July 2009 Newsletter
SBE Chapter 48 / SMPTE Rocky Mountain Section
June 2009 Meeting Report:
DTV Gap Filler Fundamentals and Applications
Date: Thursday, June 18, 2009
Time: 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Park Hill Golf Club, 4141 E. 35th Avenue, Denver, CO 80207
Luncheon: Lunch Buffet, $20 per person
Topic: DTV Gap Filler Fundamentals and Applications
Presenters: Scott Barella, VP of Technology and Business Development, LARCAN USA
The FCC has recently allowed full service stations to apply for "gap filler" translators. This ruling was discussed along with the fundamental technical elements that make up modern DTV translation. Program System Information Protocol (PSIP) was also discussed as it relates to DTV translators and LPTV stations along with some interesting applications.
Scott Barella has been involved in the broadcast industry since 1977. He is currently acting Vice President of Technology and Business Development for LARCAN, a leading global transmitter manufacturing company that is headquartered near Toronto.
Before joining LARCAN, Mr. Barella was the Vice President of Engineering for Burst Communications for six years and led the companies‚ Broadcast Systems Integration division. Prior to that he was the Chief Engineer of the Broadcast Operations and Engineering Department at the AT&T Digital Media Centers (now Comcast). Scott also was Chief Engineer at KCNC TV where he led the station's technical efforts, including a project that won an engineering Emmy in 1999 for the first use of digital microwave in helicopters.
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Random Radio Thoughts
Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD
Crawford Broadcasting Company
When does it hurt?
There was an old comedy routine that goes something like this:
Doctor: “When does it hurt?”
Patient: “It hurts when I do this…”
Doctor: “So don’t do that!”
We laugh because of the over-simplicity of the solution, but we also laugh because of its obviousness – when something hurts, don’t do it!
I’ve thought of that often over the years as it applies to situations in broadcast engineering. How often do we do things that “hurt” and then complain about them?
A few months ago, one of the trade publications ran a feature on digital (IBOC) interference to the host station. The slant – at least this was my impression – was that there are cases right now where FM IBOC stations interfere with themselves and if there is a power increase, we could all suffer such a fate. The title of the article was, “The Looming Danger of Digital Host Interference.” Sounds serious, doesn’t it?
The reality here is that the station featured in the article did everything wrong. It used a large (10-bay), high-gain antenna for its analog signal and a small (single-bay), low-gain antenna for the digital, collocated on a tower that has a significant amount of population within the first null area of the analog antenna.
This was a recipe for disaster from the get-go. In that first null area, the analog signal is very weak and the digital signal is very strong. It should have come as no surprise that digital-to-analog interference was a problem in that zone.
While there may be other similar situations here and there, my guess is that they are few and far between. Hopefully, most engineers who have been involved with HD Radio facility conversions paid close attention to these things and avoided them. They knew that it would hurt, so they didn’t do it!
Perhaps this is an extreme example, and perhaps we shouldn’t judge too harshly. My guess is that we have all been in situations where we took a short-cut or did something in response to the exigencies of the situation with the full knowledge that the long-term results would be less than desirable. As long as we walk into such things with our eyes wide open (i.e. we know the risks), then there’s no problem. It’s when we don’t consider the risks and are blindsided by the consequences that we get into real trouble.
All this is simply to say that there should be no such thing as “unintended consequences.” Engineers are supposed to be linear thinkers, able to reason out a situation to its conclusion. While we can’t account for every variable, we should anticipate as many as possible and deal with them. This may well involve telling the boss something that he doesn’t want to hear. When that happens, I strongly suggest that you do it in writing and keep a copy!
So… to the extent that you are able, when you know something is going to “hurt,” don’t do it! There is no such thing as a mistake that you’ll regret not making.
LED Tower Lights
I haven’t noticed many LED tower lights in my travels around the Front Range. The notable exception is the new Lake Cedar tower on Lookout, which has very bright LED beacons.
Crawford has converted all the marker (side) lights on its Front Range towers to LED fixtures over the last two years, and so far so good. We haven’t had any failures. We have converted six of our out-of-market towers to LED beacons. In the conversion process, we have experienced some “unintended consequences” that aren’t necessarily all bad. We knew they were coming and worked around them. I mention them here because I suspect that many broadcasters will begin moving toward LED tower lights in this market in the coming years. With a typical two-beacon tower consuming over 3 kW of power, the return on investment is fairly short.
The first issue has to do with monitoring. We normally sample the tower light current to determine whether all beacons and side lights are alive and well. On the aforementioned two-beacon tower, this is fairly simple. The beacons, if they are all working, consume about 20 amps. For each bulb that fails, you should see a 5 amp decrease. Sidelights consume about an amp each, so it’s easy to monitor and know when you have a bulb out.
In the LED world, that same tower will consume about 300 watts total. Each beacon fixture will draw a little over an amp, and each marker lamp draws about 100 mA.
For FM sticks, this isn’t such a big deal. We can in most cases independently monitor the marker and beacon currents, and if something is wrong we should be able to ascertain what it is. If nothing else, we can run multiple turns through the current transformer to increase the sensitivity.
In the AM world, however, we’ve got a problem. Those current levels are low enough that even taking multiple wraps might not help a lot. With RF present and the losses in the primary of the Austin transformer, the current sample may well be down in the noise. A good amount of additional filtering may be required for a reliable sample. The good news is that we can use a small gauge wire and wrap it five times through the toroid on an SSAC monitor module.
The other issue has to do with close-in visibility. LED tower lights – beacons and markers – achieve their brightness by focusing their light on the horizon using mirrors and lenses. As a result, there is very little downward illumination. In Detroit, our FM tower is collocated with the studio, and S.O.P. for checking the tower lights had long been to go into the studio hallway and look up at the lights through the skylight. When we installed LED tower lights, this would no longer work. You can stare at the tower until the cows come home but you won’t see any light from the beacons and you’ll get very little from the markers. But get half a mile away and the lights are much brighter than the old incandescents ever were. Go figure.
So if you’re contemplating a move to LED tower lights, good for you! What a great way to “go green” (so to speak). But you should be prepared for the challenges that monitoring these low power consumption lights presents. Forewarned is forearmed.
If you have news to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, drop me an email at email@example.com.
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The KE0VH Hamshack
The early part of June saw me havin’ to “rassle” (yeah buddy I am from the south) with the KOSI and KQMT importer computers for the HD2 side of things on those stations. For the longest time, they ran without a hitch and stayed up and solid, but as soon as I have to turn on the Arbitron PPM systems and monitoring they started shutting down at least a couple of times per day and the alarms were getting annoying to say the least. This got to be a big hassle for the obvious reasons plus the fact that we are simulcasting our AM, KEZW on the HD2 channel of KOSI and their listeners are really tuning in and complaining when it isn’t there. And the fact that the Navteq system is running on that channel as well makes it become a major problem. So I monitored them just about every where I am, checking several times per day, even in the Hamshack at home. Fortunately, I could get them back on the air from my home computer via VPN and our DSL. BUT, the problem needed to be solved. I am still working on it as of this writing.
For those of us in the Colorado Urban Corridor area, Cliff, NØZUQ, runs a repeater that covers north Denver and Fort Collins, with a reach to the east and southeast of Denver too. He is also making it IRLP capable in the future which will be of great benefit to us engineering types that want to stay in touch. Cliff writes: The repeater is on Christ Mountain above Ft. Collins, Colorado. The tower is about 45ft and is a Rhon 25. The building is about 8x8 feet. Plenty of room for a full 6 foot rack. The repeater itself (a Motorola Mitrek) on 449.425 with a PL of 94.8. The 900 MHz portion is 2 Motorola Maxtrac radios. One is an 800 that can function at 902, but the upper end at 921Mhz for transmit needs the 900Mhz Motorola Maxtrac. Next is a programmable dual band Kenwood G707 for the remote controlled base. Last but not least is a Motorola Radius for the 440Mhz link to Al Magre 120 miles to the south near Colorado Springs, Co. This hop can be made at less that 5 watts each way. The noise floor is around -90db. The repeater antenna is a 4 bay dipole in the 450 to 460 band that has a modified harness/pigtail. Since the repeater transmits on 449.425, the match was very good and impedance real close to 50 ohms with the modified harness.The remote base antenna in a Diamond X-50 and the 900 Mhz is a commercial Decibel paging antenna. The link antenna is a welded 6 element beam from Antenna Specialists. The 900Mhz is using 7/8 Heliax, and all other feeds are done with 1/2 inch Heliax due to the short tower. All this is controlled by an Arcom 210 repeater controller. It has 3 ports and hundreds of commands, macros, and effects. Since the whole system has 4 separate subsystems, we needed to create a 4th port for the link radio. Since the Arcom has an auxiliary audio input port we use that for incoming link audio and tie the return link audio directly to the Mitrek receive audio along with the discriminator of the Mitrek to the COR of the Radius. The controller is only 6 by 10 inches and has many adjustments for incoming and outgoing audio, selection for pre-emphasis, uploadable Mp3 files for recorded messages, several different ID formats, and local or remote programming. With all of the commands to work with, we decided to try something different. Why not control the "controller" via Wi-Fi? Well first of all, there is no wireless at the site. Second, I didn't want to pay a large fee to anyone for a link. So, I decided to do it my self. I searched for some good quality 2.4 G unlicensed equipment. I found a company by the name of Engenius. I figured 2 radios and a couple of dishes would work. After a great deal of thought and installation challenges, things came together. At nearly 20 miles point to point, the link was solid on both ends. I can look at the camera inside the repeater building, control the repeater much easier, and have the means for IRLP. There is nothing more frustrating that using DTMF to program a controller. I was thinking on a Vonage phone up there, but I may be stretching the bandwidth. The IRLP will be a great asset to Northern Colorado.
Thanks to Cliff for the information on the repeater. We look forward to working it.
My friends with the Rocky Mountain Ham group here in the Denver area was very successful with the VHF contest the weekend of June 13th and 14th. They worked around 600 QSO’s on 6 meters, and have some great photos and information posted on their website. www.rmham.org. Thanks to Scott, WØKU for keeping us up to date on the happenings with their really awesome com trailer and operators. Nate, WYØX, also a pilot, flew over the site in eastern Colorado and there are pictures taken from the airplane of the operating site. I stayed home, but worked 10 or so stations in the upper Midwest and in Illinois, and west in California on 6 meters with my 8 watts out to a bazooka dipole. One grid square I worked was DM03, which is a VERY SMALL piece of land south of LA, most of the grid square being over the ocean. I will try to get a QSL from that op.
Each month it seems I have something new that Kenny, K4KR has done to tell about. He has built a PVC based “launcher gun” that is really cool. Great for getting lines up in trees for antennas.
Along side is the PVC projectile that can be attached to a line for blasting over trees. Kenny reports the gun is capable of sending the projectile “out of sight” if pumped to full capacity! This is a gun I might actually like to own!
Tech Note: One of the things I have done at Entercom is to take pictures of all the racks, put them in a book, and then when I need to call an operator to check a piece of gear or reboot a computer I don’t have to drive into the office. I simply take out my notebook at home with all my engineering information. Everything from Circuit ID numbers, telephone numbers, emergency transmitter procedures, etc, and pictures of the racks. I then tell the operator to go to say, rack number 5, and check if ISDN 1 is connected to 9 news. Works well and has saved many a trip into the stations in the middle of the night. REALLY important now that we are using the Arbitron PPM equipment. Easy to tell someone how to switch to a backup if needed immediately!
Extra: Here is Ed Dulaney, N5FGV from Broadcast Technical Consultants doing his imitation of Steve Irwin:
You’re ok there mate!
What a beauty!
Transmitter sites in warm weather!
Extra 2, also from Ed: Under the heading of: The biggest beam you have ever seen!
RADIO ARCALA MAMMOTH 160/80M BEAM IN A NUTSHELL
If you want to build an Arcala Extremes (OH8X) style beam, you should start with measuring your property lines. Each of the four guy wires extends 120 meters or 400 ft from the tower – representing an area of 170´170 meters (550´550 ft) for a needed total space of almost three hectares. And then be ready to order needed 450 meters (1500 ft) of heavy duty tower sections. And finally make it look nice with 600 litres (120 gallons) of paint!
Don’t forget to join us on the SBE IRLP Hamnet the first and 3rd Saturdays of the month. And we are now STREAMING the WA2YZT repeater online so you can listen in for activity and the NET! http://denver-sbe-net.ham-radio-op.net For more information go to http://www.sbe.org/IRLP.php, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to help you find the IRLP link nearest you!
73’ for this month
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Featuring News, Rumors and Views
From Usually Reliable and Irrefutable Sources
By Clay Freinwald
SBE Seattle Chapter 16
Before I get into my normal column fodder – Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the July annual SBE Chapter 16 picnic. This year we will, once again, travel to Vashon Island. The format is a bit different. Our picnic location will be at KOMO-AM on the North Part of the Island (last year we were at KIRO). For those that could not make it last year, we had a great time touring the historic transmitter sites on Vashon and Maury Island, come this year and see for your self.
Well, we did it!. Except for some lower powered stations, cable, a bunch of old TV sets and that old VCR, NTSC is becoming scarce. Looking back at the transition I have some thoughts –
1- I think our industry could have done a much better job of explaining just what was going to happen. IMHO, the average Joe was led to believe that on June 12th his favorite TV station would go off and, at the same moment, something new would be turned on to replace it. How often did you see anything that promoted the fact that you could tune to channel XX and see KRUD-TV in HD? Where were the promo’s that explained that Digital/HD TV was on the air right now, waiting for you to see, and that was happening was that the old Analog channel was going away? Where was the push to get viewers to switch prior to the analog going off? Had we done that
a great deal of confusion would have been averted. This would have encouraged viewers to tune into the new digital station as soon as possible rather than waiting for the last minute.
2- The concept of virtual vs. RF channels has rarely been explained. Viewers have had little information beyond putting their receiver in scan mode to find the channels. This was all based on the notion that everyone had a set with that feature.
3 – Those stations that have elected to stay with their VHF channels were apparently focused on free-space path loss, or existing hardware, and where ignoring what’s been known to many radio broadcasters and, especially, 2-way and cellular engineers about building penetration. FM broadcasters that have implemented HD Radio can tell you a lot about issues of building penetration with their comparatively low power HD Signals compared to their FM’s. This is the one of the major arguments for a power increase for HD Radio. Land Mobile types have long known that UHF is superior to VHF when it comes to getting a signal into a building. Another impact is the higher noise floor on VHF compared to UHF. Now the news is filled with issues where stations that are now digital on VHF channels are going to the FCC asking for more power etc. Duh! What happened here? Was even the FCC surprised by this?
4- I recall recently driving down a local street and noting a UHF bow-tie array on a roof top. Obviously this is great for those stations on UHF channels, but what about those that are VHF? Why is it that the average bear ‘assumes’ that the digital stations are – all- now on UHF? What do you want to bet that the best source of information for these matters is the kid behind the counter at the local national electronics store...Who has batteries for everything? Just how much education was done in this area?
5 – The cable companies did a great job of telling viewers that they had nothing to fear, just sign up for cable and your worries are over. I saw very little from local stations that refuted this by explaining how you could, perhaps, make a one time investment in an antenna and avoid the ever increasing cable rates. Even today as those bills start to come in, I feel that all too many feel that this is the only way to continue to receive local channels. You would, occasionally, hear the term – Free TV –, however, in my view, not near enough, certainly to the degree that Joe Sixpack would be able to comprehend it.
Looking at Radio – They are suffering from a similar problem with their digital system. There is minimal effort being made to explain to Joe Average, just what HD Radio is, how it works and why it’s good for him. Radio has more difficulty because there is no cut-off date when the existing system will go away. Beyond some produced spots for HD Radio run on some stations and a display at Costco…Hardly any effort is being made to explain what this HD-R thing is all about. Go to your local retailer and ask about HD Radio and you will quickly find the famous ‘deer in the headlights’. Satellite Radio, on the other hand, has done a great job of education…Even though they are struggling financially, at least Joe Average knows what it is !
If you look back at the early days of radio or TV you find that broadcasters were truly interested in explaining what this new ‘fandangled’ gizmo was all about and how to put it to use. Not any more. We are all wrapped up in the latest little wireless devices with plenty of retailers eager to explain how it all works. There are those that say that terrestrial radio and TV are dead and are going the way of the newspaper. In my view, we need only to look in the nearest mirror to find one of the major contributing factors. Lets face it folks, we have grown complacent and perhaps just plain lazy. We have this ‘field of dreams’ mindset that is very likely contributing to our own demise.
Wow….I feel better now….So, what else is new ?
GE says that it has discovered a way to put 100 DVD’s on a single disc using a system called holographic storage that’s some 500 gigabytes of data. Compare that to Blu-Ray than can store 25 gigs or a standard DVD that does 5!. Are you old enough to have working on GE broadcast equipment?
The DNR has finally repaired some of the wash outs on the road to West Tiger from last winters storms. A couple of them exposed the power line that serves the ATC site, home of 6 FM’s and 4 TV stations.
If you are into resolving TV reception issues, the FCC has a very cool tool that you should be using – Check out - http://www.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/
So what about low-power TV stations? Now that the big guys are all digital, what are the low powered stations to do? Where is their digital channel so they can migrate to the new scheme?
On the subject of TV – In the event you have not noticed it, with all the fake channels, there are a lot of call letters now appended with dash-DT.
There continues to be a movement to prohibit the use of wireless devices in vehicles across the country. Recently Oregon was among them giving rise to the fear that Amateur (Ham) Radio operation in vehicles might be impacted. This was met with considerable opposition by the Amateurs in our neighboring state, as you might imagine.
By the time you read this, KPLU will be broadcasting from their new studios in Parkland. The new building housing the station and other university offices is named after the stations former manager, Martin Neeb. Working on the project have been Chief Engineer, Lowell Kiesow with assistance from Nick Winter and Greg Ristau. Meanwhile the FCC has granted CP’s for two more stations for KPLU’s growing network in Manson (near Lake Chelan) and Sedro Wooley.
Ken, Bill and the Clear Channel crew have been working on the integration of 106.1 to the cluster. Welcome to West Tiger CC-R
We have all become familiar with the Internet features known as Facebook and Twitter. With the recent situation in Iran we have come to more appreciate the broadcast application of these vehicles. Broadcast equipment makers are integrating these as well. For example, BE recently announced a Twitter ‘plug in’ to their TRE system. TRE, otherwise known as The Radio Experience, was developed by Allen Hartle right here in Seattle.
To underscore how the Internet is changing things – CC Crane, long time producer of radio receivers, has recently announced a new product….An Internet Radio. Recognizing the fact that there are some 12,000 Internet Radio stations ‘on the air’…Manufacturers are making devices that are easy to use to ‘pick-up’ these stations without the need for a computer. Arbitron recognizes the growth in this area as well and is providing stations with encoders for those ‘streams’. New research has shown that 40% of radio listeners listen to online streams at least once a week. (this is huge)
In the most recent radio-ratings, I noted that one Seattle station actually has ‘numbers’ from listeners to that stations stream. On a larger scale, we have a couple of stations whose streams are consistently highly rated. KING-FM and KPLU.
On the TV side – It was announced that Fisher (Owners of KOMO and KUNS here) have entered into an agreement with WorldNow which will provide it’s online video platform for all of Fishers radio and TV stations.
Proving that the FCC has had more to do that DTV conversion, the Commission is taking WQYK-FM in Tampa to court over an un-paid $10,000 fine. What makes of interest to Engineers is that the fine, originally $25,000 in 2004, was for failing to advise visitors that they were being exposed to more than the maximum allowable NIER.
Apple has released a new device with an un-advertized FM receiver built in. Apparently someone peeked ‘under the hood’ and discovered the additional circuitry.
In last months column I noted the new Microsoft Zune with an HD Receiver built in. This prompted a note from former Seattle radio chief, Doug Irwin, who is now a radio chief in NYC –
Hi Clay. I read your latest monthly in the SBE16 newsletter. Good information in there.
Yesterday Microsoft announced the new Zune with an integrated HD receiver. That's what I'm writing to you about.
Having spent 2+ years here in NYC now I can tell you that HD doesn't work as well here as it does back in SEA. Several factors contribute: lower power in general, lower antenna heights, and probably most importantly, lots more co and adjacent channel interference. I don't know where the Zune was developed, but if it was in Redmond, then undoubtedly they were receiving some good signals off of Tiger and perhaps Cougar as well.
I also don't know what the long term effect of the Zune will be on the acceptance of HD, but I really thought I wanted to say thanks to you for your contributions to it in SEA. I hope the pending increase in power for most if not all HD transmissions makes the system work better in general. I do know in Seattle, HD radio works great.
That's it. See you around. Doug Irwin
Doug points out a factor that we don’t have in this area. On much of the other coast there are no Class C FM’s but rather B’s and A’s with co and adjacent channel spacing that we don’t have to deal with and MUCH lower power levels. The major FM’s in the Big Apple are typically Class B’s operating with 6 Kw at 415 Meters AAT. Compare that with the typical Tiger Mountain FM that operates with 68 Kw at 707 Meters. With HD Radio’s power 20db below the FM, this means that the HD power in NYC is about 60 watts compared to 680 watts at West Tiger. This helps with understanding Doug’s concerns with the effectiveness of the new Zune HD Radio receiver. It also helps with understanding why so many are pushing for higher power levels for the digital transmitter.
Here’s a new twist on the dangers of RF Radiation. – Dr Ollie Johansson in Stockholm is saying that RF energy has more than a thermal impact on humans. In a recent paper the doctor expresses concerns for workers setting in front of computer monitors. (apparently referencing CRT based displays) He goes on to studies pointing to a correlation between long term exposure to magnetic fields and microwaves and cancer.
Results from Arbitrons PPM continue to shake up the local Radio scene. In some cases stations that were previously rated low with the old diary system instantly becoming higher rated. As we found out at our local Chapter meeting with Arbitron, the method of data gathering is considerably changed. One change is that for the first time we have a means of determining who is listening to what in a vehicle. Car radios, thanks to their push-button operation, have long been a place where listeners can instantly change stations if they hear something they don’t like. With the PPM, monitoring this activity is now possible and we are likely seeing many of these changes as a result. Radio listening is still big in vehicles.
The big ENG transition has reached the half-way point with about 50% of the nations TV stations switching to the new band-plan and related digital equipment. This all part of the nationwide Sprint-Nextel deal.
One little talked about item was recent rendered useless – the little radio that would receive AM and FM Broadcast, perhaps shortwave – AND – TV Audio. These were popular with those that wanted to keep up with the latest soaps or other programming by listening to just the audio. Something else for the dust-bin of history.
Another item for the yard-sale. That little portable TV set. Many folks with RV’s or in tornado or hurricane areas had these on hand. Now useless.
The FCC is supposed to release new rules governing the use of FM translators by AM stations in early July.
From the ‘just wondering’ dept. What are stations going to do with all those analog transmitters that can no longer be used? Is there a market, or are they going to the dump?
Amateurs from around the country have been eagerly connecting to abandoned channel 2 arrays with their 6 meter equipment. Understand that this was great fun recently in Portland. Likely those big tower top antennas will soon be on the ground and antennas for the ‘new channel’ will be installed.
Something you always worry about – The fellow mowing the field around a guyed tower. Recently in St Joseph, Mo the farmer, mowing hay, caught one of the guys and down went one of the towers of the stations 4 tower array. Ooops
Are you ready for the OLED ? Organic Light Emitting Diode displays are about to come on the scene.
Another end of an era item – Kodak announced that it is retiring Kodachrome.
Happy Birthday FCC – The Commish (as I love to call it) was born back on June 19th, 1934, 75 years ago….and NO I don’t remember the event.
Looks like the new leadership of the Commish will include – Chairman Julius Genachowski and current commissioner Robert McDowell. Rounding out the FCC is MeredithAttwell Baker and Mignon Clyburn.
We are saddened with the new of the passing of Ed McMahon, long time sidekick for Johnny Carson. It’s been reported that another broadcast legend, Walter Cronkite, is in very poor, failing, health.
So what’s up with the economy ?
It seems most of the pundits now are saying that we have reached bottom and things are looking up. Some of the indicators indeed seem to be pointing in that direction. A recent survey disclosed that most economists believe the recession will end in the 3rd quarter, this year. However the rebound will be slow with high unemployment thru next year.
But where does that put us in this industry? The following are some things I’ve noted –
The RAB recently reported that Q1 local revenue was 26% lower than the previous year and national was down 27%. However – Digital revenue were up by 13%. Radio is discovering that Broadcasting means more than just what comes out of their transmitters.
ESPN has recently announced layoffs – Just as their new Seattle affiliate, KIRO gets started.
Not sure if it’s a sign of the times or not, but in WDC, a local newspaper has teamed with a local station to provide news.
Incoming CBS Corp. CFO Joseph Ianniello tells Bloomberg that he'll be further reducing costs at the media giant in the "difficult revenue environment."
TV stations across the country are looking for ways to reduce costs. Recently I wrote about stations that now share helicopters, this past month I have read about stations that are sharing news operations, in one case, there is a call for stations to take central-casting to a new level by combining master control functions. How far this will go will likely depend on how long the present economic situation continues and the nature of what’s on the other side. I suspect that we are looking at what’s been called a ‘new normal’ that will forever alter broadcasting as we knew it.
Tribune owns two TV stations here and it’s in bankruptcy. Last word is that the company is trying to work out a plan with its creditors. Presently the banks are holding a reported $8.2 billion in debt.
One station has come up with a way to increase the bottom line, in this case, moving beyond what we call NTR. They have begun to sell products. Combining methods used by QVC or HSN with the reach of a broadcast station. Seems like a retro idea to me as many early day radio stations were owned by retailers for just that purpose.
Can’t explain why, but, reportedly, radio revenue in Canada is up 5% over last year.
Directly related to the economic situation and the cut-back in state spending, John Mangan who has been the instructor at the Clover Park Technical College radio program, KVTI for the past 27.5 years officially announced that he has been cut back to part time through September as the college officially puts the program on hold. No word on what will happen to the 90.9 FM station, it is presumed that it will go off the air. I recall vividly this station as a little operation in the electronics building behind Clover Park High School with the then call letters of KCPS. The station was later moved to the old Navy supply base in Lakewood and combined with the districts growing vocational offerings. It’s call letters were changed to KPEC to match that of their Channel 56 TV operation. It is from here that the broadcasting bug bit me. The school district later picked up the then dark Channel 13 and changed the call to KCPQ. The Radio became KVTI. Most recently the vocation operation became part of the state. End of an era, with a ton of personal memories.
I received a number of comments from last months column dealing with words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently. This month I will leave you with some more fun stuff - .
There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'
It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the engineer to write UP a report?
We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. And my favorite – If we are a Ham, we throw UP and antenna.
We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of U, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP .. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP...Provided NOAA does not mess UP the forecast.
When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP. I could could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so........it is time to shut UP! Hope to do this again next month….Provided I’m UP to it.
Til next month –
Clay, K7CR, CPBE
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Amateur Radio News
Compiled By Tom Weeden, WJ9H
Thanks to Madison Chapter 24
At the annual Space Weather Workshop held in Boulder, Colorado in April, an international panel of experts led by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) predicted that Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with 90 sunspots per day on average. If the prediction proves true, Solar Cycle 24 will be the weakest cycle since Solar Cycle 16, which peaked with 78 daily sunspots in 1928, and ninth weakest since the 1750s, when numbered cycles began.
The panel predicted that the lowest sunspot number between cycles –the solar minimum—occurred in December 2008, marking the end of Solar Cycle 23 and the start of Solar Cycle 24. If December’s prediction holds up, at 12 years and seven months Solar Cycle 23 will be the longest since 1823 and the third longest since 1755. Solar cycles span 11 years on average, from minimum to minimum. An unusually long, deep lull in sunspots led the panel to revise its 2007 prediction that the next cycle of solar storms would start in March 2008 and peak in late 2011 or mid-2012. The persistence of a quiet sun also led the panel to a consensus that Solar Cycle 24 will be what they called “moderately weak.” Although the peak is still four years away, a new active period of Earth-threatening solar storms will be the weakest since 1928. Despite the prediction, the scientists said that Earth is still vulnerable to a severe solar storm. Solar storms are eruptions of energy and matter that escape from the Sun and may head toward Earth, where even a weak storm can damage satellites and power grids, disrupting communications, the electric power supply and GPS. A single strong blast of “solar wind” can threaten national security, transportation, financial services and other essential functions. NOAA scientist Doug Biesecker, who chaired the panel, said, “The strongest solar storm on record occurred in 1859 during another below-average cycle.” The 1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North America and Europe and sent readings of Earth’s magnetic field soaring. It also produced northern lights so bright that people read newspapers by their light, he said.
The FCC has released the redacted portions of the studies on which they relied with regard to its Broadband over Powerline (BPL) rulemaking in 2004 after The American Radio Relay League filed an Freedom of Information Act request on March 31 for the studies. In October 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard ARRL’s case against the Commission, stating, among other things, that the FCC not only withheld the internal studies until it was too late to comment, but had yet to release portions of studies that may not support its own conclusions regarding BPL. The FCC claimed that the studies were “internal communications” that it did not rely upon in reaching its decision to adopt the BPL rules. In its April 2008 ruling, the Court ordered the FCC to release the studies. In its decision, the Court agreed with the ARRL that the FCC had failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by not fully disclosing for public comment the staff studies on which it relied and that “there is no APA precedent allowing an agency to cherry-pick a study on which it has chosen to rely in part.” A look at the unredacted studies show that the FCC knew BPL was not a point source, but these same studies in redacted form show just the opposite—information proving BPL was not a point source was deleted. An unredacted study regarding Access BPL concluded that “The tested overhead PLC devices do not act as point sources. Emission from line shows virtually no decay 230 m from coupler. Differential two-wire signal injection affects the polarization of radiated emissions from overhead devices”. Amateur Radio groups have been battling the BPL industry and the FCC over interference to amateur frequencies in excess of normal Part 15 limits.
(Excerpts from the American Radio Relay League’s <arrl.org> web site)
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We are sad to announce the passing of Len Dole, President/CEO of Isis Group, on June 16, 2009 after a brief battle with cancer. He will be greatly missed by all.
Len was one of the original founders of The ISIS Group in 1997 and was instrumental in the company's growth and success over the past 12 years. He led the development of many of our products, including our award-winning Sonarae.
Bob Stillwaugh has been named to succeed Len as President/CEO, and is dedicated to continuing the vision and goals of The ISIS Group.
"It has always been an honor and a pleasure to know Len and to have worked with him at both Grass Valley Group and The ISIS Group.He believed in honesty, integrity and treating others fairly. While it will be difficult to fill his shoes at ISIS, his goals and the values he set forth will remain unchanged." -
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Security: Number One in Our Job!
By: Albert Vargas
Houston Chapter 105
Making echo from the last chapter meeting wherein an enthusiastic and positive way all of the members gave their contributions about security. They talked not only about theory, but about personal experiences that might teach us so we would not find the same adverse circumstances. Finally, this is one of the most productive ways of taking advantage of our meetings: Sharing knowledge and experiences. There are several aspects involving security that all of us already know, but even knowing this, we could see ourselves in similar situations. Like for instance, ACCIDENTS... Small ones, big ones who knows how to avoid them? Refer to your safety manuals, to your personal expertise, to the facilities you deal with, but avoid them. They say (I remember one Harris manual that impressed me much, saying: Do not perform any job if you are tired, or if you are alone, and something like that). You know everywhere you are going to find advice, our duty is just remember them and practice them. Regularly, because of our job and because of our personal engineering codes, we'll never leave if we don't finish a repair or a installation, regardless of being exhausted. Let's take the necessary break, make the necessary call, eat something and after that continue. "There's more time than life".
Observe potential dangers before proceeding in any repair or any job. Sometimes, we go directly to the point without observing around. Let's take a look at those loose cables, failing breakers, or perhaps a jumped fuse.... And then go ahead. Sometimes, other people being there forgot something or left things without any indication, you do not know and you suffer the consequences from them. Who knows...they didn't mean to harm you, they just forgot the importance of COORDINATION. This might apply for teamwork. Another aspect that affects security are the number of constant changes being performed because of the station's operation. Sometimes you have not finished one when you are already being required for the next, right? Well, lets organize everything in a manner that if you leave something incomplete, someone will know that that job is still remaining, and that you did not leave it intentionally. Take as much security training as possible in order to be prepared for any major accident. Have you taken the CPR training sometime? But remember to avoid each and every excessive work that might lead you to fall into a dangerous situation. This and some other commentaries were discussedin the last chapter meeting. Of course, the most valuable commentary is yours, but we hope this will help to keep present this important matter: SECURITY OVER ALL.
SBE University Offers 8-VSB Course
Indianapolis, IN. – The SBE has introduced the fourth course in its SBE University series of on-line, on-demand courses for broadcast engineers. The SBE 8-VSB Course is written by Douglas W. Garlinger, CPBE, 8VSB, CBNT, a Fellow in the Society of Broadcast Engineers and Senior Broadcast Engineer for Qualcomm Media FLO.
The purpose of the SBE 8-VSB course is to give the student an overview of the 8-VSB system from end to end, providing all of the basic information he or she will need to understand the nature of 8-VSB modulation and to recognize deficiencies in the transmitted signal. This information will be invaluable in installing, maintaining and operating a digital television transmitter facility. Much of the material contained in this course will aid the student in his or her efforts to obtain the SBE 8-VSB Specialist Certification.
The primary focus of the SBE 8-VSB Course is RF transmission and the process employed to transform the 19.39 Mbit/s transport signal into a signal suitable to modulate the transmitter. The course will also touch briefly on some of the important elements in the transport stream, such as video compression, picture formats, Active Format Description, PSIP and Dolby AC-3 audio.
“The SBE Education Committee has been working to identify those training areas and topics that would be the most beneficial to our membership and the broadcast engineering community at large,” said Education Committee Chairman Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB. “DTV was near the top of the list on a recent member survey, and this course was produced in response to that. We commit to continue to seek out such needs and respond with new online courses."
SBE President Barry Thomas, CPBE, CBNT remarks on the introduction of the new course, "SBE University is an exciting way for the Society to provide excellent broadcast engineering education. This 8-VSB course provides an important avenue to strengthen today’s engineers and develop the media engineers of the future.”
A more thorough description of the SBE 8-VSB Course, including a course syllabus, and enrollment information, can be found at the SBE website at www.sbe.org/SBE8-VSBCourse.php.
SBE CAREER SERVICES CAN HELP
The state of the national (and world) economy continues to have its affect on most industries, including broadcasting. In these uncertain times, your professional association can serve as a valuable source of available broadcast engineering jobs across the U.S.
Your membership in SBE gives you access to SBE’s career service tools. These services can be a big help if you need to find a new job. Employers can also make use of these services when they need to fill positions with qualified engineers. The SBE JobsOnline members-only service is free. On a typical day, more than 100 broadcast engineering jobs are listed and the list is updated almost every business day as new job postings are received by the SBE National Office.
SBE members may also post their resume for free with the SBE Resume Service. Anyone can view the resumes at the SBE website, with the names and contact information hidden from view. For a small fee, employers can request copies of the resumes they are interested in, which then includes the names and contact information.
SBE also has begun a new SBE service called SBE InternshipsOnline. Similar to the SBE JobsOnline, employers can post engineering internships for free. Anyone can view the postings (also free). The new service is intended to help match those who offer engineering internships with students looking for those opportunities.
Do you make your broadcast engineering services available on a contract basis? The SBE maintains an SBE Contract Engineer Directory. This alphabetical list, organized by state, lists the name, technical services offered, geographic area covered and the contact information for each contract engineer listed. For a small annual fee, contract engineers may be included on this list.
Information about all of these services can be accessed at the SBE website, www.sbe.org on the Career Services page or click the links above in this article.
Excelsior College announces Certification Courses
by Rebecca Troeger
Excelsior College, in partnership with the Society of Broadcast Engineers, offers college credit to enrolled students for the completion of select SBE certifications. Apply up to 11 credits earned through SBE certifications plus any credit earned from other approved sources toward any of Excelsior College's more than 40 degree and certificate programs. Of particular interest to SBE members are the Associate Degree in Electronics Technology, Bachelor's Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology, and Associate or Bachelor's Degree in Technology with a specialty in Electronics/Instrumentation Technologies.
Complete your degree requirements with Excelsior's flexible learning options including online and CD-ROM courses. You can maximize your SBE Certifications with Excelsior College. The following SBE certifications have been evaluated toward Excelsior College credit:
Certified Broadcast Radio Engineer
Certified Broadcast Television Engineer
Certified Senior Broadcast Radio Engineer
Certified Senior Broadcast Television Engineer
Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer
For more information check out SBE's partnership page on Excelsior College's website at SBE.Excelsior.edu.
College Credit for Your SBE Certification:
The Society of Broadcast Engineers and Excelsior College have teamed up! Your current SBE Certification may qualify for credit towards a degree from Excelsior College or could help you finish that degree you’ve been working on at another institution. If you’re interested, contact Excelsior College by calling toll-free at (888) 647-2388 to learn about the details.
When you are ready to submit your SBE Certification for credit to Excelsior College,
download the SBE transcript request form at www.sbe.org or www.excelsior.edu,
or contact the SBE National Office for a copy. When you’ve completed the form,
e-mail, fax or mail it to Megan Clappe, Certification Director at the SBE National
Office, who will prepare your transcript and send it to Excelsior College.
Society of Broadcast Engineers
9102 N. Meridian Street, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260
SBE CertPreview Software
SBE CertPreview sample certification test software is now available.
It’s Microsoft Windows-based and replaces the previous DOS-based software.
New sample tests are available for Broadcast Technologist, Audio Engineer,
Video Engineer, Broadcast Networking Technologist, Broadcast Engineer and Senior
Broadcast Engineer in both radio and television. Sample tests include 50 to
100 questions and indicate when an incorrect answer has been given. It provides
a list of resources from which to learn more about a subject. Cost for each
SBE CERTpreview practice test is $27 plus $3 shipping. Contact the National
Office to order a copy.
Certification Exam Session Dates:
The SBE National Certification Committee certification exam session
dates for 2009 are listed below. Check the list below for the exam period
that is best for you. For more information about SBE Certification, see your
Chapter Certification Chair or
contact Megan Clappe,
Certification Director at the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000, or email@example.com
|August 7-17, 2009
|June 5, 2009 Date Past
|November 6-16, 2009
||September 18, 2009
Fees for 2009 are as Follows:
|Broadcast Networking Technologist
|Senior Broadcast Engineer
|Professional Broadcast Engineer
|AM Directional Specialist
|Digital Radio Broadcast Specialist
| *does not include first year membership
note: SBE Certification exams are administered only by SBE and are proctored
in-person by qualified and approved representatives of SBE. No other organization
is authorized to administer SBE exams.
Click here for
more information about SBE Certification.
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Garneth M. Harris
Tom Goldberg - On-Line Editor
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