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Clay’s Corner for February 2019

January 31, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

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

Thus far, except for a couple dandy wind-storms, we have been having a pretty mild winter.  From what some say…It’s because of the Polar Vortex that’s giving much of the country something to shiver about.  The wind storm on January 6th was, thankfully, short in duration…Had it lasted longer there would have been a lot of damage.  Because my power was out…I decided to break out my ‘fiber and carbon based’ computer system (Paper and Pencil) and make some notes –

The Great January 6th Windstorm of 2019

A few, random, thoughts about this ‘big-blow’

  • NWS was ‘right-on’ with their predictions.  Kudo’s to the crew at Sand Point!
  • Winds hit my place, in Auburn, about 1 a.m. as if a switch was thrown.
  • About 1:30 a.m. – My power was out and I could watch flashes of Green, Blue, Amber etc. in the skyline to the South and West (quite the light show)
  • About 2 a.m. my first phone call from a Board Operator at a ‘certain radio station’ telling me there were alarms going off all over! (He may have quoted from ‘Chicken Little’)
  • At 2:29 a.m. received my first message from PSE on my Cellphone

We’re on it! Work will be underway soon to restore power at your location, estimated restoration 4 a.m.

  • At 3:35 a.m. – Another message –

It’s taking longer than expected to restore your power

  • About as quickly as it started, the winds died down, as did the phone calls, and I got some sleep.
  • About 6, I woke wanting information….So I dug out my trusty wind-up Radio and went to the station that bills itself as a ‘news station’….I quickly learned a few things.

1-    They apparently did not plan on this event, or staff up for it.

2-    Information was very sketchy and lacked much detail.

3-    Apparently I was alone in thinking that after a major wind-storm radio would have tons of information about damage, power outages, roads blocked etc.

4-    Soon afterward, the station starting running some canned talk-show (No help).

5-    I decided to tune into another radio station in the area that used to do a lot of news…No help there either as they too were running ‘canned’ talk shows.

6-    I concluded that these radio stations bill themselves as places for news, so long as it fits with their programming.

7-    Sunday mornings, apparently, bad times for bad events.  Had this storm come 24 hours later, they’d probably would have been all over it.

8-    Interesting how the Engineering Department is ‘expected’ to be all over storm related events, but the news department is not?

9-    Not having a Generator, or a wind-up TV Set, I have no idea of what local TV was doing.

  • So I spent the day doing what I usually do after an event like this – Gather Data, make phone calls, visit sites, damage assessments etc.
  • My truck ‘display’ shows signal strength of cell sites (taken from my phone) could not help but notice, as I drove along, there were a number of locations with zero cell signal.  Apparently not all cell-sites have auxiliary power!
  • By about 4 p.m. – I called my wife to see if power had come back on at home…She said no, so I told her to get ready as I was going to stop and pick her up and go out for dinner.
  • At about 735 PM – My power came back on.  Only about an 18-hour outage, but it seemed like days.  We were ready to settle down around our wood-stove for another night.
  • At 739PM I received a text message from PSE  – Power should be back on in your area.

So what’s it like when you are a broadcast engineer and, after the storm, you have to go out and fix it….and your location is on a local mountain?  Often you are called to deal with things that have fallen down.

This from Doug Fisher as he was trying to get up South Mountain:

Of course….Broadcast Engineers are supposed to carry chain-saws!

And this from Arthur Willets as he was trying to go up West Tiger

Further up the road you get into snow.   Here you can see a couple “Broadcast Engineers’ sawing up a downed tree.   This view is looking ‘down’ the road as indicated by the vehicles in the background waiting to get ‘up’ the road.  (Thanks Alex Brewster)

Meanwhile, in the low-lands and big city – The wind had its way with things too.

Gotta love this one – From Mike Brooks of a Porta-Potty he found in the middle of Western Ave. on his way to work at KING-FM.   Hope it was not in use at the time!

From PSE comes this one ..What are the odds that a falling tree would do this?…UGH!

Here’s a great picture of one of the towers at West Tiger-2 taken by ATC’s Site Manager Joe Taylor….Note the ice covering everything.

The amount of ice on the West Tiger Tower is nothing compared to the following.    From the looks of the antennas, I suspect Europe.   Note the poor guy trying to make it up the climbing ladder.

According to NWS….We have indeed been having some rather warm weather…In fact, on January 11th it broke a record for the warmest on that date – 61 Degrees.  This beat the old record, set back in 1987, of 59.  Guess I should have known…buy new MT’s for the Pickup and – No-Snow!  Guess we have some winter left.

Here’s a nice shot, from the AccelNet camera on West Tiger.  Towers on the right are what we call – West Tiger-2.

In the next picture you can see the top of the easterly tower at WM-2.

At the top, side mounted on the pole that used to be used by KUNS-(TV) prior to their move to Queen Ann Hill, is the temporary KZOK/102.5 Antenna.

Below that is the 4 foot face square tower that housed the FM Master Antenna that burned.

On the left, or West Side, is the new – Temporary- Antenna that will be used until summer when the Master Antenna is replaced.  If you look closely, you can see a man in yellow sitting on the 3rd bay from the bottom.

This antenna is also made by ERI and is what they call an Axiom, consisting of 4-half-wave space, 2 bay antennas.

This temporary antenna is not capable of handling the power of all 6 of the stations at the site, therefore, KBKS/106.1 will continue to operate at the other (West Tiger-1) site until the Master Antenna is restored.

I asked one of the Engineers working at the site recently how the temporary antenna was working, noting that I had not heard any reports…He said he guessed that everyone was just happy to again be able to operate their main transmitter.

This will all happen over again this summer when the Master Antenna is installed.  The temporary antenna will come down and these stations will again be operating from Auxiliary facilities.  There is some consideration being given to installing the present temporary antenna on the other tower at the site providing FM users with an auxiliary antenna should something cause the new/replacement master to fail.

 

How about a complete change to something pretty?

This from old-friend, Dwight Small taken from his home on the Lake – Hard to imagine having to wake up to this view in the morning.

So what’s happening elsewhere –

  • Sirius XM wound up 2018 with 34 Million Subscribers.  Not too bad for a system that many said was doomed to fail when it started.
  • Do you have a Smart Speaker?  Some 8% of Americans received or bought one over the holidays.  It’s estimated that 21% or 53 million Americans now have one.
  • The Federal Government shut-down was impacting the FCC and its relationship with broadcasters.  At least for now, the situation has eased.  At this stage, all the crystal-balls used to forecast things in W.D.C. are out of commission.
  • One of my daily activities is to check the FCC’s Daily Releases…Wow, not much there these days.
  • The recently completed CES in Vegas created a lot of interest in new/fancy electronics for vehicles…From 5G to Voice Commands.
  • Lawmakers, with apparently some time on their hands, have been persuaded to urge the FCC to take what they are calling a ‘balanced approach’ to changes in the ‘C-Band’.  Perhaps as a result of the pressure being brought by broadcasters.
  • I understand that CBS Sports is going to use 4K and 8K cameras for Super Bowel LIII.

In one of those ‘Click-Bait’ items I looked at recently was a list of items that put out to pasture.  Among them was the Rolodex.

I have you know I have one of these just to my left as I type this….I am happy to report that it continues to be used on a regular basis to contain a lot of information I need for my activities.

Anyone else still using a Rolodex?

We recently lost a giant in the world of broadcast engineering with the passing of Warren Shulz, WA9GZX on December 31st.  Warren not only was an EAS Leader in Illinois, but long known as Chief Engineer of WLS.

I first met Warren a number of years ago, when he invited me to Chicago to talk about EAS.  In the last couple of years he and I would be exchanging emails on a regular basis talking about a variety of broadcasting issues.  Warren was an engineer’s engineer, after retirement building amateur radio projects…He loved antennas!

Did you ever wonder where they test those rovers that are on Mars?  Apparently Morocco.

Here’s a picture of Doug Fisher.   He and I were involved in the removal of the Antenna Tuning Units at the 1210 Site East of Auburn recently.  Doug owns Comtech Service.

On the subject of the disassembly of the 1210 night site….here are a coupleof  pictures of that process.  This shows the inside of the 4-Tower ‘Phasor’.  There is some interesting history here.  Notice the 3 holes on the left side of the left cabinet.  This equipment, as supplied by Kintronic back in 1990, was originally a 3 cabinet system designed for a 50 kW Day/10 kW night operation.  That cabinet was disconnected and moved to the other 1210 site on the west side of Auburn where it became part of the 27.5 kW ‘Day Site’.  For many years 1210 operated via this equipment at night.

Whereas AM Directional Antenna equipment is pretty much all custom-built, it was taken apart so that its components (Coils and Capacitors) could be used with some other AM station making changes and/or upgrades.

The Antenna Tuning Units (more Coils and Capacitors etc.) were housed in cabinets at the base of each tower.  Those have been moved from the site where they too will be harvested for component needs.

In taking this apart, I was constantly impressed by the amount of planning and labor it took to create this device.  It’s no wonder that Kintronic has the reputation they do.

I will have to admit that it’s hard to dismantle something that you worked so hard on 30 years ago to construct.

After removal of everything of value….We are left with this.  All the parts are gone and only the skeleton remains that will soon see the scrap dealer.

The facilities equipment racks, shown behind in this picture, are going to move on to become devices to house components for another station.

 

1210 is just one of many AM Stations that are contracting.  In this case, choosing to operate from their Day-Site, at night, with substantially less power.  Some AM’s are also choosing to reduce expenses and operate with less power…while others are throwing in the towel all together.

I’ve read stories about AM’s that have gained an FM Frequency via what’s known as an AM Translator, who have asked the regulators if they can keep the FM Frequency and forever turn off the AM.

Perhaps related to this issue are the tests that are being conducted using all-digital AM.  My guess is that there are many that feel that perhaps the lack of digital AM receivers could be overcome by the potential advantages that an all-digital system could provide.  I guess time will tell.

In the meantime we are likely to see the AM Band begin to resemble what it looked like 50 years ago.  Certainly the Station/Listener ratio is out of balance.  Broadcasting is not exempt from the laws of ‘Supply and Demand’.

Here’s a gem I just had to share – Another example of technology changes:

Remember when you had the cassette deck in your car radio do this?

Geography is something that challenges many – I recently read this one:

‘Nothing is built in America any more…I just bought a TV and it said –  BUILT IN ANTENNA’

I have little time to browse on-line…But once in a while I come across a face I recognize.

In this case, a very serious Ben Dawson.

 

From the look of the items on the workbench and the equipment behind him, I’d say he was deep into a Directional AM Station somewhere.

I was looking through my recent emails to find a chuckle to leave you with this month –

How about what happens when you ask a younger person to use a Dial Telephone?

https://www.facebook.com/DidThatJustHappenDM/videos/243318273233282/

Short on time this month.  Lord willing, I will do it again in a month.

Thanks for the read!

As they say in Amateur Radio, 73

Clay Freinwald, CPBE, K7CR
SBE Member # 714  (2-5-68)

Clay’s Corner for January 2019

January 30, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner for January 2019

Clay’s Corner

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

Let’s start the year with a pretty picture!     The following was taken by fellow NWPB engineer, Jason Royals.  He stopped to put chains on all 4 wheels of his truck on his way to a transmitter site on Paradise Ridge which, in this scene, lies under a blanket of clouds in the distance.   Normally you try and avoid the lens artifacts caused by the sun…but in this case…I think the effect is spectacular.

Congratulations to Russ Mundschenk, who is the 15th recipient of the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award.  Russ is a senior manager of broadcast engineering for Xperi, which owns and promotes HD Radio digital technology.    I’m proud to be among that group of 15.    Like previous years, he will be honored in Las Vegas, in April, during the NAB Show.

 

One of the recipients of this award, back in 2011 was Barry Thomas who, on December 6th passed losing his long fight with Cancer.   I was on the SBE Board with him when Barry found out what he was dealing with in 2008.  He came back with, after major surgery unable to turn his head…but, despite it all …He continued to serve the Society as President and do the work he was called to do for 35 years.  Barry was 56.

 

Jim Liefer, President of SBE issued this statement

 

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Barry Thomas, CPBE, DRB, CBNE, who died on Dec. 6, 2018. Barry devoted a great deal of his time and talents to the Society of Broadcast Engineers. He joined the SBE in 1986 and served the SBE with involvement in several local SBE chapters and on the national level. His national involvement included two terms on the SBE Board of Directors from 2002 to 2005, and two terms as treasurer from 2005 to 2007. He served as the society’s 25th president from 2007 to 2009 and immediate past president from 2009 to 2011. In 2017 he was elected to serve on the board again, but decided to step down early in his term. In 2011, Barry was elevated to the membership grade of Fellow.

On Barry’s passing, SBE President Jim Leifer, CPBE, said, “Barry served the SBE in many capacities and has been a voice for many engineers in our industry for decades. After hearing this news, I remembered so many occasions where Barry spent time developing younger engineers and being that mentor so many of us talk about. He was a devoted father, son, brother and fellow engineer who will be sorely missed by all.”

After one of the driest Novembers ever….Winter got going in December with some wild weather.  The headline was a, short-lived, but destructive F2 Tornado in Port Orchard on December 18th.    These are pretty rare in this neck of the woods.   Perhaps you recall the F3 in the Vancouver/Portland area back in 1972?   Then, on the 20th we had a nasty windstorm that saw over 300,000 loose power.   Mt Baker got hit with a 117 mph gust.

Apparently things are moving along with the Chapter 11 Reorganization at iHeart Media with over 90% of the creditors and shareholders approving the most recent plan.     This is certainly good news for all concerned.

If you are like me – You have been receiving reminders that the annual trek to the desert is only a couple of months away.   The 2019 NAB Show will be held April 6-11 in Las Vegas.   Whereas I received an award last year…I get free registration for the whole event for the rest of my life…All I have to do is show up.   Pretty cool.   However looking in the mirror, I can tell that they got a bargain.

Periodically someone makes a statement that needs to be repeated.   In this care, Gray Haertig wrote –

 “Never assume a conspiracy when incompetence is sufficient to explain the facts.”

 

One of the blessings of my work is being able to getting away from freeways and traffic congestion and be able to enjoy this wonderful part of country.    Generally, when you see a picture of our scenery it’s taken with clear blue skies and sunshine.  The one I want to share with you today was taken on my way down from Striped Peak (west of Port Angeles)  Below me is thick fog in the valley of SR-112.   Above is typical winter overcast.   In the distance you can see snow on top of the peaks on the northern edge of the Olympics.

 

Thanks to Ralph Sims and the crew at Accel Net, we now have a 24 hour Web Camera at West Tiger.  The camera is always generally pointed east.   I captured this picture just after sunrise (hence the yellows in the picture)  In the foreground you can see construction of the foundation for what will be a new tower (at this writing the concrete has been poured) In the distance you can see the twin-towers at which has become known at West Tiger-2.   The furthest of those towers held the FM Antenna that recently caught fire.     All of us that travel to West Tiger now rely on this camera to tell us what conditions to expect.  This road continues to the West to the Summit of West Tiger where the other broadcast site is located.

So what happened with the FM Antenna that burned?    Well it’s been removed.    The following pictures show some of that process.

Here you can see the big antenna is starting to be taken apart. (Note ropes and cables on the right)

Here 4 of the 32 ‘Bays’ or ‘elements’ have been removed.

 

Here you can see one of the Antenna Bays on the way down.  If you look close you can see that this one is partially burned.

Putting things in perspective –

Note how big these are compared to the worker.

 

With all of the antenna elements on the ground – Quite a collection

 

Looking up the tower now – You see the 4 foot face tower, covered with screen, where the antenna pieces were mounted

Above this is the pole that used to hold the antenna for KUNS-TV .   That was removed a couple of years ago when the station moved its transmitting equipment to the KOMO-TV Tower on Queen Ann Hill.    This pole was put to good use as a means of supporting a temporary antenna for KZOK

This area of the tower where the burned antenna will be used to mount a temporary antenna that all stations can use to get back to broadcasting from the site.   The antenna, an 8-bay ERI Axiom,    Because the temporary antenna will be side mounted, it will not be Omni-directional and will, reportedly, not be able to handle the same amount of power.

Installing the Temporary Antenna, this time of year, is problematic, due to the sites elevation (very close to that of Snoqualmie Pass) and, of course, the weather.   Everyone is now hoping for what we call a ‘Weather Window’ so the job can be done.

ATC’s announced plans are for replacing the damaged Master Antenna…Sometime in the Spring when the weather is conducive for this kind of work – Usually late April at the earliest.  They are considering mounting the Temporary Antenna on the other tower at the site providing the site with a permanent auxiliary antenna.

In the following  picture you can see the tower crew putting together the temporary KZOK/102.5 Bext Antenna.

Here is a close-up of the above antenna mounted on that pole.

The Beacon Light, seen here on the top of the pole, has not worked since the fire due to damage to its wiring

Meanwhile, Entercom installed a new antenna for 94.1 on the West Tiger-1 Tower (Red Arrow) along with a transmitter that will function as a back up to their, presently in use auxiliary facilities on Cougar Mountain.

 

Many moons ago I helped a fellow get started in broadcasting.    In chatting with Lowell Kiesow recently, he said that Nick Winter has officially retired.   In my last conversation with Nick, he said he may continue to do some contract work, but is now looking forward to doing what he wants to do going forward.    Congratulations Nick on achieving this milestone.

For those of us that live in northern latitudes, we have come to expect short days this time of year.  I found the following to be quite interesting –

The winter solstice is the shortest day. It offers the shortest period of daylight. But, unless you live close to the Arctic Circle or Antarctic Circle, your earliest sunsets aren’t on or even near the solstice itself. Instead, your earliest sunsets will come before the winter solstice. The exact date of earliest sunset depends on your latitude. If you live in the southernmost U.S., or a comparable latitude (say, around 25 or 26 degrees N. latitude), your earliest sunsets are in late November. If you’re farther north – say, around 40 degrees N. latitude – your earliest sunsets are around December 7.

After what seems like a very long wait – Locally based T-Mobile has announced they hope to close the deal with Spring in the 2nd Quarter of 2019.   I have to give T-Mobile credit for one aspect of their marketing effort ….Adopting the color Magenta.    As I was driving by one of their locations recently, at night, their location was known, some distance away.   Can’t think of another brand or product that has achieved this – Note the following –

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/02/10/court-says-t-mobile-owns-the-color-magenta/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9e3d6cd5a777

It happens this time of year – Dictionary.com is out with their 2018 ‘word of the year’

Misinformation

Dictionary.com defines misconception as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.    If they had rated the 2018 Phrase….Wonder if it would have been ‘Fake News’?

Another one for the record books for 2018 has to be the epidemic of Robo-Calls.   Recently my home phone rang with a Robo-call…and within a minute my Cellphone received the same call –Same message, same voice.

In the past month I have received a number of emails that appear to come from me.   One is a message telling me how my computer has been hacked with a request to send money using Bit-Coins.   They go on and on telling me how they have been watching what I do while on-line using a web-camera.   This is funny, because I don’t have one.   I carefully scan my computer on a regular basis using a variety of tools…Nope, they have not gotten into my system, what they have done is spoofed my email address.   Just like they spoof phone numbers when they call your cell.

Here’s an interesting one – I was driving along when my vehicles display lit up announcing I was receiving a call from ‘Clay Freinwald’.   Knowing that I am unlikely to call myself on the phone while driving I did not answer.   What was interesting is the displayed Phone Number (see below).  In this case they are able to send a string of Zero’s for the number and Spoof my name

Later I took this picture of my phone to share with you –

Has this ever happened to you?

 

Staying ahead of us, just bit – NHK has announced that it will launch its 8K channel in Japan with a broadcast of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”    Over there they are calling 8K ‘Super Hi Vision’.  A lot of their source material are films that were shot in 70mm which they claim is close to 8K quality.

Recent news shows that house prices (finally) are dropping in the Seattle area…In fact, faster than anywhere else in the country.   Reports show they went down 1.3% in September.   Unfortunately, for those of us that own our homes, this will not mean an immediate drop in property taxes.      It’s nice not having a mortgage and no debt, however, I like to say that we ‘lease’ our lot from the County.   A comment like that often results in some push-back.   I go on to explain that our lease payments are made twice a year to the County.    If you think you own the land your house is on…Think again!   Stop making those ‘lease payments’ and you will quickly find out who owns that property.

Got this picture of some old gray-bearded broadcast engineers recently – That Terry Spring (ION Media) on the left and Rob Purdy (Hubbard) on the right.

 The following are comments recently posted on a national broadcast engineers remailer by Greg Muir of Great Falls Montana who writes about how so much of today’s electronic equipment is no longer repairable in the field.

Oh, there will be a time when people will no longer

dabble in fixing archaic electronics.  That time will be

when us legacy engineers with considerable knowledge

in detailed circuitry workings eventually perish and give

way to those who only have the need to know how to

plug-n+IBk–play commercial modules purchased from

a manufacturer.  The need to learn circuit theory will be no

more since nearly piece of equipment will only be serviceable on a modular

basis or by sending the entire unit back to the manufacturer who only uses

proprietary components and holds all circuit details closely to their chest.

If it breaks, put it in a box with postage.  It’s not your problem.

 

We are now faced with broadcast management having to cough up large sums of

money to replace an entire assembly or unit since the manufacturer no longer

will provide detailed support but, instead will gladly sell you a rebuilt

subassembly for thousands of dollars instead of letting you replace that +ACQ-10

part – if it is even replaceable.

 

We now see consumers (i.e. our listeners and viewers) facing the age of

+IBw-disposable electronics+IB0- since repairability is virtually no more.  It is

cheaper to throw things away and purchase new sending the broken item over

to a foreign country to pollute their land instead of ours.  And, besides

that, why try to fix anything since it is better to get instant

gratification by buying the latest and greatest (I often refer to those

users as being constantly +IBw-technologically optimistic+IB0-), plugging it in and

making it work.  Heck, if you can fight problems by only having to sit

behind a keyboard or sliding your finger over the face of a phone or tablet,

you now have the world by the tail.

 

Aside from gritting my teeth and having to occasionally purchase a new piece

of very expensive test equipment for the lab, a portion of our inventory

still consists of 20-30 year-old equipment that still functions and is as

accurate as new equipment that is purchased today.  And it is fixable+ACEAIQAh-

 

End of rant.  It+IBk-s time to get back to working with my vacuum tubes and

transistors+ICY-.

 

I think about this topic often as I drive by a, now vacant, TV repair shop in my home town…’Colortronics’  how TV Sets and much of consumer electronics are no longer repaired but are simply thrown away when they no longer function.    Just for drill, I Googled Colortronics in Auburn, WA. ….Yes their Web Site is still there as if they were up and running.

Proving yet another point…Don’t trust Web Sites to be taken down when a business goes away.

I’m much like Greg, I went to school to learn how to repair electronic devices down to the smallest part.   And, to support this effort, I collected a large number of electronic parts and pieces which, only recently, I have been (reluctantly) throwing away.    Today I will, if the opportunity comes along, actually build something using a lot of those parts.   Repurposing a piece of equipment that I ‘rescued’ from the dumpster is in my blood I guess.   In today’s world the attitude seems to be if you can’t buy something ‘off the shelf’ from someone to resolve an issue – It can’t be done.    Being from the old-school, we looked at these needs as a challenge to design something, build it, install it and admire our handy-work.     Have to hand it to guys like Don Winget who was able to escape being a broadcast engineer in Seattle for Skagit County where his love of creating solutions was turned into a business.  Today you find Broadcast Tools equipment everywhere.    Don is one of the lucky ones!

I recently got into a discussion about the use of the term Translator in Radio – Translators that ‘translate’ or re-broadcast FM Stations are called ‘FM-Translators while translators that translate AM Stations on FM are called ‘AM-Translators.

Here’s an item that only an Engineer could appreciate.   At the end of pieces of Flanged Rigid RF Transmission line are often found plastic covers.    Not wishing this item to be thrown away..

I waited for a better use to come up.    It took a while, but finally happened one day as I was waiting for a returned phone call.   3-Transmisson line bolts and PRESTO!  I had the perfect container for paper clips on my desk.   Something that perhaps only broadcast engineers that deal with transmitting equipment could appreciate!  🙂

 

Once again bidding wars are the name of the game for some TV assets….In this case-  regional sports networks belonging to Fox, Tribune and WGN.    Look for some big-names and big-money in this one.   Some of those seeking these properties are names that are not normally associated with Broadcasting.

Other big deals to be announced are for the Tribune  and  Cox Stations.    All of which will have a certain impact on operations in the Seattle area.

Other deals in the works are a reported sale of Nielsen (The firm that provides media ratings)

Another picture to share .   I was recently joined by, now retired from WSU, Don Eckis as I inspected the operation of the NWPB Radio Translator on Green Mountain east of Kalama.   Don is now back living in Vancouver

 

Another local AM on the decline story – In this case, the AM Station licensed to Auburn, WA.

This station started life in 1958 as KASY running 250 watts, day-time only on 1220.   The station was started by Ed Garre and his wife June operating out of a little house in downtown Auburn (Torn down a few years ago to make way for a large apartment building)  The call letters were a natural as Auburn was, and to a degree, still is, at Railroad town. (Casey was the legendary railroad engineer).  At some point the station increased power to 2500 Watts Daytime only on 1220 using a directional pattern and two towers.    The station later increased power to 10kw Day and 1Kw night Non-Directional and moved to 1210 when the Clear Channels were opened up.  Later, they received a construction permit to increase power to 50kw Day and 10Kw night at a new location.    About that time, in the late 80’s,  Viacom had purchased 97.3 FM (then KNBQ) and was changing formats to oldies and figured having a simulcast AM would be a good idea.  They purchased the station (and this is where I came in).   The late Arne Skoog and I embarked on building the transmitter site on the east side of Auburn.   After initial testing it was determined that this was not a good location.   So the station continued to operate for a while with its transmitter operating 10Kw Day and 1Kw night.    It was eventually determined that the towers (once used for the 1220 directional system near the Valley Freeway on the west side of Auburn) would work for 1210 during the day with 27,500 watts.     Viacom made the decision to operate during the day at the old West Auburn location and operate, at night, with 10,000 watts at the newly constructed site on East Side of Auburn as KBSG-AM.    The station was purchase with 97.3 by Entercom and continued to operate using various formats and call letters.   Entercom sold the station to Bustos Media where the format was changed to Latino using, again, various call letters.  This two-site operation continued until just a couple of weeks ago as KMIA.

The present owner of the station, Amador Bustos, wanting to reduce expenses, decided to abandon the 10,000 watt 4-Tower directional night site in favor of operating with a fraction of that power, using the same antennas and location as used for Daytime.     Whereas the property for the night site was leased, it made a great deal of economic sense.

In looking at the files I pulled a copy of the Viacom purchase order for the towers that I signed back in 1989…..A flood of memories overtook me for a moment as I was involved in the birth and death of a transmitter site.    By the first week in January all the equipment will have been removed and the towers made ready for removal .

Unlike many AM Stations the site did not become too valuable to continue to be used for broadcasting…It was a simple matter of economics where AM stations don’t produced the revenue they once did and retraction is a viable option. Prior to being a AM transmitter site the property was used for a 3-hole golf course – Now it will be used for who knows what.   The property remains in the Garre family who have reportedly put it up for sale.  For me it means less work – and, as Martha would say….That’s a good thing.

I have this feeling that I will, again in this coming year, write about another AM that is either downsizing or is throwing in the towel.    Like a lot of things, they have life-cycles…just never thought that AM Radio would be one of them, as viewed from 50 years ago.

Then there is this –

Media Contact:

Brian Hart, (202) 418-0505

brian.hart@fcc.gov

For Immediate Release

FCC PLAN FOR THE PARTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

WASHINGTON, December 22, 2018—Brian Hart, Director of the FCC’s Office of Media Relations, issued the following statement regarding the FCC’s plan for the partial government shutdown:

“Because of available funding, the Federal Communications Commission plans to remain open and pay staff at least through the close of business on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, despite the partial government shutdown.”

 

My old friend, Dwight Small sent me the following picture –

How many of you that work in TV remember the name CONRAC ?    Long before flat-screen and Multiview displays where TV Monitors made by this firm.   Whereas I worked in TV stations where a lot of equipment was purchased from RCA – They were always painted Dark Umber.

I wonder how many remember Conrac? A 6080 with a code date of 68-09.

https://picclick.com/RCA-6CG7-6FQ7-for-Conrac-Vacuum-Tubes-Used-182983184173.html

Sad to report on the passing of another in our business.    Jeff Nordstrom left us around Christmas.    For those of you that have been working in Broadcasting in the Seattle area for a long time that name might sound familiar.   Jeff worked at 1590/102.5 back in the 60’s.    I recall, at the time, I would buy tubes from him that would no longer work in the 1590 transmitter that would work just fine in my modified transmitter at KMO.    Jeff left the area to work in Satellite Distribution and later Harris Allied when they were selling equipment.    I would, occasionally, run into him at NAB.    He had an infectious personality, and a big smile and always a story to tell.   In recent years, Jeff was living in Wisconsin.   When I got the news, I let Marty Hadfield and Dwight Small know…They both remember him …Perhaps you did too?

And then, thanks to Century Link  – We all received a variation of this one –

 

EAS and WEA went nuts trying to let us know that calling 911 was not going to work etc. etc.  In the end, on the 31st….We all heard that the problem was traced to a gizmo in Denver that was reportedly sending out bad data.    Just how a problem in Denver would cause our local 911 system to crash is creepy.     One would think that these systems would be geographically isolated and not be inter-dependent.   I was always taught to avoid SPOF’s (Single Points of Failure).    It appears that Century Link does not subscribe to this ‘old school’ thinking.   One of the local TV Stations ran a story on how one county in this area chose another vendor the last time this happened and how C-Link got fined.    I suspect that this time, it could be worse for them as interest has risen to very high levels.

 

 

Well now, as we start a new year – Some items that will, hopefully, bring a smile –

From the ‘something to ponder’ department

Did you every give the number ‘Zero’ much thought?    Many have not – https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/7/5/17500782/zero-number-math-explained

This all leads me to ask –

  • is dead air Zero?

 

  • Can there be degrees of nothing?

 

  • What about the difference between – aught, naught and nought?

 

  • When in TV you ‘fade to black’ how can you state there is no picture when black is simply a dark color?

 

  • If you were to assign numbers to colors – if White is Zero would Black be infinite?

And from the Questions with few answers department

Ø If poison expires, is it more poisonous or is it no longer poisonous?

 

Ø Which letter is silent in the word “Scent,” the S or the C?

 

Ø Why is the letter W, in English, called double U? Shouldn’t it be called double V?

 

Ø Every time you clean something, you just make something else dirty.

 

Ø 100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars. Today everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.

 

Ø If you replace “W” with “T” in “What, Where and When”, you get the answer to each of them.

 

Ø Why is there a ‘D’ in fridge, but not in refrigerator?

 

Ø Who knew what time it was when the first clock was made?

 

Ø Wonder why the word funeral starts with FUN?

 

Ø Why isn’t a Fireman called a Water-man?

 

Ø If money doesn’t grow on trees, how come Banks have Branches?

 

Ø How do you get off a non-stop Flight?

 

Ø Why are goods sent by ship called CARGO and those sent by truck SHIPMENT?

 

Ø Why is it called ‘Rush Hour’ when traffic moves at its slowest then?

 

Ø How come Noses run and Feet smell?

 

Ø Why do they call it a TV ‘set’ when there is only one?

 

Ø What are you vacating when you go on a vacation?

 

With that….It’s clearly time to end this column for this month.

 

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

Until then – May you have a wonderful new year !

 

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714.

 

Clay’s Corner for October 2018

November 9, 2018
By

Clay’s Corner for October 2018

Clay’s Corner

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

As I write this, in late September, our weather is pretty much back to normal. Much cooler temperatures, showers and breezes, noticeably shorter days and fall colors starting to show.  This past summer was indeed very dry in this area.  In fact we set a record for the driest May through August with just 1 inch of rain.  (Compare that to other places.)  Perhaps the smokiest (is that spelled right?) too with several weeks of breathing the output of BC forest fires.  The fact is, we went almost 3 months without clean air – violating federal smog standards for 87 consecutive days.  The low amount of precip took its toll on many trees.  You can see many of our evergreens that have been killed in the process.  Perhaps proving to some that it does not rain here all the time?

Other regions had their own issues – – California experienced terrible wildfires that will take years to heal.  This picture speaks volumes.  (Note the lights of an on-coming train coming around the curve.)

Hurricane Florence has made a mess of the things on the other coast with epic amounts of rainfall and flooding, power outages and, of course, failures of services and systems we depend on…Radio and TV Stations, Cable TV and Cellular telephone systems.

 

As we move into October, those of us that travel into the mountains of Western Washington are reminded that the ‘Windy Season’ is here.  The big historic October blow took place on Columbus Day in 1962…hopefully this year we won’t have any big storms to deal with.

A friend in Southern California sent me this picture of what it’s like to be heading to the transmitter site, after a wind storm, and finding a tree across the road.

I recall, a few years ago, after a big ‘Blow’ we had about 30 of these down across the road to West Tiger.  It took 3 of us a day just to get the road open.  Yes, I carry a chain saw, as do others that have to go up there this time of year.  Here’s Paul Carvalho, Chief at Bonneville/Seattle, getting in some practice at the KIRO-AM transmitter site on Vashon.

Perhaps by the time you read this, the EAS National Test, on Oct. 3rd, will have come and gone…The first scheduled date was scrubbed due to Florence.  This year’s test is the first one for both EAS and WEA alerting systems.  Will be interesting in how it turns out.  To find out, all EAS Participants are required to file an electronic report.  One wrinkle involved a great bit of Federal timing – EAS Participants had to update security certificates to all their EAS equipment shortly before the big test.  My guess is that some will not do this, meaning that their equipment won’t decode the test message.

On the topic of EAS – We have a committee of folks working on the revision and update of the Washington State EAS Plan – Several are broadcasters from this area.  The major reason for this is to bring our plan into full compliance with the most recent FCC EAS Report and Order.  If you would like to be a part of this process, please let me know.

In August we lost another whose name continues on today.  Jack Moseley passed.  Jack sold the company that we all know, back in 1977.  He was 91.  Could not help but note that his Obit mentioned that he enjoyed HAM Radio, like so many other pioneers in this industry.

It’s long been known that you could easily purchase two-way radios….for very low prices….at a number of on-line locations.  The FCC posted this item the last week in September –

  • TWO-WAY VHF/UHF RADIOS MAY NOT BE IMPORTED, ADVERTISED, OR SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES UNLESS THEY COMPLY WITH THE COMMISSION’S RULES.  Advises retailers and operators that VHF/UHF two-way radios must comply with FCC technical requirements before they may be marketed, imported or operated.  By Advisory. (DA No. 18-980). News Media Contact: Will Wiquist at (202) 418-0509, email: Wiquist@fcc.gov. EB. Contact: Jonathan Garvin at (202) 418-1130, email: Jonathan.Garvin@fcc.gov DA-18-980A1.doc  DA-18-980A1.pdf  DA-18-980A1.txt

 

I could not help but note a recent story written about legendary Seattle Top-40 DJ, Pat O’Day.  In the piece I learned that his dad was a preacher in a Tacoma Church and had a radio ministry on KMO, the station I was associated with from 1966 to 1985.  It would be interesting to know just how many people, whose names we would recognize, were associated with that station.  The piece also mentioned the Spanish Castle, one of Pat’s concert venues during the 60’s.  This was a big dance hall on the NW corner of Kent-Des Moines road and Pacific Highway.  Another path crossing, as I remember playing in a band there…way back when.

In the category of – it was bound to happen – an AM Radio station gets an FM Translator and then asks the FCC if they can turn off their AM.  The FM Translator deal was the FCC’s plan for helping struggling AM stations.  The most recent instance involves KVSL in Show Low, Arizona who proposed to do just that.  They did not propose to turn in their AM license, just turn off their AM ‘from time to time’.  In the end, the FCC said no to the proposa,l saying that it was at odds with their intended goals of AM Revitalization.  The rules are pretty simple – The FM is a translator, and like all translators, operate when the parent station is on the air.  I suspect that other AM radio broadcasters were watching this with a great deal of interest, especially an AM that has relatively poor facilities, or where they could sell the land where their AM tower is located and continue to operate their FM translator.

On the subject of Translators, did you see where a pair of FM translators in the Chicago area recently sold for 3.5 Million?  Wow!  It would not surprise me that in some circumstances the value of an FM Translator could exceed the value of a parent station, especially if that station was a small signal, or daytime only AM.

There are some job openings for Radio Techs in the New York City area that are having issues being filled.  The reason.. the cost of living in the Big Apple.  A similar situation is taking place here in the Seattle area.  Bottom line – Wages for technical workers in Broadcasting have not kept pace with those that do similar work in other technical industries.  Couple this with the number of people who are retiring or passing away…and you have a recipe for some, perhaps painful, adjustments to come for the broadcast industry.

Here’s a look at one of the openings in NYC, in this case, with EMF, that provides an interesting look at what people who do what I do are expected to know how to do (Love that sentence).

Responsibilities
As a Field Engineer, here’s what you will be doing…
•    Evaluate the overall technical operation of facilities within the New York area, and take corrective action as needed, to ensure equipment is functioning.
•    Install, maintain, and repair broadcast equipment (such as audio processors and mixers).
•    Install and maintain microwave and satellite equipment.
•    Regularly operate equipment that regulates the signal strength, clarity, and sound.
•    Maintain knowledge of applicable FCC rules and regulations and ensure all equipment within area of responsibility is operating safely and legally.
•    Analyze and fix technical faults on equipment and systems to the module level.
•    Manage and partner with contract engineers to resolve technical problems.
•    Occasionally, carry out work on non-broadcast equipment (such as electrical generators, air conditioning units, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc.) as conditions dictate.
•    Make trips to sites to perform installations or repairs; and EMF headquarters for training or special projects.  The length of these trips varies depending on the specific needs.
•    If assigned, serve as Chief Operator/Engineer for one or more broadcast station(s).

Qualifications
To qualify for this position, here’s what you’ll need….
•    5+ years experience troubleshooting and repairing radio broadcast electronic equipment
•    Good understanding of the components necessary in a broadcast air-chain
•    Understanding of satellite technology
•    Understanding of radio frequency emissions
•    Ability to solder and de-solder electronic components
•    Knowledge of applicable, broadcast-related FCC rules and regulations
•    Proficiency using standard broadcast test equipment, such as VOMs, oscilloscopes, and RF spectrum analyzers.
•    Being highly organized, detail oriented and thorough as very strong skills/traits
•    Personal, relational, friendly
•    SBE Certification highly desirable
•    Candidates currently residing in Central New York preferred

Employment Requirements
•    Must pass a pre-employment background & reference check.
•    Must provide proof of legal authorization to work in the US.
•    Must have a valid driver’s license and an acceptable motor vehicle report.

According to Pew Research –
The audience for nearly every major sector of U.S. news media decreased in 2017. The sole medium that did not experience a decrease was radio. In Pew Research’s “State of the News Media 2017” the fact tank found that while local and network TV, digital-native news sites and daily newspapers saw their audience shrink last year, radio remained steady.
Citing Nielsen data, Pew notes that the overall audience reach for broadcast radio – which includes all formats, not just news – has been at around 90% for the past nine years. Local and network TV news declined 7%, while cable news fell 12%, according to comScore TV Essentials and StationView Essentials data. The audiences for digital-native news sites fell by 5% in terms of monthly unique visitors in 2017, comScore Media Metrix Multi-platform data shows. The biggest loss of audience was the circulation of U.S. daily newspapers, which fell by 11% last year, according to the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM).

Certainly a finding that should make those that own and operate radio stations quite pleased.

News circulated this past month that there were plans to shut down legacy radio signals from WWV and WWVH due to budget  cuts.  Just think – That Atomic Clock you have would be ‘free to roam’.   For more information – Check out –

http://www.arrl.org/news/nist-fy-2019-budget-would-eliminate-wwv-and-wwvh

There is a  petition to request that funding be maintained

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/maintain-funding-nist-stations-wwv-wwvh

As we all know, newspapers are failing at an alarming rate.  Pittsburgh is about to have the distinction of being the largest city in the U.S. without a daily print newspaper, as the city’s Post-Gazette recently announced they will no longer be producing a weekend paper.  This paper began publication 232 years ago.  They did add that they will be publishing a digital edition 7 days a week…..Times do change.  You do remember holding a Seattle PI don’t you?

I recently ran across a piece titled –
“24 things that are considered ‘normal’ in the US but the rest of the world finds weird.”

One of the items has bugged me for a long time – Why do people in the U.S. use the term ‘American’ as if that were an exclusive term, or think that United States and American are interchangeable terms?  The rest of the world finds this weird.  After all, the U.S. is just one country in the Americas.  In my way of thinking Canadians are American’s too.  Most folks from other countries refer to the U.S. as ‘The States’.

Sirius XM Radio says it is buying Pandora in a stock deal valued at $3.5 billion, according to the Associated Press.  The satcaster says buying the pureplay webcaster will allow it to expand its service beyond cars and into homes and other mobile areas.

The after-effects of the Sinclair/Tribune deal continue to simmer.  Perhaps good news, the Inspector General concluded that the FCC didn’t show favoritism in their decision making process.  Now the two parties, that thought they’d have an approved deal are suing each other.  I’ve heard nothing as to the ownership status of the Tribune stations, other than that others are looking at them.
Around here we don’t get a lot of days with blue skies and white puffy clouds.  As I was driving into the KVTI transmitter site recently – I saw this –

No, it’s not your imagination.  The amount of spam phone calls is getting worse.

According to new data from First Orion, a call protection company, the amount of junk calls will reach 46% by mid-year 2019.  And by the end of that year, the amount is projected to finally cross the halfway point, meaning that half of all calls will be spam.

Collecting data from 50 billion calls over the past 18 months, the company was able to shed light on a phenomenon that many people have noticed and lamented: a severe uptick in calls, many of which use “neighborhood spoofing” techniques to entice people to pick up by having a fake caller ID that resembles the caller’s number.

The numbers weren’t nearly this high even a year ago.  In 2017, mobile call scams made up just 3.7% of total call volume.  By 2018, the number had shot up to 29.2% and projections for spam calls look on track to hit half of all call volume next year.

I had a recent experience that was ‘interesting’.  I was driving along when my cellphone rang and my truck’s ‘radio’ announced I was being called by Clay Freinwald.  Knowing that I rarely call myself I instantly knew it was a Robo-Call.  What was interesting was the displayed phone number – 000 000 0000.   Apparently they are able to not only spoof the phone number they are calling from, but they are able to gain access to your address book in your phone and use one of those names to make you think you are receiving a call from someone you know.  Perhaps the good news is that my home phone now rarely gets a Robo-Call as the scammers have shifted their attention to mobile devices.  Despite all the efforts of the FCC, FTC and others…they have done little to stamp out the practice.  Perhaps the sad part is that the fuel that keeps these outfits going is victims that fall for their baloney.  If everyone just hung up they would all go away.  A sad commentary.

Did you see the story about the big transformer that was being moved through Washington?  The media picked up the story about this big piece of electrical equipment and promptly called it a ‘Windmill’ transformer.  I recall having been sternly corrected a few years ago when I called those big machines ‘Windmills’….and being educated to the fact that they don’t mill anything.  They are to be called WIND-GENERATORS.  It was truly a big one – weighing just over 1-million pounds.

KRKO in Everett has been trying to sell their old transmitter site, hoping that some Ham Operator would want the place.  Comes complete with towers and a pretty good sized building…Check out –
https://www.redfin.com/WA/Everett/7115-Larimer-Rd-98208/home/145977378

In a similar category – the 1210 AM transmitter site, east of Auburn, that’s been used for many years as the 1210 ‘Night Site’ is going away.  The owner of the station, Amador Bustos, has received a construction permit to operate Nights at the 1210 Day Site on the west-side of Auburn, with much lower power.  The property owner has put the land on the market (minus the towers that have to be removed).  I was looking through the files on that site and found a purchase order I had signed for those 4 towers back in 1989!  The 10 kW transmitter from that site will be moving to Woodburn, Oregon.  Another example of the retraction of AM radio.

Looks likes Seattle is no longer the nation’s hottest housing market – We’ve been replaced by Las Vegas.  Apparently the folks at the King County Assessor’s office are not moved by this news as my ‘Value Notice’ showed my house value increase by about 5%…In a while I will find out what the 5% means in terms of actual tax increases.  I should add that I live in Auburn, not Seattle.

With that being said – the typical single family home in Vegas goes for just under $300K, while Seattle is at over $800K.

While stopped for my favorite beverage recently I could not help but notice this license plate:

I asked the driver if this was a radio station.  He said no, it was just assigned to him.  The following explains –
https://www.oregonlive.com/cycling/index.ssf/2013/04/share_the_road_license_plates.html
https://bikeportland.org/2007/12/18/first-look-at-oregons-new-share-the-road-license-plate-6216

Just for drill – I looked up KPEB in the FCC Data Base and could not find a station with those letters.

Radio transmitter manufacturer Nautel seems to be doing well of late with the sale of two more FM transmitters for use on Cougar Mt.  Hubbard is getting a new GV10 for use as an Auxiliary for their 98.9 station (The Bull) and Crista is getting a new GV30 for their KCMS/105.3.  The only recent sale for GatesAir (that I am aware of) in this area has been to KNHC (I wrote about that recently).  GatesAir may have an edge over Nautel with their offering of Liquid Cooled FM transmitters.  Liquid cooling has been S.O.P. for TV Transmitters for years.  Thus far I’ve not heard of anyone buying one in this area, however.  Nautel is a Canadian company based in Nova Scotia.  GatesAir is in Illinois.

It’s been a year since Hurricanes Irma and Maria blew into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and there are still Radio and TV Stations that have not fully restored operations.  To be exact – The FCC  reports 10 AM stations, 8 FMs and 3 FM translators are currently silent.  That’s in addition to 11 full-power TV stations, 35 low-power TV stations and 3 TV translators.

Another country says goodbye to analog (or in their case, analogue) TV – This time it’s Ukraine.  One exception is the area’s bordering Russia.

Responses to what I have written

I recently posted a picture of a pickup truck tailgate that had a big RAM on the back suggesting it might be taken as an invitation to do just that.  A reader of this column reminded me that those vehicles say DODGE in the front.

Then there was the piece about the FCC Chairman climbing a tower.  A reader suggested that this was ‘Pai in the Sky’.

In response to my list of paraprosdokians, a reader suggested this one – ‘Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like an banana’.

And from John Schneider, who was active in the Seattle SBE Chapter when I started writing this thing – “Glad to see you are still doing your column, after all these years.  Who knew it would last so long when we started?“

I found this survey info to be quite interesting –

According to the 2018 Infinite Dial, 82% of respondents 18+ who have driven or ridden in a car over the past month currently tune into traditional radio in the car.  Likewise, the audio source used most often in-car is radio, at 56%.  Next in line among chosen     audio choices is a CD player, at 49%, then owned digital music (45%), online radio (28%), podcasts (23%) and satellite radio (21%).

Jacobs Media’s 2018 Techsurvey showed FM radio to be the No. 1 feature radio listeners want included in their next car purchase.
My question – Why is it that many vehicle makers want to remove the CD Player from new vehicle radios?

I often write about the radio ratings in Seattle.  This time, a look at the numbers in our neighbor to the south – Portland, Oregon.   First some market stats – Population 2.54 Million (Seattle is now just under 4 million) Market Rank – 22 (Seattle is 13).

  • The #1 Station is KOPB – Oregon Public Radio with an impressive 8.1
  • AM is not doing very well there either with the top rated station (KEX) at #18
  • Like Seattle, there are 3 Sports/Talk stations – All AM’s and 2 Country FM’s

If you recall my last column I wrote about how KNKX’s HD2 actually gathered some ratings with a minimal .1 share.  Portland is, apparently ahead of Seattle in terms of HD Channels getting ratings with THREE HD-2’s and HD-3’s showing…Each with a .8 and one with a .1.  Also ahead of Seattle is the KOPB Stream showing up with a .4.  I don’t know of any Seattle radio stream that has listed ratings.  One more thing.  Remember the call letters KMTT?  Long time letters for Entercom’s 103.7 in Seattle.  They are now ‘parked’ on an Entercom AM in Portland.

Interested in combining your IT skills with Broadcasting?

Entercom Communications is seeking an IT Manager for both Seattle and Portland Radio Markets.  The position allows living in either city.  The position requires a minimum of 3 years of experience and a strong understanding of Local Area Networking, Microsoft Outlook email administration, experience with MacOS, server maintenance and disaster recovery, Windows Server 2012, and teleconferencing and A/V systems.  For more information, go to https://entercom.avature.net/careers/JobDetail/IT-Manager-Portland-Seattle/13387

The following item was submitted by now retired NWS WCM from Seattle Ted Buehner

What’s the Forecast At My Transmitter Site?

Have you asked that question?  What source do you use to address that question?  Your smart phone weather app? A website? Your weather radio?

Some years ago, I pointed your Corner host Clay Freinwald to the site-specific National Weather Service (NWS) digital weather forecast to answer this question and he has used it ever since.  If you go to your local NWS forecast office website, you will find what Clay is using.  You can also find it on your smart phone by going to mobile.weather.gov, a mobile phone website application that you bookmark.

By using your local NWS forecast office digital weather forecast information, you get forecast information from experienced and local forecasters who live and work in your area.  Other sources like your phone weather app or other websites come from other parts of the country or in one phone app case – Russia!  Many of these resources use purely automated computer forecast output with no human input at all.  This fact helps explain why those weather forecasts ‘seem to be off’ at times.

Clay services many mountain top transmitter sites across mainly Western Washington.  One frequent site for him is West Tiger Mt. – about 20 miles east of Seattle.  The site has elevation of a little over 2500 feet with a great view of Mt. Rainier to the south. [plug in one of your Rainier photos]  So the weather at that higher elevation location is much different than in the lowlands near Puget Sound.

Over the years, Clay learned that the weather around Western Washington differs greatly from one location to another, thanks to the combination of complex terrain and the weather.  Knowing what weather to expect before ever heading to that targeted transmitter site is very important.  For example during the winter season, it can be raining in the Puget Sound area while snowing up at West Tiger.

What does he use again?  He visits http://www.weather.gov/seattle/ and has bookmarked his usual mountain top transmitter site-specific forecast locations for easy access before ever stepping into his vehicle.  It is the old slogan – know before you go, that has served him well over time.  If the weather at the site is going to be inclement, he is prepared for it.  And there have been times when it is snowing at the site, that he postpones that routine maintenance until the weather there improves.

Here is an example of his West Tiger MT 7-day weather forecast off the www.weather.gov/seattle/ web site.  In this particular case, wildfire smoke was widespread throughout much of the region.

But as they say in some television commercials, there’s more!  Upon scrolling down a bit on the page, you get the hourly forecast for that same green box (about one nm x one nm) location.

Yes, that is a hourly forecast for temperatures, wind direction and speed, cloud cover, rain or snow amounts and more!

Has this information sparked your interest?  Can you get the same kind of weather forecast information where you work?  Yes, you can!  There are 122 NWS forecast offices across the country with at least one serving your area.

Start by visiting www.weather.gov to view the whole nation and then click on your neck of the woods – that click will get you to your local forecast office – bookmark that.  Then using the provided clickable forecast map, click on the spot for your transmitter site.  The next page to appear will provide a map with a green box on it – you can zoom in and click one more time if you need to ‘fine-tune’ the location.  Now you have the forecast for that transmitter site.  Scroll down and you can get the hourly forecast for that location as well.  You can bookmark both of these.

 

This process can be done for all your transmitter sites as well as any other desired locations for business or pleasure.  I hope you find this information quite helpful.  As always, when you are weather aware, you are weather prepared.

If you have other weather-related questions that you would like addressed, let Clay know and he will share with me.

Ted Buehner
Meteorologist
Retired – National Weather Service
Washington SECC Vice-Chair

If you are like me, you are always pleased when someone you know wins an award.  In this case…I want to congratulate Jeff Welton of Nautel on being named SBE Educator of the year.  I’ve known Jeff for many years.  Our first encounter was by telephone, dealing with an issue with an AM transmitter close to 30 years ago.  At that time, he was a customer service tech with the firm.  Later he moved into sales, becoming central U.S. sales manager, but, along the way, has made it a point to reach out and teach others about how to do it better at their transmitter plants.  I was chatting with Jeff most recently and he was telling me about a day-long technical session he was involved with in the U.P. of Michigan.  They had a great turn-out with engineers that are unlikely to go to the NAB show in the spring.  The subject matter was broad ranging and I could tell that he was abundantly pleased that he could share some of his knowledge with those that are unlikely to gain it any other way.  Those of you that know Jeff will agree that SBE is honoring a person who richly deserves it.

Really….Is it that time already?  I recently received word that the 2019 NAB Show hotel block is now open.  Prices in their promotional piece range from $257 at the Aria Resort and Casino to $190 at the Westgate (formally the Hilton, next to the Convention Center) to $119 at Harrahs,  Of course, the further you go from the Contention Center the lower the price.

Tim Moore, Transmitter Engineer for Sinclair in Seattle found a file folder full of wonderful historic pictures of KOMO Radio and TV.   See it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShToFTzMNTY

I’ve written about Smart Speakers quite a bit for the simple reason that they might be the only radio in a person’s home these days.  I know that this is the case with a young relative of mine.  So here are some of the latest news items in that world –

  • Ownership of these gizmos is rapidly growing – Now some 32% of consumers own one.  (Would be interesting to compare that growth curve to other consumer electric devices from the past)
  • Recent projections show that 48% of U.S. consumers will own one by the end of this year.
  • And as if this were not enough – 45% of consumers who presently own one, plan to buy another by the end of the year.
  • So what are people using them for?

Music – 70%
Weather forecast – 64% (So much for NOAA Weather Radio)
Fun questions – 53%
Online searches – 47%
Checking the news – 46%
Making a call – 36%
Research or information searches – 35%
Asking directions – 34%
Ordering items – 30%

  • How many people who have one are actually using them?

Using it more – 76%
Using it daily – 71%
More than once a day – 44%

Amazon, our locally based giant – is fully on board with all of this with their Echo products with a recent release of a number of new products – including items for when you are on the go, in a vehicle.

I did have an interesting thought or two about all of this –

  • What happens if you already have a person in your home named Alexa?
  • Wonder how many children will end up with that name?

I love this quote –

Susie Dent – ‘The joy of dictionaries is that they provide you with dozens of answers you were never looking for’.

Here are some words to ponder –
confelicity – The joy you experience when witnessing someone else’s happiness; the near opposite of Schadenfreude
scurryfunging – Term that describes the frantic rushing around the house we perform in a crazed effort to tidy up before guests arrive
absquatulate – To leave somewhere abruptly
clinomania – The overwhelming desire to lie down
mumpsimus – Someone who rigidly sticks to their opinions despite being proved wrong
quiddle – to waste time on trivial matters in order to avoid doing more important things.

Which aptly describes what we have just done

That’s it for this month….My brain has gone from empty to something more extreme.

Lord willing – I’ll have another installment next month in most of these same locations.

In the meantime – Your comments and pictures are always appreciated.

Don’t forget to Fall-Back.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for August 2018

August 2, 2018
By

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Have you been enjoying summer?  Hot enough for yah?  From what I hear, this July has been the 2nd hottest on record.  Perhaps all part of global warming….Heard someone say recently that the Pacific Northwest is the only place in the country where Climate Change is making things better.  Perhaps, frankly I’d trade some of these 90 degree days for some 70’s in October.

Well the big news has certainly got to be the action of the FCC regarding the Sinclair/Tribune deal.  Media watchers were all saying that the deal was about to be approved by the FCC when – BOOM!  The FCC honcho, Ajit Pai announced that he is recommending that the merger be reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  As a result, those same outlets did a ‘180’ saying that this move could kill the deal.  Sinclair has been scrambling to make modifications in the hope that the FCC would back down.  Thus far this does not seem to be happening.  Some have been so bold as to suggest that Sinclair has shot themselves in the foot due to the way they were handling the matter of divesting of some stations.  In other situations, sending a merger to an ALJ can mean a ‘dead-deal’.  If you recall, AT&T tried to buy local cell provider, T-Mobile – In that case the FCC just threatened to send the matter to an ALJ for review causing AT&T to give up.

Then there is the political side of this….Sinclair is known for having a very conservative position on things.  As such, many figured the FCC Chairman, being a Republican would help…Apparently it did not…Perhaps surprising a lot of media-watchers.

So what’s going to take place in the Emerald City with the two Tribune Stations?  Not sure anyone is bold enough to be making bets.

Right after this bombshell – Cox, owner of KIRO-TV, announced that they are putting their 14 TV stations up for sale!  In an interesting reversal, where we have seen Radio/TV groups shed their Radio stations (CBS for example), Cox owns 61 Radio stations.

My heart goes out to all of those that work for the Tribune and Cox stations as they deal with a special kind of ‘Limbo’.  In my career I endured several ownership changes…In the end, most of them ended up being positive….However, getting there can be very unsettling.  In all of these it was pretty cut and dried…The old owners announced they were selling and identified the new ones…Then you waited for the FCC to approve the sale followed by the introduction of new management and, with fingers crossed, the announcement came that you had a job with the new firm.  In this case, things are far from clear, which is a breeding ground for anxiety.

On a much more cheerful note….I took my camera to the transmitter site recently and captured some scenes to share.  This first one is looking north at the ridge that is West Tiger Mountain with a foreground of wild flowers.  This is not a setup…There is a ton of nature’s color up there this year.

On the left is what we call West Tiger #1 or WTM-1.  It was the first broadcast site developed on the mountain back in 1988.  On the right, the two towers are at WTM-2, a site developed some years later by American Tower.  Although it does not look like it from this angle, the tops of all three towers are at the same elevation, 3148 feet above sea-level.

In recent columns I’ve written about Smart Speakers.  New reports are the sales of these devices will reach 100 million by the end of this year….and there will be 225 million of them by 2020.  Of special interest locally is the news that the Amazon Echo will account for more than 50% of sales.  Pretty impressive.  This is another classic case of a lot of people asking the question ….’Why didn’t I think of that?’

One of our area’s Non-Comms…KUOW is making use of these devices.  They’ve been chosen as a test station to receive donations from listeners who stream the station via the Alexa.  Amazon teamed up with NPR and KUOW on the project.

Time to look at the Seattle Radio (6+) Ratings in what Nielsen calls ‘Market #12’ –

  • Hubbard is at #1with their CHR formatted KQMV (92.5)
  • Close behind is KIRO-FM with News/Talk
  • Non-Comm, KUOW has dropped to a tie for 4th place with KISW
  • The top-rated AM station is KIRO/710.  Perhaps the hot Mariners having a role here?
  • The other highly rated Non-Comm, KNKX comes in at #10
  • The two Country Music stations, KKWF and KNUC (The Wolf and Bull) are tied
  • The next highest rated AM is KOMO at #16
  • Of the bottom 10 stations – 4 are AM’s with 3 of them 50 Kilowatts.

More examples of wildflowers along the road to West Tiger.  There are still some that think I’m crazy for preferring to drive up this ‘rustic’ road than drive on a freeway.

 

 

Road and Track magazine recently had a headline that read:

The 100 Worst American Cities for Driving – Adding – “You don’t want to be in the driver’s seat when visiting these cities.”

Sure, you knew where I was going with this one …Ranking #96 is Seattle…They added –

“Downtown Seattle is surrounded by a collection of lakes and peninsulas, meaning a lot of choke points for drivers trying to get places.”

We are joined at the bottom of the list of desirable places to drive by Oakland and San Francisco, Detroit and Philadelphia.  So what about Portland, Oregon?  Not much to brag about.  They came in at #60.

Meanwhile – Back to the tranquil road to West Tiger Mountain…and Foxgloves

The battle over what we call ‘C-Band’ continues to rage (3.7 to 4.2 GHz).  As time goes by, it appears that indeed wireless will end up with a portion of the band.  The question remains, where and how much.  Clearly the message that this spectrum is being used has been heard, with the FCC acknowledging that the existing users of this spectrum need to be accommodated.  I have contended that we will be looking at another ‘repack’ on this band.  That position is being echoed by others now as well.  One segment that has been very vocal has been Non-Commercial users.  Even Chairman Pai is on record that no action should be taken that threatens Public Radio.  Driving all this is the desire by the Wireless industry for spectrum for their 5G systems.  So now we wait for announcements to come from the east.

An interesting story out of NPR this past month.  They are reporting a spike in donations for Non-Comm Radio and TV Stations.  Interesting to note that this is the first time in decades that these facilities have seen increases in donors and revenue.  I wonder how much that is a result of the current battle between elected officials and news organizations?

So now that IHeart Media is Bankrupt – What’s next?  Sensing there is ‘blood in the water’, some organizations with money to spend are circling.  Already some of them have trotted out offers sparking comments of a coming bidding war.  Will the media giant be parted out…or what is the question?  Like all of these issues, only time will tell.

Just when we are getting used to the term ‘Fake News’ comes word on how ‘Fake Video’ could mess with our heads in the future.  Think of it a photo-shop for video.  I recall the term – You can’t fool a camera – Well, sorry Grandpa….Today you can using facial mapping and AI.

Received news that Kelly Alford is moving back home.  He recently wrote –

We’re in the process of packing and putting our Virginia house on the market to move back to the PNW in the coming months.  I don’t want to disclose where yet, but I start in my new position August 1st.  I’m sure there will be announcements accordingly.  Suffice it to say it will be nice to get back to my roots, with no more endless overseas work-related travel.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed getting to know the various cultures and customs in my prior gig, but at my age, 14 to 16 hour flights through numerous time zones, including dangerous places for American’s like Baghdad, was taking a toll.

Not everyday that the retirement of a local Radio General Manager makes the news.  However, a lot of attention is being given to the retirement announcement that Hubbard’s Marc Kaye is going to hang it up.  Marc’s been in the business 45 years.  He was the Cluster Manager for the Sandusky group in Bellevue and continued in that role with Hubbard.

Whereas I am one of those ‘older people’ that has elected to keep working beyond conventional retirement age (whatever that is) I found this item interesting –

The headline read – A record number of folks age 85 and older are working.

70 may be the new 60 and 80 may be the new 70…but 85 is still pretty old to work in the U.S.  Interestingly 255,000 people 85 and older are working, the highest number on record.  So what are they doing?  All kinds of things…crossing guards, farmers and ranchers and even truckers.  The number has doubled since the last depression.  There are a number of supporting reasons for all of this.  Longer life expectancies, lack of retirement plans, less physically demanding work.

What is not mentioned is doing what you like.  This is the situation in my case.  Frankly, I like what I do, perhaps because of its relationship to my hobby.  For the last eight plus years I have been working for a number of different firms…pretty much doing what I’ve done for the last 55 plus years.  The best part is I don’t have to deal with any politics and my hours are pretty flexible.  The best part is knowing that I could quit any one, or all, of these jobs any time I want and live comfortably thanks to doing some good financial planning.

Does the name Randy McCune ring a bell?  I first met Randy over eight years ago as he was leaving WSU after 15 years, in Pullman as I was coming in.  He moved on to KIRO-TV here in Seattle.  Where is he now?  Director of Engineering at Sinclair in Memphis.

A name that is very familiar with Radio Broadcast Engineers is Nautel.  There have more more new Nautel radio transmitters installed in the Seattle area made by the Canadian company than any other in recent years.  What you may not know is that Nautel has been awarded the prestigious, “Canada’s Best Managed Companies” designation.

For those of you that are members of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, SBE, you know that elections have taken place.  I have not heard any results.  One of the members of the Seattle Chapter is running for the board, Tom McGinley.  If he is elected he will be the 3rd member of our Chapter to serve at the national level.  The others were John Schnider and myself.

We lost Mike Scott, who passed away July 5th.  In recent years, you would see Mike’s picture in the Seattle SBE Chapter newletter – The Waveguide.  Mike had retired from teaching broadcast technology at Bates Technical College in Tacoma.  Prior to that, he was on the Engineering Staff at Channel 11.  Those that knew Mike, will long remember that twinkle in his eye and his wonderful sense of humor.

I recall traveling to various SBE Functions with Mike and his wife.  In fact, one of the pictures that showed him with his hair blowing in the wind was taken on one of those jaunts.  When I posted the news of his passing on the Chapter Remailer, the rapid response and volume of comments underscored how much Mike was thought of, and his incredible value to our industry.  Many of his students work in broadcasting in this area.

WSU’s Northwest Public Broadcasting deploys technical support people in various locations in the State.  One of those locations is Wenatchee.  Replacing the recently retired Don Eckis is Brady Aldrich.  I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with Brady visiting some of the Western Washington sites I look after.  Brady is a familiar name in these parts, having worked for KOMO in years past, having roots on Vashon Island.  Most recently he had been working in Mississippi and was (as you might guess) anxious to return to the PNW.  I found it interesting that he happened to have relatives in Wenatchee.  I got this picture of Brady will visiting KVTI in Lakewood recently.

 

In recent years I have been receiving emails from readers of this column.  Many reach out to me, perhaps concluding that I have become a historian in this market.  One such email was from Charles Reinsch.  To be honest, the name was not familiar.  Chuck wrote –

It would be highly unlikely, but thought I would ask anyway: Could one of those old Collins on Cougar Mtn be KRAB’s?  It was a 737A that Lorenzo claimed was SN 1.  I would very much like to find some photographs.  All I have right now is a Collins sales brochure, and a pretty awful scan of a student newspaper photo of the front panels of the exciter and final.

Chuck Reinsch

I did not have the answer to his question, so I reached out to Dwight Small who worked at 107.7 with Sunbelt back on the air in 1984.  Dwight reported that the old Collins was gone by that time.

Chuck and I had several email exchanges and from this I received the following information about the type of transmitter that was used by KRAB.  Take a look –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things have changed a great deal since that old transmitter was made – For openers, there are no longer Vacuum Tubes in modern 5Kw FM Transmitters.

 

Here is a comparison of the old, circa 1948,  Collins 737A with a modern Nautel GV5

 

 

Collins 737A Nautel GV5
Width 93 ¼ inches 23 inches
Height 79 inches 72 ½ inches
Depth 37 1/3 inches 33 inches
Weight 4700 Pounds 333 Pounds

 

 

As I mentioned earlier – I receive some interesting emails – Here is one I recently received.

Hello Clay, I enjoyed your recent article about the improvements to AM….it
was mostly spot on!

However, you said “The old “Clear Channels” are not there anymore, folks.
Just turn on your AM radio at night and try and find them”

Here in Massachusetts I can get WFAN(660), WABC(770), WCBS(880),WBAL(1090),
WQEW(1560), WFED(1500), WTAM (1100), CFZM(740), WBT(1110), WPHT(1210), WWVA
(1170).

These listed above come in at night regularly….and reliably.  So, from my
standpoint…they are “still there”.

Now, is there any programming on them that anyone would be interested in?
That’s another story!  😉

He signed his email with a simple ‘D’ However his address included his Amateur Radio Call Sign, so I looked him up.  He is David Boucher, KB1USP from Methuen, Ma.

A question for you, my readers here in the Pacific Northwest – How many Clear Channel AM Stations can you receive?  David sent along this link to a fascinating site that shows all the AM Nighttime patterns:

http://www.nf8m.com/patternmaps_night.html

I’m always happy to hear from you – feel free to drop me a note – if you work in the industry.  Let me know what’s going on, and send a picture while you are at it.

Speaking of pictures – Thanks to Kent Randles of Entercom Portland for this picture of one of the big FM Station Combiners in that city.  A lot of plumbing for sure!

Before I forget it – Congratulations to Kent on his promotion.  He is now overseeing the technical operation of Entercom’s cluster of Stations in Seattle as well as Portland.  He was up here recently spending a day with me while I showed him the transmitters and systems used in Seattle.  The following is Kent taking a picture of me. J

Well that’s about it for this month.  Not a lot of news, but certainly some interesting happenings non-the-less.  We have a month or so of Summer left – make the most of it.

Lord willing I will catch you next month with more.

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

Clay’s Corner for July 2018

August 1, 2018
By

Clay’s Corner

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

The headline read –

Broadcasters Raise Red Flag Over FCC’s C-Band Plans.

Sitting just a few feet from FCC Chairman Pai at NAB recently I came away thinking that he is not anti-broadcast…Then I learned his position regarding C-Band (3.7-4.2 Gig) Called Mid-Band by the wireless industry.  Once again we are in a defensive position in terms of spectrum.  The wireless industry is not dumb – They want additional spectrum and they consider any of that is not heavily used fair-game…On the surface, apparently, our C-Band qualified.

Remember the battle over the 2 Gig spectrum when the wireless industry set its sights on that band?  Broadcasters were scrambling to show the FCC that we did indeed use the spectrum a lot more than they thought.  The issue was the lack of information regarding the number and location of receivers.  Frankly, we were caught short on this one…As a result we experienced our first dose of ‘repacking’…(even if it was not called that).  In the end, we lost spectrum.

Then it was deemed that Broadcasters were never going to use all the TV spectrum they were allocated….and, on top of that, the FCC had done a poor job of spectrum management with the switch from analog to digital and the case was made to ‘re-pack’ TV….One more time, we lost ground.

Now the wireless ‘cross-hairs’ are on C-Band.  This spectrum has been used for a very long time for program/network distribution and, in the minds of many, is un-utilized…..”Wireless Speak’ for ‘We want it’.  Much like the 2-Gig issue, broadcasters have laid back thinking that the FCC was never going to let anyone else use this band…Nothing to fear.  All it took is for the Wireless crowd to assert that the band was under-utilized and contend that, at least, it could be shared by them.  IMHO, much of the blame here rests with Broadcasters, in particular Radio Stations, that have sprinkled satellite receiving antennas all over the land and not bothered to have any formal data documenting all this use.  This ‘under-counting’ is proving to be dangerous.  Now, all of a sudden there is this scramble to try and make a case that this is not a suitable location for shared use.  Whether or not we will be successful at beating back this threat remains to be seen.

History has shown that, when confronted with this kind of a situation, that we may well be looking for a loss of spectrum in exchange for a smaller piece of the pie with some protection.  Several organizations are involved in this battle – NAB, NPR, iHeartMedia, program distributors, networks etc.

Has this has put the FCC in a position that, perhaps, they did not see coming?

On the Wireless side – they are making it clear that they need the spectrum, and this particular piece is ideal for their new 5G systems.  Seems to me that this pits the desire of new ‘Gee-Whiz’ wireless toys up against old fashioned systems that are frequency hogs anyway.  Let’s face it – 5G is being pre-sold as the do-all, end-all, wireless system that’s likely exciting to the policy makers while Broadcasting is being pushed to the rear of the bus as old technology.

We were being told that the FCC would be voting in July on the proposal….Then we got word that the filing deadline had been extended to October 17.  As a lot of media coverage has pointed out.  Our C-Band systems impact a huge amount of Radio and TV operations.  A lot of fingers are crossed – My Guess – Standby for more re-packing.  See GN Docket Nos. 18-122.

Remember the 103.3 Oak Harbor Station?  It was on the air playing a Country format using the old call letters imported to the Seattle area from Hood River, KMCQ.  The station is now KZNW and part of the Bustos family of stations airing their Le Zeta format.  The Transmitter, operating with 1400 watts, is SE of Mt Vernon.  Le Zeta is the same format they run at their 1210 AM  Auburn Station.  I’ve found there are a number of locations in the Everett area that you can hear both quite well.  Now the question is who will be next to pick up the KMCQ call-letters?  As of early June the only station on the air with it is KMCQ-LP in Salem,  Oregon.

Congratulations to Sue Qualls who is retiring from KUOW in Seattle after 32 years.  Now she can have time to come to the SBE Chapter Meetings and make all the working-stiffs feel bad Sue recently posted this on Pubtech –

After 32 years at KUOW it is time to retire.  This list has been oh so helpful (and entertaining!).  I will miss my fellow public radio engineers but who knows I might show up for the PREC some year!  Hard to let go some times.  I leave KUOW in the capable hands of Sam Roffe and Tim Meinig.  There is a lot on their plate but with the help of Dane Johnson and crew nothing they can’t handle.

All the best,
~Sue

Apparently the Retirement Bug is ‘catchy’.  I was at Daniels on South Lake Union recently to attend the Tom Pierson Retirement Gathering.  Tom has changed his email signature to read –

Paul Carvalho is the new Chief Engineer for Bonneville Seattle
You can contact him at Pcarvalho@bonneville.com

The very best to both of you.  To be very honest, I too would like to retire…Unlike these folks, I will likely begin to do this in phases by cutting back on the amount of work I do.  The problem is how to start the process.  I figured by now that it would be ‘others’ that make the first move.

I attended the 35th annual gathering of Amateur Radio operators in Seaside the first weekend in June.  The weather was spectacular.  Here’s a picture taken from the balcony of our hotel looking east at the Coast Range.  I actually bought a new radio too!

Unfortunately, on May 31st, another broadcast tower fell.  This time the cause was not related to re-packing but rather a pilot of a crop-duster clipping a guy wire.  The pilot died and the 1040 foot tower for KTUZ-FM in Okarche, Oklahoma (NW of Oklahoma City) went crashing to the ground.  I am reminded of the time an aircraft clipped a guy wire on the Channel 13 tower on Gold Mountain.  In that case the tower survived, the plane and pilot did not.

There is a lot of buzz these days about SFN’s (Translation: Single Frequency Networks) for TV.  Locally Buzz Anderson has been working on a radio version of this with the addition of a number of on-frequency boosters for the Bustos Media’s KDDS on 99.3, to my knowledge the first of its kind in this area.  Perhaps he could come tell us about it at a future SBE-16 Chapter Meeting?

A number of years ago this column started appearing on the Northwest Broadcasters website.  This provided access to my musings to an additional number of readers.  This change meant that I would be receiving incoming mail from many of them.  Often, very interesting.  One of those new readers was named John Ashbridge.  John never wrote about what he did, but would rather make comments about something I had written.  I was saddened recently to receive an email from Gord Lansdell, the NW Broadcasters webmaster,  informing me that John had recently passed.  He passed on his Obit where I learned that he was the longtime PA Announcer for the Canuck’s in addition to being a newsman at CKNW.  It’s always great to have new readers, but always hard to lose an old one.  He was 71.

On the 13th of June we learned of the Passing of Dick Harris.   Thanks to John Price for coming up with this picture of Dick standing next to some fellow (on left) who was an obvious shutterbug (A young Dwight Small)  I recall hearing Dicks great voice on KIRO and the Crista Stations.

Like many of us in Broadcast Engineering, Dick was a Ham with the Call of K7VCD.   The following is a picture of Dick that he had posted to QRZ-

He also posted these comments –

 

Back in the 50’s while working at the RCA plant in Camden, NJ, and being surrounded at work by a lot of Hams, I succeeded in getting my first license, KN2MBT and plunged in as a Novice. Not being satisfied with Novice limitations I worked hard and earned my general in 1955. In 1962 we moved out to Washington State and became K7VCD. For the next 43years I was satisfied with my General class privileges, until March 23rd, 2005. After much persuasion, encouragement from a friend, N6TZ, and hours of studying practice exams, I earned my Extra Class privilege and decided to keep my call, K7VCD, because it has been me since 1962. My current station includes a Kenwood TS570, Ameritron AL-811 linear amp, working into an inverted V fed with ladder-line, a Hy-gain DX-88 all-band vertical. My Hy-gain 20-10 Triband beam was completely restored again on Memorial Day weekend 2005, with a lot of help from family and friends. It’s now working better than ever, and is my window to the world of Ham radio once again. I’ve been in radio broadcasting since 1949, starting as a board announcer/disc jockey gravitating over to the engineering side. Finally retired as fulltime Corporate Project Engineer with Salem Communications in the Spring of 2003 after 19 years.

 

Dick was a warm and wonderful person, loved and appreciated by all that knew him…and a reader of my column…I know this for he too would occasionally drop me a note about something I had written.  To say the least, another great loss.

John Price located a prior business card from when Dick was in NYC –

A spy in our midst?  That’s what a lot of people were wondering on learning that the Amazon Echo smart speaker could be listening in to our conversations….or that someone, somewhere, could be.  Many news organizations jumped all over this one.

In the years that I’ve been around I’ve seen many things come and go.  When I started in broadcasting, back in the last century, AM was king and FM was something that some experimented with.  Now that has completely reversed.  Not long ago, Medium Wave (or so it’s called in other lands), was also the predominant audio delivery.  Now with AM’s popularity fading all over the world, some are suggesting that moving from Amplitude Modulation to Digital might give the medium a new lease on life.  In this country our experiences with HD Radio have been less than stellar….Those that are advocating Digital Radio Mondiale are viewing things a bit differently.  Regardless of what music lovers will tell you, there is still an audience for non-music programming – News, Talk, Sports etc.  The latest ratings surge of KIRO-AM-710 is a great example.  The problem with AM is not so much the lack of stereo or fidelity, but rather the ever increasing noise level that effectively, progressively, reduces the coverage of AM Stations.  Operating with a different modulation scheme, one that is less subject to noise would certainly be a move in the right direction.  The potential is likely great.   However…There are a couple of minor problems with DRM….1) No one has a receiver for it,  2) Owners of broadcast stations are not going to invest money in transmitting equipment to broadcast to no-one (much less invest in new AM equipment) and 3) You can’t buy a receiver at Best Buy, Costco, Walmart etc.  However, you can buy one from Amazon… https://www.amazon.in/Avion-DRM-Digital-Radio-DRM-AM-FM-M/dp/B012GIDF1O

The problem here is the classic – Should we do it just because we can?  Can anyone tell me just how we could make a transition from today’s AM to a DRM system in the US or Canada?  In other countries they have it easy….Just sunset AM and mandate that everyone do DRM.

Oh oh….I forgot – 5G is going to eliminate all broadcasting anyway….What was I thinking?

Appears that KZQM in Sequim has been granted a license by the FCC.  The little station had to deal with the objections of the neighbors on Dungeness Heights.  KZQM is on 104.9 operating with 6 kW ERP with a directional antenna, providing a broad null to the NNW.

They are not the only station facing objections.  Apparently there are those on Bainbridge Island that don’t like the idea of a 3rd station at the Salem transmitter site. in this case KKOL/1300.  The City of Bainbridge Island is one of the objectors.

Nice to know that it’s not just broadcasting that’s causing objections…So is the roll out of 5G.  With about 300,000 new antennas sprouting from all kinds of structures across the land, it’s not the visual impact that is raising concerns, it’s the old fear that this new service will cause cancer and this cancer causing emitter could be on a light pole in your front yard.  This is going to be interesting to watch.  New broadcast station transmitters rarely have a lot of support ….However, with all the hype about 5G there is likely going to be a lot of pressure to overlook objections.  The old fear that having a transmitter in your backyard will lower property values may not hold true this time.  The fact is that a property that does not have 5G coverage may well suffer because of it.

July 10th at 9:30 a.m. is the date and time of the next SECC Meeting at Clover Park Technical College.
The SECC is in the process of re-structuring some of its procedures as our To-Do-List continues to grow and our mission expands.  One of our biggest assignments will be to re-write our EAS Plan.  If you have an interest in working with this group – please do make plans to attend, either in person, or via telephone conference bridge.  To help facilitate participation we will be adding other methods of joining the meeting very soon.

On the subject of EAS – This fall we will likely, once-again, have a National Test.  At this time it’s not known whether this will come via the Internet and the FEMA/IPAWS CAP system or if it will be via the legacy EAS (Analog) system we’ve had for years.  There are some suggesting that FEMA may ‘stress-test’ the system by surprising us.

If you attend the NAB Convention in Las Vegas, and deal with broadcast transmitters, you have probably looked at the giant Stratosphere Tower and wondered how it would work as a broadcast transmitter site.  The wondering is over as Beasley now has a 250 watt translator there (translator for their 720 AM).  Reports are that it works very well, nearly the same as the higher powered stations on Black Mountain.

Here’s a view that you don’t often get of a tower.  In this case, we are looking down on the top of the original broadcast tower at West Tiger Mountain, all thanks to Martin Gibbs and his UAV.  The elevation of the top of this tower is 3148 ft (or about 960 Meters) above sea-level which helps explain why FM stations located here cover such a large area.

  • The Black items at the top of frame is the transmit antenna for KIRO-FM-97.3.  97.3 was the first station at this site, some 30 years ago.  Below the KIRO-FM Antenna, and not visible in this view, is the Master FM Antenna used by 7 other stations at the site.
  • The white ‘round thing’ in the middle of the tower is one of the 3 TV ENG receive antennas.
  • The transmitter building is the rectangular item below the tower.
  • The red item on the right is my pickup truck.

 

More from CNBC

The Headline read –

What salary do you need to afford a Seattle-area home?

This was followed with this question –

How much do you reasonably need to be earning to afford a median-priced home in the Seattle-area compared to the rest of the U.S.?

The following information comes from Lending Tree, who made the following assumptions about the borrowers –

  • Secured a mortgage with a 4.5% interest rate
  • Had a 10% down payment
  • Paid a private mortgage insurance premium of 0.25%
  • Had a debt-to-income ratio of 28%

Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, Wash. – Median home price: $410,000 – Monthly mortgage payment: $1,870 – Salary required: $97,554

Portland/Hillsboro, Ore., Vancouver, Wash. – Median home price: $348,050 –  Monthly mortgage payment: $1,587 – Salary required: $83,311

Denver/Aurora/Lakewood, Colo. – Median home price: $360,000 – Monthly mortgage payment: $1,642 – Salary required: $81,157.

If you think that buying a home in Seattle is expensive….We are far below San Francisco…But that is another story.

On a personal note – I just received my Official Property Value Notice from King County…My 2018 to 2019 change is $50,000.   A friend of mine in Seattle had his valuation increase just under $100,000.  We can only guess the impact this will have on the property taxes we will be paying next year.  Is it any wonder why retiree’s look to move out of the area?

XL Media has announced they are buying KZIZ/1560 and KKDZ/1250 for $850,000.  For those old-timers in the area, KKDZ/1250 started back in the 1920’s as KTW.

Local, Seattle area, station KNKX uplinks it’s program streams to a Satellite.  Recently that system went down on June 9th sending Lowell Kiesow on a mission to discover what happened.  The cause was quite unique.  Apparently a local high school was holding their graduation nearby and let loose a number of balloons.  A bouquet of metalized, Mylar balloons stuck in front of the uplink feed horn which is 14 feet off the ground.

Look closely at the feed on the antenna – As Lowell said…’It’s a first for me’.

Perhaps a new term – ‘Balloon Fade’??

I’ve written, in past columns, about ‘parking of call letters’.  This is a common practice by big companies who feel the need to change call letters in a market but don’t wish to give up letters that they feel have value.  iHeartMedia recently did this with KUBE, likely knowing that a lot of other broadcasters would love to have them (pronounceable call letters are very hard to come by) so they changed the call of a co-owned AM in California to KUBE.  Now, after some format shuffling, KUBE is back in Seattle on 93.3.  I recently spotted a billboard reading ‘KUBE 93.3 is Back’.

Apparently AM stations that are operating FM Translators, in some cases, have discovered HD Radio.  Whereas many of these translators are operating with very low power or highly directional arrays.  It’s not likely that a station owner will make the investment in the equipment required.  However, some of them, with 250 Watts and a decent location have.  Could it be that some of these operations might even devote some time and energy to their HD and HD2’s?

HD Radio certainly has grown, with some 2200 Stations now broadcasting with HD.  Radio’s version of  Multicasting is growing also, with almost 1500 stations operating HD2 (a second program channel) and close to 500 operating HD3  (a third program channel).

Installing HD Radio systems for a station is a matter of receiver penetration.  According to Xperi – 51% of all cars sold in 2018 came with HD Radio.  Breaking this down further…There are 40 brands with 253 different models that come with the mode.  Penetration bottom line – over 16% of all cars on the road have HD Radios or a total of 45 million vehicles, a figure that is growing at the rate of about 10 million vehicles per year.  That’s a pretty compelling reason for broadcasters to get on the band-wagon.  The owners of 107.7 in Vancouver are the latest in SW B.C. to jump on the bandwagon.

I recall when HD multicasting was just being talked about.  Back then broadcasters were excited to have a multicast channel, as they considered it to be ‘another radio station’ they could make money with.  Then the reality of the matter sunk in.  They were fearful of putting on compelling programming or cross promoting the new system for fear it would mean moving listeners away from their FM station that was paying the bills.  Many made it clear – If it can’t make money on day-one…they were not interested.

Then there is the problem of educating consumers.  An owner of a new vehicle may stumble across the fact that their car-radio can receive content that they like, but have never heard about and have little chance of getting additional information.  Most HD program streams do little to explain how it works.  Auto dealers are, generally clueless.  You would think that broadcasters in a given market area would have a printed hand-out that comes with every new vehicle that explains how HD Radio works and promotes the content that is available.  Nope – Not happening.  My ‘technical mind’ obviously operates on a different plane than those that could really do a lot more to make HD Radio into the money maker that we all want.

Again this is so much like the roll-out of FM many years ago.  Then AM Station owners, not realizing the advantages and potential for FM were afraid to promote it for fear it would hurt their AM operations.  Sure it had better fidelity, Stereo, less noise, worked in places that AM would not, etc.  FM finally had to almost make it on its own…and that it did.  In many cases consumers were the leaders and station owners were the followers.

I am beginning to have hope that attitudes are changing with young and more techno-savvy managers taking the reins that HD Radio and other new technologies will be embraced rather than being feared.

Speaking of new things – No, not Smart Speakers …Podcasting.

So what is a Podcast?  According to Wikipedia:

A podcast, or generically netcast, is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download and listen to.  It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.  [1] It is very similar to, and may overlap with, Internet radio, though perhaps distinct in revolving around topics personalized exactly to listener preferences, [2] plus podcasts are often able to be streamed or downloaded on demand.

Some broadcasters are very much Involved with Podcasting…Especially those stations that have non-music content.  Some podcasts are, essentially, recordings of previously aired programming.  NPR and their affiliates are naturals for this mode as they do more long-form content that lends itself to becoming a podcast.  In some respects this reminds me of being able to access old-time radio shows.

Meanwhile iHeartMedia is working on its own Podcasts.  These will be scripted episodes targeting teens.  There is nothing like a great story, in audio form.  As a kid I grew up listening to wonderful stories on the Radio.  The mind can paint pictures just as good as you can find on TV or in the movies.  Interestingly there has been a huge gap between the days when Radio was the story teller and today when Podcasting is catching on as something ‘cool and new’.  If you have a story about some locally produced Podcasts – Let me know.

Many were wondering if Cumulus Media would be parted out and sold off as part of their re-organization.  Sounds like they did exit a few properties, but not as many as some suspected.  The major change was to cut their debt load by about a Billion Bucks.

Time to look at the highlights of the latest Seattle Radio – 6+ – numbers…

  • KISW has grabbed the #1 Spot.
  • Apparently KIRO-AM did not get the memo that AM Radio is dead showing up at #8.
  • KIRO-AM’s sport format appears to be dominating the competition with the other 2 AM Sports-Talkers way down the list.
  • The spread between the two FM country stations is getting narrower with KKWF at 3.6 and KNUC at 2.8.
  • Looking at the Christian CHR format, locally owned Crista/KCMS is leading that race with a 2.6 compared to EMF’s KLSW with 1.1.

Did you ever think that someone would develop a device like a UAV or Drone?…Obviously advancements in computers and electronics have made these devices not only possible but common.  The earlier picture of the top of the West Tiger tower would have required a big helicopter with a pilot and camera operator in the past.  Now, with something that can be stored in a small case, you can launch your camera in minutes, for a fraction of the cost.  TV news has certainly discovered the usefulness of these devices, so has spot or commercial generation.  A recent look at one of those real-estate magazines showed aerial views of a lot of properties.  Fire fighters are using them to locate hot-spots in wildfires.  Ranchers are using them to keep track of their cattle.  Farmers are using them to look over their crops.  The list goes on.  With any kind of device like this there are going to be those that fly them where they should not…and there are those that don’t want to be snooped on.

And of course, you will find this sign –

And the Headline read…

WiFi Now Available at Potholes State Park!

I suppose you could ask – Why would someone want a park named after a hole in a road?
Wonder how many others noticed that in Washington State, Pot has another, and popular meaning? (Canada is not that far behind.)

At least there is Wi Fi there!

What’s happening to KUIK in Hillsboro, OR (West of Portland)?  Recently I received a list of equipment that was for sale at the station…Could it be that it was off the air and selling parts and pieces?  Apparently this is the case.  I ran across this on-line:

https://portlandtribune.com/ht/117-hillsboro-tribune-news/390339-281853-updated-radio-station-kuik-to-cease-operation-march-31

The following U-Tube video gives you a look around the station on their last day of broadcasting.  Note how their studios were at the airport.

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

According to the FCC, KUIK was first licensed in November of 1954.  It appears they were operating with 5 kW Non-Directional Day and 5 kW Directional at night with 4 towers.  There are rumors that they lost their lease at their transmitter site.  Others report the station was sold and will be back, in some form.

The bottom line appears to be that yet another AM will become nothing more than history.  Sadly, I suspect the trend will continue.

To wind up my column for this month….Some miscellaneous, off the top, ramblings, all of which will likely confirm what many of you have suspected for a long time…

Have you ever noticed how we have a habit of asking the wrong question ?   Let me give you an example –

You have just arrived at your hotel.  You walk up to the desk and the person there asks you, “What brought you here today?”  My typical response – ‘I drove’ – at which point the clerk is clearly set back.  If they had asked – What is the reason for your visit here today, that would have been a better question.  Why do we do this?

Another favorite of mine is when in a restaurant many servers will ask  – “Can I grab something else for you?”  What!!  Did they really mean to ask if they could bring me something else?

How about that question on a form at a medical provider’s office – “In case of an emergency who should be called?”  I like to write ‘Ambulance’ .. Just to see if anyone actually reads those things.

Some questions are just an invitation to have a little fun.  For example when at the checkout of the grocery store they will often ask “Did  you find everything OK?”  Responding with something like “I couldn’t locate the Pickup Trucks” will often stop them cold, leaving them with no idea of what to say.

Responding with a totally unexpected answer is also fun – Example – When people see a cat’s litter box they will often ask if you have a cat….Responding with, “No, that’s for company” is certain to generate an interesting expression.

I’m among the few that have no middle name.  Often, when filling out a form, I am asked to complete my name at which time I write NMI.  Occasionally someone will ask me how I pronounce it.  Thinking about this a bit more I have concluded that I am a very lucky follow.  I determined long ago, the only reason people have middle names is so a child will really know they are in trouble when a parent uses it.

I recall, several years ago, I was on my way to, or from, an Amateur Radio event.  I stopped at a grocery store while wearing a little pin on badge that looked like this.

CLAY
K7CR

 

The checker kept looking at me ….and finally she took a deep breath and said, “How do you pronounce your last name?” (She was very serious.)

When you reach my age you have come to the point in life that you have no choice to accept what the passing of time has done.  A lot of people have trouble admitting how old they are and will try and hide it, or will subtract a few years from the actual number.  I have a lot more fun approaching this differently.  I like to ADD about 10 years to the actual number.  The response is amazing….People will often remark about how good you look.  Hard to get compliments at this point!

Well that’s it for this month.  Thanks for permitting me to share these items with you.  If you have a thought – feel free to drop me a note – always happy to know that someone, somewhere is reading it.

Have a wonderful Summer.  Remember, at this latitude, it is our shortest season.

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

 

 

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