Meintel, Sgrinoli & Wallace noted interest in the repack at the IEEE event. “We had about 170 in attendance for some good conversations and presentations. The TV repack is really a complicated and difficult topic. One of our biggest challenges that we as engineers face is putting key ideas across to the decision makers, who often don’t have a technical background.” He noted that the timetable for the repack has been laid out by the FCC, which in turn, drives scheduling for much of the tower work. Wallace cautions stations to expect to be affected. “There are no exceptions for special circumstances built into all this. That means, if you’re a public radio

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack Radio World | October 2017


station with a fund drive scheduled for the week you need to be on low power, it probably won’t be a good fund drive. If you’re a commercial station in the middle of ratings when you need to sign off or reduce power, you’re probably not going to shine in the ratings.” All the regulations regarding protection for stations on Channel 6 are still on the books, and some see that as yet another wrinkle in the TV repack process, especially for public radio stations on the low end of the FM band. But Wallace said this is really not a big deal. “After the repack, there will be

on the radio side think that the repack is a TV issue so ‘those guys’ should start the dialogue. If the TV station is also your landlord, they may be thinking that they own the tower, and will just turn radio off when it’s time to work. “If you don’t want to get a call in the middle of the night saying your station is going to be shut down in 30 minutes, you need to set aside your expectations and past history and make the first move.” Even though the TV repack American Tower’s Atlanta Briarcliff site. deadline is over two years away, political pressure is already being placed on the FCC to hold firm to the timetable. As reported by Radio World’s sister publication If you don’t want to get a call in Broadcasting & Cable, more than 60 members of the middle of the night saying your Congress from both sides of the aisle sent an open letter to Chairman Ajit Pai. The letter urged him to make sure station is going to be shut down in that the 600 MHz spectrum is cleared no later than July 30 minutes, you need to set aside 3, 2020. your expectations and past history They said that this was a critical component to deploying high-speed broadband, a priority for both and make the first move. the FCC and many of the signatories. This deployment, — Dennis Wallace the letter said, is not just about economic growth and creating jobs, but a necessity in the connected world. Could there be wiggle room left for TV stations that, 10 full-power TV stations on Channel 6. By virtue of the through no fault of their own, can’t make that deadline? small numbers, it shouldn’t have much of an impact. The members of Congress supported a “robust” waiver However, displaced LPTV stations and translators may process for stations needing a bit of flexibility, and also find that they must move to Low-VHF channels such urged all stakeholders to work together to find creative as Channel 6 due to the lack of UHF channels in the postsolutions. All the more reason for radio stations to pay repack environment.” attention and be ready for the timeframe to change. He concurs that this is a time for cooperation, not Comment on your own experiences or expectations about conflict. the repack. Email radioworld@nbmedia.com with “Letter to “Broadcasting is a competitive business, and there is the Editor: Repack” in the subject field. occasionally a bit of friction between radio and TV. Some

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Profile for Future PLC

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack (Radio World ebook) - Oct 2017  

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack (Radio World ebook) - Oct 2017

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack (Radio World ebook) - Oct 2017  

Hey Radio! Here Comes the TV Repack (Radio World ebook) - Oct 2017