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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

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for June 2019

June 5, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

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

 

And the Headline read –

Washington earned the No. 1 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s Best States rankings.

So you say – How come?

  • Booming economy…The nation’s fastest growing
  • Tech-sector powerhouse
  • Many big name companies are here (Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, Costco, Starbucks, T-Mobile etc.)
  • Cheap, climate-friendly electricity…or as they call it north of here, ‘Hydro’ and lots of wind-power generation (The writer of the story still calls them ‘wind-mills’)
  • Other rankings –

º  #3 for economy
º  #2 for Infrastructure
º  #4 for Health Care
º  #4 for Education

Other states in the region did not fare as well –
#16 – Idaho
#27 – Oregon
#29 – Montana

That’s all well and fine – – Now for the no-so-good news –

The Headline read – Seattle gas prices spike 42 cents over the last month.

Not sure I can feel great about knowing that I’m paying some of the highest prices in the country to be able to sit in a traffic jam!

Meanwhile, Seattle’s neighbor to the south recently learned that, according to Redfin, Tacoma is the hottest housing market in the nation right now.  There are a number of reasons they were able to make that call.  Speed of sale is one of them with just over half of the homes being sold just 2 weeks after being listed.  Typically the number is 8 days.  That’s faster than any other market in the country.  Another indicator of a hot-market is when homes go for more than the asking price.  Right now, about half of them in Tacoma are doing just that.  Price is a big factor that may be causing home buyers to look south of Seattle where the median price is $698,000.  In Tacoma-Pierce County that figure is $335,000.  But those prices are going up at a faster rate than those in Seattle.  In short, Tacoma is Hot.

Seattle’s success has some byproducts – Increased homeless problems as low-earners are priced out and comparison shopping where would-be homeowners are forced to look elsewhere.

I have personal experience with this issue going back about 30 years ago, when the station I worked for moved from Tacoma to Seattle.  At the time, I was living in Lakewood (southwest of Tacoma) and found I could not afford Seattle home prices, so I moved to Auburn…a move I have never regretted.

Are you ready for the next EASNT (Emergency Alert System National Test)?  FEMA has announced that it will be August 7th at 2:20 p.m. (ET) this year.  Rather than test all of the various warning systems at one time, FEMA selects certain ones to test their viability.  If you recall, last year they concentrated on WEA.  This year it will be the original, analog, EAS system, commonly called ‘Legacy EAS’ with the test message being distributed via the nation’s PEP (Primary Entry Point Stations).  In Washington State, this means KIRO-AM 710 in Seattle.

The Washington State SECC is charged with the responsibility of creating a means for all EAS participants (AM & FM radio, TV and cable systems) to receive these messages if they cannot receive KIRO-AM off-air.  In our case, we use the State Relay Network (SRN) operating on 155.475 for that chore.  Additionally, the SECC requires that participants monitor one or both of these frequencies.  There are other sources that are also monitored.  In the Seattle area NOAA Weather Radio acts as a relay station.

When the test is completed, the FCC will require that stations report how their portion of the system worked.  This is done via what’s called the ETRS or Electronic Test Reporting System.

You may be wondering why, in light of newer alerting methods (FEMA/IPAWS, WEA etc.) they are testing this rather ‘mature’ system.  Al Kenyon of FEMA put it this way –

“The intent of conducting the test in this fashion is to determine the capability of the EAS to deliver messages to the public in event that dissemination via Internet is not available.”

The bottom line is that the Internet is amazing in what it can do.  At the same time, it is fragile, with much of it based on what’s termed – ‘Wire lines’.  The Legacy system is primarily a wireless system.  FEMA knows that you cannot always depend on Internet-based communications systems.

Interestingly, FEMA is has been involved in a multimillion dollar upgrade to their 77 PEP facilities, including upgrades to KIRO-AM.

The bottom line for all EAS participants is –

  • Make sure these systems are working well.
  • Perhaps plan on having someone be there on August 7th at test time.

Here is a look at the coverage of the various PEP’s.  KIRO-AM is that the one in the far NW corner of the map.

My readers are used to me writing about the demise of AM Radio.  Here is another one for the list of AM’s that are now silent.

The FCC recently cancelled the license for the only AM station in Forks and in Western Clallam County.   For many years the 1490 AM operation was the only US station you could hear there.  At first the station was known as KVAC.   I have a lot of memories of driving up there to help the station’s owner/operator Gordon Otis with technical issues, and perform the, then required, annual performance measurements.  In later years, the station’s owner built an FM which I assume continues to operate.  Something to do with the lease on the AM transmitter site I understand.

Bottom line – Another AM bites the dust….Trust me, there will be more.

Looking at ‘Radio Locator’ today this is what you see – (No Local AM’s)

KBDB was, last time I checked, was operated by the same party that owned the, now dark, 1490 AM, the only commercial station in the area.

If you live in Forks, you could do very well without an AM Radio, except at night when many signals from far away locations are available.

There has been a lot of press recently about the demise of AM radio.  To the surprise of many an unlikely organization (Politico) picked up the story and ran with it.

The Headline Read – ‘The Low-Fi Voices That Speak For America.’

In their piece, Politico uses 6 AM stations across the country.  To be honest, I never thought that I’d be reading about AM Radio here!

They point out there are many AM stations out there that are thriving because they are providing a service that has a demand that perhaps other stations do not.  I found it interesting that they mentioned the long-reach of some of these stations.  In some cases, a 50 kW station in an area of great ground conductivity can indeed cover several large states.  KRVN in Nebraska is an example.  They also explain how unique formats have their place.

Want to read more?  Go here:

https://www.politico.com/interactives/2019/magazine-am-radio-still-matters/

Here in the Seattle area we have some AM’s that are doing much the same thing, providing a programming source that is not found on FM.  All-news, foreign languages, specific areas of talk, etc.  In some cases, AM Stations that used to run mass-appeal formats, have been sold to entities that target specific groups.  Example is 1240 and 1180 that now target Catholics.  Tune to 1250, 1450, 1560 etc. and you will see what I mean.  In some cases the prices of AM stations have dropped to the point that these groups can afford to purchase a station to target a specific audience…and that is a good thing.  Is AM dead or dying?  I say no…It is evolving into something different.  It’s a classic example of ‘supply and demand’.  The number of stations should be equal to the demand for what they can produce.  When you have an over-supply, you have stations going off the air.  Perhaps this is the way it should be?

The FCC has altered the supply and demand equation with their move to enable AM’s to use FM translators.  Perhaps the day will come that the Commish will permit these operators to turn off their AM’s that will enable those that wish to continue on the AM band an opportunity to improve their facilities?  Only time will tell.

Meanwhile there are some AM operators, figuring they have nothing to lose, experimenting with running all digital.  There are a number of technical advantages to this idea, mainly shifting to a modulation mode that better deals with an ever increasing noise level.  The question is, will the advantages of digital overcome the fact that zillions of AM-only radios exist that cannot decode those transmissions?  There have been many that have been critical of this move.  The only problem is, those that poo-poo the idea, don’t have an ‘economic horse’ in this race.  I contend that if an owner of an AM station wished to go all digital, let them do it.  It’s  their money!

Interestingly, the NAB has filed comments with the FCC, stating that it’s time for the Commish to formally look into permitting AM stations that wish to go digital only to do so.  Certainly the support of NAB is welcomed by those that are seeking to make this change.

Meanwhile another proposal is being circulated that would create a new radio band in the area historically called Land-Mobile ‘Low Band’.

FINALLY A SOLUTION TO THE AM “PROBLEM” THAT IS IF “THEY” ARE REALLY LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION!

WRNJ, Hackettstown, NJ will be filing a Petition with the FCC requesting they explore moving AM band stations to the near-vacant 45 to 50 MHz VHF band.  The AM band is no longer capable of providing a quality service to its communities for several reasons.  Noise, skip, overly expensive antenna systems, varying hours of operation, and directional patterns to name just a few immediate issues.  And, lack of listeners!

WRNJ suggests the FCC consider the digital transmission DRM+ system along with a simple vertical only, non-gain antenna.  The VHF 1 band is ideal for local / regional coverage.  Exactly the local service that was expected during the early days of AM would return.  The two-way radio licensees of the 45 / 50 MHz band have all but fled the band for either trunked or cell service.  This ended the expense and maintenance of low band FM mobile radios for the many users.  Too, Motorola and Kenwood, it is reported, no longer manufacture low band equipment.  A scanner covering 45 to 50 MHz at a tower with reception from New York City to Philadelphia can go days before hearing a single carrier.

International regulations for ITU regions 2 and 3 already call for broadcasting between 47 and 50 MHz as previously mentioned, the band is ideal for local / regional coverage and can provide Americans with the latest technology from their local stations.  It would be wise for broadcasters to familiarize themselves with all the abilities of the DRM+ modulation scheme…it’s far from just an audio transport.  Many (ITU 2 and 3) countries are already embracing the DRM+ which is so far superior to anything we’re presently using the USA.  Why would we wait any longer?

July 2008, the BROADCAST MAXIMIZATION COMMITTEE   published the results of their study on AM and proffered the concept of converting the Channels 5 and 6 to digital AM’s, LPFM, NCE’s et.al.  See   http://www.broadmax.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/proposal.pdf

That was 12 years ago and nothing has been done about it.

With this proposal, we would avoid AM noise, nighttime interference, adjacent channel issues and eliminate the awful fidelity issues.  There is occasional skip on the proposed band.  Adjacent TV channel 2 survived it for 50 plus years.  Skip is infrequent and probably won’t have the deleterious effects experienced with analog.  There is skip on the AM band every night!

DRM+ channel efficiency is more compact than present channel spacing. Spectrum efficiency vastly exceeds anything we’re using today. The implications of that efficiency are evident.  Far more information can be packed into the DRM+ in much less space.  A short basic explanation of DRM+ can be found here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGa8X5hr5Vw  A more technical explanation of DRM+ can be found at this location: https://www.drm.org/what-is-drm-digital-radio/summary/  Note in the video that 1KW ERP of DRM+ equals the same coverage as a 5KW conventional installation.  An efficient system lowers the electric bill.  The proposed vertical antenna of unity gain reduces tower loading and or rent.

There are no receivers!  Right. We propose a transition period of years to come to fruition. American broadcasting has spent tens of millions on moving TV facilities and the market responded to the shifts in frequency and modulation schemes.  The AM band too, was extended and radio manufacturers responded.  Simply stated, if not now, when?

The AM band is beyond practical (include economical) use anymore.  The transmission systems are onerous to say the least.  We have to live within the bounds of physics and that, simply put, eliminates todays AM band as it is structured.  We know Japan will soon be amongst other nations that terminated AM radio…at the request of AM operators!! Italy too is converting to DRM+.

We propose that any AM operator simulcast the new and old band until the market dictates the AM shutdown of dual facilities.  We propose the system be local and that any who might wish to stay with AM be free to stay there.  With the migration, we expect, the AM band may again have a chance for wide area service from those who can increase power and coverage upon spectrum availability resulting from the migration to DRM+ VHF.  The FM band would be relieved of the congestion it’s now experiencing from translators.  We would hope that the ownership remain local and avoid the dereliction of local community service that came with ownership-consolidation.

Is there any better time to start this than now?  I can’t think of one negative, can you?  We look forward to your input if and when the FCC moves with the Petition for Rule Making.

Larry Todd
WRNJ Radio
Hackettstown, NJ
larryradio@wrnj.com

Locally, the 1210 Auburn station has been having some interesting twists and turns.  First the station’s owner, Bustos Media, elected to abandon their 10 kW night operation using 4 towers on the east side of Auburn, opting for low power night operation at their day site on the west side of Auburn.

The next phase of this project was to completely take apart the former ‘night-site’.  This process went smoothly to the point of taking down the towers.  As it turned out, the City of Auburn required a demolition permit to take the towers down…and getting that permit required even more hoops.  Then, just as the permit was granted, came the news that KZIZ/1560 was seeking a new transmitter site.  (The 1560 site is just south of Auburn)  Apparently the owners of the station asked Hatfield and Dawson if the former 1210 night site would work for 1560 and the answer came back yes.  With that the owners entered into a tentative agreement to purchase the property, transmitter building and antenna system from the Garre family.  Mr. Bustos sent out an email stating that the towers did not need to come down after all.

(The Garre’s were the original owners of the Auburn AM station going back to 1958 when it was KASY).   Someone is going to have a lot of work to do to make this operational.  Perhaps I’ll have more on this one in my next column.

Perhaps one of your pet-peeves is – dumb people with smart phones?  Since the introduction of these devices, we have become better connected with tools in our hands that would have been ‘Sci-Fi’ only a few years earlier.  With all the good they provide there are certainly some down-sides.  Perhaps distracted drivers is the worse.  People believing they can drive and text at the same time etc.  How about distracted walkers?  Perhaps you have seen one of these recently…a person walking and running into something etc.  This too is a serious problem.  Think about the person walking and texting and walking into the path of a moving vehicle.

Apparently a New York state Senator has introduced a bill to make texting, while walking, illegal with fines ranging from $50 to $150.  The bill would make it illegal to cross streets while their eyes are glued to their phone.  Sadly, you cannot depend on common sense to prevail.  I understand that similar laws have passed in other cities, but this would mean the entire state.

And the Headline read –

An estimated 3.7 million Washington residents living in drought areas

If you are like me and travel on non-paved roads reaching broadcast facilities and have, perhaps, noticed, a cloud of dust following you?  I was working over in Forks in early May, talking with the fellow that mows the grass at the ONRC.  He noted that his machine was doing something unusual for this time of year, kicking up a cloud of dust.  Remember, this is Forks where they get 100 inches of rain a year!  What does all this mean?  We could well be headed into a season of bad wildfires.  Remember last summer and all the smoke?

Want to read more about this topic – KING5 explains it well.

https://www.king5.com/article/weather/an-estimated-37-million-washington-residents-living-in-drought-areas/281-593e8a18-bd67-4118-a912-b6b60c65e655

Then this announcement: Inslee expands drought emergency for nearly half of the State

So what’s going on?

  • Now half of the State is officially in a drought emergency declaration area because of worsening forecasts calling for warmer and drier conditions through the summer.
  • Our Snow-Pack is currently less than 50% of average for this time of year, meaning less water for all this summer.

If you recall, we had a similar situation in 2015.

The following two maps help make this situation more clear.

Yes, the Seattle-Tacoma area is surrounded by Red…with 3 counties being recently added..

 

 

The FCC is out with new rules to deal with the issue of resolving translator interference complaints.  Much of this driven by the FCC’s allowing AM’s to have FM Translators in appeals by AM broadcasters for help.  Up to this point there have been a number of issues raised that drove the FCC to re-think how they were handling these matters.

Under the new rules, the FCC will use a station’s outer 45 dBu contour limit.  That includes establishing a minimum number of additional listener complaints that must be included in any waiver seeking to establish a claim of interference outside the complaining station’s 45 dBu contour.  While the FCC received proposals calling for a 60 dBU or 54 dBU contour limit instead, it says there is “extensive evidence” from markets nationwide to support the idea that full-service stations have substantial listenership outside the 54 dBu contour, and that listenership would be at risk if interference complaints outside this limit were not considered actionable.

Here’s some of what else is changing:

  • The order adds more “flexibility” to its rules by allowing FM translator stations to change frequency to any available same-band channel – as a minor change in response to interference issues.  It notes channel changes are “a relatively low cost way to resolve interference with little or no reduction in service area.”
  • The FCC also established a minimum number of listener complaints ranging from a low of six to a high of 25, proportionate to the population the complaining station serves, that a station would need to submit with any claim of interference.
  • Interference complaints often devolve into questions about the veracity of the allegations.  In an effort to reduce those fights, the FCC approved guidelines for specific things a listener must say in their complaint.  That includes sharing complete contact information; a clear, concise and accurate description of the location where the interference is alleged to occur; a statement that they listen to the station over-the-air at least twice a month to demonstrate the complainant is a regular listener; and a statement that the complainant has no legal, employment, financial or familial affiliation or relationship with the station.
  • In a series of steps designed to help resolve disputes, the FCC okayed several moves that translator owners must take to keep their signals on the air.  They include working with the listener to help resolve the problem.  But the order eliminates the requirement that listener complainants must cooperate with the translator operator.  Instead, it would be up to the listener if they wanted to help.
  • The Commission also concluded that 90 days “should be sufficient” to resolve most claims of interference.  If it goes beyond that, the Media Bureau must offer an explanation as to why.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly had pushed the FCC to firm up that 90-day remediation deadline process.  He said it would bring “an even higher level of predictability to the process.”

The new guidelines largely follow suggestions handed to the agency by the National Association of Broadcasters in 2017.  “The FCC deserves credit for endorsing a common-sense compromise for reviewing FM radio listener complaints alleging interference from FM translators,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.  “FM translators have been enormously helpful extending the reach of AM radio stations.  We’re pleased the FCC continues to embrace ideas that foster the revitalization of AM radio.”

The Headline read – Revenues Climb 8% At American Tower.

The piece explains that the tower business is ‘red-hot’, explaining ATC’s overall, global revenue rose 4.1% to $1.8 Billion (Yes, with a B).  The company that owns many of the major transmission sites in the Seattle area has nearly 25,000 towers.

If you are like me…you wondered why a broadcaster would sell their tower assets to American Tower and then lease space on them.  Broadcasters would often cite that towers were not their core business and they did not know how to adequately market them.  My response to that was, find out how it’s done and keep the profits for yourself.  Obviously I was viewed as a voice from the basement.  Besides, they were in business not to make money but put smiles on the faces of stockholders.

The wireless industry is what’s fueling growth in the tower industry…not broadcasting.  ATC has reportedly constructed more than 700 new sites thus far this year.  Back to the broadcast side, a lot of their attention has been due to re-packing related to ARSC 3.0.

Talk about poor timing.  In last month’s column I ran a picture of Amador Bustos…This this month it was announced that his firm ‘Bustos Media’ was buying a number of additional radio stations.

The one attracting the most attention in the Seattle area is 102.9/KFNY-FM, that was one of the stations that iHM had to shed as part of the CBS/Entercom deal where iHM picked up some of the former CBS stations.  A bit about his new station –

The transmitter is on Capital Peak, Southwest of Olympia.  (The same site is used by 88.1 and 96.1)  Providing coverage south through Lewis County, west to Grays Harbor and northeast into Olympia and the Seattle/Tacoma area.

Technically the station operates with 70,000 watts ERP at 668 Meters Above Average Terrain or 867 Meters Above Mean Sea-Level.  Compare that to the station down the dial at 102.5/KZOK which operates from West Tiger Mt. with 68,000 watts ERP at 698 Meters HAAT or 932 Meters AMSL.  As you can see the power and elevation is similar.  The big difference is the proximity to population.

102.9 has had a large number of call letters in its history.  Here are a few – KELA (1980), KMNT, KNBQ, KYNW, KZLS, KOAG, KFXY, KMMZ, KMKZ, KBFQ to name a few.  If you dig a bit deeper….or are an old duffer like me, you know that the station began operation on Cook Hill (NW of Centralia) as KGME.  (The FCC shows the station first licensed on Feb 23rd, 1966)  The owner was the legendary Chuck Ellsworth who was an on-air talent during the glory days of Seattle rock stations.  Later Chuck taught broadcasting at Bates in Tacoma while still working part-time, on the air, in Seattle.  The G and M stations call letters were named for family members the E was, of course for Ellsworth.

Chuck was a great guy, one that your writer turned to back in 1966 when I was faced with a decision whether to accept a job as a DJ at a major Seattle AM…or Chief Engineer at a major Seattle AM.  I recall Chuck telling me that with my technical abilities I’d be much better off doing Engineering.  I took his advice and was about to take that Seattle Engineering job  when I learned that old friend Peter Policani was leaving KMO.  Whereas I was living in Tacoma, I opted for that job instead.

Shortly after this, Chuck passed and his wife sold the station to the owners of KELA in Centralia in 1968.  They moved the transmitter to Crego Hill where it operated at much higher power.  It then used the call letters KELA-FM.  Later when that combination was sold, the transmitter was moved to Capital Peak.

For Bustos, the first station in the Seattle market was the 1210 AM in Auburn which he purchased from Entercom.  He later purchased 99.3 from Greg Smith.  More recently he purchased the 103.3 in Skagit County (near Mt. Vernon).  The addition of 102.9 will mean he will have 3 FM’s and an AM in this market.

Amador was not done, with the announcement that he was purchasing KRCW licensed to Royal City, north of Tri-Cities.  That station operates with 19.5Kw at 241 Meters and covers the area between Moses Lake and Tri-Cities.  This will make his 5th Station in that market.

One more mention of Amador Bustos – He was recently appointed to a two-year term to the Radio Board of Directors of NAB.

If you recall, in a past column, I mentioned that Kent Randles, who has headed up the engineering department at Entercom Portland with oversight responsibility in Seattle, was retiring the end of June.  The announcement was recently made who will be replacing him, Jeff McGinley, son of now retired Tom McGinley.  Not often you find a situation where a son opts for the same business.  (The name Hubert comes to mind.)  Congratulations to Jeff!

Washington State has joined its neighbor to the south with the signing of a bill giving certain broadcasters ‘First Informer’ status.  Congratulations to all those that worked to make this come to pass.

Here is how the WSAB, prime sponsor of the bill, put it –

GOVERNOR INSLEE SIGNS FIRST INFORMER BROADCASTER BILL!

HB 1147 – the First Informer Broadcaster Bill – was signed by Governor Inslee on April 30, 2019, culminating three years of efforts by broadcasters to ensure access to transmitter and studio facilities during time of a declared emergency.

The WSAB worked with the State’s Emergency Management Division to move the bill forward, which was sponsored in the 2019 legislative session by Rep. Mike Chapman (D-24), Rep. Brad Klippert (R-8), Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45) and Sen. Sam Hunt (D-22).  The bill passed through both chambers of the Washington State Legislature unanimously (House 97-0 and Senate 44-0) before reaching the Governor’s desk for signature.

“This legislation is really impactful for broadcasters,” said Janene Drafs, Chairwoman of the Board of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters. “Access to our transmitter sites and studio facilities during time of emergency allows us to broadcast important safety and recovery information to the communities we serve across the state of Washington.”

“On behalf of the 260 commercial and non-commercial radio and television stations across the state, we appreciate the support of our state legislators and the Governor in passing HB 1147,” said Keith Shipman, President & CEO of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters. “We’re pleased to become the 11th state in America to pass such legislation. We also wish to acknowledge the great work of Mark Allen of Mark Allen Government Relations for navigating the legislative process and broadcast engineers Keith Nealey of KIRO-TV and Marty Hadfield (retired) for offering testimony during public hearings on this issue.”

The First Informer Broadcaster bill was designed to allow broadcast technicians who have registered with the Washington Business Re-Entry System (https://mil.wa.gov/emergency-management-division/business-re-entry-registration) access to their studio and transmitter facilities in order to restore broadcast operations and disseminate safety and recovery information to listeners and viewers.

A First Informer Broadcaster is defined as “an individual who is employed by, or acting pursuant to a contract under the direction of a broadcaster; and maintains, including repairing and resupplying, transmitters, generators, or other essential equipment at a broadcast station or facility or provides technical support services to broadcasters needed during a period of proclaimed emergency.”

Broadcasters must still follow the direction of incident commanders as it relates to safety issues in declared emergency zones. Key language in the bill prohibits authorities from confiscating resources – fuel, food, water and other essential materials – brought to the site by a First Informer Broadcaster.

Broadcast engineers and technicians are encouraged to register through the aforementioned link to become a First Informer Broadcaster. Once registered, the engineer/technician will receive a registration card via email.

This announcement drew comments from many:

This from Andy Skotdal –

Keith Shipman deserves twice the thanks since he was integral in getting it done in Oregon, first, with Bill Johnstone.  This is an effort that has been discussed among all of you and at the WSAB board level since Katrina (over 11 years ago!), and it was the dogged handful like Arthur, Clay, Mark, Keith, Bill and others who prioritized it and got it done.  The WSAB board and OAB boards also deserve credit along with the SBE for prioritizing this initiative in order to give their leaders the authority to march.  Law enforcement types were initially resistant, and this was truly a broad group effort.  Congratulations!

And this from Marty Hadfield –

Andy, I will second that recommendation to applause the undying efforts of Mark Allen and Keith Shipman.  Their focused guidance made all the difference in the world.

It was nearly a year and a half year ago that I sat with Mark and Keith, and provided passionate verbal testimony to Senator Sam Hunt, Sponsor of SB 6056, giving a technical “boots on the ground” perspective of my Katrina/Rita Hurricane and other disaster incident response experiences.  This was provided on behalf of all Radio Broadcast Engineers in Washington State – describing the basis for needing unfettered access to the studios and various transmission sites that are critical to providing broadcast information to the general public in the confusing times surrounding a disaster and recovery effort.  No other industry has proven to provide better reach to those directly impacted citizens than Broadcasting. Period.

Subsequent to that meeting, I’m happy to say that my colleague, Keith Nealey, provided his supporting testimony on behalf of the Television Engineers across Washington State.

It was a great team effort and I know we are all proud of the results and positive implications for maintaining a strong on-air broadcast presence whenever disasters may strike in Washington.

Looks like the FCC may have more tools to fight pirate radio.  A bill is making its way through congress called the ‘Pirate Act’.  If the President signs it, the FCC will have the authority to fine a pirate station operator up to $100,000 per day, per violation up to a max of 2 mega-bucks.

As I have stated many times, all of this is meaningless until they come up with a method of collecting the fine.  In many cases these operators don’t have the funds to pay the fines and are let off with a ‘hand-slap’.  There are many that feel they have a right to do what they have been doing.  Perhaps this could be compared to when a person is stripped of their drivers license and continues to drive a vehicle?

In another FCC action – back in 2016 Cumulus Media agreed to pay a $540,000 fine in response to a violation of sponsorship identification rules.  However, they never paid it (something about their bankruptcy getting in the way).  Looks like they are still ‘on the hook’ for this one.  This time the FCC, with the support of the Justice Department, are asking a judge to force the company to pay what is now a $792,344 bill.  Just like when you don’t pay your taxes, the amount goes up.

Don’t forget  – The next NAB event in Las Vegas will see things shifted forward a day from a Monday thru Thursday event to a Sunday thru Wednesday one.  Attendance at the most recent show was 91,921 – about the same as 2018 – but under the 103,000 that attended in 2017, a major factor in driving the change.

Looking for a job in the technical side of broadcasting?

OPB is looking for an individual passionate about technology to join our Bend-based team supporting OPB’s RF distribution technology at our remote sites in the Central and Eastern parts of Oregon.  This non-exempt regular status represented position is full-time and includes benefits.  Apply at http://www.opb.org/about/jobs/

Broadcast Engineers don’t all sit around soldering things together at a work-bench or click keys on a computer all day….OK, some do…and some don’t.  Some actually get dirt under their nails

Occasionally things go wrong at Mountain Top transmitter sites – presenting some interesting challenges.  The following pictures come from the NWPB crew that was recently dealing with a power failure at a site near Wenatchee called Naneum.  This is the location of NWPB’s KNWR that found itself off the air due to failure of a PUD power line and an empty auxiliary generator fuel tank for the State DNR Generator.

So what do you do in a case like this?  They knew the power line came across the ridge from KPQ’s transmitter site on Mission Ridge, and they had power.  A call to the PUD apparently revealed that they had no vehicle to deal with the power line.  To get the station back on the air meant one thing, time to haul diesel to the site.

Here you see the NWPB Snow-Cat loaded on its trailer about to get a work-out.

 

Three Drums of diesel on the back and time to head up the mountain.

Looking from the Naneum site across the ridge at the KPQ facility.  Elevation about 7000 feet.

 

A bit of scenery from Naneum, looking to the Southwest at Mt. Rainier.  The shape of our famous landmark looks odd when viewed from this side.

Over the years I have found it ‘interesting’ how few inside and outside the industry are curious, or perhaps remotely interested in knowing anything about the facility that creates the signal that people receive to make sounds and pictures…the places where I have been interested in since the get-go.  I recall, early on, when I was a young sprout learning about the industry that I would, one-day, be employed in…asking if I could see the transmitter.  Perhaps these people feel that transmitters are mystery machines full of techno hocus-pokus that they would not comprehend?

The FCC has issued its final report on the impact of Hurricane Michael on broadcasting and on other services some seven months ago.  Here are some of the major take-aways:

  • A number of radio stations remain off the air in Panama City.
  • All of the stations were off the air due to damaged transmitter sites.
  • Some stations, particularly in hard-hit Bay and Gulf Counties, the damage was long-lasting or even permanent.

The Commission was not pleased with some aspects of the wireless industry –

  • The investigation found that three key factors, including insufficiently resilient backhaul connectivity, inadequate reciprocal roaming arrangements and lack of coordination between wireless service providers, power crews and municipalities as the predominant causes of what the FCC says was the “unacceptably slow” restoration of wireless service.
  • FCC Chair Ajit Pai, who visited the region following the storm, “I appreciate the efforts of the FCC’s public safety staff and call on wireless phone companies, other communications providers and power companies to quickly implement the recommendations contained in this report.”  Pai has directed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to conduct a comprehensive re-examination of the FCC’s Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework.  That work remains ongoing.

Looking briefly at the business side of Radio:

  • Saga reported revenues were down a bit, some of this as the result of purchasing additional stations in Florida.  Saga operates a cluster of stations in Bellingham.
  • Salem Media reported a 61% decrease in net income along with other negative results.  Salem operates a number of AM stations in the Seattle area.
  • iHeart Media is officially out of bankruptcy.  With the company now controlled by a number of hedge and mutual fund companies, other changes may be on the horizon.

One of the national remailers aimed at technical workers in broadcasting recently had a thread going about pagers, commonly called beepers.  These were little gizmos that attached to your belt that were your only wireless means of being reached in those days.

At first there was what was termed a ‘tone only pager’ that ‘beeped’ when its associated phone number was called.  This told the wearer to head to the nearest phone and call a pre-arranged phone number.  The telephone company also offered this:  They called them ‘Bellboys’.

Next came the ‘Tone and Voice Pager’.  With this one, a caller would dial the pager’s phone number and when they heard a beep, could speak to the user.  Usually the caller would speak the number they wanted the person to call.

Then came the Digital Pager.  Not only would this device beep when called, but the person on the phone could ‘input’ a specific phone number for the wearer to call back.

In all these cases, you had to have a pocket of change ready to go to use with those pay-phones that seemed to be everywhere.

In some cases, the RCC’s (Radio Common Carriers) offered Mobile Telephones.  These were sold by private owners and the telephone company.  They worked pretty well, provided you were within range of the provider’s equipment.  Generally they were installed in a vehicle and were not portable.

Of course this all changed with the introduction of cellular telephone systems.  A 2-way communications device was certainly better than what we had been dealing with.  Cellular has evolved in many ways as we all know, with more bells and whistles than anyone back then could have dreamed.

Back to the remailer thread.  The question was posed, ‘Is anyone still using a pager?’  Much surprise to many, the answer was yes, there are still pagers being used.  Here are a couple of links with more information on the continued use of these little critters:

https://www.americanmessaging.net/coverage/coverage.php

http://www.sound-tele.com/answering-services/pager-services/states/WA/Seattle

https://www.amazon.com/Motorola-LS350-Annual-Service-Beeper/dp/B00914ZZ0Q

My column would not be complete without a picture of an amazing sunset from the deck of Dwight Small’s new home in Skagit County.

There is a lot going on in the world of EAS these days.

  • The Washington SECC formed a Plan Revision Committee whose job it was to overhaul our existing Plan with the following goals:

1 – Make it better organized
2 – Bring it into conformance with recent FCC changes, specifically ARS

  • During this process we have come to learn –

1 – The term ‘State EAS Plan’ will be used by the FCC
2 – The FCC will be ‘housing’ State EAS Plans on their computer system
3 – The SECC will be inputting a good deal of the data into it
4 – Our new ‘Plan’ will contain a ‘Tab’ or ‘Link’ to the FCC’s State EAS Plan
5 – A name change for our (Washington State Plan) is likely because –
a. Our plan contains a lot of material that is not required by the FCC and will not be in the FCC’s data
b. It’s not a good idea to have two different books with different information.
6 – The Plan Rev Committee will be dealing with the Name Change matter in their next meeting on June 17th.   Should they reach a decision, it will be forwarded to the SECC for formal action at their July 9th Meeting at CPTC in Lakewood.

  • As always, all of our EAS Meetings are open to all and your input is always welcome.
  • It looks like our new Plan (with the new name) will be rolled out early this fall.

I like to leave you with something that will bring a smile.  This month some funnies that were contributed by my readers….the ages of whom are perhaps revealed by the nature of the following.

 

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 Spring!!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for May 2019

April 28, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

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

For reasons I cannot explain…I often start out my column talking about the weather.  Perhaps it’s because of the fact that we have so much of it in this area.  I would be bored out of my mind in a place where the weather changes little.  Thus far this year we have had a full course of varied weather.  A record cold February, dry March and wet April…whew!  This year was one of those that shut down conventional access to the transmitter facilities on West Tiger for about two months.  In my 30+ years of dealing with that place…this has happened only a few times.

Looking ahead, many fingers are crossed as we remember all too well how the main feature of last summer in this area was smoke!  Let’s hope that this is not the case this year.

We have had a number of notable passings:

Jim Tharp, WA7KYI, longtime resident of Vashon and Maury Island.  I got to know Jim a lot better when we found ourselves both working for Entercom back when they owned 710 and 770.  Jim had been with KING for many years before.  When Jim was not working on the Island, he and I were working together installing equipment at Cougar and West Tiger.  Jim leaves a son (Adam) and his family living on the island.

From the local Island Ham Radio Club newsletter:

Hello Everyone.

I learned some bad news today.  Jim Tharp, WA7KYI, passed away.  Jim was an integral member of the Vashon Maury Island Radio club going back 40 years or so.  Jim had some medical issues a few years ago that prevented his full participation in club events lately.  Before that Jim helped install and maintain the W7VMI repeater, he was often the “beachmaster” for field day in June as well as a key Morse code operator for multiple club contests and events.  Jim was a great source of knowledge of the ins and outs of amateur radio and was always monitoring the repeater and ready to reply if anyone came on the air.

Jim Tharp, along with Phil Zook, W7PDZ, started the first Saturday breakfasts at Sporty’s many years ago as a small gathering that has grown to an ongoing tradition.

Vashon and Maury islands have lost a good person who did so much for the club and community.

Art Blum, historic broadcaster in Tri-Cities passed unexpectedly on Tuesday March 26th.

Anyone in Broadcasting in Tri-Cities knew Art, who spent some 42 years with KONA, serving in many roles, announcer, salesperson and finally, as the station’s engineer.  To say that Art was a fixture and legend in that area’s broadcast industry is an understatement.

Our paths crossed many times over the years.  I recall, back in the late 90’s when we were launching our EAS efforts in this state looking for someone in that area that could serve as local-leader.  Art was quickly on-board.  Our paths crossed again when I hired on at WSU.  Art too had made the jump to public broadcasting.

One of his areas of interest was photographer, where he assisted law enforcement by providing images of crime scenes and accidents as well as coverage of the area’s beauty pageant.

Art was an SBE Member and past chairman of Chapter 51.  He was 76.

 

Ron Rackley, WE4RR

Ron passed shortly after returning home from his annual trek to NAB in Las Vegas.  He was an internationally well-known and respected engineer.  The media that covers people like Ron were quick to provide coverage.  Simply Googling his name will provide you with a lot of background.  Unfortunately I never had a chance to work with Ron on a project (it was high on my bucket list).  He left a number of footprints in this area with his collaborative work with Ben Dawson as well as call letters you would recognize.  I last visited with Ron at NAB a year ago, a wonderfully warm engaging person that always had a story to tell.  I only wish that someone could compile them into a book!

Ron loved Radio and in particular the RF side of AM.

He received a number of awards, one of which was the co-honoree (with Ben Dawson) of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award in 2006 where I had the privilege of being in attendance.

I would be remiss if I I did not mention that Ron also enjoyed Ham Radio.  As you can imagine, a man with his talents deployed many of them in his solution to antenna issues at his home.

You can look up Ron on QRZ, using his call letters WE4RR and read a lot more.  From QRZ, here’s a great picture at home.  By the way, Ron loved Morse Code!  He was a young 66.

Another passing, with no known PNW connections, was Glen Clark, who gained a lot of attention many years ago with his development of an audio processor known as the Texar Audio Prism.  It was quite a light show!  Glen was a prolific designer.  He reportedly passed just weeks after being diagnosed with liver cancer at age 67.

The headline read:  Washington  Legislature Approves Daylight Time Bill

Before you make alternative plans for the twice a year ritual of changing the clocks, be aware of a couple of things: 1) This is not just a Washington State thing.  It’s part of a movement for the entire (US) West Coast to be locked on PDT (Pacific Daylight Time).  Guess they need to get Federal approval to make it official.  So what would happen if this takes place?

  • Would Pacific Daylight Time then become Pacific Standard Time?
  • What about B.C.?  B.C. Premier John Horgan indicates that the province will stay in sync and do whatever the western states do.
  • For Power/Pattern Switching the FCC requires AM stations in the US to switch according to a Table based on Standard Time.  (Frankly, I leave the stations I attend to in that mode and let the local clocks change.)  Could the FCC issue some sort of statement?
  • For those that objected to switching back and forth, I have, for years, submitted a compromise:  Change the clocks 1/2 hour one time.  It caused a lot of raised eyebrows and little support.
  • It’s really time to end all this foolishness and switch to METRIC TIME! and dispense with this ‘Base-12’ time stuff (after all don’t we divide Seconds into ‘Tenths’).

Base Time is simple:

  • Each Day is divided into 10 hours
  • Each Hour is divided into 100 minutes
  • Each Minute is divided into 100 seconds
  • Etc.

Hey….If you are going to go Metric (which we all should) why stop at Time?

Country Music Radio is about to get a whole lot more interesting in Seattle!

First, some history.  When Entercom gobbled CBS, they dropped the long standing Country Music outlet on 94.1 (KMPS), switching format to AC to become ‘The Sound’.  Sensing that this might happen, Hubbard was ready and immediately dropped their previous format on 98.9 in favor of Country.  Makes sense, as Seattle has supported two Country Music stations for some time.  The success of the Hubbard effort on 98.9 (Called The Bull) up against Entercom’s (The Wolf) has been limited.  Hubbard is obviously willing to put more into The Bull’s challenge of The Wolf by hiring Entercom’s former programmer, Scott Mahalick, who recently exited Alpha in Portland, and picked up the former Wolf morning guy, Fitz.  For those of us that have been watching Seattle Radio for many years….This is exciting.  Watching these two powerful organizations ‘duke it out’ for the Country listener is where the listeners will win.  Now to hide and watch the ratings battle between the two.  Fasten your seat-belts.

Portland, Oregon is doing some things in Radio that are unique with LPFM’s:

First there is KQRZ-LP.  Looking up the Station in Wikipedia, we find:

KQRZ-LP (100.7 FM) is a low-power radio station licensed to Hillsboro, Oregon, United States.  The station is owned by the Oregon Amateur Radio Club, Inc.  KQRZ-LP signed on the air July 22, 2012, on an initial frequency of 101.5 MHz[1]  On July 11, 2013, at 8:00 PM, KQRZ-LP changed the transmit frequency to 100.7 MHz, although the license to cover that frequency was not issued by the Federal Communications Commission until September 4, 2013.

On July 22, 2012, KQRZ undertook an affiliation with the WORC Oldies Network, which syndicates broadcast material to other low-power radio stations interested in amateur radio.  Programming includes amateur (ham) radio news, educational material, comedy, oldies, and adult standards music.

Did you catch the portions I underlined in bold?  The station is being operated by an Amateur Radio Club!  Wow.

Then there is KISN-LP.  Looking this one up in Wikipedia we find:

KISN was an AM radio station licensed for Vancouver, Washington but based in Portland.  On May 1, 2015, at 9:51 a.m. KISNLP commenced broadcasting 24 hours a day, 56 years later to the day when the original KISN launched in 1959.  For more information, check out http://www.goodguyradio.com/kisn-radio-coverage.html

I was living in Portland back in those days and remember listening to ‘Kissin’ on 910 AM.  It was, back then, what KJR was to Seattle.  I think what they are doing is very cool.  Can you imagine being able to listen to a radio station in the Seattle area that sounds very much like KJR 50+ years ago?

Kudos to these two Low Power FM’s for doing something unique and non-offensive.  Keeping memories alive is very much appreciated.

Speaking of Portland (my home-town prior to 1957), I recently learned that Kent Randles is going to be retiring on July 5th of this year.  Should not be a shock to anyone in this business, as it seems that retirement is coming in waves these days.  Congratulations to Kent (and Patti) on the news.

Remember the days before Smart Phones?  No one called them dumb or stupid phones.  Probably because the term ‘Smart Phone‘ had not yet been coined.

Just as with speakers, using today’s terms, all the speakers in my house are both dumb and stupid (the way I like them).  Speaking of which, Radio is apparently awakening to the idea that today’s Smart Speaker is the closest to a ‘Kitchen Radio’ as we will ever see again.  Ever try and go out and purchase a radio for your kitchen counter?  Sales dude will think you are from another world.  New surveys support the notion that these counter top gizmos are indeed being used to listen to Radio.

Then there are light bulbs.  Just like the previous examples, all the light bulbs, by today’s standards, are dumb and stupid, especially in light (no pun) of the fact that you can now go out and buy Smart Light Bulbs.

In the event you missed it, these new creations come in various power ratings (light output) and can be adjusted for brilliance and color with your ‘Smart Speaker’…or anywhere you have an on-line connection.  What will they think of next?

One thing we don’t have any of in the Seattle area is very tall towers to hold our Television Antennas.  Thankfully we have hills and mountains to do a lot of the elevation work for us.

An old friend from Wisconsin, Nels Harvey, recently sent me the following video showing how they changed a TV antenna in Florida on a very tall tower.  In this case, using a huge helicopter called a ‘Sky-Crane’.  After viewing this you will better understand why they say this is the most dangerous type of work there is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pitEq8gjNj8

It was not a heavy one.  The weight was a little over 10,000 pounds.

And the Headline read RTDNA Announces Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.

The Radio Television Digital News Association has announced recipients of its 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.  The prestigious kudos recognize more than 309 radio, television and digital news organizations in the U.S. and around the world, from more than 4,600 entries.

All regional winners will compete for National Edward R. Murrow Awards, which will be announced in June and presented at Gotham Hall in New York Oct. 14.

Here’s how Radio stations in the Seattle area faired:

  • Overall Excellence – KOMO-AM
  • Breaking News Coverage – KOMO-AM
  • Continuing Coverage – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Innovation – KUOW-FM
  • Excellence in Social Media – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Sound – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Video – KUOW-FM
  • News Documentary – KNKX-FM
  • Feature Reporting – KNKX-FM

On the Television side, these Stations were honored:

  • Overall Excellence – KING-TV
  • Continuing Coverage – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Innovation – KING-TV
  • Excellence in South – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Video – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Writing – KING-TV
  • Feature Reporting – KING-TV
  • Hard News – KOMO-TV
  • Investigative Reporting – KOMO-TV
  • News Documentary – KOMO-TV
  • News Series – KING-TV
  • Newscast (11PM) KING-TV

According to John Poray, Executive Director of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, this is the first case of broadcast engineers being killed on the job as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Their deaths are a reminder that we face more dangers on the job than an overload of electrons.

Adrienne Abbott, who announced the news added, Engineers here in Nevada are adding CO detectors to their transmitter buildings and purchasing personal CO monitors.

And the Headline read – Green River College adult alternative KGRG-FM Seattle (89.9) marks its 30th anniversary with a month-long on-air and online celebration.

Wow….This is news to me.  According to the FCC, KGRG is licensed to Green River College in Auburn.  “KGRG-FM WA AUBURN    USA”

Gee – Even Wikipedia got this one right.

Unfortunately this is typical for many news reports.  The writer of the story sees the actual location and uses the name of the nearest major city,  in this case, Seattle.  Not long ago there was an incident in Mt. Vernon.  Yup! the national press called it Seattle.  Perhaps geographic accuracy is not as important as it once was, or this is more of what some refer to as ‘Fake News’?

I am very reluctant to endorse a particular vendor’s processes.  However, in this case, Kudos to Ben Barber of Inovonics.  For those of you that are not familiar with this firm, they are a relatively small manufacture of problem solving items for, primarily, radio broadcasters.

Recently Ben posted a question on four different email groups asking for input on how they should handle the matter of technical documentation for equipment they manufacture.  (I don’t recall this ever being done.)  According to Ben, they received over 125 responses.

Here are the numbers:

37% prefer a paper manual.
52% prefer a QSG with link to downloadable PDF.  (QSG is a Quick Start Guide)
4% prefer a CD ROM.
7% thought that data on a USB / SD card was a good idea.

Here is what Ben posted:

Here’s what Inovonics is going to do:

Inovonics will continue to supply paper manuals with all of our products.  This seems the best idea for those who are at a transmitter site without internet connection, or if you’re trying to read the manual on your phone.

Inovonics will supply more QSG with our gear so you can get into it more quickly.  For instance, our Site Streamers are hooked to the network and then best operated and adjusted via their web interface.  To aid in this, a QSG will tell you how to hook up the Ins/Outs and how to enter the IP address.  Once into the device, most things should be easy to find.

Inovonics will NEVER require you to make an account and log into it, just to download a manual, datasheet or the latest firmware!

I have a two word summary – VERY COOL!

Perhaps the one place where radio has a huge edge is in the motor vehicle, aka, car and trucks.  There are several reasons for this:

  • Most vehicles come with car radios standard (yes, I am old enough to recall when that was an option).
  • Radio has been an ‘Audio Only’ source of information.  Historically these radios had two knobs and a few push-buttons.
  • Later came tape players for those that wanted ‘their tunes’.

Then along came the Cellphone:

  • Early versions were adaptations of earlier ‘mobile-telephones’ with a handset, cradle, outside antenna, etc.

Then came the much smaller cellphone that you carried with you –

  •  First the ‘Brick’, then the flip phone etc.
  • And the first ‘Pairing’ with the vehicle.
  • And the first sharing portions of the vehicle radio to permit ‘speakerphone’ operation.

Intro the Smart Phone:

  • Now we have a phone with a display that shows more than just a phone number.
  • This has evolved into a hand-held device that will display a lot of distracting information for the driver.  Most notable is the feature called ‘Texting’.

Automakers have responded:

  • Now the ‘Car Radio’ is a connected piece of the cellphone.
  • And now, distracted driving is taking lives and laws have been created to roll back the clock.

The problems are:

  • If you don’t own a fairly new vehicle, suggest you stop by a dealer show room and ask the salesperson about the stuff in the ‘Center Stack’ that used to be called ‘The Radio’.  You will be amazed how anyone can navigate all that and drive at the same time.
  • As has been said, today’s car buyers are choosing their new wheels based on style and acceleration specification.  They are buying them based on what’s called the “in car entertainment experience’.
  • That experience is not just audio….but visual as well.  Title and Artist and Album Art of what’s playing.
  • Today’s Car-Radio and Cellphone are being integrated in ways that, not long ago, seemed not possible.
  • Despite all the new technology being deployed with new vehicles to keep you safe, demand is increasing for things, inside the cabin, that create more distractions and the death rate statistics are a grim reminder of what’s taking place.
  • The Genie is ‘out of the bottle’.  Users want it all and STILL safely drive the vehicle.
  • We have ‘Trouble in River City’ because of consumer demand for yet a more connected vehicle that is running headlong into an ever-increasing number of laws and regulations regarding distracted driving.
  • This puts the automakers in an interesting and perplexing position.
  • Are people going to stop using their cellphones in their vehicles and go back to just listening to the radio?  Unfortunately,  Probably not!
  • Perhaps one bright spot is in the area of voice recognition (think smart speaker).

Maybe this technology will keep more eyes on the road?

  • The bottom line is that not much of this is good for Radio as the choices for the driver are increasing all the time.  Radio is fighting back with the automakers to make sure that they are not squeezed out.  In some cases, AM Radio already has been.
  • I still see radio stations that are not on the visual band-wagon…not even displaying their call letters or logo etc.  In some cases radio is its own worst enemy and continues to go through life with ‘Blinders’ on.

Another place where the status quo is on the chopping block is in Television.  I’m sure you recall the days when having a TV set also meant having a TV Antenna on the roof, unless you were close enough to the transmitters where having ‘Rabbit Ears’ was a status symbol.

Then along came Cable TV.  Replace your old ugly antenna and get a better picture and more channels…bla-bla-bla.

So many jumped on the band wagon and subscribed to cable.  Later Satellite TV joined the list of providers.

Then something happened.  It’s called the Internet.  The Cable Companies woke up one day with a chunk of coaxial cable into millions of homes that could be used for two-way communications.  The telephone companies made a similar discovery with their physical plant and developed DSL (albeit at a slower rate).

With ever higher speed Internet connections and cable video steaming, suddenly the cable outfits discovered that their coaxial cables (and fiber) were in demand for something other than watching TV.  As their prices went up, consumers became frustrated with their cost of getting television via cable and cord-cutting started, along with the re-discovery of Free OTA TV via an antenna.

So what’s going on now?  A recent survey provides some insight.

  • 4.56 million TV households will cut the cord this year.
  • For the first time, the number of households that are watching TV via streaming will surpass those that are watching conventional Pay TV.

For the cable outfits, this is not all bad news as the ‘American Couch Potato’ will continue to send them money.

Frankly, In my opinion, broadcasters have been asleep at the switch in this race.  It appears that they have thrown in the towel in terms of promoting over-the-air (OTA) viewing.  Perhaps they would be just as happy to see that expensive transmitter plant be replaced with a simple feed to their local cable outfits?

To help underscore the fact that Radio continues to be a big factor in broadcasting, consider:

  • Cumulus recently sold KLOS in Los Angeles for $43 Million.
  • Billing numbers are impressive
  • WTOP-FM in Washington DC – $69 Million
  • KIIS-FM in Las Angeles – $61 Million
  • KBIG in L.A. – $46 Million
  • WLTW in NYC – $44 Million
  • Looking at the top 10 Billing Radio Stations we find
  • IHeart has 5, Entercom 4 and Hubbard 1.

I’ve written a lot over the years about the demise of AM Radio.  A lot of this is simply due to the reduction in consumer demand.  Like what I wrote earlier about the Car Radio, there is a lot more going on vying for the consumers ear these days.  AM has a lot of negatives in the first place – Reduced Audio Bandwidth (Poor audio quality) No Stereo, ever increasing amount of noise, etc.  AM Station owners, watching their audience head to FM, sought relief from the FCC in the form of FM Translators.  (Any doubt as to the value of those signals to an AM will be erased when you look at the prices being paid for them).

The problem is that adding translators may be a Band-Aid to the station’s business model, but it does nothing to resolve the three core issues I just mentioned.  This has caused some AM station owners to look beyond having economic relief come from law-makers to something that could, in the long run, change the equation in their favor — changing modulation mode from AM to Digital.  Granted most AM stations could have opted for the HD Radio system that’s been pretty successful on FM, however that system has a number of technical and economic issues.

Now a Texas broadcaster has joined others and would like the FCC to consider allowing Digital-ONLY AM’s.  This action has, perhaps predictably, given voice to a number that are very critical of the idea that our original modulation mode might be scrapped in favor of something else.  What about the fact that few, if any, have a radio that will receive something like DRM?

I find myself on the side of the broadcaster.  After all – ‘It’s their money’!!

The fact is that AM is a dying mode all over the world, perhaps the only reason it remains viable in this country is because:

  • There are still some successful AM Stations left.
  • There are a zillion radio receivers out there.

I say – let them do it – if they want to experiment with this new mode and find it has all the advantages they feel it has.  Let them be pioneers.  Who knows, we might just learn something.

If you have been an Amateur Radio Operator for a long time, this will sound familiar, as they went through the pain of walking away from AM and, over time, embraced Single Side Band (SSB) as their chosen mode for a host of technical reasons.  Maybe this will happen here?

Oh yes, if you think that traffic is bad where you live, sit back and enjoy this video….

https://www.youtube.com/embed/UEIn8GJIg0E?rel=0

Over the years you have read comments I’ve written about Bustos Media.  I ran across this picture recently of the man behind the company, Amador Bustos.  Amador operates the 1210 AM KMIA as well as 99.3 FM, the first FM in this area deploying a Single Frequency Network (SFN) of co-channel boosters.

 

Each month I look for something to bring a smile to conclude my column.  Thanks to my readers that share my love of this stuff, I never suffer from a lack of contributions.

This month – IDIOSYNCRASY AND AMBIGUITY

  • DON’T SWEAT THE PETTY THINGS AND DON’T PET THE SWEATY THINGS.
  • ONE TEQUILA, TWO TEQUILA, THREE  TEQUILA, FLOOR.
  • ATHEISM IS A NON-PROPHET ORGANIZATION.
  • I WENT TO A BOOKSTORE AND ASKED THE SALESWOMAN, “WHERE’S THE SELF-HELP                              SECTION?”.  SHE SAID IF SHE TOLD ME, IT WOULD  DEFEAT THE PURPOSE.
  • WHAT IF THERE WERE NO HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS?
  • IF SOMEONE WITH MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES THREATENS TO KILL HIMSELF, IS IT CONSIDERED A HOSTAGE SITUATION?
  • IS THERE ANOTHER WORD FOR SYNONYM?
  • WHERE DO FOREST RANGERS GO TO “GET AWAY FROM IT ALL”?
  • WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU SEE AN  ENDANGERED ANIMAL EATING AN ENDANGERED PLANT?
  • IF A PARSLEY FARMER IS SUED, CAN THEY GARNISH HIS WAGES?
  • WOULD A FLY WITHOUT WINGS BE CALLED A WALK?
  • WHY DO THEY LOCK GAS STATION BATHROOMS?  ARE THEY AFRAID SOMEONE WILL CLEAN THEM?
  • IF A TURTLE DOESN’T HAVE A SHELL, IS HE HOMELESS OR NAKED?
  • CAN VEGETARIANS EAT ANIMAL CRACKERS?
  • IF THE POLICE ARREST A MIME, DO THEY TELL HIM HE HAS THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT?
  • WHY DO THEY PUT BRAILLE ON THE  DRIVE-THROUGH BANK MACHINES?
  • HOW DO THEY GET DEER TO CROSS THE  ROAD ONLY AT THOSE ROAD SIGNS?
  • WHAT WAS THE BEST THING BEFORE SLICED  BREAD?
  • ONE NICE THING ABOUT EGOTISTS: THEY DON’T TALK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE.
  • DOES THE LITTLE MERMAID WEAR AN ALGEBRA?
  • HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A CIVIL WAR?
  • IF YOU ATE BOTH PASTA AND ANTIPASTO, WOULD YOU STILL BE HUNGRY?
  • IF YOU TRY TO FAIL, AND SUCCEED, WHICH HAVE YOU DONE?

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 Spring!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

 

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