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Clay’s Corner for April 2017

March 26, 2017
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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

Clay’s Corner for March 2017

March 18, 2017
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Clay’s Corner

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

March 2017 Edition

For some time now we have been hearing about how CBS was going to spin off their radio division…this would lead many to wonder, and chat about, who might buy them. Then in early February the news broke – Indeed CBS Radio was going to have new owners…but not exactly how we thought it might play out.  The news was that Entercom was going to merge with CBS Radio, creating what some have termed a ‘super-size’ Entercom that would become the 2nd largest radio group in the country and one with an enviable financial condition, with a Market Cap of reportedly around 2 Billion!  Rather than Entercom assuming huge debt and buying CBS they are merging with stockholders of both companies ending up owning the larger entity.  The deal is supposed to close late this year.  In the meantime – Wow do they have a lot of decisions to make.  Perhaps more interesting to my readers in the Pacific Northwest is what this will mean to Seattle Radio.

First an overview –

  • Entercom has 4 FMs
  • CBS has 3 FMs and 1 AM
  • Total between the groups – 7 FMs and 1 AM
  • The FCC limits the number of stations a given owner can have in this market to 5 FMs and 3 AMs

Clearly there are 2 FMs that have to be spun-off or sold with the new company keeping 5 FMs.   This is where the fun of speculation begins –

  • We are assuming that the new Entercom will want to have 5 FMs. (History note, this was the case before Entercom sold 97.3 and two AMs to Bonneville)
  • We can assume that there are buyers for two of the FM’s.
  • Existing local groups that could purchase the two spin-offs include Bonneville and Hubbard.
  • Then again, perhaps these groups could be seen purchasing one – each.
  • Then there is the possibility that someone not doing radio in the Seattle Market may wish to come here. A couple of names have surfaced:

o   Alpha who has been buying a lot of stations is not yet doing business in Seattle

o   Cox who owns KIRO-TV is in the radio business elsewhere.

 

Probably one of the more interesting aspects of all of this is the fact that Entercom and CBS both currently operate competitive Country Music stations (KMPS and KKWF). It’s not too much of a stretch to think that Entercom would like to see just one country station in this market.  (History note, 106.1 was a country station competing with KMPS many years ago.  Consolidation brought them under the same roof and one of them [106.1] changed format.)  Would Entercom risk spinning KMPS off to a competitor?…A station that has long history in that format.  Or would they keep KMPS and change KKWF/ The Wolf?

On the technical side – All 3 of the CBS FMs operate from what we commonly call West Tiger Mountain #2 or WTM-2. All of the Entercom FMs operate at WTM-1, about half a mile away at the same elevation.  Not likely that any of the 7 FM’s can be viewed as technically inferior which is occasionally used to determine which station to spin off.

 

Looking at the CBS AM situation. The historic KING-AM on 1090 (Now known as the Fan or KFNQ) has not been blessed with any history of great success in the half century that I’ve been around this area…Despite the fact that is a 50Kw full-time facility.    Couple that with the fact that the value of AM properties, in general, has been heading downward rather steeply….You have to wonder if they will find a willing taker for the AM.  Perhaps a foreign language broadcaster?

 

The studios of the Entercom stations have been, for many years, in the Metropolitan Park West…However, recently it was announced that they are re-locating to a new location in Downtown Seattle. Meanwhile, CBS’s radio operations are over at 1000 Dexter, near the West Side of Lake Union.  It’s likely that the new Entercom digs will have room for an additional FM – Who knows about the rest of the stations.  Guess this is for lawyers to figure out.

Across the country, the new Entercom will be a formidable operation with a roster of historic big stations in major markets. For instance – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Phoenix, Washington DC, Cleveland, Dallas/Ft Worth, Houston, Miami, Tampa, Charlotte, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Baltimore and San Francisco.

 

I did find it interesting that, with the exception of WCBS and KCBS, and the use of the term CBS Sports Radio, the letters CBS must be phased out and not used by the new conglomerate. The letters CBS will become exclusively a TV thing.

 

My thoughts on this topic need to include what must be going through the minds of those that work at the existing CBS Stations…They have to be wondering about their future, will they be working for the new/bigger Entercom or will ‘their station’ be one of the spin-offs and they end up working for who knows? It is a hectic time for sure …All I can say is – hang in there – Trust me, I’ve been there – multiple times.

 

Good timing for this item –

Things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out.

 

Guess who is moving? The FCC!  They have decided to move to a new location in WDC where they will be leasing 473,000 Sq. Ft.  (That’s about 3 average size Costcos) in an 11 story building at 45 L St N.E.  Still think of them on M Street.

 

There is a lot of attention focused on the FCC these days with the change of leadership to the Republicans.   One item of interest to a firm doing business in Seattle – The matter of the Entercom station in Sacramento where a contestant died in a contest that went very wrong.    One segment of broadcasting has been hearing good news from the new FCC chairman is AM Radio.   We will see.

 

One change is the elimination of certain Public File Requirements – Go here for details https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-343246A1.pdf

For TV, aside from the Spectrum Auction, is the FCC’s actions regarding ATSC-3 in the form of an NPRM.

 

Another effort by the FCC is to bolster AM Radio with FM Translators. New rules will allow the translator be located anywhere within he AM’s day-time contour or within a 25 mile radius of the transmitter.  For many low powered AMs in areas of poor ground conductivity, this could mean they could have an FM Translator where they presently have little or no AM Signal!  (Assuming I understand this correctly)

I received word that Boise State Public Radio is hiring a Senior Broadcast/IT Engineer. For more information – check out https://boisestate.taleo.net/careersection/ex/jobdetail.ftl?job=170020.

Am saddened to report on the passing of Dick Engh, W7HGX. Many years ago when I was just starting in this line of work I was doing part time work on KTNT Radio in Tacoma…At that time KTNT was an AM/FM/TV operation.  Their GM was Max Bice who had moved up from Chief Engineer (not a move you hear about very often).  The operations Chief Engineer was Dick Engh.  His assistant was a young fellow named Paul Crittenden.  Dick left the station to take a job in American Samoa and Paul was elevated to Chief.  Dick came back and became the station’s RF guy.  Later, for a short time, he worked for Trinity in Federal Way as their Chief.

 

His Obit, in the Tacoma News Tribune read as follows-

Dick F. Engh Dick was born in Tacoma, WA on 10-21-1920. He died on 1-28-2017. He was 96 years old.  He is survived by his two daughters and many other family members.  Dick was a Broadcast Engineer for over 40 years.  He was a member of the Tacoma Yacht Club and the Elks Club.  Dick married Sally Rae M. Wyckoff in 1958.  At 80, Dick had 3 PC’s with different operating systems.  He loved “computing” and helping others with them.  Donations to the Franciscan Hospice Org. would be appreciated. He is interred in the National Cemetery in Kent, WA.

Wheatstone, already a major player in the audio business just became a bit larger with the announcement that they have acquired PR&E from GatesAir. Gates, under its former name Harris, purchased the California firm back in 1999.  If you recall Wheatstone, not long ago, purchase a Seattle based firm that make the VoxPro audio editor.

You often see me write about traveling to West Tiger Mt. The fact is, there are quite a few broadcast engineers that travel up there to install and maintain equipment.  For those are not familiar with the place…I had the pleasure of being involved with the installation of the first broadcast station at this site about 28 years ago.  That station today is known as KIR0-FM on 97.3 (Back then It was called KBSG).

Today there are over a dozen FMs in addition to TVs, ENG systems etc. now located on the mountain.

This picture is from a surveillance camera operated by Acell-Net. Here we are looking to the East toward the twin towers of what we call WTM-2.  (West Tiger #2)   You can see the Cascade range beyond.

 

In the many years I’ve been going up there – This is the first winter that you could not drive a rubber-tired vehicle (with chains on all 4 wheels) up there this early in the year. Thanks to our rather unique winter this year – we have been snowed out from approx. Dec 10 to Feb 10 when Arthur Willets and Terry Spring managed to drive up.  More recently increased snow depth has curtailed easy access.  In normal years, our snowed-out periods are in late February and March.  Thankfully, Doug Fisher has a John Deere Gator with tracks that takes getting up here in stride.

To be sure the scenery up there beats what you see driving on a freeway in town! To the South you can see Mt Rainier and, if you pick your spot, you can see Mt St Helens.  With my 10X Bi-Noc’s I can see the Lava Dome on a clear day.  To the North, Mt Baker and the mountains to the north of Vancouver are visible.  Of course, to the West is the Puget Sound basin with Seattle, Bellevue etc. and the Olympics beyond.

It’s hard to predict just what kind of winter we are going to have until we get there.  There have been mild ones that enabled access with vehicles without chains all winter….Then there are those like this one.

The NWS is not a lot of help with their predictions either. According to State Climatologist, Nick Bond, the reason for all the snow is the simple fact that our temperatures have been well below normal.  No one is blaming a La Nina or El Nino…but rather that thing they call with a non-scientific name…The Blob.

I recently heard that they are now guesstimating that we will have an abnormally wet spring followed by a hot summer. Like all of us – We will just have to wait and see.  Weather here in the Pacific Northwest is, as we are being reminded, very very hard to predict. One note, according to the NWS, this is the 2nd wettest February in Seattle

After recent a big dump of snow – Doug Fisher took this of West Tiger #1 (WTM-1) The original broadcast site on the mountain. You can see his Gator parked in front of the building.

Those of us that have been following the boom in Seattle know that the cost for housing has been climbing rapidly. A new study underscores the situation concluding that the cost of living in Seattle is now the 9th highest in the world!  Seattle is now the 5th most expensive city for rent in the U.S.  Yes Seattle is behind New York and San Francisco.  Perhaps this will explain the exploding homeless problem?  Rents for everyone have gone up dramatically, including those that cannot afford it, forcing many into tents.  Some have called this a price of progress.

Plenty of survey and study results to share this month –

First of all – this one from MoneyRates – The best and worst states to make a living –

Coming in at #2 is Washington. One of the reasons they like this state – One of the highest wages in the country and no Income Tax.  At # 7 is Colorado credit given to high wage and low unemployment.

Unfortunately Oregon is ranked #49. They did not like the fact that the cost of living is 28.5% higher than the national average.

Forbes recently published a list of cities where workers are ‘flocking to’. Coming in at #1 – Seattle; #2 Portland, Oregon; #3 Austin, TX and #4- Denver.

Seattle made it into a list of cities that you can’t brag about – Worst Commute. LA (no surprise) is #1 worst commute in the world.  Seattle is (Ugh) ranked #10.

I love the fact that my readers are sending me pictures these days – Anyone care to venture a guess as to who this is? (Look at all that hair !!!!)

I have been writing, for some time, about the spectrum auction that promises to have a big impact on Television. Knowing that Rick Kemp has been following this closely – I asked him to explain it to us – and help us understand what this will mean here in the PNW – Rick submitted the following –

TV 600 MHz Spectrum Auction

The UHF Television spectrum auction has concluded. The FCC received or will receive $19.6 Billion from the wireless carriers that bid on 84 MHZ of 600MHZ Television spectrum. Out of the total, $6 Billion will be used to go to help reduce the US Deficit $1.75B will be used to help defray some of the cost to broadcasters who wish to participate in the next step, the TV Re-pack. Over $10 Billion will go to broadcasters that chose to relinquish their spectrum rights.

Basically what this means is all the UHF TV Channels that wish to stay on the air will be required to move to different channels (repacked)  into the UHF Channels between UHF Channels 18 and 36. The frequencies above CH 36 have been sold (auctioned) to Wireless companies.

This will affect 1200+ TV stations in the US. it will be up to the station owners to decide if they want to continue broadcasting or hand in some or all of their licenses and go dark.  FCC requires a station going off the air provide 30 days’ notice.

 

How will it work?

If a station wants to continue to broadcast and is out of band, they will need to:

  • Get a new (ATSC3.0) antenna*
  • Arrange for an interim or Aux antenna and / or site, in order to continue to operate while replacing their old antenna.
  • Get /upgrade to a new ATSC3.0 Exciter

At antenna sites that are co-located with FM Stations, there is a strong likelihood that the FM stations will be affected as well, possibly requiring an antenna relocation.

TV Stations that will be out of band in Washington State: (Starting with Seattle stations)

KOMO (38)

KING(48)

KIRO(39)

KFFV(44)

KUSE-LD (46)

KUNS(50)

KVEW(44 Kennewick)

KSKN(36 Spokane)

LPTV’s

Channel 36 (RF channel 36): K36EW-D – (Religious independent) – College Place

Channel 36 (RF channel 36): KEVE-LD – (3ABN) – Vancouver

Channel 38 (RF channel 38): KYPK-LD – (MundoFox/Infomercials/The Walk TV/TeLe-Romántica/Religious independent) – Yakima

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): K39DL-D – (3ABN/Radio 74) – Moses Lake

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): KHBA-LD – (Hope Channel/3ABN/Religious independent/LLBN) – Spokane

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): KWYT-LP – (Estrella TV/Azteca America/MiCasa/LATV/QVC/Almavision) – Yakima

Channel 41 (RF channel 41): KCYU-LD – (Fox/This TV) – Yakima

Channel 42: KVBI-LP – Clarkston

Channel 42 (RF channel 42): K42KA-D – Moses Lake

Channel 43 (RF channel 43): K43MG-D – Hermiston

Channel 43 (RF channel 43): K43GZ-D – (HSN) – Spokane

Channel 45 (RF channel 35): KDHW-CD – (TBN/Church Channel/Smile of a Child TV/TBN Enlace USA) – Yakima

Channel 46 (RF channel 46): KUSE-LD – (Peace TV/SonLife/QVC/Hot TV/Infomercials) – Seattle

Channel 47 (RF channel 47): KQUP-LD – (Daystar) – Spokane

Channel 47 (RF channel 47): KWWO-LD – (Cornerstone) – Walla Walla

Channel 47 (RF channel 47): KWCC-LD – (Independent) – Wenatchee, Washington

Channel 49: K49EV – Clarkston

Channel 49: K49GF – Yakima, etc.

Channel 49 (RF channel 38): K38LZ-D – (MyNetworkTV) – Longview

Channel 49 (RF channel 49): KRLB-LD – (Cornerstone) – Richland, etc.

Channel 51 (RF channel 51): K51KY-D – Hermiston

Channel 51 (RF channel 51): K51JG-D – (3ABN/Radio 74) – Yakima

Channel 53 (RF channel 42): K42IH-D – (Independent) – East Wenatchee

Channel 54 (RF channel 31): K31KW-D

It’s unclear to me if KVOS (Ch 35) will be affected by the re-pack, due to the close proximity to Canada, which might require they still move (or go dark) to avoid potential interference with Mobile wireless in B.C.

TV Stations that will be out of band in Portland:

KATU(43)

KOIN(40)

KNMT(45)

KTCW(45-Roseburg)

LPTV’s

Channel 36 (RF channel 49): KAMK-LD (3ABN) – Eugene

Channel 38 (RF channel 38): KHWB-LD (TBN) – Eugene

Channel 38 (RF channel 38): KKEI-CD (Telemundo) – Portland

Channel 39 (RF channel 27): K27DO-D (FOX/Telemundo) – Bend, etc.

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): K39EF-D (HSN) – Ashland

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): KFXO-LD (FOX/Telemundo) – Bend

Channel 39 (RF channel 39): K39DP-D – Klamath Falls

Channel 39 (RF channel 45): K45KM-D (FOX/Telemundo) – Bend

Channel 40 (RF channel 40): K40KR-D – Medford

Channel 42: K42IR (3ABN) – Astoria

Channel 42 (RF channel 42): KPXG-LD (Daystar) – Portland

Channel 43 (RF channel 43): K43MK-D – Roseburg

Channel 44: KDOV-LP (Religious independent) – Medford

Channel 46 (RF channel 46): KGWZ-LD (Ind.) – Portland

Channel 47: K47HT (3ABN) – Roseburg

Channel 47 (RF channel 47): KUNP-LD (Univision/TBA) – Portland

Channel 48 (RF channel 16): K16IG-D – Cottage Grove

Channel 48 (RF channel 48): K48GC-D (3ABN/Radio 74) – Florence

Channel 48 (RF channel 48): K48DZ-D (3ABN/Radio 74) – Hermiston

Channel 48 (RF channel 48): KFBI-LD (MyNetworkTV/Telemundo) – Medford

Channel 49 (RF channel 20): K20DD-D (MyNetworkTV) – Albany, etc.

Channel 49 (RF channel 20): K20EH-D (MyNetworkTV) – Hood River

Channel 49 (RF channel 43): KUBN-LD (MyNetworkTV) – Bend

Channel 49 (RF channel 49): K49KT-D (GCN) – Bend

Channel 49 (RF channel 49): K49DM-D – Coos Bay

Channel 49 (RF channel 50): K50GG-D (MyNetworkTV) – Salem

Channel 51 (RF channel 41): KOXO-CD (America One) – Portland

Channel 51 (RF channel 51): KHPN-LD (Silent) – Warrenton

Channel 57 (RF channel 21): K21KB-D (3ABN/Radio 74) – Brookings

The FCC will issue a “Channel Reassignment Public Notice(CRPN) which will trigger a 39 month window.  At present, the countdown-clock is set to start on March 31.

This also means that several Wireless Microphone bands and IFB channels will also become no longer available. But as far as I can tell, the major wireless mic manufacturers are or have already planned for this eventuality.

It should be pointed out that the FCC originally had put 126 MHZ worth of UHF Spectrum up for auction, but after 3 rounds of auctions with no bites, the amount was whittled down to 84 MHZ.

This is an excerpt from a statement by Lectrosonics on the subject:

A big thankyou to Rick Kemp for this information….Now what is it likely to mean around here –

To start with, looks like a lot of construction activity around Queen Anne Hill with at least 4 stations going to have to change channels (I’ve highlighted them in Yellow) in Portland, several there are also going to have to make major changes. This will be the 2nd time for the Seattle changes, the first time was the shuffle from VHF to UHF.

In some cases, where FM Stations are sharing towers with TV stations that are going to have to move, there will be impacts to those radio stations. Perhaps rightfully, some of these stations are asking that some of that auction money should pay for instances where they have to make expensive changes through no fault of their own.  Apparently the NAB agrees.  Not sure that the FCC planned on doing so.

To the best of my knowledge this will not impact FMs in Seattle. KUOW/94.9 on the Ch. 9 tower on Capitol Hill is not impacted as none of those TV stations on that hill are impacted.

Recently there was a small, low power, station in the Seattle area that got hacked by someone getting into their un-protected Barix based STL system. Obviously the FCC has been following this.  The question is being asked…If the FCC fines your station because it was hacked – Are you liable?  Whereas older aural STL systems were (usually) not vulnerable to hacking, we have not had to think about these things.  In today’s Internet based systems, STL, EAS etc. stations (apparently) have become easy targets.  Seems to me that the fault lives with these stations that fail to protect their systems from intrusions.

A few years ago a TV station aired some adult material with the FCC taking action against them. As with a lot of things these days – it may depend on whether or not someone complains.  Larger stations and/or ownerships may have insurance to deal with this kind of thing…Not likely a small LPFM would enjoy the same degree of protection.  Then…We have a new administration at the FCC and time will tell just how tough they will be in these matters.

A lot of radio stations are facing the need to switch ‘birds’ for satellite fed programming this summer.

The change is from AMC 8 to AMC 18. For many stations, their receive antennas are not designed to be moved….Then there is the issue that some existing receive dishes will not work with the new satellite due to their spacing, making larger dishes a requirement.  The good news is there is an overlap period when both satellites will provide the same programming.  You may have noticed an increase in advertising for these kinds of products ….This is why.

Every so often you start seeing advertising for some new version of yesteryear’s ‘snake oil’…. Are you ready for Himalayan Sea Salt? Not only can you sprinkle this on your food …but you can purchase Himalayan Sea Salt Lamp fans of which claim they emit negative ions which lowers your blood pressure, increase oxygen flow to the brain, purify the air – and (GET THIS) Protect against electromagnetic radiation.  Perhaps you should only use your cellphone near one of these?

Speaking of Cellphones…..Looks like the Washington Legislature is, once again, working to toughen up laws regarding distracted driving. Not sure how much good this will do as, despite the existing laws, I continue to see a LOT of folks driving down the road with their cellphones to their ears or looking down at their device with their thumbs flying.  There is concern that this might negatively impact those that are Amateur Radio operators (Hams).  Looks like they may been have been successful.

The Washington State EAS Committee, formally known as the SECC, is changing its meeting location. We have been meeting at the Washington State EOC at Camp Murray –  The new location, for the March 16th Meeting will be at Clover Park Technical College (CPTC) in Lakewood in the Building 11 KVTI Conference Room.   This change will bring with it some benefits –

  • A larger room better able to accommodate a greater number of participants
  • Easier access in that you will not have to go thru a military checkpoint
  • More parking (Camp Murray has become increasingly difficult to find parking)
  • Better conference telephone to make it easier for telephone participants to hear and be heard

I hope you can join us in person. I will have more, detailed, information on the EAS Remailer as we approach the meeting day.  The May Meeting of the SECC will again be on the other side of the Cascades at Kittcom in Ellensburg on May 25th.  This annual meeting on the East-Side has been popular with good attendance by those from the other side of the State.  In July we will be back to CPTC.

I have heard it said that the vultures are circling Cumulus as the big radio company is struggling with a mountain of debt (2.4 Billion bucks worth) and efforts to deal with it have been facing headwinds. The questions that many keep asking is – How long can they avoid the ‘B-Word’?  Should they fail, there could be a fire-sale with some very well-known properties going for bargain basement prices.  Then who wants to buy them.  Let’s face it, media companies are not exactly the darlings of Wall Street.  The financial woes of iHeart and Cumulus have not exactly helped.

For those of you that are into electronics, Ham Radio, computers etc. – Don’t forget the annual Mike and Key Club Electronic Flea Market at the Puyallup Fair Grounds on March 11th. A sure sign of Spring!

A bit further out is the Annual SeaPac Ham Convention in Seaside, Oregon June 2- 4.

Are you ready for a reversal of the Magnetic Poles? There are a number of scientists that feel that this may well happen and point to evidence to support their contention, specifically, the magnetic field has been decreasing for the past 160 years at a rapid rate.  In fact, there is evidence that this has happened in the past.  It’s during the switch that concerns the experts as the Earth’s magnetic field would become very weak and during this time a number of bad things could take place…Like an increase in harmful radiation that the magnetic field protects us from, messing up our navigation and power distribution systems etc.  In the end, your compass would be pointed South.  No this is not a run up to an April 1 story.  You are welcome to do some research on your own.

And this brings me to thoughts of terms that we don’t use any more. In fact, if you were to use them around a typical broadcast station today you’d discover a significant number of the staff would likely be giving you a classic ‘Deer in the Headlights’ expression.

Let’s try a couple for TV –

  • Registration
  • Film chain
  • Pre-roll
  • Kinescope
  • Racking Lenses

 

Or for Radio –

  • Wow and Flutter
  • Rumble
  • Turn-over cartridge
  • ET’s
  • NEMO

 

In general there are a lot of terms that we stopped using….For example the word ‘Kilter’. When was the last time you used or heard it?    Perhaps you recall the term ‘out of kilter’.  Something that is ‘out of kilter’ is – ‘out of balance’.  Or, you could say that something is ‘off kilter’.  For example something that is not plumb is ‘off kilter’.  Your game could be ‘off’ ….or ‘out of kilter’.  Now that you are with me….Time for some fun.  Try using this term with a more freshly minted person.

  • The video looks out of kilter
  • The Audio sounds out of kilter
  • The computer network is out of kilter
  • When your expenses exceed your income – your cash-flow is ‘out of kilter’

 

What we really need is a device that will detect and alert us to a condition where kilter is about to be compromised or the level of kilter is approaching a condition where intervention is called for.   That device would be (of course) a “Kiltometer’.  Kiltometers can be linear or utilize some other acceptable curve depending on the nature of the matter being monitored.  Certainly a Kilter reaching a critical level should trigger automatic alarms.  Might I recommend that engineers take this matter seriously and consider producing devices that would be able to display these types of conditions?  Any indicating instrument, like a Kiltometer, would need to have a unit of measurement associated with it.  In some cases Kilter could be displayed in Degrees or perhaps, in extreme cases – Units of Aggravation.  Oh yes, you are invited to do your own research on Kilter.  You will discover that the word (Kilter or Kelter) goes back to the 1600’s.  It’s just that it has, like a lot of things, fallen from favor.

Another term that could be used instead of Kilter is – ‘ Whack’. Perhaps the newbies will understand when you tell them that the device is simply ‘out of whack’.  You may wish to bone up on this topic because you just might be ask to define when something becomes – IN- whack as opposed to be ‘out of whack’.  The origin of Whack is easier to understand as it likely came from the experiences that a person had with a piece of equipment that failed to perform as expected that could be corrected with the application of a ‘whack’ in a particular location using a certain amount of G-force….But this is only a guess.

Then there is the old standby ‘Fritz’. We all know when a copy machine is ‘on the fritz’….However we may not be able to tell if it’s ‘off the fritz’.  Using simple deductive and detective principles…It appears that this term is German in origin.

I believe, with all that, the time has come to end this month’s Column.

Thanks again for all the reader feedback I have been receiving – It’s good to know that there are those that will take the time to read what I have written.

 

Till next month, in most of these same locations,

 

Think SPRING !

 

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner For January 2017

January 6, 2017
By


 
Clay’s Corner
 
Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986
 

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and that 2017 will prove to be the best – A lot of newsy stuff to report on this month and some pretty, and interesting, pictures – The two biggest in-debt radio operators, Cumulus and iHeart, continue to dance around a mountain of IOU’s.  I guess the expression – “Too big to fail” applies to these firms.  If you find yourself overwhelmed with financial obligations, my recommendation is that you hire the folks handling these messes…They have to be geniuses.  If you wish to better understand what’s taking place…Start with researching ‘springing lien’ (And you thought engineering was complicated?)  Perhaps the real question that needs to be asked here – Is radio hurting and the financial position of these two big outfits a sign of a struggling industry or are these just a couple of examples of mismanagement?  Another reason for raised eyebrows was the word that a couple of top executives with Cumulus recently received huge bonuses.  Oh Well……There is another activity in the world of radio and that’s the looming spin-off of CBS. We have all been hearing a great deal about the problems impacting AM Radio – Giving this some thought, I’d like to share the following with you – AM BOOSTERS – Some recent attention is being paid to the AM band thanks to activity in Puerto Rico where an operator has been, for some time, operating a number of AM Boosters.

With information that the Commish wants to rein in this operation has come a lot of raised eyebrows and renewed discussion about how synchronized AM boosters might be good for the salvation of the ‘legacy band’.  Apparently there are those that feel that if an AM Station could spread out its coverage with boosters it might be able to succeed.  There are a number of cases where small AM’ s are linked with common programming serving multiple small towns that seem to work well.

DOES COVERAGE EQUAL SUCCESS? There was a time, especially in locations like Seattle that has very poor ground conductivity and a population that continues to spread out, where an AM Broadcaster needed to have either a low-dial position or lots of power (or both) to cover the entire market.  Back when I got into this business, Tacoma and Seattle were, in many ways, hundreds of miles apart.  Each had its own stations and that was fine.  As the cities along Puget Sound grew together those big signals that covered most of the entire market were what kept them afloat with the smaller signal AM’s falling by the wayside, and in some cases, going dark.  This shift to a larger conjoined area forced FM stations to re-locate their transmitters to higher locations for much the same reason.  Today we have FM stations whose coverage is equal to the signals from the big, 50kW AM’s creating a more level playing field.  Interestingly, in the Seattle area, we have very few small signal FM’s but several limited coverage AM’s continue to manage to survive.

IT HAPPENS AT NIGHT Radio listeners today have come to expect that their favorite audio sources will be there – whenever- they want it.  AM is unique in that something bad happens when the sun goes down that they don’t understand, and further, don’t desire to.  The fact that the vast majority of AM’s either reduce power, switch to a directional antenna or – sign off – at sunset is something that, 50 years ago, was tolerated…but those days are gone!  (I recall a few years ago, while out doing AM field measurements, encountering a fellow that wanted to know how come a local station had their transmitter break – every day – during the 5th inning of the ball game) FM Radio and all manner of streaming, does not have that problem.  Sadly, there is nothing anyone can do to fix it….including the Government.

THE QUALITY DIFFERENCE Today audio audiences expect full fidelity, low background noise, and stereo, for the simple reason that, with the exception of AM Radio, they all give them what they expect.  Meanwhile efforts providing increased audio bandwidth and stereo on AM have been less than hugely successful.  First we had AM Stereo – It was a better – But success was limited and lack of universal adoption killed it.  Then came along IBOC, aka the AM Version of HD Radio.  Like AM Stereo – A few stations operate it, but it has not been proven to be the key to universal success.

THE RECEIVER ISSUE Quality AM Receivers are largely a dream.  For years the manufacturers of consumer radios have done a poor job in their AM sections.  Lack of sensitivity, bandwidth (fidelity) etc.  The fact is an old, tube-type, table radio manufactured over 50 years ago, works better than most of today’s products (I have one of those).  Even with today’s HD Radio AM – You would be hard pressed to find a radio for your home that will decode it.  It appears that the makers of receivers have given-up on non-vehicle AM receivers.  Meanwhile you can purchase all kinds of receiving equipment for FM, including some models of smart phones.  Unfortunately the broadcast industry, or any government entity, has done little to help correct this problem.

FM TRANSLATORS FOR AM’s The FCC, in an effort to give AM a shot in the arm, has agreed with those that have been claiming that if they just had an FM translator that things would be ‘all-better’.  Apparently this is based on the fact that FM now has the biggest piece of the radio pie.  I recall talking to an AM station owner many years ago about FM….Trying to convince him to file for an FM Frequency (when they were still available).  He was not interested countering with arguments like – Why should l sink a lot of money into something that nobody listens to? – – How am I going to get my money back? – – Why should I reduce my bottom line just to say that I am an AM/FM station?  (Funny how the same arguments are used today by some FM station owners when you discuss HD Radio).  History has taught us that these folks were wrong and those that did indeed opt for an FM today find themselves in a much better position.  The problem is there is just not enough empty spectrum to accommodate all those AM’s with big signal FM’s to make a difference.  That train left the station many years ago.  As they say, you snooze – you looze.

THE NOISE PROBLEM Like a lot of things…There will always be those that look to the regulators for answers.  In the case of the US – The FCC could have done more to aggressively deal with the ever increasing noise floor that is, effectively, reducing the coverage of AM radio stations as each day goes by.  Only lately have they been receiving pressure to do so…Unfortunately that horse left the barn many years ago.  There is a lot of blame to go around here – 1) I blame the owners and operators of AM stations for being anti-science and failing to recognize that their enemy was all around them.  Generally, they did not wish to try and understand what was going on (too close to that ugly word….’Science’). Their solution was to ask for more power.  2) I can blame the Feds for their apparent refusal to enforce their own rules.

SPECTRUM SUPPLY VS DEMAND Unfortunately, the ‘Magic Band-Aid’ FM Translator is a limited resource solution.  The FCC recognized this and twisted their rules to permit the importing of translators from afar calling it a minor-change.  The fact is the spectrum for these devices is limited and as it fills, that resource becomes increasingly more limited to the point that some translators will be severely limited in terms of coverage, resulting in being minimally effective at limiting the bleeding.  Regardless of how the they are viewed, their actual benefit may be more limited to the addition to the station’s letterhead.  Will having a flea-powered AM save the day….I think not.

THE LAWS OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND AND NATURAL PROCESSES In some ways, owners of AM stations have been discovering what it’s like when demand for a product goes down.  This is nothing new.  Consumers will always gravitate toward something new and/or better.  Need I mention – The Horse & Buggy, black and white TV, Cassette and Reel to Reel Tape, Typewriters, Rotary Dial Phones etc. etc.  There are countless industries that have not looked at the future and adapted (applied for those FM channels when they were available) and have been reduced to a paragraph in a history book.  We need to face the fact that to a large extent AM Radio is facing the same dilemma that countless other industries have faced.  As is said – There is nothing more constant than change.  Radio, like all things, is facing change.  One of the biggest factors today is choice.  Today there are a zillion more audio choices.  You can only divide the pie so many ways!  The other big factor is quality.  Let’s face it – a hyper-compressed digital audio source sounds a whole lot better than any monophonic, narrow band, pop and crackle AM signal ever will.  Today’s consumers are not likely to lower their expectations – Unless there is compelling content that you can’t get anywhere else.

CONTENT MATTERS Content is always a huge factor.  The fact that some AM’s are doing well underscores that.  The change in listening habits and demands have pretty much forced AM to abandon music formats (there are a few exceptions) and become a place where talk will work.  And this is good, as the technical characteristics of AM are more compatible.  Formats like News/Talk – Sports/Talk – Telephone/Talk continue to work well.  Examples – ESPN, Rush Limbaugh.  Another area where AM has changed is other languages.  Today you will find, in most metropolitan areas, a number of stations with non-English programming.  The issue here is that there are more stations than there are viable formats.  (Again supply and demand creeps into the picture.)

THE SMALL MARKETS There are a number of small markets across the country that are impacted by the shift of listening habits to FM.  Certainly these folks are impacted.  Admittedly the addition of an FM transmitter, albeit low power, can certainly help them….Especially if that AM is a Day-Timer.

THE SURVIVAL OF THE FIT I suspect that a lot of major market AM’s would go dark, regardless of their power level, if they did not have an co-owned cluster of FM’s footing the bill.  I also have to believe that a number of ownerships would be happy to sell their AM’s just to get away from the financial drain.  Further, I would wager that a lot AM’s could go off the air and no-one would notice.  Any takers?

REDUCING THE BLOW TORCHES There are those that are calling for the reduction of protection for those legacy high powered stations at night feeling that if this were done, more small stations could survive and perhaps remain viable.  Seems to me that this is a process that’s been going on for some time.  The old ‘Clear Channels’ are not there anymore, folks.  Just turn on your AM radio at night and try and find them.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS 1 – Leave AM alone –  There are times that its best to ‘hold em’. 2 – Tell the Feds to quit trying to interfere with a natural process – This is not the Auto Industry – or the society for the preservation of the horse and buggy. 3 – Let the future of AM be determined by supply and demand – What happened to this foundation of capitalism in this case?

Perhaps if the Feds backed off we would find that AM will find a way to determine the level at which it can sustain itself.  This may mean that AM Radio, in a few years, may end with a whole lot fewer stations and those that do survive could perhaps be economically viable.  Those stations may end up being a mixture of small ones serving small markets and some big ones that have found a way to survive economically.  That’s my $.02 – What do you think?  As we enter this New Year – I’d love to hear what you see in your crystal ball for AM Radio.

Another wrinkle in the works is the matter of what will be the impact on the FCC of the changing of the guard in WDC?  A change of party in power could change a lot of things.  An example of this shift took place in the middle of the month when we all thought the Commission would adopt a number of changes to EAS….They declined to act.  What we got was news that the Commission is undergoing a shakeup.  Forecasting of political events is about as risky as forecasting windstorms or snow in Seattle.  Guess we can all hide and watch.

Another popular sport these days is watching the FCC struggle to find a balance between the interests of TV stations and potential wireless users of a big chunk of what used to be exclusively TV spectrum.  This is a moving target with a lot of shifting parts and pieces.  Looks like the amount of broadcast spectrum shifting to wireless may be less than first thought.  Again, my advice – Hide and watch Picture time! Whereas we have been having some early winter weather in our area…Here are some great scenes to share – First a couple of shots submitted by Doug Fisher captured during a recent trip to Capital Peak near Olympia.  This one, suitable for a Christmas Card, showing a winter moon.

Mountain and Snow

On a lighter note – Congrats to Dave Ratener on the purchase of a new Toyota Tacoma pickup.  Seems to be a growing trend.

The FCC continues to do a ‘FINE job’ – Nailing a South Carolina firm 22 Grand for violations involving their public file.  In this case staff changes were cited as a reason.  I have often wondered how often stations find themselves behind with portions of a public file that they thought were being handled by a long-gone employee.  In the past, I was the person in charge of the public files for a cluster of stations.  In that case I would have to hunt-down a party that was supposed to supply the file with data.  Often these folks leave (for one reason or another), leaving a gap in the P.F. that could prove to be expensive.  I recall preaching about how they needed to be prepared should an FCC Inspector drop by….The transition to an on-line system, the Commission will have a much better way of determining compliance without the government expense of surprise physical inspections.

Another beautiful picture from Doug Fisher – this one shows Doug working on a frozen gate at Capital Peak – Those of us that travel to mountain top sites have learned to carry a torch for times like these.  The mode of travel in these conditions is – over – the snow which means ‘tracks’.

 SnowCat

It seems it was not long ago that the outfit that brought us HD Radio (Ibiquity) was sold to DTS.  It didn’t take long for DTS to get ‘gobbled up’.  Tessera Holding Corporation has acquired DTS.  We will have to see just what this means in the coming months.

I caught this one on the USGS Mt St Helens camera site on December 13th.  What surprised me was the fact that the Lava Dome was steaming.  Looking at the USGS Site, there has been an up-tick in quake activity, nothing large however.  Here is how you can check seismic activity for yourself – http://www.pnsn.org/volcanoes/mount-st-helens  To reach the camera used in this shot – https://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volcanocams/msh/ Certainly that blanket of fall snow is a beautiful sight.

Snowy Mountain

Pirate Radio is back in the news again….and, as usual, there no place is like New York for pirates.  Recently listeners to the city’s WXQR were hearing a pirate station preaching the Torah over their classical music.  Can you image this taking place in Seattle?  Of course the FCC confirmed that this should not happen.  According to a NYC Newspaper there are (are you ready for this?) about 100 pirate stations operating within New York’s five boroughs.  The FCC agrees that they should be shut down…for reasons only understood on the other side of the Potomac….it continues.  I guess I have a hard time understanding how the Commission, on one hand, can gut the Enforcement Bureau and on the other hand let this mess continue.  It seems that a country that likes to talk about a place where the rule of law prevails is not practicing what it preaches.

Pirates are not just active in New York….They apparently love California too.  According to FCC Statistics, there have been about 165 pirate radio enforcement actions in that state alone since 2003.  Meanwhile, the FCC is proposing a fine of 25 Grand against the operators of a pirate station in Arleta.  According to news reports, the owners knew what they were doing was illegal but have been ignoring the warnings for a number of years.  What am I missing here?  I get the feeling that many of these operators have come to believe that the FCC is a toothless paper tiger and that they can do what they please.  Tragically, actions speak louder than words.  It’s been said that the problem is like ‘whack a mole’…The Feds hit them in one place and they pop up somewhere else.  Perhaps the lack of effort to resolve this is because many feel that no one is dying or getting physically hurt?  Could it be that radio, as we know it, will come to an end?  Funny how the FCC seems to feel they can ‘fix’ AM and yet can’t find out how to ‘fix’ one of the major problems on the FM band.  Again, I don’t get it.

Perhaps the solution to these problems will have to come from Congress and in that area broadcasting has a friend.  Congratulations to that friend, Greg Walden, who was just elected to Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  If you recall, Greg used to own radio stations in Oregon.  And let us not forget that Greg is also known as W7EQI.  For those of us that have been involved with Amateur Radio for many years, this is especially significant.  Walden represents Oregon’s second Congressional district. Now here is an interesting picture – Equipment being tested by the FAA to zap drones.  Obviously a concern near airports.

Drone Zappers

Remember the item about the Saga/KPUG translator on 97.3 in Bellingham?  The Commission has, quickly, granted them a Construction Permit to move to 97.9.  I understand that this change will take place early in January.  Have not heard of any repercussions over the 96.5 or 98.9 operation in Bellingham.  Those frequencies are also in use in Seattle. Another winter scene picture – This one taken with my smart phone at West Tiger Mt recently.  It was close to sundown turning the clouds near Enumclaw a pretty shade.

Icy Trees

As my readers know – I love to feature the results of surveys that show locations where this column is read.  (Seattle, Portland and Denver).  Here are some new ones –   2016’s best places for business and career:   Best Places: 1. Denver, Colo.

  • Metro population: 2,820,200
  • Gross Metro Production: $178 billion
  • Projected annual GMP growth: 3.3%

Best Places: 4. Seattle, Wash.

  • Metro population: 2,895,300
  • Gross Metro Production: $250 billion
  • Projected annual GMP growth: 3.5%

Best Places: 5. Portland, Ore.

  • Metro population: 2,392,300
  • Gross Metro Production: $150 billion
  • Projected annual GMP growth: 5.4%

The best states for business 2016

  • # 5 Colorado
  • #9 Washington

And this finding, according to Business Insider, was a pleasant surprise – The #1 best city of quality of life in the US.  Quoting them now –   To determine which US cities offer the best quality of life, we turned to the latest Places to Live rankings from Niche, a company that researches and compiles information on cities.  We looked at eight separate rankings in the best cities category — which assessed more than 220 places with a population exceeding 100,000 people — including “Safest Cities,” “Cities with the Best Job Opportunities,” “Healthiest Cities,” and “Best Cities to Raise a Family.”  We then combined these rankings to determine which cities have the best overall quality of life.  The final list of the top 25 cities reveals that midsized cities (with populations less than 500,000) offer the best quality of life.  The state with the most cities in the top 25 is Texas with seven, followed by California with five. So which city ended up ranking #1 – Ready for this – Bellevue, Washington.  Yep that city on the other side of Lake Washington from Seattle.   Conde Nast Ranked the 17 most beautiful towns in America – Ranking #7 – Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands in Washington State.   Congratulations to PDX (Portland, Oregon).  J.D. Power’s 2016 North America Airport Satisfaction Study recently ranked Portland International #1. Not all things turn out exactly as intended.  American Tower (ATC) hired a contractor to cut down some trees that were growing into the building at their site on Cougar Mountain, as well as put some gravel on a road that was getting pretty muddy.  The tree removal went well…But the laying of the gravel did not!  As the 10 yard dump truck raised its bed, while driving spreading the gravel, they ‘discovered’ a guy wire attached to the old Century Link tower that crossed the road….Yup!  Down went the tower.  Good news is that it was a relatively short tower and may not have been in use.  The bad news is the tower fell into power lines!  The contractor put the tower back up and PSE restored the power about 12 hours later.  Obviously a lot of generators received their load-test.  I understand that this incident also uncovered a reluctant transfer switch in the process.  Guess we can be thankful it was not a bigger tower.  The message here is this – If there are guyed towers in the vicinity – Locate them!!  Obviously this incident got the attention of a lot of folks at ATC. In this first picture you can see the tower, and antenna, nicely laying across the power lines.  The ATC 273581 Site tower is in the right side of this frame.  I was musing with Rob Purdy at the site on how it appears a slight wind will bring down the power lines at Cougar and yet they are strong enough to hold a tower.

Tower Down #1

Here you can see the tower (Rohn 65G) laying over the top of the little Century Link building.  The tower in the background, formally known as the KUBE Tower, holds KRWM/106.9.

Tower Down #2

 

Here’s another winter picture.  This one taken at Striped Peak (just west of Port Angeles) and shows KNKX’s Lowell Kiesow scraping a layer of ice and snow out of a satellite dish.

Cleaning Dish

Lowell crafted this nifty dish snow and ice remover from a piece of plywood with a short pile carpet edge having just the proper radius for these dishes.  The pole or handle is the one used by concrete finishers and comes in sections permitting reaching elevated dishes.

Snow Sweeper

New tower standards have been announced.  The new – ANSI/TIA -222-H was announced on December 20th – The Revision of the structural standard for Antenna Supporting Structures (And small Wind Turbine structures) is expected to be published the 3rd quarter of 2017.  The new standard was constructed by TR-14 Task Group 3.

Congrats to the folks in Kilgore, Texas on establishing a new museum for broadcast equipment.  The problem is, unless you are driving from Dallas to Shreveport on I-20 you are not likely to get there.  Kilgore is 122 miles East of Dallas.  (Too bad it is not closer to a major city.  Kilgore is a town of 15,000.)  The new facility, called the Texas Museum of Broadcasting and Communications is located in what used to be an auto dealership and has a lot of cool stuff.  Probably the coolest is a fully restored 1949 DuMont Telecruiser.  Which reminds me very much of the old KTNT-TV Bus that was managed by Tom Brokaw.

KBTV Vehicle

Pictures like this cause me to recall a lot of my early years with TV.  For example this question that would likely confuse many today – Why did early Fader-Bars have the ability to be – decoupled?  And what the heck is a ‘Split-Bar-Super’ anyway?  On that topic – I recall looking at some early DuMont field production stuff.  Did you know, before there were fader bars, video levels were set with rotory pots.  To fade from one camera to another (dissolve) you turned down the level on one camera while increasing the level on the other all while watching what was later called an ‘A-Scope’ (Dang I AM getting old). As Paul McLane put it – Smitty is now a Free Agent.  Hard to believe but Milford Smith (Smitty to everyone) has officially left Greater Media with whom he had been their VP of Engineering for 32 years.  With Beasley buying Greater Media – Changes.  Anyone that knew Smitty would tell you that he was (and is) a class act.  He had one of those million watt smiles that would light up a room.  I first met him while he was doing work in Seattle…and later, with my travels for Entercom and SBE – we would see each other.  Great guy….and young too – (Only 68).  He was recently quoted thusly – “Retirement was surely not on my radar, at least not for a while, after 50 years of doing this, I still very much enjoy the work — especially the people — and would surely love to continue in the industry in some capacity”

 

More pictures – Sure – How about this one?

AM Tower

 

 

Anyone recognize this tower?

Another winter beauty from Dwight Small – If you look at the lower left of this frame you will see a portion of the foundation for their new home on Lake Cavanaugh.  Not hard to wonder why he’d rather look at this than any sight in Seattle.

Placid Lake

I do receive a number of responses to this Column.  Here’s one, received this past month, from Rockwell Smith that I thought I’d share.  In this case, he is responding to my piece on how stations reached technical help – back when.  Clay, I enjoyed your recent article on how calling the engineer has evolved.   There is one rather unique way that I wanted to share with you.  And that is using the station itself.   KSRA in Salmon has always been unique in many ways.  Being a small town,  with a contract engineer located several hours away was one of them back  in the ’60s.  I  worked here in the early ’60s part time while in high  school, and soon was taking care of minor technical problems, calling in the engineer for the bigger things beyond my expertise at that time, or  beyond my license grade at the time.  But I digress.  KSRA AM is a daytime station.  Yes, we now have a whopping 56 watts at night, but back then, it was strictly daytime.  We signed on with the Tennessee Ernie Ford song RIVER OF NO RETURN.  It was not played in its entirety, but only the first 30 seconds or so of the song.  But the record was on a peg in the control room marked EMERGENCY.   Being a small town, it was the only station.  Everyone listened in their businesses or cars.  Should a situation arise where you needed management or technical response ASAP you simply played the RIVER OF NO RETURN.  It was the “page” for anyone on the staff not at the station to call NOW. A couple of years later, I was back in Salmon, working for the Forest Service doing road surveys.  That meant camped on site somewhere in the forest Monday thru Friday.  No cell phone, no two-way, but I did have my little transistor radio.  The station and I had an agreement that I would take care of any needs within my capability, but they needed a way to contact me.  Back to the song.  At sign off, they also played about 30  seconds of it, did the sign-off script, and ended with the Star Spangled Banner.  It was agreed I would listen every evening at sign-off.  If the station was off the air, of course I would walk out and call in.  If the sign-off was normal, then everything was OK.  But if the entire song was played, I needed to hike out and call in.  It was not instant communication, but it was effective.   Just for what it’s worth, I retired from full time work in Boise at the end of 2013, and am enjoying semi-retirement back in my home town of Salmon, working once more the very station I started with back in 1962 –  KSRA.  A lot has changed in 50+ years.  I often say the only thing that  hasn’t changed since I was here as a teenager are the call letters. — Rockwell Smith Semi-retired Broadcast Engineer AE7NT Amateur Extra Well, my friends, that’s it for this Month – and for 2016.  Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and look at my collection of pictures.  If you have a picture and/or a news item (old news works too) to share – Please do send it my way. Lord willing – Will be back to most of these same places next month-

Clay Freinwald, K7CR & CPBE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for December 2016

December 11, 2016
By

 

 

Clay’s Corner

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

By now Turkey Day has come and gone and we are all facing the annual fear of stepping on the scale. Don’t worry – There are more parties and diners to come – Time to be concerned about that is AFTER the first of the year.

As you all know by now…The FCC has decided one of the ways to prop up the ailing AM Broadcast Band is by permitting AM’s to get FM Translators. This has been received well with many AM owners as they instantly saw a way to reach those that have abandoned the AM band in favor of FM.

The Commission approached this with a series of what they call ‘Filing Windows’. The first application window was only available to small and daytime only stations.  The 2nd window, open to all stations, with the granting process underway.  At this point the Commish appears to be patting themselves on the back, calling the effort a success, as perhaps 1000 new translators fill up the FM Band.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that this is not all a good idea. Certainly a small, day-time only AM in a small market could benefit from adding a simulcast FM.  I find it interesting, however, that some high-powered AM’s are adding FM Translators.  Perhaps the power level and operating time of these stations is not sufficient to make up the difference that a low-powered FM would add?

Here in Western Washington we have a very interesting situation in Bellingham. For those of you not familiar, Bellingham is 90 Miles north of Seattle and approx. 50 miles south of Vancouver, B.C.  The dominate radio cluster there is a group of stations owned by Saga consisting of 3 AM and 2 FM Stations.  They recently added 3 AM Translators re-broadcasting their 3 AM’s.  The problem is that the frequencies they chose were 96.5, 97.3 and 98.9, all co-channel to Seattle stations with transmitters located on West Tiger (the highest of the major broadcast sites in the Seattle area).  Not only did these new translators eliminate the listeners in the Bellingham area that the Seattle stations enjoyed, but it got the attention of the local Bellingham newspaper as well as the owners of some Seattle stations that suddenly found another on what was ‘their’ frequency.  Here’s a couple of links you can look at for additional information:

http://www.allaccess.com/net-news/archive/story/159179/new-kpug-bellingham-wa-fm-translator-simulcast-cau

http://www.insideradio.com/free/saga-translator-causes-static-for-bonneville-in-seattle/article_339d974c-9ce4-11e6-ae85-5b73698d6557.html

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article110661327.html

The problem here is that Bellingham is considerably outside what is considered the Seattle stations’ primary coverage area….Even though they are listenable there.

I recently drove around the Bellingham area listening to the signals on 97.3 coming from KIRO-FM on West Tiger (Seattle) as well as KPUG’s local transmitter (at the KPUG-AM Transmitter Site) in my 2016 Toyota Tacoma.  The process was quite interesting….. I found one location, about 2 miles from the KPUG translator that KIRO completely captured my radio.  In other locations I found I could listen to KPUG-FM, with their RDS, and in the same location, receive KIRO’s HD2 or HD3 along with their PAD information.  Going North from Bellingham, further away from Seattle, I was able to drive out of the KPUG translator coverage area and again receive KIRO-FM.  It’s my understanding that KIRO-FM (as well as their HD Channels) are listenable 50 miles North of Bellingham.  This is not a good situation for either broadcaster.  It’s my understanding that KIRO received a considerable number of complaints and formally objected to the new translator and that it has since been removed from the air and that the station may be searching for another frequency.  This is going to be tough, as Bellingham sits between two major markets with a lot of FM signals from high-elevation sites on both sides of the Border.  Perhaps the Bellingham group should have done some additional listening to the band to determine whether or not this would be an issue?  I’ve not heard what the impact has been on the other two Seattle stations.  This may have something to do with the fact that KIRO-FM’s programming is unique while 96.5 and 98.9 are music formats that are likely duplicated by stations in Vancouver etc.?

The Seattle SBE Chapter Remailer had a number of comments posted, here is a sample:

  • That is not the half of it….What I find of interest is this little bite. How about a translator that is allowed to stay on during the dark hours of the AM signal-DAYTIMERS.  Just direct feed the signal, and presto: You have a full time FM.
  • I still don’t understand how FM translators revitalize the AM band but then, as my wife keeps reminding me, there’s a lot of things about the way various governmental agencies work that don’t have to make sense. Has the revitalization waved the non-interference to regularly heard full service FM’s rule?  I wondered how they were going to get all these translators shoved into the FM band in metro coverage areas.  I guess the answer is they’ll just step on FM’s that they can capture out.
  • Broadcast is shooting itself in the foot by doing this.

Regarding this last comment….Reminds me of the old question – Whose ox is being gored? Are FM Broadcasters feet being shot by AM Broadcasters that want an FM signal in the belief that this is what’s needed to remain viable?

The media outlets that follow this type of thing were all over this one too with one of them citing how stations in other markets have launched campaigns to enlist their listeners support to fight off these new systems.

But wait, there is more (Love that line). The list of local, Seattle area, AM’s that have FM Translators on the air or have applied for them is growing.  Soon the FM Band in Western Washington will sound like it does in the major metropolitan areas of the East Coast…Sad, but true.

Not all AM translators are on new frequencies…Witness the purchase of the KMIH 94.5 translator by Bonneville to provide KTTH with an FM in the area. The announced purchase price for this transaction is $300 Grand.  (Compare that to the value of a less than 50kW AM.)  Whereas the transmitter operates with a breathtaking 62 watts this amounts to about $4800 per watt.  Wow!  Who would have thought that a little translator would bring in that amount of cash?  My guess is Bonneville will re-locate the system.

I suspect as more of these translators go on the air that situations like the one here are going to crop up. The big question is what will be the FCC’s response to these matters going forward?  Will the Commish tell the established broadcaster ….Sorry Charlie, not going to protect your signal beyond the 60 dBu regardless of how many listeners you have out there?  The impact of these events should be a ‘wakeup call’ for the engineering departments of these stations that were under the false impression that the FCC would be looking out for them.  I learned about these applications by checking the daily releases of new applications from the FCC.  Frankly I was disappointed to hear that this came as a surprise to some who apparently feel that perhaps their government is going to protect them?  Owners of existing FM Stations today are going to have to watch the ‘henhouse’ or they are going to be in for some unfortunate surprises from not only AM translators on FM but from the ever growing number of other signals on the band.  Sorry folks, in this case, your government may not be looking out for you but rather the other guy.

I suppose I should mention that KIRO-FM is now operating with their HD at -14 dBc via their main transmitter as opposed to the separate antenna -20 method they have been using for many years. Slowly but surely the FM’s in this market are increasing their HD Power levels.  This will have a positive impact for the primary station as it will help protect those first adjacent channels.

Speaking of HD Radio –

It’s interesting playing with the Toyota Entune system in my pickup. This device (formally called a car-radio) is fascinating.  Not only does this creature have a pretty decent radio (without the conventional fish-pole antenna) but it makes use of the data delivery capability of HD Radio to provide me with weather information, including weather radar images etc. (Pretty cool).  I do notice, however, when I am out of range of an affiliated FM/HD Station broadcasting this data, the radio will display a message telling me the information is not available.  Hopefully, one day, these gaps in service will be filled.

I could not help but notice the following recent announcement –

The exclusive data partner of the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium, HERE, which produces mapping and location technology, announced that its HD+ Traffic service will be available in select 2017 Hyundai cars sold in the U.S. and Canada. HERE HD+ Traffic is a distribution mechanism that offers drivers real-time traffic information by combining broadcast and connected vehicle technology.

Another HD thought – Why in the world does Sinclair not run HD on their Seattle FM Station, KPLZ/101.5?? I would think that they would be running KOMO-AM on their HD2 and KVI-AM on their HD3 just like everyone else??

From the ‘wanna feel old dept.’ – Remember that young fella they called the ‘Kid’ that played with the Mariners?  Hate to tell you but that ‘Kid’ just turned 47.

Now that the elections are behind us, we are in the familiar mode of trying to figure out what the new administration will mean in terms of polices impacting the electronic media. Will there be changes at the FCC and what will that mean?  Considering the record of who was elected, there will be plenty of guessing.

 

While I’m on that topic – The Commish is having a meeting on December 15th whereby they will be, potentially, announcing more changes to EAS. As I have stated many times, EAS is a constantly changing system.  Rumors are they will be announcing new requirements in the world of security and who knows what else.  I suspect that these changes may require that we, once again, do some editing of the Washington State EAS Plan….A process where you are invited to participate.  Whereas EAS remains a  hot-button enforcement issue, all FCC licensees (Known as EAS Participants) are wise to keep track of this.  One of your best sources of information is the Washington State EAS Remailer.

On November 4th the new KING-TV facility in Sodo got to deal with a Fire Alarm during their morning news. Apparently it went OK as there was not much said about it.  The other news item to come from that location is the announcement that Tegna is shutting down Northwest Cable News (NWCN) on Jan 6th.  I fondly recall the days when you had CNN Headline news and NWCN that you would watch to get caught up on what was happening.  NWCN also seemed to be a favorite in doctors’ offices.  Oh well…Times and tastes change and with that, low-ratings, which was the reason given for the local change.

Entercom recently did a major re-financing of their debt ending up with a new 480 megabuck loan and a 60 megabuck revolving line of credit. Soon afterward they announced new stations were being added to their company, most notably in North Carolina.   Add to this the news that they had a good 3rd Quarter.

Congratulations are in order for Alex Brewster who is joining the Engineering Department of CBS Radio in Seattle. Most recently Alex has been working with Doug Fisher at Comtek Service.  I recently had lunch with Doug and he said that indeed he was looking for a new broadcast tech.  For more info Contact Doug at doug@comtekservice.com.   Meanwhile there is an opening for an IT tech in Portland go to www.iheartmediacareers.com for more info.

The process of clearing space in the former UHF TV band for more wireless gizmo’s continues with the present target being 108 MHz. This is an interesting, albeit somewhat complicated process that will (as proponents claim) yield some quantity of spectrum into which television broadcasters will ‘snuggle up’ as part of what’s called re-packing.  A lot of money, and perhaps, dust on the table as this process moves along.

I’ve been doing some reflecting (comes with the territory at this age) about how the broadcast station reached me before the advent of cell phones.

I thought I’d dig back into my ever dimming memory of over 50 years in the radio business to review the various methods that the company/station I was working for reached me when they had a technical snafu that they felt that only I could resolve. We need to remember that 50 years ago we did not have computers that got finicky…But we did have a plant full of vacuum tubes.  Frankly, in terms of the number of times a radio station back then needed to reach their engineer was not that different than it is now….The  big change is that things have become incredibly more complicated.  Another difference is, back then, there was a live-operator on duty all the time and he was the one that went looking for technical help.  Today that phone call could be generated by some automatic system with no human to talk to.  Of course, today, we have means of remote controlling things that would have been viewed as science fiction back then.

Back in 1961 we did not have cellphones, pagers or any other means of reaching a person. Therefore you-

  • Left phone numbers where you could be reached
  • Had a land-line phone
  • Knew where all the pay-phones were located
  • Always had a pocket full of change (for the phones)
  • You listened to the station you were working for – just about all the time
  • Had a 2-way radio in your car that could be used to reach the station.

The next great invention that was immediately adopted was the pager, or as they were known back then – The ‘beeper’. (The phone company called them ‘Bellboys’).  These little gizmos were a simple VHF or UHF receiver with a decoder and sounder.  When you called the number associated with the device – it beeped.  That was your signal to call a pre-arranged number.  If the person you ‘beeped’ did not call back right away – You called the number again.  Sadly these little critters did not have any indicator that it had been called (that came later).

The next advancement in ‘leash technology’ I had was the ‘Tone and Voice Pager’. These were a bit bigger and contained a very small speaker.  When the pager beeped, you would immediately pull it off your belt, or out of your shirt pocket, and place it next to your ear to (hopefully) hear the message.  These were cool because they could deliver a selective message….Call the station, call home etc.

I recall putting this system to work rather quickly as a means of controlling ham-radio systems. A receiver tuned to the paging system’s frequency, a DTMF decoder and you were set.  You could call yourself from the then new Touch Tone Phones and enter digits that would make things happen …Cool.  I also recall adding DTMF encoders (known as touch tone pads) to telephones for this purpose.

Then came along the Digital Pager. With these things, the caller would enter the number they wanted you to call back.  There were a number of advantages to these devices.  They would save the numbers so you could call back when you could, and they would save more than one number.

All of these systems relied on your ability to, in a timely manner, locate a pay phone to make that return call. Remember mobile telephones had not come along yet.  You got pretty good at knowing where pay-phones were located.  And, of course, you had to carry change as each call required cash.

The telephone company and some private carriers had mobile telephones. These were basically 2-way radios with a trunk mounted transceiver and a control head with a rotary dial.  They worked pretty well and would allow you to make and receive phone calls over an area limited by the coverage of the system (forget going out of town and having it work).  Of course they were not little 2-way radios you could slip in your shirt pocket.

In the 70’s I found myself working at a company that did paging and radiotelephones. Here I had a digital pager on one hip and a Motorola MT500 on the other.  The MT500 was big (about the size of 8 I-Phones stacked together) and looked very much like the kind of radio warn by police (I was viewed by some in a unique way back then).  It had several frequencies and was controlled by a mobile telephone terminal.  This enabled the device to have a unique phone number.  It was half-duplex, i.e., you had to push the transmit button to talk and you heard the caller on a loud-speaker.  I recall being in a grocery store one time when the wife called to remind me to pick up something…A lady standing nearby was dazzled and wanted one.  This system was clunky, but it was functional and I could be reached by anyone, by phone and I could make phone calls.  The biggest customers for this technology were doctors that were on call.

Paging was a viable business back then with the telephone company and private common carriers as well as a number of re-sellers serving a number of customers. To extend the coverage area of paging systems, simulcast systems were installed with transmitters scattered throughout the area.  These systems were the forerunner of SFN’s (Single Frequency Networks) that are talked about today in broadcasting.  Along the way some experiments were conducted using FM broadcast station sub-carriers for paging.  Motorola even made an SCA Pager in limited quantities.  One local station I know of even did some experimental work with these during a convention of common carriers that was held in Seattle.

About that time, cellular was being planned in earnest. I was lucky as the company I was working with was not only involved in paging and radio-telephones, they were also an early partner with the McCaw’s and I got to see how this system was going to be really cool.  An interesting side-bar, the technology of site selection for these first cell sites was aided by a, then brand new technology that employed a terrain data base to evaluate potential sites without having to go out and ‘drive them’ or use manually generated profiles using USGS Maps.

Early cellular phones were all mounted in vehicles, much like land-mobile two way radios. You took your vehicle to a shop where they installed the antenna (many were mounted on the rear window), a gizmo in the trunk and a control head that had a handset.  There was still the limitation of being reached when you were not in a vehicle with one of these…So I still carried a pager.

 

Finally, the much hyped, hand-held cellphone hit the market – Yes, I was one of the early ones that carried a ‘brick’. That was about the size of it – and let’s not forget the rubberized antenna that stuck out the top.  Cellular was launched and the days of pagers were numbered as they soon joined the rotary phone in the great dust heap of history, along with IMTS mobile phones and, to a great extent, land-mobile 2-way radio.

We’ve come a long way. Now we have what are called smart-phones that we put in our pocket and have become addicted to the chain that previously only our employers told us we must have.  Who would have thought that we’d be carrying a device that would not just be a telephone but a communicator that would enable us to access a world of things…including determining what was wrong with the broadcast plant after it’s computer called you to report an ailment?

One parting item – Most men now ‘wear’ their cellphone. This means if you wish to reach a fellow (Male) Engineer – You can call them and they answer right away.  Recently I had the occasion to wonder why a particular person I was dealing with did not rapidly answer when I called her cellphone.  Then it dawned on me.  Most women don’t wear their phone…Duh!  Then again that leather belt that we use as a ‘holder’ for electronic devices is, perhaps, a male thing.

Every wonder what happened to Panasonic? They were a major player in consumer electronics, and to some extent in broadcast equipment.  Apparently before the Korean giants started taking a huge share of the market and bet the farm on Plasma displays.  Word is now that Panasonic is working on a machine that will fold your laundry called the Laundroid – Don’t believe me – Check this out –  http://gazettereview.com/2016/11/panasonic-invests-60-million-laundroid/  Also note they are investing 60 megabucks in the project.

Looks like another chapter is being written in the book of gone but not forgotten communications systems. Filings at the FCC by CenturyLink indicates that they are planning on dropping copper conductors in many states.  In many newly built out areas this has been the case for some time, with copper conductors replaced with fiber (or is that fibre?).  The concept of having a copper pair between your telephone and the local Central Office is becoming quaint.  Another communications system that is in danger of going away is ISDN.  Let’s face it….We are in an IP world today and those things that are not IP based – will be – phased out.

The recent change in FAA tower lighting requirements to help reduce bird strikes is being hailed by bird conservation groups. (No official responses have been noted from the birds themselves.)  It’s estimated that some 750 of the perhaps 15,000 tall towers have been converted thus far.  This goal is to replace the flashing lights on all tower lights with lights that don’t.  These groups still maintain that 7 million birds are killed annually colliding with towers.  I guess I have missed out on this as I have rarely ever seen a dead bird at the base of a tower in my 50+ years in this business.  Perhaps I have not been in the right locations?

Apparently the FCC was not amused with the discovery that an AM Station (WINW) had failed to file for a license renewal and continued to operate for 6 more years after their application was dismissed back in 2005. Hmmm….What am I missing here?  Does this mean that a radio station could continue to operate, without a valid license, for a number of years and the FCC did not know it?  For some reason I keep thinking about the FCC decision to close field offices and reduce their enforcement activities.     What am I missing here?

I recently ran across this line:

A computer programmer is someone who solves a problem you didn’t know you had in a way you don’t understand.

One of the most difficult issues today is having a technical job and having to explain a situation to someone that’s technically challenged. In the good old days equipment was a great deal more simplistic than today’s computer based systems.  It was pretty easy to talk a non-technical person through a problem on the phone – today, not so much.  The term ‘Power-Cycle’ did not exist.  If it did – it was used with another new-fangled invention, the automatic Washington machine.

Today, with just about everything becoming more complex, it must be a bewildering place for those that really have no interest. Perhaps we can learn something from Doctors that have been attempting to explain to their patients a situation without using any technical jargon or multi-syllable words?

Another example of this type of communications problem is where the person you are dealing with has, as they say, enough technical knowledge to be dangerous. This is the person that is fluent in buzz-words and terms that he uses successfully around his peers to enhance his image by using them.  I often recall an event that took place about 10 years ago where a non-technical person asked me how HD Radio worked.  I was pretty proud of myself In delivering a response that was, perhaps, in the neighborhood of 100 words.  Later that day I overheard this person explaining how HD Radio worked to a co-worker.  This time the explanation had been compressed to perhaps 25 words!  What I concluded was that this person really did not want know how something worked (I should have watched for the deer in the headlights).  They only wanted to know enough to be ‘satisfied’.  Once you have reached their ‘satisfaction level’, everything you say beyond that point is heard as – blah, blah, blah etc.

Yet another survey this month adding one of our PNW cities to the BEST PLACE TO VISIT list – in this case, according to ‘Lonely Planet’ – they rank Portland Oregon #10 on their list. I have to admit I have a warm spot for the Rose City having spent many of my early years there.

mountains

As my readers know…I love surveys that rank cities and states where this column is affiliated with local SBE chapters.

In this case – The title is – What the richest 1 percent earns in every state.

# 39 Idaho: $738,278 per year – The average earnings of the bottom 99% is $45,254

# 35 Oregon: $754,431 per year – Average earnings of bottom 99%: $40,719

# 14 Washington: $1,100,186 per year – Average earnings of bottom 99 %: $50,372

# 13 Colorado: $1,101,215 per year – Average earnings of bottom 99%: $54,809

To put this all into perspective –

The apparent top of the economic ladder, at # 1, is Connecticut where the top 1% earn $2,402,339/year and the bottom one-percenters make $56,445

 

At the bottom is West Virginia at #51. There the top 1 percenters make $488.634 and the bottom 99 earn $34,407.

According to the survey (no surprise here), not since before the great depression has the gap between rich and poor been so great. On average, the people at the top are making about 25 times more than those at the bottom.  The top 1 percent are now making 20% of all of the income.  I believe that this was the major issue of one of the presidential candidates.

What is not mentioned in the survey is what the costs are….For example, I suspect that housing (buying or renting) costs are a whole lot higher in Connecticut than they are in WV. Here in Seattle we are hearing a lot about how our rapidly increasing costs for housing is pushing many to the ‘burb’s …or, in some cases, into tents.

Another recent survey ranked 10 SPECTACULAR SKYLINES around the world. Coming in at 5 was Vancouver, B.C.  I find it interesting that a large number of folks I’ve spoken with over the years have never been there….Those that do are usually astonished at what they see.  Not only is it the 3rd largest city in Canada, but it’s setting is spectacular, with the Straits to the west and the Mountains to the north.  If you have not been to the bigger Vancouver (we have two of them in this area), this is a must for your bucket list.

What’s with this? Despite all the news about cord cutting, Comcast reported an increase in subscribers and earnings in the 3rd quarter.  The ratio of TV to Internet connections really underscores the trend – 22,428,000 TV and 24,316,000 high speed Internet.

In early November there was a huge Oooop in the world of Wireless Emergency Alerts with many wireless device owners receiving messages over a wide area. Apparently someone testing.  This is what the carrier had to say –

 

http://www.wkow.com/story/33651891/2016/11/07/did-you-get-emergency-alerts-on-your-cell-phone-today-us-cellular-customers-impacted

emergency-alert

Anyone have an idea of what this machine is and what year the picture was taken?

wierd-machine

From the category – “ All good things must come to an end” comes news that the C-Band Satellite known as AMC-8, launched back in 2000, is going away in its slot at 139 degrees. This ‘Bird’ is used by many Radio Networks for program delivery, among them – Premiere, Westwood One etc. that provide programs with very familiar names.  Like all things, these satellites have a design life and this one is nearing that time.  The replacement will not be in the same orbital slot but AMC-18 at 105 degrees West.  Thankfully there will be an overlap period of several months.  According to what I’m reading, the switch period will be between February and June of next year.  For more info go to http://www.amc8migration.com.

Always a pleasant surprise to see a story about local events in a national magazine. This was the case in the November issue of Radio magazine.  The cover features a picture of one of the towers on Mt. Constitution.  For those of you that are not from this area, Mt. Constitution is located on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, roughly west of the city of Bellingham.  The piece is about the installation of a new backup transmitter for KWPZ, one of the Crista stations in this area.  Names mentioned, Bryan Hubert, Tim Vik and Bob Ricker.  Apparently I was the first one to Inform Bob that his name and pictures were in this issue.  For those that don’t know Bob – He received his first broadcast transmitter experience at West Tiger when the original broadcast building there was enlarged back in 1999.  At that time he worked for Prime Electric.  Most recently he has gone out on his own under the name of Midpoint.  Hard to find an electrician that truly understands the unique creature that is a broadcast transmitter site.  In the case of KWPZ, Bob demonstrated his abilities in moving things (You can read the story)    One more item about Bob – He and I share the same birthday.  (Not day but the date  )

Now here is an idea for a Christmas Present for the person that has everything!

dialeze

I don’t recall when it was I first heard this one – my guess it was when I was in school in the middle 50’s – Still brings a smile.

REWARD OFFERED

A REWARD OF 500 MICROFARADS IS OFFERED FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE ARREST OF THIS DESPERATE CRIMINAL: HOP-A-LONG CAPACITY.

THIS UNRECTIFIED CRIMINAL ESCAPED FROM A WESTERN PRIMARY CELL WHERE HE HAD BEEN CLAMPED IN IONS AWAITING THE GAUSS CHAMBER.

HE WAS CHARGED WITH THE INDUCTION OF AN 18 TURN COIL NAMED MILLIHENRY WHO WAS FOUND CHOKED AND ROBBED OF VALUABLE JOULES. HE IS ARMED WITH A CARBON ROD AND IS A POTENTIAL KILLER.  CAPACITY IS ALSO CHARGED WITH DRIVING DC MOTOR OVER A WHEATSTONE BRIDGE AND REFUSING TO LET THE BAND-PASS.

IF ENCOUNTERED, HE MAY OFFER SERIES OF RESISTANCE. THE ELECTROMOTIVE FORCE SPENT THE NIGHT SEARCHING FOR HIM IN A MAGNETIC FIELD, WHERE HE HAD GONE TO EARTH.  THEY HAD NO SUCCESS AND BELIEVED HE HAD RETURNED OHM VIA A SHORT CIRCUIT.

HE WAS LAST SEEN RIDING A KILOCYCLE WITH HIS FRIEND EDDY CURRENT WHO WAS PLAYING A HARMONIC.

That’s it for this month – and this year.

Sincerely wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas – Lord willing – I’ll be here for, at least, some of 2017. Hope you will too.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

CLAY’S CORNER FOR NOVEMBER 2016

November 2, 2016
By
 

CLAY’S CORNER FOR NOVEMBER 2016

First – some sad news – The passing of David Christian on October 15th.  The following was posted by Lowell Kiesow to the West Tiger Remailer on Oct 16th – I am very sad to report that David Christian passed away last night from a massive stroke, at the age of 84.  He was a great, longtime friend, a giving mentor, and a visionary broadcast engineer.  David built KPLU in 1966, as a 10 Watt station in Parkland, and he led it through several, major stages of growth to become the powerhouse station it is today.  Most notably, David moved the KPLU transmitter to West Tiger Mountain, where he helped design the facility as one of the original five stations there.  It is safe to say KNKX would not exist today without David pushing us to be at the top technically.  He also built TV studios at PLU, and helped train hundreds of students to become good radio and TV technicians, many of whom went on to careers in broadcasting.  If I had to sum up David in one word, it would be “wisdom.”  I will always be grateful to David for giving me my career at KPLU and for teaching me so much. David retired in 1998, but remained very busy with his family and his church.  Please keep his wife Anita, son Aaron, and family in your prayers. Lowell To say the least, I have a lot of wonderful memories of David.  As I set here at my computer thinking what to write about my memories of David, I am flooded with thoughts as to what to write…Here are a few of them.

  • Back in 1987,  As soon as news got out that KNBQ (97.3) was planning a facility on West Tiger he contacted me to say that KPLU would like to be there also.  Initially it was planned that the facility would be the home of 3 stations (KNBQ/97.3, KRPM/106.1 and KPLU/88.5) each with its own antenna.
  • For many years I would feed this column to John Forbes (retired from KOMO).  He would edit the Waveguide and forward it to David who would handle the printing and mailing (yes it was snail-mailed in those days).  I would periodically give someone what I called the Gold Star Award for doing something that I thought was cool.  David purchased some adhesive gold stars to make sure that the recipient of my awards copy actually had a ‘gold’ star.
  • David had wonderful sense of humor…One time he really showed it off…He mounted a water faucet (like you would have on the side of a house) on the basement wall at West Tiger and then put the mop bucket under it…All just to see my reaction (It’s still there).
  • David was also influential in getting me to join SBE – To the best of my knowledge, he was one of only two in this area with a lower membership number.  His was in the 600’s
  • The last year that NAB was in Dallas, he and I went together and shared a room.  I recall waking up one morning to look out the window of our hotel to see the most unusual site – It was snowing up!  The winds were forcing the snow to appear to fall up, quite a site that we laughed about as the years past. It was during that trip that David introduced me to the Order of the Iron Test Pattern.
  • After David’s retirement from PLU, he and I would continue to have a periodic breakfast to catch up on what was going on.  He maintained a keen interest in West Tiger as a broadcast site.

David – you left your mark on our area and a ton of wonderful memories for all of us – Thank you for being part of our lives! The middle of October brought many of us memories of that famous storm on Columbus Day 1962 when a huge windstorm ravaged our area.  Perhaps what will be remembered about this year’s storms was the fact that a Tornado struck the Oregon Coast and the fact that the PDX Forecast office issued about 10 tornado warnings on October 14th.  For years we would tell people living elsewhere that we don’t get tornadoes…Guess that will have to change.  During one of our mid-month wind events the power went out in Queen Anne.  This impacted the TV Transmitters there.  In one case a grumpy transfer switch caused the outage to be a bit longer than they wanted.  (No…Not going to say who.) Oh yes, 10/12/62….I was living in Tacoma and (believe it or not) working in broadcasting at the time.  Interesting how, after all this time, that storm set the bench-mark for all storms to follow.  Thankfully the big-blow they predicted for the 15th did not materialize.  Sometimes it’s nice when NWS gets it wrong  Do you live in a good place to find a job?  US News recently ran a piece where they identified the 20 best cities in the country to find a job.  Denver came in #8 and Seattle #5. According to the FCC, as of Sept 30th there are 32,042 licensed broadcast stations in the U.S. Happy to report that the FCC has been doing a FINE job…This time in Guntersville, Alabama where they shut down a pirate radio station….Twice.  Mr. Michael Dudley has been requested to submit $15,000 for his activity. During the mid October storms, a number of us were working up at West Tiger Mt.  Not wanting to have to deal with any fallen trees, I packed my truck with the necessary items, chainsaw, come-along, axe etc.  Worked perfectly….The road was clear all the way up.  Terry Spring, however, did not have as much luck, encountering two trees that had fallen across the road.  Being prepared, he quickly dispatched the obstacles….At least to the point where he could drive under one of them.  I snapped this picture on my way down.  Looks like the DNR had the wrong sign posted….should have read ‘Tree Crossing’.

trail-crossing

There is another matter that deserves our full attention.  And that is the matter of having Washington come up with a credentialing system like what was recently implemented in Oregon.  The problem is broadcast engineers could easily be denied access to places like West Tiger in times by law enforcement, when we need to reach these plants to get them back on the air.  Frankly, I fail to understand why Oregon now has such a system and we don’t.  Perhaps it’s because the issue has not impacted someone’s bottom line ………..Yet?  In Oregon the new system treats broadcast technical staff people as First-Informers.  Several organizations came together to make this happen – The OAB, State Emergency Management and SBE.  Kudos to John White for his contribution to this accomplishment.  Perhaps one of this year’s storms will provide the emphasis needed to get’er done here. One cannot think about West Tiger without thinking about the late Arne Skoog.  Many of you know that Arne was a Ham (WA7WKT).  He was part of the Channel 1 Repeater group and operated his own UHF repeater on Buck Mountain.  After his passing, his widow Deb got his call letters.  It was decided to move his UHF repeater to West Tiger.  You will find it on 444.3 with a CTCSS Tone of 103.5.  Who knows, you might just find some other broadcast engineers there?  (Hint) Here’s a great piece of wisdom that many of my generation will agree with – I was always taught to respect my elders, but it keeps getting harder to find one. As you probably knew – Cumulus, the large radio group, is having financial issues.  This has depressed their stock price considerably….to the point that they decided to do a reverse stock split.  This meant that 8 shares of stock would become 1 share on October 12th.  Apparently this did not work quite like they hoped as the new stock price was something under 2 dollars a share.  You can always check on this by asking your browser to check Cumulus stock price. Another FCC fine for a pirate in New York.  In this case they are asking Jose Gerez to pay 10 Grand, who was operating a station on 95.1 in Queens.  Now the question – Will the feds actually collect their money?  In some cases these FCC fine are treated like parking tickets. In another instance we have KLIM In Limon, Colorado a small town SE of Denver in the flat lands, population under 2000.  The FCC had wanted the owner to pay 5 Grand for taking the station off the air and not telling them.  They later have reduced it to $1500.  One has to wonder how a station operating with 250 watts daytime only could survive in a town of 2000?  The owner apparently did have plans, because they have a construction permit for increasing power to 50,000 watts (still daytime only) with 2 towers, at a site closer to Colorado Springs, that would give it coverage as well into Denver.  An added factor is that the station was vandalized and a number of apparently necessary items were taken.  It’s a rough road out there in radio land. Here’s a looking back thought – When was the last time you could purchase an item COD?  For us old timers this term meant Cash On Delivery.  It’s where you would pay the party that delivered the item to you when you received it.  Today if you Google COD you get Call of Duty.  How times have changed. Every once in a while someone invents something that will likely find a lot of use.  In this case in Israel. They’ve come up with something that’s really cool….albeit smelly.  Dealing with lawbreaking crowds has been a problem for law enforcement forever.  Tools today typically are Tear Gas and Water Cannons.  A lot of things have been tried, including extremely loud sounds that attack people’s ears.  Now something that attacks their noses.  Israeli biomedical engineers have done it again.  Click here: Skunk: A “degrading form of abuse” or safe, non-toxic alternative to rubber bullets – YouTube I recently ran across some pictures that were taken long ago, in the conference room at 11th and Grant in Tacoma (location of then KTNT/KNBQ).  These meetings were for the planning of what turned out to be the first broadcast facility on West Tiger.  My guess is they were taken sometime in 1987. First is of Jim Stevens, who was representing KLSY/92.5:

chuck-morris

This one of the late Chuck Morris – representing KIRO-FM (then on 100.7):

allen-hartle

While we are in ‘looking back mode’ – How about this one submitted by Allen Hartle and forwarded to me by Kelly Alford.  This is a great compliment to the picture of that big RCA machine in last month’s column.

ampex

I can fully appreciate the struggling little AM stations wanting an FM translator as a means of staying afloat….What surprised me is the number of larger AM’s in metropolitan areas that would be jumping at the chance of getting an FM Translator.  In most cases, if that AM has a companion/co-owned FM they have already elected to put that AM on one of the FM HD channels.  Example – KIRO 710 AM can be heard on KIRO-97.3 FM HD2.  Perhaps this provides a satisfactory addition to the AM, reducing the desire for a simulcast translator?  There are a lot of factors involved…Here are some of my random thoughts about some of them.  In no particular order –

  • Granted the FCC is saying that these new AM translators can operate with 250 watts.  But this is not a blanket statement, as there are a lot of factors that will likely throttle that number back in several ways, especially in areas where the FM Band is already filled with Legacy signals, LPFM’s etc.  In most cases, these metro-area translators are likely to be very low power and/or use directional antennas.  I suspect some of these AM Translator’s benefit may be limited to ‘bragging rights’.
  • Generally an existing FM Station’s HD signal may be greater than a new AM Translator.
  • Not all HD signal are the same – Some are at higher elevations while others may be operating at different power levels compared to their host FM (not all FM’s with HD’s have opted to increase power to the maximum).
  • On the plus side for the FM Translator – It can be received on just about every radio, while the penetration of HD receivers is growing, it’s not at the same level as FM.
  • I wonder if an AM can lease an HD Channel from another broadcaster?  There are a number of HD3’s out there not being used.

I have to wonder how a full time, and perhaps full power AM, can justify the expense of paying for the translator which may involve buying one from some distance away, in addition to the cost of engineering.  Unless the AM’s translator is on its own tower, the owners will have to lease tower space, thereby creating an on-going obligation.  Perhaps this is all justified when you consider that their new letterhead can state AM and FM. Gord Lansdell, who operates the NW Broadcasters Web Site, is tracking all this in the Seattle/Vancouver area.  You can go here to see the big picture – http://nwbroadcasters.com/ampage.html I got an item in the mail today from Century Link.  The front of the item spelled out – Miss having a CLEAR,  RELIABLE connection?  JACK can help.  (The A in JACK has what looks like an RJ11 telephone jack…clever).  Their pitch is obviously directed at those that have dropped their ‘land-line’ in favor of their cell phone.  The back cover reads – ‘Make sure your CELL PHONE isn’t your ONLY PHONE’.    Guess it was due to happen as many have been cutting their cords – Cable TV as well as Telephone. Here’s a great picture of Nick Winter, K7MO, (engineer at KNKX) and his wife Anna operating an Amateur Radio contest.  Be sure and note her shirt.  Anna is K7ANA.

man-and-lady-hams

If you are into the RF side of things (like me) you spot every antenna out there.  (I’m sure it drives my wife nuts.)  This collection is located on a standpipe at the Olympic Natural Resource Center in Forks and is part of PNSN…Or Pacific Northwest Seismic Network who have installed ground motion detectors all over our area…In some cases transmitter sites where NWPR has transmitters.  You can check out their web-site at http://www.pnsn.org/earthquakes/recent and see what’s been shaking.

antennas

Received a note from Mike Brooks at KING-FM telling me that they got a reception report from a person listening to the Seattle 98.1 Classical station’s HD-1 in Seaside Oregon.  Perhaps this has to do with the increasing number of HD receivers out there and the fact that KING-FM is operating with -10 and -14 HD Power levels, putting their digital channels on a par with their FM.  Certainly this area is more techno-savvy than other places.  One only has to go to Eastern Washington to hear broadcasters poo-poo HD Radio.  Market size is a huge factor in these matters. The following picture is of a safety climb cable on a tower that also has an FM Station.  What happened here is very common.  Energy from the FM Station is coupled into the cable and then it looks for a place to go, usually a piece of conducting material attached to the tower, which is at a different potential.  In the process, the cable was burned almost totally apart.  (Sorry about the techno-talk, just could explain this any other way.)  The bad news is that this cable is supposed to keep a tower climber from falling.  In this case, it might not have done this, as only one strand was left (on the right).  Yes, the cable was replaced and ‘grounded’ in the vicinity of the FM antenna.  It is also now on a periodic inspection cycle.

burned-cable

Another pretty picture this month from Dwight Small of his beloved Lake Cavanaugh.  Dwight has recently built a rather large garage with an attic ‘man cave’ and just recently received a permit to start his lake front house.  Obtaining that permit has been a multi-year process.

pretty-lake

This picture, a beauty contributed by old friend Joe Fleming, of the towers for WINA in Charlottesville, VA which is owned by Saga Communications.  Saga also owns a cluster of stations in Bellingham operating under the name of Cascade Radio Group.

am-towers

Radio station operator Entercom continues to grow, recently adding a cluster of stations in Charlotte, N.C. from Beasley for $24 Million.  Entercom has other clusters of stations in the Carolinas in Greensboro, N.C. and Greenville S.C.  ETM, as it’s often called, is the country’s 4th largest firm with now over 125 stations in over 25 different markets.  They also operate clusters of stations in Seattle, Portland and Denver. Talk about Mega-Mergers – How about the $85.4 Billion deal whereby AT&T will purchase Time Warner?  This would combine a lot of very familiar brand names, including CNN.  Certainly something this size is going to create a lot of critical comments and calls from those that will say it would concentrate too much power in too few hands.  We will have to see how this one plays out, especially in light of the fact that the major presidential candidates are opposed to it. I recently ran across this picture.  The location is 3-Sisters Mountain East of Enumclaw, which is going to see installed a portion of a new communications system known as PSRN.  A lot of history here.  The 4000 foot site used to be the location of the old FOG Lookout.  Later an FM station called it home when Entercom’ s 103.7 operated there as KBRD.  Interesting that the site never had commercial power, using diesel generators only.

site

This month’s picture gallery would not be complete without a picture taken close to home.  In this case, across the street from where I live.  As I sit here at my computer I can look out the window to my left and get to see this.  Turns this color every year!

pretty-colors

In the Seattle area we often talk about the cities of the Pacific Northwest as Seattle and Portland.  In the process we tend to not include Vancouver B.C. (No help that we have two Vancouver’s in this area.)  Granted the B.C. city is in Southwest Canada, another country in the minds of many. Recently there has been a good deal more thinking about ways to bring our two cities closer together.  Perhaps one way would to go back to the pre-911 days and restore the border crossing to a brief process? As a writer in the NY Times noted – Seattle and Vancouver are like fraternal twins separated at birth….And 140 miles.  As viewed from Vancouver, they likely have a lot more in common with Seattle than other Canadian cities like Calgary etc.  I would be remiss if I did not mention Victoria.  For those of you geographically challenged, I urge you to take a look at a map and note how that city is considerably south of the 49th…In fact, it’s perhaps closer to Port Angeles Washington than to Vancouver.  We share a lot of culture, language…and, of course, weather. We have a good amount of what I call ‘separate thinking’ in the states of Washington and Oregon.  The dividing line is, of course, the Cascade Mountain range.  This is to the point that, over the years, many have suggested that Eastern Washington and Oregon should become a state of their own.  This east-west difference in thinking perhaps exists in B.C. as well to some degree.  The question I’ve been asking myself for many years is…If the borders were suddenly erased…would things be different? I remember chatting with friends in southern B.C. a number of times about things of common interest, to find they find it unusual that I feel so inclusive about them.  I like to explain it this way – If you lived on a street of which the center of the roadway was a national border – Would you still feel the folks across the street as neighbors?  Would you not be in the same neighborhood?  Geographically – Vancouver and Seattle are very much in the same neighborhood.  As times change – I look forward to the day that we would all view our relationship in this manner.  It looks like I am not alone in this process. One forward step was a result of meetings between the Washington Governor and the B.C. Premier and their signing of an MOU affirming our shared interests in creating regional economic opportunities among other things.  One thing that came from this was an agreement to deepen the ties between not just the two cites but between our major universities, U of W and UBC. If you would like more on this – check out the October 3rd issued of the New York Times – Look for the piece titled ‘Tech Ambitions without Borders’. In my opinion – birds and fish have a much better way to deal with all of this…They get to enjoy this region without any borders or politics. Once again we are hearing about efforts to cram more into the FM Band.  (As if nothing was learned on AM).  This time an effort to create a new category of station, something in between the existing Class A and Class C3’s operating with 12kW.  This change (RM-11727) is on the agenda at the Commish.  Just on the heels of a huge increase in the number of LPFM’s and AM Translators too.  More things to watch.

And finally – A collection of wonderful ‘Groaners’ to consider.

1. A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two tired.

2. A will is a dead giveaway.

3. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

4. A backward poet writes inverse.

5. In a democracy it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism, it’s your Count that votes.

6. A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.

7. If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

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

9. Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I’ll show you A-flat miner.

10. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

11. The dead batteries were given out free of charge.

12. A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France resulting in Linoleum Blownapart.

13. You are stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.

14. Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.

15. He broke into song because he couldn’t find the key.

16. A calendar’s days are numbered.

17. A lot of money is tainted: ‘Taint yours, and ‘taint mine.

18. A boiled egg is hard to beat.

19. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

20. A plateau is a high form of flattery.

21. The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison: a small medium at large.

22. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

23. When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

24. If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.

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

26. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

27. Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

28. Acupuncture: a jab well done.

29. Marathon runners with bad shoes suffer the agony of de feet.

30. The roundest knight at king Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference.  He acquired his size from too much pi.

31. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

32. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

33. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

34. The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

35. No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery..

36. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

37. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

38. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

39. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

40. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway.  One hat said to the other, ‘You stay here, I’ll go on a head.’

41. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger.  Then it hit me.

42. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: ‘Keep off the Grass.’

43. A thief who stole a calendar got 12 months.

44. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

45. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

46. Police were called to a day care center where a 3-year-old was resisting a rest.

47. Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off?  He’s all right now.

48. To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

49. When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A. Had enough?  Me too

That’s it for this month – Happy Holiday’s Clay, K7CR, CPBE

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