Monthly Archives: August 2018

Clay’s Corner for August 2018

August 2, 2018
By

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Have you been enjoying summer?  Hot enough for yah?  From what I hear, this July has been the 2nd hottest on record.  Perhaps all part of global warming….Heard someone say recently that the Pacific Northwest is the only place in the country where Climate Change is making things better.  Perhaps, frankly I’d trade some of these 90 degree days for some 70’s in October.

Well the big news has certainly got to be the action of the FCC regarding the Sinclair/Tribune deal.  Media watchers were all saying that the deal was about to be approved by the FCC when – BOOM!  The FCC honcho, Ajit Pai announced that he is recommending that the merger be reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  As a result, those same outlets did a ‘180’ saying that this move could kill the deal.  Sinclair has been scrambling to make modifications in the hope that the FCC would back down.  Thus far this does not seem to be happening.  Some have been so bold as to suggest that Sinclair has shot themselves in the foot due to the way they were handling the matter of divesting of some stations.  In other situations, sending a merger to an ALJ can mean a ‘dead-deal’.  If you recall, AT&T tried to buy local cell provider, T-Mobile – In that case the FCC just threatened to send the matter to an ALJ for review causing AT&T to give up.

Then there is the political side of this….Sinclair is known for having a very conservative position on things.  As such, many figured the FCC Chairman, being a Republican would help…Apparently it did not…Perhaps surprising a lot of media-watchers.

So what’s going to take place in the Emerald City with the two Tribune Stations?  Not sure anyone is bold enough to be making bets.

Right after this bombshell – Cox, owner of KIRO-TV, announced that they are putting their 14 TV stations up for sale!  In an interesting reversal, where we have seen Radio/TV groups shed their Radio stations (CBS for example), Cox owns 61 Radio stations.

My heart goes out to all of those that work for the Tribune and Cox stations as they deal with a special kind of ‘Limbo’.  In my career I endured several ownership changes…In the end, most of them ended up being positive….However, getting there can be very unsettling.  In all of these it was pretty cut and dried…The old owners announced they were selling and identified the new ones…Then you waited for the FCC to approve the sale followed by the introduction of new management and, with fingers crossed, the announcement came that you had a job with the new firm.  In this case, things are far from clear, which is a breeding ground for anxiety.

On a much more cheerful note….I took my camera to the transmitter site recently and captured some scenes to share.  This first one is looking north at the ridge that is West Tiger Mountain with a foreground of wild flowers.  This is not a setup…There is a ton of nature’s color up there this year.

On the left is what we call West Tiger #1 or WTM-1.  It was the first broadcast site developed on the mountain back in 1988.  On the right, the two towers are at WTM-2, a site developed some years later by American Tower.  Although it does not look like it from this angle, the tops of all three towers are at the same elevation, 3148 feet above sea-level.

In recent columns I’ve written about Smart Speakers.  New reports are the sales of these devices will reach 100 million by the end of this year….and there will be 225 million of them by 2020.  Of special interest locally is the news that the Amazon Echo will account for more than 50% of sales.  Pretty impressive.  This is another classic case of a lot of people asking the question ….’Why didn’t I think of that?’

One of our area’s Non-Comms…KUOW is making use of these devices.  They’ve been chosen as a test station to receive donations from listeners who stream the station via the Alexa.  Amazon teamed up with NPR and KUOW on the project.

Time to look at the Seattle Radio (6+) Ratings in what Nielsen calls ‘Market #12’ –

  • Hubbard is at #1with their CHR formatted KQMV (92.5)
  • Close behind is KIRO-FM with News/Talk
  • Non-Comm, KUOW has dropped to a tie for 4th place with KISW
  • The top-rated AM station is KIRO/710.  Perhaps the hot Mariners having a role here?
  • The other highly rated Non-Comm, KNKX comes in at #10
  • The two Country Music stations, KKWF and KNUC (The Wolf and Bull) are tied
  • The next highest rated AM is KOMO at #16
  • Of the bottom 10 stations – 4 are AM’s with 3 of them 50 Kilowatts.

More examples of wildflowers along the road to West Tiger.  There are still some that think I’m crazy for preferring to drive up this ‘rustic’ road than drive on a freeway.

 

 

Road and Track magazine recently had a headline that read:

The 100 Worst American Cities for Driving – Adding – “You don’t want to be in the driver’s seat when visiting these cities.”

Sure, you knew where I was going with this one …Ranking #96 is Seattle…They added –

“Downtown Seattle is surrounded by a collection of lakes and peninsulas, meaning a lot of choke points for drivers trying to get places.”

We are joined at the bottom of the list of desirable places to drive by Oakland and San Francisco, Detroit and Philadelphia.  So what about Portland, Oregon?  Not much to brag about.  They came in at #60.

Meanwhile – Back to the tranquil road to West Tiger Mountain…and Foxgloves

The battle over what we call ‘C-Band’ continues to rage (3.7 to 4.2 GHz).  As time goes by, it appears that indeed wireless will end up with a portion of the band.  The question remains, where and how much.  Clearly the message that this spectrum is being used has been heard, with the FCC acknowledging that the existing users of this spectrum need to be accommodated.  I have contended that we will be looking at another ‘repack’ on this band.  That position is being echoed by others now as well.  One segment that has been very vocal has been Non-Commercial users.  Even Chairman Pai is on record that no action should be taken that threatens Public Radio.  Driving all this is the desire by the Wireless industry for spectrum for their 5G systems.  So now we wait for announcements to come from the east.

An interesting story out of NPR this past month.  They are reporting a spike in donations for Non-Comm Radio and TV Stations.  Interesting to note that this is the first time in decades that these facilities have seen increases in donors and revenue.  I wonder how much that is a result of the current battle between elected officials and news organizations?

So now that IHeart Media is Bankrupt – What’s next?  Sensing there is ‘blood in the water’, some organizations with money to spend are circling.  Already some of them have trotted out offers sparking comments of a coming bidding war.  Will the media giant be parted out…or what is the question?  Like all of these issues, only time will tell.

Just when we are getting used to the term ‘Fake News’ comes word on how ‘Fake Video’ could mess with our heads in the future.  Think of it a photo-shop for video.  I recall the term – You can’t fool a camera – Well, sorry Grandpa….Today you can using facial mapping and AI.

Received news that Kelly Alford is moving back home.  He recently wrote –

We’re in the process of packing and putting our Virginia house on the market to move back to the PNW in the coming months.  I don’t want to disclose where yet, but I start in my new position August 1st.  I’m sure there will be announcements accordingly.  Suffice it to say it will be nice to get back to my roots, with no more endless overseas work-related travel.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed getting to know the various cultures and customs in my prior gig, but at my age, 14 to 16 hour flights through numerous time zones, including dangerous places for American’s like Baghdad, was taking a toll.

Not everyday that the retirement of a local Radio General Manager makes the news.  However, a lot of attention is being given to the retirement announcement that Hubbard’s Marc Kaye is going to hang it up.  Marc’s been in the business 45 years.  He was the Cluster Manager for the Sandusky group in Bellevue and continued in that role with Hubbard.

Whereas I am one of those ‘older people’ that has elected to keep working beyond conventional retirement age (whatever that is) I found this item interesting –

The headline read – A record number of folks age 85 and older are working.

70 may be the new 60 and 80 may be the new 70…but 85 is still pretty old to work in the U.S.  Interestingly 255,000 people 85 and older are working, the highest number on record.  So what are they doing?  All kinds of things…crossing guards, farmers and ranchers and even truckers.  The number has doubled since the last depression.  There are a number of supporting reasons for all of this.  Longer life expectancies, lack of retirement plans, less physically demanding work.

What is not mentioned is doing what you like.  This is the situation in my case.  Frankly, I like what I do, perhaps because of its relationship to my hobby.  For the last eight plus years I have been working for a number of different firms…pretty much doing what I’ve done for the last 55 plus years.  The best part is I don’t have to deal with any politics and my hours are pretty flexible.  The best part is knowing that I could quit any one, or all, of these jobs any time I want and live comfortably thanks to doing some good financial planning.

Does the name Randy McCune ring a bell?  I first met Randy over eight years ago as he was leaving WSU after 15 years, in Pullman as I was coming in.  He moved on to KIRO-TV here in Seattle.  Where is he now?  Director of Engineering at Sinclair in Memphis.

A name that is very familiar with Radio Broadcast Engineers is Nautel.  There have more more new Nautel radio transmitters installed in the Seattle area made by the Canadian company than any other in recent years.  What you may not know is that Nautel has been awarded the prestigious, “Canada’s Best Managed Companies” designation.

For those of you that are members of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, SBE, you know that elections have taken place.  I have not heard any results.  One of the members of the Seattle Chapter is running for the board, Tom McGinley.  If he is elected he will be the 3rd member of our Chapter to serve at the national level.  The others were John Schnider and myself.

We lost Mike Scott, who passed away July 5th.  In recent years, you would see Mike’s picture in the Seattle SBE Chapter newletter – The Waveguide.  Mike had retired from teaching broadcast technology at Bates Technical College in Tacoma.  Prior to that, he was on the Engineering Staff at Channel 11.  Those that knew Mike, will long remember that twinkle in his eye and his wonderful sense of humor.

I recall traveling to various SBE Functions with Mike and his wife.  In fact, one of the pictures that showed him with his hair blowing in the wind was taken on one of those jaunts.  When I posted the news of his passing on the Chapter Remailer, the rapid response and volume of comments underscored how much Mike was thought of, and his incredible value to our industry.  Many of his students work in broadcasting in this area.

WSU’s Northwest Public Broadcasting deploys technical support people in various locations in the State.  One of those locations is Wenatchee.  Replacing the recently retired Don Eckis is Brady Aldrich.  I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with Brady visiting some of the Western Washington sites I look after.  Brady is a familiar name in these parts, having worked for KOMO in years past, having roots on Vashon Island.  Most recently he had been working in Mississippi and was (as you might guess) anxious to return to the PNW.  I found it interesting that he happened to have relatives in Wenatchee.  I got this picture of Brady will visiting KVTI in Lakewood recently.

 

In recent years I have been receiving emails from readers of this column.  Many reach out to me, perhaps concluding that I have become a historian in this market.  One such email was from Charles Reinsch.  To be honest, the name was not familiar.  Chuck wrote –

It would be highly unlikely, but thought I would ask anyway: Could one of those old Collins on Cougar Mtn be KRAB’s?  It was a 737A that Lorenzo claimed was SN 1.  I would very much like to find some photographs.  All I have right now is a Collins sales brochure, and a pretty awful scan of a student newspaper photo of the front panels of the exciter and final.

Chuck Reinsch

I did not have the answer to his question, so I reached out to Dwight Small who worked at 107.7 with Sunbelt back on the air in 1984.  Dwight reported that the old Collins was gone by that time.

Chuck and I had several email exchanges and from this I received the following information about the type of transmitter that was used by KRAB.  Take a look –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things have changed a great deal since that old transmitter was made – For openers, there are no longer Vacuum Tubes in modern 5Kw FM Transmitters.

 

Here is a comparison of the old, circa 1948,  Collins 737A with a modern Nautel GV5

 

 

Collins 737A Nautel GV5
Width 93 ¼ inches 23 inches
Height 79 inches 72 ½ inches
Depth 37 1/3 inches 33 inches
Weight 4700 Pounds 333 Pounds

 

 

As I mentioned earlier – I receive some interesting emails – Here is one I recently received.

Hello Clay, I enjoyed your recent article about the improvements to AM….it
was mostly spot on!

However, you said “The old “Clear Channels” are not there anymore, folks.
Just turn on your AM radio at night and try and find them”

Here in Massachusetts I can get WFAN(660), WABC(770), WCBS(880),WBAL(1090),
WQEW(1560), WFED(1500), WTAM (1100), CFZM(740), WBT(1110), WPHT(1210), WWVA
(1170).

These listed above come in at night regularly….and reliably.  So, from my
standpoint…they are “still there”.

Now, is there any programming on them that anyone would be interested in?
That’s another story!  😉

He signed his email with a simple ‘D’ However his address included his Amateur Radio Call Sign, so I looked him up.  He is David Boucher, KB1USP from Methuen, Ma.

A question for you, my readers here in the Pacific Northwest – How many Clear Channel AM Stations can you receive?  David sent along this link to a fascinating site that shows all the AM Nighttime patterns:

http://www.nf8m.com/patternmaps_night.html

I’m always happy to hear from you – feel free to drop me a note – if you work in the industry.  Let me know what’s going on, and send a picture while you are at it.

Speaking of pictures – Thanks to Kent Randles of Entercom Portland for this picture of one of the big FM Station Combiners in that city.  A lot of plumbing for sure!

Before I forget it – Congratulations to Kent on his promotion.  He is now overseeing the technical operation of Entercom’s cluster of Stations in Seattle as well as Portland.  He was up here recently spending a day with me while I showed him the transmitters and systems used in Seattle.  The following is Kent taking a picture of me. J

Well that’s about it for this month.  Not a lot of news, but certainly some interesting happenings non-the-less.  We have a month or so of Summer left – make the most of it.

Lord willing I will catch you next month with more.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Member for over 50 years, #714.

The KE0Vh Hamshack for July

August 2, 2018
By

SUMMER IS HERE!  Lots of projects completed and ongoing!

SO I have written a lot lately about the BIG JET FLI!  I am now voice tracking the 7p-12 midnight (Eastern Time) Top 40 of the 60’s and 70’s show on Monday and Tuesday nights, filling in other time slots when needed!  It feels AMAZING to be on the radio again having fun and playin’ the hits!  You can check it out at

https://tunein.com/radio/WFLI-1070AM-The-Legend-s28777/ or the WFLI App on the phones.

SO when you can tune in and check it out!  Jack Rockin’Roland!  (Works well huh?)

 

As of this writing, this past weekend myself,  Jim Langsted KCØRPS and Skyler Fennell KDØWHB just climbed Torreys Peak, one of the 53 mountains out here over 14,000 feet, topping out at 14,275 feet above sea level.  https://www.14ers.com/route.php?route=torr5&peak=Grays+Peak+and+Torreys+Peak

We all brought HT’s, and so worked Rich W9BNO, Cris W5WCA, and Robert KC8GPD on simplex and thru the 449.450 Rocky Mountain Radio League repeater.  GREAT WEATHER, an early start, and a great round trip hike of 8 miles and a total elevation gain (and down) of 3040 feet from the trailhead in Stevens Gulch near the “ghost town” of Bakerville on I-70 west of Denver.

Hams on the SUMMIT!

Getting started at the trailhead about 5:15am

An hour or so later! Torreys on the right.

 

KCØRPS on the trail about 11,500 feet!

 

KDØWHB heading over the snow trail to the saddle at 13,500 feet

 

Above the snowfield to the SUMMIT at the saddle between Grays and Torreys

 

ALMOST THERE!

View back down the mountain from the summit to the I-70 Exit leading to the trailhead

View off to the WSW of Mount of the Holy Cross, which I hope to SUMMIT this summer!  You can almost make out the “cross” snowfield in this picture

KCØRPS and the EOSS group (www.EOSS.org, Edge of Space Sciences) launched a 2 mylar balloon set carrying a micro solar powered 20 meter APRS transmitter this past June that had quite the adventure and actually really became lost in a circular eddy of winds the the Bermuda Triangle.  NO KIDDING!  It circled for about 3 days in a pattern of wind and finally the signal was lost as it traveled no more.  It was tracked by WSPR stations on the frequency of 14.097 mhz.  It generally remained above an altitude of 30,000 feet until its last day when it dropped to around 21,000 feet and then was finally not heard from again.  The transmitter was a super micro 20 meter unit, flea weight, and was suspended by half of a 20 meter thin wire antenna with the other half of the dipole suspended from the transmitter.  Check the prep and launch of the system here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RVhlBpa1k0

KCØRPS should have a full article up soon about the flight and I will report on that here as soon as possible.

 

Another activity I am involved with and very happy to have become a member of is the Christian Motorcycle Association, the “Riders In The Light” Lakewood Chapter.  I am looking forward to a very long association with this fine group of folks who love the Lord and motorcycles.  Look them up sometime!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Todd, KEØVH Jack, VP Tony giving me my RTL patch

Here is the new “remote base” AllStar Node in my shack.  We are using it to connect the AllStar Network to the 449.450 K1DUN repeater in Denver.

The 449.450 repeater covers from Cheyenne Wyoming down to Monument hill and HUGE area’s of eastern Colorado from 11,440 feet on Squaw Mountain 35 miles west of Denver.  Think almost a “clear channel” frequency repeater and it is a BLOWTORCH coverage wise.  We can control the AllStar link radio seen here with a GUI interface and are developing its use on the Rocky Mountain Radio Leagues (http://www.rmrl.org/) repeater.  More to come on this exciting development, and we hope you will join us on the Monday Night Society of Broadcast Engineers “Chapter 73’ of the Air” net at 7pm Mountain time, 9pm Eastern.  Details on how to join us are below in the newsletter article.  Thanks to Skyler again, KDØWHB for the setting up and administration of the link radio AllStar system.

 

And speaking of KDØWHB, here is his well setup APRS system using an old Motorola Radio and Raspberry Pi3 being fed by an inexpensive GPS antenna.

 

And the ham of the month!  Amanda KDØCIC in her neat hamshack here in CO

 

And FINALLY THIS MONTH, trying to learn OHMS LAW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget the SBE Chapter 73’ Of the Air

AllStar (and Echolink) Hamnet, every MONDAY EVENING

At 7pm Mountain time (9pm Eastern) for radio discussions, both

Broadcast engineering and amateur radio.

Details on how to join us are at

http://www.ke0vh.com/net/net.html.

 

I hope

You will be able to join us and share your engineering and

Ham exploits!

73’ from “the Shack” & God Be With You!

Clay’s Corner for July 2018

August 1, 2018
By

Clay’s Corner

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

The headline read –

Broadcasters Raise Red Flag Over FCC’s C-Band Plans.

Sitting just a few feet from FCC Chairman Pai at NAB recently I came away thinking that he is not anti-broadcast…Then I learned his position regarding C-Band (3.7-4.2 Gig) Called Mid-Band by the wireless industry.  Once again we are in a defensive position in terms of spectrum.  The wireless industry is not dumb – They want additional spectrum and they consider any of that is not heavily used fair-game…On the surface, apparently, our C-Band qualified.

Remember the battle over the 2 Gig spectrum when the wireless industry set its sights on that band?  Broadcasters were scrambling to show the FCC that we did indeed use the spectrum a lot more than they thought.  The issue was the lack of information regarding the number and location of receivers.  Frankly, we were caught short on this one…As a result we experienced our first dose of ‘repacking’…(even if it was not called that).  In the end, we lost spectrum.

Then it was deemed that Broadcasters were never going to use all the TV spectrum they were allocated….and, on top of that, the FCC had done a poor job of spectrum management with the switch from analog to digital and the case was made to ‘re-pack’ TV….One more time, we lost ground.

Now the wireless ‘cross-hairs’ are on C-Band.  This spectrum has been used for a very long time for program/network distribution and, in the minds of many, is un-utilized…..”Wireless Speak’ for ‘We want it’.  Much like the 2-Gig issue, broadcasters have laid back thinking that the FCC was never going to let anyone else use this band…Nothing to fear.  All it took is for the Wireless crowd to assert that the band was under-utilized and contend that, at least, it could be shared by them.  IMHO, much of the blame here rests with Broadcasters, in particular Radio Stations, that have sprinkled satellite receiving antennas all over the land and not bothered to have any formal data documenting all this use.  This ‘under-counting’ is proving to be dangerous.  Now, all of a sudden there is this scramble to try and make a case that this is not a suitable location for shared use.  Whether or not we will be successful at beating back this threat remains to be seen.

History has shown that, when confronted with this kind of a situation, that we may well be looking for a loss of spectrum in exchange for a smaller piece of the pie with some protection.  Several organizations are involved in this battle – NAB, NPR, iHeartMedia, program distributors, networks etc.

Has this has put the FCC in a position that, perhaps, they did not see coming?

On the Wireless side – they are making it clear that they need the spectrum, and this particular piece is ideal for their new 5G systems.  Seems to me that this pits the desire of new ‘Gee-Whiz’ wireless toys up against old fashioned systems that are frequency hogs anyway.  Let’s face it – 5G is being pre-sold as the do-all, end-all, wireless system that’s likely exciting to the policy makers while Broadcasting is being pushed to the rear of the bus as old technology.

We were being told that the FCC would be voting in July on the proposal….Then we got word that the filing deadline had been extended to October 17.  As a lot of media coverage has pointed out.  Our C-Band systems impact a huge amount of Radio and TV operations.  A lot of fingers are crossed – My Guess – Standby for more re-packing.  See GN Docket Nos. 18-122.

Remember the 103.3 Oak Harbor Station?  It was on the air playing a Country format using the old call letters imported to the Seattle area from Hood River, KMCQ.  The station is now KZNW and part of the Bustos family of stations airing their Le Zeta format.  The Transmitter, operating with 1400 watts, is SE of Mt Vernon.  Le Zeta is the same format they run at their 1210 AM  Auburn Station.  I’ve found there are a number of locations in the Everett area that you can hear both quite well.  Now the question is who will be next to pick up the KMCQ call-letters?  As of early June the only station on the air with it is KMCQ-LP in Salem,  Oregon.

Congratulations to Sue Qualls who is retiring from KUOW in Seattle after 32 years.  Now she can have time to come to the SBE Chapter Meetings and make all the working-stiffs feel bad Sue recently posted this on Pubtech –

After 32 years at KUOW it is time to retire.  This list has been oh so helpful (and entertaining!).  I will miss my fellow public radio engineers but who knows I might show up for the PREC some year!  Hard to let go some times.  I leave KUOW in the capable hands of Sam Roffe and Tim Meinig.  There is a lot on their plate but with the help of Dane Johnson and crew nothing they can’t handle.

All the best,
~Sue

Apparently the Retirement Bug is ‘catchy’.  I was at Daniels on South Lake Union recently to attend the Tom Pierson Retirement Gathering.  Tom has changed his email signature to read –

Paul Carvalho is the new Chief Engineer for Bonneville Seattle
You can contact him at Pcarvalho@bonneville.com

The very best to both of you.  To be very honest, I too would like to retire…Unlike these folks, I will likely begin to do this in phases by cutting back on the amount of work I do.  The problem is how to start the process.  I figured by now that it would be ‘others’ that make the first move.

I attended the 35th annual gathering of Amateur Radio operators in Seaside the first weekend in June.  The weather was spectacular.  Here’s a picture taken from the balcony of our hotel looking east at the Coast Range.  I actually bought a new radio too!

Unfortunately, on May 31st, another broadcast tower fell.  This time the cause was not related to re-packing but rather a pilot of a crop-duster clipping a guy wire.  The pilot died and the 1040 foot tower for KTUZ-FM in Okarche, Oklahoma (NW of Oklahoma City) went crashing to the ground.  I am reminded of the time an aircraft clipped a guy wire on the Channel 13 tower on Gold Mountain.  In that case the tower survived, the plane and pilot did not.

There is a lot of buzz these days about SFN’s (Translation: Single Frequency Networks) for TV.  Locally Buzz Anderson has been working on a radio version of this with the addition of a number of on-frequency boosters for the Bustos Media’s KDDS on 99.3, to my knowledge the first of its kind in this area.  Perhaps he could come tell us about it at a future SBE-16 Chapter Meeting?

A number of years ago this column started appearing on the Northwest Broadcasters website.  This provided access to my musings to an additional number of readers.  This change meant that I would be receiving incoming mail from many of them.  Often, very interesting.  One of those new readers was named John Ashbridge.  John never wrote about what he did, but would rather make comments about something I had written.  I was saddened recently to receive an email from Gord Lansdell, the NW Broadcasters webmaster,  informing me that John had recently passed.  He passed on his Obit where I learned that he was the longtime PA Announcer for the Canuck’s in addition to being a newsman at CKNW.  It’s always great to have new readers, but always hard to lose an old one.  He was 71.

On the 13th of June we learned of the Passing of Dick Harris.   Thanks to John Price for coming up with this picture of Dick standing next to some fellow (on left) who was an obvious shutterbug (A young Dwight Small)  I recall hearing Dicks great voice on KIRO and the Crista Stations.

Like many of us in Broadcast Engineering, Dick was a Ham with the Call of K7VCD.   The following is a picture of Dick that he had posted to QRZ-

He also posted these comments –

 

Back in the 50’s while working at the RCA plant in Camden, NJ, and being surrounded at work by a lot of Hams, I succeeded in getting my first license, KN2MBT and plunged in as a Novice. Not being satisfied with Novice limitations I worked hard and earned my general in 1955. In 1962 we moved out to Washington State and became K7VCD. For the next 43years I was satisfied with my General class privileges, until March 23rd, 2005. After much persuasion, encouragement from a friend, N6TZ, and hours of studying practice exams, I earned my Extra Class privilege and decided to keep my call, K7VCD, because it has been me since 1962. My current station includes a Kenwood TS570, Ameritron AL-811 linear amp, working into an inverted V fed with ladder-line, a Hy-gain DX-88 all-band vertical. My Hy-gain 20-10 Triband beam was completely restored again on Memorial Day weekend 2005, with a lot of help from family and friends. It’s now working better than ever, and is my window to the world of Ham radio once again. I’ve been in radio broadcasting since 1949, starting as a board announcer/disc jockey gravitating over to the engineering side. Finally retired as fulltime Corporate Project Engineer with Salem Communications in the Spring of 2003 after 19 years.

 

Dick was a warm and wonderful person, loved and appreciated by all that knew him…and a reader of my column…I know this for he too would occasionally drop me a note about something I had written.  To say the least, another great loss.

John Price located a prior business card from when Dick was in NYC –

A spy in our midst?  That’s what a lot of people were wondering on learning that the Amazon Echo smart speaker could be listening in to our conversations….or that someone, somewhere, could be.  Many news organizations jumped all over this one.

In the years that I’ve been around I’ve seen many things come and go.  When I started in broadcasting, back in the last century, AM was king and FM was something that some experimented with.  Now that has completely reversed.  Not long ago, Medium Wave (or so it’s called in other lands), was also the predominant audio delivery.  Now with AM’s popularity fading all over the world, some are suggesting that moving from Amplitude Modulation to Digital might give the medium a new lease on life.  In this country our experiences with HD Radio have been less than stellar….Those that are advocating Digital Radio Mondiale are viewing things a bit differently.  Regardless of what music lovers will tell you, there is still an audience for non-music programming – News, Talk, Sports etc.  The latest ratings surge of KIRO-AM-710 is a great example.  The problem with AM is not so much the lack of stereo or fidelity, but rather the ever increasing noise level that effectively, progressively, reduces the coverage of AM Stations.  Operating with a different modulation scheme, one that is less subject to noise would certainly be a move in the right direction.  The potential is likely great.   However…There are a couple of minor problems with DRM….1) No one has a receiver for it,  2) Owners of broadcast stations are not going to invest money in transmitting equipment to broadcast to no-one (much less invest in new AM equipment) and 3) You can’t buy a receiver at Best Buy, Costco, Walmart etc.  However, you can buy one from Amazon… https://www.amazon.in/Avion-DRM-Digital-Radio-DRM-AM-FM-M/dp/B012GIDF1O

The problem here is the classic – Should we do it just because we can?  Can anyone tell me just how we could make a transition from today’s AM to a DRM system in the US or Canada?  In other countries they have it easy….Just sunset AM and mandate that everyone do DRM.

Oh oh….I forgot – 5G is going to eliminate all broadcasting anyway….What was I thinking?

Appears that KZQM in Sequim has been granted a license by the FCC.  The little station had to deal with the objections of the neighbors on Dungeness Heights.  KZQM is on 104.9 operating with 6 kW ERP with a directional antenna, providing a broad null to the NNW.

They are not the only station facing objections.  Apparently there are those on Bainbridge Island that don’t like the idea of a 3rd station at the Salem transmitter site. in this case KKOL/1300.  The City of Bainbridge Island is one of the objectors.

Nice to know that it’s not just broadcasting that’s causing objections…So is the roll out of 5G.  With about 300,000 new antennas sprouting from all kinds of structures across the land, it’s not the visual impact that is raising concerns, it’s the old fear that this new service will cause cancer and this cancer causing emitter could be on a light pole in your front yard.  This is going to be interesting to watch.  New broadcast station transmitters rarely have a lot of support ….However, with all the hype about 5G there is likely going to be a lot of pressure to overlook objections.  The old fear that having a transmitter in your backyard will lower property values may not hold true this time.  The fact is that a property that does not have 5G coverage may well suffer because of it.

July 10th at 9:30 a.m. is the date and time of the next SECC Meeting at Clover Park Technical College.
The SECC is in the process of re-structuring some of its procedures as our To-Do-List continues to grow and our mission expands.  One of our biggest assignments will be to re-write our EAS Plan.  If you have an interest in working with this group – please do make plans to attend, either in person, or via telephone conference bridge.  To help facilitate participation we will be adding other methods of joining the meeting very soon.

On the subject of EAS – This fall we will likely, once-again, have a National Test.  At this time it’s not known whether this will come via the Internet and the FEMA/IPAWS CAP system or if it will be via the legacy EAS (Analog) system we’ve had for years.  There are some suggesting that FEMA may ‘stress-test’ the system by surprising us.

If you attend the NAB Convention in Las Vegas, and deal with broadcast transmitters, you have probably looked at the giant Stratosphere Tower and wondered how it would work as a broadcast transmitter site.  The wondering is over as Beasley now has a 250 watt translator there (translator for their 720 AM).  Reports are that it works very well, nearly the same as the higher powered stations on Black Mountain.

Here’s a view that you don’t often get of a tower.  In this case, we are looking down on the top of the original broadcast tower at West Tiger Mountain, all thanks to Martin Gibbs and his UAV.  The elevation of the top of this tower is 3148 ft (or about 960 Meters) above sea-level which helps explain why FM stations located here cover such a large area.

  • The Black items at the top of frame is the transmit antenna for KIRO-FM-97.3.  97.3 was the first station at this site, some 30 years ago.  Below the KIRO-FM Antenna, and not visible in this view, is the Master FM Antenna used by 7 other stations at the site.
  • The white ‘round thing’ in the middle of the tower is one of the 3 TV ENG receive antennas.
  • The transmitter building is the rectangular item below the tower.
  • The red item on the right is my pickup truck.

 

More from CNBC

The Headline read –

What salary do you need to afford a Seattle-area home?

This was followed with this question –

How much do you reasonably need to be earning to afford a median-priced home in the Seattle-area compared to the rest of the U.S.?

The following information comes from Lending Tree, who made the following assumptions about the borrowers –

  • Secured a mortgage with a 4.5% interest rate
  • Had a 10% down payment
  • Paid a private mortgage insurance premium of 0.25%
  • Had a debt-to-income ratio of 28%

Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, Wash. – Median home price: $410,000 – Monthly mortgage payment: $1,870 – Salary required: $97,554

Portland/Hillsboro, Ore., Vancouver, Wash. – Median home price: $348,050 –  Monthly mortgage payment: $1,587 – Salary required: $83,311

Denver/Aurora/Lakewood, Colo. – Median home price: $360,000 – Monthly mortgage payment: $1,642 – Salary required: $81,157.

If you think that buying a home in Seattle is expensive….We are far below San Francisco…But that is another story.

On a personal note – I just received my Official Property Value Notice from King County…My 2018 to 2019 change is $50,000.   A friend of mine in Seattle had his valuation increase just under $100,000.  We can only guess the impact this will have on the property taxes we will be paying next year.  Is it any wonder why retiree’s look to move out of the area?

XL Media has announced they are buying KZIZ/1560 and KKDZ/1250 for $850,000.  For those old-timers in the area, KKDZ/1250 started back in the 1920’s as KTW.

Local, Seattle area, station KNKX uplinks it’s program streams to a Satellite.  Recently that system went down on June 9th sending Lowell Kiesow on a mission to discover what happened.  The cause was quite unique.  Apparently a local high school was holding their graduation nearby and let loose a number of balloons.  A bouquet of metalized, Mylar balloons stuck in front of the uplink feed horn which is 14 feet off the ground.

Look closely at the feed on the antenna – As Lowell said…’It’s a first for me’.

Perhaps a new term – ‘Balloon Fade’??

I’ve written, in past columns, about ‘parking of call letters’.  This is a common practice by big companies who feel the need to change call letters in a market but don’t wish to give up letters that they feel have value.  iHeartMedia recently did this with KUBE, likely knowing that a lot of other broadcasters would love to have them (pronounceable call letters are very hard to come by) so they changed the call of a co-owned AM in California to KUBE.  Now, after some format shuffling, KUBE is back in Seattle on 93.3.  I recently spotted a billboard reading ‘KUBE 93.3 is Back’.

Apparently AM stations that are operating FM Translators, in some cases, have discovered HD Radio.  Whereas many of these translators are operating with very low power or highly directional arrays.  It’s not likely that a station owner will make the investment in the equipment required.  However, some of them, with 250 Watts and a decent location have.  Could it be that some of these operations might even devote some time and energy to their HD and HD2’s?

HD Radio certainly has grown, with some 2200 Stations now broadcasting with HD.  Radio’s version of  Multicasting is growing also, with almost 1500 stations operating HD2 (a second program channel) and close to 500 operating HD3  (a third program channel).

Installing HD Radio systems for a station is a matter of receiver penetration.  According to Xperi – 51% of all cars sold in 2018 came with HD Radio.  Breaking this down further…There are 40 brands with 253 different models that come with the mode.  Penetration bottom line – over 16% of all cars on the road have HD Radios or a total of 45 million vehicles, a figure that is growing at the rate of about 10 million vehicles per year.  That’s a pretty compelling reason for broadcasters to get on the band-wagon.  The owners of 107.7 in Vancouver are the latest in SW B.C. to jump on the bandwagon.

I recall when HD multicasting was just being talked about.  Back then broadcasters were excited to have a multicast channel, as they considered it to be ‘another radio station’ they could make money with.  Then the reality of the matter sunk in.  They were fearful of putting on compelling programming or cross promoting the new system for fear it would mean moving listeners away from their FM station that was paying the bills.  Many made it clear – If it can’t make money on day-one…they were not interested.

Then there is the problem of educating consumers.  An owner of a new vehicle may stumble across the fact that their car-radio can receive content that they like, but have never heard about and have little chance of getting additional information.  Most HD program streams do little to explain how it works.  Auto dealers are, generally clueless.  You would think that broadcasters in a given market area would have a printed hand-out that comes with every new vehicle that explains how HD Radio works and promotes the content that is available.  Nope – Not happening.  My ‘technical mind’ obviously operates on a different plane than those that could really do a lot more to make HD Radio into the money maker that we all want.

Again this is so much like the roll-out of FM many years ago.  Then AM Station owners, not realizing the advantages and potential for FM were afraid to promote it for fear it would hurt their AM operations.  Sure it had better fidelity, Stereo, less noise, worked in places that AM would not, etc.  FM finally had to almost make it on its own…and that it did.  In many cases consumers were the leaders and station owners were the followers.

I am beginning to have hope that attitudes are changing with young and more techno-savvy managers taking the reins that HD Radio and other new technologies will be embraced rather than being feared.

Speaking of new things – No, not Smart Speakers …Podcasting.

So what is a Podcast?  According to Wikipedia:

A podcast, or generically netcast, is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download and listen to.  It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.  [1] It is very similar to, and may overlap with, Internet radio, though perhaps distinct in revolving around topics personalized exactly to listener preferences, [2] plus podcasts are often able to be streamed or downloaded on demand.

Some broadcasters are very much Involved with Podcasting…Especially those stations that have non-music content.  Some podcasts are, essentially, recordings of previously aired programming.  NPR and their affiliates are naturals for this mode as they do more long-form content that lends itself to becoming a podcast.  In some respects this reminds me of being able to access old-time radio shows.

Meanwhile iHeartMedia is working on its own Podcasts.  These will be scripted episodes targeting teens.  There is nothing like a great story, in audio form.  As a kid I grew up listening to wonderful stories on the Radio.  The mind can paint pictures just as good as you can find on TV or in the movies.  Interestingly there has been a huge gap between the days when Radio was the story teller and today when Podcasting is catching on as something ‘cool and new’.  If you have a story about some locally produced Podcasts – Let me know.

Many were wondering if Cumulus Media would be parted out and sold off as part of their re-organization.  Sounds like they did exit a few properties, but not as many as some suspected.  The major change was to cut their debt load by about a Billion Bucks.

Time to look at the highlights of the latest Seattle Radio – 6+ – numbers…

  • KISW has grabbed the #1 Spot.
  • Apparently KIRO-AM did not get the memo that AM Radio is dead showing up at #8.
  • KIRO-AM’s sport format appears to be dominating the competition with the other 2 AM Sports-Talkers way down the list.
  • The spread between the two FM country stations is getting narrower with KKWF at 3.6 and KNUC at 2.8.
  • Looking at the Christian CHR format, locally owned Crista/KCMS is leading that race with a 2.6 compared to EMF’s KLSW with 1.1.

Did you ever think that someone would develop a device like a UAV or Drone?…Obviously advancements in computers and electronics have made these devices not only possible but common.  The earlier picture of the top of the West Tiger tower would have required a big helicopter with a pilot and camera operator in the past.  Now, with something that can be stored in a small case, you can launch your camera in minutes, for a fraction of the cost.  TV news has certainly discovered the usefulness of these devices, so has spot or commercial generation.  A recent look at one of those real-estate magazines showed aerial views of a lot of properties.  Fire fighters are using them to locate hot-spots in wildfires.  Ranchers are using them to keep track of their cattle.  Farmers are using them to look over their crops.  The list goes on.  With any kind of device like this there are going to be those that fly them where they should not…and there are those that don’t want to be snooped on.

And of course, you will find this sign –

And the Headline read…

WiFi Now Available at Potholes State Park!

I suppose you could ask – Why would someone want a park named after a hole in a road?
Wonder how many others noticed that in Washington State, Pot has another, and popular meaning? (Canada is not that far behind.)

At least there is Wi Fi there!

What’s happening to KUIK in Hillsboro, OR (West of Portland)?  Recently I received a list of equipment that was for sale at the station…Could it be that it was off the air and selling parts and pieces?  Apparently this is the case.  I ran across this on-line:

https://portlandtribune.com/ht/117-hillsboro-tribune-news/390339-281853-updated-radio-station-kuik-to-cease-operation-march-31

The following U-Tube video gives you a look around the station on their last day of broadcasting.  Note how their studios were at the airport.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfifrPprCAs

According to the FCC, KUIK was first licensed in November of 1954.  It appears they were operating with 5 kW Non-Directional Day and 5 kW Directional at night with 4 towers.  There are rumors that they lost their lease at their transmitter site.  Others report the station was sold and will be back, in some form.

The bottom line appears to be that yet another AM will become nothing more than history.  Sadly, I suspect the trend will continue.

To wind up my column for this month….Some miscellaneous, off the top, ramblings, all of which will likely confirm what many of you have suspected for a long time…

Have you ever noticed how we have a habit of asking the wrong question ?   Let me give you an example –

You have just arrived at your hotel.  You walk up to the desk and the person there asks you, “What brought you here today?”  My typical response – ‘I drove’ – at which point the clerk is clearly set back.  If they had asked – What is the reason for your visit here today, that would have been a better question.  Why do we do this?

Another favorite of mine is when in a restaurant many servers will ask  – “Can I grab something else for you?”  What!!  Did they really mean to ask if they could bring me something else?

How about that question on a form at a medical provider’s office – “In case of an emergency who should be called?”  I like to write ‘Ambulance’ .. Just to see if anyone actually reads those things.

Some questions are just an invitation to have a little fun.  For example when at the checkout of the grocery store they will often ask “Did  you find everything OK?”  Responding with something like “I couldn’t locate the Pickup Trucks” will often stop them cold, leaving them with no idea of what to say.

Responding with a totally unexpected answer is also fun – Example – When people see a cat’s litter box they will often ask if you have a cat….Responding with, “No, that’s for company” is certain to generate an interesting expression.

I’m among the few that have no middle name.  Often, when filling out a form, I am asked to complete my name at which time I write NMI.  Occasionally someone will ask me how I pronounce it.  Thinking about this a bit more I have concluded that I am a very lucky follow.  I determined long ago, the only reason people have middle names is so a child will really know they are in trouble when a parent uses it.

I recall, several years ago, I was on my way to, or from, an Amateur Radio event.  I stopped at a grocery store while wearing a little pin on badge that looked like this.

CLAY
K7CR

 

The checker kept looking at me ….and finally she took a deep breath and said, “How do you pronounce your last name?” (She was very serious.)

When you reach my age you have come to the point in life that you have no choice to accept what the passing of time has done.  A lot of people have trouble admitting how old they are and will try and hide it, or will subtract a few years from the actual number.  I have a lot more fun approaching this differently.  I like to ADD about 10 years to the actual number.  The response is amazing….People will often remark about how good you look.  Hard to get compliments at this point!

Well that’s it for this month.  Thanks for permitting me to share these items with you.  If you have a thought – feel free to drop me a note – always happy to know that someone, somewhere is reading it.

Have a wonderful Summer.  Remember, at this latitude, it is our shortest season.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Member for over 50 years, #714