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Clay’s Corner FOR AUGUST  2020

August 11, 2020



Clay’s Corner

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


July started out, early in the morning of the 1st with another Capital Hill media event as the City moved in to clear away what was known as the CHOP. I just happened to tune in at 5 a.m. to catch the action. I’m not sure if the local stations got clued in as to what was coming down or not, but all four local TV news departments appeared to be ready for the event. This 6 block area of Seattle has gathered it’s share of national attention, helped by the coverage of all the news operations. Too bad it was not raining hard, many may be getting their image of Seattle altered.

Many of those arrested in the process of clearing the CHOP were soon back on the street confronting Police and vowing to continue their revolution and demanding that funding for the Police be cut by 50%. According to reports, the City has vowed to not let this happen again, as protesters indicated they may target other locations. Thankfully, unlike other places in the world, they have not taken over a broadcast station to be used to broadcast their demands. Not sure what a broadcaster would do in Seattle if that were to take place. The fact that the studios of all of our stations are located away from their transmitters would likely cut short their ability to actually be used to broadcast, nonetheless, I would hope that local stations have hired extra security and are being watchful.

To the south, in Portland, things have gotten ugly. When the word ‘riot’ is used to describe the situation it’s a sad day for not only that city but our country. Because I am from what one would call ‘The Old School’, our idea of the place to make changes is at the ballot box, not by destroying property and hurting people. The idea of intentionally trying to injure police is amazing. I keep hoping that there are those with much cooler heads will prevail before the very fabric of our country unravels completely.

As if this were not enough bad news….COVID-19 numbers are getting worse. Political leaders are reversing course with announcements that the hoped-for ‘opening up’ are on hold, or, are going to be more restrictive.

It’s become increasingly clear that the wearing of masks is going to help with the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, too many are not in agreement, which further complicates matters.

Everyone was hoping that schools, at all levels, would be able to open this fall. It’s become clear that this is not going to happen with remote learning to be, at least for a while, the new normal.

Our State, at this writing, is well over 50,000 cases and 1500 deaths. Now that we are six months into this mess, instead of the curve being flattened, it’s going the other way. Dr. Fauci recently stated that we are not quite half way through this situation. Just north of Seattle is the Canadian Border where their approach to dealing with the virus appears to be better, leading one to believe that the U.S. has, and is, doing something wrong. BTW – the Border is still closed if you were thinking of heading north.

To help get a handle on when this might get better, look at the events that are being cancelled list. Appears that any large gathering between now and ???? are cancelled. The big headline in that department is the announcement that CES 2021 will NOT be taking place in Vegas. On that front, some interesting news recently with a Seattle connection. The University of Washington is reporting encouraging news on the vaccine front, at the same time reporting grim numbers regarding the number of cases to come.

So who is doing well in all of this? How about Zoom?

The Seattle and Portland SBE Chapters have been using the system with great success. Recently our SECC/EAS Meeting gave it a try. I suspect that our attendance was greater than it would have been had we met in-person.

As the COVID situation drags on, with perhaps no end until there is a vaccine, so do the ‘work-from-home’ restrictions. For those who are on TV, this means continued casual dress, making me wonder when the day comes that the anchors are back in the studio, will they be wearing historic business attire? On the Radio side – I suspect that T-shirts and sweats are pretty much standard. Likely this change in dress code is prevalent in all industries. I recently read that this is having a negative impact on dry cleaners, as casual dress does not require their services.

Another thought. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have all these Radio and TV operations in homes in the days before high-speed Internet? TV would have required a microwave shot for every anchor. Radio would have required an ‘Equalized Radio Loop” or Marti system. Perhaps this Pandemic was waiting until broadcasting was ready?

Looking at the ups and downs during these historic times:

  • Home prices are climbing rapidly. Granted the historic low interest rates had something to do with this, but who would have thought?
  • The Stock Market got over it’s initial jitters and has climbed back. Many portfolios bottom lines continue to grow.
  • Then, of course, Pot and Alcohol sales are up.

Another segment to be hit by COVID – Broadcast Station sales. The number of Radio and TV transactions is at historic lows.

Recent data from Nielsen is showing the percentages of the population that is either Black or Hispanic in some of the U.S. Markets. Very interesting. Population figures are for those over 12 years of age. The number in brackets is the market rank, followed by the market population.

New York (#1) 16,110,500 Black: 16.65% Hispanic: 25.40%

Los Angeles (#2) 11,469,700 Black: 6.92% Hispanic: 43.54%

Chicago (#3) 7,952,400 Black: 16.63% Hispanic: 21.36%

San Francisco (#4) 6,764,400 Black: 6.48% Hispanic: 22.29%

Dallas-Ft. Worth (#5) 6,339,800 Black: 16.59% Hispanic: 27.48%

Houston-Galveston (#6)  5,979,700 Black: 17.41% Hispanic: 35.75%

Atlanta (#8) 4,971,100 Black: 35.41% Hispanic: 10.26%

Philadelphia (#9) 4,627,200 Black: 20.73% Hispanic: 9.34%

Spokane (#96) 590,200 Black: 2.30% Hispanic: 5.25%

Boise (#92) 601,600 Black: 1.46% Hispanic: 12.80%

So, what about us?

Seattle-Tacoma (#12) 3,932,400 Black: 6.5% Hispanic: 8.7%

The early July, 12+ Radio Ratings have some interesting results.

  • KIRO-FM continues to be #1
  • KZOK keeps climbing…Now #2
  • The big surprise is the #3 rated station…KING-FM!  Proving there really is an audience for Classical Music.
  • #4 is KUOW. Interesting to note how half of the top four stations don’t plan music.
  • Highest Rated AM – KOMO
  • In the Country Music race, it looks like The Bull is beating The Wolf by a good measure.
  • KNKX must have changed something as they have been sliding downward.
  • As you would expect – The three Sports-Talk stations are all doing poorly.

While on the subject of Radio Ratings and Nielsen, the ratings gathering company has announced a cost cutting move that will eliminate a number of smaller markets, including the following in the PNW: Bend, Oregon, Tri-Cities and Yakima, Washington. I presume this will represent an opportunity for others in the rating business?

According to ‘The Commish’ the TV Repack is largely completed…a 39-month process. Now for the next repack…C-Band.

According to sources, McClatchy is being taken over by a ‘Hedge Fund’ Chatham Asset Management. They are the same one that is the parent company for the National Enquirer. McClatchy, based in California was, at one time, a major newspaper operation, owning papers in several markets…including Tacoma, where they purchased the Tacoma News Tribune at the same time as the former company spun off their Cable and Broadcast divisions to Viacom. McClatchy also owns a piece of the Seattle Times…Not much has been said about that connection.

Meanwhile, in a much more peaceful place….West Tiger Mountain – the first of the Month saw the tower project be ‘topped out’. If you look closely you will find a tree, and what’s left of a flag attached to the top. This is a long, and interesting tradition. For more about it, here are some links:

The ‘rods’ on the left and bent toward the tree are devices designed to deal with lightning. Yes, West Tiger’s towers do, indeed, get struck frequently. The round object is the new LED Tower light for the top of the tower. This replaces the old incandescent fixture what was there before. It had not been working for over a year because the wiring was burned in the Antenna Fire.

Looking up from under the tower the new ‘Top’ looks most impressive.

Putting these things together requires some really BIG bolts. This is me holding one of them.

Here you can see the newly ‘remodeled’ tower on the right. On the left is the other tower at the site with it’s TV Antennas on the top.

The new Antenna consists of 16 of these black looking critters. Here they are assembled in groups of four prior to being hoisted up on the tower. The long pieces of pipe you see extending from the mounting brackets (Red Arrows) are called ‘Stiff-Arms’, to provide additional support for the antenna in dealing with the very strong winds that are common up on the tower.

The 16 Antenna ‘Bays’ or elements are shown here, on the ground. They are all connected together with a lot of ‘plumbing’, all made of copper and brass.

When it’s time to hoist them up the tower, each section will be attached to what you see here.

The top of the tower is approximately 3150 feet above sea-level. That’s 2100 feet higher than the beacon lights on the towers on Queen Ann and Capital Hill in Seattle.
Here you can see the new master FM Antenna installed. For those of you who are not familiar with FM transmitting antennas, they are generally made up of many ‘elements’ or individual antennas together in what’s call an ‘Array’. In this case, the new Antenna has 16 of them. The old one that burned, had 32 (Eight high on four sides).


This picture, taken from the South, shows the two towers with two new antennas.

  • On the left (Green Arrow) is the new antenna for KUSE-TV
  • On the right (Red Arrow) is the new FM Master Antenna

All the Antenna Removal, tower modifications and new FM antenna on the right was handled by Seacomm Communications based in Sulton. The Tower components and FM Antenna were supplied by Electronic Research (ERI).

The new KUSE TV Antenna, on the left, was supplied by Kathrein-Scala and installed by Harrington Tower of Seattle.

The following picture shows a close-up of the new TV


The good news is that the five FM stations that had been operating on their auxiliary facilities are all back on their main site with their new antenna. Preliminary reports are the system is working well.

The site was a ‘bee-hive’ of activity for several weeks. With the site’s FMs shut down, many changes and upgrades were accomplished.

Here are some  pictures of some of the many folks involved with the project.

Jeff White – iHeart Media

Phil VanLiew – Entercom

Daniel Sipe – iHeart Media


Bob and Dalton – Midpoint Electric

Paul Shulins – Shulins Solutions

Supplier of the new Antenna Monitor System

Alex Brewster- Hubbard

American Tower Site Manager – Joe Taylor

Keith Unfried – Electronics Research (ERI)– Supplier of the Antenna and Tower

James Boyd – Boyd Broadcast Services (Portland)

Immediately after wrapping up this big project, three folks from ERI and three from Seacom make the ½ trip to the original West Tiger FM Site to rebuild portions of that site’s 32 year old Master Antenna. Here you can see several of the eight Antennas on the ground.

 Much of the coordination of this project was handled by Lowell Kiesow from KNKX

Assisting Lowell with another project was  Greg Ristau

Probably no surprise…there was a big increase in the number of FM Translators and Boosters in the first half of this year. The Commish says there are now 8,303 of them. Just try and find an open frequency on the FM band these days! Perhaps the Swiss look at us as a bit backward, as they are planning on shutting down all FM radio in 2024 as they move completely to all digital systems.

I ‘borrowed’ the following picture from Barry Mishkind for the simple fact that it brought back a flood of memories of equipment that I have used. Let me share a few of them.

  • The Transmitter (the big thing in the background with KSCO in the middle).

This is an RCA BTA-1L. Perhaps one of the biggest 1,000 watt transmitters available at the time. On the left was, basically a 250 watt transmitter, on the right, the 1,000 watt amplifier. I recall seeing these rigs at KAYE in Puyallup and KELA in Centralia. Interestingly, a similar construction method was used by Collins with their 5 and 10 kW AM transmitters. (21E and 21F). In their case, they had a 1,000 watt transmitter on the left, power supplies in the middle and 5,000 watt power amplifier on the right. KOL, at one time, had two of these.

  • In the equipment rack, left of the transmitter

On the top was the General Radio Frequency Monitor. Back then, an external monitor was required to make sure that the operating frequency of the station was within 20 Hz. Additionally, stations would employ an external service that would check their frequencies on a monthly basis.

Below (with the two meters) was a General Radio Modulation Monitor. The Meter on the left measured ‘Carrier Shift’, on the right Percentage of Modulation.

  • On the surface

On the left, standing on its side, is a 16 inch record (called ET’s back then). Stations in that era would often have a ‘cutting lathe’, whereby they would record commercials and programs for later playing on the air. When I first started in Radio (in the middle of the last century), I would play commercials on these things using these rather large turntables. Most were mounted in a separate cabinet. Inside was an electric motor and a transmission that enabled speed changes (looked like it could have been made by Maytag). Yes, later came Tape Recorders.

We’ve come a long long way since then. Nothing underscores this as much as the message I received from Kent Randles in Portland on the 28th.

At noon, ATSC 3.0, “Next Gen TV,” debuts in Portland.

At noon, some of the channels get rearranged, and a couple disappear RF-wise from the current ATSC 1.0 channel lineup.

If you watch TV off of the air with an antenna, like me, you’ll need to rescan after noon.

Chart at



Congratulations to John Price, N7MWV, on passing his Extra Class Ham exam. The question several have asked is “Will John apply for a 1×2 Call”? Amateur Extra Class license holders can apply for an available call letter change to one with One letter (Number) Two Letters, such as my call sign, K7CR.

We all know that American Tower has towers all over. Interesting to note how many they employ….5,454 according to a recently published report.

There’s an impact from the COVID-19 lockdowns that you probably did not think about. Seismic Noise are the ambient vibrations caused from such things are wind, rivers, ocean waves…and ‘Human Activity’. According to a recent study, the Earth Seismic Noise dropped by 50% between March and May of this year.

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, stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

Clay’s Corner FOR JULY  2020

July 19, 2020

Clay’s Corner

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

Wow….What a month!!!!!

June started out with mostly peaceful protests in Seattle, followed with a night of chaos and violence in Seattle and other cities across the country as reaction to the killing of George Floyd. All of this caused FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to praise broadcasters for their extensive coverage.

Unfortunately, in Seattle and Bellevue, we are all witness to destruction of property, fires and looting and extreme levels of lawlessness. In some cases, it appeared that the protesters were being used as an excuse for those who were bent on destruction, rioting and looting. Some of which was, reportedly, coordinated via social media.

In the weeks following, all attention was focused on an area on Seattle’s Capital Hill, where Police and Protesters clashed, creating an ugly scene. Eventually, in order to defuse the events, it was decided to reduce the amount of Police response and abandon their East Precinct. The protesters  then created an area first called CHAZ and later CHOP,  where Police were not wanted. This all resulted in an intense amount of, not only local media coverage, but National as well. Suddenly Seattle was on the map for being a place where protesters had taken over. As a result – National news attention. About the 20th of the month, things took an ugly turn as, the mostly peaceful, protest turned violent with a shooting and resulting death. In this case, Public Safety continued to stay out of where they were not wanted, igniting even more debate as to how far all of this should be permitted to go.

There was a protester gathering in my little town of Auburn during all of this. In preparation, many of the store owners near City Hall had boarded up their storefronts, fearful that what happened to the north would take place here too. Frankly I never thought I’d see this day come to this place. Thankfully, the protesters were peaceful and were not accompanied by those who were using this an opportunity to cause destruction.

Meanwhile, other cities across the nation are closely watching the situation in Seattle, wondering if a similar situation will come to their city. Apparently there have been some attempts, but, as of this writing, none have been successful.

Closer to the end of the month, there were signs that things were starting to wear down. The number of protesters was dropping, not only in CHOP, but blocking traffic on I-5. Additionally, the legal profession was getting involved on behalf of citizens and businesses that are being negatively impacted by all of this. I sense that many are longing for the good old days.

Over recent years, Seattle has gathered a lot of media attention for positive reasons, record growth of business, building, etc. Now it appears that our area is getting a ‘black-eye’. Businesses and homeowners are asking themselves if they would be better off moving out of Seattle. Recent surveys are showing increasing prices for property in the ‘burbs’ supporting this.

Meanwhile, the situation that sparked all of this has opened old wounds, with protests taking place not only in U.S. Cities, but around the world. We are certainly watching a time where policies and procedures of policing are under review. In addition, the entire matter of racial equality is being reviewed. Across the country, statues associated with Slavery or the Civil War are being toppled. Perhaps an example of all of this was the toppling of a statue of Francis Scott Key in San Francisco. He wrote the National Anthem, but was also, reportedly, a slave owner. In our area, there are those suggesting that Pierce County should change its name due to associations with Franklin Pierce. I’ll bet there are those in King County government who are pleased with the fact that the county ‘switched persons’ a few years ago and became aligned with MLK?

So where are we going with all of this? An overhaul of certain police practices seems assured, and a large scale re-evaluation of where we stand regarding racial equality and how we view those that were involved in the Civil War.

And how does this involve Broadcasting? One hundred years ago, we did not have social media and the electronic media giving everyone almost instant access to what’s going on across the nation and around the world. Cable News Channels and the nightly Network News systems are now able to, graphically, show the world what’s going on in Seattle. This is good, as this is what a free press should be doing. We need to understand that there is a downside as well. Knowledge of these events can also inflame the passions of many elsewhere who view this as an opportunity to also make their feelings known, many of which feel that ‘taking to the streets’ is their only recourse. This is resulting in more media coverage which tends to fuel the fire elsewhere. In some countries, the state controls the media, and this kind of thing would be stopped. However, today we have Social Media that is, perhaps, more powerful at influencing or swaying public opinion as is broadcasting.

So what caused all of this to boil over right now? Sure there is the George Floyd matter, but I believe that COVID-19 is a contributor. There has been a growing amount of frustration regarding this issue. Asking everyone to stay-home, record high unemployment, loss of jobs and incomes and ever increasing debt must have contributed to the frustration level of many.

Just when many were seeing businesses re-open and freeway congestion getting back to normal, there was a lot of feeling that we were, finally, getting to the better side of this COVID event. Well, sorry folks, as someone said, “We are through with COVID, but COVID is not through with us”. The clear fact is, this is not over and may not be over for some time to come. However, as the old saying goes, we are not out of the woods yet. The number of cases, and deaths, continue to increase. Just recently, Yakima reported they were out of hospital capacity as many counties continue to deal with the virus. The stats are not good, with over 30,000 cases, 1300 deaths and testing showing about 6% positive. Yes, it looks like a ‘Staycation’ for us all this year.

I submit that those home studios will remain in place for longer than many had hoped. For those stations in leased facilities, where they pay by the square foot, having a bunch of unused space must be especially painful.

With the re-opening of our economy, has come a noticeable increase in traffic, this giving the local radio and TV traffic reporters something to do. Increased traffic means jobs and purchasing is returning. Meanwhile, governments at all levels are trying to figure out how to fill the ‘hole’ in their revenue from our, largely, sales tax driven taxation system. This has been a very expensive situation. My hometown, like many, is also reeling from the revenue loss with cutting of city services across the board. The pain from all of this will be with us for some time to come.

All of this is wonderful news for broadcasters that depend on local advertising revenue. Already some of the major broadcasters are reporting that things are looking up.

Interestingly, surveys have showed that lockdowns increased Radio consumption as well as Local TV News. Sadly, not every station has been able to capitalize on it. Those that were buying advertising were those businesses that were deemed essential. Now with the opening of restaurants and other businesses that have been shut down, it will be a race to inform the public, potentially good news for broadcasters. Hopefully, those who have been furloughed will have jobs to come back to.

From the category of, it finally happened, comes news that the sale of 97.7 KOMO-FM has finally closed. This goes back to 2017 when Sinclair purchased the Fisher stations in Seattle. All of this time, KOMO has been operating the South Mountain 97.7 and a Redmond-licensed translator, under what’s called an LMA or Local Marketing Agreement.

A belated happy birthday to BFD-III-PE, Ben Dawson, who turned 80 on June 13th. Ben is certainly one of our area’s legendary engineers. Ben should be an inspiration to us all. For me, knowing that he is 22 months older than I am and still functioning quite well is encouraging. I recently was chatting with James Boyd who confessed that he was 72 and still very much engaged in our business. Another senior that seems to have discovered the secret of the Energizer Bunny is Jim Dalke who, if I recall, is older than any of us.

Interesting to hear that a music genre has been doing well during the ‘COVID Crunch’. Country listening is way up.

In, at least one case I have heard of, a broadcast station was directly impacted by the riots in Minneapolis. KFAI was off the air due to fires that destroyed the buildings housing the stations.

Proving that ‘time does fly’, it was in 1980 that CNN went on the air.

Intelsat has warned the FCC of Video Quality Concerns Post C-Band Transition and can’t be held responsible for interference as a result of the shuffle of operations on C-Band to make room for 5G wireless systems. They made their concerns known in an official filing with the FCC.

FEMA recently announced that there WILL NOT be an NPT (National Periodic Test) of the EAS this fall.

FEMA Cancels 2020 Integrated Public Alert & Warning System National Test Due to COVID-19 Response

Release date: June 19, 2020

WASHINGTON – Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency response, FEMA will not conduct a national test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) this year.

FEMA is moving the next national test of the system to 2021 out of consideration for the unusual circumstances and working conditions for those in the broadcast and cable industry. Although systems remain in place for rapid automatic transmission of the test message by broadcast and cable operators, the follow-on reporting activities associated with a national test place additional burdens on technical staff that are already quite busy maintaining as close to normal operation as possible.

IPAWS is a national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency alert and information messaging to the public through cell phones and internet applications using Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), and to radio and television via the Emergency Alert System (EAS).
Emergency officials across the country sent more than 360 important safety messages on the COVID-19 pandemic to their residents via WEA and EAS.

FEMA is required by law to test IPAWS at least every three years. The national WEA capability was most recently tested in conjunction with the EAS in 2018.

While I’m on the topic of EAS:

The EAS Plan Revision Committee is continuing to work on our EAS Plan that will, in the end, result in an entirely new plan – and name. The term ‘State EAS Plan’ will be used by the FCC as part of a national system called ARS that creates a method where SECC (State Emergency Communications Committees) communicate with the FCC, providing them with information regarding how the EAS works within a State. The new State Plan will incorporate a number of elements of public warning where the FCC is not involved. The new title will be WA-PAWS for Washington Public Alert and Warning Systems.

A reminder to all Broadcast Stations and Cable Systems, the way we handle Monitoring Assignments has been completely overhauled. All of the material you have in your copy of State EAS Plan deal with Monitoring (Tab 10’s) should be discarded and replaced with the following 3 New Tabs:

Tab 10A – Describes how the new system works

Tab 10B – Provides Monitoring Assignments for Local Primary Stations (LP’s) as well as Distribution Systems

Tab 10C – Provides tables containing monitoring choices for Participating National (PN) facilities

This new material is on the WEMD EAS Website. If you would prefer, you can drop me a note and I’ll send them to you directly. (

OH YES – The next scheduled meeting of the SECC, scheduled for July 14th, will again be virtual, i.e., no in-person meeting. It will take place via telephone conference bridge only. I will have more information posted on the State EAS Remailer.

Looking at the Radio Ratings….

KIRO-FM is firmly in the #1 slot, KUOW has dropped off a bit and KOMO-AM is holding steady. In light of the COVID and protests, this is not surprising. I Found it interesting that KING-FM is doing very well, even their HD-2 made a showing in Nielsen, perhaps something to do with listeners wanting something soothing during these turbulent times? Not surprising KIRO-AM’s numbers are in the dumps. Perhaps with the news that we will be having a Baseball season, albeit a short one, will help. Been a while since we have had a ‘new’ ball game of any sort.

I did find it interesting that Emerald Downs will be resuming horse-racing. However, with one twist…no one will be permitted to be in attendance watching.

It’s always sad to report the passing of a fellow broadcast engineer.

Jon Kenneke was employed by Oregon Public Broadcasting, OPB. He was also an Extra Class Ham with the Call Sign of K7PGB. Jon lived in Albany, Oregon.

Another passing was Joe Sabo, who worked in the Seattle market.

The SBE is accepting applications for a new Executive Director to replace retiring John Poray. Their goal is to have a final candidate named for the SBE National Meeting in September. Obviously, no-one is sticking their neck out and predicting there will be an in-person meeting.

The FCC has taken the first official steps toward picking an independent entity to handle relocation payments for the clearing of C-Band spectrum for 5G wireless and it is not wasting any time in trying to move the process along. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issued a request for proposal last week.

As part of the FCC decision to clear 300 MHZ of the band, 280 MHz for auction and 20 MHz for a guard band, the Commission mandated the creation of a neutral relocation clearinghouse to collect disburse relocation payments, including those collected from new wireless operator licenses to pay the users moving off the spectrum to exit early.

Apparently, efforts by the folks who run the satellites to stall the project citing potential interference issues have fallen short.

Last month I included a picture of mountains from Dwight Small’s backyard (Wwhich happens to be a lake). In response, Dwight sent me a new one, with names of what we are seeing.

L to R: Glacier Peak, Whitehorse Mtn. (with the snow field at the top) and Three Fingers to the right. I believe the snow field to the right (south) of Whitehorse is known as Boulder Ridge. The peak to the right of that is Mt. Bullen.



Being hunkered down due to COVID-19 is not so bad when you are forced to stay at home and this is the view from your backyard. I’m sure he’s not missing the protests in Seattle either.

A friend recently sent this to me. Sort of describes things of late in engineering terms.


Activity at West Tiger Mountain has moved into high gear with construction related to the Antenna fire of a couple of years ago. To start with, here is a picture Terry Spring shot of the tower before the fire.


Here are some pictures taken of the project before the end of the month.

First a picture of John Breckenridge, owner of Seacomm Erectors, a local company based in Sultan that’s doing the job.


Here is a closeup of the Seacomm large ‘Gin-Pole’ attached to the tower and in position to remove the tower top pole that used to hold the KUNS-TV Antenna. At the bottom of this picture you can see (in white) the top of the square tower that held the old FM Antenna.

Tilting down, you can see the location of the former FM Antenna. The ‘wires’ on the left were part of that system.


Tilting down some more you can see the rest of the FM’s square tower. The big structure painted white is what I call the adaptor that ‘adapted’ the Triangular tower to the Square one above.


Here’s a closeup of the ‘adaptor’, a very large amount of steel, weighing in excess of 15,000 Pounds. The Red gizmo is the Gin-Pole that has to be strong enough to move these pieces from the ground up here.


In the following pictures you can see how the Gin-Pole is used to hoist the old adapter off of the tower.


With most of its top pieces now removed, the tower on the right is a lot shorter than the other one. On the other tower, to the left, attached to what’s called a ‘T-Bar’ are two of the site’s TV Stations.


Now laying on the ground, a portion of the Square Tower that held the FM Antenna that burned. A huge amount of steel in this piece.


The following picture shows the bottom of the former KUNS-TV Pole. Note the number of large bolts that attached it to the tower.


The following picture shows the new tower sections that will comprise the top of the tower. The round object on the left end is the new LED Beacon that will be on the top. Mounted on the side of this tower will be the new FM Master Antenna for the six radio stations at the site. Hubbard’s 92.5 and 98.9, iHeart Media’s 96.5, 102.5 and 106.1 and Entercom’s 94.1.

As you may have noticed, this new tower is much smaller and lighter than the one it replaced.

The machinery above the tower are the winches that are used to raise and lower the various pieces of tower and antennas. The Satellite Dish belongs to one of the TV stations at the site.

The new Antenna comes in many pieces, all in these cardboard boxes.


With everything removed, it’s time to start stacking up the new hardware. Those are the Cascades in the distance.


Back down, closer to sea-level, another former location of ball games is getting a new name. Amazon purchased the naming rights to the former Key Arena and, perhaps surprisingly, the name Amazon will not be in lights at the top, but rather ‘Climate Pledge Arena’. Wonder how future sportscasters will stumble over that one? Perhaps it will become known as the PDA? The Baseball location, now called T-Mobile, has not had much airtime thus far due to the whole COVID mess.

When we were first urged to wear masks, there was not much available. This time around there is a huge variety to choose from. In some cases, looking at the ads that have appeared on my phone, they are clearly making a fashion statement. What I am a bit surprised about is the lack of branding going on. I’ve seen masks with Mariners and Seahawks logos, and a few with a familiar ‘W’ or Cougar Logo. Surprisingly, there is not more interest in advertising. And where are the masks with Radio or TV Call Letters?? Of course, with station promotion departments working from home, and revenue down, this is probably not high on the priority list.

In the event you were wondering, the Sun is still quiet. No Sunspots to report.

The FCC is – still – fining people for operating a Pirate/Unlicensed radio station. Most recently Gerald Sutton was requested to pay $10,000 for his illegal FM radio station.

Have to mention how Cumulus has finally closed on a deal, long in the making, that will see them sell their Washington DC WMAL transmitter site for some $75 million. We will likely never see anything like that in this area. Our Major AM transmitter sites are either on Vashon Island or in swamps.

The hopes of many that operate Class A stations to upgrade to a proposed Class C4 is not looking good with the news that the FCC is not likely to support the idea that would take it to the next step.

More bad news for Boeing. Apparently just fixing the computer system that was identified as the cause of two crashes of the 737 Max is not enough to satisfy the FAA and foreign regulators. They want more done before the plane can fly again. As you know, the 737 is made in Renton.

How bad has the pandemic been to Radio revenue? Estimates are ranging from 30 to 60 percent.

And, lastly….House Democrats have voted to make Washington D.C. a State. As if there was not already enough confusion between WDC and Washington State. This is going to be fun to watch. What would they call it? One proposal would name it ‘Washington, Douglass Commonwealth’. Of course, this is a long way from actually taking place.

This one has been making the rounds (I’ve received it from several sources). An interesting commentary on events of the day.


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, stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

Clay’s Corner FOR JUNE 2020

June 4, 2020


Clay’s Corner

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

Here I set, near the end of May, and time to write this column. Six months ago, would you have ever dreamed we would be living in a world like this?  Back then, the worst thing going on in our area was the 737 Max mess. Seems like not long after the first of the year we were hearing about this new virus in China. Not long after that – WHAM! It was here in our midst, with Kirkland being put on the national map for something other than the Costco house-brand. Then we were told that this new ‘bug’ was easily spread from person to person, with the bad news being there was no Vaccine and very little that could be done to treat it. Fear started creeping in and before we knew it our world was turned upside down with, seemingly, no end of restrictions as government entities, at all levels, raced to do something about a situation that they, largely, knew nothing about. As time went by, everything that we have known involving any kind of social action was stopped or closed. Schools (of every level) businesses, public gatherings, churches, sporting events, etc. We were hearing that this would stop the spread of the disease. The curve would be flattened and soon, we would be back to the way it was. Complicating this process was the fact that we were receiving a flood of mixed messages from leaders at all levels. And the process dragged on. It’s pretty easy to get compliance when fear is the primary driver. However, it’s much harder to keep going when there are disagreements on how to deal with it and how the restrictions are being implemented. Add to that the fact that with businesses closing, huge quantities find themselves out of work. Our society has largely grown out of the mindset etched in our relatives from their experiences with the great depression. Rainy day funds, emergency food supplies etc. are things of the past. This all meant a new and different fear – no income and bills stacking up and orders to stay home. As May wore on, we were starting to see an increase in ‘pushback’, perhaps fueled by the politicization of the matter. Rejection of begin told what to do was striking many nerves, to the point there were marches on capitals across the land. To some extent a lot of behavior reminds me of when I would have arguments with my teen-aged children. They were quick to ignore advice that was good for them when it was viewed that the advice restricted their ability to do what they wanted. Another example is dealing with smokers. The more you try and tell a smoker they should quit, the more angry they become. Defending your right to do what may well hurt or kill you is part of our social fabric. The other factor involved here are the statistics. Only a small portion of those who contract COVID-19 die from it….and most who do have an underlying condition or are older. To someone under 30 or so, this means, to many, they are being punished for something that may well not impact them. Those that are willing to ‘play the odds’ are likely to defy authority and ‘stick their neck out’ to see what happens. Another factor is where the person lives. Some areas have had very few if any deaths. Those that live there may well feel that they are being wrongly punished. This reminds me of an email discussion I was having a few years ago with some folks about Climate Change. For a while this group was embracing the science behind the matter. That is until a certain Democrat politician (you all know his name) jumped into the forefront. From that point forward, those that were of the opposing political party were quick to state that it was all wrong, apparently following a well known radio talk show host (you know his name too) who was doing the same thing. Suddenly I found that these folks were letting politics override science. Adding to the problem is the matter of sorting out fact from fiction, or, perhaps, science from politics. I was very hopeful, when this all started, that we would be able to bury our political agendas and come together as we battle this common enemy. Unfortunately, we have not been able to completely do this, with many falling back to their old ways of ‘politicizing’ this issue as well. Then there is the fact that many do not understand, nor like, mathematical or scientific ways of dealing with much of anything. I’m sure you know the type. You mention either or those two words and, rather quickly, you are getting the classic ‘deer in the headlights’ response. Many are aware of this short-coming in our society, many have been promoting greater emphasis on STEM in our educational system as a result. If you want to see an example of the anti-science crowd, take a close look at those that are ignoring science and good medical advice and are chanting how they don’t want to be told what to do.  Evidently, their ‘rights’ are more important? It will be interesting to see what kind of politicians run for office and, more importantly, those that get elected – The good news is we are not sitting in the Governors chair! Can you image the amount of pressure they are feeling? Scientists and medical experts on one side, businesses on the other. The goal is to strike a balance between doing what will minimize cases and deaths, and, on the other side, minimize the disaster that is our economic situation. Perhaps a classic case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’? Unfortunately, many political leaders are unable to wage a good argument with those that see economics as being more important than health. The bottom line is, until we have a treatment and/or vaccine for this virus, we will be caught in the middle of this battle. It will be interesting to see what kind of politicians run for office and, more importantly, those that get elected.

  • Those that are anti-science, and don’t listen to anyone who knows better.
  • Those that will listen and heed the advice of those who do know better.

Then again, you can’t put all the blame on the politicians for the simple reason they are not appointed but rather are elected! Voters clearly have a lot in common with those they elect and follow similar patterns of behavior. Chances are good that voters will opt for those that promise the most. After all, what politician has been elected because he has experience managing a pandemic? Perhaps some of them are learning more about this topic, thanks to the media’s efforts at separating fact from fiction? Then there is the political divide in the news media.  Many of them seem to have been drinking the same ‘Kool-Aid’. I long for the days when news in the print and electronic-media meant objectivity. The scary part is how many obtain their information from misguided politicians or wackos on the Internet?  This coming ‘political season’ will be very interesting as this issue gets ‘hashed out’ in the form of sound-bites and 30 second spots. Unfortunately history has shown that people are very likely to ‘Vote with their Wallet’, meaning, if things have been good for them, they are likely to vote for the incumbent, if they have been bad, they are more likely to vote for ‘the other candidate’. Perhaps this will be a silver lining for the broadcast industry and will result in an infusion of income that has been missing during this process? For those of us that live in King County, we have perhaps known someone who has passed from the coronavirus. In my case, it was VERY close to home. My next-door neighbor died from it. Let me put this in context. My neighbor’s wife (the one who passed) was looking after her elderly parents in Seattle and living with them five days a week. She came down with Ovarian Cancer. When additional post-surgery treatment was indicated, she went to the hospital (where they test all who are admitted) and found out she was COVID-19 positive. It was fast and she was gone within a week. The very industry that employs us has been a contributor, due to our drive to make ‘bad news’ the lead story. The more that are impacted, the more stories are aired. This is not unlike newspapers that have historically run the worst of bad news on the front page. The more bad news, the more pages devoted to the matter. All of this has created what has been called COVID-19 overload. In general, people want to know what’s happening with the virus, but at the same time it contributes to other issues, emotionally, etc.  A vicious circle. So now we in the process of what’s called ‘opening up our economy’. (Another new term for those of you keeping track) With all of this, things are already looking very different everywhere you look. We are being told that this is the new normal and we’d better get used to it, at least until there are more effective means for dealing with those who become seriously ill from the virus or until we have a vaccine. One way to look at the Covid-19 issue is to look at the totals. (These are round numbers based on May 27th)

World-Wide 5.6 + Million ~ 356,000
USA 1.7 +Million ~ 102,000
Washington State ~20,000 ~ 1100
Oregon ~ 4,000 ~ 150
King County ~7900 ~ 560


From these numbers some things jump out at me:

  • The percentage of cases and deaths that are in the U.S. This is changing daily due to increases in Brazil and Russia.
  • How much better things are in Oregon (Granted they have a lower population than Washington State and we had a ‘head start’)
  • Half of the deaths in Washington State are in King County.

Looking at this another way….Deaths per 100,000: Washington   – – 13.3 Idaho  – – – – – –    4.2 Oregon – – – – –    3.3 Looks to me that Oregon is, perhaps, doing something we are not. With all disasters there are business winners and losers. A few of the winners –

  • Those that invested in on-line business – Costco, Walmart, Amazon. I see an Amazon truck drive by my place several times a day.
  • The makers of Plexiglass. Everywhere you go today you find barriers made of the stuff.
  • Consultants that will be hired by all manner of businesses to help insure worker safety.
  • The makers of PPE equipment…masks in particular.
  • Fast food already geared to ‘drive-up’.
  • Investors with cash that are looking for bargains. Historically, downturns spell doom for some and opportunities for others.
  • Those whose jobs have been declared ‘Essential’.
  • Consumers of Gasoline who have seen prices fall.

The losers –

  • Local Governments. Already cities and towns are laying off employees as their source of revenue, local sales taxes etc, have dried up.
  • Those whose jobs were not declared essential.
  • Restaurants…Sure, some of them switched to take-out or delivery. The majority are barely hanging on and some will be gone forever.
  • Movie Theatres. There are those who are saying we may see a rebound of the ‘Drive-In’.
  • Hotels and Motels…Know anyone that’s been traveling to a place where you can’t find an open restaurant?
  • Airlines…Face it, no-one wants to fly based on the fear that this is ‘The Place’ to become infected.
  • Education…Years from now there will likely be a big ‘Notch’ in the abilities of those who have been involved with the educational process during this time.
  • Taxpayers…Not much talked about, however, we need to understand that State and Local Governments cannot print money and/or borrow from future generations. Granted we will need to expect less from Government when this is over, but the bills will be coming due and this means higher taxes. Already the residents of Oregon appear to understand this by approving higher taxes. Fasten your seat belt!
  • Radio and TV Broadcasters…Already we have seen significant staff reductions, with some stations going off the air (some for good). Look at the type of local spots that stations are able to run. Only for those businesses that have been deemed ‘essential’, HVAC firms, vehicle repair facilities, etc. None of the conventional sources of advertising are going to do so for a business that’s forced so close. Even after they are allowed to open, they will all be having to deal with a huge economic hole to fill. There will be some that will see this as an opportunity to jump ahead of their, less financially well off, competitors.
  • Office Buildings…One has to wonder just how many businesses that have been able to continue to function via remote computer access will opt to continue to do so creating a net reduction in the need for conventional office space.
  • The Homeless problem…Just as politicians were trying to get a handle on this issue, along came COVID-19 whose economic fallout only made things worse.

One, unfortunate, byproduct of the ‘shut-down’ has been the number of people that feel the need to speed. I’m not sure if this is due to less traffic, or general frustration with the situation. Law Enforcement has been pulling over many doing in excess of 100 mph and the number of accidents and deaths due to excessive speed has increased. As we near the end of May, one can certainly see that the pace of re-opening is increasing, using the measure of traffic on our highways. Recently I drove from Auburn to Tacoma and discovered that the southbound lanes of I-5 in what’s known as the ‘Fife-Curve’ were once again slowing down to a creep. Perhaps I should mention the ‘bottleneck’ created by the failure of the West Seattle high-rise bridge? Talk about a big dose of bad-timing? The COVID-19 Situation has meant opportunity to many who prey on situations like this. Perhaps the worst is how a fraud ring got into the Washington State Employment Security Department to the tune of millions of lost taxpayers dollars. This Department was quickly overwhelmed with requests and demands from citizens who were frustrated by the pace of things and who, in the process, let their normal guard down. Then there are the snake oil peddlers who prey on those that are looking for non-standard and untested cure or preventative measures. Some political leaders have not helped with this one. And, of course, there are the conspiracy promoters….. Those that have been burning down 5G Cell Towers based on the notion that, somehow, 5G signals exacerbate the impacts of COVID. Probably one of the classic ones is the idea that Bill Gates is plotting to use mass COVID-19 vaccinations as a pretext to implant microchips in billions of people so he can monitor their movements. (You can’t make this stuff up.) The whole coronavirus situation is unique in that it is so poorly understood. Everyday there is a new discovery about this critter. The good news is there are a lot of very smart people, the world over, working on getting a handle on it, and a lot of people hoping and praying they will succeed. You hear and read about how ill-prepared our country was in dealing with this issue. While it’s easy to be critical of our governmental entities, perhaps there is some comfort that we are not alone! Many nations have been caught tragically unprepared in this battle. Interestingly, there are exceptions, Iceland and New Zealand come to mind. Will we learn from those? Probably not! An old friend, Nels Harvey, submitted this item – So you think stay at home is getting to you? During the “Great Plague of London” 1665 to 1666, Sir Isaac Newton invented Calculus.  How bored do you have to be to invent Calculus? Another friend contributed this item – As it stands today, you can’t get a haircut, but buying marijuana at the local “Pot-Shop’ is legal. What does this prove? Fifty years later, the Hippies finally won. This new normal is going to have to be without things we had expected. Here’s a short list:

  • Seafair
  • Hamfests
  • Summertime Sports
  • That planned fly-away vacation

I recently learned that my 60th High School reunion has been cancelled to 2021.  At this stage of life, this will, unfortunately, mean less attendees ☹ You may be asking ….What does this all have to do with Broadcasting? Well, life is full of parallels. This is not unlike my experiences with many years in broadcast engineering where Management is focused on the bottom line (because this is what they are hired to do). Buying equipment and stocking supplies for an unforeseen emergency is rarely approved. The rationale is simple – We will cross that bridge when (and if) we come to it (sound familiar?) As we move forward in a world that must balance the need to protect ourselves from getting the Virus and being able to have a life somewhat like we used to have. Until we have a vaccine, that’s clearly not going to happen. The changes that this will mean will take some getting used to. For example: Consider the way modern offices are constructed. I recall the stations where I worked back in the 60’s. Back then, we had not heard the term ‘cubical’ and everyone had a separate office. Granted, there were a few instances, where a larger room would have more than one desk. Somewhere along the way things began to change and the cubical started catching on.   There was a lot going for it – much of it economic. For a given amount of people, offices could be smaller. This was a big plus for those that leased space in commercial buildings. The cubical meant traditional walls did not need to be constructed. Cubicals were ‘factory made’ and permitted a wide number of variations, etc. Then there were those who promoted their use, saying their use would allow employees to collaborate more easily. In later years, they became S.O.P for station sales and news departments. In fact, in one instance, the height of the cubical partitions was lowered based on the notion that the collaborative aspect could be improved. Then along came the Coronavirus and Social Distancing! A few things have happened that may have the effect of changing things: 1 – How do cubicals, especially low ones, fit into this picture? Hmmmm. Do they install taller ones? Will they have to use every other one? 2 – What about all those folks that have been working from home? Will that become more common, thereby reducing the need for some of the cubes? 3 – With many businesses likely being negatively impacted by the resulting business downturn, will they need as many? 4 – Will a vaccine be developed so that the office will return to the way it was? 5 – Will the ‘Open Office’ become obsolete? What about the Radio and TV studios where multiple people were all working in close proximity? Separate booths or more Plexiglass? If you think that planning for the ‘new normal’ is mind bending, consider what the Airline Industry is going through. I recall the changes after 9/11. Shoe removal, liquids in plastic-bags, the TSA etc. Looking back, we objected to many of those changes as minor compared to what may be coming. At least it appears that you will be able to bring a liquid on board, provided it’s a hand sanitizer. I wonder if TSA will have a check to make sure that it’s real? If passengers are required to wear masks while in the aircraft, will this mean no beverage service? No booze for sale? No bags of nameless salty crunch stuff? What are they going to do in the event someone elects to take off their mask in the middle of a flight, divert to the nearest airport, arrest on landing? Here is what some think we may be faced with – In a new report, “The Rise of Sanitised Travel,” Simpliflying anticipates dozens of ways air travel might change in the coming months and years. Some examples: 1.  Online check-in: Besides choosing their seat or paying for checked bags, passengers might also need to upload a document to confirm the presence of COVID-19 antibodies before they fly. 2.  Airport curbside: Passengers could be required to arrive at least four hours ahead of their flight, and pass through a “disinfection tunnel” or thermal scanner to check their temperature before being allowed to enter the airport. 3. Check-in and bag drop: New touchless kiosks would allow passengers to check in by scanning a barcode, or using gestures or voice commands. Agents would be behind plexiglass shields, and bags would be disinfected and then “sanitagged.” 4. Health check: Passengers would undergo a health screening, and potentially even have their blood tested. In April, Emirates became the first airline to conduct rapid on-site COVID-19 testing of passengers before boarding. 5. Security: Each carry-on bag and security bin would be disinfected when entering the X-ray machine, using fogging or UV-ray techniques, then “sanitagged.” 6. Boarding: Passengers would need to be present an hour before departure, maintain social distancing in the gate area and board only when they receive individual notifications on their smartphones to prevent crowding in the jet bridge. 7. On the plane: The preflight safety video might include sanitation procedures, as passengers wipe down their seats and tray tables. In-flight magazines will be removed, seatback pockets emptied, and passengers will likely use their own devices to watch videos. An in-flight janitor might keep lavatories and other high-touch areas disinfected after passenger use. I found it interesting recently with the announcement in some of the areas that Indian Casinos were opening with the requirement that everyone wear a mask. At the same time they said that smoking would be allowed!!   Wonder how that works? I also spotted a picture of how restaurants would be structured. In this shot, they had caution tape blocking access to every other booth. In some booths (obviously a staged picture) sat ‘pretend-patrons’ with food on the table and wearing masks….Hmmm? Some are having positive predictions for the Seattle area – According to Moody’s Analytics –  Seattle is likely to have one of the quickest and strongest recoveries in the nation as the coronavirus scare winds down. Time will tell. Ah yes….There is some broadcast news to report (in the event you were wondering if I’d ever get to it). On May 19th the CBS Evening News experienced some type of ‘technical glitch’ in the WDC bureau where it originates, leaving affiliates scrambling. In Chicago, record breaking high water in the Chicago River overflowed its banks and into the basement of many buildings including the Willis (Sears) Tower electrical systems, knocking off several Radio and TV operations whose transmitters and antennas are located there. Thankfully, in the Seattle area, this is not likely to happen. The impact of COVID-19 continues to alter the Radio Ratings landscape with NewsTalk formats enjoying higher numbers. Perhaps underscoring the fact that, despite suffering from ‘Virus News Overload’… many want to stay in the know. As expected, stations airing SportsTalk were down. Frankly, I have a hard time listening to a game whose outcome is already known. I wonder how many Radio and TV operations will be informing their on-air talent that they are to stop using those home studios and come back to the station? Also wonder what changes will be made to the physical plant that will assure those returning will be safe? (More Plexiglass?) I understand those that are represented by Unions are insisting on safety standards. Efforts are proceeding on the rebuilding of the tower and FM antenna system at West Tiger. This all as a result of the Antenna Fire of a couple of years ago. This will involve the replacement of the top of the tower and installation of a new master antenna. All of this will mean that those stations will, once again, be operating from Auxiliary facilities. Impacted will be Hubbard’s 92.5 and 98.9, iHeartMedia’s 96.5 and 102.5 and Entercom’s 94.1. American Tower Recently repainted their Multiple Station Building on Cougar Mountain. Hard to believe that it’s been 20 years. Here you can see the building back to it’s original green. The ‘Blue-Gizmo’ in the foreground was used to permit painters to access the higher portions of the 2-story building.

Many stations have opted to simply turn off everything (transmitter included), ask the FCC for an STA, and lock the door. The following from InsideRadio: A group of 45 stations have signed off the air since March 11, the date the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. Of those, 17, or 38%, specifically listed financial conditions due to the Coronavirus pandemic in their Special Temporary Authority (STA) application filing with the FCC. The remainder referenced a variety of unrelated reasons including technical problems, pending station sales and not being able to reach an agreement with a tower company. The spike in stations that temporarily went dark is vividly apparent in April when a record number of radio stations signed off, new data from PrecisionTrak/InsideRadio shows. A group of 35 radio stations went dark in April, bringing the total number of stations off the air to 369, up from 334 in March. The April number is the highest amount of stations off the air during the previous 12 months. Most are AM outlets and many are located in small markets. Not all stations said it was the financial pressure of the economic shutdown that was their breaking point. In some cases broadcasters have told the FCC their stations need repairs but because of the lockdown they haven’t been able to get crews onsite to perform the work. The number of licensed radio stations that are currently silent rises and falls from month to month. During the past 12 months, the number has increased or decreased by as much as 18 and by as little as two. An increase of 35 stations in one month is highly unusual. Anadal Enterprises, which took two stations silent on March 20 – news/talkers WPNS (1140) Ft. Walton Beach-Destin, FL and WNWF (1470) Evergreen, AL – said in a filing that the stations were “forced to go off the air due to the COVID-19 outbreak temporarily. We will resume operations as soon as business reopens after this shutdown.” Other STA applications filed with the FCC were less specific. “The stations have ceased operations due to financial reasons,” Batesville Broadcasting said in taking two FMs and one AM in Mississippi off the air. Country WBLE (100.5) Batesville, MS and the classic country simulcast of WJBI (1290) Batesville, MS and WHKL-FM (106.9) Crenshaw, MS went silent April 11. Bustos Media took regional Mexican KMIA (1210) Seattle-Tacoma and ethnic KXET (1130) Portland, OR off the air March 23. “Due to health considerations and economic conditions in the Portland metropolitan area, in light of the coronavirus emergency, we have decided to temporarily cease broadcasting,” it said of KXET’s situation. East Carolina Radio – which silenced the classic country simulcast of WCNC (1240) Elizabeth City, NC and WZBO (1260) Edenton, NC on April 1 – said the stations “have experienced “multiple advertisement cancellations, resulting in significant reductions in revenue in a relatively short period of time.” Saul Levine’s Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters took two stations in the Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz, CA market silent in April, saying operations are “not sustainable financially because of greatly diminished advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Levine was already in the process of donating classical “K-Mozart” KIDD (630) and oldies “1240 K-Surf” KNRY to The Balanced Radio Foundation. After operating major market stations for a staggering 62 years, Levine says the current economic conditions are the worst he’s ever seen. “It is small and standalone AM stations [that] are feeling the impact,” he told Inside Radio. He says his company donated the two Bay Area AM stations after it was unable to find a buyer. But after the FCC approved the license transfer, the attorney for Balanced Radio, the non-profit run by Richard Jenkins, the former President and CEO of Educational Media Foundation, indicated they were not going to close the transaction. “The Monterey radio market is challenged,” Levine said. “Rather than sustain the Monterey operation we decided to go silent, and devote our efforts to our major markets. There are difficult times ahead for radio. Major market radio will survive. Small markets will have problems.” FCC Chair Ajit Pai said last week he is open to hearing any ideas that broadcasters may have to help keep as many stations afloat as possible. “One thing that comes to mind is to allow AM broadcasters to reduce power to save money on power bills,” Pai told Inside Radio. “That’s one of the things that may seem relatively small, but it’s an important step in helping some of the AM broadcasters to continue operations.” While there are limits on what the agency can do to help operators struggling with the country’s economic standstill, Pai believes the modernization steps taken by the FCC during the past several years will help. Unfortunately,  a lot of crime is up during this period. Here is an example from SBE Chapter 74:


The Nebraska Broadcasters Association has asked SBE 74 to distribute the following information below regarding recent copper thefts in Omaha and Nebraska City. If you have cameras or security systems at your transmitter sites, please take a moment to be sure all equipment is working properly and keep an eye out for suspicious activity at your sites: On April 26th  television station KPTM/KXVO had vandals break into the outside patio area of both TV stations and break into the main distribution center and cut out all the grounding cabling leaving no electrical ground. When the copper thieves had finished with KPTM and KXVO they headed over to the KGBI/KOOO transmitter site. Once the copper thieves cut the gate lock they began cutting away all the tower grounding. Next the copper thieves started removing the Halo grounding around the building, the generators and the A/C units. They also cut away the ground cables going to the disconnect boxes. Next the copper thieves pried the front door open and did damage to the door. Once inside the transmitter building the copper thieves started removing the Harmonic Filter off the 20KW standby transmitter used for KOOO 101.9. They also removed a 20 foot section of 4 inch rigid transmission line plus two 20 foot sections in inter bay plus tools and two vacuum cleaners. All this was removed from the KOOO transmitter room with considerable damage left behind. We could not believe the copper thieves did not remove anything from the KGBI auxiliary transmitter room. In the case of both the KPTM/KXVO and KOOO/KGBI transmitter sites, this  break-in was reported to the Sarpy County Sheriff and an officer did show up to investigate.   The Chief Engineer for KOOO, John Nielsen installed a Ring camera and had a guard watching the transmitter site from 6PM to 12 midnight and a second guard watched the site from 12 midnight till 6 AM.  On Friday around 11:30pm what looked like a blue Dodge Ram truck drove up the driveway of the KOOO/KGBI transmitter site with its lights off. As soon as the Dodge truck got close to the guard on duty the guard turned on his vehicle lights and the Dodge truck immediately turned around and the chase was on. The guard did get the license plate information and a good look at the vehicle.   On another note it has been reported that someone broke into the transmitter building of KBBX, Radio Lobo, 97.7 which is licensed to Nebraska City just recently, could be yesterday or the day before, not sure about the exact time or date.   John Nielsen and I are trying to get the word out to all engineers in the area to be aware of what is going on with the copper theft that has taken place around the Gretna, Springfield, Sarpy County area.  If you do not have security and have not been to your transmitter sites lately it is suggested that you check your sites for and damage or theft.   Jim Leedham, Engineer/Site manager Salem Radio Properties Any questions call 402-680- 2424 The state of the Economy is contributing to a large increase in commercial burglaries across the country.   Considering the price of copper is running under $2 per pound, these folks were trying to make a big-haul to make up for the difference. Frankly, it still amazes me so few broadcast transmission facilities have sophisticated alarm systems. Usually, these ‘low-lifes’ will ‘test’ a facility beforehand to determine whether there is a system that could lead them to be caught. If they find none, it’s free game. This is like leaving your keys in your car and wondering why it was stolen. Congrats to the Seattle Times on the winning of their 11th Pulitzer Price. The latest for their work related to the Boeing 737 Max. In last month’s Column I showed a picture of a building with an antenna…..Here’s a new one for you to ponder. Give you a hint. It’s in the Tacoma area.

Wonder what this is ?

So what do I do when asked to stay home? Well, my wife and I play an extensive amount of Scrabble. Here she is across the table from me:

The negative economic impact of COVID-19 is not just hitting commercial broadcasters but non-commercial as well. The following from Bloomberg regarding NPR: The public broadcaster is cutting pay and benefits, hoping to “save jobs and support the future of NPR.” The report says NPR is facing projected losses of up to $53 million in the next two years. Last month it was reported that NPR was cutting executive pay by 10% to 25%. A memo to staffers from CEO John Lansing said at the time that NPR faced a budget shortfall of $30 million to $45 million through its 2021 fiscal year. That calculation included an estimated sponsorship shortfall of $12 million to $15 million in sponsorship revenue. NPR had budgeted a total of $115 million for 2020, according to Lansing’s memo. NPR now anticipates a loss of $40 million to $53 million in fiscal 2020 and 2021. In the latest round of austerity, the base pay of NPR’s employees will be reduced on a sliding scale of up to 9% through the end of September. Workers will also be offered furloughs, according to a new memo from Lansing to staff. The public broadcaster will also halt employer contributions to its retirement plan. Workers who make less than $80,000 annually will not see a reduction in pay. There’s financial suffering across the U.S. media landscape from COVID-19, which has resulted in a massive shortage of advertising revenues. But NPR’s situation is unique: It’s a non-profit that relies heavily on contributions to remain viable. “We do not have a profit motive or shareholders to serve like commercial media, so all of our resources go toward public service,” NPR said in a statement. “We will continue to manage our budgets closely across the organization — our main priority is to preserve jobs so we can continue providing an essential public service to audiences across platforms.” Whereas I work for WSU’s NW Public Broadcasting, I too am left to be concerned whether or not I will still have a job after all is said and done, knowing well that reductions are coming. In what is reported to be the largest ever civil penalty, the FCC has informed Sinclair Broadcasting Group to pay $48,000,000. This is related to Sinclair’s effort to acquire Tribune Media’s stations. Locally, Sinclair owns KOMO and KUNS-TV and radio stations KOMO, KPLZ and KVI. At the core of this was their failure to follow sponsorship identification rules. Once again, Dwight Small (who is very likely basking in the knowledge that he retired at the right time) submits this picture from what is his backyard (a lake). Here we are looking SE toward White Horse Mountain, elevation 6840ft, with Glacier Peak on the far left. Just wondering, I looked at what it would take to climb this peak and quickly learned it is a significant challenge.

The Radio industry could soon get an indication as to which the way the Federal Communications Commission is leaning on a proposal to allow digital-only AM stations. Fort Wayne, IN owner Brian Walsh has petitioned the FCC to allow him to power down his analog transmitter and operate WIOE (1450) using only a digital signal for the next year.    There are a number of attractive features with this.   AM Stations would gain parity on the Vehicle Dashboard.

  • They could, for the first time, have the graphical display of their FM cousins, Song Title and Artist, etc.
  • Would be able to run stereo (assuming that the analog AM Stereo is dead).
  • Have much higher fidelity.
  • Would be running digital, largely eliminating the buzzes and noises faced by AM’s today.
  • Perhaps one of the most attractive aspects, be able to multicast a second audio channel (This feature may have to await a newer ‘chip-set’ as today’s HD Radio receivers would be unable to decode it).

The FCC has been collecting comments in a proceeding (MB Docket No. 19-311) that would give AM stations the option of digital-only operations. In light of today’s economic mess, its probably unlikely we will see many more stations request authority to go all-digital in the near term.     And the headline read – “FCC, Pentagon Go to War Over 5G Spectrum” Not often do you see a couple of Federal Agencies going up against each other. Breakout the popcorn and peanuts as this is going to be interesting. Apparently, this has to do with the FCC’s approval of an application by Ligado (formally known as LightSquared) for use of spectrum adjacent to frequencies used by GPS. Will be interesting to see of the DOD ‘caves’ under pressure this time. Recently Lowell Kiesow (KNKX) experienced some new interference to their satellite receiving equipment. Lowell rightfully noted that this occurred just before the Memorial Holiday weekend. This caused me to recall the following – As for the timing of failures – I recall ‘Murphy Sign’ somewhere, long ago. Something like this:

  • The incidence of failures is inversely proportional to the availability of parts and people.
  • Multiply X2 – If it’s in the middle of the night.
  • Multiply X 3 – If it’s a weekend.
  • Multiply X4 – if it’s a holiday weekend.
  • Multiply X5 – If it’s one of the above and the person that normally deals with it is on vacation and you have the call.

There are variations – All proving that Murphy Reign’s! Another, timely, contribution from a reader –

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 – Stay safe as you carefully explore the new world out there.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

Clay’s Corner FOR MAY 2020

May 8, 2020



Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineer’s perspective since September 1986

As you can tell from the heading, I’ve been writing this column for a very long time under circumstances that were, somewhat, predictable….until about a month ago! Now, for all of us, the world has been turned upside down. Accordingly, the Column will be a bit different this month. We have a lot of words and terms that are being used with this outbreak. We may have used them in the past, however, now they have different meanings. Here are a few that come to mind: Social Distancing Chances are you may have never used this term in the past. Now we all know what it means. In high school it meant stay away from the nerds. Flatten the curve A term you may have heard….but not likely in this application. Ventilator I’ve long known what a ventilator was. It was a device you installed on the roof of a building to exhaust heat in the summer. The one pictured here is often found on barns and industrial buildings.

Interestingly, if you were to now Google Ventilator, you will find pages of the medical type that are used  to assist a person to breathe in a hospital.    Hunkering Down Here is a term that had almost faded away. Luckily, old folks (like me) knew what it meant. I suspect there are a number of more freshly minted souls that did not. I found a couple of definitions:   When you hunker down, you settle into a safe, sheltered position. Some people evacuate their homes during a big hurricane, while others hunker down and wait. Hunker down was originally an American phrase and means to dig in or settle in to ride out troubled times. Shelter in Place This term is, perhaps, being used in error. Shelter In Place conventionally means go inside, close all the windows and doors and stay there. This is a term used to warn citizens in the event of a hazardous condition outside, etc. The Emergency Alert System has an Event Code for this — ‘SPW’. Today, governments are issuing Stay-at-Home orders with exceptions, going for food or medicine, etc. Essential Personnel In terms of today’s situation, Governmental entities will determine what occupations or jobs are deemed essential to keep critical systems and supply lines operating. Examples are those who work providing food, medicine, medical attention, etc. Broadcasters have been deemed essential, including those technicians and engineers that keep the broadcast systems operating. This is very understandable during times where information is critical. COVID-19 When I first heard this term, I immediately thought it was a cool name for a group of bad guys in a James Bond film. Later we all learned the real meaning: COVID-19: ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for ‘disease’ – 2019. Just to add to the confusion, some call it ‘corona-virus’. By now we have all become familiar with these various names. PPE In this situation, PPE is Personal Protective Equipment, Masks, Face-shields, Gowns etc. In other fields this could mean Hardhats, Boots, Aprons, Gloves etc. The shortage of ‘on-the-shelf’ PPE’s has caused an extreme example of ‘The Blame Game’. Apparently, everyone wants to blame everyone else because they have a shortage of these items. Here in our area we saw a number of firms that used to make different, but perhaps related, products jump in to help. The bottom line is that apparently no one ever thought they would need these quantities. Supply Chain One thing seems clear. Many have been caught off guard with the severity and speed at which this virus has spread. A lot of our problems stem from the fact that very few users of a product stock very much of it. In the past, a business (hospitals etc.) would have a large amount of storage, either on site, or in the same town. Now, thanks to our very efficient transportation systems (think UPS and FedEx) they don’t need to stock much, as it can be there the next  day. Today, storage of much of anything is thought of as a waste of space and money. The problem is, many of the middlemen feel the same way. Look what happened to Toilet Paper! A big bump in demand caused huge supply problems because the – just in time – philosophy depends on ‘average use figures’, to know how much to put in the ‘supply chain’. This issue goes all the way back to manufacturers who are not about to build, and stock, much of anything beyond what the average demand dictates. Now we have a situation where medical supplies are needed in huge quantities and no one has that much on the shelf. Unfortunately, States (and perhaps Provinces) look to the Federal Government to come to their rescue, thinking they can supply unlimited amounts of whatever is needed overnight. As we have all come to understand, this was faulty-thinking. In many cases, the Federal Government is a procurement agency. You have a need, they procure it on your behalf. So why weren’t all these masks, gowns, shields, gloves etc. sitting in a warehouse somewhere? For the same reasons! Everyone, at every level, stocks what their projections indicate they will need. The problem was the demands of a huge pandemic was not factored in. Thanks to computers, we now find a host of people trying to plan for the future, based on the number crunching of computers. When will this end, when can we get back to work, how many will die etc? Occasionally you will hear someone say, in response to questions requiring one to have a ‘crystal ball’, ’the Virus will tell us’ or, it’s up to us if we follow the guidelines. The term ‘educated guess’ is rarely, if ever, heard anymore. It appears that UDub is playing an active role in this area with many quoting our home-town school. This outbreak has had a huge impact on the environment. Suddenly, cities around the world that have been choking on pollution and haze are seeing blue skies. Likely many have never seen it that way before. For those who question the impact of man and our machines, now have lost their argument. Many major cities, Seattle included, have been trying to get us out of our cars and into public transportation. Now there are fewer cars and many are afraid of those transportation systems, due to the fear that being confined with others is a health hazard. The result is less public transportation because of fewer riders. With the emphasis on working from home, Transportation Planners are going to have their hands full when we overcome this situation. Perhaps more Models and Projections?   Then, with a stroke of lucky timing, Seattle discovered that the high-rise freeway bridge over the Duwamish, connecting West Seattle is cracking…and could fall down. Thankfully, they left the old lower-level bridge in place for use by Emergency Vehicles and others that have to reach Harbor Island. However, with the Pandemic, 100,000 vehicles that were using the, now unusable, bridge want access – Wow! They are saying it could take a couple of years to resolve this mess. I have to wonder what people do that simply don’t cook? Many rely on restaurants now that are no longer in business. I noted one restaurant in my town went from offering take out to ‘we will bring you your food’ delivery service. Certainly the drive-up fast food industry has been busy. At just about any hour. there is a lineup at their drive-up windows. One word that you hear constantly is ‘CORONA’. The word CORONA has been around a while, but a lot of things have changed since the name corona has been linked to a virus caused pandemic! There is Corona, California, a city in Riverside County with a population of over 150,000 and a borough of Queens in New York City named Corona. Bet they are loving their name? Let’s not forget the Sun also has a Corona, the rarefied gaseous envelope of the sun and other stars. The sun’s corona is normally visible only during a total solar eclipse, when it is seen as an irregularly shaped pearly glow surrounding the darkened disk of the moon.

With Americans suddenly linking coronavirus with Corona Beer, their sales tanked and the brewer, in Mexico, stopped making it.


Do  you recall the Corona automobile? Toyota Corona was an automobile manufactured by the Japanese automaker Toyota between 1957 and 2001. Traditionally, the competitor from Nissan was the Nissan Bluebird. The word “corona” is Latin for “crown”, a reference to an earlier vehicle Toyota offered called the Toyota Crown. Bet Toyota is happy they no longer market this model.

One area where there is no shortage – ‘The Blame Game’. There are many political leaders that are being called out for not reacting soon enough, not being prepared, not listening to the experts, etc. So what happened? Couple this with the upcoming elections, it will be interesting to see just how many will use various political leaders’ approach to dealing with COVID-19 as ammunition pro and con. If we are lucky, some of this money will flow to the Broadcast Industry and help with the economic situation many of these stations are facing. Another old motto has come to mind – that of the Boy Scouts ‘Be-Prepared”. Many are questioning how much we have been prepared for something like this. Perhaps it’s human nature to prepare for things that we have experienced and not for things that we have not? I learned a long time ago that we are, pretty-much, short sighted and have little tolerance for those that are not – calling them ‘Chicken Little Types’. Many broadcast engineers fall into that category, by nature. We like to plan ahead for unforeseen events, perhaps because we have learned, many the hard way, the pain that is caused by not doing so. Typically, managers (and politicians) are focused on what they need to do to keep their jobs, and not on what ‘might’ happen. Our society has changed so much over the years. Today it’s common to run to the store for what we need at the last moment. Our grandparents likely were much better prepared as a result. Many people’s kitchens today don’t include a pantry stocked with dry-goods that can be made into meals. Then again, how many have the ability to prepare things from scratch like grandma did? Emergency managers have long been trying to get us all ready for the ‘Big-One’, to be able to ‘hunker down’ for a period of time without the ability to go to a store, or have someone come to our rescue. Mainly these warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps this event will be big enough to cause some  rethinking? Granted, the earth has not been shaking, in the conventional sense…but it certainly has shaken us up. Just be thankful that we have not had a massive quake on top of it (uh, perhaps I should have not written that one?) Financially, many live paycheck to paycheck. The money they make that day provides for food tomorrow, etc. Statistics confirm this. The idea of a ‘Rainy Day Fund’ is a strange philosophy to many who spend all they make and use credit cards to extend their way of handling money. Many feel good things come from bad. Perhaps this event will change the way government, businesses and families look at things. We can only hope. What is not talked about is, how are we going to pay for all of this? Governments and businesses have been borrowing, in record amounts! I know the Washington Legislature is going to have to deal with this issue. Hang on folks, these things are paid for via taxes. The laws of supply and demand are certainly skewed in some new ways. There is tremendous demand for news and information. The ratings for the, traditional, evening TV newscasts are way up. In Radio, KIRO-FM, KUOW (FM) and KOMO AM are now ranking #1, 2 and 3 in the Seattle Market. At the same time demand is up, revenue is down, because the traditional buyers of advertising are not buying. One of the major sources of advertising is car dealers. The only thing I’ve seen are a few spots urging people to bring their vehicle in for service or repairs. I suspect there is a LOT of this kind of maintenance that’s being put off…especially if your paychecks have stopped. This all ‘trickles down’ to a reduction in revenue to Radio and TV stations. I found it interesting that Hubbard, who operates five radio stations in the market, with no news department, created an arrangement with KIRO Radio to provide them with the missing program elements. Speaking of Hubbard, congratulations to Alex Brewster who recently made the move from Assistant Chief at the Entercom Cluster to Chief at Hubbard. He replaced the departed Dave Ratener. This came at a great time for Alex, and, perhaps, at a bad time for Phil Van Liew at Entercom, who now has to pick up the slack. In light of Entercom’s announcements about the economic situation, it’s not likely they will be hiring a replacement for Alex, at least not in the short term. Those who are working in areas that are deemed ‘essential’ are thankful they have a job. Those that are not, are likely thankful they had a rainy day fund to fall back on. Those that did not plan ahead, are having to rely on unemployment benefits and the frustration that comes with having to deal with an overloaded system that has been unable to keep up with demand. Another example of where supply systems are designed for ‘average times’. There are certainly a number of people working that make me wonder. Example, the number of old beater pickups towing a trailer with hand tools and lawnmowers. Seems to me that cutting grass and landscaping is deemed (by someone) as essential? The idea of converting some AM Radio stations to all-digital has been getting a lot of press lately. Apparently, the FCC agrees that this idea may be a way to pump new life into the place where broadcasting began. According to published reports, the Commish has been receiving some supportive comments. The problem is, as I see it, we have a very bad case of timing. With a number of radio stations having recently gone dark across the country due to the virus situation, it strikes me as a very poor time to ask a station owner to come up with the cash to experiment with all-digital. Frankly, I hope things improve and look forward to actually being able to experience this mode first hand. Gotta hand it to Hubbard’s local 98.9 ‘The Bull’ for coming up with a unique prize. On April 9th, I understand they gave away 1,000 rolls of toilet paper. Nice to see a local fellow get behind helping with the coronavirus situation. Bill Gates has funded testing of a potential vaccine. Bill, of course, is one of the founders of Microsoft. From the ‘You’d think they’d learn by now’ Department comes news that for the 6th time in 8 months the FCC has fined a broadcaster for the improper use of EAS Tones. The latest is WNEW in New York. What, perhaps, made matters worse is the fact the tones were used during a skit that made fun of the National EAS Test that was scheduled for later the same day. Normally this will cost $8,000. However, in this case, the Commish is suggesting 20 Grand. For too many, this Virus situation has many sequestered to their homes. This means different things depending on where home is. For some, this means a small apartment. For others, like Dwight Small, who not long ago, retired to his place on the Lake, stepping out on his deck recently and snapped this picture. A very lucky man indeed!

I’m blessed with living on the edge of the Green River valley, having to put up with sunsets like these from my rocking chair on the deck.


When I am not hunkered down, I am performing ‘essential work’ at a transmitter site somewhere. The good news is, the majority of the time, there are not other humans nearby. This picture was taken, coming down from Striped Peak, west of Port Angeles.

Speaking of Striped Peak, here is the sign posted at the gate at the bottom of the hill.  Another reason why I did not see anyone else while up there.

This year, none of us got to go to Las Vegas for the NAB Convention, as the whole town was under a coronavirus shutdown. Apparently, this does not stop construction, as the project to enlarge the already huge Los Vegas Convention Center is underway. If you recall, across Paradise Road from the LVCC was a large parking lot and the historic Riviera Hotel. The hotel was torn down, making way for a new ‘West Hall’ to be added. The LVCC is already mammoth, with something like 2,000,000 square feet of space. The new facility will add 600,000 square feet. Putting this another way, the present LVCC is equal to about 13.8 Costcos. When completed, it will be equal to 18 Costcos or 2.6 million square feet! You will really want to bring comfortable shoes to the 2021 NAB. Never fear, the Boeing plant in Everett is still bigger at 4.3 Million square feet.   Another item impacted by the Virus, talks to purchase Tegna (Owner of KING-TV and KONG-TV) have apparently stopped. Obviously, cashflow issues have been altered everywhere. The coronavirus has spawned more radical thinking. In this case, the rumor that 5G cellular systems have something to do with the spreading virus. This has resulted in ‘wackos’ out destroying 5G cell sites, who they believe weaken people’s immune systems. From this has come a new term ‘covidiots’. This, all despite the WHO pointing out there were thousands of COVID-19 cases in areas of the world where there are no 5G systems. Unfortunately, todays internet connected world has enabled those who spread rumors and conspiracy theories to flourish. What is perhaps more frightening is how many, seemingly normal people, are prone to believe this stuff. Worse yet….they live among us! For some time, Radio and TV stations have had the ability to broadcast from remote locations away from their studios. The pandemic has accelerated this movement to a degree that no one could have imagined. With Radio, it’s pretty hard to tell that an announcer is speaking from his home. TV is another matter. Typically, around here, local stations will have one anchor at the studio with the rest of the crew operating from home. Initially some of the production was a bit clunky. However, as time goes on, its looking pretty good. Field reporting is another interesting issue. To start with, it appeared that stations were getting reports from the field using smartphones. The video quality was a bit worse than SD and the audio often sounding like a tin-can-telephone. For those that insist that everything on the air be ‘broadcast quality’, this must have been hard to swallow. Think what this would have looked like if we did not have the internet, bonded cellular etc. There are likely a lot of things learned with this event – lessons that will find application going forward for sure. The real winners are the firms that make the equipment that makes this possible. They would have likely never predicted the demand. Non-commercial broadcasters are taking a hit here also. NPR has announced reductions and financial woes. CPB is getting a cash infusion from the Feds. In the ‘Good News’ Department, the lack of demand has caused gas prices to fall dramatically. By the middle of the month, I was seeing gas selling for under $2 a gallon. Another item, thanks to very heavy snow in the mountains late in the winter, projections are that our snowpack is going to be above normal. Be thankful, as much of the Southwest is in the midst of a historic drought. I got a note from Mike Gilbert informing us that KBDB in Forks has added another HD Channel to their station. Perhaps the first station in the area running an HD4. Mike sent along this picture of their transmitting antenna on Mt. Ellis, north of Forks.

Many of us will remember when KFKF was a radio station in Bellevue (Kemper Freeman – Kemper Freeman). Now those call letters reside in Kansas City. As, perhaps, an indication of just how far HD Radio has com, IHeartMedia has moved their Atlanta modern-rock station to an HD Channel to make room for a Spanish CHR format. Another item impacted by the Virus is TV Antennas. Many households are now wanting to see local news from local stations and have discovered that a TV antenna is the answer. According to a recent survey, 41 million families will be watching OTA TV via an antenna by the end of this year…a new wrinkle in the growing move to cut the cord. One of the techniques used to screen people for the coronavirus is to check their temperature. This is often done with a point-and-shoot thermometer that’s commonly available. Another method is to use a thermal scanning camera, perhaps from Oregon-based FLIR. This reminded me of how we have been using this technique for years, checking the temperature of one of the broadcast antennas on West Tiger Mountain.


Oh yes, add to that list of those working from home – the FCC is even doing it.  I had to laugh at this one sent to me by an old friend in Wisconsin. An antivirus mask indeed!

First quarter results are in from the FCC regarding the number of stations on the air:

  • FM Translators and Boosters are up 2% with 140 new ones, total 8,188.
  • The pace for AM stations to put on FM translators has slowed.
  • AM continues to fade with 13 less stations on the air. The current economic situation is likely to further reduce the number of AM’s even more.
  • There are fewer commercial FM’s while the number of NCE’s grew.
  • Could the novelty of an LPFM be wearing off? Their quantity is down.

I had a nice surprise – a certificate from Washington State University noting my ten years of service. Wow has that ten years gone fast! Interesting to see how Non-Commercial radio stations are doing. As we all know, KUOW is a ratings giant in Seattle. In Portland, KOPB is also in second place. This is not a situation unique to the Pacific Northwest. In Washington DC, WAMU is tied for first place. In Austin, KUT is tied for second. With a number of people stuck at home – the question is – how many are listening to Radio? Granted there are those who are using their ‘Smart Speaker’ as a radio. I just happened to be visiting a local store, where I wandered into their electronics department. To my surprise, they had several AM/FM Clock Radios for sale. Recent surveys show that less than half of those 18-34 have a traditional AM/FM radio in their home. If they want radio, they use their computer. I suspect that many in this age group never think about a radio in their kitchen or family room. Perhaps the same who are surprised to learn that they can pick up TV – for free – with a contraption called an antenna.   One of my readers spotted this antenna in Bellevue recently. Anyone know what it’s for?

Just had to share this one with you. On the way to the Cougar Mt. transmitter facility, in a very-nice residential area, there are a couple of concrete retaining walls alongside the road. Both of them have several metal ‘Cougars’ as decorations. During the holidays you will often see them decorated in some way. Someone had a COVID moment and decorated this cat.

Other things impacted by the Virus –

  • A sharp reduction in Robo-Calls?
  • An increase in the amount of emailed humor from friends who are obviously spending more time on the home computer these days.

On the 21st of April, the Washington Governor laid out his plan for moving forward. Personally, I appreciate his methodical approach to all of this, as opposed to some that have what I call a ‘non-scientific, knee-jerk’ way of doing things. We all need to remember that it’s highly unlikely that any person in a position of authority in government has any experience dealing with an issue like this one.   The totals for this disease are staggering. At this writing, the totals look, roughly, like this: Worldwide we are approaching 3,000,000 cases and over 200,000 deaths. U.S.A we are approaching 1,000,000 cases and 55,000 deaths. This is about 1/3 of all the cases in the world and about 1/4 of the deaths. (The numbers in New York are close to 300,00 cases and 18,000 deaths.) WA State we are approaching 14,000 cases and will likely exceed 1,000 deaths. (At this writing, the number of new cases per day is actually going up.) One of the major problems with these numbers is that no one knows for sure just how many have it…a question that cannot be answered until everyone is tested.    It’s also interesting to look at the deaths from other causes. The following data is from 2017:


From this it’s pretty easy to see how this virus is serious, however, until we have a year with it, will be unable to say how it will be positioned on a list like this one. Certainly, everyone is anxious to see this be over with and a return to the way things were. We are being told that the recovery will be slow, take time etc. This is tough on a society that is used to ‘date certain’ information. An answer like ’We just don’t know for sure’ is a hard pill for most to swallow. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that this is something that the whole world is having to deal with, ie, we are not alone in this battle. There is hope in knowing that scientists, all over the world, are racing to find a treatment and, hopefully, a cure. As we dream about the day that this is behind us, we are left with a host of questions:

  • The first, and most obvious one, when will be get back to normal?
  • Assuming that we ‘slowly’ will, with restrictions, what will that mean?
  • Will things every be like they were -or- will we have a ‘new-normal’?
  • How much will fear and trust alter the path forward?
  • With so many industries (Broadcasting included) now permitting working from ‘safe-locations’ will this become more commonplace now that we know how to do it?
  • How many businesses, large and small, will be killed off,  never to return?
  • Assuming that ‘Social Distancing’ and wearing masks and other protective measures will be normal until we have vaccines, how will this impact things like sporting events. etc?
  • As you go by the football/ soccer and baseball venues in So-Do…how long will it be before they can be used again?
  • When will our children be able to go back to school?
  • How will this impact our Political Landscape?
  • Who is going to be blamed for all of this?

Perhaps the most important questions are:

  • What have we learned in this process?
  • What will we do differently the next time we are faced with a pandemic?
  • Will someone please, in addition to coming up with a cure, please invent, and manufacture in large quantities, a fully functional crystal-ball for times like this?

Here’s an excellent summary of where we are….from Bill Gates: Frequent contributor Mike Brooks of KING-FM sent me this item that would be of particular interest to those of you who are Hams.

Some more contributions from friends stuck at home:


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 – Hunker down and staff safe !!   Clay, K7CR, CPBE SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968


Clay’s Corner for March 2020

March 15, 2020

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:

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: 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 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: 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:

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:


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. 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





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