Monthly Archives: September 2019

Clay’s Corner for October 2019

September 30, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner for October  2019

Clay’s Corner

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

CONGRATULATIONS TO WASHINGTON’S MARCONI RADIO AWARD WINNERS – KIRO-FM AND KRWM-FM (WARM 106.9)!

Two Seattle radio stations have received the prestigious NAB Marconi Radio Awards – Bonneville’s KIRO-FM was named News/Talk Station of the Year and Hubbard’s KRWM-FM (WARM 106.9) was named Adult Contemporary Station of the Year.

Winners of the 2019 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Marconi Radio Awards were announced at the 30th annual NAB Marconi Radio Awards Dinner in Dallas, TX.

 

September, in the Puget Sound area, started off with a BANG….in fact many of them. On the 7th of the month we were treated with a very rare storm that hit this area with heavy rain, hail and some 2,200 lightning strikes. For one that moved here from elsewhere, this was no biggie…however, statistically, this was VERY unusual. The storm shut down the game at Husky Stadium and caused fans to scramble for cover. (Unfortunately they lost too). A couple of days later, the Portland-Vancouver area experienced a tornado.

Thankfully, things have settled down and are, pretty much, back to normal for this time of year. The hours of daylight are now less than the hours of darkness as we head into fall. Like you knew they would, the cloudy & rainy skies have returned, the talk of drought has faded and snow levels are coming down. In fact, the higher passes will be getting their first snow of the season before the end of the month. One of the things I do, being involved with things at West Tiger Mt., is to watch the Weather Forecast from NWS. Thanks to their ability to target an area it’s a lot easier.  Here is what I have saved for quick viewing –

https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/forecast/wxtables/index.php?lat=47.5039906&lon=-121.9756727&clrindex=0&table=custom&duration=7&interval=6

When I see the snow levels getting below 3000 feet, I quickly look at the other columns to determine whether or not it will be ‘winter time’ at the transmitter site.

After our experience with winter weather, many are wondering if it could happen again this year. The Farmer’s Almanac says yes. Meanwhile the NWS is, apparently, being more cautious with wet and warmer. As we found out last year, no one can accurately predict the weather, especially in this neck of the woods.

The big story this month has been the Ransomware attack on Entercom early in September. This was no local happening, but rather something that, apparently, involved all of their stations and many of their computer systems. The perps were asking $500,000, which Entercom announced they would not pay. As time went by, the company was digging out of the mess created.

This is not the first time a broadcaster has been hit with Ransomware. Perhaps most notable was the hacking of KQED in San Francisco. According to reports on that event, it cost the station $1 million in lost revenue and expenses. This, however, is the first time that a major, multiple station owner was a victim.

Today’s broadcast operations are highly dependent on computers performing various tasks. Out of necessity, many of these computer systems are accessible from the outside. Incoming e-mails, off premise production companies and talent, advertising agencies etc. This is like giving keys to those that you work without knowing when those keys will end up in the wrong hands.

This all gave me cause to look back at my long history in this business. Back when I started (at a small radio station in Tacoma) it is likely the term ‘computer’ was not even used. This was in the days of the typewriter (yes, we had a couple of electric ones) and vacuum tubes. We had a teletype machine spitting out news on long sheets of paper and anything recorded used tape recorders. Agency commercials often arrived via the USPS in the form of a recorded reel-to-reel tape. Radio stations played music from phonograph records what were delivered the same way. There was nothing, in house, that could even make a copy of a printed page. Certainly, a younger person today would view such an operation as primitive, at best.

Along the way, computers started to make their way into stations. I recall the first one was a huge IBM device the size of a large office desk, used to generate what were called ‘program logs’. Internal sales people would write up orders (with pen and ink) and hand them to the person doing the data entry. Advertising agencies would send their orders in via a FAX machine. Eventually the ‘beast’ was replaced with a relatively small PC sitting on a desk. The next to get computers were administrative assistants. In those days, computers were stand-alone devices connected to their own printers (oh yes, the display was all text in white, green or amber….Windows had not yet arrived). Eventually we saw the introduction of devices to share a common printer. Eventually internal networks were created permitting users to share files. Anyone remember Twinax? Eventually I saw the introduction of not only internal but nation-wide private networking using Windows 3.1 as introduced by my, then employer, Viacom.

Fast forward to today. Just about everyone has a computer that is connected to a network that spans the world. In our homes we use it for communicating with everyone using e-mail. Just look at what Amazon has done to change the way we do retailing in a short period of time.

Even a small radio station today is totally dependent on computers connected to the outside for everything that used to be ‘hand-carried’. Today we find radio stations that only have an small office or sales staff. All of the equipment that generates programming may well be located out-of-state…all connected by networked computers.

All this interconnectedness has been great, however, it has become a huge temptation for those that have nothing better to do that cause someone grief. A person’s computer, whether it be a PC on a desk at home or something they carry, is a target for someone bent on seeing what they can get away with. For businesses and governments the whole process is just scaled up. Countries are hacking into each other’s systems. State and local governments are being hacked with regularity, and so are businesses, large and small.

The challenge is how to keep all this data flowing between parties that have become dependent on it, all the while keeping the bad guys out. Can you imagine what Amazon must do to keep from being a victim of Ransomware?

I have to believe that, out there somewhere, there are a lot of computer engineers working to come up with a new contraption to remain one-step ahead of those that seek to put another notch in their belt for overcoming and/or invading some system. In many ways, the ‘Wild-Wild-West’ continues.

Here is a link to some interesting and related items:

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

https://www.thebdr.net/articles/IT/adm/index.html

In a somewhat related matter, the FCC is proposing a $15,000 fine for a small Virginia AM Station for public file violations. A couple things about this one are interesting.

  • The owner of the station is a 92 year old gentlemen who is, apparently, not computer literate and did not know how to perform the task (yes, there are some that are in that mode…some even younger).
  • In the past the FCC required things to be simply placed in the station’s Public File. That was a ‘physical file’, usually a file cabinet that the station kept for the benefit of the public (they could come in and view the contents) as well as the occasional FCC inspector that would drop by (un-announced, of course) to see to it that you were keeping your files up to date per the Rules. Not too long ago the FCC changed things so that these files are now kept by the FCC…for public viewing (and FCC enforcement). This change requires that licensees up-load the required material. Of course, that requires the use of a computer. The FCC does not require that you have a computer, but being compliant requires that you use a computer to upload the information. In the case of this little station, it appears the owner could have had someone perform the task even if they were not familiar with computers.

The bottom line is, in today’s world, you just about have to have one.

Just owning a computer and connecting it to the outside world requires that you keep it up today to keep out the perps. Recently, Microsoft warned users of one of their older browsers, Internet Explorer, of a security flaw that required an emergency patch. From what I read, there are still a lot of computers out there using Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, 10 and 11. All this underscores the need to understand a good deal about the computer you are operating.

Automakers have been facing a similar situation and have responded with dashboard indicators that tell the user – – Check Engine or Maintenance Required. Perhaps one day computers will do something similar that will reduce what is likely overwhelming to many, to something that will tell them – in simple terms – what they need to do?

The C-Band issue continues to percolate. Related print media sources are full of articles about it, while broadcasters wonder what this is all going to mean. In simple terms – the wireless industry is extremely spectrum hungry. This is why many of the TV stations are being force to change channels to accommodate the needs of wireless. In this case, it’s called ‘Re-Packing’. On the bright side of this activity is the fact that many TV Broadcasters are getting new transmitters and antennas, all paid for with funds coming from the Wireless Industry.

Perhaps feeling that broadcasters have been historic spectrum hogs (having spectrum allocated to their use that they were not using) led them to look at what’s called ‘C-Band’ or spectrum around 4 GHz (3.7 – 4.2). In many ways they were right. One of the major uses for this spectrum by cable system and broadcasters is for communicating with Satellites for wide-area distribution. The systems use systems called ‘up-links’ to send their signals to the satellite, whose function it is to relay that signal to a large number of receivers scattered over a wide area. When wireless first looked at this spectrum they found what appeared to be a lot of spectrum they could use. Unfortunately, it was not a real-world picture of how, and where, this spectrum was being used for the simple fact that no one really kept track of where all those satellite receive installation were located. (Only some bothered with letting the FCC know.) I guess you could say that many of these users ‘assumed’ that their system was safe. The news that Wireless wanted this spectrum for other things was a wakeup call for those folks. Meanwhile the systems that rely on all of this, the broadcast networks, where watching the store and were letting the FCC know, early on, that they intended to protect their interests.

Today we have a much better picture of who is using C-Band and how much spectrum is actually being used and where. The FCC, in the middle of it again, is wrestling with how to give Wireless something while protecting existing users. My guess is that we will be looking at some sort of compromise. As with all things like this, the devil is in the details. Obviously the TV re-pack process will likely be used as a model. Will the FCC require all the existing C-Band users to do as they did with Broadcast-TV and require them to ‘snuggle-up’ to open up ‘dedicated’ spectrum for Wireless? Would Wireless pay for the relocations? Or will the Commish come up with some plan that will call for the differing user to ‘intermingle’? From what is being said by the FCC, we may well see a decision coming before the end of the year.

So guess what radio station is celebrating 100 years?

Here are some hints:

  • It’s west of the Mississippi
  • It’s transmitter is in Fort Collins, Colorado
  • It has ‘W’ Call letters
  • You may have a receiver tuned to this station but have never heard it.
  • It is one of the world’s oldest continuously operating radio stations.

If you guessed WWV – you are correct. The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) station celebrates their 100th on October 1.

 

Want to know more, here are some links that you may find interesting:

 

https://www.nist.gov/pml/time-and-frequency-division/time-services/history-radio-station-wwv

 

https://www.nist.gov/pml/time-and-frequency-division/nist-radio-broadcasts-frequently-asked-questions-faq

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWV_(radio_station)#Transmission_system

 

Here’s a picture of the facility at Ft Collins.   If you have ever driven in the vicinity of Ft Collins (North of Denver) you can spot the WWV Towers.

KQED, the major public radio station in San Francisco has announced a $91 million facelift and expansion for their facility in the Bay City. That’s a – lot – of money for a non-commercial radio station. Here in our area, KNKX recently moved into new digs in Downtown Tacoma. Certainly a lot smaller than the 165,000 square feet of KQED. To put this into perspective, the average Costco is 144,500 Sq. Ft. The average Home Depot or Lowes is even smaller. Hard to believe a radio operation that big.

Xperi, the organization behind HD Radio, has announced HD Radio trials in India. Leads me to wonder why they need ‘trials’. With all the HD Radio operations in this country, one would think that the days of ‘trials’ are over. Perhaps what they mean is they are going to compare the various digital radio systems? Oh yes, they will only be testing the FM version. One thing driving this is the ability of the system to multicast various channels. In a country, like India, this is attractive.

Here’s one you don’t hear often, the FCC revoking a license and the owner appealing to the President for help with the IRS. It’s apparently happening with WGEA in Geneva, Alabama. From what I read, the station’s license was revoked because they did not pay their fees to the FCC, and the owner says he can’t pay until he receives a refund from the IRS going back 32 years.

One of the changes the FCC made a while back was to authorize clustering of station ownerships. For example – in Seattle one firm can own 2 TV Stations. On the Radio side, one firm can own 8 Radio stations (up to 5 of one kind, AM or FM). Certainly the temptation to cluster stations and operate them for profit has not been ignored by Low Power FM’s in Charlottesville, VA. Saga Communications has pointed this out to the FCC, demanding action.

Major amounts of money continue to be spent in the tower business. American Tower Company, a big player in the Seattle market, is on the way to adding 6,000 more sites to their portfolio by the end of 2019. ATC already operates 41,000 Sites in the U.S. and about 170,000 world-wide. A look at their Market Cap tells much. It’s over $100 billion. If you want to get a better idea of just how big $100 billion in Market Cap really is, it’s over 10 times iHeartMedia.

If you are like me, you receive a number of Robo-Calls. In my case, I can count on about 3-4 a day. A couple of recent ones come to mind (you probably get these too).

THE VIRUS PROTECTION SCAM

The recorded voice announces that my virus protection is being renewed (citing an organization I’ve never heard of) and that my account is being charged etc. Of course, they want you to call a number or hang on to talk with someone.

MICROSOFT PRETENDERS

The recorded voice announces they are from the Microsoft support team and my computer is causing problems etc. etc. A couple of times I have hung on and talked to someone (obviously in a boiler-room from all the chatter in the background) explaining that I don’t own a computer and there must be a big mistake. <GRIN>

YOU MUST BE IN PAIN SCAM

It’s quite easy to find out these days how old a person is and be put on a ‘list’ for those that are trying to peddle a quick cure. In this case the person (live this time) asks me if I am having pains etc. etc. After listening to their pitch, I response that they must have a mistake as I’m only 23 years old. <GRIN>

HELLO GRANDPA SCAM

Another pitch for mature people from the ‘we know how old you are list’. In this case the pitch man is assuming that the person answering the phone has become mentally challenged and can’t recall his grandchildren. You answer the call to hear a, plaintive ’Hello Grandpa’. Just for drill, I played along to see how it works. If the caller is crafty, he will get you to tell him the name of a grandchild (setting the hook), then will go on to explain that he is having a hard time and needs money etc. etc.

The sad things about these pitches is the knowledge that people must be, routinely, falling for them to the extent that they stay in business.

One thing interesting is that I rarely, if ever, receive any Robo-Calls to my home/land-line phone any more.

Here’s something that you don’t hear often – a company cutting the number of board members to reduce costs. It’s happening to Salem Media Group. Yes, they own several stations in the Seattle Area.

The battle over 5G is heating up – worldwide. News from Switzerland, one of the first countries to roll out the new system, is of a nationwide revolt over radiation fears, with demands that the technology rollout be put to a vote of the people. Those that oppose 5G are warning of health risks. Shades of the battles in Seattle from years ago faced by broadcasters. There are those that state they have  ‘electromagnetic hypersensitivity’ and these new systems will be devastating.

The situation in the U.S. is there are pockets of opposition to the roll-out of the technology.

https://www.wcpo.com/money/consumer/dont-waste-your-money/mystery-towers-going-up-all-over-cincinnati-area

Meanwhile, the industries that will benefit from all of this are racing to get it up and running and the FCC, thus far, is on their side.

So if you are fearful about getting ‘nuked’ by 5G radiation, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Take a look at this site:

 

https://speroprotectionclothing.com/

 

I’m not sure how viable your wireless device will be zipped up in a RF-Proof bag.

Meanwhile, there are studies that contend that RF Energy may have some benefits.

http://www.arrl.org/files/file/QST/This%20Month%20in%20QST/March2018/Lindquist%2003.pdf

https://www.nhs.uk/news/neurology/electromagnetic-bathing-cap-shows-promise-early-alzheimers-disease-trial/

I recall, many years ago, going to a doctor regarding sore muscles, whereby he used a Diathermy device. Frankly, I thought it worked very well. Interestingly, after the scare about harmful effects of RF, these devices are hard to find in use anymore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diathermy     https://www.healthline.com/health/diathermy#types

I am reminded of the Coffee Cups that were given out by the RF Specialties Group (suppliers of equipment for broadcasters). RF, or course, meaning Radio Frequencies. That’s the one on the right from my personal collection.

 

Advertisers are having to deal with some un-expected issues these days.

  • Programs that are being pre-empted by the latest Trump-mess
  • The apparent health hazards from Vaping has caused many to pull the plug on these as they want to distance themselves from the product as some states enact laws regarding it
  • Whether or not to advertise CBD related products.

The question is – just how big is Broadcasting in the U.S.? According to a new Woods and Poole Economics study,  Broadcasting contributes $1.17 trillion to the annual U.S. GDP.

Those of you that have been in Broadcasting for a long time certainly remember the name ITC. ITC was one of the major makers of tape-recording equipment for broadcasters, perhaps more so for their Cartridge Tape equipment. What is little known is that ITC considered making Cassette Tape equipment. Here’s a picture, courtesy of contributor Mike Brooks of KING-FM of a prototype that never made it to production.

As well all know, Magnetic Tape equipment (Cartridge, Cassette and Reel-to-Reel) all were replaced with computers….and with it ITC.

Southeastern U.S. broadcasters had a challenge recently with Hurricane Dorian. Usually stations cover these approaching and quickly departing storms. In this case, Mother Nature pulled a ‘slow-one’ with a storm that not only was hard to predict where it was going, it just sat over the Bahamas for 36 hours. There was plenty of humor along the way with the President telling all that it was heading to Alabama. I guess you can tell that such events are a challenge to the Whitehouse.

Looking for a job in broadcasting in this area?

Saga Communications, operator of a cluster of Radio Stations in Bellingham are looking for a General Manager.

How about a technical position, out of this area?

Perhaps you are tired of endless traffic congestion and ever increasing prices and a dislike for rainfall? This may be just what you have been looking for – a director of Engineering job with a Radio group based in Cody, WY. Here is what they have posted:

Director of Engineering

Sep 6, 2019

Legend Communications is searching for an Engineer to maintain our 23-radio station group.

Candidates must be strong on RF, studio gear, STL’s and audio processing. Our past Director passed away unexpectedly and was with us for 21 years.

Based in Cody, Wyoming and supervising one other full-time IT engineer. Competitive salary and benefits. Company truck for use. Great lifestyle and no state income taxes. EOE.

Send letter and resume to Larry Patrick at larry@patcomm.com for consideration. All replies confidential.

Compare this to the Seattle Area

Cody is a town in northwest Wyoming. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West has 5 museums. These include the Buffalo Bill Museum, tracing William F. Cody’s life with multimedia displays, and the Draper Natural History Museum, with wildlife exhibits. Nearby, Old Trail Town is a re-created frontier town with 1800’s log cabins and a saloon. Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway winds past craggy cliffs to Yellowstone National Park.

Elevation: 4,997′ (Seattle is between Sea-level and 1400 ft.)

Population: 9,885 (2017). (Seattle Metro is close to 4,000,000)

The climate is VERY different

Cody experiences a semi-arid climate with highly variable conditions. Relative humidity is usually a fairly dry 30% or less. Precipitation averages 10.5 inches annually, including 42.5 inches of snow per season. Cody enjoys about 300 days of sunshine per year. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 25.9 °F in December to 69.9 °F in July. The wettest calendar year has been 1991 with 16.04 inches (407.4 mm) and the driest 1956 with 3.58 inches (90.9 mm).

Oh Yes…..

There are no Freeways (probably never will be) so you can, perhaps, predict when you are going to arrive at a destination. Go ahead, try that in the Seattle area.

While I’m at it, MSN Money recently ran a piece called:

The 15 worst places to buy a home — and where to invest instead

Don’t Buy a Home in Seattle

 

  • 1-year home value change: -5%
  • 5-year home value change: 59%

Seattle may boast incredible natural attractions but its real estate values are being outpaced by smaller nearby cities. It’s still quite pricey to buy a home here, too, at $525.87 per square foot, and to make matters worse, home values sank by 5% over the past year. The average five-year home value change was a more heartening 59%, but that’s not the best value in the area.

Instead, Choose Tacoma

 

  • 1-year home value change: 8.4%
  • 5-year home value change: 72.9%

The port city of Tacoma, situated on Puget Sound, still has affordable real estate at $239.26 per square foot. And homeowners will see value in as little as a year. The one-year home value change was 8.4%, and the five-year home value change was a robust 72.9%.

As you may have heard, the Tacoma area is one of the nation’s hottest real estate markets. Perhaps being fueled by the raging fire to the north?

Recently Readers Digest ran a piece titled:

15 Most Expensive States to Live in the United States.

Here is what they said about this area:

 

Blame Seattle and its behemoth companies (we’re talking Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks, just to name a few) for jacking up the cost of living in Washington. It’s currently the fourth most expensive state in the United States for housing.

While I’m at it …..Here are 3 of the fastest growing housing markets in the U.S. located  in the PNW:

#18 – Spokane
#14 – Tri-Cities
#3 –   Boise

If you have not been to the Boise area recently (my kids are there), the growth is amazing, especially the area just west of Boise, Meridian.

More ownership shuffles for the TV industry.

The FCC has recently approved the Nexstar-Tribune Merger.

An Order detailing the Commission’s reasoning can be found here:

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-19-89A1.pdf

View the Nexstar-Tribune transaction page here: www.fcc.gov/transaction/nexstar-tribune

 

Tribune operates two Stations in the Seattle area, KCPQ Ch. 13 and KSJO Ch. 25. If I recall, KSJO is slated to move to Ch. 36, but uses Virtual Ch. 22.

I love pictures of locations where Radio & TV signals begin. In this case, it’s of the Mt. Sutro Tower near San Francisco. Here, thanks to a blanket of fog, you can’t see the tower, making the structure at the top look like a ship in a sea. Interesting that this is a big self-supporting tower with three guyed towers sitting on top. We have a smaller version of this on Crego Hill near Chehalis, where a guyed tower sits on top of an old radar tower.

Here’s a switch – East Arkansas Broadcasters are purchasing a recently closed newspaper. The Stuttgart Daily Leader.

Often a name is changed to ‘freshen’ the image. Example – NPR is no longer National Public Radio…now just NPR. Let’s face it, the word RADIO is very old (almost 100 years). For some reason it’s a term that continues to be used. However, a newer, more contemporary term could be well received in some circles. I can imagine a lot of younger types think of Radio as something old and dated. Now comes news that ABC Radio has been having the same thoughts and recently dropped the word Radio from their name, henceforth to be called ABC Audio. Perhaps this makes sense as many listen on-line. You can hardly say listening that way would be called ‘listening to the radio’. Could we see the beginning of the end of the word Radio? It will be interesting to see how many follow suit.

Is there anyone alive that has not heard of Amazon these days? Not the river, but the giant in Seattle. So how big has Amazon become? Here are a couple of tidbits that underscore their size:

  • Locally (in the Seattle area) they employ in excess of 53,000. This now makes them the second largest employer in this area, behind Boeing (they employ about 70,000) bumping Microsoft to 3rd place.
  • They are presently occupying about 13,000,000 square feet of space.
  • Nationally, their employment is something like 300,000.

Remember the antenna that caught on fire at West Tiger Mountain a while back?

Well…here it is:

The stations at this site are still using a temporary antenna system and will be doing so until a permanent replacement is installed. Rumors are the replacement will be shipped in November (just in time for winter). My guess, perhaps this coming Spring this project will be completed.

Here is a picture of an operating FM Transmitting Antenna at West Tiger Mountain.

In this case, it was taken with an Infrared Camera to show the relative temperature of various portions of the device.

OK…here’s one for you Technical Types. I recently spotted this tag on what appears to be an operational piece of equipment:

Facebook

Twitter

Anyone know what it is?

I found that the company is still in business making a number of items.

As we all know the Picture Tube, or CRT, that was used for many years in TV Sets and computers is long gone in favor of what’s called a flat-panel display. Along the way we have seen a number of variations, Plasma, LCD etc. LG, the big Korean maker of many things, has a new production plan up and running where they expect to produce 10,000,000 large OLED Panels by 2022. These will be 55, 65 and 77 inch panels. I’m old enough to recall my first TV set used a 7 inch round picture tube!

One of the tools used by those that generate ‘Click-Bait’ is to show a picture of something completely un-related to their pitch. I am often amused at how many times I see this picture with the statement that this device is going to revolutionize the world. Here is the typical text:

Better Than Solar Panels? Revolutionary New Invention Takes Country By Storm

What’s pictured here is what’s known in Ham Radio circles as a “Halo Antenna’. This one is, rather obviously, home-made using copper tubing and PVC Pipe. Just about everything here can be purchased at a big-box hardware store.

 

These antennas are easy to build and are used by Amateur Radio operators, world-wide.  If you wish – Click on this site – https://qrznow.com/2-meter-halo-antenna-by-mike-fedler-n6tww/

And see the very antenna. Perhaps sadly, this is not some new invention that’s better than a solar panel, just an effort by someone to make you click on the site.

If you are interested in constructing a Halo Antenna, check out this site for pictures of many home-made versions of the Halo.

 

https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ACYBGNSaPShYMKxs3WDooBb7z4uviedB2w:1569208910270&q=halo+antenna&tbm=isch&source=hp&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj36LLd_uXkAhULpJ4KHcgaCxoQiR56BAgJEA4&biw=1562&bih=832#spf=1569211642084

 

If you wish, you can make one of these for the FM Band where it will function as an omni-directional receiving antenna.

The FCC is looking at making changes to the rules governing low-power FM’s. First round of comments have to be submitted by Oct. 31 with replies due by November 4th. So what changes are being considered?

  • Use of directional antennas
  • Use of boosters
  • Increased power levels

All right, enough of the serious stuff. Time for some smile making.

“Lexophile” describes those that have a love for words, such as “You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish” or “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.”

An annual competition is held by the New York Times to see who can create the best original lexophile. Perhaps I should issue a ‘Groaner Warning”.

This year’s submissions:

I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

A will is a dead giveaway.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

A bicycle can’t stand alone: it’s just two tired.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.

He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she’d dye.

Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

When chemists die, they barium.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

That’s about it for this month, my friends.

Thanks for the read…….

Lord willing, I will be back to most of the same locations next month at this time.

Until then –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714.

Clay’s Corner for September 2019

September 1, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner for September  2019

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Enjoying summer? At least this one has been relatively free of the choking smoke of last year. We’ve had some rainy days that have kept the fire danger under control and temps have been fairly mild. Fall is not far away as the leaves are starting to turn and fall.

TV broadcasting has been undergoing major changes to accommodate what’s called repacking, which is basically cramming all the TV stations together to create open spectrum for wireless devices, among them, the much-touted, 5G or 5th Generation systems. Perhaps we should have known, but the pushback for those new systems is ramping up, perhaps thanks to stories on the Internet and social media that have fueled fears that the emissions from these new facilities are actually evil.

Look no farther than Northern California where cities and towns are issuing ordinances that would prohibit new 5G facilities from locating in residential areas. Areas as close as Portland, Oregon have residents clamoring for restrictions. Many are asking for more studies on the health aspects. Fear is a powerful tool…and fear of the unknown is even more powerful. This is an issue that is bound to become highly political.

Local politicians’ jobs are not to protect the wireless carriers, but rather to protect the interests of the residents who fear these new systems will negatively impact their health, not to mention their property values.

The telecoms, who have invested huge sums of money for more spectrum (some of which is being spent on moving TV station frequencies) are not likely to fade away into the sunset. They will be fighting back and asking the government to help.

It’s estimated that there may be a half a million new cell sites. Due to the short range of some of these frequencies, many new antennas will be mounted on existing utility poles, buildings etc. which only fuels the debate. I can just see ‘Oscar Objector’ watching very carefully on what the guys in the ‘bucket truck’ are installing on his street.

The telecoms are heavily invested in 5G, and they have a lot of legal horsepower. There are consumers that are anxious for higher speeds and new gizmos. Friends, this could get ugly despite the rules the FCC has passed an effort to speed up 5G’s roll-out.

Many years ago the late Chuck Morris (of KIRO) used to keep track of station call letters in the Seattle area. Sure, there are those that have never changed….KVI, KJR Radio. Channels 11 and 13 and a number of UHF’s have made the switch. Perhaps some should have. Many still think that KIRO Radio and TV are the same company. Ditto for KING-TV and KING-FM.

There are just so many call letters in the U.S. Generally, west of the Mississippi all start with the letter K. Therefore call letters tend to migrate from station to station as owners and formats change. A couple of them come to mind, both of which I worked for in this area. KNBQ and KBSG have been associated with various stations since they left town.

Lowell Kiesow recently sent me a note stating that KPLU is now used by a Spanish religious FM Station in Palacios, TX.

The first letter of a call indicates where in the world the station is located, however, not all those first letters are used by broadcasters. For example, in the U.S. we have K, W, N and A with only K and W being used for broadcast stations. Canada has C and V…with only C’s currently being issued.

Who owns what in broadcasting requires an up-to-date program. For example:

  • Apollo purchased Cox (owner of KIRO-TV in Seattle)
  • Now Apollo is eyeing the purchase of Tegna (owners of KING and KONG-TV)
  • Don’t think a given company can own three TVs in this market, meaning, that if this deal comes true, one of these stations would have a new owner.
  • Then again, perhaps nothing will happen.

Whatever happens, Apollo could become one of the biggest owners in the U.S.

Didja hear….Seattle’s traffic is #7 on the list of the worst places to drive. The good news is that drivers in this area have plenty of time to tune into radio. Ever wonder why so many stations offer traffic reports? I still wonder why someone has not done as they do just to Seattle’s north and have a radio station dedicated to traffic reports? (Tune into 730 AM sometime). Seems to me that a struggling AM station in the Seattle area could do this. Take a look at the big-signal AMs near the bottom of the ratings list for good candidates.

Dealing with the traffic situation in the Seattle area is becoming increasingly obvious. Make drivers pay to get there sooner. 405, 167, 520 & the Tacoma Narrows Bridge were made bigger, coupled with a larger dent in your wallet. The Alaska Way Viaduct is now gone, replaced with a tunnel…and tolls. Welcome to the new world.

The FCC routinely cracks down on a pirate/ unlicensed radio stations. Generally these are in major cities on the east coast. This month someone was perhaps caught by surprise when the Commish nailed a pirate radio operation in Arkansas and fined them $10,000. Was on 103.1 in Alma, AR. This one was interesting, as the operator reportedly told the FCC that the Communications Act did not apply to him. My question is this – Will the Feds ever collect the fine? Odds are the operator will claim financial distress etc. and get off with a much lower amount or a hand slap. A version of the old saying about ‘blood and a turnip’.

It appears we are getting closer to the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. This is of local interest as T-Mobile has local roots. The past month saw the FCC Chairman recommending approval. One of the drivers behind this is the push to get 5G up and operating, and approval will help with that process. Of course there are road-blocks. Like all matters of this nature…time will tell.

EAS continues to be in the news with the recent NPT (National Periodic Test). From the sounds of things, things in Washington State went well. Thanks to all of you that participated. Our State SECC will be meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10th at CPTC in Lakewood. Hope you can participate with that as well. We are working on changes that will impact everyone.

If you own Sage EAS Equipment, you likely have heard that you are going to have to update your equipment. NO – This is not an option! To gain more insight into this matter I dropped a note to Harold Price of Sage Alerting. Here is his response:

Clay,

The September Update will be called rev 95, as in 95-0.

The update will need to be installed by Nov 7, 2019.

The list price, per ENDEC, is $349, though we’re selling via distributors, and they set their own price.

No group or quantity discounts.

Each update file is tied to the serial number of the ENDEC.  You get a .x file for each ENDEC.  The distributor will give you a download URL.  The installation process is otherwise the same.

Updates are free to ENDECs purchased new from our distributors after March 1 2018, which are serial numbers in this range:
Free: B417611 – B429999

These serial numbers must purchase the update:
Pay: All serial numbers less than B417611.
Pay: Serial numbers B430000 to B439999.

Regards,
Harold

At long last CBS and Viacom have merged. Like a lot of mergers, this one featured some rough spots in the road. Certainly there are some lawyers that can now likely retire. At the helm will be Bob Bakish of what’s now known as Viacom/CBS. This is of interest me to for a couple of reasons: 1) I worked for Viacom for 10 years, and 2) I still have a chuck of their stock.

In the event you are wondering, this is only CBS Television. CBS Radio disappeared into Entercom. Speaking of which, Entercom recently cut their dividends and saw their stock take a big hit. They too are faced with a mountain of debt, whose service is deemed more important than paying stockholders a few cents a share.

Earlier this past month another merger was in the news. This the merger of Nexstar and Tribune. Tribune owns a couple of TV Stations in the Seattle market. No word on any impact to these stations from this change.

Looking for a job in broadcasting in the PNW? How about Chief Engineer at a TV Station in Eugene? Read on:

EMPLOYMENT ANNOUNCEMENT

https://www.oregonsfox.com/uploads/8/2/8/6/82867196
/chief_broadcast_engineer.pdf

KLSR/KEVU

2940 Chad Drive, Eugene, Oregon  97408 * Phone (541)683-3434 * Fax (541)683-8016

POSITION TITLE:    Chief Broadcasting Engineer

STATUS:                 Full Time

LOCATION:            Eugene, OR  KLSR/KEVU_

DATE OPEN:          Immediately

SALARY RANGE:   DOE

RESPONSIBLE TO: General Manager

DESCRIPTION/DUTIES: KLSR-TV/KEVU-TV has an opening for a full time Chief Engineer.

This position is responsible for overseeing technical aspects of a digital broadcast studio and multiple transmitter sites, which includes equipment procurement, installation, and maintenance. In addition, manage and maintain all ancillary systems responsible for supporting the on-air operation, such as HVAC, networking, electrical and mechanical.

The ideal candidate will also support our staff with all computer-related hardware and software needs; manage local computer networks and local phone systems.

Works closely with General Manager, Production Manager, Corporate Engineering, and pertinent cable systems.

EXPERIENCE: Two-year technical school or equivalent college courses. 3-5 years’ experience as a broadcast technician. Must have working knowledge of desktop computers and IT networks, microwave transmission systems, television  transmitters, test  equipment, vehicle  maintenance, and construction  tools.  The  ideal candidate will be successful in working well with staff, thinking clearly under pressure, and applying creative solutions in a timely manner.

REQUIREMENTS: A valid driver’s license and good driving record are required.  Drug  testing is a pre-employment requirement.

SBE Certifications preferred.

Please send resumes to :

Fox Television
Chief Engineer Position
2940 Chad Drive
Eugene OR 97408

The C-Band mess continues. Bottom line – wireless wants a big chunk of the band while broadcasters (Radio and TV) are heavy users and are fighting back. As I predicted some time ago, there seems to be growing belief that some sort of ‘repacking’ may take place. The FCC dealt with a similar situation with TV Broadcast where Wireless wanted more spectrum. The Commish, essentially, devised a plan whereby all the TV stations would ‘snuggle up’. Likely this will be the case with C-Band. There have been some of the more technically challenged that are suggesting that all the broadcasters can just switch to fiber. The extent that C-Band has and is being used is greatly misunderstood. Part of the blame belongs to users of the band for failing to register all their receiving equipment. Broadcasters are fighting back (a mode that is very common these days). If we were to have another ‘repack’ would wireless pay for the shuffle with the FCC playing banker again?

Just how this will be implemented is anyone’s guess. Again, we hide and watch this one end up in court.

The following is a map showing just how extensively C-Band is used by just one facet of broadcasting, in this case, Public Radio.

Bottom of Form

 

Sadly another life has been lost involving someone trying to steel copper wire at a broadcast facility. In this case, it was at KRMG AM in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The station’s manager released this report:

“Early this morning two individuals broke into the KRMG-AM transmitter site. It appears they attempted to access a building through a conduit and were electrocuted. One of the individuals is deceased and one was transported to the hospital. From the tools and materials found at the site, it appears that they were attempting to steal copper. The safety of our community is of utmost importance – please do not enter any transmitter site, for any reason, as the area is extremely dangerous.”

Apparently, when law enforcement arrived at the scene they found one man dead, another severely injured. Later a third party was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Good food and conversation was the scene at the recent Portland SBE summer gathering.

 

Here’s a picture of a cake I found on the table. Kudos for a great design.

Now here is a story you don’t see very often. The Headline Reads:

Pullman airport closing temporarily to bring new runway online

There are some issues at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport that need corrected. One of them is huge, requiring the moving of a lot of dirt. Unlike Sea-Tac where a lot of dirt had to be moved in for the third runway, Pullman must move dirt out of the way as the runway sits in a narrow valley. This change will permit larger aircraft to use the facility, as will be the addition of an instrument landing system (ILS) and other improvements.

To make all this possible they are shutting down the airport for a month starting Sept 11th (can you imagine this taking place elsewhere?). Reportedly 5,600 people a year use this facility.

So what are your options? Drive about 75 miles north to Spokane or about 30 miles south to Lewiston.

Once again, time to look at the radio numbers in Seattle from this past month. Here are my takeaways:

  • We have a new #1 Station – KZOK-FM
  • KUOW-FM is still a powerhouse at #2
  • Hubbard’s KNUC (the Bull) has overtaken Entercom’s KKWF (The Wolf)
  • Top rated AM is still KIRO/710 – However they slid, perhaps due to the Mariners performance?
  • The #2 AM is still KOMO/1000 whose numbers are holding steady
  • The #3 AM is KTTH/770
  • For the first time – 3 of the Bustos Media stations are listed
  • KRWM-HD2 is also shown.

Perhaps it should be noted that Bonneville Seattle’s cluster consists of 1-FM and 2-AMs

All of which are doing well. To underscore their belief in AM, last year KIRO-AM installed a new Nautel NX50 Transmitter. Now it’s time for KTTH to do the same with that project just getting underway. In this day of people engraving tombstones for AM stations, it’s interesting to see one company bucking the trend. One thing about Bonneville that I fail to understand is why they don’t promote the fact that KIRO-AM Is simulcast on 97.3 HD2 and KTTH-AM is simulcast on 97.3 HD3. Both of which have extensive coverage. Perhaps another reason why I am not in programming?

Another market where AM’s are getting a shot of FM to help out is San Francisco where Cumulus recently announced they were dropping their long-running KFOG music station to begin simulcasting KNBR, their local sports station.

Meanwhile, early in August it was announced that the FCC was hitting Cumulus with a $233,000 fine for Sponsorship ID Rule Violations.

Just for fun – I decided to look at another PNW Market to see how their radio listening habits compare to Seattle. In this case – Boise, Idaho. I’m going to leave out the call letters and frequencies as that information is meaningless to most, and just list the format and market rank. Very Similar.

 

Market Rank Format Seattle Station
1 News/Talk KIRO-FM
2 Variety Hits KJAQ
3 Country KBUC- KKWF
4 Classic Rock KZOK
5 Rhythmic KHTP

 

What is different?

  • A highly rated Non-Commercial Station like KUOW
  • More Country stations
  • Sports Talk stations at the bottom of the list

There was something missing in last month’s Column, a picture from Dwight Small – Not this time – A fantastic sunset over lake Cavanaugh.

And….If you look east from the West Side of the Lake — You have this!

 

Nothing like a great quote:

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled”.

Mark Twain

Changes in Bellingham….Long time Engineer Will Vos is out at the Cascade Radio Group.

It’s not only Seattle and Bellevue that have a forest of Tower Cranes. I recently counted four of them at work in Totem Lake. Even Auburn has one putting up a new apartment building across the street from the Sounder Station. Spotted another at the ever-growing area of Port Ruston near Tacoma.

Another group with stations in the Seattle area continues to prune their holdings. In this case, Salem Media Group is selling six stations in Florida to Immaculate Heart Media. All is a part of a reduction in the number of stations held by the group.

With all the hype about ‘fake-news’ etc., a recent study determined that Local News is still the most trusted source for U.S. Adults. Not surprising, Local TV news is the most trusted, followed by broadcast network news, then cable network news. Which is the lowest rated? Social Media.

Of course, this past month has seen news stories about Ransomware. This is where an entity finds their computer system infected with someone asking to be paid to unlock their system.

Interestingly, several municipalities have been hit with this, reportedly, some actually paying to perpetrators. Most recently a little radio station, KNEO, in Joplin, MO found its audio files corrupted and a demand to pay $100,000. Reportedly the station did not pay up, instead hired IT techs to work the problem. It was believed the hackers were in Russia due to the methods used. Not long ago, a station in Florida was hit, costing them about a million dollars in expenses and lost revenue. KQED in San Francisco was attacked in June of 2017. That one took them months to recover. It’s amazing how much we pay in terms of hardware and labor just to protect ourselves in these times.

Congrats to Charlie Wooten on being named this year’s Robert W. Flanders SBE Engineer of the year. I can tell you, as a previous winner, this is a fantastic honor. Speaking of awards, former Seattle Chief,  Doug Irwin, has been honored for his writing skills. I had breakfast with Doug this past month. He is the technical ‘honcho’ of the IHM cluster in Los Angeles.

The FCC recently underscored their rules regarding misuse of EAS Tones with the handing out of some pretty sizable fines.

Jimmy Kimmel show – $395,000 fine for using a simulated WEA tone three times during a sketch last year.

The Walking Dead – $104,000 fine for using the EAS tone during the “Omega” episode.

Lone Star Law – $68,000 because they aired an actual WEA signal that was caught on crewmembers’ phones as they were filming.

KDAY and KDEY-FM parent Meruelo Radio Holdings – $67,000 for a simulated EAS attention signal in a promotion for the morning show on these LA area stations.

I am amazed at how many fail to grasp the fact that this is a no-no.

If you are not convinced that FM Translators, especially those in large metropolitan areas, have very high values, consider the recent announcement of a sale of two FM Translators in the Chicago market for $3.5 million!

And the headline read:

SiriusXM Pays $25M To Settle Class Action Suit Over Robocalls.

Apparently the Satellite Radio Broadcaster violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Impacted parties are eligible for either $12 in compensation or three months of free service if they file a claim by Oct. 8th.

For a short time, Seattle rental costs went down. Apparently this was short lived as they are on their way up again. According to recently published data, Seattle is now the fourth most expensive city for rent. The top 3 are all in California. As suspected – San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego. (Is it not interesting that the three most expensive places all have ‘San’ in their names?)

On the personal side:

Once in a while, not often enough, I get to build something for myself. In this case it was time to replace my mailbox. The mailbox I have been using was brought here by the first owner of this place, when the house was built in the late 70s and it was getting pretty rusty. I’ve replaced the wooden 4×4 post a couple of times over the past 30 years I’ve lived here.

The time had come to come up with something new and more durable.

Mail boxes in this country have to be approved by the USPS, so building one was pretty much out of the question. Provided you mount your mail-box in keeping with USPS specs, you are pretty much free to do what you want. Those of you that know me well, know that I collect cast-off stuff awaiting the day that it can be put back to work to resolve an issue. This is called ‘repurposing’. So l looked at my collection of things that were used elsewhere and came up with:

  •     A short piece of Rohn 55G tower (previously used at West Tiger Mt.)
  •     An ERI FM transmitting antenna bracket (previously used at Cougar Mt.)

The hard part was digging a triangular hole 30 inches deep in native glacial deposits (aka lots of rocks) and mixing 18 – 60 pound bags of concrete mix in a wheelbarrow. But the results have been gratifying. I’ll admit my neighbors have not said much, perhaps in an effort to be polite?

 

Once again Seattle got in the national news. This time, not good news. Paige Thompson was arrested and charged in federal court for stealing millions of Capital One credit card applications that included names, birthdates, social security and bank account numbers.

Congrats to Nick Winter, K7MO (Ex KNKX Eng.) on his winning a $1000 gift certificate from Elecraft at the recent Amateur Radio DX convention in Everett.

Another wonderful quote:

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

Carl Sagan

Another congratulations to KNKX on their recent move to new studios in the theatre district of Tacoma in the historic Gardner building at 930 Broadway. For those of you that have not followed this event, several years ago Pacific Lutheran University decided to sell their long-owned radio station KPLU. The station had its studios and offices in a relatively new building adjacent to the campus in Parkland, named for its former Manager Martin Neeb. In the end, the station was purchase by its listeners and renamed KNKX. Moving out of a University Owned building was part of the transition.

Long ago, in the last Century, when I started in this business in Tacoma, the city had a number of radio and TV stations, all with studios in Tacoma.

  • KMO had moved from its historic studios in the Keys Building (very near where KNKX is located now) to their transmitter location in Fife.
  • KTAC (850 AM) used to have their studios in the Winthrop Hotel (also very near the new KNKX digs). They later purchased Tom Read’s FM Station (KTWR) renaming it KBRD and moving operations to the Tacoma Mall Office Building.
  • KTNT (1400 AM & 97.3 FM) were at the same location as KTNT-TV at 11th & Grant.
  • KLAY (106.1 FM) was operating from the Park Towers apartment building near downtown Tacoma.
  • KTVW (Ch. 13) was located at their transmitter site at North 35th and Shirley, also their transmitter location.

Over the years, Tacoma and Seattle have grown together in many ways and the FCC relaxed the rule that your studio had to be in your city of license. In this process the stations scattered and headed to the big city to the north.

  • KMO is now KKMO. Its studios were bulldozed last year. Their transmitter is still at Browns Point, but that’s all.
  • KTAC is now KHHO and is owned by iHeart Media with studios in Seattle, along with the other iHM stations.
  • KBRD became KMTT and is now KHTP. The station has been owned by Entercom all that time and is part of their cluster of five stations operating with downtown Seattle studios.
  • KBRD is now KHPT and still owned by Entercom with transmitter at West Tiger and studios in downtown Seattle.
  • KTNT-AM is now KITZ, located in Bremerton.
  • KTNT-FM is now KIRO-FM with transmitter at West Tiger and studios on Eastlake Ave. in Seattle.
  • KTNT-TV is now KSTW with transmitter and studios in Seattle.
  • KLAY-FM is now KBKS and is part of IHM, with transmitter at West Tiger and studios at the IHM facility in Seattle.
  • KTVW-TV is now KCPQ with studios on Westlake Ave. in Seattle.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because KNKX is now the only major broadcast station to buck the trend and have their studios within their City of License. Granted they also have studios in Seattle, however, their primary operation is in downtown Tacoma, not far from where many others used to be. One more fact, there was another station that used to be in Tacoma that had moved to Seattle when I started my career – KVI. But that’s another story.

Being a – really old – guy….I love to look back.

For my ‘older readers’….You are welcome.

For my ‘younger readers’ …Think of this as a history lesson.

HOW’S THIS FOR NOSTALGIA?

                                                   

It took three minutes for the TV to warm up.

Nobody owned a purebred dog. 
  
When a quarter was a decent allowance, and made with real Silver!   

You got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, all for free, every time. And you didn’t pay for air? And, you got trading stamps to boot.

Laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box. Not to mention Cracker Jacks!

It was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents.

No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked.

Stuff from the store came without safety caps and hermetic seals because no one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger.

Chances are your home had a front porch and a swing.

Summers filled with bike rides, hula hoops, and visits to the pool, and eating Kool-Aid powder with sugar.

Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside.

Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles.

Coffee shops with table side Jukeboxes.

Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers.

Newsreels before the movie.

Telephone numbers with a word prefix…(Yukon 2-601). Anyone in Seattle remember Sunset 3-24-04?

Or, some of us remember when there were just 4 numbers with no word prefix at all. And, nearly everyone had a party line.

Hi-Fi’s & 45 RPM records.

S&H Green Stamps.

Mimeograph paper. (Remember the purple ink?)

‘Race issue’ meant arguing about who ran the fastest.

Catching fireflies could happily occupy an entire evening.

Having a weapon in school meant being caught with a slingshot.

Saturday morning cartoons weren’t 30-minute commercials for action figures.

‘Olly-oly-oxen-free’ made perfect sense.

That’s about it for this month, my friends.

Thanks for the read…….

Lord willing, I will be back to most of the same locations next month at this time.

Until then, may you have a wonderful, what’s left of it, Summer!!….

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714