Monthly Archives: January 2021

January  2021 – Clay’s Corner

January 24, 2021
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January  2021 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

Over the many years I’ve been writing this Column…I find the one I do at the end of December seems to have a similar theme. Look back at the previous year and look ahead to the next.

Like no other previous year in our lifetime, we have been dealing with a pandemic. Pandemic was a word that we’d read or heard about, but never thought we’d experience. 2020 started out with a roar, everything was running in high-gear and then….WHAM! We quickly discovered we are in for a huge change. When it all started, many wondered how long all this would last. Some figured a month or so. Accordingly, event dates were pushed back. Gradually it became clear that we were in this mess for much longer than we first thought. Despite all the warnings, the Virus continued to infect an ever-growing number of people all over the world.

On Christmas, here are the WA State COVID stats as published in the Seattle Times:

  • Number of cases – 233,093
  • Number of deaths – 3,184
  • Number Hospitalized – 13,908
  • Those testing positive – 12.2%
  • Counties with no deaths – San Juan and Wahkiakum
  • Ages with the most cases – 20-38 (40%)
  • Ages with the most deaths – 80+ (50%)

Recently the situation in Southern California deteriorated to the point there were no hospital beds available. Meanwhile there are those that continue to call COVID a hoax, refuse to wear a mask and avoid groups while others are openly protesting restrictions. This all puts political leaders in a spot. Do they ignore those that are sick and dying or do they yield to those who want their freedom and jobs back? Like many major events in history, some leaders rise to the occasion, while others do not. History writers will certainly have plenty to say about this event.

Early into the month, every newscast was guaranteed to contain a high percentage of stories related to COVID-19, as the impact of this terrible virus surged to its highest levels. Suddenly COVID became a leading cause of death. Those newscasts were a mix of how bad things were and news about the promise that a vaccine was on the way, with some actually receiving it by the end of the year.   Did you happen to notice the video clips of those getting vaccinated usually involved their left upper arm (what’s with that?). Then there is the file footage of machinery cranking out vaccines. Everyone was running the same ones. Guess they figure we can’t watch someone talking about the vaccine without it?

Thankfully, there are now two vaccines that are being rolled out, with more on the way. I hate to think of the situation we’d be in as a society if this were not the case. The problem now is not everyone is willing to be vaccinated, and until sufficient number of us have been, the restrictions are going to continue….which brings us to the annual expression of ‘Happy New Year’. At this point, the best we can hope for is, perhaps, a happier one. Certainly 2020 will go down in the history books as one that many of us would like to forget.

With the news that vaccinations were actually coming, and that – with luck – in six months or so we might be seeing some real signs of getting back to normal, came an increased number of stories about how the transition will work in the real world. Employers are wondering if they should or could require their employees to get vaccinated. What about those who resist? Can they, legally, fire a person for not getting vaccinated? KING 5 recently explored this issue in this report: Employers can legally require COVID-19 vaccinations, attorneys say | king5.com

Will they offer an incentive to get the shots? How is a person to know if they are mingling with people that have ‘really’ received their shots? There are a lot of legal issues that are going to need to be resolved for which we have no regulations or prior case law to draw from. What about those who refuse to wear a mask and/or think this is all a hoax….do you really think they are going to volunteer to be vaccinated? Would a person quit their job if their employer made being vaccinated a condition?

To be sure, there are still those who are being defiant and protesting what they feel are the actions of an evil Governor. Interesting how these folks never blame the virus but rather blame their government for imposing restrictions they don’t like. The businesses that are baulking appear to be a magnet for the news media, not sure that this attention helps or hinders. Sure to anger many is the fact that even after people start getting their shots, mask wearing is going to have to continue. It will be interesting to see what changes will take place after there is a new occupant in The White House.

In addition to all of this, many industries, Radio and TV stations among them, are going to be very different places to work. Some positions that existed prior to the Virus will no longer exist. Employers have already discovered they really don’t need to have a large physical plant to house a staff, so look for the footprint of many stations becoming smaller.   Many have discovered that their product does not require as many bodies as they thought. Already many large broadcast companies have been shedding staff and cutting expenses in order to survive. When the revenue comes back, don’t look for staff sizes to return to normal. They may well never return to pre-COVID levels. If you still have a job, be thankful as many won’t. Don’t expect any pay raises. Many employers have exhausted all their reserves and have been forced to cut staff to previously unheard of levels.

The experts are saying we will be wearing these things for a while longer, even after getting vaccinated as we could still spread the virus to others. I understand that 70-90% of us have to be vaccinated before we can get back to something that resembles ‘Normal’. In short, there is light at the end of the tunnel – but we are not there yet.

I find it interesting how sports teams, perhaps with a lot more money on the line, have approached all of this, with constant testing and putting their team and staff in a ‘bubble’. Don’t think many broadcast companies are ready for that. I suspect, like most, they are trying to be the best they can until we reach that point where ‘Herd Immunity’ becomes real.

I recently ran across a person making comments on one of the remailers frequented by people in this industry that is, obviously, not happy with the way things are going. I’ve X’d out the company name and cannot vouch for the validity of any of these comments, however, even if some of it is true, it’s an indication of the state of our business in some locations.

  • There either will be a live morning show (big markets) or XXXXX syndicated morning show.
  • Air talent can work remotely from home. Some will be on payroll, others will be paid $500 per month per market that they voice track for. $500 is the top figure, for smaller markets it is $300.
  • They have created for engineering, a series of “TIGER TEAMS”…engineers around the country who will be first responders to severe engineering problems.
  • They are downplaying local sales as it is too difficult managing sales people. Instead they have elected to concentrate on national and agency sales for national clients and PACKAGE all of their stations into a bundle.  They are after SHARE of the buy, NOT PRICE. For local sales, they have developed several central sales pods. The ones that I know of are in XXXXXXXX and XXXXXX The local AE’s are told to refer new clients to either “the XXXXXX computer sales web site” or to a regional sales pod where a person on headset will help you with your advertising.

We thought the world underwent major changes due to COVID, with life becoming what we called the ‘New Normal’, with wearing masks, social distancing and other restrictions.  During this time it also taught many how to do with less. So, looking ahead to the time when we have beaten the virus – much will never return to the ‘Old Normal’ but rather will become the ‘New Normal – Phase 2’. Granted there will be those industries that are extremely labor intensive, like construction, maintenance and repair, foot services etc. They will likely return to the ‘Old Normal’. One cannot overlook the economic impact of all of this. It will take a long time for this to sift out.

I understand that a University owned by the State is very different than a broadcast station…however, it’s interesting to note that WSU has announced it plans arrival testing for all Pullman students, regardless of where they live. I get the feeling HR departments are working overtime on figuring this one out, likely in consultation with their legal departments like never before.

Immediately following a National Election, we traditionally start to wonder what changes are coming that will impact our lives, and the business we work in. Some of those changes take place in advance of the new arrival in the White House. This year is no exception with the recent announcement that Ajit Pai will be stepping down as Chairman of the FCC. During his time at the helm of the ‘Commish’ we have seen a lot of changes…many of them good. Now the waiting game to see who the new POTUS appoints and what he, or she, will do that will impact the Broadcast Industry. I have one, perhaps fleeting, connection with Pai. He was on the stage at the NAB Convention shortly before I stood in the same spot to accept an award.

With all the unemployment and closed businesses how do you explain this KOMO headline? Tacoma is now the nation’s hottest housing market.

According to real estate firm Redfin:

  • Tacoma is the nation’s hottest market with half of all homes having a sale pending after being on the market for only six days (it was 21 days last year at this time).
  • 58% of homes in Tacoma are selling above their listing price.
  • The average home price in Tacoma is 17.3% higher than last year.

Perhaps this could be explained as Seattle’s ‘issues’ are driving people out of town? However, the Seattle market remains hot too. Homes are selling at the fastest rate in the past eight years, with prices averaging 13.1% higher over a year ago. It’s not been that many years ago that Seattle was ‘smugly’ looking down at Pierce and Snohomish Counties!

There is, apparently, a lot of pent-up demand for companies to show our industry what they have to sell, that we should buy. Underscoring this is the announcement that more than 500 Exhibitors from 31 countries have already committed to the 2021 NAB show. Now before you start thinking of booking that flight and hotel room in Vegas for this coming April, consider this 2021 event will be in October from the 9th to the 13th. This leads me to wonder if the ‘Big show in the desert’ will ever return to April or will the spring NAB show become the annual ‘Fall NAB Show’?

If there is one thing we all use a lot of, it’s batteries. Over the years we have seen a steady stream of improvements in that area, to the point that many devices are now possible for a couple of reasons: 1) Reduced power consumption and 2) New and improved batteries. I recall the first piece of battery equipment I used in broadcasting was a Field Strength Meter. This, very heavy, device used Vacuum Tubes and had an ‘A’ and ‘B’ battery. Thanks to solid state devices, the newer models were solid state and ran on flashlight batteries. Those too have involved significantly. Back in the days, the only batteries that could be recharged were Lead-Acid (like we still have in our vehicles). Then along came the Nicads, and the NiMH’s. The development of the Lithium battery changed as a lot of things do, quickly. Suddenly portable Radio and TV broadcast equipment were on board, as were Laptops, Cellphones and, of course Vehicles. Untold amounts of money has been spent by firms like Tesla to improve the Lithium-ion battery. Now you can purchase an alternative/ auxiliary power source from Tesla and other makers as an alternative to a fossil-fuel generator. In fact, this is exactly what a radio station in Pt. Townsend is doing right now.

Have you heard the name QuantumScape? Chances are you will, perhaps because a local guy you have heard of (Bill Gates) is involved. Their new battery has some features that are sure to get the attention of many. For instance, they claim it can be charged to 80% of capacity in 15 minutes. It’s non-combustible and has nearly double the energy density of a Lithium battery. The company has been working with VW, who proposed to use the new battery in their new EV’s. But, hold-on, this is getting more interesting, as Toyota is rumored to be on the cusp of announcing a new battery too.

Compared to Hydro, or fossil fuel power generation, Wind and Solar are wonderful green alternatives. However, the wind does not always blow and the sun, predictably, only can provide power for part of any day. The missing element has been energy storage. Now, thanks to the battery revolution, these energy alternatives are becoming more practical. I recently read a piece about a large wind power system in California that features large banks of batteries nearby.

The battery revolution continues, and this will make electric vehicles all the more practical, and so will these devices find their way into the electronic equipment that broadcasters use as well. Certainly exciting times.

Looking back can be fun. Here’s an example:

Northern Electric Catalogue no. 7: Electrical Supplies: Northern Electric Company Ltd: Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming: Internet Archive

Here you can browse their extensive catalog(ue): Broadcast equipment starts on Page 30.

Then there is Magic Broadcasting that’s been ordered to pay 125 Grand as part of a Civil Penalty and Consent Decree. So, what did they do wrong? A couple of things: 1) Conducting contests that were not fair and, 2) not keeping watch on their tower and its lighting. As I like to say, you’d think they would have known better. Apparently, the Feds have a soft heart as they are letting the company pay off the balance in 20 installments of $6250 each. Should they default (miss a payment), the balance is immediately due.

Last month I wrote about the FCC’s decision to permit All-Digital operation within the legacy AM Band. Proving that things can get done during a Pandemic, the FCC has been doing more with Radio, this time dealing with Geo-Targeting for FM boosters. We have something similar going on in this area for over a year now with Bustos Media’s KDDS on 99.3. If  you drive south of downtown Seattle and pay careful attention to the RDS display on your vehicle’s radio, you will be able to tell a bit about how this works. KDDS operates it’s main transmitter from a site called South Mountain which is west of Shelton. The big north-south ridge that runs from West Seattle – south – through Federal Way does a great job of getting in the way for listeners of the station that are east of that ridge. The solution was the installation of a series of on-frequency boosters (sometimes called a single frequency network) that are all timed so that a listener is not aware that they are actually receiving a signal from one of the boosters rather than the Main Transmitter some 50 miles to the west. The company behind this, Geo Broadcast Solutions, wants to take this a step further by allowing a station to geo-target programming (and advertising) to particular boosters. For this they use the term ZoneCasting.

The FCC recently voted to launch a rulemaking that could allow this system to be used by FM’s nationwide.

As you may have guessed, there has been a name change at Century Link. First many of us learned about this was when we learned they were changing the name of the facility where the Seahawks play to Lumen Field. If you do a little digging, you come up with these items:

  • CenturyLink has rebranded to Lumen Technologies in an effort to focus on next-generation connectivity solutions for enterprises.
  • Effective with the opening of the trading day on Sept. 18, 2020, the company stock ticker will change from CTL to LUMN. The legal name of CenturyLink, Inc. is expected to be formally changed to Lumen Technologies, Inc.
  • Internally, its legacy business will still be called CenturyLink, with Lumen referring to its enterprise division. Its fiber network-based consumer and small business segment will be rebranded as Quantum Fiber.

Back to the important stuff, where the Seahawks play, the name has changed over the years.

  • The Hawks first played in the Kingdome (remember that?)
  • Then, when the new place was constructed, we called it Seahawks Stadium.
  • When ‘Naming Rights’ became vogue, it became Qwest Field, then with the change of the phone company name, it became Century Link Field (often called the ‘Clink’) and now Lumen Field. Wonder if they will start calling it ‘The Lume’?

At least this name is easier to get  your tongue around than the new name for Key Arena :- (

Early in December, there was a lot of activity on the KPLZ Tower on Cougar Mt. For those of you who have seen it, it’s perhaps the only broadcast tower in the area painted green. I reached out to Tim Moore of Sinclair to find out what was taking place. Here is his response, and some pictures:

KPLZ’s main antenna started having high reflections so we swept the system. The result showed major problems at two line connection bullet points. Inspection of the line found the issues shown in the pictures.

The sections of line were replaced which reduced the reflections, but it was not quite back to nominal values.

The decision was made to replace the entire line run with HJ8-50B Heliax. The line was replaced by P&R Tower, also known as Northstar.

The replacement line considerably reduced the high reflections to normal parameters, 50 watts total.

Inspection of the rigid line that came down showed a lot of contamination caused by the line that burnt up and indication of a couple more bullets may have been running a little hot.

In the following picture, you are looking at what’s known as the ‘Center Conductor’ of a piece of rigid coaxial line that connects the station’s Transmitter to their Antenna. Normally the pieces would be bright and shiny. The reds and grays you see are evidence that this has been very hot. Usually, in cases like this, the heating is coming from a poor connection that could be caused by either poor design, operating with more power that it was designed for, or poor installation techniques.

Here’s a comparison between the damaged item and what it should look like. The item at the bottom has also been used, as evidenced by discoloration, however it was still usable.

Upon seeing these pictures, iHeart Medias local chief,  Jeff White, submitted this item:

If you are a DIRECTV customer you have been impacted with a dispute between DIRECTV and Tegna that lasted a couple of weeks. During this period, Tegna’s Channels 5 and 16 were replaced with a static message encouraging you to get their programming via their live stream. Thankfully the dispute was resolved just before Christmas.

Here is how USA Today explained it on December 2nd:

Customers across much of the U.S. have lost TV stations thanks to a dispute between AT&T and broadcaster TEGegna.

The communications company and the broadcaster failed to reach a new agreement Tuesday, resulting in more than 60 stations lost on DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and the AT&T TV streaming service.

AT&T places the blame on Tegna, which has more than 60 TV stations in 51 markets and reaches 39% of all U.S. TV households.

“In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, TEGNA is demanding the largest rate increase we have ever seen, and intentionally blacking out its most loyal viewers,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY. “We challenge TEGNA to return its local stations immediately while we finalize a new agreement and pledge to pay TEGNA retroactively whatever higher rates to which we eventually agree. We share our customers’ frustration, appreciate their patience and intend to do all we can to resolve this matter soon.”

It is common in carriage disputes such as these, neither side is releasing the specific points of contention.

“The companies have not specified why the two sides are quarreling, but money is the usual reason behind a channel blackout,” says Phil Swann, a journalist who operates The TV Answer Man website. “Tegna station subscribers are already voicing their anger on social media sites.”

If you are annoyed by all of this, there is a work around using technology that’s been around long before Satellite TV. Put up an antenna! Classic legacy technology comes to the rescue with even better news. You will, going forward, be able to watch KING and KONG for free!

On the topic of local TV, ‘Hats Off’ to KOMO for their production of a 90 minute documentary that explores the effects of the drug culture on the Emerald City. With fingers crossed, this will promote a conversation that will yield positive results. My first job in Seattle was back in the mid-60’s working for KTW. I returned with the building of the new studios for KBSG in the mid 80’s and worked downtown until about 11 years ago. What we have today is something very troublesome. Hopefully Seattle can get it turned around.   You can watch the documentary here:

‘Fight for the Soul of Seattle’: Program looks at effects of city’s permissive posture | KOMO (komonews.com)

During December is was announced that the end of Radio Disney is now planned for Q1 2021…and some layoffs. A few years ago, Radio Disney operated at 1250 AM in Seattle (The old KTW).

As you all know, AM radio is suffering, for a multitude of reasons with many stations going dark. Meanwhile,  iHeartMedia discovered a business opportunity with it’s Black Information Network, BIN, which it launched in June of 2020.

iHM quickly changed the format of their Tacoma 850, KHHO to the new format (long time known as KTAC). Apparently,  the idea has caught on with the company snapping up AM stations across the country. Kudos to iHeart for beathing new life into AM Radio.

Here’s a publication that you may not have heard of:

In a recent issue they have an article titled:

AM Radio Transmitter Sites Now Valuable Real Estate for Logistics Industry

Here is what they had to say:

The familiar real estate adage “location, location, location” rings true these days for huge tracts on the outskirts of major cities — sites that for decades housed AM radio towers but that today command top dollar as e-commerce fuels rising demand for new warehouses and logistics centers.

Look no further than the $51 million sale of a five-acre parcel in Queens, N.Y., where an AM radio station will eventually abandon its existing tower and transmitter site, and move it.

New York radio station WFME’s owner, Nashville, Tenn.-based Family Radio, sold its AM transmitter site to Prologis, a San Francisco developer that specializes in building warehouses for companies looking to expand final-mile capability.

This property is situated near the Long Island Expressway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and La Guardia and JFK airports. The spot’s current value as a logistics hub far outstrips its importance to a broadcast outlet that didn’t register in New York’s most recent radio ratings book.

The rising value of these locations is being driven by changing consumer habits and rapid technological evolution. Sites on the edge of town that in radio’s heyday were cheap and plentiful can now house vital links in a supply chain propelled by technology that was hard to imagine back in AM’s early days.

Elon University journalism professor Richard Landesberg told Transport Topics most AM station owners know their transmitter sites are worth more than the licenses for their stations — licenses that, as a practical matter, are issued by the Federal Communications Commission and are not technically owned by licensees.

“It used to be if you were in your car, you listened to AM radio because that’s all there was,” said Landesberg, a former network radio bureau chief in Los Angeles and London with Mutual/NBC Radio. “A lot of AM broadcasters are giving up their licenses. It’s because the licenses aren’t worth much, but the land is valuable. If you’re a small, 5,000-watt station that served a community, those days are gone.”

Landesberg noted that value is harmed by AM radio’s audio quality, which is far weaker than that of FM stations and digital services such as streaming audio, satellite radio and internet stations.

FCC data shows that since 2000 nearly 400 AM stations have ceased operations. The trend has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic — nearly 80 stations have gone silent this year.

Arizona State University logistics professor Dale Rogers told TT he expects the demand for warehouse space to accelerate as e-commerce becomes more critical to consumers.

“It’s pretty clear urban land is going to be more valuable, especially in particular areas,” Rogers said. “It’s places where there are a lot of exciting things going on; we’ll see a lot more of this.”

Broadcast groups such as iHeartRadio have sold or leased hundreds of transmitter and tower sites to privately owned tower management companies, including Boca Raton, Fla.-based Vertical Bridge. These companies are either developing the real estate or, in some cases, building lucrative cellular antennas.

But it’s not just low-rated or struggling station groups cashing in.

The owners of WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM — the top-rated station in Chicago — in 2018 sold the station’s 42-acre transmitter site near O’Hare International Airport to Bridge Development Partners for $46 million. The 695-foot antenna and a smaller backup unit had been in use since 1942, but now a 750,000-square-foot logistics and warehouse complex is being developed on the site.

“This site had unparalleled highway access,” he said. “That’s about as close as you can get to O’Hare, and for us this was proximity to the other freight forwarders.”

Technology also is making it easier to relocate AM transmitters. While stations previously needed their own transmitter sites, engineering improvements now permit more than one station on a single antenna. WBBM now shares an antenna with another station in its ownership group, and WFME likely will do the same thing.

“AM radio is not making the money it used to,” Elon Landesberg told TT, “It used to be if you owned an AM radio station it was a license to print money. Now, it’s valuable real estate, and they’re not making more of that. Whatever land use brings in the most money, then the antenna is coming down.”

Here in our area we have also seen a number of relocations of AM’s, most of which occurred several years back.

KOL/ 1300 was for many years using a huge, self-supporting tower in the Port of Seattle. They moved to Tacoma and later to Bainbridge Island.

KBLE/1050 was also located in the Port of Seattle. They now are operating from Pigeon Point in West Seattle.

KJR/950 was located on the West Waterway. They have made several moves, first up the Duwamish, then to the 850 site in Tacoma and finally ended up duplexing the 820/KGNW array on Vashon Island.

KKMO was located in Fife for many years. They moved, first, to Indian Hill and then to Browns Point. Their old location is now industrial.

KKNW was located in the SoDo area of Seattle for years. They are now in the swamp near I-405 & I-90.

The major AM’s in our area are either located in the ‘Swamp’ that’s the home to 880,1150 & 1540 or are on Vashon Island.

The bottom line – The article is correct in many respects, it’s just that the AM’s in this area moved out of these industrial areas long ago.

From the Profound Department –

If you only have two ducks, they will always all be in a row.

The December, 12+, Radio Ratings are out for Seattle-Tacoma.

Here are some observations:

  • KIRO-FM is back at #1 followed by KUOW @ #2
  • All news KOMO Radio is #4.  Pretty impressive for any AM Station!
  • Can’t help but notice that of the top 15 stations, only one of them is owned by Entercom (KISW).
  • Perhaps as a result of the recent elections or the lack of sports games, conservative talk, AM, KTTH is marginally ahead of KIRO-AM.
  • In the battle for the Country listener, The Bull is having it’s way with the Wolf.
  • KFNQ continues to struggle with the other Sports/Talkers. Their numbers are a third of Seattle Schools KNHC and a fraction of KEXP.

I was recently working on Vashon Island with the local crew from Bonneville (Steven Allen  & Paul Carvalho). On one day we were joined by Bonneville’s regional engineer, Jason Ornellas.

To my surprise I recently learned that Jason is the recipient of the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award. You can read about the Award and Jason here:

https://www.radioworld.com/columns-and-views/from-the-editor/jason-ornellas-makes-his-mark

Speaking as an ‘Old Duffer’, I am more than pleased to see a fellow who is less than 1/3 of my age be recognized for his accomplishments.

Congratulations  Jason!!

While doing some, long overdue, purging of old stuff, out of a file folder fell a picture that took me back to my days at KNBQ in Tacoma. This picture was taken in the Engineering Shop at the, then, Tacoma-based station and a much younger Nick Winter. My guess is this was taken in the early 80’s. We were preparing to move the station’s studios to Seattle. In the process, we were building items that would be used there. The rack that Nick has his hands on would end up in the Telephone Equipment room and would house House-Monitor Amplifiers, etc. Some other things in this shot: The workbench behind Nick is still being used at my shop in Auburn. That Red Toolbox is still serving us well. It was moved to the Seattle Studio Shop. Later, when 97.3 moved to the KIRO building at 1820 Eastlake, when Entercom purchased the station, it was moved to West Tiger where it remains today, and is used by the five stations that used to be part of Entercom, still adorned with KNBQ Stickers. Oh yes, Nick is now retired and living in Tacoma. For those of you who have not followed the progression, Viacom renamed KNBQ KBSG. Bonneville renamed it KIRO-FM.

The following shows the collection of stickers on this trusty toolbox. That KNBQ Bumper Sticker was there when the above picture was taken. The Station’s call letters were changed to KBSG when Viacom purchased it. Note the little Viacom Inventory label.

I recently heard a rumor that Dave Ratener had landed a new gig, so I dropped him a note to gain more info, here is his response:

Hi Clay, Yes I am now the new chief engineer for Salem media here in Seattle. Monte Passmore, the current chief, is retiring after 22 years. The stations are KGNW, KLFE, and KNTS. All 3 are AM’s. KGNW is on Vashon, and the other two are diplexed on Bainbridge Island. I have started the job and actually getting trained and introduced to all of the equipment in use now at Salem. Nice to be working again.

On the morning of the 12th at about 10:15 a.m., something went buzzap-pop at West Tiger. That something turned out to be a high voltage disconnect owned by American Tower that forced generators at three of the sites on the mountain to spring into action. All the damage was confined to the Gray Gizmo on the right. Thankfully it can be repaired. Until then, power to a couple of the non-broadcast sites is being supplied from the Broadcast building at the site.

Thanks to all the Web Cameras up there, now we were able to watch the coming and going of various parties as the day wore on. In this picture, you can see the headlights of a couple of PSE service vehicles as they head down the hill after locating the problem.

Then on the 22nd, a major power problem struck Cougar Mountain. There were a number of PSE vehicles on site and multiple generators running when I left the site that day. I suspected it had something to do with the heavy wet snow we had overnight that brought down a lot of limbs.

Speaking of which, on the 21st, the first day of Winter, we set a record high at Sea-Tac Airport of 59 Degrees. Remarkably, in a few hours it would be snowing.

In the FCC’s Releases on December 15th, I see KZIZ has filed to modify their Construction Permit from the former KMIA Night Site to the existing KMIA (Day/Night) transmitter site, where they propose to diplex the existing two KMIA towers.  They would be operating 3.2 kw Non-Directional Day and 200 Watts Directional at Night with nulls to the Southeast.

This contribution comes from Bob Trimble of RF Specialties fame. I’m sure that you have all read about this metal monolith that was discovered In Utah. Didn’t take long for someone to exploit the term. 😊

 

Yes, thankfully, there is a category for COVID Humor. Let me leave you with some that will hopefully leave you with a smile.

  • One day, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids …”I survived the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020”.
  • The world has turned upside down. Old folks are sneaking out of the house & their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors!
  • Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.
  • Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands?
  • I never thought the comment, “I wouldn’t touch him/her with a 6-foot pole” would become a national policy, but here we are!
  • I need to practice social distancing from the refrigerator.
  • I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to the Backyard. I’m getting tired of the Living Room.
  •  Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller with a mask on and ask for money.

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month at most of the usual locations.

Until then, stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings and freshly washed hands, keeping your distance from others. The ‘All-Clear’ Is still a long way off.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

Clay’s Corner for January 2020

January 12, 2021
By

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Assuming you are reading this column in 2020 – Happy New Year. Some thoughts about this year:

  • Most will pronounce it Twenty-Twenty.
  • This decade will be pronounced the Twenty Twenties.
  • It’s been a very long time since we had 1919 and it will be a even longer until 3030.
  • 2020 is often said describing a person’s vision.
  • If you are into Roman Numerals – it’s MMXX.
  • 20/20 is an ABC TV news magazine.
  • 2020 will be a Leap-Year (quick check your calendar to make sure).
  • February this year will have 5 Saturdays.
  • It’s been 20 years since Y2K. (Remember that one?)
  • 2020 will be a presidential election in the U.S. (good news for broadcasters as a lot of money will be spent on advertising.

The end of a decade is, traditionally, a time to look back. Here are some of my thoughts at this time about events and changes in technology that have impacted many of us.

The Tiger Mountain Antenna Fire

In all my years in this game, I’ve seen many antenna failures. The failure of the Channel 11 antenna on Capital Hill comes to mind. In that case, they had to go back to their historic site at View Park to stay on the air (I was the last transmitter operator at that old site). The Tiger Mountain event, a year ago, caused six radio stations to be immediately thankful that they had auxiliary facilities – elsewhere. In years past, having this much redundancy would be but a dream. Sadly, in smaller markets, an event like this would have meant much more off-air time. Today, the switching to back up equipment is likely seamless and automatic. Hopefully the owners of those ‘very-mature’ Auxiliary transmitters will see the need to replace them.

Drones

Too bad Igor Sikorsky is not alive to witness what has happened to his helicopter! It’s amazing what these multi-bladed little machines can and are doing these days…not just in our business but many others. In TV they are the key to those, long wished for, overhead shots for news, sporting events and, of course, the production of spots. On the technical side, it was a drone, flown by Alex Brewster, that provided close up videos of the fire-damaged antenna at West Tiger, so the manufacturer, far away, could see for themselves what had happened, all of this in a very short time period. Recently, while chasing a source of interference to an FM Station, WSU’s Martin Gibbs deployed his specially equipped drone to fly a circular pattern around the suspected station while recording the radiation pattern of their antenna. The final presentation showed their actual antenna pattern overlaid on a Google Earth picture was not omni-directional as the owner thought and clearly showed why there was co-channel interference. Again, something that would have been impossible without the little drone that arrived on site in a small package. In days past, having a pilot on staff meant someone who could fly a light-plane or helicopter…another great example of how far we have come.

Video Cameras

Back when I was working in TV, cameras used vacuum tubes to pick up images and where NOT small. Image devices have come a very long way now, producing superior pictures and doing so in very small form-factors. Examples are in the drones. High Definition, broadcast quality pictures it a tiny package that weigh almost nothing. It’s hard to remember how we thought that Image Orthicons and Plumbicons were cool. The picture taking drone would not have been possible without the advancements in imaging devices in recent years.

Vacuum Tubes

They have served us well for many years. First our Radio and TV studios saw them be replaced with solid state systems.…leaving just the really big ones working in transmitters. The first to make the switch from tubes was AM Radio. Now there are just a few Tubes still working in FM Broadcast transmitters. Likely the reason they are still at work is that many of these transmitters were built extremely well. As an example, when the FM Antenna burned at West Tiger, many of those stations relied on Vacuum Tube transmitters that were 40 years old. Today, as these are replaced, the tube era will go away as well. TV is in the same boat as FM. Today, finding a person that knows their way around vacuum tubes has become rare.

The LED

Probably one of the greatest inventions of our time is the LED or Light Emitting Diode. They were, at first, used as a replacement for little light bulbs that showed the status of a device. Later, as the technology improved, the LED was being used to replace light bulbs of all kinds. The illumination of homes and business have switched to LEDs as have vehicle head and taillights, traffic signals, tower and obstruction lighting and, of course – Christmas decorations. Lighting our studios has also seen the Lightbulb go away. Gone are those heat producing spots and scoops as well as the air conditioning required. Let’s not forget displays that have become huge. Wonder what Thomas Edison would have thought if he were to stand at Safeco or T-Mobile Park? Dazzling displays, not a shadow to be seen and not a lightbulb in sight!

AM Radio

Who would have thought that the birthplace of broadcasting would, in many cases, be struggling to survive 100 years later? Despite all the competition for people’s ears, Radio continues to survive, however the portion that is AM continues to shrink. It is rare today to find an AM Station in the top 10 of the ratings. The number of AM transmitter manufacturers has been reduced to a handful. Locally there are exceptions with 710 and 770 recently investing in the legacy band with the purchase of new transmitters. There’s a lot of interest now on changing the modulation scheme from AM to DM (Digital Modulation) as a means of giving consumers what they have come to expect from a radio station. It’s early, and the jury is certainly out, as to whether this will catch on and breath new life into where it all started. One thing to watch in the coming couple of years will be the 100th birthday of many of our AM Stations. Guess the question is whether or not they will be celebrating. Yes, folks, KJR is, according to a recent piece by John Schneider, 100, going on 101.

Bonded Cellular

Cellular telephone systems have been around for awhile now and have been used by broadcasters for some time, especially in today’s ‘smartphones’. The big change has been the bonding or combining of two or more cellular signals, so that the bandwidth can be combined to equal something that will permit wide-band audio or video to be transmitted. This changed everything. Now you did not need a pneumatic mast and a clear shot to your receiver to transmit audio and video from remote locations. Wonder if anyone, holding one of those Motorola ‘Brick’ cellphones would have even dreamed of this day?

The, Desktop Computer

Just recently, while cleaning out an attic of a local station, I ran across a P.C. with a label on the front proudly stating that it was a ‘286’ (I’ll have some pictures in a future column). This one featured two large floppy disc-drives! Likely the monitor that was used with it was Green or Amber. Wow, have these devices come a long way. Now we have hard drives with storage measured in Terabytes. Today, everyone has a computer at their desk, and we cannot imagine being without it. Portable machines have some a long way, in a short time.

How we communicate with each other

Finally, after what seemed like a long time – we were able to come up with a standardized means for computers to talk with each other and computer networking was born. At one time the average desktop PC was a stand-alone device. If you wanted a file on another computer, you transferred that file to a disk and walked over to the other machine and inserted the disk, etc. Early connections for PCs involved devices that would enable multiple machines to share printers…and later, electronically transfer files from machine to machine. (Anyone remember Twin-Ax?) First within a station and later to everywhere. Hard to imagine how it used to be. When I first started writing this column, I was using an Apple II (the MSDOS machine would come later). I would send the completed column to the editor, via a dial-up modem at the blazing speed of 300 baud. Today I compose the column using Word and send it to whomever I wish, almost instantly, via email and the Internet. Who would have dreamed we’d all know what ‘Snail Mail’ meant?

How things communicate with each other

The same technology that permits computers to communicate with each other has spread, much of our broadcast equipment has become specialized computers. Today, as they say, ‘everything’ has become IP (Internet Protocol). Gone are huge amounts of wiring, replaced by the ubiquitous ‘Network Cable’, along with the now, universal, RJ45 Connector.

Then there is the wireless version, WiFi, Wireless Routers, Bluetooth, and 802.11 systems etc. have all become the norm.

Who would have predicted that the pressure for more wireless gizmos would create a need so big that the purveyors of this technology would ‘purchase’ the needed spectrum from the FCC, and that money would be used to shuffle TV channels, and buy new transmitting equipment, to make room for it all?

The inter-connection that changed it all

Today our world has been changed, dramatically to the point that most of us are interconnected to each other via that wonderful thing called the Internet. We have watched its capability expand in terms of geography as well as bandwidth and speed. Not very long ago, watching TV meant that you had cable. Then came ‘cord-cutting’ and people were, switching from Over the Air TV watching to the Internet. TVs have changed in recent years to the point that almost all of them are what are called ‘Smart’, meaning that you can watch OTA TV, TV via the Internet or look for whatever via your favorite web browser. New to a lot of people in 2020 will be the discovery of the Antenna. The concept of Free TV is foreign to many!

How we communicate with equipment

In the past, equipment all came with a ‘Control Panel’ in some form. Knobs, buttons, switches, meters etc. The tools of the trade were your fingers and the famous little green screwdriver. Today, as more and more equipment has become computer based, operation of equipment requires the use of a keyboard, mouse (or trackball) and perhaps a touchscreen. I recall one the transmitter manufacturers, reluctantly putting a power output meter on the front of their transmitters out of fear that no one would buy one without it. Unfortunately, those that design some, rather simple equipment, no longer employ designers that knew how to adjust things with that little green screwdriver, when that approach would have been much simpler.

How we store stuff

Way back in the dark ages, we would record audio and video spots and programs on reel-to-reel tape which was stored in the station’s ‘library’. That’s all gone as these things are now stored on Hard Drives with capacities that were science fiction not that long ago.

The Cloud

As the required amount of computing storage and hardware for each station became bigger and bigger and more expensive, along came a solution called “The Cloud”. I guess that name clicked because it meant ‘out there somewhere’. Today, many of the big names that own data centers (Microsoft, Amazon etc.) have created these huge facilities full of computers called ‘Data Centers’ that provide the required computing horse power and storage required by broadcasters (and everyone else for that matter). As time goes by, more of this will take place. Perhaps to the point that the Local P.C. will only have minimal capability leaving all the heavy lifting to the cloud. Perhaps you are already using what Microsoft called ‘One Drive’. If so, you have some of your files’ In the Cloud. Who would have predicted that many locations in the out-back of Eastern Washington would see the giant buildings be constructed?

Wow – I could go on and on with this.

So where is this all going to go in the next decade? Certainly, everything will continue to become computer based. Bandwidths will continue to increase. 5G will become a reality, with broadcasters making extensive use of it. The Vacuum Tube will become but a memory. The curve of technological advances will continue to become steeper and IP will become as much of a standard as 60 Hz AC Power. AM Radio (no tears please) will continue to decline overall (yes, there will be bright spots) with the total number of stations declining to levels of yesteryear. FM Radio will continue to duke it out for the ears of one place where the medium still reigns, the automobile. TV will continue to be a major factor, thanks to our love for sports and the ability to display it on a large screen. Next Gen TV will be tough, not for what it can do, but for the lack of knowing how to do it. Many times we have created something, because we can, not because of demand for it. Certainly the jury is out. Jobs in broadcasting will continue to offer exciting opportunities. Just that staffing levels will never be the same as yesteryear. Oh yes, we will almost certainly have more cyber attacks. ☹

As I look back at almost 60 years in this game, I have to conclude it’s been a great ride. I also have this feeling that I have been in it at just the right time. Whether anyone will take on the challenge of writing a column like this…only time will tell. I’ve ended up being, mainly a transmitter guy, even though I did not start out that way. It’s nice, as I am largely working on my own, doing what I love. As long as there is wireless, there are systems that will break and have to be repaired. Certainly, what’s known as ‘component level repair’ will, if it has not already, disappear. I don’t know many that have an interest in doing what I have been doing for all these years. ‘Twas said, ‘There is nothing more constant than change’. Attending a meeting of my peers I see a ‘sea of gray hair’ with a few bright spots (those that still have hair) and I am reminded of how things appeared many years ago. It’s all a cycle, and the cycle repeats.

My readers know that I often talk about the weather…perhaps because this was one of my hobbies when I was a kid. One thing about this neck of the woods, there is never a lack of something to write about. This year, what’s on my mind this past November is how dry the weather had been. I was remarking to some friends over breakfast on December 2nd that it would have to rain about 10 inches in December to get our precipitation total up to normal.

According to those that accurately track these things, this past November was the driest since 1976 with only 1.71 inches in the gauge. That’s about 75% below normal. November is supposed to be one of our wettest months. Extend this and our snow-pack will be impacted and that could spell a lot of trouble. In early December that was running less than 50% of normal.

Mother nature has a way to deal with situations like this. This is why there are often great differences between ‘Weather’ and ‘Climate’. This December has been a great example of how that works. Suddenly, about mid-month, we were hearing terms like ‘Atmospheric River’ and without further delay the skies opened up and the Monsoons were well underway. Now we were hearing familiar terms…like Winter Storm warnings for the mountains, Flood Watches etc. As the rains continued, we set all-time records for amounts of precipitation, following by warnings for flooding and landslides. Suddenly that dry period was ‘washed’ away in our minds to the point that the natives were complaining about the amount of rain.

Some of the interesting records set:

The gloomiest day in 20 years. U-Dub, apparently, tracks the amount of solar energy reaching the ground. For those of you that have solar-panels, it was a bust. In addition, this was the Winter Soltice making it the shortest and darkest day.

December 20 was the fifth rainiest day ever! Seattle recorded just over three inches, while some areas got over four. The rain-shadow of the Olympics, once again, did it’s job with some locations there only getting an inch or so. Seattle was actually wetter than Forks!

Now that is some kind of record.

Looking at the Sea-Tac totals on Dec 20th:

  • Thus far in December 6.33 inches
  • Total since January 1 – 32.25 inches
  • Normal  – 35.66 inches

Bottom line – Even after all of this we are still below normal!

Then there is the issue of the amount of rainfall that people all over think we get. I recently ran across a survey of 50 Cites in the US that were to have the most rainfall in 2019. I’ll bet those that saw the same thing were looking for a city in this area…Sorry folks , we aren’t even in that list.

To help put things into perspective – Utqiagvik (previously known as Barrow), Alaska is in the midst of winter and having to deal with 67 days of darkness!

Cyber attacks continue to make the news and broadcasters continue to be victims. Recently KHQ-TV in Spokane was hit. One of their spokespersons said the attack targeted the software they use to prepare newscasts for all the stations in the Cowels group. Reportedly, the station informed their viewers they were having technical difficulties that impacted their ability to air graphics and video their viewers were used to. This caused the news to be presented the way it used to be handled prior to becoming dependent on computers. This made doing weather forecasts a challenge. Wonder if they had to call some folks that had long retired to figure out how to do things? Reading off of paper on live TV – Yikes!

Meanwhile, Entercom was hit by a second cyber-attack. Rightfully, the big radio company has not released much information about this one, so as to not encourage anyone. Apparently, the impact of this one was not as severe as the one in September, indicating the attack was different or their countermeasures were working. According to published reports, Entercom lost millions in the previous event, which may help explain why they have been shedding staff and not making capital investments.

The dependence on computer systems in today’s broadcast stations is….looking for the best word….almost ‘complete’. With today’s graphics, computer driven teleprompters and content on servers, it would be interesting to see how today’s news anchors would deal with typed pieces of paper on the desk in front of them. Without computers, today’s radio would be a bit better off as the mass scramble could not be seen.

I had a recent Ransomware experience at KVTI in Lakewood. In this case, the perps got to one of the PCs in the on-air studio that’s only used for research and communications. In this case, it was a simple matter of quickly replacing the stand-alone computer while the victim was taken to the shop to be ‘dis-infected’.

One target of ransomware are government entities. In some cases, some have actually paid the perps to get their systems back up and running.

The following picture was sent my way by an old friend who gets to see sunrises I don’t, as all my views are to the West. Thanks Neil!

 

It’s always sad to write about the passing of someone you knew. In this case, the unexpected passing of John Lyons at age 71, who was famous for his work with transmission facilities in New York City. The loss of the Twin Towers on 9/11, 4 Times Square, The Empire State Building and One World Trade Center are all broadcast transmitter facilities that have his name all over them in his role with the Durst Organization.

 

I would meet and chat with John at various NAB and SBE functions over the years, where I always found him to be easy to talk to, with a warm and quick sense of humor. He was a Fellow of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. NYC lost a giant in our industry.

Another passing to note, listed in the Silent Key column of the most recent QST was Phil Ferrell, K7PF. I first got connected with Phil back in the 70s when I was involved with Amateur Radio Repeater frequency coordination. Phil operated one of the first 2 meter repeaters in the area on 146.88, then known as ‘The Seattle Repeater’. He and his wife, Joni, were very good to me. He knew I was in broadcasting and loved to tease me about ‘patch cords’ (for some reason). His educational resume was most impressive – B.S. Physics, 1955, CalTech; Professional Engineer, 1966, state of Washington; PhD Electrical Engineering, 1970, University of Washington. Perhaps the only person I’ve ever known with a PhD in EE. He retired from Boeing in 1993. According to QST, he resided in Auburn, which was news to me. QRZ still shows his Port Ludlow address. Phil was 86.

Recently, several changes at the Federal Level caused EAS participants to have to perform upgrades to their EAS Equipment. In some cases, several hundred dollars were spent in the process. Whereas the FCC required that this upgrade be done, broadcasters had no choice but pay the price. In some cases, those that own and operate this equipment are not broadcasters but government entities that have to fund it.

Then there are some special circumstances. One of which is the Seattle Weather Forecast Office (WFO) for NWS. Many years ago, the Washington SECC, set out to fully integrate NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) into our area’s EAS system. In the end, NWR/Seattle, in many ways, looks like a radio station. In their case, their ‘programming’ comes from the computers that generate weather forecasts and warnings. Their ‘transmitters’ are the various NWR transmitters in the region. In Seattle, the local transmitter is KHB-60 on 162.550 which broadcasts from Cougar Mt., co-located with broadcasters. The beauty of this system is that a person with a NOAA Weather Radio will receive, not only Weather Warnings, but all EAS warnings as well.

The EAS equipment at the NWS has all been donated, as there is no funding for this system via NOAA, as this is the only place in the U.S. with this arrangement. (Sometimes called the Seattle Experiment) Much of the labor was performed by the late Jim Tharp and continues to this day thanks to the efforts of Lowell Kiesow.

When the time came to update the EAS equipment for the Seattle WFO – we had a situation that was unique – State Emergency Management could not fund it as they are prohibited from funding something used by a Federal agency. The NWS could not fund it as it is, technically, not approved for it. This meant that for the system to continue, a volunteer source of funding was needed.

I am, abundantly pleased, to announce that the required upgrade was – DONATED  by Broadcast Supply Worldwide (BSW) in Tacoma.

I want to publicly thank the management of BSW for their donation and support of our Emergency Alert System in this area. Next time you are shopping for broadcast equipment, and in the process, contact BSW and please take a moment to thank them for their contribution.

I am proud that many, across the country, continue to point to Washington State as an example of what EAS can do. It is through voluntary contributions of time and materials we have been able to achieve so much.

Before I leave this topic , if you would like to join our team, we’d love to have you. You are welcome to attend the next SECC Meeting, Tuesday, January 14th at 9:30 a.m. at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, or you can call me or send me an email for all the details.

The FCC recently announced some – huge – fines related to some unlicensed radio stations. Radio TeleBoston was fined $453,015 and Radio Concord $151.005 due to them apparently ignoring warnings to halt their unlicensed operations. Now the big questions –

  • Will they actually end up paying the fine?
  • Will they claim the don’t have the funds and end up paying a fraction of it?
  • Will then simply not pay anything and get away with it?

I will start believing the FCC means business when –

  • They actually collect the fine amount.

-or-

  • The pirate operators start spending jail time.

WWFD in Fredrick, MD continues making news with their operation as an All Digital station on 820. A lot of eyes and ears are on this experiment of turning off their AM signal in favor of running all digital.

For some in depth information on this operation, check out recently issues of Radio World and Radio World Engineering Extra.

Some of the highlights are –

  • The station, despite not being able to be received by an AM Radio is, attracting enough listeners to show up in the local Nielsen Ratings.
  • The FCC has renewed their Special Temporary Authority (STA) to continue in this mode.
  • The Commisson is asking whether this should be a permitted mode of operation by issuing an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making).

There are a number of things a digital only AM can do that a conventional AM cannot –

  • Operate in Stereo (Granted you could run the old AM Stereo system).
  • Offer relatively noise free reception.
  • Broadcast the visual content that, today, is only offered by FM-HD stations meaning Song Title and Artist information and Album Art.

The only down side is the station cannot be received on a standard AM Radio. Perhaps the bottom line will involve some simple math. Will the ability of an ever increasing number of digital receivers, coupled with the fact that to a consumer an all-digital AM have the same look and feel as an FM or FM band HD station, overcome the fact that legacy AM receivers will not be able to ever hear the station?

Up until the development of Digital TV and HD Radio, the FCC had been very concerned about reverse compatibility. Since that time, this has not been a stumbling block to gaining FCC approval. Perhaps this is underscored by the fact that they are willing to issue an NPRM?

The other major factor is that the FCC has been pressured to do something to save AM Radio. Their reaction has been a number of rule changes and, of course, the ability of an AM to put on the air an FM Translator. It’s interesting to note that WWFD was one of those AMs that constructed an FM Translator, whereby they concluded that most of their audience had switched to their FM translator that helped pave the way for them electing to experiment with changing their AM to all-digital.

The question that comes to mind is how many other AMs are in the same boat and how many of them will figure there is little down-side to changing their AM to all digital. My guess is that this is a question that’s being asked by many.

Another potential candidate for digital AM are those AMs that are part of a larger cluster of FMs that are supporting the AM, without whose support would likely go off the air. These groups may see the conversion of their AM to digital attractive.

The impact of this on in-home listening will likely be minimal (except for those that still have an AM radio in their kitchen). Today most in-home radio listening is via a ‘smart speaker’ that’s not really a radio in the conventional sense, but rather a device that can play the stations streamed programming.

Finally, will we see a digital AM in our area? I hope so …I’d love to personally be able to see how well it works.

Oh yes, what about Canada. Will we, one day, see this spread across the border?

A fascinating time, indeed.

Indeed ‘Smart Speaker’ has become a fixture in many households. My grand daughter was the first one in our family to have one…and to her surprise, it was also a radio. Broadcasters were often caught off guard with these devices and scrambled to come up with means for dealing with them. Radio is still not the major use of these gizmos…however the trend is certainly upward, which is good news. As I pointed out earlier, this is today’s in-home radio…and so much more.

In today’s world the term ‘on-demand’ is the key. It used to be that you had to look up a program schedule in the newspaper to find out when, what you sought, would be on a radio or TV station. Today, we have come to expect what we want – WHEN – we want it. The key to making all this work is, of course, the computer networks of today that give us our connected world.

For those of you that long for the look of a classic, in home, table top radio, I recently ran across this item:

 

Rerii Handmade Walnut Bluetooth Speaker

Even the old-school holdout can join the modern world with this wireless speaker that pairs with smartphones, tablets, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. But it still receives AM/FM radio stations, and the carved walnut case makes it look like a long-treasured heirloom.

I love it! You can have one for $60 from Amazon.

For those of us that are involved with towers, news of a tower failure is something that gets our attention. Recently a 500’ tower in Northwest Nebraska came down due to a heavy ice storm.

 

The tower supported an antenna for KQSK…as well as the National Weather Service.

A pretty steady stream of news about C-Band. But let’s not take our eyes of what’s called mid-band. The NAB has warned the FCC that permitting unlicensed users on the 6 GHz band can still interfere with electronic news gathering.

Looking for a job in Radio? Here are a couple of openings that might interest you:

The FCC recently announced they were allocating $17.2 Million of reimbursement money for FM stations that were impacted by the TV channel Repack program. Understand there were 87 FMs effected. To my knowledge, none in this immediate area.

HD Radio continues to grow in this area…a very different situation in smaller markets, however. Here many Non-Commercial FMs are running HD. Recently Latino broadcaster, Bustos Media joined the ‘HD Radio Club’ with the purchase of 102.9 which transmits from Capital Peak SW of Olympia. Not long afterward, KZTM added an HD-2. Bustos has been growing rapidly in recent years. Here is what they have in Western Washington:

From Capital Peak, SW of Olympia – 102.9 – KZTM-FM and HD, KZTM HD-2

From South Mountain, West of Shelton – 99.3 – KDDS-FM

From near Mt. Vernon -103.3 – KZNW-FM

From Auburn – 1210 – KMIA (AM)

I understand another station may become part of this group. Perhaps some news for next month?

Work is progressing on the new studios for KING-FM in Seattle. Due to the sale of their present home at Queen Ann and Harrison (just west of Key Arena) they are moving around the corner and down Mercer, where they will be in the same building at the Seattle Opera.

Here you can see Mike Brooks (on the right) working in what will be the new KING-FM on-air studio. The new consoles are all Wheatstone. This will spell the end for one of the last PR&E consoles in this area.

Here’s an early view of the KING-FM ‘Rack-Room’. Lots of empty space at this point that will be filled with equipment.

 

For a number of years, KING-FM has been operating HD Radio from their facility on West Tiger, using a mode that is a bit unique. They are transmitting with HD Radio power levels that are different than most, in that their HD Power level is higher on one side of their FM than the other.

A process called Asymmetric Sidebands. They’ve been doing this via what’s called a Special Temporary Authority or STA (Similar process to the AM running all digital I wrote about earlier).

Now the FCC is being formally asked to move this from a mode requiring an STA to something permitted by the NAB, NPR as well as Xperi, the digital radio developer.

Whether or not a station can operate with asymmetric HD sidebands is determined by the proximity and coverage of adjacent channel stations. It’s likely many stations would wish to do this, if it were an outright permitted mode of operation as it would increase their digital coverage. (The reason KING-FM opted to do this several years ago.)

Late news – Xperi, the outfit behind HD-Radio, has agreed to merge with TiVo,  creating a company worth about 2.24 Billion Bucks.

The following is in an interesting chart showing the growth of HD Radio over time from Xperi:

Have you been keeping track of Sun-Spots? If you are like most, the answer is probably no.

If you are a Ham Radio operator that operates on what are called the ‘HF Bands’ the answer is likely yes.

Our nearest Star (we call it The Sun) operates in a cyclical manner. That every 11 years it varies between being active (producing a lot of sun-spots) and quiet (having very few). Presently the sun is in the midst of a very deep, if not historic, solar minimum…the quietest period since 1913. This impacts radio propagation on the AM Broadcast Band as well as the spectrum immediately above it (where many Hams operate). These 11 year cycles are also tied, by many, to weather conditions and other events. Many years ago, there was a very long period of solar minimum that was thought to have contributed to a cool-down period.

The follow graphs shows these cycles and where we are now:

 

One final note of interest, the year 1913 cited earlier for its lack of sunspots on the order of 311 days was a year filled with wild weather extremes including the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Death Valley, CA.

There is a local connection keeping track of solar activity. Tad Cook, K7RA posts a great deal of information on the ARRL Web Site. Visit http://arrl.org/propagation-of-rf-signals  the ARRL Technical Information Service, read http://arrl.org/the-sun-the-earth-the-ionosphere  “What the Numbers Mean.

Old friend, Donn Harvey, has a good idea of my sense of humor and appreciation for certain things and submitted the following:

 

According to the records of the NWS, Seattle has a 5% chance of having a White Christmas.

Just for the record…Here’s a picture of West Tiger on Christmas Eve 2019.

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

Hope you had a wonderful Holiday Season and may 2020 be the best yet.

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

December  2020 – Clay’s Corner

January 11, 2021
By

 

December  2020 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

As the old-saying goes…”It’s all over but the shouting”. I’m, of course, talking about the elections. A couple of observations:

  • My email address was used by both political parties to the extent that about 50% of my incoming email was political (almost worse than robo-calls).
  • One more time the Pollsters are being questioned regarding their methods and accuracy in predicting the future.
  • The system in the U.S., whereby States control their election mechanisms, and the system that lets the States determine who gets their votes for President is still poorly understood.
  • Many, apparently, feel who gets elected is determined by the ‘Decision-Desk’ at the major networks.
  • In many cases, lawyers will be the ones still making money from the process.
  • Regardless of the outcome, we still have COVID-19 to deal with.

Meanwhile….the COVID situation has gone from bad to worse with new cases setting records. The timing was interesting. First we heard good news about a new Vaccine that got our hopes up. We thought, ‘The light at the end of the tunnel’ was real, just to discover that it was the Governor, with a flashlight, telling us to go back to hunkering down a while longer.

For reasons that will likely entertain professionals who deal with human behavior, rumors that we might be in for more restrictions, once again set off a ‘Toilet Paper Frenzy’. Pretty much proves the theory that if you have to stay at home and hunker down, it’s OK to run out of food…but NOT TP!

On the 16th came the good news, as the second firm announced that their Corona virus vaccine is about 95% effective.

While I was driving through Port Angeles recently, I spotted this item on a ‘reader-board’ which I thought was good enough to share:

‘WEARING A MASK IS NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT, ITS AN I.Q. TEST’

Many are likely to believe that this situation we find ourselves in is the first time in history.

 

As we all like to do this time of year, look ahead into the new year. Whereas it appears that 2021 will be the year that we will be able to be vaccinated against this horrible virus. Here are some things that I’ve been thinking about.

  • Whereas I’m an ‘Old-Duffer’, perhaps I will be close behind  Healthcare Workers and others on the front lines and be eligible fairly soon?
  • How will we identify those who have been ‘poked’ from those that have not? Will we have ID cards issued by some authority that we will carry?
  • I suspect that Airlines etc. will be coming out with a policy that requires evidence that you have been vaccinated, called a ‘Health Passport’.
  • What about sporting events? Will we be able to go to a game? Will they, somehow, screen those who wish to attend, to make sure that only the vaccinated get in.
  • Will broadcasters who are heavy into sports (ESPN etc.) be able to make a comeback? I suspect there is a lot of pent-up demand here.
  • Broadcast Stations and Print Media have been running tons of items encouraging us to ‘Mask-Up’. Will they start encouraging us to get vaccinated?
  • What are we to do with those who refuse to get it? Will they be excluded from certain locations and activities? Will these people be the same as those who refused to wear a mask and were rejecting the idea of government, at any level, telling them what to do?
  • What will you do if a co-worker refuses? What will your employer do?
  • What about those businesses, including broadcasters? Will they permit those who have had their shots to come back to their former place of employment?

I suspect, these are just a few of the questions that we will all be asking early in the New Year.

The list of cancellations is long. I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that this year there will not be an Apple Cup because some Cougars tested positive. Every organization is anxious to get back to normal. As we get deeper into the year, and (hopefully) vaccinations ramp up, we will start to see organizers announce their event – will – be held. I could not help but notice that the gathering of Hams in Seaside Oregon has their fingers crossed that they will be able to gather the first weekend in June…SEA-PAC. Note their Convention Theme. “Out of the Darkness; Into the Light” We can hope! NAB in Vegas in 2021?

Every once in a while there is a bit of good news in these days of gloom. On the 18th the FAA announced that the 737 Max, built right here in Renton, can fly again. Now, if we can just whip this virus and get everyone vaccinated so the airlines will have passengers and will want new airplanes. I noted that Alaska just announced they will be one of the first to fly the Max by leasing a number of them. They also said they would be eliminating a number of the Airbus aircraft that came with their purchase of Virgin Atlantic. All good news for the folks in Renton.

We are now, apparently, in WWBWD Mode. Translation, “Wonder What Biden Will Do”. Broadcasters will do, as they have historically done in times like these, is wonder what the new administration will do that will impact broadcasting. I doubt the Government could inflict more harm that is being experienced at the hands of COVID-19. Topics like, Net Neutrality and Media Ownership could be areas where changes might be made. We will see….

It’s always great to see a national publication do a story about a facility in your home-town, especially when it’s a station that you have been associated with for many years. In this case it’s Radio World and KING-FM. Take a look:

https://www.radioworld.com/news-and-business/headline/king-fm-studios-hit-the-high-notes

Should also mention Radio World did a write up about KARR using a cellular pole as an AM Radiator, giving credit to Jim Dalke and Hatfield and Dawson.

In other local happenings:

If you look up at West Tiger you will notice that the Twin Tower ATC site is now sporting LED Lighting. Easy to spot as those beacons quickly go on and off. Joe Harrington and crew have been wrapping up that project.

KIRO-FM just completed conversion to an Accel Net provided IP network to connect their transmitters on Cougar and West Tiger at the same time they upgraded to a new Remote Control system.

Work is being done that may lead to the return to the air of KMIA in Auburn.

Recently a wrote about how I suspected that many firms would discover that having their employees work from home was – now – a good idea. In the past, requests to work from home were often met with a rejection of the idea. After all, the boss wants to make sure that you are working, etc. Just recently, State Farm, who built a very nice regional office facility in DuPont, announced that they were going to close the place and make working from home a permanent situation. Not good news for the little town of DuPont, I’m sure. Hafta think that the price of commercial office space is coming down. Meanwhile, house prices in Washington and BC continue to climb. One way to look at it, that for some, the money they were spending on gas to commute can go to housing. A strange new world for sure. I suspect that a year from now, a lot of what was ‘normal’ will be gone forever.

You are not alone if you were wondering why in the world we set our clocks back a hour when we all voted to stay on Daylight Time. The fact is, the whole West Coast (BC through California) are in agreement here. There is one piece of the puzzle left to get this to happen. The U.S. Congress needs to put this on the President’s desk. Something that they, apparently, have been unable, or unwilling, to do. Perhaps considering the dysfunction in the ‘other Washington’ this is not surprising. We can only hope that this issue will be dealt with by the time that we are asked to set our clocks forward in the Spring.

It’s that time of the year. Local stations are gleefully showing snow in the passes on their news programs. Ralph Sims from AccelNet posted this picture from one of their Tiger Mountain Web Cams on November 10th. Come to think of it, didn’t we have snow in the Seattle area last November? As happens at this time of year, the weather warmed and this early snow melted away.

Proving that November is indeed one of our ‘stormy months’, I encountered this at Cougar Mt. on the morning of the 13th. Nice day for a walk to my destination.

I received an email, with attached picture from long-time friend Pete Policani: “Hello Clay, just came across this the other day. Brings back a lot of memories. Probably aren’t too many in existence’.

 

Pete was my predecessor at KMO when I went to work there in May of 1966. I was happy to inform him that I have one of these. 😊

As  predicted in my last column, on Oct. 27th the FCC voted to allow All Digital AM.

 

Media Contact:

Janice Wise, (202) 418-8165

janice.wise@fcc.gov

 

For Immediate Release

 

FCC AUTHORIZES ALL-DIGITAL AM RADIO

Action Will Improve Listening Experience and Provide Consumers with Enhanced Services

 

WASHINGTON, October 27, 2020—The Federal Communications Commission today adopted a Report and Order that allows AM radio stations to operate using all-digital broadcast signals.  AM broadcasters will be able to voluntarily choose whether and when to convert to all-digital operation from their current analog or hybrid analog/digital signals.

 

All-digital broadcasting offers AM listeners significantly improved audio quality and more reliable coverage over a wider listenable area than analog or hybrid digital broadcasts.  It also allows broadcasters to provide additional services to the public, such as song title and artist information.  These enhancements will enable AM broadcasters to better compete in today’s media marketplace.

 

Today’s Order establishes technical rules to protect existing AM broadcast stations from interference.  In addition, stations converting to all-digital operation will be required to notify the Commission and the public 30 days in advance of their transition.  These stations must provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast.  They also must continue to participate in the Emergency Alert System.  The Order envisions that AM broadcasters will decide whether to convert to all-digital operation based on the conditions in their respective markets.

 

Action by the Commission October 27, 2020 by Report and Order (FCC 20-154).  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, Rosenworcel, and Starks approving.  Chairman Pai, and Commissioner Rosenworcel issuing separate statements.

 

MB Docket Nos. 19-311, 13-249

 

 

 

This change to our ‘Legacy Broadcast Band’ is nothing short of historic by permitting something other than Amplitude Modulation to be used.

On the heels of this announcement that was an immediate release of information from two of the major distributors of Radio information, Inside Radio and Radio world, here is what they had to say:

Here’s the Inside Radio Story from that day:

FCC Approves All-Digital AM Broadcasting; Stations Would Voluntarily Make Decision.

  • Oct 27, 2020

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

By a unanimous vote, the Federal Communications Commission today approved a proposal that will allow broadcasters to voluntarily power down their analog AM transmitters and serve the public with only a digital signal. The FCC concluded digital would offer a “superior listening experience” for listeners than analog. Under the current rules, AM stations are authorized to operate with either pure analog signals or hybrid signals, which combine analog and digital signals. Yet the problem of interference remains. “What we’re doing today is enabling AM broadcasters to compete in an increasingly digital landscape,” said Chair Ajit Pai.

One requirement that the FCC has included is the establishment of a 30-day waiting period after a station files a Form 335. Once those details are submitted, a station would not be able to make any changes to its planned technical operation. The 30-day notice would also be used to alert listeners with required on-air messages that, without a digital receiver, they will no longer be able to hear the station. As for what those listener notices must say, the FCC is deferring to stations, saying broadcasters have a “strong incentive” to promote the change using on-air and website announcements.

The order also includes a number of technical guidelines, mostly geared toward preventing digital AMs from interfering with other analog stations. These include applying existing analog power limits to the digital broadcasts. But the FCC is giving stations flexibility when controlling that power, saying it is an “evolving and highly technical area” of radio engineering.

“Under my leadership, the Commission has taken a series of steps to help AM broadcasters confront the economic and technical challenges they face,” said Pai. “But to better ensure the future of AM radio, we need to squarely confront the band’s problems, foremost among them poor signal quality and listening experience.” Noting next week marks the 100th birthday of commercial AM radio, Pai said the band still offers a variety of local talk, sports and foreign-language programming, not to mention life-saving information during an emergency.

“Some may think of AM radio as quaint, but AM stations are vital to the communities they serve,” he said. “Making the transition to all-digital service presents a singular opportunity to preserve the AM service for future listeners. All-digital signals offer better audio quality, with greater coverage, than existing AM stations—whether analog or hybrid.”

Giving the FCC confidence that an all-digital signal can work is the experiment that has been running on Hubbard Radio’s adult alternative “The Gamut” WWFD, Frederick, MD (820). WWFD has been operating as a digital-only AM station since July 2018 under experimental authority granted by the FCC. Hubbard has said that it has seen “significant improvement” in WWFD’s audio quality and that the digital signal has been “much more robust” than the analog signal. And while the move has meant that analog radios can no longer receive WWFD, Hubbard says the feedback from listeners has been positive.

Nine all-digital AM tests were previously conducted between 2012 and 2014, spanning a variety of station types and geographic locations.

The National Association of Broadcasters has backed the idea of permitting stations to power down their analog transmitter and only broadcast a digital signal. “The order provides AM stations with essential flexibility to provide interference-free broadcasts and attract new listeners,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “Radio broadcasters are grateful to Chairman Pai for championing AM radio during his tenure at the FCC and thank him for successfully implementing policies to help revitalize AM stations.”

The NAB came to its conclusion based not only on a series of experiments conducted since 2012, but also what it says is the “significant” number of HD Radio-capable receivers already in use. It also illustrated how critical the issue has become, noting interference issues have already led some electric car makers like Tesla to stop featuring AM in their dashboard.

Then, the next day (Oct 28th) Inside Radio ran this:

 

No matter how much time Ajit Pai remains at the Federal Communications Commission, one of his lasting legacies has been the focus on revitalizing the AM dial. That most notably led to the push to allow AMs to add FM translators. On Tuesday a decision just as significant came when, just days before the centennial of commercial AM broadcasting, the Commission voted to allow AM owners to voluntarily cast off a hundred-year analog legacy and convert to an all-digital signal.

 

It may be years before the full impact of those decisions are known, but in the meantime Pai said he remains open to taking additional steps to boost AM radio. “I’ll have to circle back to the Media Bureau team, and if the Audio Division in particular can identify any AM radio-specific reforms that might be viable and important to the band, we’d be happy to consider them,” he told Inside Radio. “Thus far at least, I’m appreciative of all the support we have gotten from radio broadcasters around the country, and on the AM dial in particular, for some of these changes. It’s coming up on the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast next week and we want to make sure that in an increasingly digital landscape, broadcasters on the AM dial can continue to thrive and provide people important information in their communities.”

 

Giving the FCC confidence that an all-digital signal can work is the experiment that has been running on Hubbard Radio’s adult alternative “The Gamut” WWFD, Frederick, MD (820). WWFD has been operating as a digital-only AM station since July 2018 under experimental authority granted by the FCC. The move has meant that analog radios can no longer receive WWFD, yet Hubbard says the feedback from listeners has been positive. Media Bureau advisor Christine Goepp said not lost on the FCC was the fact that WWFD went from a no-show to a Nielsen-ranked station with a 0.5 share (12+) in the most recent survey.

 

Under the new rules, once a station decides it wants to go all-digital it will first need to alert the public before pulling the switch. The FCC has established a 30-day waiting period after a station files a Form 335. The delay would then be used to alert listeners with required on-air messages that, without a digital receiver, they will no longer be able to hear the station. The order also includes a number of technical guidelines, mostly geared toward preventing digital AMs from interfering with other analog stations.

 

Idea Planted During Pai Station Visit

 

The idea of allowing digital-only AM broadcasting on a voluntary basis took flight when Bryan Broadcasting’s Ben Downs petitioned the FCC in March 2019. While many ideas languish in Washington, failing to ever gain industry support, the all-digital AM outline quickly gained traction both inside the agency and among pivotal industry players, including the National Association of Broadcasters, which has supported a move toward allowing all-digital AM.

 

Pai revealed the idea had been presented to him much earlier when he visited Downs at Bryan Broadcasting’s “News Talk 1620” WTAW several years ago. “He hosted me at his AM station in College Station, TX many years ago and planted a bug in my ear about this idea,” said Pai. “I’m glad he and other dedicated advocates like him have so ably advocated for this cause.”

 Downs credits FCC staff for moving rapidly to collect all the required data to allow the Commission to make the decision so quickly. “It helps that there was so much support during the comment phase, including from NAB Labs who has tested this system across the country in real radio stations of different configurations,” said Downs. “But most importantly this is a voluntary conversion – if it doesn’t make sense for your situation, you shouldn’t do it and you don’t have to.”

 The new rules will take effect one the final order is published in the Federal Register. Once that happens, owners will then be able to consider making such a change.

 Vermont Broadcast Associates President Bruce James said the FCC move raises several weighty questions for the industry. “This is an evolution that has to come, however as an owner of two small market AMs, is America ready for this?” he asked.

 VBA owns a pair of small-town AMs in northeast Vermont that are now paired with FM translators, which James said helps them compete for listeners. But the expense of going digital – either hybrid or a full conversion – is something that is prohibitive for the moment. “I am in favor of digital radio and know it is necessary for the future of the genre, however small companies like mine cannot afford to build a digital system that 95% of its local population can’t listen to because their car, truck or home radio cannot receive digital broadcasts,” James said. – Frank Saxehe

  

Radio World, a leading publication dealing with Radio Issues, published this, on-line:

FCC Approves All-Digital Option for AM

The Federal Communications Commission will allow U.S. AM radio station owners to convert their stations to all-digital HD Radio transmissions if they choose to do so.

The commission voted unanimously in favor today at its October open meeting.

Industry observers will be watching to see if any owners large or small take this step. All HD Radio receivers in the market are capable of receiving the MA3 signals; but making this switch would end analog listening on the given frequency.

The order establishes technical rules to protect existing stations from interference. Stations that want to convert will be required to notify the FCC and the public 30 days in advance.

“These stations must provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast,” the FCC wrote in a summary. “They also must continue to participate in the Emergency Alert System. The order envisions that AM broadcasters will decide whether to convert to all-digital operation based on the conditions in their respective markets.”

The Texas broadcaster who pushed the FCC to allow voluntary all-digital transmission on the AM band has said this would be a “uniquely positive” one in AM revitalization.

Ben Downs, VP/GM of Bryan Broadcasting in Texas, petitioned the FCC in March 2019 to make this move. “The option to convert to all-digital isn’t a magic wand for an AM station, but it is a tool we can use to compete,” he told Radio World today in expectation of the vote to approve. “Those of us with AM stations have been limited to spoken word and niche formats because AM is just not suitable for mass appeal music formats. This changes that fact, and gives us many more options.”

He said there are 70 million radios in the marketplace that will receive AM digital now.

“I’m certainly happy about this. For AM stations that couldn’t find spectrum for a cross-band translator, this is a great option. It will probably benefit large markets with a crowded radio dial that still have the need to compete using an AM signal.”

This change is the latest in a series of “revitalization” steps that the commission has taken to help broadcasters that operate in the AM band, which is troubled by declining listenership, noise and changing consumer habits.

As we’ve reported, three AM stations have received experimental authority to operate in all-digital. Hubbard’s WWFD in Frederick, Md., has actively promoted the format and made presentations about its experiences. Another, WIOE in Ft. Wayne, Ind., experimented but ended its digital transmissions. A third, WTLC in Indianapolis, owned by Urban One, wanted to rebroadcast multicast channels of the AM test signal over FM translators, but the commission didn’t allow that.

The National Association of Broadcasters praised the decision. “Radio broadcasters are grateful to Chairman Pai for championing AM radio during his tenure at the FCC and thank him for successfully implementing policies to help revitalize AM stations.”

Additionally, Radio World offered some additional details:

All-digital operation will be allowed both day and night.

-There’s a 30-day waiting period before converting to all-digital “so that transitioning AM stations can provide adequate notice to the commission, consumers and other potentially affected stations.”

-The order requires each all-digital station to “provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast.” Beyond that though, digital subcarriers can be used for broadcast or non-broadcast services, including song and title information.

-Stations will be able to use their additional digital bitrate capacity for broadcast or non-broadcast services, with the capacity varying depending upon the mode of operation. “WWFD initially operated in core-only (reduced bandwidth) configuration while it modified its facility to enable transmission in enhanced mode (greater bandwidth),” the FCC noted. It will permit each broadcaster to select either mode as their situation dictates. (It opted not to require that additional digital data capacity be used only to enhance audio fidelity, particularly stereo audio, as some had requested.)

-Each digital station still must participate in the national Emergency Alert System. The station must ensure that any others that monitor it can still receive and decode an all-digital EAS alert, or adjust their monitoring assignments to receive EAS alerts from another station.

-The commission declined requests to consider Digital Radio Mondiale for AM digital operation, saying there has been no fully developed proposal or testing. “We approve the HD Radio MA3 mode, but do not foreclose the future consideration of alternative transmission technologies.”

-The FCC agreed to use average power of the all-digital signal (including the unmodulated analog carrier power and all of the digital sidebands) to determine whether the station is complying with the nominal power limits set out in the rules. This was a change from its original plan. “We find that this nominal power limit is technically feasible, as demonstrated in the NAB Labs experiments and WWFD’s experimental operation.”

-About interference, it wrote: “Although testing indicates that the digital signals may cause some increased degradation to analog signals, in most cases this will be masked by the noise floor, and in any case there is no evidence that interference will occur within service areas that are currently protected under our rules.”

-The FCC did not impose stricter spectral emissions limits as had been proposed in the NPRM. It said the consensus was that existing emissions limits will adequately protect stations on adjacent channels. Also, “the record indicates that these stricter HD Radio emissions limits may not be set at technically feasible levels and may need to be revisited in light of field data from all-digital experimental operation.” The FCC said stricter limits could hamper deployment of all-digital service but said it could revisit that later.

-The FCC declined to incorporate the NRSC-5D Standard by reference into its rules, for several reasons. Among them: “If we were to consider incorporating by reference the NRSC-5-D standard in the future, we would likely aim for consistency across services, and thus would consider AM all-digital, AM hybrid, and FM hybrid technical standards at the same time.” But it emphasized that it was not trying to undermine confidence in it as a voluntary standard.

-And the FCC declined to take certain other actions that had been urged upon it, saying these were beyond the scope of the proceeding. These ideas included increased enforcement to reduce noise floor levels; the sunset of AM translators; establishing a Low Power AM service; waiving regulatory fees for all-digital AM stations; allocating television spectrum for FM replacement facilities for AM broadcast stations on a primary basis; allowing translator rebroadcasting from an all-digital AM primary station to originate programming; disallowing use of HD Radio hybrid mode; authorizing AM programming on audio-only channels in ATSC 3.0 TV broadcasts; widening the FM band; other AM revitalization-related proposals, such as eliminating third-adjacent channel protections; and receiver standards.

The NAB weighed in with this announcement:

NAB welcomes FCC rule approving all-digital AM

The Federal Communications Commission says it will permit AM radio outlets to voluntarily broadcast entirely digital programming, provided each offers a minimum of one over-the-air stream that matches or exceeds analog quality. Gordon Smith, CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, welcomed the move, noting that it “provides AM stations with essential flexibility to provide interference-free broadcasts and attract new listeners.”

Then on November 2nd:

 

A Florida AM radio station plans to go all-digital soon, now that the Federal Communications Commission has allowed such transitions.

WMGG is owned by NIA Broadcasting; it’s a Class B station in Egypt Lake, Fla., near Tampa, airing a directional signal via a diplexed array. It has 2.8 kW power by day and 800 watts at night, and airs on 1470 kHz.

President Neal Ardman told Radio World he is in the process of ordering a Nautel HD Radio transmitter to make the change.

“It is time,” he wrote in an email, adding that he is “not worried” about losing analog listening.

WMGG has an FM translator on 101.9 MHz. Both signals are part of “96.1 FM Caliente,” the radio home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Spanish-language network.

 I have a gripe all of this. Why in the world would you call it ‘Digital AM’, when in fact this mode of operation will not have any Amplitude Modulation? Just like HD Radio on the FM band is NOT FM, but rather digital. I’m OK with calling it ‘DM’  for Digital Modulation…or even AM-Band Digital etc. I just think that Digital AM is an Oxymoron.

Confirming the rumors that have been circulating recently I received the following from Ken Johnson:

The rumors are true Clay, the WTM project was our last project. We are in the process of closing out the books and going on a permanent vacation.  

 Ken Johnson

 Project Manager

 It gave me great pleasure to learn from Stephan Lockwood that Ben Dawson had earned an award from IEEE. There are a number of reasons why this is special, not the least of which is the fact that the firm of Hatfield and Dawson is based in Seattle and that I’ve known Ben many years. I call him one of my ‘older’ friends because he is just over a year older than me. 😊 I recall when Ben was the Chief at KAYO in Seattle while I was at KMO in Tacoma.

I could write a lot about this award, and Ben, however I’m going to take the easy route and go with what was written by Radio World:

Ben Dawson Honored With IEEE BTS Award

BY PAUL MCLANE
PUBLISHED: NOVEMBER 3, 2020
UPDATED: NOVEMBER 4, 2020

Ben Dawson — whose name is associated with more than a hundred medium-wave, UHF and VHF broadcasting antenna and transmission system projects in the United States and abroad — is the recipient of a notable honor from the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society.

The BTS chose Dawson to receive its Jules Cohen Outstanding Achievement Award.

“Although we could not present Ben with the award in person, he attended the October virtual BTS Adcom meeting as an invited guest, where President Ralph Hogan virtually presented him with the award,” the society said in an announcement.

Dawson has six decades of experience in telecommunications engineering, and specializes in antenna and propagation design and analysis. (For a sampler of his many projects, see below.)

“Ben received numerous nominations from many colleagues throughout the industry,” the IEEE BTS stated. “One nominator stated ‘If Ben Dawson is associated with a project, it has instant credibility.’ Another nominator stated ‘Ben has always been a fabulous mentor.’”

Dawson taught himself calculus in high school to better understand antennas, according to a Radio World profile story in 2006.

“When I was 15, I began working an air shift during the summers for a radio station in Salem, Ore., but when the transmitter broke — an old RCA 250L — I was the only one who could fix it,” he recalled at the time. “Then my parents moved to Portland, Ore., and I started work for KUIK(AM), which was half-owned by Harold Singleton, who was a consulting engineer. Once Harold realized I could fix things I became his go-fer.”

After college, where he was chief engineer of Harvard’s student FM station WHRB for a year or so, and after stops as the chief of several West Coast radio stations, Dawson formed Hatfield & Dawson in 1973 along with Jim Hatfield Jr., and Maury Hatfield.

The Cohen award is given to “exemplify outstanding work in the field of broadcasting, focusing on Integrity, professionalism, quality, extent, reach and thoroughness of the candidates work as well as commitment to client success.” Last year’s recipient was Gary Cavell.

It is named after Jules Cohen, who among other contributions played a major role in developing the rules governing assignment of stations in the noncommercial educational portion of the FM band.

Ben Dawson received the National Association of Broadcasters Radio Engineering Achievement Award in 2006, with his longtime project partner Ron Rackley. He has produced numerous policy analyses and technical research for private clients as well as local, state, federal and foreign governments. He’s a past delegate to study groups of the International Telecommunications Union.

He’s a professional electrical engineer who is a member of several IEEE societies, as well as the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers and the Society of American Military Engineers.

Check out Ben’s favorites

Radio World asked Ben Dawson to list some of of his favorite or more interesting jobs. He replied by email:

  1. Diplexing 620 Portland on the 1190 antenna when the Port of Portland destroyed the beautifully designed 620 antenna (designed/implemented by Harold Singleton), ironic since 1190 had originally been at the 620 site.
  2. The three-station frequency swap in the Miami area that Ron Rackley and I did, establishing the 1040 operation in Miami with 50 kW.
  3. Designing the 900 MHz point-to-multipoint delivery system in the L.A. basin for City News Service of L.A.
  4. Design (with Harris Broadcast engineering staff) of the conversion of the Loran antenna in western Iceland to LF broadcast, and designing the new LF broadcast antenna system in eastern Iceland.
  5. Designing the adjacent-frequency two-site operation (954 kHz, 963 kHz) of what was then Radio Liberty in London, providing citywide coverage despite the unnecessarily restrictive allocation policies of the then-UK regulator (who’ve since been replaced by OFCOM).
  6. Obtaining FCC authorization for the first fulltime slant-wire fed grounded AM antenna in several decades.
  7. Designing and implementing the rebuild of the 1 megawatt VOA (USAGM now) antenna in Thailand so it would handle the peak modulation from a modern solid-state (DX-1000) transmitter.
  8. Design and implementation (including supervising installation contracting) of conversion of the original R. France antenna at Cape Creco, Cyprus for use by Radio Sawa (USAGM). Two high-power directional antennas (600 kW and 1.2 MW) in close proximity.

 

 

Looking at the latest Radio Ratings for the Seattle/Tacoma area, it looks like the elections had some influence on the ratings.

  • KUOW is back at #1
  • KIRO-FM is tied at #2
  • KOMO AM/FM is #5
  • Bonneville’s KTTH and  KIRO (both AM’s) are tied.

New rules that allow stations to stop publishing notices in local newspapers have been approved….meaning broadcasters can use their own airwaves to alert the public about license renewals, station sales and other pending applications at the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC approved the change in May, allowing stations to make on-air announcements and post notices on their websites.

Here is what the Commish said:

“We adopt these new rules in order to simplify broadcasters’ local public notice obligations in a manner that reduces costs and burdens on applicants, while facilitating robust public participation in the broadcast licensing process,”

 

Issaquah based Costco is actually benefiting from the pandemic. In September, it reported revenue was $167 billion, up 10% from the previous year.

Sam Bush, chief financial officer of Saga Communications, reported 43.1% growth in third-quarter net revenue.

ESPN is laying off 300 employees and will not fill 200 open positions as the sports network and its parent company Disney continue to deal with financial woes brought on by the pandemic.

Entercom is the latest radio company to report a strong sequential rebound from the COVID-pillaged second quarter. Third quarter revenues were $268.5 million, up 53% compared to Q2, but down 30% compared to $386.1 million in the third quarter of 2019.

Third quarter revenues at iHeartMedia rebounded by 53% from Q2.

iHeart, or iHM, has unloaded their 104.9 Eatonville station to 247 Media Broadcasting.

More pretty sunsets….Both of these from my back-deck overlooking the Green River Valley.

Caught this with my cellphone camera. I assume these are portions of vapor trails.

 

I forwarded the vapor trail picture to Dwight Small, who lives considerably north of me, and he caught this looking across the lake, also with a portion of a vapor trail.

As we get deeper into winter, sunsets like this will become more rare as our skies fill with clouds.

In the category of ‘new places and faces’:

Darin Gerchak, formally with KBTC is now at KCPQ (both TV).

Vern Lawton is now the Assistant Chief and IT guy at Bonneville, Seattle. Zach Davies is no longer with the company.

Nick Winter, now mostly retired, is recovering from foot surgery.

Chas Marini is the new IT guy at Entercom Seattle.

I could not help but notice these while waiting for the ferry on the south end of Vashon Island.

Wonder what frequency they operate on?

Are you old enough to –

  • Know what the device she is next to is?
  • Remember what this equipment, together, is called?
  • When RCA came out with ‘the new look’ (Blue)?
  • Note the size and shape of the monitor 😊

Caleb Pearl of ION Media posted this picture on the West Tiger Remailer on October 30th showing the installation of a new retaining wall on the Main West Tiger Road, in the area that has been the site of repeated slides. While this work was being done, those wishing to reach the broadcast sites on West Tiger were forced to use what’s call the ‘East Side Road’, which is considerably longer. The timing was excellent, as the following weekend was scheduled for tower work involving the ION Media Antenna.

Shifting from my normal focus of current events to a bit of history. For those of you that have been to Crego Hill, near Chehalis, you have, perhaps, wondered about the history of this place. Let’s face it, you don’t often see a self-supporting tower with a guyed tower sitting on top. Perhaps you wondered a bit about the history of this place?

I was recently chatting with Tom Saylor, a fellow engineer at WSU, about Crego Hill, site of WSU’s KSWS and Bates’ KCKA-TV. In response to this, Tom sent me the following history of not only Crego Hill, but another site with a similar background. Enjoy.

 Air Defense and Northwest Public Radio

At least two NWPR stations are located at former USAF air defense radar sites: KNWO Cottonwood and KSWS Chehalis.

During the cold war, these radar sites were elements of a national air defense strategy, designed to detect low-flying Soviet bombers at distances sufficient to scramble a timely response.

Cottonwood Butte was home to an AN/FPS-24 long-range surveillance radar. The main support structure for the massive radar antenna is still there. The radar operated in the 214-236 MHz frequency band at undoubtedly enormous power, probably obliterating high-VHF television signals in the process.

The facility included barracks and living accommodations for staff and families assigned to the station. The barracks have been converted to the North Idaho Correctional Institute, and the family housing area is now occupied by the forest service.

The KNWO transmitter is located in a building owned by Avista utilities on the grounds of the former radar facility.

Crego Hill, near Chehalis, was the location for an AN/FPS-18 “gap filler” radar. These were unmanned sites tasked to fill the coverage areas of larger radar facilities. They were remote controlled by a primary location such as Cottonwood.

The self-supporting towers unique to these sites feature a wraparound access stairway and a top platform where the rotating radar antenna was mounted. At Crego, an extension tower was added above the platform, more than doubling the structure height. The adjacent standardized equipment building housed radar electronics.

The KSWS transmitter occupies floor space formerly held by the radar transmitter.

Following is a series of articles and images covering the history of these sites.

 

Tom Saylor

Chief Engineer

Northwest Public Radio

 

Source: Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville)

Author: Phil Runke
6/17/2010

Cottonwood’s USAF base not forgotten

822nd radar site

Original Article   COTTONWOOD – Many people in the area here have either forgotten or are unaware of the significant role Cottonwood played during the cold war era. The USAF 822nd Radar Squadron, part of the 25th NORAD Region, operated a base located on Cottonwood Butte and was part of an alert readiness group called the Spokane Air Defense Sector.

This group was made up of a large number of active Air Force personnel who worked and lived on the “Butte,” operating and maintaining one of the many “GAP filler” radar sites located across this country and Canada. The site constructed at the 5,730-foot summit, incorporated a Goliath radar called an AN/FPS-24, which was a rotating antenna, 120 ft. wide, weighing in at more than 85 tons.

This antenna assembly was installed on top of an 80 ft. tall massive steel truss tower. The support tower still stands and can be seen for miles around. The entire facility, including the antennas and cantonment area, were all self-contained with their own backup power generators, fuel storage, water systems, and additional cooking/housing facilities.

The AN/FPS-24 was used to detect low-level Soviet bombers approaching from the many river canyons around the area and to fill in the gaps or blind spots that were inherent to the other radar facilities located in the Spokane and eastern Washington areas.

It was a search radar designed and built by General Electric to provide Enhanced Electronic Counter Counter measures (ECCM) capability. The Cottonwood site was one of 12 FPS-24 sites in the country and was one of only two that had a protective enclosure around the antenna called a radome.

It looked like a huge golf ball on top of the butte. The large antenna was accompanied by a pair of FPS-6 height-finding radars and together could pinpoint enemy aircraft out as far as 200 miles, giving substantial advance warning time.

The site was commissioned in 1959 and operated until July 1, 1965, when just prior to closing, the main rotating bearing on the massive antenna failed. Due to the cost of repair, the introduction of new satellite technology, along with budget cutbacks, the decision was made to shut the site down. Today only the support tower and other radar footings remain on the butte.

The cantonment area is now home to the North Idaho Correctional Institution (NICI) and the military’s family housing located west of the cemetery is still being utilized for housing.

The successful launch, in 1957, of both a 6,000-mile ICBM and the orbiting satellite “Sputnik” raised concerns about the vulnerability of the North American Air Defenses and instilled a fear that the Soviets were gaining an upper hand over the United States of America.

To counter any Soviet threats, the radar sites such as the one on the butte landed the USAF, its men, women, and families from around the country, in the middle of the Cottonwood community. It also brought in contractors, workers, and money to local economies. The sheer size of the radome, and the fact that it was visible for miles around, along with military personnel ever present was helpful in instilling a sense of security during those unstable times.

It may be interesting to note that Ivan Dannar, USAF MSgt.(ret), who was responsible for the maintenance and operations of Cottonwood Butte, as well as several other radar facilities within the Spokane Air Defense Sector, lives in Grangeville.

He has a wealth of information pertaining to not only the radar and electronics used at the time, but also this country’s uncertainty about its future due to Soviet threats during the late ’50s and early ’60s. Give Ivan a call and he would be happy to talk with you. Bring your coffee cup, nothing too clean nor too fancy — and ask for the eight-minute special.

USAF CONUS Gap-Filler Radar Sites
(AN/FPS-14 and AN/FPS-18), 1957 – 1970

“During the late 1950s another area of progress was the development and deployment of AN/FPS-14 and AN/FPS-18 gap-filler radars. Having a range of around sixty-five miles, these radars were placed in areas where it was thought enemy aircraft could fly low to avoid detection by the longer-range radars of the permanent and mobile radar networks. Gap-filler radar deployment peaked in December 1960 at 131 sites throughout the continental United States. Because the introduction of gap-filler radars alleviated the need for civilians to scan the skies for enemy bombers, the ADC disestablished the Ground Observer Corps on January 31, 1959.”

This medium-range search radar was designed and built by Bendix as a SAGE system gap-filler radar to provide low-altitude coverage. Operating in the S-band at a frequency between 2700 and 2900 MHz, the AN/FPS-14 could detect at a range of 65 miles. The system was deployed in the late 1950s and 1960s.   

Clay:  The Power Levels were HUGE, 750,000 to 1,000,000 watts!

This looks very-much like the building and tower at Crego Hill  – Clay

This is the same floor plan as at the Crego Hill facility.   Today the larger room is used by Broadast Trannsmitters    The smaller, former Generator Room is used, primarily, by Public Safety radio systems.   Clay

Recent Photos of Chehalis GFA, WA

 

Thanks to Sherri Garland of the Centralia School District, who provided information in an October 3, 2002 email, and to Deborah Carey, also of the Centralia School District, for providing images seen here.

Located on Crego Hill near the community of Boisfort in Lewis County, the Chehalis Gap filler annex was turned over to the United States Office of Health Education and Welfare after being excessed in 1960. HEW transferred the site to the school district on August 28, 1961, under the proviso that the school district should maintain and use the property for translation of educational TV, and file an annual report to HEW for a period of 20 years. Installation of necessary receiving and transmitting equipment was completed on April 25, 1962. Since that time, Channel 9, Channel 56, and Channel 15 public (instructional) television signals have been transmitted (at various times) from the tower.

Special dispensations were granted by HEW for use of the tower by commercial and public service units. Commercial tenants were Western Telepage and Teleprompter; service agencies were P.U.D. No. 1 of Lewis County and Lewis County Departments of Public Works, Sheriff, and emergency Services (fire and medical).

The current users of the tower are Metrocall, Arch Paging, Kelly TV (KPQC), and Lewis County Sherriff’s Department.

The school district has just contracted with a company to help manage the site.

Over the years, renters have come and gone. The district has basically earned enough over the years to maintain the site.

A strong road barrier/gate was installed at the base of the road leading to the tower, as it has been the target of vandalism in the past.

It has provided a service over the years and is still in use.

NOTE – Since this was written – the Paging companies have gone.  KCPQ (Call Letters correct)  uses this site for a Translator.   Bates Technical College, KCKA’s main transmitter is located here as is WSU’s KSWS.   Lewis County’s 2-way radio systems are still there.

I should add there are now other towers on Crego Hill.

This was the site chosen for a tower for KELA’s 102.9 FM which operated there until it was sold and moved to Capital Peak.    Today, Bi Coastal Media operates KMNT/104.3 from the former 102.9 Tower.   KIRO-TV operates a translator at that site as well.

On another, much smaller tower, is a translator for KNKX on 90.1

NOTES –

Here you can see the old Self Supporting Antenna and the ‘Platform’ where the radar antenna used to be.   Above that, the guyed tower that sits on top.    Whitacre Engineers of Tacoma did the structural engineering.

This picture was taken some time ago, today the tower above the ‘platform’ is occupied by a number of antennas, including that of KSWS.   The antenna on the top was changed more recently as part of the TV ‘Repack’ project.

 

Going from a hilltop near Chehalis, to a hilltop near Forks…Here is a picture of the ONRC or Olympic Natural Resource Center, operated by U-Dub, sitting on a bluff south of the Forks Airport. If you were to look closely at the two ‘Standpipes’ you would see a number of antennas mounted on the top.

The one on the left has antennas for the PNSN. (Pacific Northwest Seismic Network). The one on the right has an antenna for NWPB’s KNWU. This is a location I get to visit a few times each year.

 

Then there are antennas that are going away. After some 57 years the huge Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico is going to be no more. All this stems from damage to the facility that was deemed too dangerous to repair.

Here’s an item that you are not likely to be able to purchase from Amazon…Or anywhere for that matter. Are there some old-timers out there that can identify what this is and tell where it was used?

 

And then, as if we have not undergone enough changes in recent times, they change the name of the place where the Seahawks play (that we only get to see on  TV) from Century Link to Lumen Field. Huh? What is a Lumen? I had to Google it to discover it’s a firm based in Louisiana. More Huh!

And finally…..
This Gem from an old friend that explains a lot!

 

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back, next month to most of the usual locations.

Until then, have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings and freshly washed hands.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

November 2020 – Clay’s Corner

January 11, 2021
By

 

November 2020 – Clay’s Corner

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

Around these parts, October means it’s transition time…from the warm and dry, and lately smokey, days of summer to the stormy month of November. Remember that October can be stormy too, as anyone that was here in 1962 will have stories about the Columbus Day Storm. This year is starting out about right with the second weekend of the month being full of rain and wind. Time for the first snow in the mountains and flooded streets from leaf-clogged drains. A couple of extras this year….A Washington State Ferry was struck by lightning (not often you hear about that) and the KIRO-TV studio roof sprang a lead during a newscast! And a confirmed Tornado in Grays Harbor County on Saturday morning, Oct. 10th. (My weather monitor went off at 4:45 a.m.) On the 13th, we were treated to a very strong wind storm knocking out power, reportedly to about 100,000 customers. At this writing, near the end of the month, we were supposed to get our first freeze to, perhaps, actually put frost on the pumpkin.

Elsewhere in the country, things were a lot worse – hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and record setting fires in Colorado all combine to further convince me that we live in a special place. I’ll probably feel that way until the day we have that, long predicted, big quake.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the Colorado Fire, said to be the largest in Colorado history. A friend of mine who lives in the Denver area commented about the smoke there…adding that it’s been very dry.

 

 

States impacted by these disasters routinely come to the aid of each other. In the case of this fire, I received an email from the person we deal with at Washington DNR regarding transmitter sites, informing us that she had been dispatched to Colorado until the end of the month.

Historically, about this time of year, many try and predict whether we will have a warm-mild or stormy and cold winter. Not sure how accurate these long range forecasts are….but they are fun to look at anyway.

One of the more famous weather predictors is the Old Farmers Almanac. As you can see, they really get precise. For our area, ‘WET YOU BET’. Don’t think this takes a lot of high powered computing to come up with this one. Historically, our winters are just that!

Looking north of the border, it looks like they are predicting ‘Snow-Time’.   Apparently, the U.S. – B.C. border shut-down is going to have an impact on the weather too?

Giving the scientific approach a chance at this. we need to consult the Climate Prediction Center or CPC. This is what they said on Oct 16th:

According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), La Niña conditions are present in the equatorial Pacific and are expected to remain present into the Spring of 2021. Below normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) appeared in the eastern Pacific in mid-May, and have since expanded across the international dateline to 160 ˚E. Over the last month, cooling between 0.5 to 1.5 ˚C occurred in the western equatorial Pacific, but local SST anomalies remain positive. Since our last update in early October, SSTs have dropped from -0.9 to -1.2 °C in Niño 3.4, which is the principal area used for the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI). ENSO models have drawn upon the recent SSTs cooling and the already La Niña consistent atmospheric circulation to predict a moderate to strong La Niña event with ONI values of less than -1.0 °C during the peak months of November to January.  Probabilistic models have placed chances at 85% and 60% of La Niña lasting through winter and spring, respectively.  These odds have been upgraded since our last Climate Outlook, which placed odds of La Niña continuing through the winter at 68%, and only 32% for the spring. When La Niña conditions are present, cooler and wetter conditions are favored for the Pacific Northwest.

What does this mean for Washington in the coming months?

The CPC November temperature outlook has equal chances of above, below and near-to normal temperatures, which matches the October temperature outlook. The precipitation outlook gives Washington State the sole area in all of CONUS with increased chances of above normal precipitation. Chances of above normal precipitation are slightly higher in northern areas of the state in the 40 to 50 % range.

The CPC three month (November-December-January) temperature outlook has slightly favored chances of below normal temperatures only in the far NW reach of WA state. Elsewhere, equal chances of above, below and near-to normal temperatures reside. Striking similar resemblance to the previous 3-month CPC outlook, above normal precipitation is favored statewide with the greatest odds in the 40 to 50% range in eastern Washington.

Frankly, after reading this several times, I am concluding that they are predicting that anything might happen. It will be interesting to see which method of long-range forecasts is more accurate.

Looking at the bigger picture nation-wide, this is what the maps of temperature and precipitation look like:

Not often we have a big sale of TV stations in the U.S. This one is pretty good sized…Scripps is purchasing Ion Media. What does this mean for us in the Seattle area? It means hat KWPX will have new owners. KWPX’s Chief, Terry Spring, has long been a fixture in our community. Here is how the FCC Notice read:

KWPX-TV 56852 ION MEDIA LICENSE COMPANY, LLC WA WA, BELLEVUE BTCCDT-20201013ABX E CHAN-33 Voluntary Transfer of Control From: MEDIA HOLDCO, LP To: SCRIPPS MEDIA, INC. Form 315

We are all familiar with TGIF and other multi-letter ways of expressing things. Sometimes duplicates come up. For instance – For years BLM only meant Bureau of Land Management. Now we have Black Lives Matter and WFH. Not familiar with that one? It means Work from Home.

So what’s up with the coronavirus situation?

As in previous columns, I try and provide a snap-shot of the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on our area. The short report – not good, getting worse. As of the 24th of October here are the State totals:

  • Total Active cases –  ~ 102,000
  • Total Hospitalized –    ~    8,300
  • Total Fatal cases –     ~    2,400

The following graphs tell the tale pretty well. In the first one, you can clearly see that we are on the 3rd spike. In the second one, you can clearly see that we have not flattened the curve.

Nationally, the news is not good at all.

  • Predictions are that the U.S. could have 500,000 deaths by February. (As of 10/24 that total now stands at 227,399.) Unless, nearly everyone starts wearing face masks.
  • The UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation fears that colder weather will drive more people indoors where the virus is more likely to spread.
  • According to U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, the behavior of individuals saying household gatherings have become a “major vector of disease spread.”

The hope of us all is that a vaccine will soon be available that will protect those of us who have not yet caught this thing. Thankfully, we are hearing good news coming from the various vaccine trials. However, we are, according to the experts, several months away from being able to be vaccinated.

Then there is the question of who is going to be able to get it first? The following piece from the Seattle Times explains this pretty well:

Vaccines could take months to distribute, leaving some people waiting.

At the federal government’s request, the National Academies built a framework that anticipated scarcity, aimed for equality and maximum impact, and considered the disproportionate impacts of the virus on certain populations, Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, said during the UW event last week.

According to the plan: Vaccine doses should initially go to health care workers and first responders who are at high risk. Then, distribution should focus on people with underlying conditions that put them at significant risk and on older adults living in congregate settings such as nursing homes.

The next priority group includes K-12 teachers and school workers, workers in critical industries, people in homeless shelters, incarcerated people, older adults, and those who have underlying conditions and are at moderate risk.

Next, young adults, children and some workers in key industries could receive the vaccine. Then, everyone else.

The committee said the vaccine should be free and distributed in a manner that acknowledges systemic racism and the socioeconomic factors that have allowed COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, to disproportionately affect some communities.

Bottom lines –

  • Continue to wear your mask and stay far away from those that don’t.
  • Avoid inside gatherings.
  • Wait a few more months.

Unfortunately, we are at the start of the Holiday Season when families and people traditionally gather inside. This will make it doubly hard on all of us.

It’s Zoom to the rescue. Instead of physical gatherings, we now have virtual ones, using platforms like Zoom that will enable us to see each other.

In early October the Nielsen Radio Ratings came out. Here is a list of the things that grabbed my attention:

  • Our Market is now over 4,000,000!
  • Three of the top five are non-music stations.
  • An AM Station (KOMO) is #5. Granted they were helped by their 97.7 FM.
  • Two of the top ten are Non-Commercial operations – KUOW and KING.

 

 

Seattle-Tacoma (#12)

6+ Total Pop: 4,006,500    Black: 6.71% Hispanic: 9.14%

 

Station Format Owner Jul Aug Sep
1)    KZOK-FM Classic Rock 6.3 6.9 6.9
2)    KIRO-FM News/Talk 7.1 7.1 6.4
3)    KISW-FM Rock 5.2 5.7 6.0
4)    KUOW-FM / KUOW-AM / KQOW-FM News/Talk 5.4 5.3 5.8
5)    KOMO-AM / KOMO-FM News 4.9 4.4 5.0
6)    KJR-FM Classic Hits 5.5 5.5 4.8
7)    KQMV-FM CHR 4.9 5.1 4.2
8)    KRWM-FM Adult Contemporary 4.3 4.2 4.2
9)    KING-FM Classical 4.4 4.1 4.1
 

10) KPLZ-FM

Hot AC 2.9 3.3 3.9
11) KNDD-FM Modern/Alternative Rock 4.3 3.8 3.9
12)  KBKS-FM CHR 3.0 3.4 3.7
13) KSWD-FM Soft AC 4.0 3.5 3.5
14) KJAQ-FM Adult Hits 3.1 3.4 3.3
15) KKWF-FM Country 3.9 3.4 3.3

 

 

 

Last month I wrote about the geographic division between W and K calls. Here is a bit more on that topic:

K/W Call Letters in the United States

 

Thomas H. White — January 1, 2020

This is a comprehensive review of K and W call letter assignments for AM band (mediumwave) radio stations in the United States, with an emphasis on stations that are on the “wrong side of the Mississippi”.

https://earlyradiohistory.us/kwtrivia.htm

Shutterbug extraordinaire, Dwight Small submitted some jewels this month.

With all the fog and smoke haze, it’s been very difficult to see much of anything, much less the conjunction between the Moon and Mars. Despite these obstacles, Dwight was able to capture this stunner recently. The Moon and just above to the right, Mars which is quite close.

Shutterbug extraordinaire, Dwight Small submitted some jewels this month

With all the fog and smoke haze it’s been very difficult in seeing much of anything, much less the conjunction between the Moon and Mars.   Despite these obstacles, Dwight was able to capture this stunner recently     The Moon and just above to the right Mars which is quite close.

Earlier he captured this spectacular view of the Moon rising over the lake. Wow! Once again proving how rough it is to be retired!

And this of a sunset lighting up the Cascades:

Like Dwight, I usually have my camera nearby so I can capture a scene worthy of sharing.

In this case, I was working on a NWPB project on Mt. Brynion near Longview. It was getting near the end of the day as I walked back to my truck, getting ready to leave I saw this:

On the 14th, the day after our rather significant wind-storm, things settled down nicely and ended with this sunset taken from my back deck..

 

And on the 18th…

 

Occasionally I am able to use the camera of someone else. In this case, the  following picture, taken on the 20th by one of the AccelNet cameras on West Tiger, has a couple of interesting features.

  • The Moon, just to the right of the Antennas on the left side.
  • The sunset turned Puget Sound a wonderful shade of red.

Meanwhile, another camera captured this image from a building to the north of the tower where the camera is mounted for the above picture. (Center of the following frame). This too shows the moon. In the upper right corner is a glimpse of the tower and antennas used by 88.5, 98.1, 103.7, 97.3, 99.9, 100.7 and 107.7.

Thanks to retired KIRO Radio and Central Puget LECC Chair, Phil Johnson for this item.

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/632726/man-cycles-from-poo-poo-point-washington-to-pee-pee-creek-ohio

The way the average person can see Poo Poo Point is by driving south from Issaquah on the Issaquah-Hobart Road. Keep looking left at the west shoulder of Tiger Mt. for what appears to be a pretty steep cliff….that’s it. You will likely also notice the landing area for those who fly off of Poo Poo. It’s an open field to the left with the Wind Sock.

After all the discussion, including my comments in this column, it appears the FCC will vote in late October on All-Digital AM. According to media reports, this action will allow a voluntary migration. This means if an AM station wishes to drop their Amplitude Modulation and start broadcasting in all digital, they may do so. Many are viewing this as another step in the direction of ‘re-vitalizing’ our legacy broadcast band. FCC Chairman Pai put it this way, “This hints at digital AM’s potential to bring AM stations back from the brink of extinction to become competitive players in the market.”

Like a lot of these things, ‘The devil is in the details’. For instance, will the FCC permit other than HD-Radio transmission, for instance, the popular DRM?

One of the major plusses for making this change is, perhaps, understated. This will go a long way toward overcoming the differences between AM and FM stations on the dashboard of today’s vehicles.

  • Ability to run a music format with much improved fidelity, including stereo.
  • Ability to overcome the every increasing noise that attacks AM signals.
  • Ability to run textual information, which is now standard with FM.
  • Ability (potentially) to multicast.
  • For the first time make an AM Station sound good enough that the average listener will not tune away.

One of the big questions is, who, other than the Hubbard station in the vicinity of WDC, will actually do it? Some have expressed the thought that they have nothing to lose (except for the money to actually implement it) feeling that many AM’s have fallen on hard times with little, if any, revenue and/or ratings.

If this action had come along during better times, and not in the middle of a Pandemic, with all of its economic consequences, perhaps the idea would be more warmly received.

What’s making all this possible is the fact that today’s new vehicles are being sold with radios installed that are capable of receiving an All-Digital AM signal. This means these owners would be able to receive the Digital AM on day one.

In my view, there are some candidates for giving this a try.

  • AM’s that now have a translator that is not listened to by the majority of their audience, to the point they can afford to ‘disconnect’ all their former AM listeners. (This is the case for the station in MD that’s been doing all the testing.)
  • AM’s that are doing very poorly and are part of a cluster of successful FM’s.
  • AM’s that have antenna systems and transmitters that will not require major modification.

I will admit, there are some down sides –

  • Those with conventional AM receivers will, upon the station making the change, hear nothing but noise.
  • Jillions of radios made in the last 100 years will not be compatible.
  • With very few non-vehicle Digital Receivers out there…stations will be relying on streaming.

Frankly, I am excited about this and honestly hope that an AM in the Seattle market would take the plunge. I own two vehicles that are fully capable of receiving an All-Digital AM. I hope I get to experience this before my time is up.

I could not help but notice that our own Ben Dawson was asked to comment on this topic. Here is what BFD-III PE had to say:

“The real meat of the AM revitalization NPRM was to finally make realistic changes in the basic allocation rules to reflect modern noise and propagation conditions, which are significantly different than those of the 1930s, which the present rules are based upon,” he said.

“And that simply hasn’t happened. When we’ve talked with FCC staff about it, the impression we’ve gotten is that the upper echelons of the commission just don’t think it has much importance.”

Dawson believes the cross-service FM translators allocated to AM licensees have cluttered the FM band. “Translators and low-power FM stations are just being sandwiched in.”

Digital AM in the United States faces an uphill battle, Dawson said, in part because many owners and large groups object to paying licensing fees. (While Xperi has offered AM stations a license for all-digital HD Radio technology in perpetuity without fees, that offer is seen as a kickstarter rather than a long-term policy.)

“The adoption of FM, NTSC, FM stereo, digital TV; none of those had licensing fees,” Dawson continued. “And neither should digital AM. And of course, DRM [Digital Radio Mondiale] doesn’t and is already being employed in some countries.

“But we need to develop the allocation rules for all digital and movement toward that has been very slow.”

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that Ben has been awarded the 2020 IEEE Broadcast Technology Jules Cohen Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award. This is the highest award from the Broadcast Technology Society. Congratulations my old friend!

Some of the previous winners of this award are:

  •  2019: Garrison Cavell
  •  2018: Merrill Weiss
  •  2017: Byron W. St. Clair
  •  2016: Lynn Claudy
  •  2015: Thomas B. Silliman

Time to update your record of the FCC’s address. Yup, they have moved from their old location at the Portals to 45 L Street. I have some memories of their old location…was there a couple of times, first time, on a upper floor, to discuss with staff regarding issues involving Part 74 frequency coordination. The other time was involving EAS and on that occasion I sat in one of the directors chairs (comfy if I recall). What is a bit surprising is the fact that the FCC does not own their own building. They actually lease it. The new digs cost less and are 30% smaller. Of course, the size of the space does not matter much, as they too are mainly working from home.

There is something very special about 2020 for broadcasting. It was 100 years ago (1920) that much of it began. There are a number of recent articles written about KDKA, WWJ, KNX etc., each one claiming to be a part of the puzzle that was the beginning of commercial radio in the U.S.

To be fair to my Canadian readers, I found this item on-line:

Radio as we know it was first created by Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian working in the US. And although many sites list an American station as the first broadcaster, in fact it was a station in Canada, XWA that was granted the first broadcast licence on this day December 1st, back in 1919.

XWA, was a Marconi station in Montreal and the call letters stood for “experimental wireless apparatus”.

The first scheduled broadcast was in May 1920, also predating American broadcasts, becoming the oldest radio station in the world, although actual broadcasts were very limited, and nothing like the 24/7 operations of today.

By 1920 XWA had changed it’s call sign to CFCF which it retained for decades. Those call letters stood for “Canada’s first, Canada’s finest”. Much later the TV operation would also use those call letters.

It remained a highly popular radio station and changed owners over the years, and call letters as well.

In 1991 it was CIQC, and a news format. In 2005, another format change to news-talk, and in 2008 a switch to all-hits radio. But AM radio was dying, and in Montreal a percentage of the Anglophone audience had moved out of Montreal and the mainly French-speaking province.

With the combined factors of a reduced audience, the fading of AM radio in popularity generally, and its remaining audience split amongst several competitors, there was clearly trouble on the horizon by the 2008 switch to all hits music.

In 2010, using the call sign CINW 940 AM, owners Corus Entertainment shut the operation on January 29th. At 10;00 am the programming ceased and looped messages were played explaining that given “current economic conditions” continuing to broadcast was impossible.

At 7.02 that evening, the broadcasts simply stopped and the first and oldest of radio stations, certainly in North America, and possibly the world, went silent.

For additional information about the history of Radio in B.C. go here: https://vancouverbroadcasters.com/history.html

Here in our area we have a lot of radio stations that are also at, or approaching, that 100 year mark. KJR was certainly one of the first with much evidence that it is 100 years old. It’s not hard to find the older AM stations in the area by looking at their present, or former call letters. (Dates from the FCC)

KVI – 570 – 11.24.26 – One of the few still using their 3-letter call.
KIRO – 710 – 1.17.27
KXA – 770 – ??.??.24 – now KTTH
KJR – 950 – 12-30.26 – This from the FCC Data Base. There is plenty of evidence that KJR went on much earlier
KOMO – 1000 – 3.9.22
KGBS – 1090 – 11.5.28 – now KFNQ
KTW – 1250 – 4.22.22 – now KKDZ
KOL – 1300 – 5.23.22 – now KKOL
KMO-1360 –3.30.22 – now KKMO

There are a couple of other ‘Oldies’ in our area:

KRKO – 1380 – 3.17.22 – In Everett (perhaps unique in that it’s a 4-letter call)
KGY – 1240 – 3.30.33 in Olympia – now KBUP

In Eastern Washington –

KHQ – 590 – 2.28.22- Spokane – now KQNT
KGA -1510 -1.4.27 – Spokane
KPQ – 560 – 9.23.26 – Wenatchee
KUJ – 1420 – 12.3.26 – Walla Walla
KWSU – 1260 – 6.21.22 – Pullman

From this FCC data, it appears there will be a number of stations turning 100 in 2022.

It’s a bit harder to determine which FM Station was the first in the Seattle area.

Certainly,  a couple come to mind.

KING-FM – 98.1 – 5.21.48 – (Yes, still KING-FM)
KTNT-FM – 97.3 – 5.29.49 – (Now KIRO-FM – still licensed to Tacoma)

If anyone has a list of the first FM’s in this area, please let me know.

One cannot talk about the early days of Radio Broadcasting without mentioning what is billed as the oldest radio program still on the air – WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. The ‘Opry’ has been on hold due to the corona virus pandemic. However, there was a special gathering to celebrate the show’s 95th anniversary.

One of the oldest stations in the U.S. is the famous KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA (now owned by Entercom). As perhaps a sign of the times, they can now be heard on FM via a translator on 100.1. Effective November 2nd, their ID will be – ‘100.1 FM and 1020 AM KDKA’.

Note how the FM gets top billing!

Another sign of the plight of AM Radio is this item:

Chattanooga’s Oldest Radio Station “Goes Silent”; WDOD Sold To Baylor

WDOD, Chattanooga’s oldest radio station, has gone silent after 86 years on the air.

The large, valuable WDOD property along the Tennessee River has been sold to Baylor School.

WDOD’s last day on the air was Tuesday. It most recently had a sports format. The station had moved to an Air America format in 2005 when longtime station fixture Earl Freudenberg left to join WDYN. WDOD later moved back to easy listening.

Bernie Barker, station general manager, said, “The equipment at the station was very old and the parts were hard to get. The components had to be made in some cases.”

He said Baylor School needed the property for expansion so the deal was signed on Wednesday.

Mr. Barker said the WDOD license was turned back to the FCC.

He said no employees lost their job.

The deed says the property is 22 acres and the sales price was $600,000.

The station maintained its original call letters for its entire life.

It’s indeed interesting how many stations never change their call letters. In our area, we can, perhaps, count on one hand those that have not.

Usually in selecting call letters, a station wants to avoid any confusion. This was not the case in our area as we had a KMO and KOMO operating at the same time for many years. Finally KMO, bowing to the potential confusion factor, changed from KMO to KAMT. Later the station switched to KKMO.

I recently ran across a list of stations in Colorado Springs, CO and found something interesting. A number of stations whose calls start with KK –

  • KKMG-FM
  • KKFM-FM
  • KKPK-FM
  • KKLI-FM

Many years ago, KIRO and KOMO-TV installed Satellite Up-Link equipment at their (then) co-owned AM transmitter facilities on Vashon Island. In the case of KIRO, they did not have a clear microwave shot to their Seattle facilities, so they installed passive-reflectors up on each of their 710 AM towers that provided a microwave path to equipment in a newly constructed building behind the AM transmitter building. In the process they installed some large dishes to connect to the ‘Bird’. Here are some pictures of them recently being removed, all to become a large pile of surplus aluminum. Note the size comparison with the workers.

Thanks to Steven Allen for some of these pictures!

Well those days are long gone. The time has come to take it all apart and haul the pieces off for scrap.

In the following picture you can see the big dishes, lying face down. If you look closely, you can make out one of the KIRO AM towers just above and to the right of the center of the old dish. (Red Arrow)

Here’s the other one with the, no longer used, electronics building in the background.

And this one. These things were huge by today’s standards.

I found a piece created by Moneywise where they list states where Americans are leaving and moving to. Interesting to note how three of the top five areas that are gaining, are located in our area.

5. Washington

Inbound moves: 59.5%

While states like Florida owe their influx of new residents to retirees, Washington’s growth is due in large part to the number of job opportunities for young professionals.

Companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks are all headquartered in the Evergreen State and are major draws for jobs. Roughly half the people who moved to Washington in 2019 did so for work, according to United Van Lines.

Although the cost of living in Washington is higher than other states, the wages tend to be higher as well.

“Housing is where we saw a big jump in cost,” writes Reddit user ZombieLibrarian, who moved to Washington from Kentucky with his wife. “The jump in cost was exceeded by the jump in our salaries, though, so it sounded a lot more scary than it actually was.”

2. Oregon

Inbound moves: 65.4%

The Beaver State has been flooded with new residents since the founding of the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s, and 2019 was no exception. For the third year in a row, Oregon occupied the No. 2 spot for inbound moves on United Van Lines’ study.

Aside from the plentiful trees and lush vegetation, Oregon is also rife with tech industry jobs, particularly around Portland and Hillsboro, an area which some have dubbed the “Silicon Forest.”

“There are hundreds of satellite offices of big companies that support the semiconductor industry,” writes Quora Anil Kumar. “Additionally, Nike, Columbia and Fisher Investments are headquartered in Portland Metro.”

1. Idaho

Inbound moves: 67.4%

It appears the Gem State is no longer a hidden gem.

Idaho had the highest percentage of inbound moves in the country in 2019, marking its first time at the top of United Van Lines’ inbound list in more than 25 years.

With a burgeoning job market and an extremely low cost of living, Idaho is particularly attractive to IT workers who want to avoid shelling out millions for a home in other tech hubs like California.

The median price of a home in Boise is $332,698. In San Francisco, it’s $1.32 million.

On top of that, many residents say Idaho is a great place to raise a family.

“I loved the fact that my kids knew their teachers in and out of the classroom,” writes longtime Idaho resident Diane Allen on Quora. “I knew their bus drivers and knew my kids were in good hands.”

After many years of thinking that Tacoma was very much a 2nd rate town – comes this headline:

Study: Tacoma is nation’s fastest-selling housing market

In Seattle, the median home sales price in September rose by 18.5% over the same month last year to $640,000. The average home price in Tacoma was $435,000 – a 14.5% increase over last year.

For the third month in a row, Tacoma also was the fastest market in the nation, with half of all homes pending sale in just six days, down from 16 days a year earlier. Seattle was tied with Indianapolis and Grand Rapids, Mich., as the second fastest market in the nation, with half of homes pending sale in seven days.

Tacoma also was the second most competitive market in the nation, with 59.6% of homes selling above list price.

Always good to see where radio signals come from in other markets. The following comes via John McDaniel at NWPB of a site in the Wallowa Mountains Southwest of Enterprise, Oregon called ‘Sheep Ridge’. This is the location of K265DX, one of several translators operated by WSU’s NWPR out of Pullman. The first picture is of the receive antenna for the translator.

Some of the other antennas and systems at this location:

Sheep Ridge has some serious elevation. The license for this site shows it being 595 meters above average terrain and 2174 meters above sea level. That works out to be about 7134 above sea level. So where is Enterprise, Oregon?  Check out https://www.enterpriseoregon.org/

A very scenic place indeed. Take a look: https://www.gonorthwest.com/Oregon/northeast/Enterprise/Enterprise.htm

When you hear, or read, the words Tri-Cities, Washington what do you think? OK, how about Richland? Perhaps Hanford and nuclear power or the WSU Campus? Betcha you don’t think about the fastest production automobile? Big news was recently made with a product from that community along the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.

The headline in Motor Trend read:

The SSC Tuatara Is Now the Fastest Car in the World at 316.11 MPH!

Saturday, October 10, a team gathered alongside a closed, seven-mile section of Highway 160 near Pahrump, Nevada to attempt—and set—a new record, with U.K. pro racer Oliver Webb driving a supercar hailing from Richland, Washington, the SSC Tuatara. The new speed? A staggering 315.7 mph!

And now, more good news. The U.S. elections are about over!!! For reasons I will never understand, both of the major parties got hold of my email address resulting in, at least, 50% of my email coming from those two groups. Interestingly, as I look out the front window of my home, there is not a yard-sign to be seen. I’m sure that this season has been good for the broadcast industry with record amounts of, very welcome, money being spent on political advertising. However, for me, I will be very happy to see this event be finished.

A big thank you to Buzz Anderson for the following timely item:

The following was sent to me recently by an old friend in Wisconsin:

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month to most of the usual locations.

Until then, stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings and freshly washed hands.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

The KE0VH Hamshack Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

January 11, 2021
By

Well, dadgummit (no he didn’t dad had teeth!) here I am finally getting around to getting out a 3 month edition of “the Hamshack”.  Lots of stuff to share with you in this edition, so buckle up it may be a long one.  But a lot has happened since August, so let’s get started.

By the way, I have a small editorial that I am writing here that will be at the end of this month’s article.  Just a heads up.  It’s a doozy…………….

The new repeater is up and operating at the weekend and getaway QTH of Cris W5WCA in the Grand Lake area north of Granby.  448.250 covers a large portion of the valley and Cris reports that you can get into the repeater going down the east side of Berthoud pass and on thru the towns of Winter Park, Frazer, and the rest of the valley.  We were worried about Cris’ place there during the “Troublesome” fire that destroyed many homes in the area around Grand Lake but thank the Good Lord Cris’ and Amanda WØHOP’s places were spared, where so many others lost homes.  We are thankful primarily for that of course, and that the repeater is still on the air for that area connected to SkyHubLink.  The repeater is a Motorola pair with a flatpack duplexer and is putting out 20 watts on AllStar node 506061 connected to SkyHubLink fulltime!

The repeater at W5WCA’s cabin, Coverage map, and the Cushcraft AR-450 antenna.

And now after a wait the long anticipated 449.625 has finally found its permanent home on the marvelous site of Mt. Morrison between the towns of Golden and Morrison on the west side of Lakewood overlooking the Denver Metro.  This site has just a TREMENDOUS view of the metro area and the repeater is covering from Castle Rock up to Greeley and some of the mountain valleys west.  We seem to have a shadow though up I-25 thru Thornton and north.  The antenna is a Diamond X-50 and the repeater is Fusion digital with full Wires-X capabilities.  You can steer the repeater around the Wires-X system with your Yaesu Fusion radio in Wires-X mode.  On Saturday nights we put 449.625 on the America Link Wires-X room for the International Wires-X net.  Check it out sometime and have fun with the repeater!  And thanks to the crew who helped set up the repeater on that beautiful day.  KD0SIY, N0XRX, W0SKY, KD4DT, KE0LNU, & KE0VH, with a special thanks to the site manager Mark Smith for helping us out!

The VIEW from Mt. Morrison and the 449.625 Diamond X-50 antenna

Skyler WØSKY, Matt KEØLNU, & Mark NØXRX looking at the antenna placement, and Mark hooking up the duplexer for 449.625

 

Matt KEØLNU mounting the antenna base, Jack KEØVH putting on a ½ inch connector. Below, Scott KDØSIY doing the climbing needed for the project!

As of this writing as well we are anticipating getting a new Fusion Wires-X repeater on the air from Milner Mountain above Loveland in the next month thanks to Conrad KØSVT.  This system will give great fill in Fusion Wires-X coverage from Thornton north to the Wyoming line and all of Ft. Collins, Loveland and Longmont.We also have been given another analog system that we will think about where it is needed in 2021.  Plus the 449.575 repeater will be on air soon covering a large area near Pueblo for SkyHubLink from Bakulite Mesa on the NW side of Pueblo.  Stay tuned for details on when these machines come on line.

The new home on Milner Mountain for the new 447.800 Fusion Wires-X repeater (not shown) and the old derelict and abandoned Motorola repeater that will find a home sometime on SkyHubLink.

😊So how about “Shopping Cart Mobile”!  Gotta always have your radio with you!  One day at King Soopers! 😊

Another project at “The Hamshack”.  I was wanting to use my Astatic D-104 microphone with the Yaesu FT-991A, so sure enough someone had information on how to do the modification already, so I ordered the little kit from W2ENY on Ebay.  (https://www.ebay.com/itm/W2ENY-HiFi-kit-replacement-element-for-Astatic-D-104-All-Models/233277861976?_trkparms=aid%3D1110006%26algo%3DHOMESPLICE.SIM%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20160323102634%26meid%3Dd181a0ac62574f338a5f6efefb27fc7f%26pid%3D100623%26rk%3D4%26rkt%3D5%26mehot%3Dpp%26sd%3D352922839514%26itm%3D233277861976%26pmt%3D0%26noa%3D1%26pg%3D2047675%26algv%3DDefaultOrganic&_trksid=p2047675.c100623.m-1 ) It works great.  The kit comes with everything you need to do an upgrade for todays transceivers including a voltage blocking cap.  And, the microphone is easily reverted back to its original form if you so desire at a later time.  So these days you will hear me on the mic when I am at home on the FT-991A it will be on the modified D-104!

 

The old original dynamic mic element removed from the head of the D-104, and the new condenser assembly

 

 

And old Amazon mailer as the backer/insert padding to hold the element in place, and the finished conversion wired into the FT-991A.  I left the original 4 pin Kenwood type plug assembly on the mic cable, and adapted to the RJ-45 type input on the radio with a temporary setup to test.  My favorite microphone of all time, will never part with it.  Well, at least not while I am alive!  😊😊😊

Another project fix from Skyler WØSKY.  So the repeater for WØJRL analog 447.175 on SkyHubLink, an older Yaesu DR-1, lost its transmit.  We had been operating the repeater on Lookout Mountain (and may be moving it soon to a better location) and all of a sudden it stopped transmitting.  Well Skyler went up and found that the transmit section was indeed dead.  So with a little research and his ingenuity, he managed to insert a Motorola VRM-650 and get it to interface to the DR-1 controller. The repeater is based on a pair of FTM-400’s contained in the repeater box.  Skyler found the pinouts for both radios and matched them up.  Now we are running this repeater as analog, but Skyler is confident that it COULD possibly be used as a YSF digital repeater. The VRM-600 is capable of passing digital signals and can be used for DMR and possibly P-25 digital modes too.  The Motorola however is only capable of 20 watts full duty cycle, so it wouldn’t be quite as powerful as the original FTM-400 50 watt radio.  Skyler refers to it as the “YaesuRola” or “FrankenFusion” repeater.  We will be redeploying it soon at a better location for analog coverage to complement 449.450.

On the left you can see the Yaesu radio and on the right is the Motorola VRM-600

***********************************************************************************************************************

AND another NET joins the SkyHubLink system!  If you have digital questions and would like to learn more about operating those modes such as DMR, FUSION WIRES-X, and others, be sure to join Doug KEØDC and Bucky (Bill) WØSUN on the radio or Google Meet where they will talk about everything digital radio, It’s held on Wednesdays at 19:00 (7pm) MST on the Sky Hub Link. You do not have to have a digital radio to participate, you can join them via analog 449.450 and the various AllStar connections. For more information and how to connect, go to https://skyhublink.com/repeaters/ and https://skyhublink.com/nets/.

****************************************************************************************

HEY!  A GREAT FIND on Amazon for a power supply that will power just about any radio!  It says it is rated at 30 amps.  When I was running it in the shack I didn’t notice any voltage fluctuations or noise being generated either.  It seems pretty darn solid in testing.  We are going to use it to power a node radio for the Pueblo 449.575 repeater connection back to the SkyHunLink system.  So far as we have not been able to deploy the system yet, during Skyler W0SKY’s testing the power supply bears itself out!  And, it is very small, at 7.75 x 3.25 x 1.5 inches.  Now I haven’t tried to power my FT-991A with it, but it supposedly has enough horsepower 😊 to do so.  The voltage output is adjustable with a small pot next to the output section.  So far, I am suitably impressed!

A closeup of the output side of the power supply showing the voltage adjustment pot.

The Motorola GM-300 analog node radio, the Raspberry Pi3 AllStar link with fan (Love the lights!) and the Power Supply with a volt/amp digital meter.  This is the AllStar node radio that will be deployed for the Pueblo 449.575 repeater.  The node setup will be hosted by our good friend Ray, AAØL.

As mentioned above, you can adjust the voltage out of the supply with a pot located just to the left of the outputs for a “perfect” 13.8 volts!  And it just plain looks GREAT!  Easily readable!

The Pueblo repeater on 449.575.  This had been deployed on Mt. Princeton working well for a couple of months until the 449.925 Methodist mountain repeater came on line.  Now it has been re-allocated for the Pueblo area from Bakulite Mesa.  We hope to deploy this one weather and scheduling permitting before the end of the year.

Tom KD4DT is the proud owner of a new Yaesu FTM-300 and shows the way that he mounted the control head in the dash of his car.  The radio itself is mounted under the seat and can easily be moved to his other vehicle!  Great job, nice install Tom!

 

Seen by Skyler WØSKY on a hike in the mountains!  An APRS solar powered digipeater setup probably setup by Chuck NØNHJ.  I say probably because according to Skyler he is responsible for at least 15 of these around the state!  This is really awesome since APRS coverage in the “hinterlands” (where there ain’t a hint of nothin’) is so very important for emergency APRS use.  Skyler saw this one in the Dillon area.

AND, JUST FOR FUN AT THE END! For all us Engineers!

 

 

My Jinki and Liu Liu LOVED THIS! Thanks to Jim KCØRPS!

 

Well, OK here is my editorial that really has nothing to do with the “Hamshack”, so I will stow it at the end here.   I need to say something about the pandemic going on.  As of just yesterday, the USA is seeing more than 150,000 new cases a day.  There are so many hotspots that I can’t mention them all there, but the information is readily available from many sources, so you can pick the one you trust and go from there.  I have a wife in healthcare, and folks, the medical community will tell you that this is an ongoing and serious issue, and they are ALL exhausted.  So, if you don’t believe the news media, talk to someone in the medical community.  We want to know the real truth and facts, so get it from those who are dealing with over loaded beds and are on the front line.  And as I shared on the SBE SkyHubLink Net, we need to be wearing masks.  If you simply don’t want to for whatever reason, now we are getting word that, as I have really thought all along, it will provide you a modicum of protection for yourself, and especially for those around you, from you!  As one lady put it, I heard last week, “I wear a mask because I care about you.  If you don’t, I guess you don’t care about me”.  By the way, the graph below is just Colorado as of this writing.  34 average deaths per day.  Honestly, I don’t know how I could look someone who has lost a loved one during this time in the face and not think that the complaining and arguments that have arisen between so many can be justified.  Shame on us. We should care about EVERY SINGLE DEATH, more than a quarter of a million at this writing fellow Americans.  Are we really THAT selfish and petty???????  Unfortunately, we have a lot of people making decisions not to wear masks and by that token, are making the decision to expose you and me.   Very sad……..  THANK YOU to those of you who do care.

 

HAMSHACK ARCHIVES FILES

 

                                                  4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2016/09/

                                                  5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/09/

                                                  6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/09/

 

Click HERE TO CHECK OUT the latest BDR.net articles at: https://www.thebdr.net/articles/thisweek.html

AND DON’T FORGET THE MONDAY NIGHT SBE/SKYHUBLINK NET at 7pm Mountain, 9PM Eastern, 6pm Pacific

 

SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SkyHubLink HAMnet

 

 

The SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SkyHubLink Hamnet is tonight (Monday) at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) worldwide via

1.    Allstar node 46079, tied into repeaters all over Colorado, see www.skyhublink.com/status or link in via your local AllStar repeater.  Email or call Jack KE0VH for details on how to.

2.    Echolink W0SKY-L, node 985839 (available via computer and radio)

3.    Via Yaesu FUSION Wires-X Room “SkyHubLink” 46361.  

4.    With a HOTSPOT on YSF00002 YSF to DMR for DMR radio’s set to talkgroup 310847. 

5.    With a Hotspot node number YSF92722 The US SKYHUB

6.    Locally in Denver on 449.450 Analog pl 103.5.

7.    Locally in Denver on the Fusion Repeaters 448.350 KDØSSP/R, 449.625 KEØVH/R and 449.600 NØPUF/R,  OR WORLDWIDE linked to WiresX room “SkyhubLink” room 46361.

8.    Locally in Denver ON DMR 449.750 KI0GO/R, Timeslot 1, Talkgroup 310847.

9.    Locally in Colorado Springs on Fusion YSF Simplex node 446.275

 

You can listen on the LIVE STREAM thru Broadcastify at:

https://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/25448/web

or https://hose.brandmeister.network/group/310847/  
If you listen on the live stream text Jack at 303-704-3290 during NET time and you will added to the check in list.


We hope you’ll join us. 

See the latest edition of “The KE0VH Hamshack” for more information at www.ke0vh.com.

2020 0601

 

The Society of Broadcast Engineers

9102 North Meridian St, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260
317-846-9000 ■ Fax 317-846-9120

 

 

 

 

Society of Broadcast Engineers, 9102 North Meridian, Suite 150, Indianapolis, IN 46260

 

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