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Clay’s Corner for March 2018

March 8, 2018
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Clay’s Corner

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

 

Wow !….I had just mowed the lawn…The bulbs are several inches tall, my Rhodies and trees have buds on them….and It snows!  I’ve been driving up to West Tiger on a weekly basis when suddenly I’m sitting with Doug Fisher in his Gator with tracks again, heading up the hill passing stuck pickups.  Mother Nature will determine when winter is over!

This unusually late dose of winter snow impacted Portland too.  In fact I was supposed to travel to PDX on the 20th.  Looking at the forecast, we opted to put it off.  Here’s a picture of fresh snow in Gray Haertig’s backyard in Portland on the 21st.

I did note that he did not use a hardware store wood yard-stick for the measurement….As an Engineer should.

Denver is another example of where things can, and usually do, change…in their case, big changes are famous.  On the 18th the temperature (In Boulder just north of Denver) hit 69 Degrees.  40 hours later, on the 20th it was 3 below zero.  This is a 72 degree drop and tied for the 8th biggest swing ever noted in 2 days or less.  Hate to think what the impact of that kind of change would have been in Seattle or Portland.  Denver is famous for the saying –‘Lawnmower to Snow blower in one day’.

The big shake up in Seattle Radio is over and now attention is turning to the picture makers, specifically, the Sinclair/Tribune deal that will involve four of the Seattle area TV Stations…Among them KOMO and KCPQ.  The almost $4 Billion dollar deal has drawn a lot of attention and, in some cases, objections and interest of the DOJ.  It’s been long known that Sinclair would have to divest two of the stations in this area, and that has been sufficient to keep the rumor mills running overtime, conjecturing as to who might the new owners be.  For some time the odds appear to be on Sinclair spinning KCPQ, and perhaps its stable-mate, KSJO, to FOX.  Looks like the big reveal is getting close – and then we will know.  This is a huge transaction, impacting a number of markets around the country…some of which may also see FOX become an O&O, for example, Denver.  One unique aspect of this has been the political side.  The Sinclair ownership has a reputation for being biased to the right and the FCC’s present leadership is being criticized for, in some way, helping this process.  One of the issues has been the rules involving national audience reach.  Bottom line – A good amount of political theater and legal maneuvering.

There is a radio side to all of this too – Sinclair, who used to be in radio, got back in with their purchase of the Fisher properties in Seattle, picking up KOMO, KVI and KPLZ.  Word has it that Sinclair plans on keeping WGN Radio in Chicago.  Like Seattle and KOMO, WGN has had a long standing strong ‘news-tie’ with its TV partner.

In the event you have not kept track, Sinclair is a big company, and about to get bigger, with some 193 stations in 100 markets.  They are very actively involved with the next generation of TV as this article in TV Technology will explain.

http://www.tvtechnology.com/atsc3/0031/putting-next-gen-tv-to-the-full-test/282799

In terms of ownership group size…Looking at Seattle area stations, Sinclair is #1, CBS is #2 (Owner of KSTW) Fox #3 (perhaps the new owner of KCPQ) Tegna is #6 (owner of KING/5 etc.), Cox is #13 (Owner of KIRO/7), ION is #18 (Owner of KWPX).

Picture time!  This one, courtesy of Joe Taylor, West regional broadcast site manager for ATC.  It is one of the two broadcast sites on West Tiger Mt, near Seattle.  We call this site – West Tiger-2.  No, the towers are not leaning.  It’s just the distortion caused by the wide angle lens.  The 2-story transmitter building is between the towers.  The Generator/Electrical building is on the right.  And this picture, obviously not taken during the winter, does prove that we can have blue skies in this area.  Right now these towers are likely covered with Ice and snow.

Every year about this time, attention of many in Radio turn to the Crystal Awards.  I always like to look at the nominees to check for stations from areas where this column is read.  Looking at the  finalist list….Sorry Seattle – No stations listed.  Denver did better with KYGO-FM making the cut.  Portland has listed KUPL.  Noted that KMOK-FM and KRLC-AM in Lewiston, Idaho (just across the river from Clarkson, WA) also are listed.

The Seattle area Radio Numbers are out- And here are some of my observations:

  • KUOW is doing awesome landing in the #1 spot….Proving that you don’t have to play music to gain listeners. Have to wonder how the programmers at the 30 or so other commercial stations feel about this event?  Should point out that KNKX continues to do very well in the numbers race, but they do play music.

 

  • Another radio operation proving you don’t have to play music to succeed is KIRO-FM in the #4 spot.

 

  • After the breakup of CBS, Entercom and iHeart became the two biggest groups in Seattle. Of the top 10 stations – Entercom has three and iHeart has four.

 

  • A lot of eyes were on 94.1, the frequency of the historic CBS Country station, KMPS. As we all know, Entercom elected to change the station’s format and call letters (now KSWD).  The latest results put them in the #10 slot.  The new format is similar to Hubbard’s KRWM which is still in the #3 slot.  This will be a race to watch.  More on 94.1 later.

 

  • The race for the country audience is interesting. The numbers for Entercom’s KKWF had a small improvement, but not adding up to what one would expect.  Hubbard jumped into this race with their 98.9 FM but is way back in the pack at this point.  Certainly there will be a lot of changes as the two country stations duke it out.

 

  • AM Radio continues its downward trend. The top rated AM, All News KOMO, is about #15, with ESPN KIRO-AM a couple of notches below that.

 

It seems like a very long time ago when I was up on Cougar Mountain taking part in a demonstration of HD Radio while the NAB Radio show was in Seattle.  Not long after that, the equipment starting arriving at West Tiger for this new radio system I would be installing on five stations at a time.  It was a bit like putting on the air an FM station back in the 50’s.  People, then, thought you were nuts as there very few receivers out there….and almost no FM Car Radios.  To this date, there are many owners and operators of FM radio stations that view HD Radio in the same way.  What’s been happening should be a wakeup call to those folks in particular – HD Radio, thanks to the efforts of the makers of motor vehicles, is making some impressive gains.  According to a recent release of date, the penetration is now close to 50%.  Pretty hard to ignore the facts…Yet some continue to do so….especially in smaller markets.  Perhaps the day that HD Channels generate rating numbers will be the turning point?  With all the new vehicles with HD Radios out there and the number growing, wonder how long it will be?  Part of the equation is content.  Many broadcasters have been dumping low cost to produce content on their HD Channels.  Perhaps a ‘Catch-22’?

It’s always sad to report the loss one of our own.  On Friday, January 26, Al Bednarczyk lost his battle with Cancer.  I first met Al and his family when he was dating his wife to be, Linda, back in the 60’s.  Later we worked in a team to maintain a small radio station in Lakewood.  Years later we were on the same team in the engineering department of KCPQ-TV.  Then, as years passed, I went back into radio as he stayed with TV, but, for a while, doing radio on the side.  Al was the Engineer at 106.1/KLAY following Terry Denbrook.  I followed Al at that gig.

In recent years I found myself maintaining the KVTI transmitter.  A quick look at some old inspection logs recently – Yep….There were notes written by Al.

 

There are a couple of things that will live on…First, his famous statement, ‘I hate TV’, which was usually followed with that great smile.  Second, his remarkable ability to rapidly find the source of a problem with any electronic gizmo.  I always swore that he could put his hand on it and tell you which part was bad.  He was in a league of his own.  Later in retirement, he found time to travel.  A great man that left his mark, and a bunch of fellow broadcast engineers deeply respected him.

 

Darin told me that Al did not wish a memorial service.  He did say, however,  that we will have a time to gather ‘Friends of Al’ over pizza at a date to be announced.  Hopefully many of you that knew him will be in attendance to share your Bednarczyk stories!

 

Here are some pictures of Al, thanks to Darin Gerchak.  The first taken at the KCKA Transmitter

on Crego Hill near Chehalis, sitting on top of their previous transmitter’s tube.

In this picture you can see Al (center) with a couple members of the Bates TV Crew, Jelson on the left and Darin on the right.   They are the lucky guys having been able to work with Al.

 

I understand a brand new Nautel 50,000 Watt AM transmitter is on its way to KIRO-AM on Vashon Island.   According to their chief, Tom Pierson, the present Main (a Nautel ND50) will be moving to the #2 spot with one of their two old Continental 316’s moving to #3.  If my information is correct, this will be the 2nd NX50 on the Island, the other being at 1090.  For those of you that attend the annual SBE Picnic’s on Vashon, you often get to tour these historic sources of radio signals.  This year, perhaps we will get to see the new KIRO rig.  What’s amazing is the reduction in size of these machines.

I very much recall the days when I would spend a lot of time removing and inserting FCC rule updates in binders.  Like a lot of things, the requirement that licensees have a copy of the rules on the shelf are over with.  Public files are gone too.  Everything is on-line these days.  The issue is that as powerful as these Internet systems are, they are still fragile.  The term ‘Backhoe Fade’ did not exist back in those days.

Every time there is a change in Administration in this country, we all wonder how it will impact the Broadcast Industry.  With a lot of new attitudes in WDC, we have already seen a lot of what has been termed ‘modernization’.  Like all things in our government, there are the ‘proposals’ of the Administration and then the wait to see what, if any, parts actually become laws.

Example – The Trump Administration recently has proposed a boat-load of new user fees to be paid by broadcaster, cable and satellite operators, etc.  The rationale is that these fees would pay the cost of the regulation that they have to adhere to.  We are not talking about pocket change here.  The proposed fees would bring to the FCC some $4 Billion over the next ten years.  [Got that?  Hold on to that thought for a moment].  Meanwhile the FCC Chairman is calling for more staff cuts…over 100 employees…all the while the new proposed budget says it will need all the existing staffing.  So what will really happen?  Anyone’s guess. The old admonition of hide and watch sounds like good advice.

Are you ready for the roll out of ATSC 3.0 or Next-Gen Television?  The new standard will be rolling out this month (March).  I have to wonder what amount of public education will be involved explaining this to consumers?  Consumers (at least older ones) are used to –

  • The All Channel Law
  • Conversion to Color
  • Conversion to HD

This time a lot of the rules are different and things have the potential to become quite a bit more complicated.  This time it’s a voluntary roll-out (Dare I say like HD Radio?).  Will the lure of 4K TV be enough to entice new buyers?  Certainly those that provide broadband services to consumers have a horse in this race too.  There are a lot of questions.  Will the other big broadcast outfits join Sinclair in their push for this new technology?  How would this impact folks like Ion that operate a huge ‘Central cast’ system?  Will the religious broadcasters like Daystar or TBN jump into this?  What about the Cable Channels like Fox or the offerings of Discovery.  Exciting times for sure.

Last Month I touched on the term that we hear all too much these days – Fake News.  If you stop and think about it, have not the grocery store check-out lines given us a steady diet of that for many years?  Seems to me that Fake News (at least the print version) has been with us for a very long time.  You do read this stuff don’t you?  Apparently they are similar.  Consumers lap it up and the only ones that complain are those that are offended.

One of the bigger radio deals to come along following the big CBS/Entercom deal is the sale of the Emmis stations in St. Louis to Hubbard and Entercom.  In the deal, both firms will pick up a pair of stations and Emmis will pocket, reportedly, 60 million.  That’s approx. 15 Million apiece for a radio station in Market 21.

Interesting to look up Market Ranks of some of the locations where this column is read –

MARKET        MEDIA MARKET        NIELSEN        TV MARKET     TV STATIONS

St Louis                       21                       21                             21                    10

Seattle                         12                       14                             14                    17

Denver                        17                        17                            18                    30

Portland                       22                        25                            22                    18

The number from this that jumps out at me is the number of TV stations in Denver – 30!  That’s the same number of stations as the #1 Market, New York City.  NYC has over 7 Million TV households while Denver has just over 1.1 Million.  Wow!

The changing media landscape upset what was a long formula used by artists, composers etc.  Now comes word that royalty payments paid by streaming firms like Apple and Spotify are going to be going up by almost 5%.  This ever-changing situation requires a program to keep track.  A little Seattle outfit called Amazon also has a horse in this race.

The Commish was busy recently in the area north of Denver shutting down a pair of pirate radio stations, both on FM.  Interestingly they both had call letters…KNED and KWHR…apparently of their own choosing.  Similar to what pirate Ham Operators do, pick out an un-used set of call letters.  Unlike Amateur Radio, probably no-one in the area bothers to look them up.  The stations stated on their Facebook page that they were under attack by the FCC.  Interesting choice of words.  In the minds of many of these types, they feel that they have the God given right to broadcast…or that the First Amendment somehow does.  Perhaps the big test here will be to see if the FCC really means it.  Historically, stations like this come back on the air while the FCC does nothing.  In other cases, they get fined and, for some reason, get away with non-payment.  The Commish is very aware of this and is trying to get additional authority to deal with the problem.  Someone with one of the groups publically stated that they just want the FCC to leave them alone.

Perhaps the FCC could do as they did with CB Radio – throw up their hands and let the mice rule?  Perhaps, in the future, a segment of the AM Broadcast Band could be set aside for un-licensed broadcasting?  It would be kind of fun to watch.

Speaking of AM – the last round of license applications for AM Translators ended up producing some 850 applications.  All in all, there has been a tremendous amount of interest by AM’s wishing to add FM, even if it meant at very low power or the use of a directional antenna.  This is all part of the FCC’s effort to ‘revitalize’ the AM band where broadcasters have seen audiences adopt FM as their primary source of radio.  As of the end of 2017 there were over 7500 Translators and Boosters licensed.

One recent issue has cropped up – the apparent FCC willingness to consider a new class of FM (C4) that would boost power of some stations to 12,000 watts.  Concern has been expressed that this could adversely impact translators and other lower powered FM operations.  It will be interesting to see how the FCC deals with that issue.

The Seattle area has been getting a lot of press of late, much of it regarding the pace of housing and rental price increases causing a huge increase in homeless etc.  One statistic that has helped Seattle be recognized as a world class city is the area’s traffic congestion.  According to INRIX, an outfit that keeps track of such things, Seattle now ranks #9 in terms of the most congested.  Tacoma (just south of Seattle) is ranked #16.  INRIX is able to put a price tag on all this congestion too – $5 Billion for Seattle and $2.4 for Tacoma.  OK, so it’s #9 in the US.  Consider that Seattle area traffic ranks #20 in the world!  You probably guessed – LA ranked #1 in both the US and World.

The fact is that people are pouring into this area and this has created a housing shortage that contributes to the rising prices (and with it, rising property taxes).  Being a homeowner (with no mortgage) puts me in a much better position than someone moving to the area or just starting out.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve received letters from firms making it clear that they want to buy my house or have buyers for it.  One of them sent along a color picture of the place with my pickup in the driveway.  They call this a sellers’ market.Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 

 

There has been a lot of buzz regarding these new smart speakers in the radio industry.  Not only can you ask it questions, you can ask it to find a radio station for you.  You’ve probably seen a TV spot for them, or perhaps a comedy U-Tube video.  There was a recent survey that turned up some interesting findings.  What was perhaps surprising is how popular they are with Country Music listeners.  Meanwhile, Country stations need to do more to develop their own skills with these new devices so they work to their advantage.

 

Getting back to Seattle Radio – The Entercom/CBS deal resulted in several ‘spin-offs’ in the Seattle market.  Among them was 1090 AM which went to iHeartMedia.  Many wondered what they would do with KFNQ.  That answer came early in February, with the company announcing that they would indeed keep the station, and do some re-branding.  If you recall, CBS aired their network Sports on the station.  Well it appears that it will continue with Sports, doing something a bit unique, calling the station 1090-KJR, airing mainly national sports/talk shows, but clearly linking it to KJR/950 (Seattle Sports Radio).  Meanwhile, down the dial to 850….KHHO is being rebranded South Sound Talk 850.  This station, which does not propagate very well into Seattle, will be a mixture of syndicated talk shows.  However, they will be airing the Tacoma Rainiers baseball games.

 

Regarding 1090 –  This station has had quite a history, going way back to the late 1920’s with call letters of KVL, KGBS, KEVR and, of course, KING-AM, operating on a number of different frequencies over the years, 1321 (yes an odd number) 1480, 1370, 1100 etc.  They started with only 100 watts and now operate with 50,000, using 2 different directional patterns.  One interesting fact is, at one time they operated on a share-time basis with KRKO in Everett.

Another  takeaway from all this is the fact that iHM has elected to stay with their 3 AM’s.  In this day and age of declining AM listeners, no-one would have been surprised if they had elected to sell the station rather than operate it.  Of course, with all the financial issues facing the company, who knows how long 1090 will remain ‘1090-KJR”?

I love to see old magazine ads about broadcasting.  Here’s a jewel about Television, using expressions you would not see today.  Note the round picture tube on the left, a far cry from today’s 16×9.

 

 

Apparently not everyone got the memo explaining that international broadcasting was dead.  It was recently announced that Christian Broadcaster, TWR Bonaire just put on line a new Nautel NX400 AM transmitter that produces 450,000 Watts!  They are saying that it’s the largest (perhaps most powerful) AM Transmitter in the Western Hemisphere.  Kintronic Labs supplied the phasing equipment that connects the new transmitter to the station’s tower.

 

Oh yes….This is not shortwave broadcasting …They are operating on 800 KHz.  Target audience for the station are listeners in Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia and Cuba.  For more information, you can check out their web site – http://www.twrbonaire.com/

The new One World Trade Center building in NYC is taking shape as a broadcast transmitting facility.  Five of the new stations there will be using Rohde and Schwarz transmitters which, according to the maker, are the largest solid state digital transmitters in the world.  The new structure, some 1776 feet of it, replaces the twin towers that were destroyed in 2011.

 

I recently had an opportunity to play show and tell at one of ATC’s facilities on Cougar Mountain, where I explained to several from the FAA how we combine and filter FM transmitters.  This picture shows a portion of the big Shively Combiner at the site.  That’s me in the white baseball cap.

 

Hey Chuck Morris, are you reading this?  We have yet another call letter change in Seattle Radio.  In this case, KVRQ has become KNUC.  Something that perhaps you don’t know is that often radio station call letters are used for other things.  Just Google KNUC and you will see what I mean.

 

The picture below is of KNUC.  In this case, this is the FAA designator for the US Navy landing field on San Clemente Island off the coast of California.  It’s been owned by the Navy since 1937.

Now to be honest, when I first saw the letters KNUC – I thought of how you would pronounce it.

KaNuck J After all, we have a number of ‘pronounceable’ call letters in this area – (KIRO, KOMO etc.)  That got me thinking about Hockey and the Vancouver Canucks.

 

 

 

Just to be fair – I Googled KSWD, the new call letters for Seattle’s 94.1.  No FAA designation popped up …However some interesting tid-bits worth sharing:

 

Entercom calls KSWD ‘The Sound’.  This requires the use of the ‘Radio broadcaster’s magic dictionary’…(Stay with me now)… – K  So Wn D – From the letters SWD we get the word Sound….Got it?  Can’t be any greater stretch than pronouncing KMPS – Compass.  Of course we now have KNKX…which the ‘magic dictionary’ says is pronounced ‘Connects’.

 

Meanwhile – the call KSWD was moved from LA where it too was used by Entercom and pronounced ‘The Sound’.  Entercom clearly liked KMPS, for they moved that to Sacramento where it replaced KRAK (I’m going to leave that one alone).

 

Looking at 94.1 – I see it went on the air in 1961 as KOL-FM.  At that time the station was running a 1 kW Gates transmitter into a big antenna hanging on that huge KOL tower on Harbor Island.  Later they increased power at that location.  Then it was moved to Cougar Mt.  In 1975 it became ‘Cute’ or KEUT…then in 1978 the call was change to KMPS for (Manning P Slater).  In 1988 it was moved from Cougar to West Tiger along with 3 other stations, becoming the first use of a multi-station combiner in the area.  A few years ago it was moved to the new ATC site on West Tiger where it remains today.  Even though the call letters are now KSWD, they continue to call their HD2 – Classic KMPS.  More on that below…..

 

With the battle cry of – ‘PAY ME FIRST’  the various creditors of heavily in debt Cumulus are trying to figure out how to best deal with it.  Reading about this is head-bending.  Secured vs. unsecured creditors etc.  According to some reports, Cumulus owes Broadcasters General Store just under $1,000,000.  One has to wonder why they did not have their credit line turned off a while ago.  Cumulus is underway using Chapter 11.  As is the case with situations like this – many will only receive a portion of what they are out, while others will get nothing.  The true winners – the lawyers that are crafting all the language, who get well over $1000 per hour, will be, reportedly making millions.  Apparently, the process is supposed to end up with the firm having a Billion Dollars less debt (but still not debt free).  We have a few more months to go to see how this pans out.

 

Oh yes – as if they did not have enough bad news – Cumulus was recently slapped with a $58,000 fine by the FCC for some public file violations.

 

A number of comments have been made regarding the FCC’s apparent move to allow 100% control of a broadcast station by a foreign entity.  In this case, the Commish has granted a petition by a pair of Australian citizens involving stations in Alaska and Texas.  They have permitted less than 50% in this past,  This could just be a start.  Apparently there is a small FM station in New York State that has a buyer that would keep the station from going dark.  However the buyers are not US citizens.

How about we look back a bit with this one –

Reflecting on how things have changed –

  • Back then Shafer was a big name in Radio automation systems.
  • Note the terminal the girl is operating – Black and White display, obviously a big box to house that CRT.
  • This model was computer based permitting things that previously were impossible.
  • Back then Commercial announcements were all on Tape Cartridges. To handle that chore were three Shafter Audiofile multi-cart systems.
  • Likely the station’s music was being played on those ITC Model 750 Reel to Reel machines.
  • Logging was done with a dot-matrix printer.
  • Walk-away time was limited to the amount of music those reel-to-reel machines could hold or the number of commercials the Cartridge Players could handle.

Think how much of this has changed.  Now computers play the announcements from hard-drives.  Broadcast schedules still have to be entered, however.  Likely the station’s music library is all on a hard drive as well and is managed by yet another computer.  Today a radio station will be operating from a computer based system most of the time and certainly all weekend…With no one in the building.

Looking for a job in Oregon?  Here is the message I received about it – OPB  is hiring for their Bend Oregon operation.  Details below:

 Network Support Technician

 

OPB is looking for a Network Support Technician (to be based in Bend, OR) passionate about technology to join an expanding team supporting OPB’s content creation and distribution. This non-exempt regular status represented position is full-time and includes benefits.

 

 Jonathan Newsome | Director of Engineering

OPB | 7140 SW Macadam Avenue | Portland, OR 97219 | (503) 293-1952

 

 

Last month I ran a picture of a circuit board  with a strange component.  The question was answered by Mike Graves of KIRO-TV.

 

It’s a ZERO OHM resistor, of course! Why do such a silly thing?  Sometimes circuit boards are designed to have different components stuffed depending on what model/features are required of it.  A hand built board might have a piece of jumper wire added.  Automatic component insertion machines can’t install bare wire so the solution is to have a zero ohm resistor.

 

Contributor Mike Brooks at KING-FM has another one this month –

What’s wrong with this picture?

 

Here’s another one that I caught on my vehicle radio recently.  A good example of mixed messages.  (Excuse the glare, but I was in a hurry to get this before it went away.)  I sent this onto Matt Green at Entercom who informed me that they corrected the problem.   Call letters are, these days, hidden in strange places.

On this topic – If you have a funny or picture of something a bit unusual …Please send them to me.  Would love to share.

A familiar name to many in this industry – Belden, long time maker of wire and cable, has been buying things related to broadcasting.  Most recently they purchased Snell Advanced Media which will become part of Grass Valley which became part of Belden a couple of years ago.

In my many years in this industry I have encountered a variety of people – Some are afraid of change, while others view change as a vehicle for advancement.  Some I’ve worked with will burn 1,000 calories trying to get out of a 100 calorie job.  Some will find a zillion reasons why something cannot be done, while another will accept the challenge and be quick to tackle and resolve the issue.  I was reminded of some of these experiences recently when I read a comment  made by long time Califormia-based broadcaster Bill Ruck regarding why some issues with EAS could not be quickly resolved.  I asked Bill if I could use this in my column.  He said yes – I wanted to share it with you.  Very applicable to many situations.

 

 

 

So why can’t this be done now?

 

In U.S. Navy boot camp I learned the difference between a “reason” and an “excuse”.  Being kinda thick it took more than one instance of my Company Commander screaming into my face “That’s an excuse.  Now give me the reason” before I recognized the difference.  Hint: In that environment there is no “reason”, just “excuses”.  So far all I have heard about why this can’t be done falls into the category of “excuse”.

 

Bill Ruck

Curmudgeon

San Francisco

 

Many of us are faced with challenges – perhaps we need to ask ourselves and/or the people we are dealing with whether or not we are dealing with a ‘Reason’ or and ‘Excuse’?

 

Another picture to share with you.  This was taken just north of Depoe Bay on the Oregon Coast (one of my favorites places in the world) …Yes, it was January!

One more thing – The annual trek to the Puyallup Electronic Flea Market is on Saturday, March 10th.  A bunch of us traditionally gather at Odd Fellas Pub in Auburn about 7:30 for breakfast and conversation, and then make our way to the day’s event.  Hard to believe that this is the 37th year.  Hope you can join us.

With that, it’s a wrap on this edition of my little contribution.

May the snow go away and warm spring breezes fill your life as well, look forward to longer days and the glory of summer in the Pacific Northwest.

‘Til, Lord willing, next month –

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

 

Clay’s Corner for January 2018

March 8, 2018
By

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
  • : View

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

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