The October Meeting
Date: October 6, 2004
Location: Altitude Sports & Crown Media
Dave Zur presented at the Rocky Mountain Section's October meeting and provided a tour of the newly commissioned Altitude Sports production facility and a tour of the Crown Media International playout facility. Altitude broadcasts games of the Kronke Sports owned Colorado Avalanche hockey team, Denver Nuggets of pro basketball and the Colorado Mammoth lacrosse team. The network also will feature high school and collegiate sports, outdoors programming as well as lifestyle, entertainment and community shows from the Rocky Mountain West. Dave Zur Vice President of Engineering Altitude and Patrick Huff provided us with a discussion of project management and construction details in order to build out the facility on an accelerated schedule. We wish to thank Mr. David Hritz of Centerre Construction (www.centerre.com) the contractor for the facility for hosting the meeting.
Benedict Elected To Second Term
The annual election for national officers and directors of the Society of Broadcast Engineers was conducted on Thursday, September 9 with approximately 1,000 ballots received from voting members. Ballot tabulation was conducted by volunteer members of Chapter 25 in Indianapolis.
Elected to a second one-year term as President was Raymond C. Benedict, CPBE, Director of Spectrum Management for Viacom in Washington, D.C. In additional to President, Benedict has previously served SBE at the national level as vice-president, secretary and four terms on the Board as a director.
Christopher H. Scherer, CSRE, CBNT, was elected to his first term as Vice President. Scherer is editor of Radio magazine of Overland Park, Kan. And is currently chairman of the SBE National Certification Committee.
Elected to a second term as Secretary was Ralph R. Hogan, CPBE, CBNT, Asst. General Manager, Engineering Services at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. Hogan also serves as a member of the SBE Certification Committee at the national level.
Robert "R.J." Russell, CSTE, CBNT was elected to a second term as Treasurer. He is chairman of Chapter 138, "Lower Colorado River Valley," based in Yuma, Ariz. and previously served as a national director.
Troy Pennington, CPBE, CBNT, as Immediate Past President, will continue as a member of the Board of Directors. Pennington is Regional Engineering Director for Cumulus Broadcasting in Nashville, Tenn.
In addition to the four officers and immediate past president, 12 other members comprise the Board of Directors. Six of those seats are contested each year. This year, 13 candidates competed for those six seats. Elected to a two-year term on the Board of Directors were:
James T. Bernier Jr., CPBE, CBNT, Director, Maintenance, Design & Engineering, Turner Entertainment Networks, Atlanta, Ga.
Keith M. Kintner, CPBE, CBNT, Radio-TV-Film Engineer, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, Wis.
Vincent A. Lopez, CEV, CBNT, Systems Technician, WSYT/WNYS TV, Syracuse, N.Y.
Thomas R. Ray III, CPBE, Corporate Director of Engineering, Buckley Broadcasting/WOR Radio, New York, N.Y.
Barry Thomas, CPBE, CBNT, Vice President of Engineering, Westwood One, Inc., New York, N.Y.
Larry J. Wilkins, CPBE, CBNT, Assistant Director of Engineering, Cumulus Broadcasting, Montgomery, Ala.
Random Radio Thoughts
Trouble at the Tower Site
Of late, however, there has been other trouble brewing, on the opposite end of the lower 48. Last month, in Houston and Corpus Christi, vandals hit a number of tower sites and "trashed" them, putting the stations off the air by turning off all the circuit breakers. In one of the Texas incidents, the vandals even went so far as to cut the fuel line to the generator to make sure the station stayed off the air for awhile. Not much was stolen – only a spare PA tube (what are they going to do with that??). Similar incidents were reported at wireless sites throughout central and southeast Texas.
More recently, vandals have struck in Orlando, cutting through a fence and cutting power to a couple of Cox stations and a Disney station there. As in one of the Houston incidents, the generator fuel line was cut.
There have so far been no reports of tower site vandalism in Colorado, but perhaps we should ask, how safe is my site? One thing is for sure – engineers should think twice about going out to a transmitter site alone in response to an unexplained outage, particularly at night.
Since the first batch of fraudulent apps was discovered, the FCC has taken steps to prevent further mischief. They are currently screening all applications by hand before allowing them to go on public notice. Other automated safeguards are set to go into effect shortly. This will undoubtedly result in some inconvenience to online filers, much like airport security screening lines are an inconvenience to travelers, but this is evidently the world we live in.
For updates on this and other FCC-related news, go to http://www.aucont.com/news.htm.
Last month, I got a note from my respected colleague and friend, Jeff Littlejohn, SVP of Engineering at Clear Channel. Jeff and his capable crew had been experimenting with audio bandwidth much as we had been and had reached the same conclusion – that reducing audio bandwidth improved loudness, clarity and modulation efficiency without a significant quality penalty while at the same time reducing first-adjacent channel interference. Jeff issued a directive to all his AM market CEs to reduce the audio bandwidth of their stations. Crawford immediately opted to join Clear Channel in cutting audio bandwidth.
It will be interesting to see if others follow suit with bandwidth reduction; I suspect they will in short order. The good news is that when HD Radio does begin to proliferate on the AM band, there will be no further reduction in analog audio bandwidth.
More Cross-Border Stuff
Another chapter has recently opened in this saga. The FCC has levied a $25,000 fine against Uniradio, the U.S.-based entity that was providing cross-border programming to XEMO, one of the stations producing all the interference. The FCC says that Uniradio was aware that XEMO's power increase was in violation of the U.S.-Mexican Agreement and would interfere with KRLA (870 kHz – Glendale, California).
If you have news you would like to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CERTIFICATON EXAM SESSION DATES FOR 2005
Please 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.
Society of Broadcast Engineers
PDX Radio Waves
by Michael D. Brown N7AXC CSRE
Are AM radio receiver bandwidths so poor that it makes sense to limit transmitted audio to 5 kHz, ahead of IBOC conversion? Clear Channel thinks so, and has announced that nearly all their stations - including those in the Northwest - will switch to 5 kHz, (or 6 kHz for music stations) almost immediately. CC's VP of Engineering Jeff Littlejohn is insisting that the switch has nothing to do with IBOC. Such limitations are common abroad - indeed the European standard is 4.5 kHz audio, with 9 kHz channel spacing. From an interference standpoint, this makes a lot of sense. With 10 kHz audio we are, by definition, stomping over the first-adjacent channels. There are several places in the U.S., particularly the Northeast, where powerhouse first-adjacent AM's compromise each in otherwise-well-receivable territories. 710 WOR in New York, versus 700 WLW in Cincinnati is a good example. At night, the issue is even more dramatic. Indeed, I'd love to be able to listen to 810 KGO, San Francisco, on occasion, yet that's thwarted locally by 800 KPDQ Portland. The Consumer Electronics Association prefers this narrow transmission standard. The fact that most AM radios roll off rapidly above 3 kHz is a response to the reality on the ground - consumers will complain about adjacent channel interference much more readily than they will complain about narrow bandwidths when receiving a radio service that has no remaining expectation of being "hi- fi."
On the other hand, some engineers contend that brick-wall audio cutoffs, even to some extent when they are done digitally, tend to generate audible "smear" to the frequencies just below. And since audio distortions in the 3 kHz range are particularly discernable to the human ear, this could be a problem. Many narrow-band radios have SOME response out to 10 kHz or more - albeit rolled off by double-digit decibels. To my ear, many average narrow-band radios suffered in high end "openness" and distortion when we went to the 10 kHz NRSC standard, and will suffer much more with a 5 kHz standard. The better solution would have been to have tighter first-adjacent AM standards (which the FCC finally did several years ago - but the grandfathered stations remain), and not to have "broken up" the AM clear channel protections. Those horses have long since left the barn, of course, along with any real hope of wide implementation of better analog AM radios with crystal lattice filters and synchronous detectors. AM IBOC will render all these concerns utterly moot, and will reintroduce adjacent channel interferences that make the current problems pale by comparison.
We'll be watching Clear-Channel's gutsy move with great interest. And we continue to prefer NO AM IBOC. Instead, AM should go straight to all-digital, and the data should be in the + and - 5 kHz range where it belongs. This overnight switch could be done when the AM station decides that sufficient receivers are in the market to allow them to make the change. The FCC should specify that any radio with IBOC FM should have all-digital AM built in, and (at least) be upgradable to all-digital FM. Also on my wish list is to have all digital radios be flashable - to allow the advancement of state of the art without creating receiver obsolescence. My sense is that audio data "compression" will continue to greatly advance in the coming years.
Blood-Brain Barrier No Problem
From San Francisco Chapter 40
In a controversial study done in Sweden it has been alleged that a protein in blood can leak into a brain that has been exposed to the RF levels typical for cell phones. This is no small matter in that the blood-brain barrier is a major problem in the delivery of drugs. The body is programmed not to let anything cross that barrier or to make it damn difficult. If true, it would be the smoking gun that finished an industry. The study is posted at:
A commentary to the contrary is posted at:
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
It finally happened. At long last, with the arrival of the long awaited big circulators enabling all the HD Radio transmitters to get on the air from the Entercom Site on West Tiger, all seven are up and running. For the uninitiated (those that do not yet have an HD Radio in their vehicles) let me try and explain what this means. For my example I am going to use KING-FM. Due to the modulation density of this format (Classical), listening to 98.1 in your vehicle has not been a pleasant experience as all the noises that would normally be masked by the audio processors of other formats were there for you to hear. With HD you can listen to the Classics in your car, noise-free and with fidelity that you did not think possible. Prior to this it was only possible by listening to a CD, and YES, you can do it while traveling on I-5 along Boeing Field! HD is wonderful for other formats too: KPLU's Jazz (88.5) is great, as is The Mountain on 103.7; it even makes Rock sound better on 107.7, 106.1 and 99.9. The Oldies on 97.3 are clean and clear, like listening to the studio monitors. For Talk formats, the advantage here is the lack of background noise, picket fencing and multipath, so 100.7 even sounds better. Of the nine HD Radio signals in the area now all but one of them are coming from West Tiger. KUOW's transmitter on the Channel 9 tower provides an interesting contrast, in that their coverage is a fraction of those that are over 3000 feet up. Their lower elevation means that our hilly terrain causes the receivers to switch back to FM rather frequently resulting in spotty digital coverage. The bottom line is that HD Radio is 'candy for the ears.' As you can imagine, HD Radio will be the major topic at this year's NAB Radio show in San Diego with several days full of sessions devoted to the new mode.
Many AM broadcasters are awaiting a decision from the FCC as to night operation before launching their HD Radio efforts. Yes, I know that there are several AM-HD stations operating. Meanwhile, Canada is saying, "hold it right there!" As they are concerned over the impact of US HD operation on their stations. The issue here is based on the fact that HDR relies on the use of adjacent channels to function. On the AM band, adjacent channels have not been factored into the sky-wave mix.
Now, onto other things....
Here's a question for you: Who is the most famous retired Chief Engineer living in this area? I submit that his name is James Doohan, Chief Engineer of the Enterprise. Scotty, as we came to know him, was recently honored with a star on the walk of fame in Hollywood. Thanks, Scotty, for teaching the masses that Engineering can pull off the impossible in the face of disaster and danger. Just as soon as I can find my communicator, I'll give you a call so you can beam us aboard. He is now 84 and living in Redmond.
Sirius is becoming more of a serious factor with the announcement that they have gone past the 600,000 subscriber mark. The Bird-Radio provider is now moving into a new area... Sports, with live broadcasts of NFL games.
SBE has announced that the Certification program has hit an all-time high with over 5,400 Engineers certified by the Society. Good time to plug the program... If you are not yet certified, visit the SBE web site at www.sbe.org and... get with it! Got an email from Chris Pannell of Harris informing me that he, too, is going to get certified. Way to go, Chris!
The FCC released their NPRM dealing with proposed changes to the EAS rules, and this promises to be a big one. If you have not yet read Docket 04-296, get a copy today and spend some serious time digesting it. I have broken this down to a list of questions that takes 12 pages. For a copy of that, drop me an email to k7cr at wolfenet.com* and I'll shoot you one.
Another battle is the one over BPL, or Broadband over Power Lines. The ARRL, SBE and others contend that this is a license for the spreading of noise and interference, while some at the FCC contend that this is the wave of the future.
Pirate FM stations, or should I say 'unlicensed', continue to be a problem. At this writing the operation on 93.7 continues with an interesting mix of what I call 'potty mouth rap.' Down in Victorville, California, a fellow really got into this act with not only an FM on 91.3 but an AM on 660. Cost him 20 Grand.
The FCC continues to issue fines for EAS violations. In one case a TV station, KHIZ-TV, was not running RMTs. naughty, naughty. In another case, KRCK-FM, failed to run EAS tests (and maintain a main studio). WPHX in Maine got fined $13,600. Reading the background of this one was an interesting line of text: "Unable to locate WPHX(AM)'s main studio...". Ooops!
Guess who has been filling in on air at KOMO Radio? None other than our own Rich Petschke. Whadda talent!
Are you ready for re-farming? Well the time has come. Our Local SBE Coordinator, Arne Skoog, has begun working on the new alignment for our 160 and 450/455 bands. Stay tuned as some of the old familiar channel frequency designations may become a thing of the past.
Am sorry to report the death of a Broadcast Engineer. Robin Thomas, 39, of Cheyenne was apparently electrocuted in August while working on equipment alone in Northern Colorado. I could start a lengthy rant about this matter as I feel very strongly that NO-ONE should be working on a transmitter, with lethal voltages, alone. Why is there not an OSHA or WSHA policy dealing with this issue? I can recall a couple of friends' encounters with HV at transmitter sites... it ain't pretty. I also understand that Bill Gott, long time engineer in Spokane, recently passed away.
Just what we need... another study on the health effects of NIER. This time Korean scientists have found that regions near AM Broadcast towers have 70% more deaths from LEUKEMIA.
The ARRL is planning on asking the FCC to consider dropping the requirement that specific modes be used in specific spectrum areas in favor of simply having a bandwidth requirement. Perhaps a good idea in light of the various modes that are used today.
Mr. FCC, Michael Powell, recently spoke about the future of the Commish. Looks like he is very high on VoIP. Seems to me that he is also very high on BPL.
The Tacoma Tribune runs a feature called "South Sound Photo Album" in which there are pictures of various items from yesteryear. Clipped one. Shows a picture of Arnold Benum and announcer sitting in front of an old Western Electric Console at KMO in November of 1946. In the picture are three 16 inch turntables, the center one had a separate arm for a cutting head. The picture was taken in the old Keyes Building at 9th and Broadway in Tacoma. Another interesting item: the announcer, speaking into a Western 639B Mic, was wearing a suit. Wonder what would happen if a rule came down that radio announcers had to wear suits today?
Was in Edgewood the other day... noted that their local newspaper is called the SIGNAL... I picked up a copy for the folks at SBE Headquarters.
That's it for me for this month. Time to get packed up for yet another ride in the Aluminum Tube.... Whoopie!
CUL—Clay, CPBE, K7CR
Thanks to Kansas Chapter 3
KKOB-AM in Albuquerque had to shut down its 50,000-watt transmitter as the balloon passengers descended to within a 100 feet of the bottom of the tower where they were met by emergency crews who secured them in safety gear and helped them into a utility truck bucket. Tower maintenance crews were summoned to remove the balloon from the top of the tower. The FAA and NTSB are investigating the incident.
Viacom and Disney forfeiture assessed by FCC. Both companies were charged with violation of KidVid rules, running too many kid oriented commercials in Nickelodeon and The Family Channel, respectively. Viacom was slapped with $1 Million and Disney with $500,000 in fines.
I made note of niche markets in the last newsletter. Here is a new one: a new key-chain gadget that lets people toggle most TVs on or off wherever they happen to be, is selling at a faster clip than expected according to inventor, Mitch Altman of San Francisco. Hundreds of orders for Altman's $14.99 TV-B-Gone gadget poured in after the tiny remote control was announced in Wired magazine and other online media outlets recently. The keychain fob works like a universal remote control, but only with an on/off function. With a zap of a button, the gizmo goes through a string of about 200 infrared codes that controls the power of nearly 1,000 television models. Altman said the majority of TVs should react within 17seconds, though it takes a little more than a minute for the widget to emit all the trigger codes. Altman says he usually gets little to no reaction from others after the background TV noise and glare disappears, but he would never dare silently kill those TV's in places like sports bars.
How about your facility? Do you have an emergency plan for recovery from a disastrous situation. Where could you relocate to get your signal back on-air? Who would you call to help you? Do you have agreements in your files with vendors who can assist with working gear or other services on a moment's notice to get you back on air? If you and your staff have not considered such events, you are unprepared; but give it some thought before you bring it up to your GM, because it will unleash a torrent of questions.
Robert Nelson forwarded an e-mail with a job opportunity. It was from Shan Easterling, staff engineer for American Family Radio based in Tupelo, MS. Shan says, "Our organization owns a nationwide network of non-comm (Christian) FM radio stations, including KBJQ / 88.3 in Bronson / Iola, KS, and KBQC / 88.5 in Independence / Peru, KS. We are searching for a regional contract broadcast engineer (or two) that could do both repair and maintenance work for us at these two sites.
You can check out our website at www.afr.net. We own and operate a total of 15 stations in Kansas alone." Contact information for Shan:
Rod Rogers e-mailed a question: "Is Windows a virus ?" The argument follows:
No, Windows is not a virus. Here's what viruses do:
1.) They replicate quickly - okay, Windows does that.
2.) Viruses use up valuable system resources, slowing down the system as they do so - okay, Windows does that.
3.) Viruses will, from time to time, trash your hard disk - okay, Windows does that too.
4.) Viruses are usually carried, unknown to the user, along with valuable programs and systems. Sigh... Windows does that, too.
5.) Viruses will occasionally make the user suspect their system is too slow (see 2) and the user will buy new hardware. Yup, that's with Windows, too.
Until now it seems Windows is a virus, but there are fundamental differences:
1.) Viruses are well supported by their authors
2.) Are running on most systems
3.) Their program code is fast, compact and efficient
4.) They tend to become more sophisticated as they mature.
So you see, Windows is not a virus!
Well the FCC has done it! In a Report and Order dated October 14th, Broadband Access over Power Lines was authorized. Specifically, the order: Sets forth rules imposing new technical requirements on BPL devices, such as the capability to avoid using any specific frequency & to remotely adjust or shut down any unit; Establishes "excluded frequency bands" within which BPL must avoid operating entirely to protect aeronautical and aircraft receivers communications; & establishes "exclusion zones" in locations close to sensitive operations, such as coast guard or radio astronomy stations, within which BPL must avoid operating on certain frequencies; Establishes consultation requirements with public safety agencies, federal government sensitive stations, and aeronautical stations. Establishes a publicly available Access BPL notification database to facilitate an organized approach to identification and resolution of harmful interference. Changes the equipment authorization for Access BPL systems from verification to certification; ............and, Improves measurement procedures for all equipment that use RF energy to communicate over power lines.
You may want to read up on this one, to know where to lodge a complaint, should that become necessary!
The End User
Here’s an interesting factoid to start this month’s column: Anti-virus maker Sophos has released its list of the biggest exporters of junk e-mail, more commonly known as “spam”. Their ranking lists the US as the leading originator of spam e-mail messages, producing nearly 43% of the world’s spam—almost a three-to-one lead over the second-place country, South Korea. The least spam-producing country: Taiwan. Hey, at least we’re #1—again…
Speaking of spam: there’s a new variety of it making the rounds which can defeat most anti-spam filters. Messages use a process called "steganography", which embeds text inside an image file. Since the anti-spam filters are looking at text, not images when searching for spam keywords, the images pass through the filters unscathed and the spam gets delivered to the user. Look for the anti-spam vendors to upgrade their products to protect against steganography-enhanced messages.
It looks like large-screen LCD monitor prices are finally dropping. Limited screen production capacities had kept prices high, but I’m now seeing 17" flat panels regularly priced below $300, and 19" models well under $400. While those prices are still higher than comparable CRTs, the gains in both desk space and power savings make the investment worthwhile. When buying a flat panel, make sure it has both analog and digital (DVI) inputs, so it will work if you buy a new computer with a digital video output.
The most spectacular price drops recently have been on the dual-layer DVD burners. The drives, which use DVD+R9 media to store up to 9.4Gb, are just a couple of dollars more than their single-layer counterparts, which have half the storage capacity. DVD+R9 media are still expensive at just under $10 a disc, but that price will drop quickly as production ramps up.
Finally this month... I can’t understand for the life of me why anyone would buy an "Apple iPod from HP." What’s the advantage? Why not just buy an Apple iPod from Apple? Yes, I understand that HP wants in on the lucrative portable music player market, but it just doesn’t make sense to me why I would want to buy another company’s product from someone other than the company who makes it. Oh well.
That’s it for October.
Cars and Computers
Subject: GM and computers
Enjoy, it's all too true sometimes.
For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, read on. At a recent computer expo(COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."
In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics (and I just love this part):
For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.
Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.
The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation" warning light.
The airbag system would ask "Are you sure?" before deploying.
Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
You'd have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off.
Please share this with your friends who love - but sometimes hate - their computer!
INSERT AUTHOR HERE
Cash, check or charge?" I asked, after folding items the woman wished to purchase. As she fumbled for her wallet I noticed a remote control for a television set in her purse. "So, do you always carry your TV remote?" I asked. "No," she replied, " but my husband refused to come shopping with me, and I figured this was the meanest thing I could do to him legally."
Eleanor Roosevelt: I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: "No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall."
George Burns: The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and have the two as close together as possible.
Victor Borge: Santa Claus has the right idea ...visit people only once a year.
Socrates: By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.
Groucho Marx: I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.
Jimmy Durante: My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe.
Garneth M. Harris
Newsletter archives are available online.
Visit www.smpte-sbe48.org/oldnews for an index
newsletter back issues.
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.