Monthly Archives: March 2014

Clay’s Corner for April 2014

March 27, 2014
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Providing news and views from a broadcast engineer’s perspective since September 1986

There are times that I sit down to write this column and have little to write about…This month is not one of those!     I almost don’t know where to begin.

Probably the biggest news was the tragic helicopter accident at Fisher Plaza that took the lives of the pilot and a KOMO-TV news photographer.     I’m not going to try and tell the story again, as you have all seen the pictures and read what happened.   Some things do come to mind however that I’d like to share.    1) Preliminary findings appear to show something wrong with the tail-rotor system as the chopper spun around and, according to some witnesses, made strange noises.  2) I keep thinking if they had been at ground level, and not on top and edge of a building, perhaps they would have survived?  3) Granted there are other stations that fly off their roofs, in addition to a number of flights to and from Harborview Hospital, however I can’t help but think that there will be calls to review the regulations that permit this.  4) I was very pleased to see how the other stations pulled together to carry this story as if it were their own crew that was involved.   A lot of class was shown!

The other big story of this past month is the Oso landslide.   Another tragic event that is still un-folding as I write this column.    This too has brought together a lot of people from a large number of agencies as they deal with the aftermath of this event.   Many have ranked this event up there with Mt St Helens and other natural disasters.    I have to hand it to Sno-County, they have their hands full, but from what I see, they have some very talented folks in Emergency Management.     Just like the other major events of this past month, those stations with news operations jumped in with significant coverage on both radio and TV.   It was heart-warming to see some of our major stations and groups work on fund-raising etc.    I did note in several of the press conferences officials were thanking the media.

I was talking with Ted Buehner  (Seattle WFO WCM) recently about this and noted that this event is very much like a tornado in terms of response.  Fortunately we don’t have big tornado disasters, and the flat-lands don’t have huge landslides, however there are some parallels.   Unlike tornados where the NWS  issues a Tornado Warning , or TOR in EAS lingo,  there was no warning that the mountain was about to come down.   The NWS however did note that the river level below the slide suddenly dropped telling them that a slide had occurred.  From this data an EVI or Evacuate Immediate EAS Message was issued.  Thanks to our area not having a lot of disasters,  we don’t put the EAS to use very often for something other than Amber or an abducted child. Unfortunately,  there are some broadcasters that likely did not run the message for reasons that only they understand.    There are those that feel the main purpose of EAS is to ‘run-tests’.  However the main purpose is to Save Lives ! .  With that in mind, here are some recommendations –

1 – Make sure that your station (or cable system) has it’s EAS equipment programmed to automatically forward urgent/lifesaving messages (There are a list of these Event Codes in the State EAS Plan)

2-  Do not permit your station to ‘sit-on’ or otherwise delay the forwarding of these messages, time is critical.

3- Don’t wait for someone on your stations staff to ‘voice’ the message to make it sound better or ‘more broadcast like’ – Again time is critical…it’s the message that’s vital – not how it sounds.

4 – Remember that potential victims may well be watching your TV or listening to your Radio station.  The goal of the EAS is to broadcast these messages – BY ALL AVAILABLE MEANS.   This means everyone runs the same message at the same time.   

5- Should a lifesaving message not reach someone that is injured (or worse) because you did not follow these guidelines…..How can you justify your position?

6- There will be more disasters, this is guaranteed – Please do your part.

7- Granted the FCC expects you to participate in the EAS, however you should be eager to do so not just to be compliant with their rules, but because it’s the moral thing to do.

A closely related topic is what are you, or your station, going to do after our predicted mega-quake?  I have written about this matter in this column several times and my concerns remain the same.   In general, I feel that the too many stations under-estimate just how bad this will be and how long it will take for stations to get back on the air and have failed to plan accordingly.   Just like the Oso Slide – Earthquakes have no advance warning…As they say in the Emergency Management world, they are self-announcing.     The Seattle times ran a great story on how long  disruptions caused by this big quake would last on March 9th.  If you did not read this – I highly recommend you do so…and use this as a basis for a serious conversation with station management.    Here are some example categories from that story of how long it will be before normal conditions are restored.

Ø      WATER SUPPLIES – 1 month to 1 year – (What is your staff going to drink?)

Ø      SEWAGE TREATMENT – 1 month to 3 years

Ø      ELECTRICITY – One to three months (How many stations have made concrete plans for running their generators for 3 months?   Or have multiple sources of fuel when everyone is trying to get it too?)

Ø      PETROLEUM DISTRIBUTION – 1 to 3 months – (What are you going to do to fuel that generator when your normal supplier tells you they can’t get it? ….You’ve planned for that, right?)

Ø      TELEPHONE AND INTERNET – 1 to 3 months – (How are you going to communicate with  your staff?  Remember that 2-way radio system that was junked in favor of cellular?)

Ø      FREEWAYS – I-5,I-90, I-405 – 1 to 3 years – (How are you going to get around?  How is your staff going to get to work?)

I recently read a local broadcast stations emergency plan and It a couple of things were clear –

Ø      The writer wrote this for something other than a mega quake

Ø      They assumed that Engineering would be able to fix anything.

Ø      The writer has a serious denial problem, or simply does not grasp what they must be prepared for.

Are you, and/or your station ready ?  

One of the biggest news stories of this past month was the missing Malaysian airliner.   This story captured a huge segment of every news cast and the lion’s share of CNN’s programming.    Technology has been a huge part of this story with lots of references to Boeing.  After all that airplane was built right here in Everett.   In the end, it appears to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.   The reasons why this happened will take perhaps a long time to sort out.   

Now, as they used to say on the air …. In other news –

NAB is just about upon us in Las Vegas.  After missing the last couple of years, I will be attending this year.   I’m involved with, as you might suspect, some EAS Related activities.         If you are an SBE Member – Be sure and attend the annual Membership Meeting in Las Vegas, certain a lot of celebrating will take place with SBE turning 50 this year. Perhaps I will see you there?

From the category of only the Navy would do it — They are replacing their Prowlers with Growlers !

One area where prices have come down is video cameras….Unless the camera you are talking about went to the moon.   It’s been recently reported that a camera used on a moon landing recently fetched over ¾ megabucks.     Wonder why they brought it back?

More statistics for our region…..This time a ranking of metropolitan areas in terms of economic confidence.   Washington DC and San Jose are at the top of this list with the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area coming in in 4th place.  Pretty cool huh?

Another recent survey looked at the best places to retire in the U.S.   Coming in at #3 was Bellingham.  On the down side they cited the fact that the cost of living is 9% above the national average.  In #4 was Boise,  Idaho.

Dwight Small at Entercom wants us all to know that the word Engineer comes from a Latin word meaning ‘cleverness’.    Having a little fun with this finding…How about the Society of Broadcast Cleverness.    SBE would thereby become SBC and IEEE would be IEEC etc.   Oh well enough of that.

Not exactly the Seattle market, however, our neighbor to the North, Vancouver is about to see new owners of a cluster of stations there with the CRTC approval of 3 stations there to Newcap Radio.  Newcap already owns 90 radio stations in Canada.

Will not impact the Seattle Market , however another merger has been announced – Lin and Media General will create the 2nd biggest TV group with 74 stations in 46 markets.

In the category of you learn something new every-day …The April issue of QST has a great article about how radio amateurs were relaying messages back the beginning of radio communications .  Yes, this was prior to radio and TV, we are talking 1916 and 1917.  I always knew the Vacuum Tubes were called Valves elsewhere in the world, however I had never heard the term ‘Thermionic Valve’.     This brings up the idea of using new, or different,  terms, especially when communicating with technophobes –  Stop using the term Vacuum Tube or Tube – And start calling the devices Thermionic Valves…and while you are at it …Stop using the work ‘Antenna’ and start using the world ‘Aerial’.   And, while I’m at it…Eliminate the word ‘equipment’ from your vocabulary when ‘Apparatus’  has a much nicer ring to it.

I have been writing about how I feel our educational system is in serious need of an overhaul, especially in the area of STEM instruction.     Here is something to ponder…A new study out of Stanford found that students that studied under strong language arts teachers scored higher in mathematics.  They did not have a great explanation for the findings other than to conclude that you must read and write to do math.    Hmmmm

Another big story this past month is that the folks that purchase the broadcast division from Harris will be dropping the Harris name and be bringing back the name Gates….well, sort of .    The new Name is GatesAir.    This brought a number of comments to the minds of many.    Most agreed it sounded much like an airline.   They have split the company into two groups the other being called Imagine Communications.    It will be interested to see how this looks at NAB this year.

  

You mention the words Pigeon Point to anyone in the radio biz in Seattle and they will immediately know what you are talking about…That tower in West Seattle that is presently being diplexed by 1050 and 1250 AM.     When I first encountered this site was back in the middle 60’s when I worked at KTW.  Pigeon Point was then the home of KTW AM and FM  as well as the 1590 Day-Site.    The big news is that the site is now owned by American Tower.   Perhaps making this the first AM site owned by ATC in this area?

Copper thieves struck a broadcast station in Longview where they saw the tower of KLOG, which sits just West of I-5 south to town as a source of the metal.   According to Doug Fisher, local broadcast engineer, the stations antenna is a folded unipole with its ground radials attached at the top of the tower pier. (Made they easier to see)   The thieves cut the strap away that was grounding the tower and some of the radials but then apparently touched something that was RF hot causing them to drop their tools and high-tail it away from the site.   Guess not too many drivers on the freeway are looking for copper thieves at 3 AM.    Fortunately, for them, the station is relatively low power (1kw) and not 50 Kw as the result could have been different.     As I keep preaching – It’s just a matter of time before copper thieves discover your radio or TV station.    I again ask what are you doing about security.  One technique that appears to be somewhat successful is to apply a liberal coating of asphaltic roofing product to every copper surface.  Not only will it hide the copper color they are looking for but will diminish the value should they elect to take the parts anyway.   One of on-line the discussions was joined by Kent Randles of Entercom in Portland.  In response to the suggestion that a fence with razor wire would be helpful, he responded that the bad guys simply cover the razor wire with a sleeping bag and climb over the fence…then use another sleeping bag around the tower feed (to keep from being zapped) and flex it until it breaks….(They likely understand that at some point the transmitter will shut down and then they are free to haul away their treasure).    Look at what is taking place with street light wiring being stolen – Meanwhile it keeps on….Even as copper prices have reach a four year low.

Hopefully this summer’s SBE Picnic will again be held at the KOMO AM Transmitter site on Vashon, I’ve not heard whether the sale of the station will have an impact on this annual event.   One thing has changed however, the name of the island is now better known as ‘Weed Island’ .  Apparently based on the amount of support voters there gave the initiative to change the Pot laws in our state.

Will Seattle get Googles 1-Gigabit internet fiber service?    Kansas City is one of the cities chosen for this new service.   Apparently for 70 bucks a month you get the super high-speed internet and for $120 you can get 161 TV Channels.     I can just see the battle for the consumer between Google and Comcast.   Meanwhile stories of TV viewers cutting the cord (quitting cable) are in the news frequently.   Interestingly the US is ranked 31st in terms of Internet speed in the world.   We are behind nations like Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia etc.  

I recently wrote about Aereo – Well the opposition of TV stations, networks and others have been successful in the courts with Aereo shutting down in Denver and Salt Lake.   This issue will likely be decided in the Supreme Court.

Once again WTOP – Radio- in WDC is the top billing radio station in the country with $63.5 million, KISS in L.A came in second with 61.6 and WHTZ in NTC was 3rd with 51 Megabucks.   Bet there are many TV stations that would be happy with these figures.

Congratulations to Gray Haertig and Bud Aiello on receiving the Association of Public Radio Engineers award for 2014.   They will receive their awards at the APRE/PREC awards ceremony which precedes the NAB Convention in Las Vegas.   I recall working with Bud during the early days of the West Tiger project where he was the DOE of the firm that then owned KMPS/94.1.   Gray is a legendary engineer making his home in Portland.   That home being the alternating location of the PDX engineers summer gathering.   Gray too has had a hand in things at West Tiger.

From the ‘It must be a broadcast station….but wait dept.’ comes this item –

Actually KAMG is a management company who has an office on 100th street in Lakewood, not far from the KVTI studios on the campus of Clover Park Technical College.     Looking, on-line, for KAMG I found that it is also a radio station (KAMG-LP) a low-power FM in Enid Oklahoma in addition to a number of other things.   

 On the topic of  LPFM….The FCC is kicking out authorizations for them in our area.  Here are some of them – (with thanks to Gord Lansdell)

Ø      Centralia – 106.7 MHz – 100 watts @ 19.6m

Ø      Bremerton – 95.3 – 8 watts @ 107m

Ø      Vashon (Weed)  Island – 101.9 – 6.6 watts @112.3m

Ø      Tulalip (Marysville) – 96.9 – 5.4 watts @125.7m

Ø      Brinnon – 101.1 – 21 watts @46.5m

 KLMY in Long Beach has been granted a power increase from 15 to 25 kW.  The station operates on 99.7 or first adjacent to KISW in Seattle.

 The FCC has once again underscored their authority in the area of EAS with a record setting $1.9 Mega-buck fine for using EAS Tones in an ad for the movie ‘Olympus Has Fallen’.    As the old expression goes…Perhaps that will get their attention.   Apparently not all are paying attention as a spot for a barbecue charcoal was released shortly afterward with….Yup, EAS Tones.   Think this one got pulled rather quickly.   

Unfortunately there are a lot of people that still have not grasp the fact that the FCC really wants their EAS rules followed.  Check out what the FCC has been issuing fines for and you will quickly learn that the Public File and EAS are the two ‘lightning rods’ for FCC Fines.    I recently heard from a station (no names or call letters will be used) that had not been receiving a weekly test from another station they are assigned to monitor.   There are a couple of lessons to impart here –  (Caution – I am not a representative of the FCC nor am I an attorney.  The advice given here should be verified)

  ON THE RECEIVING SIDE –

Ø      Everyone is assigned two stations to Monitor by the SECC

Ø      You are to monitor those stations (you can monitor more if you wish).

Ø      You cannot change those two sources on your own, this requires SECC Approval

Ø      Yes, the FCC gives the SECC that authority.

Ø      Your log is to show the reception of an RWT from both of those sources each week (Unless that week also contains an RMT or an actual use of the EAS as was the case with the Oso slide)

Ø      If you fail to receive two RWT’s you are to log that fact and are also to log WHY you did not receive the test.

Ø      Generally the procedure would be to contact others that are monitoring the same source to find out if they are receiving the tests (This information is contained in the Washington State EAS Plan Tab 10 for your Operation Area)

Ø      If you find that others are not receiving these tests as well, it’s time to contact that source to see if they are indeed sending them.   Sending an email to that source and not receiving a response is not going to get you off the hook…You have to actually make the effort to find out why they are not sending RWT’s….Even if this means making a phone call.

Ø      In the end, you need to log the results of your research that will provide the reasons WHY you are not receiving the RWT’s.

 ON THE TRANSMITTING SIDE –

Ø      Your station MUST transmit an RWT each week (at random times in accordance with FCC Rules)

Ø      Again ‘real’ use of the EAS can be substituted here

Ø      If you find that your station has not been transmitting these tests, you need to find out why and log the results of that investigation.

 SOME RECOMMENDATIONS –

Ø      All stations should be checking the operation of their EAS Equipment, at least weekly, to avoid having a problem be repeated.   Personally, I check these units I am responsible for, no later than each Tuesday.

Ø      If your station sends the RWT’s Manually, and you find that you have an operator or personnel problem causing you to have an FCC EAS Rule compliance issue….Seriously consider having your

EAS Encoder perform this task for you.   You will likely annoy someone on your staff, however, it sure beats having the FCC issue an NOV or perhaps an NAL.

Ø      If you have any questions about EAS and what’s legal and what’s not –

1-      Check the FCC’s EAS Rules (Part 11) They are pretty easy to understand

2-      Get an opinion from your stations legal department or FCC Attorney

3-      Post your questions on the Washington State EAS Remailer.

 Finally – What is the world is all this babble about Hash-Tag?     Suddenly I am hearing and seeing references to Hash-Tag all over the place.    I had to look it up and found that they are referencing the # or upper-case 3 symbol.    This is also used for the lower right corner button on telephone DTMF Encoders (Key pads for some).   Many call this the ‘pound sign’ or perhaps the ‘tic-tac-toe’ gizmo.

As one of the charter members of the Octothorpe  Society I wish to officially object !   This is yet another example of degradation in our society that has given us a generation of people that can’t spell or write and whose thumbs are suffering from repetitive motion damage due to texting and are prone to inventing their own names for things.   Further,  I would like to voice my public condemnation of Microsoft for their refusal to accept the spelling of Octothorpe to the point of not even offering an alternative spelling in their famous Word document preparation software.

What is the world coming to?  Ma Bell, rest her soul, must be turning over in her grave.

 Well that’s it for this month –  Think Summer !!!! ….Well it might help.

 Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

 

The KEØVH Hamshack For March 2014

March 7, 2014
By

                                                  

                                                                                                            

 

The KEØVH Hamshack For  March 2014

By Jack Roland, CBRE, AMD and CBNT

KLove /Air 1 EMF Colorado Engineering.

 

Greetings all! When last we left our story, the KEØVH Hamshack rebuild was underway.  It has since been completed (as far as the Hamshack part goes) and is operating.  I had lots of fun the weekend of 3/1-2 operating the ARRL DX contest.  I worked 20-25 countries in one weekend, including Guam and Luxembourg which are new ones for me (yep I will send off for the QSL’s).  A couple of weeks of work has the shack in the shape I needed and wanted for ease of operations.  I will be hanging pictures and maps and such here soon, but here is the progression of the “construction” phase since last month’s article.

 

 

 

 

Constructing the framework and desktop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Setting up the shelves, mounting the computer (under table left side), and setting up the racks on and under the right side.

 

 

Continuing on and almost ready to operate

 

 

 

Operating the ARLL DX Contest March 1-2,  bookshelves and setup complete

 

At this time the audio gear isn’t wired up to punch blocks underneath the table and the SB-200 amplifier AC power hasn’t been hooked up yet.  The shelves on the desk are on tracks that allow the whole assembly to come forward for access to the back of the rigs and wiring, and the ground buss is assembled on the backside of the shelves too.  Really about like I have always wanted it.  The coaxes are routed behind the paneling as is the station ground strap.  The really nice thing is that the room is open and airy, my wife has plenty of room for laundry and her storage (she has been working HARD for the past month sorting, trashing, shredding, and getting stuff ready for donations from 30 years of raising children and family accumulations). 

 

This month on March 30th if you are in the Denver area, you should check out the Vintage Voltage Expo at the Ramada Plaza at I-25 and 120th Avenue.  I will be sending out an email with all the information from last year’s show this month.  If you are interested in more information let me know!

 

The Best Amateur Radio Vintage Voltage Music market EVER!

 

I would like to say congratulations and way to go to Skyler, KDØWHB.  He is 15 years old, and has just upgraded to Extra Class!  Skyler has also taken on the reboot of the AMSAT (Amateur Satellite) net here in the Denver area.  The net had been canceled awhile back and hasn’t been on the air for quite some time.  Skyler and another young ham friend of his are spearheading the net and here is the schedule locally here in Colorado:

The net meets

-7:00PM MST on the 146.940 and 449.825 locally

-Also linked to Boone, Pueblo, Pueblo West, Canon City, Cotopaxi and Salida Through all-star nodes  28298, 28299, or 29436, which can be accessed by the all-star web transceiver

-We currently do not have IRLP capability

——-

The Colorado Amateur Satellite net meets at 7:00 PM Mountain Standard Time locally on the 146.940 and 448.825 repeaters, also connected to all-star nodes 28298, 28299, or 29436. Here, we discuss anything that has to do with amateur satellites, the international space station communication, and more. Weather you have a lot of experience working amateur satellites, or new to it, and just want to learn, anyone is welcome to join. 

FOR SALE, a trailer capable of carrying OHV’s or snowmobiles, or other purposes!  Great toolbox, ramp, spare tire.  Let me know if interested!

 

 

As always don’t forget the SBE IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, the first Saturday of the month.  AND the EMF Hamnet now is the same manner on every Monday evening at 7pm Mountain time for radio discussions, both broadcast engineering and Amateur radio.  Details on how to join are at  http://www.qsl.net/ke0vh/sbehamnet.  I hope you will be able to join us and share your engineering and ham exploits!

73’, God be with you, & see you next time!  KEØVH

 

Clay’s Corner for March 2014

March 1, 2014
By

                                                                                                                               

                        Clay’s Corner for February 2014

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

Well….Phil was right !   The famous Punxsutawney Ground Hog predicted more winter….For many in the eastern part of the US this little critter has proved his worth as record breaking winter weather has been relentless.    Here on the ‘Left-Coast’ that big blocking high finally moved on restoring our normal winter weather pattern…Lots of rain in the low-lands and lotsa snow in the Mountains.  Recently Bellingham got a quick foot of the white stuff.     For a time, there was mounting concern that our meager snowpack was going to be mean bad news for our area that relies on the melting of mountain snow for water on both sides of the Cascades.     Down in California the situation is more dire with a declared drought equaling a condition not seen in a very long time…You can imagine how our area would react if we got less than 10% of our normal rainfall.  Seattle with 3.6 inches of rain in a year!!   I recall, many years ago, there was a lot of talk about diverting some of the output of the Columbia River southward .  Would not be surprised if this idea re-surfaces.    

 

More comparisons between Seattle and Denver after the Superbowl win by the Seahawks.   This time comparing our airports….Here Denver leads by a wide margin if you measure air-traffic with 1738.   Seattle is only half that size with 862 flights per day and Portland (PDX) is even smaller with 591.

MSN recent listed the 10 best cities in the US…Interestingly Denver came in #8 while Seattle was #2 and Portland was #1

 Looking at the Denver vs. Seattle matter from other perspectives –

 57.7% of Seattle residents 25 and over have a BS or higher degree….In Denver that figure is 44.7%

 The median annual income in Seattle is $64,473 while in Denver the figure is 50,488….Perhaps related, the median home value in Seattle $415,800 while in Denver its 251,200.

 Where Denver scores is in the category of average time for commuting, Seattle is 25.9 minutes while the Mile-High city checks in at 24.6

 Using Neilson…Seattle is a much larger market at #13 with a population of 3,585,700 while Denver is #19 with over a million less, 2,486,500.

 On a personal note – I can’t help but notice that two of the organizations I belong to are celebrating how long they have been in existence.    ARRL (The Amateur Radio Organization) is 100 (I’ve been a life member for over 40) and SBE is celebrating 50 (I’ve been a member now going on 47 of those years) ….This all happens when you get old!

The age of Lower Power FM or LPFM is certainly upon us.  According to published reports almost 3000 applications have been filed and over 1000 have been granted.    This process will certainly lead to the cramming of more signals in the FM band (Apparently we are to believe that this is a great idea because is enables more people to operate radio stations).  Here in the Seattle area, unlike much of the East Coast, the FM band is relatively free of adjacent channel issues.  You only get a sense of it when you tune below 92 Mhz.     An interesting aspect of this activity is now objections are being handled.   Existing stations, if they are at all concerned, are watching this process ‘like a hawk’.   Already in the Seattle area, some stations have taken action to prevent degradation to their coverage.   One of the casualties is certain to be the areas of bonus coverage that many have enjoyed since day-one.    I could not help but think of this as I was listening to KMPS-HD2 the other day in Port Angeles.

A lot of eyes are on Aereo these days.   Recently a Judge in Utah released a preliminary injunction against it.   In this case those that were against the start-up were cable and broadcast stations and companies.   This is just one round of a fight that is certain to have more…For the latest in this battle – Put Aereo into your favorite search engine and get the latest.    This is a battle that many are saying is certain to end up at the Supreme Court.

 From the looking – way back – department.

When I was a kid in Cub Scouts one of the most exciting things I got to build was a ‘Crystal-Set’ (Set was then used to describe a radio receiver).   Today if you were to attempt to do this you would go out a purchase a diode for the ‘detector’ that would be the heart of the project.   Back in those days we did not have that luxury as no one made any…Unless you wanted to use a tube and that would violate the rule of no external power.   What you did was actually purchase a crystal and use a small piece of wire called a ‘cats whisker’…with the set complete, and your headphones on, you would find the magic location on the crystal that would turn it into a detector and – viola – you had a radio!    It was not too long before enterprising folks started making crystals with an internal junction (cats whisker)   Pictured below is an example of what they looking like…way back when.  Yes this was an AM  only receiver…and that was OK because there weren’t any FM stations to receive anyway.    There are a lot of museums dedicated to the rich history on which the broadcast industry is built.   Take a few minutes and look at www.radiomuseum.org for a listing of where you can spend some time…Looking back.

 

 

The HD Radio bandwagon seems to be gaining steam with the news that, reportedly, 17.5 million HD Radios have been sold.   The safe-haven for Radio – Motor vehicles – is where the majority of these ‘sets’ are located and the numbers appear to be on their way up with frequent announcements from automakers that they too are on the ‘band-wagon’.     As I have stated, now is the time for Broadcasters to take another step and get those power increases up and running.  The last thing we need now is for tons of new HD Radio owners complaining about drop outs.  If you have any doubt about the value of increasing HD power – Go out and compare the local CBS stations that are running more than -20dbc with those that are not –  I’ve done it – Have you?   Another place where progress is needed is at the retail level.   How is it that many retailers still don’t have products for sale?    I did note a local TV spot however where a firm that installs auto-stereos was featuring an HD Radio model.  The spot clearly showed the HD Radio display on the front of the unit.

I probably had the same reaction as you did reading about the fact that 2.6 inches of snow paralyzed the city of Atlanta.     Gee, everyone know it would take at least 6 inches of snow to do the same to Seattle  J.   The impact on areas that rarely see snow and ice was certainly dramatic.   In the world of broadcasting the impact was, occasionally, severe.  Many FM and TV stations don’t have radomes or heaters on their antennas and were, as a result, forced to reduce power etc.    In some cases, the weight of the ice apparently was worse than their occasional hurricane force winds and brought down towers.   Here’s an example of a tall tower for an FM station in Augusta that ended up as a pile of scrap metal.  In this shot you can see the tower, along with its transmission lines, neatly folded and setting on top of the transmitter building, some is on the ground in the lower left.

  

Now if you want to see some serious ice accumulation….Think about what it looks like where spilled water comes out of one of our local hydroelectric dams in the mountains near here. (W7AML Picture)

Not exactly broadcasting news, however I could not help but notice Sears is pulling out of their historic location in Sodo (South of Downtown Seattle for non-locals) where it’s operated for over 100 years.   The building has been more recently thought of for Starbucks whose logo is the one that catches your eye.      We’ve seen a lot of coming and going in that area.  Gone are the Rainier Brewery (even though the big –R- is back)…Amateur Radio Supply left quite a while back.    The KAYO studio and tower used to set just north of 4th and Lander.    We had many SBE meetings at Andy’s Diner and just down the street on 6th, many a Cougar Lunch was held. Incoming have been two huge sports stadiums (Safeco and C-Link) and more recently the area has seen an influx of car dealers.

From the department of  – What took them so long –NAB recently said that Broadcasters and wireless operators should not be designated a co-primary spectrum users by the FCC…To which I say – DUH !.     Seems to me that the FCC is trying to reduce their own injuries by coming up with these sharing arrangements that have the effect of telling completing industries to duke it out themselves.     This would be like the Feds declaring they no longer want to protect certain lands for particular uses and telling preservationists and industries that would like to log or mine those lands that they will become co-primary users…..Good luck.   This is not what I call spectrum management – What do you call it?   Certainly Canada and Mexico are watching this battle wondering how these decisions will impact their spectrum users.

Here’s something you don’t hear about very often.   CBS requested permission to erect another tower on the site of WPHT-AM.   Certainly there were residents that expressed concerns about radiation etc., but in the end, the Zoning Board voted 7 to Zip to approve it.   Towers are, of course, devices designed to cause harm in the minds of many…..Just look at the battle in Everett.  I recall, many years ago, erecting a Ham Radio tower in my backyard.  Before I put any antennas on it, some neighbors stopped by to express concerns about various issues.  Gotta wonder how the wireless folks were able to erect a zillion towers across the country.   

Meanwhile, just to the North of Seattle the battle of Point Roberts continues .   What makes this interesting is that the FCC has approved the application for the multi-tower array for KRPI leaving final approval with Whatcom County.   The site is on a little finger of real estate that sticks into US territory from Canada.  In fact, the only way get there (by land) is to drive into and out of Canada.    The residents of Tsawwassen, just across the border (in B.C.) are really up-set.  As is the case with many issues involving these matters, the objectors express concerns about health.   You would think that, but now, with zillions of AM Radio towers all over the world that the health impact would have been resolved long ago.   It may have been, but to the residents near this site, it’s a focus of their concern.    Wonder if this would have been handled different if the station were owned by CBS?

 

The Seahawks participation in the Superbowl had a major impact in this areas TV viewing.  It was reported that 2.5 million local viewers tuned in and the game had a 56.7 rating and a 92 share.    That will go down in the record books for sure.    The victory parade was hugely popular too.  My #1 Son lives in Boise and is a huge Hawks fan in a city that has a lot of Bronco support.  He called me the day before to announce that he and Teresa want to come over to the parade.   He got off work at 7 PM and showed up at 315AM for a couple of hours sleep…In then took them to the Sounder Station here in Auburn.   Wow! …I’ve never seen that many people waiting for a train.   Understand ridership hit an all-time high.   Even the Washington State Ferry’s reported record breaking crowds coming from the West to witness this historic event.

One interesting aspect of this event was that the Cellphone systems crashed.   Apparently lots of people trying to send pictures to their friends etc.   Last time I recall that taking place was after the Nisqually Quake..    The reliance that the average person places on these devices to work whenever they want them is interesting.   Explaining terms like ‘Concentration Ratio’ or not using them so they would work should someone get hurt etc. does little good.  I have no idea how you could discourage people from using their phones in events like this.    Certainly radio and TV were there, albeit, with, in some cases, with not a lot of planning time.  

If you think that Radio is dead – Get your head around this item –   Neilson recently reported that 92%  of Americans over 12 years of age listen to Radio…..or 242 Million are listening each week.   No word on how many of those are listening to AM however.

It’s been some time since an AM station went dark around here…but it looks like that time has come again.    This time it will be KARR in Kirkland.   Their transmitter site, located on Kirkland’s Rose-Hill is surrounded by residential uses, and a church.  The location is the home of KARR (1460) as well as the night operation for KKDZ on 1250 all sharing some 6 towers on the site.  Apparently neither station owns the land and the land owner determined that it’s time for a change.

KARR, operated by Family Stations has announced that the end of February they will be off the air.  KKDZ has apparently filed for an STA to operate nights from their West Seattle day site.

There are a number of items to consider when you think about this story.   First is, of course, not owning the dirt under your business can be risky should the dirt owner wish to do something different when your lease runs out.  Second is having an multi-tower AM in a residential area like Kirkland where demand and prices are high is not good..   This is likely why the 3 AM’s to the South of Bellevue (near Factoria) are likely safe.  They are in a swamp that is un-likely to see any development. 

Even if the station had owned the dirt, the value of the property would have likely exceeded what they could reasonably make in this day and age of diminished returns from AM station operations.  I understand that houses in that area are selling for north of 500K.  Across the country AM’s are going dark for similar economic reasons.  

The question is now will KARR find a site and  ever return to the air?   I guess only time will tell, but it does not look good.     As for KKDZ.    I recall working there, many years ago, when it was KTW.  Back in those days, they didn’t have a night-site and the station signed off at sunset to protect KWSU in Pullman.  Likely if they do operate Non-Directionally from their Pigeon Point transmitter site, it will be with very low power and hey will essentially be a Day-Timer again.   

Every once in a while you hear about one company purchasing another and you wonder how they came together.    Similar thoughts entered the minds of many as it was announced that Belden (The maker of wire and cable) was buying Grass Valley, known for their TV broadcast equipment.    Perhaps this is no different than when a venture capital group purchased Harris?

MSN’s Healthy Living segment recent stated that watching TV for 6 or more hours per day could take 5 years off your life.     My guess is that MSN does not own any TV stations…Guess MSNBC does not count any more.

On Feb 14th the FCC issued a public notice on what they call ‘Process Reform’…Let me quote from the piece –

The Report seeks to further the goal of having the agency operate in the most effective, efficient and transparent way possible. It examines the agency’s internal operations with the aim of improving the overall functioning of the agency and its service to the public. Based on both internal and external suggestions for process reform, the Report identifies initial steps in what will be an ongoing process of reexamining, and revising, the way the Commission does its work

 The Report proposes more than 150 process reform recommendations covering a wide range of specific topics.  For more info – Check out – GN Docket No. 14-25.

 I received an interesting email from Dan, WA7HTP [mailto:ru223w@hotmail.com] He is now the new owner of the old 1 Kw transmitter from Forks which is not(w) on the Ham-Bands.   Dan is looking for broadcast type (AM) audio processor for it – If you have one laying around – Drop him a note.

Recently,  in this column, I have been writing about what I view as a problem with our educational system….Especially in the area of STEM.    Now this from Gallup –  More than one-third of business leaders are not confident that U.S. college students are graduating with the skills and competencies that their businesses need.  

The FCC has been making noises regarding what are called JSA’s or Joint Sales Agreements.  This is where one station agrees to take over the sales for another market station (for a price). Obviously there are those that are concerned about this representing a concentration of power in two-few hands.  Looks like the new FCC Honcho, Tom Wheeler, may move ahead with regulations that would make these deals harder.    Interesting how the Cable outfits can buy each other and this does not create a stink…Is it just me or are the Feds up to something when it comes to broadcasting? 

Because I am a poor speller, I usually have ‘Spellcheck’ look at what I have written.   I could not help but smile at Word 2010’s suggestion for Superbowl  – – “superb owl’…Wonder what the NFL thinks about that?

Till next month – Thanks for the read –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE