A monthly newsletter by Society of Broadcast Engineers Chapter 48

January 1997

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The December Meeting
Chapter 48's Next Meeting
On The Calendar
EAS, Colorado May Do EBS One Better - Part II
SBE National News
Computer Preventative Maintenance Basics
Murphy's Law Proven Again
Bring Back The 3-Year Rule
As The Dial Turns

The December Meeting

Our December meeting was on Wednesday, the 11th. We met for lunch and a brief business meeting at Bennett's Bar-B-Q on East Arapahoe Road.

Chapter 48 chairman Andre' Smith called the meeting to order following lunch. There was a brief discussion about upcoming meetings. As Eric Schultz is continuing as vice-chair, we are sure to have some interesting and worthwhile programs in the coming year.

After lunch, the group headed for KTVD, TV20's studios on the other side of Arapahoe Road. On hand was Jon Sprague from the Denver FCC office with one of 12 vehicles used by the FCC throughout the country. This vehicle is equipped with monitoring equipment worth about ten times the $30,000 cost of the Ford Explorer in which it is installed!

Jon gave the group a really good look at the Windows(r) driven screens, which included not only spectral monitoring, but a sophisticated GPS system. In the rear of the vehicle was considerable computing power along with all of the receiving equipment and a secure cellular phone. With the exception of a couple of small whip antennas mounted on the windows of the vehicle, all of the monitoring antennae are mounted in the roof. The areas where the antennas are located have been filled with fibreglas to allow their operation. Jon says the only giveaway that the metal has been removed is when the snow melts above the fibreglas!

We're hitting the road for our January meeting. Check elsewhere in this issue for all the information about our tour of TCI's Titan road satellite facility. See you on January 15!

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Chapter 48's Next Meeting...

The January meeting with be held on Wednesday, the 15th at 12 noon. We will meet at the Sedalia Grill for the luncheon meeting and then proceed to TCI's Titan Road Uplink Facility for a tour. The Sedalia Grill is located at 5607 S. US 85, about 10 miles south of C-470 on Santa Fe (Highway 85) at the crossroads of US 85 and Highway 67. The Titan uplink facility is located at 7235 W. Titan road, about 3 miles south of C-470. Proceed west on Titan road from Highway 85, then turn right at the gate to the facility, and pick up the phone to get into the lot.

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On The Calendar

January 12, 1997 (Sunday) SBE Chapter of the Air (73), 0000 GMT, 14.205 mHz, Hal Hostetler WA7BGX (Tucson, AZ) - control station.

January 15, 1997 (Wednesday) Chapter 48 Meeting - Titan Uplink Facility

February 21, 1997 (Friday) Deadline to apply to take an SBE Certification test at NAB Las Vegas on April 8.

April 5-10, 1997 (Saturday-Thursday) NAB Las Vegas. Ennes Workshops on the 5th, presented by SBE. SBE Board of Directors meeting on the 6th. SBE membership meeting on the 8th. Your SBE membership will save you $300 or more on registration.

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EAS, Colorado May Do EBS One Better - Part II

Fred Baumgartner - Chapter 48


This is the second part of a two-part article which originally appeared in the Denver SBE newsletter in July and August, 1990. With the implementation of the Emergency Alert System on January 1st, this is a look back on Fred's vision of the system now in place.

The EBS system relies on a single distribution point, the CPCS-1 station. Each activation must reach the CPCS-1 (though as mentioned, many stations allow the NWS to circumvent the CPCS-1). The practical limitation is that only a few of the sources of emergency activations have access to the CPCS-1. Acces to the CPCS-1 is not always good, in some cases the contact is via dial telephone, dedicated lines or single thread RPU channels.

In contrast, the EAS allows many entry points and encourages redundant paths from the activating agency. The scanning function of the EAS decoder means that the NWS, metropolitan ring-down lines, sheriff's radio in rural communities, satellite delivered channels and a number of other broadcast stations can be monitored. There are three results:

First, even if a large number of stations are off the air, or fail to pass the EAS message, the system will "restructure" or "heal" itself. Only a fraction of the stations need to survive for the system to work.

Second, in rural areas, the most reliable means of communications may involve satellite (for example, Denver's TV stations are uplinked and receivable in mountain communities), community translators, the sheriff's repeater, state two-way systems, even mountain-top ham repeaters (in Colorado there are places like this). EAS allows anything that works to be used. A second level of security is needed when the public has access to the communications channel input, i.e. PSTN (dial telephone) and ham repeaters (this may be as simple as PL, digital PL, or allowing a ham repeater to accept EAS activations only from the NWS or a broadcast source). In medium and major markets there are enough secure means of communications to make the question of security moot.

Third, entry points into the system can be tailored for community. In very rural America, it may be necessary for the sheriff or state patrol to activate the local EAS from the squad car (to be clear, and I will explain why later, the county sheriff can not bring up the state EAS).

The EBS system is pretty much an all or nothing proposition. Either the state (or region) is activated completely, or it is not. Likewise the same "shotgun" approach is used for any level of emergency, advisory to nuclear attack.

The EAS system is highly targeted. Each EAS activation carries information that defines the state, region, city and priority level desired.

EAS encoders will send information on the locationand priority level of the activation. Decoders are programmed to respond only to EAS activations that involve their coverage area. The priority information allows the station to deal with each activation appropriately, and if desired, automatically.

When the EBS was developed, cable was in its infancy and "closed circuit" services for background music were limited. Today, at any given time, a large number of the people will be in commercial environments or viewing cable.

The EAS system can easily be integrated into any service where the audio can be interrupted (EAS does not solve EBS's limitations when it comes to the hearing impaired, though it facilitates the use of a text system that will, it is a separate issue). Many cable systems have a group audio intercept function, most accessed by dial-up telephone.

The EAS's ability to target makes it very palatable for cable and other similar media use. While the EBS is tested tto often to be useful in institutional environments (like schools), th EAS is not and the decoder is cheap enough to be practical.

The EAS uses four priority levels. The result is that the EAS avoids the "cry wolf" effect and allows the option of using several levels of automation, tailored to the station or service. Allow me to review the levels and their uses:

A PRIORITY ONE EAS must fit three criteria. It must be immediate, life threatening, and not part of continuing emergency. The priority one activation is the only level that activates the full speed and power of the EAS system.

Ideally, the priority one EAS captures the transmitter feed of each broadcast station, of other communications channel (i.e. cable, background music, NWS station, etc.) and passes itself on to do the same to each and every involved station or outlet.

A PRIORITY TWO EAS is a weather emergency that does not fit one or more of the criteria for a priority one EAS. A station with a working weather department would not allow this to be aired directly.

An automated station or one without a weather presence in an area where weather is important, would likely permit the priority tow EAS to be automatically rebroadcast by the station.

A PRIORITY THREE EAS is a non-weather emergency that does not fit one or more of the criteria for a priority one EAS. This is dealt with in much the same way as a priority two. It allows broadcasters more flexibility. For example, a station may have strong weather coverage, and wish to avoid having their emergency weather programming interrupted by NWS emergency weather information. This is not likely to be true in the case of other emergencies, chemical spills, traffic emergencies, etc. The decision to allow priority EAS activations to interrupt programming is left to the broadcaster.

Next month - Part III

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SBE National News

The Society of Broadcast Engineers will once again be the co-presenter of the NAB Engineering Conference at the NAB Spring Convention. Held in Las Vegas, the conference will be April 6-10, with exhibits opening on Monday, April 7.

The newest SBE chapter is also the first SBE chapter in Wyoming. Chapter 129 has thirteen members and has elected their officers.

Registration began January 1 for the Leader Skills Course for Broadcast Engineers, presented by SBE. The course will be conducted in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 9-13, 1997.

(From John L. Poray, SBE Executive Director)

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Computer Preventative Maintenance Basics

Mike Norton - Chapter 24

Most broadcast facilities have several personal computers in use for critical daily operations. Whether these computers are used for scheduling music, producing traffic/commercial logs, operating critical production systems, or directly controlling on-air automation, any down-time could cause problems. Although computer failures can not be completely avoided, some simple preventative maintenance activities can delay many problems.

Regular Cleaning As with all electronic equipment, one of the major causes of failure is heat build-up. Removing the cover and using a vacuum or compressed air should dislodge most dust and dirt accumulation. Most computers have self-enclosed power supplies, and this is one of the most important areas to clean. If you don't have an air compressor available, many electronics stores carry cans of compressed air that work well for this use.

Proper Ventilation As new equipment is added to a facility, it's environment should be taken into consideration. If it has top or bottom vents, or generates significant heat, leave an empty rack unit above and below it. Make sure that air vents and fans are unobstructed and have adequate air flow. When additional equipment is added to an area over time, check that room air handling capacity is adequate.

AC Power Regulation To avoid damage due to voltage spikes, a surge suppressor should be utilized. For critical systems, an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) will keep systems operating through short duration commercial power outages. For computers with modems connected, surge suppressors should be placed on the telephone line to prevent transients from entering the computer through that path.

Hard Drive Defragmentation Data fragmentation occurs when there is not enough contiguous space to hold an entire file. The file must be split into parts and written to available smaller areas. When the file is accessed, the operating system puts the multiple parts back together, but this increases the time to retrieve files from the drive. There are several programs which will optimize hard drives by moving file fragments to contiguous spaces, and the latest version of DOS includes a defrag program. By running a defrag program regularly, systems can avoid file access induced slow-down.

Data Backup Although not usually thought of as maintenance, backing up the data on you computer should be done on a regular schedule. Think of it as cheap insurance that can make the difference between having a short amount of down time, or losing irreplaceable data.

None of the suggestions mentioned are difficult, and regular computer maintenance need not be brain surgery. Make a point to take time and regularly complete some of these basic tasks. Scheduled maintenance of computer equipment can help systems run longer, and prevent many headaches.

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Murphy's Law Proven Again

Chapter 124, Portland

Those of you familiar with the KOIN(TV) transmitter site on SW Barnes Road will especially appreciate this story. The site was built as KOIN AM (now 970 KUPL) in the 30's, KOIN-FM (now 101.1 KUFO) was added in the late 40's with the antenna on one of the AM towers, and KOIN-TV (Channel 6) was added in the early 50's with an addition to the art deco building plus main and aux TV towers.

The site was staffed continuously until the mid-70's by a bunch of folks with lots of time and not a lot of budget. They hand-built everything they could. All stations once shared power, and there were various combinations of generators sharing one fuel tank. American Radio Systems, my employer, is remodeling its transmitter plant there, so this will involve much electrical work, lots of trenching, and the relocating of the AM to the basement.

In the basement, there is this 400 amp breaker, alone at the bottom of a seven by four by two foot electrical cabinet that is three feet from the wall. It is very much in the way. It is connected to cables that disappear into conduit hung from the ceiling that goes into the basement's south wall, but there was no power to it. We turned it off one night at 3 am and nothing happened. Six of us from KOIN, Christenson Electric, and ARS stared at it, pronounced it surplus, and asked the electricians to remove it soon.

Monday night November 18th was the first big storm of the season with snow, wind, etc. At 8 PM, KUFO and KUPL(AM) went off and stayed off. Ken Broeffle and I, in the ARS-Portland Engineering 4WD Suburban, set off to put them back on. After trying six different routes, and almost getting stuck once ourselves, we arrived to find that the generator was running, but the lights were off. Turning the transfer switch manually made no difference. The, uh, breaker in the basement was for the generator. Its replacement will be located with the generator.

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Bring Back The 3-Year Rule

Chapter 124

The worst change in broadcast ownership rules, in my opinion, was the elimination of the three-year rule. Radio stations are becoming little more than pork bellies and grain futures. A survey by the BIA in a recent edition of Radio World, shows that 62% of stations they tracked in the top 10 markets, changed hands in the last 10 months alone! The number of owners was cut by nearly two-thirds. While it may be too late to turn back the clock on ownership limits, the three year rule at least increased the chance that a station owner was actually interested in being a broadcaster; perhaps even serving the "public interest" if we were lucky.

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As The Dial Turns

Chapter 124

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Here's an outline of the story, taken from a three-page statement from the radio station's owner. A woman sells her northern California radio station, whose transmitter is on U.S. Forest Service land, to a man, promising to take care of all the necessary permits. The radio station criticizes the handling of a murder case by the county District Attorney. The DA gets search warrants, based on the testimony of one of the station's former employees now working for the competition, for the station's studios and offices, the now-former Sales Manager's house, and the vehicles of the owner and news director. The DA office's investigators seize computer equipment and files.

On October 28th, the USFS disabled the station's transmitter site by removing the regulator valves on propane tanks at the transmitter site. The station got back on the air six days later using their exciter and a studio-rooftop antenna. The station alleges a conspiracy involving the DA's office, environmentalists, radio and newspaper competitors, and the USFS. On November 4th, a judge ordered the DA's office to return everything that was seized. The station has since returned to the air using their USFS-land transmitter site under an interim agreement. The man is suing the woman for breach of contract in a court case that starts the 20th of November. Stay tuned, as they say.

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Newsletter Committee

Bill Harris.......(303)756-4843 email: BHarris4@IX.netcom.com
Garneth M. Harris..(303)756-4843
Andre' Smith.......(303)871-4204 email: ansmith@du.edu

Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Society, its officers, or its members. We regret, but are not liable for, any omissions or errors. The Denver SBE Newsletter is published approximately twelve times per year. It is prepared with a combination of text and graphic data. Submission deadline is 10 days before the last day of each month. Other SBE chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the original authors, sources, and/or the Denver SBE Newsletter.