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Clay’s Corner for May 2018

May 28, 2018
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Clay’s Corner for May 2018

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Something that we all hate to hear about is a broadcast tower falling…Worse yet when you hear that someone you knew was killed in the process.     This was the case on April 19th when a very big, 1980 footer, went down in Fordland, Mo.   (Near Springfield)   Killed in the accident was a fellow many of us in the PNW had known for years, Steve LeMay.

Steve and his crew were working near the 100 foot level of the structure, according to some reports, replacing members on the tower to strengthen it for antenna changes related to re-packing, in this case, the TV station was moving from Channel 23 to Channel 16. The tower belongs to KOZK-TV and also housed an FM Antenna.

According to reports, 7 members of Steve’s crew were working on the project when it came down.  3 of them suffered injuries, unfortunately Steve did not survive.

I first met Steve many years ago when we worked for Seacomm.   We probably were involved in a number of projects over the years.   Later Steve formed his own company.   The last job where I was with him was the replacement of the KIRO-FM Antenna at West Tiger on the 4th of July 2016.

Steve will be remembered as an extremely nice, polite, soft spoken guy with a great smile.

The above pictures show Steve helping with the antenna installation for the Voice of Vashon
Below are some related comments –

Voice of Vashon’s low power FM (KVSH-LP 101.9FM) would not be where it is today without the “get it done” spirit of Steve Lemay. After Madison Batt designed our mast he said he’d invite a friend to come along for the install day. That friend — Steve Lemay — became our friend during a long day up top of a million gallon water tank.  Our team of volunteers worked on the tank with Steve and Madison supported by more volunteers on the ground crew. That day we all witnessed Steve take any problem in his stride and calmly solve it….And he did all that work for our dirt poor nonprofit at no charge, taking a day away from his family.

​One ​newspaper article about the Missouri tower collapse describes Steve as a “picture perfect dad.” We learned that day he was just plain picture perfect as a human being.

The cause of the disaster will certainly be investigated, as will the engineering firm involved, TCI Tower Consulting.   The questions to be answered are – Did the tower crew do something wrong, or was it a structural engineering miscalculation?

Another aspect of this is the whole matter of re-packing that is requiring a lot of changes being made to a lot of towers nation-wide over a fairly short period of time.   Whenever you disturb something that’s been standing for years, you open the door for these kinds of things to take place.

 

This is certainly not the first big tower to fail, you can do an internet search and find stories and, in some cases, videos, of previous disasters.  Interestingly another big tower, not far from this one, collapsed back in 2001.   In that case it was ice accumulation that was the cause.

The Sinclair/Tribune story continues to un-fold with announcements of spin-offs around the country …Except for Seattle.    Many are waiting to hear which of the 4 stations will go to different owners.   Rumors still are that Fox will end up with an O&O in this market.  We should know soon.

Gotta hand it to Gates Air as they announced they are going to debut a program to teach RF Fundamentals    I personally think this is a great move.    Gates Air put it this way-

In May, GatesAir will launch a new training program intended to help “younger, IT-educated broadcast engineers” learn to operate and maintain “next-generation TV and radio transmission sites,” the company announced.

The new training program, launching with an “Introduction to Broadcast Transmitter Technology” course, is described by GatesAir as an adjunct to the its existing “RF:101” program, which was designed for trainees with a basic understanding of RF technology. Because “RF:101” participants increasingly lacked a solid foundation in RF, the company developed a “new entry-level RF training course designed to prepare IT professionals for an RF transmission-centered career.”

“Since many new professionals entering the field have IT backgrounds, this new introductory training program responds to our customers’ pressing needs to find qualified engineers that can operate and maintain their next-generation, over-the-air content delivery systems,” GatesAir Vice President of Operations Bryant Burke said in the announcement. “We’re addressing broadcasters’ concerns regarding the shortage of broadcast engineers, and leveraging the current crop of IT-savvy engineers for ATSC 3.0 and other next-generation DTV and digital radio networks.”

The course begins with three webinars and is followed by a four-day, hands-on training workshop at Gates Air’s Quincy, Ill., campus. The first session is scheduled for May 22–25.

The program limits the workshops to groups of 8-10 trainees. It covers fundamentals, including maintenance of liquid- and air-cooled solid-state transmitters, digital modulation schemes and troubleshooting/repair of modular transmission components. After these stages, participants receive a certificate of completion.

The program is open to everyone — including non-GatesAir customers — and costs $2,150, according to the training website, where registration is also available.

A couple of weekends ago we made a trip to Boise to visit with our Kids, and their kids…Our Granddaughter (who is very technosavvy) has an Amazon Echo….She has learned how to use this clever device for entertaining her one year old Son (our Great Grandson) by asking it to play various Songs etc.    I asked her if she ever used to play a radio station.   She said no, she had not.   So I asked Alexa to play KIRO-FM…almost instantly, a Seattle radio station was playing in Boise.   She immediately asked Alexa to play 103.5 and there it was.  I did not ask her if she knew their call letters, however, it apparently did what she wanted.   This leads me to believe that are thousands of the Echo’s out there with owners that had no idea they would function as a radio.  It times of emergency this knowledge might be handy.    Wonder how many in the radio broadcast industry understand and are addressing this issue?

There is a Seattle side of this story too – Amazon reportedly owns 2/3 of the smart speaker market.   Not a bad market share !!    It should be noted that over 1/3 of all homes have one.

It’s too bad that these devices do not include the ability to be a public warning device.   Seems to me that by including that feature a lot of lives could be saved….So would making sure that radio stations direct their EAS equipment to their streams.

The announcement that KEXP is going to be receiving a $10 million donation raised a lot of eyebrows.   According to news reports this is the largest single donation to a public radio station in history.   Pretty impressive when you consider that this is a relatively small, Class C3 station operating with only 4.7 kW using a directional antenna from their site on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

Looks like the FCC is going to be making changes in the way they deal with interference complains involving FM translators.    This will be a good thing, if not a bit overdue in light of the number of these things being licensed these days

Nielsen is working on a new PPM device – the new one will reportedly be smaller.

 

Bottom of Form

 

Amazon has reached he size that it’s time to start ‘bashing them’   Even the President has joined the chorus.     Seems like a repeat of a few years ago….

 

Remember when the little ‘East Side’ software outfit was just starting off?

Everyone was thrilled with the success of MS-DOS (Back when CP/M and others were in the race) Apple came out with the Mac and it’s Icon/mouse driven system – (many thought that MS/DOS machines were dead) Then that little local company hit it big with Windows….Not long after that the critical comments started to roll in The Federal Government was annoyed because they had the gall to include a browser (what people wanted) Soon, in the minds of many, Microsoft was too big, was killing its competitors ..The feds were making strong demands

 

Now, apparently,  it’s Amazon’s turn.

 

 

According to Nielsen, the two most listened to radio formats are – County and News/Talk, but they are very close.    Looking at the big stations in Seattle – The top new/talkers are KUOW with a 6.3 and KIRO-FM with a 5.6. (11.9 Total) On the Country side – KKWF has a 3.6 and KNUC a 1.6 (5.2 Total).  Appears there are far more listening to News/Talk than country in this area.   Not to too surprising when you consider that Seattle is, in many ways, unlike other markets.

 

 

One thing I’ve never quite understood….How is it that many churches are involved with Pirate Radio?   One of the latest stations to be shut down by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau was a pirate operating on 93.3 from the Gospel Tabernacle Church of Jesus Christ in Irvington, N.J.

But then again, you periodically hear about other wrong doings connected with houses of worship.

 

 

Amador Busto’s continues to develop his operations – The FCC recently approved the assignment  of the license for the Oak Harbor licensed 103.3 to Bustos Media Holdings.  Meanwhile I note that Bustos has applied for an FM Translator for his KMIA-AM in Auburn to be on 101.1

 

 

Questions remain in the matter of the Bankruptcy of iHeartMedia…..Namely, are they going to spin off some of their radio stations?     Some are saying yes, the company is apparently saying nothing.   Typically firms become leaner when faced with this sort of situation.   Cumulus has recently sold off several.   Of course iHM became bigger here in Seattle by trading some stations with the new, larger, Entercom.  One has to assume that this deal factored in the overall financial health of the company.  Certainly there are those that would be eager to pick up some additional broadcast properties, especially if they are going for bargain prices.

 

David Field, CEO of Entercom, recently weighed in on the situation with iHeart and Cumulus saying that the industry will be healthier because of what’s taking place. Certainly investors are not exactly excited about an industry where two of the biggest players are in this mode.

 

I love it when my readers are led to contribute to my column.    Thanks to Buzz Anderson for this jewel –  Try spraying some of this around your favorite coffee shop, explaining that you are just trying to help speed up their WIFI (Note the reference to its scent)

It appears that the translator sought for the Puyallup AM on 94.5 may have overcome some of their objections as the FCC recently reinstated their application for Construction permit.  The folks at 94.5 in Shelton are obviously concerned.

I recently ran across a picture of a person that should be familiar to many of us who have worked in this market for a long time.    None other than Garnet Drakiotes.   Drak, was he was known to his friends, was Chief Engineer of KUBE way back when.

Here’s an eye-catcher –

Shortwave Supports Secure Digital Communications

The Ampegon Group is promoting the use of shortwave (HF) broadcasting as a means for providing high-speed, secure data transmission.  In their ads, they state the world needs real-time secure communications between centralized locations and receivers located at great distances.   Uses include, transfer of business communications, dissemination of warnings etc.

Considering the fact that HF or Shortwave systems are no longer a popular as it once was, this is certainly a unique ‘pitch’ for those making high powered HF Transmitters.  If you want more info, go here-  http://www.ampegon.com

Here we go again – A survey of the –Least Affordable Markets for Homebuyers from Zillow –

San Jose, CA 

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 46.1%

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 41.6%

San Francisco, CA

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 40.6%

San Diego, CA

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 34.7%

New York, NY

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 26.3%

Sacramento, CA

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 26%

Riverside, CA

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 25.6%

Seattle, WA

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 24.9%

Portland, OR

Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 23.6%

Here’s some more – In March the median home sale price in Seattle rose to $819,500.  Seattle home prices are up 17% in the last year…with the King County increasing 15%.   Looking for something less expensive – Condos are going for just over $525,000 in Seattle and $466,500 for King County.   However, Condo prices are increasing faster than homes.   Perhaps the bottom line is what kind of money do you have to make to be able to live here?

 

Here’s a great motto – Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan.

 

If you live here in the PNW, you know that we are not lacking for rainfall this year…Not so for other areas of the U.S. however –

There are likely many high tech firms that want to claim that they were the first to intoduce Tablets…..Well, perhaps not –

In response from last months Column where I wrote about all the Nautel 50,000 Watt Transmitters on Vashon. Here’s a list of the stations and Nautel models – (North to South)

 

1000/ KOMO – XR60

710/KIRO-   ND50, NX 50

1090/KFNQ –  NX50, Ampfet 50.

 

The Seattle area has  9 AM radio stations that are operating 50,000 Watts

During the day and various powers at Night –  Here is a table listing them –

(Power levels are in Kilowatts)

FREQUENCY CALL DAY POWER NIGHT POWER ANTENNA

INFO

TRANSMITTER

LOCATION

710 KIRO 50 50 DA-N Vashon
770 KTTH 50 5 DA-2 Vashon        Shared wirth 1090
820 KGNW 50 5 DA-2 Vashon        Shared with 950
880 KIXI 50 10 DA-2 Bellevue
950 KJR 50 50 DA-2 Vashon         Shared with 820
1000 KOMO 50 50 DA-N Vashon
1090 KFNQ 50 50 DA-2 Vashon         Shared with 770
1300 KKOL 50 3.2 DA-2 Bainbridge    (Construction Permit)
1380 KRKO 50 50 DA-N Everett          Shared with 1520
1520 KKXA 50 50 DA-N Everett           Shared with 1380
  • All but 3 of these stations operate 50 kW at night.

 

  • DA-N means the station operates with a non-directional antenna during the day and a Directional Antenna system at Night

 

  • DA-2 means the station operates with a different Directional Antenna system day and night.

 

 

 

You are getting OLD if you recall when this was the way you moved data between a telephone and a computer!  (Note the rotary dial)

Changes in the Engineering Department at Entercom in Seattle

Out is Matt Green

In is Phil Van Liew

Another big voice is lost –

Longtime, late night, radio host, Art Bell passed recently.  He was 72.      As you can see from this picture, Art was not only on the air on many radio stations but on Ham Radio as well with this impressive array of equipment.    He was quoted as saying that he loved radio…lt was his life.

At last it appears that Spring has finally arrived at West Tiger.  The following picture was taken on March 26th using our precision snow depth measurement device. –

A certain iHeartMedia engineer asked me recently when it was going to stop snowing at West Tiger  J

While I was working on installing some equipment at KIRO-AM on Vashon Island recently I spent a couple of minutes taking pictures of some of Steven Allens wonderful collection of legendary broadcast equpment.    What hit me hard was the fact that I’ve used this stuff!

First is a Nems Clark Phase Monitor.  This was used with a 2-Tower directional AM Station.

Who recalled that Ampex, maker of Audio and Video tape equipment, also made a radio receiver?   Here’s a picture of a portion of the front panel.

Back in the days….When TV repair was even possible….You might have had one of these –

A device for generating Color Bars for setting up a TV Set.

This item really grabbed my attention. It was on the bottom of a loudspeaker.   The inventory lables were on a long sheet that was inserted into a typewriter.  You set the ribbon so it was not used and typed in the letters and numbers.   What him me hard was the fact that – I MADE THIS LABEL , likely in the early 70’s

This item, an AM Audio Processor. Made by the late George Frese in Wenatchee.  The Audio Pilot would transform any AM station using it into the loudest station on the dial.  This was long before CBS Labs introduced their equipment.    George incorporated some features that have never been duplicated to this day.

Here is a classic radio – Take a close look at the FM Band frequencies – This was prior to the FM band we know today (88-108 mHZ)

 

How about the push-buttons –

KIRO-710 –

KXA -770- Now KTTH

KJR – 950

KOMO- 1000

KRSC – 1090 – Now KFNQ

KOL – 1300 – Now KKOL

 

 

 

Want to buy an AM Transmitter Site ?

 

On Apr 1, 2018, at 18:18, Andrew Skotdal via SBE16-Seattle <sbe16-seattle@sbe16.org> wrote:

 

FWIW, please feel free to circulate to the community of Hams that KRKO is listing the 7115 Larimer Road, Everett, WA. transmitter site for sale since we no longer need it.  The site has two, 179’ towers (above the base insulator), and the 1956 Gates BC-5 is in place, ready to be converted.  The Continental Power Rock can come with it, too.  The building has been rehabilitated and could serve as a club facility complete with a kitchen and two bathrooms.  The site has eight acres.  If you know of a HAM operator or club that would like to buy the site, please have them contact Dan Gunderson, dgunders@windermere.com

 

In the same category as the Internet Path Conditioner – is BLINKER FLUID.

Blinker fluid is the stuff which makes the turn indicators on cars work – usually the amount the car is supplied with from the factory is enough, but sometimes it needs topping up.

Sometimes people put too much in – you may have seen cars where the blinkers are flashing unusually fast? That’s the problem.

On the serious side for a moment.   As most of you know I was recently the recepient of an award from NAB.    (That’s me, the old guy in the middle)

What you may not know is that I was being recognized for my work with the Emergency Alert System here in Washington State, something I have been working on for the past 22 years.

Perhaps the best part is that this is recognizing work I have done without compensation.

They asked that I supply my acceptance remarks, in advance, so they could load it on their prompter  – Here is what I said in accepting this award –

TO SAY THE LEAST – I AM FLATTERED AND HONORED TO RECEIVE THIS AWARD…..

 THOSE THAT KNOW ME… KNOW THAT I AM NOT A MAN OF FEW WORDS, HOWEVER…..A COUPLE OF THINGS I’D LIKE TO SHARE

 

  • OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE LOOKING AT WHAT’S CALL A –SENIOR – GETTING HERE HAS TAKEN A LOT LESS TIME THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD!

 

  • OLD AGE IS A BLESSING GRANTED THE VERY FEW…IF YOU ARE BLESSED WITH IT – MAKE THE MOST OF IT

 

  • I, FIRMLY, BELIEVE THAT OUR MAKER WANTS US TO HAVE A PURPOSE THROUGHOUT OUR LIVES THIS GIVES US FULFILLMENT

 

 

  • IT’S BEEN SAID THAT IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO….YOU WILL NEVER WORK A DAY IN YOUR LIFE. I HAVE,  INDEED,   BEEN BLESSED TO BE ABLE TO EXPAND MY EARLY LOVE OF HAM RADIO INTO A VOCATION THAT CONTINUES TO INSPIRE ME TO THIS DAY.

 

 

  • DO SOMETHING WHERE YOU CAN ‘GIVE BACK’. SOMETHING WHERE YOUR COMPENSATION IS KNOWING THAT YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING FOR THE GOOD OF THE ORDER.  PERHAPS SOMETHING THAT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO SAVE LIVES.  THIS IS WHAT KEEPS ME WORKING TO IMPROVE OUR PUBLIC WARNING SYSTEMS

 

THANK YOU AGAIN, FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART, FOR APPRECIATING WHAT I HAVE DONE, AND CONTINUE TO DO.

As most older people do – We enjoy looking back – In this case, looking back at something much older than me!    The year is 1917, just over 100 years ago.   Wow what a difference a century makes !

 

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.


Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.


Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.


Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.  (We may be getting back to that level again)

 

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph. (Sounds like Seattle at Drive Time)


The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.


The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.


The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.


A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year.


A dentist $2,500 per year.


A veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year.  (A vet making more than a Dentist!!)

 

And, a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.


More than 95 percent of all births took place at home

 

Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!

Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as “substandard.”

 

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

 

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

 

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound. (Yes,  this was before Starbucks)


Most women only washed their hair once a month, and, used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.


Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.


The Five leading causes of death were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke

 

The American flag had 45 stars ..


The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.


Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet


There was neither a Mother’s Day nor a Father’s Day.


Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write.

And, only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.


Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstores.

 

Back then pharmacists said, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach, bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!” (Shocking?)


Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.


There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.!

One of the blessings of doing my work with NWPB/WSU is traveling.    I could not help but stop and take a picture of this sign.   Just off Frogner Road, north of Crego Hill, site of KSWS and several other Radio/TV stations.

Sometimes you are convinced that our educational efforts have failed.

Well, my friends, that’s it for my Column for this month – Lord willing, I will be back with more next month.

 

73,

 

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714.

 

 

Clay’s Corner for April 2018

April 23, 2018
By

 

 

Clay’s Corner for February 2018

 

Clay’s Corner

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

 

In keeping with my recent series of pretty pictures…This one, supplied by Ralph Sims of Accel Net, taken by one of their Tower Cameras at West Tiger the day after Christmas.  Here we are looking east, at sunrise.  The two towers in the upper right are what we call, Tiger-2, home of TV Transmitters for DayStar and Ion Media, as well as the following FM Stations – 94.1, 92.5, 96.5, 98.9, 102.5 and 106.1.  The clear-cut area was logged about 3 years ago.  On the lower left is the road going to the summit site.

That time of year is rapidly approaching when a bunch of us die-hard scroungers head to Puyallup for the annual Mike and Key Club Electronic Flea Market.  This year it’s on Saturday March 10th.  If you are an electronic tinkerer/collector or just like to visit old friends, it’s a great fun time.  For the past several years, a bunch of us have gathered at Odd Fella’s in Auburn at 7 a.m.for breakfast and then headed to Puyallup.  Hope you can join us.  One sad note however…All the friends you used to see there that are no longer with us.  This is the 37th year for the event.

In this picture, taken from the same tower as above, we are looking Northwest.  The tower you can see on the peak in the distance is on what’s call West Tiger #2.  The tower belongs to Boeing.  I love how the early morning sun causes the sky to look yellow.

The Main Studio rule is now something for the U.S. history books.  This change has made a lot of people happy…and some not.  I’ve read a number of comments from those that feel the FCC made a bad decision and this will end up being harmful etc.  Here’s my question:  If having a local studio, in the city of license is a great idea, what’s stopping a broadcast station from continuing to do so?  Is it possible that a broadcast station whose COL is in a smaller town near the ‘big city’ could continue to have a ‘local studio’ and reap the benefits that it would provide?  That is assuming that those benefits are real and not just imaginary.  Here in the Seattle area KCPQ and KSTW-TV and KBKS, KHTP, KIRO-FM could open Tacoma Studios and KRWM could open one in Bremerton.  Would this automatically mean that those locations would benefit?  Would  the citizens and businesses in those cities be happy to make sure that such a move is economically viable?  Perhaps what’s missing here is a clear understanding of what it takes to keep a broadcast station operating….INCOME!  The income can come from various sources….In the case of a Non-Commercial facility it’s called ‘underwriting’ or contributions.  Commercial stations almost all rely on advertising.  I will grant you that there is something at play here called ‘Big City Magnetism’ (aka – the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence).  Many businesses that are on the outskirts of a major city often strive to be identified with a nearby or adjacent larger city.  Some of this may be based more on desire than good economic sense.  Then there is the perception of the broadcast operation in the mind of the consumer.  Consumers too, like to be identified or connected with the largest city in the region.  You could have two stations with the same programming and find it likely the one associating themselves with the major city in the region will be more successful.  Once you get out from under the influence of the big city and into a community with its own strong identity, you find that facilities there tend to attract consumers that don’t feel as concerned with the big city in their area.  I recently wrote about a good example of this, KNWP in Port Angeles.

One of the latest iterations of radio stations are what’s called LPFM’s or Low Power FM stations.  These little operations rely on contributions and volunteers as they are non-commercial in nature.  Many of these new operations are shutting down as the financial reality of operating a broadcast station sinks in.  Then there is the struggle of AM Radio, where their continued operation is becoming increasingly questionable.

Regardless of the City of License or where the studio is located…. Perhaps it’s too easy to be critical of something that you know little about?  Many continue to view broadcasting as something other than a business that, like other ventures, have bills to pay and are forced to make decisions based on that, their greater need.

 

The recent public warning screw-up in Hawaii certainly got world-wide attention.  Emergency managers, everywhere are being questioned by the media with ‘could it happen here’ questions.  The fall-out over this one will serve as a great lesson for many years to come.  Here in Washington State, the matter is being taken very seriously.  State EMD is working with the SECC and all the stakeholders to make sure that we are learning from the mistake.  It would be unfair to draw conclusions until the ongoing investigations are completed, however,  preliminary findings are pointing to human error.  As happens in events of this magnitude….Congress wants an investigation.  What will result from that is anyone’s guess.  One part of this drew a lot of fire.  The fact that it took Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency 38 minutes to send a correction.  You can just imagine the panic that filled the minds of those that saw this message on their smart phone –

One of the big questions is – Who should be initiating an attack warning?  There are those that feel that this should come from the Federal rather than a State government.  The issue is that, other than an EAN/Presidential Message, we really don’t have a mechanism set up to handle this since the end of the Cold War.  My guess is that this will all change, certainly the States will be pushing in this direction.  Those of us that have been at this for a long time, well remember the days of EBS when we had Attack Warning messages.  Unfortunately, here we are again.  Makes me wonder if the shelters that people were installing in their backyards will make a comeback?

Many times bad things happen for good reasons.  I recall back when Mt. St. Helens erupted that we suddenly received the funding for our State Relay Network that we’d been asking for…for a long time.  One of our public warning system’s greatest weaknesses is a lack of training – at all levels.  The timing of the Hawaii event uniquely occurred about a week after our SECC Meeting, where recently retired from NOAA, and SECC Vice Chair, Ted Buehner agreed to on the matter of  training in Washington State.  This training will need to involve all levels of public warnings.  Those that initiate messages (Emergency Managers and 911 Centers, as well as Broadcasters and Cable Systems, whose job it is to distribute warnings to the public.  There will be much more to come on this topic…Stay tuned!

JUST AN OBSERVATION DEPARTMENT
As you can likely guess, my entire life has been one of great interest in science.  In the past year or so, we have been hearing the word ‘Fake’ all too frequently.  In fact, I’ll wager that we have heard that word more in the last year than all the years previous.  This got me thinking….

Have you noticed how those that are constantly speaking out about ‘Fake News’ are also great believers in ‘Fake Science’?

…..Like I said – Just an observation.

I was recently having a conversation with a fellow broadcast engineer regarding the life cycle of equipment.  Being of an older generation, we tend to place a very high value on this matter when selecting equipment.

For example – I recently purchased a new vehicle.  I did a lot of shopping with one of the most important criteria being – How long is this likely to last.  I submit that this is not always a prime decision making component when you are buying a new vehicle…Chances are, higher on the list are things like – Features, safety, color and style etc.

Many of the items used in a broadcast station these days appear to have relatively short life-cycles.  Perhaps one of the drivers for this are the rapid changes in technology that tend to make something obsolete sooner.  Another is the lack of demand for long term reliability coupled with the willingness to pay for it.  Who is doing the buying is also a big factor.  When the person that is charged with maintaining a piece of equipment makes the final decision, they are likely to be looking at a purchase through a different lens than would be a person in, say, accounting.  Service after the sale, long term support and parts availability are not valued as they once were.  In the ‘old-days’ we did not have the two views of purchasing we have today.  Operating and Capital Budgets…back when…there was only one pocket of money.

Something the ‘old salts’ have a problem with is the fact that many items today are not repairable.  This is for several reasons….1) They are designed to be thrown away when they no longer function. The manufacturer does not want you to repair them, as this lowers their profit margin.  2) The cost of repair in terms of knowledge and equipment makes repair not economically feasible.

Short life-cycles have become acceptable in this ‘throw it away if it does not work’ society’.  It’s all about change.  Just don’t be surprised to hear some old guy say something to the effect of …In my day, we would fix that.  Those days are gone and with it many of the jobs that used to be.

Before I leave this topic – a couple of changes in our area to note – Marty Hadfield is no longer with iHeart Media as he ponders what to do now that he has become an official senior citizen .  Tom Pierson has announced that he is retiring this summer from Bonneville (KIRO/KTTH etc.).

Now that we are entering another phase in the world of TV Repacking, stations are asking for more repack money….Like 2 Billion Dollars’ worth….Twice the amount that was allocated for the big shuffle.  ‘Tis also interesting how the demand for spectrum from this big shuffle has turned out to be lower than some were saying, leading many to ask if all of this was really necessary?  There will likely be some books written about this one.

The FCC continues to fill up the FM Band – For a while the only signal you could hear in the area on 94.5 was KRXY based in Shelton/Olympia.  Then came the co-channel AM Translator for KTTH (Located on Cougar Mt.).  Now there is a CP for another on 94.5, translator (BNPFT-20171201AMU), this time to be located on the 1450 AM Tower in Puyallup.  As expected KRXY (Olympia Broadcasters)  has petitioned the FCC to deny it.  Pretty clear that existing radio stations are going to be busy just watching the application process in an effort to protect what has been their exclusive turf.

 

It’s hard to imagine in a year when we essentially went three months with only a few hours of drizzle, but Seattle is about to cross a soggy mark for 2017.  As the rain fell Friday, Seattle was moving over 47 inches of rain for the year in the morning.  If and when it passes 47.49 inches, we’ll be officially 10 inches above normal rainfall for the year.  Summer might have been dry, but a very soggy winter and spring was enough to counter balance, and this year’s autumn ended up doing well in the rainfall department as well.  For those of you that read this and feel that Seattle is all about rain – Here are some things to consider –

1. Mobile Alabama receives an average of 67 inches of rain per year.
2. Buffalo, N.Y.  holds the title of cloudiest city in American (yes, more than Seattle).

Here’s my view on the latest Radio Ratings – (all 6+)

  • Hubbard’s KRWM had some impressive numbers –#1 and into double digits
  • Sinclair’s KPLZ jumped up to #4
  • The bottom appears to have fallen out of the Country Format with KKWF at #15 and new-comer KVRQ well below that
  • The two big non-com’s continue to do well with KUOW at #2 and KNKX at #10
  • AM’s continue down the same path, downward.  Interesting that KIRO is now ahead of KOMO.
  • 13 stations at the bottom with a 1.0 or lower…5 of them are AM’s

 

There have been changes in Pullman – Washington State University has been busy re-branding their Radio and TV broadcast operations.  On January first they rolled out their new Logo.  This action combines Wazzu’s Radio and TV operations under a common name – Northwest Public Broadcasting…Perhaps a good thing as there was a lot of confusion between NWPR and NPR..

From time to time we read about how Europe is dumping FM radio in favor of some form of Digital Radio system.  Apparently not everyone is marching in lock-step, with word that Sweden is granting new licenses for commercial FM Stations.

In the U.S. FM Radio continues to grow with over 600 new signals on the air in 2017.  The biggest area of growth has been with Translators, Boosters and LPFM’s.  All you have to do is tune around the FM band to hear for yourself how the FM band is being filled up.  On the TV side, the number of VHF TV’s increased (part of the big shuffle).  Not surprising, the number of AM stations continues to fall with 30 less last year.  My prediction is that number will continue to fall to the point that the number of AM’s more truly represents the demand for that service…A slide that will continue for the next several years.

Here, locally, the owners of the 1230 AM in Everett are planning on adding an FM on 102.1 with 180 Watts.  Site appears to be their AM tower just east of downtown Everett.  The same group is planning an FM Translator on 94.5 at the site of their Puyallup 1450 AM operation.

KZQM is a new FM for Sequim.  They will be on 104.9.  A good deal of paperwork being exchanged in that one from a neighborhood organization who has been opposed.

On a site known as Green Mountain, east of Kalama, local Kelso station KLOG is planning a translator to be on 100.7.  At over 2000 feet, that 250 watt operation will be quite impressive.

ANOTHER FROM  THE  OBSERVATION DEPARTMENT

If women do the same job for less money, why do companies hire men to do the same job for more money?

In the category of ‘who wudda thunk?’….Did you ever think there was would be such a device as a SMART SPEAKER?  Speakers where usually inside a Radio or TV…Component Stereos may have had external speakers….But those, even though they might have been expensive, were hardly ever considered – smart.  Of course now we have gone from just plain Phones to Smart Phones. .Anyway we now have a battle brewing between the makers of Smart Speakers.  In the event you missed it, these are speakers that are interactive, that you speak to.  Makers include Google and Amazon.  Radio has discovered these gizmos in a big way because you can ‘talk’ to your smart-speaker and request a particular radio station be played.  This requires the Radio industry to figure out how to make these things work to their advantage.

Congrats to David Field, the CEO of  Entercom who was recently named by Radio Ink as their Executive of the Year.  Perhaps credit is due, as his company was able to gobble up CBS Radio and end up becoming a major player in Radio, while others in the industry (iHeart and Cumulus) struggle.

Speaking of Cumulus – They recently announced they were dropping their sports deals with major Chicago teams as well as canceling a deal to buy a couple of additional FM’s in that market, all while negotiations continue in their bankruptcy processes.  Recent price for a share of Cumulus was 5 Cents!

Recent news from the FCC, with the announcement that Al Shuldiner has been named to head up the Commission’s Audio Division.  Mr. Shuldiner replaces Peter Doyle.  His experience includes stints with Ibiquity/DTS (The parent of HD Radio).  The U.S. Radio industry will be watching this move very closely.

So what’s going on with Sinclair and Fox?  Rumors are that the two are about to do a deal that will, in part, satisfy the FCC’s concerns about numbers of stations in certain markets as a result of the Sinclair/Tribune deal.  Here in Seattle, could it be that KCPQ/13 could become a Fox O &O?  This could impact a number of other markets as well, for example….Denver.  Stay tuned!

For some reason I keep thinking about the old saying about being too late to close the barn door because the horse is already gone.  Then there is better late than never.  The deal is the FCC has apparently showed interest in a North Dakota car dealership that they feel is causing interference with Cellphone reception from their outdoor lighting system.  Apparently Verizon has a nearby cell site and they have determined that the source of their interference is the car dealership’s outdoor lighting system, because when it was turned off the problem stopped.  When the problem could not be resolved, the FCC got involved.  They told the dealership to fix it or start paying a fine for every day they refuse to act. (Time to go back to incandescent?)

Is this a simple matter of whose Ox?.  Seems to me if you are the FAA, Public Safety or a Wireless carrier you can get FCC action.  What about the poor Ham Operator that can no longer hear any signals because of the ‘Grow Lights’ in the neighbor’s basement?  Or what about the AM Station whose coverage has been reduced due to all manner of un-regulated RF noise generating devices?  Appears to me that what’s needed here is a level playing field when it comes to dealing with sources of RF pollution.  The SBE, NAB and ARRL have been trying to push this rope up-hill for many years.  Hopefully the new FCC Chair will be in listening, and more importantly, action mode.  Time will tell.

Sad news this past month with the announcement that legendary Keith Jackson has passed at 89.  Many of us who have been in the Seattle area for many years recall him at KOMO where he worked from 1954 to 1964.  Not only was Keith a fixture in Seattle Broadcasting…He was a Cougar…A WSU Graduate.  It was just a few years ago, in 2014, that a building in the Murrow College was named in his honor.

Mike Brooks from KING-FM is a frequent contributor to my column.  This time something for the ‘techies’ in the group.  Who will be the first one to properly identify this item?

One thing that Broadcasters are always concerned about is airing something that they should not, for fear that the FCC would make them subject to a sizable fine.  The question is now…What do you do when the person that utters the subject to fine word is the President of the country?  Perhaps the fact the FCC understands there are differences between newscast language and entertainment programming?  Never a dull moment in this industry.

For some time FM Broadcasters have been installing Boosters, lower powered transmitters operating on the same frequency as their main transmitter…Especially in areas where there is significant terrain shielding.  In the area South of Seattle, Bustos Media has recently been installing a few on-channel boosters. Initial reports are they are working reasonably well.  All this to fill in terrain shielded areas from their South Mountain transmitter some 50 miles away.

HD Radio opens up some interesting possibilities for Radio with some recent articles been written.  In these cases the term ‘Single Frequency Network’ or SFN is used.  For television, new technologies are opening the door for SFN’s.  Recent reports are that Sinclair and some others are about to build an SFN in the Dallas Area.  This all to validate the concept.  If this works, as some hope, it could make some major changes in the way TV is delivered to consumers – Everywhere.

How about a couple of TV memories?

In the category of look who is retiring – Don Imus is apparently hanging up his spurs.  Don has been a fixture in New York radio since 1971 and was widely seen on TV as well.  Don represents an inspiration for us older-types, working well past the point that many retire.  He’s 77.  And that is older than me (by a little).

The well-known feud between Pacific Lutheran University and their radio station, KPLU has been the subject of much press, and national attention.  It all started when the University decided to sell KPLU.  This effort backfired resulting in an uproar and a lot of negative press for the Parkland-based school.  Ultimately the station was purchased from PLU by the listeners and the call letters changed to KNKX.  Making this a bit more complicated is the fact that the station operates from a building owned by PLU from which they are making plans to move.

More recently another issue has come up.  The matter of funds left in wills by the station’s listeners.  Both parties claimed the money was theirs.  Near the end of January, a Court Commission ruled in favor of the radio station adding that the station, and not the former owners are entitled to the money, as well as any future funds that have been earmarked for KPLU.  Whereas this is not pocket-change, the matter may not be settled yet, as the University may well appeal.  The station is looking at a couple of options for relocating their operation, all in Tacoma.  Reports are they will maintain their Seattle operation as well.

Congratulations to Kent Randles of Entercom Portland on his promotion to Director of Technical Operations for the Rose City Cluster of radio stations where he has worked for a number of years.  Kent has been a longtime friend.

 

FM Translators have become a hot commodity in the Radio business, especially since the FCC started allowing them to be added to AM Radio stations.  The demand for these relatively low-powered FM add-ons has driven the price skyward.  Recently half a million dollars was paid for a 250 watt FM translator in Puerto Rico.  Doing the math, this price represents some $2,000 per watt.  Perhaps this is an indication of the recovery taking place there?

Looking for a job in Radio?  Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) has an opening.  Here is how their notice reads:

OPB is looking for someone with broadcast experience who embraces the ever-changing media landscape to lead the team responsible for the media creation pipeline at our network center in Portland and the RF distribution technology at our remote sites located between The Dalles and Astoria, OR.  For more information and instructions on how to apply, visit OPB’s careers page http://www.opb.org/about/jobs/.  OPB is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Here’s an item for Broadcasters in Washington State –

Question – Is your Washington State EAS Plan up-to-date?

In this State, the EAS plan is designed to occupy a 3-ring binder.  What’s unique about our Plan is that it is not just a single document, but rather a number of them, called Tab’s, addressing various aspects of EAS.  The State EAS Plan is constantly being updated with updates distributed via the WaState EAS Remailer, additionally, they are posted on the WaState Emergency Management Web Site.

To determine if your plan is up-to-date – all you have to do is check the latest Tab Index (Tab 31) Dated 1/26/18  and compare the release date for each Tab to the one you have in your binder.

Here is where you get connected –

The Washington State EAS Remailer – http://sea.sbe16.org/mailman/listinfo/eas-wa

The WEMD Web Site – https://www.mil.wa.gov/other-links/emergency-alert-system

Any and all questions about EAS in Washington State should be posted to the EAS Remailer.

Before I leave the topic – The next Meeting of the SECC (State EAS steering committee) will be March 13th at Clover Park Technical College.  You are welcome to participate in person or via conference bridge.  Full information for the meeting will be distributed on the EAS Remailer.

Many of my generation have come to learn that there are many ‘younger folks’ that don’t know how to tell time using an analog clock. (Seriously!)  Apparently this is not something that many youngsters are no longer taught in school (along with how to write in cursive).  The concept of the Big-Hand and Little-Hand is fading away.  The other day, while getting a medical check-up, a nurse whips out her smart phone and selects an app. having an analog clock, complete with second hand, and checks my pulse. Cool!  I have to admit that I have not warn a watch for several years.  I use my Smart Phone for time telling.  Thinking about my future years and those that have retired already….There is this option – The ONE-HAND WATCH.

Perfect for old folks that don’t need to count seconds and very reasonable for those that know how to read an analog clock, or Engineers that know how to read analog Meters.  For those of you that prefer, it comes in a 24 hour model as well.That’s it for this month- Looks like we can look forward to an early spring as trees in my neighborhood are getting leaves already, not mention the bulbs are sprouting and my grass needs cutting.    Better believe in climate change!!  It’s happening.

That’s it for this month- Looks like we can look forward to an early spring, as trees in my neighborhood are getting leaves already, not to mention the bulbs are sprouting and my grass needs cutting.  Better believe in climate change!!  It’s happening.

Lord willing, till next month, thanks for the read
Clay Freinwald. CPBE, K7CR etc.

Clay’s Corner for March 2018

March 8, 2018
By

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Wow !….I had just mowed the lawn…The bulbs are several inches tall, my Rhodies and trees have buds on them….and It snows!  I’ve been driving up to West Tiger on a weekly basis when suddenly I’m sitting with Doug Fisher in his Gator with tracks again, heading up the hill passing stuck pickups.  Mother Nature will determine when winter is over!

This unusually late dose of winter snow impacted Portland too.  In fact I was supposed to travel to PDX on the 20th.  Looking at the forecast, we opted to put it off.  Here’s a picture of fresh snow in Gray Haertig’s backyard in Portland on the 21st.

I did note that he did not use a hardware store wood yard-stick for the measurement….As an Engineer should.

Denver is another example of where things can, and usually do, change…in their case, big changes are famous.  On the 18th the temperature (In Boulder just north of Denver) hit 69 Degrees.  40 hours later, on the 20th it was 3 below zero.  This is a 72 degree drop and tied for the 8th biggest swing ever noted in 2 days or less.  Hate to think what the impact of that kind of change would have been in Seattle or Portland.  Denver is famous for the saying –‘Lawnmower to Snow blower in one day’.

The big shake up in Seattle Radio is over and now attention is turning to the picture makers, specifically, the Sinclair/Tribune deal that will involve four of the Seattle area TV Stations…Among them KOMO and KCPQ.  The almost $4 Billion dollar deal has drawn a lot of attention and, in some cases, objections and interest of the DOJ.  It’s been long known that Sinclair would have to divest two of the stations in this area, and that has been sufficient to keep the rumor mills running overtime, conjecturing as to who might the new owners be.  For some time the odds appear to be on Sinclair spinning KCPQ, and perhaps its stable-mate, KSJO, to FOX.  Looks like the big reveal is getting close – and then we will know.  This is a huge transaction, impacting a number of markets around the country…some of which may also see FOX become an O&O, for example, Denver.  One unique aspect of this has been the political side.  The Sinclair ownership has a reputation for being biased to the right and the FCC’s present leadership is being criticized for, in some way, helping this process.  One of the issues has been the rules involving national audience reach.  Bottom line – A good amount of political theater and legal maneuvering.

There is a radio side to all of this too – Sinclair, who used to be in radio, got back in with their purchase of the Fisher properties in Seattle, picking up KOMO, KVI and KPLZ.  Word has it that Sinclair plans on keeping WGN Radio in Chicago.  Like Seattle and KOMO, WGN has had a long standing strong ‘news-tie’ with its TV partner.

In the event you have not kept track, Sinclair is a big company, and about to get bigger, with some 193 stations in 100 markets.  They are very actively involved with the next generation of TV as this article in TV Technology will explain.

http://www.tvtechnology.com/atsc3/0031/putting-next-gen-tv-to-the-full-test/282799

In terms of ownership group size…Looking at Seattle area stations, Sinclair is #1, CBS is #2 (Owner of KSTW) Fox #3 (perhaps the new owner of KCPQ) Tegna is #6 (owner of KING/5 etc.), Cox is #13 (Owner of KIRO/7), ION is #18 (Owner of KWPX).

Picture time!  This one, courtesy of Joe Taylor, West regional broadcast site manager for ATC.  It is one of the two broadcast sites on West Tiger Mt, near Seattle.  We call this site – West Tiger-2.  No, the towers are not leaning.  It’s just the distortion caused by the wide angle lens.  The 2-story transmitter building is between the towers.  The Generator/Electrical building is on the right.  And this picture, obviously not taken during the winter, does prove that we can have blue skies in this area.  Right now these towers are likely covered with Ice and snow.

Every year about this time, attention of many in Radio turn to the Crystal Awards.  I always like to look at the nominees to check for stations from areas where this column is read.  Looking at the  finalist list….Sorry Seattle – No stations listed.  Denver did better with KYGO-FM making the cut.  Portland has listed KUPL.  Noted that KMOK-FM and KRLC-AM in Lewiston, Idaho (just across the river from Clarkson, WA) also are listed.

The Seattle area Radio Numbers are out- And here are some of my observations:

  • KUOW is doing awesome landing in the #1 spot….Proving that you don’t have to play music to gain listeners. Have to wonder how the programmers at the 30 or so other commercial stations feel about this event?  Should point out that KNKX continues to do very well in the numbers race, but they do play music.

 

  • Another radio operation proving you don’t have to play music to succeed is KIRO-FM in the #4 spot.

 

  • After the breakup of CBS, Entercom and iHeart became the two biggest groups in Seattle. Of the top 10 stations – Entercom has three and iHeart has four.

 

  • A lot of eyes were on 94.1, the frequency of the historic CBS Country station, KMPS. As we all know, Entercom elected to change the station’s format and call letters (now KSWD).  The latest results put them in the #10 slot.  The new format is similar to Hubbard’s KRWM which is still in the #3 slot.  This will be a race to watch.  More on 94.1 later.

 

  • The race for the country audience is interesting. The numbers for Entercom’s KKWF had a small improvement, but not adding up to what one would expect.  Hubbard jumped into this race with their 98.9 FM but is way back in the pack at this point.  Certainly there will be a lot of changes as the two country stations duke it out.

 

  • AM Radio continues its downward trend. The top rated AM, All News KOMO, is about #15, with ESPN KIRO-AM a couple of notches below that.

 

It seems like a very long time ago when I was up on Cougar Mountain taking part in a demonstration of HD Radio while the NAB Radio show was in Seattle.  Not long after that, the equipment starting arriving at West Tiger for this new radio system I would be installing on five stations at a time.  It was a bit like putting on the air an FM station back in the 50’s.  People, then, thought you were nuts as there very few receivers out there….and almost no FM Car Radios.  To this date, there are many owners and operators of FM radio stations that view HD Radio in the same way.  What’s been happening should be a wakeup call to those folks in particular – HD Radio, thanks to the efforts of the makers of motor vehicles, is making some impressive gains.  According to a recent release of date, the penetration is now close to 50%.  Pretty hard to ignore the facts…Yet some continue to do so….especially in smaller markets.  Perhaps the day that HD Channels generate rating numbers will be the turning point?  With all the new vehicles with HD Radios out there and the number growing, wonder how long it will be?  Part of the equation is content.  Many broadcasters have been dumping low cost to produce content on their HD Channels.  Perhaps a ‘Catch-22’?

It’s always sad to report the loss one of our own.  On Friday, January 26, Al Bednarczyk lost his battle with Cancer.  I first met Al and his family when he was dating his wife to be, Linda, back in the 60’s.  Later we worked in a team to maintain a small radio station in Lakewood.  Years later we were on the same team in the engineering department of KCPQ-TV.  Then, as years passed, I went back into radio as he stayed with TV, but, for a while, doing radio on the side.  Al was the Engineer at 106.1/KLAY following Terry Denbrook.  I followed Al at that gig.

In recent years I found myself maintaining the KVTI transmitter.  A quick look at some old inspection logs recently – Yep….There were notes written by Al.

 

There are a couple of things that will live on…First, his famous statement, ‘I hate TV’, which was usually followed with that great smile.  Second, his remarkable ability to rapidly find the source of a problem with any electronic gizmo.  I always swore that he could put his hand on it and tell you which part was bad.  He was in a league of his own.  Later in retirement, he found time to travel.  A great man that left his mark, and a bunch of fellow broadcast engineers deeply respected him.

 

Darin told me that Al did not wish a memorial service.  He did say, however,  that we will have a time to gather ‘Friends of Al’ over pizza at a date to be announced.  Hopefully many of you that knew him will be in attendance to share your Bednarczyk stories!

 

Here are some pictures of Al, thanks to Darin Gerchak.  The first taken at the KCKA Transmitter

on Crego Hill near Chehalis, sitting on top of their previous transmitter’s tube.

In this picture you can see Al (center) with a couple members of the Bates TV Crew, Jelson on the left and Darin on the right.   They are the lucky guys having been able to work with Al.

 

I understand a brand new Nautel 50,000 Watt AM transmitter is on its way to KIRO-AM on Vashon Island.   According to their chief, Tom Pierson, the present Main (a Nautel ND50) will be moving to the #2 spot with one of their two old Continental 316’s moving to #3.  If my information is correct, this will be the 2nd NX50 on the Island, the other being at 1090.  For those of you that attend the annual SBE Picnic’s on Vashon, you often get to tour these historic sources of radio signals.  This year, perhaps we will get to see the new KIRO rig.  What’s amazing is the reduction in size of these machines.

I very much recall the days when I would spend a lot of time removing and inserting FCC rule updates in binders.  Like a lot of things, the requirement that licensees have a copy of the rules on the shelf are over with.  Public files are gone too.  Everything is on-line these days.  The issue is that as powerful as these Internet systems are, they are still fragile.  The term ‘Backhoe Fade’ did not exist back in those days.

Every time there is a change in Administration in this country, we all wonder how it will impact the Broadcast Industry.  With a lot of new attitudes in WDC, we have already seen a lot of what has been termed ‘modernization’.  Like all things in our government, there are the ‘proposals’ of the Administration and then the wait to see what, if any, parts actually become laws.

Example – The Trump Administration recently has proposed a boat-load of new user fees to be paid by broadcaster, cable and satellite operators, etc.  The rationale is that these fees would pay the cost of the regulation that they have to adhere to.  We are not talking about pocket change here.  The proposed fees would bring to the FCC some $4 Billion over the next ten years.  [Got that?  Hold on to that thought for a moment].  Meanwhile the FCC Chairman is calling for more staff cuts…over 100 employees…all the while the new proposed budget says it will need all the existing staffing.  So what will really happen?  Anyone’s guess. The old admonition of hide and watch sounds like good advice.

Are you ready for the roll out of ATSC 3.0 or Next-Gen Television?  The new standard will be rolling out this month (March).  I have to wonder what amount of public education will be involved explaining this to consumers?  Consumers (at least older ones) are used to –

  • The All Channel Law
  • Conversion to Color
  • Conversion to HD

This time a lot of the rules are different and things have the potential to become quite a bit more complicated.  This time it’s a voluntary roll-out (Dare I say like HD Radio?).  Will the lure of 4K TV be enough to entice new buyers?  Certainly those that provide broadband services to consumers have a horse in this race too.  There are a lot of questions.  Will the other big broadcast outfits join Sinclair in their push for this new technology?  How would this impact folks like Ion that operate a huge ‘Central cast’ system?  Will the religious broadcasters like Daystar or TBN jump into this?  What about the Cable Channels like Fox or the offerings of Discovery.  Exciting times for sure.

Last Month I touched on the term that we hear all too much these days – Fake News.  If you stop and think about it, have not the grocery store check-out lines given us a steady diet of that for many years?  Seems to me that Fake News (at least the print version) has been with us for a very long time.  You do read this stuff don’t you?  Apparently they are similar.  Consumers lap it up and the only ones that complain are those that are offended.

One of the bigger radio deals to come along following the big CBS/Entercom deal is the sale of the Emmis stations in St. Louis to Hubbard and Entercom.  In the deal, both firms will pick up a pair of stations and Emmis will pocket, reportedly, 60 million.  That’s approx. 15 Million apiece for a radio station in Market 21.

Interesting to look up Market Ranks of some of the locations where this column is read –

MARKET        MEDIA MARKET        NIELSEN        TV MARKET     TV STATIONS

St Louis                       21                       21                             21                    10

Seattle                         12                       14                             14                    17

Denver                        17                        17                            18                    30

Portland                       22                        25                            22                    18

The number from this that jumps out at me is the number of TV stations in Denver – 30!  That’s the same number of stations as the #1 Market, New York City.  NYC has over 7 Million TV households while Denver has just over 1.1 Million.  Wow!

The changing media landscape upset what was a long formula used by artists, composers etc.  Now comes word that royalty payments paid by streaming firms like Apple and Spotify are going to be going up by almost 5%.  This ever-changing situation requires a program to keep track.  A little Seattle outfit called Amazon also has a horse in this race.

The Commish was busy recently in the area north of Denver shutting down a pair of pirate radio stations, both on FM.  Interestingly they both had call letters…KNED and KWHR…apparently of their own choosing.  Similar to what pirate Ham Operators do, pick out an un-used set of call letters.  Unlike Amateur Radio, probably no-one in the area bothers to look them up.  The stations stated on their Facebook page that they were under attack by the FCC.  Interesting choice of words.  In the minds of many of these types, they feel that they have the God given right to broadcast…or that the First Amendment somehow does.  Perhaps the big test here will be to see if the FCC really means it.  Historically, stations like this come back on the air while the FCC does nothing.  In other cases, they get fined and, for some reason, get away with non-payment.  The Commish is very aware of this and is trying to get additional authority to deal with the problem.  Someone with one of the groups publically stated that they just want the FCC to leave them alone.

Perhaps the FCC could do as they did with CB Radio – throw up their hands and let the mice rule?  Perhaps, in the future, a segment of the AM Broadcast Band could be set aside for un-licensed broadcasting?  It would be kind of fun to watch.

Speaking of AM – the last round of license applications for AM Translators ended up producing some 850 applications.  All in all, there has been a tremendous amount of interest by AM’s wishing to add FM, even if it meant at very low power or the use of a directional antenna.  This is all part of the FCC’s effort to ‘revitalize’ the AM band where broadcasters have seen audiences adopt FM as their primary source of radio.  As of the end of 2017 there were over 7500 Translators and Boosters licensed.

One recent issue has cropped up – the apparent FCC willingness to consider a new class of FM (C4) that would boost power of some stations to 12,000 watts.  Concern has been expressed that this could adversely impact translators and other lower powered FM operations.  It will be interesting to see how the FCC deals with that issue.

The Seattle area has been getting a lot of press of late, much of it regarding the pace of housing and rental price increases causing a huge increase in homeless etc.  One statistic that has helped Seattle be recognized as a world class city is the area’s traffic congestion.  According to INRIX, an outfit that keeps track of such things, Seattle now ranks #9 in terms of the most congested.  Tacoma (just south of Seattle) is ranked #16.  INRIX is able to put a price tag on all this congestion too – $5 Billion for Seattle and $2.4 for Tacoma.  OK, so it’s #9 in the US.  Consider that Seattle area traffic ranks #20 in the world!  You probably guessed – LA ranked #1 in both the US and World.

The fact is that people are pouring into this area and this has created a housing shortage that contributes to the rising prices (and with it, rising property taxes).  Being a homeowner (with no mortgage) puts me in a much better position than someone moving to the area or just starting out.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve received letters from firms making it clear that they want to buy my house or have buyers for it.  One of them sent along a color picture of the place with my pickup in the driveway.  They call this a sellers’ market.Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 

 

There has been a lot of buzz regarding these new smart speakers in the radio industry.  Not only can you ask it questions, you can ask it to find a radio station for you.  You’ve probably seen a TV spot for them, or perhaps a comedy U-Tube video.  There was a recent survey that turned up some interesting findings.  What was perhaps surprising is how popular they are with Country Music listeners.  Meanwhile, Country stations need to do more to develop their own skills with these new devices so they work to their advantage.

 

Getting back to Seattle Radio – The Entercom/CBS deal resulted in several ‘spin-offs’ in the Seattle market.  Among them was 1090 AM which went to iHeartMedia.  Many wondered what they would do with KFNQ.  That answer came early in February, with the company announcing that they would indeed keep the station, and do some re-branding.  If you recall, CBS aired their network Sports on the station.  Well it appears that it will continue with Sports, doing something a bit unique, calling the station 1090-KJR, airing mainly national sports/talk shows, but clearly linking it to KJR/950 (Seattle Sports Radio).  Meanwhile, down the dial to 850….KHHO is being rebranded South Sound Talk 850.  This station, which does not propagate very well into Seattle, will be a mixture of syndicated talk shows.  However, they will be airing the Tacoma Rainiers baseball games.

 

Regarding 1090 –  This station has had quite a history, going way back to the late 1920’s with call letters of KVL, KGBS, KEVR and, of course, KING-AM, operating on a number of different frequencies over the years, 1321 (yes an odd number) 1480, 1370, 1100 etc.  They started with only 100 watts and now operate with 50,000, using 2 different directional patterns.  One interesting fact is, at one time they operated on a share-time basis with KRKO in Everett.

Another  takeaway from all this is the fact that iHM has elected to stay with their 3 AM’s.  In this day and age of declining AM listeners, no-one would have been surprised if they had elected to sell the station rather than operate it.  Of course, with all the financial issues facing the company, who knows how long 1090 will remain ‘1090-KJR”?

I love to see old magazine ads about broadcasting.  Here’s a jewel about Television, using expressions you would not see today.  Note the round picture tube on the left, a far cry from today’s 16×9.

 

 

Apparently not everyone got the memo explaining that international broadcasting was dead.  It was recently announced that Christian Broadcaster, TWR Bonaire just put on line a new Nautel NX400 AM transmitter that produces 450,000 Watts!  They are saying that it’s the largest (perhaps most powerful) AM Transmitter in the Western Hemisphere.  Kintronic Labs supplied the phasing equipment that connects the new transmitter to the station’s tower.

 

Oh yes….This is not shortwave broadcasting …They are operating on 800 KHz.  Target audience for the station are listeners in Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia and Cuba.  For more information, you can check out their web site – http://www.twrbonaire.com/

The new One World Trade Center building in NYC is taking shape as a broadcast transmitting facility.  Five of the new stations there will be using Rohde and Schwarz transmitters which, according to the maker, are the largest solid state digital transmitters in the world.  The new structure, some 1776 feet of it, replaces the twin towers that were destroyed in 2011.

 

I recently had an opportunity to play show and tell at one of ATC’s facilities on Cougar Mountain, where I explained to several from the FAA how we combine and filter FM transmitters.  This picture shows a portion of the big Shively Combiner at the site.  That’s me in the white baseball cap.

 

Hey Chuck Morris, are you reading this?  We have yet another call letter change in Seattle Radio.  In this case, KVRQ has become KNUC.  Something that perhaps you don’t know is that often radio station call letters are used for other things.  Just Google KNUC and you will see what I mean.

 

The picture below is of KNUC.  In this case, this is the FAA designator for the US Navy landing field on San Clemente Island off the coast of California.  It’s been owned by the Navy since 1937.

Now to be honest, when I first saw the letters KNUC – I thought of how you would pronounce it.

KaNuck J After all, we have a number of ‘pronounceable’ call letters in this area – (KIRO, KOMO etc.)  That got me thinking about Hockey and the Vancouver Canucks.

 

 

 

Just to be fair – I Googled KSWD, the new call letters for Seattle’s 94.1.  No FAA designation popped up …However some interesting tid-bits worth sharing:

 

Entercom calls KSWD ‘The Sound’.  This requires the use of the ‘Radio broadcaster’s magic dictionary’…(Stay with me now)… – K  So Wn D – From the letters SWD we get the word Sound….Got it?  Can’t be any greater stretch than pronouncing KMPS – Compass.  Of course we now have KNKX…which the ‘magic dictionary’ says is pronounced ‘Connects’.

 

Meanwhile – the call KSWD was moved from LA where it too was used by Entercom and pronounced ‘The Sound’.  Entercom clearly liked KMPS, for they moved that to Sacramento where it replaced KRAK (I’m going to leave that one alone).

 

Looking at 94.1 – I see it went on the air in 1961 as KOL-FM.  At that time the station was running a 1 kW Gates transmitter into a big antenna hanging on that huge KOL tower on Harbor Island.  Later they increased power at that location.  Then it was moved to Cougar Mt.  In 1975 it became ‘Cute’ or KEUT…then in 1978 the call was change to KMPS for (Manning P Slater).  In 1988 it was moved from Cougar to West Tiger along with 3 other stations, becoming the first use of a multi-station combiner in the area.  A few years ago it was moved to the new ATC site on West Tiger where it remains today.  Even though the call letters are now KSWD, they continue to call their HD2 – Classic KMPS.  More on that below…..

 

With the battle cry of – ‘PAY ME FIRST’  the various creditors of heavily in debt Cumulus are trying to figure out how to best deal with it.  Reading about this is head-bending.  Secured vs. unsecured creditors etc.  According to some reports, Cumulus owes Broadcasters General Store just under $1,000,000.  One has to wonder why they did not have their credit line turned off a while ago.  Cumulus is underway using Chapter 11.  As is the case with situations like this – many will only receive a portion of what they are out, while others will get nothing.  The true winners – the lawyers that are crafting all the language, who get well over $1000 per hour, will be, reportedly making millions.  Apparently, the process is supposed to end up with the firm having a Billion Dollars less debt (but still not debt free).  We have a few more months to go to see how this pans out.

 

Oh yes – as if they did not have enough bad news – Cumulus was recently slapped with a $58,000 fine by the FCC for some public file violations.

 

A number of comments have been made regarding the FCC’s apparent move to allow 100% control of a broadcast station by a foreign entity.  In this case, the Commish has granted a petition by a pair of Australian citizens involving stations in Alaska and Texas.  They have permitted less than 50% in this past,  This could just be a start.  Apparently there is a small FM station in New York State that has a buyer that would keep the station from going dark.  However the buyers are not US citizens.

How about we look back a bit with this one –

Reflecting on how things have changed –

  • Back then Shafer was a big name in Radio automation systems.
  • Note the terminal the girl is operating – Black and White display, obviously a big box to house that CRT.
  • This model was computer based permitting things that previously were impossible.
  • Back then Commercial announcements were all on Tape Cartridges. To handle that chore were three Shafter Audiofile multi-cart systems.
  • Likely the station’s music was being played on those ITC Model 750 Reel to Reel machines.
  • Logging was done with a dot-matrix printer.
  • Walk-away time was limited to the amount of music those reel-to-reel machines could hold or the number of commercials the Cartridge Players could handle.

Think how much of this has changed.  Now computers play the announcements from hard-drives.  Broadcast schedules still have to be entered, however.  Likely the station’s music library is all on a hard drive as well and is managed by yet another computer.  Today a radio station will be operating from a computer based system most of the time and certainly all weekend…With no one in the building.

Looking for a job in Oregon?  Here is the message I received about it – OPB  is hiring for their Bend Oregon operation.  Details below:

 Network Support Technician

 

OPB is looking for a Network Support Technician (to be based in Bend, OR) passionate about technology to join an expanding team supporting OPB’s content creation and distribution. This non-exempt regular status represented position is full-time and includes benefits.

 

 Jonathan Newsome | Director of Engineering

OPB | 7140 SW Macadam Avenue | Portland, OR 97219 | (503) 293-1952

 

 

Last month I ran a picture of a circuit board  with a strange component.  The question was answered by Mike Graves of KIRO-TV.

 

It’s a ZERO OHM resistor, of course! Why do such a silly thing?  Sometimes circuit boards are designed to have different components stuffed depending on what model/features are required of it.  A hand built board might have a piece of jumper wire added.  Automatic component insertion machines can’t install bare wire so the solution is to have a zero ohm resistor.

 

Contributor Mike Brooks at KING-FM has another one this month –

What’s wrong with this picture?

 

Here’s another one that I caught on my vehicle radio recently.  A good example of mixed messages.  (Excuse the glare, but I was in a hurry to get this before it went away.)  I sent this onto Matt Green at Entercom who informed me that they corrected the problem.   Call letters are, these days, hidden in strange places.

On this topic – If you have a funny or picture of something a bit unusual …Please send them to me.  Would love to share.

A familiar name to many in this industry – Belden, long time maker of wire and cable, has been buying things related to broadcasting.  Most recently they purchased Snell Advanced Media which will become part of Grass Valley which became part of Belden a couple of years ago.

In my many years in this industry I have encountered a variety of people – Some are afraid of change, while others view change as a vehicle for advancement.  Some I’ve worked with will burn 1,000 calories trying to get out of a 100 calorie job.  Some will find a zillion reasons why something cannot be done, while another will accept the challenge and be quick to tackle and resolve the issue.  I was reminded of some of these experiences recently when I read a comment  made by long time Califormia-based broadcaster Bill Ruck regarding why some issues with EAS could not be quickly resolved.  I asked Bill if I could use this in my column.  He said yes – I wanted to share it with you.  Very applicable to many situations.

 

 

 

So why can’t this be done now?

 

In U.S. Navy boot camp I learned the difference between a “reason” and an “excuse”.  Being kinda thick it took more than one instance of my Company Commander screaming into my face “That’s an excuse.  Now give me the reason” before I recognized the difference.  Hint: In that environment there is no “reason”, just “excuses”.  So far all I have heard about why this can’t be done falls into the category of “excuse”.

 

Bill Ruck

Curmudgeon

San Francisco

 

Many of us are faced with challenges – perhaps we need to ask ourselves and/or the people we are dealing with whether or not we are dealing with a ‘Reason’ or and ‘Excuse’?

 

Another picture to share with you.  This was taken just north of Depoe Bay on the Oregon Coast (one of my favorites places in the world) …Yes, it was January!

One more thing – The annual trek to the Puyallup Electronic Flea Market is on Saturday, March 10th.  A bunch of us traditionally gather at Odd Fellas Pub in Auburn about 7:30 for breakfast and conversation, and then make our way to the day’s event.  Hard to believe that this is the 37th year.  Hope you can join us.

With that, it’s a wrap on this edition of my little contribution.

May the snow go away and warm spring breezes fill your life as well, look forward to longer days and the glory of summer in the Pacific Northwest.

‘Til, Lord willing, next month –

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

 

Clay’s Corner for January 2018

March 8, 2018
By

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Can you believe it!…..Seattle actually had a White Christmas.  For those of you in other parts of the world, you may think what’s special about that?  Consider –

  • The National Weather service places the odds of having one at 7 percent.
  • The last White Christmas Seattle had was 9 years ago.
  • Before that it occurred in 1926.
  • It’s the 7th time in recorded history.
  • 3 times in 100 Years!….Those are long odds.

This is what it looked like looking out my back window on Christmas Morning:

For those that love snow – It was great to see it on Christmas.
For those that hate snow – We only got a few inches.
For those that need a comparison to put things into perspective – Erie, PA got 34 inches..all on Christmas Day.
Our neighbor to the South, Portland, Oregon received a white one too – It was the 6th time they’ve had a White Christmas since 1884.

At West Tiger, 3000 feet above Seattle, your chances of a White Christmas are significantly better.  I took this on December 4th, standing on the porch of the transmitter building.

If any of you wonder why I prefer to travel to West Tiger mountain, the beauty in the above picture will help explain things.  Yes, I know, most of you would rather be stuck in traffic on a freeway with a great view of the back of a big smelly truck.

Speaking of being stuck in traffic, the major rail accident near DuPont certainly created a mess in this area.  I-5 in this location, is what engineers call a SPOF – or single point of failure.  Lose that piece of highway and you have a mess.  Could not help but notice how four of the local TV operations were all over this one with great coverage.  Several radio operations did a great job also.  What was really obvious is the fact that many (apparently) don’t pay attention to broadcast outlets providing traffic information as underscored by the fact that there were often 5 mile backup’s on SB I-5.  What were these folks doing that would cause them to sit in a 5 mile backup just to be turned around?  My guess is that their car radios were either turned off, or they were listening to radio stations that could care less about broadcasting traffic information. (That could include Satellite Radio)   Wonder if anyone will study this aspect?…..Probably not.

A recent survey showed that 73% of Americans subscribe to Netflix…and that’s the same percentage that subscribe to Pay TV.  Guess that explains a lot!  No wonder Comcast is pushing their broadband business.  I presume that that segment is more than making up for the lack of TV customers?

Well Entercom made their first move by switching Country KMPS to Christmas Music…Then on the morning of December 4th they made their 2nd format move switching 94.1 to a new soft AC format and re-branding the station ‘The Sound’.  Now sporting the call letters KSWD.  Meanwhile, over in Bellevue….Moments after 94.1 switched from Christmas to AC, Hubbard switched their 98.9 to Country.  Its pretty obvious what took place there – 1) Hubbard gambled that Entercom would not keep 2 country format stations in the same market and, in the couple of weeks that 94.1 played Christmas, readied their country format – just in case.  Or  2) Some at Hubbard knew what Entercom was going to do ahead of time.  Normally format changes are closely held secrets, perhaps not this time?

The part that few thought would happen was Entercom throwing away 94.1’s many years of being the country place in Seattle and keeping their own country station (100.7) that was behind in the numbers race.  History shows that something similar took place years ago when the owners of KMPS purchased another station in town that was playing country music.  In that case, the new owners made their former competitor go away.  Now 100.7 will be the senior country station (they’ve been at it a while) and 98.9 will have to play catchup.  Certainly the next ratings numbers will be interesting.   On the technical side, the transmitters for 94.1 and 98.9 are a few feet away from each other and they both transmit thru the same antenna.

It was interesting looking at my radio the Monday morning when all this was going on.  As in most of these cases, engineers are kept ‘out of the know’.  As a result, some of the textual information was a bit behind the changes.  Entercom was calling themselves ‘The Sound’ but the art-work (for a while) still showed the red and blue KMPS Guitar.  98.9 suffered the same problem – as you can see from this shot of my radio – (excuse the lint on my radio’s display).  Here we see that 98.9 is ‘Everything that Rocks’ and ‘New Country’…hmmm?

           R I P

There’s a whole lot of movement going on in the Seattle-Tacoma area, but we’re not talking about earthquakes…It’s radio programming…Going to take a while for all of the dust to settle.

Another ownership change is in the works, this time to 103.3/KMCQ, the FM licensed to Oak Harbor.   The new owner will be Busto’s Media who operates 99.3/KDDS and 1210/KMIA.   This will likely mean that Country Music fans will have to deal with another change as the station is certain to be changing to a Latino format of some kind…No word on the fate of the call letters.   Interesting that the call KMCQ came to the Seattle area with the move of the station from Oregon that later became KLSW.  Bustos has been busy of late with CP’s recently being granted for new FM operations in Portland, San Jose, Houston and Ephrata.

Another new FM in the area will be in Puyallup on 94.5 Licensed to Jean Suh who operates the Korean language operation on 1450 AM there as well as 1230 in Everett.  This will be the second FM in the area on that frequency that used to be pretty much exclusively KRXY a Class A operation in Shelton.  The other is the KTTH(AM) translator on Cougar Mt near Bellevue.

A whole lot of press being given the recent FCC decision to repeal the 2015 rules commonly called Net Neutrality.   Here, Washington State, is apparently going to take the matter to court once again proving that the real winners will be the lawyers.

Question for you  – What Pacific Northwest City has more breweries than any other city in the world?     If you guessed Portland, Oregon you’d be right!

From the ‘Quoting someone else department’

“My dad used to say that every time history repeats itself, the price goes up….”

 

Gil Gillivan

For those of you that don’t get to visit Tiger Mountain, I should explain that there are 6 summits in the Tiger Mountain State Forest.  Three of them have electronic equipment on them.  In this view we are traveling from West to East looking at East Tiger Mountain, the highest of them all.  There are no broadcast stations on this Tiger…just lots of Microwave and other electronic communications equipment.  The big tower on the top also belongs to ATC.

Apparently the temptation to operate a radio station with too much power is not limited to commercial operations.  I’ve been reading about a number of instances where an LPFM is operating with excessive power.  Pretty easy to buy a transmitter for any power level your budget will permit and just – turn ‘er up.  Perhaps the lack of routine/surprise inspections by the FCC contributes to this problem?  Licensed full power stations that could be impacted by this practice would be wise to keep an eye on these kinds of issues to protect themselves.

On the topic of FCC Violations – the Commish has sent a letter to the operator of an AM station in Carthage, Illinois, telling him to turn it off because he does not have a license.  In this case running about 1,000 watts on 990.  This is not your typical pirate that ends up on the air out of the blue, but rather a broadcast station owner that was denied a renewal for failing to pay a debt to the FCC.  Frankly I’m surprised there are not more pirate AMs.  Guess this helps underscore the fact that AM is not all that desirable these days.  Even the pirates don’t want to operate there.

Perhaps the biggest hard-luck story of 2017 for Broadcasting will be the fact that Cumulus filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  Cumulus is a sizable operation, in fact, in terms of number of stations, they were ranked #2 in the U.S with 446 stations in 90 markets.

It has been reported that some $5 Billion was spent building the company.  Perhaps one could write a book based on the Cumulus story.  Now some will get their money and some will not.  This is all about what’s called – Debt Restructuring – a process of winners and a lot of losers.  For those that lose – you have the option of getting a tax break for a bad-debt.  Will have to see how this all shakes out.  Certainly not a pretty picture, viewed by many as a black mark on the radio industry.  Inside, it’s likely to be a challenge to keep a smile going forward.  ‘Tis not the first time a company has gone Chapter 11, but perhaps the first time a big operation like this has done it.

The FCC’s Daily Releases look like this –

ID BTC-20171201BAC KBOI 51211 RADIO LICENSE HOLDING CBC, LLC Involuntary Transfer of Control E 670 KHZ BOISE, ID From: CUMULUS MEDIA INC. To: CUMULUS MEDIA INC., DEBTOR-IN-POSSESSION Form 316

And in a stroke of bad-timing, several Cumulus stations in South Carolina were informed by the FCC that they are proposing a fine of $20,000 for EEO violations.  Wonder if the FCC can collect?

Cumulus is not a big name here in the PNW because they have no operations in the area’s major markets.  They do operate clusters of radio stations in Eugene, Oregon, Boise, Idaho and Colorado Springs.  In each of those markets they have 4 FMs and 2 AMs.  Perhaps the most famous operation in this neck of the woods is KBOI in Boise, a 50 kW big signal on 670.  Cumulus is based in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, iHeartMedia continues to do ‘the bankruptcy avoidance dance’ with their creditors.  iHeart, compared to Cumulus, has some really serious debt…Like $20 Billion worth.  Would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in some of these discussions.  Like Cumulus, there will be winners and losers.  The $64,000 Question is will the company be forced into bankruptcy or will they, again, be able to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat?  Perhaps in 2018 we will all learn how this chapter of the saga will read.  This far, there appears to be a good supply of rabbits.

Speaking of Saga…in this case a much brighter story as Saga Communications is giving their shareholders a special cash dividend on top of their normal one.  The company has, reportedly, paid out almost $53 million in dividends to their stockholders since 2012 and is saying they plan on continuing to do so.  Saga owns 75 FM and 33 AM stations including a cluster in Bellingham, WA.  Kudos to Saga for proving that it is possible to make money with Radio.

Part of the recent iHeart/Entercom/CBS shuffle involved the old 102.9/KELA-FM on Capital Peak.  Until recently the call letters on the station were KFOO, now changed to KFNY.  One of the trades mentioned this shuffle and called the area served as Centralia/Tacoma.  I have to admit I was a bit taken back by the lumping of those two locations together.  The City of License for 102.9 is Centralia.

This brings up the question, with the Main Studio Rules going away in January, it is not time to do away with the City of License criteria also?  Here in the Seattle area, we have a lot of stations that identify with the Seattle area, whose city of license is a city other than Seattle.

Look at Television – Channel 11 and 13 are licensed to Tacoma.  Granted the FCC allowed dual city IDs a long time ago.

FM Radio is another example – 106.1, 97.3, 103.7 etc. all have a COL of Tacoma.  (This is why when you hear KIRO-FM do their ‘Legal ID’  they always say “ KIRO-FM, Tacoma, Seattle’.

Then there are stations like 97.7/KOMO-FM – whose City of License (COL) is Oakville.  You will hear this once in a while as they do their Legal ID.  Another is 99.3/KDDS.  Their COL is Elma.  How about 106.9/KWRM?  Their COL is Bremerton.

Is the whole City of License thing just as out of date as the Main Studio Rules?  If you don’t have to have a Main Studio in your City of License….Why should a broadcaster be forced to Identify the COL on the air?  Allow me to pick up KOMO for a moment.  Who benefits from having the station say Oakville once an hour?  What purpose does It serve other than to keep the Commish happy?

Whereas broadcast stations (today) are no longer based on a specific location but are based on where their coverage contours fall in respect to co-channel and adjacent channel technical considerations, why not drop the dated COL requirement altogether and permit broadcasters to identify with any city whose boundaries are totally within the coverage of the station?

Another example of the FCC ‘funky thinking’, how is it that a translator can identify with a city that is many miles away?  Where is the logic here?

Oh well – I can dream

It’s always a sad day when we lose someone in our business.  The following was posted to the SBE-16 Remailer on the 20th of December –

Hatfield & Dawson sorrowfully report that a valued member of our
engineering staff, Michael Mehigan, P.E., passed away suddenly and
unexpectedly in the small hours of the morning on December 15, 2017, at
the age of 44.

While not an SBE member himself, and while his work with H&D focused
primarily on public safety and transit two-way radio systems, Mike would
be known to a number of SBE members through his prior employment with
the FCC.  Mike came to work for H&D ten years ago following a stint as a
Field Agent with the FCC Seattle field office.  Before that, Mike worked
for two years as an engineer in the FCC Audio Division in Washington
DC.  Mike held a BS in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic.

Mike is survived by his wife Kristen, and two daughters aged five and
one.  A memorial has not yet been scheduled.

Stephen S. Lockwood, P.E., PMP, President
Hatfield & Dawson Consulting Engineers

Tegna, owner of many major TV Stations, including operations in Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Boise and Denver recently announced they were purchasing KFMB-TV in San Diego.  Included in the purchase is the KFMB AM and FM Radio Stations.

Time for another pretty picture.  Another submission by Dwight Small:

Just what we need – another EAS Event Code that will be ignored.  The FCC has just approved another one, the Blue Alert.  The Washington SECC, filed comments with the Commish on this one, stating a number of reasons why we were opposed.  (I can send you a copy if you are really interested).  Like most of the EAS Event Codes, this one can be ignored by participants.  If you did want to participate, you will have to modify your EAS Decoder to recognize this latest addition, which the FCC is not going to require.  Of course, there is no funding for training on how to use it.  IMHO this is a case of bureaucrats and politicians just trying to put their name on something that sounds good to the voters.  One more time…more news on how radiation from your Cellphone is doing you harm.  This time the State of California’s heath officials have released guidelines about how to avoid the harmful radiation coming from these devices.  Here are some quotes from officials in the Golden State:

Dr. Karen Smith with the California Department Of Public Health said, “We recognize that there are a lot of people in the general public that have some concerns about their cellphones and whether using a cellphone is safe.”  “When you sleep, you keep the cellphone at least arm’s length away from your body.  And also, not carrying your cellphone in your pocket, having it either in your purse or not carrying it with you.”

Dr. Joel Moskowitz at UC Berkeley said, “Currently we’re not doing a good job in regulating radiation from these devices.  In fact, we’re doing an abysmal job.”

They stopped short of saying that Cellphones are dangerous.

Hmmmm.  Can you imagine what would happen if it was proved that cellphones are dangerous?  A couple of things would likely happen:

  • A huge number of law suits from those that would blame everyone because they were not warned.
  • A huge number of people that would continue to be users (think Cigarettes, texting while driving, etc.)

This is a classic case of convenience vs. implied danger, and we all know how well that works.

In my work with WSU’s NWPR (Northwest Public Radio), I frequently drive over to Forks, WA.  For those of you not familiar with Forks, it’s near the NW Corner of Washington State and is more recently known as the setting for the Twilight series.  With just under 4,000 residents, Forks is like other little towns near the Washington Coast that were once thriving along with the lumber industry.  To be honest, the little place is not exactly thriving, with about 20% living with incomes under the poverty line.  It’s beautiful country, green and lush and near the north Washington Coast.  You have to like rain to live there with well over 100 inches of it falling annually and reportedly 212 days a year with measurable precip.  In terms of broadcasting, there are no OTA TV stations, but there are several receivable radio stations, some from Canada.  Locally, there is an AM/FM station as well as two signals from NWPR (why I go there) and a couple low powered FMs.  Recently an application was filed for a new translator on 94.1.  Not sure, at this writing, what it will be repeating.  Seattle broadcasters are not heard, thanks to the blocking of the Olympic Mountains.

Something I write about frequently is statistical information about the booming Seattle area.  Think that housing here is expensive?  Consider:

  • Median home listing price – $675,000, equal to a monthly mortgage payment of over $3000.
  • Median household income – $70,000.
  • According to Zillow, the median home price has gone up $100,000 in the PAST YEAR.
  • The average time a listing in King County is on the market is – 8 Days!
  • A typical home in King County now sells for twice the national average.
  • Two-third of all sales in King County this year have had a “bidding war”.

Writing a column is very different from what I do the rest of the time.  Doing so has increased my interest in our language considerably.  Once in a while something comes along that underscores how unique and, perhaps, frustrating it is. Here are some examples –

  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The dump was so full that it had to refuse  more refuse.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  • Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  • A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  • I did not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  • A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  • To help with planting, the farmer  taught his sow to sow.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let’s face  it – English is a crazy language.

  • There is no egg in eggplant.
  • No  ham in hamburger.
  • No apple nor pine in pineapple.
  • English  muffins weren’t invented in England.
  • No French fries in France.
  • Sweetmeats are candie.
  • Sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted.  But if we explore its paradoxes, we find –

  • Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?  If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t  the plural of booth, beeth?  One goose, two geese.  So one moose, two meese?  One index, two indices?  Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?  If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If  teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?  If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?  Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.  In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?  Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?  Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?  You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at  all.  That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Here’s a name that many of you will recognize – Matt Granard.  Matt and his family were known as owners of Westlake Electronics, who, when they were on Westlake in South Lake Union area, was a place where broadcast engineers would shop for parts to keep their stations going.  (Miss those days.)  Matt is now with Costco.

Thought I’d never hear it.  Charles Osgood has announced that he is retiring at the end of 2017.  CBS Sunday morning and the Osgood File will never be the same and another legend in broadcasting moves on.  The reason was cited as being a health issue, adding that his doctors told him it was time after almost 50 years.  Osgood is 84 and started in the business back in 1967.

It was recently announced that Broadcast Electronics has been acquired by an Italian firm, Elenos.  BE started out in the late ’50s with another name – Spotmaster, a manufacturer of audio cartridge tape equipment utilizing a Viking deck (oh, how I remember).  The firm moved from Silver Spring, MD to Quincy, Ill – then home of Gates Radio.  In the late 70s they started making transmitters.  I recall when 88.5 FM was installing their new BE Transmitters at West Tiger, that some of the items arrived in boxes labeled ‘Spotmaster’.  They did quite well for a number of years with many of the radio signals you hear on the air in the Seattle area coming from BE Transmitters.  Later the firm got into software for Radio with their Audiovault product.  Along the way they purchased Marti Electronics.  Recent years have not been kind to the firm with several ownership changes.  Reportedly, only about 50 people are working at their Quincy facility.  A lot of conjecture as to what Elenos will do as the new owner.  Certainly interesting that an off-shore firm is buying a US broadcast equipment manufacturer.

Looking for a job in this business?

Colorado Public Radio has an open position in the technical operations center (TOC).  Salary range: $47,000 – $66,000.  See link for more details: http://www.cpr.org/employment-opportunity/technical-operations-manager

As you likely know, Europe is leading the way in replacing conventional AM and FM Broadcasting with Digital systems, commonly called DAB.  Norway is one of the leaders in this movement with the announcement that they are the first country in the world to shut down their national broadcasts on the FM Band.  There are still signals on FM however, but nothing like North America.

Sinclair, owner of two TV and three Radio Stations in Seattle, and a major broadcast owner who is seeking to absorb Tribune, was recently slapped with a huge, over 13 Megabuck fine for violations of the FCC’s sponsorship ID rules.  The rule states that you must, in the case of a paid program, identify who is paying for it.  Sinclair claims it was an oversight.  Will see if this gains any traction with the regulators.  Not good timing for a firm asking that the FCC approve a transaction that is being opposed by several.

Not exactly creating a lot of headlines, but the long-running radio program A Prairie Home Companion is getting a new name, apparently as a result of the program’s long time, and recently retired, host being accused of personal wrong doing.  The new name will be ‘Live from Here’.

Another AM is going dark.  This time legendary KQV in Pittsburgh.  Apparently the owners have concluded that they are unable to sustain the rather labor intensive and expensive news operation.  Announcing that the station would be silent at the end of the year makes me suspect that they have tried to sell it and have not yet found a suitable buyer.  No word on what will happen to the 1410 AM operation in the future.  KQV goes back almost 100 years having begun broadcasting in 1919.

You will have to look very closely at this picture.  Perhaps some of you will recognize a very much younger Clay Freinwald.  I know the location…the front desk of KNBQ at 11th and Grant in Tacoma.  The date would be in the 1980s (perhaps).  Gee I had hair – and would you look at the color of that beard!

KAFE 104.1

  • Station: KAFE-FM
  • Dial: 1 FM
  • Format: AC
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
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98.9 K-BAY

  • Station: KBAI-AM
  • Dial: 930 AM / 98.9 FM
  • Format: Classic Hits
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
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790 KGMI

  • Station: KGMI-AM
  • Dial: 790 AM / 96.5 FM
  • Format: News/Talk
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
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Classic Rock 92.9

  • Station: KISM-FM
  • Dial: 9FM
  • Format: Classic Rock
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
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KPUG 1170

  • Station: KPUG-AM
  • Dial: 1170 AM / 97.3 FM
  • Format: Sports
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
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Since I first started writing this Column, way back in 1986, a lot of things have changed.  Initially I wrote it on my computer (Apple II) and sent it to the Seattle SBE Chapter 16 publisher via, very slow, modem.  They would then insert it into a file that became the Chapters Newsletter ‘The Waveguide’ which was mailed with its famous Yellow cover.  Along the way it became clear that the labor of printing, mailing and the expenses involved, were being replaced with the advantages of On-Line distribution.  At this point, The Waveguide, and my Column, was instantly available to anyone that wanted it.  This was when things started getting interesting.  I discovered that the Denver SBE Chapter was running my Column…and others were quoting it.  It became clear that my Column was no longer just a Seattle SBE thing.  I then began emailing it to not just the Seattle SBE Chapter Waveguide Editor, but to other SBE Chapters and, of course, to the publisher of Northwest Broadcasters.

It was interesting to note how, within a few hours of being posted on the NW Broadcasters site, the December issue was being mentioned, and linked, to the Seattle version of radiodiscussons.com.

When you write something today, and it gets posted, you need to be mindful that your writing could end up and be read anywhere.  I am amazed at the geographic distribution of my readers.  Every month I receive comments and pictures from all over.  I want you to all know that I appreciate it.  There is nothing worse than the thought that what you write is not being read by anyone!  I appreciate the feedback (even when I am wrong).  I especially appreciate the submission of pictures and short stories about happenings in other areas.  Hopefully my readers here in the Seattle area do too – so keep ‘em coming.

This, perhaps, brings up the question of how long will I do this?  All I can say is that I do enjoy it, and would like to do so for a while longer.  Age, however,  has a way of creeping up on us all and at some point I will either expire or retire.  If I have the option, I will certainly want to say goodbye.  Having a 30+ year run is certainly an achievement.  With that being said, Thank You for reading my stuff.

Before I end this – Some items that came to me from my brother in law (who is younger).

I am assuming that many of you will relate to some of these:

As I get older, I realize:

  • I talk to myself, because there are times I need expert advice.
  • My people skills are just fine.  It’s my tolerance for idiots that needs work.
  • The biggest lie I tell myself is, “I don’t need to write that down.  I’ll remember it.”
  • I have days when my life is just a tent away from a circus.
  • These days, “on time” is when I get there.
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes, then come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller?
  • Lately, I’ve noticed people my age are so much older than me.
  • “Getting lucky” means walking into  a room and remembering why I’m there.
  • When I was a child, I thought nap time was punishment.  Now it feels like a mini vacation.
  • Some days I have no idea what I’m doing out of bed.
  • I thought growing old would take longer.
  • Aging sure has slowed me down, but it hasn’t shut me up.
  • I still haven’t learned to act my age.

Well, my friends, that’s it for this month.  I hope that 2017 was good to you and yours and that 2018 will be even better.

As they say in Amateur Radio, 73

Clay Freinwald, CPBE, K7CR
SBE Member # 714SBE Member # 714

 

Clay’s Corner for December 2017

December 23, 2017
By
Clay’s Corner
Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

This picture was taken from the south shore of Lake Crescent looking Northeast

Not to be outdone – Dwight Small (Ret) sent me this one of Lake Cavanaugh

The headline this month – CBS RADIO IS GONE – ENTERCOM IS A WHOLE LOT BIGGER.


On November 9th the FCC approved the deal.  Shortly afterward, CBS followed suit and on the 17th the deal closed.  This is clearly one of the bigger moves in Radio ownership in a long time.  The first move in this saga was CBS announcing that it was interested in spinning their Radio division.  Speculation started as to what that would mean.  Catching a lot of people by surprise, Entercom announced that they were ‘the one’ to do a deal with them.  Nine months later it’s done.  This has vaulted Entercom to the 2nd place position in terms of Radio ownership with now 244 stations in 47 markets including 23 of the top 25.

So why did CBS want to exit the radio business?  The answer recently came from CEO Les Moonves.

 “The separation of our radio business is part of a broader strategy to make CBS even more focused on our content and all the ways we can monetize it,” said Moonves.  “We started on this path several years ago with the split-off of our outdoor advertising business.  And just as we did with outdoor, we believe our radio transaction will allow us to unlock more value for our shareholders and further grow our revenue.  As a result, we think CBS will be even better positioned to take advantage of all the new growth opportunities before us, and we feel very good about our future as a pure content Company.”

There’s a lot of history behind all of this with various players and names…Westinghouse, Infinity, Viacom, CBS and now Entercom.  For the Field family – this has been a remarkable story.  The elder Mr. Field became interested in Broadcasting when he was doing legal work for a broadcaster.  From that he began to invest in Radio stations under the name of Entertainment Communications.  The first I became aware of the firm was when they purchased KTAC AM in Tacoma and later KTWR that was later to become KBRD.  Later, doing a trade deal with Viacom, they picked up Viacom’s 97.3, 107.7 FM and 1210 AM in the Seattle area.  In the meantime, Entercom (as it became officially known) grew slowly into multiple markets including Portland and Denver.  According to Mr. Fields son, David (now CEO) the deal with CBS fulfills a dream – in his words – “We have spent many years looking at all sorts of other opportunities to grow and have grown to be the fourth-largest company in the radio business,” David Field said during an investor presentation last week, “But we’ve always lacked that scale, and we’ve always coveted the CBS Radio assets, which are the best in the industry.”

Entercom-Seattle, once again, consists of 5 FMs.  If you recall 97.3 (along with 710 and 770 AM) were once part of Entercom locally.  KMPS 94.1 is now officially part of this group.  The other two former CBS stations (KZOK 102.5 and KJAQ 96.5) are to become part of the Seattle iHeart group.

So where does this leave us?  Here is a list of ‘who owns what’ going forward –

 

Entercom

107.7/KNDD

103.7/KHTP

100.7/KKWF

99.9/KISW

94.1/KMPS (Newly Added)

 

iHeart Media

106.1/KBKS

102.5/KZOK (Newly Added)

96.5/KJAQ (Newly Added)

95.7/KJR

93.3/KPWK

1090/KFNQ (Newly added)

950/KJR

850/KHHO

 

This will give IHeart a ‘full-house’ or the maximum number of AM and FM stations allowed in a market.  To make this work, iHeart will have to spin off a couple of stations in the area.  A move that can hardly be described as a loss, considering what they are gaining.

So what can we speculate on now?  Well, plenty… Here’s my list, starting with the spin-offs:

  • 102.9/KFOO, originally KELA-FM and licensed to Centralia, transmits from Capital Peak SW of Olympia.  It covers a substantial amount of real estate and should be a very desirable pickup for someone that wants a Seattle rim shot or who is more interested in targeting the area where they have the signal.  Like for instance an existing broadcaster licensed to Olympia etc., like KXXO or KGY.
  • 104.9/KUBE, licensed to Eatonville, is much lower power and is located on a hilltop SE of Tacoma.  In fact, it’s coverage includes Tacoma and points east, but not much more.  This would make an ideal addition for KLAY AM.
  • Later in the month we learned the answer to the questions of many.  Would the KUBE call letters be saved for Seattle?  Some of those questions have been answered by iHeart, who has traded KFOO with their AM in Riverside while swapping KUBE for KTDD in San Bernardino, a tactic that many large owners use to ‘warehouse’ desirable call letters.  Will KUBE come back to Seattle?  That’s an open question.

There are other questions –

  • Will Entercom really try and operate two Country Music stations?  They might, effectively keeping a huge country presence for themselves by skewing the two formats.  Or they might ditch the format on one of the two stations and do something different.  At mid-November that possibility looked more likely as 94.1 switched to all Christmas,making many to wonder what KMPS will sound like after the holidays.  Christmas music is a great ‘cover’ for a station planning a change.  It did sound a bit strange to hear a message on KMPS urging their listeners who wanted to hear the country hits to tune to sister station 100.7 The Wolf, something that I would have thought impossible a year ago.  Meanwhile, 94.1 HD2 continues to air a classic country format.
  • What will Entercom do with CBS Sports that is presently on 1090?  There are many saying that the format will end up on one of the Entercom FMs – we will see.
  • What about 1090?  Will iHeart really want to keep what has been known as the hard-luck AM Frequency in the market due to its big null to the south.  Then again they have KHHO that does not play to the north from their Tacoma transmitter site at night.  Perhaps some sort of pairing?  Not likely this will keep it sports as they already have KJR-AM with that format.

On the technical side –

  • The three CBS FM station’s main transmitters on West Tiger Mt. are all in one room and quite intermingled.  Separating KMPS from the other two will require a good deal of caution.  The present single iHeart station at this site is on the floor above.
  • Interestingly KMPS (soon to be Entercom) and KJAQ (soon to be iHeart) will end up sharing an auxiliary site on Cougar Mountain via branch combiner and common antenna.  Will be interesting to see how the legal types apply the scalpel to that operation.  ATC owns the site including the building and tower.
  • The KZOK Auxiliary is located on Cougar Mt. also, but is in the former Entercom, now ATC site there.
  • Technical Personnel is. another issue.  CBS employed a couple broadcast techs – Phil Van Liew and Alex Brewster.  Logic says that Entercom and iHeart will pick up these guys due to the increased amount of work that additional stations represent.  In the meantime, they have both gained ‘entercom.com’ email addresses and are keeping things going at the former CBS stations while they are in the Trust.

One more time – Say goodbye –

The following courtesy of John Schneider

For some at CBS the transition meant a big payday.  For instance – Andre Fernandez who was the CBS Radio president will get over $8.  Matthew Siegel will receive $1.34 Million.  Scott Herman, $1.7 Million.  Must be nice to get the holidays off and not have to go back to work!

Thanks to Tim Moore at KOMO for this map of the Columbia Broadcasting System.  Anyone care to guess the year?

On the local SBE Chapter Remailer in Seattle it was noted that there are a lot of radio broadcast company names that are now just memories in the minds of those that worked for them.  Several contributed to this list –
West Coast Broadcasting, Sunbrook Broadcasting, Park Broadcasting, Sunbelt Communications, Noble Broadcasting, SRO, Kaye-Smith, Metromedia, Golden West, Buckley, Shamrock, Ackerly, Viacom, Tribune Publishing, Gaylord, Madison Park Broadcasting, Hercules Broadcasting, Heritage Media Group, EZ Communications, Alliance Broadcasting, Olympic Broadcasting (which was forced by the IOC to change its name to Olympia Broadcasting), O’Day broadcasting of Washington, Kaye-Smith, Fisher Radio, Bingham Broadcasting etc.

I’m sure there are many more.

So as the Radio rumor-mill smolders, we have Television to think about.  What about the Sinclair / Tribune TV Station deal?  In Seattle, its 4 stations and, potentially, 1 owner….Something has got to give.  My guess, Sinclair will ‘cherry pick’, keeping KOMO and KCPQ and spin the other two…The big question is will they get to that point?

The FCC recently approved several Media Rule changes.  The long standing ban on Radio/Newspaper cross ownership and radio/TV cross ownership is gone, etc.   However this has not gone smoothly.  You can tell that politics are involved, with the way the Commission voted (3 to 2) with the R’s saying Yea and the D’s say Nay, that this may well become ‘messy’.

This party-line spit is also involved in the Sinclair/Tribune deal.  One of the leaders of the opposition is Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington State.  Some are upset due to the reported conservative leaning of Sinclair, which is, apparently, enough to rile the D’s.  This deal is not likely to progress as smoothly as the Entercom/CBS deal.

On the financial front, some difficult times ahead for a couple of the other giants in the radio business.

IHeartMedia and its bondholders are still trying to figure out how to handle the over $20 Billion owed by the company.  The firm’s financials don’t look great with decreasing revenue and income.  Contributing to the poor operating performance is the interest on the huge debt load.  Just before Thanksgiving, their stock was selling at under a dollar per share.

Cumulus is suffering financially also.  There the news is, they are weighing a ‘Debt for Equity Swap’ or even Chapter 11.  There the debt is only about 10% of iHeart, standing at $2 Billion.  Word is – all options are on the table.  Cumulus recently had another set-back being officially de-listed by NASDAQ, forcing the firm to the Over the Counter market where investors were apparently not impressed, resulting in their stock price going down to 19 cents per share on the 22nd of November.  If you recall, they did an 8 to 1 reverse split about a year ago to try and increase their per share price.  Had they not done that, the price would be 2.4 cents.

The impact on the market cannot be overlooked.  My personal financial advisor and I have chatted about this.  He feels that Media is no place to invest.  With Cumulus stock in the vicinity of a quarter dollar a share, all I can do is nod.  Meanwhile, Entercom is looking like they are much better positioned than the other two in the top three.  However, one has to think that the Entercom stock price is suppressed because of the iHeart and Cumulus mountain of debt.  Something has to give here.  Perhaps early this coming year we will find out what it is.

On November 14th we had our first good wind storm in the Seattle area, with power being knocked out for, reportedly, about 150,000 customers.   Power was out on Cougar Mountain for about 9 hours, as expected, due to all the trees up there.  Interesting that this storm caused a good size outage on Capitol Hill, impacting some stations there.  I was talking with the GM of a local station, who is from Texas.  He remarked that we sure had a lot of power failures…then noted that perhaps we have more big trees in this area.  No Doug Firs in Texas!

All over the country, owners of primary stations are battling co-channel Translators.  Here the operator of 103.3 (Oak Harbor) has been dealing with the long standing Entercom 103.3 translator in downtown Seattle (K277AE).  Entercom has gone as far as installing a highly directional antenna to try and minimize interference.  This is yet another example of why there should be some defined parameters that could guide the parties.  Oh well – I can dream.

Meanwhile, the FCC continues to ‘Tinker’ with AM Radio, making more changes that they hope will make it easier for AM station owners to survive.  If you would like all the details – go here – https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/11/03/2017-23908/revitalization-of-the-am-radio service.

Ran across this picture the other day.  Anyone recognize this youngster.  Hint – he is still working in Broadcasting and is 10 years younger than me.

 

WSU’s NWPR recently saw the retirement of one of the techs, Don Eckis, who was based in Wenatchee.  Before he left, he passed on some interesting pictures of some of the things he was involved with.  This first one shows the removal of a big dish from the WSU site on Johnson Butte near Kennewick.  This was part of an old microwave system that once spanned the state.

Obviously those that have transmitters within the city limits of Seattle don’t have to deal with this!      Working in places like this requires an outdoorsman spirit along with being able to repair whatever might be wrong once you reach the site.

On the subject of WSU’s Broadcast Operations – A bit of a name change in the works, to be rolled out on Dec 5th.   From what I understand their Radio and TV operations will be under the new banner of NWPB – Northwest Public Broadcasting.    Probably a good idea as there is a lot of confusion between NWPR and NPR.   We will all learn more on the 5th.

This picture is looking at the snow-cat through the door of the building.   Note the amount of ‘white-stuff’ on the trees in the background.

Every year, those of us that work at elevated locations wonder what kind of winter we are going to have.  Those that are paid to predict these kinds of things (not sure how getting paid increases accuracy) are telling us that the coming winter is going to be about the same as last one.  Many us recall that last year was one for the record books in terms of snow at West Tiger Mountain, giving us the longest period that we were unable to drive up there with a chained up 4X4 since the site was built 30 years ago.  To put this into perspective, there have been years when you could drive to the top, without chains, all winter.

This year is starting off with many wondering if recent weather is a fluke, or a sign of things to come.  Snowfall on the 5th of November, with lots of leaves still on the trees is pretty unusual….But that is what we got.  I thought I’d be able to drive to the top of Cougar Mountain (1/2 as high as West Tiger) on Sunday, November 5, without my snow-tires or chains…I was wrong.  The following day I got my snow-tires on (I have already mounted on different rims) and my chains are aboard.

Then, Mother Nature demonstrating who is in charge, as on November 22nd through us a curve with record setting temperatures for the date of near 70 degrees in many places.

The following picture was posted on the West Tiger Remailer by Rob Purdy from Hubbard from one of his new web-cams at the West Tiger II site.

This is nothing ….Look at a picture of South Mountain (KOMO-FM, KDDS etc.) taken the first weekend in November by Doug Fisher and note the required mode of travel.

Looks like the proposal that would have locally-based T-Mobile merge with Sprint is not going to happen after all.  The proposed deal was called off in early November.

From the – I got my facts wrong department – I received the following from Tim Schall of KING5.

In your recent column, dated October 31, 2017, you write about the Entercom / CBS merger and its effect on local radio ownership.  As always, your musings are interesting, but in this case there is an error.  In the article you state, “Recalling when 106.1 was Young Country and they were purchased by the owners of the markets legacy country station…..”.  Young Country was, in fact, on 96.5 having succeeded KXRX on that frequency.  106.1 was signing KRPM at the time as “Kicking’ Country.”   At one point, CBS radio owned all three of them.  Then turned 96.5 the present KJAQ / Jack FM and KRPM into what is today, iHeart Media’s, Kissing’ 106.1.  As always, check the facts.  But I believe that I am correct in this one.

Then, days later – John Price wrote this – Caught an error in your latest column.  At the top you were talking about country stations, and you referenced 106.1 as being ‘Young Country’.  That’s not accurate.  It was 96.5 (at the time KYCH) that was called Young Country.  George was CE there.

I was running on pure memory (perhaps some of those cells have outlived their usefulness?  The good news is that there are those that actually read what I write!!!!!

Perhaps you have been following the aftermath of the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico.  As I read these accounts I am reminded that we, here in Western Washington and Oregon, could be facing similar challenges after the predicted major earthquake.  Significant loss of cellular and data communications.  Most broadcast stations off the air, some for long periods, etc.  We would be wise to study this situation and ask ourselves if we are ready for our disaster.  The only advantage we will have is our proximity to the materials we will need to rebuild.

November 7th has a lot of historical significance – One that you may have overlooked is that this November 7 marks the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.  This started the ball rolling that has given us CPB, PBS and NPR.

Time to take you back.  Recently it was brought to my attention that some indicator lamps on a device were dark.  Come to think of it, there is a lot of equipment out there that still uses ‘light-bulbs’ for indicators…and not LEDs.  How is your stock of 327 and 1829 etc. lamps these days and where do you go to purchase replacements?  In this recent instance, the lamps were NE51s.  (Remember those?)  They were Neon Lamps and commonly used to indicate the presence of line-voltage in a piece of equipment.  Being an oldster, I still have a nice collection of lamps….and it just so happened that I had a new box full of NE51s.  With my trusty smartphone camera I captured the following.  How many recall the name Tung-Sol?

Here’s another one – How long since you’ve see a TV made by Admiral?

Speaking of ‘old’…..The worst thing about getting old is having to listen to advice from your children!

You may have been reading about how Vinyl records are again in demand….OK, should you like ‘skritch-skritch’ – pop, pop, in your music.  What I did not realize is that there is a new demand for Cassette Tapes (the Audio Kind).  This presents a problem.  Where are you going to obtain magnetic tape…or the duplicating machines?  Raw materials are scarce.  As time goes by, what is viewed by some as old is new to others.  That seems to work in a lot of areas, for instance clothing styles.

While I’m at it.  For the first time in my life, I now own a vehicle with an Automatic Transmission.  My trusty Toyota Camry, with the 6-speed manual is now in the hands of a very appreciative person, having been replaced with a new 4Runner.  Wonderful machine, however the dealer is still trying to figure out why I did not like the fact that it did not come with a manual transmission.  In selling my Camry, I encountered many that wanted to buy it, but then confessed that they did not know how to drive a ‘3-Pedal’ vehicle.  In fact, it appears that many are honestly afraid of trying to learn….apparently viewing the technology as overly complicated.  Was talking with a contractor friend the other day and he remarked that its becoming hard to find workers that know how to drive anything other than an automatic.  I have, many times, explained how driving a manual ‘becomes’ automatic and you don’t think about operating the pedal on the left, etc.…I can tell that most don’t believe it.  It would probably be just as hard to find someone today that could properly thread tape on an Magnecord PT6 .  At least I still have one vehicle with a manual, my Tacoma pickup.  Guess I enjoy knowing that the manual is a wonderful theft deterrent…too complicated for many who would like to steal it.

From the Department of Famous Quotes –

“You have to learn the rules of the game.   And then you have to play the game better than anyone else.”  Albert Einstein

I love searching the ‘Net’ for interesting statistics.  Here’s one for you – Where is he quietest place on earth?  Answer – According to Guinness World Records, Building 87 on the Microsoft Campus in the Seattle suburb of Redmond.  It’s an anechoic Chamber.  Finally a place in this area where I can go and – NOT – hear a cellphone ringing!!

Our area also just happens to have the 3rd most quiet place.  It’s in the Hoh Rainforest South of Forks in Olympic National Park.  I suspect that this measurement was taken when it was not raining

I know that when I receive a picture from Mike Brooks at KING-FM that it’s going to be a goodie, as he is always on the lookout for something that I would want to share with my readers.

For you non-technical types, let me explain that it is proper to ground your transmission line between your transmitter and antenna.  For some, the proper way to accomplish the task was never quite learned (Hard to find a school that teaches this stuff).

Other big news item from this past month is the FCC actions approving the use of new technology called ATSC-3.0.  This system, already embraced by a number of broadcasters, promises to change the way TV works, big time.  Sinclair calls it ‘The Holy Grail’.   There will be much written about this going forward.  Fasten your seat-belts.

Did you happen to catch the news item about the discovery of a ‘Time Capsule’ while remodeling the Space Needle?  Among the discoveries was an audio tape.  There was some video aired, showing a number of local Broadcast Engineers trying to figure out how to operate an audio tape machine, that brought some smiles.  Problem with some of these time capsules is that they have recordings for which there are no players.  Wonder what they would have done had they found a reel of tape that could only be played on a 2 inch Quad machine?

On the 19th, one of the major distribution systems for public warning messages, FEMA/IPAWS, went down for about 10 hours.  Thankfully we still have the legacy EAS system that can distribute national level messages from PEP Stations (Like KIRO in Seattle).  What this event underscores is the fact that these systems can, and do, fail.  If anyone has been wondering why we have the old EAS system in place, this should answer your question.

Here in Washington State we have two systems also – the Washington State CAP system hosted by Alert Sense as well as the State Relay Network on 155.475 MHz.  All EAS Participants should be Monitoring BOTH of these systems.

On the local level – Emergency Managers can send public warning (CAP) messages and ‘SHOULD’ be able to do so also via each Operational Area’s – LOCAL RELAY NETWORK.  And each Participant should be monitoring this system as well.

It is through these dual/redundant systems that our EAS systems can remain viable when something breaks.

There is a lot of conversation these days regarding US AM and FM Station’s use of translators.  Many stations, especially NCE’s, have a number of them.  One only has to look across the border from Washington State to see a substantial network of translators operated by CFNR.  If you look closely, there are 61 of them….and soon to be 62!

Hat’s off to James O’Neal for a recent piece he wrote for TV Technology and Radio World called, “Doesn’t Anyone Build Anything Anymore?”  I have to admit that I love to build things, coming from the days when you could not buy it, so you had to design and build it yourself.  Major makers of broadcast equipment, back then (Collins, RCA, GE, Gates etc.) only sold the major items – all the little gizmos required between them were constructed, by staff engineers.  This was long before firms like – Broadcast Tools and Henry Engineering were born and long before firms like BSW, SCMS etc. were around to sell their products.

Participating in the equipment removal from the old Entercom facility at Met Park, I could not help but note all the gizmos that Dwight and I had built over the years.  Many of them were problem solvers that could not be purchased anywhere.

Today, many of the people that knew how to turn a problem into a design and construct the device, have retired.  Fewer and fewer broadcast engineers these days have these skills.  Also fewer have the Ham Radio background or formal training that was SOP for the prior generation.  Times have changed, for sure.

If you think the Sinclair/Tribune/FCC battle is fierce….Just Google ‘Net Neutrality’ and settle back for some interesting reading.  Forces on both sides are lawyering up for an epic battle.

The following gems come from a well-known Seattle area engineer (who shall remain nameless), who is also a senior citizen – Enjoy!

  • Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
  • Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.
  • I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.
  • We have come to learn that using CAPS in email is shouting – what we really need is a sarcasm font.
  • After all these years now I wonder was learning cursive really necessary?
  • Map Quest or Google Maps really need to start their directions on turn #5.  I’m  pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
  • Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
  • Bad decisions make good stories.
  • You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
  • I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
  • Keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
  • How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?

That’s about it for this month –

From our house to yours – Have a Wonderful Christmas  and may 2018 be filled with whatever you wish for.

If I’m lucky – Perhaps I can do this one more time

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Fellow

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