2003 Picnic on the Mount Draws a Crowd
Each year the Rocky Mountain Section of SMPTE and Chapter 38 of the SBE hold their annual networking session on Lookout Moutain. With 93 attendees, this event, as in previous years, proved to be our most popular and a welcome relief from the tedium the world of broadcast engineering.
Members were able to visit and discuss issues in a relaxed social setting in the shadows of the broadcast towers - a reminder of our unresolved political issues related to the DTV roll-out.
We would like to thank our sponsors who generously supported this event:
Sony Corp. (John Switzer)
The September Meeting
Wednesday 10, September 2003, Ken Furman, Principal, Interact-TV Inc.(6060 West 91st Av. Westminster, CO 80031 http://www.interact-tv.com) will present their "Home Entertainment Server." Interact-TV serves digital media from an EC - an Entertainment Computer, a system built for your Living Room. Unlike a desktop PC running Windows (R) XP Media Center Edition, ECs are built from the ground up to serve entertainment with powerful features designed specifically for the enjoyment of digital media.
The meeting will be at 6:00 PM, at the Encore Facility.
Zenith 8VSB Seminar Slated for September 16
Eddie Hernandez at KBDI has scheduled the Gary Sgrignoli - Zenith 8VSB seminar for Sept. 16th. Although we have a meeting scheduled at Starz on the evening of the 10th, this seminar will no doubt be valuable to our members.
A flyer will be available soon.
Where: KBDI Studio, 2900 Welton Street in Denver
Random Radio Thoughts
Cris Alexander, CSRE
What a great turnout at the picnic last month! It was great to see many of you, and it was great that we had such a good representation from the radio side of our industry. Now we know the secret... if you want good radio participation, you must provide barbeque.
In the early part of last month, a four-alarm electrical fire in the Tech Center forced an evacuation of the Entravision cluster. Twenty fire trucks responded, and all hands at KXPK, KJMN and KMXA soon found themselves evacuated and watching the action from outside with the other tenants. The fire department allowed engineer Carl Cutforth to set up a generator and run an electrical cord into the studios. The stations were reportedly all back on the air with the Entravision satellite feed from San Jose after a 90-minute outage.
The LPFM debate continues - this time in the courts. Simpsonville Broadcasting LLC, licensee of class C3 station WGVC (106.3 MHz), was awarded a CP to relocate the station from Newberry, SC to Simpsonville, a 60-mile+ move. After the move, Simpsonville discovered interference within the WGVC protected contour from first-adjacent channel WFBP-LP (106.1 MHz) in Taylors, SC. The licensee, Taylors Public Radio, Inc., was ordered by the FCC to power down. Taylors offered to move to 105.5 MHz and filed an application to that end, but the FCC refused. Taylors' Frank Patterson said, "It's not over yet." He reportedly plans to file suit in U.S. District Court seeking damages from the FCC and several Media Bureau staffers to recover some of the $200,000 that he reportedly spent putting WFBP-LP on the air. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
In a related development, a study by the Mitre Corporation and Comsearch was released last month that concluded third-adjacent channel interference with full-power stations is "not a problem." The report is on Public Notice and you can read it online at: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-03-2277A1.pdf
Comments are due September 12. If the LPFM rules are changed to eliminate third-adjacent-channel protection of full-power stations by LPFMs, there is bound to be a large number of additional LPFMs coming on the air... no doubt with several in Colorado.
Back on June 2, the FCC adopted a comprehensive overhaul of its broadcast and media ownership rules by a 3-2 vote. This overhaul would permit large media companies to own more local television stations, radio stations and newspapers. The process is far from a done deal, however. Already there are challenges arising in Congress, with talk of a congressional veto being kicked around in the Senate. It seems unlikely that the new ownership rules will go into effect in their current form. There is also talk of late that Chairman Powell may be ready to leave because of "populist outrage" over the new ownership rules. Powell, by the way, denies that he plans to leave.
The new ownership rules have had a couple of effects on our industry. One is that all merger and acquisition activity has ground to a halt. Brokers are having to find another way to make their living for the time being. Another is that Roy Stewart has put the kibosh on any and all CP grants until the issue is resolved (presumably including any court or congressional challenges) or "further notice," whatever that means. That means that those of us who have been waiting for CP grants will have to wait a little - or a lot - longer. While I can understand that some CP grants may have an effect on media ownership limits in some markets, most will not. It seems to me that putting a hold on all CP grants is throwing the baby out with the bath water. I truly hope that sensibility will prevail at the FCC and the application process will get back into motion.
Another brewing trouble spot is that of local programming on satellite radio. XM Satellite Radio is currently operating under special temporary authority from the FCC. The trouble is, the direct satellite signal doesn't do too well in urban areas, where it is blocked by buildings, overpasses, trees and other obstructions. XM, with the temporary blessing of the FCC, installed a network of terrestrial repeaters to improve the signal in these areas. Now XM wants to insert some local programming elements on these terrestrial repeaters, which would compete more or less directly with terrestrial radio stations. The NAB has been sounding the alarm on this issue since way before it even was an issue, and its warnings have apparently been prophetic. Now, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin has registered concerns with the FCC over the issue.
On the HD Radio front, iBiquity VP of Broadcast Engineering Glynn Walden is leaving iBiquity as part of a cost-cutting effort. Glynn was a pioneer, one of the movers and shakers in the IBOC/HD arena. He was already a highly respected Group-W engineer when he helped found USA Digital Radio, which later merged with Lucent to become what is today iBiquity. The company said that Walden chose to leave on his own and calls him "one of the original visionaries" for IBOC radio. Along with Walden, VP of Program Management Rich Martinson and Senior Legal Advisor Gerald Marcovsky are also leaving iBiquity.
Finally, iBiquity may be getting close to a solution on the low bit-rate audio compression algorithm. While the news in this area is sketchy and reports are conflicting, we are hoping that iBiquity and Coding Technologies, which controls the aacPlus compression algorithm, will reach a licensing agreement soon. Past years' NAB demonstrations showed the aacPlus algorithm to work very well with iBiquity's AM system. The question I have is, will we have to start all over again with the testing if we move from PAC to aacPlus? Receivers are set to hit the shelves in September, by the way. Crawford has one HD station on the air, Power92 in Chicago. It will be interesting to see how this new broadcast media develops.
Keep in mind that the application deadline for the November 12-22 round of certification exams is September 24. This is the last opportunity for certification in 2004.
If you have news you would like to share with the Denver radio community, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barry Thomas Joins Westwood One as Engineering VP
Barry Thomas, has joined Westwood One Radio Networks as the company's vice president of engineering for the East Coast and will be based in the broadcast operations center in Manhattan.
Prior to his move to New York, Thomas was a broadcast engineering consultant in southern California.
Following experience as an announcer and program director in Columbia, South Carolina and with Broadcasters General Store, Barry joined WPHR-FM (later WENZ-FM) in Cleveland and then Omniamerica Group as the director of engineering. In 1996 he moved to San Francisco as the technical director for Evergreen Media's KYLD and then to Los Angeles.
He is a senior member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers and is certified as a Professional Broadcast Engineer and Broadcast Networking Technologist. He currently sits on the SBE's board of directors. He is a past national secretary of the society and also served three years on the NAB/SBE Conference committee. He has been active with the SBE on a local level as well, serving as the charter vice chairman and past chairman of Columbia, SC, Chapter 101 and the past chairman of Northeast Ohio Chapter 70.
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
The move to IBOC, or HD Radio, has apparently hit a snag with the NRSC suspending their standard-setting while an issue over artifacts from Ibiquity's low data rate/AM system gets resolved. The matter appears to be related to the sound, at very low bit-rates proposed for AM stations with the PAC compression scheme. Needless to say there is a lot of horsepower behind resolving this issue.
Not sure if John Forbes is going to write about this or not... but I have to tell you that I found myself doing something that I have not done in years: crawling up on a roof, installing a chimney mount and trying to pull pictures out of the air with an antenna. The house is John's and the antenna is a UHF broadside array... and the pictures we were seeking are being transmitted via 1s and 0s. John's location, east of Auburn, proved to be quite a challenge. For a while he was getting remarkable results with his antenna sitting in the corner of his living room. Standard logic would say that by giving this critter some elevation and aiming it in the right direction that his mondo-screenTV would jump to life with pretty pictures from Queen Anne Hill. Twas not to be the case. Perhaps because of the vegetation in that direction (a mixture of trees) or terrain, but whatever... after a few days of trying to find the right direction it was time to break out the heavy duty tools. Looking at a spectrum analyzer the desired signals looked like they were run through a comb with lots of level variations through the channel. Geeesh... things were better in the living room! The antenna was removed and the mast was attached to a chain link fence... (very near the accidental hot spot in the living room). John reports that he cannot get all the channels in the area...but at least he can see the DT pix from the Fisher station he works for!
If you are thinking about taking the plunge into DT... here are a couple of observations... 1) The old analog method of aiming for max signal is not likely to work. 2) In John's location the signals from Gold Mountain were great, perhaps proving that elevation is a good thing for UHF (duh!). 3) Plan on doing a lot of moving of your antenna to find the sweet spot. 4) Seriously think rotator as these antennas are really directional and the transmitters are scattered from Gold Mountain on the West to Tiger on the East. 5) Plan on being surprised as to the number of DT signals on the air... there are a bunch! 6) Look for a lot of up-converted analog stuff, at least for a while... but stand by to be dazzled when you see your first HDTV program... off air. 7) Be prepared to explain to your neighbors and friends the fact that you can REALLY get great pictures from Broadcast Stations.
Received an email from Dick Harris, K7VCD. Dick has been for many years working on the technical side of Radio, with occasional bouts with on the air stuff. Well June 1 was the date of Dick's retirement. (The lucky bum!) Dick has certainly earned the privilege, having started in this crazy business back in 1949. He said that he will still be 'on-call' to Salem. Congratulations Dick, you have earned it!
Do you have a DVD player yet? If you do, you are among those that have purchased almost 57 million of them since 1997. Talk about catching on! Bet you are like a lot of folks... you still have vinyl records, audio and VHS cassette tapes laying around.
Speaking of catching on... probably no electronic gizmo has caught on like the Cellphone. Understand that there are about 160 million in use in this country. Hard to remember back to 1982 when I carried around a Motorola MT-500 that was on a local RCC system. I remember I was in a grocery store one day when my wife called to remind me to pick up something... some others in the store marveled as this and asked where they could get one. Then came the Motorola 'brick'... now look. Mobile communications is in the hands of everyone... kids, too. That brick, by the way, weighed in at about a pound and a half. Today the new cellphones can do far more and are much smaller and weigh ounces.
Congratulations to Warren Severance who retired on July 7th from 33 years at KOMO. Warren started in Broadcasting some 40 years ago. From my secret spies I learned that he plans on staying active with home computers and projects and may even try his hand at farming. Warren is about to learn that HD does not have a thing to do with Television... it stands for Honey Do's.
Its interesting to watch the progress of Linux. Apparently some major companies are opting for the alternative operating system for their servers and are going back to having a system of terminals rather than full blown PCs on desk tops. Sounds like history repeating itself. Oops, sounds like I am doing some of Rich's stuff.
Noted that someone has filed an application for a new AM station in Western Washington. Not often that that happens anymore. In this case the location is Hoquiam. The applicant proposes to operate on 730 to 1 kW using a 2 tower directional.
It seems like all too often I report on the passing of a friend that has been associated with Broadcasting. In this case, I am also sadly reporting on the passing of a fellow from my neighborhood. Len Westbo, W7MCU, 71, passed away on May 25th. I had spoken with Len from time to time over the years about various topics, but never really spent much time with him, that is until we moved to the East Hill of Auburn back in 1990 and I found myself only about a block and a half from that big array that has graced this hill for many years. We traveled together to several WWARA functions and shared a meal or two... or would just chat at the mail-box. A few years ago Len built his dream house overlooking the valley after many years in a very small house on the property. His accomplishments are way too long to list here. During his time working at the FAA Flight Control Center here in Auburn, in the '60s and '70s, he took care of KASY (now KNWX). I am sure that I will be joined by many that knew this gentle man in missing him greatly.
Here's an outcome to unlicensed operation you don't hear about very often. Rayon Sherwin Payne was sentenced to 9 months in prison in Florida following multiple counts of operating an un-licensed FM radio station. What many of these folks fail to understand is that the price for doing this has already been established. $11K per single violation per day, not to exceed $87.5K for continuing violations... additionally, unlicensed operators may be subject to criminal sanctions, including a maximum $100K fine and up to one year in prison for a first offense. Perhaps the reason that there are so many unlicensed stations on the air is that rarely do the Feds go this far. This case in Florida is likely to assist the enforcement efforts there. It's my understanding that Florida has a severe problem with unlicensed operation.
The FCC also sent a strong message to those that erect towers near environmentally sensitive or historic sites. That message, with a 200 Grand price tag, went to Western Wireless for a 180 foot tower in North Dakota. Yikes! Not sure if they had to tear it down and restore the site.
AND, a Charleston, WV station got hit for $3K for failing to reduce power at night, $8K for tower lighting violations, $3K for not telling the Commish about the change in ownership of a tower.
From Bob Gonsett's 'Communicator' comes this interesting item. Ever wonder what happened to TV Channel 1? (Classic test question for wannabe TV Engineers.) Check out http://members.aol.com/jeff560/tvch1.html. It's a great story about the early days of FM (as we know it now) and VHF TV and how the channels ended up the way they are.
They are still trying to build a super-tower in New York to replace the lost WTC buildings' application as an antenna support. An alliance of TV stations has been working the problem and has come up with a location for a 2000 footer... but more recently the proposal received a dose of 'cold-water' from the FAA. (Not that we have not seen that happen here!) In the mean time, work continues to improve the rooftop of another downtown building to support even more stations.
In early June Comcast starting running promo's for their coverage of Mariners baseball in HDTV. Guess it still sounds funny... a cable company promoting HD... but it's certainly good to hear.
From the 'just in case you wanted to know' Dept. How can you tell if a Radio or TV station is a 'Small Organization'? Pretty simple: For TV, under $12 Million in annual receipts and for Radio, under $6 Million.
In a recent column I reported that Jack Williams, long associated with Pacific Recorders and audio consoles, had joined SAS... the router people that recently started making consoles. Apparently the fit was not good as Jack has reportedly moved on.
A word about AMBER - As you know we have had a couple of AMBER Alerts here in WaState and with them have come some 'issues'. Take it from me... these issues, and a whole lot more, are being handled. Our state's AMBER program is working hard on rolling out some great solutions. Stay tuned.
(Here are) some of my favorite type of humor for your summer moaning...
And from the ' Hmmmm, come to mention it department ':
It used to be that parents would tell their kids to go play, or find something to do, etc. Give them an Internet connection and they won't bother you for years.
Have you ever noticed that since just about everyone has a camcorder that hardly anyone sees a UFO these days?
That's about it from this end. Enjoy summer!
Clay, K7CR, CPBE
The End User
As this column goes to press, the furor over Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's comments regarding illegal music downloaders continues to reverberate. Many didn't take his idea to develop technology which destroys an illegal music downloader's computer seriously, as it actually violates federal anti-hacking laws. But just the mere mention of it sent privacy advocates reeling. And, on the heels of Hatch's comments, the RIAA sent cease-and-desist notices to some Verizon Internet users who were sharing copyrighted materials through their broadband connections. You may have heard that Verizon fought (and lost) a court battle to withhold the names of users sharing copyrighted material to the RIAA.
Product Activation expands: If you have a Microsoft "XP" product or prepared your 2002 tax return on your computer, you've most likely already experienced the requirement that the software be "activated" to either become or remain fully functional. Despite the furor raised this year over the tax-software activation constraint, many other companies are planning to add product activation to new releases of their software. Product activation, according to many software vendors is the only sure way to curb piracy. It will be interesting to see how consumers react.
Say hello to POE: Power Over Ethernet. Later this year, the 802.3af standard is expected to be ratified, enabling the distribution of low-voltage power over standard Ethernet cabling. POE uses the two unused pairs in 10/100 Ethernet cabling, but is not compatible with Gigabit Ethernet, as that uses all four pairs. Initially, POE is expected to be employed in powering devices like wireless access points, thereby eliminating the need for the traditional "wall-wart" external power supply. However, one enterprising company has adapted a traditional electric shaver for use with POE - demonstrating the possibilities for employing the technology within the home!
Fujitsu-Siemens, Europe's biggest PC maker, recently commented that the "glory days" of growth in the PC industry are gone. The company's CEO maintains that buyer interest remains strong in PDAs and laptops, but is waning in desktop PCs. It's not clear if the American marketplace is following this trend, but there is quite a bit of interest in wireless and mobile devices.
One American outfit struggling to find its place in the PC marketplace is Gateway. The company, one of the first to offer built-to-order computers, says it will now focus on becoming a "branded integrator," by introducing a wide range of consumer-electronics products that work together and share content. Currently, Gateway offers an inexpensive ($3000) 42-inch plasma TV that has become a hot seller. In addition to the focus on consumer gear, Gateway is also planning to offer services to help customers install and operate their new equipment.
Send your questions, comments and suggestions to email@example.com.
Import Free FCC Database Into Your Engineering Software
Curt Alway - Softwright
Obtaining accurate power geographic coordinates, antenna height, and
authorized frequencies has long been a challenge for designers of radio
systems. Now the FCC
Slattery Software http://www.slatterysoftware.com/ and SoftWright http://www.softwright.com/ have formed a strategic alliance to make this process very easy for all who want to calculate radio coverage and microwave path design.
Both companies have released a new version of their software, which fully support these capabilities. This is a standardized open-architecture
Facilities http://www.softwright.com/faq/support/fxf_fac_fields_for_import_minimum.html Exchange File format that facilitates the transfer of all FCC records of land mobile radio, microwave and other engineering details from the machine readable records of the FCC directly into a simple way to view the data and also to immediately process radio coverage maps, microwave path design and intermodulation studies.
For more information, contact Softwright or Slattery Software.
A Few Humorous Thoughts
I was thinking about how the status symbols of today is those pagers that everyone has clipped on. I can't afford one so I'm wearing my garage door opener.
I was thinking about old age and decided that it is when you still have something on the ball but you are just too tired to bounce it.
I just thought about how mothers feed their babies with little tiny spoons and forks so I wonder what Chinese mothers use. Perhaps toothpicks?
Employment application blanks always ask who is to be notified in case of an emergency. I think you should write . . . A Good Doctor!
Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do . . . write to these people? Why don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen could look for them while they delivered the mail?
Never Argue With A Child
A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's work. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.
The girl replied, "I'm drawing God."
The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like."
Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, "They will in a minute."
Garneth M. Harris
Newsletter archives are available
Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Societies, its officers, or its members. We regret, but are not liable for, any omissions or errors. The Denver SBE and SMPTE 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 or SMPTE chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the original authors, sources, and/or the Denver SBE/SMPTE Newsletter.