Monthly Archives: October 2013

Clay’s Corner for November 2013

October 30, 2013
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I often start this column with a review of our weather the last month.    The last couple of weeks we have found out just why Seattle is one of the foggiest places in the country with reportedly an average of 165 foggy days per year.   But wait !  – The following us cities have more fog than we do – Birmingham, Buffalo, Charlotte, Houston, Hartford, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Pittsburg, Raleigh and Richmond !   Now then, don’t you feel better.    In this area, unlike those foggier places, we have a place to go to escape those deck level clouds.   For example – to the east-side of the Cascades where a foggy day here is met with blinding sunshine there.   Another place ?  Those of us that are lucky to have to go to West Tiger can often find that the inversion layer that’s causing all of this has left Tiger basking in sunshine and much warmer temperatures.   The follow picture, taken on Oct 14th shows what I mean.   In Seattle the temperature was hovering around 50 degrees .  Meanwhile, at West Tiger it was 72!

I shot this picture looking west from West Tiger.  Here you can see Cougar Mt looking like an island in a white fluffy sea with the Olympics in the background – Seattle is under there….Somewhere.

Big news this past month had to be the Government Shutdown.   How did it feel to NOT have an FCC for almost 2 weeks?   Thankfully the ‘mice did not come out to play’ while the cat was away.   There were a few cases where FCC actions were delayed, or where you could not obtain information from a normally function web site.   All is all – Life appeared to continue.    Perhaps the sad part of the shutdown is that it did nothing to improve our dysfunctional government.

While we are setting the record straight – We have been having a wonderful fall – despite all the fog-

This was also taken on Oct 14th…Looking out the windshield while driving east on Gilman in Issaquah.

 

This past month we lost another member of our broadcasting family with the passing of Harry Lewis, W7JWJ.   Likely the first time I met Harry was about 40 years ago at an Amateur Radio gathering where he was happy to demonstrate his Morse Code abilities.   Harry could copy extremely high speed code like few others.  Harry passed from complications from Diabetes on Oct 19th.    His wife, Mary, W7QGP, passed earlier in the year.  Both of them touched a lot of lives in not only broadcasting but Amateur Radio.

Long time Engineer Buzz Anderson wants to make sure that you all see this video about a microwave dish that was used to warehouse nuts – http://www.wimp.com/woodpeckerfills/    My guess is they made quite an attenuator.    This reminds me of other ‘critters’ that seem to like antennas.  Satellite dishes have long been popular with yellow jackets.

Here’s a term to add to your collection –  “pedal misapplication,” – In the automobile industry this is used for  when the driver hits the gas instead of the brake.    Apparently this was the case with that accusations that Toyota were accelerating on their own.    I like this – Button Misapplication is when a person pushes the wrong button too.

LPFM was certainly getting the press this past month.  The Seattle Times ran a story on Oct 13, B1.  They even went as far as to headline that a 100 watt signal travels 3 miles.   Obviously height above average terrain is likely an overly complicated concept to most that aspire to have their own little radio station.   Going to be interesting what the FM band looks like when all these little signals get on the air….Even more interesting will be when the  novelty wears off.

The impact of LPFM on existing FM Stations has not been discussed much, trust me, this issue –will-come up.   For years Seattle’s FM stations have enjoyed what’s called ‘Bonus coverage’ .  This is coverage or a listenable signal beyond the stations 60 dbu contour.   Seattle’s FM’s have been blessed by the fact our areas major population centers (Vancouver and Portland) are spaced just about right…This has made bonus coverage something that many owners and operators count on.   I recall one cluster owner being quite upset that their listeners were being interfered with by a new station in B.C….but this is rare.   Sites like West Tiger provide a very listenable signal well beyond the FCC’s 60 dbu.   It is the territory – beyond-  that will become primary coverage territory for multiple LPFM’s.    Example – West Tiger Stations can be heard, albeit not really well, in Grays Harbor.   Just recently the FCC granted KGHO-LP a change from 98.4 to 99.9 –Co channel with long time Seattle station KISW.    Fasten your seatbelts.

Speaking of new stations, have you been following the battle over the proposed new station at Pt. Roberts?  They had a full house at a recent public meeting in Tsawwassen about the proposal to build a 50Kw -5 tower array on the little chunk of US that sticks out of the BC/US Border.   Once again residents were concerned about the health effects of RF.    Some of these folks probably are probably also worried about the little transmitter in their power meter…all the while they are welded to their cell phones.  Some are concerned that their existing electronics will be compromised.   The bottom line, in most cases like this, it the simple fact that people don’t like the look of towers and they will do all they can to come up with issues (factual or not) that they feel will provide with the leverage necessary to make the problem go away.   NIMBY is the word of the day on Pt. Roberts – Not in my back yard.    Sounds an awful lot like the KRKO battles in Snohomish County and my time, years ago, on the King County Tower Task Force.

A recent piece was written about 12 Jobs that the writer, Heather Dugan, classified as being on the brink of extinction.    First on her list – On Air DJ.  Her spin on this is that the airwaves are being replaced by ‘Web Waves’ and satellite signals.

Just about everywhere we go we are finding references to ‘The Cloud’….This is a great term, especially in dealing with technophobes who often have their own cloud issues.  The cloud is technologies alternative to describing a location as ‘over-yonder’.     When the question is asked about where is the ‘cloud’….Here’s the best answer I’ve heard….Tell them that it’s being operated by the NSA.   That should hold them for a while J

From time to time a broadcast engineer runs across something that sends the message – Go get your camera, you need to document this –    This comes from a very old friend Bob Gorjance and details one way to handle a grounding situation.   I recall, many years ago, finding an AM tower whose connection to its ATU was relying on the same tool – A pair of vice-grips.  In that case, a very rusty pair.

The world of EAS continues to consume a lot of time that I don’t have these days.  Here are some of the highlights –

Ø      Larry Walke (NAB) and I are co-chairing a CSRIC (FCC advisory committee) …I chair one of the sub-committees dealing with State EAS Plans which consists of a broad cross section of interested parties from  all over the country..   This is an extremely interesting activity.  Hopefully we will be able make some  great recommendations to the Commission that will result in improvements for all.

Ø      We are continuing to work on adding stations to our list of participants who have connected their Premiere Satellite receivers to their EAS Encoders.   This relatively new system will augment the role of those Primary Entry Point stations around the country, like KIRO/AM/710 in Seattle.   When we get everyone on board, the SECC will make some tweaks to some of the EAS Plans Tabs, including the Monitoring Assignments.    Don’t worry,  you will be advised.

Ø      We are very close to rolling out a revised EAS Plan.  This will be the first time in many years that this document has been changed or updated.  Granted we update the Tab’s all the time, this change will involve the description of the plan that’s in the front of the binder.

Ø      We are also very close to changing the location where the EAS Plan and it’s various Tabs are stored.   This new Web-Site will be hosted by Washington State Emergency Management.  Like all changes of this nature, you will be informed.

Ø       A reminder to be sure and have someone in our facility be subscribed to the Washington State EAS Remailer.   As this is the –ONLY – means we use for the distribution of updates to the State EAS Plan.   Failing to do this could create some significant issues for you, as your copy of the EAS, or one of its elements (Like Monitoring Assignments) could be dated potentially causing you some FCC compliance issues.   Remember the FCC makes it very clear in Part 11 that the SECC creates Monitoring Assignments and they fully expect every licensee to follow them.   Like the transmission of RWT’s and forwarding RMT’s –Monitoring the right sources is NOT an option.

Ø      Unfortunately some stations have not yet connected their new, CAP compliant, EAS Equipment to the FEMA/IPAWS system.    The FCC is looking for stations that have not and are requesting they send money east-ward.    Monitoring the FEMA/IPAWS Cap Server is , also, NOT  AN OPTION.

While you are at it – Be sure and ‘plug in’ the Washington State CAP server (Hosted by MyState USA).   These systems will, ultimately, become the primary means for the distribution of EAS messages.   If you need help with connecting the Internet to your EAS Device, contact Lowell Kiesow at KPLU.

Congress it getting into the Public Warning act with a couple of pieces of legislation that will, if enacted, enhance our nation’s public warning systems of which EAS remains a major component.

When a broadcast station, or cluster of them, are sold….You can expect that the new company will, after a period of ‘sizing up’ the operation they just purchased, make some changes to make the newly acquired operation function the same as their other operations.     On the 23rd can came word that Sinclair has begun that process with the laying off of 18 people in Seattle, 10 of them in the newsroom.  Reports are they include Satellite truck operators, editors, producers in radio and TV.   Down in PDX the axe fell on reportedly 9.      Here in Seattle you have to wonder if they are just trying to make the Fisher Plaza operation more lean and efficient, or does this mean a reduction in their emphasis on news.   Certainly the folks at KING, KCPQ and KIRO have to be watching and asking that same question.   At this writing, I’d not hear of any reduction in the Engineering Dept.’   Interestingly there are a number of job-openings in the PNW in our industry.   Check out the SBE 16 Web-Site for more info.

Almost like Mt St Helens, another mountain blows up….(Well sort of ) In this case, Entercom, owner of KMTT (103.7 FM)  which for about 25 years called itself – The Mountain- is no longer available to this areas FM listeners.   The new Call Letters are KHTP.   Now, to Entercom’s credit, the Mountain’s format is still available on KHTP/103.7 HD2.

This brings me to again the topic of HD Radio.   I was having lunch the other day with a nameless person who works in radio in the Grays Harbor area.  We chatted about HD Radio and I openly wondered just how long small markets like these can avoid making the move to install HD Radio transmitting equipment on their FM Stations.    HD Radio has been viewed  as an alternative format delivery device, more recently  as a means of delivering data to the entertainment devices in motor vehicles.   With an ever growing number of new cars coming with HD Radio equipment as standard equipment, how long can these smaller markets ignore it?   For those of us old enough to remember, there is an interesting parallel with the growth of FM Radio.   For years car radios were exclusively AM only …Then the Japanese came along with – installed – AM/FM Radios in all their vehicles …and, albeit slowly, Detroit and Europe caught up.   During the 60’s and early 70’s FM was thought of in much the same way as HD is today.   Look at what’s happening now as AM is, in some cases, on life-support and station owners are installing FM translators (where they can).   You drive to Grays Harbor, or Tri-Cities and there is very little HD Radio to be heard.   The reason often cited by their owners varies – I don’t believe it in –  It’s a flash in the pan and will never last – I can’t afford to do it – Show me where I can immediately make money with it –  etc etc.    The argument that no one has a radio is slowly fading.   Perhaps when the GM of these stations purchases a new car and it comes with an HD Radio and he hears his competitor but not his station, then the tide will change….Meanwhile the Digital Dashboard moves forward, with our without those that continue to poo-poo HD Radio with over 12 million HD Radios on the road.

Across the ‘Pond’ things are moving a whole lot more swiftly – The first half of 2018 may see the end of analog aural broadcasting in the UK.    This is not the only country making these announcements.  Denmark  is looking at ending FM in 2019.   Could it be that the US will become a third-world country in the area of aural broadcasting ….continuing to hang on to our analog broadcast stations….Just as grandpa would have wanted?   Granted we have a different economic model than many other countries…however everyone else seems to be jumping on one form of digital or another for their radio services.   Yet, in this land of computers and smart phones we have an industry that, in many areas, throws out the anchor when it comes to making these changes.

Like many other fields, broadcasting is full of abbreviations.    For example, ask anyone in radio or TV what EAS is and they will quickly tell  you it stands for Emergency Alert System.     EAS is not a completely universal  set of letters as the below example shows.

Here’s another one.   Ask  a Broadcast Engineer that works on transmitters what an IPA is and he will likely tell you that the letters IPA stand for Intermediate Power Amplifier.     Today…This can mean something quite different –  (I found this coaster in a local watering hole)

Ouch – The Washington State government division that oversees the making of leaking pontoons for the new 520 bridge and manages our State Ferry System…can’t be too happy with the news that came out about the, multi-million dollar,  generators they ordered , that could not be returned and ended up being auctioned on-line.   Apparently the State has over 5 Million bucks tied up in this useless hardware and they hope to recoup 3 of it (the minimum bid).   At  this writing, no word on how it turned out.

Can you imagine what would have happened if this were a TV Station ?

On the topic of generators.  Last year when it was time to perform periodic maintenance on a couple of generators at places I work …A single guy came out, disconnected the generator from the transfer switch, connected his load bank, ran the generator, changed the oil etc. re-connected it to the transfer switch and went on his way.   THIS YEAR – It takes 3 people to get the job done.  1) The generator mechanic, 2) An electrician to do all the electrical work  and, 3) A State Electrical inspector to make sure that the electrician did it correctly..    Apparently you can chalk this one up to progress?

A big congratulations to Arne Skoogs Widow, Debra, who recently passed her Amateur Radio exam.  She will be quickly making application for Arne’s call letters, WA7WKT.    A big thanks to Nick Winter, K7MO for being Deb’s coach and teacher.    Arne’s memory certainly lives on with me – Just today I was shopping at a local store and saw the brand of soft-drink that he loved.    We miss you Mr. Skoog.

One of our loyal readers, Charles Shaffer, K7NW, dropped me a note about just who continues to operate HD Radio on AM.    According to Charley, KUOW in Tumwater is still running it, however KHHO is Tacoma is not.   On the West Side of the Cascades only other stations operating   AM-HD in in Everett.  In Eastern Washington, Charley tells us that only KQNT and KWSU are operating the mode.   I get the feeling that AM-HD might just fade away.    I can still remember riding in a demo-bus at NAB in Las Vegas where they demonstrated AM –IBOC (as it was called then) and hearing the owners of AM stations express their enthusiasm at being able to sound as good as an FM…….Fizzzle.

Did you remember to say goodbye to the word Arbitron?…Yep, it’s gone.   The sale to Nielson is official and it’s now Nielsen Audio.

I stand corrected – In a recent column I stated that I did not know of anyone that was using  SCA’s anymore, especially in light of the superior performance of an HD3 etc.  Brother McGinley from CBS  reminded me that KZOK has been carrying Punjabi  on the 102.5 92Khz for years.   Thanks Tom.    Are there any other SCA’s still in operation in this area?

Congratulations to Beasley Broadcasting and to Charlie McCoy.   First to Beasley for doing what few broadcast company’s do…Honor one of their Engineers…..And second to Charlie for his winning.   Generally engineers are the last to be recognized for their contribution to this industry.

To assist my readers with their understanding of Engineers, I submit the following two examples –

1- The graduate with a science degree asks, “Why does it work?”  The graduate with an engineering degree asks, “How does it work?” The graduate with an accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?” The graduate with an arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”
2 – The average person believes  that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t  broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.

That’s it for this month.   If the good Lord is willing, we will do this again next month.   Thanks for the read.  And Finally – Have a Happy Thanksgiving !

Clay Freinwald, CPBE, K7CR