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August Random Radio Thoughts

August 19, 2012
By

Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB Crawford Broadcasting Company

Random Radio Thoughts

Online Public Files

Online public inspection files are now the law of the land for television stations. Last month the NAB was unsuccessful in its attempt to get the FCC to reverse that decision. There is still some faint hope that the rule could be changed or dropped, but my feeling is that it’s here and here to stay.

And of course it’s just a matter of time for radio as well. The same arguments that were applied for television also apply to radio. But it’s not here yet, nor is there to my knowledge a rulemaking in process to require online public files for radio.

When the issue came up for television, I gave it some serious thought. In consideration of some of my public file experiences of years past, my early reaction was that this is a good thing.

We have, in years past, had disgruntled employees remove documents from the public file, and we’ve had activists and possibly even plants from the competition come in and look at our public files with some agenda in mind. We have learned from these experiences (and from the Sandy Berger incident a few years ago) that you never, ever, ever allow a member of the public to touch the file, even closely supervised. You never leave that person in the room with the file unsupervised (while going to make a copy or whatever). And you take one person at a time to look at public file documents, even if there is a crowd of 20 in the lobby wanting to see the file.

An online public inspection file would eliminate the risks associated with an in-person encounter for sure. There is no way anyone could “Berger” a document out of the room in his sock and then complain to the FCC that the document is missing from the file. So from a broadcast licensee’s perspective, there really are some positives to maintaining online public files. But I think the risks and downsides outweigh those positives.

Consider for a moment that a number of documents have to be in the file by a certain deadline. For example, quarterly issues/programs lists must be in the file by the tenth of the first month of the subsequent quarter. Do you always and without fail make that deadline? What if the person responsible is out sick? Would anyone else even think about it? The same can be said of ownership reports and other documents.

Consider the case of letters and emails from the public. An activist could easily email the station with a correspondence that should go in the public file and then a few days later check the file to see if the email is there. If it’s not, they could contact the FCC with a complaint and written evidence to back it up. The same could happen with a letter. It would be easy for such a person to make trouble for the station.

And think about political advertising. All that documentation would have to be posted in a very timely manner, and if a station was late getting it scanned and into the file, the candidate could file a complaint. This is a very real risk in the short primary and general election windows.

In terms of enforcement, an online public file would be like hunting in a baited field. FCC EB personnel could generate NOVs without ever leaving their desks. How easy would it be to perform a “sweep” of every station in a district on the tenth of the month, for example, looking for those new issues/programs lists? A licensee’s “sins” would be displayed for all to see.

Finally, scanning all that paperwork to the public file would be a huge pain at the outset and a minor pain going forward. It would require some man-hours to complete and keep up with.

So when that rulemaking eventually comes out, I and my company will oppose it. I don’t think an online public inspection file is such a great idea after all.

Changes

Jack Roland has left Salem in Colorado Springs and is now chief engineer for the Rocky Mountain region for EMF Broadcasting (K-Love and AirOne). He started in early July and is already on the road making the rounds of the many EMF transmitter, translator and “satellator” sites in Colorado.

Down in the Springs, Tony Lopez is filling in at the Salem cluster until a full-time replacement for Jack Roland can be located and hired. Anyone interested in that gig should contact Cliff Mikkelson at Salem-Denver.

If you have news to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, drop me an email at crisa@crawfordbroadcasting.com.

 

Clay’s Corner for August 2012

August 19, 2012
By

By Clay Freinwald SBE Seattle Chapter 16Featuring News, Rumors and Views From Usually Reliable and Irrefutable Sources

Clay’s Corner for August 2012

The big story in July had to be the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.  It was interesting to watch all the networks scramble to cover the story….Hopefully we won’t have another one of these.

August has some special meaning for me as it was back on August 1, 1961 that I got my first full-time job in Broadcasting….Looking in the mirror I can understand that this was 51 years ago.   I would have never dreamed that I would still be at it in 2012.   Wished I’d kept that 49 Ford however.

On July 28th – Many members and friends of Chapter 16 again gathered in the ‘backyard’ of KOMO-AM on Vashon Island for the annual SBE Picnic.    Again our thanks to Tim Moore and the crew at KOMO for opening the door to their historic facility and providing a great place for our event.  Thanks also to Shannon Nichols and BSW for again sponsoring this event.   The day started with overcast conditions and drizzle….By the time the first burgers were coming off the grill, the sun was winning the battle.

Did everyone get the EAS Equipment connected to the FEMA/IPAWS Server?   There have been a few wrinkles.   Our State EAS Remailer has been a wonderful tool with this change, especially having as subscribers the major manufacturers that have been quick to offer help. A big thank you goes out to Lowell Kiesow of KPLU for his tireless work of aiding those needing

Help.    By now everyone should have their EAS equipment connected to TWO CAP Servers- FEMA/IPAW – AND – The Washington State MyStateUSA system.    If you don’t – contact Lowell at KPLU (253-535-8758) for assistance.    Before I leave the topic of EAS – Remember that ALL your legacy Monitoring Assignments remain a requirement…These new CAP systems are – in addition to – what you have  been doing.

Weather across the country has been hot and dry with a lot of records set.  So how bad is it?

Water rationing is the law in many areas.   It’s been reported that ‘lawn painting’ is being done in some areas.  Then there is the stress caused to the power grids and, of course.  Let’s not forget the huge wind-storm that caused a massive power outage leaving many who can’t fathom being without A/C….in the heat.  That wind-storm and resulting power failures showed just how frail cell-phones really are.  (The Nisqually quake here proved that to many of us here years ago).  Broadcasting – again- came through and demonstrated how it can rise to the occasion.  Pretty hard to beat point-multi-point distribution systems.   Those that have been calling for having FM radios in cellphones were eager to tell all – See what I mean!

I heard a story on NPR where they interviewed a person that was sick and tired of the heat etc. and was moving to Portland.   This is a real reversal as most folks would never even consider moving to the PNW because they know – it rains ALL the time.    If the truth about our weather gets out we could be in real trouble, especially in light of the new determination that Seattle has the 4th worst traffic in the country.

Here in Western Washington we are enjoying (?) a relatively cool summer.   One thing that was quite unusual was several days of thunderstorms and a zillion lightning strikes.   KGY in Olympia apparently got hit with damage to their main transmitter, have not heard about anything else getting zapped.    Was certainly interesting watching the weather radar and seeing weather coming our way in reverse, i.e., over the Cascades from the East.

We recently lost a historic Seattle TV personality with the passing of Chris Wedes, aka, JP Patches.   He passed on July 22nd after a long battle with cancer.   Thinking about this a bit you need to understand that a huge number of people that never saw, or perhaps heard of JP Patches, Captain Puget, Stan Boreson or Brakeman Bill.   The thought of a major TV station doing programming aimed at children in the middle of the afternoon is complete foreign to them.

At this writing the Olympics are underway in the UK….The Internet is playing a major role this time with many watching the games – Live as opposed being delayed and broadcast at a time more suited for domestic program schedules.  This effort has taken the NBC effort to new levels.

The following picture is of the recently refurbished transmitter building for KVTI in Lakewood.

Hard to believe it’s the same place.   All new metal exterior, porches etc.   The 90.9 station is being operated cooperatively by CPTC and WSU’s Northwest Public Radio.   The red-stuff in the foreground is part of the Lakes High School new athletic field, immediately adjacent to the transmitter facility.

It happens now and then….In this case the Navy is suspected of being the cause of malfunctioning garage doors at a submarine base in Groton, CT.   Apparently, due to their low power, garage door opener transmitters don’t need a license.  Refreshing that the problem is not being caused by Amateur Radio or Broadcast operations.

I know, I’ve been saying this for a long time….But the Tribune bankruptcy could be coming to an end, with it could come the sale of its newspaper and flagship station, WGN, in Chicago.    Tribune, of course, owns 2 TV’s in Seattle.

For years it’s been suspected by the tin-foil-hat crowd that broadcast transmitters or power lines cause cancer.    Now a new study puts ‘light’ on a new suspect – CFL’s….Yep those curled up florescent light emitting devices .    Reportedly the Phosphor coatings on the bulbs wear off thereby causing them to leak high levels of UVC and UVA.   The study noted that old fashioned, power wasting and heat generating light bulbs are safe.

Recent studies have pointed out the aging of broadcast engineers.   Our industry appears to be much like Amateur Radio – Lots of Gray and White hair in our ranks.    Peters Almanac has a saying that appears to fit this situation “Early to bed and early to rise — till you get enough money to do otherwise.”    For the Senior Engineers out there – Think of it this way – You are not an old ____, elderly or a senior – You are just chronologically experienced

Being an official senior….I can’t help from noticing a recent ad in the newspaper for the “McIntosh 50th  Anniversary Edition Gold MC275 Vacuum Tube Power Amplifier” …Something to keep the house nice and warm on these summer days.   Sounds like back to the future to me.

The FCC is out with FY2012 Regulatory Fees for TV stations and wouldn’t you know it…the Commish had determine the amount paid should be based on the stations virtual channel and not the ‘real’ channel they occupy, even if that channel is in the higher end of the UHF band.  I guess that’s logical?

Can you believe that it’s time again for the NAB to call for papers for the next show in ‘Vegas?

In the event you have not marked your calendar, it’s April 6-11, 2013.  The deadline is Oct 19.

91.7, KXOT is now silent, in fact, they are officially silent as of June 29th    My memory of 91.7 goes back to when the station was operating as KTOY from a tower on top of Tacoma Vocational School at 11th and Yakima.  One morning, after a Pacific storm raked the area, that tower ended up lying across 11th street.   The stations transmitter was then moved to Indian Hill using the old KLAY-FM Transmitter and the call letters were changed to KBTC (as in Bates Technical College)    Later, after changing hands, the station made a number of upgrades and became KXOT and was operated by KUOW for some time.     Not sure what will happen to the station, or the plans to move to Gold Mountain.   Not often an FM goes dark in this market, NCE or Commercial.

A couple of names come to mind when I think of 91.7…..  One of the instructors at KTOY there was another broadcast legend in our area, Chuck Ellsworth. Chuck started 102.9 in Centralia (as KGME) that later became KELA-FM and is now known as KNBQ operated by Clear Channel and running the same programming as KJR-AM.   The other name, Terry Denbrook.  Terry spent many hours keeping KXOT on the air from Indian Hill.    Oh yes, one more thing about Indian Hill – that tower was used by KMO-AM prior to the 1360 AM moving to Browns Point.  It was erected in 1973….I know, I was there….and so was a very young Tom Pierson.

July 14th, about 11 AM, WA2MN was on the air on 42.8 (Megacycles) from the Armstrong tower in Alpine, NJ.   Very cool that the Major is still remembered in this way.
This past winter saw the broadcast site at South Mountain (West of Shelton) again sustained damage due to falling ice.    The following picture shows a damaged dish antenna belonging to KDDS.   Note how the feed is bent downward.    This cost the RSL about 20 db.

Speaking of South Mountain.   This site is about to become home to a third FM station with the addition of KANY on 93.7.   The station will operate with 33 kW at 677 Meters AAT using a directional antenna.   The City of License is Montesano, near Aberdeen.

Copper theft is a huge problem for many.    The following signs, on a government installation that’s been the victim of this activity is fighting back…Here are a couple of signs showing how they are dealing with the issue –

 

This month our Seattle SBE Chapter, working with one of our local utilities, Puget Sound Energy, will have a program dealing with this issue.   Watch the SBE-16 Remailer as well as Web-Site for more info.

On topic of copper theft – This just in from Kent Randles of Entercom-Portland

Some low-lifes broke into the old round green 1080 transmitter building last night.  There were not a lot of things worth stealing, since almost everything of use has been moved to the new site next door, but they were after anything of value, especially copper.

The obvious items of value were a small Honda portable generator and a Vertex UHF mobile 2-way radio.  For some reason they decided to take a big old Tek scope.  However, one of them knew enough to take the two sets of tubes to my Raytheon RA-1000 which I had been storing there.  A copy of the manual was in the tube box.  One set was wrapped in newspaper, but the other set was new in boxes.

So keep a look out for a group of the following tubes:
833A
813
845
807
6J7
6J5
If you come across any of the items above and think they may have been stolen, please call or text me at 503-544-4289.

Sirius XM keeps growing with almost 30 million subscribers.   Can’t help but reflect on those that said this was a venture that was sure to fail.  Flush with cash the Sat-Broadcaster has announced they are going to be retiring $186 Million in Debt – Early.   Considering the economic climate the last few years for many firms, this is certainly a bright spot.

The July 8th Seattle Times NW Magazine had a picture in their Then and Now section that caused quite a buzz.   Shown was a staff picture of KRAB (Now KNDD).   Shown in the picture is a considerably younger Ben Dawson.

Another wonderful quote – If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.  – Johnny Carson

If you are an Amateur Radio buff, or perhaps an electronic experimenter –The Radio Club of Tacoma is putting on its annual Electronic Flea Market – Date is August 11th at Bethel Junior High in Spanaway…For more info, check out Hamfest@W7DK.org

Here in Seattle we know well what it means for a print publication to go on line – Now comes news that Newsweek Magazine may be near doing the same thing.   Makes me wonder if the term  – News Stand –is going to be a short-timer ?

Many stations have been thinking about sustainability and have looked for ways to reduce their energy or carbon footprint.  In one case, which still causes me to smile….a, very non-technical person on the staff who was given the task to lead the charge, asked me to compare the energy use of the stations transmitter compared to a Ford Explorer, he then asked me if the transmitter could be converted to solar power.   Looking at this another way, why not push for greater receiver sensitivity so that broadcasters could turn the power down?   Next time you are faced with those that are looking for energy conservation toss this item their way….It’s been estimated that a single Google search takes about as much power as turning on and off a 60 wall light bulb for 17 seconds.   Explain to them how much power server farms consume and suggest they should be concerned about how much energy they waste surfing the web.

Got a note from old friend John Franz who used to work in this market – Happy to share –

It is with excitement that I tell you that I have accepted the Director of Engineering position with Max Media Montana. I plan to report to work in Missoula some time next week. MMM operates a HUB in Missoula pushing 12 streams (ABC on .1 and FOX on .2) to 6 stations and a stand alone NBC with 2 streams in Billings. Because of the topology of the state, MMM also operates translators and supports community translators in just about every habitable valley in the state. They also serve areas in Wyoming. It a different model than in most markets where all you have to do is feed the cable

Mt Rushmore Broadcasting in Wyoming has set some sort of record with a total of almost 70 Grand in FCC files…All related to lack of the required paperwork filed with the FCC for their STL’s.    It’s not unusual for some small broadcasters to make STL changes without going thru the required steps; in this case, the FCC has come down hard.  Perhaps causing others to scramble to make sure that their systems are operating within the Commission’s Rules.

And…The FCC has not forgotten about CB Radio…especially when a CB’er causes interference to fire department radio communications.    Refusing to let the FCC inspect his station didn’t help his case either.   So….Mr. Jones in Merced California has been fined $7,000

Before I end this month’s column…A big thank you for permitting me to chair the Seattle Chapter of SBE these past two years.    I will still be around one more year on the Board of Directors.  I’m excited about the direction of our Chapters new leadership and wish them the best.

That’s it for this month – Enjoy the rest of summer !

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

The KE0VH Hamshack for August 2012

August 19, 2012
By
Jack Roland KEØVH@q.com

Jack Roland KEØVH@q.com

The KE0VH Hamshack will return next month!

Random Radio Thoughts – July 2012

July 8, 2012
By

Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB Crawford Broadcasting Company

The FCC EAS CAP deadline is now in the rearview mirror.

It’s amazing to me as I read the trade press how many stations waited until the last minute to order CAP-compliant EAS equipment. Of course they are finding out that there is a backlog of orders and it may be several weeks until those units are shipped. I’ve read on various list servers advice on how to deal with FCC inspectors should they happen to come by before the CAP-compliant equipment arrives and is installed, measures such as keeping documentation of the equipment order at the control point. And not surprisingly I have read other reports that say the FCC won’t be giving any breaks in such cases, documentation or no. And who can blame them? We have had almost two full years to deal with this! My company had everything installed and working before the first deadline, and I know a lot of others took care of this months ago.

It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Enforcement Bureau didn’t make an inspection sweep of stations this month or next to check for EAS CAP compliance. I remember past deadlines and the sweeps that followed those. In the summer of 1990, when the NRSC-2 standard became law, the FCC made a sweep looking for the required NRSC audio filters. I think it was 1996 when the Part 17 Antenna Structure Registration rules became law, and the FCC subsequently made a sweep of tower sites looking for the proper posting of ASR signage. And then again in 1997, when the EAS system replaced the EBS system, the FCC made a sweep looking for EAS equipment in stations. Since this seems to be a pattern, forewarned is forearmed; we should probably expect a visit in the coming months.

Despite having CAP-capable equipment installed since December of 2011, it was still a bit of a last-minute scramble for the stations in our company to get firmware updates installed and the units properly polling the IPAWS server. But it did work and we immediately began receiving daily weekly tests from that server (FEMA was sending “weekly” tests on a daily basis through the first week in July so that stations could confirm proper operation as they installed, updated and configured their equipment). It will be interesting to see what the routine is in terms of CAP tests going forward.

Wildfires

June was a very challenging month as we all, to one degree or another, dealt with record heat, wildfires and smoke/ash. Buckhorn Mountain was perhaps the broadcast site that was most affected. While the site itself was mostly untouched by fire, power to the site was lost early on in the High Park fire, and the generator either didn’t start or ran out of fuel, taking several stations, including KUNC, KJAC, KYEN, KGCO, KXGR and a couple of translators, off the air for the duration. Some stations scrambled to temporarily relocate to other sites, but others remained off the air until either power was restored or the generator came back on line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But just because the fire did not burn the building doesn’t mean there wasn’t fire damage at the site. There was evidently tremendous heat coming up the slope behind the building (west). That heat melted the KGCO Andrew Ku-band dish, melted the jackets on the L-band and control cables and melted the deicer control. Even the “Andrew Flash” decal was melted off the face of the dish. The EMF Broadcasting folks had to replace the dish and all to restore the satellite feed to the station.

Air conditioners were strained pretty hard from the 105-degree heat along the Front Range. Two of the units in our stations failed at various times and had to be serviced. The one unit that seemed to weather the heat the best was the new (last summer) BreezeAir high-tech evaporative cooler at KLZ. That unit was pumping ice-cold air into the building even on the hottest afternoons, and it’s no wonder… I saw the dew point on a couple of those days down in negative territory, -27 degrees F in one instance! There’s a lot to be said for evaporative cooling in our usually arid climate, but since most transmitter sites do not have water, it’s probably not an option except in a very few cases.

As things wind down with the big fires of June along the Front Range, we all need to recognize that the danger is far from over. The “dog days of summer” have yet to arrive, and once the monsoonal flow is gone, I suspect we’ll be back in the same situation – maybe worse if we get good rains in July and early August and the grass/brush grows up.

As I have visited our various sites in recent weeks, I have thought about how easy it would be for a fire to start and sweep through those sites. A passing train, for example, might easily spark a grass fire along the right of way out by Barr Lake and the westerly winds would drive that fire right through the KLTT antenna site. The fences and exposed parts of the electrical, control, transmission and sample lines to the towers would be vulnerable to fire/heat damage. I suspect the same is true at many other sites, AM and FM, in the area.

All of that points to the need to take extraordinary brush clearance measures this summer. Keep the grass and weeds cut all the way to the ground with a good-sized buffer zone around tower base fences, doghouses, ATUs, transmitter buildings, generators and generator fuel tanks. Think about what would happen if a fire were to come through. If there is very little standing fuel available, your chances of escaping damage are good.

During the Catalina Island fire of 2007, the blaze swept through our transmitter site but didn’t damage anything at all with the exception of a single fence post. The fire went through the site in about five minutes but found no standing fuels because our chief engineer had maintained his clearances around the towers and any flammable structures or improvements. The one fence post that we did lose was the victim of an airborne ember that landed on top of the post many hours after the fire passed the site. It smoldered for a couple of days without anyone noticing before it finally burst into flame.

Let’s all hope that the second half of the summer (and the second half of the Rockies’ season!!) is better than the first!

If you have news to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, drop me an email at crisa@crawfordbroadcasting.com.

The KE0VH Hamshack for July 2012

July 8, 2012
By
Jack Roland KEØVH@q.com

Jack Roland KEØVH@q.com

The latter part of May and all of June have been very busy months for me, so that is why I didn’t post an article last month.  As of this writing I will be on the NEW job as the Denver based Colorado Engineer for the KLOVE facilities here.  I am very sorry to be leaving my wonderful boss and crew in Colorado Springs at the Salem Communications facilities there, but God has called me on to new things in a very amazing and I still can’t quite believe it way.  I will now be covering all of Colorado and some of Nebraska, Wyoming, and New Mexico looking after the EMF/Klove transmitters and facilities.  I am very excited and looking forward to many new explorations and adventures!  And I will have the Icom 706MK2G installed in the new company truck totally ready for some hamming on the road too!

The KLOVE NOC in Rocklin California, looking after 700 or so sites across the entire country!

Many have contacted me over the first part of July of course about the Waldo Canyon fire in the Colorado Springs area and have been concerned for the many who have lost homes on the NW side of the city, plus asking about how my Salem facilities were effected.  There was no problem for our stations there, as we are located just to the EAST of I-25, on the north side of Woodmen Drive there.  BUT, the evacuations all happened just on the west side of I-25.  Here is a map of the main fire boundaries during the evening of Tuesday, June 26th when it was just obliterating neighborhoods on the west side.

                                                 

I took this picture of KMGH-7 off our TV during this evening.   Also, a video was put together from a vantage point NE of Colorado Springs showing a time lapse over several days of the fire.  It is absolutely fascinating but really frightening at the same time.  Fortunately as of this writing the fire is contained and no one else is in danger, but as the news has pointed out, “Colorado is burning”, with many fires statewide.  We are most definitely praying for rain!

See the video at : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBA7eHY022k

The High Park fire west of Fort Collins was still burning at the same time.  One of the Klove facilities are located on top in the old ATT bunker building meant to survive even a bomb blast if needed back in the Cold War days.  But the fire burnt up and over the mountain, with many of the facilities there off air for several days until it cooled down enough for people to get up safely.  My co-worker Butch, Alan from EMF/Klove in Rocklin, and the new Denver area tech Patrick went up to check the Klove transmitter there, and while there was no trouble with the transmitter, the satellite dish behind the building indeed suffered some heat damage, take a look at what the heat did to the coax feeding the LNB there.

You can see how the outer jacket of the coax melted down in a curve off the cable.  Amazing picture!

Don’t forget our SBE hamnet is happening still the 1st Saturday of the month as always.  Details on how to join us are at www.qsl.net/ke0vh/SBEhamnet.

More to come next month!

73’ de KE0VH

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