Monthly Archives: March 2012

February 2012 Meeting Report

March 11, 2012

SBE Chapter 48/SMPTE Rocky Mountain Section Annual Banquet

Date: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Time: 6:00 PM No Host Cash Bar, 7:00 PM Dinner, Reservations RequiredCost is $35 per person
Location: Lakewood Country Club, 6800 West 10th Avenue, Lakewood, CO 80214
Honorees: Denver Office of the Federal Communications Commission

At this year’s award dinner we recognized the staff of the local FCC office for their technical competence and professionalism and their recent collaborations with the Front Range broadcast community during such events as the 2008 DNC and the 2010 analog TV shutdown.  For all their efforts, we thank them.

Our special guest and speaker for this evening was former NBC cameraman Jeff Scarborough who was on duty in New York City on September 11, 2001. He related a very moving story of his participation in the coverage of the horrendous events of that day.  Jeff first described having been on the scene of the earlier bombing in the garage of the World Trade center 8 years previously and having witnessed the damage from that.  Then he went on to tell the story of being one of the first TV Cameramen on the scene after the first plane had struck the tower, the horrors that ensued and how close a call it was getting through the ordeal.  Jeff was brought to us by Rome Chelsi who had noted this extraordinary story in a local Evergreen magazine – you can download the pdf and read the full story in the original article here.


An additional announcement was made at this event, the retirement of our long standing colleague Dave Layne.  Dave’s impressive list of accomplishments and long tenure as Channel 4’s chief engineer were noted and he said a few words to the room, mentioning that he will be moving on to participate in his church full time.


This year our venue changed to Lakewood Country Club from Green Gables Country Club where we had been holding this annual event for quite some time due to it having been sold for development.  The new location worked as well or better and we were treated to a choice of entrée: Chicken Oscar, Macadamia Salmon or London Broil. All entrées included salad, Chef’s choice of potatoes, pasta or rice, fresh market vegetables, petit pans, rustic bread and butter, and fresh brewed coffee, decaffeinated coffee, or tea.  The dessert of New York Cheesecake with fresh strawberries was highly praised; the comment “as good as Lindy’s” was overheard.

Random Radio Thoughts for March

March 11, 2012

Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB Crawford Broadcasting Company

More MDCL in Colorado (and elsewhere)

Now that we’ve had a couple of months to evaluate the Modulation Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) operation on KLTT, I am prepared to call it an unqualified success.

From last month’s newsletter you may recall that we activated MDCL on the new KLTT Nautel NX50 transmitter in early January, shortly after we installed it. Reviewing our usage, we noted a 21% reduction in the number of kilowatt-hours, mirroring the power savings we noted on our central California station, KCBC. That is encouraging, and that consistency further cements the value of MDCL operation.

Both those stations are running the AMC algorithm, which reduces the carrier during periods of high modulation, restoring it when things get quiet. The sideband power remains unchanged. This reduces the overall peak envelope power of the transmitter, but it very effectively masks the reduced signal-to-noise ratio that any MDCL operation produces.

I have, since we turned MDCL on, made several trips to the edge of the KLTT coverage area and critically listened to the station. I couldn’t tell any difference. Up in Grand County, KLTT is usually listenable with something close to 0.5 mV/m. On my January and February trips to the Grand Lake area, I had good analog and digital coverage. We have made similar observations in the San Francisco area on KCBC.

Just for fun (and to reduce stresses in the transmitter and antenna system), we fired up MDCL on one of our 5 kW stations in Alabama earlier this year. The first electric billing cycle showed only a 5% decrease in power consumption. At first that surprised me, but then I considered that the fixed loads (tower lights, HVAC, rack power, security lighting, etc.) represent a much larger portion of the total site power consumption at a 5 kW station than they do at a 50 kW site, so that 5% is probably about right.

I filed the paperwork with the FCC to operate KLZ using MDCL and expect a grant shortly. I suspect that we’ll find the same kind of power savings there, probably even less since that site is shared at night with another station (KLVZ).

Consulting engineer Ben Dawson made a good point in a letter to Radio World recently: Aside from power savings, the AMC MDCL scheme also reduces stresses in the transmitter and antenna system. The peak RF voltage is the vector sum of the carrier plus the peak sideband power. In a normal (non-AMC) system, that amounts to something in the neighborhood of 150% of the carrier power (100% for the carrier plus 25% for each of the sidebands, more in the sidebands if asymmetrical modulation is used).

Since the carrier power is reduced during modulation in AMC-equipped systems, the peak RF voltage can be cut by 40% or more. In an AMC system, the total peak modulated power, assuming 3 dB of carrier compression, would be 50% for the carrier plus 25% for each of the sidebands. In a 50 kW system, that would result in 50 kW of peak RF power (again, more if asymmetrical modulation is employed).

This reduces the voltages across capacitors, insulators, RF contactors, spark gaps, transmission lines and everything else in the system, which can have a very positive effect on the longevity of those components and even their immunity to lightning damage.

We have for years had an issue at the KLTT transmitter site where when lightning hits one of the high-power towers in the daytime array, the low-power tower (which normally receives about 5 kW) is hit with the full 50 gallons for an RF cycle or two until the transmitter figures out there is a load problem and mutes the output. That has produced burnouts in that low-power tower’s 7/8-inch transmission line on several occasions. With the peak power reduced considerably, our exposure in this kind of situation is also significantly reduced.



No, I’m not talking about all the campaign rhetoric in this election cycle. I’m talking about the high winds that we have sustained around the Front Range for days on end over the last month or so. Usually those kinds of winds wait for March, but not this year. My guess is that you’re as sick of it as I am.

There were a few outages here and there for broadcasters as a result of the sustained high winds. One outage was at the Ruby Hill tower site where the mounting arm hardware on a microwave dish vibrated loose to the point that the dish ended up pointing straight down at the ground! That dish has been up there for years, and it’s never had an issue before in all the previous wind events, so that hardware was tight at one point. The vibration caused by the wind evidently caused those nuts to back off enough to let the dish move. It makes me wonder what else is loose on that and other towers in the area!

If you have news to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, drop me an email at


The KEØVH Hamshack for June 2012

March 11, 2012
Jack Roland KEØ

Jack Roland KEØ








Jack will return with the KEØVH Hamshack next month!






Clay’s Corner for March 2012

March 11, 2012

This month we have seen the passing of 3 people, in broadcasting I knew


Wally Nelskog –

Unlike many I know, I did not work for Wally, however if you worked in Radio in the PNW you certainly knew his name.    Wally passed away recently at the age of 92 leaving behind a ton of memories and accomplishments.  Probably the one we all recall was the construction of KIXI on 880.   He worked long and hard to make that happen.   Then there was the warm sound of ..’Beautiful music, in the air, everywhere….’ (How can we forget?)  The first time I met Wally was at a retirement function for one of the local FCC crew.   Wally and I were both asked to speak, I was second.  Wally had a huge voice and following him made me feel like a tenor.   Later I would run across Wally via Ham Radio….One could never forget his phonetics – W7 Foxy Dog Queen.   Several years later I would end up working at 1820 Eastlake and got to chatting with Carol who had a cubical near my office.   We would chat about various things and one day she asked me if I knew her dad (as if I knew the relationship) I said no, I did not think so.   She explained that she was Wally’s daughter.   Every once in a while Wally would come by and we would chat.   I treasure those moments and now wished there had been more.  Ben Dawson added this comment – .  Wally and Jim Gabbert are the only two station owners I’ve ever known who came out with their tool boxes and worked all night with us to get new antenna installations tuned up.


Danny Holiday –

I was working at KBSG in Seattle as Chief Engineer when I learned that Danny had been hired to work evenings. I recall hearing him in years previous on KOL (before it became KMPS) Not sure how long Danny worked at the station, but it was several years.   I would work remotes with him and often his wife, Joyce could come along.   Always a gentlemen.

As radio goes, Danny left the station, but we would exchange emails once in a while.   I knew that he moved ‘up north’.  Dwight Small said he saw Dan a while back, he was in town seeing a doctor, Dwight said he did not look well.  Dan’s last name was Thigeson.   He adopted the name of Holiday many years ago for obvious reasons.


Lynn Olson –

Lynn worked for several stations in this area and most recently was doing some feature reporting for WSU’s Northwest Public Radio, this is where our paths crossed for the first time. Lynn was a very warm and sweet person.   She said that she had some medical issues, but never stated what was wrong.   Always warm and caring.   I recall installing equipment for her at the KVTI Studios in Lakewood on the campus of CPTC.   Her passing was a shock to us all.


I can’t help wondering how my passing will be observed and what accomplishment will be attributed to me….Perhaps placing the first broadcast station on West Tiger Mountain in 1987?

As you reach your ‘sunset years’ (that what they call people my age) and you realize you are only passing-through, those thoughts are hard to ignore.


Looking now at other things going on –

The little radio stations in Forks have been sold…..Again.  My work with NWPR takes me to this little town in the Twilight every once in a while these days.   The new owner is Mark Lamb of Kirkland.  The announced sale price was $50,000.   Not many signals in that area. 1 AM and 4 FM’s …The rest are Canadian.

Congratulations to the crew at KOMO Radio for being the first AM station in years to make  the top spot in the ratings.   This is exactly what they have done.    I recall, many years ago, writing about the ratio of AM to FM stations in the top 10.  Interestingly KIRO-FM is right behind them at  #2.    Lots of memories for me there too as I went to work for then KNBQ in Tacoma (was KTNT) back in 1982, the very same 97.3 that I moved to West Tiger in 1987.  Some other observations about radio ratings in our area – KUOW is ranked # 4, not too bad for a Non-Commercial station.   KJR-AM should be pleased coming in at #9 making them the 2nd AM in the top 10…Interestingly, further demonstrating the popularity of KUOW, their streaming came in #37.

Not often I get to write about technical advancements for AM Radio.  The interest in what’s known as MDCL is considerable, especially with those stations with higher power levels.  For sure there will be lots of interest in this technique at the NAB show in April.  Harris and Nautel, the dominate makers of 50 kW transmitters are both deeply involved.    I suspect that it won’t be long before we see these systems put to work on one or more of the many 50Kw AM’s in the Seattle area.   Anything that can save on the power bill is likely to be supported by management.

Business is good at American Tower.  They recently reported that 2011 Q 4 their revenue increased 19%.   A lot of that growth was beyond the U.S..   ATC owns 3 Sites on West Tiger and two on Cougar Mt and is the land lord to many radio and TV broadcasters not only in the Seattle market, but nationwide.  Interestingly that increase is likely greater than most broadcast stations that are their tenants.

In the event you have been keeping track – Heinrich Hertz – was 155 on February 22nd.  Still bothers me that we had to change ‘cycles’ to Hertz…To name of a car rental company after him is another mystery.

Remember how Satellite radio was doomed to fail ….uh-huh …They have reportedly now 22 million subscribers and revenue of 3 Billion.

Happy to report that Mark Allen (WSAB) is working on Legislation to stiffen laws regarding copper theft.   The State Senate Judiciary Committee was to hold a hearing on HB 2570 regarding metal theft.  The bill sets up a task force to come up with recommendations to the 2013 Legislature for combatting metal theft.  The bill provides that one of the members of the task force is to be from the AM/FM broadcasting industry.   If any station in the State has been the victim of copper or other metal theft, but sure and let Mark know.  WSAB is supporting this bill.  Thank you Mark !

For those you that still tune into shortwave broadcasts, you likely remember the days when the Russians jammed radio signals from the West.   Now it’s Iran. Five international broadcasters are now complaining about Iran’s jamming of radio and TV signals aimed at that country.  I trust more are concerned about the impact on gas prices.

Gotta love this one…..

The problem with quotes on the Internet is the difficulty of verifying their authenticity”       Abraham Lincoln


A while back I wrote about KSTW-TV and how this station has been reduced in size over the years.    Thinking about that, I recall the first time I met Ken Williams, he was CE at KTVW in Tacoma.  Their entire operation was in a Butler Building at the transmitter site.   Now look – They moved to Seattle and have expanded.   Now it’s time for KVOS.  The once proud little station in Bellingham has seen its coverage be reduced from its once regional status on Ch12 from Mt Constitution and undergone a series of ownership changes.   The most recent one has he station being combined with another in Seattle (KFFV).   Reports are now that the new owners are making considerable staff shuffles. The local newspaper in Bellingham ran a story about the stations history and how the station has struggled over the years.

The annual NAB show in Las Vegas is just around the corner.  The BWWG is working on having some EAS related events there.  If they do, I will likely make the trek to the desert this year.  Last year I did not go, after many years attending this event, it felt a bit funny.

The Mike and Key Club annual Electronic Flea Market will be held this year at the Puyallup Fair Grounds on Saturday March 10th from 9AM to 3 PM.   A huge event that is traditionally very well attended.    Hope to see you there.

Every once in a while a neighborhood finds something causing problems with radio controlled garage doors.  This time it’s in St Charles, Mo.  The source has not been found, but suddenly, after Christmas, garage doors on 5 homes stopped working.  The home owners complained to the FCC.  The makers of the equipment blamed ‘frequency pollution.   Wonder what Johnny got for Christmas?

This one has been around for a long time – In the event you have not seen it –

Will we see FM radios in cellphones?   The push for this was started by NAB a few years ago and seems to be gaining some supporters.  Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have asked the FCC for a hearing on the topic.

Speaking of Cellphones….I –finally – retired my very reliable and small flip-phone for what is called a ‘smart phone’  Now I get to carry a much bigger device on my belt and pay a whole lot more for service.  Price of progress I guess.   Not sure that I will ever use everything the critter is capable of.

The Commish has granted a CP to Tribune for a DTV translator for Ch13 that will operate on Ch. 22 in Seattle.   Interesting how, after all the dust settles on the big shuffle that Tribune lights up RF channel 22 again.

A bit of a milestone – HD Radio stations are starting to show up in Arbitron’s diary ratings.   It’s take a while.    I wonder, if Arbitron had been around when FM Radio came along, how long it would have taken for those stations to show up?   Many who are critical of HD Radio were not around to see how FM struggled to be accepted.    History is a great teacher, as any person my age will testify.

Here’s an interesting story about an FCC fine – The Commission has fined an AM station in Puerto Rico.  The station was, apparently, sold, however they were not, formally, informed of the change of ownership of the stations tower as the tower was not listed in the sale agreement.  Ooops – The rules state that the FCC must be informed as to tower ownership.   The FCC is asking for $4500.

Then there is the Florida AM Station that has been asked to pay 4 Grand.   What the station did not know was that the FCC was monitoring the stations field strength and noted that on several occasions they did not reduce power at night, as they were supposed to do.  In FCC lingo, this is willful and repeated.

The FCC is, apparently, pleased with their decision to auction broadcast spectrum for use by mobile systems to the point that the Chairman suggested, in a speech in Italy, the FCC’s methods could be used globally.

The FCC has been checking speeds….Really, check out –

$44,000 is a big fine…This is what the FCC is asking a legendary station in Chicago radio station, WLS, to pay.   The problem was an apparent spot that did not include sponsor ID information.

Another recent FCC action concerns LightSquared.  This is the outfit that proposed to use spectrum adjacent to the frequencies used by GPS.   A lot of money was likely spent on this idea.   Check out –  and      for more info.

I passed on reporting on the FCC’s efforts at fighting Pirate Radio, even though they did nab several this past month.  What is interesting is that the FCC is, as part of their 2013 budget request, asking for $3.6 million to purchase new DF equipment and vehicles specifically to help them track down more pirate operators.   This move certainly signals the amount of concern they have about the problem.

This past month a naked man climbed a tower in L.A. and agreed to come down after receiving McDonald’s hamburgers.    Perhaps with our weather we don’t have to worry about this problem. However, also in California, a woman climbed a tower and jumped to her death, apparently a suicide.   All this reminds me of how important it is to make sure that un-invited types cannot gain access to your tower.   A few years ago a person climbed the Boeing tower at West Tiger 2 and jumped to end their life.

Last month I passed on some pictures taken during my travels…Due to positive response…I will try and continue.

Here are a couple of pictures taken on the West Tiger Road.    For those of you whose trip to the transmitter consists of negotiating city streets….I still feel I have it better.


To end this edition  – I leave you with a definition that I found to be somehow appropriate in this election year –

Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc’-Ra-cy) – a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to  sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers


Hope to see you at the next Seattle SBE Meeting –

Clay, CPBE, K7CR



Time to renew SBE memberships

March 11, 2012

Stay connected to a network of more than 5,000 broadcast engineers and receive the many benefits of membership. Renew online and take advantage of the convenient and secure renewal system on the SBE website.

Members may also return renewal forms they recently received by mail to the SBE National Office using the return envelope provided or fax renewal forms with credit card payment to (317) 846-9120. Those who did not receive a renewal letter by mail should contact Scott Jones at the national office.

Take advantage of the many membership benefits including free and discounted educational programs, SBE certification, technical books, access to SBE JobsOnline, insurance coverage, and chapter programs and renew today.

The SBE looks forward to a productive and successful year. Thanks to those who have already renewed their membership.


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