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Clay’s Corner for June 2019

June 5, 2019
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Clay’s Corner

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

 

And the Headline read –

Washington earned the No. 1 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s Best States rankings.

So you say – How come?

  • Booming economy…The nation’s fastest growing
  • Tech-sector powerhouse
  • Many big name companies are here (Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, Costco, Starbucks, T-Mobile etc.)
  • Cheap, climate-friendly electricity…or as they call it north of here, ‘Hydro’ and lots of wind-power generation (The writer of the story still calls them ‘wind-mills’)
  • Other rankings –

º  #3 for economy
º  #2 for Infrastructure
º  #4 for Health Care
º  #4 for Education

Other states in the region did not fare as well –
#16 – Idaho
#27 – Oregon
#29 – Montana

That’s all well and fine – – Now for the no-so-good news –

The Headline read – Seattle gas prices spike 42 cents over the last month.

Not sure I can feel great about knowing that I’m paying some of the highest prices in the country to be able to sit in a traffic jam!

Meanwhile, Seattle’s neighbor to the south recently learned that, according to Redfin, Tacoma is the hottest housing market in the nation right now.  There are a number of reasons they were able to make that call.  Speed of sale is one of them with just over half of the homes being sold just 2 weeks after being listed.  Typically the number is 8 days.  That’s faster than any other market in the country.  Another indicator of a hot-market is when homes go for more than the asking price.  Right now, about half of them in Tacoma are doing just that.  Price is a big factor that may be causing home buyers to look south of Seattle where the median price is $698,000.  In Tacoma-Pierce County that figure is $335,000.  But those prices are going up at a faster rate than those in Seattle.  In short, Tacoma is Hot.

Seattle’s success has some byproducts – Increased homeless problems as low-earners are priced out and comparison shopping where would-be homeowners are forced to look elsewhere.

I have personal experience with this issue going back about 30 years ago, when the station I worked for moved from Tacoma to Seattle.  At the time, I was living in Lakewood (southwest of Tacoma) and found I could not afford Seattle home prices, so I moved to Auburn…a move I have never regretted.

Are you ready for the next EASNT (Emergency Alert System National Test)?  FEMA has announced that it will be August 7th at 2:20 p.m. (ET) this year.  Rather than test all of the various warning systems at one time, FEMA selects certain ones to test their viability.  If you recall, last year they concentrated on WEA.  This year it will be the original, analog, EAS system, commonly called ‘Legacy EAS’ with the test message being distributed via the nation’s PEP (Primary Entry Point Stations).  In Washington State, this means KIRO-AM 710 in Seattle.

The Washington State SECC is charged with the responsibility of creating a means for all EAS participants (AM & FM radio, TV and cable systems) to receive these messages if they cannot receive KIRO-AM off-air.  In our case, we use the State Relay Network (SRN) operating on 155.475 for that chore.  Additionally, the SECC requires that participants monitor one or both of these frequencies.  There are other sources that are also monitored.  In the Seattle area NOAA Weather Radio acts as a relay station.

When the test is completed, the FCC will require that stations report how their portion of the system worked.  This is done via what’s called the ETRS or Electronic Test Reporting System.

You may be wondering why, in light of newer alerting methods (FEMA/IPAWS, WEA etc.) they are testing this rather ‘mature’ system.  Al Kenyon of FEMA put it this way –

“The intent of conducting the test in this fashion is to determine the capability of the EAS to deliver messages to the public in event that dissemination via Internet is not available.”

The bottom line is that the Internet is amazing in what it can do.  At the same time, it is fragile, with much of it based on what’s termed – ‘Wire lines’.  The Legacy system is primarily a wireless system.  FEMA knows that you cannot always depend on Internet-based communications systems.

Interestingly, FEMA is has been involved in a multimillion dollar upgrade to their 77 PEP facilities, including upgrades to KIRO-AM.

The bottom line for all EAS participants is –

  • Make sure these systems are working well.
  • Perhaps plan on having someone be there on August 7th at test time.

Here is a look at the coverage of the various PEP’s.  KIRO-AM is that the one in the far NW corner of the map.

My readers are used to me writing about the demise of AM Radio.  Here is another one for the list of AM’s that are now silent.

The FCC recently cancelled the license for the only AM station in Forks and in Western Clallam County.   For many years the 1490 AM operation was the only US station you could hear there.  At first the station was known as KVAC.   I have a lot of memories of driving up there to help the station’s owner/operator Gordon Otis with technical issues, and perform the, then required, annual performance measurements.  In later years, the station’s owner built an FM which I assume continues to operate.  Something to do with the lease on the AM transmitter site I understand.

Bottom line – Another AM bites the dust….Trust me, there will be more.

Looking at ‘Radio Locator’ today this is what you see – (No Local AM’s)

KBDB was, last time I checked, was operated by the same party that owned the, now dark, 1490 AM, the only commercial station in the area.

If you live in Forks, you could do very well without an AM Radio, except at night when many signals from far away locations are available.

There has been a lot of press recently about the demise of AM radio.  To the surprise of many an unlikely organization (Politico) picked up the story and ran with it.

The Headline Read – ‘The Low-Fi Voices That Speak For America.’

In their piece, Politico uses 6 AM stations across the country.  To be honest, I never thought that I’d be reading about AM Radio here!

They point out there are many AM stations out there that are thriving because they are providing a service that has a demand that perhaps other stations do not.  I found it interesting that they mentioned the long-reach of some of these stations.  In some cases, a 50 kW station in an area of great ground conductivity can indeed cover several large states.  KRVN in Nebraska is an example.  They also explain how unique formats have their place.

Want to read more?  Go here:

https://www.politico.com/interactives/2019/magazine-am-radio-still-matters/

Here in the Seattle area we have some AM’s that are doing much the same thing, providing a programming source that is not found on FM.  All-news, foreign languages, specific areas of talk, etc.  In some cases, AM Stations that used to run mass-appeal formats, have been sold to entities that target specific groups.  Example is 1240 and 1180 that now target Catholics.  Tune to 1250, 1450, 1560 etc. and you will see what I mean.  In some cases the prices of AM stations have dropped to the point that these groups can afford to purchase a station to target a specific audience…and that is a good thing.  Is AM dead or dying?  I say no…It is evolving into something different.  It’s a classic example of ‘supply and demand’.  The number of stations should be equal to the demand for what they can produce.  When you have an over-supply, you have stations going off the air.  Perhaps this is the way it should be?

The FCC has altered the supply and demand equation with their move to enable AM’s to use FM translators.  Perhaps the day will come that the Commish will permit these operators to turn off their AM’s that will enable those that wish to continue on the AM band an opportunity to improve their facilities?  Only time will tell.

Meanwhile there are some AM operators, figuring they have nothing to lose, experimenting with running all digital.  There are a number of technical advantages to this idea, mainly shifting to a modulation mode that better deals with an ever increasing noise level.  The question is, will the advantages of digital overcome the fact that zillions of AM-only radios exist that cannot decode those transmissions?  There have been many that have been critical of this move.  The only problem is, those that poo-poo the idea, don’t have an ‘economic horse’ in this race.  I contend that if an owner of an AM station wished to go all digital, let them do it.  It’s  their money!

Interestingly, the NAB has filed comments with the FCC, stating that it’s time for the Commish to formally look into permitting AM stations that wish to go digital only to do so.  Certainly the support of NAB is welcomed by those that are seeking to make this change.

Meanwhile another proposal is being circulated that would create a new radio band in the area historically called Land-Mobile ‘Low Band’.

FINALLY A SOLUTION TO THE AM “PROBLEM” THAT IS IF “THEY” ARE REALLY LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION!

WRNJ, Hackettstown, NJ will be filing a Petition with the FCC requesting they explore moving AM band stations to the near-vacant 45 to 50 MHz VHF band.  The AM band is no longer capable of providing a quality service to its communities for several reasons.  Noise, skip, overly expensive antenna systems, varying hours of operation, and directional patterns to name just a few immediate issues.  And, lack of listeners!

WRNJ suggests the FCC consider the digital transmission DRM+ system along with a simple vertical only, non-gain antenna.  The VHF 1 band is ideal for local / regional coverage.  Exactly the local service that was expected during the early days of AM would return.  The two-way radio licensees of the 45 / 50 MHz band have all but fled the band for either trunked or cell service.  This ended the expense and maintenance of low band FM mobile radios for the many users.  Too, Motorola and Kenwood, it is reported, no longer manufacture low band equipment.  A scanner covering 45 to 50 MHz at a tower with reception from New York City to Philadelphia can go days before hearing a single carrier.

International regulations for ITU regions 2 and 3 already call for broadcasting between 47 and 50 MHz as previously mentioned, the band is ideal for local / regional coverage and can provide Americans with the latest technology from their local stations.  It would be wise for broadcasters to familiarize themselves with all the abilities of the DRM+ modulation scheme…it’s far from just an audio transport.  Many (ITU 2 and 3) countries are already embracing the DRM+ which is so far superior to anything we’re presently using the USA.  Why would we wait any longer?

July 2008, the BROADCAST MAXIMIZATION COMMITTEE   published the results of their study on AM and proffered the concept of converting the Channels 5 and 6 to digital AM’s, LPFM, NCE’s et.al.  See   http://www.broadmax.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/proposal.pdf

That was 12 years ago and nothing has been done about it.

With this proposal, we would avoid AM noise, nighttime interference, adjacent channel issues and eliminate the awful fidelity issues.  There is occasional skip on the proposed band.  Adjacent TV channel 2 survived it for 50 plus years.  Skip is infrequent and probably won’t have the deleterious effects experienced with analog.  There is skip on the AM band every night!

DRM+ channel efficiency is more compact than present channel spacing. Spectrum efficiency vastly exceeds anything we’re using today. The implications of that efficiency are evident.  Far more information can be packed into the DRM+ in much less space.  A short basic explanation of DRM+ can be found here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGa8X5hr5Vw  A more technical explanation of DRM+ can be found at this location: https://www.drm.org/what-is-drm-digital-radio/summary/  Note in the video that 1KW ERP of DRM+ equals the same coverage as a 5KW conventional installation.  An efficient system lowers the electric bill.  The proposed vertical antenna of unity gain reduces tower loading and or rent.

There are no receivers!  Right. We propose a transition period of years to come to fruition. American broadcasting has spent tens of millions on moving TV facilities and the market responded to the shifts in frequency and modulation schemes.  The AM band too, was extended and radio manufacturers responded.  Simply stated, if not now, when?

The AM band is beyond practical (include economical) use anymore.  The transmission systems are onerous to say the least.  We have to live within the bounds of physics and that, simply put, eliminates todays AM band as it is structured.  We know Japan will soon be amongst other nations that terminated AM radio…at the request of AM operators!! Italy too is converting to DRM+.

We propose that any AM operator simulcast the new and old band until the market dictates the AM shutdown of dual facilities.  We propose the system be local and that any who might wish to stay with AM be free to stay there.  With the migration, we expect, the AM band may again have a chance for wide area service from those who can increase power and coverage upon spectrum availability resulting from the migration to DRM+ VHF.  The FM band would be relieved of the congestion it’s now experiencing from translators.  We would hope that the ownership remain local and avoid the dereliction of local community service that came with ownership-consolidation.

Is there any better time to start this than now?  I can’t think of one negative, can you?  We look forward to your input if and when the FCC moves with the Petition for Rule Making.

Larry Todd
WRNJ Radio
Hackettstown, NJ
larryradio@wrnj.com

Locally, the 1210 Auburn station has been having some interesting twists and turns.  First the station’s owner, Bustos Media, elected to abandon their 10 kW night operation using 4 towers on the east side of Auburn, opting for low power night operation at their day site on the west side of Auburn.

The next phase of this project was to completely take apart the former ‘night-site’.  This process went smoothly to the point of taking down the towers.  As it turned out, the City of Auburn required a demolition permit to take the towers down…and getting that permit required even more hoops.  Then, just as the permit was granted, came the news that KZIZ/1560 was seeking a new transmitter site.  (The 1560 site is just south of Auburn)  Apparently the owners of the station asked Hatfield and Dawson if the former 1210 night site would work for 1560 and the answer came back yes.  With that the owners entered into a tentative agreement to purchase the property, transmitter building and antenna system from the Garre family.  Mr. Bustos sent out an email stating that the towers did not need to come down after all.

(The Garre’s were the original owners of the Auburn AM station going back to 1958 when it was KASY).   Someone is going to have a lot of work to do to make this operational.  Perhaps I’ll have more on this one in my next column.

Perhaps one of your pet-peeves is – dumb people with smart phones?  Since the introduction of these devices, we have become better connected with tools in our hands that would have been ‘Sci-Fi’ only a few years earlier.  With all the good they provide there are certainly some down-sides.  Perhaps distracted drivers is the worse.  People believing they can drive and text at the same time etc.  How about distracted walkers?  Perhaps you have seen one of these recently…a person walking and running into something etc.  This too is a serious problem.  Think about the person walking and texting and walking into the path of a moving vehicle.

Apparently a New York state Senator has introduced a bill to make texting, while walking, illegal with fines ranging from $50 to $150.  The bill would make it illegal to cross streets while their eyes are glued to their phone.  Sadly, you cannot depend on common sense to prevail.  I understand that similar laws have passed in other cities, but this would mean the entire state.

And the Headline read –

An estimated 3.7 million Washington residents living in drought areas

If you are like me and travel on non-paved roads reaching broadcast facilities and have, perhaps, noticed, a cloud of dust following you?  I was working over in Forks in early May, talking with the fellow that mows the grass at the ONRC.  He noted that his machine was doing something unusual for this time of year, kicking up a cloud of dust.  Remember, this is Forks where they get 100 inches of rain a year!  What does all this mean?  We could well be headed into a season of bad wildfires.  Remember last summer and all the smoke?

Want to read more about this topic – KING5 explains it well.

https://www.king5.com/article/weather/an-estimated-37-million-washington-residents-living-in-drought-areas/281-593e8a18-bd67-4118-a912-b6b60c65e655

Then this announcement: Inslee expands drought emergency for nearly half of the State

So what’s going on?

  • Now half of the State is officially in a drought emergency declaration area because of worsening forecasts calling for warmer and drier conditions through the summer.
  • Our Snow-Pack is currently less than 50% of average for this time of year, meaning less water for all this summer.

If you recall, we had a similar situation in 2015.

The following two maps help make this situation more clear.

Yes, the Seattle-Tacoma area is surrounded by Red…with 3 counties being recently added..

 

 

The FCC is out with new rules to deal with the issue of resolving translator interference complaints.  Much of this driven by the FCC’s allowing AM’s to have FM Translators in appeals by AM broadcasters for help.  Up to this point there have been a number of issues raised that drove the FCC to re-think how they were handling these matters.

Under the new rules, the FCC will use a station’s outer 45 dBu contour limit.  That includes establishing a minimum number of additional listener complaints that must be included in any waiver seeking to establish a claim of interference outside the complaining station’s 45 dBu contour.  While the FCC received proposals calling for a 60 dBU or 54 dBU contour limit instead, it says there is “extensive evidence” from markets nationwide to support the idea that full-service stations have substantial listenership outside the 54 dBu contour, and that listenership would be at risk if interference complaints outside this limit were not considered actionable.

Here’s some of what else is changing:

  • The order adds more “flexibility” to its rules by allowing FM translator stations to change frequency to any available same-band channel – as a minor change in response to interference issues.  It notes channel changes are “a relatively low cost way to resolve interference with little or no reduction in service area.”
  • The FCC also established a minimum number of listener complaints ranging from a low of six to a high of 25, proportionate to the population the complaining station serves, that a station would need to submit with any claim of interference.
  • Interference complaints often devolve into questions about the veracity of the allegations.  In an effort to reduce those fights, the FCC approved guidelines for specific things a listener must say in their complaint.  That includes sharing complete contact information; a clear, concise and accurate description of the location where the interference is alleged to occur; a statement that they listen to the station over-the-air at least twice a month to demonstrate the complainant is a regular listener; and a statement that the complainant has no legal, employment, financial or familial affiliation or relationship with the station.
  • In a series of steps designed to help resolve disputes, the FCC okayed several moves that translator owners must take to keep their signals on the air.  They include working with the listener to help resolve the problem.  But the order eliminates the requirement that listener complainants must cooperate with the translator operator.  Instead, it would be up to the listener if they wanted to help.
  • The Commission also concluded that 90 days “should be sufficient” to resolve most claims of interference.  If it goes beyond that, the Media Bureau must offer an explanation as to why.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly had pushed the FCC to firm up that 90-day remediation deadline process.  He said it would bring “an even higher level of predictability to the process.”

The new guidelines largely follow suggestions handed to the agency by the National Association of Broadcasters in 2017.  “The FCC deserves credit for endorsing a common-sense compromise for reviewing FM radio listener complaints alleging interference from FM translators,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.  “FM translators have been enormously helpful extending the reach of AM radio stations.  We’re pleased the FCC continues to embrace ideas that foster the revitalization of AM radio.”

The Headline read – Revenues Climb 8% At American Tower.

The piece explains that the tower business is ‘red-hot’, explaining ATC’s overall, global revenue rose 4.1% to $1.8 Billion (Yes, with a B).  The company that owns many of the major transmission sites in the Seattle area has nearly 25,000 towers.

If you are like me…you wondered why a broadcaster would sell their tower assets to American Tower and then lease space on them.  Broadcasters would often cite that towers were not their core business and they did not know how to adequately market them.  My response to that was, find out how it’s done and keep the profits for yourself.  Obviously I was viewed as a voice from the basement.  Besides, they were in business not to make money but put smiles on the faces of stockholders.

The wireless industry is what’s fueling growth in the tower industry…not broadcasting.  ATC has reportedly constructed more than 700 new sites thus far this year.  Back to the broadcast side, a lot of their attention has been due to re-packing related to ARSC 3.0.

Talk about poor timing.  In last month’s column I ran a picture of Amador Bustos…This this month it was announced that his firm ‘Bustos Media’ was buying a number of additional radio stations.

The one attracting the most attention in the Seattle area is 102.9/KFNY-FM, that was one of the stations that iHM had to shed as part of the CBS/Entercom deal where iHM picked up some of the former CBS stations.  A bit about his new station –

The transmitter is on Capital Peak, Southwest of Olympia.  (The same site is used by 88.1 and 96.1)  Providing coverage south through Lewis County, west to Grays Harbor and northeast into Olympia and the Seattle/Tacoma area.

Technically the station operates with 70,000 watts ERP at 668 Meters Above Average Terrain or 867 Meters Above Mean Sea-Level.  Compare that to the station down the dial at 102.5/KZOK which operates from West Tiger Mt. with 68,000 watts ERP at 698 Meters HAAT or 932 Meters AMSL.  As you can see the power and elevation is similar.  The big difference is the proximity to population.

102.9 has had a large number of call letters in its history.  Here are a few – KELA (1980), KMNT, KNBQ, KYNW, KZLS, KOAG, KFXY, KMMZ, KMKZ, KBFQ to name a few.  If you dig a bit deeper….or are an old duffer like me, you know that the station began operation on Cook Hill (NW of Centralia) as KGME.  (The FCC shows the station first licensed on Feb 23rd, 1966)  The owner was the legendary Chuck Ellsworth who was an on-air talent during the glory days of Seattle rock stations.  Later Chuck taught broadcasting at Bates in Tacoma while still working part-time, on the air, in Seattle.  The G and M stations call letters were named for family members the E was, of course for Ellsworth.

Chuck was a great guy, one that your writer turned to back in 1966 when I was faced with a decision whether to accept a job as a DJ at a major Seattle AM…or Chief Engineer at a major Seattle AM.  I recall Chuck telling me that with my technical abilities I’d be much better off doing Engineering.  I took his advice and was about to take that Seattle Engineering job  when I learned that old friend Peter Policani was leaving KMO.  Whereas I was living in Tacoma, I opted for that job instead.

Shortly after this, Chuck passed and his wife sold the station to the owners of KELA in Centralia in 1968.  They moved the transmitter to Crego Hill where it operated at much higher power.  It then used the call letters KELA-FM.  Later when that combination was sold, the transmitter was moved to Capital Peak.

For Bustos, the first station in the Seattle market was the 1210 AM in Auburn which he purchased from Entercom.  He later purchased 99.3 from Greg Smith.  More recently he purchased the 103.3 in Skagit County (near Mt. Vernon).  The addition of 102.9 will mean he will have 3 FM’s and an AM in this market.

Amador was not done, with the announcement that he was purchasing KRCW licensed to Royal City, north of Tri-Cities.  That station operates with 19.5Kw at 241 Meters and covers the area between Moses Lake and Tri-Cities.  This will make his 5th Station in that market.

One more mention of Amador Bustos – He was recently appointed to a two-year term to the Radio Board of Directors of NAB.

If you recall, in a past column, I mentioned that Kent Randles, who has headed up the engineering department at Entercom Portland with oversight responsibility in Seattle, was retiring the end of June.  The announcement was recently made who will be replacing him, Jeff McGinley, son of now retired Tom McGinley.  Not often you find a situation where a son opts for the same business.  (The name Hubert comes to mind.)  Congratulations to Jeff!

Washington State has joined its neighbor to the south with the signing of a bill giving certain broadcasters ‘First Informer’ status.  Congratulations to all those that worked to make this come to pass.

Here is how the WSAB, prime sponsor of the bill, put it –

GOVERNOR INSLEE SIGNS FIRST INFORMER BROADCASTER BILL!

HB 1147 – the First Informer Broadcaster Bill – was signed by Governor Inslee on April 30, 2019, culminating three years of efforts by broadcasters to ensure access to transmitter and studio facilities during time of a declared emergency.

The WSAB worked with the State’s Emergency Management Division to move the bill forward, which was sponsored in the 2019 legislative session by Rep. Mike Chapman (D-24), Rep. Brad Klippert (R-8), Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45) and Sen. Sam Hunt (D-22).  The bill passed through both chambers of the Washington State Legislature unanimously (House 97-0 and Senate 44-0) before reaching the Governor’s desk for signature.

“This legislation is really impactful for broadcasters,” said Janene Drafs, Chairwoman of the Board of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters. “Access to our transmitter sites and studio facilities during time of emergency allows us to broadcast important safety and recovery information to the communities we serve across the state of Washington.”

“On behalf of the 260 commercial and non-commercial radio and television stations across the state, we appreciate the support of our state legislators and the Governor in passing HB 1147,” said Keith Shipman, President & CEO of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters. “We’re pleased to become the 11th state in America to pass such legislation. We also wish to acknowledge the great work of Mark Allen of Mark Allen Government Relations for navigating the legislative process and broadcast engineers Keith Nealey of KIRO-TV and Marty Hadfield (retired) for offering testimony during public hearings on this issue.”

The First Informer Broadcaster bill was designed to allow broadcast technicians who have registered with the Washington Business Re-Entry System (https://mil.wa.gov/emergency-management-division/business-re-entry-registration) access to their studio and transmitter facilities in order to restore broadcast operations and disseminate safety and recovery information to listeners and viewers.

A First Informer Broadcaster is defined as “an individual who is employed by, or acting pursuant to a contract under the direction of a broadcaster; and maintains, including repairing and resupplying, transmitters, generators, or other essential equipment at a broadcast station or facility or provides technical support services to broadcasters needed during a period of proclaimed emergency.”

Broadcasters must still follow the direction of incident commanders as it relates to safety issues in declared emergency zones. Key language in the bill prohibits authorities from confiscating resources – fuel, food, water and other essential materials – brought to the site by a First Informer Broadcaster.

Broadcast engineers and technicians are encouraged to register through the aforementioned link to become a First Informer Broadcaster. Once registered, the engineer/technician will receive a registration card via email.

This announcement drew comments from many:

This from Andy Skotdal –

Keith Shipman deserves twice the thanks since he was integral in getting it done in Oregon, first, with Bill Johnstone.  This is an effort that has been discussed among all of you and at the WSAB board level since Katrina (over 11 years ago!), and it was the dogged handful like Arthur, Clay, Mark, Keith, Bill and others who prioritized it and got it done.  The WSAB board and OAB boards also deserve credit along with the SBE for prioritizing this initiative in order to give their leaders the authority to march.  Law enforcement types were initially resistant, and this was truly a broad group effort.  Congratulations!

And this from Marty Hadfield –

Andy, I will second that recommendation to applause the undying efforts of Mark Allen and Keith Shipman.  Their focused guidance made all the difference in the world.

It was nearly a year and a half year ago that I sat with Mark and Keith, and provided passionate verbal testimony to Senator Sam Hunt, Sponsor of SB 6056, giving a technical “boots on the ground” perspective of my Katrina/Rita Hurricane and other disaster incident response experiences.  This was provided on behalf of all Radio Broadcast Engineers in Washington State – describing the basis for needing unfettered access to the studios and various transmission sites that are critical to providing broadcast information to the general public in the confusing times surrounding a disaster and recovery effort.  No other industry has proven to provide better reach to those directly impacted citizens than Broadcasting. Period.

Subsequent to that meeting, I’m happy to say that my colleague, Keith Nealey, provided his supporting testimony on behalf of the Television Engineers across Washington State.

It was a great team effort and I know we are all proud of the results and positive implications for maintaining a strong on-air broadcast presence whenever disasters may strike in Washington.

Looks like the FCC may have more tools to fight pirate radio.  A bill is making its way through congress called the ‘Pirate Act’.  If the President signs it, the FCC will have the authority to fine a pirate station operator up to $100,000 per day, per violation up to a max of 2 mega-bucks.

As I have stated many times, all of this is meaningless until they come up with a method of collecting the fine.  In many cases these operators don’t have the funds to pay the fines and are let off with a ‘hand-slap’.  There are many that feel they have a right to do what they have been doing.  Perhaps this could be compared to when a person is stripped of their drivers license and continues to drive a vehicle?

In another FCC action – back in 2016 Cumulus Media agreed to pay a $540,000 fine in response to a violation of sponsorship identification rules.  However, they never paid it (something about their bankruptcy getting in the way).  Looks like they are still ‘on the hook’ for this one.  This time the FCC, with the support of the Justice Department, are asking a judge to force the company to pay what is now a $792,344 bill.  Just like when you don’t pay your taxes, the amount goes up.

Don’t forget  – The next NAB event in Las Vegas will see things shifted forward a day from a Monday thru Thursday event to a Sunday thru Wednesday one.  Attendance at the most recent show was 91,921 – about the same as 2018 – but under the 103,000 that attended in 2017, a major factor in driving the change.

Looking for a job in the technical side of broadcasting?

OPB is looking for an individual passionate about technology to join our Bend-based team supporting OPB’s RF distribution technology at our remote sites in the Central and Eastern parts of Oregon.  This non-exempt regular status represented position is full-time and includes benefits.  Apply at http://www.opb.org/about/jobs/

Broadcast Engineers don’t all sit around soldering things together at a work-bench or click keys on a computer all day….OK, some do…and some don’t.  Some actually get dirt under their nails

Occasionally things go wrong at Mountain Top transmitter sites – presenting some interesting challenges.  The following pictures come from the NWPB crew that was recently dealing with a power failure at a site near Wenatchee called Naneum.  This is the location of NWPB’s KNWR that found itself off the air due to failure of a PUD power line and an empty auxiliary generator fuel tank for the State DNR Generator.

So what do you do in a case like this?  They knew the power line came across the ridge from KPQ’s transmitter site on Mission Ridge, and they had power.  A call to the PUD apparently revealed that they had no vehicle to deal with the power line.  To get the station back on the air meant one thing, time to haul diesel to the site.

Here you see the NWPB Snow-Cat loaded on its trailer about to get a work-out.

 

Three Drums of diesel on the back and time to head up the mountain.

Looking from the Naneum site across the ridge at the KPQ facility.  Elevation about 7000 feet.

 

A bit of scenery from Naneum, looking to the Southwest at Mt. Rainier.  The shape of our famous landmark looks odd when viewed from this side.

Over the years I have found it ‘interesting’ how few inside and outside the industry are curious, or perhaps remotely interested in knowing anything about the facility that creates the signal that people receive to make sounds and pictures…the places where I have been interested in since the get-go.  I recall, early on, when I was a young sprout learning about the industry that I would, one-day, be employed in…asking if I could see the transmitter.  Perhaps these people feel that transmitters are mystery machines full of techno hocus-pokus that they would not comprehend?

The FCC has issued its final report on the impact of Hurricane Michael on broadcasting and on other services some seven months ago.  Here are some of the major take-aways:

  • A number of radio stations remain off the air in Panama City.
  • All of the stations were off the air due to damaged transmitter sites.
  • Some stations, particularly in hard-hit Bay and Gulf Counties, the damage was long-lasting or even permanent.

The Commission was not pleased with some aspects of the wireless industry –

  • The investigation found that three key factors, including insufficiently resilient backhaul connectivity, inadequate reciprocal roaming arrangements and lack of coordination between wireless service providers, power crews and municipalities as the predominant causes of what the FCC says was the “unacceptably slow” restoration of wireless service.
  • FCC Chair Ajit Pai, who visited the region following the storm, “I appreciate the efforts of the FCC’s public safety staff and call on wireless phone companies, other communications providers and power companies to quickly implement the recommendations contained in this report.”  Pai has directed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to conduct a comprehensive re-examination of the FCC’s Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework.  That work remains ongoing.

Looking briefly at the business side of Radio:

  • Saga reported revenues were down a bit, some of this as the result of purchasing additional stations in Florida.  Saga operates a cluster of stations in Bellingham.
  • Salem Media reported a 61% decrease in net income along with other negative results.  Salem operates a number of AM stations in the Seattle area.
  • iHeart Media is officially out of bankruptcy.  With the company now controlled by a number of hedge and mutual fund companies, other changes may be on the horizon.

One of the national remailers aimed at technical workers in broadcasting recently had a thread going about pagers, commonly called beepers.  These were little gizmos that attached to your belt that were your only wireless means of being reached in those days.

At first there was what was termed a ‘tone only pager’ that ‘beeped’ when its associated phone number was called.  This told the wearer to head to the nearest phone and call a pre-arranged phone number.  The telephone company also offered this:  They called them ‘Bellboys’.

Next came the ‘Tone and Voice Pager’.  With this one, a caller would dial the pager’s phone number and when they heard a beep, could speak to the user.  Usually the caller would speak the number they wanted the person to call.

Then came the Digital Pager.  Not only would this device beep when called, but the person on the phone could ‘input’ a specific phone number for the wearer to call back.

In all these cases, you had to have a pocket of change ready to go to use with those pay-phones that seemed to be everywhere.

In some cases, the RCC’s (Radio Common Carriers) offered Mobile Telephones.  These were sold by private owners and the telephone company.  They worked pretty well, provided you were within range of the provider’s equipment.  Generally they were installed in a vehicle and were not portable.

Of course this all changed with the introduction of cellular telephone systems.  A 2-way communications device was certainly better than what we had been dealing with.  Cellular has evolved in many ways as we all know, with more bells and whistles than anyone back then could have dreamed.

Back to the remailer thread.  The question was posed, ‘Is anyone still using a pager?’  Much surprise to many, the answer was yes, there are still pagers being used.  Here are a couple of links with more information on the continued use of these little critters:

https://www.americanmessaging.net/coverage/coverage.php

http://www.sound-tele.com/answering-services/pager-services/states/WA/Seattle

https://www.amazon.com/Motorola-LS350-Annual-Service-Beeper/dp/B00914ZZ0Q

My column would not be complete without a picture of an amazing sunset from the deck of Dwight Small’s new home in Skagit County.

There is a lot going on in the world of EAS these days.

  • The Washington SECC formed a Plan Revision Committee whose job it was to overhaul our existing Plan with the following goals:

1 – Make it better organized
2 – Bring it into conformance with recent FCC changes, specifically ARS

  • During this process we have come to learn –

1 – The term ‘State EAS Plan’ will be used by the FCC
2 – The FCC will be ‘housing’ State EAS Plans on their computer system
3 – The SECC will be inputting a good deal of the data into it
4 – Our new ‘Plan’ will contain a ‘Tab’ or ‘Link’ to the FCC’s State EAS Plan
5 – A name change for our (Washington State Plan) is likely because –
a. Our plan contains a lot of material that is not required by the FCC and will not be in the FCC’s data
b. It’s not a good idea to have two different books with different information.
6 – The Plan Rev Committee will be dealing with the Name Change matter in their next meeting on June 17th.   Should they reach a decision, it will be forwarded to the SECC for formal action at their July 9th Meeting at CPTC in Lakewood.

  • As always, all of our EAS Meetings are open to all and your input is always welcome.
  • It looks like our new Plan (with the new name) will be rolled out early this fall.

I like to leave you with something that will bring a smile.  This month some funnies that were contributed by my readers….the ages of whom are perhaps revealed by the nature of the following.

 

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

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

Until then – May you have a wonderful Spring!!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for May 2019

April 28, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

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

For reasons I cannot explain…I often start out my column talking about the weather.  Perhaps it’s because of the fact that we have so much of it in this area.  I would be bored out of my mind in a place where the weather changes little.  Thus far this year we have had a full course of varied weather.  A record cold February, dry March and wet April…whew!  This year was one of those that shut down conventional access to the transmitter facilities on West Tiger for about two months.  In my 30+ years of dealing with that place…this has happened only a few times.

Looking ahead, many fingers are crossed as we remember all too well how the main feature of last summer in this area was smoke!  Let’s hope that this is not the case this year.

We have had a number of notable passings:

Jim Tharp, WA7KYI, longtime resident of Vashon and Maury Island.  I got to know Jim a lot better when we found ourselves both working for Entercom back when they owned 710 and 770.  Jim had been with KING for many years before.  When Jim was not working on the Island, he and I were working together installing equipment at Cougar and West Tiger.  Jim leaves a son (Adam) and his family living on the island.

From the local Island Ham Radio Club newsletter:

Hello Everyone.

I learned some bad news today.  Jim Tharp, WA7KYI, passed away.  Jim was an integral member of the Vashon Maury Island Radio club going back 40 years or so.  Jim had some medical issues a few years ago that prevented his full participation in club events lately.  Before that Jim helped install and maintain the W7VMI repeater, he was often the “beachmaster” for field day in June as well as a key Morse code operator for multiple club contests and events.  Jim was a great source of knowledge of the ins and outs of amateur radio and was always monitoring the repeater and ready to reply if anyone came on the air.

Jim Tharp, along with Phil Zook, W7PDZ, started the first Saturday breakfasts at Sporty’s many years ago as a small gathering that has grown to an ongoing tradition.

Vashon and Maury islands have lost a good person who did so much for the club and community.

Art Blum, historic broadcaster in Tri-Cities passed unexpectedly on Tuesday March 26th.

Anyone in Broadcasting in Tri-Cities knew Art, who spent some 42 years with KONA, serving in many roles, announcer, salesperson and finally, as the station’s engineer.  To say that Art was a fixture and legend in that area’s broadcast industry is an understatement.

Our paths crossed many times over the years.  I recall, back in the late 90’s when we were launching our EAS efforts in this state looking for someone in that area that could serve as local-leader.  Art was quickly on-board.  Our paths crossed again when I hired on at WSU.  Art too had made the jump to public broadcasting.

One of his areas of interest was photographer, where he assisted law enforcement by providing images of crime scenes and accidents as well as coverage of the area’s beauty pageant.

Art was an SBE Member and past chairman of Chapter 51.  He was 76.

 

Ron Rackley, WE4RR

Ron passed shortly after returning home from his annual trek to NAB in Las Vegas.  He was an internationally well-known and respected engineer.  The media that covers people like Ron were quick to provide coverage.  Simply Googling his name will provide you with a lot of background.  Unfortunately I never had a chance to work with Ron on a project (it was high on my bucket list).  He left a number of footprints in this area with his collaborative work with Ben Dawson as well as call letters you would recognize.  I last visited with Ron at NAB a year ago, a wonderfully warm engaging person that always had a story to tell.  I only wish that someone could compile them into a book!

Ron loved Radio and in particular the RF side of AM.

He received a number of awards, one of which was the co-honoree (with Ben Dawson) of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award in 2006 where I had the privilege of being in attendance.

I would be remiss if I I did not mention that Ron also enjoyed Ham Radio.  As you can imagine, a man with his talents deployed many of them in his solution to antenna issues at his home.

You can look up Ron on QRZ, using his call letters WE4RR and read a lot more.  From QRZ, here’s a great picture at home.  By the way, Ron loved Morse Code!  He was a young 66.

Another passing, with no known PNW connections, was Glen Clark, who gained a lot of attention many years ago with his development of an audio processor known as the Texar Audio Prism.  It was quite a light show!  Glen was a prolific designer.  He reportedly passed just weeks after being diagnosed with liver cancer at age 67.

The headline read:  Washington  Legislature Approves Daylight Time Bill

Before you make alternative plans for the twice a year ritual of changing the clocks, be aware of a couple of things: 1) This is not just a Washington State thing.  It’s part of a movement for the entire (US) West Coast to be locked on PDT (Pacific Daylight Time).  Guess they need to get Federal approval to make it official.  So what would happen if this takes place?

  • Would Pacific Daylight Time then become Pacific Standard Time?
  • What about B.C.?  B.C. Premier John Horgan indicates that the province will stay in sync and do whatever the western states do.
  • For Power/Pattern Switching the FCC requires AM stations in the US to switch according to a Table based on Standard Time.  (Frankly, I leave the stations I attend to in that mode and let the local clocks change.)  Could the FCC issue some sort of statement?
  • For those that objected to switching back and forth, I have, for years, submitted a compromise:  Change the clocks 1/2 hour one time.  It caused a lot of raised eyebrows and little support.
  • It’s really time to end all this foolishness and switch to METRIC TIME! and dispense with this ‘Base-12’ time stuff (after all don’t we divide Seconds into ‘Tenths’).

Base Time is simple:

  • Each Day is divided into 10 hours
  • Each Hour is divided into 100 minutes
  • Each Minute is divided into 100 seconds
  • Etc.

Hey….If you are going to go Metric (which we all should) why stop at Time?

Country Music Radio is about to get a whole lot more interesting in Seattle!

First, some history.  When Entercom gobbled CBS, they dropped the long standing Country Music outlet on 94.1 (KMPS), switching format to AC to become ‘The Sound’.  Sensing that this might happen, Hubbard was ready and immediately dropped their previous format on 98.9 in favor of Country.  Makes sense, as Seattle has supported two Country Music stations for some time.  The success of the Hubbard effort on 98.9 (Called The Bull) up against Entercom’s (The Wolf) has been limited.  Hubbard is obviously willing to put more into The Bull’s challenge of The Wolf by hiring Entercom’s former programmer, Scott Mahalick, who recently exited Alpha in Portland, and picked up the former Wolf morning guy, Fitz.  For those of us that have been watching Seattle Radio for many years….This is exciting.  Watching these two powerful organizations ‘duke it out’ for the Country listener is where the listeners will win.  Now to hide and watch the ratings battle between the two.  Fasten your seat-belts.

Portland, Oregon is doing some things in Radio that are unique with LPFM’s:

First there is KQRZ-LP.  Looking up the Station in Wikipedia, we find:

KQRZ-LP (100.7 FM) is a low-power radio station licensed to Hillsboro, Oregon, United States.  The station is owned by the Oregon Amateur Radio Club, Inc.  KQRZ-LP signed on the air July 22, 2012, on an initial frequency of 101.5 MHz[1]  On July 11, 2013, at 8:00 PM, KQRZ-LP changed the transmit frequency to 100.7 MHz, although the license to cover that frequency was not issued by the Federal Communications Commission until September 4, 2013.

On July 22, 2012, KQRZ undertook an affiliation with the WORC Oldies Network, which syndicates broadcast material to other low-power radio stations interested in amateur radio.  Programming includes amateur (ham) radio news, educational material, comedy, oldies, and adult standards music.

Did you catch the portions I underlined in bold?  The station is being operated by an Amateur Radio Club!  Wow.

Then there is KISN-LP.  Looking this one up in Wikipedia we find:

KISN was an AM radio station licensed for Vancouver, Washington but based in Portland.  On May 1, 2015, at 9:51 a.m. KISNLP commenced broadcasting 24 hours a day, 56 years later to the day when the original KISN launched in 1959.  For more information, check out http://www.goodguyradio.com/kisn-radio-coverage.html

I was living in Portland back in those days and remember listening to ‘Kissin’ on 910 AM.  It was, back then, what KJR was to Seattle.  I think what they are doing is very cool.  Can you imagine being able to listen to a radio station in the Seattle area that sounds very much like KJR 50+ years ago?

Kudos to these two Low Power FM’s for doing something unique and non-offensive.  Keeping memories alive is very much appreciated.

Speaking of Portland (my home-town prior to 1957), I recently learned that Kent Randles is going to be retiring on July 5th of this year.  Should not be a shock to anyone in this business, as it seems that retirement is coming in waves these days.  Congratulations to Kent (and Patti) on the news.

Remember the days before Smart Phones?  No one called them dumb or stupid phones.  Probably because the term ‘Smart Phone‘ had not yet been coined.

Just as with speakers, using today’s terms, all the speakers in my house are both dumb and stupid (the way I like them).  Speaking of which, Radio is apparently awakening to the idea that today’s Smart Speaker is the closest to a ‘Kitchen Radio’ as we will ever see again.  Ever try and go out and purchase a radio for your kitchen counter?  Sales dude will think you are from another world.  New surveys support the notion that these counter top gizmos are indeed being used to listen to Radio.

Then there are light bulbs.  Just like the previous examples, all the light bulbs, by today’s standards, are dumb and stupid, especially in light (no pun) of the fact that you can now go out and buy Smart Light Bulbs.

In the event you missed it, these new creations come in various power ratings (light output) and can be adjusted for brilliance and color with your ‘Smart Speaker’…or anywhere you have an on-line connection.  What will they think of next?

One thing we don’t have any of in the Seattle area is very tall towers to hold our Television Antennas.  Thankfully we have hills and mountains to do a lot of the elevation work for us.

An old friend from Wisconsin, Nels Harvey, recently sent me the following video showing how they changed a TV antenna in Florida on a very tall tower.  In this case, using a huge helicopter called a ‘Sky-Crane’.  After viewing this you will better understand why they say this is the most dangerous type of work there is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pitEq8gjNj8

It was not a heavy one.  The weight was a little over 10,000 pounds.

And the Headline read RTDNA Announces Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.

The Radio Television Digital News Association has announced recipients of its 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.  The prestigious kudos recognize more than 309 radio, television and digital news organizations in the U.S. and around the world, from more than 4,600 entries.

All regional winners will compete for National Edward R. Murrow Awards, which will be announced in June and presented at Gotham Hall in New York Oct. 14.

Here’s how Radio stations in the Seattle area faired:

  • Overall Excellence – KOMO-AM
  • Breaking News Coverage – KOMO-AM
  • Continuing Coverage – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Innovation – KUOW-FM
  • Excellence in Social Media – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Sound – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Video – KUOW-FM
  • News Documentary – KNKX-FM
  • Feature Reporting – KNKX-FM

On the Television side, these Stations were honored:

  • Overall Excellence – KING-TV
  • Continuing Coverage – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Innovation – KING-TV
  • Excellence in South – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Video – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Writing – KING-TV
  • Feature Reporting – KING-TV
  • Hard News – KOMO-TV
  • Investigative Reporting – KOMO-TV
  • News Documentary – KOMO-TV
  • News Series – KING-TV
  • Newscast (11PM) KING-TV

According to John Poray, Executive Director of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, this is the first case of broadcast engineers being killed on the job as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Their deaths are a reminder that we face more dangers on the job than an overload of electrons.

Adrienne Abbott, who announced the news added, Engineers here in Nevada are adding CO detectors to their transmitter buildings and purchasing personal CO monitors.

And the Headline read – Green River College adult alternative KGRG-FM Seattle (89.9) marks its 30th anniversary with a month-long on-air and online celebration.

Wow….This is news to me.  According to the FCC, KGRG is licensed to Green River College in Auburn.  “KGRG-FM WA AUBURN    USA”

Gee – Even Wikipedia got this one right.

Unfortunately this is typical for many news reports.  The writer of the story sees the actual location and uses the name of the nearest major city,  in this case, Seattle.  Not long ago there was an incident in Mt. Vernon.  Yup! the national press called it Seattle.  Perhaps geographic accuracy is not as important as it once was, or this is more of what some refer to as ‘Fake News’?

I am very reluctant to endorse a particular vendor’s processes.  However, in this case, Kudos to Ben Barber of Inovonics.  For those of you that are not familiar with this firm, they are a relatively small manufacture of problem solving items for, primarily, radio broadcasters.

Recently Ben posted a question on four different email groups asking for input on how they should handle the matter of technical documentation for equipment they manufacture.  (I don’t recall this ever being done.)  According to Ben, they received over 125 responses.

Here are the numbers:

37% prefer a paper manual.
52% prefer a QSG with link to downloadable PDF.  (QSG is a Quick Start Guide)
4% prefer a CD ROM.
7% thought that data on a USB / SD card was a good idea.

Here is what Ben posted:

Here’s what Inovonics is going to do:

Inovonics will continue to supply paper manuals with all of our products.  This seems the best idea for those who are at a transmitter site without internet connection, or if you’re trying to read the manual on your phone.

Inovonics will supply more QSG with our gear so you can get into it more quickly.  For instance, our Site Streamers are hooked to the network and then best operated and adjusted via their web interface.  To aid in this, a QSG will tell you how to hook up the Ins/Outs and how to enter the IP address.  Once into the device, most things should be easy to find.

Inovonics will NEVER require you to make an account and log into it, just to download a manual, datasheet or the latest firmware!

I have a two word summary – VERY COOL!

Perhaps the one place where radio has a huge edge is in the motor vehicle, aka, car and trucks.  There are several reasons for this:

  • Most vehicles come with car radios standard (yes, I am old enough to recall when that was an option).
  • Radio has been an ‘Audio Only’ source of information.  Historically these radios had two knobs and a few push-buttons.
  • Later came tape players for those that wanted ‘their tunes’.

Then along came the Cellphone:

  • Early versions were adaptations of earlier ‘mobile-telephones’ with a handset, cradle, outside antenna, etc.

Then came the much smaller cellphone that you carried with you –

  •  First the ‘Brick’, then the flip phone etc.
  • And the first ‘Pairing’ with the vehicle.
  • And the first sharing portions of the vehicle radio to permit ‘speakerphone’ operation.

Intro the Smart Phone:

  • Now we have a phone with a display that shows more than just a phone number.
  • This has evolved into a hand-held device that will display a lot of distracting information for the driver.  Most notable is the feature called ‘Texting’.

Automakers have responded:

  • Now the ‘Car Radio’ is a connected piece of the cellphone.
  • And now, distracted driving is taking lives and laws have been created to roll back the clock.

The problems are:

  • If you don’t own a fairly new vehicle, suggest you stop by a dealer show room and ask the salesperson about the stuff in the ‘Center Stack’ that used to be called ‘The Radio’.  You will be amazed how anyone can navigate all that and drive at the same time.
  • As has been said, today’s car buyers are choosing their new wheels based on style and acceleration specification.  They are buying them based on what’s called the “in car entertainment experience’.
  • That experience is not just audio….but visual as well.  Title and Artist and Album Art of what’s playing.
  • Today’s Car-Radio and Cellphone are being integrated in ways that, not long ago, seemed not possible.
  • Despite all the new technology being deployed with new vehicles to keep you safe, demand is increasing for things, inside the cabin, that create more distractions and the death rate statistics are a grim reminder of what’s taking place.
  • The Genie is ‘out of the bottle’.  Users want it all and STILL safely drive the vehicle.
  • We have ‘Trouble in River City’ because of consumer demand for yet a more connected vehicle that is running headlong into an ever-increasing number of laws and regulations regarding distracted driving.
  • This puts the automakers in an interesting and perplexing position.
  • Are people going to stop using their cellphones in their vehicles and go back to just listening to the radio?  Unfortunately,  Probably not!
  • Perhaps one bright spot is in the area of voice recognition (think smart speaker).

Maybe this technology will keep more eyes on the road?

  • The bottom line is that not much of this is good for Radio as the choices for the driver are increasing all the time.  Radio is fighting back with the automakers to make sure that they are not squeezed out.  In some cases, AM Radio already has been.
  • I still see radio stations that are not on the visual band-wagon…not even displaying their call letters or logo etc.  In some cases radio is its own worst enemy and continues to go through life with ‘Blinders’ on.

Another place where the status quo is on the chopping block is in Television.  I’m sure you recall the days when having a TV set also meant having a TV Antenna on the roof, unless you were close enough to the transmitters where having ‘Rabbit Ears’ was a status symbol.

Then along came Cable TV.  Replace your old ugly antenna and get a better picture and more channels…bla-bla-bla.

So many jumped on the band wagon and subscribed to cable.  Later Satellite TV joined the list of providers.

Then something happened.  It’s called the Internet.  The Cable Companies woke up one day with a chunk of coaxial cable into millions of homes that could be used for two-way communications.  The telephone companies made a similar discovery with their physical plant and developed DSL (albeit at a slower rate).

With ever higher speed Internet connections and cable video steaming, suddenly the cable outfits discovered that their coaxial cables (and fiber) were in demand for something other than watching TV.  As their prices went up, consumers became frustrated with their cost of getting television via cable and cord-cutting started, along with the re-discovery of Free OTA TV via an antenna.

So what’s going on now?  A recent survey provides some insight.

  • 4.56 million TV households will cut the cord this year.
  • For the first time, the number of households that are watching TV via streaming will surpass those that are watching conventional Pay TV.

For the cable outfits, this is not all bad news as the ‘American Couch Potato’ will continue to send them money.

Frankly, In my opinion, broadcasters have been asleep at the switch in this race.  It appears that they have thrown in the towel in terms of promoting over-the-air (OTA) viewing.  Perhaps they would be just as happy to see that expensive transmitter plant be replaced with a simple feed to their local cable outfits?

To help underscore the fact that Radio continues to be a big factor in broadcasting, consider:

  • Cumulus recently sold KLOS in Los Angeles for $43 Million.
  • Billing numbers are impressive
  • WTOP-FM in Washington DC – $69 Million
  • KIIS-FM in Las Angeles – $61 Million
  • KBIG in L.A. – $46 Million
  • WLTW in NYC – $44 Million
  • Looking at the top 10 Billing Radio Stations we find
  • IHeart has 5, Entercom 4 and Hubbard 1.

I’ve written a lot over the years about the demise of AM Radio.  A lot of this is simply due to the reduction in consumer demand.  Like what I wrote earlier about the Car Radio, there is a lot more going on vying for the consumers ear these days.  AM has a lot of negatives in the first place – Reduced Audio Bandwidth (Poor audio quality) No Stereo, ever increasing amount of noise, etc.  AM Station owners, watching their audience head to FM, sought relief from the FCC in the form of FM Translators.  (Any doubt as to the value of those signals to an AM will be erased when you look at the prices being paid for them).

The problem is that adding translators may be a Band-Aid to the station’s business model, but it does nothing to resolve the three core issues I just mentioned.  This has caused some AM station owners to look beyond having economic relief come from law-makers to something that could, in the long run, change the equation in their favor — changing modulation mode from AM to Digital.  Granted most AM stations could have opted for the HD Radio system that’s been pretty successful on FM, however that system has a number of technical and economic issues.

Now a Texas broadcaster has joined others and would like the FCC to consider allowing Digital-ONLY AM’s.  This action has, perhaps predictably, given voice to a number that are very critical of the idea that our original modulation mode might be scrapped in favor of something else.  What about the fact that few, if any, have a radio that will receive something like DRM?

I find myself on the side of the broadcaster.  After all – ‘It’s their money’!!

The fact is that AM is a dying mode all over the world, perhaps the only reason it remains viable in this country is because:

  • There are still some successful AM Stations left.
  • There are a zillion radio receivers out there.

I say – let them do it – if they want to experiment with this new mode and find it has all the advantages they feel it has.  Let them be pioneers.  Who knows, we might just learn something.

If you have been an Amateur Radio Operator for a long time, this will sound familiar, as they went through the pain of walking away from AM and, over time, embraced Single Side Band (SSB) as their chosen mode for a host of technical reasons.  Maybe this will happen here?

Oh yes, if you think that traffic is bad where you live, sit back and enjoy this video….

https://www.youtube.com/embed/UEIn8GJIg0E?rel=0

Over the years you have read comments I’ve written about Bustos Media.  I ran across this picture recently of the man behind the company, Amador Bustos.  Amador operates the 1210 AM KMIA as well as 99.3 FM, the first FM in this area deploying a Single Frequency Network (SFN) of co-channel boosters.

 

Each month I look for something to bring a smile to conclude my column.  Thanks to my readers that share my love of this stuff, I never suffer from a lack of contributions.

This month – IDIOSYNCRASY AND AMBIGUITY

  • DON’T SWEAT THE PETTY THINGS AND DON’T PET THE SWEATY THINGS.
  • ONE TEQUILA, TWO TEQUILA, THREE  TEQUILA, FLOOR.
  • ATHEISM IS A NON-PROPHET ORGANIZATION.
  • I WENT TO A BOOKSTORE AND ASKED THE SALESWOMAN, “WHERE’S THE SELF-HELP                              SECTION?”.  SHE SAID IF SHE TOLD ME, IT WOULD  DEFEAT THE PURPOSE.
  • WHAT IF THERE WERE NO HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS?
  • IF SOMEONE WITH MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES THREATENS TO KILL HIMSELF, IS IT CONSIDERED A HOSTAGE SITUATION?
  • IS THERE ANOTHER WORD FOR SYNONYM?
  • WHERE DO FOREST RANGERS GO TO “GET AWAY FROM IT ALL”?
  • WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU SEE AN  ENDANGERED ANIMAL EATING AN ENDANGERED PLANT?
  • IF A PARSLEY FARMER IS SUED, CAN THEY GARNISH HIS WAGES?
  • WOULD A FLY WITHOUT WINGS BE CALLED A WALK?
  • WHY DO THEY LOCK GAS STATION BATHROOMS?  ARE THEY AFRAID SOMEONE WILL CLEAN THEM?
  • IF A TURTLE DOESN’T HAVE A SHELL, IS HE HOMELESS OR NAKED?
  • CAN VEGETARIANS EAT ANIMAL CRACKERS?
  • IF THE POLICE ARREST A MIME, DO THEY TELL HIM HE HAS THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT?
  • WHY DO THEY PUT BRAILLE ON THE  DRIVE-THROUGH BANK MACHINES?
  • HOW DO THEY GET DEER TO CROSS THE  ROAD ONLY AT THOSE ROAD SIGNS?
  • WHAT WAS THE BEST THING BEFORE SLICED  BREAD?
  • ONE NICE THING ABOUT EGOTISTS: THEY DON’T TALK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE.
  • DOES THE LITTLE MERMAID WEAR AN ALGEBRA?
  • HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A CIVIL WAR?
  • IF YOU ATE BOTH PASTA AND ANTIPASTO, WOULD YOU STILL BE HUNGRY?
  • IF YOU TRY TO FAIL, AND SUCCEED, WHICH HAVE YOU DONE?

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

Thanks for the read…….

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

Until then, may you have a wonderful Spring!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

 

Clay’s Corner for April 2019

April 27, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Finally!!  I get to say welcome to SPRING!  Since we last met here amount a month ago, I’ve had a lot to write about in the Weather Department….and some pictures to share too.

February 2019 has gone in the record books as one of the coldest this area has seen in the last 30 years.  Seattle just had its coldest February in 30 years.

The average temperature at Sea-Tac Airport in February was 36.6 degrees, making it Sea-Tac’s third coldest February on record.  It came within 0.3 degrees of the second coldest February on record, which was back in 1989.  The coldest February was in 1956 when average temperatures at Sea-Tac hit 35.6 degrees.

It was not just colder than normal in the Seattle area, but all over the Northwest, as the following map makes clear.  As you can see, Seattle was 6.8 degrees below normal.  But look at Great Falls.  They were almost 28 degrees below normal.  I have a friend that’s lived in Anaconda for many years.  He said he’s never seen it like this.

What made this so unusual was the fact that we had some snow….and then some more snow on top of that.  This is very unusual for normally mild Western Washington.

Many experienced having to shovel their driveway.  Perhaps not to the extent that Dwight Small, K7KG, had to deal with.  He assures us that he did this by hand.  Yes, that’s the same Toyota 4×4 that I used to drive.

During weather like this, we expect that travel to the broadcast facilities at West Tiger to be difficult…and they were.  Travel was restricted to ‘over the snow’ machines.  Cougar Mt., about half as high as West Tiger, got at least a foot of the white-stuff, limiting access significantly.  Tim Moore, transmitter Poohbah for Sinclair, discovered just how icy it was trying to reach the gate access code box on Cougar…the hard way.  He’s OK.

The bad weather, snow and ice, caught up with me as I was just leaving a restaurant in Auburn on Feb. 6th with Mike Gilbert and Ben Dawson.  My feet went up, and I went down (hard), landing on my back and head.  The result was 13 stitches, a very bad concussion and nearly two months of dealing with vertigo.

Here are a couple of winter pictures.  First, the Accelnet Tower Cam on March 10th on West Tiger at sunrise.  The tracks are from snow machines.

And this one, from my Camera, taken of a sunset from Cougar Mt.  If you look between the trees on the left you can see the buildings of downtown Seattle.

On March 6th, someone plowed part of the road up West Tiger.  Terry and Caleb checked it out.  Unfortunately they had to walk the rest of the way, about 2.5 miles.  Terry said it had been a month since he was able to reach his transmitter at West Tiger-2.  Unfortunately, no one plows the road to the top of the mountain for us.

We are not the only place in the country where winter weather demonstrated who’s boss.  In this case, wind had its way with a tower on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine.

To give some perspective, here is what it looked like before:

Sugarloaf Mountain’s elevation is 4,259.  That’s 1300 feet higher than West Tiger.  Can you imagine if this happened to one of those big towers that adorn the hills of Seattle?  Not likely, as at that elevation the tower had collected a large load of Rime Ice  and then was hit with winds of over 100 mph.

After this failure, Wayne Davidson posted some interesting comments.  So who is he?  Wayne did a lot of design work for Magnum Tower Company.  It was through them that I worked with him back in the late 1980’s, on the first broadcast tower on West Tiger.  Thankfully it is still standing!  After reading his comments, I reached out to him and asked permission to re-print what he posted.  This provides a very interesting perspective to these towers that are vital to the role of broadcasters everywhere.

For those who think towers are forever…

Just want to add my two cents worth regarding tower longevity.

Nothing that man designs or builds lasts forever – not even the Egyptian Pyramids.  Having said that, man has managed to build some structures (towers) that will last a very, very long time.

All towers are not created equal.  I have designed somewhere on the order of 3500 towers and poles during my career.  Many towers were designed to withstand environmental conditions (wind and ice combinations) which are never expected to occur – not ever.  I have designed numerous towers of that type – mostly for state agencies, local municipalities, and large corporations that have very deep pockets and for which the failure of the tower is known to have extremely dire consequences.

Those structures are designed as major communication trunks which must remain operational following catastrophic natural disasters such as earthquakes and extreme wind storms (so extreme that they are quite unimaginable given the site at which they are constructed).  My expectation is that those towers will survive until their usefulness has expired and they are finally dismantled.

Many private broadcast tower owners have also taken the potential failure of their towers very seriously.  Extreme design criteria was used that by far exceeds the minimum requirements to obtain a building permit.  Several examples come to mind:

1)  KSL’s tower near Salt Lake City,

2) a 180-foot self-support tower at Shasta Bally, CA (designed for 3 inches of radial ice concurrent with 12 inches of rime ice at full design wind),

3) an AM multi-tower array at Vashon Island in Puget Sound (150 MPH EIA C winds),

4) a self-supporting tower in Slide Mountain near Lake Tahoe.  Those towers should last indefinitely with proper maintenance.

Probably the most famous example of a tower that has a very long life expectancy is the Eiffel Tower.  It was designed using the math-graphical method in which the shape of the tower was determined by the geometry required to keep its composite legs in compression (no tension allowed).  It was also designed for a wind force shape factor of 2 at a time when most structures utilized a force factor of 1.5.  Bear in mind that the Eiffel Tower was only supposed to remain for 20 years after which time the tower was to be demolished.  There was great opposition to its original construction.  Today, it is recognized worldwide as a tremendous leap forward in man’s engineering capabilities and is considered a great thing of beauty.

By the way, the Shasta Bally tower was subjected to an ice and wind condition that by far exceeded its extreme design criteria.  I have a couple of photos showing the tower completely filled solid with ice and with about 15 feet of rime ice projecting off of one face.  That condition alone would be enough to collapse most towers in existence.  Some very high winds came along during that ice event to really ‘test its mettle’.  The tower is still standing.

The interesting thing is that the cost of building some very serious longevity into a tower is not proportional to its life expectancy.  That is to say, a 50 percent increase in structural capacity is purchased at far less than 50 percent increase in cost.  One can generally make substantial strength and capacity gains with very little additional capital investment.  Moreover, stochastic probabilities of extreme wind and ice events are non-linear.  For wind, it only takes a 7-percent increase in basic wind speed to move from a 50-year to a 100-year mean recurrence interval.  That is primarily why our building codes and standards are becoming more and more demanding in terms of design criteria.  There is minimal cost associated with providing an ever-wider margin of safety.  If that cost was substantial, then we would not tolerate it and we would “throw the bums out” (meaning those individuals responsible for making construction economically infeasible).

One of my clients coined the phrase:  “Where there’s a will, there’s a Wayne.”  I like to think that we humans can do almost anything – if we put our minds and enough resources to it.  We managed to land several men on the moon, and miraculously brought them home safely.  Eventually, my guess is that building codes and standards will become sufficiently demanding that tower failures will become an extremely rare occurrence.  We are almost at that point now.

Warm regards,

Wayne Davidson,  PE CE SE

 

Then, what seemed like a couple of days…everything changed completely and we had a dose of summer.  On March 11th we were all basking in the 70’s (with so rapidly melting snow sitting in large parking lots).  By Tuesday the 12th we’d broken another record with a 79.  Records were set again – the warmest winter day and the earliest day to hit 74 – ever!  The 79 was the hottest November to March day since they’ve been keeping records in 1894.  The previous record was a 63 from 1951.  Those few days of summer were soon replaced with normals in the 50’s and rain drops.  Likely summer will return, right after the thunderstorm on the 4th of July.

As we moved later into March, warmer weather in other parts of the country has been melting all their snow, creating massive flooding.  Here in our area, we can, and have had, flooding from rapid warming and snow melt too, thankfully, not yet.  What we have been having, of late, is wildfires here in Western Washington.  This due to our abnormally cold and dry weather.  Fingers are crossed as our fire season approaches.

We get a lot of razzing about our weather in these parts.  The following story is one that got my attention.  Carefully note that this one comes from a Washington DC TV Station!  Feel free to use this one on your friends.  (Fact is, there are a lot of places in the U.S. that get more rain than we do, proving that ‘urban legends’ don’t have to be based on fact.)

It’s a contest we don’t want to win, but Washington, D.C. is actually wetter than Seattle, Wash!

Of course, Seattle is the city many think of when it rains – locals consider it a badge of honor to not carry an umbrella, for example – but when it comes to actual inches of rain falling, DC has them beat.

On average, Seattle measures 37.49 inches of rainfall a year, while D.C. measures 39.74.

 

© Getty Images/WUSA Seattle vs Washington Rain Games

 

We had a record setting 66.28 inches of rain in 2018, while Seattle had 35.73.  In 2018, Seattle saw 157 days with measurable precipitation (0.01 inches or more), while D.C. saw only 131.

The real difference here was the number of days with at least 1 inch of rain.

Seattle only did that five days in 2018, while D.C. managed that feat on 24 days…almost five times what Seattle saw.

The colder Pacific Ocean and associated atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest just doesn’t hold as much moisture as the warmer, sometimes tropical atmosphere that D.C. sees helped by The Gulf Of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

Well…enough of weather…on to other stuff –

There was a recent story aired by a Russian broadcaster where a number of locations were spelled out for attack should our two countries get into a nuclear war.  To the surprise of many, one of them named was the Jim Creek radio transmitter near Arlington.  Reportedly that facility is used to communicate with US Naval Submarines.  This news caught a number off-guard.

I recall, many years ago, getting a tour of Jim Creek.  It was part of the old ‘Skagit’ Hamfest (now I am dating myself).  The site is impressive, covering almost 5000 acres.  Towers holding antennas between two ridgetops…and a big transmitter.  The place has been in operation since the 1950’s.  If you go looking for it on a map, it’s a few miles south of Oso, location of the huge land-slide of a few years ago.

Despite many calling it foolish, unneeded, wasteful, etc., HD Radio continues to grow with now some 2600 radio stations operating the mode all over North America.  Mexico, is apparently, rapidly embracing HD Radio.

By now you are likely used to PDT (Pacific DAYLIGHT Time).  Once again there are calls for stopping the twice a year clock shifting.  A UW professor has come up with a number of reasons why we should switch to Daylight Time year around.  In fact the State legislature is considering it.

Once again, the Radio Numbers are out for Seattle-Tacoma market #12.  Here are the highlights from my perspective:

  • KUOW again has proved that a non-commercial station that does not play music can be a huge factor.  This time around they did it with an 8.0 besting the #2 rated station KQMV, who had a 6.8 (they do play music).
  • Right behind, in #3 is KIRO-FM (Hard to believe that I worked there when it was in Tacoma and the call letters were KTNT-FM).
  • In #4 is KSWD (The Sound) which, not long ago was long running country station KMPS.  Appears that Entercom figured they already had a country property (The Wolf).  They looked at the long running success of ‘Warm 106.9’ programming AC and decided that’s where they wanted to be.  With their 5.1 and KRWM at a 4.0, they should be happy.
  • In the battle for the country music listener, Hubbard jumped into the fray with their 98.9, now re-branded as ‘The Bull’.    Appears that here too that KKWF is winning this one with a 5th place finish 4.5 compared to KNUC’s 2.8.
  • Sinclair Radio’s KOMO is the clear winner on the AM dial, even if you have to look at 15th place to find them.  Actually their numbers are improving.  The same cannot be said for the next ranked AM, KIRO, whose numbers are descending.  Perhaps a factor of the end of football season.  Now if the M’s do well this year.  Interesting that KIRO and KTTH are tied.
  • In the Non-Commercial world, KNKX and KING are holding steady, however still way behind KUOW.
  • Appears that streaming is increasingly catching on with both KISW and KSWD showing some results.

One of my favorite topics to write about in this column has been HD Radio.  This is perhaps because I was involved with the first on-air test of this mode many years ago when the NAB Radio Show was in Seattle.  After this I was involved with the installation of this new technology at several stations.  The following was recently brought to my attention:

https://www.pugetsound.media/2019/03/23/hd-radio-hidden-secret-programming/

The writer is spot-on with his comments.

What he fails to mention is the fear that many stations have, that by promoting their own HD Channels it will syphon listeners away from their parent FM, and this will reduce their ‘numbers’ and from that – income, bonuses etc.  There are many broadcasters that feel HD Radio is a total waste of time and money, for the simple reason that installation of the equipment does not mean instant return on their investment.  Some are even willing to call HD ‘Self-Destruction’.  Perhaps this explains why you don’t hear much promotion, or self-promotion of HD Radio?

I recall when we were introducing HD.  Managers were salivating over the thought that they were getting another radio station to add to their stable without having to go out and buy one.  Slowly times are changing.  What many don’t understand is that the progress of HD Radio is often hindered by the very companies that own them, ie, an ‘internal-problem’.  Being an ‘old-guy’ I recall hearing the same arguments, many years ago.  The comments then were being made by owners and managers of AM stations talking about that mode called FM!  Looking back, Radio feared TV, owners of the livery stable feared the automobile…and so it goes.

With Pirate/unlicensed radio broadcasting continuing to be an issue – Congress has passed a bill that would increase the fines to $2 mega-bucks.  It would raise fines to $10,000 per violation and to $100,000 per day per violation up to $2,000,000.  Adding to this, the FCC would be required to sweeps in the major cities where this has been a problem.  My thinking is that this is all well and good.  However, it’s been shown that a lot of these guys have very little assets and manage to get out of paying.  Not sure how a huge fine is going to do the trick.  Think of repeat offenders for speeding.  Police can take away their license…but they still drive.  Take away their equipment and they go out and find another Junker and speed some more.  Sure, I’m on the side of curbing the problem, but remain unconvinced that huge fines are the answer.  Time will tell.

Over the years, readers of this column often read about broadcast operations on mountain-tops.  I related this information for a couple of reasons.  1) This is primarily what I do, and 2) It’s an aspect of Broadcasting that is often never seen or understood.  The fact is, the majority of those who work in Radio or TV have never been to the stations transmitter location!

Generally the work of a Broadcast Engineer at these sites, contrary to popular opinion, does not involve climbing towers, but rather the maintaining of the various electronic systems that are housed in the building nearby.  There can be some aspects of this work that are dangerous, as you are occasionally, called upon to deal with high voltages, climb ladders (inside), deal with sharp objects etc.  Very seldom do you hear of someone being killed in this work.

That changed on March 1st this year when I received the following email from Adrienne Abbott who lives and works in the Reno Nevada area:

It is with a great, personal sense of sadness that I report the deaths of two of Northern Nevada’s best broadcast engineers. The Nevada Broadcasters Association website released their names Friday (3/1/2019) evening:

“Nevada’s Broadcasting industry is with heavy heart as we mourn the loss of two iconic figures, Herb Primosch and John Finkbohner.  Our thoughts and prayers are with their immediate and broadcast families and friends.  May you find strength through this very difficult time.  Herb and John, you will forever be remembered.”

These two gentlemen represented the best and highest commitment of a broadcaster, serving their community.  At the time of their deaths, they were working at a translator/transmitter site called Peavine Mountain, for the Verdi TV District, attempting to restore over-the-air service to the Verdi, Nevada community.  At this time, it appears that they died sometime Thursday (2/28/2019).  They were discovered by Deputies when they did not return as expected.  The exact cause of their deaths has not yet been determined.

On March 23rd, while writing portions of this column, I received an email from Steven Allen informing me that Jim Tharp had passed away.  All I know, at this point, is that he was in Vashon Community Care after a fall a couple of months ago.  Obviously the news of the passing of a fellow co-worker hits hard.  Just as I have made the original broadcast site on West Tiger ‘my baby’, Jim was long attached to the (KING-AM)1090 facility on Vashon.  It was ‘his baby’ for many years.  Jim and I worked together on many projects during the years that Entercom owned 710 and 770 AM on Vashon, including the moving of 100.7 to West Tiger and the construction of the, then Entercom, facility on Cougar.  He lost his wife several years ago, and to the best my knowledge lived alone on the Island.

Having spent my entire life in a vocation where science was a foundation, I found this quote from a very famous person to be ‘spot-on’:

 

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

– Carl Sagan

 

Another place where I have spent a great deal of my life in the area of broadcast station participation is Public Warnings.  For the last several years I have been working with Greg Cooke at the FCC.  On Feb. 27 – I received this announcement:
Subject: [EAS] FCC EAS Office changes

To: “The EAS Forum” <eas@radiolists.net>

Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 10:54 AM

EAS Participants,

After 15+ years in the PSHSB FCC EAS office, Greg Cooke is moving to a different position within FCC on April 1, 2019.

He is being promoted to Division Chief of the Intergovernmental Affairs Office.

Our new main EAS POC until a replacement for Greg is named is:

Elizabeth Cuttner, Attorney Advisor, PSHSB  Elizabeth.Cuttner@fcc.gov, 202-418-2145

Elizabeth says a secondary contact for EAS matters is:

Linda Pintro, Attorney Advisor, PSHSB

Linda.Pintro@fcc.gov, 202-418-7490

 
Unrelated to Greg’s move, Austin Randazzo who was formerly in the FCC EAS office, has now also received a promotion.

Austin is Division Chief of Cybersecurity Communications Reliability.

Although no longer a primary EAS contact, he will continue to work on databases like DIRS, ETRS, and the forthcoming ARS.

 

Many of our friends and co-workers will be heading to the Big Show in the Desert in early April.  I gave the matter some serious thought, but concluded after my recent head-injury, the Oregon Coast was a better choice.

NAB just put out the word that they are going to alter the long standing Monday through Thursday schedule for the ‘big-show’ starting in 2020.  Apparently responding to the fact that the show floor is pretty quiet on Thursday.  The new schedule will be moved up a day to become Sunday through Wednesday, with exhibits opening at Noon on Sunday.  This should not cause a huge problem for historic Sunday events.  The SBE Board Meeting and the popular Nautel NUG event have been on Sunday Morning.  The Public Radio Conference runs up against the traditional opening too.

Occasionally people come up with some clever/unique names for their company that’s licensee of a broadcast station.  Case in point, KMEH-LP in Helena, MT is owned by ‘Montana Ethical Hackers’.

A term that used to be confined to a ‘delivery room’ is now common place, as related to Pay TV subscribers.  People today are ‘cutting the cord’ (meaning the coax cable) in record numbers.  Many are doing (horrors) without Pay TV altogether in favor of services like Hulu, Netflix or services provided by Amazon.  Satellite TV providers Direct TV and Dish Network suffered the bulk of the losses.  Recently I was in a Costco store where they have someone stationed to promote Satellite TV.  I overhead the person they were pitching try to explain that he has all the free TV he wanted or needed by using an Antenna.  I’m not sure the person doing the pitching understood.

Every once in a while someone I have worked with over the years many times, is honored.  In this case, The Association of Public Radio Engineers is honoring Jeff Welton from Nautel.  The ceremony will take place at the Public Radio Engineering Conference (just prior to NAB) in Las Vegas on April 5th.

I don’t mind stating that this award is ‘spot-on’.  Jeff is exceedingly knowledgeable and helpful.  Way to go Jeff!!  For those that have not had the pleasure of working with him, here is his Bio:

 

Jeff Welton has been with Nautel for over 28 years, the first 17 of which were spent in field service and technical support positions, as well as assisting Engineering with design review of new products and improvement of existing systems.  Since moving to Sales in 2007, Jeff keeps finding ways to get his hands dirty and can frequently be found assisting in the install of a transmitter he’s sold, as well as performing several site inspections every year, along with the occasional repair.

Recipient of the SBE’s James C. Wulliman Educator of the Year Award for 2018, Jeff writes articles and performs presentations every year on the topics of lightning protection, grounding, transmitter site safety and various other subjects of interest in the broadcast engineering field, as well as being a contributor to the 11th edition, NAB Engineering Handbook, authoring the chapter on Facility Grounding Practice and Lightning Protection, among others.

If you have been involved with Emergency Communications, perhaps via Amateur Radio, be advised that Communications Academy 2019, will be held at the South Seattle College campus, Seattle, WA, on April 13 and 14, 2019 this year.  The event is two days of training and information on various aspects of emergency communications.  Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES©), Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), EOC Support Teams, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), Civil Air Patrol, Coast Guard Auxiliary, REACT, CERT and anyone interested in emergency communications should attend. Learn, network, and share your experiences with others.  Further information regarding the event can be found here:

http://commacademy.org/

There are certainly job opportunities for Radio Broadcast Engineers from time to time.  Perhaps you don’t have a clear picture of what’s involved.  The following will give you a good idea of what’s expected to work in this field:

Alpha Media – Alaska is seeking an experienced Staff Engineer for our radio facilities in Anchorage and Wasilla.  Reporting to the Market Manager will be responsible for the maintenance of equipment, maintaining broadcast systems and technologies, build out projects, and ensure FCC compliance.  The successful candidate will be familiar with radio related technologies including, but not limited to, networking and IT, PC/software maintenance and repair, AM and FM transmitter repair and installation, VHF and UHF radio technology, digital and analog audio, EAS equipment and studio equipment maintenance.

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Alpha Media operates 207 radio stations within 45 markets across the United States covering all formats.

Responsibilities for this position may include:

· Maintain and repair all technical and electronic equipment at the studios and transmitter sites with a proactive approach to problem solving.
· Install, monitor and perform maintenance on control consoles, audio routers, recording equipment, microphones, digital audio systems, transmitters, antenna systems, meters, control systems, and remote equipment, including accurate record keeping.
· Maintain, troubleshoot, and repair local computer infrastructure to include local area network, on-air automation system, and office workstations.
· Assist with, as necessary, the technical needs at remote broadcasts and live performances.
· Interact with management and staff at all levels in a personable, professional manner.
· Other duties as assigned by the Market Manager.

Requirements of this position include the following:
· Knowledge of all applicable FCC rules and regulations.
· Experience in computer based broadcast automation.
· Experience with cluster-wide studio equipment and operations, audio routing and distribution of analog, digital and audio-over-IP protocols, EAS, satellite receivers, studio telephones and broadcast IT systems.
· Proficiency in basic electronics theory and principles including Ohms law and the ability to read schematics.
· Ability to use test equipment, i.e. Multi-meters, Oscilloscopes, Spectrum Analyzers, and field strength meters in troubleshooting.
· Ability to work independently to troubleshoot and repair high-power AM and FM transmitting facilities including troubleshooting down to the component level when practical.
· Knowledge of telephone systems and protocols including POTS, ISDN, T1, DSL, VoIP and PRI circuits.

· Knowledge of building systems, HVAC, electrical, UPS, and standby generators.
· Possess IT skills including PC/server troubleshooting and repair as well as knowledge of TCP/IP, UDP and local area networking.
· Proven ability to communicate technical information and interact easily with all levels of staff.
· Current SBE membership.
· Able to be on-call after hours for emergencies or routine maintenance as needed.
· Must possess a valid driver’s license and current vehicle insurance.
· Must be 21 years of age or older.

Preference may be given to candidates who have the above experience plus the following:

· Experience with NexGen Automation for Radio.
· Experience with Directional AM Systems.
· Knowledge of telephone systems and cellular.
· SBE, Microsoft, and CompTIA Certifications.
· Associates or Technical Degree in Broadcast Engineering Technology or related field or an equivalent combination of education and work experience.

Physical requirements:

· Ability to lift and/or move loads up to 50 lbs.
· Ability to climb ladders and work on elevated surfaces.

If you feel you are a qualified candidate and want to join a fast moving, growing entity submit your cover letter and resume ASAP by clicking the Apply button at

https://recruiting2.ultipro.com/ALP1009ALMD/JobBoard/8a5ecde6-7408-45f9-8d5d-1bf4e35b089c/OpportunityDetail?opportunityId=37404dcd-752f-4f2a-81c2-2c0e814c0615

 

If a warmer climate is more your cup of tea, Entercom has an opening for their 6 station cluster in Sacramento.  Check out

https://entercom.avature.net/careers/JobDetail/Chief-Engineer/14055

I recently overheard a person use the term, “Pick up the phone”.  Got to thinking how many are among us that, upon hearing that, would have a different response than older generations would expect.  Here are some other ‘telephone terms’ from the past that today find little, if any, use:

  • Hang up the phone.  Hang up your smart phone might be understood to put the phone in something in your car so you can use it while driving?
  • Off Hook – What in the world is a ‘Hook’ for a phone?
  • Dial Tone – Huh?
  • Extension – Of what?
  • Princess Phone – I an only imagine
  • Wall Phone – More confusion
  • Phone Booth – Are there any these days?
  • Pay Phone – Something you do with a credit card
  • Dial a number – As in Rotary Dial?
  • Operator – As I asking a real/live person for assistance?
  • Reverse the Charges or Calling Collect
  • Party Line
  • Phones available only in Black
  • Flashing the Switch Hook

 

Part of getting old is being able to look back at all the things that ‘newbies’ never heard of and can’t understand.  Yes, there are advantages of getting older!

Here’s another example of something old becoming new again…Podcasts.  It’s presently the rage in Radio.  iHeartMedia has just debuted the ‘iHeart Podcast Channel’, an AM Radio Station that will be running hour long shows (oops, Podcasts).  I have to wonder if one of the AM’s in the Seattle area that are presently in the cellar in terms of ratings will jump on this bandwagon?  Imagine listening to a radio PROGRAM on the radio?  For those of us that grew up listening to radio programs, yes, before TV.  This is wonderful.  Wonder what Jim French would say?

Content designed for kids are hitting the Podcast Market.  I can just hear the Cisco Kid, Lone Ranger, Sky King, The Shadow, etc. reaching the ears of kids, enabling them to enjoy creating their own pictures as I did when I was young.

The FCC has issued their budget request for 2020…and its 1% less than 2019.  The President is sure to frustrate Broadcasters and Wireless Carriers as he is asking for Spectrum Fees on top of the regulatory fees they already collect.  This will be interesting.

Some time ago, readers of my Column may recall that I mentioned how hard it would be for a person to learn our language, because certain words have so many meanings and uses.  In that case, I used an example of the word ‘UP’.  I’ll admit I had great fun in doing so and received a number of comments.

Well, another word has crept into my head.  This time the word “LINE”.  Here are some examples that come to mind where we use this word:

  • Air LINES
  • Bus LINES
  • Shipping LINES
  • Railroad LINES
  • Short LINES
  • Clothes LINES
  • Power LINES
  • LINES of Credit
  • Fishing LINES
  • Property LINES
  • Red LINES (Used by political leaders)
  • Pipe LINES
  • Main LINES
  • Branch LINES
  • Side LINES
  • Telephone LINES
  • Party LINES
  • Blank LINES
  • LINES in Music (ala Bass Lines)
  • LINES of code (as in computers)
  • LINE as in falsehood – (Don’t feed me that Line)
  • LINES in performing arts
  • Off LINE – (as in not being on the Internet or in proximity to a computer)
  • On LINE – (As in being on the Internet)
  • Transmission LINES – (Use in Power and Radio Frequencies)
  • LINES (as wrinkles)
  • Growth LINES (as in trees)
  • LINE drive (as in Baseball)
  • Blue LINE (as in Hockey)
  • Yard LINES (as in football)
  • LINE of scrimmage
  • Foul LINES (as in many sports)
  • In LINE (as in compliance or conformance)
  • Out of LINE (as in non-compliance or non-conformance)
  • Scan LINES (as in Television)
  • Front LINES (as in warfare)
  • Family LINES (as in lineage)
  • Noble LINE
  • LINE of a drug (a method of consumption)
  • LINES of Authority
  • Production/Assembly LINE
  • LINES of Authority
  • LINES of latitude or longitude
  • Contour LINES (used in topographic maps)
  • Straight LINES (as opposed to those that curve or arc)
  • LINES (as in a class of merchandise or services
  • To LINE ones pocket (as in money)

Wonder how many you can think of that I did not mention?

Any wonder why English is so confusing ?

The following was sent to me by an old friend.  Nothing like some good, old fashioned, advice….

  • MAKE SURE YOUR FENCES ARE KEPT HORSE-HIGH, PIG-TIGHT, AND BULL-STRONG.
  • KEEP SKUNKS, BANKERS, LAWYERS, AND CAR SALESMEN AT A HEALTHY DISTANCE.
  • LIFE IS MUCH SIMPLER WHEN YOU PLOW AROUND THE STUMPS.
  • BUMBLE BEES, WASPS, AND YELLOW JACKETS ARE MUCH FASTER THAN YOUR JOHN DEERE TRACTOR.
  • THE WORDS THAT SOAK INTO YOUR EARS ARE USUALLY WHISPERED, NOT YELLED.
  • FORGIVE YOUR ENEMIES; IT REALLY MESSES UP THEIR HEADS.
  • WHEN YOU WALLOW WITH PIGS, YOU CAN EXPECT TO GET DIRTY.
  • THE BEST SERMONS ARE LIVED, NOT PREACHED.
  • MOST OF THE STUFF FOLKS WORRY ABOUT AIN’T EVER GOIN’ TO HAPPEN ANYWAY.
  • IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN A HOLE, THE FIRST THING TO DO IS STOP DIGGIN’.

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

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

Until then, may you have a wonderful Spring!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

Clay’s Corner for March 2019

April 26, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

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

 

So what happened?  We had wrapped up January with some record breaking warm days.  My lawn was growing to the point that I vowed that the next dry day it was going to get mowed.  The cracks in the sidewalk in front of my place were getting a good crop of bright green weeds.  We all just knew that we were in for an early spring.  Then it happened….We started hearing how it was going to get colder and maybe even have some snow.

Part of what I do is keep an eye on weather at Cougar and West Tiger.  The following graph showed that, indeed, colder conditions were about to set in – Note the top line, freezing level.  A Zero means Sea-Level…Oh Oh!

At this point, little did we know that records were going to be broken.

Those of us that have lived in this area a long time were used to having a dose of snow in the winter.  A few inches that last a couple of days and then are washed away by warm rains.  Not this time.  At first I got about 4 inches. Then, before it could melt, another foot on top of that.  Weeks later there are still pieces of white-stuff in my yard.

Record setting indeed.

  • Sea-Tac Airport set a record for the largest snowfall total for the month of February of 14.1 inches.  This beat the former record set back in 1949 of 13.1 inches.
  • South and higher that Snoqualmie Pass, Crystal Mountain received 7 feet of snow in 7 days.
  • If you really want snow…Then head north to Bellingham (or South for our readers in BC) and go east to Mt. Baker where they have had over 36 feet of the white-stuff.  This is nothing compared to the winter of 98/99 where they received about 95 feet.  If you keep track of ski areas totals, you know that Mt. Baker is near the top in total snow.

If you are as old as I, you remember the winter of 49/50.  We had the snow fall total this time but, thankfully, did not have the temperatures.  I’m sure you can find a lot of information about that winter on-line.  Here are some links to get you started.

https://komonews.com/weather/scotts-weather-blog/just-how-bad-was-the-winter-of-1949-1950

https://q13fox.com/2019/02/11/record-shattered-this-is-the-snowiest-february-since-at-least-1949/

On the personal side, I was a wee lad living in Portland and have many memories.  The high point was that the Columbia River froze over.

And….we got attention elsewhere:

DENVER (CBS4) – When you think of the weather in Seattle you probably picture either fog or rain instead of snow.  But an unusual weather pattern has allowed back-to-back storms to drop record snow across the Pacific Northwest this month.

Since Feb. 3 the airport in Seattle has recorded 20.2 inches of snow, making it the snowiest month in 50 years for Seattle’s official weather station.  Two days (Feb. 8 and 11) have produced more than 6 inches of snow in the city.

Denver has recorded 17.5 inches of snow so far this season at Denver International Airport. Denver’s old weather station in Stapleton has measured 19.1 inches of snow to date.

If we get above average snow in the Seattle area, chances are the same thing happened 50 miles to the East in the Cascades.  And boy did they.  According to NWS, Feb. 12th broke the 24 hour snowfall total at Snoqualmie Pass with 31.5 inches set back in 1975.  Over the period of 3 days, Feb. 10-12  Snoqualmie got over 5 feet of snow – 68 inches to be exact.  The result was the pass was closed for several days.

The weather had a major impact on me as well.  As I was leaving a restaurant on the 6th of the month, I slipped on ice on the sidewalk landing on my back and head.  Bottom line – I was taken to the local hospital where I received 13 stitches in the back of my head and a nasty concussion that still has me experiencing periods of vertigo.  Thanks to the suggestion of friends, I now have ice cleats for my feet and the restaurant has since learned that it is their responsibility to clear the sidewalk in front of their place.

The major broadcast  transmitter sites were certainly impacted:

  • Doug Fisher reported that he was unable to get to South Mountain (home of 3 FM’s) due to 8 foot drifts.
  • Cougar Mountain got a good 2 feet of snow.  Some remarked they had never seen it that deep there.
  • Due to long duration power outages in the vicinity of Cougar, many of the Century Link circuits used by broadcasters went down, as the batteries supporting the telephone equipment expired.
  • West Tiger (twice as high as Cougar) got 3 feet of snow.  Maintenance on a Generator Fuel System meant that Doug Fisher was called in to transport repair workers to the site in his ‘over the snow’ machine.

I’m sure there are other stories of snow-related incidents involving broadcasting that I’ve not heard.  These are the winters that set records and make memories.  According to the record keepers, this may go down in history as the coldest February!

Here is the view out my bedroom window the morning of the 13th:

Here is a picture from the Accelnet Tower Camera at West Tiger on the 13th.  In later pictures, you can see Doug’s tracks in the snow.  Since then, more snow has all but covered them.  It will be some time before anyone ‘drives’ up there with a rubber-tire vehicle (even with chains).

The yellow item to the right is a Track Hoe that is working on a new tower project, part of the First Net system being installed across the country.   Note how you can’t see the tracks on the machine.  On the lower right is a Porta-Potty…half buried.

Winter in this area is not consistent.  There have been winters that we’ve been able to drive to the transmitter sites at West Tiger without having to put on chains.  Then there are those winters that conventional vehicles are useless.  A couple of times the road to West Tiger has been plowed, usually due to on-going construction, etc.

Unfortunately, none of the broadcasters have invested in over-the-snow equipment.  In the past I tried to interest the first stations at WTM-1 to jointly purchase the required equipment, but was not successful.  West Tiger presents some unique challenges that make it not suitable for snowmobiles.  The road goes up, then down, then back up on the way to the summit.  Often the low place in the middle is a gravel road.  In the past, over the snow machines, have been what are called snow-cats.  Larger and much more expensive than what is in use today.  Today we have what are called ATV’s, small 4-wheel drive machines, that can be outfitted with ‘Tracks’ that enable them to tackle the job at a fraction of the cost.  One of our local Broadcast Engineers, Doug Fisher purchased one of these a few years ago and has put it to good use at locations like West Tiger, South Mountain, Capital Peak and other locations where the ‘white stuff’ can really pile up.

This picture comes from Ralph Sims of Accelnet, taken as they were making their way up to West Tiger.  Accelnet owns the webcams that have provided us all with a (warm) ring-side seat of what’s happening at West Tiger.  Obviously chain saws are a requirement!

Here’s a picture I got, through the windshield, of one of the more dicey places going up to Cougar.  This was after the first ‘little’ snowfall.  The problem here is the grade and the fact that it’s paved, making for a very slippery situation.

The recent heavy snow took down a couple of stations (KVIX and KNWP) both on Striped Peak west of Port Angeles.  Both of these stations are satellite-fed and employ a C-band dish that was, in this case, overwhelmed by over 2 feet of snow that fell in northern Clallam County.

This was an example of our ‘Lake Effect Snow’ (something that Buffalo, N.Y. often experiences).  In this case, the ‘Lake’ was Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the wind source was a strong Fraser River ‘outflow’.

Interesting to read/see stories about heavy snow in Sequim (just east of Port Angeles).  Sequim is known for being in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains that tend to keep the area much drier than anywhere else in Western Washington.  In this case the winds were from the northeast and the mountains were of no help.

On the other side of Washington State, winter conditions are much different that here on the ‘wet-side’.  Many of their transmitter locations are higher and more remote.  Example is Mission Ridge (6820ft) and Naneum (6623ft) over twice as high as West Tiger.

My co-workers over there often put to use their snow cat to reach their transmitters and then snowshoe the rest of the way.  The following are some pictures forwarded by John McDaniel showing engineers accessing the KQWS transmitter site.  The station serves the Okanogan area and is licensed to WSU.

Shown here are Kenny Gibson and Brady Aldrich.  John McDaniel is holding the camera.  Brady is from this area, having spent early years on Vashon at KOMO.  He’s been a frequently visitor to the Seattle Chapter SBE Meetings.

Can’t help but think of the poor fellows that have to access the TV Transmitters on Seattle’s Queen Ann and Capitol Hill.  Having to put up with the traffic, etc.

I received an email from now retired Tom Pierson (retired from KIRO Radio) who is residing in Arizona.  He wanted to be sure and tell me that it was time to clean his sunglasses.  This may be short-lived as the winter storm that produced snow in Las Angeles and Las Vegas was expected to send temps into the 20’s in the Phoenix area.  To the north, Flagstaff received a major dump of snow…35.9 inches in one day!

The following picture shows the transmitter tower with its ‘2-Bay’ antenna mounted on the top, left side, of the tower.

To put all of this into perspective, other parts of the U.S. have been dealing with what’s known as a Polar Vortex, where they have been having winter that would bring the Seattle area to a complete stop.  (Thanks to a couple of mountain ranges and prevailing winds we will never have to deal with this level of winter.)

Here is a comment posted on a national broadcast engineers’ remailer from a fellow in a location where it really gets cold:

Minus 44F this morning!  Transmitter building at 38F with a 25 kW transmitter huffing away inside.  It’s just crazy to think of a 115 degree temp differential between outside my house and inside.  Propane furnaces are shutting down because propane vaporizes at -44F.

Before all of this there were some real concerns about what’s called our ‘Winter Snowpack’.  This fallen snow provides irrigation and drinking water and water for Hydro projects for a large portion of the state.  We’ve made up for much of the shortfall this month.  According to the National Climate Prediction Center, we have a 50/50 chance of a warmer than normal summer and a 70/30 chance it will be drier.

Ok, enough about our winter weather – and on to other happenings.

Looks like Seattle’s Channel 7, KIRO-TV, will be getting new owners.  Cox Media has let it be known this was in the works.  Interesting that this is not an outright sale, but rather a type of merger.  Apollo Management, an investor group, will be buying a majority interest in Cox Enterprises which involves Radio, TV and Newspaper properties around the country.  The new company, like Cox, will be headquartered in Atlanta.  Too soon to know how this will impact the operation of their TV Station in Seattle.  Apollo has stated that it plans on keeping the existing management in place.  Of course, this is a standard announcement with any sale.  Time will tell.

Yes, you have heard about Apollo before.  The name has surfaced with previous attempts by them to purchase Nexstar and Tribune Media.  Obviously Apollo has been wanting to become a major player in broadcast television.  Purchasing a big piece of Cox and Northwest Broadcasting which owns stations in Spokane, Yakima and Tri-Cities will help them fulfill their plans.

The FCC continues to relax requirements (nothing to do with the shut-down), announcing that broadcast licensees no longer have to post paper copies of station licenses at specific locations.

A summary of the Report and Order making the change was published in the Federal Register https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-02-08/pdf/2019-01491.pdf and the change was effective immediately.

You may now remove licenses that you may have previously posted (such as on bulletin boards or in notebooks at your transmitter site or control point) pursuant to the rule.  However, if you are like me, they will still be there.

One term you hear a lot today is the word ‘Podcast’.  So what does it really mean?

Let’s start with Wikipedia (I’ve edited it down a bit):

A podcast is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download in order to listen to via the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.[1]

The word was originally suggested by Ben Hammersley as a portmanteau of “iPod” (a brand of media player) and “broadcast”.[2][3]

The files distributed are in audio format, but may sometimes include other file formats such as PDF or EPUB. Videos which are shared following a podcast model are sometimes called video podcasts or vodcasts.

The generator of a podcast maintains a central list of the files on a server as a web feed that can be accessed through the Internet.  The listener or viewer uses special client application software on a computer or media player, known as a podcatcher, which accesses this web feed, checks it for updates, and downloads any new files in the series.  This process can be automated to download new files automatically, which may seem to users as though new episodes are broadcast or “pushed” to them.  Files are stored locally on the user’s device, ready for offline use.[4] There are many different mobile applications available for people to use to subscribe and to listen to podcasts.  Many of these applications allow users to download podcasts or to stream them on demand as an alternative to downloading.  Many podcast players (apps as well as dedicated devices) allow listeners to skip around the podcast and control the playback speed.

Some have labeled podcasting as a converged medium bringing together audio, the web, and portable media players, as well as a disruptive technology that has caused some individuals in the radio business to reconsider established practices and preconceptions about audiences, consumption, production, and distribution. Podcasts are usually free of charge to listeners and can often be created for little to no cost, which sets them apart from the traditional model of “gate-kept” media and production tools. Podcast creators can monetize their podcasts by allowing companies to purchase ad time, as well as via sites such as Patreon, which provides special extras and content to listeners for a fee. Podcasting is very much a horizontal media[6] form – producers are consumers, consumers may become producers, and both can engage in conversations with each other.[5]

OK, got all that?

Sounds a lot like what we have been doing with old Radio Shows for a very long time.  There is a long standing fan base for those that want to hear radio shows from the past, Amos and Andy, Lone Ranger etc.  What this does is blend the process with modern technology.  The movement has really caught on with active involvement by many in and out of the broadcast industry.  For example, I read a story recently on how Shari Redstone (yes, the Viacom Redstone) has become a podcast evangelist citing how she sees a big future.  Consumers today are increasingly wanting audio (and video) entertainment to be in their personal time zone.  Stop and think about it – Cable TV has been doing this for a long time with movies etc.  Attention to Podcasting at a high level like this means that lots of money will be following.

Over the years, on several occasions, I’ve mentioned South Mountain in this column.  The mountain, named for being the southern-most mountain in the Olympics, was pioneered as a broadcast transmitter location by Greg Smith when he moved his FM Station, KAYO, to the north end of the South Mountain Ridge (locally known as North Mountain).  Greg later erected a 400 foot tower on the highest location at the South end of the ridge.  Shortly afterward, he sold 99.3 to Bustos Media.  This was my introduction to the site, where Nick Winter and I found ourselves installing the equipment for what’s now known as KDDS.    Shortly afterward 97.7 went on the air (now known at KOMO-FM) then came 93.7/KLSY.  The site is now going to gain a 4th FM with the addition of Jodesha Broadcasting’s KJET/105.7 which will operate as a Class C2 with 1.75 kW…much less than the others at the site.

The view from South Mountain is fantastic.  Standing at the base of the tower looking North, you are looking at the Olympic Mountains.  Turn Northeast and you see the buildings in downtown Seattle.  East is Tacoma, South is Olympia, Southwest (on a clear day) you can see Williapa Bay and the Long Beach Peninsula.  Looking  West is Grays Harbor and the Pacific Ocean.  No wonder the place is popular.  Capital Peak, to the South offers similar views, however it’s not as high nor as close to Seattle.

The fact is, broadcasters all want coverage of Seattle for that’s where more people are!  South Mountain, as well as Capital Peak, are ideal locations for radio broadcasters who have stations licensed to smaller communities, but whose target is the greater population of the Seattle area.  These stations are typically call ‘Rim Shots’.  To help put this into perspective – KDDS (The highest one on the tower) operates with 64,000 watts ERP from an elevation of 1033 Meters/3388 feet above sea level and is approximately 50 miles from Downtown Seattle.  In much of the east coast, FM Stations are Class B’s meaning their maximum power can only be 50,000 watts at 500 feet.  You mention these power levels and elevations to a broadcaster from other parts of the country, they look at you with amazement.

The downside to a site like South Mountain is that the population near the transmitter is very low (not counting Bambi and Boo Boo), therefore a lot of radio signals do very little.

A huge radio deal was announced in the middle of the month.  Cumulus Media (who was recently involved with bankruptcy) is going to sell 6 of their FM stations to EMF.  What makes this interesting is that EMF, a large Christian broadcaster, is buying two of them for 103.5 million CASH!  One is the famous KPLJ in New York City, the other is WYAY in Atlanta.  The other part of the announcement is they are trading WHSN in New York and two stations in Springfield, Mass to Entercom for 3 stations in Indy.  This will enhance Entercom’s cluster in the bigger East-Coast markets while enhancing the Cumulus cluster in Indy.  I recall visiting the Indy stations when I worked for Entercom.  The unique part was they were across the parking lot from the SBE headquarters.  This swap is much like what you see in professional sports.  Players, like stations, being sold and traded, to (hopefully) make for a strong team.  Interesting that EMF will also take ownership of some broadcast/tower sites that are reportedly generating  $5-7 Million annually.  I just love how these executives phrase things.

“These transactions are consistent with our portfolio optimization strategy and both deals are accretive,” Cumulus CEO Mary Berner said in a news release.”

The mega-buck deal is supposed to close in the 2nd Quarter of this year.

Yes, EMF operates stations in the Seattle area, 104.5 from Cougar Mt. and 88.1 from Capital Peak.

We’re saying good bye to the towers that were used for almost 30 years by the 1210 AM Station in Auburn.  What is not widely known is that this site was largely built with the able assistance of non-other than the late Arne Skoog who was my assistant during those days at KBSG.

Did you all happen to catch the story about the guy that re-discovered an old Apple IIe and was shocked to find out that it still worked?  That brought back a flood of memories for me as I had one of those that I used to prepare this column many years ago.  I would send it to the Waveguide Editor at the blazing speed of 300 baud.  Apparently many are shocked that it still worked.  This underscores the mindset that today’s electronic devices are mostly short-live devices and that failure after a short time is ‘normal’.  This all boils down to how the equipment was designed, quality of parts used in their construction and how well they were assembled.

A good case in point, in the picture above, when operation of the site ended, the circa 1980-something Nautel transmitter was faithfully creating the kilowatts.  When the West Tiger Mountain Master FM Antenna burned up, several of the stations pressed into service Collins transmitters that were built in the 1970’s, and, to the best of my knowledge, they worked when turned on.

There are a lot of devices that are just plain better designed and built than others.  This goes for computers, transmitters or cars.  A great example of this is a picture of Edward R. Murrow standing in Pullman next to a Kelvinator refer.  That same machine is used daily to this day.

Probably the biggest issue is there is little demand for something that will run a long time today.  Reliability and projected length of service (or mean time between failures) is a secondary consideration in this fast paced world of creating new and more exciting features.

There are many positive attributes to the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principle.  Unfortunately today’s mindset is to sacrifice reliability for ‘Bling’.

This column would not be complete without a couple of pictures from the new home of Dwight Small.

 

 

In the past couple of months we have been visited by Jim Leifer in his official role as Senior Manager for Broadcast Operations for American Tower.  In both cases, he was here due to the failure of the FM Master Antenna on West Tiger.

 

Here’s Jim taking the oath of office from Chris Imlay.  Jim is also the President of SBE.

Guess it’s that time of year again:

  • People standing on street corners hawking tax preparation services (US Only).
  • The Mike and Key Club annual Electronics Show and Swap Meet is just around the corner on March 9th.
  • Plans being made to attend the NAB show in Las Vegas, April 6-11 this year.
  • Just received my invitation to attend the Seaside, Oregon SEA-PAC Ham Convention, May 31, June 1 & 2.

Often a measure of an area, SeaTac Airport is a very busy place.  In fact, it’s the 9th busiest airport in the country with 49.8 million flyers gracing its concourses last year.  All that and it’s been recently named the third most relaxing airport.  Not sure how the earned both.

Once again, a significant contribution to this column from Michael Brooks of KING-FM.  I’ll let you come up with your own caption.

Once again it’s time for me to take a look at the latest Nielsen Radio ratings for the Seattle area and list, what I feel, are the high-points.

  • The area continues to grow.  According to Nielsen, there are 3.863 Million of us over 12 in Market #12.
  • KUOW continues to prove you can be non-commercial and do very well.  They topped the list with a 7.4.
  • Hubbard’s Movin came in #2 with a 7.0.
  • KIRO-FM is #3 (Wonder what the lack of Ron and Don will do in the future?).
  • Not a lot of ‘daylight’ between stations in the top-10 with 3 ties.
  • Of the big owners, Entercom has 4 of theirs in the Top 10.
  • Surprisingly KNDD is the top Entercom Station, beating KISW.
  • Sports-Talk KIRO-AM continues to be the top AM in 14th place.
  • Not far behind is all news KOMO.
  • When Entercom pulled the plug on long standing KMPS, Hubbard quickly rolled out their own country formatted station to take on Entercom’s The Wolf.  Looks like Entercom is able to hold off the challenge with KKWF Tied with KISW at # 7…Far ahead of KNUC.
  • I recently wrote about the entry of an HD-2 in the list of popular choice.  KNKX’s Jazz-24/HD-2 is still there, however they have been joined by two stations Streaming on-line, KSWD and KISW.  Perhaps proving that the completion for OTA (Over the Air) audience is indeed real.
  • Looking at the bottom part this long list are found a number of Non-Commercial stations as well as those that are not exactly within the market signals.

Just for fun, here is a look at our neighbor to the south, Market #22, Portland, Oregon.

  • Population is shown as 2.354 million (about 1.5 Megapeople less than Seattle).
  • Much like Seattle the #1 Station is News/Talk KOPB operated by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
  • Also like Seattle, you have to go down the list to #19 before you find an AM station.  In this case, historic KEX with a Talk format.
  • Unlike Seattle, Portland has 3 stations with HD Channels.  One of them, IHearts KFBW-HD3 doing quite well with a Classic Country format.
  • One station’s ‘Stream’ is in the race.
  • If you wondered where the call letters KMTT, long associated with Entercom’s 103.7 ‘The Mountain’ in Seattle are now, they are being used by Entercom in Portland.

On the sad-side, this past fall, legendary Wenatchee broadcast engineer George Frese passed.  The following was recently distributed via AFCCE and was posted on the Seattle SBE-16 Remailer from which followed a number of comments by those that have fond memories of George.  Read on:

George Melvin Frese, Wenatchee, WA

Condensing 97 years of a full life for an amazing man into a few paragraphs, is nearly an impossible task, for he is more than the sum of the milestones of his life. But, in an attempt to honor George Melvin Frese, we will do so.

George was born in Spokane, WA, on June 5, 1921, to Fred and Sadie (Penner) Frese. George’s father was a City of Spokane police officer. George told stories of an adventurous childhood growing up in Spokane in the 1920’s.

His most told stories included his early experiences of listening to the radio with his mother on a crystal set, tuning into programs from around the country. George developed a fascination with the technology that enabled you to hear a person speaking hundreds of miles away. In his own words, “My number one ambition became to learn how this worked.” At the age of four, George began making crystal sets by dismantling old radios and using spare parts given to him. As his curiosity grew, so did his radios. In junior high and high school, he developed short-wave radio receivers, transceivers, and transmitters with increasing power and sophistication. As a junior in high school, he discovered that VHF radio waves reflected off of airplanes, allowing him to calculate how far away an airplane was, how fast it was traveling, and in what direction, naming his system “The Airplane Detector.” Eager to share this incredible technology, he naively wrote to the U.S. government and was disappointed when they did not respond. He then decided to share his “invention” with the government of England instead, believing it could be useful in their defense against the German Luftwaffe. This letter resulted in a visit from the FBI and the eventual military testing of his “Airplane Detector”.

George’s expertise in broadcast engineering led him to Washington State University to continue his education, graduating with a degree in Engineering. He was a proud Coug, able to belt out the Cougar fight song on command.

George met his first wife, Mollie, while in Pullman, WA. In May of 1944, George entered the Army, attended Basic Training and then Officers Candidate School. While stationed at Fort Monmouth, their first child, Joan, was born in November of 1944. His second daughter, Suzette, arrived in April of 1946. George’s military career was filled with unusual experiences and circumstances. Many are explained in his autobiography “Lost History and a Bizarre Mystery.” Following his military service, their son, Glen, and daughter, Lorene, were born.

George worked for KPQ as a radio engineer early in his career. George ventured out on his own, becoming a sought after engineering consultant of radio and television stations around the country. He is regarded as the father of modern broadcast audio processing for his invention of the Frese Audio Pilot, which was a pioneering breakthrough and improved the sound of a radio station’s broadcast signals. He obtained his first Amateur Radio “C” License in junior high. He was a proud and active Ham radio operator all of his life, with an Amateur Extra license, call sign AA7H.

In 1961, George married Rosemary Crimmins. Rosemary’s children: Richard, Linda, and Laurel Jacobsen joined the family. They were happily married for over 56 years. They were members of Central Christian (Cornerstone) Church most of their married life. George was an avid student of the Bible, having read it many times.

All of these milestones were the framework of a life well lived. But what made George special were the moments in between. He was goofy. He told us some of the dumbest “George and Joe” jokes, over and over, making us laugh. He truly cared about his family and friends. He worried about them and he prayed for them. He had more uses for duct tape than you can possibly imagine. He once gave Rosemary 100 numbered greeting cards, placed around the house as an apology. He was amazingly intelligent and could hold his own on just about any subject. He loved to exercise, playing organized softball and badminton into his 80’s. He was a master popcorn maker, enjoyed playing the violin, and playing classic music very loudly. He could “engineer” almost any device he needed. He was a good man, father, grandfather, and friend. He will be missed.

George died on November 23, 2018. He is survived by his son, Glen Frese (Sue); daughters: Joan Frese Lazarus (Jonathan), Suzette Frese Harkin (John), Lorene Frese Woody (Mike); step-son, Richard Jacobsen; step-daughters: Laurel Jacobsen Fife (Jim), and Linda Jacobsen Stuart; and his first grandchild, Tami Jacobsen Gurnard (Joe), whom he raised as his own. He also is survived by numerous grandchildren; great-grandchildren; and treasured friends. George was preceded in death by his father, Frederick; mother, Sadie; sister, Shirley Frese Woods; and his beloved wife, Rosemary.

A Service will be held on May 4, 2019 at Jones & Jones-Betts Funeral Home, Wenatchee, WA. Please express your thoughts and memories on our online guestbook at jonesjonesbetts.com. Arrangements are by Jones & Jones–Betts Funeral Home, Wenatchee, WA.

 

The posting of this announcement brought forth a number of comments that were also posted:

 

I never met George, but I was familiar with his work.  He built the old KUTI 980 studio in Yakima.  Beautiful wiring.  And the documentation was excellent, clear, hand-drawn diagrams.

Several years ago I happened to be listening to KPQ when I was driving over the pass when they interviewed him about the history of the station.  Very entertaining.  Something about cutting the engineering shop loose in a flood to save the transmitter building.

 

Terry Spring

Chief Engineer

KWPX TV

 

I worked with George frese for a little bit on a project at a radio station in Tri-Cities when I first got into the business some 35 years ago.  It was on his audiopilot audio processor.   we had one at the station and it didn’t work very well so I called him up to talked to him about it,  we probably spent a good hour on the phone talking about it and other things,, he was a really smart sharp audio and RF engineer, rest in peace George.

 Dave Ratener.

Bill Wolfenbarger wrote:

Was that the class IV on 1340?  Part of the problem with that station was that the transmitter didn’t have the headroom.  The transmitter used tetrodes, I think it may have been a Wilkinson.

 

George came to Seattle with an Audio Pilot, installed it at KOL.  The deal was always that it was a trial and if you didn’t like it, he’d take it out.  So when George hooked it up, our GM (Dick Curtis) reported “it sounds like a 10 dB increase!”.  The purchase (as expensive as it was at $1,500) was not questioned.  Aside from the fact that it used lot of tubes and relays, the Audio Pilot really was ahead of its time.  George had thought of every little thing that would make things louder, including absolute control of negative peaks, float clipping, 100:1 compression ratio, polarity switching so that asymmetrical voices were louder, etc.

 

One problem that came up was new FCC rules on positive peaks.  Clay will remember this, we made changes in the Collins 21E transmitters to give them more headroom.  And as someone else reported, “Frese and Kaping” were meticulous with their wiring.  Because the Statute of Limitations has run out, I can now say that I felt a certain amount of pride when KOL received a letter from the local FCC office.  In part it said that KOL “positive peaks regularly exceeded 125%, and “not infrequently exceeding 200%”.  It later turned out that the commish was tipped off by the Program Director at KING.

  

Rest in peace, George…

 Wolf 

 

Andrew Skotdal wrote:

Clay, you may choose to mention that the pre-cursor to the Kinstar was created by George and is on the air at KAPS 660 right next to the freeway.  Lockwood knows the name of the particular AM antenna, but there are only two in America, the other is in Hawaii, and I’m not sure if it is still on the air.

 George put KRKO on the air from the Larimer Road location in Everett in 1958/59.  We have photos of him with his FIM, and he helped us for several years after I became GM in the 90’s. 

 George was recruited by opponents to the KRKO/KKXA antenna system on Short School Road and he actually testified against us in hearings.  He ultimately turned out to be OUR greatest opposition asset.  Sadly, the opposing council recruited George by splitting language and saying that our argument was we needed our AM antenna system to “be near water on a shoreline.” 

 

After we won, I flew to Wenatchee to meet with George and find out why he worked for the opponents.  He brought a friend to the meeting because he initially had a concern that I was going to “throw a pie in his face or something.”  Instead, I was actually there to tell him it was all ok.  What the opposing council never explained to George was the County designated the entire floodplain as “shoreline” for jurisdictional reasons.  Opposing council let him believe we were trying to be too close to the river because we wanted to have the antenna system in the water.  When he finally learned the meaning behind the language of “shoreline” he apologized and said he was led to believe the “shoreline” was different than the farming soil which was so important to AM transmission.  He conceded AM had to be in the Snohomish River Valley afterward and that was why he put KRKO in the valley back in 1958…also in the “shoreline.”

 He took me to his workshop that afternoon.  His QSL collection was massive and historically meaningful.  I hope they didn’t get tossed.  There were some treasures in his boxes.  And, his workshop was its own sort of museum to broadcasting.  George and his former engineering partner, Dwayne, were terrific people who cared a great deal about broadcasting.  He was saddened to see KGA-A downgraded from 50kW to 10kW to give an incremental boost to 2.5 kW for a Bay Area station.  I think he may have helped put that one on the air, but I know he helped reign it in from time to time, and I think he helped to move it.

 

Marty Hadfield added:

 

The KAPS ND short antenna system is a “PARAN”.

Rest In Peace, George.

Sincerely,

Marty Hadfield

Stephan Lockwood added a link for addition information on the PARAN Antenna.

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/158669

Dwight Small posted this –

Somewhere I have a copy of an article from the late 40’s that came from the Western Electric magazine. It’s the story of how George floated the KPQ transmitter building when the Columbia river flooded. He used surplus Army rafts and placed them under the building, disconnected what was necessary and floated the building when the water rose. I believe he used

a longwire to keep the station on the air. Very creative engineer.   RIP

 

DS

 

And from Tom McGinley-

There are few NW engineers who didn’t know about George Frese and his remarkable achievements and contributions to our craft. The lucky ones got to work with him on a project or 2. I recall working with George and Dwayne back in 1982 when I was hired to implement a DA-2 5 kW power increase for KGEZ 600 Kalispell, MT. George did the 301 app and the GM at the time there and I did the tune up and proof with George’s sage assistance on the phone providing background info. KGEZ was still running their Frese Audio Pilot at the time and was making 150% positive peaks with their new 5 kW McMartian tx running at 1 kW.

 

Arne Skoog removed an Audio Pilot used at KKOL 1300 back in the 80s and stuck it in the SEA CBS Radio basement bone yard. I always wanted to fire it up again and watch it play before I left in 2016 but the box went out to the KIRO-AM Radio Museum on Vashon under the superb curatorship of Steve Allen.

 

From John Price:

 

I first met George in 1977 when he came to KGY 1240 in Olympia to do the annual audio proof of performance. He pulled up late the night of the ‘Proof’ in a Jeep Wagoneer full of ammo boxes he used to cart around his test gear. He set his gear up, had a few questions and away we went. George came back again in 1978 to do the proof that year too. I had replaced the on-air console since his last visit; he found a couple of bugs that time, but they got cleared up. I was the KGY afternoon jock and ‘punk’ Chief Engineer from February 1977 until the first week of January 1979, and never had the opportunity to see, talk to or work with George again.

 

KGY had an Audio Pilot that was not operational when I got there. The previous CE Don Jones wanted to get it running when we put the MW1 on the air in early 1977. I fed some audio to it and had it running in standby mode. What I remember is the clicking of the Audio Pilot’s relays. It was in a half rack sitting in the small room behind the two transmitters and equipment racks, and you could hear the relays when you were in the adjacent on-air studio. I think we put it on the air once to test it, but in the end decided not to use it instead of the existing CBS Audimax and Volumax.    

 

Looking back at all of George’s experiences and accomplishments, I wish now I had taken the opportunity to sit down and talk to him. I’m sure I would have learned a lot. May you rest in peace sir.

 

JP          

 

 

And from Walt Jamison:

 

I am sorry for Georges poor health and death.  I first heard of George in the early 1960″s when he built an intermodulation filter for a friend at a station in Yakima.  My first contact with him was at a SBE meeting when he described his Audio Pilot.  Several discussions with him at SBE Equipment Shows.  Bob Holcomb and I showed him through the KOMO Vashon plant, I think during the 1990’s.  He was interested in the RCA BC 50F Transmitter.  My favorite story of his was the description of building that station in Kellog Idaho.  Because of the narrow steep valley the two towers were on opposite sides of the highway.  Convincing the FCC that it was not possible to make the usual close in field intensity measurements on the cliffs was a major problem.  Apparently the ‘flat landers’ there did not understand the Kellog geology.

 

   walt, W7PRB

 

 

 

I was sadden to learn of George’s passing last fall. Both Wil Voss now in Bellingham at Cascade Radio group and I worked with George for many years in the early 70’s.  Wil officially took over as the chief engineer for Duane Lee since George had left KPQ-AM & FM a few years before. I left the Wenatchee area in 73, and George shared with me a master copy of both the AM-FM version of the audio pilot. I also have a master copy of the Parin antenna that he designed for KAPS-AM 660 due to a very limited ground plane issue. KAPS still uses this antenna today in part to Steve Lockwood after it was damaged in a wind & lighting storm several years ago since George’s health would not allow him to travel and perform a major repair. I first meet George after I returned to the Wenatchee area after my father took ill in Alaska. The call AA7I and AA7H were George and Duane. That is where I got started  before high school when George helped me get ready for the novice exam that I later passed and earned the call: WN7EUE. This later changed over time to WB7EUE. George was a great teacher and he inspired me to continue my studies into the engineering field. George had many stories but the one I enjoyed the most was when the Columbia River flooded the antenna site and George floated the transmitter building and placed several small boats in line to suspend the RF cable to a long wire to the South Tower.

Rest in peace my friend.

Michael Gilbert

 

Allow me to add an item.  One encounter with George took place by telephone.  Out of the blue one day he called me on the phone.  I was CE of KMO in Tacoma at the time and he knew it.  He wanted to inform me that he had been hired to do an application for a new station in Hermiston, Oregon that would also be on 1360 and wanted to be the first to inform me that this would in no-way interfere with KMO.  His attitude could best be described as being ‘hat in hand’.  George was a ‘Class Act’.

I always like to try and end this column with a bit of humor.  This time, Cartoon type comments about winter weather seem appropriate.

Oh yes, one more thing –
THINK SPRING !!!!

As they say in Amateur Radio, 73

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

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for February 2019

January 31, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

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

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

The Great January 6th Windstorm of 2019

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

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

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

  • At 3:35 a.m. – Another message –

It’s taking longer than expected to restore your power

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

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

2-    Information was very sketchy and lacked much detail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How about a complete change to something pretty?

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

So what’s happening elsewhere –

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

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

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

Anyone else still using a Rolodex?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this case, a very serious Ben Dawson.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the read!

As they say in Amateur Radio, 73

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

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