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Clay’s Corner for March 2020

March 15, 2020
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Clay’s Corner

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

This past month it was that, McClatchy, the owner of the Tacoma News Tribune has filed for bankruptcy. Having been in the Tacoma area since 1957 and worked for former owners (Tribune Publishing Co) for a number of years this caught my attention.

As we all know, newspapers are not what they once were. Back in 1957 the TNT (as it was known by many) was the big-frog in the advertising pond. Not only did they own the daily newspaper, but they owned KTNT AM & FM Radio as well as KTNT-TV (Channel 11). When I started with them, they were a force to be reckoned with in Tacoma. About 1982 the Tribune sold the company…piece by piece. Viacom picked up the Radio and Cable systems (they had sold Channel 11 earlier) and McClatchy bought the paper.

 

When broadcasters have less advertising, they just run fewer commercials. When newspapers have less advertising, the paper gets smaller. The last couple of years has seen the TNT shrink to be about the size of a weekly. It does not take a genius to figure out that times are tough.

McClatchy, a 163-year-old company, is a very well-known firm with deep roots in northern California. Not only do they own the Tacoma paper, but many others. And, even thought it’s not been much talked about, McClatchy owns, reportedly, 49.5% of the Seattle Times. The McClatchy announcement cannot be good news to the Seattle paper either.

What happens now is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it will be picked up by a venture capital outfit who will try and milk the last few pennies out of it before selling it off?

According to The New York Times, McClatchy wants to shed much of its pension obligations and its more than $700 million in debt. Making me wonder what would happen if you were retired from the company and depending on your pension. Any doubt why so few firms are offering pensions these days?

The plan outlined in the filing would slash about 60% of its debt. McClatchy says it wants to make a transition to digital. This is a path that is being followed by most newspapers as a means of getting their content (which they hope you will pay for) into your Smart Gizmo. Seems to me the P-I did that a long time ago.

Times have changed over the years. Newspapers are simply not the factor they used to be. When was the last time you saw a young person on your street delivering papers? Or, when was the last time you saw a row of newspaper dispensing machines in front of your local retailer? When was the last time you went into a restaurant and saw customers having a meal while reading the paper? We all know what happened. Those little gizmos called smart phones have had their way with the newspapers. Today, most get their news by watching TV, listening to the Radio or via the Internet, connected to that little hand-held gizmo.

Thankfully, there is still a demand for Radio and TV to provide news and information!

Speaking of Tacoma. According to Redfin – Tacoma, benefiting from the high prices in King County, has become one of the fastest housing markets in the country, one notch behind the Bay Area of California. Betcha there are many that never thought they’d see this happening.

As a former Pierce County resident, now living in King County with property taxes that went up over $1000 last year….I understand. Funny how my situation is reversed. I use to live in Lakewood (SW Tacoma) and commuted to Seattle. Now I live in King Country and often am working in Lakewood. If you have any doubt that many have chosen to live down south…take a look at Southbound I-5 in the afternoon. It’s jammed from Federal Way on.

At one time the idea that a broadcaster would sell their transmitter site to another company and lease it back would be unthought of. Then American Radio Systems spun off their American Tower Systems to become American Tower, which quickly pursued the same thought to become a huge tower-site owner with a very impressive Market Cap. Others have jumped into the business since then – Vertical Bridge, Crown Castle etc. So what does a broadcasting company do these days when they are looking for a cash infusion? Of course, sell their towers.

This is exactly what Cumulus is considering doing now with some 250 sites they own in 32 states. The fact they recently went through bankruptcy likely played a role in the decision.

Have you made your reservations and plans for the annual trek to the desert? It’s getting close to NAB time. Remember they have moved ahead the show dates…eliminating the half day on Thursdays. Dates this year are April 18 thru 22nd. (ed: this event has been postponed.)

Apparently, another step forward to the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint was recently made. Something now has to happen in California as they creep toward making the deal final. Wow, this has been a very long and slow process. I can just imagine how the sky on the east side of the Lake will be lit up Magenta when the deal finally closes.

Yes, they are still stealing copper wire. According to published reports, thieves have hit Seattle’s streetlights more than 40 times in the past year.

Now that we are winding down the TV Repack, here comes another one…this time it’s what’s called C-Band. For those of you that are not familiar with this chunk of spectrum, you can go here for more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C_band_(IEEE)

Broadcasters are heavy users of this spectrum often used to connect them to satellite fed programs. For many years, broadcasters would install satellite dish antennas for the services they wanted. Unfortunately, despite the urging of many, some, perhaps 25% of stations did not bother to register their C-Band terminal with the FCC before the 2018 deadline to do so.

Now, fast forward to the present. the FCC, in response to the ever-growing demand for wireless spectrum, is planning on doing to C-Band what they did with Broadcast TV channels – Repack them. In other words, squeeze the broadcast users into a smaller piece of spectrum so they can auction off the remainder. So, what about those, reportedly, 2000 users that did not license their dishes with the FCC? First off, if the FCC does not know they are there, they would not be likely eligible for any relocation money that could flow from the Auction to pay for their relocation, meaning that this could be an out of pocket expense. (Ooops!) Like before, the FCC appears to be planning on having a spectrum auction, perhaps in December, that would bring in the funds to pay to those that have to change frequencies to accommodate the new users of the band. This will not mean as much heavy-duty construction as was the case with the TV-repack, however there will be a lot of things to do. Getting all the Satellite users to snuggle up in the upper portion of the band will be interesting.

Here’s a story that brought back alot memories:

In the Chicago suburb of Lockport, a family says they are hearing religious broadcasts through the walls of their home. The family has had the local police out to the house to listen to the strange sounds that have been plaguing them at night. The police reports note that “voices and music” and “talking about Christ” can be heard. The officers also heard a “commercial” for Salem Media Group religious teaching WYLL Chicago (1160). The radio station sent an engineer to investigate its reception in the walls of the home.

I had a couple of these over the years, both of them taking place while I was working at KMO in Tacoma. The first took place when KMO still had their transmitter in Fife. I received a call from the Police Department that a woman was ‘freaking-out’ because KMO was coming out of her medicine cabinet. (Back then there were still a number of homes along Pacific Hwy.)
I contacted the lady and told her not to touch it and I would be there shortly. Upon arrival, I indeed heard 1360 AM coming from her medicine cabinet. Not very loud, but certainly audible. This was one of those small metal ones that you hung on a wall with a mirror on the front. The door was partially open. I noticed the hinges were quite rusty. I swung the door back and forth a number of times and the ‘medicine cabinet radio’ stopped operating. I explained if it came back, just do as I did.

The second took place shortly after we moved KMO to Browns Point. There was a widow living in a house next to the Browns Point Improvement Club that reported she could hear voices coming out of her furnace ducts. Thankfully, she was not upset. She explained that as a widow she did not expect to hear a man’s voice late at night.

It is very easy to construct an AM Radio…and often devices that are not designed to be radios become one. Telephones are often guilty of this kind of ‘added/undesired-feature’. Perhaps an added benefit for those AM’s that switch to all digital for that mode will not be as easy to demodulate.

Big thanks to Mike Gilbert for sending me the following pictures of the construction project at the 1110 Station in Oak Harbor. In the process, KRPA will be getting a new transmitter building, a second tower and higher powered transmitter, as they transition from a 500 watt daytimer to 9 kW Day and 2.5 kW night, using a two-tower directional pattern generally aimed to the Northwest.

Here you can see the new transmitter building arriving on a flat-bed trailer.

The arrival of the new 2nd tower

TThe higher powered transmitter will require more power

Here you can see the transmitter building on the ground with some electrical connections having been made.

Thanks Mike for sending the pictures. If your station has been involved with a construction project (inside or out), pease feel free to take some pictures and forward them to me with a short description.

In my recent columns I have written about the discussion regarding the work being done that ‘could’ result in ‘some’ AM stations converting to All Digital. The proponents of DRM are suggesting that this mode of digital transmission should be considered. In response to my comments last month, I received the following from Hal Kneller. Hal is a semi-retired broadcast station owner and engineer in Florida.

In your recent column, you made a comment about receivers and whether DRM 30 (the AM version of DRM for use below 30 MHz) could be decoded on the same radios that decode HD Radio broadcasts. The answer is yes and no. Yes, most of the chipsets being made the last number of years decode HD Radio, DAB, DAB+ and DRM. Here is but one example:  https://www.silabs.com/audio-and-radio/si468x-digital-radios. HOWEVER, the manufacturers do not have the various digital systems enabled in the receivers, primarily for royalty purposes. Each receiver containing any of the various digital radio standards requires a royalty per receiver fee back to the patent holders, be it Xperi for HD Radio technology, ViaCorp for DRM, and World DMB for DAB and other Eureka 147 offshoots. Even though many people think that DRM is an “open standard” and is “free”, that is certainly not the case in either a receiver or a DRM exciter. There are definite royalties for DRM technology as well (paid by receiver and transmitter manufacturers and passed on to purchasers), although sometimes the concept of “open standard” has confused people on that issue. The “open standard” concept refers to developers of applications such as graphics, text services, emergency alerts, and Journaline). So anybody can develop something for DRM, whether it becomes part of the standard or not depends upon demand and those developers can join the patent pool if they wish to receive royalties. More information is at www.drm.org and there is some great technical reading material there.

Since there are virtually no HD Radio stations outside of the Americas (Philippines is an exception), there would be no incentive for a manufacturer to enable HD in radios being sold outside this region. Since there is no DRM here in the Americas, there would be no reason to pay royalties for enabling it to be received here. In the case of DRM, there is some world-wide shortwave broadcasting but those receivers are altogether different from our consumer receivers typically found in homes or autos. Since most of the radios in newer cars are software defined and flashed at the factory for the region in which they will be used, it is technically possible that many could be converted to receive DRM for the AM band. But consider the practicality of it. Can you just imagine going to your local car dealer and asking them to “flash your radio” to receive DRM? They’d have no clue what you’re talking about. Plus there is another potential problem in that most places using DRM (India being the largest) are utilizing 9 kHz channel spacing vs our 10 kHz. The software load might well leave you unable to listen to many stations here unless it was customized for the Americas and again, who will pay for that? Most people have no idea how much iBquity spent on development to get HD Radio into cars (and retailers) back in the early 2000s, same with Sirius and XM.

All that being said, I don’t think most broadcasters are going to be willing to make the investment in DRM for AM with 1) HD Radio broadcasts  being the standard here since around 2001 and 2) the significant cost of implementation. Further, what would be the great driver for DRM on the AM band that would somehow be technically advantageous over HD Radio’s MA3 all-digital system? I can think of only one small thing and that is DRM has the ability to adjust the occupied bandwidth but, of course, at the expense of fidelity and coverage (i.e. lower bit rate for the audio). The all-digital MA3 mode (assuming the entire band converted) would eliminate the interference problem between the digital signals and the analog which would still be there with DRM, unless bandwidth was severely curtailed and that would not end well for audio fidelity.

Just so nobody thinks I am anti-DRM, I am certainly not. I served as a board member of the DRM Consortium for about 5 years and went around the world promoting the technology for both medium wave (AM) and DRM+ for the FM band (and beyond). It’s a great system for digitizing AM. It just isn’t practical to introduce in the US after the horses already left the barn. Had iBiquity, back in the day, worked out some arrangement to make FM HD and AM DRM (perhaps calling it another name) the standard here, things might be different, but we have what we have. By the way, there were people intervening in the early days of development pressing for just that, but nothing came of it. We should certainly proceed with further implementation of the MA3 HD Radio system as it could present some great advantages over analog AM.

On the 19th of February, Radio World Magazine presented a Webinar titled “Digital Sunrise’ which I found to be quite interesting and informative. If you’d like to see it, go here: https://tinyurl.com/rw-sunrise. I can definitely see a future for what is proposed. I just hope that someone in our area will make the switch so I can experience it myself.

On this subject, I found the comments of Chris Alexander to be very interesting –

At this late date, I daresay that there is nothing that can be done about the noise issue. That train left the station a long time ago, and there is a lot of momentum. In my opinion, this noise issue spells doom for most of the AM broadcast medium. Only the strongest stations that produce a field of 10 mV/m or more throughout the coverage area have a chance at survival.

This is where all-digital comes in. It has a demonstrated immunity to noise. It’s not a panacea, but it does perform well in our 21st century noisy environment.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and agree with proponents that if AM is to survive for the long term, it has to make the jump to all-digital.

But what comes first? Do we wait for a critical mass of receivers before making that jump, or do we go now? Do we drive the demand for digital receivers by going all-digital now, or is that a pipe dream? Or … is it way too late for any of this, making this a pointless discussion?

I don’t have a Magic 8-Ball that I can shake and get answers, but I do believe that the AM broadcast medium has both value and a future — if we get moving now, in at least a limited way, with conversion to the noise-immune all-digital MA-3 mode. Receiver proliferation will independently continue, driven by the auto industry and FM. AM can ride that wave. But if the AM medium dies while we wait … well … it won’t much matter if there are plenty of digital AM capable receivers out there. It’s certainly something to think about.

In this day, just about everything is a target for hacking. In broadcasting, a number of major owners have been ‘hacked’. In the past it was discovered that many stations that did not change the default password on their new EAS equipment had a target on their backs and were hacked. On Feb. 20th someone hacked the EAS equipment at Wave Broadband an put up this message for their customers in the Pt. Townsend area.

As you can well imagine, their customers were alarmed. Many contacted the Jefferson County Emergency Management office wanting information.   Apparently, they then put up this message.

Multiple local news outlets picked this one up. Perhaps some were looking for a ‘smoking gun’.

A TV Crew showed up at Washington Emergency Management to talk with the director there.

After the situation in Hawaii (Remember the false missile attack?) this is a highly sensitive issue.

Here is the story from KING 5:

KING 5 Link:  https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/no-emergency-false-alert-over-radiological-incident-sent-by-jefferson-county/281-568c86b3-8aae-4df0-b3b3-5dd4c800e0e8

In my role with EAS – I received an email from the FCC in WDC wanting more information with a promise to look into the matter.

This message was posted on the State EAS Remailer:

All,

For your awareness, Jefferson County Washington was hit with a fake EAS message stating that there was a radiological hazard warning for all of Washington. The fake message appears to have originated from the Wave Broadband cable television company out of California with services in CA, WA, and OR. Jefferson County DEM transmitted a message afterwards to inform the public that it was a fake message. The State EOC also sent out an AlertSense message informing recipients that the message was fake. Jefferson County DEM is continuing to investigate what happened. As of now, we do not know how the system was accessed, and I will not speculate. But, this is a good time to review the most basic of security steps for all EAS equipment.

  • Change both user and administrator passwords
  • Longer and more complex passwords are infinitely more secure
  • Use double authentication by changing the user names
  • Make sure the EAS unit is behind a firewall
  • The firewall should not have any inbound ports to the EAS equipment open
  • The same rules apply to character generators for EAS

In short, treat an EAS encoder/ decoder like you would any computer containing sensitive information. Anything connected to the internet can be hacked, but let’s not make it easy for them. I’m sure that this served as a significant wake-up-call for Wave Broadband. It should give us all cause to make sure that all of our EAS equipment cannot be accessed by those that are up to no-good.
Before I leave the topic of EAS-

This past month the FCC conducted a webinar regarding their new ARS, which is a system that will provide better connections between the FCC and the State EAS Committee’s (SECC’s). There were four members of the Washington State SECC on this call. The FCC received a good deal of input and recommendations for changes that need to take place before this system is formally rolled out.

Meanwhile, the SECC’s Plan Revision Committee is working on revisions to our State Plan. Presently they are dealing with what are called Monitoring Assignments. There will be a discussion of these changes at the March 10th SECC Meeting at Clover Park Technical College with a follow up – working session – scheduled for Monday evening, March 16th. If you are involved with EAS at a Station in Washington State, and would like additional information or would like to become involved with the process, please feel free to contact me for additional information.

We had another event recently. A tornado warning was issued for Grays Harbor County. Unfortunately, many of the broadcasters that serve that area do not monitor the Capital Peak NOAA Weather Radio system which broadcast the warnings. They only monitor the Seattle Weather Radio transmitter. This caused the warnings to be delayed until the story was picked up by the ‘Wire Services’. In response to this, the following statement was crafted. I would appreciate it if this were distributed to those in your facility that need to see it.

The following should serve as a wake-up call for Seattle-area broadcasters and emergency managers. Please read carefully.

On January 21st, the National Weather Service in Seattle issued four Tornado Warnings for Grays Harbor County on the central coast. No damage was reported, but it might have been much worse.  

The Tornado Warning (EAS Event Code TOR) was broadcast on all the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) transmitters serving the coast from Astoria to Forks, including the Capitol Peak transmitter (162.475) near Olympia. But it was not sent from Seattle NWS Radio (162.550). Many Seattle-area based broadcasters only monitor the Seattle NWS station, so they didn’t get the warning until it was picked up by other news services.

I recommend that all broadcasters having listeners/ viewers in areas outside the Seattle area install an additional receiver tuned to the Capitol Peak NWR station (162.475). This is particularly important if your station has translators or a significant signal in coastal areas where the only connection to these warnings is via your stations. The Capitol Peak transmitter should be easily received in the Seattle area.

I hope this event in Grays Harbor County will cause broadcasters to quickly and critically review their EAS monitoring.

According to reports I’ve read recently, the speed at which consumers are cutting the cord is increasing. Cable and satellite TV providers are rapidly losing customers thanks to the availability of high-speed Internet service and with it, on-demand streaming of TV content. Back in 2009 almost 88% of TV consumers were satellite or cable customers. By 2019, 10 years later, that number was closer to 65%. I can imagine the cable firms are in better shape than satellite providers, as many of them have been able to significantly increase their internet-only customer base.

Still want to be a pirate radio station operator? You may wish to reconsider in light of the Presidents signing of bill that will give the FCC more tools to deal with pirates, not the least is the ability to fine those that are doing it, up to $2 million. Last year the Commish fined pirates a total of just over $1.5 million. This is all well and fine (no-pun). I still wonder what percentage will actually be collected. Many of these guys are simply not able to come up with the money. In my opinion, we have too many law makers that think if they pass a new law that this will automatically cause law-breakers to change their ways.

Looking for a technical job in Radio ? iHeart has an opening.

https://iheartmedia.wd5.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/External_iHM/job/Tigard-OR/Regional-Engineer_Req20482-1. This is interesting as it comes on the heels of a technical staff reduction in Seattle and elsewhere.
Here are a couple of smile makers that came my way this past month –

That’s about it for this month, my friends –  Lord willing, I will be back, next month to most of the usual locations.

Until then – THINK SPRING !!   Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for February 2020

February 13, 2020
By

 

 

Clay’s Corner

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

Looking back a year, Seattle had its snowiest February on record and the coldest one in 30 years. The average temperature for the month was 36.6 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, SeaTac Airport saw 14.1 inches in the first 10 days of the month. The old record at SeaTac was 13.1 inches in 1949. The single snowiest day of the year was February 8 when 6.4 inches fell. Just days before, we experienced the two coldest days of the year when temperatures plummeted to 20 degrees on February 5 and 6.   Looking ahead –  Here is what last summer had for us –   By contrast, the hottest day of the year fell before the official start of summer. We hit 95 degrees on June 12 and the summer solstice didn’t arrive until June 21. The following picture is from now retired Broadcast Engineer Dwight Small…A beautiful winter scene.

As viewed from the later days of January – We certainly have stopped talking about drought. The Seattle area is in the midst of weather that could convince anyone that it rains all the time. Just wondering department – Has anyone tallied up the amount of revenue that has been lost by the Radio and TV stations that have been covering the Impeachment activity? I found it interesting that several radio stations elected to keep their ‘main-stream’ programming going while putting the WDC events on their HD-2 channel.    Perhaps they will make up for it with political advertising revenue? The FCC is asking for input on the matter of Radio Simulcasts. In light of today’s consolidation and clustering, perhaps relaxation of the rule on this issue is in order? Part of the thinking is based on the notion that you could have the same program on two AM’s (for example) in the same market, with one of them running all digital and the other analog. Those that oppose the idea of changing the rules are concerned that it would negatively impact what’s call ‘program diversity’. In my opinion, there is plenty of diversity on the Radio dial today. The FCC has set the dates for comments on the proposal to permit all digital AM Stations – Comments March 9th – Reply Comments April 6th. Not everyone is happy with this idea.   Some are interpreting this as meaning that – every – AM will be switching to digital leaving a Jillion AM only receivers with nothing to listen to (except for electrical gizmo noise). I give more credit than that to the owners of AM Radio Stations. I would highly doubt if any market would see all of their AM’s go digital. Perhaps in an ownership that had two AM’s it might make sense to have one of each. With the proposed rule change, they could each have the same programming, which could be viewed as a financial incentive. Another argument is that the FCC should not limit digital AM’s to HD Radio…But rather should permit Digital Radio Mondial, or DRM. to have an equal shot. The question that needs to be answered is just how many of the millions of HD Capable radios out there would be able to decode DRM? If that percentage is low, it would place DRM at a significant disadvantage. I know that both systems use COFDM, however I have no idea of there is any degree to compatibility between the systems. Perhaps that too could change? Other question is, what will the company that owns HD Radio (EXPERI) want to extract from the owner of an AM station that’s willing to put everything on the line and go all digital? The bottom line is there appears to be a lot of interest in this proposal. The FCC’s process will likely draw a number of comments, pro and con. This will be an interesting process to watch. I can say one thing, never did I ever dream that we would be debating this issue! If you are in an area where Frontier is your telephone company or Internet Service Provider, you might want to read this:   https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/01/frontier-an-isp-in-29-states-plans-to-file-for-bankruptcy/ Our State SECC (State Emergency Communications Committee) that manages the EAS has a committee that is slowly working through the process of re-writing our EAS Plan. Presently they are dealing with changes that will be made to the process of how EAS Participants will chose what to monitor. More specifically what Local Primary (LP) stations are expected to monitor. To get a handle on the situation they are surveying all the LP’s to see what they are ‘presently’ monitoring. The SECC determines what should be monitored and their decision is enforced by the FCC.   Radio World magazine has a new book out with an interesting title, ‘Radio Engineering in Crisis’. In their promotion piece they ask a number of questions –

  • Are the number of qualified engineers in fact declining?
  • How are companies balancing the needs of RF vs. IT?
  • What choices are available for technical training?
  • Are broadcast groups changing how they manage product buying or approaching infrastructure design with a shortage of technical talent in mind?

Should be an interesting read for those within the industry or those considering it. WSU recently released a piece called Clock is Ticking on Tackling Threat to Power Grid.

https://news.wsu.edu/2020/01/22/clock-ticking-tackling-threat-power-grid/

This is an interesting, thought provoking, item. In this day and age of hacking into computer systems where several large broadcast companies have been hit, one is always thinking about how to keep the bad guys out of your system. Within a broadcast facility, you have to be concerned about what might be called a ‘port of entry’ or the route that a ‘bug’ is able to get into your computer network. Obviously one of the first concerns are the websites, or links to things, that we have all seen. Then there is the well-meaning employee that comes in with a thumb drive containing something that they believe this just has to have at work…all the while not knowing that the little drive could well open the door to something nasty. My own computer system will, occasionally, flag and isolate one of these saving me from the grief they can cause. Think in terms of a business with a huge number of employees and computers. When your company has an ‘on-line’ presence, things can get even more scary. Sure, you can install various software solutions that are design to identify and, hopefully, isolate an unwanted interloper. That’s just one tool in the IT tool-box. One of the tools that your company has on their defensive squad is the firewall to keep the perps out of your company network. Here are a couple of definitions I found – From Barracuda Network firewalls are security devices used to stop or mitigate unauthorized access to private networks connected to the Internet, especially intranets. The only traffic allowed on the network is defined via firewall policies – any other traffic attempting to access the network is blocked. From Cisco A firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules. Firewalls have been a first line of defense in network security for over 25 years. Back to the story from WSU – The ever increasing problem is the rapid-rise in the number of things we have that are connected to the Internet….Some of which we, perhaps, have not considered as being an ‘Entry-Point’ for something that could ‘swim upstream’ and attack bigger things, like the computer system that’s used by public utilities.   This is a good read – something that should give us all pause. As most of you know, I’ve been a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers for a very long time. My membership card shows that I joined on Feb. 5th of 1968…coming up on 52 years ago. Along the way, SBE determined that it needed an executive director…someone whose skills included how to guide a professional organization like SBE. In 1992 they hired John Poray (28 years ago). During my 10 years on the National Board, John had the chore of reviewing his performance – and every year we knew we were blessed to have him. A lot of mixed emotions flowed with the announcement that John is going to retire at the end of 2020. My hope is that SBE will try and fill his shoes with another person that came from the Poray mold. He certainly will be missed!

If you are looking for a change of scenery, here’s a job opening that you may want to consider: I’m looking for a motivated, experienced Chief Engineer for one of our station clusters in northern California. We need someone who has strong skills in IT, automation (we use Wide Orbit), STL’s, analog audio and FM transmitter site work. All of the transmitters are new, solid state, mostly Nautel and less than two years old.  The stations are the “live and local” types. We do dozens of remotes every month and we are fully involved with the local community. As a result, we are far-and-away the number one station group in the market! It’s a good place to work, evidenced by the fact that a substantial number of our employees have been with us for more than 20 years. Unlike the big radio groups you’ve been reading about, we’re not laying people off. Results Radio, LLC is hiring and growing!  Check our website at www.resultsradio.com. If you’re interested or can point me to someone who might be, please email me at ronc@sonic.net. Equal Opportunity Employer Ron Castro Chief Technical Officer Results Radio, LLC The new Fair Labor Standards Act is going to impact a lot of people who may not be aware of it. Here, thanks to Barry Mishkind – is a good summary: https://www.thebdr.net/articles/ops/ops/FLSA.pdf  There is a new tally of Radio broadcast stations in the US out. Perhaps no surprise to anyone, the headlines are:

  • There are more Translators
  • There are more FM’s
  • There are fewer AM’s

Because the gains are about the same as the losses – 2019 ended up about where it was to start with about 15,500 full power radio stations. One reads, or hears, about the demise of AM radio. The fact is only 26 of them went dark last year. Perhaps the total would have been much higher if the FCC had not dropped them a life-line in the form of an FM Translator. In the world of ‘Optical Broadcasting’…aka, Television – there are 1762 full power and 1892 low-power TV stations. Another, Radio related, survey looks at the various formats in use today….. The format that gained the most in 2019 was in the category often called ‘Religion’ where 92 stations joined that group where there are now over 2,000 stations. Historically a ‘Religion Station’ was one that aired mainly ‘preaching and teaching’.   Today we have a new category called  ‘Contemporary Christian’. Well known in this area is EMF which has a number of full power Stations nation-wide. Even the operator of a large number of Satellite fed low powered stations has dropped their historic preaching theme for music targeting younger ears. Seattle has a local station in that category, KCMS. There are now over 2000 claiming that format title with over 60 newcomers. Just ahead of Religion is Country with about 2200 stations. I can recall the days when there was no major radio outlet in the Seattle area that played Country Music. That all changed years ago when Country KAYO was launched. Today we have two stations, KKWF and KNUC, both owned by major broadcast companies duking it out for the ears of country fans. Country has undergone a lot of changes in recent years, making it hard to distinguish the difference between it and other formats targeting the same audience, like Taylor Swift. It appears that the steel guitars and fiddles have been put out to pasture. Other formats doing well are those playing Classic Hits and, of course, Spanish. Not many years ago the only way you would be able to hear Mexican Music is by listening to a far-away station, on the AM Band, late at night. Today we have a number of stations in this area, on AM and FM that are airing the format. One only has to peek at the Nielsen market totals to get a sense of why this is happening. In the Seattle area, out of 3,863,400 – 336,900 are Hispanic. Of course,  with more stations joining a format, you will find formats that have lost stations. Looking at the ‘losers’ category we find the following on the declining list:   Sports Talk with 23 less stations. Can Seattle be an exception to this? We still have 3 AM’s doing Sports Talk? Alternative lost 20 outlets in the past year. Again, Seattle may be bucking the trend with an apparently successful KNDD still in the mix. I can’t help but look back to when I started into this radio game – in the early 60’s – and how Radio has changed so very much. At one time, most radio stations were what was called ‘full service’. This means they air programs designed for everyone. Most stations were still airing an hourly news cast, time and temperature was standard. Music may have had some variation through the day, with many playing Country in the early mornings (perhaps aimed at farmers that got up early?) and easy listening later in the evening (people were getting ready for bed). Telephone talk programs were just starting. Sunday mornings were church services and, despite TV gaining audiences, there were still some network programs to be heard. Newspapers would run ‘program schedules’ for TV – and – Radio Stations so you would know when your favorite show would air and on what station and/or channel. As the TV footprint became larger (and the radio smaller) Radio set out to re-invent itself. Back then there were only a few ‘formats’, meaning stations that specialized in one type of music programming. There was the ‘MOR’, or ‘Middle of the Road’ format, often left-overs from the Big-Band ear (Perry Como, Frank Sinatra etc). The Rock and Roll format and, of course Country. Still, early on, all of these stations where likely to air hourly news casts (remember the telegraphers ‘Bug’ that was used for news casts on the rock stations?) Everyone wanted to air Pass Reports and the closing Stock Market numbers. Then the real revolution started – with stations (horrors) dropping their news casts (and news staffs). Specialization became the name of the game. The notion that a radio station should be all things for all people was fading in favor of a station dedicating it to a particular type of music, or, in some cases, News or Talk. Country and Rock stations would be the first to join that club. Later, as years rolled by, we have ended up with perhaps a dozen or more niche formats. Radio stations advertised based on their specialty, as they do today. This was the beginning of programming on demand, you wanted a particular audio experience, you went to where it was. To some degree, Cable TV has followed the same pattern. Sad but likely true – that 90% of the American population below the age of 30 has never read a paper map and can’t use a compass. Ever think about our reliance on GPS? Do you still carry maps in your vehicle, or perhaps a Thomas Guide? Likely not anymore. Want to go somewhere? Look up the address with your smart phone and enter that in your cars Nav-System and let it tell you how to get there. You think that FedEx and UPS or Amazon delivery people use Maps? Guess again. Now ask yourself, what would happen if that system went down? Would anyone go to the corner Gas Station to get a map? The problem with all of these wonderful technology features is our hyper-reliance on them. Those that plan on dealing with the aftermath of natural or man-caused disasters shudder to think of how helpless many could become in a very short period of time. Recently I was communicating with a person, via email, and wrote the following. Funny how when you are in your 4th quarter you think of these things –

  • With time comes knowledge based on experiences
  • With time and knowledge can come wisdom, provided you have been paying attention with an open mind.
  • If you are blessed with being able to spend a long time on this earth, always be willing to share with others.
  • Tis said that knowledge is power. However, to refuse to share your knowledge to benefit others is selfish.
  • The most efficient way to the top is by learning from the mistakes and successes of those that have come before you.
  • Part of growing up is being able to avoid the temptation to repeat the mistakes of others to satisfy your own ego.

I’m sure you are like most. You are constantly receiving Robocalls on you phone. How many are getting Robotext Messages? This seems to be a growing issue. I happened to catch the follow from the FCC’s Daily Releases back on December 27th:   Released: 2019-12-27. CONSUMER AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RULING FILED BY LUCAS CRANOR. (DA No. 19-1332). (Dkt No 02-278). Cranor seeks a ruling that “consumers have the right to revoke consent on receiving unwanted marketing text messages from their wireless providers at any time by any reasonable means. Comments Due: 2020-01-27. Reply Comments Due: 2020-02-11. CGB. Contact: Richard D. Smith (717) 338-2797. DA-19-1332A1.docx DA-19-1332A1.pdf DA-19-1332A1.txt Another item, or two, from the, looking back at 2019 file – CBS was the most-watched broadcast television network of 2019, attracting 7,140,000 viewers. NBC dominated among viewers 18 to 49, while many basic cable networks saw double-digit declines. This past year saw almost 4000 newspapers losing newsroom staff as the Newspaper industry continues in steep decline. Newspapers are stopping publication, combining weekend editions, combining with competitors or, as did the PI long ago, going to an on-line format altogether. The problem is that you can find a great deal of what you are looking for on-line for free. Many newspapers will put part of a story on line – and then, when you agree to pay, bring you the rest of the story. Seems to me that this is a classic case of supply and demand. I, personally, if I go out for a meal by myself like to look at a newspaper. However I am in the minority. Today the Smartphone is placed along side the knife and fork. Just after I sent my January column off for distribution the FCC announced they had granted a construction permit to Akal Media for KZIZ to move from their present site in Pacific to the former 1210 Night Site on the east side of Auburn. The new operation will be non-directional days with 3,000 Watts and 430 watts at night directional. The new operation will be using the former 1210 night towers that are still in place. Whereas I live only a couple of miles from this location, I drive by periodically. Thus far…no sign of activity. I’ve not heard who will be building the new facility. Not many, non-retired, folks these days have those skills. Can’t think of a class being taught on how to construct a directional antenna AM Radio transmitter site. Even if one were to be offered there would likely be little interest. Here’s a beautiful picture taken by the AccelNet Tower Camera at Cougar Mountain looking at downtown Seattle late in the day:

 

The FCC recently revoked three licenses for FM’s associated with a William Zawila for making what the Commish calls ‘misrepresentations’ and ‘showing lack of candor’ (perhaps you and I would use different terms?), among them Transferring control of a station, without their approval and violating their rules. The stations were in California in various markets. The FCC’s first decision, back in August of 2017 was appealed and Zawila’s appeal was rejected by an administrative law judge. It remains to be seen whether Zawila will continue to fight the decision. Also on the legal front, the DOJ (Department of Justice) has expressed concerns regarding iHeart Media and SiriusXM merging. Perhaps it should be viewed as Liberty Media buying iHeart? The reason – It would merge the biggest radio station owner with the only satellite radio provider. The size matters, however, it also attracts a lot of negative attention in the process. And…to show the Commish employs humans, the FCC recently announced that they were going to cancel forfeitures imposed on several stations after discovering that it was all a mistake. What was not disclosed was whether or not the stations lawyers aided in the process. Perhaps good news, there have been some sun-spots suggesting that the sun will indeed continue to cycle. There was a lot of concern expressed that, should the sun remain quiet that it would impact our weather, perhaps, reversing climate change warming. Currently the experts are saying the solar activity will bottom-out this coming April with the next peak, plus or minus a few months of July 2025. Of course, like a lot of things, there are experts that don’t agree. For more info read this: https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/news/solar-cycle-25-forecast-update. Here’s a relatively new term for your vocabulary – LINEAR TV. So what’s that you ask? Linear TV is a real-time television service that broadcasts scheduled programs, conventionally over the air or through satellite/ cable, not streamed to a specific user. Nearly all broadcast television services count as linear TV. The model of traditional linear television programming is for a schedule of shows to be selected by the broadcaster and then viewed in real-time, for example, if you watch a live 11 p.m. newscast on a local channel, you are likely watching Linear TV. There is also On-Demand TV. This is the term used to describe watching that newscast at a later time or delayed by some process. This is now termed non-linear TV. Now you can dazzle your friends with a new term. Wonder if this will catch-on.   Remember when TV shows would start with the announcer saying – ‘Live from______________it’s the ______________Show’? Then for a while they would tell you that the program was ‘recorded from a previous broadcast’ etc. Not so sure if content providers will be quick to use this one. Everyone using a computer or smartphone these days has run into a situation where ‘Spell-Check’ appears to stubbornly determine to spell something the way ‘it’ wants and not what you want. There are times that it refuses to let you use a word that you need to adequately convey what  you wish. This happens, a lot, when you are using technical terms that ‘spell-check’ considers that something is misspelled. Then there are times spell-check will come up with its version of something that needs to be stated. It overrides the author’s intent and it gets sent out for all to see just how stupid you must be. The February issue of Consumer Reports magazine, in its ‘Selling It’ page has a couple of great examples: The ad was supposed to read – Free WiFi Extender – but ended up as ‘FREE WIFE EXTENDER’. In another case a restaurant overlooked the text that read ‘Chocolate Mouse Brownie’. Perhaps you have had a similar, and hopefully humorous, outcome. If so, send me an email so we can share the laughs. We recently had something take place along the Washington Coast. On January 21st, the National Weather Service in Seattle issued four Tornado Warnings for Grays Harbor County on the central coast. As it turned out, thankfully, there were no reports of damage, however, it did serve as a great wake-up-call for many broadcasters and emergency managers. For instance, the Warning (in EAS Lingo a TOR) was not broadcast on the Seattle NWS Radio (162.550) but on all the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) transmitters serving the coast from Astoria to Forks including the Capital Peak transmitter on 162.475 near Olympia. The fact that many Seattle-area based broadcasters only monitor the Seattle NWR station, and not the one on Capital Peak, many of those stations did not get the warning until it was picked up by other news services. My recommendation for all those broadcasters that have listeners and/ or viewers in areas outside of the service area of the Seattle Weather transmitter on 162.550 should install a second/ additional receiver tuned to the Capital Peak NWR station on 162.475. This is particularly important if your station has translators or a significant signal into coastal areas where those listeners/ viewer’s only connection to these warnings is via your station. The Capital Peak transmitter should be easily received in the Seattle area.   Another lesson learned here. Not all broadcasters have their EAS Equipment programmed so that it will automatically forward a potentially life-saving message, like a Tornado Warning. This is clearly a situation where minutes count, where delay could mean lives lost. I fully understand that many broadcasters are afraid of airing EAS Messages out of fear that their listeners and/ or Viewers will be tempted to change channels to avoid the message. I submit that in the case of a Tornado Warning, every Broadcaster and Cable system should be on the same page so that would not be an issue. The more broadcasters that air a short-fused warning, like a Tornado Warning, increases the odds that those in harm’s way will get the warning in a timely manner. The other factor involved here is the fact that disasters are not always timed to coincide with station staffing levels that would permit a warning to be manually put on the air without delay. Today a large percentage of stations (Radio and TV) are un-manned for long hours at a time. Having your EAS equipment programmed to automatically forward a TOR is the right thing to do. Our common goal should be to get these messages to our citizens as fast as possible. While I have the floor, there are a couple of other EAS ‘Event Codes’ that all stations (and Cable Systems) should have programmed to automatically forward (in addition to the TOR). These are EAS event codes that are NOT going to be used – unless – there is a REAL emergency. They are –   CEM – This is a CIVIL EMERGENCY Message, a warning that something extremely serious is taking place that EVERY citizen should be aware of – immediately. Examples: Riots, Sniper and mass shootings, events involving law enforcement etc. EVI – This is an EVACUATION IMMEDIATELY message. It simply means ‘time to get out of there’. The message will provide, quick/ short information as to what do so. Examples: Landslides, Fires, Flash Floods…anything that would warrant a warning to get out of harms way – QUICKLY. And finally –   SPW – This is a SHELTER IN PLACE Message. It means to close our doors and windows and turn off anything that would bring outside air – in. Examples: A Hazardous Material event in your area where going outside could mean exposure to something harmful. There could also be uses of this warning by Law Enforcement. My wish that this event in Gray Harbor County will serve as a wake-up call for all Broadcast Stations and Cable Systems to review just how they handle EAS Messages. A lesson identified, a lesson learned and a lesson addressed.     If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and/ or your state or local Emergency Management office. I love alternative terms. A great oldie is a Janitor or Street Sweeper being referred to as a Sanitary Engineer. I recently came across a new alternative for someone that works in accounting aka book-keeper. We’ve all heard the term ‘Bean Counter’ right? Are you ready for ‘LEGUME ENUMERATOR’?? Let me know how that one works. 😊 Perhaps you have seen me write about how the ‘smart speaker’ is becoming the new, inside the home or kitchen Radio? New data released confirms my contention. According to the report, time spent listening to AM or FM radio on Smart Speakers rose to 24% in 2019 from 18% the previous year. One very positive effect of Smart Speaker listening is that it puts AM and FM Radio stations on an equal footing. These speakers are not truly radios in that they are not picking up over the air signals, but rather, they are connecting to the Internet Streams from the station. As most of you know, I work for Northwest Public Broadcasting which originates at Washington State University in Pullman. My work, with few exceptions, involves only NWPB facilities in Western Washington. Other members of the technical crew are based in Wenatchee, Tri-Cities and, of course, in Pullman. The following picture of the KRFA site was taken in early January by Jason Royals. KRFA is operated by WSU’s NW Public Broadcasting. The Station operates on 91.7 with 28 Kw ERP and covers a large portion of the SE Corner of Washington State from this site on Paradise Ridge. Their antenna is the 4-bay structure in the middle of the tower on the left side. Due to winter conditions, Jason had to snow-shoe his way in. Also on the tower is KUID-TV as well as a number of other services. In the event you are wondering — no, the tower is not bent or leaning.

That’s about it for this month, my friends –  Lord willing, I will be back, next month to most of the same locations next month at this time.

Until then –   Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

Clay’s Corner for January 2020

January 12, 2020
By

Clay’s Corner

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

Assuming you are reading this column in 2020 – Happy New Year. Some thoughts about this year:

  • Most will pronounce it Twenty-Twenty.
  • This decade will be pronounced the Twenty Twenties.
  • It’s been a very long time since we had 1919 and it will be a even longer until 3030.
  • 2020 is often said describing a person’s vision.
  • If you are into Roman Numerals – it’s MMXX.
  • 20/20 is an ABC TV news magazine.
  • 2020 will be a Leap-Year (quick check your calendar to make sure).
  • February this year will have 5 Saturdays.
  • It’s been 20 years since Y2K. (Remember that one?)
  • 2020 will be a presidential election in the U.S. (good news for broadcasters as a lot of money will be spent on advertising.

The end of a decade is, traditionally, a time to look back. Here are some of my thoughts at this time about events and changes in technology that have impacted many of us.

The Tiger Mountain Antenna Fire

In all my years in this game, I’ve seen many antenna failures. The failure of the Channel 11 antenna on Capital Hill comes to mind. In that case, they had to go back to their historic site at View Park to stay on the air (I was the last transmitter operator at that old site). The Tiger Mountain event, a year ago, caused six radio stations to be immediately thankful that they had auxiliary facilities – elsewhere. In years past, having this much redundancy would be but a dream. Sadly, in smaller markets, an event like this would have meant much more off-air time. Today, the switching to back up equipment is likely seamless and automatic. Hopefully the owners of those ‘very-mature’ Auxiliary transmitters will see the need to replace them.

Drones

Too bad Igor Sikorsky is not alive to witness what has happened to his helicopter! It’s amazing what these multi-bladed little machines can and are doing these days…not just in our business but many others. In TV they are the key to those, long wished for, overhead shots for news, sporting events and, of course, the production of spots. On the technical side, it was a drone, flown by Alex Brewster, that provided close up videos of the fire-damaged antenna at West Tiger, so the manufacturer, far away, could see for themselves what had happened, all of this in a very short time period. Recently, while chasing a source of interference to an FM Station, WSU’s Martin Gibbs deployed his specially equipped drone to fly a circular pattern around the suspected station while recording the radiation pattern of their antenna. The final presentation showed their actual antenna pattern overlaid on a Google Earth picture was not omni-directional as the owner thought and clearly showed why there was co-channel interference. Again, something that would have been impossible without the little drone that arrived on site in a small package. In days past, having a pilot on staff meant someone who could fly a light-plane or helicopter…another great example of how far we have come.

Video Cameras

Back when I was working in TV, cameras used vacuum tubes to pick up images and where NOT small. Image devices have come a very long way now, producing superior pictures and doing so in very small form-factors. Examples are in the drones. High Definition, broadcast quality pictures it a tiny package that weigh almost nothing. It’s hard to remember how we thought that Image Orthicons and Plumbicons were cool. The picture taking drone would not have been possible without the advancements in imaging devices in recent years.

Vacuum Tubes

They have served us well for many years. First our Radio and TV studios saw them be replaced with solid state systems.…leaving just the really big ones working in transmitters. The first to make the switch from tubes was AM Radio. Now there are just a few Tubes still working in FM Broadcast transmitters. Likely the reason they are still at work is that many of these transmitters were built extremely well. As an example, when the FM Antenna burned at West Tiger, many of those stations relied on Vacuum Tube transmitters that were 40 years old. Today, as these are replaced, the tube era will go away as well. TV is in the same boat as FM. Today, finding a person that knows their way around vacuum tubes has become rare.

The LED

Probably one of the greatest inventions of our time is the LED or Light Emitting Diode. They were, at first, used as a replacement for little light bulbs that showed the status of a device. Later, as the technology improved, the LED was being used to replace light bulbs of all kinds. The illumination of homes and business have switched to LEDs as have vehicle head and taillights, traffic signals, tower and obstruction lighting and, of course – Christmas decorations. Lighting our studios has also seen the Lightbulb go away. Gone are those heat producing spots and scoops as well as the air conditioning required. Let’s not forget displays that have become huge. Wonder what Thomas Edison would have thought if he were to stand at Safeco or T-Mobile Park? Dazzling displays, not a shadow to be seen and not a lightbulb in sight!

AM Radio

Who would have thought that the birthplace of broadcasting would, in many cases, be struggling to survive 100 years later? Despite all the competition for people’s ears, Radio continues to survive, however the portion that is AM continues to shrink. It is rare today to find an AM Station in the top 10 of the ratings. The number of AM transmitter manufacturers has been reduced to a handful. Locally there are exceptions with 710 and 770 recently investing in the legacy band with the purchase of new transmitters. There’s a lot of interest now on changing the modulation scheme from AM to DM (Digital Modulation) as a means of giving consumers what they have come to expect from a radio station. It’s early, and the jury is certainly out, as to whether this will catch on and breath new life into where it all started. One thing to watch in the coming couple of years will be the 100th birthday of many of our AM Stations. Guess the question is whether or not they will be celebrating. Yes, folks, KJR is, according to a recent piece by John Schneider, 100, going on 101.

Bonded Cellular

Cellular telephone systems have been around for awhile now and have been used by broadcasters for some time, especially in today’s ‘smartphones’. The big change has been the bonding or combining of two or more cellular signals, so that the bandwidth can be combined to equal something that will permit wide-band audio or video to be transmitted. This changed everything. Now you did not need a pneumatic mast and a clear shot to your receiver to transmit audio and video from remote locations. Wonder if anyone, holding one of those Motorola ‘Brick’ cellphones would have even dreamed of this day?

The, Desktop Computer

Just recently, while cleaning out an attic of a local station, I ran across a P.C. with a label on the front proudly stating that it was a ‘286’ (I’ll have some pictures in a future column). This one featured two large floppy disc-drives! Likely the monitor that was used with it was Green or Amber. Wow, have these devices come a long way. Now we have hard drives with storage measured in Terabytes. Today, everyone has a computer at their desk, and we cannot imagine being without it. Portable machines have some a long way, in a short time.

How we communicate with each other

Finally, after what seemed like a long time – we were able to come up with a standardized means for computers to talk with each other and computer networking was born. At one time the average desktop PC was a stand-alone device. If you wanted a file on another computer, you transferred that file to a disk and walked over to the other machine and inserted the disk, etc. Early connections for PCs involved devices that would enable multiple machines to share printers…and later, electronically transfer files from machine to machine. (Anyone remember Twin-Ax?) First within a station and later to everywhere. Hard to imagine how it used to be. When I first started writing this column, I was using an Apple II (the MSDOS machine would come later). I would send the completed column to the editor, via a dial-up modem at the blazing speed of 300 baud. Today I compose the column using Word and send it to whomever I wish, almost instantly, via email and the Internet. Who would have dreamed we’d all know what ‘Snail Mail’ meant?

How things communicate with each other

The same technology that permits computers to communicate with each other has spread, much of our broadcast equipment has become specialized computers. Today, as they say, ‘everything’ has become IP (Internet Protocol). Gone are huge amounts of wiring, replaced by the ubiquitous ‘Network Cable’, along with the now, universal, RJ45 Connector.

Then there is the wireless version, WiFi, Wireless Routers, Bluetooth, and 802.11 systems etc. have all become the norm.

Who would have predicted that the pressure for more wireless gizmos would create a need so big that the purveyors of this technology would ‘purchase’ the needed spectrum from the FCC, and that money would be used to shuffle TV channels, and buy new transmitting equipment, to make room for it all?

The inter-connection that changed it all

Today our world has been changed, dramatically to the point that most of us are interconnected to each other via that wonderful thing called the Internet. We have watched its capability expand in terms of geography as well as bandwidth and speed. Not very long ago, watching TV meant that you had cable. Then came ‘cord-cutting’ and people were, switching from Over the Air TV watching to the Internet. TVs have changed in recent years to the point that almost all of them are what are called ‘Smart’, meaning that you can watch OTA TV, TV via the Internet or look for whatever via your favorite web browser. New to a lot of people in 2020 will be the discovery of the Antenna. The concept of Free TV is foreign to many!

How we communicate with equipment

In the past, equipment all came with a ‘Control Panel’ in some form. Knobs, buttons, switches, meters etc. The tools of the trade were your fingers and the famous little green screwdriver. Today, as more and more equipment has become computer based, operation of equipment requires the use of a keyboard, mouse (or trackball) and perhaps a touchscreen. I recall one the transmitter manufacturers, reluctantly putting a power output meter on the front of their transmitters out of fear that no one would buy one without it. Unfortunately, those that design some, rather simple equipment, no longer employ designers that knew how to adjust things with that little green screwdriver, when that approach would have been much simpler.

How we store stuff

Way back in the dark ages, we would record audio and video spots and programs on reel-to-reel tape which was stored in the station’s ‘library’. That’s all gone as these things are now stored on Hard Drives with capacities that were science fiction not that long ago.

The Cloud

As the required amount of computing storage and hardware for each station became bigger and bigger and more expensive, along came a solution called “The Cloud”. I guess that name clicked because it meant ‘out there somewhere’. Today, many of the big names that own data centers (Microsoft, Amazon etc.) have created these huge facilities full of computers called ‘Data Centers’ that provide the required computing horse power and storage required by broadcasters (and everyone else for that matter). As time goes by, more of this will take place. Perhaps to the point that the Local P.C. will only have minimal capability leaving all the heavy lifting to the cloud. Perhaps you are already using what Microsoft called ‘One Drive’. If so, you have some of your files’ In the Cloud. Who would have predicted that many locations in the out-back of Eastern Washington would see the giant buildings be constructed?

Wow – I could go on and on with this.

So where is this all going to go in the next decade? Certainly, everything will continue to become computer based. Bandwidths will continue to increase. 5G will become a reality, with broadcasters making extensive use of it. The Vacuum Tube will become but a memory. The curve of technological advances will continue to become steeper and IP will become as much of a standard as 60 Hz AC Power. AM Radio (no tears please) will continue to decline overall (yes, there will be bright spots) with the total number of stations declining to levels of yesteryear. FM Radio will continue to duke it out for the ears of one place where the medium still reigns, the automobile. TV will continue to be a major factor, thanks to our love for sports and the ability to display it on a large screen. Next Gen TV will be tough, not for what it can do, but for the lack of knowing how to do it. Many times we have created something, because we can, not because of demand for it. Certainly the jury is out. Jobs in broadcasting will continue to offer exciting opportunities. Just that staffing levels will never be the same as yesteryear. Oh yes, we will almost certainly have more cyber attacks. ☹

As I look back at almost 60 years in this game, I have to conclude it’s been a great ride. I also have this feeling that I have been in it at just the right time. Whether anyone will take on the challenge of writing a column like this…only time will tell. I’ve ended up being, mainly a transmitter guy, even though I did not start out that way. It’s nice, as I am largely working on my own, doing what I love. As long as there is wireless, there are systems that will break and have to be repaired. Certainly, what’s known as ‘component level repair’ will, if it has not already, disappear. I don’t know many that have an interest in doing what I have been doing for all these years. ‘Twas said, ‘There is nothing more constant than change’. Attending a meeting of my peers I see a ‘sea of gray hair’ with a few bright spots (those that still have hair) and I am reminded of how things appeared many years ago. It’s all a cycle, and the cycle repeats.

My readers know that I often talk about the weather…perhaps because this was one of my hobbies when I was a kid. One thing about this neck of the woods, there is never a lack of something to write about. This year, what’s on my mind this past November is how dry the weather had been. I was remarking to some friends over breakfast on December 2nd that it would have to rain about 10 inches in December to get our precipitation total up to normal.

According to those that accurately track these things, this past November was the driest since 1976 with only 1.71 inches in the gauge. That’s about 75% below normal. November is supposed to be one of our wettest months. Extend this and our snow-pack will be impacted and that could spell a lot of trouble. In early December that was running less than 50% of normal.

Mother nature has a way to deal with situations like this. This is why there are often great differences between ‘Weather’ and ‘Climate’. This December has been a great example of how that works. Suddenly, about mid-month, we were hearing terms like ‘Atmospheric River’ and without further delay the skies opened up and the Monsoons were well underway. Now we were hearing familiar terms…like Winter Storm warnings for the mountains, Flood Watches etc. As the rains continued, we set all-time records for amounts of precipitation, following by warnings for flooding and landslides. Suddenly that dry period was ‘washed’ away in our minds to the point that the natives were complaining about the amount of rain.

Some of the interesting records set:

The gloomiest day in 20 years. U-Dub, apparently, tracks the amount of solar energy reaching the ground. For those of you that have solar-panels, it was a bust. In addition, this was the Winter Soltice making it the shortest and darkest day.

December 20 was the fifth rainiest day ever! Seattle recorded just over three inches, while some areas got over four. The rain-shadow of the Olympics, once again, did it’s job with some locations there only getting an inch or so. Seattle was actually wetter than Forks!

Now that is some kind of record.

Looking at the Sea-Tac totals on Dec 20th:

  • Thus far in December 6.33 inches
  • Total since January 1 – 32.25 inches
  • Normal  – 35.66 inches

Bottom line – Even after all of this we are still below normal!

Then there is the issue of the amount of rainfall that people all over think we get. I recently ran across a survey of 50 Cites in the US that were to have the most rainfall in 2019. I’ll bet those that saw the same thing were looking for a city in this area…Sorry folks , we aren’t even in that list.

To help put things into perspective – Utqiagvik (previously known as Barrow), Alaska is in the midst of winter and having to deal with 67 days of darkness!

Cyber attacks continue to make the news and broadcasters continue to be victims. Recently KHQ-TV in Spokane was hit. One of their spokespersons said the attack targeted the software they use to prepare newscasts for all the stations in the Cowels group. Reportedly, the station informed their viewers they were having technical difficulties that impacted their ability to air graphics and video their viewers were used to. This caused the news to be presented the way it used to be handled prior to becoming dependent on computers. This made doing weather forecasts a challenge. Wonder if they had to call some folks that had long retired to figure out how to do things? Reading off of paper on live TV – Yikes!

Meanwhile, Entercom was hit by a second cyber-attack. Rightfully, the big radio company has not released much information about this one, so as to not encourage anyone. Apparently, the impact of this one was not as severe as the one in September, indicating the attack was different or their countermeasures were working. According to published reports, Entercom lost millions in the previous event, which may help explain why they have been shedding staff and not making capital investments.

The dependence on computer systems in today’s broadcast stations is….looking for the best word….almost ‘complete’. With today’s graphics, computer driven teleprompters and content on servers, it would be interesting to see how today’s news anchors would deal with typed pieces of paper on the desk in front of them. Without computers, today’s radio would be a bit better off as the mass scramble could not be seen.

I had a recent Ransomware experience at KVTI in Lakewood. In this case, the perps got to one of the PCs in the on-air studio that’s only used for research and communications. In this case, it was a simple matter of quickly replacing the stand-alone computer while the victim was taken to the shop to be ‘dis-infected’.

One target of ransomware are government entities. In some cases, some have actually paid the perps to get their systems back up and running.

The following picture was sent my way by an old friend who gets to see sunrises I don’t, as all my views are to the West. Thanks Neil!

It’s always sad to write about the passing of someone you knew. In this case, the unexpected passing of John Lyons at age 71, who was famous for his work with transmission facilities in New York City. The loss of the Twin Towers on 9/11, 4 Times Square, The Empire State Building and One World Trade Center are all broadcast transmitter facilities that have his name all over them in his role with the Durst Organization.

I would meet and chat with John at various NAB and SBE functions over the years, where I always found him to be easy to talk to, with a warm and quick sense of humor. He was a Fellow of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. NYC lost a giant in our industry.

Another passing to note, listed in the Silent Key column of the most recent QST was Phil Ferrell, K7PF. I first got connected with Phil back in the 70s when I was involved with Amateur Radio Repeater frequency coordination. Phil operated one of the first 2 meter repeaters in the area on 146.88, then known as ‘The Seattle Repeater’. He and his wife, Joni, were very good to me. He knew I was in broadcasting and loved to tease me about ‘patch cords’ (for some reason). His educational resume was most impressive – B.S. Physics, 1955, CalTech; Professional Engineer, 1966, state of Washington; PhD Electrical Engineering, 1970, University of Washington. Perhaps the only person I’ve ever known with a PhD in EE. He retired from Boeing in 1993. According to QST, he resided in Auburn, which was news to me. QRZ still shows his Port Ludlow address. Phil was 86.

Recently, several changes at the Federal Level caused EAS participants to have to perform upgrades to their EAS Equipment. In some cases, several hundred dollars were spent in the process. Whereas the FCC required that this upgrade be done, broadcasters had no choice but pay the price. In some cases, those that own and operate this equipment are not broadcasters but government entities that have to fund it.

Then there are some special circumstances. One of which is the Seattle Weather Forecast Office (WFO) for NWS. Many years ago, the Washington SECC, set out to fully integrate NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) into our area’s EAS system. In the end, NWR/Seattle, in many ways, looks like a radio station. In their case, their ‘programming’ comes from the computers that generate weather forecasts and warnings. Their ‘transmitters’ are the various NWR transmitters in the region. In Seattle, the local transmitter is KHB-60 on 162.550 which broadcasts from Cougar Mt., co-located with broadcasters. The beauty of this system is that a person with a NOAA Weather Radio will receive, not only Weather Warnings, but all EAS warnings as well.

The EAS equipment at the NWS has all been donated, as there is no funding for this system via NOAA, as this is the only place in the U.S. with this arrangement. (Sometimes called the Seattle Experiment) Much of the labor was performed by the late Jim Tharp and continues to this day thanks to the efforts of Lowell Kiesow.

When the time came to update the EAS equipment for the Seattle WFO – we had a situation that was unique – State Emergency Management could not fund it as they are prohibited from funding something used by a Federal agency. The NWS could not fund it as it is, technically, not approved for it. This meant that for the system to continue, a volunteer source of funding was needed.

I am, abundantly pleased, to announce that the required upgrade was – DONATED  by Broadcast Supply Worldwide (BSW) in Tacoma.

I want to publicly thank the management of BSW for their donation and support of our Emergency Alert System in this area. Next time you are shopping for broadcast equipment, and in the process, contact BSW and please take a moment to thank them for their contribution.

I am proud that many, across the country, continue to point to Washington State as an example of what EAS can do. It is through voluntary contributions of time and materials we have been able to achieve so much.

Before I leave this topic , if you would like to join our team, we’d love to have you. You are welcome to attend the next SECC Meeting, Tuesday, January 14th at 9:30 a.m. at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, or you can call me or send me an email for all the details.

The FCC recently announced some – huge – fines related to some unlicensed radio stations. Radio TeleBoston was fined $453,015 and Radio Concord $151.005 due to them apparently ignoring warnings to halt their unlicensed operations. Now the big questions –

  • Will they actually end up paying the fine?
  • Will they claim the don’t have the funds and end up paying a fraction of it?
  • Will then simply not pay anything and get away with it?

I will start believing the FCC means business when –

  • They actually collect the fine amount.

-or-

  • The pirate operators start spending jail time.

WWFD in Fredrick, MD continues making news with their operation as an All Digital station on 820. A lot of eyes and ears are on this experiment of turning off their AM signal in favor of running all digital.

For some in depth information on this operation, check out recently issues of Radio World and Radio World Engineering Extra.

Some of the highlights are –

  • The station, despite not being able to be received by an AM Radio is, attracting enough listeners to show up in the local Nielsen Ratings.
  • The FCC has renewed their Special Temporary Authority (STA) to continue in this mode.
  • The Commisson is asking whether this should be a permitted mode of operation by issuing an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making).

There are a number of things a digital only AM can do that a conventional AM cannot –

  • Operate in Stereo (Granted you could run the old AM Stereo system).
  • Offer relatively noise free reception.
  • Broadcast the visual content that, today, is only offered by FM-HD stations meaning Song Title and Artist information and Album Art.

The only down side is the station cannot be received on a standard AM Radio. Perhaps the bottom line will involve some simple math. Will the ability of an ever increasing number of digital receivers, coupled with the fact that to a consumer an all-digital AM have the same look and feel as an FM or FM band HD station, overcome the fact that legacy AM receivers will not be able to ever hear the station?

Up until the development of Digital TV and HD Radio, the FCC had been very concerned about reverse compatibility. Since that time, this has not been a stumbling block to gaining FCC approval. Perhaps this is underscored by the fact that they are willing to issue an NPRM?

The other major factor is that the FCC has been pressured to do something to save AM Radio. Their reaction has been a number of rule changes and, of course, the ability of an AM to put on the air an FM Translator. It’s interesting to note that WWFD was one of those AMs that constructed an FM Translator, whereby they concluded that most of their audience had switched to their FM translator that helped pave the way for them electing to experiment with changing their AM to all-digital.

The question that comes to mind is how many other AMs are in the same boat and how many of them will figure there is little down-side to changing their AM to all digital. My guess is that this is a question that’s being asked by many.

Another potential candidate for digital AM are those AMs that are part of a larger cluster of FMs that are supporting the AM, without whose support would likely go off the air. These groups may see the conversion of their AM to digital attractive.

The impact of this on in-home listening will likely be minimal (except for those that still have an AM radio in their kitchen). Today most in-home radio listening is via a ‘smart speaker’ that’s not really a radio in the conventional sense, but rather a device that can play the stations streamed programming.

Finally, will we see a digital AM in our area? I hope so …I’d love to personally be able to see how well it works.

Oh yes, what about Canada. Will we, one day, see this spread across the border?

A fascinating time, indeed.

Indeed ‘Smart Speaker’ has become a fixture in many households. My grand daughter was the first one in our family to have one…and to her surprise, it was also a radio. Broadcasters were often caught off guard with these devices and scrambled to come up with means for dealing with them. Radio is still not the major use of these gizmos…however the trend is certainly upward, which is good news. As I pointed out earlier, this is today’s in-home radio…and so much more.

In today’s world the term ‘on-demand’ is the key. It used to be that you had to look up a program schedule in the newspaper to find out when, what you sought, would be on a radio or TV station. Today, we have come to expect what we want – WHEN – we want it. The key to making all this work is, of course, the computer networks of today that give us our connected world.

For those of you that long for the look of a classic, in home, table top radio, I recently ran across this item:

Rerii Handmade Walnut Bluetooth Speaker

Even the old-school holdout can join the modern world with this wireless speaker that pairs with smartphones, tablets, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. But it still receives AM/FM radio stations, and the carved walnut case makes it look like a long-treasured heirloom.

I love it! You can have one for $60 from Amazon.

For those of us that are involved with towers, news of a tower failure is something that gets our attention. Recently a 500 tower in Northwest Nebraska came down due to a heavy ice storm.

The tower supported an antenna for KQSK…as well as the National Weather Service.

A pretty steady stream of news about C-Band. But let’s not take our eyes of what’s called mid-band. The NAB has warned the FCC that permitting unlicensed users on the 6 GHz band can still interfere with electronic news gathering.

Looking for a job in Radio? Here are a couple of openings that might interest you:

The FCC recently announced they were allocating $17.2 Million of reimbursement money for FM stations that were impacted by the TV channel Repack program. Understand there were 87 FMs effected. To my knowledge, none in this immediate area.

HD Radio continues to grow in this area…a very different situation in smaller markets, however. Here many Non-Commercial FMs are running HD. Recently Latino broadcaster, Bustos Media joined the ‘HD Radio Club’ with the purchase of 102.9 which transmits from Capital Peak SW of Olympia. Not long afterward, KZTM added an HD-2. Bustos has been growing rapidly in recent years. Here is what they have in Western Washington:

From Capital Peak, SW of Olympia – 102.9 – KZTM-FM and HD, KZTM HD-2

From South Mountain, West of Shelton – 99.3 – KDDS-FM

From near Mt. Vernon -103.3 – KZNW-FM

From Auburn – 1210 – KMIA (AM)

I understand another station may become part of this group. Perhaps some news for next month?

Work is progressing on the new studios for KING-FM in Seattle. Due to the sale of their present home at Queen Ann and Harrison (just west of Key Arena) they are moving around the corner and down Mercer, where they will be in the same building at the Seattle Opera.

Here you can see Mike Brooks (on the right) working in what will be the new KING-FM on-air studio. The new consoles are all Wheatstone. This will spell the end for one of the last PR&E consoles in this area.

 

Here’s an early view of the KING-FM ‘Rack-Room’. Lots of empty space at this point that will be filled with equipment.

For a number of years, KING-FM has been operating HD Radio from their facility on West Tiger, using a mode that is a bit unique. They are transmitting with HD Radio power levels that are different than most, in that their HD Power level is higher on one side of their FM than the other.

A process called Asymmetric Sidebands. They’ve been doing this via what’s called a Special Temporary Authority or STA (Similar process to the AM running all digital I wrote about earlier).

Now the FCC is being formally asked to move this from a mode requiring an STA to something permitted by the NAB, NPR as well as Xperi, the digital radio developer.

Whether or not a station can operate with asymmetric HD sidebands is determined by the proximity and coverage of adjacent channel stations. It’s likely many stations would wish to do this, if it were an outright permitted mode of operation as it would increase their digital coverage. (The reason KING-FM opted to do this several years ago.)

Late news – Xperi, the outfit behind HD-Radio, has agreed to merge with TiVo,  creating a company worth about 2.24 Billion Bucks.

The following is in an interesting chart showing the growth of HD Radio over time from Xperi:

Have you been keeping track of Sun-Spots? If you are like most, the answer is probably no.

If you are a Ham Radio operator that operates on what are called the ‘HF Bands’ the answer is likely yes.

Our nearest Star (we call it The Sun) operates in a cyclical manner. That every 11 years it varies between being active (producing a lot of sun-spots) and quiet (having very few). Presently the sun is in the midst of a very deep, if not historic, solar minimum…the quietest period since 1913. This impacts radio propagation on the AM Broadcast Band as well as the spectrum immediately above it (where many Hams operate). These 11 year cycles are also tied, by many, to weather conditions and other events. Many years ago, there was a very long period of solar minimum that was thought to have contributed to a cool-down period.

The follow graphs shows these cycles and where we are now:

One final note of interest, the year 1913 cited earlier for its lack of sunspots on the order of 311 days was a year filled with wild weather extremes including the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Death Valley, CA.

There is a local connection keeping track of solar activity. Tad Cook, K7RA posts a great deal of information on the ARRL Web Site. Visit http://arrl.org/propagation-of-rf-signals  the ARRL Technical Information Service, read http://arrl.org/the-sun-the-earth-the-ionosphere  “What the Numbers Mean.

Old friend, Donn Harvey, has a good idea of my sense of humor and appreciation for certain things and submitted the following –

According to the records of the NWS, Seattle has a 5% chance of having a White Christmas.

Just for the record…Here’s a picture of West Tiger on Christmas Eve 2019:

That’s about it for this month, my friends.

Hope you had a wonderful Holiday Season and may 2020 be the best yet.

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

Until then –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for December 2019

December 21, 2019
By

 

Clay’s Corner

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

It’s been just about a year since I included these pictures in this column of the antenna fire on West Tiger Mountain. Antenna fires are pretty unusual, but they do happen as we all found out that day in November of 2018. I recall talking with the Fire Department that day and doing my best to field their questions as to what they could do once they got to the site. A lot has taken place in the past year…more of that in a moment –

This picture showed how the smoke plume was being driven by the wind for a considerable distance.

This view, a bit closer to the site, clearly shows that the fire was in the upper portion of Master FM Antenna which was mounted on the East Tower or one on the left in this view. The TV Stations on the other tower were not impacted. The fire caused the 6 FM stations using the system to switch to auxiliary facilities in order to stay on the air…a mode that lasted, for many, seemingly a very long time.

Just over a year later, on November 19th, at about 2:45 p.m., engineers at WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vermont knew something was very wrong at the transmitter site,  when the transmitter shut down and telemetry indicated an antenna problem. I know what was going on in the mind of the engineer as he was on the way to the site to determine exactly what happened. I’ve been in that boat many times over the years. Your mind is racing, thinking about all the things that could be wrong. Before he reached the transmitter building, it was obvious that this was not a simple problem. They had a serious issue to contend with. (See the next picture) Getting there was another issue, as this location was dealing with snow and ice. The road to the site was completely snowed in. The method of transportation was a snowmobile. The engineer reached the site about 4 p.m.

Like the installation at West Tiger, the WCAX-TV transmitter is located on a mountain some distance away. In this case – at the 4200-foot level of Mt. Mansfield, 1400 feet higher than the site on West Tiger. Like West Tiger, this site is the home of multiple stations and more than one tower. Impacted by this was another user of the tower, WPTZ-TV who were both forced off the air, with the latter reportedly suffering some damage as well. There are a couple of FM’s at the site too. Apparently, they were able to keep operating.

Like the fire at West Tiger, there was no way to put the fire out. It just had to burn out. This suggests that the radome (a cover around the antenna designed to protect it from the weather) was burning.

In addition to the weather conditions, it was determined that the station’s Auxiliary Antenna was damaged and not usable either.

Thankfully, like most TV Stations, many of their viewers were still being served by various cable and satellite providers.

The station bills itself at WCAX-3. Apparently channel 3 being their original channel. They are now on UHF Channel 20. One has to wonder how long ago they made the change and how old the, now burned, antenna was.

Thankfully, when the West Tiger antenna burned, the weather was much better. Alex Brewster quickly flew his drone around the ‘crispy-critter’, providing all with close up pictures of the damage. Not sure of they could have used a drone in this case. It all depends on weather and wind.

The following picture shows the burned antenna more clearly, thanks to a break in the weather.

A few days later the station was granted approvals to begin work on the mountain. However, 50 mph wind gusts limited the work to those things that could be done on the ground. The good news is, the mountain’s nearby ski resort had the heavy equipment to get equipment to the site, including an emergency replacement antenna.

I found it interesting that the station was providing extensive news coverage of the restoration efforts.

https://www.wcax.com/content/news/WCAX-brings-in-specialized-team-to-help-fix-transmitter-tower-565281322.html

Likely, by the time you read this, these stations will be back on the air via an auxiliary antenna to be mounted on the adjacent tower, albeit likely at lower power etc.

Only when the antenna has been taken down and closely examined will they be able to learn the cause of the fire. The West Tiger antenna that burned consisted of many separate parts (called elements). In the case of WCAX, the antenna is likely a one-piece item.

Certainly weather will be a factor in getting this work done. That elevation, in that part of the country, cannot be directly compared to the relatively mild weather we have at West Tiger at this time of year.

The following picture shows the burned antenna, next to the other tower at the site.

Another difference here, WCAX put on-line a Q&A regarding what happened. Perhaps at West Tiger, had the outage forced a major TV station off the air, the same thing would have happened. Whereas the Radio Stations here all had alternative location broadcast facilities, many of their listeners did not know the difference.

https://www.wcax.com/content/news/WCAX-Broadcast-Antenna-Questions-and-Answers-565473141.html

Comparing West Tiger to Mt. Mansfield is not really fair –

  • Mansfield is the highest point in Vermont @ 4395 feet. (We have Mt. Rainier @ 14,411)
  • You can drive to the top of Mansfield, with a toll road, on pavement (West Tiger is restricted to service vehicles and the road is NOT paved!)
  • You can also take a Gondola ride to the top – (No such thing here.)
  • Mansfield has a major ski resort (Perhaps West Tiger would if it were that high?)

Here’s a picture of the transmitter site, during much better weather

For some more wonderful pictures of the area, take a look here –

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g57415-d116996-Reviews-Mount_Mansfield-Stowe_Vermont.html

If you look closely, in some of the pictures you can see the broadcast towers that are used by the impacted stations. They are located on an adjacent peak, not at the summit where the tourists go.

Now back to the situation at West Tiger –

In the event you missed it, after the fire, the FM Master Antenna was removed from the tower and a temporary 8-bay, side mounted antenna was installed on the West side of the tower section that supported the burned antenna (it was not damaged).

The temporary antenna is not capable of handling the power of the 6 stations at the site, so one of them (KBKS/106.1) opted to continue to operate their auxiliary facility at the legacy West Tiger #1 site. The other five have been operating with the temporary antenna since.

On the 21st of November, the site owner, American Tower, told a gathering of the impacted station engineers as well as representatives of Seacomm Erectors of their plans –

  • The tower section that the burned antenna was mounted on, as well as the former KUNS Antenna Pole above it, will be removed and replaced with a new tower section on to which a new 16 bay antenna will be side mounted.
  • This work, projected to take 3-4 weeks, will not be started until spring, thus avoiding the winter weather that would likely stretch the construction period. The new tower sections and antenna will be warehoused in Indiana in the mean-time.
  • During the construction, all of the FM’s will need to operate their auxiliary facilities.

This news was well received as no-one thought it was a good idea to try and do this work during the winter as originally announced.

When the project is completed there will be a couple of changes compared to the way it was before the fire.

  • The new antenna will not be omni-directional. Side mounting an antenna on a tower always produces some nulls or areas where there is less signal than in the other directions.
  • The new antenna will have more gain. This means that the stations will not have to generate as much power with their transmitters.

Along the way, American Tower had proposed to install the present temporary antenna on the adjacent tower as an auxiliary. However, that idea was rejected by the stations, feeling that they would be better off spending the money that this would cost, on upgrading their auxiliary facilities. Certainly, one lesson has been learned from this event and that is the value of having auxiliary transmitting facilities where there is – nothing – in common…underscoring the meaning of redundancy. Thus far, only Hubbard, has spent serious money on their Auxiliary equipment with a substantial upgrade at Cougar Mountain.

Over the years, many operators of certain classes of stations have asked for and been granted changes in the rules that limit their power and/ or coverage. An example was when many of the AM’s on what were then called Class IV frequencies (1240,1340,1400, 1450, 1490) were operating with 250 watts, day and night, requested a day-time power increase to 1,000 watts. The FCC said yes, even though, in some cases, overlaps were created. Not satisfied, many of those same owners requested an increase to 1,000 watts at night. Unfortunately for all, the FCC approved. Now, you can dial around and hear the mishmash of signals on those frequencies stand out and wonder how anyone gained.

FM is no exception – Many have requested permission for Class A stations to increase power (at this writing, there has been no FCC rule changes).

Responding to the calls for Local FM’s, the FCC created the LPFM category, now totalling about 2100 stations. Now many of those stations are asking the FCC for rule changes, or what they call Technical Upgrades, citing that the service is now ‘mature’. Simply put, they want more coverage. (Something that most all broadcasters wish for)

The FCC is listening and is considering an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) in response. One improvement being asked for, is the ability to use an engineered directional antenna as well as boosters.

As you can imagine, not everyone is on board with this idea, as many feel the FM band is over-filled with signals now.

There has been a lot of commotion over the roll-out of 5G communications. Much of it over fears of what the radiation from these higher frequencies will harm. Now a new concern has surfaced. Interference to Weather Radar.

Have you been following the idea of allowing AM Radio stations to switch from AM (Amplitude Modulation) to All Digital? At the outset, we’d have to stop using the term AM and switch to MW or ‘Medium Wave’. Thinking about it – those FM broadcasters running HD Radio have dropped the term FM in many cases for the same reason. Radio receivers in the future would have to have new designations – AM, MW, FM, HD etc.

Anyway, I digress –

There have been some very promising tests by some stations that have turned off their AM and operate with Digital only. Perhaps it should be noted that those that created our present day AM and FM band versions of HD Radio took this into account, way back when.

This should not be confused with those AM stations that have implemented HD Radio that means operating their AM facility, in addition to running Digital. Unfortunately this has not worked as well as it does on FM for a variety of reasons.

The idea of turning off AM and running Digital only has, only recently, been given some serious thought. There are several  reasons for this –

  • Many AM’s now have an FM Translator.
  • This is a real plus for those AM’s with limited coverage or reduced power at night…especially if the new FM translator has good coverage.
  • Many of these stations have seen their audience shift to their new FM.
  • Many of these, smaller AM’s have seen their audience share, and with it, profits diminish in recent years, with an increasing number of them electing to turn in their license and stop ‘burning cash’.
  • It’s likely that multi-station clusters that include AM’s would, if they could, turn off or sell their AM. Likely many of these clusters of commonly owned stations subsidize the operation of their AM’s with income from their FM’s.
  • Many AM’s that are no longer able to support themselves have been sold, at bargain-basement prices to those that now can afford to purchase them for broadcasting program content that, just a few years ago, would be unthinkable.

 

The idea of going all digital has some appeal for those whose operation is now supported by a co-owned FM (more multiple FM’s).

  •  What do they have to lose, aside from the capital investment to go all digital?
  •  Granted there are all those receivers that would be unable to receive them, but what if no one is listening anyway?
  • The day of the Home or Kitchen Radio has gone, to be replaced with Alexa that is not a radio receiver. Likely that same AM station is streaming away and reaching these Internet connected devices.
  • What about all those car radios? The good news is that cars wear out and are replaced with millions of new ones every year that come with digital radios.

 

There are those that feel that this idea is foolish. I recently ran across a number of them on an on-line forum. Here are some of the arguments I responded to –

  • This should not be confused with those AM’s that implemented HD, thereby creating something that occupies a lot of bandwidth.
  • Unlike the present Hybrid mode, listeners would not be subjected to the constant switching back and forth between AM and HD mode that annoys the listener with alternating high and low fidelity audio. All digital would provide the listener with a constant, high quality product.
  • The ever increasing noise level on the AM band (for which the FCC has little or no interest in combatting) would not be a factor. In all digital mode, there is nothing in the receiver to demodulate those noises that AM radios are happy to serve up to their listeners.
  • Coverage of a station would not be determined by how much noise there is in the desired receiving location, but rather would be determined by the amount of signal available.
  • The listener ‘confusion factor’ would go away. Listeners rarely understand HD Radio anyway. They just ‘fiddle’ with their radio until the get what they want to listen to. With all digital, chances are good that many that have abandoned the AM Band may come back, when they discover that here too they can hear things with fidelity and lack of noise.

I had to respond to those that pined away about the existing AM Radios with a couple of thoughts –

  • The demise of analog TV certainly did not kill television in the process of creating mountains of old unsalable TV sets.
  • Whereas all the new vehicle radios are capable of – both – modulation modes (AM and Digital) there may well be both modes operating for some time. If you are a station with significant existing AM coverage, why change? If not, all digital may be a viable answer.

The bottom line is that this could well be an additional solution to the AM problem that the FCC has been seeking. Lets face it – you can’t give every AM a wide area coverage FM translator – but you could permit him to go all digital – IF THEY WANT TO.

Apparently this is exactly what the FCC has in mind with this idea. The Commish has recently voted to advance the process to the next state and has put out a proposal for comments. The NPRM (Docket Nos. 19-311, 13-249)

The process asks some questions –

  • What about the impact to listeners from the loss of analog AM?
  • What about power limits for day and night operations?
  • What about interference from these digital stations to other users of the band?

The FCC Chairman put it this way –

“We need to bring AM radio into the 21st century,” he said. “This is the latest step in our ongoing efforts to revitalize AM service and I’m eager to see how this could lead to the next generation of AM broadcasting.”

So what’s next?

Let’s see what responses the FCC gets to their proposal, and the reactions of many that have not weighed in. One group already has indicated their support – the NAB. This is going to be an exciting thing to watch. Who would have thought that the AM Band may have a life after all?

On the other side of the argument, there are those AM Stations that are, apparently, doing well. Some of them are here in our town. Some owners are actually investing in their AM station, obviously with the future in mind. Here’s an example sent to me by Vashon transmitter engineer Steven Allen, a picture of the new KTTH  Nautel NX50 transmitter. If  you look very closely, you will see Steven’s reflection. Just last year, Bonneville, the station’s owners purchased a new NX50 for their other AM, KIRO/710. Interestingly this is the 2nd NX50 in the same building. The other, and first on the Island, is at 1090. 770 and 1090 share the same antenna system/ towers.

While we are on the topic of AM Radio, an old friend in Montana sent me this one: Wonder if there is something similar for the left coast?

For many a night some 70 years ago, I gladly lost a lot of sleep staying awake until the wee hours searching the AM radio dial for distant (DX) radio stations. The link below, courtesy of a fellow ham operator and the ARRL, shows that the AM Broadcast band still holds some surprises. In the New England area, a listener with a simple outside wire antenna can still dial across the AM BC band and hear and identify stations on every available channel. The information in the next paragraph is taken from the link below.

“On the 100th anniversary of broadcast radio it’s still possible to hear an AM radio station on all 118 AM North American Medium Wave channels from 530 kHz to 1700 kHz. Listen to stations on all frequencies as recorded off the air with a simple wire antenna in Eastern Massachusetts and see information on every station heard.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKRZJ5uO2Mw&feature=youtu.be

One more item about AM Radio –

For some time Amateur Radio Operators, aka Hams, have been picking up old 1,000 watt AM Transmitters and converting them for use on the Ham-Bands. Most popular are the 160 Meter band (1.8 to 2.0 MHz) because it’s adjacent to the AM Broadcast Band. Others have converted them for use on the 80 Meter band (3.5 to 4.0 MHz).

Popular brands include those made by Bauer, RCA, Gates, Raytheon and Collins that were produced in the 50’s and 60’s.

Recently my friend, and former co-worker, Dwight Small picked up a well used Collins model 20V2 that he plans on putting on 80 meters.

I have a special place for that model as it was the first transmitter that I was responsible for keeping on the air when I went to work for KFHA back in 1961. It was installed new in 1958.

Dwight sent this picture of his new winter project, adding that he has 1.5 transmitters worth of parts. Unfortunately, the tubes that these ran on are hard to find and increasingly expensive. But when it’s turned on…and all those big tubes are glowing…..Well, there is nothing like it.

 

 

 

In the previous issue of this column, I wrote about the great TV channel shuffle called ‘Repacking’ and included some comments from Lowell Kiesow. Here are a couple of responses to last months column on this topic –

 

Hi Clay!

Just read your latest column. Just dropping a note that here at my Mom and I’s place here in Bremerton, after the re-pack, we are now able to receive KTBW virtual ch. 20. (Was never able to pick that up before, since we have a hill directly behind us, even though we don’t watch the Trinity Broadcasting Network). And now KFFV on virtual ch. 44 now comes in with a full signal. We still also get 2 copies of KCPQ here (other than the 3rd SD copy on KZJO 22.2). Even though we have DirecTV, we still have a multi-purpose antenna up in the attic for backup TV service, and also for FM radio, and even for my scanner.

Stephen Hyde
swhyde1980@gmail.com

 

Clay-

Regarding your recent “Clay’s Corner”, KWDK RF 42/56.1 is very much on the air as of yesterday afternoon. It remained on through the repack and had not shut down or moved to their new RF frequency of RF 34.

Perhaps there is a crew working on moving them to their new frequency but they are still on the air on RF 42.

Bruce Hart

Val Vashon valvashon@hotmail.com

Looking at the big picture, U.S. wide, at the Re-Pack project – not everyone is giving the process an ‘A’ grade. Most everyone knew, at the outset, that this big shuffle was going to be difficult to pull off within the time frame projected by the FCC. The number of sites, tower crews, equipment vendors etc. made this one of the biggest projects in TV history. As we near the final laps – there are a lot of things to do and little time to get it done. Then there are a lot of temporary facilities that are going to have to be re-done going forward. Some are saying it could be a couple of years before the dust all settles.

The headline read –

Fox to Buy Local TV Stations.

At long last, the rumors are true – Fox Corporation is purchasing KCPQ and KZGO in Seattle.

One of the major reasons cited for Fox picking up Channel 13 is they align with the station’s sports rights, specifically, the Seattle Seahawks. This, and other purchases,  will move FOX up in terms of the number of stations they have in major markets, meaning they will own stations in 14 of the top 15 markets.

A recent survey has shown that the majority of citizens in California’s recent bout with wildfires in California chose TV and Radio as their go-to news sources for information. 79% chose TV and 47% chose Radio. Other sources include – Social Media 39% anx Newspapers 33%.

 

Did your station get their EAS equipment updated?  In what many felt was a terrible case of timing, the makers of the most popular EAS equipment were given a very short period of time to update their equipment. The FCC must have been feeling the heat on this one and, at the 11th hour, a later than expected release of a technical update to Emergency Alert System (EAS) hardware used by broadcasters has led the Federal Communications Commission to give stations more time to get the job done. Now the due date is January 7th.

If you have not heard, there is already a ‘Patch’ for the recently released Rev 95

for the Sage Endec –

https://s3.amazonaws.com/sagealertingsystems/release/Rev-95-Patch.pdf

Once again, the FCC has an unlicensed/ pirate station to deal with in NYC. In this case, a webcaster decided to add an ‘over the air’ transmitter on 92.9. In this instance, the pirate is the Brooklyn based Choice Gospel Network. I guess I have a hard time with organizations that are supposedly doing the ‘work of God’ violating the laws of the land in the process. I wonder if they will do as many have before and plead that they have no money to pay the fines and the Feds will let them off the hook?

Another place the FCC is trying to gain some spectrum for wireless companies is the area known as C-Band…a band of frequencies that are used, extensively, by Radio and TV broadcasters. As I predicted a few months back, it looks like the concept of ‘Repacking’ used to squeeze TV stations together to free up spectrum, will once again be the method of choice. There are a lot of questions that I’ve not seen answered yet –

  •  Will the wireless industry have to pony-up money to play here?
  • Will those funds be used to pay the expenses for those that have to do the ‘frequency-shuffle’?

We will see –

Once again, it’s picture time. Here are a few from my travels this past month:

This one taken of the road to Striped Peak, west of Port Angeles. I had plans on driving to the top of the mountain to install equipment there. Perhaps because I did not bring my chainsaw, a fallen tree was blocking the road just beyond the gate. So I gathered up what I needed and hiked up the hill (twice). A least it was not raining or snowing.

On the same trip – I encountered this along the shores of Lake Crescent..

Things are, apparently, good in the tower business with American Tower reporting an increase of 9.4% to $1.95 billion according to the company’s third quarter results. Total property revenue increased 9.7% to $1.92 billion. The company owns more than 40,000 towers and leases tower space to more than 700 radio stations in the United States.

Another firm reporting good results was SiriusXM that reported revenue was way up, thanks to their purchase of Pandora. I recall when XM was launched that many thought they would fail. This was not to be. The company merged with competitor Sirius to form SiriusXM which added over 200,000 customers in the 3rd quarter and now enjoys some 34+ million subscribers.

How about this look back – It was October of 1954 that Regency introduced the TR-1…the first transistor radio.

The initial TR-1 retail price was $49.95 (roughly $443 in year-2016 dollars) and it sold about 150,000 units. For more, look here – http://www.regencytr1.com/

For those of you more recently on the planet – before the transistor radio, portable radios used vacuum tubes, albeit small ones. Vacuum tubes required two different voltages to operate. One to light the filaments of the tubes. These were called ‘A-batteries’ and were often ‘D-Cells’ commonly used in flashlights. The other voltage was higher, and used for the rest of the electronic circuitry. These were called ‘B-batteries. A common voltage used with 67½ volts.

It just so happened that Steven Allen put one of these in my hands recently while working on Vashon. Note the date someone had written on the side – 12-9-76. That’s only 43 years ago. I did not check the voltage on this one, chances are it’s gone. Notice the ‘snap’ connections on the top. These are still used with today’s more popular 9 volt batteries. We have come a long way!!

Back in 2014, Belden, a long time maker of wire and cable, announced they were purchasing the video equipment maker Grass Valley. Many wondered at the time that it seems like a funny marriage. Well I guess the time is up, as Belden just announced they are selling Grass Valley to a venture capital group.

A friend of mine now living in Colorado recently sent me this picture taken from near Colorado Springs of a fantastic Sunset behind Pikes Peak.

He added – The cloud top is being sun lit, but the whole area is in the shadow of Pikes Peak and the sun has gone down. This looks like a nuke has gone off.

Another picture from my travels this past month – This one of the Antenna Farm on what’s known as Baldi – near Grass Mountain, east of Enumclaw with Mt Rainier in the background.    If you look close you can read the license plate on the front of my red truck.

 

This was shot thru the windshield of my truck as I was leaving West Tiger on the 26th:

And finally, this view from West Tiger looking eastward toward the Cascade Range. Down there, somewhere, is North Bend.

 

That’s about it for this month, my friends –

Here’s wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season.

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

Until then –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for November 2019

October 30, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner for November  2019

Clay’s Corner

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

Here we are, at this writing the end of October,  and the stores are full of things for Christmas. The weather was wonderful as the month started. Then, like a brick wall, we experienced the ‘October-Shift’ and the rains began. Lots of it too, complete with your first taste of flooding. Then it was back to nice fall weather. By the end of the month most of the trees had lost their leaves and the colors will be gone, awaiting April when the cycle starts again.
Meanwhile in California, things are not so good.

Here is the FEMA Daily Operations Briefing for Sunday October 27, 2019:

Significant Incidents or Threats:

  • California wildfires
  • Extreme to critical fire weather – CA and AZ
  • Red Flag Warnings – CA, AZ, NM and UT
  • High Wind Warnings – northern and southern CA

 

The FCC has a reporting system called DIRS. Here is a recent look at the highlights coming out of the Golden State for October 26th:

  • PG&E is expected to shut-off power to 940,000 customers
  • 4 FM stations reported out of service (K238AF, KKLJ, KNOB, KSXY), and 2 FM stations out of service with programming on another station (KRSH, KXTS), most stations not reporting (17 FM stations reported operational)
  • No AM stations reported out of service, most stations not reporting (3 AM stations reported operational)
  • No TV stations reported out of service, most stations not reporting (10 TV stations reported operational)
  • 1,427 cable and wireline subscribers out of service
  • 32 cell sites out of 9,498 out of service (approximately 0.3%). Same caveats as yesterday.

 

In the event you think our weather is bad and need a little ‘comparison cheering’, you can check this out:

https://www.fcc.gov/document/ca-power-shutoff-communications-status-report-oct-26-2019

 

Stop and think about what these power outages mean to the average home-owner that has become totally dependent on electric power (unless, of course, you have a generator and a good source of fuel).

  • No Lights
  • No radio or TV
  • No Internet
  • No Clocks (Unless you kept that windup model)
  • If you have an Internet based telephone, it’s dead too
  • No way to charge your cell phone (unless you do so in your car using precious fuel)
  • Garage doors that must be manually operated
  • Your local gas stations are closed
  • Typical public warning systems (EAS, WEA, Reverse 911 etc.) all useless to you

 

If you are like me, and have spent many years here in the PNW (or PSW if you are in Canada), all you have to do it look at the news to help you become convinced that we are really blessed.

 

The fear I have is that the 40 some million that live in California will be soon looking for a better place to live and will come to understand that here is better than there!

 

If you want another comparison, how about Texas? On Oct 20th a tornado cut a swath through the north side of Dallas. In its path was the studios for KNON, which was so bad they were looking for a new home. Not only did this ruin the day for many, but for those not in the path that were watching the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles play a football game, many were upset because the station elected to delay the airing of the tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service. Stations are put on the spot. Do they interrupt a popular sporting event, knowing it could save lives, or do they not. The fact is, some people do not wish to be warned.

Before I forget it, Nov. 3rd will again be time to set our clocks back one-hour to PST. Now that all the Western States, and BC, have agree to stay on Daylight time, that decision is on hold pending decisions to be made by government types on the Right-Coast that will allow us to, perhaps in the Spring, change to PDT and stay there. With no pun intended, time will tell.

I was recently thinking back to when we shifted from NTSC analog TV to ATSC digital. It was then that TV stations starting shifting channels and the true RF channel they were on no longer on, had any meaning. The legacy stations in Seattle, KOMO-4, KING-5 and KIRO-7 must continue was the cry. So along came the concept of virtual channels. Everyone bought in. With a bit of teaching, the new digital TV’s could be educated so that regardless of the RF channel the station was transmitting on, they could have the same channel number. Viewers only need to re-scan their TV’s and all would be good again, proving that the product name is more important.

Then along came Re-Pack and, once again, many (but not all) stations were again changing channels and stations were again asking their viewers to re-scan their TV’s so life would go on. I recently note the following posted by Lowell Kiesow (KNKX) and thought it provided an interesting perspective on the more recent shuffle.

As a radio guy, I found it interesting to see what happened after the Seattle TV repack took effect last night.  There must be a story behind the fact that the stations cooperated to make the shift together, on the first day of the test period.  Their deadline was 1/17/20.

 

The following seven stations moved channels:  KTBW, KZJO, KOMO, KIRO, KFFV, KING and KUNS.

 

Daystar’s KWDK is off the air. I met their itinerant transmitter crew at Tiger last week, so they are probably still swapping equipment at this time. They had a 24′ box truck for hauling a lot of stuff.

 

My TV found two signals for KIRO TV. They have 715 kW from Queen Anne on ch 23, and 3.8 kW on ch 18 from West Tiger 2. The latter signal is stronger in Parkland (just south of Tacoma), despite the low power and being off the side of the antenna.

 

In Parkland, with a big, consumer grade, high gain, all-band antenna on my roof, I get 12 stations with 50 channels, not counting KIRO twice. Not bad for free.

 

The big winner is KFFV since they went from 169 kW on ch 44 to 260 kW on ch 16. I receive KFFV for the first time.

 

Before the repack, I would occasionally receive KZJO, but now it works. They moved from ch 25 to ch 36, both at 1 MW from Capitol Hill. Either my antenna is slightly better on the new channel or theirs is. It is just good enough because only one of my TVs receives it.

 

Just curious. Have any of you noted changes in the signals of our local TV Stations after this shuffle? If so, drop me a note and let me know so I can share.

The next shuffle in TV has a new Logo:

The CTIA has approved the new name and logo for what’s called ATSC 3.0. Apparently this new logo will be used to help consumers identify compatible ATSC 3.0 devices. This is not just a simple channel/ frequency change but, if it develops, as some have planned, will be a major change in many respects. Time will tell just how much this will catch on and how consumers will respond to it.
While in Gig Harbor recently, I spotted this service van:

Why you ask? Because these 4 letters are also used by the SBE, so I did a search and came up with this:

Certified Broadcast Radio Engineer (CBRE) is a title granted to an individual in the United States who successfully meets the experience and test requirements of the certification, regulated by the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). The CBRE title is protected by copyright laws. Individuals who use this title without consent from the Society of Broadcast Engineers could face legal action.

The SBE certifications were created to recognize individuals who practice in career fields which are not regulated by state licensing or Professional Engineering programs. Broadcast Engineering is regulated at the national level and not by individual states.

The following picture was taken by Entercom’s Alex Brewster of the –Site Access Key-Pad- at Cougar Mountain. Just getting in the Halloween spirit said the spider.

 

Over on the east side of the Cascades they are changing TV channels as well. The following pictures were taken by NWPB’s Jason Royals of a recent project to change the channel of one of WSU’s translators in the Lewiston-Clarkson area. Here you can see the location of the equipment on the little peak just right of center. Perhaps the thing most noticeable is the lack of trees. In locations west of the Cascades that whole area would be heavily forested.

Perhaps you should note that these pictures were taken near the end of October.  Shortly afterward, this site was ‘white’ with our first, early season, snowfall.
Here is a view of the tower with all the antennas, one of which is for K34QC-D, the Lewiston translator
For KWSU-TV (second one down on the left side). The work here moved the system from RF Ch 27 to Ch 34. Viewers in that area needed to tell their TV sets to see this signal as virtual Ch 10. This type of
‘Channel Shuffling’ is taking place in the Seattle area as well, all part of what’s called Re-Packing to make room for more wireless services.

The number of FM Translators and boosters continues to grow in the U.S. The new totals reflect a 4% increase over last year. Nearly 250 more than the start of the year.

No one is shocked with the total number of AM’s as the mode continues to struggle. Nine more have shut down in the last three months and 25 have gone silent in the last year. I suspect this trend will continue until the supply equals the demand. Despite the losses, there are still over 4600 AM’s on the air. No surprise that about 37% of the remaining AM’s have an FM Translator leading one to wonder just how many more AM’s would be silent if the ability of having a translator had not come along.

Here are how things stack up:

The FCC reports the total number of full-power television stations was relatively steady with 1,760 licensed at the end of September. The latest FCC data shows the total number of low-power TV stations was 1,897. Overall, there were a total of 33,492 radio and television licenses issued by the FCC at the end of the third quarter.

In the U.S. we have, albeit slowly, become accustomed to HD Radio. Just about all new cars and trucks come with it standard and listeners are responding with a number of HD-2 channels showing up in radio ratings. We need to understand that not everyone around the world is on board with HD Radio, with several digital radio systems in use. One that has been around for a long time is DRM or Digital Radio Mondial. For some time DRM has been rolling out on the Medium Wave or AM broadcast bands. More recently, DRM has been demonstrated for use on the FM Band, which like HD-R will permit multiple channels to be carried along with the parent FM Signal. I have to wonder when the day will come that makers of receivers will incorporate all of these systems to help level the playing field. Then there is a matter of the regulators, and what they will permit.
Just as Harrington Tower was about to take down the four towers that was the KMIA night transmitter site, the operator, Bustos Media, and property owner, Dennis Garre, were approached by the present owners of the Pacific 1550/KZIZ who needed to vacate their present site just south of Auburn. Their timing was pretty good. The towers were spared. On October 2nd I handed the keys to the former 1210/KMIA night transmitter site east of Auburn to the new owners who propose to move the station to that location. Their application calls for using all 4 of the former 1210 towers operating with 3 kW day and 430 watts at night.  This is less than the present operation of 5 kW day and 900 watts at night. The former 1210 array dates back some 30 years. The original plant was constructed by myself with help from Arne Skoog who was my assistant at the time.
I recently ran across this item from Readers Digest.  Did you know that most Canadians live SOUTH of Seattle? Here is what they said:

Canada and the United States are both large countries which can make understanding the relative geography difficult. But the contiguous United States goes farther north than you think and the majority of Canadians live near the southern border. The result? At 45 degrees latitude, Seattle is further north than Toronto or Montreal, meaning 64 per cent of Canadians live south of Seattle.

I recall a few years ago while visiting the Nautel factory in Nova Scotia, telling the folks there that I had to go south to get there. They too found it hard to believe.

Understand that Mike Dosch, a person long associated with producers of broadcast audio equipment will now be focusing his full time to his recently launched company called Angry Audio. This is good timing as Radio Systems recently announced they were dropping production of their popular Studio-Hub products and they were going to be produced by Angry Audio.

For those of you not familiar with how broadcast audio items are interconnected these days, a quick look. In the past, broadcast audio used shielded two conductor cable (example, Belden 9451 or equal) or two pair (example, Belden 8723) or dual-pair Belden 1504 etc). Along the way came UTP cable which had 4 twisted pairs, which quickly found use with telephone and computer circuits. Meanwhile, connectors were changing. This time we were all following the telephone industry as they had adopted the RJ45 connector. Soon the computer equipment makers were all using RJ45’s. Broadcast audio was on the same train and soon UTP cable was being used in broadcast plants with many, but not all, connectors becoming RJ45’s. Audio over IP, or AoIP had become the new way of doing things. You could go out and find computer network cable (Cat5, 6 etc) just about everywhere, all made up in different lengths. The issue was that there was still a lot of equipment out there that used various kinds of connectors, XLR, ¼ Inch phone plugs, 1/8 inch phone plugs, RCA phono connectors, etc. The folks at Radio Systems saw an opportunity to provide adaptors to permit connecting these devices to standard UTP cables. They called their products ‘Studio Hub’. Broadcasters jumped all over this, as this made putting things together a snap with no soldering required. Plug and Play had become the norm. Back to the decision of Radio Systems to stop making these handy devices. There was some fear in the minds of many of having to build their own. However, Mike Dosch to the rescue and the news that his Angry Audio would pick up where Radio Systems left off. As an example, we used a considerable number of these wonderful gadgets in the recent installation at KVTI. If you want to find out more about these things, you can go here: https://angryaudio.com/  (read on)

The week of the 27th had me deep in the midst of a studio upgrade at KVTI, replacing their legacy Auditronics Consoles in two studios to new AoIP models made by Wheatstone. I have a bit of history with one of the old Auditonics. I installed it, way back when KBSG moved to Seattle’s Metropolitan Park East-Tower. Later, after the purchase of the station by Entercom, that facility was abandoned and the console was gifted to Clover Park Technical College, where it served well while CPTC was training DJ’s. Some years ago that program closed and the station became part of WSU’s operation, where several announcers continued to produce programs for NWPB to this day. The following are some before and after shots of one of the studios in this project –

BEFORE –


AFTER –

The new mixer looks small in comparison.  Due to the way these new systems are designed, the smaller device is actually more powerful than the bigger old one. Many of the controls on the old unit were used to start and stop magnetic tape equipment – all of which had already made it to the dumpster.

I’ve estimated that 70% of my time was spent removing the old wiring (much of it installed by people whose names you would recognize). Multiple pieces of two conductor/shielded cable, connectors, punch blocks etc. that took weeks to install, all gone. Today these studio devices are all constructed using standard computer/ network cables and pre-made adaptors, reducing the installation time to a small fraction of before. As time goes by, all the radio stations in this area have already or are about to switch over to the same technology. Next up, KING-FM, who are moving around the corner from 10 Harrison to Mercer. There again, loads of legacy analog equipment will be put out to pasture.

The question remains. Will T-Mobile (based in the Seattle area) really merge with Sprint? The FCC has said yes, however there are those that don’t like that answer, including 17 states that have sued to stop it. Again we wait.

Yet another survey to report on….This time – The Best Large Cities to live in.

#1 – Virginia Beach, VA

#2 – Austin, TX

#3 – Seattle, WA

#4 – San Diego, CA

#5 –  Las Vegas, NV

#6 – San Francisco

#7 – NYC

#8 – San Jose, CA

#9-  Honolulu, HI

#10- Portland, OR

 

Once again contributor Mike Brooks of KING-FM came up with a gem. In this case a fanciful schematic diagram. You have to study this carefully to get full appreciation. Obviously constructed by someone having too much spare time.

 

A friend of mine sent me this interesting picture of lightning. Looks like a highly charged man walking with a cane in his left hand.

That’s about it for this month, my friends.

Thanks for the read.

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

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

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