Monthly Archives: August 2013

Clay’s Corner for Sept 2013

August 26, 2013
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As I write this, near the end of August, I can truthfully state that this has been a wonderful summer…Dry, warm, not too hot…another chapter in the book of the most wonderful place on to be in the summer.    Thankfully, we have been spared the conditions in other parts of the PNW where forest fires and smoke have been the norm….Whether or not our luck will hold out will depend on when our rains return.  Keep your fingers crossed.   I recall, all too well, when we were building the first broadcast facility on Tiger mountain the rains did not come until late October and we were all scared.

Speaking of Tiger Mt – As I drive up there and go past the ATC site on,  the way to the summit of West Tiger, I can’t help but think of our departed friend, Arne Skoog who, like his friend, spent many hours working on systems there.  

A more recent change at West Tiger is that, once again, the State has let contracts for logging.  This has resulted in a number of spur-roads being built that intersect the main access road.    From the maps we were supplied by DNR, it looks like a number of areas will be logged.   This also means extra caution is required going up and down as those log trucks think of this as ‘their road’ and it’s one-way (The direction they are going)

EAS has been a bit part of what I do for many years, and the amount of time that I spend dealing with that issue is about to increase with Larry Walke (NAB) and I co-chairing a CSRIC Work-Group.  If you are not familiar with CSRIC – Here is how it’s defined by the Feds –

The Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council’s (CSRIC) mission is to provide recommendations to the FCC to ensure, among other things, optimal security and reliability of communications systems, including telecommunications, media, and public safety.

 Translation – This is a system of advisory committees whose recommendations may end up being the basis of future rule changes.   Our group has some specific tasks – 1) EAS State Plans, 2) EAS Security, and 3) EAS Operational Issues/Nationwide EAS Test.     Another familiar name on this WG is Ted Buehner our local WCM.   Ted has a complete understanding of the EAS System here in Washington State and will be a great asset.

In the mean-time – Our State EAS Committee, known as the SECC in FCC Parlance, will be meeting on Friday the 13th of September.   Hope you can join us.

Well they are gone  – RIP – Fisher !

 

 

 

 

 

From the department of – What’s going on here ?

1-      I keep reading about the increasing number of people that are, what they call – ‘cutting the cord’.   Generally meaning that they are disconnecting from their cable system.  The question is where are they going?   On-Line is my guess…perhaps figuring that if they can get what they want in terms of video entertainment, why pay the cable outfit?  Of course the cable outfits are offering Internet services ??

2-      You keep hearing how OTA TV is going to go away (to be replaced with Internet offerings I guess) …Yet outfits like Sinclair and Gannett are dumping truckloads of money into the purchasing of OTA facilities.

3-      Qualcomm/Media Flo were gobbling up channel 55’s across the country and building out a system that went fizzle.  Now comes word that 700 MHz has become the hot spectrum for something very similar is being proposed by a very well-known firm.

4-      Just want we need, another cable news outfit….as if CNN, MSNBC and FOX were not enough…Here comes Al-Jazeera.   What makes this interesting to us locals is that there will be some very familiar faces to watch…An in folks that used to work at KOMO and KING.   Gee, remember when CNN operated Headline News that morphed into something else?  Understand that the BBC too would like to find a slot on our cable systems.

5-      There are those in WDC whining about the fact that not everyone is connected to the internet.  Funny how we did not hear that cry when Radio or TV were rolled out.   Some claim they can’t afford it, then again what happened to advertising supported on-line services? Then there are those that want to Tax the Internet (More??)

Shifting gears a bit – For those of you that are not Hams or licensed Amateur Radio Operators.. A quick lesson on call letters.    If you were to go out and get a Ham license now you would be assigned a set of call letters, for example KF7XYZ, and you decided that you did not like that one and would prefer one that looked closer to mine (K7CR).   You could apply to the FCC, along with $16.10 and request what is called a ‘vanity call’.      Have you ever wondered how many people actually do this?   Well, in the next fiscal year the FCC anticipates it will receive 14,300 vanity call sign applications bringing in $230,230 in revenue to cover the cost of the program…To which I say – WOW!

Congratulations to Jim Dalke for being one of the more creative minds in our Chapter.   Take a look on Page 16 of the Radio Magazine 2013 Product Source.   There you will see one of Jim’s creations.  An all -Digital AM Antenna Monitor.   And Kudo’s to Stephan Lockwood of Hatfield and Dawson for the article about him in the latest Radio World Magazine.    Always nice to see ‘local-folks’ be recognized for their work in this field.

The FCC has been busy making sure that the rules of the game are followed by all – here are some examples –

Ø       KRIZ was issued an NOV for Public File Violations. 

>>  Lesson – Make sure that your Stations Public File is in order.

Ø      The operators of the Deer Point tower near Boise received an NOV because their ASR Sign was, apparently, a bit weather worn and the last number had peeled off.   Here is what the rules state –

   "..., 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.”

   >> Lesson – Don’t assume that the sign on your tower will pass inspection,   

            take the time to go take a look to make sure.

Ø             On July 30th FCC Agents visited the source of an un-licensed FM station in Lakewood operating on 87.7.   From the official Notice of Unlicensed Operation –

   “…Your fundamental emissions on frequency 87.7 MHz from an

   intentional radiator were measured at 3,965,572 microvolts per meter

   (uV/m) at three meters.  This exceeds the allowable unlicensed limit of

100 uV/m at three meters established in Part 15….”

   >> Lesson – Don’t try and operate a pirate radio station.  

If you are tempted to do something that violates FCC (or other) rules the Internet is your shopping center of choice.  Not only can you purchase radio transmitting equipment….but if you’re of the mind that you’d like to jam GPS Signals – little gizmos are available for about 100 Bucks that plug into your vehicles utility outlet (aka cigarette lighter) that jams those pesky signals that your company may be using to track the location of your vehicle.  One guy tried this but made the mistake of operating the jammer at an airport. In this case a Gary Bojczak was trying to beat the system so his employers would not know where he was.   The problem was the little jammer transmitter jammed what’s known as the SmartPath Precision Landing System at the Newark N.J. airport.    Funny how the FAA is not amused by this kind of stupidity.   Not only did his boss fire him…but he was slapped with a $31,875 fine.

For some odd reason, broadcast engineers just love to save things that go –really bad – Nice to know that Marty Hadfield is in that category.   At the recent SBE-16 Picnic on Vashon he was showing some examples of rigid-line inner conductor trauma….and these are real jewels –

The first one is, or was, an inner conductor connector, often called a bullet in the trade.  One of the best examples I’ve seen – trophy level example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next picture shows a piece of rigid-line inner conductor that has been repeatedly stressed to the point that a number of places have burnt away.

 

The problem with issues like these is that they can be taking place right now and you might not be aware of it.   This one of the reason why periodic inspection with an infrared camera is so valuable.   In the case of tall towers, an infrared camera with a long-lens is required.  The heat produced by these festering issues will show up.  When a hot-spot is located, it’s time for a shut-down and disassembly.   The problem is failures like these can snowball (albeit a hot snowball) resulting in a potentially larger failure downstream.     Thanks again Marty of the examples.

 

While I am in the mode of picture sharing from my camera-card..…Here’s a shot that will bring smiles to many.    (Yes I did it)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently the NPR feed to all of their affiliates went down at the same time

For about 3 minutes causing a whole lot of people to scramble to find the cause. (723 AM in our time zone) If your station was being fed from the network at the time, your first suspicion was there was something wrong at your station and that it can’t be beyond you.  In this case, it was…a classic case of double illumination where someone turned on their uplink and clobbered an existing operation.   Can you image what would happen had this been a major TV network in the middle of the Super Bowl ?

 The disputes over re-transmission issues between TV stations and cable companies is getting increasingly ugly with each side taking their side to anyone that will listen in an effort to gain traction.  In one, very unusual, case where their programming is being blacked out due to a dispute, the cable outfit is offering free indoor TV Antennas to their viewers so they can receive the OTA broadcasts from the TV station.  In cities where these black-outs are taking place Radio Shack is reporting large increases in the sales of TV antennas.   Who would have ever thought that this would take place?  I suspect that  Both sides are watching this issue with a great deal of interest waiting to see who blinks first. 

 Point Roberts is a very unique piece of real estate.  It’s a part of the US in northern Puget Sound where you must drive through Canada to get there (or take a boat from the US). Looking at this location from a broadcast engineers eyes…This would be a great place for a US based AM station that is looking at serving Canadian listeners.   This is exactly what KRPI-AM, licensed to Ferndale, WA, proposes to do. The stations present site, near Ferndale operates 50Kw Day and 10Kw Night on 1550.  The new, Port Roberts site would have them operating 50Kw Day and Night.  The FCC has approved, but the local residents have objections to a new ‘grove’ of towers in their area.….On both sides of the border. Another interesting aspect of this station, their studios are in Richmond, BC.     Not often we have something like this going on this area with an international flavor.

 Ibiquity, the US HD Radio outfit is out with some more news about the system  – They are forecasting sales of HD Radio receivers will be up 63% this year to 5.4 million.  3.3 million of that will come as new car radios as car-makers are increasingly offering the system in their new vehicles.   Another claim is the 3.6 million are now listening to HD Sub-channels (HD2, HD3 etc.) representing a significant percentage increase.    Meanwhile, Ibiquity is promoting the use of these sub-channels to feed FM Translators.  This is something that is being done to a limited extent in Western Washington.   For example, NWPR using one of their stations HD2 Channels to feed it’s unique programming to an FM translator in the same market.  One use of the HD sub-channels I am surprised is not more popular is for foreign language broadcasting.   In years past SCA channels were used for this purpose.  Those systems were a problematic, to say the least.   Still, in smaller markets, adding HD to an existing FM station is a very hard sell as they expect instant return on their investment, otherwise…It’s not going to happen.

Speaking of translators – The Radio Arts Foundation of St Louis, Mo. is in the process of purchasing an FM translator for $110,000 from a broadcaster…This to keep Classical Music on the air in that market where the legacy classical station sold and is changing format..   It will also be available on an HD2 channel.   Not only is this a hefty price for a translator, but demonstrates the commitment to classical music in that market.

Looks like KUOW may be gaining an FM translator in Olympia on 107.3.  For some time, KUOW –AM has been on the air in Tumwater on 1340.

Kudo’s to Clear Channel for not just recognizing that the average age of broadcast engineer is advancing and many are not going to be there in the not-to-distant future but actually doing something about the problem.   Jeff Littlejohn stated that the company is making a strategic investment in the future of broadcast engineering to help assure that there will be engineers in the future.    One only has to look around at a local SBE Chapter meeting and you will quickly note all the gray/white haired folks in attendance.    I recall when I wanted to get into this business there was a local school that taught Radio/TV broadcast engineering, sadly it is no more as are the eager youngsters that were pestering more senior engineers to show them what they did (I was one of those).  Today….I rarely run into anyone that is interested in what I do or shows an interest.   Perhaps those big machines that operate with voltages north of 24 volts have something to do with it.?  

Sorry to report the passing of another in our industry.   Robert Jorgenson, KB7TFN,  who was employed by WSU as a maintenance engineer  in Pullman recently lost his battle with cancer.   Robert was certified by SBE and formerly worked with KEPR in Tri-Cities.  

Here’s a picture of the tower at South Mountain.  Presently home of KDDS/99.3, KOMO-FM/97.7 and soon to be KANY/93.7.   The Site is located about 50 miles southwest of Seattle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a picture of KNWU in Forks.  The station uses the single Shively 6810 in the Radome on the right tank. (No, the pole and tanks are not leaning, this is due to the lens being used). The tanks are part of the U of W – ONRC Facility located on a hill above the ‘Twilight Town’ in the NW Corner of our state.   The yagi’s on the tank on the left are part of the U-Dub earthquake network telemetry system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Probably would not work in Forks – But an FM station in New Jersey, WKXW, has installed a solar array to power their studios. Apparently a 28Kw System.    Now if the folks in Forks could figure out how to harness the power of those big Banana Slugs…..

The FCC is getting an ear-full from owners of smaller AM stations as the Commish wrestles with what to do to infuse new life in the legacy band.  One of the proposals is filled with a lack of understanding of the matter – Increase nighttime power levels.   I very well recall the old Class-4 AM’s (1240,1340,1400,1450, 1490 etc.).  These ‘Local Channels’ all operated with 250 watts Non-DA, day and night.   The FCC bowed to pressure from their owners and granted them 1 Kw during the day…It was not long this group, after found a method to ‘wag the dog, were back at the Feds crying  for 1kw at Night.   The results of this are here for is all to hear.  Just put your car radio in Scan some night and don’t look at the display.  If it stops on a mish-mash of AM’s clobbering each other, chances are good you landed on one of these frequencies.   Betcha those that are whining for more nighttime power either forgot this bit of history or are no old enough to recall it themselves.   The problem is signal to noise…Noise levels have increased…With minimal attempts to control it and with it AM coverage has gone down.    Unfortunately these AM owners feel that increasing power will resolve all of their problems…Just like the program director or station manager feels that making their station louder by installing the latest trash compactor aka audio-processor.  Granted these devices help with the S/N issue but they too have trade-offs. 

I go back to the proposal I made a few months ago for what to do with the AM Band a few months ago…Sunset it and move everything to new and much better suited spectrum.

Every once in a while someone comes up with an idea that makes thousands say…Why didn’t I think of that.    This one involves making plastic, that could be used for insulation for wire, out of banana peels.  The credit for this invention does not go to a scientist working for a major chemical company, but rather a 16 year old girl named Elif Bilgin, a student in Istanbul, Turkey !   Check it out, Page 19 in the September issue of Scientific American.

Could your TV be watching you?   That’s the claim by some that feel that hackers could gain access to Samsung’s new Smart TV…of course the device has to be connected to the internet – No fear that your local OTA TV station is watching you….Even if Steve Poole keeps saying that he will see US on Ch. 4 !

Well folks that’s about it for this month.   Thanks for taking time to read what I type into my computer.  Enjoy the rest of summer – for you know what’s just around the corner.  In fact, today, August 24th, NWS Seattle had already put snow showers in the Central Cascade forecast (for above 10,000 feet)…Yikes.

See you at the next SBE Chapter Meeting – or perhaps at the EAS Committee Meeting on Sept 13th (You are invited to both)

Clay, K7CR, CPBE etc.