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Clay’s Corner for January 2018

March 8, 2018
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Clay’s Corner

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

 

Can you believe it!…..Seattle actually had a White Christmas.  For those of you in other parts of the world, you may think what’s special about that?  Consider –

  • The National Weather service places the odds of having one at 7 percent.
  • The last White Christmas Seattle had was 9 years ago.
  • Before that it occurred in 1926.
  • It’s the 7th time in recorded history.
  • 3 times in 100 Years!….Those are long odds.

This is what it looked like looking out my back window on Christmas Morning:

For those that love snow – It was great to see it on Christmas.
For those that hate snow – We only got a few inches.
For those that need a comparison to put things into perspective – Erie, PA got 34 inches..all on Christmas Day.
Our neighbor to the South, Portland, Oregon received a white one too – It was the 6th time they’ve had a White Christmas since 1884.

At West Tiger, 3000 feet above Seattle, your chances of a White Christmas are significantly better.  I took this on December 4th, standing on the porch of the transmitter building.

If any of you wonder why I prefer to travel to West Tiger mountain, the beauty in the above picture will help explain things.  Yes, I know, most of you would rather be stuck in traffic on a freeway with a great view of the back of a big smelly truck.

Speaking of being stuck in traffic, the major rail accident near DuPont certainly created a mess in this area.  I-5 in this location, is what engineers call a SPOF – or single point of failure.  Lose that piece of highway and you have a mess.  Could not help but notice how four of the local TV operations were all over this one with great coverage.  Several radio operations did a great job also.  What was really obvious is the fact that many (apparently) don’t pay attention to broadcast outlets providing traffic information as underscored by the fact that there were often 5 mile backup’s on SB I-5.  What were these folks doing that would cause them to sit in a 5 mile backup just to be turned around?  My guess is that their car radios were either turned off, or they were listening to radio stations that could care less about broadcasting traffic information. (That could include Satellite Radio)   Wonder if anyone will study this aspect?…..Probably not.

A recent survey showed that 73% of Americans subscribe to Netflix…and that’s the same percentage that subscribe to Pay TV.  Guess that explains a lot!  No wonder Comcast is pushing their broadband business.  I presume that that segment is more than making up for the lack of TV customers?

Well Entercom made their first move by switching Country KMPS to Christmas Music…Then on the morning of December 4th they made their 2nd format move switching 94.1 to a new soft AC format and re-branding the station ‘The Sound’.  Now sporting the call letters KSWD.  Meanwhile, over in Bellevue….Moments after 94.1 switched from Christmas to AC, Hubbard switched their 98.9 to Country.  Its pretty obvious what took place there – 1) Hubbard gambled that Entercom would not keep 2 country format stations in the same market and, in the couple of weeks that 94.1 played Christmas, readied their country format – just in case.  Or  2) Some at Hubbard knew what Entercom was going to do ahead of time.  Normally format changes are closely held secrets, perhaps not this time?

The part that few thought would happen was Entercom throwing away 94.1’s many years of being the country place in Seattle and keeping their own country station (100.7) that was behind in the numbers race.  History shows that something similar took place years ago when the owners of KMPS purchased another station in town that was playing country music.  In that case, the new owners made their former competitor go away.  Now 100.7 will be the senior country station (they’ve been at it a while) and 98.9 will have to play catchup.  Certainly the next ratings numbers will be interesting.   On the technical side, the transmitters for 94.1 and 98.9 are a few feet away from each other and they both transmit thru the same antenna.

It was interesting looking at my radio the Monday morning when all this was going on.  As in most of these cases, engineers are kept ‘out of the know’.  As a result, some of the textual information was a bit behind the changes.  Entercom was calling themselves ‘The Sound’ but the art-work (for a while) still showed the red and blue KMPS Guitar.  98.9 suffered the same problem – as you can see from this shot of my radio – (excuse the lint on my radio’s display).  Here we see that 98.9 is ‘Everything that Rocks’ and ‘New Country’…hmmm?

           R I P

There’s a whole lot of movement going on in the Seattle-Tacoma area, but we’re not talking about earthquakes…It’s radio programming…Going to take a while for all of the dust to settle.

Another ownership change is in the works, this time to 103.3/KMCQ, the FM licensed to Oak Harbor.   The new owner will be Busto’s Media who operates 99.3/KDDS and 1210/KMIA.   This will likely mean that Country Music fans will have to deal with another change as the station is certain to be changing to a Latino format of some kind…No word on the fate of the call letters.   Interesting that the call KMCQ came to the Seattle area with the move of the station from Oregon that later became KLSW.  Bustos has been busy of late with CP’s recently being granted for new FM operations in Portland, San Jose, Houston and Ephrata.

Another new FM in the area will be in Puyallup on 94.5 Licensed to Jean Suh who operates the Korean language operation on 1450 AM there as well as 1230 in Everett.  This will be the second FM in the area on that frequency that used to be pretty much exclusively KRXY a Class A operation in Shelton.  The other is the KTTH(AM) translator on Cougar Mt near Bellevue.

A whole lot of press being given the recent FCC decision to repeal the 2015 rules commonly called Net Neutrality.   Here, Washington State, is apparently going to take the matter to court once again proving that the real winners will be the lawyers.

Question for you  – What Pacific Northwest City has more breweries than any other city in the world?     If you guessed Portland, Oregon you’d be right!

From the ‘Quoting someone else department’

“My dad used to say that every time history repeats itself, the price goes up….”

 

Gil Gillivan

For those of you that don’t get to visit Tiger Mountain, I should explain that there are 6 summits in the Tiger Mountain State Forest.  Three of them have electronic equipment on them.  In this view we are traveling from West to East looking at East Tiger Mountain, the highest of them all.  There are no broadcast stations on this Tiger…just lots of Microwave and other electronic communications equipment.  The big tower on the top also belongs to ATC.

Apparently the temptation to operate a radio station with too much power is not limited to commercial operations.  I’ve been reading about a number of instances where an LPFM is operating with excessive power.  Pretty easy to buy a transmitter for any power level your budget will permit and just – turn ‘er up.  Perhaps the lack of routine/surprise inspections by the FCC contributes to this problem?  Licensed full power stations that could be impacted by this practice would be wise to keep an eye on these kinds of issues to protect themselves.

On the topic of FCC Violations – the Commish has sent a letter to the operator of an AM station in Carthage, Illinois, telling him to turn it off because he does not have a license.  In this case running about 1,000 watts on 990.  This is not your typical pirate that ends up on the air out of the blue, but rather a broadcast station owner that was denied a renewal for failing to pay a debt to the FCC.  Frankly I’m surprised there are not more pirate AMs.  Guess this helps underscore the fact that AM is not all that desirable these days.  Even the pirates don’t want to operate there.

Perhaps the biggest hard-luck story of 2017 for Broadcasting will be the fact that Cumulus filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  Cumulus is a sizable operation, in fact, in terms of number of stations, they were ranked #2 in the U.S with 446 stations in 90 markets.

It has been reported that some $5 Billion was spent building the company.  Perhaps one could write a book based on the Cumulus story.  Now some will get their money and some will not.  This is all about what’s called – Debt Restructuring – a process of winners and a lot of losers.  For those that lose – you have the option of getting a tax break for a bad-debt.  Will have to see how this all shakes out.  Certainly not a pretty picture, viewed by many as a black mark on the radio industry.  Inside, it’s likely to be a challenge to keep a smile going forward.  ‘Tis not the first time a company has gone Chapter 11, but perhaps the first time a big operation like this has done it.

The FCC’s Daily Releases look like this –

ID BTC-20171201BAC KBOI 51211 RADIO LICENSE HOLDING CBC, LLC Involuntary Transfer of Control E 670 KHZ BOISE, ID From: CUMULUS MEDIA INC. To: CUMULUS MEDIA INC., DEBTOR-IN-POSSESSION Form 316

And in a stroke of bad-timing, several Cumulus stations in South Carolina were informed by the FCC that they are proposing a fine of $20,000 for EEO violations.  Wonder if the FCC can collect?

Cumulus is not a big name here in the PNW because they have no operations in the area’s major markets.  They do operate clusters of radio stations in Eugene, Oregon, Boise, Idaho and Colorado Springs.  In each of those markets they have 4 FMs and 2 AMs.  Perhaps the most famous operation in this neck of the woods is KBOI in Boise, a 50 kW big signal on 670.  Cumulus is based in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, iHeartMedia continues to do ‘the bankruptcy avoidance dance’ with their creditors.  iHeart, compared to Cumulus, has some really serious debt…Like $20 Billion worth.  Would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in some of these discussions.  Like Cumulus, there will be winners and losers.  The $64,000 Question is will the company be forced into bankruptcy or will they, again, be able to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat?  Perhaps in 2018 we will all learn how this chapter of the saga will read.  This far, there appears to be a good supply of rabbits.

Speaking of Saga…in this case a much brighter story as Saga Communications is giving their shareholders a special cash dividend on top of their normal one.  The company has, reportedly, paid out almost $53 million in dividends to their stockholders since 2012 and is saying they plan on continuing to do so.  Saga owns 75 FM and 33 AM stations including a cluster in Bellingham, WA.  Kudos to Saga for proving that it is possible to make money with Radio.

Part of the recent iHeart/Entercom/CBS shuffle involved the old 102.9/KELA-FM on Capital Peak.  Until recently the call letters on the station were KFOO, now changed to KFNY.  One of the trades mentioned this shuffle and called the area served as Centralia/Tacoma.  I have to admit I was a bit taken back by the lumping of those two locations together.  The City of License for 102.9 is Centralia.

This brings up the question, with the Main Studio Rules going away in January, it is not time to do away with the City of License criteria also?  Here in the Seattle area, we have a lot of stations that identify with the Seattle area, whose city of license is a city other than Seattle.

Look at Television – Channel 11 and 13 are licensed to Tacoma.  Granted the FCC allowed dual city IDs a long time ago.

FM Radio is another example – 106.1, 97.3, 103.7 etc. all have a COL of Tacoma.  (This is why when you hear KIRO-FM do their ‘Legal ID’  they always say “ KIRO-FM, Tacoma, Seattle’.

Then there are stations like 97.7/KOMO-FM – whose City of License (COL) is Oakville.  You will hear this once in a while as they do their Legal ID.  Another is 99.3/KDDS.  Their COL is Elma.  How about 106.9/KWRM?  Their COL is Bremerton.

Is the whole City of License thing just as out of date as the Main Studio Rules?  If you don’t have to have a Main Studio in your City of License….Why should a broadcaster be forced to Identify the COL on the air?  Allow me to pick up KOMO for a moment.  Who benefits from having the station say Oakville once an hour?  What purpose does It serve other than to keep the Commish happy?

Whereas broadcast stations (today) are no longer based on a specific location but are based on where their coverage contours fall in respect to co-channel and adjacent channel technical considerations, why not drop the dated COL requirement altogether and permit broadcasters to identify with any city whose boundaries are totally within the coverage of the station?

Another example of the FCC ‘funky thinking’, how is it that a translator can identify with a city that is many miles away?  Where is the logic here?

Oh well – I can dream

It’s always a sad day when we lose someone in our business.  The following was posted to the SBE-16 Remailer on the 20th of December –

Hatfield & Dawson sorrowfully report that a valued member of our
engineering staff, Michael Mehigan, P.E., passed away suddenly and
unexpectedly in the small hours of the morning on December 15, 2017, at
the age of 44.

While not an SBE member himself, and while his work with H&D focused
primarily on public safety and transit two-way radio systems, Mike would
be known to a number of SBE members through his prior employment with
the FCC.  Mike came to work for H&D ten years ago following a stint as a
Field Agent with the FCC Seattle field office.  Before that, Mike worked
for two years as an engineer in the FCC Audio Division in Washington
DC.  Mike held a BS in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic.

Mike is survived by his wife Kristen, and two daughters aged five and
one.  A memorial has not yet been scheduled.

Stephen S. Lockwood, P.E., PMP, President
Hatfield & Dawson Consulting Engineers

Tegna, owner of many major TV Stations, including operations in Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Boise and Denver recently announced they were purchasing KFMB-TV in San Diego.  Included in the purchase is the KFMB AM and FM Radio Stations.

Time for another pretty picture.  Another submission by Dwight Small:

Just what we need – another EAS Event Code that will be ignored.  The FCC has just approved another one, the Blue Alert.  The Washington SECC, filed comments with the Commish on this one, stating a number of reasons why we were opposed.  (I can send you a copy if you are really interested).  Like most of the EAS Event Codes, this one can be ignored by participants.  If you did want to participate, you will have to modify your EAS Decoder to recognize this latest addition, which the FCC is not going to require.  Of course, there is no funding for training on how to use it.  IMHO this is a case of bureaucrats and politicians just trying to put their name on something that sounds good to the voters.  One more time…more news on how radiation from your Cellphone is doing you harm.  This time the State of California’s heath officials have released guidelines about how to avoid the harmful radiation coming from these devices.  Here are some quotes from officials in the Golden State:

Dr. Karen Smith with the California Department Of Public Health said, “We recognize that there are a lot of people in the general public that have some concerns about their cellphones and whether using a cellphone is safe.”  “When you sleep, you keep the cellphone at least arm’s length away from your body.  And also, not carrying your cellphone in your pocket, having it either in your purse or not carrying it with you.”

Dr. Joel Moskowitz at UC Berkeley said, “Currently we’re not doing a good job in regulating radiation from these devices.  In fact, we’re doing an abysmal job.”

They stopped short of saying that Cellphones are dangerous.

Hmmmm.  Can you imagine what would happen if it was proved that cellphones are dangerous?  A couple of things would likely happen:

  • A huge number of law suits from those that would blame everyone because they were not warned.
  • A huge number of people that would continue to be users (think Cigarettes, texting while driving, etc.)

This is a classic case of convenience vs. implied danger, and we all know how well that works.

In my work with WSU’s NWPR (Northwest Public Radio), I frequently drive over to Forks, WA.  For those of you not familiar with Forks, it’s near the NW Corner of Washington State and is more recently known as the setting for the Twilight series.  With just under 4,000 residents, Forks is like other little towns near the Washington Coast that were once thriving along with the lumber industry.  To be honest, the little place is not exactly thriving, with about 20% living with incomes under the poverty line.  It’s beautiful country, green and lush and near the north Washington Coast.  You have to like rain to live there with well over 100 inches of it falling annually and reportedly 212 days a year with measurable precip.  In terms of broadcasting, there are no OTA TV stations, but there are several receivable radio stations, some from Canada.  Locally, there is an AM/FM station as well as two signals from NWPR (why I go there) and a couple low powered FMs.  Recently an application was filed for a new translator on 94.1.  Not sure, at this writing, what it will be repeating.  Seattle broadcasters are not heard, thanks to the blocking of the Olympic Mountains.

Something I write about frequently is statistical information about the booming Seattle area.  Think that housing here is expensive?  Consider:

  • Median home listing price – $675,000, equal to a monthly mortgage payment of over $3000.
  • Median household income – $70,000.
  • According to Zillow, the median home price has gone up $100,000 in the PAST YEAR.
  • The average time a listing in King County is on the market is – 8 Days!
  • A typical home in King County now sells for twice the national average.
  • Two-third of all sales in King County this year have had a “bidding war”.

Writing a column is very different from what I do the rest of the time.  Doing so has increased my interest in our language considerably.  Once in a while something comes along that underscores how unique and, perhaps, frustrating it is. Here are some examples –

  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The dump was so full that it had to refuse  more refuse.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  • Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  • A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  • I did not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  • A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  • To help with planting, the farmer  taught his sow to sow.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let’s face  it – English is a crazy language.

  • There is no egg in eggplant.
  • No  ham in hamburger.
  • No apple nor pine in pineapple.
  • English  muffins weren’t invented in England.
  • No French fries in France.
  • Sweetmeats are candie.
  • Sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted.  But if we explore its paradoxes, we find –

  • Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?  If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t  the plural of booth, beeth?  One goose, two geese.  So one moose, two meese?  One index, two indices?  Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?  If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If  teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?  If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?  Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.  In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?  Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?  Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?  You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at  all.  That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Here’s a name that many of you will recognize – Matt Granard.  Matt and his family were known as owners of Westlake Electronics, who, when they were on Westlake in South Lake Union area, was a place where broadcast engineers would shop for parts to keep their stations going.  (Miss those days.)  Matt is now with Costco.

Thought I’d never hear it.  Charles Osgood has announced that he is retiring at the end of 2017.  CBS Sunday morning and the Osgood File will never be the same and another legend in broadcasting moves on.  The reason was cited as being a health issue, adding that his doctors told him it was time after almost 50 years.  Osgood is 84 and started in the business back in 1967.

It was recently announced that Broadcast Electronics has been acquired by an Italian firm, Elenos.  BE started out in the late ’50s with another name – Spotmaster, a manufacturer of audio cartridge tape equipment utilizing a Viking deck (oh, how I remember).  The firm moved from Silver Spring, MD to Quincy, Ill – then home of Gates Radio.  In the late 70s they started making transmitters.  I recall when 88.5 FM was installing their new BE Transmitters at West Tiger, that some of the items arrived in boxes labeled ‘Spotmaster’.  They did quite well for a number of years with many of the radio signals you hear on the air in the Seattle area coming from BE Transmitters.  Later the firm got into software for Radio with their Audiovault product.  Along the way they purchased Marti Electronics.  Recent years have not been kind to the firm with several ownership changes.  Reportedly, only about 50 people are working at their Quincy facility.  A lot of conjecture as to what Elenos will do as the new owner.  Certainly interesting that an off-shore firm is buying a US broadcast equipment manufacturer.

Looking for a job in this business?

Colorado Public Radio has an open position in the technical operations center (TOC).  Salary range: $47,000 – $66,000.  See link for more details: http://www.cpr.org/employment-opportunity/technical-operations-manager

As you likely know, Europe is leading the way in replacing conventional AM and FM Broadcasting with Digital systems, commonly called DAB.  Norway is one of the leaders in this movement with the announcement that they are the first country in the world to shut down their national broadcasts on the FM Band.  There are still signals on FM however, but nothing like North America.

Sinclair, owner of two TV and three Radio Stations in Seattle, and a major broadcast owner who is seeking to absorb Tribune, was recently slapped with a huge, over 13 Megabuck fine for violations of the FCC’s sponsorship ID rules.  The rule states that you must, in the case of a paid program, identify who is paying for it.  Sinclair claims it was an oversight.  Will see if this gains any traction with the regulators.  Not good timing for a firm asking that the FCC approve a transaction that is being opposed by several.

Not exactly creating a lot of headlines, but the long-running radio program A Prairie Home Companion is getting a new name, apparently as a result of the program’s long time, and recently retired, host being accused of personal wrong doing.  The new name will be ‘Live from Here’.

Another AM is going dark.  This time legendary KQV in Pittsburgh.  Apparently the owners have concluded that they are unable to sustain the rather labor intensive and expensive news operation.  Announcing that the station would be silent at the end of the year makes me suspect that they have tried to sell it and have not yet found a suitable buyer.  No word on what will happen to the 1410 AM operation in the future.  KQV goes back almost 100 years having begun broadcasting in 1919.

You will have to look very closely at this picture.  Perhaps some of you will recognize a very much younger Clay Freinwald.  I know the location…the front desk of KNBQ at 11th and Grant in Tacoma.  The date would be in the 1980s (perhaps).  Gee I had hair – and would you look at the color of that beard!

KAFE 104.1

  • Station: KAFE-FM
  • Dial: 1 FM
  • Format: AC
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
  • : View
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98.9 K-BAY

  • Station: KBAI-AM
  • Dial: 930 AM / 98.9 FM
  • Format: Classic Hits
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
  • : View
  • : View

790 KGMI

  • Station: KGMI-AM
  • Dial: 790 AM / 96.5 FM
  • Format: News/Talk
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
  • : View
  • : View

Classic Rock 92.9

  • Station: KISM-FM
  • Dial: 9FM
  • Format: Classic Rock
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
  • : View
  • : View

KPUG 1170

  • Station: KPUG-AM
  • Dial: 1170 AM / 97.3 FM
  • Format: Sports
  • Website:
  • : Listen
  • : View
  • : View
  • : View
 

Since I first started writing this Column, way back in 1986, a lot of things have changed.  Initially I wrote it on my computer (Apple II) and sent it to the Seattle SBE Chapter 16 publisher via, very slow, modem.  They would then insert it into a file that became the Chapters Newsletter ‘The Waveguide’ which was mailed with its famous Yellow cover.  Along the way it became clear that the labor of printing, mailing and the expenses involved, were being replaced with the advantages of On-Line distribution.  At this point, The Waveguide, and my Column, was instantly available to anyone that wanted it.  This was when things started getting interesting.  I discovered that the Denver SBE Chapter was running my Column…and others were quoting it.  It became clear that my Column was no longer just a Seattle SBE thing.  I then began emailing it to not just the Seattle SBE Chapter Waveguide Editor, but to other SBE Chapters and, of course, to the publisher of Northwest Broadcasters.

It was interesting to note how, within a few hours of being posted on the NW Broadcasters site, the December issue was being mentioned, and linked, to the Seattle version of radiodiscussons.com.

When you write something today, and it gets posted, you need to be mindful that your writing could end up and be read anywhere.  I am amazed at the geographic distribution of my readers.  Every month I receive comments and pictures from all over.  I want you to all know that I appreciate it.  There is nothing worse than the thought that what you write is not being read by anyone!  I appreciate the feedback (even when I am wrong).  I especially appreciate the submission of pictures and short stories about happenings in other areas.  Hopefully my readers here in the Seattle area do too – so keep ‘em coming.

This, perhaps, brings up the question of how long will I do this?  All I can say is that I do enjoy it, and would like to do so for a while longer.  Age, however,  has a way of creeping up on us all and at some point I will either expire or retire.  If I have the option, I will certainly want to say goodbye.  Having a 30+ year run is certainly an achievement.  With that being said, Thank You for reading my stuff.

Before I end this – Some items that came to me from my brother in law (who is younger).

I am assuming that many of you will relate to some of these:

As I get older, I realize:

  • I talk to myself, because there are times I need expert advice.
  • My people skills are just fine.  It’s my tolerance for idiots that needs work.
  • The biggest lie I tell myself is, “I don’t need to write that down.  I’ll remember it.”
  • I have days when my life is just a tent away from a circus.
  • These days, “on time” is when I get there.
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes, then come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller?
  • Lately, I’ve noticed people my age are so much older than me.
  • “Getting lucky” means walking into  a room and remembering why I’m there.
  • When I was a child, I thought nap time was punishment.  Now it feels like a mini vacation.
  • Some days I have no idea what I’m doing out of bed.
  • I thought growing old would take longer.
  • Aging sure has slowed me down, but it hasn’t shut me up.
  • I still haven’t learned to act my age.

Well, my friends, that’s it for this month.  I hope that 2017 was good to you and yours and that 2018 will be even better.

As they say in Amateur Radio, 73

Clay Freinwald, CPBE, K7CR
SBE Member # 714SBE Member # 714

 

Clay’s Corner for December 2017

December 23, 2017
By
Clay’s Corner
Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

This picture was taken from the south shore of Lake Crescent looking Northeast

Not to be outdone – Dwight Small (Ret) sent me this one of Lake Cavanaugh

The headline this month – CBS RADIO IS GONE – ENTERCOM IS A WHOLE LOT BIGGER.


On November 9th the FCC approved the deal.  Shortly afterward, CBS followed suit and on the 17th the deal closed.  This is clearly one of the bigger moves in Radio ownership in a long time.  The first move in this saga was CBS announcing that it was interested in spinning their Radio division.  Speculation started as to what that would mean.  Catching a lot of people by surprise, Entercom announced that they were ‘the one’ to do a deal with them.  Nine months later it’s done.  This has vaulted Entercom to the 2nd place position in terms of Radio ownership with now 244 stations in 47 markets including 23 of the top 25.

So why did CBS want to exit the radio business?  The answer recently came from CEO Les Moonves.

 “The separation of our radio business is part of a broader strategy to make CBS even more focused on our content and all the ways we can monetize it,” said Moonves.  “We started on this path several years ago with the split-off of our outdoor advertising business.  And just as we did with outdoor, we believe our radio transaction will allow us to unlock more value for our shareholders and further grow our revenue.  As a result, we think CBS will be even better positioned to take advantage of all the new growth opportunities before us, and we feel very good about our future as a pure content Company.”

There’s a lot of history behind all of this with various players and names…Westinghouse, Infinity, Viacom, CBS and now Entercom.  For the Field family – this has been a remarkable story.  The elder Mr. Field became interested in Broadcasting when he was doing legal work for a broadcaster.  From that he began to invest in Radio stations under the name of Entertainment Communications.  The first I became aware of the firm was when they purchased KTAC AM in Tacoma and later KTWR that was later to become KBRD.  Later, doing a trade deal with Viacom, they picked up Viacom’s 97.3, 107.7 FM and 1210 AM in the Seattle area.  In the meantime, Entercom (as it became officially known) grew slowly into multiple markets including Portland and Denver.  According to Mr. Fields son, David (now CEO) the deal with CBS fulfills a dream – in his words – “We have spent many years looking at all sorts of other opportunities to grow and have grown to be the fourth-largest company in the radio business,” David Field said during an investor presentation last week, “But we’ve always lacked that scale, and we’ve always coveted the CBS Radio assets, which are the best in the industry.”

Entercom-Seattle, once again, consists of 5 FMs.  If you recall 97.3 (along with 710 and 770 AM) were once part of Entercom locally.  KMPS 94.1 is now officially part of this group.  The other two former CBS stations (KZOK 102.5 and KJAQ 96.5) are to become part of the Seattle iHeart group.

So where does this leave us?  Here is a list of ‘who owns what’ going forward –

 

Entercom

107.7/KNDD

103.7/KHTP

100.7/KKWF

99.9/KISW

94.1/KMPS (Newly Added)

 

iHeart Media

106.1/KBKS

102.5/KZOK (Newly Added)

96.5/KJAQ (Newly Added)

95.7/KJR

93.3/KPWK

1090/KFNQ (Newly added)

950/KJR

850/KHHO

 

This will give IHeart a ‘full-house’ or the maximum number of AM and FM stations allowed in a market.  To make this work, iHeart will have to spin off a couple of stations in the area.  A move that can hardly be described as a loss, considering what they are gaining.

So what can we speculate on now?  Well, plenty… Here’s my list, starting with the spin-offs:

  • 102.9/KFOO, originally KELA-FM and licensed to Centralia, transmits from Capital Peak SW of Olympia.  It covers a substantial amount of real estate and should be a very desirable pickup for someone that wants a Seattle rim shot or who is more interested in targeting the area where they have the signal.  Like for instance an existing broadcaster licensed to Olympia etc., like KXXO or KGY.
  • 104.9/KUBE, licensed to Eatonville, is much lower power and is located on a hilltop SE of Tacoma.  In fact, it’s coverage includes Tacoma and points east, but not much more.  This would make an ideal addition for KLAY AM.
  • Later in the month we learned the answer to the questions of many.  Would the KUBE call letters be saved for Seattle?  Some of those questions have been answered by iHeart, who has traded KFOO with their AM in Riverside while swapping KUBE for KTDD in San Bernardino, a tactic that many large owners use to ‘warehouse’ desirable call letters.  Will KUBE come back to Seattle?  That’s an open question.

There are other questions –

  • Will Entercom really try and operate two Country Music stations?  They might, effectively keeping a huge country presence for themselves by skewing the two formats.  Or they might ditch the format on one of the two stations and do something different.  At mid-November that possibility looked more likely as 94.1 switched to all Christmas,making many to wonder what KMPS will sound like after the holidays.  Christmas music is a great ‘cover’ for a station planning a change.  It did sound a bit strange to hear a message on KMPS urging their listeners who wanted to hear the country hits to tune to sister station 100.7 The Wolf, something that I would have thought impossible a year ago.  Meanwhile, 94.1 HD2 continues to air a classic country format.
  • What will Entercom do with CBS Sports that is presently on 1090?  There are many saying that the format will end up on one of the Entercom FMs – we will see.
  • What about 1090?  Will iHeart really want to keep what has been known as the hard-luck AM Frequency in the market due to its big null to the south.  Then again they have KHHO that does not play to the north from their Tacoma transmitter site at night.  Perhaps some sort of pairing?  Not likely this will keep it sports as they already have KJR-AM with that format.

On the technical side –

  • The three CBS FM station’s main transmitters on West Tiger Mt. are all in one room and quite intermingled.  Separating KMPS from the other two will require a good deal of caution.  The present single iHeart station at this site is on the floor above.
  • Interestingly KMPS (soon to be Entercom) and KJAQ (soon to be iHeart) will end up sharing an auxiliary site on Cougar Mountain via branch combiner and common antenna.  Will be interesting to see how the legal types apply the scalpel to that operation.  ATC owns the site including the building and tower.
  • The KZOK Auxiliary is located on Cougar Mt. also, but is in the former Entercom, now ATC site there.
  • Technical Personnel is. another issue.  CBS employed a couple broadcast techs – Phil Van Liew and Alex Brewster.  Logic says that Entercom and iHeart will pick up these guys due to the increased amount of work that additional stations represent.  In the meantime, they have both gained ‘entercom.com’ email addresses and are keeping things going at the former CBS stations while they are in the Trust.

One more time – Say goodbye –

The following courtesy of John Schneider

For some at CBS the transition meant a big payday.  For instance – Andre Fernandez who was the CBS Radio president will get over $8.  Matthew Siegel will receive $1.34 Million.  Scott Herman, $1.7 Million.  Must be nice to get the holidays off and not have to go back to work!

Thanks to Tim Moore at KOMO for this map of the Columbia Broadcasting System.  Anyone care to guess the year?

On the local SBE Chapter Remailer in Seattle it was noted that there are a lot of radio broadcast company names that are now just memories in the minds of those that worked for them.  Several contributed to this list –
West Coast Broadcasting, Sunbrook Broadcasting, Park Broadcasting, Sunbelt Communications, Noble Broadcasting, SRO, Kaye-Smith, Metromedia, Golden West, Buckley, Shamrock, Ackerly, Viacom, Tribune Publishing, Gaylord, Madison Park Broadcasting, Hercules Broadcasting, Heritage Media Group, EZ Communications, Alliance Broadcasting, Olympic Broadcasting (which was forced by the IOC to change its name to Olympia Broadcasting), O’Day broadcasting of Washington, Kaye-Smith, Fisher Radio, Bingham Broadcasting etc.

I’m sure there are many more.

So as the Radio rumor-mill smolders, we have Television to think about.  What about the Sinclair / Tribune TV Station deal?  In Seattle, its 4 stations and, potentially, 1 owner….Something has got to give.  My guess, Sinclair will ‘cherry pick’, keeping KOMO and KCPQ and spin the other two…The big question is will they get to that point?

The FCC recently approved several Media Rule changes.  The long standing ban on Radio/Newspaper cross ownership and radio/TV cross ownership is gone, etc.   However this has not gone smoothly.  You can tell that politics are involved, with the way the Commission voted (3 to 2) with the R’s saying Yea and the D’s say Nay, that this may well become ‘messy’.

This party-line spit is also involved in the Sinclair/Tribune deal.  One of the leaders of the opposition is Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington State.  Some are upset due to the reported conservative leaning of Sinclair, which is, apparently, enough to rile the D’s.  This deal is not likely to progress as smoothly as the Entercom/CBS deal.

On the financial front, some difficult times ahead for a couple of the other giants in the radio business.

IHeartMedia and its bondholders are still trying to figure out how to handle the over $20 Billion owed by the company.  The firm’s financials don’t look great with decreasing revenue and income.  Contributing to the poor operating performance is the interest on the huge debt load.  Just before Thanksgiving, their stock was selling at under a dollar per share.

Cumulus is suffering financially also.  There the news is, they are weighing a ‘Debt for Equity Swap’ or even Chapter 11.  There the debt is only about 10% of iHeart, standing at $2 Billion.  Word is – all options are on the table.  Cumulus recently had another set-back being officially de-listed by NASDAQ, forcing the firm to the Over the Counter market where investors were apparently not impressed, resulting in their stock price going down to 19 cents per share on the 22nd of November.  If you recall, they did an 8 to 1 reverse split about a year ago to try and increase their per share price.  Had they not done that, the price would be 2.4 cents.

The impact on the market cannot be overlooked.  My personal financial advisor and I have chatted about this.  He feels that Media is no place to invest.  With Cumulus stock in the vicinity of a quarter dollar a share, all I can do is nod.  Meanwhile, Entercom is looking like they are much better positioned than the other two in the top three.  However, one has to think that the Entercom stock price is suppressed because of the iHeart and Cumulus mountain of debt.  Something has to give here.  Perhaps early this coming year we will find out what it is.

On November 14th we had our first good wind storm in the Seattle area, with power being knocked out for, reportedly, about 150,000 customers.   Power was out on Cougar Mountain for about 9 hours, as expected, due to all the trees up there.  Interesting that this storm caused a good size outage on Capitol Hill, impacting some stations there.  I was talking with the GM of a local station, who is from Texas.  He remarked that we sure had a lot of power failures…then noted that perhaps we have more big trees in this area.  No Doug Firs in Texas!

All over the country, owners of primary stations are battling co-channel Translators.  Here the operator of 103.3 (Oak Harbor) has been dealing with the long standing Entercom 103.3 translator in downtown Seattle (K277AE).  Entercom has gone as far as installing a highly directional antenna to try and minimize interference.  This is yet another example of why there should be some defined parameters that could guide the parties.  Oh well – I can dream.

Meanwhile, the FCC continues to ‘Tinker’ with AM Radio, making more changes that they hope will make it easier for AM station owners to survive.  If you would like all the details – go here – https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/11/03/2017-23908/revitalization-of-the-am-radio service.

Ran across this picture the other day.  Anyone recognize this youngster.  Hint – he is still working in Broadcasting and is 10 years younger than me.

 

WSU’s NWPR recently saw the retirement of one of the techs, Don Eckis, who was based in Wenatchee.  Before he left, he passed on some interesting pictures of some of the things he was involved with.  This first one shows the removal of a big dish from the WSU site on Johnson Butte near Kennewick.  This was part of an old microwave system that once spanned the state.

Obviously those that have transmitters within the city limits of Seattle don’t have to deal with this!      Working in places like this requires an outdoorsman spirit along with being able to repair whatever might be wrong once you reach the site.

On the subject of WSU’s Broadcast Operations – A bit of a name change in the works, to be rolled out on Dec 5th.   From what I understand their Radio and TV operations will be under the new banner of NWPB – Northwest Public Broadcasting.    Probably a good idea as there is a lot of confusion between NWPR and NPR.   We will all learn more on the 5th.

This picture is looking at the snow-cat through the door of the building.   Note the amount of ‘white-stuff’ on the trees in the background.

Every year, those of us that work at elevated locations wonder what kind of winter we are going to have.  Those that are paid to predict these kinds of things (not sure how getting paid increases accuracy) are telling us that the coming winter is going to be about the same as last one.  Many us recall that last year was one for the record books in terms of snow at West Tiger Mountain, giving us the longest period that we were unable to drive up there with a chained up 4X4 since the site was built 30 years ago.  To put this into perspective, there have been years when you could drive to the top, without chains, all winter.

This year is starting off with many wondering if recent weather is a fluke, or a sign of things to come.  Snowfall on the 5th of November, with lots of leaves still on the trees is pretty unusual….But that is what we got.  I thought I’d be able to drive to the top of Cougar Mountain (1/2 as high as West Tiger) on Sunday, November 5, without my snow-tires or chains…I was wrong.  The following day I got my snow-tires on (I have already mounted on different rims) and my chains are aboard.

Then, Mother Nature demonstrating who is in charge, as on November 22nd through us a curve with record setting temperatures for the date of near 70 degrees in many places.

The following picture was posted on the West Tiger Remailer by Rob Purdy from Hubbard from one of his new web-cams at the West Tiger II site.

This is nothing ….Look at a picture of South Mountain (KOMO-FM, KDDS etc.) taken the first weekend in November by Doug Fisher and note the required mode of travel.

Looks like the proposal that would have locally-based T-Mobile merge with Sprint is not going to happen after all.  The proposed deal was called off in early November.

From the – I got my facts wrong department – I received the following from Tim Schall of KING5.

In your recent column, dated October 31, 2017, you write about the Entercom / CBS merger and its effect on local radio ownership.  As always, your musings are interesting, but in this case there is an error.  In the article you state, “Recalling when 106.1 was Young Country and they were purchased by the owners of the markets legacy country station…..”.  Young Country was, in fact, on 96.5 having succeeded KXRX on that frequency.  106.1 was signing KRPM at the time as “Kicking’ Country.”   At one point, CBS radio owned all three of them.  Then turned 96.5 the present KJAQ / Jack FM and KRPM into what is today, iHeart Media’s, Kissing’ 106.1.  As always, check the facts.  But I believe that I am correct in this one.

Then, days later – John Price wrote this – Caught an error in your latest column.  At the top you were talking about country stations, and you referenced 106.1 as being ‘Young Country’.  That’s not accurate.  It was 96.5 (at the time KYCH) that was called Young Country.  George was CE there.

I was running on pure memory (perhaps some of those cells have outlived their usefulness?  The good news is that there are those that actually read what I write!!!!!

Perhaps you have been following the aftermath of the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico.  As I read these accounts I am reminded that we, here in Western Washington and Oregon, could be facing similar challenges after the predicted major earthquake.  Significant loss of cellular and data communications.  Most broadcast stations off the air, some for long periods, etc.  We would be wise to study this situation and ask ourselves if we are ready for our disaster.  The only advantage we will have is our proximity to the materials we will need to rebuild.

November 7th has a lot of historical significance – One that you may have overlooked is that this November 7 marks the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.  This started the ball rolling that has given us CPB, PBS and NPR.

Time to take you back.  Recently it was brought to my attention that some indicator lamps on a device were dark.  Come to think of it, there is a lot of equipment out there that still uses ‘light-bulbs’ for indicators…and not LEDs.  How is your stock of 327 and 1829 etc. lamps these days and where do you go to purchase replacements?  In this recent instance, the lamps were NE51s.  (Remember those?)  They were Neon Lamps and commonly used to indicate the presence of line-voltage in a piece of equipment.  Being an oldster, I still have a nice collection of lamps….and it just so happened that I had a new box full of NE51s.  With my trusty smartphone camera I captured the following.  How many recall the name Tung-Sol?

Here’s another one – How long since you’ve see a TV made by Admiral?

Speaking of ‘old’…..The worst thing about getting old is having to listen to advice from your children!

You may have been reading about how Vinyl records are again in demand….OK, should you like ‘skritch-skritch’ – pop, pop, in your music.  What I did not realize is that there is a new demand for Cassette Tapes (the Audio Kind).  This presents a problem.  Where are you going to obtain magnetic tape…or the duplicating machines?  Raw materials are scarce.  As time goes by, what is viewed by some as old is new to others.  That seems to work in a lot of areas, for instance clothing styles.

While I’m at it.  For the first time in my life, I now own a vehicle with an Automatic Transmission.  My trusty Toyota Camry, with the 6-speed manual is now in the hands of a very appreciative person, having been replaced with a new 4Runner.  Wonderful machine, however the dealer is still trying to figure out why I did not like the fact that it did not come with a manual transmission.  In selling my Camry, I encountered many that wanted to buy it, but then confessed that they did not know how to drive a ‘3-Pedal’ vehicle.  In fact, it appears that many are honestly afraid of trying to learn….apparently viewing the technology as overly complicated.  Was talking with a contractor friend the other day and he remarked that its becoming hard to find workers that know how to drive anything other than an automatic.  I have, many times, explained how driving a manual ‘becomes’ automatic and you don’t think about operating the pedal on the left, etc.…I can tell that most don’t believe it.  It would probably be just as hard to find someone today that could properly thread tape on an Magnecord PT6 .  At least I still have one vehicle with a manual, my Tacoma pickup.  Guess I enjoy knowing that the manual is a wonderful theft deterrent…too complicated for many who would like to steal it.

From the Department of Famous Quotes –

“You have to learn the rules of the game.   And then you have to play the game better than anyone else.”  Albert Einstein

I love searching the ‘Net’ for interesting statistics.  Here’s one for you – Where is he quietest place on earth?  Answer – According to Guinness World Records, Building 87 on the Microsoft Campus in the Seattle suburb of Redmond.  It’s an anechoic Chamber.  Finally a place in this area where I can go and – NOT – hear a cellphone ringing!!

Our area also just happens to have the 3rd most quiet place.  It’s in the Hoh Rainforest South of Forks in Olympic National Park.  I suspect that this measurement was taken when it was not raining

I know that when I receive a picture from Mike Brooks at KING-FM that it’s going to be a goodie, as he is always on the lookout for something that I would want to share with my readers.

For you non-technical types, let me explain that it is proper to ground your transmission line between your transmitter and antenna.  For some, the proper way to accomplish the task was never quite learned (Hard to find a school that teaches this stuff).

Other big news item from this past month is the FCC actions approving the use of new technology called ATSC-3.0.  This system, already embraced by a number of broadcasters, promises to change the way TV works, big time.  Sinclair calls it ‘The Holy Grail’.   There will be much written about this going forward.  Fasten your seat-belts.

Did you happen to catch the news item about the discovery of a ‘Time Capsule’ while remodeling the Space Needle?  Among the discoveries was an audio tape.  There was some video aired, showing a number of local Broadcast Engineers trying to figure out how to operate an audio tape machine, that brought some smiles.  Problem with some of these time capsules is that they have recordings for which there are no players.  Wonder what they would have done had they found a reel of tape that could only be played on a 2 inch Quad machine?

On the 19th, one of the major distribution systems for public warning messages, FEMA/IPAWS, went down for about 10 hours.  Thankfully we still have the legacy EAS system that can distribute national level messages from PEP Stations (Like KIRO in Seattle).  What this event underscores is the fact that these systems can, and do, fail.  If anyone has been wondering why we have the old EAS system in place, this should answer your question.

Here in Washington State we have two systems also – the Washington State CAP system hosted by Alert Sense as well as the State Relay Network on 155.475 MHz.  All EAS Participants should be Monitoring BOTH of these systems.

On the local level – Emergency Managers can send public warning (CAP) messages and ‘SHOULD’ be able to do so also via each Operational Area’s – LOCAL RELAY NETWORK.  And each Participant should be monitoring this system as well.

It is through these dual/redundant systems that our EAS systems can remain viable when something breaks.

There is a lot of conversation these days regarding US AM and FM Station’s use of translators.  Many stations, especially NCE’s, have a number of them.  One only has to look across the border from Washington State to see a substantial network of translators operated by CFNR.  If you look closely, there are 61 of them….and soon to be 62!

Hat’s off to James O’Neal for a recent piece he wrote for TV Technology and Radio World called, “Doesn’t Anyone Build Anything Anymore?”  I have to admit that I love to build things, coming from the days when you could not buy it, so you had to design and build it yourself.  Major makers of broadcast equipment, back then (Collins, RCA, GE, Gates etc.) only sold the major items – all the little gizmos required between them were constructed, by staff engineers.  This was long before firms like – Broadcast Tools and Henry Engineering were born and long before firms like BSW, SCMS etc. were around to sell their products.

Participating in the equipment removal from the old Entercom facility at Met Park, I could not help but note all the gizmos that Dwight and I had built over the years.  Many of them were problem solvers that could not be purchased anywhere.

Today, many of the people that knew how to turn a problem into a design and construct the device, have retired.  Fewer and fewer broadcast engineers these days have these skills.  Also fewer have the Ham Radio background or formal training that was SOP for the prior generation.  Times have changed, for sure.

If you think the Sinclair/Tribune/FCC battle is fierce….Just Google ‘Net Neutrality’ and settle back for some interesting reading.  Forces on both sides are lawyering up for an epic battle.

The following gems come from a well-known Seattle area engineer (who shall remain nameless), who is also a senior citizen – Enjoy!

  • Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
  • Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.
  • I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.
  • We have come to learn that using CAPS in email is shouting – what we really need is a sarcasm font.
  • After all these years now I wonder was learning cursive really necessary?
  • Map Quest or Google Maps really need to start their directions on turn #5.  I’m  pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
  • Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
  • Bad decisions make good stories.
  • You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
  • I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
  • Keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
  • How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?

That’s about it for this month –

From our house to yours – Have a Wonderful Christmas  and may 2018 be filled with whatever you wish for.

If I’m lucky – Perhaps I can do this one more time

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Fellow

Clay’s Corner for September 2017

September 10, 2017
By

Clay’s Corner

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

The above picture was taken in early August at Cougar Mountain.  The fall colors you see are partially a result of the very dry summer we have been having.  For years I have been writing in this column about summer being our shortest season….This is based on the fact that it normally is.  I recall summers when we barely had a week without rainfall.  This summer is certainly an exception, with a very long/extended dry period.  The last one of these I recall was back in the fall of 1987.  We were busy starting construction of the facility at West Tiger Mountain, thinking that the monsoons would be arriving any day.  Summer just kept on going into October.  The impact of this is being felt by vegetation.  Lawns, normally green have turned brown.  Many evergreen trees are being severely stressed or are dying.  I was recently over in Forks and could not help but notice the Sol Duc River looks more like a creek.  Only thing that got in the way of our beautiful blue skies has been a couple of weeks of smoke we had to deal with from the B.C. Fires…Other than that, it’s been a warm and wonderful summer…one that helped us forget that last winter was a record wet one.

Ooops!…I did forgot about another event that got in the way of sunshine – The Eclipse.  Yes It was something to see, even if we only got to about 80% in this area.  I was driving at the time, but could not help but notice that it appears to be twilight, except all the shadows were in the wrong locations.  Spoke with my #2 son in Boise who got a better experience.  He noted how it immediately got cooler.  This is the last one that we will see in the PNW in our lifetime.

Back when I received the SBE Engineer of the Year Award it was not named after anyone…now it’s named after Robert W. Flanders.  Congrats to Steve Brown, winner for 2017.  Proud to say that I met Steve a number of times in my travels – Lucky bum!….He recently retired.  Should note that Jim Dalke received an award for his presentation at a NAB Convention on using VSATS for Broadcast STL’s. Nothing like being knowing famous people – come to think of it – Jim and I live in the same Zip Code.

Ever have a desire to move to South Dakota?  A broadcast group in Rapid City is looking for a chief engineer for a five station group.  Send resume with work history to Ted Peiffer, General Manager, Duhamel Broadcasting, P.O. Box 1760, Rapid City, SD 57709 or email to ted.peiffer@dberadio.com

On the topic of job openings – Another retirement in the news.  November 3rd is the announced retirement date for Don Eckis.  Don has been with WSU’s NWPR for many years, based in Wenatchee.  On the personal side – I will very much miss Don.  He is a tremendous talent and a very nice guy.  For the past 7+ years I’ve worked for WSU, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Don on many occasions.  Great memories – Thanks Don for everything!

For many years the FCC has been issuing fines for those that use EAS Tones for things other than EAS messages.  Recently someone back in Trumpsville had the bright idea that it would be OK to use tones that sound-like EAS tones for educational efforts.  Here is how the official word reads:

 

  • Using the Emergency Alert System tones outside of an actual test or an activation is strictly off-limits. But the government has released a special set of a “sound-alike” EAS tones for stations to use as part of the public education effort leading up to this year’s national test. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says the audio file contains “non-functional sound-alike EAS data headers” which most critically won’t trigger any station’s EAS receivers. Stations can create their own public service announcements and use the dummy tones without fear of running afoul of federal regulations which bar their use otherwise. Federal law prohibits the use of actual or simulated EAS tones in circumstances other than an actual emergency, an authorized monthly test or certain public service announcements.

 

  • The national test will occur on 27 at 2:20pm ET and it will run about one minute. If there’s any reason to delay the test from Sept. 27, such as a hurricane impacting part of the country, FEMA has already announced that Oct. 4 will be the secondary test date.

 

  • The Federal Communications Commission has set Aug. 28 as the deadline for when stations must file its so-called “Form One” in the EAS Test Reporting System. That’s the form that gives the agency all the detailed information about the station including its transmitter location and what kind of EAS receiver it’s using. On the day of the national test, broadcasters will have until 11:59pm ET to file “Form Two.” That’s the day-of-testing form that gives basic information such as whether the station received the EAS activation and where it retransmitted the test. And then by Nov. 13 all stations and other EAS participants are required to file “Form Three.” This is the detailed report that gives the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and FEMA a more granular read on what happened during the test—including if the station had any technical hiccups.

 

  • The FCC has also released a revised EAS Operating Handbook. The Bureau says the new handbook must be in place in time for this year’s test and be located at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations when an operator is required to be on duty and available to staff responsible for administering EAS tests.

 

Speaking of EAS – The next meeting of the Washington State SECC will take place on Sept 14th at 9:30 a.m. in the Building 11 Radio Conference Room of Clover Park Technical College.  Hope you can join us.  As you know, EAS in our State is a cooperative and collaborative effort.

The joining of Sinclair and Tribune is making a lot of noise.  First from those who are opposed to the deal and more recently by the proponents that are fighting back.  Will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially here in Seattle where the process of elimination will see a couple TV signals with new owners.

On the subject of new owners….Over in the world of Radio we are edging closer to the merger of Entercom and CBS, a process that will find some well-known local stations with new owners also.  Just like with the Sinclair/Tribune deal – No one knows how this will end up.  A process that is certain to leave a number of employees wondering.  The Entercom deal is supposed to close before the end of the year.  We will have to wait and see what happens with Sinclair.

Over at iHeart, they continue to work to reduce their massive $20 Billion Dollar Debt, where their interest expense is expected to hit $1.8 billion for the full year.

Now retired, former Entercom Chief, Dwight Small is happily working on his new lake-front home in Skagit County.  Dwight recently announced that he has been granted a new Amateur Radio Call sign – K7KG.  If that sounds familiar, it was the last call held by Jon Marcinko.  Jon was a very well-known amateur in this area having worked with Land Mobile system, State DNR and DOT for many years.  Dwight said that he felt privileged to have received it.  Jon and Dwight knew each other.

Signaling a new approach to dealing with Pirate Radio, the FCC is now going after Pirate operator’s landlords.  At least this was the case with a recent FCC action in Hollywood, Florida with the FCC enforcement team locating the unlicensed broadcaster and electing to go after the real estate company that owns the home where the operation was taking place.  Apparently the Commish is also planning on going after those who advertise on these stations.  Meanwhile the FCC is asking Congress for the authority to seize the equipment being used and increasing the size of monetary penalties.  Personally I will wait and see whether or not this will impact the issue.

The FCC continues to pack more translators into the FM band.  For example, in our area, Radio Hankook that operates the 1450 AM in Puyallup and 1230 in Everett are trying to put an FM on 102.1.  The numbers speak for themselves.  As of June 30th there were 7,453 translators and boosters on the air.  One of the down-sides to all of this activity is the impact on existing broadcast stations.  In several cases, established broadcasters have had go to the FCC to have the new station’s operation terminated to eliminate interference.  Existing stations need to be watching out for themselves because in some cases the FCC is no longer doing it for them.

For folks in my generation, we often smile when a younger generation discovers something that we’ve known all along.  Here’s an example – A recent Wall Street Journal story entitled ‘Millennials Unearth an Amazing Hack to Get Free TV: the Antenna” (you can’t make this stuff up).  Here are some other ‘shocking’ items concerning this ‘discovery’ –

 

  • Young people are behind a surge in rabbit ears sales as they “discover” the decades-old technology
  • Millennials who are shocked to learn that basic TV channels are free with the use of an antenna
  • “It’s been awesome.  It doesn’t log out and it doesn’t skip.”

I suspect that these are likely the same people who are shocked to learn that Milk comes from a cow etc.  I can just imagine the thoughts that run through the mind of a Millennial as he tries to figure out why the call the antenna ‘Rabbit Ears’.

Back in the dark ages (prior to DTV) we had all memorized the channel numbers of TV channels that we watched.  Many had no idea of the call letters of these stations…the channel number was much easier.  In Seattle we had 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 (not to mention the U’s).  Then along came DTV and the first ‘channel number shuffle’.  TV station owners, and ATSC, recognized the potential for mass confusion and came up with the Virtual Channel Number scheme that enable viewers, and receivers to keep their old numbers after the Analog/Digital shuffle where stations were, for a time, operating on two channels, one for each mode.  When that shuffle was done, for example, KING-5 (Channel 5) moved to channel 48 and hardly anyone knew that as they were still able to access KING-TV using the channel 5 number.

Due to pressure for more RF spectrum the FCC dropped another shoe.  Time to shuffle channels – again – this time to compress them into a smaller portion of the UHF band…A process called “repacking”.

To, hopefully, make this easier to see – Here is a table showing the ‘Seattle Shuffle’  (If you find an error in this, please let me know).

 

STATION CALL FIRST SECOND THIRD
KOMO 4 38 30
KING 5 48 25
KIRO 7 39 23
KCTS 9 9 Note 1-
KSTW 11 11 Note 1-
KVOS 12 35 14
KCPQ 13 13 Note 1-
KCKA 15 19 19 Note 2
KONG 16 31 31 Note 2
KTBW 20 14 21
KZJO 22 25 36
KBTC 28(62) 27 27 Note 2 &3
KWPX 33 33 33 Note 2
KFFV 45 44 16
KUNS 51 50 24
KWDK 56 42 34

 

Note 1 – All three of these stations have elected to continue to use their historic channel for

DTV and are not impacted by the latest shuffle

Note 2 –  Stations that will not change channels

Note 3-   Station first went on the air on Ch 62 as KTPS moving to Ch 28 in 1982

 

For many years the business of making TV Transmitting Antennas has been ‘in the dumpster’… Now with re-packing getting underway, things are ramping up rapidly.  An example is Dielectric who is opening a new 33,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in Lewiston, Maine to produce UHF Main and Auxiliary TV Antennas.  If I recall, the owner of Dielectic is Sinclair who purchased the legacy firm knowing that this day would come.

You don’t hear about fires impacting broadcast operations very often…But that’s what took place recently at the CN Tower in Toronto on the 16th of August.  The fire was within the 3 foot diameter tube that’s used as a conduit for transmission lines serving the multi-station site.  From what I have read, it sounded like insulation on semi-rigid coaxial cable was burning or melting.  No word on what caused the fire.  A number of stations were impacted.

There was posted recently a list of the top 25, privately held, companies in the U.S.  Coming in at #14 was Cox enterprises.  I did not realize just how big Cox is.  They have 60,000 Employees and reported 2017 Revenue of over $20 Billion.  In addition to owning KIRO-TV in Seattle they own cable systems, newspapers, radio stations, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book etc.

I often write about firms that are based in the Seattle area – Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon etc.  For some reason I fail to mention Bellevue based T-Mobile.  This cellular operator recently was in the news for getting its first 600 MHz LTE network up and running in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  T-Mobile also announced that they will be soon rolling out a new 600 MHz Site in Northwest Oregon.

As I have reported, Entercom is no longer occupying the Metropolitan Park West Tower.  After many years operating their 4 FM stations from the 15th and 16th floor of the ‘Spam-Can’ looking structure on Olive Way, they are now settling into new digs on the 14th floor of 800 5th Ave.  Watching the crews demolish the former facility at 1100 Olive Way was a bit hard, especially when you saw systems that you installed and maintained be put into a dumpster.  Crews working on taking everything apart were a bit taken aback by the weight of the studio doors.  I was in the building as crews were attempting to take apart one of the studio floors using hand-tools.  They later came back with equipment better designed for the task.  In the following picture you can see the corner of one of the floating floors.  This was a completely isolated concrete slab sitting in spring isolators (Red Arrow) on top of which were constructed the walls and ceiling of the studio….Literally, a box within a box.  I assure you, they don’t build them like that anymore.

Right across the street from Met Park I caught this image of a construction crane.  Just one of many that are rapidly transforming downtown Seattle into a forest of big/tall buildings.

A lot of eyes are on the FCC these days as they deal with what they are calling modernizing media ownership rules.  This is especially being watched in light of the pending Entercom/CBS and Sinclair/Tribune deals.  Should Entercom be able to own 7 FM’s and Sinclair 4 TV’s in Seattle?  As expected, there is a lot of pushback from those that fear the evil of too few owners.  A huge amount of money is on the line.  Fasten your seatbelt.

Meanwhile, the FCC has pulled the plug on an owner of several stations in the NE part of the U.S.  The owner in question here, Brian Dodge, has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine for not playing by the rules.  The latest salvo from the Commish is to cancel the owner’s licenses.  Always someone who feels they can get away with it.

Shorter than normal column this month as ’tis the season for other things.  Before I leave you, I would disappoint many if I failed to leave you with some smile material –

 

  • If you attempt to rob a bank you may not have any trouble with rent/food bills for the next 10 years, whether or not you are successful.
  • Do twins ever realize that one of them is unplanned?
  • What if my dog only brings back my ball because he thinks I like throwing it?
  • If poison expires, is it more poisonous or is it no longer poisonous?
  • Which letter is silent in the word “Scent,” the S or the C?
  • Why is the letter W, in English, called double U?  Shouldn’t it be called double V?
  • Maybe oxygen is slowly killing you and It just takes 75-100 years to fully work.
  • Every time you clean something, you just make something else dirty.
  • The word “swims” upside-down is still “swims”.
  • Intentionally losing a game of rock, paper, scissors is just as hard as trying to win.
  • 100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars.  Today everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.
  • Your future self is watching you right now through memories.
  • The doctors that told Stephen Hawking he had two years to live in 1953 are probably dead.
  • If you replace “W” with “T” in “What, Where and When”, you get the answer to each of them.
  • Many animals probably need glasses, but nobody knows it.
  • If you rip a hole in a net, there are actually fewer holes in it than there were before.

That’s it for this month.  Be thankful for our extended Summer.  Catch you next month in most of these same locations.  Hard to believe, I’ve been doing this for 31 years!

Clay Freinwald, K7CR – SBE Member #714 – CPBE

Clay’s Corner for August 2017

August 13, 2017
By

 

Clay’s Corner

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

I hope Summer is treating you all very well – For us here in the Seattle area – the weather has really been helping

Seattle has been at the top of the charts for the last 2 years when it comes to rainfall accumulation. However, if our current pattern holds, we may be writing this year to another list; a list of consecutive days without rainfall as this summer is turning out to be wonderful – Confirming the fact that we live here for the summers!  Lots of temps in the 80’s and low humidity and beautiful blue skies.    Those of that have live here for a very long time understand that summers are often very dry with long periods of no rain to the point that we become very concerned about wildfires.    I recall doing an EAS session in Tampa Florida a few years back where the average person has a 100% buy-in to the notion that it rains all the time in the Seattle area.  Just for drill I had my host (Ralph Beaver) pull up some climate data.   I picked the month of August where all agreed they would like to have dry weather to enjoy summer activities.    I asked Ralph to look up the normal August precip totals for – New York City, Tampa and Seattle.   They would astounded to hear a local guy report that Seattle was very much the driest of the 3 in August – Our normal is .88 inches.  I’ll let you look up the other locations 

 

I have a party that I communicate with for business that lives in North Carolina – We often compare notes about the weather.   She recently noted that It’s been raining just about every day there for the past month. ATC recently had a couple of fellows out here doing tower inspections.   They commented how nice it was.   I just had to ask them if they missed the Heat, Humidity and Insects.    I wished I had had my camera ready as their expression was priceless.

We were all saddened to hear about the passing of Ellis Feinstein on July 8th in a tragic automobile accident.   For many years he was ‘Mr Scala’.    A truly wonderful, and funny, guy that headed up the southern Oregon antenna company that was known well to all in broadcasting.   He was a big man with a big heart and a wonderful smile.    I recall spending some time chatting with him, and swapping one-liners, at the Broadcasters Clinic in Madison Wisconsin a few years ago.  Memories that are still very much alive with this old guy.   He was just short of his birthday, August 3rd.   He would have been 82.

 

 

Have you ever thought about comparing computers to humans?   Try this –

 

Computers – Insanely Fast – Incredibly Accurate – Utterly Stupid.

 

Humans – Insanely Slow – Incredibly Error Prone – Utterly Brilliant.

Nothing like looking up to verify the weather – This picture was taken on July 22nd at West Tiger Mt. At the site known as WTM-1.    Just so happened that the folks that fly these ‘wings’ off of Poo Poo Point caught some great lift and were at probably about 3300 feet.

 

Regarding the tower in the picture –

 

             Yes all the antennas are on the left or west side – There is minimal population the other way.

             The top black one is 97.3, KIRO-FM

             The black ‘propellers’ are all part of a Master Antenna used by –

KNKX, KHTP,KING,KBKS,KISW, KKWF and KNDD

             The tall (blueish) pole is a UHF/450 MHz receive antenna

             The open (No radome) antenna below, in the lower left, is the KIRO-FM antenna that was used for their HD Radio transmission prior to the installation of their new Nautel transmitter.

This picture was taken with my cellphone camera about 1.5 miles below the summit of West Tiger Mountain.   Yes, the mountains in this neck of the woods are blessed with wonderful wildflowers.  To be honest, I feel blessed to have been able to drive up here for the last 30 years.

Yes, the mountains in this neck of the woods are blessed with wonderful wildflowers. To be honest, I feel blessed to have been able to drive up here for the last 30 years.

A recent issue of Consumer Reports had quite an article explaining the various means a person can receive television programming. They did mention the term ‘cutting the cord’.  A recent study shows that some 31 million homes will be doing just that in the coming decade.  In the past all we had was OTA (long before that term was used), then along came cable and satellite systems.  Probably the biggest change was the introduction of wider bandwidth connections for computers and compression schemes that put them in direct competition to the legacy distribution methods.  This same study states that some 17 million will be opting for these new methods in the next decade.  The cord is still there, just a bit different.  TV Broadcasters and program suppliers have, of course, been watching this with great interest.  The next generation of TV standards will more fully embrace all of it.  Farnsworth would never believe it.

For some time now we have been hearing the term ‘Fake News’. Certainly the last political season showed how stories based on ‘alternative facts’ were planted to permit the news media to spread false truths to benefit one side or the other.  Reminds me of malware that uses legitimate means to spread bad stuff.  Then there are those news outlets that appear to many to have an agenda that plays right into our politically polarized society.  I have friends that openly tell me that they get their news from sources that tell the news the way that want to hear it and refuse to consume information from those that they don’t agree with.  Which makes me wonder what happened to the days when ‘The News’ was just that – a bunch of facts with no agenda.  With news sources slanted left and right it’s not hard to believe that someone is going to see an opportunity to ‘make a buck’ by being in the middle.  We will see whether there is indeed a market for the truth.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that a couple big names in news, CBS and BBC, are joining forces and have started sharing content. Wonder what ‘Walter’ would say about this?

The move of Entercom from their long stay at the Metropolitan Park West Tiger to their new digs at 801 5th Ave has been a huge undertaking. Thankfully Matt Green and Lowell Smith have had a lot of help.  They leave behind a lot of things that were created by Dwight Small over the years.  His attention to detail was very evident.  This move will eliminate one of the last big PR&E console installations (they had many).  In the end, no one wanted the big ABX 8 track console and it went to the dumpster…Some of the smaller boards will live on in various locations.  Could be that KING-FM is the last major station in Seattle with one of these legacy audio mixers.  The days for that too are numbered, as I understand that that station too will be moving to a new location in a couple of years.  On the topic of KING-FM, I have learned that long time station manager, Jennifer Ridewood is going to retire at the end of the year.

PR&E was started in Southern California by Jack Williams. Their attention to detail made them the choice of broadcast mixing consoles for many years.  The company also produced several other products including cartridge tape equipment and studio furniture.  The quality that went into their products is the reason for their continued acceptance and the fact that they keep on working.  PR&E was sold to Gates Air and more recently to Wheatstone, who recently announced that they are now producing the DMX mixer.  Like the name Gates, PR&E has deep roots in our industry.

One by one the big analog radio installations, many of which were still using the PR&E equipment, are being phased out in favor of the new AOIP (Audio Over IP) systems. When the computer revolution started…no one would have thought that the networking of computers would have revolutionized radio, and for that matter, TV, so rapidly.  The analog patch panels are in the dumpsters and the RJ45 based connection points are now firmly in place.  Gone are the walls full of telephone type ‘punch blocks’ and ‘frame wire’.  Having just recently lifted a power supply for one of those old consoles got me thinking about how linear power supplies were all that we knew back then and how heavy everything was.  Like a lot of things I’ve experienced in my very long career – time marches on and change is very much a part of it.  Perhaps the only thing from the past that is still in use are the big towers used by broadcasters.  Add another coat of paint and they keep on doing their job.  But on top, those old ‘light bulb’ based red lights are being replaced with LEDs.

For those of you not in the Vancouver area you have no idea of what the ‘format’ is for AM 730, however, this will likely give you an idea:

 

Indeed they are all traffic – all the time. A lot of radio stations will air traffic reports, with news/talk stations doing them more frequently.  I’ve long wondered why more stations, especially AMs that are trying to find their way these days, are not doing what CHMJ is doing.

Apparently a US Radio station is going to give it a shot, however with significant differences. In this case the vehicle will not be an AM Station but rather an HD Channel on an existing FM.  On the up-side – they don’t have the expenses that operating a big AM involves.  On the down side, there are significantly less receivers out there.  The good news is the market for an all-traffic operation is for people in vehicles and this is what, perhaps, they are betting on.  As new vehicles are coming with HD Radios, certainly a lot of eyes will be on Pittsburgh.  The station is not going 24/7 traffic but rather 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.  Which makes sense as there are not a lot of traffic concerns at night.  (There are those in Seattle that could argue however.)

Content will come from CBS Radio’s new national traffic and weather product, provided by Radiate, augmented by local reporters.

 

More big news for Amazon – Their guy, Jeff Bezos, has passed Bill Gates and is now the richest man in the world. When you consider how big this little Seattle based outfit has become, perhaps this was bound to happen.

 

Time for another look at Radio (12+) Ratings in Seattle. First, the top 10:

  • The Bellevue based KQMV whose city of license is Bremerton continues to be a strong #1.
  • Non-commercial radio does very well in this market with KUOW in #3.
  • KNKX continues to make gains, moving up to #5 in a three way tie with KZOK and KISW. Quite a story here where the listeners purchased the station from Pacific Lutheran University changing the call letters from KPLU.  Since that time they have continued to gain.
  • A lot of people are wondering what the pending merger of CBS Radio and Entercom will do to this picture. In the last survey CBS has three of the top 10 and Entercom two.
  • A couple of the area’s legacy 50 kW AMs, KIRO and KOMO, are well below the top ten in mid pack.
  • In the race for the Sports Audience – KIRO is clearly beating KJR.
  • For Country, CBS’ KMPS is doing well against Entercom’s KKWF, which makes the coming merger even more interesting to watch.
  • We are in Radio Market #13 with just over 3.7 million.

 

Encouraging news for radio owners – Nielson recently reported that Radio continues to reach more Americans than any other platform….93% of the US adult population each week.

 

If you are or work for an EAS Participant, i.e., an FCC licensed facility that participates with the Emergency Alert System (EAS)….It’s time again to be thinking about the coming National EAS Test and the, introduced last year, Electronic Test Reporting System (ETRS). There are some changes that you need to know about.  Rather than bore you with all the details, go here for the info you will need – http://www.thebdr.net/articles/fcc/eas/eas.html.  Contact the CORES Help Desk for assistance with creating an FCC Username Account at CORESHelpDesk@fcc.gov or (202) 418-4120.

 

Despite rumors to the contrary, the FCC has been issuing fines.

  • $66,000 is the amount to be paid by KIBH-FM, an FM Station in Alaska. Among the reasons, years of multiple warnings related to its EAS, Public File, Station Logs, Main Studio Staffing and failure to designate a chief operator.  The Commish has been seeking answers since 2013.  Not good to ignore the FCC!  Have to wonder, considering the station is an NCE and in a town with likely few resources, if they will reduce the fine.  Considering the number of violations, license revocation may be on the table.

 

Another Seattle area company has been in the news for a couple of reasons:

  • MSFT is eyeing the spectrum in the ‘outback’ that may not be used immediately as a result of re-packing. This has hit a nerve, perhaps based on the fact that a good deal of TV spectrum is being lost in the re-pack process.  There are those that see opportunities for future TV operations, translators etc., will be eliminated if the software giant gets its way.
  • The company has announced a good amount of restructuring that will see it laying off a number of people. The reason cited – re-focusing on cloud based solutions.

 

There are many ways to rate or identify an area’s business climate. You have seen me write about this quite a bit in recent columns because the Seattle area is booming.  One way to look at this is the number of construction cranes in operation.  Those are the big ‘T-shaped’ structures that are used today in constructing large buildings.

 

For the 2nd year in a row, Seattle is the ‘Crane Capital of America’.   Apparently no other city is close.  At the start of July there were 58 cranes at work in the city.  Anyone that has driven through can testify that it looks like a ‘forest of steel’.  I selected some cities from the list to help put this into perspective:

  • Seattle – 58
  • Los Angeles – 36
  • Denver – 35
  • Chicago – 34
  • Portland – 32
  • San Francisco – 22

 

Probably a good time to mention the results of another study – in case the title was ’39 Cities where most Americans can’t afford their homes’. Here are some findings regarding Seattle:

 

  • Only 48.6% of households are able to afford monthly payments.
  • The Seattle metro area is among the most affluent in the United States.
  • The typical area household earns $75,331 a year, roughly $20,000 more than the typical American household. Still, higher incomes are not enough to cover the area’s housing costs for a majority of residents.
  • The price of a typical single family home in the area is $377,300, higher than in all but 18 other U.S. metro areas.

 

So how about some other locations? Denver came in at #32, but very close to Seattle.  Want to be where it’s really expense?  Rated #1 was Santa Cruz, California where only 16% can afford the monthly payments.  Perhaps we should not feel so bad?

 

Bad news continues on the AM front with 3 more AM’s going silent –

  • WMEX – Quincy, Mass (Signed on in 1934)
  • KKON and KHLO – Hawaii

 

Turning our attention the big bright thing in the sky. Certainly the Eclipse has been in the news…But so has the fact that the sun is heading toward another minimum in its 11-year sunspot cycle.  What impact does this have on us?  Ask any Ham Radio operator that operates in the H.F. spectrum and he will tell you that it’s not as much fun.  If you are chasing far away AM Radio stations, you might look at this natural cycle differently.

 

The NAB is out with their annual list of finalists for the 2017 Marconi Awards. The winners will be announced on Sept 7th at the NAB Radio Show.  Scanning the list looking for stations in our area…Slim Pickens this year!  Only when I came to this category did I get a hit –

 

Large Market Station of the Year

 

WRIF(FM), Detroit

WTMJ(AM), Milwaukee

KQMV(FM), Seattle

WKRQ(FM), Cincinnati

KYGO(FM), Denver

 

As they periodically do, the FCC released the first Quarter Broadcast Station Totals. The headlines are:

  • Little change in the number of TV Stations
  • More commercial FM Stations
  • A bunch more Translators
  • As expected, less AMs

 

Watching the FCC’s Daily Releases I see that, one by one, the area’s TV Stations are filing the required documents for their changes as part of re-packing. Around the Seattle area, you will see tower activity on most of the big towers in the city, but only one of the West Tiger towers.

 

I have to wonder what the impact of the Sinclair/Tribune deal will have on this.

 

The big concern about re-packing is the amount of money that has been set aside to pay for it all and the fact that there will be some negative impact on some 600 FM stations that share towers with TV Stations. At this writing it appears that support is growing to address this issue.

 

ATSC 3.0 is in the news too, with many broadcasters expressing excitement over new opportunities. Perhaps predictably the American Cable Association is not pleased and has made their feelings known to the Commish.

 

While browsing around I found an interesting item – The 50 highest paying jobs you can get without a college degree. The issue is that there are a number of jobs for which there is not an associated degree program, however there are likely other, alternative certification requirements.  Thankfully there are, in many states, training programs that prepare a person for employment.  Our state has a number of technical colleges that fill this role.  Here are some examples I pulled from the list:

  • Locomotive Engineer (yes, the term Engineer can be used here). Median annual wage – $57,670
  • Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment – $59,280
  • Electrical and electronics repairers – $75,670
  • Media and communication equipment workers – $ 75,700

 

Keep in mind that the market a person is working in will alter these numbers as they are averages.

 

From the ‘are you ready for this’ department – Its reported that a dermatologist to the stars is advising us that we should wear sunscreen when using cellphones and computers to avoid damage to the skin similar to sunbathing. Wonder what your co-workers would say if they saw you applying sunscreen and wearing sun-glasses at your desk?  Funny how we never heard these warnings back when we were using DOS based programs and using Green or Amber monitors.

 

Once again Mike Brooks (KING-FM) has found something that he would like to share with my readers. In this case, he snapped a picture of a vehicle that, at first glance, appears to be in the business of delivering RFI, which every broadcast engineer knows is Radio Frequency Interference.  Normally I would like to provide a link to their web site – however in this case – I will leave this up to you to do the research.

On June 30th, a number of us met at the West Tiger-2 Site for some spring cleaning (late spring).   Left to right are Arthur Willetts/Daystar, Terry Spring/Ion, Alex Brewster/CBS, some really old, bald guy, named Clay that works for American Tower and Rob Purdy/Hubbard.

While cleaning out my shop recently I ran across this box – How many remember this name?   They also, for a time, made broadcast equipment.  Yes, the contents are intact…wrapped in tissue paper.

Apparently there is another crisis in Chicago – This time the Chicago Broadcast Museum is facing a mortgage issue.

Reportedly they have not paid their mortgage since 2015 and are facing a shutdown. The museum has been in operation for 35 years.  I have a, perhaps tongue in cheek idea, they might wish to seek out some of those that have been keeping the doors open at iHeart Media or Cumulus for advice.  (I could not resist.)

 

This past month I received an email from KIRO-Radio’s IT Guru, Zack Davies, where he sent me a picture of the back of a pickup truck he shot while in Tacoma. He wrote, “Does K7MO Ring a Bell?”

I replied, saying it was my friend Nick Winter. Sent a copy to Nick who responded that he was on the 56th St. freeway overpass.   Just for grins, knowing that the average person might not recognize Amateur Radio License Plates and might go to Google it to see what it meant.  So I ‘Googled’ K7MO and learned that a K7M0 is a Pittney Bowes Mailstation.  (We used to call these things Postage Meters)

Google is interesting because I entered K7MO and it found K7M0 (note the last character is a Zero and not an ‘OH’). The fact that many say OH when they mean Zero probably had something to do with this.

 

Looking at the Google findings was also this item – ‘Mailstation 2 Meter Support’. Any Ham (Amateur Radio Licensee) is going to instantly spot ‘2 Meter Support’.  2 Meters is a very popular band of Amateur Radio frequencies spanning 144 to 148 MHz.

 

Digging a bit deeper I did find a link to the FCC Data Base showing his license – K7MO.

 

This got me wondering about my own call letters, K7CR…I learned that a K7CR is an override key for a Master padlock.

Master Lock K7CR – Override Key for 176 and 176 Padlock

As well as a block heater to keep your engine warm…

As I dug a bit deeper into the items listed for K7CR, I came across this item that was published in the Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club newsletter written by Harry Lewis. Kind of weird reading something someone else wrote about you  years ago.  Harry and his Wife Mary were active in broadcasting for many years.

If you are a Ham – Google your call letters and let me know if you find something interesting. Thanks!

While I’m on the subject, did you ever wonder why Amateur Radio Operators are called HAMS? Here’s the answer, thanks to old friend Warren Shulz, legacy broadcast engineer from Chicago.  Why radio amateurs are called “HAMS” (from Florida Skip Magazine – 1959).

 

Have you ever wondered why radio amateurs are called “HAMS”? Well, it goes like this: The word “HAM” as applied to 1908 was the station CALL of the first amateur wireless stations operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club.  They were ALBERT S. HYMAN, BOB ALMY and POOGIE MURRAY.

 

At first they called their station “HYMAN-ALMY-MURRAY”. Tapping out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to “HY-AL-MU,” using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1901 some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless station “HYALMU” and a Mexican ship named “HYALMO.” They then decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station CALL became “HAM.”

 

In the early pioneer days of unregulated radio amateur operators picked their own frequency and call-letters. Then, as now, some amateurs had better signals than commercial stations. The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designed to critically limit amateur radio activity. In 1911 ALBERT HYMAN chose the controversial WIRELESS REGULATION BILL as the topic for his Thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to Senator DAVID I. WALSH, a member of one of the committees hearing the Bill. The Senator was so impressed with the thesis is that he asked HYMAN to appear before the committee. ALBERT HYMAN took the stand and described how the little station was built and almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that if the BILL went through that they would have to close down the station because they could not afford the license fees and all the other requirements which the BILL imposed on amateur stations.

 

Congressional debate began on the WIRELESS REGULATION BILL and little station “HAM” became the symbol for all the little amateur stations in the country crying to be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who didn’t want them around. The BILL finally got to the floor of Congress and every speaker talked about the “…poor little station HAM.” That’s how it all started. You will find the whole story in the Congressional Record.

 

Nation-wide publicity associated station “”HAM” with amateur radio operators. From that day to this, and probably until the end of time in radio an amateur is a “HAM.”

 

Paul Harvey (RIP) would say, you now know the ‘rest of the story.’

 

73’s

Warren Shulz

WA9GXZ

Griffith, IN

 

I noted a short piece in the latest issue of Consumer Reports where they state that TV Antennas are making a comeback. Gives me hope that those big TV Plans may have a future after all.

 

Broadcasters appear to be all lined up behind the idea of killing the old Main Studio Rule – Now Pubcasters are telling the FCC to kill the Hourly ID rule too, telling the FCC, “Stations should be permitted to identify themselves on-air in a manner that makes the most sense to the local station.” Other proposals call for the elimination of the rules calling for a Chief Operator and posting of a copy of the station’s license at the transmitter.  Going to see just how far this de-regulation actually goes.

 

Recently I was involved with a conversation with several local folks regarding the system that permits continued operation of your vehicle’s radio in the I-90 Tunnel. Here is some of that thread:

From what I learned, there are three racks of equipment, one for each of the 3 tunnels. Each rack contains a broadband amplifier for AM and FM.  This equipment was installed back in 1995 and has largely been un-touched.  As Mike Brooks suggested, this would make a great SBE Chapter Meeting tour.

 

Now the big question. Can we assume that this system will continue to function with the Light-Rail system taking over one of the tunnels?  We can assume there are those Sound-Transit riders that will expect their radios to work just as they do in their cars.

 

I can just imagine how popular the proposal to install 50,000 cell towers in California is.     California cities are fighting a proposal in the state legislature that would allow mobile phone companies to put up antennas for the new 5G systems over the objections of the locals who bring up the old fears of these new devices being near libraries or schools.  Interesting how the same people that fear the dreaded ‘Electromagnetic Radiation’ will also want greater capability for their own personal communications devices.  As a side note – Telecom contributed 2.4 million bucks to candidates, from both parties, in the 2016 elections.

 

Here in our area, PSERN is installing a number of new towers. Had lunch with an old friend recently who was telling me about one of these being installed near him.  A neighbor was very concerned about being ‘radiated’.  Nothing is worse than fear of the unknown.  For more info – check out – Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network.  https://psern.org/

 

From the ‘how time flies’ Dept., can you believe it was in July of 1962 that the first satellite used to relay TV between the US and Europe was launched? Telstar.  Boy have we come a long way since then!

 

Received a note from Dick Trumbo, Technology Manager of the local Tegna cluster, informing me that he has hired Tim Schall to be the maintenance engineer responsible for their transmitters. He added that Tim is leaving Cherry Creek Radio in Wenatchee and they are looking for a replacement.  (I found out a couple of days ago that the position has not been filled.)  This will be Tim’s second TV plant in Seattle, having spent some time over on the ‘other hill’ at KCTS-9.  Welcome back Tim.

 

While I was at the historic KING5 Transmitter site recently, I could not help but notice some of the high-tech tools that were in evidence – The following item was worthy of a picture to share:

 

Before I forget it, I should mention a conversation I had with Dick up at the Queen Anne Hill RF Factory. I noted that his title was Technology Manager.  Asking about this, he said the company has dropped the term ‘Engineer’.  Inquiring what the translation was, he said  ‘Chief Engineer’.  I have to admit that this has a nice ring to it.  Wonder what SBE would do if they were to follow?  Society of Broadcast Technolgists?

 

The Broadcast Technoloy group is having their annual picnic at 4646 SW Council Crest Drive (next to the Stonehenge Tower) on August 5th. Food stuffing starts at 5 with great conversations to follow.  It’s a potluck.  Bring a salad, side dish or dessert.  Main courses are provided and prepared by Gray Haertig and Randy Pugsley.

 

In keeping with my tradition of leaving you with an item to either increase your wisdom or bring a smile –

 

MURPHY’S OTHER FIFTEEN LAWS

 

  1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

 

  1. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

 

  1. He who laughs last thinks slowest.

 

  1. A day without sunshine is like, well… night.

 

  1. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

 

  1. Those that live by the sword get shot by those who don’t.

 

  1. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

 

  1. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.

 

  1. It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone from California would be stupid enough to try to pass them.

 

  1. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it….Ugh…For the other foot.

 

  1. The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

 

  1. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day, drinking beer.

 

  1. Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries.

 

  1. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.

 

  1. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.

 

Enough of that – Thanks to whoever it was that sent to me.

 

As I like to say about this time of year….Enjoy Summer, remembering it is our shortest season. Lord willing I will catch you in much of these same locations next month.

 

Clay, CPBE, K7CR

Clay’s Corner for July 2017

July 24, 2017
By

 

Clay’s Corner

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

Finally, as if Mother Nature was watching the calendar, summer arrived in our area about the 21st of June.  As if a switch was thrown, our gray cool weather was replaced with sun and warmth.  In fact, on the 25th the temps were in the 90’s.  Around these parts – This is HOT!  But not fear, our natural air-conditioning was right around the corner.  For those of you that are not in this area and reading this column, let me explain how this works.  In the summer, the Seattle area is dry…sometimes very dry…to the point that we fear wild-fires, etc.  However, unlike other areas of the country our weather has a couple of distinct differences …1) We have summer weather cycles.  The temps will go up and up and then, after a hot day, you will wake up to thick, low, overcast and dramatically cooler weather,with the sun peeking out in the late afternoon as the clouds burn off.  Each day the clouds burn off earlier and the days get warmer until you are back to clear skies all day.  This is caused by our proximity to the ocean and the changing of wind directions from off-shore to on-shore flow.  This is what we call our natural air conditioner.  What makes it interesting is that you can go higher in elevation and get to see all of this taking place below you as you bask in sun all day.  2) We have a very unique relationship with humidity.  During  the winter, when many areas experience low humidity, ours is the highest.  During the summer, when our temperatures go up, our humidity actually goes down.  People that live in the East and Southeast parts of the country have come to believe that humidity and temperatures track each other…Not the case in the Pacific Northwest, which makes this area such a wonderful place to be during the summer.  Let me not forget the fact that we must have sun for the famous Fremont Solstice Parade…You would not want all that body paint to run would you? One of the major firms in radio broadcasting, Cumulus, is still dealing with a mountain of debt and now there are reports that they may be the target of a hostile takeover.  Reportedly, Lew Dickey has launched a new company that may have that in mind.  Mr. Dickey was forced out of the company a couple of years ago.  The plot thickens. Not very often do you hear about someone developing a new antenna…but that’s  apparently what a company in Redmond, WA has done.  They’ve come up with a ‘flat’ antenna that, potentially, has a lot of people talking.  Vehicle makers should be interested because they could have an antenna that does not look like a shark fin.  Airplanes could have one that does not introduce wind resistance, etc.  The Company – Kymeta – has some very heavy duty backers and sharp people on the project.  And, of course, we are proud to have them in the Seattle area.  Redmond is located NE of Seattle and is more famously known for a little software outfit you might have heard about….Microsoft.  For more information – take a look at – http://www.kymetacorp.com/ You need a program these days to keep track of who is buying who.  Mergers and acquisitions are certainly popular.  One of the big names in audio streaming now has a new investor.  SiriusXM, the satellite radio company, has just invested $480 Million in Pandora, a huge name in the world of streaming. Likely due to pressure from many quarters, the FCC appears to be increasing the pressure on Pirate Radio Stations.  First the Commish uses their famous ‘warning letter’ telling the party to turn if off.  Realizing that the FCC has a limit as to what they can do (their warning letters often are ignored), Commissioner Michael O’Reilly admitted that they need additional tools to deal with the problem.  He’s asked Congress to do just that by allowing larger fines and the ability to seize equipment of the violators.  The problem is that the present administration is proposing that the FCC’s budget be cut and staff reduced.  Add to this the fact that a number of these operators simply ignore their fines.  Perhaps Congressional action is the only thing that will provide the tools to finally deal with this issue?   As I was driving to our favorite frozen yogurt shop recently I could not help but notice this sign:

For those of you that are not in the broadcast business, an ‘Air Check’ is a recording made of a person when they are actually on the air that has been edited to eliminate other items in the broadcast.  In this case, the sign is at a business servicing vehicles that wants you to come in to have your tire pressures checked.  (Note the fueling nozzle in the upper left.)  They likely have never heard of the other use of the term ‘Air Check’. Here we go again.  The FCC is, again, opening a filing windows for more FM translators for AM stations.  This time for Class C and D Stations (the two lower classes).  Not sure that this will impact the FM band in larger markets as the band is pretty full.  Another thing to watch will be the prices that AM stations will be willing to pay to add an FM.  There are a lot of very creative things happening with all of this….We will have to wait and see what transpires.   In recent columns I have mentioned one of the giants of business in the Seattle area, Amazon.  Seems like this rapidly growing firm is in the news frequently.  Most recently, in the middle of June, they announced that they are buying Whole Foods for a meager $13.7 Billion.  There a lot of people wondering where Amazon will go next.  When you have lots of money, you normally buy stuff!  One impact of this move has been to lower stock prices on others that sell food, and this includes another Seattle area based company, Costco.  When you are huge – the fear is that you will dominate a particular retail segment. Let us not forget that Amazon has a broadcast connection.  You can now purchase radio and TV broadcast equipment from the Big-A.  Additionally, Amazon employs broadcast engineers.  I discovered that fact while recently visiting their site while preparing this column.  One has to wonder what impact they will have on the traditional suppliers of equipment for the broadcast industry! My readers have probably concluded that I like to boast about certain aspects of the Seattle or Pacific Northwest area.  Some statistics are good, while others are bad.  For example, a recent survey has determined that there is a 72 percent increase in the number of people who commute 90 minutes.  Think of it this way – if you are one of those, and you work 9 to 5, you have to leave for work at 7:30 a.m. and don’t get back home until 6:30.  The rapid expansion of business and population in this region has made the Puget Sound area the 3rd fast growing mega-commuter region in the country.  The traffic congestion is not just in Seattle, but region wide.  This directly impacts me.  For example, it will often take me a hour to drive from my home in Auburn to Lakewood SW of Tacoma.  Highway 18 has become a commuter route for people going to and from work, which means that I often am ‘caught in traffic’ just trying to get to Tiger Summit, where I (fortunately) get to drive faster on that one-lane gravel road than on the highway I just exited.  What is making things worse, at a rapid pace, are the sky-rocketing prices of houses.  The closer to the center of the city the higher the prices…the impact of which is to force workers to head out of town where prices are more reasonable and this puts them on the roads as commuters.  Recently a boarded up shack in Seattle’s Greenwood district sold for over $450,000. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, reported a 5.8% annual gain in March, up from 5.7% last month and setting a 33-month high.  Seattle, Portland, and Dallas reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities.  In March, Seattle led the way with a 12.3 % year-over-year price increase, followed by Portland with 9.2% surge.  From this study, here are some results for cities where my column is read: Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado  Year-over-year home price change 8.4%; median home value, March 2017 $366,000; 3-yr population change 5.7%; median household income $70,283. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington  Year-over-year home price change 9.2%; median home value, March 2017 $360,000; 3-yr population change 4.9%; median household income $63,850.   Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington  Year-over-year home price change 12.3%; median home value, March 2017 $440,000; 3-yr population change 5.2%; median household income $75,331. Everyone in Broadcasting knows what HD means –  For TV it’s High Definition, for Radio it means that Digital Radio thing.  Did you know that in Seattle we have a firm that appears to be in the HD Business?  I was creeping along a freeway recently behind one of their trucks and could not resist pulling out my camera so I could share.

I really enjoyed listening to KONP while on the North Olympic Peninsula recently.  If anyone wants to experience small market radio, this is a great example of a station doing it right.  I had to smile however at their traffic reports.  Port Angeles is one of those locations that does not really have freeways, unless you count US 101 going to Sequim.  Freeways, to us in this area, are multiple lane highways without traffic signals with higher speed limits, that don’t charge for parking!  The big news was they were paving part of a highway west of town.  I wonder if they realize how lucky they are?  I did find it interesting that they were going to broadcast – live – the local high school graduation ceremony.  Kudos to Todd at KONP for his work at being a true community radio station. I can, perhaps, understand how a small market station might not keep up with the rules regarding the Emergency Alert System, and get caught by the FCC.  However, it’s a bit hard to grasp how a major ownership could let something take place that would net them a huge FCC fine for EAS violations, but that’s just what happened to Tegna, who will now pay 55 Grand for running an ad with false EAS Tones.  In this case, it happened with their Channel 12, WTLV in Jacksonville, when they aired a spot that started with EAS tone and the sounds of a storm and a voiceover that stated, “This is an emergency broadcast transmission.  This is not a test.  This is an emergency broadcast transmission.  This is not a test.  Please remain calm.  Seek shelter”.  As, all too often, those that create these spots are just looking for something to grab the viewers’ attention and have little or no knowledge of the FCC’s EAS Rules.  In this case, a staffer at the station heard the spot and they stopped airing it….But not until the damage had been done.  I’ll be that there was a pretty easy to understand memo circulating inside Tegna. On the topic of EAS…..the FCC is out with an NPRM that would create a new Event Code, BLU.  You will find all kinds of information about this on the Washington State EAS Remailer.  The WaState SECC will be dealing with this and other EAS issues at their regular meeting on July 13th at CPTC in Lakewood.  To subscribe, go here – http://sea.sbe16.org/mailman/listinfo/eas-wa I bring you this web-site just becuz – https://www.spreadshirt.com/broadast+engineer+t-shirts There is a new player in town in the world of devices able to be a radio receiver, in the form of Amazon’s Alexa.  You have perhaps seen the TV Spot for the device where the actor approaches Alexa and asks it questions and gets frustrated?  Like all computer based gizmos, GiGo (Garbage in equals Garbage out) is the rule.  You have to say something that the device recognizes or you end up getting the wrong thing.  Stations that use slogans more than call letters have to be careful for there may be duplications.  For instance in Seattle a person may ask for ‘The Wolf’ but not know that there are many ‘Wolfs’ in the country just like there are a lot of Mix 100’s, or Boss 99’s etc.  This new device has caused radio broadcasters to suddenly be in a nation-wide race to be the first to have – their – station be the one that Alexa recognizes.  The way Amazon’s policies work stipulates that only one entity can have a particular name, meaning there can only be one Mix FM or Lite FM or Z100.  The first radio station to build what Amazon calls a ‘skill’ under that name and win Amazon’s approval locks up that real estate.  Add to this equation the Google version.  Call letters are usually unique.  However, there are exceptions where you have an AM/FM that are only unique with one of them appending their letters with FM.  Who would have thought that these devices would cause the broadcasters to change.  Suddenly a station that only covers a specific geographic area has to think almost globally.  Then again, a station might wish to use a different slogan for their OTA product than what they use in streaming.  It’s also likely that the advantage may go to the larger groups that that have the resources to devote to this new issue.  Small mom and pop operations could (again) find themselves with the sort end of the stick.  Then there is this issue with speech recognition.  Those with an accent could be at a disadvantage.  Unlike some telephone-based system, you are not likely to have an ‘operator’ sort things out for you.  I look for a number of broadcast outlets having to fine-tune their alternative names, as these devices become more popular, and, in effect, bring Radio back into homes.  These things may also have an impact on the devices know as Internet Radios.  Time will tell. This got me to thinking…I wonder just how many people today actually go out and purchase a radio for their home.  It used to be that every kitchen, night stand etc. had a radio.  Not so much the case these days.  Recently, while shopping at Fred Meyer (a local Kroeger store) I was delighted to find a rather large assortment of radios…including several ‘clock radios’.  Apparently they are still being purchased (that’s a good thing).  Of course you can purchase one from Amazon – Google “Amazon Table Radios” and your screen will be filled with options. Look for new Domain Extensions – We commonly see .com, . net, .org, .edu, .biz and .ca (Canada).  Soon we will be seeing .radio.  Go here for more – http://www.domainregister.com/comorg.html Ever wonder what the difference is in the sound of an audio source whose upper limit is 15 kHz vs 20 kHz?  Those of you that have an HD Radio experience these different bandwidths as FM is 15 and HD is 20.  Bob Orban put it this way – The subjective effect of HD’s superior HF handling consists of two parts: the bandwidth increase from 15 to 20 kHz (which, according to a number of peer-reviewed journal studies, is usually not audible with program material because the lower frequency energy psychoacoustically masks the energy between 15 and 20 kHz), and the lack of need for pre-emphasis limiting.  The second of these is by far the most important.  The actual audible benefits of HD’s improved HF power handling start at around 2 kHz (where 75 us pre-emphasis starts to become significant on the analog FM channel) and extend to 20 kHz.  By 15 kHz, the HD has 22 dB better HF headroom than the analog channel (17 dB for the pre-emphasis + 5 dB for the analog/digital gain offset).  The only downside is that up at 15 kHz, the information is carried by the SBR part of the HD codec, and this is only an approximation of the fine details of HF spectrum at the codec’s input. The main impact of listening to HD compared to FM (in a mobile environment) is the lack of noise and transmission artifacts with HD…And, as Bob points out, the highs will sound better.  Probably the greatest demonstration of this difference in the Seattle area can be found at 98.1.  To a great extent, KING-FM’s classical format was not listenable in many areas with only an FM Radio.  HD changed all that, making listening to the classics in a moving vehicle possible.  In other areas with more favorable topography than Seattle, the HD advantage is not going to be as noticeable.  Of course, at my age, ears develop their own high-frequency roll off. I caught this image recently in Seaside Oregon.  The top was a ‘forest’ of antennas.

Skywarn is a program where Amateur Radio Operators (Hams) participate with NWS.  Speaking of Seaside, we were blessed with wonderful weather while there for the annual Ham Radio event.  Got to actually do some patio eating!  (Something that does not take place every day on the Oregon Coast.)  At the event, attended by some 2200 Hams this year, is a flea-market where I spotted this device – Brush Sound Mirror.   Looking at a web site, it appears that there may be more to this item.  Here’s a web site and a YouTube video with more: https://www.brushindustries.com/about-us/history-of-brush-industries/page.aspx?id=1396  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5XbCkSKqYg

 

This old tape recorder made me think of this –

Hard to believe that it’s been 55 years since the Space Needle was erected.  I wonder if those that were involved had any idea that this structure would become the symbol for Seattle?  In the early days it was common to have a radio station broadcasting from the Needle.  I recall the natural gas torch on the top that was lit hourly and mentioned on a local radio station.  In the early days there was a Ham Repeater up there as well….6 meters if I recall.  Does anyone remember that? During one week, the station I worked for at the time did their morning show from the needle.  That was kind of cool as I’d show up at about 4 a.m. with a cart load of equipment, loading it in the elevator for the trip upward.  What was neat about this was the fact that I got to operate the elevator.  Usually the elevator was operated by a person that explained the sights to the many tourists that flock to get the view. Over the years there have been some changes made.  Most significant was the addition of the restaurant part way up.  Now we are learning that the place is going to get a significant makeover…its third major renovation.  Not to be outdone by other locations that feature glass floors so you can get that special feeling in your stomach, reportedly the new Needle will have some of that too.  Apparently, the restaurant that revolves once an hour will also get the glass floor treatment that is certain to impact more than a few that choose to dine there. I do have to wonder how it will impact appetites!  The project is supposed to start this fall and will take a while to complete. Seems like there are a number of job opportunities cropping up – There is an opening for a Radio cluster in Redding, California.  The firm is offering  a competitive salary + benefits, 401K.  If you’re interested, or know someone who is, contact ronc@sonic.net.  E&OE. Congratulations to Mark Huffstutter on his retirement from KING5.  My occasional visits to that transmitter site on Queen Ann Hill will not be the same without Mark’s ‘museum of wonders’.  Those that have been there will know exactly what I mean.  The retirement of yet another broadcast RF guy makes one wonder what this industry is going to do in the future.  Finding younger, experienced people that can give a company 20 or so years dealing with these plants is going to become increasingly difficult.  For people like me that elected to continue to work well past conventional retirement age, there is plenty of demand.  The fact that there is still a lot of old equipment still in place needing someone to keep it going is what has kept me from being a greeter at Walmart.  The problem is with the newer generation of folks that are tasked with maintaining equipment that is older than their dad.  Many of today’s (and tomorrow’s) Broadcast Techs are likely to come from the IT world where some of the things we deal with are unknowns – for example – Vacuum Tube Transmitters with huge power supplies, blowers and lethal voltages.  Analog devices, a ‘Greenie’ screwdriver, equipment that does not require a laptop or tablet to communicate, etc. One does not need a crystal ball to see that there is a convergence coming that is going to force change, and that some of this change will be very painful to those who own and operate these facilities.  Older managers are used to buying equipment that lasts a very long time, knowing that they have someone on staff that will make sure that this happens.  However, this is changing as younger managers view the world of equipment differently.  They are accustomed to equipment with shorter life cycles like Desk Top PC’s, Copiers, Laptops etc.  The winners will be the contractors.  Likely broadcasters will be employing a lot fewer conventional engineers and looking at broadcast equipment much as they do office equipment.  When they do, replacement cycles will likely change too. Bustos Media has purchased some broadcast properties in Eastern Washington, KNNA in Mabton/Yakima and KLES and KZXR in Prosser.  Bustos owns stations in the Seattle and Portland markets. Since 2009 you have been hearing KOMO Radio give their ID as KOMO-Seattle, KOMO-FM Oakville.  This has all been possible due to an LMA that Fisher had with South Sound Broadcasting related to the 97.7 FM transmitting from South Mountain west of Shelton.  Now that the Sinclair owns the stations in Seattle, they have ‘pulled the trigger’ and are purchasing the FM for reportedly $6.75 Million.  Included in the deal is a translator in Redmond.  South Mountain got its name from being the southernmost mountain in the Olympics.  The site is presently the home of 3 FM stations, with rumors that this will increase.  The stations there can perhaps be described as high-powered ‘Rim-Shots’ being 50 miles from Downtown Seattle.  FCC data shows KDDS (located on the top of the tower), operating with 64 kW from 742 meters above average terrain with an elevation of 1032 Meters.  KOMO-FM is running 69 kW at 701 meters AAT.  Both Stations operate with a directional antenna protecting co-channel operations in the Vancouver, BC area. We’ve all seen those outdoor/patio speakers designed to be left outside, year around.  But what about a TV set?  No one would dream of letting a TV get caught in a rain storm.  That is until now.  A firm I’ve never heard of, Peerless-AV has come out with an all-season outdoor TV.  Probably not designed for places like Phoenix however, as the high end temperature it is designed for is 122 degrees.  That would mean it should be under-cover in most locals.  However, if you wish to watch TV or videos outside in the winter…You are in luck as it will work down to -22 F.  These are not little screens either…They will be available in 49, 55 and 65 inch sizes.  Perfect for those summer, or perhaps winter, evenings on the patio! Around about July first, the first of the four Entercom Stations is slated to move to their new address at 800 5th Ave., 14th floor.  Entercom has been based, for many years, in the Metropolitan Park West Tower.  No word on how this move will be involved with the merger with CBS radio.  The re-location was in the works prior to that announcement. The May radio ratings are out and here are some of my usual observations of the 12+ Numbers:

  • Hubbard’s KQMV remains #1
  • Non-Commercial KUOW is #2
  • KMPS is certainly winning the Country race at #6 (the Wolf is down to #19)
  • Non-Comm KNKX is at #9
  • AM continues to suffer with KIRO and KOMO sharing 16th place with all other AM’s well below that
  • KCMS is now down to #20, perhaps due to the impact of KLSW
  • There are now 3.704 Million over 12 in the area
  • Hispanics now total over 311,000

CNN recently released a list of 12 iconic mountains from around the world with many familiar names – Mt. Everest in Nepal, Mt Fuji in Japan etc.  The ONLY mountain in the States listed – Mt. Rainier!  The picture below is what it looks like from the transmitter site at West Tiger Mt.  Never tire of seeing this magnificent sight.  And for my readers in other parts of the country – The mountain is white – year around.  (Mark of a real mountain.)  Much of the white you see in this picture is not snow, but rather ice from the many glaciers. The little peak on the left is called ‘Little Tahoma’ and is 11,138 ft.  Mt. Rainier is 14,411.  If you ever wanted to compare Oregon’s Mt. Hood to Mt. Rainier – Here’s what it looks like.  Mt. Hood, the highest peak in Oregon, is 11,250.  As you might gather, Mt. Rainer is huge.  The name Little Tahoma is reference to Mt. Rainier that used to be known as Tahoma, a name that is used frequently in the area.

The RTDNA is out with their annual Murrow Awards.  (RTDNA means Radio Television Digital News Association).  Scoring big were CBS Radio and TV, winning the overall excellence award at the network level.  Also scoring well were NPR and CNN.  The Edward R. Murrow Awards are named after the famous CBS news reporter.  Perhaps I should mention that Washington State University operates the Murrow College of Communications in Pullman.  If you ever get there, be sure and take in the area dedicated to Mr. Murrow…including the door that was on his office in New York!  In our area, the Murrow College operates Northwest Public Radio, with radio and TV transmitters all over the state and into Idaho and Oregon. I love to catch people working – I found  Buzz Anderson the other day working at Cougar Mountain on KNHC.  Note the ‘C-89’ sticker on the top of the blue transmitter.

Broadcast history has recently been made in NYC.  16 years after the destruction of the original World Trade Center towers by terrorists, the new One World Trade Center tower is receiving its first broadcast operations as TV stations begin transmitting from the highest point in that city. Once in a while you hear a news story about a police vehicle being stolen.  Tough for the cops being a crime victim.  But what about a TV news truck being stolen while they were reporting on crime in the area?  That’s exactly what happened to a TV news crew in Albuquerque, NM recently to KOB-TV.  The news director was quoted as saying – “I have a rule that you are never the lead of your own newscast”.  Understand they got it back thanks to GPS tracking equipment they had on board. Don’t forget the SBE Picnic on Vashon Island on July 29th.  Check the SBE16 Web Site for details. As I reach the end of this edition – I’d like to share with you something that, hopefully, will bring a smile.  As usual, this comes from one of my many friends that keep me supplied with this stuff.  In this case, a comparison of how math teaching methods have changed over the years – 1. Teaching Math In 1950’s A logger sells a truckload of timber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit? 2. Teaching Math In 1970’s A logger sells a truckload of timber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? 3. Teaching  Math In 1990’s A logger sells a truckload of timber for $100.  His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit? Yes or No 4. Teaching Math In 2000’s A logger sells a truckload  of timber for  $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.   5. Teaching Math In 2016 A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What  do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the  birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There  are no wrong answers, feel free to express your feelings  e.g, anger, anxiety, inadequacy, helplessness etc.) Should you require  debriefing at conclusion of exam there are counselors available  to assist you adjust back into the real world. That’s it for this month – Enjoy summer and stay safe. Clay, K7CR, SBE Fellow.

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