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Clay’s Corner for September 2017

September 10, 2017
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Clay’s Corner

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

The above picture was taken in early August at Cougar Mountain.  The fall colors you see are partially a result of the very dry summer we have been having.  For years I have been writing in this column about summer being our shortest season….This is based on the fact that it normally is.  I recall summers when we barely had a week without rainfall.  This summer is certainly an exception, with a very long/extended dry period.  The last one of these I recall was back in the fall of 1987.  We were busy starting construction of the facility at West Tiger Mountain, thinking that the monsoons would be arriving any day.  Summer just kept on going into October.  The impact of this is being felt by vegetation.  Lawns, normally green have turned brown.  Many evergreen trees are being severely stressed or are dying.  I was recently over in Forks and could not help but notice the Sol Duc River looks more like a creek.  Only thing that got in the way of our beautiful blue skies has been a couple of weeks of smoke we had to deal with from the B.C. Fires…Other than that, it’s been a warm and wonderful summer…one that helped us forget that last winter was a record wet one.

Ooops!…I did forgot about another event that got in the way of sunshine – The Eclipse.  Yes It was something to see, even if we only got to about 80% in this area.  I was driving at the time, but could not help but notice that it appears to be twilight, except all the shadows were in the wrong locations.  Spoke with my #2 son in Boise who got a better experience.  He noted how it immediately got cooler.  This is the last one that we will see in the PNW in our lifetime.

Back when I received the SBE Engineer of the Year Award it was not named after anyone…now it’s named after Robert W. Flanders.  Congrats to Steve Brown, winner for 2017.  Proud to say that I met Steve a number of times in my travels – Lucky bum!….He recently retired.  Should note that Jim Dalke received an award for his presentation at a NAB Convention on using VSATS for Broadcast STL’s. Nothing like being knowing famous people – come to think of it – Jim and I live in the same Zip Code.

Ever have a desire to move to South Dakota?  A broadcast group in Rapid City is looking for a chief engineer for a five station group.  Send resume with work history to Ted Peiffer, General Manager, Duhamel Broadcasting, P.O. Box 1760, Rapid City, SD 57709 or email to ted.peiffer@dberadio.com

On the topic of job openings – Another retirement in the news.  November 3rd is the announced retirement date for Don Eckis.  Don has been with WSU’s NWPR for many years, based in Wenatchee.  On the personal side – I will very much miss Don.  He is a tremendous talent and a very nice guy.  For the past 7+ years I’ve worked for WSU, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Don on many occasions.  Great memories – Thanks Don for everything!

For many years the FCC has been issuing fines for those that use EAS Tones for things other than EAS messages.  Recently someone back in Trumpsville had the bright idea that it would be OK to use tones that sound-like EAS tones for educational efforts.  Here is how the official word reads:

 

  • Using the Emergency Alert System tones outside of an actual test or an activation is strictly off-limits. But the government has released a special set of a “sound-alike” EAS tones for stations to use as part of the public education effort leading up to this year’s national test. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says the audio file contains “non-functional sound-alike EAS data headers” which most critically won’t trigger any station’s EAS receivers. Stations can create their own public service announcements and use the dummy tones without fear of running afoul of federal regulations which bar their use otherwise. Federal law prohibits the use of actual or simulated EAS tones in circumstances other than an actual emergency, an authorized monthly test or certain public service announcements.

 

  • The national test will occur on 27 at 2:20pm ET and it will run about one minute. If there’s any reason to delay the test from Sept. 27, such as a hurricane impacting part of the country, FEMA has already announced that Oct. 4 will be the secondary test date.

 

  • The Federal Communications Commission has set Aug. 28 as the deadline for when stations must file its so-called “Form One” in the EAS Test Reporting System. That’s the form that gives the agency all the detailed information about the station including its transmitter location and what kind of EAS receiver it’s using. On the day of the national test, broadcasters will have until 11:59pm ET to file “Form Two.” That’s the day-of-testing form that gives basic information such as whether the station received the EAS activation and where it retransmitted the test. And then by Nov. 13 all stations and other EAS participants are required to file “Form Three.” This is the detailed report that gives the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and FEMA a more granular read on what happened during the test—including if the station had any technical hiccups.

 

  • The FCC has also released a revised EAS Operating Handbook. The Bureau says the new handbook must be in place in time for this year’s test and be located at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations when an operator is required to be on duty and available to staff responsible for administering EAS tests.

 

Speaking of EAS – The next meeting of the Washington State SECC will take place on Sept 14th at 9:30 a.m. in the Building 11 Radio Conference Room of Clover Park Technical College.  Hope you can join us.  As you know, EAS in our State is a cooperative and collaborative effort.

The joining of Sinclair and Tribune is making a lot of noise.  First from those who are opposed to the deal and more recently by the proponents that are fighting back.  Will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially here in Seattle where the process of elimination will see a couple TV signals with new owners.

On the subject of new owners….Over in the world of Radio we are edging closer to the merger of Entercom and CBS, a process that will find some well-known local stations with new owners also.  Just like with the Sinclair/Tribune deal – No one knows how this will end up.  A process that is certain to leave a number of employees wondering.  The Entercom deal is supposed to close before the end of the year.  We will have to wait and see what happens with Sinclair.

Over at iHeart, they continue to work to reduce their massive $20 Billion Dollar Debt, where their interest expense is expected to hit $1.8 billion for the full year.

Now retired, former Entercom Chief, Dwight Small is happily working on his new lake-front home in Skagit County.  Dwight recently announced that he has been granted a new Amateur Radio Call sign – K7KG.  If that sounds familiar, it was the last call held by Jon Marcinko.  Jon was a very well-known amateur in this area having worked with Land Mobile system, State DNR and DOT for many years.  Dwight said that he felt privileged to have received it.  Jon and Dwight knew each other.

Signaling a new approach to dealing with Pirate Radio, the FCC is now going after Pirate operator’s landlords.  At least this was the case with a recent FCC action in Hollywood, Florida with the FCC enforcement team locating the unlicensed broadcaster and electing to go after the real estate company that owns the home where the operation was taking place.  Apparently the Commish is also planning on going after those who advertise on these stations.  Meanwhile the FCC is asking Congress for the authority to seize the equipment being used and increasing the size of monetary penalties.  Personally I will wait and see whether or not this will impact the issue.

The FCC continues to pack more translators into the FM band.  For example, in our area, Radio Hankook that operates the 1450 AM in Puyallup and 1230 in Everett are trying to put an FM on 102.1.  The numbers speak for themselves.  As of June 30th there were 7,453 translators and boosters on the air.  One of the down-sides to all of this activity is the impact on existing broadcast stations.  In several cases, established broadcasters have had go to the FCC to have the new station’s operation terminated to eliminate interference.  Existing stations need to be watching out for themselves because in some cases the FCC is no longer doing it for them.

For folks in my generation, we often smile when a younger generation discovers something that we’ve known all along.  Here’s an example – A recent Wall Street Journal story entitled ‘Millennials Unearth an Amazing Hack to Get Free TV: the Antenna” (you can’t make this stuff up).  Here are some other ‘shocking’ items concerning this ‘discovery’ –

 

  • Young people are behind a surge in rabbit ears sales as they “discover” the decades-old technology
  • Millennials who are shocked to learn that basic TV channels are free with the use of an antenna
  • “It’s been awesome.  It doesn’t log out and it doesn’t skip.”

I suspect that these are likely the same people who are shocked to learn that Milk comes from a cow etc.  I can just imagine the thoughts that run through the mind of a Millennial as he tries to figure out why the call the antenna ‘Rabbit Ears’.

Back in the dark ages (prior to DTV) we had all memorized the channel numbers of TV channels that we watched.  Many had no idea of the call letters of these stations…the channel number was much easier.  In Seattle we had 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 (not to mention the U’s).  Then along came DTV and the first ‘channel number shuffle’.  TV station owners, and ATSC, recognized the potential for mass confusion and came up with the Virtual Channel Number scheme that enable viewers, and receivers to keep their old numbers after the Analog/Digital shuffle where stations were, for a time, operating on two channels, one for each mode.  When that shuffle was done, for example, KING-5 (Channel 5) moved to channel 48 and hardly anyone knew that as they were still able to access KING-TV using the channel 5 number.

Due to pressure for more RF spectrum the FCC dropped another shoe.  Time to shuffle channels – again – this time to compress them into a smaller portion of the UHF band…A process called “repacking”.

To, hopefully, make this easier to see – Here is a table showing the ‘Seattle Shuffle’  (If you find an error in this, please let me know).

 

STATION CALL FIRST SECOND THIRD
KOMO 4 38 30
KING 5 48 25
KIRO 7 39 23
KCTS 9 9 Note 1-
KSTW 11 11 Note 1-
KVOS 12 35 14
KCPQ 13 13 Note 1-
KCKA 15 19 19 Note 2
KONG 16 31 31 Note 2
KTBW 20 14 21
KZJO 22 25 36
KBTC 28(62) 27 27 Note 2 &3
KWPX 33 33 33 Note 2
KFFV 45 44 16
KUNS 51 50 24
KWDK 56 42 34

 

Note 1 – All three of these stations have elected to continue to use their historic channel for

DTV and are not impacted by the latest shuffle

Note 2 –  Stations that will not change channels

Note 3-   Station first went on the air on Ch 62 as KTPS moving to Ch 28 in 1982

 

For many years the business of making TV Transmitting Antennas has been ‘in the dumpster’… Now with re-packing getting underway, things are ramping up rapidly.  An example is Dielectric who is opening a new 33,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in Lewiston, Maine to produce UHF Main and Auxiliary TV Antennas.  If I recall, the owner of Dielectic is Sinclair who purchased the legacy firm knowing that this day would come.

You don’t hear about fires impacting broadcast operations very often…But that’s what took place recently at the CN Tower in Toronto on the 16th of August.  The fire was within the 3 foot diameter tube that’s used as a conduit for transmission lines serving the multi-station site.  From what I have read, it sounded like insulation on semi-rigid coaxial cable was burning or melting.  No word on what caused the fire.  A number of stations were impacted.

There was posted recently a list of the top 25, privately held, companies in the U.S.  Coming in at #14 was Cox enterprises.  I did not realize just how big Cox is.  They have 60,000 Employees and reported 2017 Revenue of over $20 Billion.  In addition to owning KIRO-TV in Seattle they own cable systems, newspapers, radio stations, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book etc.

I often write about firms that are based in the Seattle area – Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon etc.  For some reason I fail to mention Bellevue based T-Mobile.  This cellular operator recently was in the news for getting its first 600 MHz LTE network up and running in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  T-Mobile also announced that they will be soon rolling out a new 600 MHz Site in Northwest Oregon.

As I have reported, Entercom is no longer occupying the Metropolitan Park West Tower.  After many years operating their 4 FM stations from the 15th and 16th floor of the ‘Spam-Can’ looking structure on Olive Way, they are now settling into new digs on the 14th floor of 800 5th Ave.  Watching the crews demolish the former facility at 1100 Olive Way was a bit hard, especially when you saw systems that you installed and maintained be put into a dumpster.  Crews working on taking everything apart were a bit taken aback by the weight of the studio doors.  I was in the building as crews were attempting to take apart one of the studio floors using hand-tools.  They later came back with equipment better designed for the task.  In the following picture you can see the corner of one of the floating floors.  This was a completely isolated concrete slab sitting in spring isolators (Red Arrow) on top of which were constructed the walls and ceiling of the studio….Literally, a box within a box.  I assure you, they don’t build them like that anymore.

Right across the street from Met Park I caught this image of a construction crane.  Just one of many that are rapidly transforming downtown Seattle into a forest of big/tall buildings.

A lot of eyes are on the FCC these days as they deal with what they are calling modernizing media ownership rules.  This is especially being watched in light of the pending Entercom/CBS and Sinclair/Tribune deals.  Should Entercom be able to own 7 FM’s and Sinclair 4 TV’s in Seattle?  As expected, there is a lot of pushback from those that fear the evil of too few owners.  A huge amount of money is on the line.  Fasten your seatbelt.

Meanwhile, the FCC has pulled the plug on an owner of several stations in the NE part of the U.S.  The owner in question here, Brian Dodge, has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine for not playing by the rules.  The latest salvo from the Commish is to cancel the owner’s licenses.  Always someone who feels they can get away with it.

Shorter than normal column this month as ’tis the season for other things.  Before I leave you, I would disappoint many if I failed to leave you with some smile material –

 

  • If you attempt to rob a bank you may not have any trouble with rent/food bills for the next 10 years, whether or not you are successful.
  • Do twins ever realize that one of them is unplanned?
  • What if my dog only brings back my ball because he thinks I like throwing it?
  • If poison expires, is it more poisonous or is it no longer poisonous?
  • Which letter is silent in the word “Scent,” the S or the C?
  • Why is the letter W, in English, called double U?  Shouldn’t it be called double V?
  • Maybe oxygen is slowly killing you and It just takes 75-100 years to fully work.
  • Every time you clean something, you just make something else dirty.
  • The word “swims” upside-down is still “swims”.
  • Intentionally losing a game of rock, paper, scissors is just as hard as trying to win.
  • 100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars.  Today everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.
  • Your future self is watching you right now through memories.
  • The doctors that told Stephen Hawking he had two years to live in 1953 are probably dead.
  • If you replace “W” with “T” in “What, Where and When”, you get the answer to each of them.
  • Many animals probably need glasses, but nobody knows it.
  • If you rip a hole in a net, there are actually fewer holes in it than there were before.

That’s it for this month.  Be thankful for our extended Summer.  Catch you next month in most of these same locations.  Hard to believe, I’ve been doing this for 31 years!

Clay Freinwald, K7CR – SBE Member #714 – CPBE

Clay’s Corner for August 2017

August 13, 2017
By

 

Clay’s Corner

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

I hope Summer is treating you all very well – For us here in the Seattle area – the weather has really been helping

Seattle has been at the top of the charts for the last 2 years when it comes to rainfall accumulation. However, if our current pattern holds, we may be writing this year to another list; a list of consecutive days without rainfall as this summer is turning out to be wonderful – Confirming the fact that we live here for the summers!  Lots of temps in the 80’s and low humidity and beautiful blue skies.    Those of that have live here for a very long time understand that summers are often very dry with long periods of no rain to the point that we become very concerned about wildfires.    I recall doing an EAS session in Tampa Florida a few years back where the average person has a 100% buy-in to the notion that it rains all the time in the Seattle area.  Just for drill I had my host (Ralph Beaver) pull up some climate data.   I picked the month of August where all agreed they would like to have dry weather to enjoy summer activities.    I asked Ralph to look up the normal August precip totals for – New York City, Tampa and Seattle.   They would astounded to hear a local guy report that Seattle was very much the driest of the 3 in August – Our normal is .88 inches.  I’ll let you look up the other locations 

 

I have a party that I communicate with for business that lives in North Carolina – We often compare notes about the weather.   She recently noted that It’s been raining just about every day there for the past month. ATC recently had a couple of fellows out here doing tower inspections.   They commented how nice it was.   I just had to ask them if they missed the Heat, Humidity and Insects.    I wished I had had my camera ready as their expression was priceless.

We were all saddened to hear about the passing of Ellis Feinstein on July 8th in a tragic automobile accident.   For many years he was ‘Mr Scala’.    A truly wonderful, and funny, guy that headed up the southern Oregon antenna company that was known well to all in broadcasting.   He was a big man with a big heart and a wonderful smile.    I recall spending some time chatting with him, and swapping one-liners, at the Broadcasters Clinic in Madison Wisconsin a few years ago.  Memories that are still very much alive with this old guy.   He was just short of his birthday, August 3rd.   He would have been 82.

 

 

Have you ever thought about comparing computers to humans?   Try this –

 

Computers – Insanely Fast – Incredibly Accurate – Utterly Stupid.

 

Humans – Insanely Slow – Incredibly Error Prone – Utterly Brilliant.

Nothing like looking up to verify the weather – This picture was taken on July 22nd at West Tiger Mt. At the site known as WTM-1.    Just so happened that the folks that fly these ‘wings’ off of Poo Poo Point caught some great lift and were at probably about 3300 feet.

 

Regarding the tower in the picture –

 

             Yes all the antennas are on the left or west side – There is minimal population the other way.

             The top black one is 97.3, KIRO-FM

             The black ‘propellers’ are all part of a Master Antenna used by –

KNKX, KHTP,KING,KBKS,KISW, KKWF and KNDD

             The tall (blueish) pole is a UHF/450 MHz receive antenna

             The open (No radome) antenna below, in the lower left, is the KIRO-FM antenna that was used for their HD Radio transmission prior to the installation of their new Nautel transmitter.

This picture was taken with my cellphone camera about 1.5 miles below the summit of West Tiger Mountain.   Yes, the mountains in this neck of the woods are blessed with wonderful wildflowers.  To be honest, I feel blessed to have been able to drive up here for the last 30 years.

Yes, the mountains in this neck of the woods are blessed with wonderful wildflowers. To be honest, I feel blessed to have been able to drive up here for the last 30 years.

A recent issue of Consumer Reports had quite an article explaining the various means a person can receive television programming. They did mention the term ‘cutting the cord’.  A recent study shows that some 31 million homes will be doing just that in the coming decade.  In the past all we had was OTA (long before that term was used), then along came cable and satellite systems.  Probably the biggest change was the introduction of wider bandwidth connections for computers and compression schemes that put them in direct competition to the legacy distribution methods.  This same study states that some 17 million will be opting for these new methods in the next decade.  The cord is still there, just a bit different.  TV Broadcasters and program suppliers have, of course, been watching this with great interest.  The next generation of TV standards will more fully embrace all of it.  Farnsworth would never believe it.

For some time now we have been hearing the term ‘Fake News’. Certainly the last political season showed how stories based on ‘alternative facts’ were planted to permit the news media to spread false truths to benefit one side or the other.  Reminds me of malware that uses legitimate means to spread bad stuff.  Then there are those news outlets that appear to many to have an agenda that plays right into our politically polarized society.  I have friends that openly tell me that they get their news from sources that tell the news the way that want to hear it and refuse to consume information from those that they don’t agree with.  Which makes me wonder what happened to the days when ‘The News’ was just that – a bunch of facts with no agenda.  With news sources slanted left and right it’s not hard to believe that someone is going to see an opportunity to ‘make a buck’ by being in the middle.  We will see whether there is indeed a market for the truth.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that a couple big names in news, CBS and BBC, are joining forces and have started sharing content. Wonder what ‘Walter’ would say about this?

The move of Entercom from their long stay at the Metropolitan Park West Tiger to their new digs at 801 5th Ave has been a huge undertaking. Thankfully Matt Green and Lowell Smith have had a lot of help.  They leave behind a lot of things that were created by Dwight Small over the years.  His attention to detail was very evident.  This move will eliminate one of the last big PR&E console installations (they had many).  In the end, no one wanted the big ABX 8 track console and it went to the dumpster…Some of the smaller boards will live on in various locations.  Could be that KING-FM is the last major station in Seattle with one of these legacy audio mixers.  The days for that too are numbered, as I understand that that station too will be moving to a new location in a couple of years.  On the topic of KING-FM, I have learned that long time station manager, Jennifer Ridewood is going to retire at the end of the year.

PR&E was started in Southern California by Jack Williams. Their attention to detail made them the choice of broadcast mixing consoles for many years.  The company also produced several other products including cartridge tape equipment and studio furniture.  The quality that went into their products is the reason for their continued acceptance and the fact that they keep on working.  PR&E was sold to Gates Air and more recently to Wheatstone, who recently announced that they are now producing the DMX mixer.  Like the name Gates, PR&E has deep roots in our industry.

One by one the big analog radio installations, many of which were still using the PR&E equipment, are being phased out in favor of the new AOIP (Audio Over IP) systems. When the computer revolution started…no one would have thought that the networking of computers would have revolutionized radio, and for that matter, TV, so rapidly.  The analog patch panels are in the dumpsters and the RJ45 based connection points are now firmly in place.  Gone are the walls full of telephone type ‘punch blocks’ and ‘frame wire’.  Having just recently lifted a power supply for one of those old consoles got me thinking about how linear power supplies were all that we knew back then and how heavy everything was.  Like a lot of things I’ve experienced in my very long career – time marches on and change is very much a part of it.  Perhaps the only thing from the past that is still in use are the big towers used by broadcasters.  Add another coat of paint and they keep on doing their job.  But on top, those old ‘light bulb’ based red lights are being replaced with LEDs.

For those of you not in the Vancouver area you have no idea of what the ‘format’ is for AM 730, however, this will likely give you an idea:

 

Indeed they are all traffic – all the time. A lot of radio stations will air traffic reports, with news/talk stations doing them more frequently.  I’ve long wondered why more stations, especially AMs that are trying to find their way these days, are not doing what CHMJ is doing.

Apparently a US Radio station is going to give it a shot, however with significant differences. In this case the vehicle will not be an AM Station but rather an HD Channel on an existing FM.  On the up-side – they don’t have the expenses that operating a big AM involves.  On the down side, there are significantly less receivers out there.  The good news is the market for an all-traffic operation is for people in vehicles and this is what, perhaps, they are betting on.  As new vehicles are coming with HD Radios, certainly a lot of eyes will be on Pittsburgh.  The station is not going 24/7 traffic but rather 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.  Which makes sense as there are not a lot of traffic concerns at night.  (There are those in Seattle that could argue however.)

Content will come from CBS Radio’s new national traffic and weather product, provided by Radiate, augmented by local reporters.

 

More big news for Amazon – Their guy, Jeff Bezos, has passed Bill Gates and is now the richest man in the world. When you consider how big this little Seattle based outfit has become, perhaps this was bound to happen.

 

Time for another look at Radio (12+) Ratings in Seattle. First, the top 10:

  • The Bellevue based KQMV whose city of license is Bremerton continues to be a strong #1.
  • Non-commercial radio does very well in this market with KUOW in #3.
  • KNKX continues to make gains, moving up to #5 in a three way tie with KZOK and KISW. Quite a story here where the listeners purchased the station from Pacific Lutheran University changing the call letters from KPLU.  Since that time they have continued to gain.
  • A lot of people are wondering what the pending merger of CBS Radio and Entercom will do to this picture. In the last survey CBS has three of the top 10 and Entercom two.
  • A couple of the area’s legacy 50 kW AMs, KIRO and KOMO, are well below the top ten in mid pack.
  • In the race for the Sports Audience – KIRO is clearly beating KJR.
  • For Country, CBS’ KMPS is doing well against Entercom’s KKWF, which makes the coming merger even more interesting to watch.
  • We are in Radio Market #13 with just over 3.7 million.

 

Encouraging news for radio owners – Nielson recently reported that Radio continues to reach more Americans than any other platform….93% of the US adult population each week.

 

If you are or work for an EAS Participant, i.e., an FCC licensed facility that participates with the Emergency Alert System (EAS)….It’s time again to be thinking about the coming National EAS Test and the, introduced last year, Electronic Test Reporting System (ETRS). There are some changes that you need to know about.  Rather than bore you with all the details, go here for the info you will need – http://www.thebdr.net/articles/fcc/eas/eas.html.  Contact the CORES Help Desk for assistance with creating an FCC Username Account at CORESHelpDesk@fcc.gov or (202) 418-4120.

 

Despite rumors to the contrary, the FCC has been issuing fines.

  • $66,000 is the amount to be paid by KIBH-FM, an FM Station in Alaska. Among the reasons, years of multiple warnings related to its EAS, Public File, Station Logs, Main Studio Staffing and failure to designate a chief operator.  The Commish has been seeking answers since 2013.  Not good to ignore the FCC!  Have to wonder, considering the station is an NCE and in a town with likely few resources, if they will reduce the fine.  Considering the number of violations, license revocation may be on the table.

 

Another Seattle area company has been in the news for a couple of reasons:

  • MSFT is eyeing the spectrum in the ‘outback’ that may not be used immediately as a result of re-packing. This has hit a nerve, perhaps based on the fact that a good deal of TV spectrum is being lost in the re-pack process.  There are those that see opportunities for future TV operations, translators etc., will be eliminated if the software giant gets its way.
  • The company has announced a good amount of restructuring that will see it laying off a number of people. The reason cited – re-focusing on cloud based solutions.

 

There are many ways to rate or identify an area’s business climate. You have seen me write about this quite a bit in recent columns because the Seattle area is booming.  One way to look at this is the number of construction cranes in operation.  Those are the big ‘T-shaped’ structures that are used today in constructing large buildings.

 

For the 2nd year in a row, Seattle is the ‘Crane Capital of America’.   Apparently no other city is close.  At the start of July there were 58 cranes at work in the city.  Anyone that has driven through can testify that it looks like a ‘forest of steel’.  I selected some cities from the list to help put this into perspective:

  • Seattle – 58
  • Los Angeles – 36
  • Denver – 35
  • Chicago – 34
  • Portland – 32
  • San Francisco – 22

 

Probably a good time to mention the results of another study – in case the title was ’39 Cities where most Americans can’t afford their homes’. Here are some findings regarding Seattle:

 

  • Only 48.6% of households are able to afford monthly payments.
  • The Seattle metro area is among the most affluent in the United States.
  • The typical area household earns $75,331 a year, roughly $20,000 more than the typical American household. Still, higher incomes are not enough to cover the area’s housing costs for a majority of residents.
  • The price of a typical single family home in the area is $377,300, higher than in all but 18 other U.S. metro areas.

 

So how about some other locations? Denver came in at #32, but very close to Seattle.  Want to be where it’s really expense?  Rated #1 was Santa Cruz, California where only 16% can afford the monthly payments.  Perhaps we should not feel so bad?

 

Bad news continues on the AM front with 3 more AM’s going silent –

  • WMEX – Quincy, Mass (Signed on in 1934)
  • KKON and KHLO – Hawaii

 

Turning our attention the big bright thing in the sky. Certainly the Eclipse has been in the news…But so has the fact that the sun is heading toward another minimum in its 11-year sunspot cycle.  What impact does this have on us?  Ask any Ham Radio operator that operates in the H.F. spectrum and he will tell you that it’s not as much fun.  If you are chasing far away AM Radio stations, you might look at this natural cycle differently.

 

The NAB is out with their annual list of finalists for the 2017 Marconi Awards. The winners will be announced on Sept 7th at the NAB Radio Show.  Scanning the list looking for stations in our area…Slim Pickens this year!  Only when I came to this category did I get a hit –

 

Large Market Station of the Year

 

WRIF(FM), Detroit

WTMJ(AM), Milwaukee

KQMV(FM), Seattle

WKRQ(FM), Cincinnati

KYGO(FM), Denver

 

As they periodically do, the FCC released the first Quarter Broadcast Station Totals. The headlines are:

  • Little change in the number of TV Stations
  • More commercial FM Stations
  • A bunch more Translators
  • As expected, less AMs

 

Watching the FCC’s Daily Releases I see that, one by one, the area’s TV Stations are filing the required documents for their changes as part of re-packing. Around the Seattle area, you will see tower activity on most of the big towers in the city, but only one of the West Tiger towers.

 

I have to wonder what the impact of the Sinclair/Tribune deal will have on this.

 

The big concern about re-packing is the amount of money that has been set aside to pay for it all and the fact that there will be some negative impact on some 600 FM stations that share towers with TV Stations. At this writing it appears that support is growing to address this issue.

 

ATSC 3.0 is in the news too, with many broadcasters expressing excitement over new opportunities. Perhaps predictably the American Cable Association is not pleased and has made their feelings known to the Commish.

 

While browsing around I found an interesting item – The 50 highest paying jobs you can get without a college degree. The issue is that there are a number of jobs for which there is not an associated degree program, however there are likely other, alternative certification requirements.  Thankfully there are, in many states, training programs that prepare a person for employment.  Our state has a number of technical colleges that fill this role.  Here are some examples I pulled from the list:

  • Locomotive Engineer (yes, the term Engineer can be used here). Median annual wage – $57,670
  • Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment – $59,280
  • Electrical and electronics repairers – $75,670
  • Media and communication equipment workers – $ 75,700

 

Keep in mind that the market a person is working in will alter these numbers as they are averages.

 

From the ‘are you ready for this’ department – Its reported that a dermatologist to the stars is advising us that we should wear sunscreen when using cellphones and computers to avoid damage to the skin similar to sunbathing. Wonder what your co-workers would say if they saw you applying sunscreen and wearing sun-glasses at your desk?  Funny how we never heard these warnings back when we were using DOS based programs and using Green or Amber monitors.

 

Once again Mike Brooks (KING-FM) has found something that he would like to share with my readers. In this case, he snapped a picture of a vehicle that, at first glance, appears to be in the business of delivering RFI, which every broadcast engineer knows is Radio Frequency Interference.  Normally I would like to provide a link to their web site – however in this case – I will leave this up to you to do the research.

On June 30th, a number of us met at the West Tiger-2 Site for some spring cleaning (late spring).   Left to right are Arthur Willetts/Daystar, Terry Spring/Ion, Alex Brewster/CBS, some really old, bald guy, named Clay that works for American Tower and Rob Purdy/Hubbard.

While cleaning out my shop recently I ran across this box – How many remember this name?   They also, for a time, made broadcast equipment.  Yes, the contents are intact…wrapped in tissue paper.

Apparently there is another crisis in Chicago – This time the Chicago Broadcast Museum is facing a mortgage issue.

Reportedly they have not paid their mortgage since 2015 and are facing a shutdown. The museum has been in operation for 35 years.  I have a, perhaps tongue in cheek idea, they might wish to seek out some of those that have been keeping the doors open at iHeart Media or Cumulus for advice.  (I could not resist.)

 

This past month I received an email from KIRO-Radio’s IT Guru, Zack Davies, where he sent me a picture of the back of a pickup truck he shot while in Tacoma. He wrote, “Does K7MO Ring a Bell?”

I replied, saying it was my friend Nick Winter. Sent a copy to Nick who responded that he was on the 56th St. freeway overpass.   Just for grins, knowing that the average person might not recognize Amateur Radio License Plates and might go to Google it to see what it meant.  So I ‘Googled’ K7MO and learned that a K7M0 is a Pittney Bowes Mailstation.  (We used to call these things Postage Meters)

Google is interesting because I entered K7MO and it found K7M0 (note the last character is a Zero and not an ‘OH’). The fact that many say OH when they mean Zero probably had something to do with this.

 

Looking at the Google findings was also this item – ‘Mailstation 2 Meter Support’. Any Ham (Amateur Radio Licensee) is going to instantly spot ‘2 Meter Support’.  2 Meters is a very popular band of Amateur Radio frequencies spanning 144 to 148 MHz.

 

Digging a bit deeper I did find a link to the FCC Data Base showing his license – K7MO.

 

This got me wondering about my own call letters, K7CR…I learned that a K7CR is an override key for a Master padlock.

Master Lock K7CR – Override Key for 176 and 176 Padlock

As well as a block heater to keep your engine warm…

As I dug a bit deeper into the items listed for K7CR, I came across this item that was published in the Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club newsletter written by Harry Lewis. Kind of weird reading something someone else wrote about you  years ago.  Harry and his Wife Mary were active in broadcasting for many years.

If you are a Ham – Google your call letters and let me know if you find something interesting. Thanks!

While I’m on the subject, did you ever wonder why Amateur Radio Operators are called HAMS? Here’s the answer, thanks to old friend Warren Shulz, legacy broadcast engineer from Chicago.  Why radio amateurs are called “HAMS” (from Florida Skip Magazine – 1959).

 

Have you ever wondered why radio amateurs are called “HAMS”? Well, it goes like this: The word “HAM” as applied to 1908 was the station CALL of the first amateur wireless stations operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club.  They were ALBERT S. HYMAN, BOB ALMY and POOGIE MURRAY.

 

At first they called their station “HYMAN-ALMY-MURRAY”. Tapping out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to “HY-AL-MU,” using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1901 some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless station “HYALMU” and a Mexican ship named “HYALMO.” They then decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station CALL became “HAM.”

 

In the early pioneer days of unregulated radio amateur operators picked their own frequency and call-letters. Then, as now, some amateurs had better signals than commercial stations. The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designed to critically limit amateur radio activity. In 1911 ALBERT HYMAN chose the controversial WIRELESS REGULATION BILL as the topic for his Thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to Senator DAVID I. WALSH, a member of one of the committees hearing the Bill. The Senator was so impressed with the thesis is that he asked HYMAN to appear before the committee. ALBERT HYMAN took the stand and described how the little station was built and almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that if the BILL went through that they would have to close down the station because they could not afford the license fees and all the other requirements which the BILL imposed on amateur stations.

 

Congressional debate began on the WIRELESS REGULATION BILL and little station “HAM” became the symbol for all the little amateur stations in the country crying to be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who didn’t want them around. The BILL finally got to the floor of Congress and every speaker talked about the “…poor little station HAM.” That’s how it all started. You will find the whole story in the Congressional Record.

 

Nation-wide publicity associated station “”HAM” with amateur radio operators. From that day to this, and probably until the end of time in radio an amateur is a “HAM.”

 

Paul Harvey (RIP) would say, you now know the ‘rest of the story.’

 

73’s

Warren Shulz

WA9GXZ

Griffith, IN

 

I noted a short piece in the latest issue of Consumer Reports where they state that TV Antennas are making a comeback. Gives me hope that those big TV Plans may have a future after all.

 

Broadcasters appear to be all lined up behind the idea of killing the old Main Studio Rule – Now Pubcasters are telling the FCC to kill the Hourly ID rule too, telling the FCC, “Stations should be permitted to identify themselves on-air in a manner that makes the most sense to the local station.” Other proposals call for the elimination of the rules calling for a Chief Operator and posting of a copy of the station’s license at the transmitter.  Going to see just how far this de-regulation actually goes.

 

Recently I was involved with a conversation with several local folks regarding the system that permits continued operation of your vehicle’s radio in the I-90 Tunnel. Here is some of that thread:

From what I learned, there are three racks of equipment, one for each of the 3 tunnels. Each rack contains a broadband amplifier for AM and FM.  This equipment was installed back in 1995 and has largely been un-touched.  As Mike Brooks suggested, this would make a great SBE Chapter Meeting tour.

 

Now the big question. Can we assume that this system will continue to function with the Light-Rail system taking over one of the tunnels?  We can assume there are those Sound-Transit riders that will expect their radios to work just as they do in their cars.

 

I can just imagine how popular the proposal to install 50,000 cell towers in California is.     California cities are fighting a proposal in the state legislature that would allow mobile phone companies to put up antennas for the new 5G systems over the objections of the locals who bring up the old fears of these new devices being near libraries or schools.  Interesting how the same people that fear the dreaded ‘Electromagnetic Radiation’ will also want greater capability for their own personal communications devices.  As a side note – Telecom contributed 2.4 million bucks to candidates, from both parties, in the 2016 elections.

 

Here in our area, PSERN is installing a number of new towers. Had lunch with an old friend recently who was telling me about one of these being installed near him.  A neighbor was very concerned about being ‘radiated’.  Nothing is worse than fear of the unknown.  For more info – check out – Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network.  https://psern.org/

 

From the ‘how time flies’ Dept., can you believe it was in July of 1962 that the first satellite used to relay TV between the US and Europe was launched? Telstar.  Boy have we come a long way since then!

 

Received a note from Dick Trumbo, Technology Manager of the local Tegna cluster, informing me that he has hired Tim Schall to be the maintenance engineer responsible for their transmitters. He added that Tim is leaving Cherry Creek Radio in Wenatchee and they are looking for a replacement.  (I found out a couple of days ago that the position has not been filled.)  This will be Tim’s second TV plant in Seattle, having spent some time over on the ‘other hill’ at KCTS-9.  Welcome back Tim.

 

While I was at the historic KING5 Transmitter site recently, I could not help but notice some of the high-tech tools that were in evidence – The following item was worthy of a picture to share:

 

Before I forget it, I should mention a conversation I had with Dick up at the Queen Anne Hill RF Factory. I noted that his title was Technology Manager.  Asking about this, he said the company has dropped the term ‘Engineer’.  Inquiring what the translation was, he said  ‘Chief Engineer’.  I have to admit that this has a nice ring to it.  Wonder what SBE would do if they were to follow?  Society of Broadcast Technolgists?

 

The Broadcast Technoloy group is having their annual picnic at 4646 SW Council Crest Drive (next to the Stonehenge Tower) on August 5th. Food stuffing starts at 5 with great conversations to follow.  It’s a potluck.  Bring a salad, side dish or dessert.  Main courses are provided and prepared by Gray Haertig and Randy Pugsley.

 

In keeping with my tradition of leaving you with an item to either increase your wisdom or bring a smile –

 

MURPHY’S OTHER FIFTEEN LAWS

 

  1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

 

  1. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

 

  1. He who laughs last thinks slowest.

 

  1. A day without sunshine is like, well… night.

 

  1. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

 

  1. Those that live by the sword get shot by those who don’t.

 

  1. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

 

  1. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.

 

  1. It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone from California would be stupid enough to try to pass them.

 

  1. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it….Ugh…For the other foot.

 

  1. The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

 

  1. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day, drinking beer.

 

  1. Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries.

 

  1. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.

 

  1. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.

 

Enough of that – Thanks to whoever it was that sent to me.

 

As I like to say about this time of year….Enjoy Summer, remembering it is our shortest season. Lord willing I will catch you in much of these same locations next month.

 

Clay, CPBE, K7CR

Clay’s Corner for July 2017

July 24, 2017
By

 

Clay’s Corner

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

Finally, as if Mother Nature was watching the calendar, summer arrived in our area about the 21st of June.  As if a switch was thrown, our gray cool weather was replaced with sun and warmth.  In fact, on the 25th the temps were in the 90’s.  Around these parts – This is HOT!  But not fear, our natural air-conditioning was right around the corner.  For those of you that are not in this area and reading this column, let me explain how this works.  In the summer, the Seattle area is dry…sometimes very dry…to the point that we fear wild-fires, etc.  However, unlike other areas of the country our weather has a couple of distinct differences …1) We have summer weather cycles.  The temps will go up and up and then, after a hot day, you will wake up to thick, low, overcast and dramatically cooler weather,with the sun peeking out in the late afternoon as the clouds burn off.  Each day the clouds burn off earlier and the days get warmer until you are back to clear skies all day.  This is caused by our proximity to the ocean and the changing of wind directions from off-shore to on-shore flow.  This is what we call our natural air conditioner.  What makes it interesting is that you can go higher in elevation and get to see all of this taking place below you as you bask in sun all day.  2) We have a very unique relationship with humidity.  During  the winter, when many areas experience low humidity, ours is the highest.  During the summer, when our temperatures go up, our humidity actually goes down.  People that live in the East and Southeast parts of the country have come to believe that humidity and temperatures track each other…Not the case in the Pacific Northwest, which makes this area such a wonderful place to be during the summer.  Let me not forget the fact that we must have sun for the famous Fremont Solstice Parade…You would not want all that body paint to run would you? One of the major firms in radio broadcasting, Cumulus, is still dealing with a mountain of debt and now there are reports that they may be the target of a hostile takeover.  Reportedly, Lew Dickey has launched a new company that may have that in mind.  Mr. Dickey was forced out of the company a couple of years ago.  The plot thickens. Not very often do you hear about someone developing a new antenna…but that’s  apparently what a company in Redmond, WA has done.  They’ve come up with a ‘flat’ antenna that, potentially, has a lot of people talking.  Vehicle makers should be interested because they could have an antenna that does not look like a shark fin.  Airplanes could have one that does not introduce wind resistance, etc.  The Company – Kymeta – has some very heavy duty backers and sharp people on the project.  And, of course, we are proud to have them in the Seattle area.  Redmond is located NE of Seattle and is more famously known for a little software outfit you might have heard about….Microsoft.  For more information – take a look at – http://www.kymetacorp.com/ You need a program these days to keep track of who is buying who.  Mergers and acquisitions are certainly popular.  One of the big names in audio streaming now has a new investor.  SiriusXM, the satellite radio company, has just invested $480 Million in Pandora, a huge name in the world of streaming. Likely due to pressure from many quarters, the FCC appears to be increasing the pressure on Pirate Radio Stations.  First the Commish uses their famous ‘warning letter’ telling the party to turn if off.  Realizing that the FCC has a limit as to what they can do (their warning letters often are ignored), Commissioner Michael O’Reilly admitted that they need additional tools to deal with the problem.  He’s asked Congress to do just that by allowing larger fines and the ability to seize equipment of the violators.  The problem is that the present administration is proposing that the FCC’s budget be cut and staff reduced.  Add to this the fact that a number of these operators simply ignore their fines.  Perhaps Congressional action is the only thing that will provide the tools to finally deal with this issue?   As I was driving to our favorite frozen yogurt shop recently I could not help but notice this sign:

For those of you that are not in the broadcast business, an ‘Air Check’ is a recording made of a person when they are actually on the air that has been edited to eliminate other items in the broadcast.  In this case, the sign is at a business servicing vehicles that wants you to come in to have your tire pressures checked.  (Note the fueling nozzle in the upper left.)  They likely have never heard of the other use of the term ‘Air Check’. Here we go again.  The FCC is, again, opening a filing windows for more FM translators for AM stations.  This time for Class C and D Stations (the two lower classes).  Not sure that this will impact the FM band in larger markets as the band is pretty full.  Another thing to watch will be the prices that AM stations will be willing to pay to add an FM.  There are a lot of very creative things happening with all of this….We will have to wait and see what transpires.   In recent columns I have mentioned one of the giants of business in the Seattle area, Amazon.  Seems like this rapidly growing firm is in the news frequently.  Most recently, in the middle of June, they announced that they are buying Whole Foods for a meager $13.7 Billion.  There a lot of people wondering where Amazon will go next.  When you have lots of money, you normally buy stuff!  One impact of this move has been to lower stock prices on others that sell food, and this includes another Seattle area based company, Costco.  When you are huge – the fear is that you will dominate a particular retail segment. Let us not forget that Amazon has a broadcast connection.  You can now purchase radio and TV broadcast equipment from the Big-A.  Additionally, Amazon employs broadcast engineers.  I discovered that fact while recently visiting their site while preparing this column.  One has to wonder what impact they will have on the traditional suppliers of equipment for the broadcast industry! My readers have probably concluded that I like to boast about certain aspects of the Seattle or Pacific Northwest area.  Some statistics are good, while others are bad.  For example, a recent survey has determined that there is a 72 percent increase in the number of people who commute 90 minutes.  Think of it this way – if you are one of those, and you work 9 to 5, you have to leave for work at 7:30 a.m. and don’t get back home until 6:30.  The rapid expansion of business and population in this region has made the Puget Sound area the 3rd fast growing mega-commuter region in the country.  The traffic congestion is not just in Seattle, but region wide.  This directly impacts me.  For example, it will often take me a hour to drive from my home in Auburn to Lakewood SW of Tacoma.  Highway 18 has become a commuter route for people going to and from work, which means that I often am ‘caught in traffic’ just trying to get to Tiger Summit, where I (fortunately) get to drive faster on that one-lane gravel road than on the highway I just exited.  What is making things worse, at a rapid pace, are the sky-rocketing prices of houses.  The closer to the center of the city the higher the prices…the impact of which is to force workers to head out of town where prices are more reasonable and this puts them on the roads as commuters.  Recently a boarded up shack in Seattle’s Greenwood district sold for over $450,000. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, reported a 5.8% annual gain in March, up from 5.7% last month and setting a 33-month high.  Seattle, Portland, and Dallas reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities.  In March, Seattle led the way with a 12.3 % year-over-year price increase, followed by Portland with 9.2% surge.  From this study, here are some results for cities where my column is read: Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado  Year-over-year home price change 8.4%; median home value, March 2017 $366,000; 3-yr population change 5.7%; median household income $70,283. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington  Year-over-year home price change 9.2%; median home value, March 2017 $360,000; 3-yr population change 4.9%; median household income $63,850.   Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington  Year-over-year home price change 12.3%; median home value, March 2017 $440,000; 3-yr population change 5.2%; median household income $75,331. Everyone in Broadcasting knows what HD means –  For TV it’s High Definition, for Radio it means that Digital Radio thing.  Did you know that in Seattle we have a firm that appears to be in the HD Business?  I was creeping along a freeway recently behind one of their trucks and could not resist pulling out my camera so I could share.

I really enjoyed listening to KONP while on the North Olympic Peninsula recently.  If anyone wants to experience small market radio, this is a great example of a station doing it right.  I had to smile however at their traffic reports.  Port Angeles is one of those locations that does not really have freeways, unless you count US 101 going to Sequim.  Freeways, to us in this area, are multiple lane highways without traffic signals with higher speed limits, that don’t charge for parking!  The big news was they were paving part of a highway west of town.  I wonder if they realize how lucky they are?  I did find it interesting that they were going to broadcast – live – the local high school graduation ceremony.  Kudos to Todd at KONP for his work at being a true community radio station. I can, perhaps, understand how a small market station might not keep up with the rules regarding the Emergency Alert System, and get caught by the FCC.  However, it’s a bit hard to grasp how a major ownership could let something take place that would net them a huge FCC fine for EAS violations, but that’s just what happened to Tegna, who will now pay 55 Grand for running an ad with false EAS Tones.  In this case, it happened with their Channel 12, WTLV in Jacksonville, when they aired a spot that started with EAS tone and the sounds of a storm and a voiceover that stated, “This is an emergency broadcast transmission.  This is not a test.  This is an emergency broadcast transmission.  This is not a test.  Please remain calm.  Seek shelter”.  As, all too often, those that create these spots are just looking for something to grab the viewers’ attention and have little or no knowledge of the FCC’s EAS Rules.  In this case, a staffer at the station heard the spot and they stopped airing it….But not until the damage had been done.  I’ll be that there was a pretty easy to understand memo circulating inside Tegna. On the topic of EAS…..the FCC is out with an NPRM that would create a new Event Code, BLU.  You will find all kinds of information about this on the Washington State EAS Remailer.  The WaState SECC will be dealing with this and other EAS issues at their regular meeting on July 13th at CPTC in Lakewood.  To subscribe, go here – http://sea.sbe16.org/mailman/listinfo/eas-wa I bring you this web-site just becuz – https://www.spreadshirt.com/broadast+engineer+t-shirts There is a new player in town in the world of devices able to be a radio receiver, in the form of Amazon’s Alexa.  You have perhaps seen the TV Spot for the device where the actor approaches Alexa and asks it questions and gets frustrated?  Like all computer based gizmos, GiGo (Garbage in equals Garbage out) is the rule.  You have to say something that the device recognizes or you end up getting the wrong thing.  Stations that use slogans more than call letters have to be careful for there may be duplications.  For instance in Seattle a person may ask for ‘The Wolf’ but not know that there are many ‘Wolfs’ in the country just like there are a lot of Mix 100’s, or Boss 99’s etc.  This new device has caused radio broadcasters to suddenly be in a nation-wide race to be the first to have – their – station be the one that Alexa recognizes.  The way Amazon’s policies work stipulates that only one entity can have a particular name, meaning there can only be one Mix FM or Lite FM or Z100.  The first radio station to build what Amazon calls a ‘skill’ under that name and win Amazon’s approval locks up that real estate.  Add to this equation the Google version.  Call letters are usually unique.  However, there are exceptions where you have an AM/FM that are only unique with one of them appending their letters with FM.  Who would have thought that these devices would cause the broadcasters to change.  Suddenly a station that only covers a specific geographic area has to think almost globally.  Then again, a station might wish to use a different slogan for their OTA product than what they use in streaming.  It’s also likely that the advantage may go to the larger groups that that have the resources to devote to this new issue.  Small mom and pop operations could (again) find themselves with the sort end of the stick.  Then there is this issue with speech recognition.  Those with an accent could be at a disadvantage.  Unlike some telephone-based system, you are not likely to have an ‘operator’ sort things out for you.  I look for a number of broadcast outlets having to fine-tune their alternative names, as these devices become more popular, and, in effect, bring Radio back into homes.  These things may also have an impact on the devices know as Internet Radios.  Time will tell. This got me to thinking…I wonder just how many people today actually go out and purchase a radio for their home.  It used to be that every kitchen, night stand etc. had a radio.  Not so much the case these days.  Recently, while shopping at Fred Meyer (a local Kroeger store) I was delighted to find a rather large assortment of radios…including several ‘clock radios’.  Apparently they are still being purchased (that’s a good thing).  Of course you can purchase one from Amazon – Google “Amazon Table Radios” and your screen will be filled with options. Look for new Domain Extensions – We commonly see .com, . net, .org, .edu, .biz and .ca (Canada).  Soon we will be seeing .radio.  Go here for more – http://www.domainregister.com/comorg.html Ever wonder what the difference is in the sound of an audio source whose upper limit is 15 kHz vs 20 kHz?  Those of you that have an HD Radio experience these different bandwidths as FM is 15 and HD is 20.  Bob Orban put it this way – The subjective effect of HD’s superior HF handling consists of two parts: the bandwidth increase from 15 to 20 kHz (which, according to a number of peer-reviewed journal studies, is usually not audible with program material because the lower frequency energy psychoacoustically masks the energy between 15 and 20 kHz), and the lack of need for pre-emphasis limiting.  The second of these is by far the most important.  The actual audible benefits of HD’s improved HF power handling start at around 2 kHz (where 75 us pre-emphasis starts to become significant on the analog FM channel) and extend to 20 kHz.  By 15 kHz, the HD has 22 dB better HF headroom than the analog channel (17 dB for the pre-emphasis + 5 dB for the analog/digital gain offset).  The only downside is that up at 15 kHz, the information is carried by the SBR part of the HD codec, and this is only an approximation of the fine details of HF spectrum at the codec’s input. The main impact of listening to HD compared to FM (in a mobile environment) is the lack of noise and transmission artifacts with HD…And, as Bob points out, the highs will sound better.  Probably the greatest demonstration of this difference in the Seattle area can be found at 98.1.  To a great extent, KING-FM’s classical format was not listenable in many areas with only an FM Radio.  HD changed all that, making listening to the classics in a moving vehicle possible.  In other areas with more favorable topography than Seattle, the HD advantage is not going to be as noticeable.  Of course, at my age, ears develop their own high-frequency roll off. I caught this image recently in Seaside Oregon.  The top was a ‘forest’ of antennas.

Skywarn is a program where Amateur Radio Operators (Hams) participate with NWS.  Speaking of Seaside, we were blessed with wonderful weather while there for the annual Ham Radio event.  Got to actually do some patio eating!  (Something that does not take place every day on the Oregon Coast.)  At the event, attended by some 2200 Hams this year, is a flea-market where I spotted this device – Brush Sound Mirror.   Looking at a web site, it appears that there may be more to this item.  Here’s a web site and a YouTube video with more: https://www.brushindustries.com/about-us/history-of-brush-industries/page.aspx?id=1396  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5XbCkSKqYg

 

This old tape recorder made me think of this –

Hard to believe that it’s been 55 years since the Space Needle was erected.  I wonder if those that were involved had any idea that this structure would become the symbol for Seattle?  In the early days it was common to have a radio station broadcasting from the Needle.  I recall the natural gas torch on the top that was lit hourly and mentioned on a local radio station.  In the early days there was a Ham Repeater up there as well….6 meters if I recall.  Does anyone remember that? During one week, the station I worked for at the time did their morning show from the needle.  That was kind of cool as I’d show up at about 4 a.m. with a cart load of equipment, loading it in the elevator for the trip upward.  What was neat about this was the fact that I got to operate the elevator.  Usually the elevator was operated by a person that explained the sights to the many tourists that flock to get the view. Over the years there have been some changes made.  Most significant was the addition of the restaurant part way up.  Now we are learning that the place is going to get a significant makeover…its third major renovation.  Not to be outdone by other locations that feature glass floors so you can get that special feeling in your stomach, reportedly the new Needle will have some of that too.  Apparently, the restaurant that revolves once an hour will also get the glass floor treatment that is certain to impact more than a few that choose to dine there. I do have to wonder how it will impact appetites!  The project is supposed to start this fall and will take a while to complete. Seems like there are a number of job opportunities cropping up – There is an opening for a Radio cluster in Redding, California.  The firm is offering  a competitive salary + benefits, 401K.  If you’re interested, or know someone who is, contact ronc@sonic.net.  E&OE. Congratulations to Mark Huffstutter on his retirement from KING5.  My occasional visits to that transmitter site on Queen Ann Hill will not be the same without Mark’s ‘museum of wonders’.  Those that have been there will know exactly what I mean.  The retirement of yet another broadcast RF guy makes one wonder what this industry is going to do in the future.  Finding younger, experienced people that can give a company 20 or so years dealing with these plants is going to become increasingly difficult.  For people like me that elected to continue to work well past conventional retirement age, there is plenty of demand.  The fact that there is still a lot of old equipment still in place needing someone to keep it going is what has kept me from being a greeter at Walmart.  The problem is with the newer generation of folks that are tasked with maintaining equipment that is older than their dad.  Many of today’s (and tomorrow’s) Broadcast Techs are likely to come from the IT world where some of the things we deal with are unknowns – for example – Vacuum Tube Transmitters with huge power supplies, blowers and lethal voltages.  Analog devices, a ‘Greenie’ screwdriver, equipment that does not require a laptop or tablet to communicate, etc. One does not need a crystal ball to see that there is a convergence coming that is going to force change, and that some of this change will be very painful to those who own and operate these facilities.  Older managers are used to buying equipment that lasts a very long time, knowing that they have someone on staff that will make sure that this happens.  However, this is changing as younger managers view the world of equipment differently.  They are accustomed to equipment with shorter life cycles like Desk Top PC’s, Copiers, Laptops etc.  The winners will be the contractors.  Likely broadcasters will be employing a lot fewer conventional engineers and looking at broadcast equipment much as they do office equipment.  When they do, replacement cycles will likely change too. Bustos Media has purchased some broadcast properties in Eastern Washington, KNNA in Mabton/Yakima and KLES and KZXR in Prosser.  Bustos owns stations in the Seattle and Portland markets. Since 2009 you have been hearing KOMO Radio give their ID as KOMO-Seattle, KOMO-FM Oakville.  This has all been possible due to an LMA that Fisher had with South Sound Broadcasting related to the 97.7 FM transmitting from South Mountain west of Shelton.  Now that the Sinclair owns the stations in Seattle, they have ‘pulled the trigger’ and are purchasing the FM for reportedly $6.75 Million.  Included in the deal is a translator in Redmond.  South Mountain got its name from being the southernmost mountain in the Olympics.  The site is presently the home of 3 FM stations, with rumors that this will increase.  The stations there can perhaps be described as high-powered ‘Rim-Shots’ being 50 miles from Downtown Seattle.  FCC data shows KDDS (located on the top of the tower), operating with 64 kW from 742 meters above average terrain with an elevation of 1032 Meters.  KOMO-FM is running 69 kW at 701 meters AAT.  Both Stations operate with a directional antenna protecting co-channel operations in the Vancouver, BC area. We’ve all seen those outdoor/patio speakers designed to be left outside, year around.  But what about a TV set?  No one would dream of letting a TV get caught in a rain storm.  That is until now.  A firm I’ve never heard of, Peerless-AV has come out with an all-season outdoor TV.  Probably not designed for places like Phoenix however, as the high end temperature it is designed for is 122 degrees.  That would mean it should be under-cover in most locals.  However, if you wish to watch TV or videos outside in the winter…You are in luck as it will work down to -22 F.  These are not little screens either…They will be available in 49, 55 and 65 inch sizes.  Perfect for those summer, or perhaps winter, evenings on the patio! Around about July first, the first of the four Entercom Stations is slated to move to their new address at 800 5th Ave., 14th floor.  Entercom has been based, for many years, in the Metropolitan Park West Tower.  No word on how this move will be involved with the merger with CBS radio.  The re-location was in the works prior to that announcement. The May radio ratings are out and here are some of my usual observations of the 12+ Numbers:

  • Hubbard’s KQMV remains #1
  • Non-Commercial KUOW is #2
  • KMPS is certainly winning the Country race at #6 (the Wolf is down to #19)
  • Non-Comm KNKX is at #9
  • AM continues to suffer with KIRO and KOMO sharing 16th place with all other AM’s well below that
  • KCMS is now down to #20, perhaps due to the impact of KLSW
  • There are now 3.704 Million over 12 in the area
  • Hispanics now total over 311,000

CNN recently released a list of 12 iconic mountains from around the world with many familiar names – Mt. Everest in Nepal, Mt Fuji in Japan etc.  The ONLY mountain in the States listed – Mt. Rainier!  The picture below is what it looks like from the transmitter site at West Tiger Mt.  Never tire of seeing this magnificent sight.  And for my readers in other parts of the country – The mountain is white – year around.  (Mark of a real mountain.)  Much of the white you see in this picture is not snow, but rather ice from the many glaciers. The little peak on the left is called ‘Little Tahoma’ and is 11,138 ft.  Mt. Rainier is 14,411.  If you ever wanted to compare Oregon’s Mt. Hood to Mt. Rainier – Here’s what it looks like.  Mt. Hood, the highest peak in Oregon, is 11,250.  As you might gather, Mt. Rainer is huge.  The name Little Tahoma is reference to Mt. Rainier that used to be known as Tahoma, a name that is used frequently in the area.

The RTDNA is out with their annual Murrow Awards.  (RTDNA means Radio Television Digital News Association).  Scoring big were CBS Radio and TV, winning the overall excellence award at the network level.  Also scoring well were NPR and CNN.  The Edward R. Murrow Awards are named after the famous CBS news reporter.  Perhaps I should mention that Washington State University operates the Murrow College of Communications in Pullman.  If you ever get there, be sure and take in the area dedicated to Mr. Murrow…including the door that was on his office in New York!  In our area, the Murrow College operates Northwest Public Radio, with radio and TV transmitters all over the state and into Idaho and Oregon. I love to catch people working – I found  Buzz Anderson the other day working at Cougar Mountain on KNHC.  Note the ‘C-89’ sticker on the top of the blue transmitter.

Broadcast history has recently been made in NYC.  16 years after the destruction of the original World Trade Center towers by terrorists, the new One World Trade Center tower is receiving its first broadcast operations as TV stations begin transmitting from the highest point in that city. Once in a while you hear a news story about a police vehicle being stolen.  Tough for the cops being a crime victim.  But what about a TV news truck being stolen while they were reporting on crime in the area?  That’s exactly what happened to a TV news crew in Albuquerque, NM recently to KOB-TV.  The news director was quoted as saying – “I have a rule that you are never the lead of your own newscast”.  Understand they got it back thanks to GPS tracking equipment they had on board. Don’t forget the SBE Picnic on Vashon Island on July 29th.  Check the SBE16 Web Site for details. As I reach the end of this edition – I’d like to share with you something that, hopefully, will bring a smile.  As usual, this comes from one of my many friends that keep me supplied with this stuff.  In this case, a comparison of how math teaching methods have changed over the years – 1. Teaching Math In 1950’s A logger sells a truckload of timber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit? 2. Teaching Math In 1970’s A logger sells a truckload of timber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? 3. Teaching  Math In 1990’s A logger sells a truckload of timber for $100.  His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit? Yes or No 4. Teaching Math In 2000’s A logger sells a truckload  of timber for  $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.   5. Teaching Math In 2016 A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What  do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the  birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There  are no wrong answers, feel free to express your feelings  e.g, anger, anxiety, inadequacy, helplessness etc.) Should you require  debriefing at conclusion of exam there are counselors available  to assist you adjust back into the real world. That’s it for this month – Enjoy summer and stay safe. Clay, K7CR, SBE Fellow.

Clay’s Corner for May 2017

May 13, 2017
By

Clay’s Corner

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

Well, at last, we are able to drive conventional vehicles to the top of West Tiger.   It almost seems strange…Like I’ve been on an extended vacation.   The bad news…Lots of catch-up to do.

The crew from iHeart have been busy getting their new 106.1 Nautel GV40 on the air. On April 14th Marty Hadfield sent me this picture of his vehicle parked at West Tiger – Mother Nature is certainly being stubborn this year!

 

If you have believed that the Seattle area has rain all the time…Well….This year, you may be right with record setting amounts of wet….and it’s been cool…Last year we enjoyed temps in the 80’s.. this year they are in the 60’s.   Don’t think that anyone accurately predicted this.  In driving up to the mountain sites around here you can’t help but notice all the hanging moss…in fact moss is growing everywhere, at a rapid rate.   You used to have to drive over to the west side of the Olympics to see this kind of thing…not anymore!  The old joke went something like this….Someone asked a Seattleite…If it rains all the time, what do you do during the summer to which the native responded…’Well, if it takes place on a weekend, we go on a picnic’.   Let’s hope that this ‘wet’ will abate and we can have a summer like last year.   Come to think of it, perhaps this extended monsoon has been a penalty for last summers extended dry and warm?   To put all this in perspective – As of April 23, there are ‘Critical/Elevated Fire Weather and Fed Flag warnings in – Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.  Perhaps our water should be viewed as a blessing?

Once again, I did not make it to the big show in Vegas this year, however, I understand that attendance was strong with over 103,000 being reported.   Whereas I am no longer in the ‘looking for something to buy’ or ‘meetings to attend’ mode…I would require a very good reason to go down to breath some more cigarette smoke and listen to electronic gizmo’s make noise.   Would be nice, however, to be able to be, one more time, with some old friends.

The FCC is, once again, talking tough about pirate radio broadcasters.   Commissioner O’Rielly recently spoke at a Hispanic Radio Conference and said – , “The failure to properly address [this] highlights a deficiency in the Commission’s enforcement tools and undermines our overall credibility.”   I, personally, feel that he should be a candidate for the ‘Yah-Think’ award.

He went on to use a term I’ve not seen to describe these folks – He called them Squatters who are infecting the radio band at the expense of listeners and legitimate radio stations.   Well said, Mr Commissioner – Now let me remind all that actions speak louder than words.    Time will tell.

The FCC’s effort to prop-up AM Radio with new rules that permit AM’s to own FM Translators is applauded by some…and is being rejected by others.     What many (that know better) should know is that the FM Band is not a waste land of empty spectrum waiting for every AM station to grab a channel and ride off to the bank with a bag of money.    The band has been filling, quickly, with a host of other things….like LPFM’s etc.   The fact is – SURPRISE – There is not room for everyone.   Recently an LPFM advocacy group call Prometheus has petitioned the FCC to slow up the train as it may well harm their members.   One of the down sides of our spectrum regulators is that they, time after time, throw away the book of good engineering practice and attempt to accommodate everyone. You want evidence, just look at what happened to AM over the years thanks to this practice.

Apparently there are those broadcasters that still try and play a bit ‘loose’….For example a station complained about interference from a translator.   The station owning the translator did some checking an found out that the complaining station was operating in variance from their licensed parameters (oops)  Our own, Seattle based, Hatfield and Dawson got involved with this one…Perhaps a member of that team would be willing to discuss it at an upcoming SBE meeting?   The bottom line is this – If you are going to complain to the FCC about an issue – First make sure that your house is in order.   Call letters involved are – KXEG and KSWG.   (I’ll let you research the details if you wish)

For many years I have been directly connected with the implementation of HD Radio systems.   Over the years the equipment involved has improved, reliability has increased etc.   However there are still some rough edges that tend to make some stations that are operating HD Radio look bad in the minds and ears of consumers.    Frankly, in this day and age, there is no excuse for it to continue…..Especially in light of the fact that just about all new vehicle radios have HD built in.

Specifically what I am talking about is the listener experience when they tune into a station operating HD-Radio.   When you tune in the station, your receiver first is receiving the conventional FM signal, then, in about 8 seconds…(Assuming you are in range of the HD signal) the radio will cross-fade from FM to what we call HD-1 and will begin producing audio derived from the digital transmission.   It’s what happens when this transition takes place is where the problems are .

In the case of many stations there are several technical issues that should never take place –

  1. Time Alignment    This is where the timing of the FM and HD Audio is not aligned causing the listener to experience an echo/stutter or repeat of a piece of audio.     This problem is multiplied significantly if the listener is in a weak signal area where the receiver is going back and forth between FM and HD.

 

The issue here is that the listener is going to be very annoyed by this taking place and is likely to

feel that their radio is broken and may, in the case of a new car, take it back to the dealer demanding that the radio be repaired (yes, this does take place).

The bottom line is that this problem – should not take place.   Further the responsibility to make

sure it does not rests with the radio station.    The listener may well discover that this problem

only exists with some, but not all stations and may conclude there is something wrong with that station and avoid listening to it!   A clear situation where the station loses.

For many years there have been methods for setting the time alignment and for monitoring the situation.   More recently there has been equipment available that will automatically keep the FM and HD time-aligned.   So why does it continue?… That’s the $ 64,000 Question.  Perhaps, in some cases because the station is not aware that a technical solution exists, or, simply does not wish to make the investment?

  1. Equalization This is where the ‘sound’ or ‘fidelity’ of the FM and HD-1 Signals is remarkably
  2. Again the question came to mind – Why do they let this take place???   Does not any one at that station care?   Could it be that the stations management and engineers don’t have an HD Radio and simply are not aware?
  3. Recently while tuning around the FM band I came across a station that was clearly running HD (My vehicle radio has an indicator that lights up telling me that) I awaited the transition to HD and could not believe my ears.   The HD audio was piercing and shrill sounding, making me want to grab the treble control and turn it down.   Then, as I drove a bit further, the signal level dropped and the radio switched back to FM, and the audio quality changed back.   Talk about annoying!   This was one station that I could not listen to- regardless of how compelling their programming was.   This back and forth audio quality issue was obnoxious.   Clearly they were either not using a common audio processor or they had them considerably miss-adjusted.
  4. different.   When the receiver is transitioning back and forth between receiving FM or HD signals the audio should sound the same.   The exception being the noise and distortion of FM should be gone.
  5. Loudness   This is where the station has mis-adjusted the audio loudness and either the FM or HD audio is louder than the other…rather than have them be the same.

The bottom lines –

The Time Alignment, Equalization and Loudness of the FM and HD should be such that a radio can go thru the transition between modes without causing the listener to feel there is something wrong.   When the radio goes from FM to HD the only thing they should notice is that it sounds better because un-wanted things (like multipath distortion, picket-fencing etc.) go away.

What is perhaps the hardest thing for me to grasp is why the owners and managers of these stations have not created a policy that forbids this level of technical negligence?     If you are just a listener to one of these stations, perhaps now you know that this is a problem that can be easily resolved, and will, upon hearing these issues, call the station and speak to their manager and ask them why they have not addressed the problem?

There was a recent piece written about some of these issues in Radio World – It should be a must-read for all radio broadcast engineers –

http://www.radioworld.com/digital-radio/0014/maintaining-proper-hd-radio-time-alignment/339134

The Radio industry is still talking about the Entercom/CBS Merger.   Entercom’s David Field has been busy telling everyone how this will create “truly preeminent radio company with an extraordinary platform” covering virtually all of the country’s top 50 markets. With nearly $2 billion in annual sales, a value of over $4 billion and a strong financial position”. Perhaps a pitch to investors who, by and large, pan investing in media companies. This merger was moving along with the FCC creating a formal docket to deal with it….That is….Until the DOJ announced that they wanted to take a look at the deal.   Who knows what that will mean. One of the issues to deal with will be the spinning off of assets that place the new company over limits.   Here in Seattle this means which stations will stay with the new company and which will become property of another.   As usual, in cases like this, managers are telling the troops to keep plugging away and ignore all the uncertainty that comes with the territory.   Perhaps in 6 months I will be able to write about how this all sifts out.

In one of the markets where the merged company had to divest of stations was Sacramento, Ca.   Just so happened that Entercom was in ‘hot-water’ over their water contest that went tragically bad at one of their stations (KDND).   Timing was good as Entercom surrendered the license for the FM Station a move that apparently satisfied the Commish.   Therefore – The official end of ‘The End’ 107.9.

Shifting gears a bit to business in the Seattle area –

The Seattle area continues to amaze. If someone had told you that in 20 years –

  • On-line retailing was going to be huge
  • Many historic retailers would be going out of business because of it
  • The major player would be a company called Amazon
  • Seattle would be the home of that company
  • It’s CEO would be the 2nd richest person in the world.

Would you have believed it? Some of the headlines are pretty stark –

  • Stores closing at a record pace as Amazon chews up retailers
  • Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Shuttering at a Record Pace
  • Some a filing for bankruptcy
  • Other companies are plowing ahead with store closures outside of bankruptcy court. Sears., Macy’s and J.C. Penney Co. are shutting hundreds of locations combined, reeling from an especially punishing slump in the department-store industry.

 

  • According to research from Slice Intelligence, Amazon captured 38 percent of all dollars spent online during the past holiday season. The next-closest retailer, Best Buy, had a mere 3.9 percent.
  • So how much of the e-commerce pie does Amazon have?   53% !

Jeff Bezos is now just behind Bill Gates with a worth somewhere north of 75 Billion Bucks! (Gates reportedly is still cruising with about 10 Billion more) Bezos has edged out Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg.   And if you don’t know who Jeff Bezos is – he is best known as the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.com, which is the world’s largest online shopping retailer.

And, if you have not heard – Radioshack is once again going under.   Sad to say that the days when people actually built electronic gizmos from parts purchased at a local store have gone.   Then again you can buy all of these items now on Amazon.

 

One of the big losers in all of this are some shopping malls.   The formula is familiar…A mall is constructed with two or more major anchor stores and a little of smaller firms filling in the small footprints.   The question is what happens when those big anchor stores close?  In many cases the mall becomes history.   Some malls have done something un-thinkable in the past – they have welcome large mega food outlets like Kroger etc.     And who gets the blame for a lot of this?    Yes, that Seattle based giant called Amazon.

There is an impact on broadcast here too.   The demise of local, brick and mortar, stores puts a dent in historic advertising revenue.

Then there is the news that Amazon is going to be streaming NFL Games…And that Amazon is going to open a concept called Amazon Go which would be a technology powered grocery store that would not require shoppers to have to endure the dreaded checkout line. So why did I write all about this in this column?….To point out how a Seattle based company is making a huge difference in many ways….Ways that if they have not already, will in the future, likely touch us all.

Besides the insane amount of construction in Seattle…One of the major impacts has been to dramatically increase the cost of housing in the area.   Not that there are not plenty of people with the income to buy them.   Reports are there are over 165,000 people in King County that are making over $150,000/year.  A great indicator of this issue is the median home price.   Go about 60 miles to the south to Olympia and you will find the median price there is about 260,000 – That over $360,000 less than Seattle!

Recently Boeing issued a number of lay-off notices due to declining orders.   In years past this would have sent shock-waves thru the Seattle area.   Today, in light of the areas diversification, It’s almost a non-event.

Here’s another Seattle statistic for you to digest – The University of Washington (in Seattle) is now ranked #9 in the world…A long way behind Harvard…But not bad for a little town in the northwest part of the country.

One thing that the Seattle area does not often have to deal with ….Thunderstorms…At least T-storms of the magnitude that recently struck Columbus, Georgia on April 5th.    Lightning repeated struck the WLTZ TV tower during that one.    Can you imagine if this was one of the 6 TV Towers in Seattle?

Most of us are familiar with radio stations or EAS systems getting hacked…Well this time, on April 8th someone hacked in the Dallas Texas area weather warning Sirens…..All of them.    Apparently they were controlled via a common radio repeater system.   Officials had to turn off the repeater to silence the sirens that wailed for some time.  Likely a lot of red-faces over this one….and a new and more secure system being deployed.   Seems like if a device is powered by electricity, it’s just a matter of time before it gets hacked.

 

On the subject of hacking – There are a couple of things that are very high on the FCC’s NO-NO list.

Messing with something involving aviation radio systems and the other something involving law enforcement.   In the latter case a resident of New York City may have to give the Feds $400,000 for his interfering with police communications…Including threats to police officers, false bomb threats etc.

Unlike most pirate radio operators, this guy is in police custody on other, unrelated charges.   My big question is whether or not he will actually pay the fine.   In all too many cases these yahoo’s seem to end up not paying for various reasons.    BTW the $400 Grand was the maximum permitted

 

The Commish had to deal with another one recently – This time in Pompano Beach Florida where they asked a party to contribute 20 Grand to the Treasury for operating a non-licensed FM station. This fellow had a lot of ‘brass’.   When an FCC field agent spoke with the person on the phone, he acknowledged that he had received an earlier notice from the Commission and when on to ask if he could continue to operate for a few more days.

Meanwhile, here in the Seattle area, a number of folks are monitoring 101.9 to see what might be on the air next.   This is the same operation that recently was broadcasting programming supplied by a party that hacked into their IP Based STL system.

 

Nielsen continues to make news with the announcement that they are going to increase the number of samplers as well as introducing a mini-version of the device people wear to sample their media habits.   This new creature will, reportedly, be so small it would fit inside a smartwatch, Fitbit or smart phone.

Another announcement on the technology front –   Sony (yes they are still around) is rolling out some new solid state drives designed to work with video recording equipment.  They claim their new model SB-G596 can achieve 2400 terabytes written.     The 4K video world is driving a lot of this.

The recent mega merger announcement of Entercom and CBS has caused some to suggest that the FCC should take a look at what’s call ‘Sub-Caps’ .   These are limits on the number of stations that a single owner can operate in a given market.   Presently, in markets the size of Seattle, an entity can own no more than 5 FM or AM stations or 8 total.  I find it interesting that in Seattle, at one time, Entercom owned 5 FM’s and 3 AM’s…but ended up spinning off one of the FM’s and all the AM’s.    This, sort of, indicated that there was not a lot of demand for the large clusters.   In other, smaller, markets the demand is greater.   There are groups that are lining up on both sides of this one.    One of the drivers for this is the plight of AM radio.  Perhaps a single operator, could make a go of a large cluster of AM’s?
Some recently released first quarter 2017 totals to look at.

 

  • The total number of AM’s is down by 3 (I would have guessed more) to 4,666
  • Eight more commercial FM’s (6,754)
  • Two more FM NCE’s (4,112)
  • 200 more FM Translators and Boosters
  • 246 more LPFM’s

 

On the Video Side –

  • One less full power TV Stations (1,777)
  • 6 fewer UHF translators
  • 5 fewer VHF translators

 

Grand total – 32,846 active broadcast licensees.

 

I suspect there will be some significant shifts in these numbers with all the FM translator activity as well as the TV Repacking process.

 

Speaking of Repacking –There is a ton of news items related all of this—–

 

Some of the major TV sites are in for some rather dramatic changes.   For Example – The Sutro Tower in San Francisco will be losing 3 TV tenants, changing channels for 6 and they may pick up some additional stations.     This site alone represents a huge amount of hardware that will have to be changed.     Certainly good news for those that supply the hardware as well as those that will be working at these sites to make the changes.       I suspect there will be number of requests for extensions and a shortage of qualified people to pull it all off.

 

According to reports, T-Mobile and Comcast were the heavy hitters in the spectrum auction.   T-Mobile is estimated going to be spending something like $10 Billion for new spectrum.    And yes, there is a local aspect to all of this – The home office for T-Mobile just happens to be in the Seattle area – Technically on the other side of Lake Washington from Seattle in Bellevue (What locals call ‘the East Side)

 

Interesting that there are a number of stations that will be moving into the VHF band.   This is contrary to the big push of not long ago to move the other way.

 

The FCC has, on-line, all the information about who is going where. For my readers in the 3 states were this column is read – The following should be helpful.    The columns are (left to right)

  • Call letters
  • New channel
  • Old Channel
  • City of license

 

The Repack in Washington

KUNS-TV 24 50 BELLEVUE
KWPX-TV 33 33 BELLEVUE
KVOS-TV 14 35 BELLINGHAM
KBCB 19 19 BELLINGHAM
KCKA 19 19 CENTRALIA
KVBI-LP 17 42 CLARKSTON
K36EW-D 36 36 COLLEGE PLACE
KONG 31 31 EVERETT
KVEW 27 44 KENNEWICK
KVVK-CD 15 15 KENNEWICK, ETC.
KEPR-TV 18 18 PASCO
KWSU-TV 10 10 PULLMAN
KQUP 24 24 PULLMAN
KTNW 22 38 RICHLAND
KNDU 26 26 RICHLAND
KCTS-TV 9 9 SEATTLE
KFFV 16 44 SEATTLE
KIRO-TV 23 39 SEATTLE
KING-TV 25 48 SEATTLE
KOMO-TV 30 38 SEATTLE
KZJO 36 25 SEATTLE
KSPS-TV 7 7 SPOKANE
KXLY-TV 13 13 SPOKANE
KHQ-TV 15 15 SPOKANE
KREM 20 20 SPOKANE
KAYU-TV 28 28 SPOKANE
KGPX-TV 34 34 SPOKANE
KSKN 36 36 SPOKANE
KSTW 11 11 TACOMA
KCPQ 13 13 TACOMA
KTBW-TV 21 14 TACOMA
KBTC-TV 27 27 TACOMA
KWDK 34 42 TACOMA
KPDX 30 30 VANCOUVER
KORX-CD 16 16 WALLA WALLA
K21JQ-D 21 21 WALLA WALLA
K31KL-D 31 31 WALLA WALLA
K33EJ-D 33 33 WALLA WALLA
KAPP 14 14 YAKIMA
KNDO 16 16 YAKIMA
KYVE 21 21 YAKIMA
KUNW-CD 30 30 YAKIMA
KIMA-TV 33 33 YAKIMA
KDHW-CD 35 35 YAKIMA

 

 

The Repack in Oregon

KOAB-TV 11 11 BEND
KFXO-LD 15 39 BEND
KABH-CD 17 17 BEND
KOHD 18 18 BEND
KTVZ 21 21 BEND
KCBY-TV 11 11 COOS BAY
KMCB 22 22 COOS BAY
KOAC-TV 7 7 CORVALLIS
KEZI 9 9 EUGENE
KVAL-TV 13 13 EUGENE
KORY-CD 15 15 EUGENE
KMTR 17 17 EUGENE
KEVU-CD 23 23 EUGENE
KEPB-TV 29 29 EUGENE
KLSR-TV 31 31 EUGENE
K19GH-D 19 19 EUGENE, ETC.
K22FC-D 22 22 GRANTS PASS
KBLN-TV 30 30 GRANTS PASS
K47GI-D 36 47 GRANTS PASS
KOTI 13 13 KLAMATH FALLS
KDKF 29 29 KLAMATH FALLS
KFTS 33 33 KLAMATH FALLS
KTVR 13 13 LA GRANDE
KUNP 16 16 LA GRANDE
KOBI 5 5 MEDFORD
KSYS 8 8 MEDFORD
KTVL 10 10 MEDFORD
KDRV 12 12 MEDFORD
K23EX-D 23 23 MEDFORD
KMVU-DT 26 26 MEDFORD
K32DY-D 32 32 MEDFORD`
KFFX-TV 11 11 PENDLETON
KGW 8 8 PORTLAND
KOPB-TV 10 10 PORTLAND
KPTV 12 12 PORTLAND
KOXO-CD 15 41 PORTLAND
KORS-CD 16 16 PORTLAND
KOXI-CD 20 20 PORTLAND
KATU 24 43 PORTLAND
KOIN 25 40 PORTLAND
KNMT 32 45 PORTLAND
KORK-CD 35 35 PORTLAND
KKEI-CD 36 38 PORTLAND
KTVC 18 18 ROSEBURG
KPIC 19 19 ROSEBURG
KTCW 36 45 ROSEBURG
KPXG-TV 22 22 SALEM
KRCW-TV 33 33 SALEM
KRHP-CD 14 14 THE DALLES

 

The Repack in Colorado

K36DB-CD 36 36 AVON, VAIL
KTFD-DT 32 15 BOULDER
KBDI-TV 13 13 BROOMFIELD
KETD 15 45 CASTLE ROCK
KXRM-TV 22 22 COLORADO SPRINGS
KRDO-TV 24 24 COLORADO SPRINGS
KKTV 26 49 COLORADO SPRINGS
KMGH-TV 7 7 DENVER
KUSA 9 9 DENVER
KCEC 14 26 DENVER
KQDK-CD 16 39 DENVER
KPXC-TV 18 43 DENVER
KSBS-CD 19 41 DENVER
KRMT 20 40 DENVER
KTVD 31 19 DENVER
KRMA-TV 33 18 DENVER
KWGN-TV 34 34 DENVER
KCNC-TV 35 35 DENVER
KDVR 36 32 DENVER
KREZ-TV 15 15 DURANGO
KRMU 20 20 DURANGO
KRTN-TV 33 33 DURANGO
KFCT 21 21 FORT COLLINS
KREG-TV 23 23 GLENWOOD SPRINGS
KREX-TV 2 2 GRAND JUNCTION
KGBY 7 7 GRAND JUNCTION
KKCO 12 12 GRAND JUNCTION
KFQX 15 15 GRAND JUNCTION
KRMJ 18 18 GRAND JUNCTION
KGJT-CD 27 27 GRAND JUNCTION
KPJR-TV 17 38 GREELEY
KDEN-TV 29 29 LONGMONT
KREY-TV 13 13 MONTROSE
KTSC 8 8 PUEBLO
KVSN-DT 25 48 PUEBLO
KOAA-TV 28 42 PUEBLO
KGHB-CD 21 27 PUEBLO, ETC.
KRMZ 10 10 STEAMBOAT SPRINGS
KCDO-TV 23 23 STERLING

 

So what’s happening with Toshiba?   Back in 2006 the Japanese electronics firm bought an iconic American company- Westinghouse Electric perhaps on the notion that nuclear power was going to be a good investment.  Thanks to huge cost overruns for nuke-plants in the Southeast U.S. their Westinghouse division has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.   Toshiba has announced that the net loss could hit one trillion Dollars.  The effect of this is to be a huge financial drag on the parent company causing it to be forced to sell a big stake in their money making chip business and causing many to wonder what will come of the company.   Westinghouse, has been a historic supplier of electrical equipment.  If you recall your history…It was George Westinghouse that was a key proponent of using AC for commercial power while Edison wanted to use DC.   At one time it was in the broadcast business owning stations and making equipment.   I recall KEX in Portland was owned by the firm and was operating a Westinghouse transmitter (I got to see it in operation sometime in the last century).  Up at West Tiger power to the building is supplied via a Westinghouse ‘Power Pad’ transformer.  Toshiba is a historic industrial feature of Japan dating back to 1870.     Apparently this has a basis in the meltdown of the Fukushima Dalichi nuclear power plant back on 2011 when many determined that there were too many risks with this type of power generation.   Closer to home, I have two Toshiba Laptops.   Not the first time I’ve owned something that was made by a firm that may be no longer around.  A lot of great names have come and gone – Think Ampex, RCA, ITC, AEL etc.

While many have been taking a wait and see position regarding reverse auctions and repacking – Sinclair has been busy …Reportedly trying to buy Tribune Media Co.   Tribune owns or operates 42 local TV stations in the country…..Including –

  • KCPQ and KZJO In Seattle
  • KWGN and KDVR in Denver
  • KRCW in Portland

Meanwhile, Sinclair owns and operates 173 Stations in 81 Markets, including –

  • KOMO and KUNS in Seattle
  • KATU AND KUNP in Portland

Then came the announcement that Sinclair was going to purchase the Bonten 14 Station group for $240 Million. None of these stations are in the Seattle, Portland or Denver Market.  However, they do own stations in 3 markets in Montana  (Missoula, Butte/Bozeman and Kalispell)

The question is – Just how many TV Stations could be owned by the same firm in the same market? Apparently the whole matter of ownership limits, for Radio and TV, is being reviewed.   Certainly there is going to be pressure from firms like Sinclair to see these regulations move in their favor.

I could not help but notice the new application for license for an LPTV station in Tacoma, WA.     Owner is Denver Digital Television (Really—–Denver?) and then there are the call letters – KDMD.    Wow –

KDMD and KOMO look awful similar.  (The official call sign is KDMD-LD)

From time to time I run across a product that brings a smile – Like the Bar-B-Q tools with screwdriver handles from your favorite tool makers (Craftsman and Snap On come to mine).   This item is bound to find a ‘warm-spot’ in the heart of Engineers.  http://www.canford.co.uk/Products/11-231_CANFORD-RACKWINE-Winerack-rack-mount-3U-black

When you get into Broadcast Engineering you will quickly learn about some of the tools of the trade. Early on you will hear the term ‘Butt-Set’.   The technical name for these devices is a ‘Llineman’s Handset’…it’s a special telephone that can be held in one hand, or on the shoulder, and has been a  classic item used for working on analog telephone circuits for many years.  Most broadcast engineering shops will have one too.     Recently in clearing out items in anticipation for their move of studios, Entercom’s engineers came across a piece of history.   This fine example predates the push-button or Touchtone phones of today and should re-kindle some warm feelings with some of my older readers.   One of my best memories of this term came from a conversation with one of the DJ’s at KBSG a few years ago.  Scott Phillips could just not get over the term butt-set.    I did not tell him that some called it a ‘Buttski’.

 

Congratulations to Mike Cooney on being honored by Radio World with their Excellence in Engineering Award on April 24th in Las Vegas. Mike is the CTO and VP of Engineering for the Beasley Broadcast Group/.

What makes this especially of interest to me is that I won this award back in 2007.

On the –bad news- front we again are reporting on the continued financial woes of the two largest radio groups.   Cumulus and iHeart.

First Cumulus –

Ø  They have been advised that they will be de-listed by Nasdaq.

Ø  Their total debt is reported to be about $2.5 Billion.

Ø  Their recent stock price, on April 26, was 28Cents per share, well below the necessary $1 threshold to remain listed.

Ø  In order to boost their stock price the firm did a reverse stock split using a 1 to 3 ratio. Had they not done that, their stock price would be priced even less.

Ø  Their stock has dropped 93% in the past year

 

iHeart Media-

Ø  News releases in Mid-April were very downbeat.

Ø  The company financial performance was presented to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on April 20th announced that it may not survive another year.

Ø  iHeart posted a net loss of $240 million in 2016,

Ø  The company has almost $350 million of debt coming due this year

Ø  Total debt is estimated to be in the vicinity of $20 Billion.

Ø  Some experts said bankruptcy is now almost inevitable.

Ø  Their Stock Price was a $2.10 on April 26.  An Approx. 78% decline in the past year.

One of the major problems for these firms, aside from trying to figure out how to stay in business and avoiding bankruptcy, is talent drain.     It is reported that both firms are experiencing high turn-over with the majority of those leaving doing so voluntarily.

There is another aspect of this – When the two largest firms owning primarily radio stations are on the cusp of Chapter ??   It’s pretty hard to interest anyone in investing in this type of media thereby keeping stock prices low for those firms that have good balance sheets.

Looking at the Seattle March Radio Ratings, 12 + (Top 10)- some thoughts –

Ø  Non-Comm’s are well represented with KUOW’s #2 and KNKX at #10

Ø  4 of the Top 10 are either CBS or Entercom…With their merger will be interesting to watch

Ø  The popularity of AM Radio continues to slide – The top rated AM station in Seattle is KOMO at #16

Ø  Population now up to 3.704 Megapeople.

The recent news releases from California about the ill effects of cellphone use got me to thinking… It’s really easy for joe-citizen to object to a cell-site in their neighborhood….(Don’t want those death-rays killing my chickens)…or for a citizens group to march on city-hall objecting to a broadcast station in their midst.   What do you want to bet what would happen if they were told they had to stop putting their cellphone to their ear ?   My guess is that would be a recipe for a full-fledged temper tantrum among the masses.   Is it just me, but this this have the odor of hypocrisy? Could it be that a rumored cancer causing device is only bad if it belongs to someone else?   Sort of like the heavy cigarette smoker that objects to what he feels are illnesses are caused by fumes from an industrial firm in his area.

On a related note….Looks like Washington State may be ready to really crack down on distracted driving.

Already you are not supposed to hold a cellphone to your ear.   New laws would take this a step further, you are not to be touching your phone under the terms of the (love this name) Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act.   I’m sure you have seen people – still – holding a cellphone to their ear…or holding it in front of them (with the phone in speaker phone mode). Thankfully my truck enables me to operate completely hands free.   I can make a call by simply speaking the number or answer a call by pushing a button on the steering wheel.   Text messages are even read to me.      Now we will see just how many are willing to put the phone away after being able to use it while driving.   Fines of $136 for the first offence and $245 for the second may help.   You have some time, however, before the law goes into effect.      Now about the fellow driving this vehicle –

Those of you that have been reading this column for a while will recall how I often comment about how, despite living in a world full of technology, the level of ‘technophobia’ still remains very high.   A recent study in the U.K.  helps us understand that there are a lot of fairly helpless people in other countries too.    Here is a sample of some polled tasks and the percentage of people who said they could confidently complete the task.

  • Boil an egg – 81%
  • Change a light bulb – 79%
  • Read a map – 66%
  • Wire a plug – 57%
  • Check the oil level in a car – 53%
  • Change a flat – 37%
  • Replace a faucet washer – 30%

There is a bright side to all of this – It assures that there will be continued employment for those that are not this challenged.     Then again, perhaps these folks figured that this is what You Tube videos are for?

About 48 years ago I met this young man that had recently become my Nephew.   Several years later he called me one evening asking me if he should take a job at a broadcast station where I used to work.  (I said yes).    He’s come a long way over the years….And now he turned 60!.    Reminds me of that T-shirt saw a while back – ‘I thought getting old would take longer’.    A belated Happy Birthday to Tom Pierson.

 

Time to wrap this one up for another month and leave you with some bits of advice – from an old farmer.

 

  • Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
  • Words that soak into your ears are whispered… not yelled.
  • Meanness don’t just happen overnight.
  • Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
  • Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
  • Every path has a few puddles.
  • When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
  • The best sermons are lived, not preached.
  • Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
  • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • Live a good and honorable life, then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
  • Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
  • The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every morning’.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
  • Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
  • If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
  • Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and enjoy the ride.

 

Have a good one- Thanks for the read –

 

Clay Freinwald, CPBE aka – K7CR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for April 2017

March 26, 2017
By

 

Clay’s Corner

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

 

On the heels of the Entercom/CBS deal, are we about to see a lot more consolidation? Apparently some think so and this time it will involve television as well.  Part of what is fueling all this is the belief that the changes in administration and at the FCC will change ownership limits.  This has caused a lot of rumors to fly of late….Among them – Sinclair will do a deal with Tribune.  This would be interesting in Seattle where Sinclair owns a station and Tribune owns two.  Let’s not forget ION and CBS that both own one TV station in Seattle, which many consider to be a major market.  Any reduction in ownership limitations is likely to result in opposition from those that have been consistent in their opposition to media consolidation.

 

So what is the FCC going to do about Pirate Radio? For many years we have been reading about how unlicensed radio stations have been a thorn in the side of licensed broadcasters as well as those that are supposed to regulate the activity.  Unfortunately a lot of the regulatory efforts have fallen short of what’s needed to stop the activity.  There are those big fines that, apparently, go un-paid…or the pirate operation that is supposedly ‘shut-down’ by the Feds just to appear again at another address.  Some local governments, reacting to pressure from legitimate broadcasters have gotten involved as they see the Feds failing to regulate.  This matter is, apparently, finally getting the attention of lawmakers and is resulting in the FCC asking Congress to give the FCC more authority, including the ability to seize equipment.  Guess it never made sense to me for the FCC to tell a pirate operator to stop doing wrong and walk away from the equipment to repeat the process.  Today, becoming a pirate is very easy….Just Google – Pirate Radio Station Equipment and see for yourself.  Will the Fed’s new interest in combating this activity be effective, time will tell.  I still fail to understand how cutting back on the EB was the correct approach.  The Commish has this concept of having Tiger Teams doing enforcement.  Appears to me that they have this half right – The part about the Tiger.  Unfortunately the FCC has become to all too many, a ‘Paper Tiger’.

 

With the news full of stories about huge radio operators like Cumulus sinking under the weight of their own debt – it’s great to hear some good news. Recently Saga Communications (who operates a cluster of radio stations in Bellingham) announced that their net revenue, operating income, free cash flow and net income all increased in Q4 of 2016.  Meanwhile, Cumulus continues to receive more bad news as they try and restructure their $2.4 Billion debt.  Certainly the vultures are circling this firm, awaiting the time that they are forced to sell off the company for bargain basement prices.

 

Meanwhile the Entercom / CBS deal seems to be getting good marks from those that evaluate deals. The value of CBS Radio has been placed at 2.86 Billion Bucks!  When completed, the new Entercom will consist of 244 stations in 47 markets including all of the top 10 and all but 2 of the top 25.  Talk about a dream position to be in!  Some of the markets are huge.  Both the New York and LA clusters are valued at well north of 300 million each.  If you owned stock in Entercom…28% will be part of the new company.  If you have stock in CBS, that figure will be 72%, underscoring who was bigger than who.  I’m sure the new Entercom will be watching things very closely to avoid the tragic mistakes of a couple of other big radio outfits.

 

On the local (Seattle) front of the Entercom/CBS deal, apparently all of the Seattle stations, belonging to both companies, have been put into a trust giving the new company time to sort out just which ones to spin off (and which ones to keep). They’ve made it obvious that they would like to do a deal with whoever will bring the maximum benefit to the new company.  Meanwhile, those that work at these 7 FM stations have likely been told to continue to ‘soldier-on’ as if nothing was taking place.  A pretty tall order.  I’ve been in situations like this.  There are likely a lot of hallway conversations taking place as employees are, understandably, nervous with many polishing their resumes….just in case.  Uncertainty will cause many to have less than peaceful sleep.  There is little comfort knowing that this same level of anxiety is taking place in other markets as well.

 

It’s happening again – the periodic call for elimination of funding for some 1,500 Public Broadcasting (Radio and TV) Stations. Interestingly there has been government funds provided for now 50 years.  With the new group in power in WDC, it remains to be seen if this will continue or not.  Many public stations are, reportedly, gearing up for the fight, engaging their listeners and viewers to write their congressmen in support of keep it going.  Some are openly expressing concern that elimination of the $445 million annual funding could cause public broadcasting to collapse.  Expressed as a percentage, the amount received is a very small percentage of the federal budget.  We need to remember that this is the ‘proposed’ budget and only one step in a process.  There are those that question should the government be funding something that is operating in competition to private industry?  I’ve often wondered what would happen if the FCC permitted Non-Coms to sell spots in exchange for dropping government funding.

 

Some local translator news to report –

 

103.3/K277AE – The historic Entercom translator in Downtown Seattle that runs the same programming as their West Tiger based 103.7/KHTP, recently had to change antennas to one more directional (aimed south) to avoid the new co-channel operation on 103.3 in Oak Harbor.

 

94.5/K233BU – Is now on the air from Cougar Mountain with a directional antenna (aimed north) re-broadcasting Bonneville’s 770 AM KTTH. 94.5 was on Capitol Hill operated by a non-commercial station.

 

On the subject of translators…April 10th is the day that the FCC is supposed to begin their new rules regarding siting of AM Translators. Under the old rules, an AM had to place their translator either within their daytime service contour or within 25 miles of the AM translator, whichever was less.  The new, and certainly more relaxed rules drop the ‘whichever is less’ part allowing that AM to install their transmitter anywhere within 25 miles of their AM, even if its outside their service contour.  The feeling is that this will create more opportunities for the AM station.  The problem is, with all the LPFMs and new translators, there is not much spectrum left to do it.  That is unless you are in a very sparsely populated area.

 

Yes, once again, it’s time for many to make their annual trek to Las Vegas for the NAB show. I can well recall making that trip annually for many years.  Nowadays, without any compelling reason to go, I don’t.  I do need to mention that John Kean is going to be receiving the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award.  John is best known for his work with NPR.  Last year’s recipient was Andy Laird who I am proud to say I was able to work with.  John Lyons will be receiving the NAB Television Engineering Achievement Award.  John is involved with the Durst Organization in NYC.

 

Slowly but surely, the Radio industry is finding a role for HD Radio channels. Early on Radio had no idea of what to do with these new resources, with no receivers out there, they simply filled them with minimal expense programming.  This is changing as more receivers are coming on line every day.

 

Most recently, HD Radio got a shot in the arm with the announcement that Radio Disney is going to be on Entercom HD2 Channels in 9 markets including one in Portland, Oregon. Interestingly there was no mention of Seattle.  Disney, for several years, operated the 1250 AM.  Perhaps there will be an announcement coming?

 

Another item that comes around periodically is the matter of public health issues caused by cellphones.

 

This time the California Department of Public Health has release a draft document dealing with the issue that was apparently kept out of public view for some time. Like a lot of previous items in this category…It is suggested that there is a connection to having a cellphone pressed next to your ear and brain cancer.  Perhaps the move to more texting is a good one suggesting that repetitive stress disorder with our thumbs is a better option?

 

Things I learned recently –

  • Cubic Light years – Try and get your head around that one! It’s actually a measurement that’s being used to describe the amount still out there that has been found by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey.
  • QoE – An expression meaning Quality of Experience being used by the wireless industry to describe whether a customer has dropped calls etc. (I can see this one being used in many places)
  • Amateur (Ham) Radio continues to grow. You’d think with all the computers and smartphones out there that this legacy hobby would be shrinking…Not so according to the ARRL.  As of the end of 2016 there were over 742,000 licensed Hams in the US.  New licensees are growing at a rate of about 30,000 per year.

 

What other people learned recently –

 

In this case, former Corporate Engineer for Entercom and now retired John Price wrote–

 

Thumbing through the April 2017 QST I noticed the Eclectic Technology column on page 71. Columnist Steve Ford has the story of an interesting WSJT project by a Chuck Kelly, W9MDO/VE1MDO.  Even though Chuck Kelly sounds like a pretty common name, I wondered, with the VE1 call, could that possibly be Chuck Kelly from Nautel?  BINGO.  A quick check of the W9 call at QRZ.com confirmed my suspicion…it’s him.  Pretty cool.

 

Chuck has moved from his role as Sales Manager to taking the Southeast Asia sales rep. position due to the recent retirement of John Abdnour. It’s my understanding that long time Nautel fixture Wendell Lonergan will be now heading up their sales efforts.

 

There has been a recent discussion on Pubtech regarding the impact of wind turbines on radio and TV reception. If I recall, the Tri-Cities area of Washington State dealt with this a few years ago, however I don’t recall what happened.  In this discussion, many were calling these huge wind generator ‘Wind Mills’.  Whereas I had recently been ‘nailed’ for using the same term…I jumped into point out that these machines did not ‘mill’ anything and should be called by a more proper term.  This set off some discussion about terms that we have carried over – Here are a couple –

 

CUTTING A SPOT – From the days when radio commercials were recorded with a cutting lathe for later playback on a phonograph.

 

PUMPING GAS – As many of you probably suspect – I am indeed old enough to remember seeing this done. Gas pumps were indeed ‘pumps’.  The attendant would ask how many gallons you wanted and then  ‘pump’ gas up into a big glass container on the top of the pump (they had graduations marked on them).  When that process was completed, he would transfer the fuel to your vehicle.  You can see these today in museums

 

FILM AT 11 – A classic TV phrase used in earlier newscasts.  News crews would go out and capture images on Film…Rush back to the station to process it where it was loaded on a file projector (on a film island) for playback during the 11 p.m. news.  Amazing how many  today think that film is still being used.

 

ROLL UP YOUR WINDOW – Motor vehicles all used to have a crank that you would use to ‘roll’ up or down your windows.  Today they are a rare site with power operated windows becoming standard.  This does not stop folks from continuing to use the term.

 

DIAL A PHONE NUMBER – Telephones of yesteryear had a ‘Dial’ (that rotary motion devices that you would operate with your index finger) to enter the number you wished to call. The ‘Rotary Dial’ was replaced with push buttons (often called a Touch-Tone Pad).  This does not stop the use of the term today where many continue to ‘Dial’ phone numbers.

 

Got some more of these? Drop me a note, (oops, I meant to say send me an email) so we can share.

 

Are you looking for a job in Radio Engineering? There are a couple of openings that I’ve heard of – 1) Bonneville (same folks that own KIRO In Seattle) are looking for a Chief Engineer for their Phoenix, Arizona stations.  2) Binnie Media is looking for a Chief for their Maine Radio Group.  Talk about climate alternatives.

 

One area where all can agree that the FCC has left something to be desired in enforcement is the matter of RF Noise pollution. Finally AM Broadcasters and broadcast associations are starting to catch-on that we have a problem that’s largely out of control.  Ham Operators have long known that noise levels are increasing as they often have meters on their equipment measuring it.  Lately, in certain areas of the country that noise level has shot upward….The reason?  The legalizing of pot and the RF noise that is generated by the high powered lighting equipment used in grow operations.  I’ve read of some interesting cases where there is a power failure resulting in a dramatic reduction in RF Noise.  So what can be done?  The FCC’s enforcement capability has been shrunk to the point of being useless…and all the FCC will likely do with a noise polluter is send him a letter requesting he fix the problem.  Likely those with RF Noise generating equipment read the same ‘playbook’ as pirate radio operators that advises them to simply ignore the FCC.  If we are lucky, the FCC will gain some new teeth and be able to confiscate pirate radio equipment.  Now if they could do the same with equipment that also generates illegal amount of radio frequency energy.  The missing element here is, of course, who is going to do the leg-work that was formally accomplished by your local FCC Field Office?  The fear I have is that all this congressional interest in solving the pirate problem will result in the creation of a bigger tiger who will never visit my neighborhood.

 

Some Washington State EAS News to report –

  • The State EAS Committee, SECC, has moved their meeting location from the Washington State Emergency Management facility at Camp Murray to the Radio Conference Room at Clover Park Technical College.
  • In the SECC’s recent meeting a number of items were discussed resulting in the approval to create two new Tab’s for the EAS Plan. Tab 17 will deal with ENS (systems used by Emergency Management), the other (Tab 13) details how the State Duty Officers deal with the issuance of warning messages.
  • Tab 8 will be expanded to more fully explain which event codes can be used with EAS and WEA.
  • Tab 26, which deals with Amber, is being re-written reflecting changes in how Amber, aka Child Abduction Emergencies (CAE) are handled.

 

The next SECC Meeting will be on May 25th at Kittcom in Ellensburg. The following, July 13th Meeting will be at Clover Park Technical College.  Completed details are always posted on the State EAS Remailer.

 

To learn more about the Washington State EAS system, consider subscribing to the WaState EAS Remailer by checking out http://sea.sbe16.org/mailman/listinfo/eas-wa. Good time to remind all that this electronic communications system is provided by the consulting firm of Hatfield and Dawson to whom we should all say thank you.

 

Occasionally there is a bit of good news for broadcasters. In this case a new survey has shown that 82% of Americans listen to AM/FM Radio in their cars every month.  Add this to the fact there are estimated to be 250,000,000 vehicles with radios – it is good news indeed.

 

From the ‘end of an era’ department came the recent announcement that International Crystal was shutting down. For those of us that have been in this industry for a long time – This is a shocker…but probably not un-expected as we have devised circuits today that have just about completely eliminated the need for the products that they produced.  For those of you that are not on the technical side, for a very long time the frequency that transmitters operated on was controlled by a little piece of quartz crystal.  International was one of the major suppliers.  I understand that there are a few firms still in the business…just for how long remains to be seen.  International Crystal was 66 years old.

 

So what about the impact of the TV Repacking on radio? On the non-commercial side, CPB has determined that 95 of their eligible radio stations are co-located with TV stations that are involved in the process and that over a third of them are sharing towers with those TV Stations.  Then there are the commercial FMs that share towers and sites with impacted TV stations.  Here in the Seattle area it appears that we will not see much of a problem….But I can’t speak for other areas of the country.  If you know of a situation where a radio station will be adversely impacted by the TV repacking process, please let me know and send me some details of how it’s being handled.

 

From the ‘department of they should have known better’ comes news that the FCC has fined a church and its pastor for operating an unlicensed station in Arleta, California. Additionally the FCC said they had warned them multiple times.  Perhaps they felt they were given permission by a higher authority?

 

Picture time – this time of Arthur Willetts, with Terry Springs pickup, having fun trying to drive up their transmitter site on West Tiger Mt.   As you can see, from the angle of Terrys truck, it’s time for chains.

 

If you look closely at this picture you can see that they have chains on all 4 wheels, but are heading down hill. From the looks of all of the tracks in the snow, my guess it was one of those days that they were unable to get to the top.  By the way….Just in time for Spring – Terry reported, on March 20, the news we have all been waiting to hear….He was finally able to drive up to the top of West Tiger.  It’s been a VERY long winter.

 

On the 14th of March I had to make a quick trip to West Tiger to repair a transmitter in distress. Whereas Terry had told me that he was only able to get to within about half a mile of his site and had to walk from there…and whereas the site I was going to was another half-mile and higher in elevation…Doug Fisher got another call to provide transportation services with his Gator.  He told me recently that he has made more trips this year with that machine than any other previously.  This has indeed been an interesting year, weather-wise.  I keep thinking back to the winter weather predictions of last year.  If I recall they really did not know what to expect…Apparently we have now learned what that means.

 

From time to time in this column I have featured a Radio/TV transmitter site in another market and compare it to Seattle. For those of you not familiar with Seattle we have multiple transmitter sites.

 

For TV –

  • Gold Mountain west of Downtown about 16 miles
  • Queen Ann Hill – just north of Downtown
  • Capitol Hill – Just East of Downtown
  • West Tiger – East of Seattle

 

For FM –

  • Capitol Hill – Just east of Downtown (only one station there)
  • Cougar Mt – East of Seattle about 15 miles
  • West Tiger – East of Seattle about 22 miles

 

Whereas Seattle is, essentially, at sea level…All elevations are in relation to that. The area’s lowest sites are on Queen Ann and Capital Hills where the tower top beacons are all at about 1049 feet AMSL.  The highest site in the area is West Tiger Mt where the tower tops there are 3148 ft. AMSL.

 

The site we are going to visit is reportedly the highest Radio/TV site in the country and is known as Sandia Crest and it’s over 10,600 feet above sea level! Just east of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

To put this into perspective – Mt Baker (just about 100 miles North of Seattle) is about the same elevation (10,781).

You may have noticed the difference in color….All due to the difference in latitude. At about the same elevation, Mt Baker’s summit is pretty much white all year long with the peak covered in glaciers and hardly a place to put towers and transmission equipment.

 

When you compare the elevation of the site to the elevation of the primary target or major city you wish to cover you get a clearer picture. In the case of Seattle, our highest site is West Tiger with transmitting antennas approx. 3000 feet above the downtown town area.  (Other Seattle sites are considerably lower).  Sandia is extremely impressive!  When you consider the city of Albuquerque is nominally about 5300 ft elevation, and do the math, you can see that, even at ground level, these transmitters are well over 5000 ft. above their City of License.  Just take a look at this picture looking down at the city from Sandia Crest.  There are about 700,000 people down there.

Looking back up toward the towers you can see they don’t have to be very tall….Not with that much elevation.

Thanks to friend, Bill Harris, here are some other pictures of the Sandia Crest facility –

One of the American Tower facilities on Sandia Crest.

In addition to Sandia’s elevation above sea-level and it’s elevation above the city of Albuquerque…A standard way to measure transmitter location is by using what’s call Height Above Average Terrain or HAAT.

Here is a table comparing the two locations, using an FM Station at each –

Location               Sandia Crest – Albuquerque         West Tiger -Seattle

Market Rank                             69                                              13

Market Population           760,500                                       3,779,500

Station                                   KRST-FM                             KING-FM

Effective Radiated Power (ERP)  22 kW                       68 Kw

Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT)  1268 Meters      707 Meters

Height Above Sea Level (AMSL) 3284 Meters      940 Meters

Height Above Ground Level (AGL)     41 Meters           41 Meters

 

A couple of interesting comparisons –

  • The Power of the stations at Sandia is considerably less and this is because the FCC requires that power be reduced once you exceed the maximum elevation for that class of station. For example – KING-FM ran 100,000 watts ERP when they were at Queen Ann Hill due to its much lower elevation.
  • The reason the power at Sandia is so much less than at West Tiger is due to their AAT.
  • The AMSL number is somewhat meaningless as it’s the relationship to the surrounding terrain that really counts
  • I found it interesting that the AGL number was the same, indicating that the tower height at both locations was the same.
  • Both locations have extensive site management handled by American Tower.

 

There are some other interesting, and perhaps unique, aspects of Sandia Crest – (Unlike the Seattle Sites)

  • Public Access – You can drive to a location near the broadcast towers to catch the view and buy food.
  • Ride a Tram up the mountain
  • Ski (they have a 7500 foot chair lift)

 

With that being said…. Yes, you can drive to the base of the towers in Seattle.

 

I asked local broadcast engineer, Bill Harris, some questions about the Sandia Site and the broadcasters that use it –

  • With a site elevation of 10,612 (According to ATC) it’s one of the highest in the country??

 

Actually, we all think of it as more like 10,670. I’m told that the two FMs on the pole above what is now the ATC building/tower are definitely among the highest anywhere in the country. (KDRF is one.)

  • How many TV stations are up there?

 

Most of them. Though not actually on these channels in many cases.

 

2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 13 and quite a few other UHFs of various powers. In fact, the only TV that comes to mind that is NOT up there is Ch. 14, which used to be, but moved out to a tall tower west of the city some years ago.  Let me put it this way, at my house on the west side of the metro, my TV will scan 50 program sources (4.1, 4.2, etc.) with a pair of rabbit ears with a UHF loop.  BTW, 7 and 13 stayed on their VHF channels.

  • How many FM’s?

 

Many of the ABQ and ‘near suburban’ licensees are up there. There are, however, a couple other ‘near market’ signals out on the west side on ‘Nine Mile Hill’ (C2s) and a class A, believe it or not, licensed to a suburb whose antenna is mounted on the building at the base of the tram going up to Sandia mountain!  Then, there are a half dozen or so ‘rim shots’, some north, some south, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

 

  • Do all the Class C FMs operate with 22 kW ERP?

 

Most of the FMs run in that general ERP range, give or take. 250 watt translators perform admirably from up there!

  • What about beam tilt, is it used?

 

I’m sure that varies a lot from system to system. None of the FMs up there cover really well in the foothills on the east side of the metro area.  When I had to replace an entire antenna for one of our FMs in the mid-2000s, we put in a couple of degrees and some first null fill as I recall.  Still, it really isn’t a heck of lot better performer than any of the others.  It’s a REALLY steep angle!  On the other hand, I have carried most of the signals from up there a looooong way in some directions depending on terrain.  Nothing to get in the way.  Sandia rises pretty abruptly in most every direction.

  • What about combining, most of the Seattle Stations now operate via Combiners and Master Antennas?

 

There is a ‘tri-plex’ system, 3 FMs on one Shively antenna. There might be another two in one….not sure.

  • Are their radiation concerns at this site, especially because there are public facilities so close?

 

As for all the building shielding and limited exposure times…there have been at least a couple fairly extensive surveys done of the entire site. Yes, there are some fairly hot spots near the ground, all of which have been located, but I don’t know of anyone who is too concerned on a day to day basis.  Now, gain any altitude and that all changes.  Since most of the towers are not very tall, it doesn’t take long to get into the aperture of some serious RF.  Believe it or not, the Forest Service allows hang gliders to launch right from a location ON the site.  They have been known to ride a thermal too close to the antennas.  We warn them about that on occasion.

 

I want thank Bill Harris for his contributions.   If you would like to read more about the Highest Transmitter site in the U.S.  Here are some sites with more information.

http://www.sandiacresthouse.com/

http://www.sandiapeak.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandia_Mountains

https://www.fybush.com/site-of-the-week-11162012-sandia-crest-albuquerque-2011/

Recent reports say that Norway has decided to expand the number of FM Radio channels available, unlike their neighbor, Sweden, that appears to be moving to shift things to an all-digital mode.

Downtown Seattle continues to grow at an all-time record rate. I recall working in the, then new, 20 story Metropolitan Park East Tower where our top floor deck on the north side of the building had an, unobstructed, panoramic view from West, thru north.  Not any more as the forest of construction cranes have dramatically changed the South Lake Union landscape.  Just recently it was announced that a new 40 story building is going to be built across the street.  This video, from KING-TV, tells the tale.

http://www.king5.com/money/markets/real-estate/high-tech-condos-on-sale-this-weekend/423397520

In last month’s Column I dealt with some terms that are likely not familiar with some of the more ‘freshly minted’ types that we deal with Such as Fritz, Whack and Kilter.

One of my readers contributed another term that belongs in this category – copacetic. If you are a ‘more mature’ person you may have responded to a question like – How’s it going – with a response – Everything is copacetic.  Which is likely to produce some additional ‘Deer in the Headlights’ responses.  In the event you are new to this term – Here is the official word –

Copacetic is an adjective used to describe something or someone as pleasing or meeting one’s expectations…Good, Excellent, Fine etc.

From the department of Call Letter Re-use – KBSG was the call that then new owner Viacom gave 97.3FM (changing it from KNBQ). They wanted to use KBST for their new station slogan – ‘K-Best’ but were apparently un-successful in getting the station using those letters to let them go…so they chose KBSG.  Now those call letters are used by the Chehalis Valley Educational Foundation for their little FM station in Westport on the Washington Coast.

Time to once again put my spin on the latest radio ratings. Radio ratings are like a lot of things, they are taken apart in segments, in the case of radio, age groups.  In my case I just look at what’s called 12 Plus.  Here we go –

  • There are 35 stations listed, meaning that the radio pie is divided into 36 slices. This may sound excessive, consider there are well over 200 different models of automobiles for sale.
  • The #1 Station (KQMV) continues to prove that CHR is a popular and viable format.
  • Non-commercial stations are doing very well here – KUOW is ranked #2, KNKX #9, KLSW #23, KING #24 etc. beating out many commercial facilities.
  • AM’s continue to struggle. The highest rated one, KOMO, is at #15, KIRO at #18.
  • Power used to make the difference with AM…Not so much anymore. KJR is #28, KIXI #29, KFNQ is #34 – All of them 50,000 Watters.

 

In closing this month’s Column – The following contribution comes from an old friend. This is a great example of how many things that seem new really are not as new as you might suspect.

That’s it for this month – Enjoy Spring ! –

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

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