Monthly Archives: June 2012

Random Radio Thoughts for June 2012

June 24, 2012
By

Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB Crawford Broadcasting Company

Here Comes Summer!

Maybe it’s a product of how busy I have been of late, but wow, summer sure got here fast! It’s amazing how quickly time goes by when there are deadlines to meet and other time pressures.

 With the warm weather months upon us, we also have all the usual site maintenance issues to deal with. Formerly barren ground quickly turns to a jungle of weeds with the least amount of rain. Miller moths multiply at an exponential rate and get through the tiniest openings to lose their lives in high-voltage arcs within our transmitters. And the cooling season also begins, along with all the maintenance and repairs that such calls for (including occasionally unclogging condensate drains of all those dead miller moths!).

As licensee of four local AM stations, we have a lot of Colorado real estate to maintain, and this time of year that means mowing, and lots of it. Several years ago we purchased a 1970s-vintage Massey-Ferguson 180 tractor, brush hog and several other blades and implements to assist us in keeping up with all the work. We had previously contracted out everything, but when you’re talking about over 100 acres to mow several times during the growing season, you’re looking at some serious money. It made financial sense for us to purchase the equipment and have our local engineering crew take care of the mowing chores.

That has worked out pretty well so far. We have had our share of maintenance issues with that old tractor, but all in all we are ahead of the game financially. We have also been able to stay out of dutch with the Weld County authorities. Those folks, with a lot of South Platte River frontage in their county, take an aggressive stance on any Canada thistle growth anywhere near the river or any drainage leading to the river.

So if you’re out and about and see a big red tractor operating in one of our antenna fields, that’s no landscape maintenance contractor driving it… it’s either Amanda or Keith. Honk and wave as you drive by!

What’s That Rule Again?

Over the past few years, I have run into one issue several times with FCC Enforcement Bureau (EB) personnel. This has never occurred in Colorado – our local EB folks are first-rate and they really know their stuff. But that is not the case in every district.

The specific issue that I always seem to run into concerns the posting of antenna structure registration numbers (ASRNs) at tower sites. The rule, 47 C.F.R. §17.4(g), states: “Except as described in paragraph (h) of this section, the Antenna Structure Registration Number must be displayed in a conspicuous place so that it is readily visible near the base of the antenna structure. Materials used to display the Antenna Structure Registration Number must be weather-resistant and of sufficient size to be easily seen at the base of the antenna structure.”

For the umpteenth time, one of our outlying stations got a Notice of Violation (NOV) that stated: “The antenna structures are surrounded by a perimeter property fence. The Antenna Structure Registration numbers were not posted at the gate of the perimeter property fence, and any signs posted at the base of the antenna were not visible from the gate.”

The NOV clearly called this a “violation” and required a response and remedial action. The problem for the EB folks is that posting additional signage at the property gate, or even insuring that the signs at the tower bases are readable from the perimeter gate, is not required by any rule!

While I certainly would not argue that having ASRNs posted at the perimeter fence is a good idea, it is not required and it really amounts to a needless expense for already cash-strapped broadcasters.

In every case where I have had to answer one of these NOVs to date, I have respectfully replied that I completely concur with the agent’s observations, which themselves bear out that the facility is in full compliance with 17.4(g), and in every case to date, I have not heard another word.

So where does this come from, this calling a non-violation a violation? It’s hard to say without some insider knowledge, but I suspect that the requirement for perimeter signage is contained in some policy or guide book that is used by EB personnel in the field. But policy and guidelines are not law.

Interestingly, Denver EB personnel contacted me in recent years about a tower light that was not flashing properly that they had observed on a drive-by of one of our local sites. In that contact, the agent gave me the ASRN of the tower. It wasn’t posted at the gate or anywhere except the tower base as required, and no mention was made of the need to do so. As I mentioned above, the local EB folks really seem to know their stuff.

Whatever the case, I guess we can all consider this a word to the wise. If the budget will stand it, posting your ASRNs at the entry gate to the property as well as at the tower bases is probably a good way to avoid the issue altogether.

If you have news to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, drop me an email at crisa@crawfordbroadcasting.com.

 

Clay’s Corner for June 2012

June 24, 2012
By

By Clay Freinwald SBE Seattle Chapter 16Featuring News, Rumors and Views From Usually Reliable and Irrefutable Sources

Is your station ready for the big EAS Deadline of June 30th?     I’ve been communicating with one of the major suppliers of EAS hardware and they too have been surprised by the last-minute requests for purchase.   I suspect that many stations have been holding off until the last minute to buy the new EAS equipment hoping that the FCC would – again- delay the due date.   Well, no delays this time!  If you don’t have the new, CAP Capable, EAS equipment by June 30th….You may find yourself dealing with the FCC in ways you will not appreciate.

To further help you all in understanding this big change…FEMA, NAB and NASBA: The following diagram should help explain how some of these new pieces fit together –

A word about Monitoring Assignments – All stations will – continue – to monitor the same sources as before – additionally ALL STATIONS will be required to monitor the new FEMA/IPAWS server.   For those of you in Washington State that are already connected to the Washington State CAP Server (WaCAP) this will simply mean configuring your EAS equipment to receive messages from an additional source.   For those that are presently not connected to any CAP Server, your Washington State EAS Committee (SECC) would like to have you monitor BOTH CAP Servers.

One more thing about EAS – Your help is needed.   The State EAS Committee (SECC) as well as the various Local EAS Committees (LECC’s) needs your help with our EAS Systems.  Remember, EAS is a COOPERATIVE effort.   How good, or bad, our EAS is depends directly on those who volunteer to volunteer to help.   Please give this some thought.  Thanks !

One of my best friends, Nick Winter, had what he calls a ‘wake-up-call’ this past month as he awoke about 230 AM feeling numb on his left side.  Upon arrival at the hospital it was quickly determined that he had suffered a stroke and had extremely high blood pressure.  Nick, age 60, said that it had been years since he went to a doctor and had put off having routine checkups.   Closer examination revealed that he had also suffered a pervious minor stroke earlier (on the other side) and was not aware of it.  Thankfully the prognosis is good and he should make a full recovery.   A lot of changes in a short period of time and, now, a routine of taking medication for hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol along with a big change in diet….and, yes, routine checkups.   If all goes well, he hopes to return to work at Pacific Lutheran’s KPLU in about a month.    Yes, I have a motive for all of this…I hope that none of you elect to skip routine visits to the Doc.   Just like the equipment we maintain, we require periodic performance evaluations and, as require, maintenance.   Preventative maintenance (and medicine) is often necessary if we are going to keep us ‘on the air’.

More recently we are saddened to learn of the passing of Janel Schmidt wife of Robert Rogers.    Robert is very active in the Portland, Oregon area and has, in the past, attended Chapter 16 events.    The following picture is of their daughter, Robert and Janel on the right.

Samsung has, in recent years, become a huge name in appliances, electronics from TV’s to stereo to cellphones.   I have to admit I was a bit taken back by a recent add for their home theatre products…..

Vacuum Tube and Digital Sound

Enjoy a more lifelike experience with Vacuum Tube and Digital Sound. Hear your favorite music for the first time with the innovation of analog and digital sound combined. It creates a truer, more immersive sound that digital alone cannot replicate. Samsung has brought wonder to your eyes, now it’s time for your ears.

Question – Would Radio and TV audio sound better if we returned to using vacuum tubes?

 A number of media stories recently devoted to the passing of Eugene Polley who is credited for inventing the TV remote control.  A former engineer with Zenith, he was 96.   I suppose there are those that would accuse him of aiding the obesity problem in our country.  The technique he used was very primitive by today’s standards and consisted of PE cells mounted in the corners of the screen.  Pointing a beam of light at each one performed a remote function.

This month marks the 120th anniversary of a profound moment in science.  It was in 1892 that Hendrick Lorentz hypothesized the role of the electron.     Where would ‘electronics’ be without this discovery?

Google finalized their purchase of a portion of Motorola this past month putting the firm in the hardware business. The portion they purchased, called Motorola Mobility, makes Cable TV boxes and a number of personal communication devices.  It will be interesting to see where this takes Google going forward.   Likely some of the 20,000+ that work for Motorola will be out of a job.    The traditional part of the firm that still makes 2-way radios etc. (called Motorola Solutions) will continue.

Speaking of big changes with electronic manufacturing.   It was recently announced that HP was going to lay off some 27,000 in California….Ouch!

With winter behind us, time to get some work done at site on the summit of West Tiger.    Since this site was developed back in the late 80’s there have been many power outages with the generator run total approaching 1000 hours of operation.   Power failures at this site seem to be accompanied with poor access causing a lot of concern over would the power be restored before the diesel ran out.   This problem has been addressed with the installation of a new and much larger fuel tank for the site.   Getting this big tank up the road was interesting, to say the least.  Here are a couple of pictures of this project –

The many short-radius turns proved to be quite a challenge to the long trailers.

Setting the new Diesel Tank

 

Whereas probably 95% of all towers now are for cellular communications. I could not help but be amused at the fact that all tower sites are now Cell Sites.    I had an interesting time explaining to the contractors that this was – not – a cell site and why.

This address for the site was developed prior to the highway being named Highway 18.

 

With some are wondering if AM Radio will be around much longer….Meanwhile engineers are working on schemes that will reduce their cost of operation.  MDCL, or Modulation Dependent Carrier Level is one of those schemes that is being implemented on the higher powered AM stations running 50 Kw.   WOR in NYC recently made the modification and reports a power saving of 25 to 30%..  Apparently there have been no negative effects of making the change.    To our north, a couple of stations in Vancouver have also made the change.    With a rather large number of 50Kw stations in the Seattle area, it’s likely that we will see this system get installed at a station here also.  Oh yes, you do have to obtain a waiver from the FCC.

Seattle based Fisher Broadcasting is going to pay the FCC $7000 involving a contest issue at KVI and a former employee who, at the time, was a promotions coordinator.

A cluster of Clear Channel owned stations in Wisconsin were recently taken off the air due to a wind-storm that took down the clusters STL tower at their studio.  Smaller markets are not likely to have completely redundant STL systems.  Events like this are good reason for all engineers to look for that single point of failures.   Here is a picture of the tower after the storm.

 

From time to time I note the fact that the owner of a couple of Seattle’s TV stations owned by Tribune continues deal with bankruptcy.  Now there is word that Hubbard is interested in buying the firms broadcast assets, including flag-ship WGN in Chicago.  Tribune owns 24 stations in 19markets.   Hubbard was in the news last year when they purchase 17 radio stations from Bonneville.  So….maybe, perhaps, possibly….We could see new owners of the video factory on West Lake.

As a sign of how newspapers are doing these days…The Times- Picayune, the daily newspaper in New Orleans just announced that it would cut publication to 3 days per week.   Hard to believe that a 175 year old paper would reach this day.   So far, the Tacoma News Tribune and Seattle Times (both having substantial common ownership) are still with us.   ..

I received an email from Charley Shaffer, K7NW, recently explaining how the original  studio and transmitter site for KJR was recently demolished to make room for a structure.   Charley explained – “As I’m sure you know, Vincent Kraft, amateur radio call sign 7AC, got an experimental license, 7XC, and started broadcasting music in 1919 from the garage behind his home at 6838 19th Ave. N.E. in Seattle.  I have driven by it several times over the years, knowing that it was a historical broadcast site.

 Of course, Kraft’s KJR was the RF ancestor of today’s KOMO 1000, and only the call sign ancestor of today’s KJR 950, due to the frequency swap Fisher did in 1944.

 Thanks Charlie – Betcha there are very few that would know about this – Thanks for sharing.

The 2012 NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference Proceedings are now available as a 500 + Page Book with a CD ROM or as a CD ROM only.    Find out more by going to  – www.nabstore.com

The FCC has issued an NAL against Pacific Empire Radio in Oregon with stations in La Grande, Baker City and Elgin.   According to the FCC each of the stations was missing issues and program lists from July 2008 to August 2011.    That will cost them 25 Grand. It could have been higher with 5 stations involved and the ‘going rate’ for public file violations running about 10K.    I found it interesting how few stations were actually represented at a recent Seattle SBE Meeting where we address Public Files.   Apparently everyone In our area is doing it right.

Mt Rushmore Broadcasting in Hot Springs S.D. has their own NAL to deal with.   $21,500 for not maintaining a management or staff presence at the stations main studio, failing to maintain a local phone number in its COL and failing to make the station available for inspection.

From time to time we hear stories about the Seattle area where the city, or area, is ranked nationally…Here are a couple of recent rankings –

Ø      Seattle drivers spent an average of 33 hours in slow traffic in 2011.   This is an improvement from the 44 hours we spent in 2010.   However….Seattle ranked #7 on the top 10 list of worst cities for driving.  The worst is a bit of a surprise – Honolulu. # 2 is as you would suspect – Los Angeles.

Ø      On the good side – Seattle is ranked #3 on the list of most peaceful cities.  #1 is Cambridge Mass. #10 is Portland, Oregon.

For more about how Seattle ranks – take a look at – http://www.bestplaces.net/rankings/city/washington/seattle

Mark Persons, writing in a recent issue of Radio World, asked the question – Where have all the Engineers gone?   I often wonder the same thing.   Looking around a chapter meeting there is a LOT of gray hair!   Knowing well that I’m on the short end of this life, I often wonder why no-one has inquired about taking my job when my time is done.   Has the lack of jobs scared away the younger folks that might consider broadcasting?   Let’s face it; the job market is very tight.   If you wanted a broadcast job in Seattle, you had better take a number and wait.  Perhaps it’s the level of pay, or the number of hours?   Perhaps it’s the fact that all the new guys are into IT?   Who wants to chain up a 4×4 and head up into the woods to repair something with thousands of volts inside when you can be in a warn, comfortable, office in town?  Who wants to take the time to learn electronics and the math that goes with it and have to read schematics anyway?   Then again, when we hang it up, it’s not our job to find a replacement is it?  That chore will fall on the poor manager that for years thought we did little and were overpaid.    Ahhh to be the fly on the wall.

That’s it for this month – I’m off June 1 thru 3 to the Oregon Coast for the annual Seaside Hamfest.   Nice to get together with another bunch of old folks.

See you at the next Chapter 16 meeting in Federal Way !!!

Clay, K7CR & CPBE