Monthly Archives: March 2021

The KE0VH Hamshack for February 2021

March 20, 2021
By

                                                                                        February 2021

This month we have 3 new SkyhubLink projects in the works.  The first is the new Fusion/Wires-X repeater to be deployed just west of Cheyenne on 449.775 (Callsign soon to be KE0DNL).  Daryl W3ORR will be running the node radio system at his QTH on the west side of town to link the repeater into the SkyHubLink Wires-X room 46361.  The repeater will be steerable for Wires-X rooms of course.  We would like to thank the members of the SkyHubLink email list who responded with donations to make this happen.  Thanks also to our good friend Vic Michael for the providing the site for the repeater.  More to come as it becomes available on the deployment time as we are awaiting weather and scheduling to get it on the air.  We hope to be at the 100 plus foot level on this fine tower Vic has in “Granite” WY.

Second will be the 2 linked repeaters in Sterling & Holyoke.  Kent Seger, who is a ham operator and tower owner in the area will be providing the repeaters, internet connection and sites (Sterling’s is just east of I-76 in the area) for this NE CO coverage along I-76 helping to pretty much fill in the coverage to Nebraska.  More information and maps will follow soon.

Thirdly, the Brandmeister Talkgroup 31083 for the Colorado Severe Weather Watch NET will be moving to the SkyHubLink.  More information on that will be upcoming to the SHL Email list soon.

Our good friend Steve KDØSBN who is running the Pueblo Wires-X Fusion repeater that is now on the new coordinated frequency of 447.900 -offset.  Steve will also be setting up a NEW repeater soon south of the Spanish Peaks from the Weston Colorado area that will have coverage from about Walsenburg to Trinidad along I-25 in the southern part of the state.  When this project is completed, and the move of the Scottsbluff NE repeater is accomplished (also this spring) SkyHubLink will have almost continuous coverage from Scottsbluff down to Cheyenne WY and on down the almost the New Mexico State line.  Stand by for more news!

As I wrote in last month’s edition, I have been working full time now from the home “office/hamshack/Flight Simulator” and really enjoying it.  I have everything I need right at my fingertips and with the addition of the worktable on the left I can do my personal and work projects with just the spin of the chair.  The table is actually a kitchen prep all metal aluminum table that I also have now a static pad that covers the workspace.

Here is a test of the Field Fox spectrum analyzer after it had returned from service on the new worktable and interfaced with my computer on the left side of the office area.  My vertical HF ham antenna and the multiband dipole made really good test subjects.  The Field Fox is now ready for some real-world real work projects coming up in the next couple of months.  Great setup!  I have been loving this little “office” in a major way!  I can monitor and control all work functions via remote facilities, test equipment and get a LOT DONE!

One of my personal projects over one weekend was the rebuilding of the Flight Sim X-plane 11 computer.  The newly setup worktable and static pad grounded at the station ground made a very safe and secure way of handling static sensitive parts including the old and new motherboard, RAM memory, and hard drives.

I upgraded the computer from an Asus Z-97 to an Asus Z-490A with 16 gigs of DDR3 RAM, and the processor changed from a 4 core i5 3800 to an 8 core i7 10700 with 32 gigs of DDR4 RAM.  I am still using my Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card.  But quite the upgrade!  Also, with the new as of Christmas CH Products flight yoke and the rudder pedals, flying the simulator software is pretty dang realistic!  I have also been adding a lot of scenery files via the Ortho4XP free software.  See videos on how to do this at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ortho+4+xp+x+plane+11 and if you need some simplified instructions on how to use the software, email me for a copy that my good buddy Jeremy N6JER put together.

Flying close to the 808-foot-tall in real life WSM Blaw-Knox radio tower south of Nashville Tennessee in

X-Plane 11 and the real-life thing!  The scenery in the upper picture was generated in ORTHO4XP.

And here I am sharing the “cockpit” with my copilot little grandson Lucas, complete in an aviator jacket visiting Grandpa!

Hitting “TOGA” button Grandpa!

Many thanks to our good friend Paul WBØQMR for the repeater facilities of 146.70 in Dillon/Silverthorne. The repeater is connected to SkyHubLink full time and covers Breckenridge, Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco, and up the valley on CO 9 towards Green Mountain Reservoir.  Thanks, so much Paul for being part of the system!

And from another NETFLIX movie I watched lately, another great prop using a Zenith Transoceanic H-500 tube radio.  The story was set in the 50’s and this was actually in a radio station in the movie “The Vast of Night”.  And below, another radio setup with some pieces that are recognizable from the series “The Walking Dead”, also on NETFLIX.  A D-104 mic and Heathkit radio?  Motorola handheld?

 

And finally, this from my friend Evan Stone at WFLI in Chattanooga Tennessee!

What DO YOU DO with an old cart machine?

 

I was really happy to be able to get out on a ride this fine and WARM January day!  Sure do look forward to more!

HAMSHACK ARCHIVES FILES

 

                                                  4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2016/01/

                                                  5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/01/

                                                  6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/01/

 

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

 

 

 

SBE VHF/UHF Chapter 73’ of the Air SKYHUBLINK HAMnet

 

 

The SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SKYHUBLINK Hamnet is every Monday at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) worldwide via Echolink KG0SKY-L, node 985839 (available via computer and radio), Allstar node 46079, DMR Talkgroup 310847, AND try it with your hotspot on YSFtoDMR then TalkGroup 310847 or C4FM Fusion YSF node 92722.  The Hamnet is based in Denver on 449.450, pl 103.5, KDØSSP-RPT 448.350, Fusion/Wires-X, 449.600 Fusion and the 449.625 Fusion repeater, linked to WiresX room “DenverSkyhubLink” node 46361.  Also on DMR Talkgroup 310847 on the 449.750 Timeslot 1 DMR repeater in Denver.  See www.skyhublink.com for more information.

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/  

We hope you’ll join us. 

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

 

 

The Society of Broadcast Engineers

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

 

 

 

 

 

The KE0VH Hamshack – March 2021

March 20, 2021
By

                                                              March 2021

I meant to include the “Happy Birthday” to Nichelle Nichols in December 2020!

She paved the way for women in so many fields as Lt. Uhuru in “Star Trek TOS”.  Here she is at the “Capcom” position in Apollo Mission Control Center.  She is 88 years old!

The “First Lady” of COMMUNICATIONS!  Wonder if she ever thought about getting a ham license!?!?

I am going to start off this months edition by typing about the big winter storm that we had the weekend of March 13/14 here along the front range of Colorado, and up into Wyoming and Nebraska.   The storm (and yes the Weather Channel had to dub it with the name “Xylia”)(who sits around and thinks of this stuff?!?!?) was a prodigious snow producer and set up just perfectly to pound the northern front range and really hit a knockout punch to Wyoming as you will see in the pictures that follow.  I had 12.5 inches officially at the KEØVH QTH with drifts of 25 inches or more in spots.  The wind blew tremendously on Sunday, and I spent several hours digging as the storm progressed to help keep my driveway clear as possible without leaving me way to much digging to do when the storm abated.  We had blizzard warnings here in my area during Sunday afternoon, and the wind kept the snow horizontally coming down for several hours.  During the storm beginning on Saturday, we activated the brand on “Colorado Severe Weather Watch Net” (https://skyhublink.com/csww-net/) on the Skyhublink system with Matt Kaskavitch KØLWC as lead forecaster and NET control.  He is a well known forecaster in the storm chasing severe weather national community so having him with his system on SkyHublink is a real plus!  Matt is a former Colorado resident who has always been fascinated with our crazy weather patterns.  Matt maintained a tireless vigil, taking more than 100 check ins during the weekend, answering questions, giving updated forecasts for certain areas, and continuous briefs on the movements of the storm plus road and highway closure information.  Here is a picture of Matt’s “command, and net control” hamshack in Maple Grove Minnesota.

Above picture my looking out my front door in Wheat Ridge after a couple of shovelings!  WET HEAVY SNOW! Didn’t want a busted car windshield either!  And WAS THE WIND EVER BLOWING!!!

This picture shows the center of the storm wrapping around the powerful Low Pressure point in the eastern part of Colorado.  Below is the associated radar.  Just about a perfect slow moving “upslope” condition here that produces large amounts of snow over the front range.  Note the extremely well defined “dry line” thru western Kansas down into Texas.  This was producing severe tornadic producing thunderstorms ahead of the dry air.

Here you can see the dry clear sky air extending all the way down to the western edge of Mexico

nearly to Baja, drawing large amounts of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico….  No Wonder!!!

 

Daryl W3ORR from his vantage point in Cheyenne Wyoming provided information and totals on the storm during the event as well.  Daryl is a certified SkyWarn ham radio operator and a professional news/weather broadcaster.  He provided up to the minute information as well during the event.  All in all the very first activation of the Colorado Severe Weather Watch Net kept all SkyHubLink users informed and kept a lot of ears on the system repeaters for not only the forecasting but in case of emergency needs such as stranded motorists and the like.

Daryl W3ORR next to a Wyoming drift against his home!

Daryl’s hamshack and the Wires-X link radio for the SkyHubLink node in Cheyenne.  He will also use this node radio, a FTM-100 for the SHL link to the new 449.775 repeater that we will deploy as soon as we can.  Currently the node is operating on 449.775 simplex until weather and scheduling permit the deployment.

Clearing the massive amounts of drifted snow from I-80 near Daryl’s QTH (photo W3ORR)

 

Starting to clear the runways at KCYS (Cheyenne airport) and Daryls weather monitoring station at his QTH

Matt and Daryl linked into the SkyHubLink system using DMR, YSF, Wires-X and Echolink connections over the duration, providing a great test of the different connecting systems on the SkyHubLink during an actual activation.  As many of you have heard me say, SkyHubLink is here to provide communications for fun and everyday amateur use for connected repeaters and to be available for emergency communications when needed.  SHL is monitored daily by quite a few folks that alert us to outages and issues, which fortunately are few and far between these days thanks to Skyler WØSKY, Jermey WØJRL, Steve KDØSBN, and others. 😊 PLEASE JOIN US! www.skyhublink.com!

The KEØVH backyard and HF antennas, and below, Liu Liu, enjoying finally being out of the house!

In other happenings this month, on the Monday night before the snow started I was in Scottsbluff NE to install a new transmitter at our site the next morning.  The SBE/SkyHubLink Monday Night Net was ran via hotspot to cell phone tethering from my hotel room that evening.   Hotspot versatility is so useful when away from the main repeater coverage, although we hope to have the Scottsbluff SHL repeater back on the air soon from the South Mitchell site west of Scottsbluff and Gering.  When it is back on the air not only will the repeater cover the local area but a large section north, west into Wyoming, east towards Hastings, and SE towards Cheyenne, bringing just about non-stop coverage from Nebraska to New Mexico!

The Hotspot in the hotel room.  It is a Raspberry Pi-ZERO with an MMDVM board inside a small plastic case picked up at Walmart.  Travels well, I always carry it with me for reaching back to SkyHubLink when no linked repeaters are available.  You can get a kit that includes all except the $15 or so RPi0 board by going to this link:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/For-Raspberry-pi-UHF-VHF-MMDVM-hotspot-OLED-Antenna-Case-Support-P25-DMR-YSF-/402644605559

Our friend and sysop of the KDØSBN repeaters Pueblo west and Weston Steve, has been working on and tuning filters as of late for the machines he is setting up.  He has found a very effective way to test using Baofeng HT’s along with utilizing the NANO-VNA antenna analyzer.  Steve has done a great job setting these up using these inexpensive testing tools.  Very clever and cost effective!

Tuning the filters using the NANO-VNA

And then testing the passthrough and rejection frequencies using the Baofeng HT’s

 

 USING THE NANO-VNA connected to a laptop with the software

By the way, he is setting this system up for the, as he says, “somewhere near Weston” deployment for SkyHubLink coverage south of Walsenburg down to Trinadad.  Right now, he is operating it on the repeater frequency of 145.31 down in that area.  GREAT COVERAGE, and we cannot wait to get the repeater on line down there!

 

We may actually have another announcement regarding Fusion Wires-X and Colorado Springs SOON!  Stand by for NEWS!   Oh, and By The Way:

HAMSHACK ARCHIVES FILES

                                                   4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2016/03/

                                                  5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/03/

                                                  6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/03/

 

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

 

 

SBE VHF/UHF Chapter 73’ of the Air SKYHUBLINK HAMnet

 

 

The SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SKYHUBLINK Hamnet is every Monday at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) worldwide via Echolink KG0SKY-L, node 985839 (available via computer and radio), Allstar node 46079, DMR Talkgroup 310847, AND try it with your hotspot on YSFtoDMR then TalkGroup 310847 or C4FM Fusion YSF node 92722.  The Hamnet is based in Denver on 449.450, pl 103.5, KDØSSP-RPT 448.350, Fusion/Wires-X, 449.600 Fusion and the 449.625 Fusion repeater, linked to WiresX room “DenverSkyhubLink” node 46361.  Also on DMR Talkgroup 310847 on the 449.750 Timeslot 1 DMR repeater in Denver.  See www.skyhublink.com for more information.

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/  

We hope you’ll join us. 

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

 

 

The Society of Broadcast Engineers

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

 

 

 

 

 

March  2021 – Clay’s Corner

March 20, 2021
By

March  2021 – Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers

perspective since September 1986

 

Some liked him, some did not….but all can likely agree that Rush Limbaugh was one of the most influential broadcasters of our time. Just about a year after he announced that he had cancer, and it was terminal, Rush passed away on February 17th. For over 32 years, since August 1, 1988, Rush was on the air, daily, on some 600 stations and an audience in the millions.

Here, locally, his show was carried by Bonneville’s KTTH from 9 to noon. If you traveled much around the country, regardless of where you were during this time slot, you could find Rush on the air, usually on AM.

Many did not know that he got his start on the Radio as a DJ while still in high school and worked at various stations across the country. Give a listen to the following link. In it you will be certain to recognize his voice and the type of patter he continued to use in his show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=FPgO9NLy-7A&fbclid=IwAR3cGmuexJhybKJQ3RBIKpgUrS7xZ6Q0ZL3flLmDE5gudbgGaScEz1plYlo

Many are saying he got his real break in 1984 at KFBK in Sacramento.

Rush was an entertainer who became a political figure even though he was not a politician. People in entertainment know how important it is to find their niche. Rush certainly found his, and made millions doing so. Along the way he became the voice of the conservative movement and is given credit for having been very influential in the process. Apparently, much what we heard was ‘Showman Rush’ while in private he was a lower key humble man.

Another area needs to be mentioned…how he influenced AM Radio. I don’t know if he was on an FM Station somewhere…perhaps so…however is show was predominately on AM Stations, both large and small. His popularity was welcomed by owners and operators of AM’s at a time that many of them were falling behind to FM’s. Some have called him the savior of AM.

His passing  has now created a lot of concern at those stations that could well be viewing Rush’s death as an event that may, ultimately, cost them money and audience. Many a station felt that they were lucky to have Rush on their station…and often the ratings proved it.

Not often do we lose a talk show host and have a governor announce that flags will be flown at half staff. That’s what took place in Florida.

What is often not discussed is how he was very generous with his support of charities.

The network that carried his program, a division of iHeart Media, is certainly aware of the issue and is planning on airing re-runs, or ‘The Best of Rush’ for those that will want to hear his voice. He was the kind of a personality that you can’t just go out and hire a replacement for.

Since the onset of his illness, there have been several who have been subbing for Rush, including some from this area. I was thinking that this would be like trying to replace John Wayne or Alex Trebek. These are shoes that may be impossible to fill. Eventually, perhaps someone will be hired that can build on his success. Only time will tell. As I heard someone say, not everyone can sit down and talk three hours without a script! Another said, Jimmy Fallon may host “The Tonight Show,” but he’ll never be Johnny Carson. Another example comes to mind. Remember when Paul Harvey passed? There was an attempt to fill that slot with (if I recall correctly) his son that did not work as hoped for.

For those who need a periodic infusion of hyper-conservative rhetoric, there are no shortage of on Radio and TV willing to fill their tank with questionable substances.

Speaking of Jeopardy, the search goes on for a host for that popular show upon the death of long-time host Alex Trebek. In this case, the producers are going to be using some big names as guest hosts. That may work for a TV game show, but one that requires the host to do what Rush was doing is another matter.

Interesting bit of timing in that we recently lost another in a similar line of work – Larry King. Both of these men have left a very big mark in the world of Broadcasting.

Certainly, worth mentioning is what might be called one of the most difficult ‘remote broadcasts’ that came in the form of the latest landing of a package of equipment on the planet Mars. This one will have many more cameras and – microphones!!

The fact that the time difference makes it impossible for anyone to make a last minute correction, makes this all the more challenging. This is, perhaps, the ultimate automation system. In this case, it had to be smart enough to ‘think on its own’ and make last second corrections if required. This is nothing short of amazing.

One aspect of this mission is demonstrated in the following picture. Think of it. You have this automated landing sequence involving multiple devices that in the end lowers the rover to the surface with a parachute…and, in a case of incredible timing, you have the MRO orbiting the planet and able to capture an image of that portion of the landing sequence and transmit that image back to us millions of miles away. Words cannot adequately express how this one made me feel.

Now the exploration process will be ramping up and our TV screens will be filled with new images that only a few years ago would have been deemed totally impossible.

© JPL-Caltech/NASA HiRISE captured this image of Perseverance on its way to the landing site.

 

As my readers know, this past month I wrote rather extensive comments about truth, misinformation etc. After I had finished writing my column, news items were coming in that were related directly to what I was talking about.

Note this one came from ABC News (I highlighted portions).

 

DHS uses alert system for 1st time in a year to warn of domestic terrorism threat

Using a federal system designed to warn all Americans about terrorist threats to the U.S. homeland, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning that anger “fueled by false narratives”, especially unfounded claims about the 2020 presidential election, could lead some inside the country to launch attacks in the coming weeks.

 

And this from the New York Times –

The Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol has become a catalyst strengthening federal lawmakers’ resolve to enact stronger regulations on technology giants like Google and Facebook, whose platforms were used to spread election misinformation and incite the deadly riots. Members of Congress are already pursuing antitrust regulations to prevent big tech companies from wielding too much power, but action on hate speech, disinformation and data privacy could also come under President Joe Biden’s administration.

I recall hearing warnings, about 70 years ago, about this kind of thing. In those days we were told that this was the work of ‘Communists and Enemies’.

So congress is holding hearings and probes…’Tis what they do! They are also looking into popular social media platforms. Of course we can expect the political parties to get irritated. Frankly, I’m not sure that the U.S. Congress will be able to be objective, as they are likely to spend more time trying to protect their own biased view of the truth.

I wonder if they will also look into YouTube. There you can find people talking about every topic on the planet as if they were an expert…some of it pretty radical. What’s stopping anyone from putting on a white coat and adopting a name with doctor in front and promoting the latest snake oil?

In my opinion (which is worth as much as the ink that this column is printed on) we may well be incapable of having an objected, unbiased, bipartisan view of these issues. What we need to create is ‘Truth Police’. Or perhaps the ability to take the truth stretchers to court to prove what they are saying is true or face mandatory punishment. Many would, of course, call this a form of censorship and claim that their constitutional rights were being trampled. Oh well…I can dream, can’t I?

Former CNN host and now employee of Hearst Television Soledad O’Brien put it this way:

“I think that is nothing that the Congress has to deal with. It’s news organizations themselves who should hold themselves to this standard. It’s a journalistic standard,” O’Brien pushed for news outlets to avoid posing every story as “having two sides,” and to stop booking “liars” that spread false information. “Every perspective does not deserve a platform,” she said. “Media thrives on the open exchange of ideas, but that doesn’t mean you have to book a neo-Nazi every time you book someone who is Jewish.”

If you think that misinformation is something new…well, think again. The following is from ‘Science News’:

 

100 years ago, in 1921, The media magnate E.W. Scripps was contemplating the parallel goals he saw in science and journalism: to discover how the world works, and to explain it truthfully and in a way that people can understand. An informed, educated public, he believed, was essential to a democratic society.  Scripps was appalled by the media’s willingness to promote fake cures and dangerous theories, writing in 1919 that “there is a vast quantity of misinformation being constantly spread abroad by our newspapers.

 

As pointed out by the previous, we have been dealing with misinformation and conspiracy theories for a very long time. Unfortunately some broadcasters and the Internet have provided a vehicle to spread further and faster than ever before.

Fear is a ‘lubricant’ for these items. Remember a few years ago when NIER first was mentioned. Suddenly many who lived near a broadcast transmitter was thinking that they were getting ‘radiated’ and would, as a result, develop cancer. Cougar Mountain in our area became ground zero due to, at that time, the 10 – 100,000 kW FM’s that were there. Broadcasters across the country were suddenly having to deal with a new issue. Cellular has had their battles with neighbors putting up a fight over the thought of having a cell site nearby. Keeping those radiation hazards away from schools is common. More recently, the term 5G has come to mean evil with conspiracy theories linking these new communications systems with the Coronavirus, in some cases, causing people to attempt to destroy these new systems. In the case of the Internet, there is no limit to the amount of misinformation that can be spread. Only recently, after the Capitol Riots, have the social media system that many use to spread false and misleading information come under review of law makers that have come to learn first hand the damage that can be done, all in the name of free speech.

A well known person in this area, Bill Gates, has a conspiracy theory attached to his name as well. There are those who think that the Covid-19 vaccine being administered now also contains microchips that would permit tracking of those that received the shot. This is enough for some to declare they don’t want to be vaccinated.

A firm, based here in Seattle, according to this item from the Seattle Times appears to be also involved in the promotion of misinformation.

By Katherine Khashimova Long

Seattle Times business reporter

As vaccine misinformation has prompted some to say they will refuse to be inoculated against the coronavirus, the world’s largest online retailer remains a hotbed for anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers.

Amazon’s search algorithm boosts books promoting false claims about vaccines over those that debunk health misinformation, the researchers found — and as customers engage with products espousing bogus science, Amazon’s recommendation algorithms point them to additional health misinformation.

In the future, the fallout and damage from all of this will, perhaps, lead to regulations where there are licenses involved. Could a licensee of a Radio or TV station be challenged because they aired misinformation?

On the Coronavirus front:

The sad news is that deaths from this terrible virus have now gone past the 500,000 mark and they are predicting another 100,000 may succumb in the next couple of months. Looking at the annual death toll from other diseases, you find that about 730,000 or 29% of all deaths in the U.S. are attributed to heart disease and stroke. 580,000 or 23% are due to cancer. 140,000 die due to chronic respiratory disease and 130,000 die from accidents (including motor vehicle). Looking at it this way, at least over the past year, Covid-19 has become the 3rd largest cause of death.

Perhaps interesting is that Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. have lowered the life expectancy in this country by just over a year (1.13) with a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino populations.

The good news is the curves are (finally) going in the right direction. Vaccinations are increasing and we are all gaining hope.

Olympic Games authorities have yet to decide whether the Tokyo games will go forward this summer, due to rising coronavirus case numbers and vaccine shortages. NBCUniversal had bet on Olympic coverage in 2020 to kick start Peacock, and could lose billions in advertising revenue if the games are cancelled.

Looks like we will indeed have an NAB convention in Las Vegas this year, albeit, in the fall. Already plans are being made for a Spring show in 2022 to get us back on track.

As has been said by many – for the vaccine to work its magic, the majority of the population has to get it. Therein lies a problem. We have way too many who feel that the virus is a hoax or they have a degree of vaccine hesitancy. The sad part is some of these people are not likely to change their mind. This brings us back to the idea I wrote about quite a while back. We are likely to have to resort to some kind of incentive system to help with the issue. Employers can and should be engaged here (already some are). I suspect certain modes of travel may have to impose restrictions. How about if you want to attend a sporting event, you have to have been vaccinated? However, this would likely start up those who would take advantage of the situation by selling bogus Vaccination ID cards.

Perhaps we should look at Israel, a country with a high percentage of its citizens now vaccinated, to see how things are working there. Their parliament just passed a law allowing the government to share the ID’s of those that have not had their shots with other authorities until the pandemic is determined to be over. The big question, do people have a right to not be vaccinated? Which takes me to a couple of questions:

  • Could KRUD Broadcasting ask an applicant, or one that’s been working from home, if they have been vaccinated, or would that violate their rights to privacy?
  • Could KRUD choose to hire a vaccinated person over one that was not?

The pandemic has provided an opportunity for those who seek to profit from the situation. I recently received this item from a provider of internet spam:

According to Google, Gmail users received 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 during the early months of the pandemic (back in April). Add to that another 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages.

OK enough of that…shifting gear to EAS (one of my favorite topics):

For well over a year the Washington State SECC has had a Committee working on revising the State EAS Plan. One of the major reasons for this activity has been the FCC’s efforts in creating a uniform platform for EAS plans. At this point, state EAS plans have been ‘all over the map’ making it difficult for the FCC to approve them. Additionally, the FCC needed a better way to determine what the SECC’s were doing in the area of providing monitoring assignments for Participants (Radio and TV Stations and Cable). They have developed a system called ARS that will provide a method for SECC’s to report their work to the FCC. In turn, this information will be used to ‘cross-check’ the information the FCC receives from participants via ETRS. Fortunately, the Washington SECC’s Plan Revision Committee has been able to participate in a couple of webinars and beta tests of the system. Frankly, we have been waiting for the FCC to launch this new system. Well, the wait is over. What we did not know is the Commission is launching ARS within a new NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making).

This NPRM has hit the streets and is being reported on by various organizations that provide news etc. to Radio and TV Broadcasters (and I assume Cable operators). Most are labeling this as ‘FCC plans for improving EAS’.

The NPRM certainly does cover the long awaited ARS, but it also deals with some areas of EAS changes that are not part of it. Keep in mind that the FCC, like the Washington SECC, considers WEA as part of Public Alert and Warning. Therefore some of the new NPRM concerns both.

Here are some of the highlights (there are many more):

  • Mobile devices (FCC speak for your smartphone) would not be allowed to opt out of WEA alerts from FEMA
  •  SECC’s would have to meet at least once per year (Washington meet bi-monthly)
  •  Establish a requirement for SECC’s to work with the FCC (ARS)
  •  EAS Plans would not be available on the FCC Web Site (States could, if they wished)
  •  We may have some new Event Codes. For example, one dealing with National Security. Event codes dealing with this issue were dropped some years ago with the winding down of the cold war.
  •  Create a new Originator Code (NCA) that would permit FEMA to issue national level emergencies (presently only provision is for Presidential Messages). With that would come a new Event Code (NSE). Yes, this would likely require all EAS equipment to be upgraded.
  •  Create a mechanism for reporting EAS or WEA false alerts (think Hawaii missile attack)
  •  Propose a rule to require repeating an EAS message (currently these messages are a one time thing)

Part of the FCC release is an NOI (Notice of Inquiry)  that asks questions. These are typically efforts by the FCC to ‘run the matter up the flag-pole’.

  •  They are looking for input on the feasibility of delivering EAS Alerts via the internet and streaming services.
  •   How to augment Radio and TV, Cable and Satellite Radio message delivery via the internet.

I highly recommend that everyone carefully watch this activity as it will – very likely – impact many. I also recommend that you download the entire 52 page document from the FCC for the simple reason that the devil is in the details! Knowing the details has a lot of benefits.

Looking back at my early days in this business, maintenance of a broadcast station was very different than it is today. Sure, we had Vacuum Tubes, but we were required to determine the reason why a piece of equipment failed and then replace it so it would be placed back in service. The term for this is ‘component level trouble-shooting’. We relied on a number of businesses in our area that stocked the necessary parts. Those firms did not rely exclusively on broadcasters to keep them in business, as there were a large number of Radio-TV repair shops that were repairing consumer electronic equipment.

Over the years electronic equipment underwent major changes…becoming significantly more reliable. It also became increasingly more complicated to the point that some equipment could no longer be repaired locally. In many cases, it became more cost effective to replace it rather than repair it.

At the hobby level – electronics have made a major shift.

At the consumer level – you no longer see a Radio-TV repair shop in your area. Today you see consumer electronic equipment awaiting to be picked up with the trash.

So, when the demand dries up, so do the suppliers. Remember it was not that long ago that we lost Radio Shack. Recently it was announced that Fry’s were closing their doors – not just the huge facility in Renton – but all 31 stores, after nearly 36 years in business. Sure the Pandemic played a role, but the demand for a local electronics store has just about totally dried up. Today, there are (maybe) a handful in our area.

Thankfully there is still sufficient demand, so that a firm operating nationally can still supply those resistors and capacitors. And, yes…you can buy them from Amazon.

Now that huge building in Renton will be on the market, joining others that include K-Mart, Sears and others.

So who are the winners in this? As I sit here at home writing this, to my left is a window looking out at my street. Already today I’ve see trucks from Amazon, FedEx and UPS…and I live on a dead-end! Welcome to the new world.

Last month I noted the amount of gray, or missing, hair at the SBE Chapter Meeting. Here’s an item I ran across from NAB that digs into that issue:

Stations struggle to recruit, train new generation of broadcast engineers | Current

Another manufacturer of equipment has called it quits. Ward Beck Systems, maker of audio equipment has ceased operations. The company was founded by in 1967 by Ron Ward and Rodger Beck.

After wondering if we were going to get any lowland snow this winter, the wait was over on the afternoon of the 12th as the flakes began to fall. Our area was turned into a winter wonderland with snowfall over just about all of Western Washington. Officially, SeaTac Airport recorded just over 12 inches of the stuff. Not often you see snowmobiles going down your street!

Like most snow events in this area, warmer air was winning out later on Saturday. Meanwhile, south of us, Northwest Oregon was getting freezing rain that was causing a lot of headaches and power outages. I recall living in Portland, as a kid, and experiencing what my folks called a ‘Silver Thaw’ that did a lot of damage with inches of ice covering everything. Thankfully, we have few of these events in the Seattle/Tacoma area. I do recall one however, around Christmas, when the ice brought down a lot of power lines and trees. SR-18 east of Auburn was closed due to fallen timber.

Here’s a picture of a Ham Radio antenna from the Portland area belonging to former Entercom-Portland Chief Engineer, Kent Randles being bent over by the ice-storm that hit that area.

The Ice winning this battle!

Here Kent is showing how the ice built up on the guy ropes holding his antenna.

 

On the hills to the west of downtown Portland are many very large towers that support antennas for the area’s FM and TV Stations. You have to believe that they collected their share of ice as well. When the temperatures warmed, that ice falls to the ground. You DO NOT want to be near one of them when this is taking place.

Pat Shearer, Broadcast/RF Systems Engineer for KPTV/KPDX Broadcasting, shared the following picture. He wrote:

“The attached pic shows the 4″ ice that was covering the tower at the peak of the storm

There were literally hundreds of pieces of ice laying on the ground at the base of the tower. I took that pic to show the thickness but that piece was by far not the largest one I saw. there was one that was about 16″ x 5″ x 4″ thick and you could see the curve where it came off a tower leg.”

Look at the size of those ‘ice-cubes’ compared to that glove.

 

Pictured here is the second winter site access vehicle owned by AccelNet. They need to access West Tiger too, due to their growing amount of facilities up there. It’s been interesting to observe how Land Mobile/2-Way radios were replaced by Cellular, which significantly reduced the amount of equipment at these mountain top facilities. Now they are being put to use by firms, like AccelNet who are called WISPs or Wireless Internet Service Providers.

 

 

This picture was taken by Doug Fisher of the transmitter building at South Mountain, home of KOMO-FM, KDDS and KLSY. He said there was 4-5 feet of snow on top.

The forecast on Saturday the 13th indicated that by the following weekend, all of this would be just a memory with temperatures to be near 50. Time to be putting away the snow shovels and thinking about getting that lawn mower started for the season to come.

For those of us who still, routinely, travel to higher elevation locations, we can look forward to, perhaps, two more months of winter weather at locations like West Tiger Mt. where snow can, and often does, remain a factor until mid April.

Meanwhile, Snoqualmie Pass (25 miles to the ESE at a similar elevation) is experiencing the most amount of snow they’ve had in 10 years…and winter is not over yet. You can check out the snow totals by going to WSDOT, Mountain Passes, Snoqualmie Pass, Snow Dept. Report. It will ask you to choose which pass and season. Interesting to look back at previous years to see how this year stacks up (no pun).

After the big snow, Alex Brewster and Rob Purdy needed to go up to West Tiger for a Hubbard Issue and found this about two miles up the 6+ miles to the site:

Their Jeep, with chains, was dragging bottom. Next step – call Doug Fisher to come up with his Gator with tracks.

Steven Allen visiting the KIRO-AM Transmitter on Vashon after the snow found that someone had built a snowman…with a big smile!

Meanwhile other parts are dealing with some historic winter conditions. This headline is something you don’t often see.

Blackouts Cascade Beyond Texas in Deepening Power Crisis

Severe winter weather is not something you normally associate with Texas, but not this year, as the mid-February frigid weather spread across the middle of the continent all the way into Mexico. Here are some of the high (or low) points related to this years winter blast.

The record low temperatures are exceeding the capacity of many electrical utilities, which have been forced into having rotating outages all the way into Mexico.

  • At a time where there is political pressure to shift from a fossil fuel generation to one based on renewable energy sources, this is proving to be a huge wake-up call.
  • Many wind power systems have been rendered out of commission due to something they apparently did not plan on – ice on the blades.
  • Oil production has been reduced due to the cold, which is causing gas prices to increase all over.
  • A shortage of natural gas has forced a number of generating plants off line as consumers furnaces are running like never before.
  • Cold is having an effect on the electric grid much as excessive heat did this part year.
  • It was 18 degrees in Houston, matching the temperature in Anchorage. Meanwhile, it was 5 degrees in Dallas.
  • Abilene Texas had 14 inches of snow (we had just over 4).
  • This storm is a big one — stretching all the way from Texas to New England. Unlike most winters, Texas has been hit the hardest.

Here’s a picture of them de-Icing blades on a wind turbine:

I wonder if the operators of all the wind farms in our state are prepared to deal with a situation like this?

Texas broadcasters jumped into action providing citizens with badly needed information. Many scrambled to stay on the air. Certainly those with generators and an adequate supply of fuel learned of the value of planning ahead for the unforeseen. Tragically, the state did very little in the way of public warning via EAS etc. Obviously there are going to be a lot of ‘corrective actions’ taken in the months ahead.

Thinking about this, I wonder what would happen to this area if we were hit with the kind of weather Texas had? There are likely many that feel. ‘That won’t happen here’.

Obviously there will be some serious repercussions from this event. We’ve not heard the last about this one. Far from it. A lot of politicians likely are very apprehensive about the next election cycle.

Interestingly the Chinese are using this event to tout how this would not take place in their country due to their superior system of government.

The following was posted on the EAS Forum: Needless to say, there are a lot of very upset people in the Lone Star State.

Time to add Texas to the list of states needing to learn lessons from other states. All disasters may be local, but the resources and response shouldn’t be just local.

Texas Tribune

As Texans endured days in the dark, the state failed to deliver vital emergency information.

When the lights went out this week and Texans lost access to power and clean drinking water, the Texas Division of Emergency Management failed to provide accessible and life-saving updates on outages and inclement weather.

Texas was not the only place in the country to experience the ravages of winter this year.

What you are looking at here is the top of a tower that used to hold an FM broadcast antenna (the black things in the picture) for KOEZ in Des Moines, Iowa, laying on the ground.

 

In this case the storm toppled the top half of the tower of the 100,000 watt station.

The bottom line – we here in this area have it pretty good in many ways and should be very thankful! At the same time, we should not be smug and complacent!

I often write about West Tiger (the mountain). Lowell Kiesow (Chief Engineer for KNKX) ran across this one. Look closely at the little white building.

According to Lowell, the place pictured is on the BNSF Cherokee sub near Catoosa, Oklahoma.

Just for fun, I Googled West Tiger and found some interesting and unrelated things.

  • How about the Appleton West Tigers Lacrosse Team in Appleton, Wisconsin?
  • Let’s not forget the West Tiger Salamander.

 

Well….The Radio Ratings are out. Here’s how the 12+ top-stations stack up:

#1 KIRO-FM  (News/Talk)
#2 KUOW      (News/Talk)
#3 KISW         Rock (of course)
#4 KOMO       (News)
#5 KZOK
#6 KQMV
#7 KJR-FM
#8 KEXP
#9 KSWD
#10 KRWM

A couple of observations…

  • 3 of the top 4 don’t play music
  • #2 and #8 don’t play commercials
  • #8, compared to the others, has very limited coverage

 

From the department of ‘I recall those call letters’…

KFKF – Once used in Bellevue now resides with an FM station in Kansas City.

Here is truly a great picture from the Seattle Times. You can see the I-90 Floating Bridges crossing Lake Washington. If you look carefully at the upper right corner, you can see the broadcast towers on West Tiger Mt.

 

Coming as no surprise – Boeing announced an $11.9 billion loss in 2020. Their list of issues just keeps growing.

  • The grounding of the 737 Max (thankfully recently lifted)
  • QC issues with their 787
  • Huge write-off on the 777 Max
  • The recent engine failure on a 777 (not their fault)

As a result they are moving all the 787 production to South Carolina and recently announced they are moving out of one of their buildings in the former Longacres site.

Sinclair and KOMO recently made the news with their announcement that they will be delivering their local radio stations via the KOMO-TV ATSC-3.0 signals.

Probably a bit early to ask that auto dealer where you are shopping for new wheels if they can receive it. Time will tell if this will be a competitor to other providers of audio content to vehicles such as SiriusXM. I have to wonder, are we doing this because we can or because of a forecast for demand. Oh yes, it has a name – Nextgen TV Hybrid Service. If you have a NextGen TV let me know how it works.

In the big bad world of spectrum shuffling, a company representing the small user is asking the FCC to reverse a decision. Shure Inc., maker of wireless microphones has filed a petition with the Commish, asking them to reverse its position and guarantee that at least one 6 MHz TV channel in each market be reserved for wireless use. What is perhaps not well understood inside the Beltway is the fact that there are a zillion wireless microphones out there that need a place to operate. I’d bet that most of their owners are not aware of all of the spectrum changes or are just ignoring them, hoping for the best.

To their credit, the FCC did identify spectrum at 900 MHz, 1.4 and 7 GHz as alternatives. Shure has pointed out how this effort falls short. There is more info on the Shure Website.

Congratulations to KISW in Seattle as they celebrate their 50th anniversary. KISW is not just celebrating 50 years on the air, they are celebrating 50 years with the same format. Not many radio stations can make that claim. Feb 14th, 1971. Do you remember those days? Over the years the station has been owned by various firms. For the last several, it has been Entercom. Their transmitter is at West Tiger, where they share a transmit antenna with other Entercom stations KNDD, KKWF and KHTP (as well as several others). They moved to West Tiger from Cougar Mt. Before that, their transmitter was on Roosevelt Hill.

How about a couple of pretty pictures from the AccelNet Cameras. This first one is from their Cougar Mt. camera. The tower on the left is used by 94.1 and 96.5 as an auxiliary. In the distance you can see the entire Olympic Mountain range sporting a wonderful coating of snow.

The following is from one of the several cameras they have on West Tiger. I liked this one as it was looking directly into the Sun. Note the coating of snow on the trees.

Radio employment opportunities in Seattle this month:

  • Daniel Sipe has elected to exit broadcasting and iHeartMedia and is going to work for a gaming company. This means there is a job opening….

https://iheartmedia.wd5.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/External_iHM/job/Seattle-WA-645-Elliot/Regional-Engineer_Req23058-1

  • Paul Carvalho is no longer with Bonneville-Seattle creating an employment opportunity. Steven Allen is filling in until a permanent replacement is named.

https://deseretmanagement.wd1.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/BonSeattle/job/Seattle/Chief-Engineer_R3162

And, you are looking to get out of town and really love snow…consider this one:

There are two job openings at New Hampshire Public Radio. One is Senior Broadcast Engineer, which is primarily responsible for the studio facilities, and the other, Broadcast Transmission Engineer, which is primarily responsible for the transmitter sites. Both will overlap into the other, but this is their primary focus. If you’re interested, please take a look at  https://nhpr.applicantpro.com/jobs/

Interested? Contact Randy Woods –  RWoods@NHPR.org

The NAB has filed an objection with the FCC to a proposal from Geo Broadcast that would let programs originate on FM Boosters. Much of this is based on Geo’s experience with what are called SFN’s or Single Frequency Networks. This is where an FM Station operates one, or more, boosters using the same frequency. (Bustos Media has been doing this here in this area for some time on 99.3.) The concept would permit these systems to geo-target commercials on those boosters that serve specific areas. There are obviously pros and cons, and now that the FCC has been asked to create rules that would make this a permissible activity. Its time for interested parties to make comments.

The NAB has stated, “permitting program origination on boosters will almost certainly drive both advertising rates and revenues down even further as advertisers push to purchase geo-targeted ads.”

Photographer extraordinaire, Dwight Small, captured this gem with his cellphone camera of a wonderful moonset over his backyard. Can you imagine telling George Eastman that one day you would be able to take pictures like this with a telephone…at night?

 

I asked Dwight what he was doing up at that time of morning. He said he just woke up early…and now we can all benefit.
Permitting foreign ownership of a broadcast station in the U.S. has long been an issue. In recent years rules have changed. It was recently announced that a British radio/ outdoor media firm has purchased an 8.8% stake in iHeartMedia worth 117.6 million U.S. Bucks.

Speaking of money changing hands, three law firms will receive $3.47 million in fees as a part of a Class Action settlement with SiriusXM. Seems the Satcaster used the term ‘Lifetime Subscription’ with some of their customers. When those customers tried to transfer their subscription to another vehicle the company baulked. Apparently they meant for the lifetime of the receiver or vehicle, not the customer (oops). So now, as a result of the settlement, about a million SiriusXM customers will indeed have a ‘lifetime’ subscription. At times it pays to read the fine print.

From the category of ‘Is it just me?’ I have certainly noticed a big increase in the number of Robocalls I’ve been receiving. Some of the more memorable:

  • Hello, this is Kate…From the broken English used, I have to assume a Eastern Europe location. The pitch varies. She is telling you that something you don’t want is about to happen and to press a number to be connected to someone that can help. The one I recently received advised me that my computer virus protection company has gone out of busines and I am to Press- ___ to be connected to the refund department.
  • The Social Security Fear Call (they know my age and that I’m likely collecting it.) The caller advises you that they are from the Social Security Administration and have detected illegal activity and are to press a number.
  • The Car Warranty call. Your vehicle warranty has expired, but they can help.
  • The Expensive Amazon Purchase. You have ordered something expensive (usually an I-Phone) and if you wish to cancel…Press…

Number spoofing only adds to the problem as your Caller ID has been rendered useless. If  you call the number back you often find out it’s a number that’s been disconnected…but not always. I have found that an innocent person will answer and be surprised to learn how their number is being used.

Just about all of them are wanting you to ‘take the bait’. Often using fear as the prime motivator. Once you press that number you get some smooth talker that wants your credit card number so they can get you a refund. Just for fun, a while back, I played along. When they asked if I wanted the refund…I said Sure! When they asked for credit card information, I told them that I did not use a credit card and requested they send a cashiers check. In about two nanoseconds they hung up.

The sad part is that there likely many that take the bait and become a scam victim. If there were not, they would give up and go away.

And, we have been given the opinion that our Government is cracking down on this kind of thing. Perhaps these operators are like those that operate Pirate Radio Stations? They are, apparently, a few steps ahead of the law…or could care less about government efforts to curtail their business?

This has impacted me in one major way. Whereas I am on call for the people I work for, I have always left my cellphone on in my bedroom at night. Regrettably, these yahoos like to make their calls at all hours. My desire to get a full nights sleep is going to mean that if I am wanted during bed-time they are going to have to call my land line. I will simply put my phone on mute.

Remember the old days when a long distance phone call cost a lot of money? And there were no computers to do all the dirty work? Back then these types had to use real money and pay for printing and postage to get this stuff into your mailbox. Here’s a reversal: A Radio broadcaster in Milwaukee is reported to be signing a deal that will have them move their stations to a downtown mall. The new space will have window view of the studios. In the past, locating radio stations within malls or at street level in downtowns was popular. I fondly remember KISN being on a downtown Portland street where you could view the announcers.

Perhaps this is in the category of when old becomes new again?

Guess I should mention that across the street from T-Mobile Park in Seattle are the KING-TV Studios.

With Malls and Radio stations both hurting financially, perhaps this will come back?

Earlier in this column I was lamenting about the demise of the local electronic parts store. One of those ‘components’ that we used to use is becoming increasingly scarce. That being the 3AG fuse. Recently someone wrote about this little critter titling the piece: Goodbye 3AG fuse, we’ll miss you

He lead the piece with a picture of a ‘good fuse’:

And followed with a blown one:

His article was written for someone that likely does not repair electronic equipment.

The bottom line is the good old fuses, like these, are indeed becoming increasingly rare in today’s equipment, as power levels are lower and the demand for something smaller has become essential.

Then there is the old joke –

The story of the newbie who was tasked to check and sort all of the spare fuses. When the boss returned to check, all of the fuses had been discarded. “They were all shorted!”

Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of people in the ‘Radio Biz’. Perhaps because of the fear that your gender will be confused by your listeners, most announcers/ DJ’s etc. have ‘lower’ pitched voices. I’m sure you have heard someone say to a person with a low voice – They have a voice for Radio.

Well,  there are low voices and then there are LOW voices –

Listen To The Guy With The World’s Lowest Voice Sing ‘Lonesome Road’ – Digg

I always like to end this column with a funny or two, usually sent to me by my readers.

The next one is certainly in the ‘Groaner’ category.

A special thanks to all of you that sent me pictures this month. (Keep ‘em coming.)

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, get vaccinated, stay safe and continue to wear your mask…and that means cover your nose too.

The ‘All-Clear’ Is getting closer.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

A SBE Fellow

SBE Member # 714

Since March 1968

 

 

 

 

February  2021 – Clay’s Corner

March 20, 2021
By
February  2021 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

 

The big news item of this past month was likely the events in WDC. The amount of air-time given to this was huge.

The word of the month was ‘STORM’…

  • Storming the Capital in WDC on Jan. 6th
  • Rain and wind Storms in WA State on Jan. 12th

On the night of the 12th our Atmospheric River induced heavy rain was aided by a pretty intense windstorm that knocked out power to, reportedly, over 500,000 customers of PSE, Seattle City Light, Clallum County PUD, Tacoma Power and Lewis County PUD (I’m sure there were others).

Many likely did not receive much warning about the windstorm, giving them time to be able to avoid flying patio furniture. Lowell Kiesow (KNKX) submitted this excellent item about the sudden storm:

https://theconvergencezone.com/2021/01/13/5-reasons-why-a-significant-puget-sound-windstorm-occurred-with-almost-no-warning/

Sinclair’s Tim Moore submitted these pictures of the power lines feeding the Cougar Mt. broadcast transmitters, at this point, laying on the ground. This was one of the longer power outages at Cougar Mt., with power being restored about 10 p.m. on the 16th, making it about a five day outage.

Look closely at this tree that was snapped off by the wind.

 

I received a note from Paul Carvalho at KIRO Radio that was an interesting twist. Due to Covid, many of their on-air personnel were working from home, as opposed to coming into the downtown studios. Then, along comes a big windstorm, with many of those home studios being without power. Time to find isolated places within the studio for them to work from, causing quite a scramble.

Arthur Willits was on his way to West Tiger to check on the Day-Star TV transmitter when he discovered that access was going to require a big chainsaw.

Doug Fisher reported that South Mountain got hit very hard with flooding and landslides taking out the powerline and generator failures. That site, finally got its power back from Mason County PUD at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Many of the AM’s on Vashon were impacted by power outages, as well indicated on the PSE Outage Map on the morning of the 13th. Thankfully, all of them have generators.

Thankfully, the evening of the 14th we were treated with a wonderful sunset. This taken from my back deck:

 

On the Covid front –

Did you ever think we would see ‘Drive-Thru’ vaccinations?

Some good news for us seniors. We will be able to get it earlier than once thought. I received my first dose on January 21st. My second one is already scheduled for February 24th.

The good news is now it appears that our Governor and President are on the same page with this pandemic. Perhaps even better news is that our President is NOT anti-science!

Meanwhile, as of the 24th of January, the totals are still grim!

  • Total worldwide cases –  Approaching 100 Million
  • Total worldwide deaths – Approaching 2.2 Million
  • Total U.S. Cases – Over 25 Million
  • Total U.S. Deaths – Over 423,000
  • Total Washington cases – Over 300,000
  • Total Washington deaths – Over 4,100

Even if you have been vaccinated we will continue to have restrictions until a sufficient number of us have been poked. Bottom line – We have a way to go. Don’t throw away those masks!

On the good news front (yes there is some), Salem Media Group just announced that they are restoring employee compensation to 2019 levels. Like many firms, salaries were cut due to the Covid-related economic downturn.

And on the ‘not so good news front’, Alpha Media has filed for Chapter 11. The firm that owns 200 radio stations, based in PDX (Portland, OR) said the action was due to ‘Covid-19 Headwinds. The firm owns stations in Wenatchee and Grays Harbor as well as Portland.

The list of events being cancelled continues –

  • The Mike and Key Club Flea Market in Puyallup
  • The Sea-Pac Convention in Seaside
  • NAB in Las Vegas
  • The summer Olympics in Tokyo

Certain to make headlines will be the announcement that an annual event will be held!

NAB is planning on having enough of us vaccinated by this fall to have a show in Las Vegas. Along with this will be the fall SBE Meeting. We shall see.

For some time, some of the larger Radio companies have been taking advantage of the talents of some of their on-air personalities and syndicating them. Thanks to the fact that you can send a high quality audio signal across the continent these days with minimal expense. Here in our area, Hubbard has decided to do this with one of their morning shows. Recently Entercom announced one of their stations would be switching to 100% syndicated operation. This means there will not be any life/local announcer/DJ’s. Come to think of it, has not KJAQ/96.5 been in this mode for a long time? The changes caused by the Pandemic have accelerated this process in many cases. New radio studio facilities may well look a lot different in the future as a result. It will be interesting to see if a ‘Live and Local’ time segment, within the same format, will be more successful. Perhaps hearing a DJ talk about local things, weather etc. will prove to not be that important? Look at TV. At one time, many stations had live/local programming. Now, other than newscasts, this is rare. Remember when there were four stations in this area than had live programming for children every afternoon? (Stan, Captain, JP and Brakeman)

Now that Pai is gone, and we have a new administration, it’s time for a shake-up in leadership at the FCC. Accordingly, President Biden has appointed Jessica Rosenworcel as the acting head of the Commission. This follows a natural process, as she was the senior Democrat on the FCC for some time. Time will tell if her new job will become permanent.

At the Inauguration, someone snapped a picture of Bernie Sanders seated with mittens. Boy did that attract attention, with his picture showing up all over social media. People are showing Bernie in all kinds of various locations. It did not take long before someone had him sitting in a broadcast setting, like the following in front of a huge old RCA Transmitter.

A thank you to the Seattle SBE Chapter for inviting me to be their ‘program’ at their January Meeting. I showed, via Zoom, my collection of 75 pictures of the West Tiger-2 Antenna Fire and re-construction. While reflecting on who was in the meeting when I joined SBE, if I recall correctly, only one person. Good to see you Walt! There are not many of us around with 3-digit membership numbers that remember those days at the Dog House and the W7 Room.

The FCC is making it clear to owners of C-Band stations they have to move to make room for more wireless operations…and have set a deadline for doing so. The following link provides more details: FCC gives earth station operators final warning Earth Stations that don’t appear to be operating or that haven’t notified the Federal Communications Commission of their operational status will be shut down as of April 19. The FCC says most stations are accounted for and will make the transition to the upper part of the band, but some have not responded to multiple communications and are at risk of being terminated.

And now, a bit of technical humor –

Now, if I may, I’d like to share some personal thoughts regarding something else – Truth.

I recall the days when I got into this business, we had several sources for news and information –

  • AP and UPI wire services – Every station, Radio or TV, had one or both.
  • Radio Networks – ABC, CBS, NBC and MBS
  • All but the smallest stations were affiliated with one of them.
  • TV Networks – ABC, CBS and NBC
  • Just like Radio, the major stations were affiliated with a major network.

Back in those days, just about every radio station aired 3-5 minutes of news every hour. TV ran a combination of local and network news, much as they do now. In those days news, pretty much, meant factual reporting.

Over the years – Radio and TV started changing.

  • Radio Stations stopped trying to be what was called ‘Full Service’, opting for specialization, usually adopting a specific music type, or, in some cases, just news and/or talk. The number of stations that aired news or had a wire service, or network affiliation, was reduced to just a few. As the number of stations grew, so did the number of formats without any news.
  • As the number of TV stations increased, only a few hung onto their long-standing formats that featured news. Many of the new ones, became…news-less.

Looking back at radio, one is hard pressed to come up with names and programs that were delivering anything but good, old fashioned, objective news. There were some exceptions, many of whom were newspaper columnists that adapted to broadcasting. Walter Winchell, Drew Person, Gabriel Heatter, and of course, Paul Harvey come to mind (yes, I do recall my family listening to them). We knew that these were newspaper columnists and a lot of what they were airing was opinion. Back in those days, Broadcasting was much like newspapers. There was a clear line between fact and opinion.

Fast forward to today –

We have had an explosion in the number of delivery systems – Cable and Satellite Radio and TV and program providers, and, of course the Internet that has become the biggest distributor of all. Perhaps one of the biggest changes was the introduction of 24/7 news outlets on Cable and Satellite.

With the resulting multiplication of choices has come the need to do whatever it takes to attract attention to your brand so as to be able to survive, or increase profits.

Somewhere along the way, the philosophy of the ‘Supermarket Tabloid’ was adopted by many sources looking for a niche. Many discovered that you did not have to tell the truth. What you needed to do is appeal to the subconscious to the point that they would make a purchase based on very different criteria. These folks learned, long ago, that truth did not matter. They were in the business to sell their paper and, thereby, make money. Sadly, some broadcasters followed suit.

Add to all of this the increasingly polarized political climate in our country, coupled with the desire to see and hear what you want to see and hear, you have the recipe for a lot of what we have today where, in some cases, truth has become optional. Or, putting it another way, one man’s truth has become the other man’s lies. In order to maximize your potential audience (and thereby maximize your profits), many have learned that you can appeal to a specific segment that believes a certain way and turn that into money. Who would have thought that we’d have, to this extent, polarized media?

In the past, I’m sure, some politicians stretched the truth…or, perhaps, outright lied. What’s new here is that now we have broadcasters (using the term loosely) that have moved away from objective, honest and factual reporting, apparently catering to those that like to hear news that fits their point of view. A lot of what bills itself as news today is not based on facts or objectivity, but rather on a bias that is designed to appeal to a target audience who wants to hear what they have come to believe. The owners of these outlets know well what they are doing. In some cases, the size of the bottom line overshadows the desire to be truthful, something the ‘Snake-Oil’ salesman of yesteryear knew very well, and in some cases, political leaders.

Those that are not willing to ‘drink the Kool-Aid’ and are willing to sort out the fact from fiction are likely OK as they are not as gullible. However, I am concerned that their numbers are declining.

When I was 20 (way back in the last century) I was, pretty much, provided information that was not only factual but could be verified. I have to wonder about those that are 20 now, with fewer reading newspapers and magazines, and more getting their information via social media etc. How are they choosing what’s fake or factual? Do the 20-somethings take the time to determine whether a Left or Right leaning information source is telling the truth? Do they bother to compare the broadcast or even cable offerings that bill themselves as news?

I’m not the only one that has noticed this issue.

Recently journalist Megyn Kelly said this, “…because there has been a complete lack of trust, a destruction of trust in the media, and people don’t know where to turn for true information.”

As we look back at the previous four years where truth telling from the ‘top’ has been optional, have we, as a society, learned something? Perhaps, most importantly, how can a broadcaster convey that what they air is true and can be believed? Seems to me our industry has a lot of work to do – lest it be as credible as those tabloids. I should mention, at least one, of our local TV stations is running clips featuring various anchors, stating how they stand for truth. This just underscores what I have been saying here.

One of the major problems for mainline broadcasters is the fact that many no longer tune in, preferring to get their information from Social Media, where there are little, if any,  checks and balances and where facts are often replaced with falsehoods, rumors and, propaganda. Some politicians have seized on the opportunity to push their agenda using these platforms knowing well that there is a huge audience out there ready to adopt rumors and outright fiction. Look as what’s happened with 5G. Social media nuts have pushed the idea that it causes Covid, to the point that many cell sites have been vandalized in an attempt to stop the ‘death rays’. When it comes to conspiracy theories, the Internet has become the wild wild west. And, in the minds of many – a source of truth! (P.T. Barnum perhaps foresaw the Internet.)

Perhaps the most frightening thing is the statistics that show how many, firmly, believe things that are not true. Those numbers are huge!

Broadcasters have a huge challenge – how to attract an audience with the truth. This goes back to the supermarket checkout. Chances are a fiction filled tabloid will outsell the local daily newspaper.

Hats off to Tegna who recently announced they are expanding their ‘Verify’ program, whose goal is to combat disinformation (or is it misinformation?) You have likely seen this feature on Tegna stations in your area.

Were things better in this regard 50 years ago? I really think so. Does anyone else see it this way?

(Soap box off.)

There are a number of firms now with a portfolio of a large number of towers, many of which used to belong to cellular, land-mobile or broadcasters. Crown Castle, Vertical Bridge and American Tower quickly come to mind. Most of these firms continue to grow. Recently American Tower, who owns a number of major sites in the Seattle area, has expanded with their, reportedly $9 billion acquisition of Telxius and has gained a large foothold by adding some 31,000 sites in Europe and South America.

Another great picture from one of the NWBP Engineers, Jason Royals.

This time the transmitter location of KNWV, a Class A licensed to Clarkston,WA on 90.5.

Working on this side of the Cascades, we rarely get to see open country like this, thanks to our forests.

As far as I can tell, there has not been a great rush by owners of AM stations to jump on the ‘All-Digital’ bandwagon now that the FCC has given the mode the ‘Green-Light’. However, the number of stations running this mode, apparently, recently doubled with WMGG in Tampa, Florida joining the ‘club’.

Much like the station in the WDC area that started the process, WMGG has a companion FM band translator affording those that don’t have an HD Radio the ability to continue to hear the station on their analog receivers.

WMGG operates on 1470 using a shared directional antenna running 2800 watts daytime and 800 watts at night.

There was a recent editorial in Radio World that describes what I’ve been saying for years. To a significant degree, Broadcast Engineering has become full of Gray Haired folks, or, if you are like me – no hair. The author makes a number of good points.

  • He sees trouble ahead due to a shortage of qualified broadcast engineers who know how to read schematics and troubleshoot problems to the component level.
  • We are seeing newbies whose troubleshooting abilities are limited to calling the factory, describing the problem and waiting until a loaner gizmo arrives.
  • Not helping the situation is the fact that a lot of equipment in use today is made overseas and is so cheap, that tossing it in the trash and buying another has become a viable option.
  • Today, stations have become full of computers that employ those that maintain them, but we should not forget we also have a lot of other things that enable a station to ‘Radiate’.
  • Quoting now the author who wrote, “sending an IT guy into that is like sending a 90 year old woman into the Indy 500 with her Buick LeSabre. She ain’t gonna win and she will probably die trying.”
  • His recommendation, “We all, especially big conglomerates who own most of the broadcast stations, have to make a concerted effort to get high school and college kids interested in broadcast engineering as a career. Get them interested, get them educated, best by shadowing an old goat who can show them the tricks of the trade”.

On the personal side, as of the first of the year, I am no longer receiving a regular check from Entercom. I started with ETM when they swapped an FM station in NYC for 97.3, 100.7 and 1210 AM back in about 1995. When I left being a full timer, I became a contractor with a retainer and a steady paycheck. Now that too is in the past. I may still do some ‘task-specific’ work for them. This is TBD. 25+ years with the same company, in one capacity or the other, is a long time. This means that Phil Van Liew will now pick up the slack and be taking care of the transmitters for all five of the local Entercom stations. ‘Tis time that I cut back anyway. I still make routine visits to Cougar and West Tiger for my other clients.

Not often I look at the obits in the Sunday Times. On the 3rd there were three former area broadcasters that passed.

Dick Curtis, formerly with KJR, KOL and other related businesses. He, like many, attended Bates (then known as Tacoma Vocational School) and went on to a successful career in radio.

Alan Houston was with KING 5 for almost 40 years.

Mark Simonson, formerly with KOMO-TV for over 30 years.

Another passing I want to mention is that of Mike McCarthy. Likely few of you in the Seattle area knew him. I first met Mike, waaay back when I was working for Viacom at a meeting we had in Chicago where he was the assistant Chief at WLAK. We hit it off and remained friends for many years. A couple of years ago he and his family came out here for a look at the PNW. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a heavy layer of smoke and forest fires. At least we did get to all have lunch together. Mike was very active on several national engineering remailers and was known to all as a very knowledgeable engineer.

.

August 31, 1962 – December 30, 2020

 Michael McCarthy, of Downers Grove, IL died peacefully after a long battle with lymphoma, a stem cell transplant, and GVHD. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer Adelman-McCarthy, daughters Kelly and Colleen McCarthy, and his therapy dog, Koehl; sister Christine (Albert) Goetz of Roselle; niece Alison (Goetz) Martin; and brother Thomas (Laura) McCarthy of Leander, TX.

Mike was a longtime member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers and served on both the National and Local Boards of Directors. Mike attained certifications CSRE and CEA. Serving as the Chicago Frequency Coordinator was perhaps his favorite “side job”, as it allowed him behind-the-scenes access to Bears, Cubs, White Sox, and Blackhawks playoff games. For the past two decades he has been the Chief Engineer for Newsweb Radio. Mike took great pride in making everyone sound their best on the air. Owner of McCarthy Radio Engineering, he was happiest when messing with transmitters and towers.

He was a ham radio operator and spent time and talent giving back to the community in emergency communications. He and his friends built a huge network of repeaters allowing Chicago area ham operators to communicate with the weather service. They spent many a stormy day and night at the weather office relaying messages. He contributed technically, with Jen and a local group of hams, to rescue efforts on 9/11. He was always ready to step up and help.

I’ve recently been doing some ‘house cleaning’ and came across a number of things to share with you –

This item was on a box that was, apparently, used to ship a Vox Pro (Audio Editor) from Audion Labs to Cal Vandegrift in Federal Way. Do you remember when Harris (now GatesAir)  and Allied were one? Anyone care to guess the year?

 

How about this gem? This nice metallic label was once attached to an ATC Cartridge Tape unit.

 

I have no-clue how I ended up with this item. I found it in a pile of ‘stuff’ at my shop. Apparently it was used by KTAC (now known at KHHO) in Tacoma. The Wall-Wart power supply was smashed. I scrounged another and it leaped to life with a very scratchy volume control. Don’t know about the tape player. All my cassettes are long-gone.

Last fall I stopped by KELA in Centralia where John Mackey showed me the old KELA Transmitter. It had been moved to a second story room to keep out of the site’s frequent flood waters. He said it did not work, and wanted to know if I knew how to get it going. I said ‘sure’ but not sure they’d be willing to pay for the parts. Incidentally, this is the same model transmitter used by KTW when I worked there in the late 60’s.

 

The following picture adorned my office when I worked with KNBQ in Tacoma. It was a full page from the station owner’s newspaper, the Tacoma News Tribune, announcing the birth of their new radio station using a mode of modulation that was new back then…called FM. The Studio, Offices and Transmitter were all located at what they called ‘The Top of the Town’ at 11th and Grant Streets in Tacoma. The Tribune was not done with broadcasting, later adding an AM Station (the FM became KTNT-FM) and, a couple years later, KTNT-TV Channel 11, all operating from the same location. (They did add onto the building). Later on, the FM’s call letters were changed to KNBQ.  Today they are KIRO-FM. This picture now resides in the technical area of Bonneville-Seattle.

 

The following is an enlargement of the tower showing on the top the stations first FM Antenna.  There are very few of us that recall the name of that antenna (That’s another story)  As time went by they mounted that antenna on a platform on the roof of an adjacent house for a while, eventually giving it to Clover Park in the late 50’s for use with their FM on 90.9 (Then called KPEC)  there It was mounted inside the tower at what is now Clover Park Technical College that was used to support their UHF/Channel 56 TV Antenna.   Last I know, it was cut up for scrap.

 

On another front, some FM’s that are operating ‘Multicast Channels’ (sometimes call Side-Channels) are starting to attract attention. We’ve seen a few instances in the Seattle area where one of the HD-2s will show up in the Nielsen Ratings…but nothing substantial.

For some time I have been told that HD Radio is fine for large markets where revenues are higher and pockets are deeper, but not in smaller markets. This theory is pretty evident when you travel east of the Cascades and discover a lot of FM signals, but few running HD.

Then along comes Nielsen with their recently publicized ratings of radio stations in markets, large in small. Most of the time I scroll through these lists just looking for call letters that used to reside in the Seattle area. Earlier in January, something caught my eye that I want to share.

Lincoln, Nebraska, market #163 with a total population over 12, of 273,000. The 8th ranked station is KBBK-HD2, with a 3.2 share running CHR.

How about Canton, Ohio, market #142 with a 12+ population of 342,700, where WHOF-HD2 is #5 in that market with a Country format.

Or, Hagerstown-Chambersburg- Waynesboro, MD-PA, market #165 with a 12+ population of 263,000. They have TWO HD Channels generating ratings, both of them owned by the same company. WWEG-HD2 is #6 and WWEG-HD3 is #8.

This time looking at Reading, PA…

WLEV-HD2 is #2 with Urban AC owned by Cumulus
WRFY-HD2 is #5 airing Spanish CHR – iHM
WAEB-HD3 is #8 running CHR- IHM

There are a couple of questions that come to mind.

Why do certain markets have very successful HD Channels while others do not?

Could it be because, in these markets, the stations are trying harder to gain ratings?

So Channel 9 wants to change channels? This has been an interesting process to watch, when the big channel shuffle took place and the shift to Digital. The low channels, in the case of Seattle, Channel 4, 5 and 7 opted to stay on UHF  (granted there was some shuffling as part of RePack). From all of this we got ‘Virtual Channels’, so the historic channel numbers would still work for those who would be confused with new numbers. During all of this, the higher VHF Channels in our area, channels 9, 11 and 13, opted to stay where they were. Now Channel 9 is saying that their coverage is not what they thought it would be, and are asking the FCC for permission to move to Channel 17. I assume, if this comes to pass, they will still be known as Channel 9. I have not heard of Channel 11 or 13 having the same issues and are planning to move upward in frequency. Apparently they are happy with being Channel 11 and 13 that are actually on those historic RF Channels.

Another picture from the East-Side. On the far right you can see the antenna (the 3 black things) for KQWS, located on a 5200+ foot mountain in the Okanogan. KQWS is licensed to Omak and is operated by WSU’s NWPB.

I was informed recently by Kent Randles (retired from Entercom in PDX) that KYCH has purchased a new 35 kW GatesAir liquid-cooled transmitter for their station in Portland. Apparently having a lot to do with space and lack of room for ducting an air-cooled model. This may well be the first liquid-cooled FM transmitter in the area. These days, most TV Transmitters are liquid cooled. Speaking of new Entercom transmitters, reportedly they have ordered a new ‘air-cooled’ model for their 107.7/KNDD in Seattle. I understand it will be installed in the latter half of February, weather permitting.

In the wake of the storming of the U.S capital, the FCC came out with a warning about the use of Ham or CB frequencies for coordinating illegal activity.

Frankly, I find this a bit amusing. There are a large number of people who are of the opinion that if you have a law or rule prohibiting an activity that this will solve the problem.

Seattle is, finally coming to grips with a similar issue and is discovering that you have to ‘enforce’ a rule and punish the violators if you expect those that are intent in doing what they want to have second thoughts. In many ways the FCC and Seattle have become what’s known as ‘Paper Tigers’. If you are not familiar with this term, here are some definitions I found:

  • “Paper Tiger” is a literal English translation of the Chinese phrase zhilaohu. The term refers to something or someone that claims or appears to be powerful, or threatening, but is actually ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge.
  • Something, such as an enemy or foreign country, that seems very strong and dangerous but is really weak and not harmful.
  • A paper tiger is someone who at first glance seems to be in charge but who, on closer examination, is completely powerless.
  • A person or organization seeming powerful but really weak.

Interesting to note that this term is used by many languages.

Before I end this, a collection of images that many can relate to.

A flag for all countries!

 

 

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 and continue to wear your mask….and that means cover your nose too. The ‘All-Clear’ Is still a long way off.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
A SBE Fellow
SBE Member # 714
Since March of 1968