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Clay’s Corner for January 2020

January 12, 2020
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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

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for December 2019

December 21, 2019
By

 

Clay’s Corner

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

It’s been just about a year since I included these pictures in this column of the antenna fire on West Tiger Mountain. Antenna fires are pretty unusual, but they do happen as we all found out that day in November of 2018. I recall talking with the Fire Department that day and doing my best to field their questions as to what they could do once they got to the site. A lot has taken place in the past year…more of that in a moment –

This picture showed how the smoke plume was being driven by the wind for a considerable distance.

This view, a bit closer to the site, clearly shows that the fire was in the upper portion of Master FM Antenna which was mounted on the East Tower or one on the left in this view. The TV Stations on the other tower were not impacted. The fire caused the 6 FM stations using the system to switch to auxiliary facilities in order to stay on the air…a mode that lasted, for many, seemingly a very long time.

Just over a year later, on November 19th, at about 2:45 p.m., engineers at WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vermont knew something was very wrong at the transmitter site,  when the transmitter shut down and telemetry indicated an antenna problem. I know what was going on in the mind of the engineer as he was on the way to the site to determine exactly what happened. I’ve been in that boat many times over the years. Your mind is racing, thinking about all the things that could be wrong. Before he reached the transmitter building, it was obvious that this was not a simple problem. They had a serious issue to contend with. (See the next picture) Getting there was another issue, as this location was dealing with snow and ice. The road to the site was completely snowed in. The method of transportation was a snowmobile. The engineer reached the site about 4 p.m.

Like the installation at West Tiger, the WCAX-TV transmitter is located on a mountain some distance away. In this case – at the 4200-foot level of Mt. Mansfield, 1400 feet higher than the site on West Tiger. Like West Tiger, this site is the home of multiple stations and more than one tower. Impacted by this was another user of the tower, WPTZ-TV who were both forced off the air, with the latter reportedly suffering some damage as well. There are a couple of FM’s at the site too. Apparently, they were able to keep operating.

Like the fire at West Tiger, there was no way to put the fire out. It just had to burn out. This suggests that the radome (a cover around the antenna designed to protect it from the weather) was burning.

In addition to the weather conditions, it was determined that the station’s Auxiliary Antenna was damaged and not usable either.

Thankfully, like most TV Stations, many of their viewers were still being served by various cable and satellite providers.

The station bills itself at WCAX-3. Apparently channel 3 being their original channel. They are now on UHF Channel 20. One has to wonder how long ago they made the change and how old the, now burned, antenna was.

Thankfully, when the West Tiger antenna burned, the weather was much better. Alex Brewster quickly flew his drone around the ‘crispy-critter’, providing all with close up pictures of the damage. Not sure of they could have used a drone in this case. It all depends on weather and wind.

The following picture shows the burned antenna more clearly, thanks to a break in the weather.

A few days later the station was granted approvals to begin work on the mountain. However, 50 mph wind gusts limited the work to those things that could be done on the ground. The good news is, the mountain’s nearby ski resort had the heavy equipment to get equipment to the site, including an emergency replacement antenna.

I found it interesting that the station was providing extensive news coverage of the restoration efforts.

https://www.wcax.com/content/news/WCAX-brings-in-specialized-team-to-help-fix-transmitter-tower-565281322.html

Likely, by the time you read this, these stations will be back on the air via an auxiliary antenna to be mounted on the adjacent tower, albeit likely at lower power etc.

Only when the antenna has been taken down and closely examined will they be able to learn the cause of the fire. The West Tiger antenna that burned consisted of many separate parts (called elements). In the case of WCAX, the antenna is likely a one-piece item.

Certainly weather will be a factor in getting this work done. That elevation, in that part of the country, cannot be directly compared to the relatively mild weather we have at West Tiger at this time of year.

The following picture shows the burned antenna, next to the other tower at the site.

Another difference here, WCAX put on-line a Q&A regarding what happened. Perhaps at West Tiger, had the outage forced a major TV station off the air, the same thing would have happened. Whereas the Radio Stations here all had alternative location broadcast facilities, many of their listeners did not know the difference.

https://www.wcax.com/content/news/WCAX-Broadcast-Antenna-Questions-and-Answers-565473141.html

Comparing West Tiger to Mt. Mansfield is not really fair –

  • Mansfield is the highest point in Vermont @ 4395 feet. (We have Mt. Rainier @ 14,411)
  • You can drive to the top of Mansfield, with a toll road, on pavement (West Tiger is restricted to service vehicles and the road is NOT paved!)
  • You can also take a Gondola ride to the top – (No such thing here.)
  • Mansfield has a major ski resort (Perhaps West Tiger would if it were that high?)

Here’s a picture of the transmitter site, during much better weather

For some more wonderful pictures of the area, take a look here –

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g57415-d116996-Reviews-Mount_Mansfield-Stowe_Vermont.html

If you look closely, in some of the pictures you can see the broadcast towers that are used by the impacted stations. They are located on an adjacent peak, not at the summit where the tourists go.

Now back to the situation at West Tiger –

In the event you missed it, after the fire, the FM Master Antenna was removed from the tower and a temporary 8-bay, side mounted antenna was installed on the West side of the tower section that supported the burned antenna (it was not damaged).

The temporary antenna is not capable of handling the power of the 6 stations at the site, so one of them (KBKS/106.1) opted to continue to operate their auxiliary facility at the legacy West Tiger #1 site. The other five have been operating with the temporary antenna since.

On the 21st of November, the site owner, American Tower, told a gathering of the impacted station engineers as well as representatives of Seacomm Erectors of their plans –

  • The tower section that the burned antenna was mounted on, as well as the former KUNS Antenna Pole above it, will be removed and replaced with a new tower section on to which a new 16 bay antenna will be side mounted.
  • This work, projected to take 3-4 weeks, will not be started until spring, thus avoiding the winter weather that would likely stretch the construction period. The new tower sections and antenna will be warehoused in Indiana in the mean-time.
  • During the construction, all of the FM’s will need to operate their auxiliary facilities.

This news was well received as no-one thought it was a good idea to try and do this work during the winter as originally announced.

When the project is completed there will be a couple of changes compared to the way it was before the fire.

  • The new antenna will not be omni-directional. Side mounting an antenna on a tower always produces some nulls or areas where there is less signal than in the other directions.
  • The new antenna will have more gain. This means that the stations will not have to generate as much power with their transmitters.

Along the way, American Tower had proposed to install the present temporary antenna on the adjacent tower as an auxiliary. However, that idea was rejected by the stations, feeling that they would be better off spending the money that this would cost, on upgrading their auxiliary facilities. Certainly, one lesson has been learned from this event and that is the value of having auxiliary transmitting facilities where there is – nothing – in common…underscoring the meaning of redundancy. Thus far, only Hubbard, has spent serious money on their Auxiliary equipment with a substantial upgrade at Cougar Mountain.

Over the years, many operators of certain classes of stations have asked for and been granted changes in the rules that limit their power and/ or coverage. An example was when many of the AM’s on what were then called Class IV frequencies (1240,1340,1400, 1450, 1490) were operating with 250 watts, day and night, requested a day-time power increase to 1,000 watts. The FCC said yes, even though, in some cases, overlaps were created. Not satisfied, many of those same owners requested an increase to 1,000 watts at night. Unfortunately for all, the FCC approved. Now, you can dial around and hear the mishmash of signals on those frequencies stand out and wonder how anyone gained.

FM is no exception – Many have requested permission for Class A stations to increase power (at this writing, there has been no FCC rule changes).

Responding to the calls for Local FM’s, the FCC created the LPFM category, now totalling about 2100 stations. Now many of those stations are asking the FCC for rule changes, or what they call Technical Upgrades, citing that the service is now ‘mature’. Simply put, they want more coverage. (Something that most all broadcasters wish for)

The FCC is listening and is considering an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) in response. One improvement being asked for, is the ability to use an engineered directional antenna as well as boosters.

As you can imagine, not everyone is on board with this idea, as many feel the FM band is over-filled with signals now.

There has been a lot of commotion over the roll-out of 5G communications. Much of it over fears of what the radiation from these higher frequencies will harm. Now a new concern has surfaced. Interference to Weather Radar.

Have you been following the idea of allowing AM Radio stations to switch from AM (Amplitude Modulation) to All Digital? At the outset, we’d have to stop using the term AM and switch to MW or ‘Medium Wave’. Thinking about it – those FM broadcasters running HD Radio have dropped the term FM in many cases for the same reason. Radio receivers in the future would have to have new designations – AM, MW, FM, HD etc.

Anyway, I digress –

There have been some very promising tests by some stations that have turned off their AM and operate with Digital only. Perhaps it should be noted that those that created our present day AM and FM band versions of HD Radio took this into account, way back when.

This should not be confused with those AM stations that have implemented HD Radio that means operating their AM facility, in addition to running Digital. Unfortunately this has not worked as well as it does on FM for a variety of reasons.

The idea of turning off AM and running Digital only has, only recently, been given some serious thought. There are several  reasons for this –

  • Many AM’s now have an FM Translator.
  • This is a real plus for those AM’s with limited coverage or reduced power at night…especially if the new FM translator has good coverage.
  • Many of these stations have seen their audience shift to their new FM.
  • Many of these, smaller AM’s have seen their audience share, and with it, profits diminish in recent years, with an increasing number of them electing to turn in their license and stop ‘burning cash’.
  • It’s likely that multi-station clusters that include AM’s would, if they could, turn off or sell their AM. Likely many of these clusters of commonly owned stations subsidize the operation of their AM’s with income from their FM’s.
  • Many AM’s that are no longer able to support themselves have been sold, at bargain-basement prices to those that now can afford to purchase them for broadcasting program content that, just a few years ago, would be unthinkable.

 

The idea of going all digital has some appeal for those whose operation is now supported by a co-owned FM (more multiple FM’s).

  •  What do they have to lose, aside from the capital investment to go all digital?
  •  Granted there are all those receivers that would be unable to receive them, but what if no one is listening anyway?
  • The day of the Home or Kitchen Radio has gone, to be replaced with Alexa that is not a radio receiver. Likely that same AM station is streaming away and reaching these Internet connected devices.
  • What about all those car radios? The good news is that cars wear out and are replaced with millions of new ones every year that come with digital radios.

 

There are those that feel that this idea is foolish. I recently ran across a number of them on an on-line forum. Here are some of the arguments I responded to –

  • This should not be confused with those AM’s that implemented HD, thereby creating something that occupies a lot of bandwidth.
  • Unlike the present Hybrid mode, listeners would not be subjected to the constant switching back and forth between AM and HD mode that annoys the listener with alternating high and low fidelity audio. All digital would provide the listener with a constant, high quality product.
  • The ever increasing noise level on the AM band (for which the FCC has little or no interest in combatting) would not be a factor. In all digital mode, there is nothing in the receiver to demodulate those noises that AM radios are happy to serve up to their listeners.
  • Coverage of a station would not be determined by how much noise there is in the desired receiving location, but rather would be determined by the amount of signal available.
  • The listener ‘confusion factor’ would go away. Listeners rarely understand HD Radio anyway. They just ‘fiddle’ with their radio until the get what they want to listen to. With all digital, chances are good that many that have abandoned the AM Band may come back, when they discover that here too they can hear things with fidelity and lack of noise.

I had to respond to those that pined away about the existing AM Radios with a couple of thoughts –

  • The demise of analog TV certainly did not kill television in the process of creating mountains of old unsalable TV sets.
  • Whereas all the new vehicle radios are capable of – both – modulation modes (AM and Digital) there may well be both modes operating for some time. If you are a station with significant existing AM coverage, why change? If not, all digital may be a viable answer.

The bottom line is that this could well be an additional solution to the AM problem that the FCC has been seeking. Lets face it – you can’t give every AM a wide area coverage FM translator – but you could permit him to go all digital – IF THEY WANT TO.

Apparently this is exactly what the FCC has in mind with this idea. The Commish has recently voted to advance the process to the next state and has put out a proposal for comments. The NPRM (Docket Nos. 19-311, 13-249)

The process asks some questions –

  • What about the impact to listeners from the loss of analog AM?
  • What about power limits for day and night operations?
  • What about interference from these digital stations to other users of the band?

The FCC Chairman put it this way –

“We need to bring AM radio into the 21st century,” he said. “This is the latest step in our ongoing efforts to revitalize AM service and I’m eager to see how this could lead to the next generation of AM broadcasting.”

So what’s next?

Let’s see what responses the FCC gets to their proposal, and the reactions of many that have not weighed in. One group already has indicated their support – the NAB. This is going to be an exciting thing to watch. Who would have thought that the AM Band may have a life after all?

On the other side of the argument, there are those AM Stations that are, apparently, doing well. Some of them are here in our town. Some owners are actually investing in their AM station, obviously with the future in mind. Here’s an example sent to me by Vashon transmitter engineer Steven Allen, a picture of the new KTTH  Nautel NX50 transmitter. If  you look very closely, you will see Steven’s reflection. Just last year, Bonneville, the station’s owners purchased a new NX50 for their other AM, KIRO/710. Interestingly this is the 2nd NX50 in the same building. The other, and first on the Island, is at 1090. 770 and 1090 share the same antenna system/ towers.

While we are on the topic of AM Radio, an old friend in Montana sent me this one: Wonder if there is something similar for the left coast?

For many a night some 70 years ago, I gladly lost a lot of sleep staying awake until the wee hours searching the AM radio dial for distant (DX) radio stations. The link below, courtesy of a fellow ham operator and the ARRL, shows that the AM Broadcast band still holds some surprises. In the New England area, a listener with a simple outside wire antenna can still dial across the AM BC band and hear and identify stations on every available channel. The information in the next paragraph is taken from the link below.

“On the 100th anniversary of broadcast radio it’s still possible to hear an AM radio station on all 118 AM North American Medium Wave channels from 530 kHz to 1700 kHz. Listen to stations on all frequencies as recorded off the air with a simple wire antenna in Eastern Massachusetts and see information on every station heard.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKRZJ5uO2Mw&feature=youtu.be

One more item about AM Radio –

For some time Amateur Radio Operators, aka Hams, have been picking up old 1,000 watt AM Transmitters and converting them for use on the Ham-Bands. Most popular are the 160 Meter band (1.8 to 2.0 MHz) because it’s adjacent to the AM Broadcast Band. Others have converted them for use on the 80 Meter band (3.5 to 4.0 MHz).

Popular brands include those made by Bauer, RCA, Gates, Raytheon and Collins that were produced in the 50’s and 60’s.

Recently my friend, and former co-worker, Dwight Small picked up a well used Collins model 20V2 that he plans on putting on 80 meters.

I have a special place for that model as it was the first transmitter that I was responsible for keeping on the air when I went to work for KFHA back in 1961. It was installed new in 1958.

Dwight sent this picture of his new winter project, adding that he has 1.5 transmitters worth of parts. Unfortunately, the tubes that these ran on are hard to find and increasingly expensive. But when it’s turned on…and all those big tubes are glowing…..Well, there is nothing like it.

 

 

 

In the previous issue of this column, I wrote about the great TV channel shuffle called ‘Repacking’ and included some comments from Lowell Kiesow. Here are a couple of responses to last months column on this topic –

 

Hi Clay!

Just read your latest column. Just dropping a note that here at my Mom and I’s place here in Bremerton, after the re-pack, we are now able to receive KTBW virtual ch. 20. (Was never able to pick that up before, since we have a hill directly behind us, even though we don’t watch the Trinity Broadcasting Network). And now KFFV on virtual ch. 44 now comes in with a full signal. We still also get 2 copies of KCPQ here (other than the 3rd SD copy on KZJO 22.2). Even though we have DirecTV, we still have a multi-purpose antenna up in the attic for backup TV service, and also for FM radio, and even for my scanner.

Stephen Hyde
swhyde1980@gmail.com

 

Clay-

Regarding your recent “Clay’s Corner”, KWDK RF 42/56.1 is very much on the air as of yesterday afternoon. It remained on through the repack and had not shut down or moved to their new RF frequency of RF 34.

Perhaps there is a crew working on moving them to their new frequency but they are still on the air on RF 42.

Bruce Hart

Val Vashon valvashon@hotmail.com

Looking at the big picture, U.S. wide, at the Re-Pack project – not everyone is giving the process an ‘A’ grade. Most everyone knew, at the outset, that this big shuffle was going to be difficult to pull off within the time frame projected by the FCC. The number of sites, tower crews, equipment vendors etc. made this one of the biggest projects in TV history. As we near the final laps – there are a lot of things to do and little time to get it done. Then there are a lot of temporary facilities that are going to have to be re-done going forward. Some are saying it could be a couple of years before the dust all settles.

The headline read –

Fox to Buy Local TV Stations.

At long last, the rumors are true – Fox Corporation is purchasing KCPQ and KZGO in Seattle.

One of the major reasons cited for Fox picking up Channel 13 is they align with the station’s sports rights, specifically, the Seattle Seahawks. This, and other purchases,  will move FOX up in terms of the number of stations they have in major markets, meaning they will own stations in 14 of the top 15 markets.

A recent survey has shown that the majority of citizens in California’s recent bout with wildfires in California chose TV and Radio as their go-to news sources for information. 79% chose TV and 47% chose Radio. Other sources include – Social Media 39% anx Newspapers 33%.

 

Did your station get their EAS equipment updated?  In what many felt was a terrible case of timing, the makers of the most popular EAS equipment were given a very short period of time to update their equipment. The FCC must have been feeling the heat on this one and, at the 11th hour, a later than expected release of a technical update to Emergency Alert System (EAS) hardware used by broadcasters has led the Federal Communications Commission to give stations more time to get the job done. Now the due date is January 7th.

If you have not heard, there is already a ‘Patch’ for the recently released Rev 95

for the Sage Endec –

https://s3.amazonaws.com/sagealertingsystems/release/Rev-95-Patch.pdf

Once again, the FCC has an unlicensed/ pirate station to deal with in NYC. In this case, a webcaster decided to add an ‘over the air’ transmitter on 92.9. In this instance, the pirate is the Brooklyn based Choice Gospel Network. I guess I have a hard time with organizations that are supposedly doing the ‘work of God’ violating the laws of the land in the process. I wonder if they will do as many have before and plead that they have no money to pay the fines and the Feds will let them off the hook?

Another place the FCC is trying to gain some spectrum for wireless companies is the area known as C-Band…a band of frequencies that are used, extensively, by Radio and TV broadcasters. As I predicted a few months back, it looks like the concept of ‘Repacking’ used to squeeze TV stations together to free up spectrum, will once again be the method of choice. There are a lot of questions that I’ve not seen answered yet –

  •  Will the wireless industry have to pony-up money to play here?
  • Will those funds be used to pay the expenses for those that have to do the ‘frequency-shuffle’?

We will see –

Once again, it’s picture time. Here are a few from my travels this past month:

This one taken of the road to Striped Peak, west of Port Angeles. I had plans on driving to the top of the mountain to install equipment there. Perhaps because I did not bring my chainsaw, a fallen tree was blocking the road just beyond the gate. So I gathered up what I needed and hiked up the hill (twice). A least it was not raining or snowing.

On the same trip – I encountered this along the shores of Lake Crescent..

Things are, apparently, good in the tower business with American Tower reporting an increase of 9.4% to $1.95 billion according to the company’s third quarter results. Total property revenue increased 9.7% to $1.92 billion. The company owns more than 40,000 towers and leases tower space to more than 700 radio stations in the United States.

Another firm reporting good results was SiriusXM that reported revenue was way up, thanks to their purchase of Pandora. I recall when XM was launched that many thought they would fail. This was not to be. The company merged with competitor Sirius to form SiriusXM which added over 200,000 customers in the 3rd quarter and now enjoys some 34+ million subscribers.

How about this look back – It was October of 1954 that Regency introduced the TR-1…the first transistor radio.

The initial TR-1 retail price was $49.95 (roughly $443 in year-2016 dollars) and it sold about 150,000 units. For more, look here – http://www.regencytr1.com/

For those of you more recently on the planet – before the transistor radio, portable radios used vacuum tubes, albeit small ones. Vacuum tubes required two different voltages to operate. One to light the filaments of the tubes. These were called ‘A-batteries’ and were often ‘D-Cells’ commonly used in flashlights. The other voltage was higher, and used for the rest of the electronic circuitry. These were called ‘B-batteries. A common voltage used with 67½ volts.

It just so happened that Steven Allen put one of these in my hands recently while working on Vashon. Note the date someone had written on the side – 12-9-76. That’s only 43 years ago. I did not check the voltage on this one, chances are it’s gone. Notice the ‘snap’ connections on the top. These are still used with today’s more popular 9 volt batteries. We have come a long way!!

Back in 2014, Belden, a long time maker of wire and cable, announced they were purchasing the video equipment maker Grass Valley. Many wondered at the time that it seems like a funny marriage. Well I guess the time is up, as Belden just announced they are selling Grass Valley to a venture capital group.

A friend of mine now living in Colorado recently sent me this picture taken from near Colorado Springs of a fantastic Sunset behind Pikes Peak.

He added – The cloud top is being sun lit, but the whole area is in the shadow of Pikes Peak and the sun has gone down. This looks like a nuke has gone off.

Another picture from my travels this past month – This one of the Antenna Farm on what’s known as Baldi – near Grass Mountain, east of Enumclaw with Mt Rainier in the background.    If you look close you can read the license plate on the front of my red truck.

 

This was shot thru the windshield of my truck as I was leaving West Tiger on the 26th:

And finally, this view from West Tiger looking eastward toward the Cascade Range. Down there, somewhere, is North Bend.

 

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

Here’s wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season.

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

Until then –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for November 2019

October 30, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner for November  2019

Clay’s Corner

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

Here we are, at this writing the end of October,  and the stores are full of things for Christmas. The weather was wonderful as the month started. Then, like a brick wall, we experienced the ‘October-Shift’ and the rains began. Lots of it too, complete with your first taste of flooding. Then it was back to nice fall weather. By the end of the month most of the trees had lost their leaves and the colors will be gone, awaiting April when the cycle starts again.
Meanwhile in California, things are not so good.

Here is the FEMA Daily Operations Briefing for Sunday October 27, 2019:

Significant Incidents or Threats:

  • California wildfires
  • Extreme to critical fire weather – CA and AZ
  • Red Flag Warnings – CA, AZ, NM and UT
  • High Wind Warnings – northern and southern CA

 

The FCC has a reporting system called DIRS. Here is a recent look at the highlights coming out of the Golden State for October 26th:

  • PG&E is expected to shut-off power to 940,000 customers
  • 4 FM stations reported out of service (K238AF, KKLJ, KNOB, KSXY), and 2 FM stations out of service with programming on another station (KRSH, KXTS), most stations not reporting (17 FM stations reported operational)
  • No AM stations reported out of service, most stations not reporting (3 AM stations reported operational)
  • No TV stations reported out of service, most stations not reporting (10 TV stations reported operational)
  • 1,427 cable and wireline subscribers out of service
  • 32 cell sites out of 9,498 out of service (approximately 0.3%). Same caveats as yesterday.

 

In the event you think our weather is bad and need a little ‘comparison cheering’, you can check this out:

https://www.fcc.gov/document/ca-power-shutoff-communications-status-report-oct-26-2019

 

Stop and think about what these power outages mean to the average home-owner that has become totally dependent on electric power (unless, of course, you have a generator and a good source of fuel).

  • No Lights
  • No radio or TV
  • No Internet
  • No Clocks (Unless you kept that windup model)
  • If you have an Internet based telephone, it’s dead too
  • No way to charge your cell phone (unless you do so in your car using precious fuel)
  • Garage doors that must be manually operated
  • Your local gas stations are closed
  • Typical public warning systems (EAS, WEA, Reverse 911 etc.) all useless to you

 

If you are like me, and have spent many years here in the PNW (or PSW if you are in Canada), all you have to do it look at the news to help you become convinced that we are really blessed.

 

The fear I have is that the 40 some million that live in California will be soon looking for a better place to live and will come to understand that here is better than there!

 

If you want another comparison, how about Texas? On Oct 20th a tornado cut a swath through the north side of Dallas. In its path was the studios for KNON, which was so bad they were looking for a new home. Not only did this ruin the day for many, but for those not in the path that were watching the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles play a football game, many were upset because the station elected to delay the airing of the tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service. Stations are put on the spot. Do they interrupt a popular sporting event, knowing it could save lives, or do they not. The fact is, some people do not wish to be warned.

Before I forget it, Nov. 3rd will again be time to set our clocks back one-hour to PST. Now that all the Western States, and BC, have agree to stay on Daylight time, that decision is on hold pending decisions to be made by government types on the Right-Coast that will allow us to, perhaps in the Spring, change to PDT and stay there. With no pun intended, time will tell.

I was recently thinking back to when we shifted from NTSC analog TV to ATSC digital. It was then that TV stations starting shifting channels and the true RF channel they were on no longer on, had any meaning. The legacy stations in Seattle, KOMO-4, KING-5 and KIRO-7 must continue was the cry. So along came the concept of virtual channels. Everyone bought in. With a bit of teaching, the new digital TV’s could be educated so that regardless of the RF channel the station was transmitting on, they could have the same channel number. Viewers only need to re-scan their TV’s and all would be good again, proving that the product name is more important.

Then along came Re-Pack and, once again, many (but not all) stations were again changing channels and stations were again asking their viewers to re-scan their TV’s so life would go on. I recently note the following posted by Lowell Kiesow (KNKX) and thought it provided an interesting perspective on the more recent shuffle.

As a radio guy, I found it interesting to see what happened after the Seattle TV repack took effect last night.  There must be a story behind the fact that the stations cooperated to make the shift together, on the first day of the test period.  Their deadline was 1/17/20.

 

The following seven stations moved channels:  KTBW, KZJO, KOMO, KIRO, KFFV, KING and KUNS.

 

Daystar’s KWDK is off the air. I met their itinerant transmitter crew at Tiger last week, so they are probably still swapping equipment at this time. They had a 24′ box truck for hauling a lot of stuff.

 

My TV found two signals for KIRO TV. They have 715 kW from Queen Anne on ch 23, and 3.8 kW on ch 18 from West Tiger 2. The latter signal is stronger in Parkland (just south of Tacoma), despite the low power and being off the side of the antenna.

 

In Parkland, with a big, consumer grade, high gain, all-band antenna on my roof, I get 12 stations with 50 channels, not counting KIRO twice. Not bad for free.

 

The big winner is KFFV since they went from 169 kW on ch 44 to 260 kW on ch 16. I receive KFFV for the first time.

 

Before the repack, I would occasionally receive KZJO, but now it works. They moved from ch 25 to ch 36, both at 1 MW from Capitol Hill. Either my antenna is slightly better on the new channel or theirs is. It is just good enough because only one of my TVs receives it.

 

Just curious. Have any of you noted changes in the signals of our local TV Stations after this shuffle? If so, drop me a note and let me know so I can share.

The next shuffle in TV has a new Logo:

The CTIA has approved the new name and logo for what’s called ATSC 3.0. Apparently this new logo will be used to help consumers identify compatible ATSC 3.0 devices. This is not just a simple channel/ frequency change but, if it develops, as some have planned, will be a major change in many respects. Time will tell just how much this will catch on and how consumers will respond to it.
While in Gig Harbor recently, I spotted this service van:

Why you ask? Because these 4 letters are also used by the SBE, so I did a search and came up with this:

Certified Broadcast Radio Engineer (CBRE) is a title granted to an individual in the United States who successfully meets the experience and test requirements of the certification, regulated by the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). The CBRE title is protected by copyright laws. Individuals who use this title without consent from the Society of Broadcast Engineers could face legal action.

The SBE certifications were created to recognize individuals who practice in career fields which are not regulated by state licensing or Professional Engineering programs. Broadcast Engineering is regulated at the national level and not by individual states.

The following picture was taken by Entercom’s Alex Brewster of the –Site Access Key-Pad- at Cougar Mountain. Just getting in the Halloween spirit said the spider.

 

Over on the east side of the Cascades they are changing TV channels as well. The following pictures were taken by NWPB’s Jason Royals of a recent project to change the channel of one of WSU’s translators in the Lewiston-Clarkson area. Here you can see the location of the equipment on the little peak just right of center. Perhaps the thing most noticeable is the lack of trees. In locations west of the Cascades that whole area would be heavily forested.

Perhaps you should note that these pictures were taken near the end of October.  Shortly afterward, this site was ‘white’ with our first, early season, snowfall.
Here is a view of the tower with all the antennas, one of which is for K34QC-D, the Lewiston translator
For KWSU-TV (second one down on the left side). The work here moved the system from RF Ch 27 to Ch 34. Viewers in that area needed to tell their TV sets to see this signal as virtual Ch 10. This type of
‘Channel Shuffling’ is taking place in the Seattle area as well, all part of what’s called Re-Packing to make room for more wireless services.

The number of FM Translators and boosters continues to grow in the U.S. The new totals reflect a 4% increase over last year. Nearly 250 more than the start of the year.

No one is shocked with the total number of AM’s as the mode continues to struggle. Nine more have shut down in the last three months and 25 have gone silent in the last year. I suspect this trend will continue until the supply equals the demand. Despite the losses, there are still over 4600 AM’s on the air. No surprise that about 37% of the remaining AM’s have an FM Translator leading one to wonder just how many more AM’s would be silent if the ability of having a translator had not come along.

Here are how things stack up:

The FCC reports the total number of full-power television stations was relatively steady with 1,760 licensed at the end of September. The latest FCC data shows the total number of low-power TV stations was 1,897. Overall, there were a total of 33,492 radio and television licenses issued by the FCC at the end of the third quarter.

In the U.S. we have, albeit slowly, become accustomed to HD Radio. Just about all new cars and trucks come with it standard and listeners are responding with a number of HD-2 channels showing up in radio ratings. We need to understand that not everyone around the world is on board with HD Radio, with several digital radio systems in use. One that has been around for a long time is DRM or Digital Radio Mondial. For some time DRM has been rolling out on the Medium Wave or AM broadcast bands. More recently, DRM has been demonstrated for use on the FM Band, which like HD-R will permit multiple channels to be carried along with the parent FM Signal. I have to wonder when the day will come that makers of receivers will incorporate all of these systems to help level the playing field. Then there is a matter of the regulators, and what they will permit.
Just as Harrington Tower was about to take down the four towers that was the KMIA night transmitter site, the operator, Bustos Media, and property owner, Dennis Garre, were approached by the present owners of the Pacific 1550/KZIZ who needed to vacate their present site just south of Auburn. Their timing was pretty good. The towers were spared. On October 2nd I handed the keys to the former 1210/KMIA night transmitter site east of Auburn to the new owners who propose to move the station to that location. Their application calls for using all 4 of the former 1210 towers operating with 3 kW day and 430 watts at night.  This is less than the present operation of 5 kW day and 900 watts at night. The former 1210 array dates back some 30 years. The original plant was constructed by myself with help from Arne Skoog who was my assistant at the time.
I recently ran across this item from Readers Digest.  Did you know that most Canadians live SOUTH of Seattle? Here is what they said:

Canada and the United States are both large countries which can make understanding the relative geography difficult. But the contiguous United States goes farther north than you think and the majority of Canadians live near the southern border. The result? At 45 degrees latitude, Seattle is further north than Toronto or Montreal, meaning 64 per cent of Canadians live south of Seattle.

I recall a few years ago while visiting the Nautel factory in Nova Scotia, telling the folks there that I had to go south to get there. They too found it hard to believe.

Understand that Mike Dosch, a person long associated with producers of broadcast audio equipment will now be focusing his full time to his recently launched company called Angry Audio. This is good timing as Radio Systems recently announced they were dropping production of their popular Studio-Hub products and they were going to be produced by Angry Audio.

For those of you not familiar with how broadcast audio items are interconnected these days, a quick look. In the past, broadcast audio used shielded two conductor cable (example, Belden 9451 or equal) or two pair (example, Belden 8723) or dual-pair Belden 1504 etc). Along the way came UTP cable which had 4 twisted pairs, which quickly found use with telephone and computer circuits. Meanwhile, connectors were changing. This time we were all following the telephone industry as they had adopted the RJ45 connector. Soon the computer equipment makers were all using RJ45’s. Broadcast audio was on the same train and soon UTP cable was being used in broadcast plants with many, but not all, connectors becoming RJ45’s. Audio over IP, or AoIP had become the new way of doing things. You could go out and find computer network cable (Cat5, 6 etc) just about everywhere, all made up in different lengths. The issue was that there was still a lot of equipment out there that used various kinds of connectors, XLR, ¼ Inch phone plugs, 1/8 inch phone plugs, RCA phono connectors, etc. The folks at Radio Systems saw an opportunity to provide adaptors to permit connecting these devices to standard UTP cables. They called their products ‘Studio Hub’. Broadcasters jumped all over this, as this made putting things together a snap with no soldering required. Plug and Play had become the norm. Back to the decision of Radio Systems to stop making these handy devices. There was some fear in the minds of many of having to build their own. However, Mike Dosch to the rescue and the news that his Angry Audio would pick up where Radio Systems left off. As an example, we used a considerable number of these wonderful gadgets in the recent installation at KVTI. If you want to find out more about these things, you can go here: https://angryaudio.com/  (read on)

The week of the 27th had me deep in the midst of a studio upgrade at KVTI, replacing their legacy Auditronics Consoles in two studios to new AoIP models made by Wheatstone. I have a bit of history with one of the old Auditonics. I installed it, way back when KBSG moved to Seattle’s Metropolitan Park East-Tower. Later, after the purchase of the station by Entercom, that facility was abandoned and the console was gifted to Clover Park Technical College, where it served well while CPTC was training DJ’s. Some years ago that program closed and the station became part of WSU’s operation, where several announcers continued to produce programs for NWPB to this day. The following are some before and after shots of one of the studios in this project –

BEFORE –


AFTER –

The new mixer looks small in comparison.  Due to the way these new systems are designed, the smaller device is actually more powerful than the bigger old one. Many of the controls on the old unit were used to start and stop magnetic tape equipment – all of which had already made it to the dumpster.

I’ve estimated that 70% of my time was spent removing the old wiring (much of it installed by people whose names you would recognize). Multiple pieces of two conductor/shielded cable, connectors, punch blocks etc. that took weeks to install, all gone. Today these studio devices are all constructed using standard computer/ network cables and pre-made adaptors, reducing the installation time to a small fraction of before. As time goes by, all the radio stations in this area have already or are about to switch over to the same technology. Next up, KING-FM, who are moving around the corner from 10 Harrison to Mercer. There again, loads of legacy analog equipment will be put out to pasture.

The question remains. Will T-Mobile (based in the Seattle area) really merge with Sprint? The FCC has said yes, however there are those that don’t like that answer, including 17 states that have sued to stop it. Again we wait.

Yet another survey to report on….This time – The Best Large Cities to live in.

#1 – Virginia Beach, VA

#2 – Austin, TX

#3 – Seattle, WA

#4 – San Diego, CA

#5 –  Las Vegas, NV

#6 – San Francisco

#7 – NYC

#8 – San Jose, CA

#9-  Honolulu, HI

#10- Portland, OR

 

Once again contributor Mike Brooks of KING-FM came up with a gem. In this case a fanciful schematic diagram. You have to study this carefully to get full appreciation. Obviously constructed by someone having too much spare time.

 

A friend of mine sent me this interesting picture of lightning. Looks like a highly charged man walking with a cane in his left hand.

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

Thanks for the read.

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

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

Clay’s Corner for October 2019

September 30, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner for October  2019

Clay’s Corner

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a link to some interesting and related items:

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So guess what radio station is celebrating 100 years?

Here are some hints:

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE VIRUS PROTECTION SCAM

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

MICROSOFT PRETENDERS

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

YOU MUST BE IN PAIN SCAM

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

HELLO GRANDPA SCAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

https://speroprotectionclothing.com/

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for a job in broadcasting in this area?

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

How about a technical position, out of this area?

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

Director of Engineering

Sep 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

Compare this to the Seattle Area

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

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

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

The climate is VERY different

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

Oh Yes…..

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

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

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

Don’t Buy a Home in Seattle

 

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

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

Instead, Choose Tacoma

 

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

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

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

Recently Readers Digest ran a piece titled:

15 Most Expensive States to Live in the United States.

Here is what they said about this area:

 

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

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

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

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

More ownership shuffles for the TV industry.

The FCC has recently approved the Nexstar-Tribune Merger.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well…here it is:

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

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

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

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

Facebook

Twitter

Anyone know what it is?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year’s submissions:

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

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

Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

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

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

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

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

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

A will is a dead giveaway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When chemists die, they barium.

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

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

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

Thanks for the read…….

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

Until then –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714.

Clay’s Corner for September 2019

September 1, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner for September  2019

Clay’s Corner

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay,

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

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

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

No group or quantity discounts.

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

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

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

Regards,
Harold

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

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

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

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

EMPLOYMENT ANNOUNCEMENT

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

KLSR/KEVU

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

POSITION TITLE:    Chief Broadcasting Engineer

STATUS:                 Full Time

LOCATION:            Eugene, OR  KLSR/KEVU_

DATE OPEN:          Immediately

SALARY RANGE:   DOE

RESPONSIBLE TO: General Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

SBE Certifications preferred.

Please send resumes to :

Fox Television
Chief Engineer Position
2940 Chad Drive
Eugene OR 97408

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

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

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

Bottom of Form

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Pullman airport closing temporarily to bring new runway online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

What is different?

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

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

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

 

Nothing like a great quote:

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

Mark Twain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the headline read:

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

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

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

On the personal side:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Another wonderful quote:

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

Carl Sagan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW’S THIS FOR NOSTALGIA?

                                                   

It took three minutes for the TV to warm up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside.

Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles.

Coffee shops with table side Jukeboxes.

Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers.

Newsreels before the movie.

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

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

Hi-Fi’s & 45 RPM records.

S&H Green Stamps.

Mimeograph paper. (Remember the purple ink?)

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

Catching fireflies could happily occupy an entire evening.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the read…….

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

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

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

 

 

 

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