May 2021 – Clay’s Corner

 

 

May 2021 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

The middle of April we received what I often call our ‘April Teaser’, a long period of warm and wonderful weather. In this case, featuring temperatures that were 20 degrees above normal. Just enough wonderful weather to make many feel that summer has indeed arrived. Just to re-enforce the notion, there was a wildfire near Black Diamond, east of Auburn. This is just a ‘sampler’ to help us forget the days of overcast and wet. This time around we did set some records for the two-week long April dry-spell. Remember, in this area, summer often will begin after the heavy rain on the 4th of July.

Make it three AM’s that are making their move to all digital broadcasting. The latest to make the change will be WFAS located in White Plains, north of NYC which has announced that starting on May 24 their AM will become Digital.

“Once WFAS has switched to an all-digital operation, only radios equipped with HD radio technology will be able to receive and play the station programming.“ WFAS explains to listeners in a posting on its website, “WFAS will no longer be available on analog-only AM radios. Broadcasting in digital will eliminate annoying static and interference, improve the sound quality to equal FM radio and streaming and extends the range for clear reception.”

What makes this situation a bit unique is that WFAS does not have a companion FM Translator so that listeners with ‘conventional’ AM/FM radios can continue to listen. Their on-line stream will continue as usual.

Prior to this change, WMGG in Tampa-St. Petersburg made the switch, back in January of this year. Here, the former AM station is simulcast on an FM frequency in addition to having a translator on the former AM. Word is now that another AM in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market is about to switch also.

Prior to these changes, the only Digital-only signal on the AM Band has been Hubbard Radio’s WWFD in Frederick, MD.

I have to admit that I’m a bit frustrated by those who insist on calling this – ‘Digital AM’. I have a couple of gripes:

#1 – We need to come up with a universally agreed label for these AM stations that switch to all-digital to avoid further confusing listeners. Whereas many new HD receivers can receive them, perhaps a station making the switch would change from KRUD-AM to KRUD-HD? Perhaps a more correct term would be Digital Medium Wave or DMW, but that violates the ‘2-letter’ designation rule (AM, FM, HD, XM, TV etc.)

#2 – There are those who refer to the process of changing from AM to Digital as a ‘chicken and egg problem’, saying that you must have demand before it would be worth building.

If you have been in this business as long as I have (60 years on August 1 of this year) you will recall the VERY SAME argument used for FM.

I was the engineer of a station back in 1966 and tried and tried to convince the owner of the station to get an FM frequency (back when you could). He had the same argument. As years went by, he – FINALLY – came to understand after it was too late for him to afford to buy one. He ended up selling his AM station for a fraction of what FM’s were going for.

History is full of examples of this argument. We have one of them operating here in this area. Major retailers were convinced that selling things on-line was fine for that little book store in Seattle but not for them. It appears that Amazon was right and they were very very wrong!

Those who are willing to chart new territory (with their money) should be applauded for their courage and foresight. Where would we be if every new product had to wait for ‘demand’ before investing in the future?

From Kent Randles in Portland, we recently learned that 1330 KKPZ, Portland has filed for Silent Special Temporary Authority – looking for a buyer. Perhaps another indication of the health of AM Radio? KKPZ operates with 5,000 watts full-time and has good coverage of the entire Portland/ Vancouver area. Yes, the station also has an FM translator.

On the personal side, I remember listening to 1330 when I was a kid in PDX. In those days the call letters were KPOJ, which stood for the Portland Oregon Journal, a daily newspaper back then. The station has a rich history going back to when it signed on in September of 1925. One of its early call letters was KALE which you will find on old radios from that era. The call letters, KALE, later showed up in Tri-Cities.

Perhaps someone will purchase this historic station and put it back on the air running Digital?

https://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/cdbsmenu.hts?context=25&appn=101825618&formid=910&fac_num=4113

The U.S. Supreme Court backed the FCC allowing relaxed rules regarding media ownership limits. Now we will have to wait and see what this means in terms of acquisitions, mergers etc. This change also impacts long standing rules regarding common ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations. Considering the present state of print media these days, I don’t see this as having a big impact.

If you are old enough, you remember when Color TV came along. Back in those days, about the only way to receive TV was via an antenna. Yes, there was TV before Cable and Satellite!

The makers of antennas jumped all over this opportunity to sell the masses new antennas implying that you needed a new antenna to get proper Color TV.

Well….Guess what? It’s happening again, this time with HD Radio. Winegard, perhaps sensing that this HD Radio thing might be something they should incorporate in their marketing, are doing so with a new model. I copied this from the Amazon site recently. Technically, it’s a pair of crossed dipoles. You can have one for about 30 Bucks.

Winegard HD-6010 HD FM Radio Antenna

No….You don’t need a special antenna to receive HD Radio…😊

Look closely and you will notice that the connection appears to be balanced. Perhaps they expect you to use ‘Twin-Lead’ …or perhaps a balun and coaxial cable?

 

SAY GOODBYE TO ENTERCOM

 

 

AND HELLO TO AUDACY

If this news item had been released a day later, I would have suspected it was a spoof. However, on March 30th it was announced that Entercom is rebranding itself as ‘Audacy’. If nothing else, such a change will attract some media attention. The firms that supply business cards and letterhead will be pleased. David Field, the President and CEO of the firm said this about the change:

“We have transformed into a fundamentally different and dramatically enhanced organization and so it is time to embrace a new name and brand identity which better reflects who we have become and our vision for the future.”

For a long time we have referred to the company by its ‘Ticker Symbol’ – ETM. That too will be changing to ‘AUD’. I’m sure that many will feel this is an ‘odd’ move. (Sorry, could not resist.)

Others have commented that they had the ‘audacity’ to make the change.

While on the topic – Entercom….uh…Audacy, has an opening for a Staff Engineer in San Francisco where they have a seven station cluster. For more info:

https://entercom.avature.net/careers/JobDetail/Staff-Engineer/15650

I sent a note to the local Chief, Phil VanLiew asking if this changed his email address as well…
Yup ! – That is correct: phil.vanliew@audacy.com

At least for awhile, there is more than one Audacy. If you Google it, you will come back with:

> Audacy Wireless Controls – Intelligent Lighting – Products (creelighting.com)
> Audacy – Crunchbase Company Profile & Funding
> Audacy – Spaceflight
> Working at Audacy | Glassdoor

Apparently having several different users of the same name is not an issue. Betcha that would not be the case with names like – Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft etc.

If you just Google Audacy to see what it means you get – Audacity.

There are a lot of things these days that share names. For instance: If you went into a pet store and asked for a KONG, they would know exactly what you wanted. Perhaps never giving a thought that KONG are call letters for a Seattle TV Station.

 

In last month’s column I wrote about how the ubiquitous XLR connector was introduced before Pin 1 had become the standard for Ground. This quickly generated interest in the form of the following email:

I was just reading your column. Did you know that, on XLR’s, pin 1 is longer on the female, so it mates first? It’s why you don’t get a buzz when you plug an XLR into something.  Someone at Cannon was pretty smart.

Taking this line a step farther, an RCA ribbon is the one type of mic that you’d better not plug in with phantom power turned on. Some of them have a grounded center tap on the output transformer, which is a rare thing. If pins 2 and 3 don’t mate at exactly the same time, which they are unlikely to do, DC current flows for that instant, causing the fragile ribbon to experience magnetic force with an unhappy result.

Lowell Kiesow
Chief Engineer
88.5 FM KNKX ● Jazz24.org

Perhaps you never thought about Airbus having an airplane with that name? (Look closely.)

 

Do you remember? The first operational transistor was declared 70 some years ago, on December 23, 1947! The transistor is probably one of the most revolutionary components ever invented. I started experimenting with them in the late 50’s. I still have a Raytheon CK722 in it’s original container! It was a germanium PNP. My first NPN was a 2N35. I recall building a transistor radio in a small plastic box while in high school in 1956. I used it to listen to the World Series, creating quite a stir back then. (Yup, getting old!)

If you recall, Congress adopted some new ways to deal with pirate radio. They increased the fines to as much as $2 million while the Commish said it would be going after landlords, advertisers and any other business that does business with pirates. All this was to go into effect on April 26th. Now we will see if there are any new enforcement actions. The methods of the FCC will likely involve what are called ‘sweeps’ in major cities were the practice is more common. It’s been a while since I’ve run across a pirate operating in the Seattle area. Targeting landlords may prove to be more successful, as many of the pirates cite the lack of ability to pay and are let off the hook.

Every so often you run across a comment made by someone that brings a chuckle….*If you only have two ducks, they will always all be in a row.*

Bonneville-Seattle (KIRO AM/FM and KTTH) has announced that Josh Harstad is their new Chief Engineer. Previously Josh worked for Hubbard and CBS in Seattle. More recently he has been working in Denver. Whereas this area is home, I’m sure he’s happy to be back

On the Covid-19 front: Despite having a number of vaccines for this terrible pandemic, we still have a lot of bad news. Here are a few snippets:

> On the 18th of April the world-wide death toll surpassed three million.

> Total global infections are over 140 Million.

> The U.S., Brazil and Mexico lead the world in Covid-19 deaths.

> A very large percentage of people say they are not going to get the vaccine, citing their lack of trust in the process. Perhaps fall-out from the fact that the issue became politicized?

> The blood clot issue with the J & J vaccine only re-enforced the never-vacciners.

> Voluntary compliance measures have apparently failed to stop the spread of variants.

> Now, younger people, who perhaps thought Covid-19 was an old-folks disease, are getting hit hard.

> We are being warned that we are losing the race between vaccinations and infections to the point that health officials will have no choice but recommend that we, again, tighten restrictions.

> The term ‘4th Wave’ is based on solid evidence. Unfortunately, this is not going down well. It’s easy to blame government and hard to blame our own behavior.

> There is a lot of debate, and push-back, for the idea of having some sort of vaccination verification system. Meanwhile major segments are doing just that with their vaccination requirements.

> Several major schools have announced a policy requiring vaccination for admission.

> Perhaps the most sobering is this fact – “It’s a mistake to think that we’re going to get to COVID-zero. This is not an eradicable disease.” Read more here – U.S. COVID-19 cases will dip in summer, rise in winter, experts say | Science News

> Number of reported Washington coronavirus cases is now over 400,000. Thus far 5,474 have died and 22,111 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. 28.86% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated.

> Washington State University will require proof that students and staff are vaccinated against COVID-19 before they return to live or work on campus. WSU is the state’s first public university to announce vaccine requirements. Two private universities have made similar announcements, and other higher education institutes may follow suit. The big question, will this requirement spread to private industry, i.e., broadcast stations?

The Pandemic has caused many of us to increase our vocabulary via the introduction of new words and phrases, for example ‘Mask Up’ or ‘Social Distance’. One of the down sides to all of this has been our ability to understand others…especially when they are wearing a mask and behind a large sheet of plexiglass. Another problem is reading a person’s reactions and/or expressions when they are wearing facial covering. This brings me to a new word for your vocabulary, ‘smizing’ which means smiling in a way that’s visible in your eyes.

Another look back (and ahead): Remember when phone numbers had less digits and they had a ‘prefix’ that was a word. I recall my phone number when I was a kid in Portland to this day, Webster-1265. How about this one …..SUnset 3-2404? Then along came Area Codes and direct long-distance dialing. To start with, just about everything in the Seattle area was area code 206, Oregon was 503 etc. As the area codes ran out of numbers they added more area codes. Outside of Seattle became 253 or 360. Back in those days you could tell where a call was coming from by the first 3-digits, or numeric prefix. That worked for awhile, then it was determined that they needed to shuffle the deck and do what they called an ‘overlay’ that would permit the phone companies to use any Area Code, anywhere in the area. This was the end of 7-digit dialing. Going forward, you would have to dial 10 digits to call the person across the street.

You’d think that with the reduction in the number of ‘Land-Lines’ that there would be plenty of excess phone numbers these days. Guess again! Apparently the 360 area code is running out of numbers and, once again, it’s time for another area code. This time, it will be 564. Like the others, this will be an overlay. We are told that eventually 564 will be used in the Seattle metro as well. So don’t be shocked if your new neighbor calls you and your caller-ID shows a 564. It’s just a sign of progress. By the way, this is our state’s 6th area code. The following map shows how this will work:

This map certainly underscores the population distribution in the state.  Look at the percentage of Washington that still has only one area code.

Here’s a great word that we don’t use very much in common-speak – KERFUFFLE – a word beginning with a ‘K’ that makes sense.

Here are some definitions I scrounged:

> A kerfuffle is some kind of commotion, controversy, or fuss. If you read about a scandal in a newspaper, it could be described as a kerfuffle. Kerfuffle is a humorous-sounding word for a mostly non-humorous situation: some kind of disturbance, scandal or mess.

> A commotion or fuss, especially one caused by conflicting views.

The root of “kerfuffle” is the very old Scots’ verb “fuffle”, which first appeared in print in the early 16th century and means “to throw into disorder.” The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the “ker” part of “kerfuffle” may hare come from the Gaelic word “car,” meaning “to twist, bend or turn around.

Yes, I do maek mistrakes.

I recently ran a picture that was sent to me by a friend in Arizona in response to my mentioning to him that Snoqualmie Pass was getting a lot of snow this year.

‘Eagle-Eye’ Tim Schall (Transmitter Engineer at KING/ KONG-TV)  Sent me this note:

Clay:
Greetings from TV land.
I am currently enjoying your April 2021 ‘Clays Corner.’  However, the picture your friend living in Arizona shared with you is not, in fact, Snoqualmie Pass. It had been, and it seems still is, circulating on various social media sites as several different mountain passes. It is, in fact, “…just North of Manitou Springs, going towards Ute pass, Colorado, along what’s now US 24.”

I refer you to the Facebook page of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum: https://www.facebook.com/SnoqualmieValleyMuseum/photos/a.225637984131655/4272448902783856/

Be sure and take some time browsing this site, a lot of fascinating pictures of days gone by.

Looking at the picture again, shouldn’t Snoqualmie Pass have a lot of big fir trees in the shot? Appears that I fell for it. I apologize for not spotting the error. Thanks Tim. Good catch.

Here’s a word to add to your broadcast term dictionary, Trimucast. We all know what to call a common program aired on two stations in a market, Simulcast. Trimucast is the term for when it’s aired on three stations. (At least according to one source.)

I recently chatted with Terry Spring who informed me that he is going to retire effective June 1st. Terry has been the Chief Engineer at the local Ion Media (now Scripps) TV station for many years. The writing is on the wall – I’m going to have to knuckle under and join that club, sooner or later. The fact is I am winding down. It’s just very hard to say goodbye to those who you have been associated with for many years.

Another retirement to mention this month. Tom Saylor is retiring from the Engineering Department at WSU’s NWPB in Pullman. I’ve had the great privilege of working with Tom for over 11 years and that we’ve shared the same employers. He is leaving some extremely large shoes to fill and will be missed by many.

For many years, when it comes to building radio or cellular towers, the term NIMBY, which means Not In My Back Yard.    When it comes to things that are underground there is NUMBY…Not Under My Back Yard. Then there is BANANA …Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.  😊

For the second time in the last year, Seattle has been eclipsed as the crane capital of the United States. But who beat us this time around might surprise you.

 

Construction consultant firm Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) released a glimpse of their biannual Crane Index rankings of all North American cities for the first quarter of 2021 yesterday, and found that Washington, D.C. now leads the nation for the most cranes at 45.

But Seattle wasn’t far behind, tying for second with Los Angeles with 43 cranes each. Los Angeles had previously inched forward to beat the Emerald City in the count last year at the beginning of the pandemic, and the new findings show that the two West Coast cities are still neck and neck.

But look at Toronto – WOW!!

Seattle didn’t add any cranes since the last report issued in September 2020. Residential construction projects still amount for a majority of the cranes in Seattle followed by transit work, according to the Daily Journal of Commerce. Seattle has also slipped in the rankings of hot housing markets from #1 to #2. The new leader is Phoenix with San Diego at  #2.

Travel Trivia will occasionally send me something that I am compelled to follow, like this one: “Rainiest States in the U.S.” If you have lived in this area any length of time you have likely run across someone that wonders how you could live in a place like this with all the rain, etc.

So how does Washington stack up compared to other states? Georgia (50.22 inches) – Hawaii (50.33 inches) – Tennessee (51.85 inches) –  Florida (54.73 inches) – Alabama (56 inches) – Mississippi (56.48 inches) – Louisiana (59.15 inches).

Washington State was not even close. Of course, thanks to the Cascade Mountains, a good portion of the Evergreen State is ‘Everbrown’.

So what’s the rainiest city in the U.S.? Mobile, Alabama with an average rainfall of 67 inches and 59 rainy days per year.

Now about Seattle: On average, we get 38 inches of rain per year. Interestingly, the U.S. – AVERAGE – is 38 inches. Our reputation comes from the fact that we have – more days – with rain, or, more-frequent rain…but less total amount of the stuff.

Now with that behind us, how about our neighbor to the North?  What’s the rainiest city in Canada?  Here’s what I found:

Location                            Annual Inches     Annual mm

Abbotsford, British Columbia        60.5                  1538

St. John’s, Newfoundland             60.4                  1534

Halifax, Nova Scotia                     57.8                   1468

Vancouver, British Columbia         57.3                   1457

So why does it rain more in Vancouver than in Seattle? Just like the Cascades make Eastern Washington dryer, the Olympic Mountains to the West of Seattle provide a shadow on their east-side. This is demonstrated by the fact that Olympia receives 53 inches per year and Aberdeen gets 76 inches. The Olympic rain-shadow is well demonstrated in Sequim where their annual rainfall is only 16 inches, about the same as Los Angeles, California.

Ever wonder about the, perhaps, over-use of the word ‘Mount’ in a city name? Example:

Mt Pleasant, Texas – Elevation 404 ft
Mt Vernon, WA – Elevation 180 ft

The FCC periodically publishes a list of station totals. This time around, surprisingly, the FM Station total is down…and, as expected, the number of AM’s is down as well with that total approaching 10% less than there were in 1990. As you might expect, the number of FM translators and boosters is up 30% from five years ago.

For those of us living in the Seattle area, we are very close to the best country in the world!

For my readers in Canada, you are living in it!

This all according to a Best Countries report in U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings recently released. Canada ranked #1 in Quality of Life and Social Purpose and is seen as a stable and safe society in which individuals can develop and prosper and is open, fair and equitable.

Here are the rankings from their survey:

The Top 10 Countries in the World:

  1. Canada
    2. Japan
    3. Germany
    4. Switzerland
    5. Australia
    6. United States
    7. New Zealand
    8. United Kingdom
    9. Sweden
    10. Netherlands

 

The 10 Lowest-Ranked Countries in the World:

  1. Iraq
    77. El Salvador
    76. Serbia
    75. Belarus
    74. Lebanon
    73. Uzbekistan
    72. Kazakhstan
    71. Ukraine
    70. Oman
    69. Guatemala

You’d think that with all the political news and a pandemic that indecency would not be a big issue, but it was. In fact in 2020 the FCC had more than 1,000 indecency complaints filed. Interestingly many of them were related to pirate radio broadcasters. Apparently, some of these folk’s broadcasts are offensive. Overall, the FCC had some 4,768 complaints about Radio last year.

Here’s a chart showing what people had a beef about Radio:

Time to, once again, take a look at the 6+ Radio Ratings for Seattle-Tacoma.

> Hanging on to the #1 spot is KIRO-FM, with KISW close behind.
> At #3 is KUOW.
> Surprisingly little KEXP is now #4. Perhaps proving that you don’t need a big signal to be popular?
> KOMO-AM is hanging in there at #5. Granted they do have an FM that may well be helping.
> HD-2 signals from KING-FM and KNKX are both listed this month.

In a past Column I mentioned the total audience share of the top Radio stations in the News/Talk segment. San Francisco (Market #4 with 6.7+ Million) has a couple of interesting market leaders. At the top is a Non-Commercial station (KQED-FM) with a 10.6 share. #2 is KCBS-AM with a 7.5. That’s an 18.1 share between them. Yes, you read that right…the #2 station is an AM!

In past years, for my April Column, I would talk about our ‘annual trek to the desert’ for the NAB Convention. Obviously the Pandemic got in the way last year, and will again this year. In it’s place NAB will, however, be hosting a bit on-line/ virtual event April 12-23 for a number of award presentations and new product launches. This will include a deep-dive into HD Radio. For those of you who long for an in-person show, that will be Oct. 9-13 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Radio Show will be at the same venue, Oct. 13-14.

Perhaps you can explain the connection? Since the start of the pandemic, UFO sightings are up 50% in the U.S. and Canada. When local TV Stations show images of UFO’s – That will be big news.

Here’s one of those interesting questions you see pop up on-line. What salary do you need to live in Seattle? The answer is $72,092.

If you rephrase it and ask, what is considered a good salary in Seattle you get – A person working in Seattle typically earns around 100,000 USD per year.
How about – What is the average annual pay in Seattle? You get this:

Top Earners – $97,704
75th Percentile – $80,334
Average – $66.834

Not sure what to make of all of this, but it is interesting. What we do know is Seattle is an expensive place to live and if you want to live there, your income is a big factor.

One economic indicator that’s doing well is home sales, with some areas showing around 30% increases over last year.  I recently received a note from Zillow that showed my house value increasing over 32% in the last month!

Back in the early 90’s, engineers from the various FM stations at West Tiger would routinely have a lunch meeting at a place in Kent. They had a conference room that we could use, good food and coffee and it was not too far out of the way. Over the years, and especially after consolidation, the routine was discontinued. In later years, I would meet friends there for lunch etc. Apparently they are one of those places where the Pandemic and its shut-downs was the last-straw. Mitzels in Kent is no more. Even the signs were removed from the building.

Old guys love looking at pictures of things that are not as old as they are. For example:

 

And a classic groaner from Dwight Small…Yep, Spring is right around the corner.

 

 

Guess who?

None other than Allen Hartle.   Nice to see others with beards that color. 😊

Anyone old enough reading this column remember when Allen was the Chief at KZOK?

So what do automakers and computer makers have in common? They both use computer chips. Was not that long ago that car makers did not have any computers. Now, most have several. The fact is everything today employs ‘chips’, vehicles, computers, TV’s, household appliances…and the list goes on. So what happens when the demand for the little critters exceeds supply? Makers of these products have to slow down producing them to match the supply.

Recently Apple announced the chip shortage would (are you ready for this?) take a bite out of Apple and make It harder for you to get that new device. Likewise, some automakers are being forced to shut down production lines awaiting delivery of these little critters. Likely you would not purchase a vehicle these days that did not have them, as in days of old!

The FCC recently released an NPRM that will make a number of changes to the EAS. Some of this is designed to institute changes whose need was brought to light in the fall missile attack on Hawaii a few years ago. The Washington SECC responded to this action. If are wondering what we had to say, you can find our filing on the FCC’s Web Site. We will likely also discuss this in the next SECC meeting on May 11th at 9:30 a.m. These bi-monthly meetings are open to all and are held via Zoom. Invitation and agenda are posted on the EAS-WA Remailer.

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month at most of the usual locations.

Until then, get vaccinated, stay safe and continue to wear your mask…and that means cover your nose too. The ‘All-Clear’ is getting closer.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
A SBE Fellow
SBE Member # 714
Since March 1968

 

Ramblings from the Mind of Amanda

May 2021

May be an image of 1 person

For most people, education ends when they graduate.  They’ve done it and have the job they want (hopefully).  For some industries like TV and radio, education is never-ending.  Every year is something new to learn.  Because of that, the SBE has worked hard to create educational opportunities with monthly webinars and on-demand SBE University courses. They even have a monthly livestream on YouTube.  This is only scratching the surface of what is offered.

I suggest everyone go over to the main www.sbe.org webpage and see all the educational opportunities they offer.  I will warn you  ̶  these are not free.  But, with the SBE MemberPlus membership, the webinars are free.

To become a member, you need to be actively involved in broadcast engineering, have an academic degree in electrical engineering or its equivalent, or have scientific or professional experience in the communications field, including the design or marketing of broadcast-related products; have at least four years of active participation in broadcast engineering or its allied fields and have demonstrated acceptable technical proficiency.  So, someone off the street with no real ties to this world would not be able to join.  You just need to meet one of those criteria. There are some exceptions listed on the SBE membership page.

There are two types of membership: Traditional and MemberPlus.  I highly recommend MemberPlus for educational purposes.  As noted above, with a MemberPlus membership you will gain access to all the webinars for free.  The cost of this membership is $175, which may seem costly to some, but when you factor in that webinars are $62 for members ($92 for non-members), the membership pays for itself once you do three webinars.  And with over 90 webinars and more being added each month, you can do the math.  I wouldn’t binge all the webinars at once, I’ve done the MemberPlus membership the last three years and try to do one or two webinars a month, typically, a current webinar and then an archived webinar.

It is so important for any engineer to keep up with technology, to continually learn.  The more you know, the more valuable you may become to an employer.  I am reminded of when I went through the Broadcast Engineering course from Cleveland Institute of Electronics many years ago.  It was the same course my dad had gone through in the 1970s, and I would go over the material with him, getting advice and knowledge from someone who has been there and done that.  What we quickly realized was that the course hadn’t been updated since he did it decades before.  Some of the material was timeless, some current and good, something I could use for the time, but other stuff I just had to learn by doing because the material was outdated and didn’t help me much, at least at Crawford where we try not to keep transmitters that are more than a few years old.

Not all employers even know about the Society of Broadcast Engineers.  That means it is up to us to do continuing education ourselves.  I have no doubt that if brought to an employer, many would reimburse the cost of a membership if they can see how it will help the company.

We must push ourselves to be active and to find the webinars we need and to go through any SBE University courses that will help us in our career.  We need to make ourselves irreplaceable.  I know this may not always work, but it will also make you more appealing to a potential employer.  I know at Crawford, to join our engineering department, you need to have a certification at the minimum.  But the more you have, the more you know, the fact you show active participation within the SBE, the more appealing you are.

Let me encourage you to join in.  You’re already at the chapter 48 website, which is a great starting point.  Sign up for our email list and attend the local meetings (currently being held online).  This chapter is a combined chapter with the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SMPTE (the global society of media professionals, technologists, and engineers).  While I don’t know much about SMPTE (shame on me), you should also check out their organization and see what they can offer you (www.smpte.org).  We try to keep our web page up to date with local meetings being held and encourage you to attend.  The meetings are free for the most part.  If there ever is a cost, we will let you know.  Join us and you will find a second family.

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for April 2021

                   April 2021    

Greetings and Welcome to springtime in April!

We had some really warm days here in the Denver area during the latter part of March and early April, and now cold and wet back in as is pretty typical.  One of my projects for the year is to get APRS and voice ops running on the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 utilizing my other FTM-400.  That project saw a test run on a Saturday here recently as I configured the system for a test run and took off for what ended up being a 200 mile 6 hour or so ride thru the mountains west of the front range area west and north of Denver.  My good buddy Todd Hooks (of my Christian Motorcycle Association group) and I left about 10am and got back around 6 or so.  The mountains were beautiful and the temperatures were in the upper 50’s so the ride was a comfortable one.  The APRS system worked very well in showing our trip that day.  The radio was in the right saddlebag with the Diamond SG-7500 on a mag mount on the back “luggage rack”.  The radio head was mounted on its RAM mount on the handlebars.  All in all it worked very well as you can see in the following pictures and maps of the trip taken from APRS.fi.

Above you can see the antenna mounted with the mag mount (also chrome!) and below are APRS.fi shots of our route!

The total route above, and the closer up views below

Todd’s Harley and my Vulcan (KE0VH-9) with Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak (14,259 ft AMSL) in the background.

KEØVH, the Vulcan 900, and Estes Cone (11,000 AMSL) in the background, near Estes Park CO

The Vulcan also turned over 50,000 miles on this trip!  Just outside of Nederland CO.

Myself and Todd Hooks in Nederland CO, and yes, we stopped at a transmitter site on Buckhorn Mountain!  Look at the HUGE piles of snow.  During the “blizzard” I wrote about last month, this particular spot got the most amount of snow of any location along the front range.  Nearly 75 inches!

Here is the FTM-400 on the workbench after the ride.  I am converting all my power connections to Anderson Power Poles for ease of changing out configs and they are so solid and reliable.  You see the display in the small case next to the

Radio and notice the small turbine type fan next to the control head, it will exhaust with small outlets on the other side of the case.  Note the power tap insert for the fan in the right hand picture.  It is my plan to utilize this “pelican” type case to house the radio in the saddlebag while riding and to contain the whole radio system for storage and to take with me away from the bike when parked, as seen below.

And new this month, the new 449.775 KEØDNL SkyHubLink Fusion Wires-X repeater is on the air from the temporary Borie Hill transmitter site west of Cheyenne.  Thanks to the courtesy of our good friend Vic Michael for the site, & Daryl W30RR who houses the node radio at his QTH in Cheyenne.   For about a week Daryl had the repeater on the air from his home QTH since the weather wasn’t co-operating with getting it to the site.  Below are some pictures of the temporary setup at Daryl’s home.  Note the “clothesline” antenna support, and the repeater and duplexer on the workbench.

And finally, on to the site itself:

The temporary placement for the repeater antenna at the Borie site, a L-Com ASPD-701 UHF band antenna that will eventually move to the 449.625 Mt. Morrison site for that repeater.  We have another antenna for the Cheyenne repeater that will stand up to Wyoming’s windy conditions.  WHY is this all TEMPORARY? More on that here shortly!

Daryl’s FTM-100 Node Radio feeding the repeater via the Wires-X system, and Daryl at the site with the antenna

Daryl W3ORR in his hamshack with the node radio lower right

Before we deployed the antenna pictured above, I used a stand that used to be a roadside stand for signs.  I needed something that would hold up a heavy antenna during test.  This antenna was tested using the Nano-VNA analyzer and it did a great job showing the characteristics of the L-Com ASPD-701 antenna under test before deployment.

The “test” stand, borrowed from Mark NØXRX under test with the NanoVNA, & the antenna stood up in the back yard

Pertaining to the temporary mentions above.  Since the Cheyenne repeaters deployment we have secured an even better site with much better coverage for the 449.775 Fusion repeater on Pilot Hill thanks to my good friend Paul Montoya, the DOE for Wyoming Public Radio.  This spot will just about triple the repeater coverage and also cover way west of Laramie along I-80, nearly to Scottsbluff to the northeast, and I-80 to Nebraska.  Stand by for news on this one, it will be a very exciting move for SkyHubLink.

Current Cheyenne 449.775 coverage above, and below is the proposed Pilot Hill coverage.

AND, Larry KCØWVE is working on a new site for the Scottsbluff 444.825 repeater that was previously housed at the Scottsbluff hospital location.  Plans at this time are to move it to a site south of Mitchell on the high bluffs west of Scottsbluff/Gering.  This site will also improve the coverage of this repeater overlapping the Pilot hill site coverage, providing continuous SkyHubLink coverage from Scottsbluff to New Mexico along I-25 and more.  Here is a picture of the proposed NEW coverage of the Scottsbluff repeater.

And another new system is now connected to SkyHubLink full time on Fusion Wires-X, the VA5YXE repeater in Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada!  Thanks to Richard VE5RH for linking up and becoming part of the SkyHubLink.  Below is the repeater, duplexer and amplifier for VA5YXE/R

                                                 The VE5RH Hamshack in Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada

 

Have you heard about the “Hamshack Hotline”

The Hamshack Hotline VOIP phone system is by and for amateur radio operators to enhance communications capabilities, a FREE dedicated VOIP service to the amateur radio community.  See https://hamshackhotline.com/ for more information and details.  Setup couldn’t be easier, you can attach an outside phone number to the system to receive regular phone calls, and the tech support is awesome.  Some of us in SkyHubLink are using these to keep in touch and discuss “behind the scenes” information and other uses.  Pretty soon you can communicate over SkyHubLink the system using these phones.  See Matt KØLWC’s you tube channel offering on Hamshack Hotline https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMr9a_6CuNE and how it might benefit you.  Pretty soon we will be setting up a directory of those of us on SkyHubLink that are using the system. The phones are inexpensive, using a lot of the now “discarded” Cisco phones such as the model SPA514G seen pictured here in the KEØVH Hamshack.   My Hamshack Hotline number is 12113, feel free to call!

 

UH OH!  Something burnt up!  No wonder it’s not putting out power. Thanks to Mike ABØRR for the picture

showing why the Park County repeater in Bailey went down.  Mike is working feverishly to resolve the issue and get the repeater back on the air, normally linked to SkyHubLink.

Check out this magnificent picture, taken from a plane getting ready to land at Denver International Airport. SPECTACULAR!

Saw this on an Instagram posting, a UHF VHF combined polyphaser setup, and below, I LOVE these old aviation radio adds: Does anyone remember this Channel Master radio that would receive VHF and AM frequencies on a portable radio, complete with a leather carrying case. The Price: $54.95 ($456.32 today)

 

1974

 

Product: Zenith Royal E94Y

Key features: 6-band receiver, including AM and FM, weighed a hefty 5 lbs.

Price: $99.95 ($530.33 today)

1984

Products: Sony Air-8 and Sporty’s Air-Scan

Key features: A powerful scanner from electronics giant Sony and a desktop receiver custom designed by Sporty’s.

Price: $269.00 ($677.24 today) and $79.95 ($201.28 today)

____________________________________

1989

Product: Sporty’s A300

Key features: Sporty’s first transceiver moved beyond just listening to transmissions to become a valuable backup option for talking to Air Traffic Control.

Price: $365.00 ($730.51)

____________________________________

2001

Product: Sporty’s SP-200

Key features: Third generation Sporty’s transceiver added localizer display for backup navigation—a first in a portable radio.

Price: $299.00 ($441.88 today)

____________________________________

2010

Product: Sporty’s SP-400

Key features: Top-of-the-line model with a huge screen and full ILS display—the ultimate backup radio.

Price: $399.00 ($478.64 today)

____________________________________

2019

Product: PJ2 COM Radio

Key features: The only portable radio with built-in headset jacks, the PJ2 is ideal for emergency use and costs under $200.

Price: $199.00

 

HAMSHACK ARCHIVES FILES

  

                                                  4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2016/03/

                                                  5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/03/

                                                  6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/03/

Click HERE TO CHECK OUT the latest BDR.net articles at: https://www.thebdr.net/articles/thisweek.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2021 – Clay’s Corner

 

April 2021 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

Just after my previous column was shipped out, I received this picture of one of the West Tiger Broadcast Towers with a nice load of ice from Jeff White of iHeart Media. Here you can see how the tower is pretty much filled with ice while the antenna (those black things) are not. The Antenna is fitted with black covers called radomes. Not only are they slippery, but solar energy will warm it because of its dark color helping to melt the snow and ice.

The following is a nice closeup of what ice does to a tower and antenna at West Tiger.

It all begins with a piece of ice that sticks to the ‘leading edge’ (the side toward the prevailing wind) and it just keeps adding on. The Yellow Square thing is called an ‘Ice Shield’. In the case of the one here, it’s job is to prevent falling ice from damaging some of the horizontal items in the system below. When the temperature rises, the ice looses it’s grip and falls. You don’t want to be around when that’s happening!

Speaking of Jeff White – I should mention that he has moved up at iHeart and is now the ‘Regional Engineering Lead’.

 

iHeartMedia, commonly called IHM is moving, company-wide, to regionalization. Roughly translated, this means less people spread over a larger area. This is impacting their Engineering department as well. It was not long ago that the Seattle IHM cluster saw a significant reduction in its engineering department. This latest change saw cuts to 39 nation-wide, according to reports in Radio World. Reportedly, some of the work performed by full-time employees will go to part-timers or contractors. This, all part of a company wide effort to reduce their overall ‘head-count’. Sure, the COVID economic situation is a factor, so is making the company more attractive to investors. Meanwhile, Bob Pittman, CEO of IHM was recently stating that he is positive about the pandemic recovery, citing vaccine rollouts and the lifting of restrictions.

Meanwhile, Sinclair announced company-wide staff reductions. Recently KOMO laid off more than a dozen employees in Seattle. In this case, the cuts came to various departments, including one in Engineering. According to the Sinclair CEO, Seattle was not alone in seeing staff reductions, as they were looking and reducing their workforce by about 5% or 460 positions nation-wide. A February earnings report showed revenue was down 7% over a year ago.

If you are like me, perhaps you are wondering about the timing of these reductions just when the news about the Pandemic is getting better.

Speaking of getting better, KMIA (AM-1210) is no longer ‘MIA’ but back on the air. This time it’s running non-Bustos Latino programming, apparently under some sort of an LMA relationship.

On March 11th,  NAB announced the 2021 Crystal Radio Award Finalists. Quickly scanning the list for stations in the area, I could not help but notice KIRO-FM in Seattle was named. Perhaps it should be noted that they are the only major market station named in the Pacific Northwest.

These days it’s hard to find a market where the #1 rated Radio Station is an AM. Interesting to note that you don’t have to look any further than Spokane, where KQNT appears to be doing quite well. The station is owned by iHeartMedia and has a News/Talk format. A bit of history: This station went on the air back in 1922 and was known for years as KHQ. It’s one of a few stations in Washington State that operate with 5,000 watts, non-directional day and night. Others in that ‘club’ are KVI in Seattle and KKMO (formally KMO) in Tacoma. Most AM Stations either reduce power or change antenna patterns, or (in the case of a daytimer) sign off at night to protect others on the same or adjacent frequencies.

Here’s another wonderful picture from the Seattle Times. This time looking east from Seattle at Downtown Bellevue. The associated story was of how Amazon is going to lease a new 25 story building on the East Side.

Interesting how we often see pictures of Denver with the Rockies in the background, but rarely see this view of cities in our area, where the Cascades are just as impressive.

Looking a COVID News:

It’s Hard to believe that it’s been a year since the world was turned upside down with this virus. At last…things are looking up in many areas.

> As of Mid-Month about 12% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated.
> Restrictions are starting to be relaxed with schools re-opening.
> Watching sports is coming back.
> And the list goes on.

What we hope is that we don’t over-mingle and have another spike. With so much pent-up demand for a return to normal, in many cases our guard may be down.

Now that my wife and I are fully vaccinated, we can now mingle, mask free, with others in the same boat. Perhaps we need to wear some form of visual communication? If we are in a group with unknowns, mask wearing will continue. As people get back to their places of employment, this may become an issue.

The impact of increased vaccinations and relaxed restrictions means that many who have been working from home will be returning to their offices and studios. Those local news programs will begin to look like they used to. For many, I suspect, those returning will be having to adjust to a new reality. Some things are never going to be the way they were. Certainly, now that it’s been proven a company can function without being under the watchful eye of a supervisor, space requirements will be reduced. Add to this, the staff reductions that the Pandemic has been experienced by many.

There is one downside to the economic recovery. Unless you are driving an electric vehicle, you are going to be paying a lot more for petrol in the near future. With gas prices this past year in the sub-$3 range, they’ve already increased substantially. Warnings have been posted for $4 gas soon. Nice to know that lawmakers have electric vehicle owners in their sights.

From the looking back dept:

I am old enough to recall the days when the XLR connector came out, before pin one became the standard for ground and how a certain major manufacturer (beginning with the letter G) produced products using pin 3 as ground, which we followed in building a new TV studio, just to later have to change them all. (Anyone else remember this?)

The old saying – I remember … “From the highest high, to the lowest low”

Thus Pin 1 = +
Pin 2 = –
Pin 3 = ground/shield
It was easier to remember.

For a wonderful look back at yesteryear, check this out!

https://mailchi.mp/65527e30cd4f/chrs-radio-clinic-swap
-meet-saturday-spring-journal-mailed-warehouse-sale-around-radio-central-675238

Did you know Einstein was born on Pi Day back in 1879?   (3.14.79)

A topic discussed on one of the popular list-servers broadcast@radiolists.net this past month was the historic Vanport Flood in Portland, Oregon in 1948. The story of this event is a great read with plenty of details of the Hams and Broadcasters who dealt with the event.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/x8jnyd8wzqi07u5
/AABz_sG0qvrTBN7reWRr77c-a?dl=0&
preview=Voices+of+Vanport.pdf

Some interesting history of some of the historic AM stations in PDX…Like the “KEX Toothpick”.

On the Ham Radio side, a couple who were very active in our area for many years, Harry and Mary Lewis were mentioned, including a picture of a very young Mary at their home in Seattle.

I was a wee lad living in the Rose City at the time of the great flood, but remember it well.

Recently I was communicating with an old friend, now retired and living in Arizona, about all the snow we’ve had this year at Snoqualmie Pass. In response, he sent me the following picture.  Looks like the late 1800’s. Look closely, those are animals pulling covered wagons.

 

Today, with a 6-lane freeway crossing this pass, it’s hard to imagine how much of a barrier the Cascades once was. When I moved here, this corridor was known as US-10. Today, of course, it’s now I-90. With very few exceptions, it’s open for travel year around at freeway speeds. When winter weather forces a closure, it’s a magnet for TV crews to do stories about those who are forced to ‘wait it out’.

I did a bit of poking around and came up with this picture taken at similar location.  Here showing US-10 as a 2-lane road.

 

I Received an email from Terry Spring with a snazzy new logo — Out with ION and in with Scripps!  Terry.Spring@scripps.com

Nick Winter is resting at home after undergoing bypass surgery. I understand things went well.

Long time member of WSU’s NWPB Engineering  Department, Tom Saylor has announced his retirement. Tom has been working with this team since 1999. I can personally say that he will be thoroughly missed. In my 11 years working with NWPB, Tom and I have been involved in many projects.

As the sun moves to the north, retired Seattle broadcast engineer, Dwight Small will now start getting sunsets. This one from the 15th of March:

 

It’s still amazing what we are able to do with our landers on Mars. Each time, the game is ‘upped’ to a new level.

A couple things about the parachute that was used by the latest Mars lander:
> Did you wonder why they used such a funny pattern of red and white? The answer. It’s a binary code that reads ‘Dare Mighty Things’, a phrase made famous by former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

The following picture decodes the message (betcha you didn’t get it on your own).

> We keep hearing of how thin the atmosphere is on Mars and yet they used a parachute to help with the landing. If this seemed like a contradiction, you need to know that this ‘chute’ was 70 feet in diameter. For those of you north of the 49th, that’s 21 meters. In other words, Really Big!

From the Department of Misinformation:

It’s nice to see others write about this topic as well. Here are the comments of others who say it went very well.

The publication ‘The Hill’ carried the following story on March 6th.

It was 40 years ago on March 6 that news anchor Walter Cronkite signed off “The CBS Evening News” for the final time, stating his tag line, “That’s the way it is.” The phrase was more than just a signature ending of his nightly newscast. It was a statement that his newscast was designed to, as he put it, “hold up the mirror — to tell and show the public what has happened.”

Holding up the mirror meant focusing on actual news, steering away from advocacy, and nailing down facts. There was a reason that polls of the era listed Cronkite as the most trusted man in America. He projected a fatherly personality and professional image. He spoke in a slow, deliberate manner. He imposed strict standards for accuracy and objectivity into his broadcasts. Every writer and producer on his team knew the perfectionist’s expectations and knew not to stray into personal bias or activism.
The journalism world could use more of the Cronkite method today.

The following item I received by WSU News. Here the writer explains much of what is behind those who are mislead by some of the contents of social media:

Blind trust in social media cements conspiracy beliefs

March 5, 2021

Creative Comments by https://www.staceymacnaught.co.uk/

By Sara Zaske, WSU News

PULLMAN, Wash. – The ability to identify misinformation only benefits people who have some skepticism toward social media, according to a new study from Washington State University. Researchers found that people with a strong trust in information found on social media sites were more likely to believe conspiracies, which falsely explain significant events as part of a secret evil plot, even if they could identify other types of misinformation. The study, published in the journal Public Understanding of Science on March 5, showed this held true for beliefs in older conspiracy theories as well as newer ones around COVID-19.

“There was some good and bad news in this study,” said Porismita Borah, an associate professor in WSU’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and a corresponding author on the study. “The good news is that you are less susceptible to conspiracy theories if you have some media literacy skills, one of which is being able to identify misinformation. But if you blindly trust the information you find on social media, those skills might not be able to help.”

Porismita Borah, Identifying misinformation is just one part of media literacy, Borah pointed out, and people may need a deeper education around social media to avoid falling for conspiracy theories.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 760 people recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing website. The participants were roughly split between male and female as well as Democrat and Republican. The majority, 63.1%, used Facebook and 47.3% used Twitter daily. They answered a range of questions related to the level of their social media news use and trust as well as ability to identify misinformation.

The participants were also asked to rate the truth of several COVID-19 conspiracy theories, such as the belief that the virus was a weapon of biological warfare developed by foreign countries. They also were presented with older conspiracies to rate, such as that the moon landing was a hoax and that Princess Diana was killed by a British intelligence agency.

The researchers found that a greater ability to identify misinformation lowered beliefs in all conspiracy theories—except for those who had high levels of trust in social media information. This is particularly problematic because other research has shown that once a conspiracy belief takes hold, it is very hard to convince the believer that it is false.

“The patterns around trust is one of the most important findings from our study,” said Borah. “We need to go deeper into what this trust means.” Borah and her co-authors, recent WSU Ph.D. Xizhu Xiao and current doctoral student Yan Su, suggest that political ideology may play a role in this trust—that people want to believe the words of political figures they admire, whether what they say is actually true or not. Borah said more research is needed to understand why conspiracy theories appeal to people and how best to combat them as there can be serious consequences.

“There are different levels of danger with these theories, but one of the prominent conspiracy beliefs about COVID-19 is that it isn’t true, that the virus is a hoax and that can be really dangerous: you’re putting yourself, your family members and your community at risk,” said Borah.

Istarting it well before college. They argue that such education should include a better understanding of how information can be manipulated as well as social media environments, news production and dissemination.

“There’s a long list of tasks to do to keep ourselves well informed,” Borah said. “I think there is hope with media literacy and a better understanding of the information environment, but it is a complicated process.”

The misinformation problem is not confined to the U.S. and Canada. Take a look at the source of this study:

GLASGOW, Scotland — Misinformation and fake news continue to be a major problem across social media platforms. Now, a new study reports people with high emotional intelligence are much less likely to fall for deceptive and untrue news items.

Conducted at the University of Strathclyde, the study asked a group of volunteers to take a look at various social media news stories, some true and some false. The group then tried to determine which were real and which were fictitious. Each participant also gave a short explanation as to their fact-checking thought process and filled out a test to gauge their emotional intelligence.

The news stories presented to participants covered a variety of topics, including health, the environment, crime, and wealth inequality. The fake headlines in particular featured a lack of trusted sources, not a lot of information in general, and emotive language.

What do different people say about fake news?

Ultimately, participants scoring high on the emotional intelligence test were most likely to accurately pick out fake news items. Study authors also noted a similar relationship between education level and fake news detecting ability. In other words, participants with more education appear to have a better eye for spotting fake news.

The Headline read:

Washington once again ranked best state in the US in national report

Washington state has once again been ranked the best state in the country, according to a new report from the U.S. News and World Report. Washington has held the top spot since 2019.

The publication annually ranks all 50 states based on several factors including health care, education, the economy and infrastructure, among others.

Other top ranked states were Idaho (the only other PNW State), Utah (the only other western state), Minnesota and New Hampshire.

In terms of rankings:

  • We ranked #8 in health care
  • Education – #4
  • Broadband access – #1
  • Opportunity – #25
  • Affordability – #44

Over the years, in past columns, I have written about the impact of Climate Change driving increases in Sea Level and how high tides will make matters even worse. The following link should be studied carefully to see what lies in our future. Be sure and zero in on the impacts in our area.

U.S. High Tide Flooding Probability Scenarios through
2100 (esri.com)

Extreme High Tides, often called King Tides, will become higher and more frequent as the data explains. In our area, this year, we can expect eight of them. By 2031 we will experience 25. 20 years from now, in 2041, the number increases to 99. By 2066, we will have one of these Extremely High Tides – EVERY DAY!

The impacts of these will becoming increasingly real, especially in low-lying areas. The ports will have some serious issues, requiring some serious money be spent to stay above it all, as most of them are now barely above existing sea level.

There are residential areas that will be feeling this as well. Along the coast, the Long Beach and Ocean Shores areas will be losing a lot of land. Around the sound, the Nisqually Wildlife area will be under water more of the time and Tacoma’s Day Island may need to be evacuated, along with many of the waterfront homes around the Sound.

Combinations of events – Extremely high tides and strong winds will be a recipe for a lot of damage, as will flooding rivers during heavy runoffs. The impact of high tides will be felt a lot further upstream.

This issue is sure to impact some of AM station’s antennas. One of them I installed many years ago at Browns Point for KMO.

The following pictures from Sinclair’s RF Guy, Tim Moore, show the impact of a King Tide on the antenna system at KVI at Point Heyer on the eastern side of Vashon Island.

There is something quite unique about the KVI Site. The beach is officially named ‘KVI Beach’. Where else is there a beach with call letters in its name?

In Tim’s pictures you can see how KVI Beach all but disappears with these Tides.

In the future, broadcast stations like KVI will likely need to make changes to the equipment at the base of their tower to keep it out of the salt water.

For more information about KVI Beach – check out these links:

KVI is a special place, let’s take care of it – Vashon Nature Center

Point Heyer (KVI Beach) and Point Robinson | Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber (vashonbeachcomber.com)

Heart This Place – Tramp Harbor and KVI Beach – Historic SeattleHistoric Seattle

The following contributed by Dwight Small:

Lou Ottens, Dutch Inventor Of The Audio Cassette Tape, Dead At 94

It’s likely you never heard of Lou Ottens, however, it’s highly likely that you are familiar with the Audio Cassette that he developed. He wanted to come up with something that would make tapes and the machines that recorded and played them more portable and easy to use. For those of us who have been around a very long time, we recall very small reel-to-reel machines that used reels about 3 inches in diameter and played at very slow speeds. For them the Cassette was a dream come true. The format was widely adopted when introduced in 1962. I’m sure you recall the Sony Walkman. It was a hit, to say the least.

 

The format permitted a person to carry with them their favorite tunes, or talking books. Vehicle manufacturers jumped on board with players coming standard in their radios.

Despite the audio quality lacking in many areas, the portability of the format made it a hit.

Retailers carried commercially produced cassettes along side vinyl recordings. Suddenly there was a standard that permitted a person to listen to their favorites no matter where they were.

Several broadcast versions of recorders and reproducers were made as well.

Lou Ottens recently passed at the age of 94.

As I mentioned, audio quality was just not possible with tape tracks that small, running at those speeds. However, it had a good run until the development of the Compact Disc.

Another beautiful picture of our part of the country. This one of a fabulous sunrise taken from the window of KRKO/KXA in Everett by Ted Buehner.

In addition to Robocalls that continue to increase, have you seen the Amazon Scam? The email reads something to the effect that Amazon needs to update your credit card information, otherwise you will lose your Prime membership. These lowlifes must lay awake at night trying to figure out a new way to gain your credit card information.

From time to time, someone will erect a tower near an AM broadcast station and give little thought to the impact this will have on the station, nor their obligation to deal with it. All of this happened recently on Vashon Island with a new communications tower constructed very near the diplexed KGNW/820 and KJR/950, three-tower, directional array. The following picture shows the relationship between the towers.

Notice at the top center of this picture ‘PSERN Tower’. This is the new tower that was added to the area, in very close proximity to the existing AM Towers. (Those are labeled – Northwest Tower, Center Tower and Southeast Tower)

The issue here is that both of these AM stations employ directional patterns, the three towers being shared by the two broadcasters. The introduction of the new tower caused both of the stations to have to employ consulting engineers to make certain modifications to the PSERN Tower so as to preclude it from being a part of the stations directional antenna systems.   Then, they had to perform an analysis of the stations directional antenna array to prove that any interaction was addressed.

This, perhaps, could have been avoided had PSERN located the new tower some distance away from the AM Antennas.

It should be noted that Cellular Antenna poles can also be of concern, with many of them having to go through the same process.

PSERN, as you can see from their logo above is a new radio network for Emergency Responders. They are erecting these new towers in many locations in the area. For example, here’s a view of the PSERN tower on West Tiger as taken from one of the AccelNet Tower Cams at sunrise. You can see the bottom of it on the right.

For additional information, go here: Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network (psern.org)

An interesting story about a small college station in La Grande Oregon that is losing its funding.

Eastern Oregon University radio station may go silent | Local News | eastoregonian.com

The portion of the article that got my attention was, “…KEOL, based in the Hoke Union Building, was defunded in part because studies indicate radio is a fading industry with a dim future. “Radio may be obsolete in 10 years.”

The latest Radio Ratings are out. Here are my highlights:

> 97.3 – KIRO-FM continues to lead the pack with their commercial News/Talk followed by 94.9 KUOW with their non-commercial News/Talk. Together they have a 14 share!
> KOMO-AM continues to be the best performing AM in the #5 slot.
> If you add KOMO ratings to those with News/Talk that total is over a 19 share.
> KEXP, another non-commercial station is doing VERY well in the #6 spot.
> Two of Bonneville’s AMs are just about tied with Conservative Talk KTTH.
> Two stations HD-2’s are in the numbers, KING and KNKX. Many have suggested that this is because they are feeding translators with those HD Channels – Surprise! Neither one of them are. These are ratings generated by people listening to HD Radio.
> In the Country-Race – The Wolf (KKWF) is ahead this go-around.
> Poor KFNQ continues to share the cellar with those with just enough of a showing to make the list.

Meanwhile, in the Rose City (PDX), like Seattle, the top two rated stations are news/talk. The difference is the non-commercial station (KOPB) is number 1 with a huge lead over the commercial outlet (KXL-FM). Together they have over a 17 share.

As you might expect, Washington DC has a lot of news/talk listeners. Three of the top four stations are running that format, and combined they have over a 26 share.

Some other markets are the opposite with music stations on top and news/talk way down the list.

Travel Trivia posted an item recently that got my attention. Typically, folks like these will have the states in alphabetical order. So I sit here and page-down until I get to Washington to see how we fared in some category or another. This time the headline read:

Hilarious and Bizarre Town Names in All 50 States

I just knew they would pick – Humptulips, Sequim, Physt or Puyallup. For some reason they picked Vader.  Huh! How is that funny or bizarre? For reasons I can’t explain they picked the little town sound of Olympia because it made them think of Darth Vader?? Truth is the town was named after Martin Vader, a German immigrant and Civil War veteran.

Looking for work in Broadcasting?How about a job in Kansas? For more info check-out:

https://www.hutchcc.edu/jobs/1159/101994 or start at http://www.radiokansas.net/employment.cfm

Received this item from Ben Dawson on March 22nd:

Somebody broke into the storage locker in our apartment yesterday morning, and stole, among a few other things, all of my hand tools, and the office’s HP 8753 (?) network analyzer, which was in a Pelican case.

If you could put out the word in case anybody spots the analyzer or my tools, some of which were in a black telco-issue fiber case, some in a turquoise bag labeled “France Telecom,” and some of which were in a military ammo box. It’s all insured, but the tools included a lot of
irreplaceable items, like my grandfather’s machinists’ square and a few other items no longer made in the US.

If you can help with the recovery, contact Ben at  – dawson@hatdaw.com

OK, time for some humor.

 

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month at most of the usual locations.

Until then, get vaccinated, stay safe and continue to wear your mask…and that means cover your nose too. The ‘All-Clear’ is getting closer.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
A SBE Fellow
SBE Member # 714
Since March 1968

 

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for February 2021

                                                                                        February 2021

This month we have 3 new SkyhubLink projects in the works.  The first is the new Fusion/Wires-X repeater to be deployed just west of Cheyenne on 449.775 (Callsign soon to be KE0DNL).  Daryl W3ORR will be running the node radio system at his QTH on the west side of town to link the repeater into the SkyHubLink Wires-X room 46361.  The repeater will be steerable for Wires-X rooms of course.  We would like to thank the members of the SkyHubLink email list who responded with donations to make this happen.  Thanks also to our good friend Vic Michael for the providing the site for the repeater.  More to come as it becomes available on the deployment time as we are awaiting weather and scheduling to get it on the air.  We hope to be at the 100 plus foot level on this fine tower Vic has in “Granite” WY.

Second will be the 2 linked repeaters in Sterling & Holyoke.  Kent Seger, who is a ham operator and tower owner in the area will be providing the repeaters, internet connection and sites (Sterling’s is just east of I-76 in the area) for this NE CO coverage along I-76 helping to pretty much fill in the coverage to Nebraska.  More information and maps will follow soon.

Thirdly, the Brandmeister Talkgroup 31083 for the Colorado Severe Weather Watch NET will be moving to the SkyHubLink.  More information on that will be upcoming to the SHL Email list soon.

Our good friend Steve KDØSBN who is running the Pueblo Wires-X Fusion repeater that is now on the new coordinated frequency of 447.900 -offset.  Steve will also be setting up a NEW repeater soon south of the Spanish Peaks from the Weston Colorado area that will have coverage from about Walsenburg to Trinidad along I-25 in the southern part of the state.  When this project is completed, and the move of the Scottsbluff NE repeater is accomplished (also this spring) SkyHubLink will have almost continuous coverage from Scottsbluff down to Cheyenne WY and on down the almost the New Mexico State line.  Stand by for more news!

As I wrote in last month’s edition, I have been working full time now from the home “office/hamshack/Flight Simulator” and really enjoying it.  I have everything I need right at my fingertips and with the addition of the worktable on the left I can do my personal and work projects with just the spin of the chair.  The table is actually a kitchen prep all metal aluminum table that I also have now a static pad that covers the workspace.

Here is a test of the Field Fox spectrum analyzer after it had returned from service on the new worktable and interfaced with my computer on the left side of the office area.  My vertical HF ham antenna and the multiband dipole made really good test subjects.  The Field Fox is now ready for some real-world real work projects coming up in the next couple of months.  Great setup!  I have been loving this little “office” in a major way!  I can monitor and control all work functions via remote facilities, test equipment and get a LOT DONE!

One of my personal projects over one weekend was the rebuilding of the Flight Sim X-plane 11 computer.  The newly setup worktable and static pad grounded at the station ground made a very safe and secure way of handling static sensitive parts including the old and new motherboard, RAM memory, and hard drives.

I upgraded the computer from an Asus Z-97 to an Asus Z-490A with 16 gigs of DDR3 RAM, and the processor changed from a 4 core i5 3800 to an 8 core i7 10700 with 32 gigs of DDR4 RAM.  I am still using my Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card.  But quite the upgrade!  Also, with the new as of Christmas CH Products flight yoke and the rudder pedals, flying the simulator software is pretty dang realistic!  I have also been adding a lot of scenery files via the Ortho4XP free software.  See videos on how to do this at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ortho+4+xp+x+plane+11 and if you need some simplified instructions on how to use the software, email me for a copy that my good buddy Jeremy N6JER put together.

Flying close to the 808-foot-tall in real life WSM Blaw-Knox radio tower south of Nashville Tennessee in

X-Plane 11 and the real-life thing!  The scenery in the upper picture was generated in ORTHO4XP.

And here I am sharing the “cockpit” with my copilot little grandson Lucas, complete in an aviator jacket visiting Grandpa!

Hitting “TOGA” button Grandpa!

Many thanks to our good friend Paul WBØQMR for the repeater facilities of 146.70 in Dillon/Silverthorne. The repeater is connected to SkyHubLink full time and covers Breckenridge, Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco, and up the valley on CO 9 towards Green Mountain Reservoir.  Thanks, so much Paul for being part of the system!

And from another NETFLIX movie I watched lately, another great prop using a Zenith Transoceanic H-500 tube radio.  The story was set in the 50’s and this was actually in a radio station in the movie “The Vast of Night”.  And below, another radio setup with some pieces that are recognizable from the series “The Walking Dead”, also on NETFLIX.  A D-104 mic and Heathkit radio?  Motorola handheld?

 

And finally, this from my friend Evan Stone at WFLI in Chattanooga Tennessee!

What DO YOU DO with an old cart machine?

 

I was really happy to be able to get out on a ride this fine and WARM January day!  Sure do look forward to more!

HAMSHACK ARCHIVES FILES

 

                                                  4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2016/01/

                                                  5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/01/

                                                  6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/01/

 

Click HERE TO CHECK OUT the latest BDR.net articles at: https://www.thebdr.net/articles/thisweek.html

 

 

 

SBE VHF/UHF Chapter 73’ of the Air SKYHUBLINK HAMnet

 

 

The SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SKYHUBLINK Hamnet is every Monday at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) worldwide via Echolink KG0SKY-L, node 985839 (available via computer and radio), Allstar node 46079, DMR Talkgroup 310847, AND try it with your hotspot on YSFtoDMR then TalkGroup 310847 or C4FM Fusion YSF node 92722.  The Hamnet is based in Denver on 449.450, pl 103.5, KDØSSP-RPT 448.350, Fusion/Wires-X, 449.600 Fusion and the 449.625 Fusion repeater, linked to WiresX room “DenverSkyhubLink” node 46361.  Also on DMR Talkgroup 310847 on the 449.750 Timeslot 1 DMR repeater in Denver.  See www.skyhublink.com for more information.

You can listen on the LIVE STREAM thru Broadcastify at:

https://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/25448/web

or https://hose.brandmeister.network/group/310847/  

We hope you’ll join us. 

See the latest edition of “The KE0VH Hamshack” for more information at www.ke0vh.com.

 

 

The Society of Broadcast Engineers

9102 North Meridian St, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260
317-846-9000 ■ Fax 317-846-9120

 

 

 

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack – March 2021

                                                              March 2021

I meant to include the “Happy Birthday” to Nichelle Nichols in December 2020!

She paved the way for women in so many fields as Lt. Uhuru in “Star Trek TOS”.  Here she is at the “Capcom” position in Apollo Mission Control Center.  She is 88 years old!

The “First Lady” of COMMUNICATIONS!  Wonder if she ever thought about getting a ham license!?!?

I am going to start off this months edition by typing about the big winter storm that we had the weekend of March 13/14 here along the front range of Colorado, and up into Wyoming and Nebraska.   The storm (and yes the Weather Channel had to dub it with the name “Xylia”)(who sits around and thinks of this stuff?!?!?) was a prodigious snow producer and set up just perfectly to pound the northern front range and really hit a knockout punch to Wyoming as you will see in the pictures that follow.  I had 12.5 inches officially at the KEØVH QTH with drifts of 25 inches or more in spots.  The wind blew tremendously on Sunday, and I spent several hours digging as the storm progressed to help keep my driveway clear as possible without leaving me way to much digging to do when the storm abated.  We had blizzard warnings here in my area during Sunday afternoon, and the wind kept the snow horizontally coming down for several hours.  During the storm beginning on Saturday, we activated the brand on “Colorado Severe Weather Watch Net” (https://skyhublink.com/csww-net/) on the Skyhublink system with Matt Kaskavitch KØLWC as lead forecaster and NET control.  He is a well known forecaster in the storm chasing severe weather national community so having him with his system on SkyHublink is a real plus!  Matt is a former Colorado resident who has always been fascinated with our crazy weather patterns.  Matt maintained a tireless vigil, taking more than 100 check ins during the weekend, answering questions, giving updated forecasts for certain areas, and continuous briefs on the movements of the storm plus road and highway closure information.  Here is a picture of Matt’s “command, and net control” hamshack in Maple Grove Minnesota.

Above picture my looking out my front door in Wheat Ridge after a couple of shovelings!  WET HEAVY SNOW! Didn’t want a busted car windshield either!  And WAS THE WIND EVER BLOWING!!!

This picture shows the center of the storm wrapping around the powerful Low Pressure point in the eastern part of Colorado.  Below is the associated radar.  Just about a perfect slow moving “upslope” condition here that produces large amounts of snow over the front range.  Note the extremely well defined “dry line” thru western Kansas down into Texas.  This was producing severe tornadic producing thunderstorms ahead of the dry air.

Here you can see the dry clear sky air extending all the way down to the western edge of Mexico

nearly to Baja, drawing large amounts of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico….  No Wonder!!!

 

Daryl W3ORR from his vantage point in Cheyenne Wyoming provided information and totals on the storm during the event as well.  Daryl is a certified SkyWarn ham radio operator and a professional news/weather broadcaster.  He provided up to the minute information as well during the event.  All in all the very first activation of the Colorado Severe Weather Watch Net kept all SkyHubLink users informed and kept a lot of ears on the system repeaters for not only the forecasting but in case of emergency needs such as stranded motorists and the like.

Daryl W3ORR next to a Wyoming drift against his home!

Daryl’s hamshack and the Wires-X link radio for the SkyHubLink node in Cheyenne.  He will also use this node radio, a FTM-100 for the SHL link to the new 449.775 repeater that we will deploy as soon as we can.  Currently the node is operating on 449.775 simplex until weather and scheduling permit the deployment.

Clearing the massive amounts of drifted snow from I-80 near Daryl’s QTH (photo W3ORR)

 

Starting to clear the runways at KCYS (Cheyenne airport) and Daryls weather monitoring station at his QTH

Matt and Daryl linked into the SkyHubLink system using DMR, YSF, Wires-X and Echolink connections over the duration, providing a great test of the different connecting systems on the SkyHubLink during an actual activation.  As many of you have heard me say, SkyHubLink is here to provide communications for fun and everyday amateur use for connected repeaters and to be available for emergency communications when needed.  SHL is monitored daily by quite a few folks that alert us to outages and issues, which fortunately are few and far between these days thanks to Skyler WØSKY, Jermey WØJRL, Steve KDØSBN, and others. 😊 PLEASE JOIN US! www.skyhublink.com!

The KEØVH backyard and HF antennas, and below, Liu Liu, enjoying finally being out of the house!

In other happenings this month, on the Monday night before the snow started I was in Scottsbluff NE to install a new transmitter at our site the next morning.  The SBE/SkyHubLink Monday Night Net was ran via hotspot to cell phone tethering from my hotel room that evening.   Hotspot versatility is so useful when away from the main repeater coverage, although we hope to have the Scottsbluff SHL repeater back on the air soon from the South Mitchell site west of Scottsbluff and Gering.  When it is back on the air not only will the repeater cover the local area but a large section north, west into Wyoming, east towards Hastings, and SE towards Cheyenne, bringing just about non-stop coverage from Nebraska to New Mexico!

The Hotspot in the hotel room.  It is a Raspberry Pi-ZERO with an MMDVM board inside a small plastic case picked up at Walmart.  Travels well, I always carry it with me for reaching back to SkyHubLink when no linked repeaters are available.  You can get a kit that includes all except the $15 or so RPi0 board by going to this link:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/For-Raspberry-pi-UHF-VHF-MMDVM-hotspot-OLED-Antenna-Case-Support-P25-DMR-YSF-/402644605559

Our friend and sysop of the KDØSBN repeaters Pueblo west and Weston Steve, has been working on and tuning filters as of late for the machines he is setting up.  He has found a very effective way to test using Baofeng HT’s along with utilizing the NANO-VNA antenna analyzer.  Steve has done a great job setting these up using these inexpensive testing tools.  Very clever and cost effective!

Tuning the filters using the NANO-VNA

And then testing the passthrough and rejection frequencies using the Baofeng HT’s

 

 USING THE NANO-VNA connected to a laptop with the software

By the way, he is setting this system up for the, as he says, “somewhere near Weston” deployment for SkyHubLink coverage south of Walsenburg down to Trinadad.  Right now, he is operating it on the repeater frequency of 145.31 down in that area.  GREAT COVERAGE, and we cannot wait to get the repeater on line down there!

 

We may actually have another announcement regarding Fusion Wires-X and Colorado Springs SOON!  Stand by for NEWS!   Oh, and By The Way:

HAMSHACK ARCHIVES FILES

                                                   4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2016/03/

                                                  5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/03/

                                                  6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/03/

 

Click HERE TO CHECK OUT the latest BDR.net articles at: https://www.thebdr.net/articles/thisweek.html

 

 

SBE VHF/UHF Chapter 73’ of the Air SKYHUBLINK HAMnet

 

 

The SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SKYHUBLINK Hamnet is every Monday at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) worldwide via Echolink KG0SKY-L, node 985839 (available via computer and radio), Allstar node 46079, DMR Talkgroup 310847, AND try it with your hotspot on YSFtoDMR then TalkGroup 310847 or C4FM Fusion YSF node 92722.  The Hamnet is based in Denver on 449.450, pl 103.5, KDØSSP-RPT 448.350, Fusion/Wires-X, 449.600 Fusion and the 449.625 Fusion repeater, linked to WiresX room “DenverSkyhubLink” node 46361.  Also on DMR Talkgroup 310847 on the 449.750 Timeslot 1 DMR repeater in Denver.  See www.skyhublink.com for more information.

You can listen on the LIVE STREAM thru Broadcastify at:

https://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/25448/web

or https://hose.brandmeister.network/group/310847/  

We hope you’ll join us. 

See the latest edition of “The KE0VH Hamshack” for more information at www.ke0vh.com.

 

 

The Society of Broadcast Engineers

9102 North Meridian St, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260
317-846-9000 ■ Fax 317-846-9120

 

 

 

 

 

March  2021 – Clay’s Corner

March  2021 – Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers

perspective since September 1986

 

Some liked him, some did not….but all can likely agree that Rush Limbaugh was one of the most influential broadcasters of our time. Just about a year after he announced that he had cancer, and it was terminal, Rush passed away on February 17th. For over 32 years, since August 1, 1988, Rush was on the air, daily, on some 600 stations and an audience in the millions.

Here, locally, his show was carried by Bonneville’s KTTH from 9 to noon. If you traveled much around the country, regardless of where you were during this time slot, you could find Rush on the air, usually on AM.

Many did not know that he got his start on the Radio as a DJ while still in high school and worked at various stations across the country. Give a listen to the following link. In it you will be certain to recognize his voice and the type of patter he continued to use in his show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=FPgO9NLy-7A&fbclid=IwAR3cGmuexJhybKJQ3RBIKpgUrS7xZ6Q0ZL3flLmDE5gudbgGaScEz1plYlo

Many are saying he got his real break in 1984 at KFBK in Sacramento.

Rush was an entertainer who became a political figure even though he was not a politician. People in entertainment know how important it is to find their niche. Rush certainly found his, and made millions doing so. Along the way he became the voice of the conservative movement and is given credit for having been very influential in the process. Apparently, much what we heard was ‘Showman Rush’ while in private he was a lower key humble man.

Another area needs to be mentioned…how he influenced AM Radio. I don’t know if he was on an FM Station somewhere…perhaps so…however is show was predominately on AM Stations, both large and small. His popularity was welcomed by owners and operators of AM’s at a time that many of them were falling behind to FM’s. Some have called him the savior of AM.

His passing  has now created a lot of concern at those stations that could well be viewing Rush’s death as an event that may, ultimately, cost them money and audience. Many a station felt that they were lucky to have Rush on their station…and often the ratings proved it.

Not often do we lose a talk show host and have a governor announce that flags will be flown at half staff. That’s what took place in Florida.

What is often not discussed is how he was very generous with his support of charities.

The network that carried his program, a division of iHeart Media, is certainly aware of the issue and is planning on airing re-runs, or ‘The Best of Rush’ for those that will want to hear his voice. He was the kind of a personality that you can’t just go out and hire a replacement for.

Since the onset of his illness, there have been several who have been subbing for Rush, including some from this area. I was thinking that this would be like trying to replace John Wayne or Alex Trebek. These are shoes that may be impossible to fill. Eventually, perhaps someone will be hired that can build on his success. Only time will tell. As I heard someone say, not everyone can sit down and talk three hours without a script! Another said, Jimmy Fallon may host “The Tonight Show,” but he’ll never be Johnny Carson. Another example comes to mind. Remember when Paul Harvey passed? There was an attempt to fill that slot with (if I recall correctly) his son that did not work as hoped for.

For those who need a periodic infusion of hyper-conservative rhetoric, there are no shortage of on Radio and TV willing to fill their tank with questionable substances.

Speaking of Jeopardy, the search goes on for a host for that popular show upon the death of long-time host Alex Trebek. In this case, the producers are going to be using some big names as guest hosts. That may work for a TV game show, but one that requires the host to do what Rush was doing is another matter.

Interesting bit of timing in that we recently lost another in a similar line of work – Larry King. Both of these men have left a very big mark in the world of Broadcasting.

Certainly, worth mentioning is what might be called one of the most difficult ‘remote broadcasts’ that came in the form of the latest landing of a package of equipment on the planet Mars. This one will have many more cameras and – microphones!!

The fact that the time difference makes it impossible for anyone to make a last minute correction, makes this all the more challenging. This is, perhaps, the ultimate automation system. In this case, it had to be smart enough to ‘think on its own’ and make last second corrections if required. This is nothing short of amazing.

One aspect of this mission is demonstrated in the following picture. Think of it. You have this automated landing sequence involving multiple devices that in the end lowers the rover to the surface with a parachute…and, in a case of incredible timing, you have the MRO orbiting the planet and able to capture an image of that portion of the landing sequence and transmit that image back to us millions of miles away. Words cannot adequately express how this one made me feel.

Now the exploration process will be ramping up and our TV screens will be filled with new images that only a few years ago would have been deemed totally impossible.

© JPL-Caltech/NASA HiRISE captured this image of Perseverance on its way to the landing site.

 

As my readers know, this past month I wrote rather extensive comments about truth, misinformation etc. After I had finished writing my column, news items were coming in that were related directly to what I was talking about.

Note this one came from ABC News (I highlighted portions).

 

DHS uses alert system for 1st time in a year to warn of domestic terrorism threat

Using a federal system designed to warn all Americans about terrorist threats to the U.S. homeland, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning that anger “fueled by false narratives”, especially unfounded claims about the 2020 presidential election, could lead some inside the country to launch attacks in the coming weeks.

 

And this from the New York Times –

The Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol has become a catalyst strengthening federal lawmakers’ resolve to enact stronger regulations on technology giants like Google and Facebook, whose platforms were used to spread election misinformation and incite the deadly riots. Members of Congress are already pursuing antitrust regulations to prevent big tech companies from wielding too much power, but action on hate speech, disinformation and data privacy could also come under President Joe Biden’s administration.

I recall hearing warnings, about 70 years ago, about this kind of thing. In those days we were told that this was the work of ‘Communists and Enemies’.

So congress is holding hearings and probes…’Tis what they do! They are also looking into popular social media platforms. Of course we can expect the political parties to get irritated. Frankly, I’m not sure that the U.S. Congress will be able to be objective, as they are likely to spend more time trying to protect their own biased view of the truth.

I wonder if they will also look into YouTube. There you can find people talking about every topic on the planet as if they were an expert…some of it pretty radical. What’s stopping anyone from putting on a white coat and adopting a name with doctor in front and promoting the latest snake oil?

In my opinion (which is worth as much as the ink that this column is printed on) we may well be incapable of having an objected, unbiased, bipartisan view of these issues. What we need to create is ‘Truth Police’. Or perhaps the ability to take the truth stretchers to court to prove what they are saying is true or face mandatory punishment. Many would, of course, call this a form of censorship and claim that their constitutional rights were being trampled. Oh well…I can dream, can’t I?

Former CNN host and now employee of Hearst Television Soledad O’Brien put it this way:

“I think that is nothing that the Congress has to deal with. It’s news organizations themselves who should hold themselves to this standard. It’s a journalistic standard,” O’Brien pushed for news outlets to avoid posing every story as “having two sides,” and to stop booking “liars” that spread false information. “Every perspective does not deserve a platform,” she said. “Media thrives on the open exchange of ideas, but that doesn’t mean you have to book a neo-Nazi every time you book someone who is Jewish.”

If you think that misinformation is something new…well, think again. The following is from ‘Science News’:

 

100 years ago, in 1921, The media magnate E.W. Scripps was contemplating the parallel goals he saw in science and journalism: to discover how the world works, and to explain it truthfully and in a way that people can understand. An informed, educated public, he believed, was essential to a democratic society.  Scripps was appalled by the media’s willingness to promote fake cures and dangerous theories, writing in 1919 that “there is a vast quantity of misinformation being constantly spread abroad by our newspapers.

 

As pointed out by the previous, we have been dealing with misinformation and conspiracy theories for a very long time. Unfortunately some broadcasters and the Internet have provided a vehicle to spread further and faster than ever before.

Fear is a ‘lubricant’ for these items. Remember a few years ago when NIER first was mentioned. Suddenly many who lived near a broadcast transmitter was thinking that they were getting ‘radiated’ and would, as a result, develop cancer. Cougar Mountain in our area became ground zero due to, at that time, the 10 – 100,000 kW FM’s that were there. Broadcasters across the country were suddenly having to deal with a new issue. Cellular has had their battles with neighbors putting up a fight over the thought of having a cell site nearby. Keeping those radiation hazards away from schools is common. More recently, the term 5G has come to mean evil with conspiracy theories linking these new communications systems with the Coronavirus, in some cases, causing people to attempt to destroy these new systems. In the case of the Internet, there is no limit to the amount of misinformation that can be spread. Only recently, after the Capitol Riots, have the social media system that many use to spread false and misleading information come under review of law makers that have come to learn first hand the damage that can be done, all in the name of free speech.

A well known person in this area, Bill Gates, has a conspiracy theory attached to his name as well. There are those who think that the Covid-19 vaccine being administered now also contains microchips that would permit tracking of those that received the shot. This is enough for some to declare they don’t want to be vaccinated.

A firm, based here in Seattle, according to this item from the Seattle Times appears to be also involved in the promotion of misinformation.

By Katherine Khashimova Long

Seattle Times business reporter

As vaccine misinformation has prompted some to say they will refuse to be inoculated against the coronavirus, the world’s largest online retailer remains a hotbed for anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers.

Amazon’s search algorithm boosts books promoting false claims about vaccines over those that debunk health misinformation, the researchers found — and as customers engage with products espousing bogus science, Amazon’s recommendation algorithms point them to additional health misinformation.

In the future, the fallout and damage from all of this will, perhaps, lead to regulations where there are licenses involved. Could a licensee of a Radio or TV station be challenged because they aired misinformation?

On the Coronavirus front:

The sad news is that deaths from this terrible virus have now gone past the 500,000 mark and they are predicting another 100,000 may succumb in the next couple of months. Looking at the annual death toll from other diseases, you find that about 730,000 or 29% of all deaths in the U.S. are attributed to heart disease and stroke. 580,000 or 23% are due to cancer. 140,000 die due to chronic respiratory disease and 130,000 die from accidents (including motor vehicle). Looking at it this way, at least over the past year, Covid-19 has become the 3rd largest cause of death.

Perhaps interesting is that Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. have lowered the life expectancy in this country by just over a year (1.13) with a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino populations.

The good news is the curves are (finally) going in the right direction. Vaccinations are increasing and we are all gaining hope.

Olympic Games authorities have yet to decide whether the Tokyo games will go forward this summer, due to rising coronavirus case numbers and vaccine shortages. NBCUniversal had bet on Olympic coverage in 2020 to kick start Peacock, and could lose billions in advertising revenue if the games are cancelled.

Looks like we will indeed have an NAB convention in Las Vegas this year, albeit, in the fall. Already plans are being made for a Spring show in 2022 to get us back on track.

As has been said by many – for the vaccine to work its magic, the majority of the population has to get it. Therein lies a problem. We have way too many who feel that the virus is a hoax or they have a degree of vaccine hesitancy. The sad part is some of these people are not likely to change their mind. This brings us back to the idea I wrote about quite a while back. We are likely to have to resort to some kind of incentive system to help with the issue. Employers can and should be engaged here (already some are). I suspect certain modes of travel may have to impose restrictions. How about if you want to attend a sporting event, you have to have been vaccinated? However, this would likely start up those who would take advantage of the situation by selling bogus Vaccination ID cards.

Perhaps we should look at Israel, a country with a high percentage of its citizens now vaccinated, to see how things are working there. Their parliament just passed a law allowing the government to share the ID’s of those that have not had their shots with other authorities until the pandemic is determined to be over. The big question, do people have a right to not be vaccinated? Which takes me to a couple of questions:

  • Could KRUD Broadcasting ask an applicant, or one that’s been working from home, if they have been vaccinated, or would that violate their rights to privacy?
  • Could KRUD choose to hire a vaccinated person over one that was not?

The pandemic has provided an opportunity for those who seek to profit from the situation. I recently received this item from a provider of internet spam:

According to Google, Gmail users received 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 during the early months of the pandemic (back in April). Add to that another 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages.

OK enough of that…shifting gear to EAS (one of my favorite topics):

For well over a year the Washington State SECC has had a Committee working on revising the State EAS Plan. One of the major reasons for this activity has been the FCC’s efforts in creating a uniform platform for EAS plans. At this point, state EAS plans have been ‘all over the map’ making it difficult for the FCC to approve them. Additionally, the FCC needed a better way to determine what the SECC’s were doing in the area of providing monitoring assignments for Participants (Radio and TV Stations and Cable). They have developed a system called ARS that will provide a method for SECC’s to report their work to the FCC. In turn, this information will be used to ‘cross-check’ the information the FCC receives from participants via ETRS. Fortunately, the Washington SECC’s Plan Revision Committee has been able to participate in a couple of webinars and beta tests of the system. Frankly, we have been waiting for the FCC to launch this new system. Well, the wait is over. What we did not know is the Commission is launching ARS within a new NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making).

This NPRM has hit the streets and is being reported on by various organizations that provide news etc. to Radio and TV Broadcasters (and I assume Cable operators). Most are labeling this as ‘FCC plans for improving EAS’.

The NPRM certainly does cover the long awaited ARS, but it also deals with some areas of EAS changes that are not part of it. Keep in mind that the FCC, like the Washington SECC, considers WEA as part of Public Alert and Warning. Therefore some of the new NPRM concerns both.

Here are some of the highlights (there are many more):

  • Mobile devices (FCC speak for your smartphone) would not be allowed to opt out of WEA alerts from FEMA
  •  SECC’s would have to meet at least once per year (Washington meet bi-monthly)
  •  Establish a requirement for SECC’s to work with the FCC (ARS)
  •  EAS Plans would not be available on the FCC Web Site (States could, if they wished)
  •  We may have some new Event Codes. For example, one dealing with National Security. Event codes dealing with this issue were dropped some years ago with the winding down of the cold war.
  •  Create a new Originator Code (NCA) that would permit FEMA to issue national level emergencies (presently only provision is for Presidential Messages). With that would come a new Event Code (NSE). Yes, this would likely require all EAS equipment to be upgraded.
  •  Create a mechanism for reporting EAS or WEA false alerts (think Hawaii missile attack)
  •  Propose a rule to require repeating an EAS message (currently these messages are a one time thing)

Part of the FCC release is an NOI (Notice of Inquiry)  that asks questions. These are typically efforts by the FCC to ‘run the matter up the flag-pole’.

  •  They are looking for input on the feasibility of delivering EAS Alerts via the internet and streaming services.
  •   How to augment Radio and TV, Cable and Satellite Radio message delivery via the internet.

I highly recommend that everyone carefully watch this activity as it will – very likely – impact many. I also recommend that you download the entire 52 page document from the FCC for the simple reason that the devil is in the details! Knowing the details has a lot of benefits.

Looking back at my early days in this business, maintenance of a broadcast station was very different than it is today. Sure, we had Vacuum Tubes, but we were required to determine the reason why a piece of equipment failed and then replace it so it would be placed back in service. The term for this is ‘component level trouble-shooting’. We relied on a number of businesses in our area that stocked the necessary parts. Those firms did not rely exclusively on broadcasters to keep them in business, as there were a large number of Radio-TV repair shops that were repairing consumer electronic equipment.

Over the years electronic equipment underwent major changes…becoming significantly more reliable. It also became increasingly more complicated to the point that some equipment could no longer be repaired locally. In many cases, it became more cost effective to replace it rather than repair it.

At the hobby level – electronics have made a major shift.

At the consumer level – you no longer see a Radio-TV repair shop in your area. Today you see consumer electronic equipment awaiting to be picked up with the trash.

So, when the demand dries up, so do the suppliers. Remember it was not that long ago that we lost Radio Shack. Recently it was announced that Fry’s were closing their doors – not just the huge facility in Renton – but all 31 stores, after nearly 36 years in business. Sure the Pandemic played a role, but the demand for a local electronics store has just about totally dried up. Today, there are (maybe) a handful in our area.

Thankfully there is still sufficient demand, so that a firm operating nationally can still supply those resistors and capacitors. And, yes…you can buy them from Amazon.

Now that huge building in Renton will be on the market, joining others that include K-Mart, Sears and others.

So who are the winners in this? As I sit here at home writing this, to my left is a window looking out at my street. Already today I’ve see trucks from Amazon, FedEx and UPS…and I live on a dead-end! Welcome to the new world.

Last month I noted the amount of gray, or missing, hair at the SBE Chapter Meeting. Here’s an item I ran across from NAB that digs into that issue:

Stations struggle to recruit, train new generation of broadcast engineers | Current

Another manufacturer of equipment has called it quits. Ward Beck Systems, maker of audio equipment has ceased operations. The company was founded by in 1967 by Ron Ward and Rodger Beck.

After wondering if we were going to get any lowland snow this winter, the wait was over on the afternoon of the 12th as the flakes began to fall. Our area was turned into a winter wonderland with snowfall over just about all of Western Washington. Officially, SeaTac Airport recorded just over 12 inches of the stuff. Not often you see snowmobiles going down your street!

Like most snow events in this area, warmer air was winning out later on Saturday. Meanwhile, south of us, Northwest Oregon was getting freezing rain that was causing a lot of headaches and power outages. I recall living in Portland, as a kid, and experiencing what my folks called a ‘Silver Thaw’ that did a lot of damage with inches of ice covering everything. Thankfully, we have few of these events in the Seattle/Tacoma area. I do recall one however, around Christmas, when the ice brought down a lot of power lines and trees. SR-18 east of Auburn was closed due to fallen timber.

Here’s a picture of a Ham Radio antenna from the Portland area belonging to former Entercom-Portland Chief Engineer, Kent Randles being bent over by the ice-storm that hit that area.

The Ice winning this battle!

Here Kent is showing how the ice built up on the guy ropes holding his antenna.

 

On the hills to the west of downtown Portland are many very large towers that support antennas for the area’s FM and TV Stations. You have to believe that they collected their share of ice as well. When the temperatures warmed, that ice falls to the ground. You DO NOT want to be near one of them when this is taking place.

Pat Shearer, Broadcast/RF Systems Engineer for KPTV/KPDX Broadcasting, shared the following picture. He wrote:

“The attached pic shows the 4″ ice that was covering the tower at the peak of the storm

There were literally hundreds of pieces of ice laying on the ground at the base of the tower. I took that pic to show the thickness but that piece was by far not the largest one I saw. there was one that was about 16″ x 5″ x 4″ thick and you could see the curve where it came off a tower leg.”

Look at the size of those ‘ice-cubes’ compared to that glove.

 

Pictured here is the second winter site access vehicle owned by AccelNet. They need to access West Tiger too, due to their growing amount of facilities up there. It’s been interesting to observe how Land Mobile/2-Way radios were replaced by Cellular, which significantly reduced the amount of equipment at these mountain top facilities. Now they are being put to use by firms, like AccelNet who are called WISPs or Wireless Internet Service Providers.

 

 

This picture was taken by Doug Fisher of the transmitter building at South Mountain, home of KOMO-FM, KDDS and KLSY. He said there was 4-5 feet of snow on top.

The forecast on Saturday the 13th indicated that by the following weekend, all of this would be just a memory with temperatures to be near 50. Time to be putting away the snow shovels and thinking about getting that lawn mower started for the season to come.

For those of us who still, routinely, travel to higher elevation locations, we can look forward to, perhaps, two more months of winter weather at locations like West Tiger Mt. where snow can, and often does, remain a factor until mid April.

Meanwhile, Snoqualmie Pass (25 miles to the ESE at a similar elevation) is experiencing the most amount of snow they’ve had in 10 years…and winter is not over yet. You can check out the snow totals by going to WSDOT, Mountain Passes, Snoqualmie Pass, Snow Dept. Report. It will ask you to choose which pass and season. Interesting to look back at previous years to see how this year stacks up (no pun).

After the big snow, Alex Brewster and Rob Purdy needed to go up to West Tiger for a Hubbard Issue and found this about two miles up the 6+ miles to the site:

Their Jeep, with chains, was dragging bottom. Next step – call Doug Fisher to come up with his Gator with tracks.

Steven Allen visiting the KIRO-AM Transmitter on Vashon after the snow found that someone had built a snowman…with a big smile!

Meanwhile other parts are dealing with some historic winter conditions. This headline is something you don’t often see.

Blackouts Cascade Beyond Texas in Deepening Power Crisis

Severe winter weather is not something you normally associate with Texas, but not this year, as the mid-February frigid weather spread across the middle of the continent all the way into Mexico. Here are some of the high (or low) points related to this years winter blast.

The record low temperatures are exceeding the capacity of many electrical utilities, which have been forced into having rotating outages all the way into Mexico.

  • At a time where there is political pressure to shift from a fossil fuel generation to one based on renewable energy sources, this is proving to be a huge wake-up call.
  • Many wind power systems have been rendered out of commission due to something they apparently did not plan on – ice on the blades.
  • Oil production has been reduced due to the cold, which is causing gas prices to increase all over.
  • A shortage of natural gas has forced a number of generating plants off line as consumers furnaces are running like never before.
  • Cold is having an effect on the electric grid much as excessive heat did this part year.
  • It was 18 degrees in Houston, matching the temperature in Anchorage. Meanwhile, it was 5 degrees in Dallas.
  • Abilene Texas had 14 inches of snow (we had just over 4).
  • This storm is a big one — stretching all the way from Texas to New England. Unlike most winters, Texas has been hit the hardest.

Here’s a picture of them de-Icing blades on a wind turbine:

I wonder if the operators of all the wind farms in our state are prepared to deal with a situation like this?

Texas broadcasters jumped into action providing citizens with badly needed information. Many scrambled to stay on the air. Certainly those with generators and an adequate supply of fuel learned of the value of planning ahead for the unforeseen. Tragically, the state did very little in the way of public warning via EAS etc. Obviously there are going to be a lot of ‘corrective actions’ taken in the months ahead.

Thinking about this, I wonder what would happen to this area if we were hit with the kind of weather Texas had? There are likely many that feel. ‘That won’t happen here’.

Obviously there will be some serious repercussions from this event. We’ve not heard the last about this one. Far from it. A lot of politicians likely are very apprehensive about the next election cycle.

Interestingly the Chinese are using this event to tout how this would not take place in their country due to their superior system of government.

The following was posted on the EAS Forum: Needless to say, there are a lot of very upset people in the Lone Star State.

Time to add Texas to the list of states needing to learn lessons from other states. All disasters may be local, but the resources and response shouldn’t be just local.

Texas Tribune

As Texans endured days in the dark, the state failed to deliver vital emergency information.

When the lights went out this week and Texans lost access to power and clean drinking water, the Texas Division of Emergency Management failed to provide accessible and life-saving updates on outages and inclement weather.

Texas was not the only place in the country to experience the ravages of winter this year.

What you are looking at here is the top of a tower that used to hold an FM broadcast antenna (the black things in the picture) for KOEZ in Des Moines, Iowa, laying on the ground.

 

In this case the storm toppled the top half of the tower of the 100,000 watt station.

The bottom line – we here in this area have it pretty good in many ways and should be very thankful! At the same time, we should not be smug and complacent!

I often write about West Tiger (the mountain). Lowell Kiesow (Chief Engineer for KNKX) ran across this one. Look closely at the little white building.

According to Lowell, the place pictured is on the BNSF Cherokee sub near Catoosa, Oklahoma.

Just for fun, I Googled West Tiger and found some interesting and unrelated things.

  • How about the Appleton West Tigers Lacrosse Team in Appleton, Wisconsin?
  • Let’s not forget the West Tiger Salamander.

 

Well….The Radio Ratings are out. Here’s how the 12+ top-stations stack up:

#1 KIRO-FM  (News/Talk)
#2 KUOW      (News/Talk)
#3 KISW         Rock (of course)
#4 KOMO       (News)
#5 KZOK
#6 KQMV
#7 KJR-FM
#8 KEXP
#9 KSWD
#10 KRWM

A couple of observations…

  • 3 of the top 4 don’t play music
  • #2 and #8 don’t play commercials
  • #8, compared to the others, has very limited coverage

 

From the department of ‘I recall those call letters’…

KFKF – Once used in Bellevue now resides with an FM station in Kansas City.

Here is truly a great picture from the Seattle Times. You can see the I-90 Floating Bridges crossing Lake Washington. If you look carefully at the upper right corner, you can see the broadcast towers on West Tiger Mt.

 

Coming as no surprise – Boeing announced an $11.9 billion loss in 2020. Their list of issues just keeps growing.

  • The grounding of the 737 Max (thankfully recently lifted)
  • QC issues with their 787
  • Huge write-off on the 777 Max
  • The recent engine failure on a 777 (not their fault)

As a result they are moving all the 787 production to South Carolina and recently announced they are moving out of one of their buildings in the former Longacres site.

Sinclair and KOMO recently made the news with their announcement that they will be delivering their local radio stations via the KOMO-TV ATSC-3.0 signals.

Probably a bit early to ask that auto dealer where you are shopping for new wheels if they can receive it. Time will tell if this will be a competitor to other providers of audio content to vehicles such as SiriusXM. I have to wonder, are we doing this because we can or because of a forecast for demand. Oh yes, it has a name – Nextgen TV Hybrid Service. If you have a NextGen TV let me know how it works.

In the big bad world of spectrum shuffling, a company representing the small user is asking the FCC to reverse a decision. Shure Inc., maker of wireless microphones has filed a petition with the Commish, asking them to reverse its position and guarantee that at least one 6 MHz TV channel in each market be reserved for wireless use. What is perhaps not well understood inside the Beltway is the fact that there are a zillion wireless microphones out there that need a place to operate. I’d bet that most of their owners are not aware of all of the spectrum changes or are just ignoring them, hoping for the best.

To their credit, the FCC did identify spectrum at 900 MHz, 1.4 and 7 GHz as alternatives. Shure has pointed out how this effort falls short. There is more info on the Shure Website.

Congratulations to KISW in Seattle as they celebrate their 50th anniversary. KISW is not just celebrating 50 years on the air, they are celebrating 50 years with the same format. Not many radio stations can make that claim. Feb 14th, 1971. Do you remember those days? Over the years the station has been owned by various firms. For the last several, it has been Entercom. Their transmitter is at West Tiger, where they share a transmit antenna with other Entercom stations KNDD, KKWF and KHTP (as well as several others). They moved to West Tiger from Cougar Mt. Before that, their transmitter was on Roosevelt Hill.

How about a couple of pretty pictures from the AccelNet Cameras. This first one is from their Cougar Mt. camera. The tower on the left is used by 94.1 and 96.5 as an auxiliary. In the distance you can see the entire Olympic Mountain range sporting a wonderful coating of snow.

The following is from one of the several cameras they have on West Tiger. I liked this one as it was looking directly into the Sun. Note the coating of snow on the trees.

Radio employment opportunities in Seattle this month:

  • Daniel Sipe has elected to exit broadcasting and iHeartMedia and is going to work for a gaming company. This means there is a job opening….

https://iheartmedia.wd5.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/External_iHM/job/Seattle-WA-645-Elliot/Regional-Engineer_Req23058-1

  • Paul Carvalho is no longer with Bonneville-Seattle creating an employment opportunity. Steven Allen is filling in until a permanent replacement is named.

https://deseretmanagement.wd1.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/BonSeattle/job/Seattle/Chief-Engineer_R3162

And, you are looking to get out of town and really love snow…consider this one:

There are two job openings at New Hampshire Public Radio. One is Senior Broadcast Engineer, which is primarily responsible for the studio facilities, and the other, Broadcast Transmission Engineer, which is primarily responsible for the transmitter sites. Both will overlap into the other, but this is their primary focus. If you’re interested, please take a look at  https://nhpr.applicantpro.com/jobs/

Interested? Contact Randy Woods –  RWoods@NHPR.org

The NAB has filed an objection with the FCC to a proposal from Geo Broadcast that would let programs originate on FM Boosters. Much of this is based on Geo’s experience with what are called SFN’s or Single Frequency Networks. This is where an FM Station operates one, or more, boosters using the same frequency. (Bustos Media has been doing this here in this area for some time on 99.3.) The concept would permit these systems to geo-target commercials on those boosters that serve specific areas. There are obviously pros and cons, and now that the FCC has been asked to create rules that would make this a permissible activity. Its time for interested parties to make comments.

The NAB has stated, “permitting program origination on boosters will almost certainly drive both advertising rates and revenues down even further as advertisers push to purchase geo-targeted ads.”

Photographer extraordinaire, Dwight Small, captured this gem with his cellphone camera of a wonderful moonset over his backyard. Can you imagine telling George Eastman that one day you would be able to take pictures like this with a telephone…at night?

 

I asked Dwight what he was doing up at that time of morning. He said he just woke up early…and now we can all benefit.
Permitting foreign ownership of a broadcast station in the U.S. has long been an issue. In recent years rules have changed. It was recently announced that a British radio/ outdoor media firm has purchased an 8.8% stake in iHeartMedia worth 117.6 million U.S. Bucks.

Speaking of money changing hands, three law firms will receive $3.47 million in fees as a part of a Class Action settlement with SiriusXM. Seems the Satcaster used the term ‘Lifetime Subscription’ with some of their customers. When those customers tried to transfer their subscription to another vehicle the company baulked. Apparently they meant for the lifetime of the receiver or vehicle, not the customer (oops). So now, as a result of the settlement, about a million SiriusXM customers will indeed have a ‘lifetime’ subscription. At times it pays to read the fine print.

From the category of ‘Is it just me?’ I have certainly noticed a big increase in the number of Robocalls I’ve been receiving. Some of the more memorable:

  • Hello, this is Kate…From the broken English used, I have to assume a Eastern Europe location. The pitch varies. She is telling you that something you don’t want is about to happen and to press a number to be connected to someone that can help. The one I recently received advised me that my computer virus protection company has gone out of busines and I am to Press- ___ to be connected to the refund department.
  • The Social Security Fear Call (they know my age and that I’m likely collecting it.) The caller advises you that they are from the Social Security Administration and have detected illegal activity and are to press a number.
  • The Car Warranty call. Your vehicle warranty has expired, but they can help.
  • The Expensive Amazon Purchase. You have ordered something expensive (usually an I-Phone) and if you wish to cancel…Press…

Number spoofing only adds to the problem as your Caller ID has been rendered useless. If  you call the number back you often find out it’s a number that’s been disconnected…but not always. I have found that an innocent person will answer and be surprised to learn how their number is being used.

Just about all of them are wanting you to ‘take the bait’. Often using fear as the prime motivator. Once you press that number you get some smooth talker that wants your credit card number so they can get you a refund. Just for fun, a while back, I played along. When they asked if I wanted the refund…I said Sure! When they asked for credit card information, I told them that I did not use a credit card and requested they send a cashiers check. In about two nanoseconds they hung up.

The sad part is that there likely many that take the bait and become a scam victim. If there were not, they would give up and go away.

And, we have been given the opinion that our Government is cracking down on this kind of thing. Perhaps these operators are like those that operate Pirate Radio Stations? They are, apparently, a few steps ahead of the law…or could care less about government efforts to curtail their business?

This has impacted me in one major way. Whereas I am on call for the people I work for, I have always left my cellphone on in my bedroom at night. Regrettably, these yahoos like to make their calls at all hours. My desire to get a full nights sleep is going to mean that if I am wanted during bed-time they are going to have to call my land line. I will simply put my phone on mute.

Remember the old days when a long distance phone call cost a lot of money? And there were no computers to do all the dirty work? Back then these types had to use real money and pay for printing and postage to get this stuff into your mailbox. Here’s a reversal: A Radio broadcaster in Milwaukee is reported to be signing a deal that will have them move their stations to a downtown mall. The new space will have window view of the studios. In the past, locating radio stations within malls or at street level in downtowns was popular. I fondly remember KISN being on a downtown Portland street where you could view the announcers.

Perhaps this is in the category of when old becomes new again?

Guess I should mention that across the street from T-Mobile Park in Seattle are the KING-TV Studios.

With Malls and Radio stations both hurting financially, perhaps this will come back?

Earlier in this column I was lamenting about the demise of the local electronic parts store. One of those ‘components’ that we used to use is becoming increasingly scarce. That being the 3AG fuse. Recently someone wrote about this little critter titling the piece: Goodbye 3AG fuse, we’ll miss you

He lead the piece with a picture of a ‘good fuse’:

And followed with a blown one:

His article was written for someone that likely does not repair electronic equipment.

The bottom line is the good old fuses, like these, are indeed becoming increasingly rare in today’s equipment, as power levels are lower and the demand for something smaller has become essential.

Then there is the old joke –

The story of the newbie who was tasked to check and sort all of the spare fuses. When the boss returned to check, all of the fuses had been discarded. “They were all shorted!”

Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of people in the ‘Radio Biz’. Perhaps because of the fear that your gender will be confused by your listeners, most announcers/ DJ’s etc. have ‘lower’ pitched voices. I’m sure you have heard someone say to a person with a low voice – They have a voice for Radio.

Well,  there are low voices and then there are LOW voices –

Listen To The Guy With The World’s Lowest Voice Sing ‘Lonesome Road’ – Digg

I always like to end this column with a funny or two, usually sent to me by my readers.

The next one is certainly in the ‘Groaner’ category.

A special thanks to all of you that sent me pictures this month. (Keep ‘em coming.)

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month at most of the usual locations.

Until then, get vaccinated, stay safe and continue to wear your mask…and that means cover your nose too.

The ‘All-Clear’ Is getting closer.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

A SBE Fellow

SBE Member # 714

Since March 1968

 

 

 

 

February  2021 – Clay’s Corner

February  2021 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

 

The big news item of this past month was likely the events in WDC. The amount of air-time given to this was huge.

The word of the month was ‘STORM’…

  • Storming the Capital in WDC on Jan. 6th
  • Rain and wind Storms in WA State on Jan. 12th

On the night of the 12th our Atmospheric River induced heavy rain was aided by a pretty intense windstorm that knocked out power to, reportedly, over 500,000 customers of PSE, Seattle City Light, Clallum County PUD, Tacoma Power and Lewis County PUD (I’m sure there were others).

Many likely did not receive much warning about the windstorm, giving them time to be able to avoid flying patio furniture. Lowell Kiesow (KNKX) submitted this excellent item about the sudden storm:

https://theconvergencezone.com/2021/01/13/5-reasons-why-a-significant-puget-sound-windstorm-occurred-with-almost-no-warning/

Sinclair’s Tim Moore submitted these pictures of the power lines feeding the Cougar Mt. broadcast transmitters, at this point, laying on the ground. This was one of the longer power outages at Cougar Mt., with power being restored about 10 p.m. on the 16th, making it about a five day outage.

Look closely at this tree that was snapped off by the wind.

 

I received a note from Paul Carvalho at KIRO Radio that was an interesting twist. Due to Covid, many of their on-air personnel were working from home, as opposed to coming into the downtown studios. Then, along comes a big windstorm, with many of those home studios being without power. Time to find isolated places within the studio for them to work from, causing quite a scramble.

Arthur Willits was on his way to West Tiger to check on the Day-Star TV transmitter when he discovered that access was going to require a big chainsaw.

Doug Fisher reported that South Mountain got hit very hard with flooding and landslides taking out the powerline and generator failures. That site, finally got its power back from Mason County PUD at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Many of the AM’s on Vashon were impacted by power outages, as well indicated on the PSE Outage Map on the morning of the 13th. Thankfully, all of them have generators.

Thankfully, the evening of the 14th we were treated with a wonderful sunset. This taken from my back deck:

 

On the Covid front –

Did you ever think we would see ‘Drive-Thru’ vaccinations?

Some good news for us seniors. We will be able to get it earlier than once thought. I received my first dose on January 21st. My second one is already scheduled for February 24th.

The good news is now it appears that our Governor and President are on the same page with this pandemic. Perhaps even better news is that our President is NOT anti-science!

Meanwhile, as of the 24th of January, the totals are still grim!

  • Total worldwide cases –  Approaching 100 Million
  • Total worldwide deaths – Approaching 2.2 Million
  • Total U.S. Cases – Over 25 Million
  • Total U.S. Deaths – Over 423,000
  • Total Washington cases – Over 300,000
  • Total Washington deaths – Over 4,100

Even if you have been vaccinated we will continue to have restrictions until a sufficient number of us have been poked. Bottom line – We have a way to go. Don’t throw away those masks!

On the good news front (yes there is some), Salem Media Group just announced that they are restoring employee compensation to 2019 levels. Like many firms, salaries were cut due to the Covid-related economic downturn.

And on the ‘not so good news front’, Alpha Media has filed for Chapter 11. The firm that owns 200 radio stations, based in PDX (Portland, OR) said the action was due to ‘Covid-19 Headwinds. The firm owns stations in Wenatchee and Grays Harbor as well as Portland.

The list of events being cancelled continues –

  • The Mike and Key Club Flea Market in Puyallup
  • The Sea-Pac Convention in Seaside
  • NAB in Las Vegas
  • The summer Olympics in Tokyo

Certain to make headlines will be the announcement that an annual event will be held!

NAB is planning on having enough of us vaccinated by this fall to have a show in Las Vegas. Along with this will be the fall SBE Meeting. We shall see.

For some time, some of the larger Radio companies have been taking advantage of the talents of some of their on-air personalities and syndicating them. Thanks to the fact that you can send a high quality audio signal across the continent these days with minimal expense. Here in our area, Hubbard has decided to do this with one of their morning shows. Recently Entercom announced one of their stations would be switching to 100% syndicated operation. This means there will not be any life/local announcer/DJ’s. Come to think of it, has not KJAQ/96.5 been in this mode for a long time? The changes caused by the Pandemic have accelerated this process in many cases. New radio studio facilities may well look a lot different in the future as a result. It will be interesting to see if a ‘Live and Local’ time segment, within the same format, will be more successful. Perhaps hearing a DJ talk about local things, weather etc. will prove to not be that important? Look at TV. At one time, many stations had live/local programming. Now, other than newscasts, this is rare. Remember when there were four stations in this area than had live programming for children every afternoon? (Stan, Captain, JP and Brakeman)

Now that Pai is gone, and we have a new administration, it’s time for a shake-up in leadership at the FCC. Accordingly, President Biden has appointed Jessica Rosenworcel as the acting head of the Commission. This follows a natural process, as she was the senior Democrat on the FCC for some time. Time will tell if her new job will become permanent.

At the Inauguration, someone snapped a picture of Bernie Sanders seated with mittens. Boy did that attract attention, with his picture showing up all over social media. People are showing Bernie in all kinds of various locations. It did not take long before someone had him sitting in a broadcast setting, like the following in front of a huge old RCA Transmitter.

A thank you to the Seattle SBE Chapter for inviting me to be their ‘program’ at their January Meeting. I showed, via Zoom, my collection of 75 pictures of the West Tiger-2 Antenna Fire and re-construction. While reflecting on who was in the meeting when I joined SBE, if I recall correctly, only one person. Good to see you Walt! There are not many of us around with 3-digit membership numbers that remember those days at the Dog House and the W7 Room.

The FCC is making it clear to owners of C-Band stations they have to move to make room for more wireless operations…and have set a deadline for doing so. The following link provides more details: FCC gives earth station operators final warning Earth Stations that don’t appear to be operating or that haven’t notified the Federal Communications Commission of their operational status will be shut down as of April 19. The FCC says most stations are accounted for and will make the transition to the upper part of the band, but some have not responded to multiple communications and are at risk of being terminated.

And now, a bit of technical humor –

Now, if I may, I’d like to share some personal thoughts regarding something else – Truth.

I recall the days when I got into this business, we had several sources for news and information –

  • AP and UPI wire services – Every station, Radio or TV, had one or both.
  • Radio Networks – ABC, CBS, NBC and MBS
  • All but the smallest stations were affiliated with one of them.
  • TV Networks – ABC, CBS and NBC
  • Just like Radio, the major stations were affiliated with a major network.

Back in those days, just about every radio station aired 3-5 minutes of news every hour. TV ran a combination of local and network news, much as they do now. In those days news, pretty much, meant factual reporting.

Over the years – Radio and TV started changing.

  • Radio Stations stopped trying to be what was called ‘Full Service’, opting for specialization, usually adopting a specific music type, or, in some cases, just news and/or talk. The number of stations that aired news or had a wire service, or network affiliation, was reduced to just a few. As the number of stations grew, so did the number of formats without any news.
  • As the number of TV stations increased, only a few hung onto their long-standing formats that featured news. Many of the new ones, became…news-less.

Looking back at radio, one is hard pressed to come up with names and programs that were delivering anything but good, old fashioned, objective news. There were some exceptions, many of whom were newspaper columnists that adapted to broadcasting. Walter Winchell, Drew Person, Gabriel Heatter, and of course, Paul Harvey come to mind (yes, I do recall my family listening to them). We knew that these were newspaper columnists and a lot of what they were airing was opinion. Back in those days, Broadcasting was much like newspapers. There was a clear line between fact and opinion.

Fast forward to today –

We have had an explosion in the number of delivery systems – Cable and Satellite Radio and TV and program providers, and, of course the Internet that has become the biggest distributor of all. Perhaps one of the biggest changes was the introduction of 24/7 news outlets on Cable and Satellite.

With the resulting multiplication of choices has come the need to do whatever it takes to attract attention to your brand so as to be able to survive, or increase profits.

Somewhere along the way, the philosophy of the ‘Supermarket Tabloid’ was adopted by many sources looking for a niche. Many discovered that you did not have to tell the truth. What you needed to do is appeal to the subconscious to the point that they would make a purchase based on very different criteria. These folks learned, long ago, that truth did not matter. They were in the business to sell their paper and, thereby, make money. Sadly, some broadcasters followed suit.

Add to all of this the increasingly polarized political climate in our country, coupled with the desire to see and hear what you want to see and hear, you have the recipe for a lot of what we have today where, in some cases, truth has become optional. Or, putting it another way, one man’s truth has become the other man’s lies. In order to maximize your potential audience (and thereby maximize your profits), many have learned that you can appeal to a specific segment that believes a certain way and turn that into money. Who would have thought that we’d have, to this extent, polarized media?

In the past, I’m sure, some politicians stretched the truth…or, perhaps, outright lied. What’s new here is that now we have broadcasters (using the term loosely) that have moved away from objective, honest and factual reporting, apparently catering to those that like to hear news that fits their point of view. A lot of what bills itself as news today is not based on facts or objectivity, but rather on a bias that is designed to appeal to a target audience who wants to hear what they have come to believe. The owners of these outlets know well what they are doing. In some cases, the size of the bottom line overshadows the desire to be truthful, something the ‘Snake-Oil’ salesman of yesteryear knew very well, and in some cases, political leaders.

Those that are not willing to ‘drink the Kool-Aid’ and are willing to sort out the fact from fiction are likely OK as they are not as gullible. However, I am concerned that their numbers are declining.

When I was 20 (way back in the last century) I was, pretty much, provided information that was not only factual but could be verified. I have to wonder about those that are 20 now, with fewer reading newspapers and magazines, and more getting their information via social media etc. How are they choosing what’s fake or factual? Do the 20-somethings take the time to determine whether a Left or Right leaning information source is telling the truth? Do they bother to compare the broadcast or even cable offerings that bill themselves as news?

I’m not the only one that has noticed this issue.

Recently journalist Megyn Kelly said this, “…because there has been a complete lack of trust, a destruction of trust in the media, and people don’t know where to turn for true information.”

As we look back at the previous four years where truth telling from the ‘top’ has been optional, have we, as a society, learned something? Perhaps, most importantly, how can a broadcaster convey that what they air is true and can be believed? Seems to me our industry has a lot of work to do – lest it be as credible as those tabloids. I should mention, at least one, of our local TV stations is running clips featuring various anchors, stating how they stand for truth. This just underscores what I have been saying here.

One of the major problems for mainline broadcasters is the fact that many no longer tune in, preferring to get their information from Social Media, where there are little, if any,  checks and balances and where facts are often replaced with falsehoods, rumors and, propaganda. Some politicians have seized on the opportunity to push their agenda using these platforms knowing well that there is a huge audience out there ready to adopt rumors and outright fiction. Look as what’s happened with 5G. Social media nuts have pushed the idea that it causes Covid, to the point that many cell sites have been vandalized in an attempt to stop the ‘death rays’. When it comes to conspiracy theories, the Internet has become the wild wild west. And, in the minds of many – a source of truth! (P.T. Barnum perhaps foresaw the Internet.)

Perhaps the most frightening thing is the statistics that show how many, firmly, believe things that are not true. Those numbers are huge!

Broadcasters have a huge challenge – how to attract an audience with the truth. This goes back to the supermarket checkout. Chances are a fiction filled tabloid will outsell the local daily newspaper.

Hats off to Tegna who recently announced they are expanding their ‘Verify’ program, whose goal is to combat disinformation (or is it misinformation?) You have likely seen this feature on Tegna stations in your area.

Were things better in this regard 50 years ago? I really think so. Does anyone else see it this way?

(Soap box off.)

There are a number of firms now with a portfolio of a large number of towers, many of which used to belong to cellular, land-mobile or broadcasters. Crown Castle, Vertical Bridge and American Tower quickly come to mind. Most of these firms continue to grow. Recently American Tower, who owns a number of major sites in the Seattle area, has expanded with their, reportedly $9 billion acquisition of Telxius and has gained a large foothold by adding some 31,000 sites in Europe and South America.

Another great picture from one of the NWBP Engineers, Jason Royals.

This time the transmitter location of KNWV, a Class A licensed to Clarkston,WA on 90.5.

Working on this side of the Cascades, we rarely get to see open country like this, thanks to our forests.

As far as I can tell, there has not been a great rush by owners of AM stations to jump on the ‘All-Digital’ bandwagon now that the FCC has given the mode the ‘Green-Light’. However, the number of stations running this mode, apparently, recently doubled with WMGG in Tampa, Florida joining the ‘club’.

Much like the station in the WDC area that started the process, WMGG has a companion FM band translator affording those that don’t have an HD Radio the ability to continue to hear the station on their analog receivers.

WMGG operates on 1470 using a shared directional antenna running 2800 watts daytime and 800 watts at night.

There was a recent editorial in Radio World that describes what I’ve been saying for years. To a significant degree, Broadcast Engineering has become full of Gray Haired folks, or, if you are like me – no hair. The author makes a number of good points.

  • He sees trouble ahead due to a shortage of qualified broadcast engineers who know how to read schematics and troubleshoot problems to the component level.
  • We are seeing newbies whose troubleshooting abilities are limited to calling the factory, describing the problem and waiting until a loaner gizmo arrives.
  • Not helping the situation is the fact that a lot of equipment in use today is made overseas and is so cheap, that tossing it in the trash and buying another has become a viable option.
  • Today, stations have become full of computers that employ those that maintain them, but we should not forget we also have a lot of other things that enable a station to ‘Radiate’.
  • Quoting now the author who wrote, “sending an IT guy into that is like sending a 90 year old woman into the Indy 500 with her Buick LeSabre. She ain’t gonna win and she will probably die trying.”
  • His recommendation, “We all, especially big conglomerates who own most of the broadcast stations, have to make a concerted effort to get high school and college kids interested in broadcast engineering as a career. Get them interested, get them educated, best by shadowing an old goat who can show them the tricks of the trade”.

On the personal side, as of the first of the year, I am no longer receiving a regular check from Entercom. I started with ETM when they swapped an FM station in NYC for 97.3, 100.7 and 1210 AM back in about 1995. When I left being a full timer, I became a contractor with a retainer and a steady paycheck. Now that too is in the past. I may still do some ‘task-specific’ work for them. This is TBD. 25+ years with the same company, in one capacity or the other, is a long time. This means that Phil Van Liew will now pick up the slack and be taking care of the transmitters for all five of the local Entercom stations. ‘Tis time that I cut back anyway. I still make routine visits to Cougar and West Tiger for my other clients.

Not often I look at the obits in the Sunday Times. On the 3rd there were three former area broadcasters that passed.

Dick Curtis, formerly with KJR, KOL and other related businesses. He, like many, attended Bates (then known as Tacoma Vocational School) and went on to a successful career in radio.

Alan Houston was with KING 5 for almost 40 years.

Mark Simonson, formerly with KOMO-TV for over 30 years.

Another passing I want to mention is that of Mike McCarthy. Likely few of you in the Seattle area knew him. I first met Mike, waaay back when I was working for Viacom at a meeting we had in Chicago where he was the assistant Chief at WLAK. We hit it off and remained friends for many years. A couple of years ago he and his family came out here for a look at the PNW. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a heavy layer of smoke and forest fires. At least we did get to all have lunch together. Mike was very active on several national engineering remailers and was known to all as a very knowledgeable engineer.

.

August 31, 1962 – December 30, 2020

 Michael McCarthy, of Downers Grove, IL died peacefully after a long battle with lymphoma, a stem cell transplant, and GVHD. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer Adelman-McCarthy, daughters Kelly and Colleen McCarthy, and his therapy dog, Koehl; sister Christine (Albert) Goetz of Roselle; niece Alison (Goetz) Martin; and brother Thomas (Laura) McCarthy of Leander, TX.

Mike was a longtime member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers and served on both the National and Local Boards of Directors. Mike attained certifications CSRE and CEA. Serving as the Chicago Frequency Coordinator was perhaps his favorite “side job”, as it allowed him behind-the-scenes access to Bears, Cubs, White Sox, and Blackhawks playoff games. For the past two decades he has been the Chief Engineer for Newsweb Radio. Mike took great pride in making everyone sound their best on the air. Owner of McCarthy Radio Engineering, he was happiest when messing with transmitters and towers.

He was a ham radio operator and spent time and talent giving back to the community in emergency communications. He and his friends built a huge network of repeaters allowing Chicago area ham operators to communicate with the weather service. They spent many a stormy day and night at the weather office relaying messages. He contributed technically, with Jen and a local group of hams, to rescue efforts on 9/11. He was always ready to step up and help.

I’ve recently been doing some ‘house cleaning’ and came across a number of things to share with you –

This item was on a box that was, apparently, used to ship a Vox Pro (Audio Editor) from Audion Labs to Cal Vandegrift in Federal Way. Do you remember when Harris (now GatesAir)  and Allied were one? Anyone care to guess the year?

 

How about this gem? This nice metallic label was once attached to an ATC Cartridge Tape unit.

 

I have no-clue how I ended up with this item. I found it in a pile of ‘stuff’ at my shop. Apparently it was used by KTAC (now known at KHHO) in Tacoma. The Wall-Wart power supply was smashed. I scrounged another and it leaped to life with a very scratchy volume control. Don’t know about the tape player. All my cassettes are long-gone.

Last fall I stopped by KELA in Centralia where John Mackey showed me the old KELA Transmitter. It had been moved to a second story room to keep out of the site’s frequent flood waters. He said it did not work, and wanted to know if I knew how to get it going. I said ‘sure’ but not sure they’d be willing to pay for the parts. Incidentally, this is the same model transmitter used by KTW when I worked there in the late 60’s.

 

The following picture adorned my office when I worked with KNBQ in Tacoma. It was a full page from the station owner’s newspaper, the Tacoma News Tribune, announcing the birth of their new radio station using a mode of modulation that was new back then…called FM. The Studio, Offices and Transmitter were all located at what they called ‘The Top of the Town’ at 11th and Grant Streets in Tacoma. The Tribune was not done with broadcasting, later adding an AM Station (the FM became KTNT-FM) and, a couple years later, KTNT-TV Channel 11, all operating from the same location. (They did add onto the building). Later on, the FM’s call letters were changed to KNBQ.  Today they are KIRO-FM. This picture now resides in the technical area of Bonneville-Seattle.

 

The following is an enlargement of the tower showing on the top the stations first FM Antenna.  There are very few of us that recall the name of that antenna (That’s another story)  As time went by they mounted that antenna on a platform on the roof of an adjacent house for a while, eventually giving it to Clover Park in the late 50’s for use with their FM on 90.9 (Then called KPEC)  there It was mounted inside the tower at what is now Clover Park Technical College that was used to support their UHF/Channel 56 TV Antenna.   Last I know, it was cut up for scrap.

 

On another front, some FM’s that are operating ‘Multicast Channels’ (sometimes call Side-Channels) are starting to attract attention. We’ve seen a few instances in the Seattle area where one of the HD-2s will show up in the Nielsen Ratings…but nothing substantial.

For some time I have been told that HD Radio is fine for large markets where revenues are higher and pockets are deeper, but not in smaller markets. This theory is pretty evident when you travel east of the Cascades and discover a lot of FM signals, but few running HD.

Then along comes Nielsen with their recently publicized ratings of radio stations in markets, large in small. Most of the time I scroll through these lists just looking for call letters that used to reside in the Seattle area. Earlier in January, something caught my eye that I want to share.

Lincoln, Nebraska, market #163 with a total population over 12, of 273,000. The 8th ranked station is KBBK-HD2, with a 3.2 share running CHR.

How about Canton, Ohio, market #142 with a 12+ population of 342,700, where WHOF-HD2 is #5 in that market with a Country format.

Or, Hagerstown-Chambersburg- Waynesboro, MD-PA, market #165 with a 12+ population of 263,000. They have TWO HD Channels generating ratings, both of them owned by the same company. WWEG-HD2 is #6 and WWEG-HD3 is #8.

This time looking at Reading, PA…

WLEV-HD2 is #2 with Urban AC owned by Cumulus
WRFY-HD2 is #5 airing Spanish CHR – iHM
WAEB-HD3 is #8 running CHR- IHM

There are a couple of questions that come to mind.

Why do certain markets have very successful HD Channels while others do not?

Could it be because, in these markets, the stations are trying harder to gain ratings?

So Channel 9 wants to change channels? This has been an interesting process to watch, when the big channel shuffle took place and the shift to Digital. The low channels, in the case of Seattle, Channel 4, 5 and 7 opted to stay on UHF  (granted there was some shuffling as part of RePack). From all of this we got ‘Virtual Channels’, so the historic channel numbers would still work for those who would be confused with new numbers. During all of this, the higher VHF Channels in our area, channels 9, 11 and 13, opted to stay where they were. Now Channel 9 is saying that their coverage is not what they thought it would be, and are asking the FCC for permission to move to Channel 17. I assume, if this comes to pass, they will still be known as Channel 9. I have not heard of Channel 11 or 13 having the same issues and are planning to move upward in frequency. Apparently they are happy with being Channel 11 and 13 that are actually on those historic RF Channels.

Another picture from the East-Side. On the far right you can see the antenna (the 3 black things) for KQWS, located on a 5200+ foot mountain in the Okanogan. KQWS is licensed to Omak and is operated by WSU’s NWPB.

I was informed recently by Kent Randles (retired from Entercom in PDX) that KYCH has purchased a new 35 kW GatesAir liquid-cooled transmitter for their station in Portland. Apparently having a lot to do with space and lack of room for ducting an air-cooled model. This may well be the first liquid-cooled FM transmitter in the area. These days, most TV Transmitters are liquid cooled. Speaking of new Entercom transmitters, reportedly they have ordered a new ‘air-cooled’ model for their 107.7/KNDD in Seattle. I understand it will be installed in the latter half of February, weather permitting.

In the wake of the storming of the U.S capital, the FCC came out with a warning about the use of Ham or CB frequencies for coordinating illegal activity.

Frankly, I find this a bit amusing. There are a large number of people who are of the opinion that if you have a law or rule prohibiting an activity that this will solve the problem.

Seattle is, finally coming to grips with a similar issue and is discovering that you have to ‘enforce’ a rule and punish the violators if you expect those that are intent in doing what they want to have second thoughts. In many ways the FCC and Seattle have become what’s known as ‘Paper Tigers’. If you are not familiar with this term, here are some definitions I found:

  • “Paper Tiger” is a literal English translation of the Chinese phrase zhilaohu. The term refers to something or someone that claims or appears to be powerful, or threatening, but is actually ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge.
  • Something, such as an enemy or foreign country, that seems very strong and dangerous but is really weak and not harmful.
  • A paper tiger is someone who at first glance seems to be in charge but who, on closer examination, is completely powerless.
  • A person or organization seeming powerful but really weak.

Interesting to note that this term is used by many languages.

Before I end this, a collection of images that many can relate to.

A flag for all countries!

 

 

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month at most of the usual locations.

Until then, stay safe and continue to wear your mask….and that means cover your nose too. The ‘All-Clear’ Is still a long way off.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
A SBE Fellow
SBE Member # 714
Since March of 1968

January  2021 – Clay’s Corner

 

January  2021 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

Over the many years I’ve been writing this Column…I find the one I do at the end of December seems to have a similar theme. Look back at the previous year and look ahead to the next.

Like no other previous year in our lifetime, we have been dealing with a pandemic. Pandemic was a word that we’d read or heard about, but never thought we’d experience. 2020 started out with a roar, everything was running in high-gear and then….WHAM! We quickly discovered we are in for a huge change. When it all started, many wondered how long all this would last. Some figured a month or so. Accordingly, event dates were pushed back. Gradually it became clear that we were in this mess for much longer than we first thought. Despite all the warnings, the Virus continued to infect an ever-growing number of people all over the world.

On Christmas, here are the WA State COVID stats as published in the Seattle Times:

  • Number of cases – 233,093
  • Number of deaths – 3,184
  • Number Hospitalized – 13,908
  • Those testing positive – 12.2%
  • Counties with no deaths – San Juan and Wahkiakum
  • Ages with the most cases – 20-38 (40%)
  • Ages with the most deaths – 80+ (50%)

Recently the situation in Southern California deteriorated to the point there were no hospital beds available. Meanwhile there are those that continue to call COVID a hoax, refuse to wear a mask and avoid groups while others are openly protesting restrictions. This all puts political leaders in a spot. Do they ignore those that are sick and dying or do they yield to those who want their freedom and jobs back? Like many major events in history, some leaders rise to the occasion, while others do not. History writers will certainly have plenty to say about this event.

Early into the month, every newscast was guaranteed to contain a high percentage of stories related to COVID-19, as the impact of this terrible virus surged to its highest levels. Suddenly COVID became a leading cause of death. Those newscasts were a mix of how bad things were and news about the promise that a vaccine was on the way, with some actually receiving it by the end of the year.   Did you happen to notice the video clips of those getting vaccinated usually involved their left upper arm (what’s with that?). Then there is the file footage of machinery cranking out vaccines. Everyone was running the same ones. Guess they figure we can’t watch someone talking about the vaccine without it?

Thankfully, there are now two vaccines that are being rolled out, with more on the way. I hate to think of the situation we’d be in as a society if this were not the case. The problem now is not everyone is willing to be vaccinated, and until sufficient number of us have been, the restrictions are going to continue….which brings us to the annual expression of ‘Happy New Year’. At this point, the best we can hope for is, perhaps, a happier one. Certainly 2020 will go down in the history books as one that many of us would like to forget.

With the news that vaccinations were actually coming, and that – with luck – in six months or so we might be seeing some real signs of getting back to normal, came an increased number of stories about how the transition will work in the real world. Employers are wondering if they should or could require their employees to get vaccinated. What about those who resist? Can they, legally, fire a person for not getting vaccinated? KING 5 recently explored this issue in this report: Employers can legally require COVID-19 vaccinations, attorneys say | king5.com

Will they offer an incentive to get the shots? How is a person to know if they are mingling with people that have ‘really’ received their shots? There are a lot of legal issues that are going to need to be resolved for which we have no regulations or prior case law to draw from. What about those who refuse to wear a mask and/or think this is all a hoax….do you really think they are going to volunteer to be vaccinated? Would a person quit their job if their employer made being vaccinated a condition?

To be sure, there are still those who are being defiant and protesting what they feel are the actions of an evil Governor. Interesting how these folks never blame the virus but rather blame their government for imposing restrictions they don’t like. The businesses that are baulking appear to be a magnet for the news media, not sure that this attention helps or hinders. Sure to anger many is the fact that even after people start getting their shots, mask wearing is going to have to continue. It will be interesting to see what changes will take place after there is a new occupant in The White House.

In addition to all of this, many industries, Radio and TV stations among them, are going to be very different places to work. Some positions that existed prior to the Virus will no longer exist. Employers have already discovered they really don’t need to have a large physical plant to house a staff, so look for the footprint of many stations becoming smaller.   Many have discovered that their product does not require as many bodies as they thought. Already many large broadcast companies have been shedding staff and cutting expenses in order to survive. When the revenue comes back, don’t look for staff sizes to return to normal. They may well never return to pre-COVID levels. If you still have a job, be thankful as many won’t. Don’t expect any pay raises. Many employers have exhausted all their reserves and have been forced to cut staff to previously unheard of levels.

The experts are saying we will be wearing these things for a while longer, even after getting vaccinated as we could still spread the virus to others. I understand that 70-90% of us have to be vaccinated before we can get back to something that resembles ‘Normal’. In short, there is light at the end of the tunnel – but we are not there yet.

I find it interesting how sports teams, perhaps with a lot more money on the line, have approached all of this, with constant testing and putting their team and staff in a ‘bubble’. Don’t think many broadcast companies are ready for that. I suspect, like most, they are trying to be the best they can until we reach that point where ‘Herd Immunity’ becomes real.

I recently ran across a person making comments on one of the remailers frequented by people in this industry that is, obviously, not happy with the way things are going. I’ve X’d out the company name and cannot vouch for the validity of any of these comments, however, even if some of it is true, it’s an indication of the state of our business in some locations.

  • There either will be a live morning show (big markets) or XXXXX syndicated morning show.
  • Air talent can work remotely from home. Some will be on payroll, others will be paid $500 per month per market that they voice track for. $500 is the top figure, for smaller markets it is $300.
  • They have created for engineering, a series of “TIGER TEAMS”…engineers around the country who will be first responders to severe engineering problems.
  • They are downplaying local sales as it is too difficult managing sales people. Instead they have elected to concentrate on national and agency sales for national clients and PACKAGE all of their stations into a bundle.  They are after SHARE of the buy, NOT PRICE. For local sales, they have developed several central sales pods. The ones that I know of are in XXXXXXXX and XXXXXX The local AE’s are told to refer new clients to either “the XXXXXX computer sales web site” or to a regional sales pod where a person on headset will help you with your advertising.

We thought the world underwent major changes due to COVID, with life becoming what we called the ‘New Normal’, with wearing masks, social distancing and other restrictions.  During this time it also taught many how to do with less. So, looking ahead to the time when we have beaten the virus – much will never return to the ‘Old Normal’ but rather will become the ‘New Normal – Phase 2’. Granted there will be those industries that are extremely labor intensive, like construction, maintenance and repair, foot services etc. They will likely return to the ‘Old Normal’. One cannot overlook the economic impact of all of this. It will take a long time for this to sift out.

I understand that a University owned by the State is very different than a broadcast station…however, it’s interesting to note that WSU has announced it plans arrival testing for all Pullman students, regardless of where they live. I get the feeling HR departments are working overtime on figuring this one out, likely in consultation with their legal departments like never before.

Immediately following a National Election, we traditionally start to wonder what changes are coming that will impact our lives, and the business we work in. Some of those changes take place in advance of the new arrival in the White House. This year is no exception with the recent announcement that Ajit Pai will be stepping down as Chairman of the FCC. During his time at the helm of the ‘Commish’ we have seen a lot of changes…many of them good. Now the waiting game to see who the new POTUS appoints and what he, or she, will do that will impact the Broadcast Industry. I have one, perhaps fleeting, connection with Pai. He was on the stage at the NAB Convention shortly before I stood in the same spot to accept an award.

With all the unemployment and closed businesses how do you explain this KOMO headline? Tacoma is now the nation’s hottest housing market.

According to real estate firm Redfin:

  • Tacoma is the nation’s hottest market with half of all homes having a sale pending after being on the market for only six days (it was 21 days last year at this time).
  • 58% of homes in Tacoma are selling above their listing price.
  • The average home price in Tacoma is 17.3% higher than last year.

Perhaps this could be explained as Seattle’s ‘issues’ are driving people out of town? However, the Seattle market remains hot too. Homes are selling at the fastest rate in the past eight years, with prices averaging 13.1% higher over a year ago. It’s not been that many years ago that Seattle was ‘smugly’ looking down at Pierce and Snohomish Counties!

There is, apparently, a lot of pent-up demand for companies to show our industry what they have to sell, that we should buy. Underscoring this is the announcement that more than 500 Exhibitors from 31 countries have already committed to the 2021 NAB show. Now before you start thinking of booking that flight and hotel room in Vegas for this coming April, consider this 2021 event will be in October from the 9th to the 13th. This leads me to wonder if the ‘Big show in the desert’ will ever return to April or will the spring NAB show become the annual ‘Fall NAB Show’?

If there is one thing we all use a lot of, it’s batteries. Over the years we have seen a steady stream of improvements in that area, to the point that many devices are now possible for a couple of reasons: 1) Reduced power consumption and 2) New and improved batteries. I recall the first piece of battery equipment I used in broadcasting was a Field Strength Meter. This, very heavy, device used Vacuum Tubes and had an ‘A’ and ‘B’ battery. Thanks to solid state devices, the newer models were solid state and ran on flashlight batteries. Those too have involved significantly. Back in the days, the only batteries that could be recharged were Lead-Acid (like we still have in our vehicles). Then along came the Nicads, and the NiMH’s. The development of the Lithium battery changed as a lot of things do, quickly. Suddenly portable Radio and TV broadcast equipment were on board, as were Laptops, Cellphones and, of course Vehicles. Untold amounts of money has been spent by firms like Tesla to improve the Lithium-ion battery. Now you can purchase an alternative/ auxiliary power source from Tesla and other makers as an alternative to a fossil-fuel generator. In fact, this is exactly what a radio station in Pt. Townsend is doing right now.

Have you heard the name QuantumScape? Chances are you will, perhaps because a local guy you have heard of (Bill Gates) is involved. Their new battery has some features that are sure to get the attention of many. For instance, they claim it can be charged to 80% of capacity in 15 minutes. It’s non-combustible and has nearly double the energy density of a Lithium battery. The company has been working with VW, who proposed to use the new battery in their new EV’s. But, hold-on, this is getting more interesting, as Toyota is rumored to be on the cusp of announcing a new battery too.

Compared to Hydro, or fossil fuel power generation, Wind and Solar are wonderful green alternatives. However, the wind does not always blow and the sun, predictably, only can provide power for part of any day. The missing element has been energy storage. Now, thanks to the battery revolution, these energy alternatives are becoming more practical. I recently read a piece about a large wind power system in California that features large banks of batteries nearby.

The battery revolution continues, and this will make electric vehicles all the more practical, and so will these devices find their way into the electronic equipment that broadcasters use as well. Certainly exciting times.

Looking back can be fun. Here’s an example:

Northern Electric Catalogue no. 7: Electrical Supplies: Northern Electric Company Ltd: Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming: Internet Archive

Here you can browse their extensive catalog(ue): Broadcast equipment starts on Page 30.

Then there is Magic Broadcasting that’s been ordered to pay 125 Grand as part of a Civil Penalty and Consent Decree. So, what did they do wrong? A couple of things: 1) Conducting contests that were not fair and, 2) not keeping watch on their tower and its lighting. As I like to say, you’d think they would have known better. Apparently, the Feds have a soft heart as they are letting the company pay off the balance in 20 installments of $6250 each. Should they default (miss a payment), the balance is immediately due.

Last month I wrote about the FCC’s decision to permit All-Digital operation within the legacy AM Band. Proving that things can get done during a Pandemic, the FCC has been doing more with Radio, this time dealing with Geo-Targeting for FM boosters. We have something similar going on in this area for over a year now with Bustos Media’s KDDS on 99.3. If  you drive south of downtown Seattle and pay careful attention to the RDS display on your vehicle’s radio, you will be able to tell a bit about how this works. KDDS operates it’s main transmitter from a site called South Mountain which is west of Shelton. The big north-south ridge that runs from West Seattle – south – through Federal Way does a great job of getting in the way for listeners of the station that are east of that ridge. The solution was the installation of a series of on-frequency boosters (sometimes called a single frequency network) that are all timed so that a listener is not aware that they are actually receiving a signal from one of the boosters rather than the Main Transmitter some 50 miles to the west. The company behind this, Geo Broadcast Solutions, wants to take this a step further by allowing a station to geo-target programming (and advertising) to particular boosters. For this they use the term ZoneCasting.

The FCC recently voted to launch a rulemaking that could allow this system to be used by FM’s nationwide.

As you may have guessed, there has been a name change at Century Link. First many of us learned about this was when we learned they were changing the name of the facility where the Seahawks play to Lumen Field. If you do a little digging, you come up with these items:

  • CenturyLink has rebranded to Lumen Technologies in an effort to focus on next-generation connectivity solutions for enterprises.
  • Effective with the opening of the trading day on Sept. 18, 2020, the company stock ticker will change from CTL to LUMN. The legal name of CenturyLink, Inc. is expected to be formally changed to Lumen Technologies, Inc.
  • Internally, its legacy business will still be called CenturyLink, with Lumen referring to its enterprise division. Its fiber network-based consumer and small business segment will be rebranded as Quantum Fiber.

Back to the important stuff, where the Seahawks play, the name has changed over the years.

  • The Hawks first played in the Kingdome (remember that?)
  • Then, when the new place was constructed, we called it Seahawks Stadium.
  • When ‘Naming Rights’ became vogue, it became Qwest Field, then with the change of the phone company name, it became Century Link Field (often called the ‘Clink’) and now Lumen Field. Wonder if they will start calling it ‘The Lume’?

At least this name is easier to get  your tongue around than the new name for Key Arena :- (

Early in December, there was a lot of activity on the KPLZ Tower on Cougar Mt. For those of you who have seen it, it’s perhaps the only broadcast tower in the area painted green. I reached out to Tim Moore of Sinclair to find out what was taking place. Here is his response, and some pictures:

KPLZ’s main antenna started having high reflections so we swept the system. The result showed major problems at two line connection bullet points. Inspection of the line found the issues shown in the pictures.

The sections of line were replaced which reduced the reflections, but it was not quite back to nominal values.

The decision was made to replace the entire line run with HJ8-50B Heliax. The line was replaced by P&R Tower, also known as Northstar.

The replacement line considerably reduced the high reflections to normal parameters, 50 watts total.

Inspection of the rigid line that came down showed a lot of contamination caused by the line that burnt up and indication of a couple more bullets may have been running a little hot.

In the following picture, you are looking at what’s known as the ‘Center Conductor’ of a piece of rigid coaxial line that connects the station’s Transmitter to their Antenna. Normally the pieces would be bright and shiny. The reds and grays you see are evidence that this has been very hot. Usually, in cases like this, the heating is coming from a poor connection that could be caused by either poor design, operating with more power that it was designed for, or poor installation techniques.

Here’s a comparison between the damaged item and what it should look like. The item at the bottom has also been used, as evidenced by discoloration, however it was still usable.

Upon seeing these pictures, iHeart Medias local chief,  Jeff White, submitted this item:

If you are a DIRECTV customer you have been impacted with a dispute between DIRECTV and Tegna that lasted a couple of weeks. During this period, Tegna’s Channels 5 and 16 were replaced with a static message encouraging you to get their programming via their live stream. Thankfully the dispute was resolved just before Christmas.

Here is how USA Today explained it on December 2nd:

Customers across much of the U.S. have lost TV stations thanks to a dispute between AT&T and broadcaster TEGegna.

The communications company and the broadcaster failed to reach a new agreement Tuesday, resulting in more than 60 stations lost on DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and the AT&T TV streaming service.

AT&T places the blame on Tegna, which has more than 60 TV stations in 51 markets and reaches 39% of all U.S. TV households.

“In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, TEGNA is demanding the largest rate increase we have ever seen, and intentionally blacking out its most loyal viewers,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY. “We challenge TEGNA to return its local stations immediately while we finalize a new agreement and pledge to pay TEGNA retroactively whatever higher rates to which we eventually agree. We share our customers’ frustration, appreciate their patience and intend to do all we can to resolve this matter soon.”

It is common in carriage disputes such as these, neither side is releasing the specific points of contention.

“The companies have not specified why the two sides are quarreling, but money is the usual reason behind a channel blackout,” says Phil Swann, a journalist who operates The TV Answer Man website. “Tegna station subscribers are already voicing their anger on social media sites.”

If you are annoyed by all of this, there is a work around using technology that’s been around long before Satellite TV. Put up an antenna! Classic legacy technology comes to the rescue with even better news. You will, going forward, be able to watch KING and KONG for free!

On the topic of local TV, ‘Hats Off’ to KOMO for their production of a 90 minute documentary that explores the effects of the drug culture on the Emerald City. With fingers crossed, this will promote a conversation that will yield positive results. My first job in Seattle was back in the mid-60’s working for KTW. I returned with the building of the new studios for KBSG in the mid 80’s and worked downtown until about 11 years ago. What we have today is something very troublesome. Hopefully Seattle can get it turned around.   You can watch the documentary here:

‘Fight for the Soul of Seattle’: Program looks at effects of city’s permissive posture | KOMO (komonews.com)

During December is was announced that the end of Radio Disney is now planned for Q1 2021…and some layoffs. A few years ago, Radio Disney operated at 1250 AM in Seattle (The old KTW).

As you all know, AM radio is suffering, for a multitude of reasons with many stations going dark. Meanwhile,  iHeartMedia discovered a business opportunity with it’s Black Information Network, BIN, which it launched in June of 2020.

iHM quickly changed the format of their Tacoma 850, KHHO to the new format (long time known as KTAC). Apparently,  the idea has caught on with the company snapping up AM stations across the country. Kudos to iHeart for beathing new life into AM Radio.

Here’s a publication that you may not have heard of:

In a recent issue they have an article titled:

AM Radio Transmitter Sites Now Valuable Real Estate for Logistics Industry

Here is what they had to say:

The familiar real estate adage “location, location, location” rings true these days for huge tracts on the outskirts of major cities — sites that for decades housed AM radio towers but that today command top dollar as e-commerce fuels rising demand for new warehouses and logistics centers.

Look no further than the $51 million sale of a five-acre parcel in Queens, N.Y., where an AM radio station will eventually abandon its existing tower and transmitter site, and move it.

New York radio station WFME’s owner, Nashville, Tenn.-based Family Radio, sold its AM transmitter site to Prologis, a San Francisco developer that specializes in building warehouses for companies looking to expand final-mile capability.

This property is situated near the Long Island Expressway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and La Guardia and JFK airports. The spot’s current value as a logistics hub far outstrips its importance to a broadcast outlet that didn’t register in New York’s most recent radio ratings book.

The rising value of these locations is being driven by changing consumer habits and rapid technological evolution. Sites on the edge of town that in radio’s heyday were cheap and plentiful can now house vital links in a supply chain propelled by technology that was hard to imagine back in AM’s early days.

Elon University journalism professor Richard Landesberg told Transport Topics most AM station owners know their transmitter sites are worth more than the licenses for their stations — licenses that, as a practical matter, are issued by the Federal Communications Commission and are not technically owned by licensees.

“It used to be if you were in your car, you listened to AM radio because that’s all there was,” said Landesberg, a former network radio bureau chief in Los Angeles and London with Mutual/NBC Radio. “A lot of AM broadcasters are giving up their licenses. It’s because the licenses aren’t worth much, but the land is valuable. If you’re a small, 5,000-watt station that served a community, those days are gone.”

Landesberg noted that value is harmed by AM radio’s audio quality, which is far weaker than that of FM stations and digital services such as streaming audio, satellite radio and internet stations.

FCC data shows that since 2000 nearly 400 AM stations have ceased operations. The trend has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic — nearly 80 stations have gone silent this year.

Arizona State University logistics professor Dale Rogers told TT he expects the demand for warehouse space to accelerate as e-commerce becomes more critical to consumers.

“It’s pretty clear urban land is going to be more valuable, especially in particular areas,” Rogers said. “It’s places where there are a lot of exciting things going on; we’ll see a lot more of this.”

Broadcast groups such as iHeartRadio have sold or leased hundreds of transmitter and tower sites to privately owned tower management companies, including Boca Raton, Fla.-based Vertical Bridge. These companies are either developing the real estate or, in some cases, building lucrative cellular antennas.

But it’s not just low-rated or struggling station groups cashing in.

The owners of WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM — the top-rated station in Chicago — in 2018 sold the station’s 42-acre transmitter site near O’Hare International Airport to Bridge Development Partners for $46 million. The 695-foot antenna and a smaller backup unit had been in use since 1942, but now a 750,000-square-foot logistics and warehouse complex is being developed on the site.

“This site had unparalleled highway access,” he said. “That’s about as close as you can get to O’Hare, and for us this was proximity to the other freight forwarders.”

Technology also is making it easier to relocate AM transmitters. While stations previously needed their own transmitter sites, engineering improvements now permit more than one station on a single antenna. WBBM now shares an antenna with another station in its ownership group, and WFME likely will do the same thing.

“AM radio is not making the money it used to,” Elon Landesberg told TT, “It used to be if you owned an AM radio station it was a license to print money. Now, it’s valuable real estate, and they’re not making more of that. Whatever land use brings in the most money, then the antenna is coming down.”

Here in our area we have also seen a number of relocations of AM’s, most of which occurred several years back.

KOL/ 1300 was for many years using a huge, self-supporting tower in the Port of Seattle. They moved to Tacoma and later to Bainbridge Island.

KBLE/1050 was also located in the Port of Seattle. They now are operating from Pigeon Point in West Seattle.

KJR/950 was located on the West Waterway. They have made several moves, first up the Duwamish, then to the 850 site in Tacoma and finally ended up duplexing the 820/KGNW array on Vashon Island.

KKMO was located in Fife for many years. They moved, first, to Indian Hill and then to Browns Point. Their old location is now industrial.

KKNW was located in the SoDo area of Seattle for years. They are now in the swamp near I-405 & I-90.

The major AM’s in our area are either located in the ‘Swamp’ that’s the home to 880,1150 & 1540 or are on Vashon Island.

The bottom line – The article is correct in many respects, it’s just that the AM’s in this area moved out of these industrial areas long ago.

From the Profound Department –

If you only have two ducks, they will always all be in a row.

The December, 12+, Radio Ratings are out for Seattle-Tacoma.

Here are some observations:

  • KIRO-FM is back at #1 followed by KUOW @ #2
  • All news KOMO Radio is #4.  Pretty impressive for any AM Station!
  • Can’t help but notice that of the top 15 stations, only one of them is owned by Entercom (KISW).
  • Perhaps as a result of the recent elections or the lack of sports games, conservative talk, AM, KTTH is marginally ahead of KIRO-AM.
  • In the battle for the Country listener, The Bull is having it’s way with the Wolf.
  • KFNQ continues to struggle with the other Sports/Talkers. Their numbers are a third of Seattle Schools KNHC and a fraction of KEXP.

I was recently working on Vashon Island with the local crew from Bonneville (Steven Allen  & Paul Carvalho). On one day we were joined by Bonneville’s regional engineer, Jason Ornellas.

To my surprise I recently learned that Jason is the recipient of the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award. You can read about the Award and Jason here:

https://www.radioworld.com/columns-and-views/from-the-editor/jason-ornellas-makes-his-mark

Speaking as an ‘Old Duffer’, I am more than pleased to see a fellow who is less than 1/3 of my age be recognized for his accomplishments.

Congratulations  Jason!!

While doing some, long overdue, purging of old stuff, out of a file folder fell a picture that took me back to my days at KNBQ in Tacoma. This picture was taken in the Engineering Shop at the, then, Tacoma-based station and a much younger Nick Winter. My guess is this was taken in the early 80’s. We were preparing to move the station’s studios to Seattle. In the process, we were building items that would be used there. The rack that Nick has his hands on would end up in the Telephone Equipment room and would house House-Monitor Amplifiers, etc. Some other things in this shot: The workbench behind Nick is still being used at my shop in Auburn. That Red Toolbox is still serving us well. It was moved to the Seattle Studio Shop. Later, when 97.3 moved to the KIRO building at 1820 Eastlake, when Entercom purchased the station, it was moved to West Tiger where it remains today, and is used by the five stations that used to be part of Entercom, still adorned with KNBQ Stickers. Oh yes, Nick is now retired and living in Tacoma. For those of you who have not followed the progression, Viacom renamed KNBQ KBSG. Bonneville renamed it KIRO-FM.

The following shows the collection of stickers on this trusty toolbox. That KNBQ Bumper Sticker was there when the above picture was taken. The Station’s call letters were changed to KBSG when Viacom purchased it. Note the little Viacom Inventory label.

I recently heard a rumor that Dave Ratener had landed a new gig, so I dropped him a note to gain more info, here is his response:

Hi Clay, Yes I am now the new chief engineer for Salem media here in Seattle. Monte Passmore, the current chief, is retiring after 22 years. The stations are KGNW, KLFE, and KNTS. All 3 are AM’s. KGNW is on Vashon, and the other two are diplexed on Bainbridge Island. I have started the job and actually getting trained and introduced to all of the equipment in use now at Salem. Nice to be working again.

On the morning of the 12th at about 10:15 a.m., something went buzzap-pop at West Tiger. That something turned out to be a high voltage disconnect owned by American Tower that forced generators at three of the sites on the mountain to spring into action. All the damage was confined to the Gray Gizmo on the right. Thankfully it can be repaired. Until then, power to a couple of the non-broadcast sites is being supplied from the Broadcast building at the site.

Thanks to all the Web Cameras up there, now we were able to watch the coming and going of various parties as the day wore on. In this picture, you can see the headlights of a couple of PSE service vehicles as they head down the hill after locating the problem.

Then on the 22nd, a major power problem struck Cougar Mountain. There were a number of PSE vehicles on site and multiple generators running when I left the site that day. I suspected it had something to do with the heavy wet snow we had overnight that brought down a lot of limbs.

Speaking of which, on the 21st, the first day of Winter, we set a record high at Sea-Tac Airport of 59 Degrees. Remarkably, in a few hours it would be snowing.

In the FCC’s Releases on December 15th, I see KZIZ has filed to modify their Construction Permit from the former KMIA Night Site to the existing KMIA (Day/Night) transmitter site, where they propose to diplex the existing two KMIA towers.  They would be operating 3.2 kw Non-Directional Day and 200 Watts Directional at Night with nulls to the Southeast.

This contribution comes from Bob Trimble of RF Specialties fame. I’m sure that you have all read about this metal monolith that was discovered In Utah. Didn’t take long for someone to exploit the term. 😊

 

Yes, thankfully, there is a category for COVID Humor. Let me leave you with some that will hopefully leave you with a smile.

  • One day, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids …”I survived the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020”.
  • The world has turned upside down. Old folks are sneaking out of the house & their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors!
  • Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.
  • Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands?
  • I never thought the comment, “I wouldn’t touch him/her with a 6-foot pole” would become a national policy, but here we are!
  • I need to practice social distancing from the refrigerator.
  • I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to the Backyard. I’m getting tired of the Living Room.
  •  Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller with a mask on and ask for money.

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month at most of the usual locations.

Until then, stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings and freshly washed hands, keeping your distance from others. The ‘All-Clear’ Is still a long way off.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

Clay’s Corner for January 2020

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Assuming you are reading this column in 2020 – Happy New Year. Some thoughts about this year:

  • Most will pronounce it Twenty-Twenty.
  • This decade will be pronounced the Twenty Twenties.
  • It’s been a very long time since we had 1919 and it will be a even longer until 3030.
  • 2020 is often said describing a person’s vision.
  • If you are into Roman Numerals – it’s MMXX.
  • 20/20 is an ABC TV news magazine.
  • 2020 will be a Leap-Year (quick check your calendar to make sure).
  • February this year will have 5 Saturdays.
  • It’s been 20 years since Y2K. (Remember that one?)
  • 2020 will be a presidential election in the U.S. (good news for broadcasters as a lot of money will be spent on advertising.

The end of a decade is, traditionally, a time to look back. Here are some of my thoughts at this time about events and changes in technology that have impacted many of us.

The Tiger Mountain Antenna Fire

In all my years in this game, I’ve seen many antenna failures. The failure of the Channel 11 antenna on Capital Hill comes to mind. In that case, they had to go back to their historic site at View Park to stay on the air (I was the last transmitter operator at that old site). The Tiger Mountain event, a year ago, caused six radio stations to be immediately thankful that they had auxiliary facilities – elsewhere. In years past, having this much redundancy would be but a dream. Sadly, in smaller markets, an event like this would have meant much more off-air time. Today, the switching to back up equipment is likely seamless and automatic. Hopefully the owners of those ‘very-mature’ Auxiliary transmitters will see the need to replace them.

Drones

Too bad Igor Sikorsky is not alive to witness what has happened to his helicopter! It’s amazing what these multi-bladed little machines can and are doing these days…not just in our business but many others. In TV they are the key to those, long wished for, overhead shots for news, sporting events and, of course, the production of spots. On the technical side, it was a drone, flown by Alex Brewster, that provided close up videos of the fire-damaged antenna at West Tiger, so the manufacturer, far away, could see for themselves what had happened, all of this in a very short time period. Recently, while chasing a source of interference to an FM Station, WSU’s Martin Gibbs deployed his specially equipped drone to fly a circular pattern around the suspected station while recording the radiation pattern of their antenna. The final presentation showed their actual antenna pattern overlaid on a Google Earth picture was not omni-directional as the owner thought and clearly showed why there was co-channel interference. Again, something that would have been impossible without the little drone that arrived on site in a small package. In days past, having a pilot on staff meant someone who could fly a light-plane or helicopter…another great example of how far we have come.

Video Cameras

Back when I was working in TV, cameras used vacuum tubes to pick up images and where NOT small. Image devices have come a very long way now, producing superior pictures and doing so in very small form-factors. Examples are in the drones. High Definition, broadcast quality pictures it a tiny package that weigh almost nothing. It’s hard to remember how we thought that Image Orthicons and Plumbicons were cool. The picture taking drone would not have been possible without the advancements in imaging devices in recent years.

Vacuum Tubes

They have served us well for many years. First our Radio and TV studios saw them be replaced with solid state systems.…leaving just the really big ones working in transmitters. The first to make the switch from tubes was AM Radio. Now there are just a few Tubes still working in FM Broadcast transmitters. Likely the reason they are still at work is that many of these transmitters were built extremely well. As an example, when the FM Antenna burned at West Tiger, many of those stations relied on Vacuum Tube transmitters that were 40 years old. Today, as these are replaced, the tube era will go away as well. TV is in the same boat as FM. Today, finding a person that knows their way around vacuum tubes has become rare.

The LED

Probably one of the greatest inventions of our time is the LED or Light Emitting Diode. They were, at first, used as a replacement for little light bulbs that showed the status of a device. Later, as the technology improved, the LED was being used to replace light bulbs of all kinds. The illumination of homes and business have switched to LEDs as have vehicle head and taillights, traffic signals, tower and obstruction lighting and, of course – Christmas decorations. Lighting our studios has also seen the Lightbulb go away. Gone are those heat producing spots and scoops as well as the air conditioning required. Let’s not forget displays that have become huge. Wonder what Thomas Edison would have thought if he were to stand at Safeco or T-Mobile Park? Dazzling displays, not a shadow to be seen and not a lightbulb in sight!

AM Radio

Who would have thought that the birthplace of broadcasting would, in many cases, be struggling to survive 100 years later? Despite all the competition for people’s ears, Radio continues to survive, however the portion that is AM continues to shrink. It is rare today to find an AM Station in the top 10 of the ratings. The number of AM transmitter manufacturers has been reduced to a handful. Locally there are exceptions with 710 and 770 recently investing in the legacy band with the purchase of new transmitters. There’s a lot of interest now on changing the modulation scheme from AM to DM (Digital Modulation) as a means of giving consumers what they have come to expect from a radio station. It’s early, and the jury is certainly out, as to whether this will catch on and breath new life into where it all started. One thing to watch in the coming couple of years will be the 100th birthday of many of our AM Stations. Guess the question is whether or not they will be celebrating. Yes, folks, KJR is, according to a recent piece by John Schneider, 100, going on 101.

Bonded Cellular

Cellular telephone systems have been around for awhile now and have been used by broadcasters for some time, especially in today’s ‘smartphones’. The big change has been the bonding or combining of two or more cellular signals, so that the bandwidth can be combined to equal something that will permit wide-band audio or video to be transmitted. This changed everything. Now you did not need a pneumatic mast and a clear shot to your receiver to transmit audio and video from remote locations. Wonder if anyone, holding one of those Motorola ‘Brick’ cellphones would have even dreamed of this day?

The, Desktop Computer

Just recently, while cleaning out an attic of a local station, I ran across a P.C. with a label on the front proudly stating that it was a ‘286’ (I’ll have some pictures in a future column). This one featured two large floppy disc-drives! Likely the monitor that was used with it was Green or Amber. Wow, have these devices come a long way. Now we have hard drives with storage measured in Terabytes. Today, everyone has a computer at their desk, and we cannot imagine being without it. Portable machines have some a long way, in a short time.

How we communicate with each other

Finally, after what seemed like a long time – we were able to come up with a standardized means for computers to talk with each other and computer networking was born. At one time the average desktop PC was a stand-alone device. If you wanted a file on another computer, you transferred that file to a disk and walked over to the other machine and inserted the disk, etc. Early connections for PCs involved devices that would enable multiple machines to share printers…and later, electronically transfer files from machine to machine. (Anyone remember Twin-Ax?) First within a station and later to everywhere. Hard to imagine how it used to be. When I first started writing this column, I was using an Apple II (the MSDOS machine would come later). I would send the completed column to the editor, via a dial-up modem at the blazing speed of 300 baud. Today I compose the column using Word and send it to whomever I wish, almost instantly, via email and the Internet. Who would have dreamed we’d all know what ‘Snail Mail’ meant?

How things communicate with each other

The same technology that permits computers to communicate with each other has spread, much of our broadcast equipment has become specialized computers. Today, as they say, ‘everything’ has become IP (Internet Protocol). Gone are huge amounts of wiring, replaced by the ubiquitous ‘Network Cable’, along with the now, universal, RJ45 Connector.

Then there is the wireless version, WiFi, Wireless Routers, Bluetooth, and 802.11 systems etc. have all become the norm.

Who would have predicted that the pressure for more wireless gizmos would create a need so big that the purveyors of this technology would ‘purchase’ the needed spectrum from the FCC, and that money would be used to shuffle TV channels, and buy new transmitting equipment, to make room for it all?

The inter-connection that changed it all

Today our world has been changed, dramatically to the point that most of us are interconnected to each other via that wonderful thing called the Internet. We have watched its capability expand in terms of geography as well as bandwidth and speed. Not very long ago, watching TV meant that you had cable. Then came ‘cord-cutting’ and people were, switching from Over the Air TV watching to the Internet. TVs have changed in recent years to the point that almost all of them are what are called ‘Smart’, meaning that you can watch OTA TV, TV via the Internet or look for whatever via your favorite web browser. New to a lot of people in 2020 will be the discovery of the Antenna. The concept of Free TV is foreign to many!

How we communicate with equipment

In the past, equipment all came with a ‘Control Panel’ in some form. Knobs, buttons, switches, meters etc. The tools of the trade were your fingers and the famous little green screwdriver. Today, as more and more equipment has become computer based, operation of equipment requires the use of a keyboard, mouse (or trackball) and perhaps a touchscreen. I recall one the transmitter manufacturers, reluctantly putting a power output meter on the front of their transmitters out of fear that no one would buy one without it. Unfortunately, those that design some, rather simple equipment, no longer employ designers that knew how to adjust things with that little green screwdriver, when that approach would have been much simpler.

How we store stuff

Way back in the dark ages, we would record audio and video spots and programs on reel-to-reel tape which was stored in the station’s ‘library’. That’s all gone as these things are now stored on Hard Drives with capacities that were science fiction not that long ago.

The Cloud

As the required amount of computing storage and hardware for each station became bigger and bigger and more expensive, along came a solution called “The Cloud”. I guess that name clicked because it meant ‘out there somewhere’. Today, many of the big names that own data centers (Microsoft, Amazon etc.) have created these huge facilities full of computers called ‘Data Centers’ that provide the required computing horse power and storage required by broadcasters (and everyone else for that matter). As time goes by, more of this will take place. Perhaps to the point that the Local P.C. will only have minimal capability leaving all the heavy lifting to the cloud. Perhaps you are already using what Microsoft called ‘One Drive’. If so, you have some of your files’ In the Cloud. Who would have predicted that many locations in the out-back of Eastern Washington would see the giant buildings be constructed?

Wow – I could go on and on with this.

So where is this all going to go in the next decade? Certainly, everything will continue to become computer based. Bandwidths will continue to increase. 5G will become a reality, with broadcasters making extensive use of it. The Vacuum Tube will become but a memory. The curve of technological advances will continue to become steeper and IP will become as much of a standard as 60 Hz AC Power. AM Radio (no tears please) will continue to decline overall (yes, there will be bright spots) with the total number of stations declining to levels of yesteryear. FM Radio will continue to duke it out for the ears of one place where the medium still reigns, the automobile. TV will continue to be a major factor, thanks to our love for sports and the ability to display it on a large screen. Next Gen TV will be tough, not for what it can do, but for the lack of knowing how to do it. Many times we have created something, because we can, not because of demand for it. Certainly the jury is out. Jobs in broadcasting will continue to offer exciting opportunities. Just that staffing levels will never be the same as yesteryear. Oh yes, we will almost certainly have more cyber attacks. ☹

As I look back at almost 60 years in this game, I have to conclude it’s been a great ride. I also have this feeling that I have been in it at just the right time. Whether anyone will take on the challenge of writing a column like this…only time will tell. I’ve ended up being, mainly a transmitter guy, even though I did not start out that way. It’s nice, as I am largely working on my own, doing what I love. As long as there is wireless, there are systems that will break and have to be repaired. Certainly, what’s known as ‘component level repair’ will, if it has not already, disappear. I don’t know many that have an interest in doing what I have been doing for all these years. ‘Twas said, ‘There is nothing more constant than change’. Attending a meeting of my peers I see a ‘sea of gray hair’ with a few bright spots (those that still have hair) and I am reminded of how things appeared many years ago. It’s all a cycle, and the cycle repeats.

My readers know that I often talk about the weather…perhaps because this was one of my hobbies when I was a kid. One thing about this neck of the woods, there is never a lack of something to write about. This year, what’s on my mind this past November is how dry the weather had been. I was remarking to some friends over breakfast on December 2nd that it would have to rain about 10 inches in December to get our precipitation total up to normal.

According to those that accurately track these things, this past November was the driest since 1976 with only 1.71 inches in the gauge. That’s about 75% below normal. November is supposed to be one of our wettest months. Extend this and our snow-pack will be impacted and that could spell a lot of trouble. In early December that was running less than 50% of normal.

Mother nature has a way to deal with situations like this. This is why there are often great differences between ‘Weather’ and ‘Climate’. This December has been a great example of how that works. Suddenly, about mid-month, we were hearing terms like ‘Atmospheric River’ and without further delay the skies opened up and the Monsoons were well underway. Now we were hearing familiar terms…like Winter Storm warnings for the mountains, Flood Watches etc. As the rains continued, we set all-time records for amounts of precipitation, following by warnings for flooding and landslides. Suddenly that dry period was ‘washed’ away in our minds to the point that the natives were complaining about the amount of rain.

Some of the interesting records set:

The gloomiest day in 20 years. U-Dub, apparently, tracks the amount of solar energy reaching the ground. For those of you that have solar-panels, it was a bust. In addition, this was the Winter Soltice making it the shortest and darkest day.

December 20 was the fifth rainiest day ever! Seattle recorded just over three inches, while some areas got over four. The rain-shadow of the Olympics, once again, did it’s job with some locations there only getting an inch or so. Seattle was actually wetter than Forks!

Now that is some kind of record.

Looking at the Sea-Tac totals on Dec 20th:

  • Thus far in December 6.33 inches
  • Total since January 1 – 32.25 inches
  • Normal  – 35.66 inches

Bottom line – Even after all of this we are still below normal!

Then there is the issue of the amount of rainfall that people all over think we get. I recently ran across a survey of 50 Cites in the US that were to have the most rainfall in 2019. I’ll bet those that saw the same thing were looking for a city in this area…Sorry folks , we aren’t even in that list.

To help put things into perspective – Utqiagvik (previously known as Barrow), Alaska is in the midst of winter and having to deal with 67 days of darkness!

Cyber attacks continue to make the news and broadcasters continue to be victims. Recently KHQ-TV in Spokane was hit. One of their spokespersons said the attack targeted the software they use to prepare newscasts for all the stations in the Cowels group. Reportedly, the station informed their viewers they were having technical difficulties that impacted their ability to air graphics and video their viewers were used to. This caused the news to be presented the way it used to be handled prior to becoming dependent on computers. This made doing weather forecasts a challenge. Wonder if they had to call some folks that had long retired to figure out how to do things? Reading off of paper on live TV – Yikes!

Meanwhile, Entercom was hit by a second cyber-attack. Rightfully, the big radio company has not released much information about this one, so as to not encourage anyone. Apparently, the impact of this one was not as severe as the one in September, indicating the attack was different or their countermeasures were working. According to published reports, Entercom lost millions in the previous event, which may help explain why they have been shedding staff and not making capital investments.

The dependence on computer systems in today’s broadcast stations is….looking for the best word….almost ‘complete’. With today’s graphics, computer driven teleprompters and content on servers, it would be interesting to see how today’s news anchors would deal with typed pieces of paper on the desk in front of them. Without computers, today’s radio would be a bit better off as the mass scramble could not be seen.

I had a recent Ransomware experience at KVTI in Lakewood. In this case, the perps got to one of the PCs in the on-air studio that’s only used for research and communications. In this case, it was a simple matter of quickly replacing the stand-alone computer while the victim was taken to the shop to be ‘dis-infected’.

One target of ransomware are government entities. In some cases, some have actually paid the perps to get their systems back up and running.

The following picture was sent my way by an old friend who gets to see sunrises I don’t, as all my views are to the West. Thanks Neil!

 

It’s always sad to write about the passing of someone you knew. In this case, the unexpected passing of John Lyons at age 71, who was famous for his work with transmission facilities in New York City. The loss of the Twin Towers on 9/11, 4 Times Square, The Empire State Building and One World Trade Center are all broadcast transmitter facilities that have his name all over them in his role with the Durst Organization.

 

I would meet and chat with John at various NAB and SBE functions over the years, where I always found him to be easy to talk to, with a warm and quick sense of humor. He was a Fellow of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. NYC lost a giant in our industry.

Another passing to note, listed in the Silent Key column of the most recent QST was Phil Ferrell, K7PF. I first got connected with Phil back in the 70s when I was involved with Amateur Radio Repeater frequency coordination. Phil operated one of the first 2 meter repeaters in the area on 146.88, then known as ‘The Seattle Repeater’. He and his wife, Joni, were very good to me. He knew I was in broadcasting and loved to tease me about ‘patch cords’ (for some reason). His educational resume was most impressive – B.S. Physics, 1955, CalTech; Professional Engineer, 1966, state of Washington; PhD Electrical Engineering, 1970, University of Washington. Perhaps the only person I’ve ever known with a PhD in EE. He retired from Boeing in 1993. According to QST, he resided in Auburn, which was news to me. QRZ still shows his Port Ludlow address. Phil was 86.

Recently, several changes at the Federal Level caused EAS participants to have to perform upgrades to their EAS Equipment. In some cases, several hundred dollars were spent in the process. Whereas the FCC required that this upgrade be done, broadcasters had no choice but pay the price. In some cases, those that own and operate this equipment are not broadcasters but government entities that have to fund it.

Then there are some special circumstances. One of which is the Seattle Weather Forecast Office (WFO) for NWS. Many years ago, the Washington SECC, set out to fully integrate NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) into our area’s EAS system. In the end, NWR/Seattle, in many ways, looks like a radio station. In their case, their ‘programming’ comes from the computers that generate weather forecasts and warnings. Their ‘transmitters’ are the various NWR transmitters in the region. In Seattle, the local transmitter is KHB-60 on 162.550 which broadcasts from Cougar Mt., co-located with broadcasters. The beauty of this system is that a person with a NOAA Weather Radio will receive, not only Weather Warnings, but all EAS warnings as well.

The EAS equipment at the NWS has all been donated, as there is no funding for this system via NOAA, as this is the only place in the U.S. with this arrangement. (Sometimes called the Seattle Experiment) Much of the labor was performed by the late Jim Tharp and continues to this day thanks to the efforts of Lowell Kiesow.

When the time came to update the EAS equipment for the Seattle WFO – we had a situation that was unique – State Emergency Management could not fund it as they are prohibited from funding something used by a Federal agency. The NWS could not fund it as it is, technically, not approved for it. This meant that for the system to continue, a volunteer source of funding was needed.

I am, abundantly pleased, to announce that the required upgrade was – DONATED  by Broadcast Supply Worldwide (BSW) in Tacoma.

I want to publicly thank the management of BSW for their donation and support of our Emergency Alert System in this area. Next time you are shopping for broadcast equipment, and in the process, contact BSW and please take a moment to thank them for their contribution.

I am proud that many, across the country, continue to point to Washington State as an example of what EAS can do. It is through voluntary contributions of time and materials we have been able to achieve so much.

Before I leave this topic , if you would like to join our team, we’d love to have you. You are welcome to attend the next SECC Meeting, Tuesday, January 14th at 9:30 a.m. at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, or you can call me or send me an email for all the details.

The FCC recently announced some – huge – fines related to some unlicensed radio stations. Radio TeleBoston was fined $453,015 and Radio Concord $151.005 due to them apparently ignoring warnings to halt their unlicensed operations. Now the big questions –

  • Will they actually end up paying the fine?
  • Will they claim the don’t have the funds and end up paying a fraction of it?
  • Will then simply not pay anything and get away with it?

I will start believing the FCC means business when –

  • They actually collect the fine amount.

-or-

  • The pirate operators start spending jail time.

WWFD in Fredrick, MD continues making news with their operation as an All Digital station on 820. A lot of eyes and ears are on this experiment of turning off their AM signal in favor of running all digital.

For some in depth information on this operation, check out recently issues of Radio World and Radio World Engineering Extra.

Some of the highlights are –

  • The station, despite not being able to be received by an AM Radio is, attracting enough listeners to show up in the local Nielsen Ratings.
  • The FCC has renewed their Special Temporary Authority (STA) to continue in this mode.
  • The Commisson is asking whether this should be a permitted mode of operation by issuing an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making).

There are a number of things a digital only AM can do that a conventional AM cannot –

  • Operate in Stereo (Granted you could run the old AM Stereo system).
  • Offer relatively noise free reception.
  • Broadcast the visual content that, today, is only offered by FM-HD stations meaning Song Title and Artist information and Album Art.

The only down side is the station cannot be received on a standard AM Radio. Perhaps the bottom line will involve some simple math. Will the ability of an ever increasing number of digital receivers, coupled with the fact that to a consumer an all-digital AM have the same look and feel as an FM or FM band HD station, overcome the fact that legacy AM receivers will not be able to ever hear the station?

Up until the development of Digital TV and HD Radio, the FCC had been very concerned about reverse compatibility. Since that time, this has not been a stumbling block to gaining FCC approval. Perhaps this is underscored by the fact that they are willing to issue an NPRM?

The other major factor is that the FCC has been pressured to do something to save AM Radio. Their reaction has been a number of rule changes and, of course, the ability of an AM to put on the air an FM Translator. It’s interesting to note that WWFD was one of those AMs that constructed an FM Translator, whereby they concluded that most of their audience had switched to their FM translator that helped pave the way for them electing to experiment with changing their AM to all-digital.

The question that comes to mind is how many other AMs are in the same boat and how many of them will figure there is little down-side to changing their AM to all digital. My guess is that this is a question that’s being asked by many.

Another potential candidate for digital AM are those AMs that are part of a larger cluster of FMs that are supporting the AM, without whose support would likely go off the air. These groups may see the conversion of their AM to digital attractive.

The impact of this on in-home listening will likely be minimal (except for those that still have an AM radio in their kitchen). Today most in-home radio listening is via a ‘smart speaker’ that’s not really a radio in the conventional sense, but rather a device that can play the stations streamed programming.

Finally, will we see a digital AM in our area? I hope so …I’d love to personally be able to see how well it works.

Oh yes, what about Canada. Will we, one day, see this spread across the border?

A fascinating time, indeed.

Indeed ‘Smart Speaker’ has become a fixture in many households. My grand daughter was the first one in our family to have one…and to her surprise, it was also a radio. Broadcasters were often caught off guard with these devices and scrambled to come up with means for dealing with them. Radio is still not the major use of these gizmos…however the trend is certainly upward, which is good news. As I pointed out earlier, this is today’s in-home radio…and so much more.

In today’s world the term ‘on-demand’ is the key. It used to be that you had to look up a program schedule in the newspaper to find out when, what you sought, would be on a radio or TV station. Today, we have come to expect what we want – WHEN – we want it. The key to making all this work is, of course, the computer networks of today that give us our connected world.

For those of you that long for the look of a classic, in home, table top radio, I recently ran across this item:

 

Rerii Handmade Walnut Bluetooth Speaker

Even the old-school holdout can join the modern world with this wireless speaker that pairs with smartphones, tablets, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. But it still receives AM/FM radio stations, and the carved walnut case makes it look like a long-treasured heirloom.

I love it! You can have one for $60 from Amazon.

For those of us that are involved with towers, news of a tower failure is something that gets our attention. Recently a 500’ tower in Northwest Nebraska came down due to a heavy ice storm.

 

The tower supported an antenna for KQSK…as well as the National Weather Service.

A pretty steady stream of news about C-Band. But let’s not take our eyes of what’s called mid-band. The NAB has warned the FCC that permitting unlicensed users on the 6 GHz band can still interfere with electronic news gathering.

Looking for a job in Radio? Here are a couple of openings that might interest you:

The FCC recently announced they were allocating $17.2 Million of reimbursement money for FM stations that were impacted by the TV channel Repack program. Understand there were 87 FMs effected. To my knowledge, none in this immediate area.

HD Radio continues to grow in this area…a very different situation in smaller markets, however. Here many Non-Commercial FMs are running HD. Recently Latino broadcaster, Bustos Media joined the ‘HD Radio Club’ with the purchase of 102.9 which transmits from Capital Peak SW of Olympia. Not long afterward, KZTM added an HD-2. Bustos has been growing rapidly in recent years. Here is what they have in Western Washington:

From Capital Peak, SW of Olympia – 102.9 – KZTM-FM and HD, KZTM HD-2

From South Mountain, West of Shelton – 99.3 – KDDS-FM

From near Mt. Vernon -103.3 – KZNW-FM

From Auburn – 1210 – KMIA (AM)

I understand another station may become part of this group. Perhaps some news for next month?

Work is progressing on the new studios for KING-FM in Seattle. Due to the sale of their present home at Queen Ann and Harrison (just west of Key Arena) they are moving around the corner and down Mercer, where they will be in the same building at the Seattle Opera.

Here you can see Mike Brooks (on the right) working in what will be the new KING-FM on-air studio. The new consoles are all Wheatstone. This will spell the end for one of the last PR&E consoles in this area.

Here’s an early view of the KING-FM ‘Rack-Room’. Lots of empty space at this point that will be filled with equipment.

 

For a number of years, KING-FM has been operating HD Radio from their facility on West Tiger, using a mode that is a bit unique. They are transmitting with HD Radio power levels that are different than most, in that their HD Power level is higher on one side of their FM than the other.

A process called Asymmetric Sidebands. They’ve been doing this via what’s called a Special Temporary Authority or STA (Similar process to the AM running all digital I wrote about earlier).

Now the FCC is being formally asked to move this from a mode requiring an STA to something permitted by the NAB, NPR as well as Xperi, the digital radio developer.

Whether or not a station can operate with asymmetric HD sidebands is determined by the proximity and coverage of adjacent channel stations. It’s likely many stations would wish to do this, if it were an outright permitted mode of operation as it would increase their digital coverage. (The reason KING-FM opted to do this several years ago.)

Late news – Xperi, the outfit behind HD-Radio, has agreed to merge with TiVo,  creating a company worth about 2.24 Billion Bucks.

The following is in an interesting chart showing the growth of HD Radio over time from Xperi:

Have you been keeping track of Sun-Spots? If you are like most, the answer is probably no.

If you are a Ham Radio operator that operates on what are called the ‘HF Bands’ the answer is likely yes.

Our nearest Star (we call it The Sun) operates in a cyclical manner. That every 11 years it varies between being active (producing a lot of sun-spots) and quiet (having very few). Presently the sun is in the midst of a very deep, if not historic, solar minimum…the quietest period since 1913. This impacts radio propagation on the AM Broadcast Band as well as the spectrum immediately above it (where many Hams operate). These 11 year cycles are also tied, by many, to weather conditions and other events. Many years ago, there was a very long period of solar minimum that was thought to have contributed to a cool-down period.

The follow graphs shows these cycles and where we are now:

 

One final note of interest, the year 1913 cited earlier for its lack of sunspots on the order of 311 days was a year filled with wild weather extremes including the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Death Valley, CA.

There is a local connection keeping track of solar activity. Tad Cook, K7RA posts a great deal of information on the ARRL Web Site. Visit http://arrl.org/propagation-of-rf-signals  the ARRL Technical Information Service, read http://arrl.org/the-sun-the-earth-the-ionosphere  “What the Numbers Mean.

Old friend, Donn Harvey, has a good idea of my sense of humor and appreciation for certain things and submitted the following:

 

According to the records of the NWS, Seattle has a 5% chance of having a White Christmas.

Just for the record…Here’s a picture of West Tiger on Christmas Eve 2019.

That’s about it for this month, my friends.

Hope you had a wonderful Holiday Season and may 2020 be the best yet.

Lord willing, I will be back to most of the same locations next month at this time.

Until then –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

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