Clay’s Corner for May 2017

Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

Well, at last, we are able to drive conventional vehicles to the top of West Tiger.   It almost seems strange…Like I’ve been on an extended vacation.   The bad news…Lots of catch-up to do.

The crew from iHeart have been busy getting their new 106.1 Nautel GV40 on the air. On April 14th Marty Hadfield sent me this picture of his vehicle parked at West Tiger – Mother Nature is certainly being stubborn this year!

 

If you have believed that the Seattle area has rain all the time…Well….This year, you may be right with record setting amounts of wet….and it’s been cool…Last year we enjoyed temps in the 80’s.. this year they are in the 60’s.   Don’t think that anyone accurately predicted this.  In driving up to the mountain sites around here you can’t help but notice all the hanging moss…in fact moss is growing everywhere, at a rapid rate.   You used to have to drive over to the west side of the Olympics to see this kind of thing…not anymore!  The old joke went something like this….Someone asked a Seattleite…If it rains all the time, what do you do during the summer to which the native responded…’Well, if it takes place on a weekend, we go on a picnic’.   Let’s hope that this ‘wet’ will abate and we can have a summer like last year.   Come to think of it, perhaps this extended monsoon has been a penalty for last summers extended dry and warm?   To put all this in perspective – As of April 23, there are ‘Critical/Elevated Fire Weather and Fed Flag warnings in – Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.  Perhaps our water should be viewed as a blessing?

Once again, I did not make it to the big show in Vegas this year, however, I understand that attendance was strong with over 103,000 being reported.   Whereas I am no longer in the ‘looking for something to buy’ or ‘meetings to attend’ mode…I would require a very good reason to go down to breath some more cigarette smoke and listen to electronic gizmo’s make noise.   Would be nice, however, to be able to be, one more time, with some old friends.

The FCC is, once again, talking tough about pirate radio broadcasters.   Commissioner O’Rielly recently spoke at a Hispanic Radio Conference and said – , “The failure to properly address [this] highlights a deficiency in the Commission’s enforcement tools and undermines our overall credibility.”   I, personally, feel that he should be a candidate for the ‘Yah-Think’ award.

He went on to use a term I’ve not seen to describe these folks – He called them Squatters who are infecting the radio band at the expense of listeners and legitimate radio stations.   Well said, Mr Commissioner – Now let me remind all that actions speak louder than words.    Time will tell.

The FCC’s effort to prop-up AM Radio with new rules that permit AM’s to own FM Translators is applauded by some…and is being rejected by others.     What many (that know better) should know is that the FM Band is not a waste land of empty spectrum waiting for every AM station to grab a channel and ride off to the bank with a bag of money.    The band has been filling, quickly, with a host of other things….like LPFM’s etc.   The fact is – SURPRISE – There is not room for everyone.   Recently an LPFM advocacy group call Prometheus has petitioned the FCC to slow up the train as it may well harm their members.   One of the down sides of our spectrum regulators is that they, time after time, throw away the book of good engineering practice and attempt to accommodate everyone. You want evidence, just look at what happened to AM over the years thanks to this practice.

Apparently there are those broadcasters that still try and play a bit ‘loose’….For example a station complained about interference from a translator.   The station owning the translator did some checking an found out that the complaining station was operating in variance from their licensed parameters (oops)  Our own, Seattle based, Hatfield and Dawson got involved with this one…Perhaps a member of that team would be willing to discuss it at an upcoming SBE meeting?   The bottom line is this – If you are going to complain to the FCC about an issue – First make sure that your house is in order.   Call letters involved are – KXEG and KSWG.   (I’ll let you research the details if you wish)

For many years I have been directly connected with the implementation of HD Radio systems.   Over the years the equipment involved has improved, reliability has increased etc.   However there are still some rough edges that tend to make some stations that are operating HD Radio look bad in the minds and ears of consumers.    Frankly, in this day and age, there is no excuse for it to continue…..Especially in light of the fact that just about all new vehicle radios have HD built in.

Specifically what I am talking about is the listener experience when they tune into a station operating HD-Radio.   When you tune in the station, your receiver first is receiving the conventional FM signal, then, in about 8 seconds…(Assuming you are in range of the HD signal) the radio will cross-fade from FM to what we call HD-1 and will begin producing audio derived from the digital transmission.   It’s what happens when this transition takes place is where the problems are .

In the case of many stations there are several technical issues that should never take place –

  1. Time Alignment    This is where the timing of the FM and HD Audio is not aligned causing the listener to experience an echo/stutter or repeat of a piece of audio.     This problem is multiplied significantly if the listener is in a weak signal area where the receiver is going back and forth between FM and HD.

 

The issue here is that the listener is going to be very annoyed by this taking place and is likely to

feel that their radio is broken and may, in the case of a new car, take it back to the dealer demanding that the radio be repaired (yes, this does take place).

The bottom line is that this problem – should not take place.   Further the responsibility to make

sure it does not rests with the radio station.    The listener may well discover that this problem

only exists with some, but not all stations and may conclude there is something wrong with that station and avoid listening to it!   A clear situation where the station loses.

For many years there have been methods for setting the time alignment and for monitoring the situation.   More recently there has been equipment available that will automatically keep the FM and HD time-aligned.   So why does it continue?… That’s the $ 64,000 Question.  Perhaps, in some cases because the station is not aware that a technical solution exists, or, simply does not wish to make the investment?

  1. Equalization This is where the ‘sound’ or ‘fidelity’ of the FM and HD-1 Signals is remarkably
  2. Again the question came to mind – Why do they let this take place???   Does not any one at that station care?   Could it be that the stations management and engineers don’t have an HD Radio and simply are not aware?
  3. Recently while tuning around the FM band I came across a station that was clearly running HD (My vehicle radio has an indicator that lights up telling me that) I awaited the transition to HD and could not believe my ears.   The HD audio was piercing and shrill sounding, making me want to grab the treble control and turn it down.   Then, as I drove a bit further, the signal level dropped and the radio switched back to FM, and the audio quality changed back.   Talk about annoying!   This was one station that I could not listen to- regardless of how compelling their programming was.   This back and forth audio quality issue was obnoxious.   Clearly they were either not using a common audio processor or they had them considerably miss-adjusted.
  4. different.   When the receiver is transitioning back and forth between receiving FM or HD signals the audio should sound the same.   The exception being the noise and distortion of FM should be gone.
  5. Loudness   This is where the station has mis-adjusted the audio loudness and either the FM or HD audio is louder than the other…rather than have them be the same.

The bottom lines –

The Time Alignment, Equalization and Loudness of the FM and HD should be such that a radio can go thru the transition between modes without causing the listener to feel there is something wrong.   When the radio goes from FM to HD the only thing they should notice is that it sounds better because un-wanted things (like multipath distortion, picket-fencing etc.) go away.

What is perhaps the hardest thing for me to grasp is why the owners and managers of these stations have not created a policy that forbids this level of technical negligence?     If you are just a listener to one of these stations, perhaps now you know that this is a problem that can be easily resolved, and will, upon hearing these issues, call the station and speak to their manager and ask them why they have not addressed the problem?

There was a recent piece written about some of these issues in Radio World – It should be a must-read for all radio broadcast engineers –

http://www.radioworld.com/digital-radio/0014/maintaining-proper-hd-radio-time-alignment/339134

The Radio industry is still talking about the Entercom/CBS Merger.   Entercom’s David Field has been busy telling everyone how this will create “truly preeminent radio company with an extraordinary platform” covering virtually all of the country’s top 50 markets. With nearly $2 billion in annual sales, a value of over $4 billion and a strong financial position”. Perhaps a pitch to investors who, by and large, pan investing in media companies. This merger was moving along with the FCC creating a formal docket to deal with it….That is….Until the DOJ announced that they wanted to take a look at the deal.   Who knows what that will mean. One of the issues to deal with will be the spinning off of assets that place the new company over limits.   Here in Seattle this means which stations will stay with the new company and which will become property of another.   As usual, in cases like this, managers are telling the troops to keep plugging away and ignore all the uncertainty that comes with the territory.   Perhaps in 6 months I will be able to write about how this all sifts out.

In one of the markets where the merged company had to divest of stations was Sacramento, Ca.   Just so happened that Entercom was in ‘hot-water’ over their water contest that went tragically bad at one of their stations (KDND).   Timing was good as Entercom surrendered the license for the FM Station a move that apparently satisfied the Commish.   Therefore – The official end of ‘The End’ 107.9.

Shifting gears a bit to business in the Seattle area –

The Seattle area continues to amaze. If someone had told you that in 20 years –

  • On-line retailing was going to be huge
  • Many historic retailers would be going out of business because of it
  • The major player would be a company called Amazon
  • Seattle would be the home of that company
  • It’s CEO would be the 2nd richest person in the world.

Would you have believed it? Some of the headlines are pretty stark –

  • Stores closing at a record pace as Amazon chews up retailers
  • Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Shuttering at a Record Pace
  • Some a filing for bankruptcy
  • Other companies are plowing ahead with store closures outside of bankruptcy court. Sears., Macy’s and J.C. Penney Co. are shutting hundreds of locations combined, reeling from an especially punishing slump in the department-store industry.

 

  • According to research from Slice Intelligence, Amazon captured 38 percent of all dollars spent online during the past holiday season. The next-closest retailer, Best Buy, had a mere 3.9 percent.
  • So how much of the e-commerce pie does Amazon have?   53% !

Jeff Bezos is now just behind Bill Gates with a worth somewhere north of 75 Billion Bucks! (Gates reportedly is still cruising with about 10 Billion more) Bezos has edged out Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg.   And if you don’t know who Jeff Bezos is – he is best known as the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.com, which is the world’s largest online shopping retailer.

And, if you have not heard – Radioshack is once again going under.   Sad to say that the days when people actually built electronic gizmos from parts purchased at a local store have gone.   Then again you can buy all of these items now on Amazon.

 

One of the big losers in all of this are some shopping malls.   The formula is familiar…A mall is constructed with two or more major anchor stores and a little of smaller firms filling in the small footprints.   The question is what happens when those big anchor stores close?  In many cases the mall becomes history.   Some malls have done something un-thinkable in the past – they have welcome large mega food outlets like Kroger etc.     And who gets the blame for a lot of this?    Yes, that Seattle based giant called Amazon.

There is an impact on broadcast here too.   The demise of local, brick and mortar, stores puts a dent in historic advertising revenue.

Then there is the news that Amazon is going to be streaming NFL Games…And that Amazon is going to open a concept called Amazon Go which would be a technology powered grocery store that would not require shoppers to have to endure the dreaded checkout line. So why did I write all about this in this column?….To point out how a Seattle based company is making a huge difference in many ways….Ways that if they have not already, will in the future, likely touch us all.

Besides the insane amount of construction in Seattle…One of the major impacts has been to dramatically increase the cost of housing in the area.   Not that there are not plenty of people with the income to buy them.   Reports are there are over 165,000 people in King County that are making over $150,000/year.  A great indicator of this issue is the median home price.   Go about 60 miles to the south to Olympia and you will find the median price there is about 260,000 – That over $360,000 less than Seattle!

Recently Boeing issued a number of lay-off notices due to declining orders.   In years past this would have sent shock-waves thru the Seattle area.   Today, in light of the areas diversification, It’s almost a non-event.

Here’s another Seattle statistic for you to digest – The University of Washington (in Seattle) is now ranked #9 in the world…A long way behind Harvard…But not bad for a little town in the northwest part of the country.

One thing that the Seattle area does not often have to deal with ….Thunderstorms…At least T-storms of the magnitude that recently struck Columbus, Georgia on April 5th.    Lightning repeated struck the WLTZ TV tower during that one.    Can you imagine if this was one of the 6 TV Towers in Seattle?

Most of us are familiar with radio stations or EAS systems getting hacked…Well this time, on April 8th someone hacked in the Dallas Texas area weather warning Sirens…..All of them.    Apparently they were controlled via a common radio repeater system.   Officials had to turn off the repeater to silence the sirens that wailed for some time.  Likely a lot of red-faces over this one….and a new and more secure system being deployed.   Seems like if a device is powered by electricity, it’s just a matter of time before it gets hacked.

 

On the subject of hacking – There are a couple of things that are very high on the FCC’s NO-NO list.

Messing with something involving aviation radio systems and the other something involving law enforcement.   In the latter case a resident of New York City may have to give the Feds $400,000 for his interfering with police communications…Including threats to police officers, false bomb threats etc.

Unlike most pirate radio operators, this guy is in police custody on other, unrelated charges.   My big question is whether or not he will actually pay the fine.   In all too many cases these yahoo’s seem to end up not paying for various reasons.    BTW the $400 Grand was the maximum permitted

 

The Commish had to deal with another one recently – This time in Pompano Beach Florida where they asked a party to contribute 20 Grand to the Treasury for operating a non-licensed FM station. This fellow had a lot of ‘brass’.   When an FCC field agent spoke with the person on the phone, he acknowledged that he had received an earlier notice from the Commission and when on to ask if he could continue to operate for a few more days.

Meanwhile, here in the Seattle area, a number of folks are monitoring 101.9 to see what might be on the air next.   This is the same operation that recently was broadcasting programming supplied by a party that hacked into their IP Based STL system.

 

Nielsen continues to make news with the announcement that they are going to increase the number of samplers as well as introducing a mini-version of the device people wear to sample their media habits.   This new creature will, reportedly, be so small it would fit inside a smartwatch, Fitbit or smart phone.

Another announcement on the technology front –   Sony (yes they are still around) is rolling out some new solid state drives designed to work with video recording equipment.  They claim their new model SB-G596 can achieve 2400 terabytes written.     The 4K video world is driving a lot of this.

The recent mega merger announcement of Entercom and CBS has caused some to suggest that the FCC should take a look at what’s call ‘Sub-Caps’ .   These are limits on the number of stations that a single owner can operate in a given market.   Presently, in markets the size of Seattle, an entity can own no more than 5 FM or AM stations or 8 total.  I find it interesting that in Seattle, at one time, Entercom owned 5 FM’s and 3 AM’s…but ended up spinning off one of the FM’s and all the AM’s.    This, sort of, indicated that there was not a lot of demand for the large clusters.   In other, smaller, markets the demand is greater.   There are groups that are lining up on both sides of this one.    One of the drivers for this is the plight of AM radio.  Perhaps a single operator, could make a go of a large cluster of AM’s?
Some recently released first quarter 2017 totals to look at.

 

  • The total number of AM’s is down by 3 (I would have guessed more) to 4,666
  • Eight more commercial FM’s (6,754)
  • Two more FM NCE’s (4,112)
  • 200 more FM Translators and Boosters
  • 246 more LPFM’s

 

On the Video Side –

  • One less full power TV Stations (1,777)
  • 6 fewer UHF translators
  • 5 fewer VHF translators

 

Grand total – 32,846 active broadcast licensees.

 

I suspect there will be some significant shifts in these numbers with all the FM translator activity as well as the TV Repacking process.

 

Speaking of Repacking –There is a ton of news items related all of this—–

 

Some of the major TV sites are in for some rather dramatic changes.   For Example – The Sutro Tower in San Francisco will be losing 3 TV tenants, changing channels for 6 and they may pick up some additional stations.     This site alone represents a huge amount of hardware that will have to be changed.     Certainly good news for those that supply the hardware as well as those that will be working at these sites to make the changes.       I suspect there will be number of requests for extensions and a shortage of qualified people to pull it all off.

 

According to reports, T-Mobile and Comcast were the heavy hitters in the spectrum auction.   T-Mobile is estimated going to be spending something like $10 Billion for new spectrum.    And yes, there is a local aspect to all of this – The home office for T-Mobile just happens to be in the Seattle area – Technically on the other side of Lake Washington from Seattle in Bellevue (What locals call ‘the East Side)

 

Interesting that there are a number of stations that will be moving into the VHF band.   This is contrary to the big push of not long ago to move the other way.

 

The FCC has, on-line, all the information about who is going where. For my readers in the 3 states were this column is read – The following should be helpful.    The columns are (left to right)

  • Call letters
  • New channel
  • Old Channel
  • City of license

 

The Repack in Washington

KUNS-TV 24 50 BELLEVUE
KWPX-TV 33 33 BELLEVUE
KVOS-TV 14 35 BELLINGHAM
KBCB 19 19 BELLINGHAM
KCKA 19 19 CENTRALIA
KVBI-LP 17 42 CLARKSTON
K36EW-D 36 36 COLLEGE PLACE
KONG 31 31 EVERETT
KVEW 27 44 KENNEWICK
KVVK-CD 15 15 KENNEWICK, ETC.
KEPR-TV 18 18 PASCO
KWSU-TV 10 10 PULLMAN
KQUP 24 24 PULLMAN
KTNW 22 38 RICHLAND
KNDU 26 26 RICHLAND
KCTS-TV 9 9 SEATTLE
KFFV 16 44 SEATTLE
KIRO-TV 23 39 SEATTLE
KING-TV 25 48 SEATTLE
KOMO-TV 30 38 SEATTLE
KZJO 36 25 SEATTLE
KSPS-TV 7 7 SPOKANE
KXLY-TV 13 13 SPOKANE
KHQ-TV 15 15 SPOKANE
KREM 20 20 SPOKANE
KAYU-TV 28 28 SPOKANE
KGPX-TV 34 34 SPOKANE
KSKN 36 36 SPOKANE
KSTW 11 11 TACOMA
KCPQ 13 13 TACOMA
KTBW-TV 21 14 TACOMA
KBTC-TV 27 27 TACOMA
KWDK 34 42 TACOMA
KPDX 30 30 VANCOUVER
KORX-CD 16 16 WALLA WALLA
K21JQ-D 21 21 WALLA WALLA
K31KL-D 31 31 WALLA WALLA
K33EJ-D 33 33 WALLA WALLA
KAPP 14 14 YAKIMA
KNDO 16 16 YAKIMA
KYVE 21 21 YAKIMA
KUNW-CD 30 30 YAKIMA
KIMA-TV 33 33 YAKIMA
KDHW-CD 35 35 YAKIMA

 

 

The Repack in Oregon

KOAB-TV 11 11 BEND
KFXO-LD 15 39 BEND
KABH-CD 17 17 BEND
KOHD 18 18 BEND
KTVZ 21 21 BEND
KCBY-TV 11 11 COOS BAY
KMCB 22 22 COOS BAY
KOAC-TV 7 7 CORVALLIS
KEZI 9 9 EUGENE
KVAL-TV 13 13 EUGENE
KORY-CD 15 15 EUGENE
KMTR 17 17 EUGENE
KEVU-CD 23 23 EUGENE
KEPB-TV 29 29 EUGENE
KLSR-TV 31 31 EUGENE
K19GH-D 19 19 EUGENE, ETC.
K22FC-D 22 22 GRANTS PASS
KBLN-TV 30 30 GRANTS PASS
K47GI-D 36 47 GRANTS PASS
KOTI 13 13 KLAMATH FALLS
KDKF 29 29 KLAMATH FALLS
KFTS 33 33 KLAMATH FALLS
KTVR 13 13 LA GRANDE
KUNP 16 16 LA GRANDE
KOBI 5 5 MEDFORD
KSYS 8 8 MEDFORD
KTVL 10 10 MEDFORD
KDRV 12 12 MEDFORD
K23EX-D 23 23 MEDFORD
KMVU-DT 26 26 MEDFORD
K32DY-D 32 32 MEDFORD`
KFFX-TV 11 11 PENDLETON
KGW 8 8 PORTLAND
KOPB-TV 10 10 PORTLAND
KPTV 12 12 PORTLAND
KOXO-CD 15 41 PORTLAND
KORS-CD 16 16 PORTLAND
KOXI-CD 20 20 PORTLAND
KATU 24 43 PORTLAND
KOIN 25 40 PORTLAND
KNMT 32 45 PORTLAND
KORK-CD 35 35 PORTLAND
KKEI-CD 36 38 PORTLAND
KTVC 18 18 ROSEBURG
KPIC 19 19 ROSEBURG
KTCW 36 45 ROSEBURG
KPXG-TV 22 22 SALEM
KRCW-TV 33 33 SALEM
KRHP-CD 14 14 THE DALLES

 

The Repack in Colorado

K36DB-CD 36 36 AVON, VAIL
KTFD-DT 32 15 BOULDER
KBDI-TV 13 13 BROOMFIELD
KETD 15 45 CASTLE ROCK
KXRM-TV 22 22 COLORADO SPRINGS
KRDO-TV 24 24 COLORADO SPRINGS
KKTV 26 49 COLORADO SPRINGS
KMGH-TV 7 7 DENVER
KUSA 9 9 DENVER
KCEC 14 26 DENVER
KQDK-CD 16 39 DENVER
KPXC-TV 18 43 DENVER
KSBS-CD 19 41 DENVER
KRMT 20 40 DENVER
KTVD 31 19 DENVER
KRMA-TV 33 18 DENVER
KWGN-TV 34 34 DENVER
KCNC-TV 35 35 DENVER
KDVR 36 32 DENVER
KREZ-TV 15 15 DURANGO
KRMU 20 20 DURANGO
KRTN-TV 33 33 DURANGO
KFCT 21 21 FORT COLLINS
KREG-TV 23 23 GLENWOOD SPRINGS
KREX-TV 2 2 GRAND JUNCTION
KGBY 7 7 GRAND JUNCTION
KKCO 12 12 GRAND JUNCTION
KFQX 15 15 GRAND JUNCTION
KRMJ 18 18 GRAND JUNCTION
KGJT-CD 27 27 GRAND JUNCTION
KPJR-TV 17 38 GREELEY
KDEN-TV 29 29 LONGMONT
KREY-TV 13 13 MONTROSE
KTSC 8 8 PUEBLO
KVSN-DT 25 48 PUEBLO
KOAA-TV 28 42 PUEBLO
KGHB-CD 21 27 PUEBLO, ETC.
KRMZ 10 10 STEAMBOAT SPRINGS
KCDO-TV 23 23 STERLING

 

So what’s happening with Toshiba?   Back in 2006 the Japanese electronics firm bought an iconic American company- Westinghouse Electric perhaps on the notion that nuclear power was going to be a good investment.  Thanks to huge cost overruns for nuke-plants in the Southeast U.S. their Westinghouse division has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.   Toshiba has announced that the net loss could hit one trillion Dollars.  The effect of this is to be a huge financial drag on the parent company causing it to be forced to sell a big stake in their money making chip business and causing many to wonder what will come of the company.   Westinghouse, has been a historic supplier of electrical equipment.  If you recall your history…It was George Westinghouse that was a key proponent of using AC for commercial power while Edison wanted to use DC.   At one time it was in the broadcast business owning stations and making equipment.   I recall KEX in Portland was owned by the firm and was operating a Westinghouse transmitter (I got to see it in operation sometime in the last century).  Up at West Tiger power to the building is supplied via a Westinghouse ‘Power Pad’ transformer.  Toshiba is a historic industrial feature of Japan dating back to 1870.     Apparently this has a basis in the meltdown of the Fukushima Dalichi nuclear power plant back on 2011 when many determined that there were too many risks with this type of power generation.   Closer to home, I have two Toshiba Laptops.   Not the first time I’ve owned something that was made by a firm that may be no longer around.  A lot of great names have come and gone – Think Ampex, RCA, ITC, AEL etc.

While many have been taking a wait and see position regarding reverse auctions and repacking – Sinclair has been busy …Reportedly trying to buy Tribune Media Co.   Tribune owns or operates 42 local TV stations in the country…..Including –

  • KCPQ and KZJO In Seattle
  • KWGN and KDVR in Denver
  • KRCW in Portland

Meanwhile, Sinclair owns and operates 173 Stations in 81 Markets, including –

  • KOMO and KUNS in Seattle
  • KATU AND KUNP in Portland

Then came the announcement that Sinclair was going to purchase the Bonten 14 Station group for $240 Million. None of these stations are in the Seattle, Portland or Denver Market.  However, they do own stations in 3 markets in Montana  (Missoula, Butte/Bozeman and Kalispell)

The question is – Just how many TV Stations could be owned by the same firm in the same market? Apparently the whole matter of ownership limits, for Radio and TV, is being reviewed.   Certainly there is going to be pressure from firms like Sinclair to see these regulations move in their favor.

I could not help but notice the new application for license for an LPTV station in Tacoma, WA.     Owner is Denver Digital Television (Really—–Denver?) and then there are the call letters – KDMD.    Wow –

KDMD and KOMO look awful similar.  (The official call sign is KDMD-LD)

From time to time I run across a product that brings a smile – Like the Bar-B-Q tools with screwdriver handles from your favorite tool makers (Craftsman and Snap On come to mine).   This item is bound to find a ‘warm-spot’ in the heart of Engineers.  http://www.canford.co.uk/Products/11-231_CANFORD-RACKWINE-Winerack-rack-mount-3U-black

When you get into Broadcast Engineering you will quickly learn about some of the tools of the trade. Early on you will hear the term ‘Butt-Set’.   The technical name for these devices is a ‘Llineman’s Handset’…it’s a special telephone that can be held in one hand, or on the shoulder, and has been a  classic item used for working on analog telephone circuits for many years.  Most broadcast engineering shops will have one too.     Recently in clearing out items in anticipation for their move of studios, Entercom’s engineers came across a piece of history.   This fine example predates the push-button or Touchtone phones of today and should re-kindle some warm feelings with some of my older readers.   One of my best memories of this term came from a conversation with one of the DJ’s at KBSG a few years ago.  Scott Phillips could just not get over the term butt-set.    I did not tell him that some called it a ‘Buttski’.

 

Congratulations to Mike Cooney on being honored by Radio World with their Excellence in Engineering Award on April 24th in Las Vegas. Mike is the CTO and VP of Engineering for the Beasley Broadcast Group/.

What makes this especially of interest to me is that I won this award back in 2007.

On the –bad news- front we again are reporting on the continued financial woes of the two largest radio groups.   Cumulus and iHeart.

First Cumulus –

Ø  They have been advised that they will be de-listed by Nasdaq.

Ø  Their total debt is reported to be about $2.5 Billion.

Ø  Their recent stock price, on April 26, was 28Cents per share, well below the necessary $1 threshold to remain listed.

Ø  In order to boost their stock price the firm did a reverse stock split using a 1 to 3 ratio. Had they not done that, their stock price would be priced even less.

Ø  Their stock has dropped 93% in the past year

 

iHeart Media-

Ø  News releases in Mid-April were very downbeat.

Ø  The company financial performance was presented to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on April 20th announced that it may not survive another year.

Ø  iHeart posted a net loss of $240 million in 2016,

Ø  The company has almost $350 million of debt coming due this year

Ø  Total debt is estimated to be in the vicinity of $20 Billion.

Ø  Some experts said bankruptcy is now almost inevitable.

Ø  Their Stock Price was a $2.10 on April 26.  An Approx. 78% decline in the past year.

One of the major problems for these firms, aside from trying to figure out how to stay in business and avoiding bankruptcy, is talent drain.     It is reported that both firms are experiencing high turn-over with the majority of those leaving doing so voluntarily.

There is another aspect of this – When the two largest firms owning primarily radio stations are on the cusp of Chapter ??   It’s pretty hard to interest anyone in investing in this type of media thereby keeping stock prices low for those firms that have good balance sheets.

Looking at the Seattle March Radio Ratings, 12 + (Top 10)- some thoughts –

Ø  Non-Comm’s are well represented with KUOW’s #2 and KNKX at #10

Ø  4 of the Top 10 are either CBS or Entercom…With their merger will be interesting to watch

Ø  The popularity of AM Radio continues to slide – The top rated AM station in Seattle is KOMO at #16

Ø  Population now up to 3.704 Megapeople.

The recent news releases from California about the ill effects of cellphone use got me to thinking… It’s really easy for joe-citizen to object to a cell-site in their neighborhood….(Don’t want those death-rays killing my chickens)…or for a citizens group to march on city-hall objecting to a broadcast station in their midst.   What do you want to bet what would happen if they were told they had to stop putting their cellphone to their ear ?   My guess is that would be a recipe for a full-fledged temper tantrum among the masses.   Is it just me, but this this have the odor of hypocrisy? Could it be that a rumored cancer causing device is only bad if it belongs to someone else?   Sort of like the heavy cigarette smoker that objects to what he feels are illnesses are caused by fumes from an industrial firm in his area.

On a related note….Looks like Washington State may be ready to really crack down on distracted driving.

Already you are not supposed to hold a cellphone to your ear.   New laws would take this a step further, you are not to be touching your phone under the terms of the (love this name) Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act.   I’m sure you have seen people – still – holding a cellphone to their ear…or holding it in front of them (with the phone in speaker phone mode). Thankfully my truck enables me to operate completely hands free.   I can make a call by simply speaking the number or answer a call by pushing a button on the steering wheel.   Text messages are even read to me.      Now we will see just how many are willing to put the phone away after being able to use it while driving.   Fines of $136 for the first offence and $245 for the second may help.   You have some time, however, before the law goes into effect.      Now about the fellow driving this vehicle –

Those of you that have been reading this column for a while will recall how I often comment about how, despite living in a world full of technology, the level of ‘technophobia’ still remains very high.   A recent study in the U.K.  helps us understand that there are a lot of fairly helpless people in other countries too.    Here is a sample of some polled tasks and the percentage of people who said they could confidently complete the task.

  • Boil an egg – 81%
  • Change a light bulb – 79%
  • Read a map – 66%
  • Wire a plug – 57%
  • Check the oil level in a car – 53%
  • Change a flat – 37%
  • Replace a faucet washer – 30%

There is a bright side to all of this – It assures that there will be continued employment for those that are not this challenged.     Then again, perhaps these folks figured that this is what You Tube videos are for?

About 48 years ago I met this young man that had recently become my Nephew.   Several years later he called me one evening asking me if he should take a job at a broadcast station where I used to work.  (I said yes).    He’s come a long way over the years….And now he turned 60!.    Reminds me of that T-shirt saw a while back – ‘I thought getting old would take longer’.    A belated Happy Birthday to Tom Pierson.

 

Time to wrap this one up for another month and leave you with some bits of advice – from an old farmer.

 

  • Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
  • Words that soak into your ears are whispered… not yelled.
  • Meanness don’t just happen overnight.
  • Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
  • Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
  • Every path has a few puddles.
  • When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
  • The best sermons are lived, not preached.
  • Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
  • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • Live a good and honorable life, then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
  • Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
  • The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every morning’.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
  • Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
  • If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
  • Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and enjoy the ride.

 

Have a good one- Thanks for the read –

 

Clay Freinwald, CPBE aka – K7CR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for May 2017

 

                                                     May 2017

DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) is taking over the amateur radio VHF and UHF airwaves big time here in the front range of Colorado. If you have heard the digital audio available now on cell phones, the audio on DMR radios is very similar. Radio’s for this mode are easily available, (even on Amazon.com) not expensive, and with the groups using them they are very easily set up due to pre written “code plugs”, which include many analog frequencies and DMR repeaters.  The TYT MD-380 and Connect Systems Inc (CSI) CS-800 UHF are now part of the KEØVH mobile hamshack.  Jerry Wanger, CEO & owner of CSI has been instrumental in bringing DMR affordability and ease of operation to ham radio.  Now the price, performance and ease of programming the radios via free software makes DMR exciting and FUN!  . The radio’s interface to the computer with an easy to install USB cable.  I had no trouble with Win 7 installing the programming cable and talking to the radio’s.   Connect Systems Inc has amazing customer service.  Chris Edwards, KK6MLY at CSI was really kind and helpful in helping me with my order of the CS-800.

With the CS-800, I was impressed right off the bat with how the radio was shipped and packaged. CSI ships the radio in a very well put together box that has a pretty intricate folding of the compartments within to really protect the unit.  Did you guys use an origami idea for this?  VERY cool how the different sections of the box went together protecting the contents.  That’s the first thing I noticed upon opening the shipping box.  Downloading the software was quick and easy, and actually very similar to the TYT MD-380 HT that I own.  Downloading the local codeplug very expertly put together by the Rocky Mountain Ham group. (www.rmham.org) and loading into the radio literally had me operating the radio within about 10 minutes of getting it out of the box. I was making contacts quickly and easily.  The radio has a programming cable (actually 2, one for the faceplate of the radio for upgrading the firmware, and one for the rear view DB type connector.  The radio essentially has a USB interface/drive built in and the USB to DB type connector will act as a drive when connected to your computer.  The software then communicates with the radio and you can read/write like any other radio.  I really want to thank Chris at Connect Systems as he was very helpful and really went above the call to help me with questions and getting the radio to me.  I called him late one Friday to pay for a radio, and it came by Monday via US Mail.  I was impressed to say the least!  By the way the radio is easily upgradable thru the firmware on the Connect Systems website.  The audio is great from the radio, loud enough in a mobile environment, and as you will see in my pictures of my mobile install the face plate separates with a simple CAT 5 cable.  Makes installation in just about any vehicle a snap.  Here is the radio out on the desk being programmed with the RMHam Codeplug.

Another feature I really like about the CS-800 and by the way the way the software for programming the radio is the way you can set up your scans for whatever DMR “Zone” you happen to be operating in. I have one of my scan lists setup to monitor the 3 local analog repeaters I use too while on DMR.  As the radio scans though, it does send out a quick transmit signal to handshake with each DMR repeater you have set up to scan.  This is a normal operation of a DMR radio.  On the TYT HT it does use a little more battery, but of course that doesn’t effect the mobile rig setup powered off 12 volts.  Here is a shot of the software talking to the radio and starting setup.

The CS-800 will let you program the buttons to use the functions you want, so it is totally customizable. One thing I really like is the above feature where you get a display of the buttons on the radio so you know which is which as you program.  I read in some reviews that the users really like this feature, making all the buttons do what you want.  Many DMR radios cannot be programmed from the front panel, but the CS800 can now be programmed without having to use the software. Great idea for on the fly, but I haven’t attempted this yet.

My name, callsign, and codeplug name in the “turn on radio” display.

One suggestion from a RMHam DMR guru was to program the last date of the codeplug into the radio display at power on. That way you are reminded to check for updates.  You can customize it to whatever you want.  I did add the date in at a later time, plus I have customized my own code plug now.  Remember too, a “codeplug” is simply a list of frequencies you have programmed into the radio.

The radio on the Thorodin Central RMHam repeater system in this shot

 

Another cool thing about the CS-800, the radio has tremendous functionality for hams (can have 2000 channels and over 64,000 contacts) which is pretty tremendous. Going to be very hard to fill that up as once again all is customizable. Plus remember you could have several codeplugs to program into the radio if you travel. And since it is all saved on the computer, you can reload the radio to have what you want for and after traveling. Very easy with the FREE software.

Ready to be mounted in truck after programming.

Another great thing here. The PRICE. At $280 direct from Connect Systems, you just cannot beat it with 45 watts (selectable HI/Med/Low power) and yes the mic touch tones work. I was able to access IRLP and AllStar nodes and connect with the microphone. I believe I had read in the past that the touch tones weren’t operating, but they do now with the latest firmware. Motorola’s are available, but at 3 times the price this is a MUCH greater value. The radio is built too for the mobile environment very well and I have been very pleased with the way the DMR repeaters work around the mountain drives I have to make as a K-LOVE Broadcast radio engineer. Getting ready to mount the radio in my worktruck was very easy too. I already have a mobile radio dual bander in the truck, so I used the mounting board I have under the drivers seat to also mount the CS-800. The radios both fit easily and wiring went well as the control heads are of course up in driving view. As you see in the below pictures I use Anderson power pole connectors in the usual configuration for easy in/out if I need to remove the radios from the truck for any reason.

NOTE the cat 5 cable from the CS-800 MPU. Man I like that, so easy and no having to order a special separation kit.

The Radio mounted on the center console of the Tacoma

The front firing speaker in the faceplate provides plenty of audio in the mobile environment as mentioned earlier. I really like not having to use an external speaker.  Connect Systems also provides a service manual downloaded from their website, and a programming manual.  I am super pleased with the CS-800, it really fits my needs and desires in a mobile DMR/Analog rig, and I am more excited about this purchase and every day use than any radio I have used in a long time.

 

I only had 1 issue, and that is one time I made a change (actually an edition of the codeplug had updated) and I added in the user name, callsign and number of a friend locally, and for some reason I was getting an error “Please check whether the USB is occupied or not connected” when trying to connect and read the radio with the software. The radio was recognized correctly as a drive by the laptop, and the little connect “ping” sounded when the radio was plugged in, all looked good so that elliminated the programming cable being bad, and the radio itself. But I still couldn’t get the radio to read/write.  A few emails and a call to Chris at CSI and he said to do a software re-install and change the drive letter in the drive management software on my Windows 7 laptop.  Still no luck.  BUT, then I thought, well change the drive letter again, and lo and behold, all started working properly again.  This is not a problem with the radio, and according to Chris has only happened a couple of times in many radios sold.  It turns out to be a Windows issue, but is as written above very easily fixed. I have had no problems since.

In QSO with KØSDT, Shane on the RMHam Denver Central repeater system on the CS-800.

AND, Connect Systems, as of this writing, will soon be introducing the DUAL BAND version of this radio, the CS-800D! This edition should be available to buy in the latter part of May.  Stay tuned! Although it seems that most DMR activity is on UHF, there is quite a bit on 2 meters, and of course the reason I keep my dual band analog radio in the truck now is for the use of 2 meters on the Colorado Connection repeaters and the like that operate there, plus some others around Colorado.  The CS-800D will be a great buy, utilizing both modes.  That is going to be cool!  See all of the offerings of Connect Systems at: http://www.connectsystems.com/index.html.

BTW, go to the www.RMHAM.org website for great information on this mode and the setup here along the front range in Colorado. See also the DMR-Marc Network at http://www.dmr-marc.net/ for a great look at what DMR is and how it is being utilized now in amateur radio. I am sure that I will have more adventures and things to say about this really cool fun and exciting mode.

My TYT MD-380 handheld. The MD-390 has a GPS feature too.  These are available easily on Amazon.

 

As I stated earlier, the RMHam group has done an amazing job of setting up linked DMR UHF repeaters here in Colorado. Eventually they have plans to

cover the entire state. Their repeaters essentially all have 2 TDMA time slots and as you may know that enables one repeater to carry two voice conversations simultaneously.  You can read more about all the particulars on how DMR works on other sites, so I won’t cover all that here.  But again RMHam is using top equipment at their sites and I wanted to include a picture or two of one of the repeater sites.  This one actually occupies rack space right next to one of my K-LOVE sites.  And the Colorado Connection has their repeater for this particular area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top and bottom sections of the RMHam Rack in NE Colorado

Excellent work and THANKS RMHam!

During the month of March my Estes Park site suffered from our translator receive antenna being blown nearly off its tower. And when I went to investigate an AT&T monopole tower had been installed less than 30 feet from our antenna.  That really blocked and antennuated the signal that we were receiving from the parent signal nearly 120 miles away.  So, it was time to move the receive antenna.  We obtained permission to get on the monopole tower and I called my great crew from Galvanized Endeavors in Colorado Springs, and up we went to take the antenna down, and put it back up even higher than before, enabling us to receive the Denver signal and rebroadcast that to our listeners in Estes Park Colorado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The monopole tower blocking our antenna (on the smaller tower behind the tree), and one of Galvanized Endeavors guys up the monopole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rafael and Chuck taking the antenna up!

Working at about 65 feet and job done!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Raphael, Chuck, TJ and Derrick! My Boyz!

Also THANKS to Daniel, for getting it all together quickly to get Estes Park back on the air!

If you need tower or antenna work done, call these guys,

they are THE BEST!

http://www.galvanizedendeavors.com/

 

You got to see the article in RadioWorld Magazine about our K-LOVE/Air1 Network Operations Center in a great article by EMF’s own Jeremy Preece (N6JER). Here is the Link: http://www.mazdigital.com/webreader/49128

GREAT JOB JER!

 

SEE back issues of my articles available now! Copy or click these links into your browser to see previous installments:

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKE0VHHamshack201701Jan.pdf

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKE0VHHamshack201702Feb.pdf

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKE0VHHamshack201703Mar.pdf

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKE0VHHamshack201704April.pdf

 

I will be adding more to my website archives here soon.

Or see the complete archives at:

http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/

AND

 

Don’t forget the SBE Chapter 73’ Of The Air

IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, every MONDAY EVENING

At 7pm Mountain time (9pm Eastern) for radio discussions, both

Broadcast engineering and amateur radio.

Details on how to

join are at http://www.ke0vh.com/net/net.html. I hope

You will be able to join us and share your engineering and

Ham exploits! 73’ es God Be With You!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for April 2017

 

                     April 2017

 

Greetings all for the month of April!

In March my son Aiden, began studying for his Tech class Ham license by using the Ham Radio School.com book and website with the practice questions for the exam. I found this book at Ham Radio Outlet here in Denver and it was really recommended by Clay (K3CRS) the manager there, so I decided to check out for Aiden.  I already have 3 other licensed kids in my family, and although they aren’t really using the ticket they will have it one day if they want.  We essentially used ham radio as a home school subject too for the kids, so who knows, they may want to get on the air one day!  So as I was looking for a study book at HRO Clay sold me on this one!  The book and website are authored by Stan Turner, WØSTU.  Stan, a Colorado resident,  wrote the book and website as a training tool for his children, featured in pictures and captions throughout the book.  I think this is absolutely outstanding, and am really happy to support a local guy and especially another amateur operator who wants to help bring new folks into the hobby.  Each chapter has actual test question numbers by each subject and explanations for the topic.  Very simply written and explained.  The chapters are only a few pages long at most and make good sit down sessions with your child to study and spend some time with.  THEN, after you go over a chapter, you can go to the website and take practice tests for THAT chapter, with the pages and test question number stated along with the actual Tech test exam questions.  I am really impressed and will recommend this study guide in the future to others!  Glad HRO decided to carry this book!  And, thanks to Stan for a` GREAT PRODUCT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book by Stan Turner, WØSTU and Aiden studying!

 

 

 

 

Robert, KC8GPD, a major Part 15 enthusiast, runs an carrier current AM and part 15 transmitter setup in his apartment complex in Lakewood CO. He has quite a studio setup.  Robert sent me the following article about a Tenant Run Apartment Network, with none other than Les Paul, one of the performers and operators of the apartment station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So one night watching the Andy Griffith Show on MeTV here in Denver these great shots came up of good ole’ Barney Fife in the Mayberry Sheriffs office with the “police” radio’s in full view. So I shot these pictures and have always wondered what kind they are.  Any ideas?

 

                                 What about the old microphone?

 

As it turns out, according to some hams on QRZ.com: The ham rig shown in the early show was an Eico 720 cw transmitter, and 730 modulator. Some tine later, an Eico 723 Cw transmitter was shown. It is interesting to note the ham gear mentioned was shown along what should have been considered a ‘proper’ police type radio at the time…a control console and mike from a Motorola base station. And, as it turns out, the microphone may have been from Motorola of the day, but in this case it was plugged into what was the CW key jack on the Eico. Very interesting!

And another cool radio that bears the answer to the question, “what the heck is this? This is from the Netflix series “Frequency” which is based on the movie of the same name starring Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid. The plot is the grown child finds his dads stored away for years ham radio and talks to his dad in the past due to an aurora borealis phenonmenon. They then go on to solve a series of murders. The “TV” show on Netflix uses the same premise, character names, etc (with a few differences). And this is the radio used in the series:

WHAT IS IT?

 

 

By the way, wanna see a list of some famous ham radio operators, go to:

http://www.oocities.org/siliconvalley/campus/4400/famous.htm

Here is the Pica.cz Model P75/P175 FM analyzer

This little handheld battery powered unit is a really cool little audio/RDS/MPX RF carrier monitor and analyzer that is easy to carry around and even hook up to your computer with many features to monitor your FM signal. Check out all the details at Pica.cz.   It also can be used as a remote modulation monitor with free software to see the parameters of the FM signal you want to look at.  It decodes all RDS information and the text data too.  It shows you deviation and audio levels, pilot injection and more.  Basically everything you want to know about your signal.  The software will show you all this and more simultaneously and can serve as a remote modulation monitor with alarms to alert you to problems.

A screenshot of the monitoring software hooked up via USB to the handheld unit showing audio levels, MPX spectrum and levels, RDS information, modulation peaks and averaging, and carrier information.

 

NEXT MONTH!  DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) is taking over the amateur radio VHF and UHF airwaves big time here in the front range of Colorado.  The TYT MD-380 and Connect Systems CS-800 UHF are now part of the KEØVH mobile hamshack, and I am going to let you know about their performance and a review on both of those radios for DMR!  BTW, check out the www.RMHAM.org website for great information on this mode and the setup here along the front range in Colorado. See also the DMR-Marc Network at http://www.dmr-marc.net/ for a great look at what DMR is and how it is being utilized now in amateur radio. If you have heard the digital audio available now on cell phones, the audio available on DMR radios is very similar.  Radio’s for this mode are easily available, not expensive, and with the groups using them very easily set up due to pre written “code plugs”.  MORE NEXT MONTH!

 

Check out the back issues of my articles available now! Copy or click these links into your browser to see previous installments:

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKE0VHHamshack201701Jan.pdf

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKE0VHHamshack201702Feb.pdf

 

  http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKE0VHHamshack201703Mar.pdf

 

I will be adding more to my website archives here soon.

Or see the complete archives at:

http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/

AND

 

BY THE WAY, check out Icom’s new APRIL offering for hams: http://www.icom.co.jp/fb/170401/

 

Don’t forget the SBE Chapter 73’ Of The Air

IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, every MONDAY EVENING

At 7pm Mountain time (9pm Eastern) for radio discussions, both

Broadcast engineering and amateur radio.

Details on how to

Join are at http://www.ke0vh.com/net/net.html. I hope

You will be able to join us and share your engineering and Ham exploits.  73s and God be with you!

Clay’s Corner for April 2017

 

Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

 

On the heels of the Entercom/CBS deal, are we about to see a lot more consolidation? Apparently some think so and this time it will involve television as well.  Part of what is fueling all this is the belief that the changes in administration and at the FCC will change ownership limits.  This has caused a lot of rumors to fly of late….Among them – Sinclair will do a deal with Tribune.  This would be interesting in Seattle where Sinclair owns a station and Tribune owns two.  Let’s not forget ION and CBS that both own one TV station in Seattle, which many consider to be a major market.  Any reduction in ownership limitations is likely to result in opposition from those that have been consistent in their opposition to media consolidation.

 

So what is the FCC going to do about Pirate Radio? For many years we have been reading about how unlicensed radio stations have been a thorn in the side of licensed broadcasters as well as those that are supposed to regulate the activity.  Unfortunately a lot of the regulatory efforts have fallen short of what’s needed to stop the activity.  There are those big fines that, apparently, go un-paid…or the pirate operation that is supposedly ‘shut-down’ by the Feds just to appear again at another address.  Some local governments, reacting to pressure from legitimate broadcasters have gotten involved as they see the Feds failing to regulate.  This matter is, apparently, finally getting the attention of lawmakers and is resulting in the FCC asking Congress to give the FCC more authority, including the ability to seize equipment.  Guess it never made sense to me for the FCC to tell a pirate operator to stop doing wrong and walk away from the equipment to repeat the process.  Today, becoming a pirate is very easy….Just Google – Pirate Radio Station Equipment and see for yourself.  Will the Fed’s new interest in combating this activity be effective, time will tell.  I still fail to understand how cutting back on the EB was the correct approach.  The Commish has this concept of having Tiger Teams doing enforcement.  Appears to me that they have this half right – The part about the Tiger.  Unfortunately the FCC has become to all too many, a ‘Paper Tiger’.

 

With the news full of stories about huge radio operators like Cumulus sinking under the weight of their own debt – it’s great to hear some good news. Recently Saga Communications (who operates a cluster of radio stations in Bellingham) announced that their net revenue, operating income, free cash flow and net income all increased in Q4 of 2016.  Meanwhile, Cumulus continues to receive more bad news as they try and restructure their $2.4 Billion debt.  Certainly the vultures are circling this firm, awaiting the time that they are forced to sell off the company for bargain basement prices.

 

Meanwhile the Entercom / CBS deal seems to be getting good marks from those that evaluate deals. The value of CBS Radio has been placed at 2.86 Billion Bucks!  When completed, the new Entercom will consist of 244 stations in 47 markets including all of the top 10 and all but 2 of the top 25.  Talk about a dream position to be in!  Some of the markets are huge.  Both the New York and LA clusters are valued at well north of 300 million each.  If you owned stock in Entercom…28% will be part of the new company.  If you have stock in CBS, that figure will be 72%, underscoring who was bigger than who.  I’m sure the new Entercom will be watching things very closely to avoid the tragic mistakes of a couple of other big radio outfits.

 

On the local (Seattle) front of the Entercom/CBS deal, apparently all of the Seattle stations, belonging to both companies, have been put into a trust giving the new company time to sort out just which ones to spin off (and which ones to keep). They’ve made it obvious that they would like to do a deal with whoever will bring the maximum benefit to the new company.  Meanwhile, those that work at these 7 FM stations have likely been told to continue to ‘soldier-on’ as if nothing was taking place.  A pretty tall order.  I’ve been in situations like this.  There are likely a lot of hallway conversations taking place as employees are, understandably, nervous with many polishing their resumes….just in case.  Uncertainty will cause many to have less than peaceful sleep.  There is little comfort knowing that this same level of anxiety is taking place in other markets as well.

 

It’s happening again – the periodic call for elimination of funding for some 1,500 Public Broadcasting (Radio and TV) Stations. Interestingly there has been government funds provided for now 50 years.  With the new group in power in WDC, it remains to be seen if this will continue or not.  Many public stations are, reportedly, gearing up for the fight, engaging their listeners and viewers to write their congressmen in support of keep it going.  Some are openly expressing concern that elimination of the $445 million annual funding could cause public broadcasting to collapse.  Expressed as a percentage, the amount received is a very small percentage of the federal budget.  We need to remember that this is the ‘proposed’ budget and only one step in a process.  There are those that question should the government be funding something that is operating in competition to private industry?  I’ve often wondered what would happen if the FCC permitted Non-Coms to sell spots in exchange for dropping government funding.

 

Some local translator news to report –

 

103.3/K277AE – The historic Entercom translator in Downtown Seattle that runs the same programming as their West Tiger based 103.7/KHTP, recently had to change antennas to one more directional (aimed south) to avoid the new co-channel operation on 103.3 in Oak Harbor.

 

94.5/K233BU – Is now on the air from Cougar Mountain with a directional antenna (aimed north) re-broadcasting Bonneville’s 770 AM KTTH. 94.5 was on Capitol Hill operated by a non-commercial station.

 

On the subject of translators…April 10th is the day that the FCC is supposed to begin their new rules regarding siting of AM Translators. Under the old rules, an AM had to place their translator either within their daytime service contour or within 25 miles of the AM translator, whichever was less.  The new, and certainly more relaxed rules drop the ‘whichever is less’ part allowing that AM to install their transmitter anywhere within 25 miles of their AM, even if its outside their service contour.  The feeling is that this will create more opportunities for the AM station.  The problem is, with all the LPFMs and new translators, there is not much spectrum left to do it.  That is unless you are in a very sparsely populated area.

 

Yes, once again, it’s time for many to make their annual trek to Las Vegas for the NAB show. I can well recall making that trip annually for many years.  Nowadays, without any compelling reason to go, I don’t.  I do need to mention that John Kean is going to be receiving the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award.  John is best known for his work with NPR.  Last year’s recipient was Andy Laird who I am proud to say I was able to work with.  John Lyons will be receiving the NAB Television Engineering Achievement Award.  John is involved with the Durst Organization in NYC.

 

Slowly but surely, the Radio industry is finding a role for HD Radio channels. Early on Radio had no idea of what to do with these new resources, with no receivers out there, they simply filled them with minimal expense programming.  This is changing as more receivers are coming on line every day.

 

Most recently, HD Radio got a shot in the arm with the announcement that Radio Disney is going to be on Entercom HD2 Channels in 9 markets including one in Portland, Oregon. Interestingly there was no mention of Seattle.  Disney, for several years, operated the 1250 AM.  Perhaps there will be an announcement coming?

 

Another item that comes around periodically is the matter of public health issues caused by cellphones.

 

This time the California Department of Public Health has release a draft document dealing with the issue that was apparently kept out of public view for some time. Like a lot of previous items in this category…It is suggested that there is a connection to having a cellphone pressed next to your ear and brain cancer.  Perhaps the move to more texting is a good one suggesting that repetitive stress disorder with our thumbs is a better option?

 

Things I learned recently –

  • Cubic Light years – Try and get your head around that one! It’s actually a measurement that’s being used to describe the amount still out there that has been found by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey.
  • QoE – An expression meaning Quality of Experience being used by the wireless industry to describe whether a customer has dropped calls etc. (I can see this one being used in many places)
  • Amateur (Ham) Radio continues to grow. You’d think with all the computers and smartphones out there that this legacy hobby would be shrinking…Not so according to the ARRL.  As of the end of 2016 there were over 742,000 licensed Hams in the US.  New licensees are growing at a rate of about 30,000 per year.

 

What other people learned recently –

 

In this case, former Corporate Engineer for Entercom and now retired John Price wrote–

 

Thumbing through the April 2017 QST I noticed the Eclectic Technology column on page 71. Columnist Steve Ford has the story of an interesting WSJT project by a Chuck Kelly, W9MDO/VE1MDO.  Even though Chuck Kelly sounds like a pretty common name, I wondered, with the VE1 call, could that possibly be Chuck Kelly from Nautel?  BINGO.  A quick check of the W9 call at QRZ.com confirmed my suspicion…it’s him.  Pretty cool.

 

Chuck has moved from his role as Sales Manager to taking the Southeast Asia sales rep. position due to the recent retirement of John Abdnour. It’s my understanding that long time Nautel fixture Wendell Lonergan will be now heading up their sales efforts.

 

There has been a recent discussion on Pubtech regarding the impact of wind turbines on radio and TV reception. If I recall, the Tri-Cities area of Washington State dealt with this a few years ago, however I don’t recall what happened.  In this discussion, many were calling these huge wind generator ‘Wind Mills’.  Whereas I had recently been ‘nailed’ for using the same term…I jumped into point out that these machines did not ‘mill’ anything and should be called by a more proper term.  This set off some discussion about terms that we have carried over – Here are a couple –

 

CUTTING A SPOT – From the days when radio commercials were recorded with a cutting lathe for later playback on a phonograph.

 

PUMPING GAS – As many of you probably suspect – I am indeed old enough to remember seeing this done. Gas pumps were indeed ‘pumps’.  The attendant would ask how many gallons you wanted and then  ‘pump’ gas up into a big glass container on the top of the pump (they had graduations marked on them).  When that process was completed, he would transfer the fuel to your vehicle.  You can see these today in museums

 

FILM AT 11 – A classic TV phrase used in earlier newscasts.  News crews would go out and capture images on Film…Rush back to the station to process it where it was loaded on a file projector (on a film island) for playback during the 11 p.m. news.  Amazing how many  today think that film is still being used.

 

ROLL UP YOUR WINDOW – Motor vehicles all used to have a crank that you would use to ‘roll’ up or down your windows.  Today they are a rare site with power operated windows becoming standard.  This does not stop folks from continuing to use the term.

 

DIAL A PHONE NUMBER – Telephones of yesteryear had a ‘Dial’ (that rotary motion devices that you would operate with your index finger) to enter the number you wished to call. The ‘Rotary Dial’ was replaced with push buttons (often called a Touch-Tone Pad).  This does not stop the use of the term today where many continue to ‘Dial’ phone numbers.

 

Got some more of these? Drop me a note, (oops, I meant to say send me an email) so we can share.

 

Are you looking for a job in Radio Engineering? There are a couple of openings that I’ve heard of – 1) Bonneville (same folks that own KIRO In Seattle) are looking for a Chief Engineer for their Phoenix, Arizona stations.  2) Binnie Media is looking for a Chief for their Maine Radio Group.  Talk about climate alternatives.

 

One area where all can agree that the FCC has left something to be desired in enforcement is the matter of RF Noise pollution. Finally AM Broadcasters and broadcast associations are starting to catch-on that we have a problem that’s largely out of control.  Ham Operators have long known that noise levels are increasing as they often have meters on their equipment measuring it.  Lately, in certain areas of the country that noise level has shot upward….The reason?  The legalizing of pot and the RF noise that is generated by the high powered lighting equipment used in grow operations.  I’ve read of some interesting cases where there is a power failure resulting in a dramatic reduction in RF Noise.  So what can be done?  The FCC’s enforcement capability has been shrunk to the point of being useless…and all the FCC will likely do with a noise polluter is send him a letter requesting he fix the problem.  Likely those with RF Noise generating equipment read the same ‘playbook’ as pirate radio operators that advises them to simply ignore the FCC.  If we are lucky, the FCC will gain some new teeth and be able to confiscate pirate radio equipment.  Now if they could do the same with equipment that also generates illegal amount of radio frequency energy.  The missing element here is, of course, who is going to do the leg-work that was formally accomplished by your local FCC Field Office?  The fear I have is that all this congressional interest in solving the pirate problem will result in the creation of a bigger tiger who will never visit my neighborhood.

 

Some Washington State EAS News to report –

  • The State EAS Committee, SECC, has moved their meeting location from the Washington State Emergency Management facility at Camp Murray to the Radio Conference Room at Clover Park Technical College.
  • In the SECC’s recent meeting a number of items were discussed resulting in the approval to create two new Tab’s for the EAS Plan. Tab 17 will deal with ENS (systems used by Emergency Management), the other (Tab 13) details how the State Duty Officers deal with the issuance of warning messages.
  • Tab 8 will be expanded to more fully explain which event codes can be used with EAS and WEA.
  • Tab 26, which deals with Amber, is being re-written reflecting changes in how Amber, aka Child Abduction Emergencies (CAE) are handled.

 

The next SECC Meeting will be on May 25th at Kittcom in Ellensburg. The following, July 13th Meeting will be at Clover Park Technical College.  Completed details are always posted on the State EAS Remailer.

 

To learn more about the Washington State EAS system, consider subscribing to the WaState EAS Remailer by checking out http://sea.sbe16.org/mailman/listinfo/eas-wa. Good time to remind all that this electronic communications system is provided by the consulting firm of Hatfield and Dawson to whom we should all say thank you.

 

Occasionally there is a bit of good news for broadcasters. In this case a new survey has shown that 82% of Americans listen to AM/FM Radio in their cars every month.  Add this to the fact there are estimated to be 250,000,000 vehicles with radios – it is good news indeed.

 

From the ‘end of an era’ department came the recent announcement that International Crystal was shutting down. For those of us that have been in this industry for a long time – This is a shocker…but probably not un-expected as we have devised circuits today that have just about completely eliminated the need for the products that they produced.  For those of you that are not on the technical side, for a very long time the frequency that transmitters operated on was controlled by a little piece of quartz crystal.  International was one of the major suppliers.  I understand that there are a few firms still in the business…just for how long remains to be seen.  International Crystal was 66 years old.

 

So what about the impact of the TV Repacking on radio? On the non-commercial side, CPB has determined that 95 of their eligible radio stations are co-located with TV stations that are involved in the process and that over a third of them are sharing towers with those TV Stations.  Then there are the commercial FMs that share towers and sites with impacted TV stations.  Here in the Seattle area it appears that we will not see much of a problem….But I can’t speak for other areas of the country.  If you know of a situation where a radio station will be adversely impacted by the TV repacking process, please let me know and send me some details of how it’s being handled.

 

From the ‘department of they should have known better’ comes news that the FCC has fined a church and its pastor for operating an unlicensed station in Arleta, California. Additionally the FCC said they had warned them multiple times.  Perhaps they felt they were given permission by a higher authority?

 

Picture time – this time of Arthur Willetts, with Terry Springs pickup, having fun trying to drive up their transmitter site on West Tiger Mt.   As you can see, from the angle of Terrys truck, it’s time for chains.

 

If you look closely at this picture you can see that they have chains on all 4 wheels, but are heading down hill. From the looks of all of the tracks in the snow, my guess it was one of those days that they were unable to get to the top.  By the way….Just in time for Spring – Terry reported, on March 20, the news we have all been waiting to hear….He was finally able to drive up to the top of West Tiger.  It’s been a VERY long winter.

 

On the 14th of March I had to make a quick trip to West Tiger to repair a transmitter in distress. Whereas Terry had told me that he was only able to get to within about half a mile of his site and had to walk from there…and whereas the site I was going to was another half-mile and higher in elevation…Doug Fisher got another call to provide transportation services with his Gator.  He told me recently that he has made more trips this year with that machine than any other previously.  This has indeed been an interesting year, weather-wise.  I keep thinking back to the winter weather predictions of last year.  If I recall they really did not know what to expect…Apparently we have now learned what that means.

 

From time to time in this column I have featured a Radio/TV transmitter site in another market and compare it to Seattle. For those of you not familiar with Seattle we have multiple transmitter sites.

 

For TV –

  • Gold Mountain west of Downtown about 16 miles
  • Queen Ann Hill – just north of Downtown
  • Capitol Hill – Just East of Downtown
  • West Tiger – East of Seattle

 

For FM –

  • Capitol Hill – Just east of Downtown (only one station there)
  • Cougar Mt – East of Seattle about 15 miles
  • West Tiger – East of Seattle about 22 miles

 

Whereas Seattle is, essentially, at sea level…All elevations are in relation to that. The area’s lowest sites are on Queen Ann and Capital Hills where the tower top beacons are all at about 1049 feet AMSL.  The highest site in the area is West Tiger Mt where the tower tops there are 3148 ft. AMSL.

 

The site we are going to visit is reportedly the highest Radio/TV site in the country and is known as Sandia Crest and it’s over 10,600 feet above sea level! Just east of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

To put this into perspective – Mt Baker (just about 100 miles North of Seattle) is about the same elevation (10,781).

You may have noticed the difference in color….All due to the difference in latitude. At about the same elevation, Mt Baker’s summit is pretty much white all year long with the peak covered in glaciers and hardly a place to put towers and transmission equipment.

 

When you compare the elevation of the site to the elevation of the primary target or major city you wish to cover you get a clearer picture. In the case of Seattle, our highest site is West Tiger with transmitting antennas approx. 3000 feet above the downtown town area.  (Other Seattle sites are considerably lower).  Sandia is extremely impressive!  When you consider the city of Albuquerque is nominally about 5300 ft elevation, and do the math, you can see that, even at ground level, these transmitters are well over 5000 ft. above their City of License.  Just take a look at this picture looking down at the city from Sandia Crest.  There are about 700,000 people down there.

Looking back up toward the towers you can see they don’t have to be very tall….Not with that much elevation.

Thanks to friend, Bill Harris, here are some other pictures of the Sandia Crest facility –

One of the American Tower facilities on Sandia Crest.

In addition to Sandia’s elevation above sea-level and it’s elevation above the city of Albuquerque…A standard way to measure transmitter location is by using what’s call Height Above Average Terrain or HAAT.

Here is a table comparing the two locations, using an FM Station at each –

Location               Sandia Crest – Albuquerque         West Tiger -Seattle

Market Rank                             69                                              13

Market Population           760,500                                       3,779,500

Station                                   KRST-FM                             KING-FM

Effective Radiated Power (ERP)  22 kW                       68 Kw

Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT)  1268 Meters      707 Meters

Height Above Sea Level (AMSL) 3284 Meters      940 Meters

Height Above Ground Level (AGL)     41 Meters           41 Meters

 

A couple of interesting comparisons –

  • The Power of the stations at Sandia is considerably less and this is because the FCC requires that power be reduced once you exceed the maximum elevation for that class of station. For example – KING-FM ran 100,000 watts ERP when they were at Queen Ann Hill due to its much lower elevation.
  • The reason the power at Sandia is so much less than at West Tiger is due to their AAT.
  • The AMSL number is somewhat meaningless as it’s the relationship to the surrounding terrain that really counts
  • I found it interesting that the AGL number was the same, indicating that the tower height at both locations was the same.
  • Both locations have extensive site management handled by American Tower.

 

There are some other interesting, and perhaps unique, aspects of Sandia Crest – (Unlike the Seattle Sites)

  • Public Access – You can drive to a location near the broadcast towers to catch the view and buy food.
  • Ride a Tram up the mountain
  • Ski (they have a 7500 foot chair lift)

 

With that being said…. Yes, you can drive to the base of the towers in Seattle.

 

I asked local broadcast engineer, Bill Harris, some questions about the Sandia Site and the broadcasters that use it –

  • With a site elevation of 10,612 (According to ATC) it’s one of the highest in the country??

 

Actually, we all think of it as more like 10,670. I’m told that the two FMs on the pole above what is now the ATC building/tower are definitely among the highest anywhere in the country. (KDRF is one.)

  • How many TV stations are up there?

 

Most of them. Though not actually on these channels in many cases.

 

2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 13 and quite a few other UHFs of various powers. In fact, the only TV that comes to mind that is NOT up there is Ch. 14, which used to be, but moved out to a tall tower west of the city some years ago.  Let me put it this way, at my house on the west side of the metro, my TV will scan 50 program sources (4.1, 4.2, etc.) with a pair of rabbit ears with a UHF loop.  BTW, 7 and 13 stayed on their VHF channels.

  • How many FM’s?

 

Many of the ABQ and ‘near suburban’ licensees are up there. There are, however, a couple other ‘near market’ signals out on the west side on ‘Nine Mile Hill’ (C2s) and a class A, believe it or not, licensed to a suburb whose antenna is mounted on the building at the base of the tram going up to Sandia mountain!  Then, there are a half dozen or so ‘rim shots’, some north, some south, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

 

  • Do all the Class C FMs operate with 22 kW ERP?

 

Most of the FMs run in that general ERP range, give or take. 250 watt translators perform admirably from up there!

  • What about beam tilt, is it used?

 

I’m sure that varies a lot from system to system. None of the FMs up there cover really well in the foothills on the east side of the metro area.  When I had to replace an entire antenna for one of our FMs in the mid-2000s, we put in a couple of degrees and some first null fill as I recall.  Still, it really isn’t a heck of lot better performer than any of the others.  It’s a REALLY steep angle!  On the other hand, I have carried most of the signals from up there a looooong way in some directions depending on terrain.  Nothing to get in the way.  Sandia rises pretty abruptly in most every direction.

  • What about combining, most of the Seattle Stations now operate via Combiners and Master Antennas?

 

There is a ‘tri-plex’ system, 3 FMs on one Shively antenna. There might be another two in one….not sure.

  • Are their radiation concerns at this site, especially because there are public facilities so close?

 

As for all the building shielding and limited exposure times…there have been at least a couple fairly extensive surveys done of the entire site. Yes, there are some fairly hot spots near the ground, all of which have been located, but I don’t know of anyone who is too concerned on a day to day basis.  Now, gain any altitude and that all changes.  Since most of the towers are not very tall, it doesn’t take long to get into the aperture of some serious RF.  Believe it or not, the Forest Service allows hang gliders to launch right from a location ON the site.  They have been known to ride a thermal too close to the antennas.  We warn them about that on occasion.

 

I want thank Bill Harris for his contributions.   If you would like to read more about the Highest Transmitter site in the U.S.  Here are some sites with more information.

http://www.sandiacresthouse.com/

http://www.sandiapeak.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandia_Mountains

https://www.fybush.com/site-of-the-week-11162012-sandia-crest-albuquerque-2011/

Recent reports say that Norway has decided to expand the number of FM Radio channels available, unlike their neighbor, Sweden, that appears to be moving to shift things to an all-digital mode.

Downtown Seattle continues to grow at an all-time record rate. I recall working in the, then new, 20 story Metropolitan Park East Tower where our top floor deck on the north side of the building had an, unobstructed, panoramic view from West, thru north.  Not any more as the forest of construction cranes have dramatically changed the South Lake Union landscape.  Just recently it was announced that a new 40 story building is going to be built across the street.  This video, from KING-TV, tells the tale.

http://www.king5.com/money/markets/real-estate/high-tech-condos-on-sale-this-weekend/423397520

In last month’s Column I dealt with some terms that are likely not familiar with some of the more ‘freshly minted’ types that we deal with Such as Fritz, Whack and Kilter.

One of my readers contributed another term that belongs in this category – copacetic. If you are a ‘more mature’ person you may have responded to a question like – How’s it going – with a response – Everything is copacetic.  Which is likely to produce some additional ‘Deer in the Headlights’ responses.  In the event you are new to this term – Here is the official word –

Copacetic is an adjective used to describe something or someone as pleasing or meeting one’s expectations…Good, Excellent, Fine etc.

From the department of Call Letter Re-use – KBSG was the call that then new owner Viacom gave 97.3FM (changing it from KNBQ). They wanted to use KBST for their new station slogan – ‘K-Best’ but were apparently un-successful in getting the station using those letters to let them go…so they chose KBSG.  Now those call letters are used by the Chehalis Valley Educational Foundation for their little FM station in Westport on the Washington Coast.

Time to once again put my spin on the latest radio ratings. Radio ratings are like a lot of things, they are taken apart in segments, in the case of radio, age groups.  In my case I just look at what’s called 12 Plus.  Here we go –

  • There are 35 stations listed, meaning that the radio pie is divided into 36 slices. This may sound excessive, consider there are well over 200 different models of automobiles for sale.
  • The #1 Station (KQMV) continues to prove that CHR is a popular and viable format.
  • Non-commercial stations are doing very well here – KUOW is ranked #2, KNKX #9, KLSW #23, KING #24 etc. beating out many commercial facilities.
  • AM’s continue to struggle. The highest rated one, KOMO, is at #15, KIRO at #18.
  • Power used to make the difference with AM…Not so much anymore. KJR is #28, KIXI #29, KFNQ is #34 – All of them 50,000 Watters.

 

In closing this month’s Column – The following contribution comes from an old friend. This is a great example of how many things that seem new really are not as new as you might suspect.

That’s it for this month – Enjoy Spring ! –

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

Clay’s Corner for March 2017

Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

March 2017 Edition

For some time now we have been hearing about how CBS was going to spin off their radio division…this would lead many to wonder, and chat about, who might buy them. Then in early February the news broke – Indeed CBS Radio was going to have new owners…but not exactly how we thought it might play out.  The news was that Entercom was going to merge with CBS Radio, creating what some have termed a ‘super-size’ Entercom that would become the 2nd largest radio group in the country and one with an enviable financial condition, with a Market Cap of reportedly around 2 Billion!  Rather than Entercom assuming huge debt and buying CBS they are merging with stockholders of both companies ending up owning the larger entity.  The deal is supposed to close late this year.  In the meantime – Wow do they have a lot of decisions to make.  Perhaps more interesting to my readers in the Pacific Northwest is what this will mean to Seattle Radio.

First an overview –

  • Entercom has 4 FMs
  • CBS has 3 FMs and 1 AM
  • Total between the groups – 7 FMs and 1 AM
  • The FCC limits the number of stations a given owner can have in this market to 5 FMs and 3 AMs

Clearly there are 2 FMs that have to be spun-off or sold with the new company keeping 5 FMs.   This is where the fun of speculation begins –

  • We are assuming that the new Entercom will want to have 5 FMs. (History note, this was the case before Entercom sold 97.3 and two AMs to Bonneville)
  • We can assume that there are buyers for two of the FM’s.
  • Existing local groups that could purchase the two spin-offs include Bonneville and Hubbard.
  • Then again, perhaps these groups could be seen purchasing one – each.
  • Then there is the possibility that someone not doing radio in the Seattle Market may wish to come here. A couple of names have surfaced:

o   Alpha who has been buying a lot of stations is not yet doing business in Seattle

o   Cox who owns KIRO-TV is in the radio business elsewhere.

 

Probably one of the more interesting aspects of all of this is the fact that Entercom and CBS both currently operate competitive Country Music stations (KMPS and KKWF). It’s not too much of a stretch to think that Entercom would like to see just one country station in this market.  (History note, 106.1 was a country station competing with KMPS many years ago.  Consolidation brought them under the same roof and one of them [106.1] changed format.)  Would Entercom risk spinning KMPS off to a competitor?…A station that has long history in that format.  Or would they keep KMPS and change KKWF/ The Wolf?

On the technical side – All 3 of the CBS FMs operate from what we commonly call West Tiger Mountain #2 or WTM-2. All of the Entercom FMs operate at WTM-1, about half a mile away at the same elevation.  Not likely that any of the 7 FM’s can be viewed as technically inferior which is occasionally used to determine which station to spin off.

 

Looking at the CBS AM situation. The historic KING-AM on 1090 (Now known as the Fan or KFNQ) has not been blessed with any history of great success in the half century that I’ve been around this area…Despite the fact that is a 50Kw full-time facility.    Couple that with the fact that the value of AM properties, in general, has been heading downward rather steeply….You have to wonder if they will find a willing taker for the AM.  Perhaps a foreign language broadcaster?

 

The studios of the Entercom stations have been, for many years, in the Metropolitan Park West…However, recently it was announced that they are re-locating to a new location in Downtown Seattle. Meanwhile, CBS’s radio operations are over at 1000 Dexter, near the West Side of Lake Union.  It’s likely that the new Entercom digs will have room for an additional FM – Who knows about the rest of the stations.  Guess this is for lawyers to figure out.

Across the country, the new Entercom will be a formidable operation with a roster of historic big stations in major markets. For instance – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Phoenix, Washington DC, Cleveland, Dallas/Ft Worth, Houston, Miami, Tampa, Charlotte, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Baltimore and San Francisco.

 

I did find it interesting that, with the exception of WCBS and KCBS, and the use of the term CBS Sports Radio, the letters CBS must be phased out and not used by the new conglomerate. The letters CBS will become exclusively a TV thing.

 

My thoughts on this topic need to include what must be going through the minds of those that work at the existing CBS Stations…They have to be wondering about their future, will they be working for the new/bigger Entercom or will ‘their station’ be one of the spin-offs and they end up working for who knows? It is a hectic time for sure …All I can say is – hang in there – Trust me, I’ve been there – multiple times.

 

Good timing for this item –

Things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out.

 

Guess who is moving? The FCC!  They have decided to move to a new location in WDC where they will be leasing 473,000 Sq. Ft.  (That’s about 3 average size Costcos) in an 11 story building at 45 L St N.E.  Still think of them on M Street.

 

There is a lot of attention focused on the FCC these days with the change of leadership to the Republicans.   One item of interest to a firm doing business in Seattle – The matter of the Entercom station in Sacramento where a contestant died in a contest that went very wrong.    One segment of broadcasting has been hearing good news from the new FCC chairman is AM Radio.   We will see.

 

One change is the elimination of certain Public File Requirements – Go here for details https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-343246A1.pdf

For TV, aside from the Spectrum Auction, is the FCC’s actions regarding ATSC-3 in the form of an NPRM.

 

Another effort by the FCC is to bolster AM Radio with FM Translators. New rules will allow the translator be located anywhere within he AM’s day-time contour or within a 25 mile radius of the transmitter.  For many low powered AMs in areas of poor ground conductivity, this could mean they could have an FM Translator where they presently have little or no AM Signal!  (Assuming I understand this correctly)

I received word that Boise State Public Radio is hiring a Senior Broadcast/IT Engineer. For more information – check out https://boisestate.taleo.net/careersection/ex/jobdetail.ftl?job=170020.

Am saddened to report on the passing of Dick Engh, W7HGX. Many years ago when I was just starting in this line of work I was doing part time work on KTNT Radio in Tacoma…At that time KTNT was an AM/FM/TV operation.  Their GM was Max Bice who had moved up from Chief Engineer (not a move you hear about very often).  The operations Chief Engineer was Dick Engh.  His assistant was a young fellow named Paul Crittenden.  Dick left the station to take a job in American Samoa and Paul was elevated to Chief.  Dick came back and became the station’s RF guy.  Later, for a short time, he worked for Trinity in Federal Way as their Chief.

 

His Obit, in the Tacoma News Tribune read as follows-

Dick F. Engh Dick was born in Tacoma, WA on 10-21-1920. He died on 1-28-2017. He was 96 years old.  He is survived by his two daughters and many other family members.  Dick was a Broadcast Engineer for over 40 years.  He was a member of the Tacoma Yacht Club and the Elks Club.  Dick married Sally Rae M. Wyckoff in 1958.  At 80, Dick had 3 PC’s with different operating systems.  He loved “computing” and helping others with them.  Donations to the Franciscan Hospice Org. would be appreciated. He is interred in the National Cemetery in Kent, WA.

Wheatstone, already a major player in the audio business just became a bit larger with the announcement that they have acquired PR&E from GatesAir. Gates, under its former name Harris, purchased the California firm back in 1999.  If you recall Wheatstone, not long ago, purchase a Seattle based firm that make the VoxPro audio editor.

You often see me write about traveling to West Tiger Mt. The fact is, there are quite a few broadcast engineers that travel up there to install and maintain equipment.  For those are not familiar with the place…I had the pleasure of being involved with the installation of the first broadcast station at this site about 28 years ago.  That station today is known as KIR0-FM on 97.3 (Back then It was called KBSG).

Today there are over a dozen FMs in addition to TVs, ENG systems etc. now located on the mountain.

This picture is from a surveillance camera operated by Acell-Net. Here we are looking to the East toward the twin towers of what we call WTM-2.  (West Tiger #2)   You can see the Cascade range beyond.

 

In the many years I’ve been going up there – This is the first winter that you could not drive a rubber-tired vehicle (with chains on all 4 wheels) up there this early in the year. Thanks to our rather unique winter this year – we have been snowed out from approx. Dec 10 to Feb 10 when Arthur Willets and Terry Spring managed to drive up.  More recently increased snow depth has curtailed easy access.  In normal years, our snowed-out periods are in late February and March.  Thankfully, Doug Fisher has a John Deere Gator with tracks that takes getting up here in stride.

To be sure the scenery up there beats what you see driving on a freeway in town! To the South you can see Mt Rainier and, if you pick your spot, you can see Mt St Helens.  With my 10X Bi-Noc’s I can see the Lava Dome on a clear day.  To the North, Mt Baker and the mountains to the north of Vancouver are visible.  Of course, to the West is the Puget Sound basin with Seattle, Bellevue etc. and the Olympics beyond.

It’s hard to predict just what kind of winter we are going to have until we get there.  There have been mild ones that enabled access with vehicles without chains all winter….Then there are those like this one.

The NWS is not a lot of help with their predictions either. According to State Climatologist, Nick Bond, the reason for all the snow is the simple fact that our temperatures have been well below normal.  No one is blaming a La Nina or El Nino…but rather that thing they call with a non-scientific name…The Blob.

I recently heard that they are now guesstimating that we will have an abnormally wet spring followed by a hot summer. Like all of us – We will just have to wait and see.  Weather here in the Pacific Northwest is, as we are being reminded, very very hard to predict. One note, according to the NWS, this is the 2nd wettest February in Seattle

After recent a big dump of snow – Doug Fisher took this of West Tiger #1 (WTM-1) The original broadcast site on the mountain. You can see his Gator parked in front of the building.

Those of us that have been following the boom in Seattle know that the cost for housing has been climbing rapidly. A new study underscores the situation concluding that the cost of living in Seattle is now the 9th highest in the world!  Seattle is now the 5th most expensive city for rent in the U.S.  Yes Seattle is behind New York and San Francisco.  Perhaps this will explain the exploding homeless problem?  Rents for everyone have gone up dramatically, including those that cannot afford it, forcing many into tents.  Some have called this a price of progress.

Plenty of survey and study results to share this month –

First of all – this one from MoneyRates – The best and worst states to make a living –

Coming in at #2 is Washington. One of the reasons they like this state – One of the highest wages in the country and no Income Tax.  At # 7 is Colorado credit given to high wage and low unemployment.

Unfortunately Oregon is ranked #49. They did not like the fact that the cost of living is 28.5% higher than the national average.

Forbes recently published a list of cities where workers are ‘flocking to’. Coming in at #1 – Seattle; #2 Portland, Oregon; #3 Austin, TX and #4- Denver.

Seattle made it into a list of cities that you can’t brag about – Worst Commute. LA (no surprise) is #1 worst commute in the world.  Seattle is (Ugh) ranked #10.

I love the fact that my readers are sending me pictures these days – Anyone care to venture a guess as to who this is? (Look at all that hair !!!!)

I have been writing, for some time, about the spectrum auction that promises to have a big impact on Television. Knowing that Rick Kemp has been following this closely – I asked him to explain it to us – and help us understand what this will mean here in the PNW – Rick submitted the following –

TV 600 MHz Spectrum Auction

The UHF Television spectrum auction has concluded. The FCC received or will receive $19.6 Billion from the wireless carriers that bid on 84 MHZ of 600MHZ Television spectrum. Out of the total, $6 Billion will be used to go to help reduce the US Deficit $1.75B will be used to help defray some of the cost to broadcasters who wish to participate in the next step, the TV Re-pack. Over $10 Billion will go to broadcasters that chose to relinquish their spectrum rights.

Basically what this means is all the UHF TV Channels that wish to stay on the air will be required to move to different channels (repacked)  into the UHF Channels between UHF Channels 18 and 36. The frequencies above CH 36 have been sold (auctioned) to Wireless companies.

This will affect 1200+ TV stations in the US. it will be up to the station owners to decide if they want to continue broadcasting or hand in some or all of their licenses and go dark.  FCC requires a station going off the air provide 30 days’ notice.

 

How will it work?

If a station wants to continue to broadcast and is out of band, they will need to:

  • Get a new (ATSC3.0) antenna*
  • Arrange for an interim or Aux antenna and / or site, in order to continue to operate while replacing their old antenna.
  • Get /upgrade to a new ATSC3.0 Exciter

At antenna sites that are co-located with FM Stations, there is a strong likelihood that the FM stations will be affected as well, possibly requiring an antenna relocation.

TV Stations that will be out of band in Washington State: (Starting with Seattle stations)

KOMO (38)

KING(48)

KIRO(39)

KFFV(44)

KUSE-LD (46)

KUNS(50)

KVEW(44 Kennewick)

KSKN(36 Spokane)

LPTV’s

Channel 36 (RF channel 36): K36EW-D – (Religious independent) – College Place

Channel 36 (RF channel 36): KEVE-LD – (3ABN) – Vancouver

Channel 38 (RF channel 38): KYPK-LD – (MundoFox/Infomercials/The Walk TV/TeLe-Romántica/Religious independent) – Yakima

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): K39DL-D – (3ABN/Radio 74) – Moses Lake

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): KHBA-LD – (Hope Channel/3ABN/Religious independent/LLBN) – Spokane

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): KWYT-LP – (Estrella TV/Azteca America/MiCasa/LATV/QVC/Almavision) – Yakima

Channel 41 (RF channel 41): KCYU-LD – (Fox/This TV) – Yakima

Channel 42: KVBI-LP – Clarkston

Channel 42 (RF channel 42): K42KA-D – Moses Lake

Channel 43 (RF channel 43): K43MG-D – Hermiston

Channel 43 (RF channel 43): K43GZ-D – (HSN) – Spokane

Channel 45 (RF channel 35): KDHW-CD – (TBN/Church Channel/Smile of a Child TV/TBN Enlace USA) – Yakima

Channel 46 (RF channel 46): KUSE-LD – (Peace TV/SonLife/QVC/Hot TV/Infomercials) – Seattle

Channel 47 (RF channel 47): KQUP-LD – (Daystar) – Spokane

Channel 47 (RF channel 47): KWWO-LD – (Cornerstone) – Walla Walla

Channel 47 (RF channel 47): KWCC-LD – (Independent) – Wenatchee, Washington

Channel 49: K49EV – Clarkston

Channel 49: K49GF – Yakima, etc.

Channel 49 (RF channel 38): K38LZ-D – (MyNetworkTV) – Longview

Channel 49 (RF channel 49): KRLB-LD – (Cornerstone) – Richland, etc.

Channel 51 (RF channel 51): K51KY-D – Hermiston

Channel 51 (RF channel 51): K51JG-D – (3ABN/Radio 74) – Yakima

Channel 53 (RF channel 42): K42IH-D – (Independent) – East Wenatchee

Channel 54 (RF channel 31): K31KW-D

It’s unclear to me if KVOS (Ch 35) will be affected by the re-pack, due to the close proximity to Canada, which might require they still move (or go dark) to avoid potential interference with Mobile wireless in B.C.

TV Stations that will be out of band in Portland:

KATU(43)

KOIN(40)

KNMT(45)

KTCW(45-Roseburg)

LPTV’s

Channel 36 (RF channel 49): KAMK-LD (3ABN) – Eugene

Channel 38 (RF channel 38): KHWB-LD (TBN) – Eugene

Channel 38 (RF channel 38): KKEI-CD (Telemundo) – Portland

Channel 39 (RF channel 27): K27DO-D (FOX/Telemundo) – Bend, etc.

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): K39EF-D (HSN) – Ashland

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): KFXO-LD (FOX/Telemundo) – Bend

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): K39DP-D – Klamath Falls

Channel 39 (RF channel 45): K45KM-D (FOX/Telemundo) – Bend

Channel 40 (RF channel 40): K40KR-D – Medford

Channel 42: K42IR (3ABN) – Astoria

Channel 42 (RF channel 42): KPXG-LD (Daystar) – Portland

Channel 43 (RF channel 43): K43MK-D – Roseburg

Channel 44: KDOV-LP (Religious independent) – Medford

Channel 46 (RF channel 46): KGWZ-LD (Ind.) – Portland

Channel 47: K47HT (3ABN) – Roseburg

Channel 47 (RF channel 47): KUNP-LD (Univision/TBA) – Portland

Channel 48 (RF channel 16): K16IG-D – Cottage Grove

Channel 48 (RF channel 48): K48GC-D (3ABN/Radio 74) – Florence

Channel 48 (RF channel 48): K48DZ-D (3ABN/Radio 74) – Hermiston

Channel 48 (RF channel 48): KFBI-LD (MyNetworkTV/Telemundo) – Medford

Channel 49 (RF channel 20): K20DD-D (MyNetworkTV) – Albany, etc.

Channel 49 (RF channel 20): K20EH-D (MyNetworkTV) – Hood River

Channel 49 (RF channel 43): KUBN-LD (MyNetworkTV) – Bend

Channel 49 (RF channel 49): K49KT-D (GCN) – Bend

Channel 49 (RF channel 49): K49DM-D – Coos Bay

Channel 49 (RF channel 50): K50GG-D (MyNetworkTV) – Salem

Channel 51 (RF channel 41): KOXO-CD (America One) – Portland

Channel 51 (RF channel 51): KHPN-LD (Silent) – Warrenton

Channel 57 (RF channel 21): K21KB-D (3ABN/Radio 74) – Brookings

The FCC will issue a “Channel Reassignment Public Notice(CRPN) which will trigger a 39 month window.  At present, the countdown-clock is set to start on March 31.

This also means that several Wireless Microphone bands and IFB channels will also become no longer available. But as far as I can tell, the major wireless mic manufacturers are or have already planned for this eventuality.

It should be pointed out that the FCC originally had put 126 MHZ worth of UHF Spectrum up for auction, but after 3 rounds of auctions with no bites, the amount was whittled down to 84 MHZ.

This is an excerpt from a statement by Lectrosonics on the subject:

A big thankyou to Rick Kemp for this information….Now what is it likely to mean around here –

To start with, looks like a lot of construction activity around Queen Anne Hill with at least 4 stations going to have to change channels (I’ve highlighted them in Yellow) in Portland, several there are also going to have to make major changes. This will be the 2nd time for the Seattle changes, the first time was the shuffle from VHF to UHF.

In some cases, where FM Stations are sharing towers with TV stations that are going to have to move, there will be impacts to those radio stations. Perhaps rightfully, some of these stations are asking that some of that auction money should pay for instances where they have to make expensive changes through no fault of their own.  Apparently the NAB agrees.  Not sure that the FCC planned on doing so.

To the best of my knowledge this will not impact FMs in Seattle. KUOW/94.9 on the Ch. 9 tower on Capitol Hill is not impacted as none of those TV stations on that hill are impacted.

Recently there was a small, low power, station in the Seattle area that got hacked by someone getting into their un-protected Barix based STL system. Obviously the FCC has been following this.  The question is being asked…If the FCC fines your station because it was hacked – Are you liable?  Whereas older aural STL systems were (usually) not vulnerable to hacking, we have not had to think about these things.  In today’s Internet based systems, STL, EAS etc. stations (apparently) have become easy targets.  Seems to me that the fault lives with these stations that fail to protect their systems from intrusions.

A few years ago a TV station aired some adult material with the FCC taking action against them. As with a lot of things these days – it may depend on whether or not someone complains.  Larger stations and/or ownerships may have insurance to deal with this kind of thing…Not likely a small LPFM would enjoy the same degree of protection.  Then…We have a new administration at the FCC and time will tell just how tough they will be in these matters.

A lot of radio stations are facing the need to switch ‘birds’ for satellite fed programming this summer.

The change is from AMC 8 to AMC 18. For many stations, their receive antennas are not designed to be moved….Then there is the issue that some existing receive dishes will not work with the new satellite due to their spacing, making larger dishes a requirement.  The good news is there is an overlap period when both satellites will provide the same programming.  You may have noticed an increase in advertising for these kinds of products ….This is why.

Every so often you start seeing advertising for some new version of yesteryear’s ‘snake oil’…. Are you ready for Himalayan Sea Salt? Not only can you sprinkle this on your food …but you can purchase Himalayan Sea Salt Lamp fans of which claim they emit negative ions which lowers your blood pressure, increase oxygen flow to the brain, purify the air – and (GET THIS) Protect against electromagnetic radiation.  Perhaps you should only use your cellphone near one of these?

Speaking of Cellphones…..Looks like the Washington Legislature is, once again, working to toughen up laws regarding distracted driving. Not sure how much good this will do as, despite the existing laws, I continue to see a LOT of folks driving down the road with their cellphones to their ears or looking down at their device with their thumbs flying.  There is concern that this might negatively impact those that are Amateur Radio operators (Hams).  Looks like they may been have been successful.

The Washington State EAS Committee, formally known as the SECC, is changing its meeting location. We have been meeting at the Washington State EOC at Camp Murray –  The new location, for the March 16th Meeting will be at Clover Park Technical College (CPTC) in Lakewood in the Building 11 KVTI Conference Room.   This change will bring with it some benefits –

  • A larger room better able to accommodate a greater number of participants
  • Easier access in that you will not have to go thru a military checkpoint
  • More parking (Camp Murray has become increasingly difficult to find parking)
  • Better conference telephone to make it easier for telephone participants to hear and be heard

I hope you can join us in person. I will have more, detailed, information on the EAS Remailer as we approach the meeting day.  The May Meeting of the SECC will again be on the other side of the Cascades at Kittcom in Ellensburg on May 25th.  This annual meeting on the East-Side has been popular with good attendance by those from the other side of the State.  In July we will be back to CPTC.

I have heard it said that the vultures are circling Cumulus as the big radio company is struggling with a mountain of debt (2.4 Billion bucks worth) and efforts to deal with it have been facing headwinds. The questions that many keep asking is – How long can they avoid the ‘B-Word’?  Should they fail, there could be a fire-sale with some very well-known properties going for bargain basement prices.  Then who wants to buy them.  Let’s face it, media companies are not exactly the darlings of Wall Street.  The financial woes of iHeart and Cumulus have not exactly helped.

For those of you that are into electronics, Ham Radio, computers etc. – Don’t forget the annual Mike and Key Club Electronic Flea Market at the Puyallup Fair Grounds on March 11th. A sure sign of Spring!

A bit further out is the Annual SeaPac Ham Convention in Seaside, Oregon June 2- 4.

Are you ready for a reversal of the Magnetic Poles? There are a number of scientists that feel that this may well happen and point to evidence to support their contention, specifically, the magnetic field has been decreasing for the past 160 years at a rapid rate.  In fact, there is evidence that this has happened in the past.  It’s during the switch that concerns the experts as the Earth’s magnetic field would become very weak and during this time a number of bad things could take place…Like an increase in harmful radiation that the magnetic field protects us from, messing up our navigation and power distribution systems etc.  In the end, your compass would be pointed South.  No this is not a run up to an April 1 story.  You are welcome to do some research on your own.

And this brings me to thoughts of terms that we don’t use any more. In fact, if you were to use them around a typical broadcast station today you’d discover a significant number of the staff would likely be giving you a classic ‘Deer in the Headlights’ expression.

Let’s try a couple for TV –

  • Registration
  • Film chain
  • Pre-roll
  • Kinescope
  • Racking Lenses

 

Or for Radio –

  • Wow and Flutter
  • Rumble
  • Turn-over cartridge
  • ET’s
  • NEMO

 

In general there are a lot of terms that we stopped using….For example the word ‘Kilter’. When was the last time you used or heard it?    Perhaps you recall the term ‘out of kilter’.  Something that is ‘out of kilter’ is – ‘out of balance’.  Or, you could say that something is ‘off kilter’.  For example something that is not plumb is ‘off kilter’.  Your game could be ‘off’ ….or ‘out of kilter’.  Now that you are with me….Time for some fun.  Try using this term with a more freshly minted person.

  • The video looks out of kilter
  • The Audio sounds out of kilter
  • The computer network is out of kilter
  • When your expenses exceed your income – your cash-flow is ‘out of kilter’

 

What we really need is a device that will detect and alert us to a condition where kilter is about to be compromised or the level of kilter is approaching a condition where intervention is called for.   That device would be (of course) a “Kiltometer’.  Kiltometers can be linear or utilize some other acceptable curve depending on the nature of the matter being monitored.  Certainly a Kilter reaching a critical level should trigger automatic alarms.  Might I recommend that engineers take this matter seriously and consider producing devices that would be able to display these types of conditions?  Any indicating instrument, like a Kiltometer, would need to have a unit of measurement associated with it.  In some cases Kilter could be displayed in Degrees or perhaps, in extreme cases – Units of Aggravation.  Oh yes, you are invited to do your own research on Kilter.  You will discover that the word (Kilter or Kelter) goes back to the 1600’s.  It’s just that it has, like a lot of things, fallen from favor.

Another term that could be used instead of Kilter is – ‘ Whack’. Perhaps the newbies will understand when you tell them that the device is simply ‘out of whack’.  You may wish to bone up on this topic because you just might be ask to define when something becomes – IN- whack as opposed to be ‘out of whack’.  The origin of Whack is easier to understand as it likely came from the experiences that a person had with a piece of equipment that failed to perform as expected that could be corrected with the application of a ‘whack’ in a particular location using a certain amount of G-force….But this is only a guess.

Then there is the old standby ‘Fritz’. We all know when a copy machine is ‘on the fritz’….However we may not be able to tell if it’s ‘off the fritz’.  Using simple deductive and detective principles…It appears that this term is German in origin.

I believe, with all that, the time has come to end this month’s Column.

Thanks again for all the reader feedback I have been receiving – It’s good to know that there are those that will take the time to read what I have written.

 

Till next month, in most of these same locations,

 

Think SPRING !

 

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for March 2017

 

Greetings all for the month of March!

This is a very cool website that I saw at our EMF Engineering Summit meetings that they had displayed in our Network Operations Center. It is a map of current VHF Propogation going on around the world.  This is a picture of what was going on in the Continental US at the time I wrote this.  Check out the website at http://aprs.mountainlake.k12.mn.us/ for the legend to the map and scalability thru google maps. This is really cool for us who like to look for 6 meter openings!  Our NOC uses it to see if there are any interference patterns going on that might be interrupting some of our service.  I check it frequently to see if I can call CQ on 50.125!

                 The Legend you will see on the website

In the past you have seen me write a bit about my 5 BTV vertical antenna (now sold by DX Engineering) and how I added 12 and 17 meter wires to make it a “7 BTV” J antenna. One thing that was always a pain was the fact that to work on the antenna I had to take it totally off its ground mount water pipe driven into the ground along my back fence where the antenna is mounted.  I wrote about the project where I put in the PVC pipe into the ground carrying the coax to the antenna, and so on and so forth.  The next project for it was to homebrew a tilt mount so that taking the antenna into a position to make it easy to work on without having to spend money on a store boughten mount (see DX Engineering’s page if you want to purchase one: https://www.dxengineering.com/search/part-type/hf-vertical-antenna-mounting-tilt-bases). Now these range from not terribly expensive to really expensive and I thought “I bet I can come up with an idea to circumvent spending that kind of money”.  So the idea of a “lazy Susan” planted itself in my mind and I thought of the various ways to possibly accomplish this.  So, at least for proof of concept, this is what I came up with.  After I made a trip to the local ACE hardware (grew up around an ACE hardware and love going there instead of HomeyDepot or even Lowes) I found what I needed for around $7!  I am not sure of the wind handling capabilities of my finished setup, but I sure can tug on the antenna with my weight and it seems to be just fine.  I do have another idea that I will try in the future and report on here, but for now, this system is working great.

The antenna on its base before the conversion

 

 

 

 

 

 

Side view of the original mount and the wind broken spar and “spider”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lazy Susan turntable attached to the new antenna mounting pole

Self tapping screws secured the turntable to the antenna mounting pole easily enough. I sank several extra screws for better security in the mount.

 

The antenna removed from the mount and horizontal. You can see the broken spar and spider underneath the 40 meter section.

 

The antenna can be lain over on the fencing for work here, but of course loosening the U-bolts on the ground pole (seen above left in the picture) takes time. Plus it puts a strain on the feedline turning it up like this.  Hence this project!  Here you see the new antenna mount on the ground pole

 

 

And the antenna mounted on the ground pole. The tilt mechanism works great!  Now I can fix the broken part!

The antenna upright and locked back in!

Project complete, and the broken spider repaired!

 

This month I also put up a YouTube video demo about a demo of RMS Express HF email thru the Winlink 2000 system. This free software, my Rigblaster advantage and my Yaesu FT 897D allows me to send and receive email via the HF airwaves.  My Winlink email address is KE0VH@winlink.org. I will check this a few times a week by logging into the system on nodes on 40 or 80 meters usually.  Very versatile for WHEN the internet will go down, or out in the field when there is no internet or no other communications possible for email.  Many ARES and other amateur services are using this system.

 

Screenshot of the video. Catch it at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR5dnDS65DA

 

Seen at the Adams County Hamfest! Boy did I drool over this.  A COMPLETE HeathKit SB station!

Unfortunately this signifies another “SK”, Silent Key. This group was selling this well loved station on behalf of an Amateur’s widow.  While great to see, I hate to think of someone’s wife having to deal with this.  This group had graciously offered to help with the sale of this gear.  I hope that they were able to sell this beautiful station for what it is worth, both monetarily and emotionally, and not have to part it out.

 

On the other hand, look what I ALSO found!

A refurbished HeathKit Model 1410 keyer!

I bought this for $10 from a guy at the hamfest. He had put in new IC’s and cleaned it up!  I am now working on getting my CW speed “up to speed”!  I can do about 10 words per minute so I am slow, but I am finding plenty of others like me on the CW bands to practice and make QSO’s with.  A lot of fun it is!  So many new hams these days have abandoned even trying to learn the code.  I am a 13 wpm Extra.  I had to take the 13 wpm for my General test way back when I had to take the amateur test IN the Atlanta Georgia FCC office.  Pretty heady stuff back then!  And you know, I don’t know if I have ever written about this, but I also had to go to Atlanta to take the 3rd Class Radio Telephone Operators Permit test with the Broadcast Endorsement!  And I still have the Certificate!

You can see the “Issuing Officers” name, it was Angelo Ditty. Mr. Ditty was a big Italian man who struck fear into the heart of us who had to take tests under him in the Official FCC Field Office!  Actually I am sure he was a nice man, but I do remember he had that “official” bearing and mannerism’s you might expect.  Especially for a 16 year old at the time!

 

By the way, if you would like to see past editions of the KEØVH Hamshack articles, you can see them at:

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKEØVHHamshack201701Jan.pdf

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/archives/TheKEØVHHamshack201702Feb.pdf

I will be adding more to my website archives here soon.

Or see the complete archives at:

http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/

AND

Don’t forget the IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, every MONDAY EVENING

At 7pm Mountain time (9pm Eastern) for radio discussions, both

Broadcast engineering and amateur radio. The first and

3rd Mondays are also SBE Chapter 73’ of the Air NET nights. Details on how to

Join are at http://www.ke0vh.com/net/net.html. I hope

You will be able to join us and share your engineering and

Ham exploits!

73’ & God be with you. See you next time! De KEØVH

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for February 2017

 

 

WINTER IN COLORADO!

UNBELIEVABLE on Castle Peak at 11,000 feet

 

During the first weeks of January Colorado received a barrage of snowstorms that left the mountains under feet of snow, avalanche danger, shut down roads, and even Interstate 70 was closed down due to avalanche’s on the highway west of Denver. The radio site above hosts one of our broadcast facilities and Eagle County’s communication sites among others.  The FEET of ice (by the way took our station there off the air by interrupting our STL feed) was some of the most severe I have ever seen.  As of this writing, we are off air and only some of the Eagle County facility is working.  Evidently according to my buddy Mick at Eagle County, this crew went up on one of the largest snow cats in the region and used a crowd control gun too literally blast the ice off antenna’s to regain coms.  I am looking for a solution for us at this time.  We are also working on an alternative site for an auxiliary facility at this time.

Lately in the Denver area, we have been hearing noise that is really obstructing the 75 and 40 meter bands. It has almost completely wiped out me checking into the Colorado Columbine Net on 3.989 and finally fades away down around 3.7 MHz Cris Alexander, W5WCA has been reporting an interfering noise “signal” on 40 meter frequencies he uses a lot too. There are a bunch of us who talk regularly on 7.166 and the noise has been there too. Cris also reports that the signal goes away during the summer.

Greg Beveridge, W87AHO adds this byline to this month’s newsletter.

Says Greg, I observed an elevated noise floor on the approximate upper half of the 75 meter phone band yesterday (about S9 in the afternoon), and decided to see how wide it really was. One of my HF radios is an ICOM 756, equipped with spectrum display.  Set for +/- 50 kHz window, I dialed back in frequency from 3805 kHz and observed a sudden noise floor drop from S9 to about S3 between 3805 and 3800 kHz.  Dialing above 3805, the S9 noise floor remained there continuously all the way to 5148 kHz, then steadily dropping off to S5 at 5158 kHz, for a total  and uniform elevated noise floor span of approximately 1.3 MHz  My HF antenna system is a multi-band inverted-V with apex on top of my second-story chimney, lowest resonance at 7150 kHz.  For the above measurements, I used direct connection to the radio without a tuner.  When I do operate on 75m, I load the entire feed line and antenna with an external tuner against ground.  Since my test spectrum sweep was nowhere near antenna resonance and the mismatch was expected to be more or less the same over a very wide HF frequency range, receive-only observations were assumed to be reasonably uncontaminated over the entire 1.36 MHz test view.  I spoke with Jack yesterday evening, and he was able to independently replicate my observations at his QTH, which suggests that, whatever the actual source, it appears far-field to both of us.  Whatever the actual source, seems to me that uniformly raising the noise-like level by 3-4 S units over some 33% of the frequency band of interest (with relatively tight frequency corners) is more than a little strange, suggesting to me something like megawatt over-the-horizon radar or HAARP influence.

Additionally, I continued to scan for other periodic RF noise artifacts that have the familiar audio characteristic of ragged 60 Hz power-line harmonics and found prominent appearances every 303 kHz from 6128 kHz to 10685 kHz.  I don’t believe that these are related to the very wide elevated noise floor described in the above paragraphs, and I can easily cancel them with my MFJ-1026 unit when they land on a DX frequency of interest in the 40M band.

 

We will have more on this as it develops, or we discover the source. Maybe an over the horizon type radar? Something from Buckley AFB on the east side of the Denver metro? Very interesting but noisy! JJJ

Rich, W9BNO, had a wonderful visit from Mrs. Santa (a.k.a. his wife) and is now the proud owner of a Yaesu FT-400DR! He has this mounted now in his vehicle and is beaconing APRS as W9BNO-9.

Our EMF/K-LOVE/Air1 2017 Engineering Summit was held in January, and it was so good to see everyone after I missed last year due to the cancer treatments (BTW, still feeling great and no sign of disease!) The gathering was in Rocklin CA and while we met off campus at another site, we spent some time at HQ with some other activities, such as a presentation from Nautel, and flying the DJI drones to see what it was like.  A lot of us are going to be studying for our UAV Pilots licenses which are a requirement to fly these for the company inspecting towers and such.  This event was a highlight of the summit week, but for me it was SO GOOD to see everyone again after missing last year.  Thanks to Jeremy and Sam for this afternoon of fun and seeing what it is like to fly a really stable camera platform in the DJI Phantom series.

A Group picture from the drone. Notice Jeremy (N6JER) with the controller in the middle of the picture.  Yours truly lower right in the Zenith shirt!

A shot of HQ from the air! Notice everyone lower left on the grass that was flying that day.

On one of the days we got to make a field trip to the Econco tube facility not too far away from Rocklin. This was another highlight of the week getting to see this fine, mostly done by hand work!  Very amazing how they do this and the facilities they have built over the years at this plant.

Cut tubes with the tops removed and a basket of filament assemblies

Cutting the seal of the tube to separate the base from the top cooling fins


 

The top removed and the inside of the defective tube

The machine for winding filaments and an employee winding by hand on the jig

What the wire looks like on the screen of her monitor

Getting ready to attach the new filament assembly.

Newly refurbished product ready for shipment

 

It was amazing to see how Econco has made and refurbished the great products we have used in broadcasting over the years. And, another great thing that day was to meet the employees many of us have talked to for a long time.  Debbie Storz being one of them.  So nice to finally meet her in person!

 

K-LOVES Teri Shaw and Econco’s Debbie Storz

 

Steve Flyte, K7SF, our K-LOVE Engineer from the Portland Oregon area brought his portable setup to the hotel at Rocklin where all the engineers were staying for the week. Steve used his Ten-Tec Jupiter and antenna tuner to load up a wire out of his 3rd floor room.  Steve worked CW contacts around the country and the Sacramento net on 80 meters from his setup there.

Steve and his portable station from the Hotel in Rocklin

 

Steve has kind of re-kindled my interest in CW. I am going to break out the old Radio Shack brass key which was my original key at a novice back in the late 70’s, and since I have kept it nice all these years, I am going to put it back to work.  It is fun and I sure would like to get my CW speed back up.  Steve can have conversations at 50 wpm so I think I have my work cut out for me.  I am also a 13 word per minute Extra class.  They dropped the code requirement before I obtained my Extra, but when I took my General the 13 wpm requirement was still in place.  AND, you had to take the ham tests in the FCC office, which for me was in Atlanta Georgia.  Now I tell you that was an experience!

 

Busy month, more in March! Lots of projects and things going on!  Thanks for reading!

 

By the way, if you would like to see past editions of the KEØVH Hamshack articles, you can see last month’s edition at:

 

http://www.ke0vh.com/hamshack/TheKE%C3%98VHHamshackLast.pdf

 

Or see the archives at:

 

http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/

AND

Don’t forget the IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, every MONDAY EVENING

At 7pm Mountain time (9pm Eastern) for radio discussions, both

Broadcast engineering and amateur radio. The first and

3rd Mondays are also SBE Chapter 73’ of the Air NET nights. Details on how to

Join are at http://www.ke0vh.com/net/net.html. I hope

You will be able to join us and share your engineering and

Ham exploits!

73’ & God be with you. See you next time! De KEØVH

 

 

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for January 2017

 

                     Greetings all, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Well this time last year I was writing about my experience with treatments for my head and neck cancer that was affecting me then. I am so glad and grateful to God and my doctors for the healing and at this time I am still cancer free and loving life.  This only gripe I have: winter has come to CO and it has been COLD!  No riding the motorcycle.  Oh Well!  I am alive and happier than I have ever been and just grateful to be here working, loving my family and God!

 

As I wrote about last month check out the newly available Xiegu X-108 HF Radio (Wouxun built I believe)

http://www.wouxun.us/item.php?item_id=346

The Xiegu X-108G HF 1-20 watt Transceiver also available with a companion portable HD Multiband antenna. .5 to 30 MHz, Really looks pretty cool.

And here is a video (there are a few) comparing this new radio to the Yaesu FT-817ND. Our friend Ralph, AA6GM and Arizona area EMF/K-Love Air1 engineer picked one of these up, and I hope to hear a report on his experience with it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFhxoagp8M8

 

Have you noticed that the Weather Channel has started naming winter storms now and using this feature in their reporting? Yes we have named hurricanes forever, and now I guess someone figures that this is a good marketing ploy to generate drama.  That’s what I think anyway.  It isn’t enough now that we get to see Jim Cantore and his colleagues soaking wet or getting blown around or frozen.  We gotta have these regular winter occurrences named too!  I am laughing out loud as I write this!  Here is a shot I took off our TV during one of the winter blasts that occurred in December!

I am still laughing at this. Really folks, come on!

 

Well it took a while but I finally have APRS going again for KE0VH-2 in the truck. Looks like I have a bad GPS antenna on the Tacoma.  I got it to work for a while again before switching over to my better Motorola GPS antenna on the Ford F-250 (Truckzilla).  I changed this out and you can track me again in real time at APRS.fi, (no www) by putting KE0VH-2 into the “track call sign” box.  Or you can see it at map.findu.com/ke0vh-2 but you have to refresh that page to get updates.

 

Speaking of APRS, I am getting ready to deploy KE0VH-10 up at our Sterling site to cover that part of NE CO that has no real APRS coverage. The Ubuntu Linux unit will act as a receive only IGATE and will fill in a huge void in coverage in that area.   I actually started working on this last year, but didn’t have much time in the last few months to learn my way thru the Linux commands.  Art, KI4GYZ came and helped me out and has become my Linux guru.  In a couple of hours he had the IGATE computer and the KPC3+ talking to the computer and now you can also see KE0VH-10 at its location east of Sterling CO.  While as of this writing it isn’t deployed, I really hope to do it in the next month so it can be activated.  This also will help out the Edge of Space Sciences (www.eoss.org) group that flies & tracks high altitude balloons and scientific payloads.

Art, KI4GYZ working on the Linux commands

The site near Sterling in NE CO along I-76 with no current coverage

And a zoom in on the beacon information

 

My buddy Steve, K0TTT here in Denver has a beautiful old restored Grunow Super Teledial console radio that is just amazing. During a really relaxing evening at he and his wife’s house during the Christmas Season my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful time listening to Christmas music on Denver’s 1430 KEZW thru this radio as we visited.  Very nostalgic and pleasant way to spend part of the season.  Thanks Steve and Laura for a lovely evening!

The dial has radio call signs such as KOA, KSL, KOMA, and many more “voices from the past! Amazing find Steve!

And this past month, we had a failure in the who knows how many year old breaker box in our home. The old breakers were of a brand that most electricians these days recognize as a fire hazard anyway.  The one that was on our refrigerator and garage circuit one night started (while we were at home thank God!) arcing instead of breaking the circuit.  And there was NO problem on the circuit.  You can see in the picture the age of the box and breakers.  So long story short, (and part of the reason I include it here) is since our house was built in 1960, it was most definitely time to replace it, and I even put in a complete new 20 amp circuit for the KEØVH Hamshack!  All on its own dedicated breaker now.  My brother in law Jason, and his buddy Nathan not only recommended the upgraded Siemens box and breakers that would make our home safe, but did an amazing install job in just one day!

The old box. The red 20 breaker was the bad one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old outside meter box and the wall after it came off

 

 

 

Jason installing the new meter box and he and Nathan installing the new breaker box inside

The new box in the wall inside, and Nathan wiring it up. Notice the yellow wire in the left hand pic.  That is the dedicated feed to the Hamshack!

Nathan wiring the feed to the house back up. New roof pole and weather hood too.  GREAT JOB GUYS!  THANKS!

Don’t forget the IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, every MONDAY EVENING

At 7pm Mountain time (9pm Eastern) for radio discussions, both

Broadcast engineering and amateur radio. The first and

3rd Mondays are also SBE Chapter 73’ of the Air NET nights. Details on how to

Join are at http://www.ke0vh.com/net/net.html. I hope

You will be able to join us and share your engineering and

Ham exploits!

73’ & God be with you. See you next time! De KEØVH

 

Clay’s Corner For January 2017


 
Clay’s Corner
 
Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986
 

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and that 2017 will prove to be the best – A lot of newsy stuff to report on this month and some pretty, and interesting, pictures – The two biggest in-debt radio operators, Cumulus and iHeart, continue to dance around a mountain of IOU’s.  I guess the expression – “Too big to fail” applies to these firms.  If you find yourself overwhelmed with financial obligations, my recommendation is that you hire the folks handling these messes…They have to be geniuses.  If you wish to better understand what’s taking place…Start with researching ‘springing lien’ (And you thought engineering was complicated?)  Perhaps the real question that needs to be asked here – Is radio hurting and the financial position of these two big outfits a sign of a struggling industry or are these just a couple of examples of mismanagement?  Another reason for raised eyebrows was the word that a couple of top executives with Cumulus recently received huge bonuses.  Oh Well……There is another activity in the world of radio and that’s the looming spin-off of CBS. We have all been hearing a great deal about the problems impacting AM Radio – Giving this some thought, I’d like to share the following with you – AM BOOSTERS – Some recent attention is being paid to the AM band thanks to activity in Puerto Rico where an operator has been, for some time, operating a number of AM Boosters.

With information that the Commish wants to rein in this operation has come a lot of raised eyebrows and renewed discussion about how synchronized AM boosters might be good for the salvation of the ‘legacy band’.  Apparently there are those that feel that if an AM Station could spread out its coverage with boosters it might be able to succeed.  There are a number of cases where small AM’ s are linked with common programming serving multiple small towns that seem to work well.

DOES COVERAGE EQUAL SUCCESS? There was a time, especially in locations like Seattle that has very poor ground conductivity and a population that continues to spread out, where an AM Broadcaster needed to have either a low-dial position or lots of power (or both) to cover the entire market.  Back when I got into this business, Tacoma and Seattle were, in many ways, hundreds of miles apart.  Each had its own stations and that was fine.  As the cities along Puget Sound grew together those big signals that covered most of the entire market were what kept them afloat with the smaller signal AM’s falling by the wayside, and in some cases, going dark.  This shift to a larger conjoined area forced FM stations to re-locate their transmitters to higher locations for much the same reason.  Today we have FM stations whose coverage is equal to the signals from the big, 50kW AM’s creating a more level playing field.  Interestingly, in the Seattle area, we have very few small signal FM’s but several limited coverage AM’s continue to manage to survive.

IT HAPPENS AT NIGHT Radio listeners today have come to expect that their favorite audio sources will be there – whenever- they want it.  AM is unique in that something bad happens when the sun goes down that they don’t understand, and further, don’t desire to.  The fact that the vast majority of AM’s either reduce power, switch to a directional antenna or – sign off – at sunset is something that, 50 years ago, was tolerated…but those days are gone!  (I recall a few years ago, while out doing AM field measurements, encountering a fellow that wanted to know how come a local station had their transmitter break – every day – during the 5th inning of the ball game) FM Radio and all manner of streaming, does not have that problem.  Sadly, there is nothing anyone can do to fix it….including the Government.

THE QUALITY DIFFERENCE Today audio audiences expect full fidelity, low background noise, and stereo, for the simple reason that, with the exception of AM Radio, they all give them what they expect.  Meanwhile efforts providing increased audio bandwidth and stereo on AM have been less than hugely successful.  First we had AM Stereo – It was a better – But success was limited and lack of universal adoption killed it.  Then came along IBOC, aka the AM Version of HD Radio.  Like AM Stereo – A few stations operate it, but it has not been proven to be the key to universal success.

THE RECEIVER ISSUE Quality AM Receivers are largely a dream.  For years the manufacturers of consumer radios have done a poor job in their AM sections.  Lack of sensitivity, bandwidth (fidelity) etc.  The fact is an old, tube-type, table radio manufactured over 50 years ago, works better than most of today’s products (I have one of those).  Even with today’s HD Radio AM – You would be hard pressed to find a radio for your home that will decode it.  It appears that the makers of receivers have given-up on non-vehicle AM receivers.  Meanwhile you can purchase all kinds of receiving equipment for FM, including some models of smart phones.  Unfortunately the broadcast industry, or any government entity, has done little to help correct this problem.

FM TRANSLATORS FOR AM’s The FCC, in an effort to give AM a shot in the arm, has agreed with those that have been claiming that if they just had an FM translator that things would be ‘all-better’.  Apparently this is based on the fact that FM now has the biggest piece of the radio pie.  I recall talking to an AM station owner many years ago about FM….Trying to convince him to file for an FM Frequency (when they were still available).  He was not interested countering with arguments like – Why should l sink a lot of money into something that nobody listens to? – – How am I going to get my money back? – – Why should I reduce my bottom line just to say that I am an AM/FM station?  (Funny how the same arguments are used today by some FM station owners when you discuss HD Radio).  History has taught us that these folks were wrong and those that did indeed opt for an FM today find themselves in a much better position.  The problem is there is just not enough empty spectrum to accommodate all those AM’s with big signal FM’s to make a difference.  That train left the station many years ago.  As they say, you snooze – you looze.

THE NOISE PROBLEM Like a lot of things…There will always be those that look to the regulators for answers.  In the case of the US – The FCC could have done more to aggressively deal with the ever increasing noise floor that is, effectively, reducing the coverage of AM radio stations as each day goes by.  Only lately have they been receiving pressure to do so…Unfortunately that horse left the barn many years ago.  There is a lot of blame to go around here – 1) I blame the owners and operators of AM stations for being anti-science and failing to recognize that their enemy was all around them.  Generally, they did not wish to try and understand what was going on (too close to that ugly word….’Science’). Their solution was to ask for more power.  2) I can blame the Feds for their apparent refusal to enforce their own rules.

SPECTRUM SUPPLY VS DEMAND Unfortunately, the ‘Magic Band-Aid’ FM Translator is a limited resource solution.  The FCC recognized this and twisted their rules to permit the importing of translators from afar calling it a minor-change.  The fact is the spectrum for these devices is limited and as it fills, that resource becomes increasingly more limited to the point that some translators will be severely limited in terms of coverage, resulting in being minimally effective at limiting the bleeding.  Regardless of how the they are viewed, their actual benefit may be more limited to the addition to the station’s letterhead.  Will having a flea-powered AM save the day….I think not.

THE LAWS OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND AND NATURAL PROCESSES In some ways, owners of AM stations have been discovering what it’s like when demand for a product goes down.  This is nothing new.  Consumers will always gravitate toward something new and/or better.  Need I mention – The Horse & Buggy, black and white TV, Cassette and Reel to Reel Tape, Typewriters, Rotary Dial Phones etc. etc.  There are countless industries that have not looked at the future and adapted (applied for those FM channels when they were available) and have been reduced to a paragraph in a history book.  We need to face the fact that to a large extent AM Radio is facing the same dilemma that countless other industries have faced.  As is said – There is nothing more constant than change.  Radio, like all things, is facing change.  One of the biggest factors today is choice.  Today there are a zillion more audio choices.  You can only divide the pie so many ways!  The other big factor is quality.  Let’s face it – a hyper-compressed digital audio source sounds a whole lot better than any monophonic, narrow band, pop and crackle AM signal ever will.  Today’s consumers are not likely to lower their expectations – Unless there is compelling content that you can’t get anywhere else.

CONTENT MATTERS Content is always a huge factor.  The fact that some AM’s are doing well underscores that.  The change in listening habits and demands have pretty much forced AM to abandon music formats (there are a few exceptions) and become a place where talk will work.  And this is good, as the technical characteristics of AM are more compatible.  Formats like News/Talk – Sports/Talk – Telephone/Talk continue to work well.  Examples – ESPN, Rush Limbaugh.  Another area where AM has changed is other languages.  Today you will find, in most metropolitan areas, a number of stations with non-English programming.  The issue here is that there are more stations than there are viable formats.  (Again supply and demand creeps into the picture.)

THE SMALL MARKETS There are a number of small markets across the country that are impacted by the shift of listening habits to FM.  Certainly these folks are impacted.  Admittedly the addition of an FM transmitter, albeit low power, can certainly help them….Especially if that AM is a Day-Timer.

THE SURVIVAL OF THE FIT I suspect that a lot of major market AM’s would go dark, regardless of their power level, if they did not have an co-owned cluster of FM’s footing the bill.  I also have to believe that a number of ownerships would be happy to sell their AM’s just to get away from the financial drain.  Further, I would wager that a lot AM’s could go off the air and no-one would notice.  Any takers?

REDUCING THE BLOW TORCHES There are those that are calling for the reduction of protection for those legacy high powered stations at night feeling that if this were done, more small stations could survive and perhaps remain viable.  Seems to me that this is a process that’s been going on for some time.  The old ‘Clear Channels’ are not there anymore, folks.  Just turn on your AM radio at night and try and find them.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS 1 – Leave AM alone –  There are times that its best to ‘hold em’. 2 – Tell the Feds to quit trying to interfere with a natural process – This is not the Auto Industry – or the society for the preservation of the horse and buggy. 3 – Let the future of AM be determined by supply and demand – What happened to this foundation of capitalism in this case?

Perhaps if the Feds backed off we would find that AM will find a way to determine the level at which it can sustain itself.  This may mean that AM Radio, in a few years, may end with a whole lot fewer stations and those that do survive could perhaps be economically viable.  Those stations may end up being a mixture of small ones serving small markets and some big ones that have found a way to survive economically.  That’s my $.02 – What do you think?  As we enter this New Year – I’d love to hear what you see in your crystal ball for AM Radio.

Another wrinkle in the works is the matter of what will be the impact on the FCC of the changing of the guard in WDC?  A change of party in power could change a lot of things.  An example of this shift took place in the middle of the month when we all thought the Commission would adopt a number of changes to EAS….They declined to act.  What we got was news that the Commission is undergoing a shakeup.  Forecasting of political events is about as risky as forecasting windstorms or snow in Seattle.  Guess we can all hide and watch.

Another popular sport these days is watching the FCC struggle to find a balance between the interests of TV stations and potential wireless users of a big chunk of what used to be exclusively TV spectrum.  This is a moving target with a lot of shifting parts and pieces.  Looks like the amount of broadcast spectrum shifting to wireless may be less than first thought.  Again, my advice – Hide and watch Picture time! Whereas we have been having some early winter weather in our area…Here are some great scenes to share – First a couple of shots submitted by Doug Fisher captured during a recent trip to Capital Peak near Olympia.  This one, suitable for a Christmas Card, showing a winter moon.

Mountain and Snow

On a lighter note – Congrats to Dave Ratener on the purchase of a new Toyota Tacoma pickup.  Seems to be a growing trend.

The FCC continues to do a ‘FINE job’ – Nailing a South Carolina firm 22 Grand for violations involving their public file.  In this case staff changes were cited as a reason.  I have often wondered how often stations find themselves behind with portions of a public file that they thought were being handled by a long-gone employee.  In the past, I was the person in charge of the public files for a cluster of stations.  In that case I would have to hunt-down a party that was supposed to supply the file with data.  Often these folks leave (for one reason or another), leaving a gap in the P.F. that could prove to be expensive.  I recall preaching about how they needed to be prepared should an FCC Inspector drop by….The transition to an on-line system, the Commission will have a much better way of determining compliance without the government expense of surprise physical inspections.

Another beautiful picture from Doug Fisher – this one shows Doug working on a frozen gate at Capital Peak – Those of us that travel to mountain top sites have learned to carry a torch for times like these.  The mode of travel in these conditions is – over – the snow which means ‘tracks’.

 SnowCat

It seems it was not long ago that the outfit that brought us HD Radio (Ibiquity) was sold to DTS.  It didn’t take long for DTS to get ‘gobbled up’.  Tessera Holding Corporation has acquired DTS.  We will have to see just what this means in the coming months.

I caught this one on the USGS Mt St Helens camera site on December 13th.  What surprised me was the fact that the Lava Dome was steaming.  Looking at the USGS Site, there has been an up-tick in quake activity, nothing large however.  Here is how you can check seismic activity for yourself – http://www.pnsn.org/volcanoes/mount-st-helens  To reach the camera used in this shot – https://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volcanocams/msh/ Certainly that blanket of fall snow is a beautiful sight.

Snowy Mountain

Pirate Radio is back in the news again….and, as usual, there no place is like New York for pirates.  Recently listeners to the city’s WXQR were hearing a pirate station preaching the Torah over their classical music.  Can you image this taking place in Seattle?  Of course the FCC confirmed that this should not happen.  According to a NYC Newspaper there are (are you ready for this?) about 100 pirate stations operating within New York’s five boroughs.  The FCC agrees that they should be shut down…for reasons only understood on the other side of the Potomac….it continues.  I guess I have a hard time understanding how the Commission, on one hand, can gut the Enforcement Bureau and on the other hand let this mess continue.  It seems that a country that likes to talk about a place where the rule of law prevails is not practicing what it preaches.

Pirates are not just active in New York….They apparently love California too.  According to FCC Statistics, there have been about 165 pirate radio enforcement actions in that state alone since 2003.  Meanwhile, the FCC is proposing a fine of 25 Grand against the operators of a pirate station in Arleta.  According to news reports, the owners knew what they were doing was illegal but have been ignoring the warnings for a number of years.  What am I missing here?  I get the feeling that many of these operators have come to believe that the FCC is a toothless paper tiger and that they can do what they please.  Tragically, actions speak louder than words.  It’s been said that the problem is like ‘whack a mole’…The Feds hit them in one place and they pop up somewhere else.  Perhaps the lack of effort to resolve this is because many feel that no one is dying or getting physically hurt?  Could it be that radio, as we know it, will come to an end?  Funny how the FCC seems to feel they can ‘fix’ AM and yet can’t find out how to ‘fix’ one of the major problems on the FM band.  Again, I don’t get it.

Perhaps the solution to these problems will have to come from Congress and in that area broadcasting has a friend.  Congratulations to that friend, Greg Walden, who was just elected to Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  If you recall, Greg used to own radio stations in Oregon.  And let us not forget that Greg is also known as W7EQI.  For those of us that have been involved with Amateur Radio for many years, this is especially significant.  Walden represents Oregon’s second Congressional district. Now here is an interesting picture – Equipment being tested by the FAA to zap drones.  Obviously a concern near airports.

Drone Zappers

Remember the item about the Saga/KPUG translator on 97.3 in Bellingham?  The Commission has, quickly, granted them a Construction Permit to move to 97.9.  I understand that this change will take place early in January.  Have not heard of any repercussions over the 96.5 or 98.9 operation in Bellingham.  Those frequencies are also in use in Seattle. Another winter scene picture – This one taken with my smart phone at West Tiger Mt recently.  It was close to sundown turning the clouds near Enumclaw a pretty shade.

Icy Trees

As my readers know – I love to feature the results of surveys that show locations where this column is read.  (Seattle, Portland and Denver).  Here are some new ones –   2016’s best places for business and career:   Best Places: 1. Denver, Colo.

  • Metro population: 2,820,200
  • Gross Metro Production: $178 billion
  • Projected annual GMP growth: 3.3%

Best Places: 4. Seattle, Wash.

  • Metro population: 2,895,300
  • Gross Metro Production: $250 billion
  • Projected annual GMP growth: 3.5%

Best Places: 5. Portland, Ore.

  • Metro population: 2,392,300
  • Gross Metro Production: $150 billion
  • Projected annual GMP growth: 5.4%

The best states for business 2016

  • # 5 Colorado
  • #9 Washington

And this finding, according to Business Insider, was a pleasant surprise – The #1 best city of quality of life in the US.  Quoting them now –   To determine which US cities offer the best quality of life, we turned to the latest Places to Live rankings from Niche, a company that researches and compiles information on cities.  We looked at eight separate rankings in the best cities category — which assessed more than 220 places with a population exceeding 100,000 people — including “Safest Cities,” “Cities with the Best Job Opportunities,” “Healthiest Cities,” and “Best Cities to Raise a Family.”  We then combined these rankings to determine which cities have the best overall quality of life.  The final list of the top 25 cities reveals that midsized cities (with populations less than 500,000) offer the best quality of life.  The state with the most cities in the top 25 is Texas with seven, followed by California with five. So which city ended up ranking #1 – Ready for this – Bellevue, Washington.  Yep that city on the other side of Lake Washington from Seattle.   Conde Nast Ranked the 17 most beautiful towns in America – Ranking #7 – Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands in Washington State.   Congratulations to PDX (Portland, Oregon).  J.D. Power’s 2016 North America Airport Satisfaction Study recently ranked Portland International #1. Not all things turn out exactly as intended.  American Tower (ATC) hired a contractor to cut down some trees that were growing into the building at their site on Cougar Mountain, as well as put some gravel on a road that was getting pretty muddy.  The tree removal went well…But the laying of the gravel did not!  As the 10 yard dump truck raised its bed, while driving spreading the gravel, they ‘discovered’ a guy wire attached to the old Century Link tower that crossed the road….Yup!  Down went the tower.  Good news is that it was a relatively short tower and may not have been in use.  The bad news is the tower fell into power lines!  The contractor put the tower back up and PSE restored the power about 12 hours later.  Obviously a lot of generators received their load-test.  I understand that this incident also uncovered a reluctant transfer switch in the process.  Guess we can be thankful it was not a bigger tower.  The message here is this – If there are guyed towers in the vicinity – Locate them!!  Obviously this incident got the attention of a lot of folks at ATC. In this first picture you can see the tower, and antenna, nicely laying across the power lines.  The ATC 273581 Site tower is in the right side of this frame.  I was musing with Rob Purdy at the site on how it appears a slight wind will bring down the power lines at Cougar and yet they are strong enough to hold a tower.

Tower Down #1

Here you can see the tower (Rohn 65G) laying over the top of the little Century Link building.  The tower in the background, formally known as the KUBE Tower, holds KRWM/106.9.

Tower Down #2

 

Here’s another winter picture.  This one taken at Striped Peak (just west of Port Angeles) and shows KNKX’s Lowell Kiesow scraping a layer of ice and snow out of a satellite dish.

Cleaning Dish

Lowell crafted this nifty dish snow and ice remover from a piece of plywood with a short pile carpet edge having just the proper radius for these dishes.  The pole or handle is the one used by concrete finishers and comes in sections permitting reaching elevated dishes.

Snow Sweeper

New tower standards have been announced.  The new – ANSI/TIA -222-H was announced on December 20th – The Revision of the structural standard for Antenna Supporting Structures (And small Wind Turbine structures) is expected to be published the 3rd quarter of 2017.  The new standard was constructed by TR-14 Task Group 3.

Congrats to the folks in Kilgore, Texas on establishing a new museum for broadcast equipment.  The problem is, unless you are driving from Dallas to Shreveport on I-20 you are not likely to get there.  Kilgore is 122 miles East of Dallas.  (Too bad it is not closer to a major city.  Kilgore is a town of 15,000.)  The new facility, called the Texas Museum of Broadcasting and Communications is located in what used to be an auto dealership and has a lot of cool stuff.  Probably the coolest is a fully restored 1949 DuMont Telecruiser.  Which reminds me very much of the old KTNT-TV Bus that was managed by Tom Brokaw.

KBTV Vehicle

Pictures like this cause me to recall a lot of my early years with TV.  For example this question that would likely confuse many today – Why did early Fader-Bars have the ability to be – decoupled?  And what the heck is a ‘Split-Bar-Super’ anyway?  On that topic – I recall looking at some early DuMont field production stuff.  Did you know, before there were fader bars, video levels were set with rotory pots.  To fade from one camera to another (dissolve) you turned down the level on one camera while increasing the level on the other all while watching what was later called an ‘A-Scope’ (Dang I AM getting old). As Paul McLane put it – Smitty is now a Free Agent.  Hard to believe but Milford Smith (Smitty to everyone) has officially left Greater Media with whom he had been their VP of Engineering for 32 years.  With Beasley buying Greater Media – Changes.  Anyone that knew Smitty would tell you that he was (and is) a class act.  He had one of those million watt smiles that would light up a room.  I first met him while he was doing work in Seattle…and later, with my travels for Entercom and SBE – we would see each other.  Great guy….and young too – (Only 68).  He was recently quoted thusly – “Retirement was surely not on my radar, at least not for a while, after 50 years of doing this, I still very much enjoy the work — especially the people — and would surely love to continue in the industry in some capacity”

 

More pictures – Sure – How about this one?

AM Tower

 

 

Anyone recognize this tower?

Another winter beauty from Dwight Small – If you look at the lower left of this frame you will see a portion of the foundation for their new home on Lake Cavanaugh.  Not hard to wonder why he’d rather look at this than any sight in Seattle.

Placid Lake

I do receive a number of responses to this Column.  Here’s one, received this past month, from Rockwell Smith that I thought I’d share.  In this case, he is responding to my piece on how stations reached technical help – back when.  Clay, I enjoyed your recent article on how calling the engineer has evolved.   There is one rather unique way that I wanted to share with you.  And that is using the station itself.   KSRA in Salmon has always been unique in many ways.  Being a small town,  with a contract engineer located several hours away was one of them back  in the ’60s.  I  worked here in the early ’60s part time while in high  school, and soon was taking care of minor technical problems, calling in the engineer for the bigger things beyond my expertise at that time, or  beyond my license grade at the time.  But I digress.  KSRA AM is a daytime station.  Yes, we now have a whopping 56 watts at night, but back then, it was strictly daytime.  We signed on with the Tennessee Ernie Ford song RIVER OF NO RETURN.  It was not played in its entirety, but only the first 30 seconds or so of the song.  But the record was on a peg in the control room marked EMERGENCY.   Being a small town, it was the only station.  Everyone listened in their businesses or cars.  Should a situation arise where you needed management or technical response ASAP you simply played the RIVER OF NO RETURN.  It was the “page” for anyone on the staff not at the station to call NOW. A couple of years later, I was back in Salmon, working for the Forest Service doing road surveys.  That meant camped on site somewhere in the forest Monday thru Friday.  No cell phone, no two-way, but I did have my little transistor radio.  The station and I had an agreement that I would take care of any needs within my capability, but they needed a way to contact me.  Back to the song.  At sign off, they also played about 30  seconds of it, did the sign-off script, and ended with the Star Spangled Banner.  It was agreed I would listen every evening at sign-off.  If the station was off the air, of course I would walk out and call in.  If the sign-off was normal, then everything was OK.  But if the entire song was played, I needed to hike out and call in.  It was not instant communication, but it was effective.   Just for what it’s worth, I retired from full time work in Boise at the end of 2013, and am enjoying semi-retirement back in my home town of Salmon, working once more the very station I started with back in 1962 –  KSRA.  A lot has changed in 50+ years.  I often say the only thing that  hasn’t changed since I was here as a teenager are the call letters. — Rockwell Smith Semi-retired Broadcast Engineer AE7NT Amateur Extra Well, my friends, that’s it for this Month – and for 2016.  Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and look at my collection of pictures.  If you have a picture and/or a news item (old news works too) to share – Please do send it my way. Lord willing – Will be back to most of these same places next month-

Clay Freinwald, K7CR & CPBE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for December

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     DECEMBER 2016

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                    Greetings all, and MERRY CHRISTMAS

 

Check out the article I wrote for “The BDR.Net” talking about the time our own EMF’s Steve Wilde (Also of American Amplifier Technologies) provided our bandpass filter and great help at our Denver K-LOVE/Air1 station. Here is the link.

http://www.thebdr.net/articles/rf/site/AAThelps.pdf

 There are a plethora of new Chinese ham radio gear available these days (just in time for Christmas maybe?) that actually could be a real alternative to some of the usual fare from the big 3 companies. Check these out:

Wouxun http://www.wouxun.us/item.php?item_id=346

The Xiegu X-108G HF 1-20 watt Transceiver also available with a companion portable HD Multiband antenna. .5 to 30 MHz, Really looks pretty cool.

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These are available also thru a seller on eBay for around $510.00. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=Xiegu+X-108G&_sop=15
Here is a video from DO7PSL on the rig: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9br0Gd_J_iI

The video shows the unboxing and a QSO with the rig. Also the really great audio and reception from the rig.
AND, Reviews: QRZ http://qrznow.com/hf-x108g/ Eham http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/12587 http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/12214

 

There is also a web forum for the rig at: https://x-108.com/.

Check out the Portable all band antenna (which comes with a convenient travel carrying case by going to:

http://www.wouxun.us/item.php?item_id=364&category_id=67

 

Another project I have wanted to get done was connecting my D-104 microphone into the TS-2000 in the shack. These mic’s are really great for giving you a DX punch during a pileup and since this is the amplified version I didn’t have to use a buffer stage between the mic and the radio.  The voice amplifier in the mic is all the buffer you need.  I had previously used this mic on my Kenwood TS-120s I owned years ago, and I used it on a Yaesu FT-757 GXII in recent years.  So all I had to do was look up the pinouts and take of the 4 conductor connector on the coiled mic cable, and put on the new 8 pin connector.  Plugged it in and made my first D-104/Kenwood TS-2000 contact with Darren, KG5LGK in northwestern New Mexico on 3.989 MHz!

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The D-104 connected to the TS-2000 in the Shack

Cool mic flag from http://www.hamcrazy.com/

Get one for your station!

 Shane Toven, KØSDT and his wife Andrea at the end of November decided to get aware from the cold and wind of Laramie WY, and take a Caribbean cruise! Shane wanted to operate HF from the ship, and so he borrowed my Yaesu FT-897D for shipboard operations. Here are some pics from Shane’s MM QTH!  

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The portable antenna at the ships rail

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The Yaesu FT-897D with AT897 antenna tuner ready to go!

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Pretty good match for 40! And, WHAT A GROUND PLANE!

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KØSDT at the mic, ready to maritime mobile it up!

I will report next month on how he did on the high seas! As of this writing he was still awaiting permission from the Comms officer and the CAPTAIN of the ship to operate. How cool though, he definitely was going to be in some rare grid squares!

 

And yes, winter is here in Colorado and Wyoming. Shane and I had to go up to Pilot Hill east of Laramie in the middle of November to ascertain why the K-LOVE station there was behaving strangely with high SWR and the transmitter power was fluctuating crazily. Well, we saw the reason pretty quickly:

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Yep, WINTER!

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EVERY ANTENNA had at least 2 inches of ice incrusted on! Ours is the very top 8 bay

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BEAUTIFUL, especially against a western blue sky!

BUT, unhappy antennas! I might get these pics framed!

So with all that, Merry Christmas!

And may you be granted an extremely prosperous, healthy, and happy

NEW YEAR!!!!

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Don’t forget the IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, every MONDAY EVENING

At 7pm Mountain time (9pm Eastern) for radio discussions, both

Broadcast engineering and amateur radio. The first and

3rd Mondays are also SBE Chapter 73’ of the Air NET nights. Details on how to

Join are at http://www.ke0vh.com/net/net.html. I hope

You will be able to join us and share your engineering and

Ham exploits!

73’ & God be with you. See you next time! De KEØVH

 

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