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October  2020 – Clay’s Corner

January 9, 2021


October  2020 – Clay’s Corner

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

They say that bad things come in ‘3’s. In our case could the 3rd be smoke following COVID and Riots?

Not only was summer apparently going to continue, but this year our long run of warm/dry weather meant Fire. Labor day in our area started off with warm/clear skies and then….Wham! We were hit with a thick blanket of smoke, reportedly coming from fires east of the Cascades, as the winds starting blowing from the east. Later those winds became very strong (45 mph), knocking over tall trees into power lines resulting in some serious fires in Graham and then Sumner/Bonney Lake, thereby adding some local smoke to breathe. Normally a switch to on-shore winds would bring in some sweet-smelling ocean air. We got the ocean air OK, and lower temperatures, however, with it came all the smoke that had been blowing westward, some of it from fires in California and Oregon, coming back from a plume that was blow out to sea over 1,000 miles. This stuff was bad, and being labeled as hazardous. I can tell you that a few minutes outside made your throat and chest hurt.

We were pretty lucky by the 10th of the month, in that we had not experienced the devastation that was taking place in California and Oregon. Reportedly, over 1,000,000 acres in Oregon is burning, including a good portion of Clackamas County which lies SE of Portland, half of which has been under evacuation orders. There too, air quality dropped to very very bad. Words like record setting, historic and devastation are being used.

I borrowed the following picture from the Seattle Times because it shows the situation so well:

Looking at the AQI (Air Quality Index) Saturday evening on Sept 12th for Seattle:

A 202 is unhealthy, as we know if you ventured outside today.

But this is nothing compared to the air in Portland, measured about the same time – Over 500!!!

As stated, Hazardous: Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects.

One of the issues in dealing with this is the fact that the face masks that most of us wear are not effective in filtering out the particulates in the smoke, unless you happen to have a stash of N95s.

Hard to believe that, for a time, all of Washington and Oregon were covered in thick smoke with the entire area under bad air warnings. Normally the Cascades are a barrier…not this time.

Reports were that Portland had the the worst air quality – IN THE WORLD! (That’s quite a statement).

In California, the smoke plume from one of their big fires extended 55,000 feet upward. Think of it this way – this is about four times the height of Mt. Rainier! Higher than any airliner flies. In one of these fires, the National Weather Service issued their first ‘Fire Tornado’ warnings.

We were all looking at the weather forecasts for some chance it was going to rain soon and wash this stuff out of the air. Through the weekend of the 12th and 13th, we were told that things would change for the better on Monday (the 14th). The forecasts showed a ‘little’ rain. Hey, at this point we will take what we can get. On Monday, the forecasters were telling us the hoped-for rain was being delayed and to expect more of the same.

On Monday I received notice that WSU was closing down for the day because of Air Quality. This is on the far eastern edge of the State in Pullman. Wow. I later pulled up this map showing how wide-spread this issue is.

Let’s not overlook Vancouver, B.C. Unfortunately the smoke does not respect any borders. They can close the border to protect B.C. from COVID coming in from the U.S., but are helpless to keep the smoke out.

Taking another look at how bad this has been, consider the AQI Ranking of the most polluted air cities.

Looking at the big picture on the 16th – This shows where all the bad air is located, nation-wide.

Borrowing from David Letterman’s Top-10-List, here is a good look at the most polluted cities – IN THE WORLD – on Sept 14th. Did you ever dream our area would be ranked like this?

14 September 2020, 15:39



What has to be a case of bad timing, several restaurants whose businesses have been dramatically hurt by the COVID Pandemic recently received permission to offer outside dining on sidewalks etc., taking advantage of our extended summer weather. Then – WHAM – we got hit with this punishing smoke that drove what customers they had back inside.

Here’s a picture from the AccelNet camera on Cougar Mt. The tower on the left is the 94.1 & 96.5 Auxiliary.   The hill beyond is Summerset. Even at this elevation you don’t want to be breathing this stuff that we used to call ‘air’. The visibility was so bad that Alaska Airlines were cancelling flights at airports around the PNW.

This image, from NOAA, shows how the smoke from the wildfires in the west are making their way east. The advantage they have is that the smoke is not at the surface as it is here. The Red Dots are fires.

There is a lot of concern regarding the impact of all this wildfire smoke is having on our health (hence the reason for the warnings to stay inside etc.) The Seattle Times ran a piece stating that breathing this stuff is like smoking nine cigarettes a day. Talk about ‘Second-Hand-Smoke’. I recently asked my neighbor (a heavy smoker) how a smoker views all of this. She just stared at me! The impact from all of this may have serious, long term, impacts. One concern is how the poor air will interact with COVID. There is a lot of extremely nasty stuff in this smoke that is another element attacking the lungs of many. The problem is that these smoke particles are very small (2.5 microns) and are not broken down by our immune response systems, resulting in a long-lasting inflammation that can impact a number of our vital organs. If you have an underlying issue, like COPD or COVID – It’s a ‘double whammy’. There is plenty of evidence about the harmful reactions to smoking. The problem is, now we are all smokers! As this were not enough, there is a recent study that shows how wildland smoke is related to a three to five time increase in the amount of flu cases later in the year. (Triple whammy?)

So how do you protect yourself if you have to go outside? Unfortunately all those masks that we are told to wear for COVID won’t filter out the particles in the smoke. Apparently the N95s will. However, as you know, those were very hard to find.

There certainly is an impact on broadcasting.

Fires often occur in mountains where the fire races uphill to the top which, in many cases, are populated with communications facilities of all kinds…including Radio and TV Stations. One of the biggest in the country is the famous Mt. Wilson facility where many of the Los Angeles FM Radio and TV transmitters are located.

And the headline read:

Mt. Wilson Comm Towers in Danger from California Wildfire

(Image credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

I’m sure that all of this has impacted some broadcast operations, especially those mountaintop transmitter sites used by Radio and TV Stations. Over the next few weeks, stories about them will be coming in.

Towers don’t burn….but the cables connected to the antennas do, as do the buildings that house the related equipment.

These pictures are of a communications site in Eastern Washington:

Don’t think that this will never happen in the Puget Sound area. In my lifetime I’ve witnessed fires that could have severely damaged facilities on Capital Peak, South Mountain, West Tiger etc. As the climate continues to change, the threat from this kind of destruction in our back yard will certainly increase.

The good news arrived on Saturday morning, the 19th with, what seemed like forever to get a return here to good air quality. The AQIs were, for the most part, GREEN! The weather change came the day before, with rain showers and a few thunder boomers. Finally, on the 23rd we got what we had hoped for – A vigorous fall storm hit the area with several inches of rain. At last! – Our air was back to normal.

All the smoke created a high demand for Air Filters. The filter on the right was removed from the KING-FM transmitter at West Tiger. Compare it to a new one on the left.

Shifting gears now from wildfires to the other disaster that is still smoldering – COVID.

As we have heard, a number of people employed in broadcasting have lost their jobs, primarily due the impact on the economy caused by COVID. If you are Radio-Tech, and in that boat, know that there are jobs opening up here and there. Here’s an example of an owner who is specifically targeting those that have lost their job because of the virus:

Was your engineering or IT role a victim of COVID?  Mid-West Family in Rockford-DeKalb, IL is looking for our next Engineering Manager. 

If you love projects and want to be in charge of your own department (and destiny), this is the next career stop for you.  You’ll help us move an antenna, install a translator or two, work through any IT challenges, and become our go-to tech expert as we evolve into a media company for 2030. 

If you’re looking to make your mark as an audio and broadcast engineer for the future, this is your opportunity.  Knowledge of MediaTouch is helpful, but not required.  The position is open today and we’ll hire when we find the person with the right technical skills that fits our culture. 

To apply, send a resume to

If you are looking for a crystal ball, trying to figure out where the COVID-19 Pandemic is heading, you don’t have to go further than U-Dub in Seattle. Their IHME is often a quoted source. Here is what they were saying on Sept 4th:

The U.S. will top more than 410,000 Covid-19 deaths by the end of the year as the country heads into the fall and winter, according to a new forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

 Covid-19 has already killed at least 186,800 people in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The model by IHME, whose models have previously been cited by the White House and state officials, forecasts that the death toll will more than double by Jan. 1 and could reach as high as 620,000 if states aggressively ease coronavirus restrictions and people disregard public health guidance.

 “The worst is yet to come. I don’t think perhaps that’s a surprise, although I think there’s a natural tendency as we’re a little bit in the Northern hemisphere summer, to think maybe the epidemic is going away,” Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME, told reporters on a conference call Friday.

In June, IHME predicted that the death toll in the U.S. would reach 200,000 by October, which appears to be on track. Some epidemiologists and mathematicians, however, have criticized IHME for making predictions too far into the future. 

IHME previously projected 317,697 deaths by Dec. 1. The model now predicts that the daily death toll could rise to nearly 3,000 per day in December, up from over 800 per day now, according to Hopkins data.

IHME released three new projections based on different assumptions: a worst-case scenario, a best-case scenario and a most likely scenario. The most likely scenario estimates that Covid-19 will kill 410,450 people in the U.S. by Jan. 1. The worst-case scenario, which assumes that restrictions and mask directives will ease, projects up to 620,028 people in the U.S. will die by then and the best-case scenario, which assumes universal masking, predicts that 288,380 people in the U.S. will die from Covid-19 in 2020.

Government policies and compliance among the public will largely determine how many people die of Covid-19 this fall and winter, Murray said. He added on a call that he believes there is a seasonal element to the virus, as with other coronaviruses, and that it will spread more easily in the colder Northern climates later in the year. 

“We are facing the prospect of a deadly December, especially in Europe, Central Asia, and the United States,” Murray said in a statement. “But the science is clear and the evidence irrefutable: mask-wearing, social distancing, and limits to social gatherings are vital to helping prevent transmission of the virus.”

On a call, Murray added that widespread mask use likely won’t be enough to drive down spread of the virus in the fall and winter. He said the question, from a policy perspective, is what kind of social distancing restrictions will be most effective, and there’s not enough public data to answer that question, he said.

Daily new cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. have fallen since they peaked in late July at more than 70,000 new cases per day. However, daily new cases appear to have plateaued again at over 40,000 new cases per day, a level of pervasive spread that top health officials have said is worrying headed into the fall. Despite the drop in new cases, the number of deaths caused by Covid-19 everyday in the U.S. has remained high, at nearly 1,000 new deaths per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Murray said daily new cases, both globally and in the U.S., may continue to plateau or even drop through September, but they will likely rise come October.

The group projects the global death toll, which currently stands at 869,600, will rise to roughly 2.8 million by Jan. 1. The best-case scenario — where there’s widespread adoption of masks and other safety precautions — forecasts a worldwide death toll of more than 2 million. The worst case scenario predicts 4 million cumulative global deaths by the end of the year.

IHME’s latest forecast is based on the assumption that cooler weather in the Northern hemisphere will have people spending more time indoors where the coronavirus more easily spreads, keeping the death toll high.

“People in the Northern Hemisphere must be especially vigilant as winter approaches, since the coronavirus, like pneumonia, will be more prevalent in cold climates,” Murray said.

It should be noted that IHME is just one of several modeling groups used by the CDC as they try and forecast where this is all going. It’s just unique, that one of them is here in our area.

Then there is Dr. Fauci who states the US won’t get back to normal until LATE in 2021. This is despite a vaccine being available by the end of this year or early in 2021. As my Doctor recently told me, “It’s very likely we will still be wearing protective masks 6 months from now.”

As we neared the end of the month, our State was still adding about 500 new cases of COVID each day, except for the report on the 25th when that number bumped to 988. Not too surprising to the experts that noted that it occurred about two weeks after the Labor Day Holiday when there was an increase in the amount of ‘social mingling’.

  • The  total number of people diagnosed as positive approaching 85,000
  • The death-toll now 2100
  • There have been 7,000,000 cases in the U.S.
  •  200,000 have died
  • 40% of the cases are people between 20 and 39
  • 28% are between 40 and 59
  • About 90% of the deaths are people over 60

From Lowell Kiesow of KNKX, describing some of those that reject protecting themselves and others from this thing: “I saw a new term the other day: Covidiots”

Perhaps a good way to gauge when ‘normal’ might return is to look at those organizations that plan large conventions. I have to believe that the NAB has some pretty good ears to the ground and, in doing so, have announced that there – will not – be a spring show in Las Vegas and that it’s been re-scheduled for October 9-13, 2021. Yes, that’s over a year from now.

Here is what NAB’s Gordon Smith released in early September:

Dear NAB Show community,

I hope that you and your loved ones are well and staying safe. Although we truly miss seeing you in person, it has been fantastic to observe the industry come together in many ways to work through these challenging times, and it has been our pleasure to do our part to create connections via our new digital initiatives.

As we look ahead to 2021 and beyond, our top priority is to deliver a successful NAB Show. We recognize the vital role NAB Show plays as a driver of innovation and an economic engine for the global media and entertainment industry. With that in mind, it is critical we act on your behalf and in a way that will best serve the long-term interests of the industry. We have worked diligently over the last few weeks and months monitoring a range of variables, including health and safety concerns, economic indicators, industry developments and travel restrictions, to gain an understanding of overall trends and future conditions for holding a major event in 2021. We have also reached out extensively to the show community to collect feedback.

Through all of this we have witnessed growing concern and uncertainty over what the next six months will bring; enough that there appears to be a good deal of reluctance around participating in large events in the first half of next year. The pandemic remains a significant threat and the evidence suggests it will be well into next year before it could be under control in the U.S. We also have our own concerns around being able to deliver the type of event in April that will not only drive results, but one that can be produced safely for all involved and without significant limitations on the experience.

Taking all of this into account and in the interest of supporting the business, health and safety concerns of our show community we have decided to move the 2021 NAB Show, previously scheduled for April 11–14, to October 9–13, 2021 in Las Vegas.

With any difficult decision, there are trade-offs. Moving NAB Show to October means we are considering alternative 2021 dates for NAB Show New York, held annually in October. On the plus side, the 2021 Radio Show will co-locate with NAB Show in Las Vegas as will NAB’s Sales and Management Television Exchange; and there is opportunity to add additional partner events. Beyond this, we have done our best to avoid direct conflicts with other domestic and international events, and have reached out to allied organizations and partners to both share our thinking in advance and to offer to work collaboratively toward turning this into an opportunity for all.

With a new date set for the 2021 NAB Show we are looking at the entirety of the calendar next year with fresh eyes. We plan to continue bringing the industry together in a number of ways. In the short-term, we are excited about the online events planned for next month – the Radio Show (October 5–9) and NAB’s Sales and Management Television Exchange (October 14–15). These signature events, combined with our virtual NAB Show New York (October 19–29), offer dynamic content and engagement opportunities all month long to bring the industry together to restart, reengage and refocus.

We are also committed to creating new and meaningful experiences to engage and connect with you throughout the year on NAB Amplify. This dynamic, year-round digital platform will extend the impact of NAB Show throughout the year by providing opportunities for networking, discovery and education.

Since the early stages of the current global crisis, we have done our best to balance our decision-making with the long-term interest of NAB members and the wider media and entertainment industry. We have not made this decision lightly and have relied on a great deal of feedback from the NAB Show community. We are grateful to our stakeholders and partners for engaging with us and supporting our decision. Amidst all of this, we have been reminded of what a great industry we serve. As always, we look forward to working with you to provide vital events and services to support these efforts, and to invigorate and propel the industry forward.


As we all know, the magic dividing line between K and W call letters is the Mississippi River.

There are a number of exceptions. For instance in Texas – (Most of which is west of the Mississippi) Waco has WACO, San Antonio has WOAI and Dallas WBAP. An interesting thing took place recently in the La Crosse, WI market. A station sale there saw a station that had a K-Call become a station with a W-Call. KQEG became WKBH. The City of License for the station is La Crescent, MN – right along the Mississippi River….however, on the WEST SIDE.

While we deal with Smoke – The Gulf Coast was dealing with a Hurricane that did significant damage to a number of broadcast stations in and around Lake Charles LA.  FCC figures showed ten Radio Stations were forced off the air. Sure would like to have some of their wind and rain about now.

Another kind of storm, this one biological and economical, has forced closure to 400 stations off the air across the U.S.

Once again, Seattle has ranked near the top of the ‘worst cities to drive in’ list. According to WalletHub, Seattle is the 10th worst city for drivers and has the 3rd highest vehicle maintenance costs. One would think that with COVID forcing many to work from home, rather than Downtown, that this statistic would improve.

So just how many of those office towers are empty today? According to a piece in the Seattle Times, ‘Roughly 90% of the 47,000,000 Square Feet of office space is currently vacant. This does not mean that those that occupied this space are not still paying for their space. However, you have to know that the pressure on building owners and operators to re-negotiate these leases is intense. Another statistic from the same article stated that 71% of managers and employees want to continue to work from home after the Pandemic. Betcha it will be a while before we see a bunch of tower-cranes putting up new office towers in Seattle.

All this change in where people are located is having a dramatic impact on those businesses that operate at street level. For example, we are likely not going to need to have a Starbucks everywhere you look for some time to come.

Seattle has other issues ranging from how they handled the riots, Capital Hill mess and their goal to have a ‘’Jump Start tax’. These actions have not gone unnoticed across the Lake. The announcement that Amazon is going to grow by 25,000 employees in Bellevue must have sent some shock waves through some offices in Seattle. Now with leases for two million square feet of office space and announcement of construction of two new, 43-story office towers, one does not have to have an advanced degree to see what’s happening. Seattle has competition!

Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist at Windermere Real Estate, concluded that this is a sign that Amazon is ‘Fed up with Seattle politics’ adding, “It’s another sign that the company is looking to other pastures”.

NAB’s CEO has stated what we all knew was happening. Facebook, Google, YouTube etc. are hurting broadcasters’ ability to make a profit with their own local news operations. NAB has joined Newspapers who have long been saying that they are dying at the hands of these operations. Consumers today are all walking around with Smartphones that enable them to instantly connect to these sources of information, and do so at a time that fits their schedule.

Meanwhile, Washington State University released this item on Sept 14th explaining how political candidates are shifting their focus too:

PULLMAN, Wash. – More political candidates may be shifting primarily to social media to advertise rather than TV, according to a study of advertising trends from the 2018 campaign season. The study, published recently in American Political Science Review, also found that Facebook political ads were more partisan, less negative and less issue-focused than those on TV.

 “The 2018 race showed that social media can be helpful to candidates who may not have a lot of resources, including challengers and those who are not already well known,” said Travis Ridout, Washington state University political science professor and a corresponding author on the study. “It allows them to get their messages out.”

Facebook ads are more practical for many down-ballot candidates who cannot afford the high price of TV advertising, Ridout added. A much broader range of candidates also used Facebook ads than TV.

 Ridout along with co-authors from Bowdoin College, and Emory, Stanford and Wesleyan universities, analyzed Facebook and TV advertising data for nearly 7,300 candidates in the 2018 federal and state level races. They found that the vast majority, about 6,000, only advertised on the social media platform. A little more than 1,000 candidates used both Facebook and TV advertising. Only 242 relied on TV ads alone. The study focused on advertising by candidates’ campaigns as opposed to advertising by political action committees, also known as PACs, and other outside groups.

 While Facebook’s affordability was an equalizing factor, the researchers also noted that the platform’s ability to target ads often limits the audience—which may explain why Facebook political ads tended to be more partisan and contained less information about actual issues. The candidates appeared to be using Facebook to speak to their supporters. They used TV to reach undecided voters.

 “TV political advertising is almost always about persuasion. It’s ‘vote for me’ or ‘don’t vote for the other candidate’,” said Ridout. “There’s some of that persuasion on Facebook too, but there are more fundraising ads and acquisition ads that urge voters to ‘take this survey’ or ‘provide your email address’. The other purpose is for mobilization: encouraging supporters to register to vote, attend a campaign rally or find their polling place.”

 The Facebook ads also tended to avoid the double-edged sword of negative advertising. According to Ridout, negative ads can make people who might have supported an opponent decide to stay home on election day, but they can also make some of those same voters angry, encouraging them to go to the polls. These types of ads still appeared more often on TV than social media in 2018.

Given the “emotional gut punch” TV is able to deliver more effectively than Facebook, and the many older avid voters who still watch television, Ridout doesn’t expect TV political ads to go away any time soon. Still, during the 2020 campaign and in the future, the political scientist expects to see campaigns put more money put into social media, and that comes with its own set of problems.

 “As more of us are getting messages from politicians online, as opposed to through television, it portrays a world for us in which things are more partisan,” Ridout said. “Misinformation policies on social media also don’t seem to be equally enforced. Sometimes they are enforced for small fry, but for rich candidates, they will just rewrite the rules. We may be handing a lot of power to Google and to Facebook in particular, to make really big decisions about how Americans are informed prior to election day.”

 Responding to the present state of the economic situation in radio broadcasting, Entercom has announced a shuffle in the way they do Radio with a couple of their formats. Out are live and local midday and evening shows. In are programs originated in other markets. This is not conventional voice tracking where a DJ comes in and records all their ‘patter’ in a few minutes, letting the station’s computers assemble the pieces so that it sounds like the DJ is live and local.

In this case, they will be airing live shows from elsewhere, generally within the same time zone, during these time segments. Entercom is already doing this with some of their programming on KISW, by airing it in other markets.

For example, in Seattle, Entercom’s ‘The Wolf’ will be going up against Hubbard’s ‘The Bull’. (Both Country Music formatted) Presumably, one station will be running live/local DJ’s while the other will be airing DJ’s from out of state during those time segments. This is yet another example of having less people working in that downtown office building.  

One of our local companies apparently had a change of heart as a result of the recent COVID situation. REI (Recreation Equipment Inc.) had planned on moving into a brand new, $367 Million Dollar, headquarters facility in Bellevue that was just completed. The COVID situation meant everyone was suddenly working from home. Apparently their success with this new mode of operation was enough for them to decided they didn’t need that fancy new building after all, opting to have their staff spread out rather than be concentrated. So, they put the place up for sale. Shortly afterward, it was announced that Facebook would be the new owner. Made sense for Facebook, as they already occupy adjacent buildings and this move will give them an additional 400,000 sq.ft of space to grown into. One does not think of Facebook as a Seattle area company, however, with some 3,000,000 square feet of occupied space, they certainly will have a big footprint.

An entrance to the REI flagship store is shown Friday, March 2, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Obviously, Bellevue is pleased, as this is all happening about the same time as Amazon’s big announcement about expansion in the city.

 I can’t help but wonder when Tacoma will abandon its backward image and start promoting itself as a reasonable alternative for those that either want out of Seattle or are looking at expanding their presence in this area? To start with, Tacoma has a lot of economic advantages. Granted, Seattle and Bellevue are better linked in a number of ways.

In last months column I wrote about the founder of KRAB, Lorenzo Milam passing. Some related emails addressed KBOO in Portland and his connection there. This is explained here:

Kent Randles, now retired from Entercom in Portland noted, “They don’t talk about the first transmitter site being the garage of what is now Gray Haertig’s house.”

For some time there have been complaints about the fact that the Nielsen Portable People Meter (PPM) is not able to track those that listen to radio via headphones. Now, apparently, they have resolved the issue based on surveys to determine the number of people that use this mode for listening.

We constantly hear about the demise of AM Radio. Then something comes along that changes it, at least in certain markets. iHeart Media has recently purchased AM stations in the Washington DC and New York City markets. What’s driving this? I get the feeling it’s because IHeart believed it should invest in their new BIN format, The Black Information Network, locally heard on KHHO/850.

A former IHeart station, licensed to Eatonville, WA (Southeast of Tacoma), KTDD on 104.9, has been sold to Worship 24/7.
More Seattle area statistics from Wallet Hub, this time, not good ones. The City had poor scores in the U.S. for:

  • Rate of car thefts
  • Auto-repair shops per capita
  • Gas prices
  • Parking rates

In California, they routinely, shut off power to keep the power lines from causing more fires. (Not to sure that its working) Anyway, demonstrating how dependent people are on having their electrical devices, many called 911 to report they could not get their garage door open. Apparently never giving any thought to the fact that there is a mechanical release for those doors. Reminds me of stories of people whose battery has died in their key fob and will call for help to get into their vehicle who later learn that the key they have will unlock the door.   The fact that people will call 911 requesting help like this, in times like these, is not helpful.

There are a lot of ‘newbies’ that wonder how we got along without all their high tech contraptions. Meanwhile there are a lot of ‘oldies’ that can recall how to get things done without it. Sometimes – Old Tech – is best.

On that topic, a question was recently asked by a ‘newbie’, “What’s a Tone Arm? 😊

Seems to me, the more people become hooked or reliant on technology, the less they are able to deal with the day when they don’t have it. Power failures are a great example, as just about everything today requires power.

One of my favorite examples is the smart phone.

  • No one remembers phone numbers any more. They store them on their phone.
  • Fewer have a land-line. Why pay for two phones anyway? Besides…What’s a Phone Book?


What they don’t realize is they are about 24 hours away from having that device become a useless door stop when they can’t recharge it.
Another example is Broadcast Radio:


Few have a radio in their home, much less one that does not require having the power on to run it. (Yes, I do have a wind-up.)

All too many have come to depend on getting their news and information from their TV, computer or (there it is again) their Smart Phone.

Here in the PNW, we are waiting for the ‘big-one’ that will create an epic communications vacuum, leaving many to have to fend for themselves. It’s not going to be a pretty sight.
Over the years, you’ve seen me write about towers. That’s because what I do for a living is usually related to a nearby tower. Radio and TV Broadcasting would not be possible without them. At one time, broadcasters all owned their towers, but that all changed a few years ago with several large firms purchasing many of them and leasing them back to their former owners.

If you ever wondered who owns all these tower….Here’s a list you can browse through:


A couple of years ago, a TV tower in Missouri collapsed while it was being modified as part of the TV Re-Pack process, taking the life of Steve Lemay who lived here in Western Washington.

OSHA has investigated the matter and has released a couple of key findings:

1) TCI’s suggested diagonal replacement procedure was flawed in that it compromised the effectiveness of the integrated surrounding braces and the load bearing capacity of the tower legs; and 2) the cause of the communication tower collapse was the weakening of the compressive strength of the tower legs by removing the bolts at the connection of the diagonals to the horizontal redundant. 

As a result, the family of Steve Lemay has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owners of the tower and Tower Consultants Inc. (TCI). The report cites certain details that may by used by the defendants.

I worked with Steve at West Tiger Mountain not long before the accident, replacing the KIRO-FM Antenna.

Every Radio, TV station and Cable system in the U.S. is required to monitor what’s known as FEMA/IPAWS with their EAS equipment. This, internet based, system is used by all levels of government to distribute Public Warning Messages. For some time, the National Weather Service (NWS) maintained they were working on their own system called Haz Collect. Here in Seattle, we implemented our own system that would enable EAS Messages to be broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). Now, things have changed at NWS that will permit civil messages to be distributed via NWR. The following is their news release:


TIP #30: Non-Weather
Emergency Messages

During 2021, National Weather Service (NWS) offices will implement a new capability allowing Non-Weather Emergency Messages (NWEMs) to be channeled from IPAWS to NWS for broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). This capability is a replacement to the discontinued HazCollect program.

NWS plans to conduct live testing of the new capability with select IPAWS COGs in October and November of 2020. Operational rollout is expected during the first half of 2021. The final step of operational rollout requires local configuration of systems at each local NWS Weather Forecast Office (WFO) so exact dates for operations will be determined by each WFO.

During the scheduled live testing, COGs will send Demo/Practice (DMO) and Administrative Message (ADR) messages to IPAWS, where they will be validated and sent to NWS. NWS will process the messages and broadcast them over NWR. Select broadcasters will also monitor NWR and validate receipt of the associated Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) that would normally be used for EAS activation.

During this live testing period, any Alerting Authority with NWEM permissions may see an alert go out over NWR. However, this capability is not expected to be operational 24/7 during the test period, so please continue to utilize other alerting channels to ensure delivery of NWEMs.

If you want to prevent an alert from being sent over the IPAWS NWEM channel to the NWS and NWR you may apply “BLOCKCHANNEL = NWEM” in your alerting software. Please contact your alerting software provider for details on how to do this.

Once testing is complete, we will provide more information about when National Weather Service offices will enable 24/7 operation and alerting authorities can expect their valid NWEM to be delivered over NWR.

Please contact for additional information about NWEM broadcast over NWR.

I guess it’s official. For some time we have been experiencing very little, if any, solar activity as defined by the number of sun-spots.  On the 15th of September an international bunch of experts announced that Solar Cycle 25 is here. In the event you have not noticed, these oscillations between a quiet and active sun take place in, roughly, 11 year intervals. In the following, you can see on the left a quiet sun (as it has been for some time) and, on the right, when it’s active.

To those of us who are Hams, this means that the higher frequency HF bands will see enhanced propagation. Of late, there has been little or no long distance propagation on 15 and 10 Meters. Sensing that there is fun ahead, I shipped off my HF Transceiver for a bunch of up-grades.

Wheatstone, a manufacturer of professional audio equipment, recently ran a story about KING-FM’s new studio facilities. Having been there, I can tell you that it is very, very nice. One of the things that impressed me, was how meticulously the wiring was accomplished. Believe me, there are a lot of ‘rats-nests’ to be found out there. Mike Brooks and the integration team did a marvelous job. Not often is a broadcast station willing to show off the workmanship in their wiring. The following is a picture of inside one of their equipment racks:


 During this pandemic, a number of churches have turned to ‘parking lot services’, where worshipers assemble in their vehicles in the church parking lot, while the services are transmitted via a low-power FM transmitter. Some have requested the FCC waive its rules to permit greater coverage. (Read that operate with more power.) The FCC has officially said no. Chairman Pai suggests instead that churches could use broadband. The fact is, many are doing just that.

Churches are not the only ones wanting more power. So are Low Power FM Stations (LPFM). Perhaps it was only a matter of time before this would come to pass. Most broadcast stations desire to have greater coverage and to do that means either higher power, or in the case of FM, higher transmitter locations.

The FCC has rejected proposals to increase power from 100 to 250 watts. The NAB and others have made it clear that the FM band has become very full with all the new translators etc. Just as was the case with the old AM Class-4’s many years ago, the desire for more power tends to override concerns regarding the interference that is caused.

By permitting these 2000+ stations to increase power from 100 to 250 may make them feel better, however, listeners would be faced with increased interference, thereby defeating the purpose of the increase. We are already experiencing what happens when we have people who try and argue with science and physics.

There are a couple of passing’s that I should note:

Not often do I write about the passing of someone that was not involved with Broadcasting. This month, an exception. The father of one of our more well known residents, Bill Gates Sr. recently passed. He was 94. What is often not mentioned was the fact that he was a guiding force behind the formation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that has gone on to do so much good for so many.

In this case, the passing of Bob Robertson at 91, was the loss of a legend in our business.

Just about everyone has a story or memory of Bob. I recall the first time I saw him was in a radio studio where he was re-creating a Tacoma baseball game. That was an amazing process. There was no budget to send a sportscaster to away games, not to mention, in those days well before the Internet, the cost of the broadcast circuit was huge. Bob had a couple of reel-to-reel tape recorders, one with a loop of crowd noise, the other with a loop of cheers of something exciting happening on the field. A block of wood to create the sound of a bat and he was all set to call the game. Each half inning he would be handed a piece of paper that came from a stringer at the game with the events of the game. That’s all he needed. Listening on the air, you had little clue that he was not in the press box at the game. Many years later, Bob was still doing it on KLAY in Tacoma. I would bet that few if any of today’s play-by-play announcers could pull off what Bob did?

When I worked for Channel 13, then owned by Clover Park, we would do football games at Franklin Pierce Stadium. Bob was there to handle the play-by-play.

In reading about Bob for this piece, I learned that he and I both worked at KMO in Tacoma, at slightly different times. He started there in 1950, me, 16 years later in 1966.

Bob was most famous for being the voice of WSU/Cougar football starting in 1964 and ending some 52 years later in October 2018 when he announced he was retiring.

Bob was the Washington Sportscaster of the year 15 times in his career. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and the WSU Hall of Fame in 2002.

Bob Robertson’s voice carried across the airwaves for his four children, his wife Joanne, his friends, his fellow broadcasters, and sports fans across the Pacific Northwest to enjoy for nearly seven decades until his retirement in 2018.

A radio, television and play-by-play broadcaster in the region since 1949, Robertson was beloved as the voice of the Washington State Cougars for 52 seasons, the voice of minor league baseball in the state, primarily in Tacoma in Spokane, and renowned for his wide-ranging knowledge of the statewide sports landscape.

In the following picture, you can see Bob waving to his fans at a Tacoma baseball game in 2018:

As you can see, the broadcast booth at Cheney Stadium is named for Bob. So is a radio booth at Avista Stadium in Spokane and at Martin Stadium on the WSU Campus in Pullman.

As you can tell, Bob called not only football and baseball games, but basketball as well….spending more than 20 years calling WSU basketball games.

Bob is survived by his four children, Hugh, Janna, John and Rebecca, along with his seven grandchildren.

Hopefully he will also be remembered with his famous sign-off:

“Always be a good sport. Be a good sport all ways.”

For those of you that are not familiar with Kitsap County. The Western side of the county has ‘two-humps’   Clearly visible from Seattle. The South Hump is Gold Mountain (home of a KCPQ-TV/13 as well as KTBW (Virtual Channel 20, UHF Channel 21). The North Hump is Green Mountain.

Recently the Kitsap Sun ran a story about these two mountains where I learned they are called the ‘Blue Hills’. All these years, I’ve never heard that. In the following video, look at the segment talking about the Weather Radar that was damaged by falling ice. You will see a shorter tower, with the radar dome on top, and to the right a portion of the 700 foot Channel 13 tower. Yes, it does load up with ice during the winter and when it ‘defrosts’…there is a lot of ice falling.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Here’s an item that grabbed my antenna:

Miller Lite Creates ‘Cantenna’ Reception Device

Limited edition product designed to help cord-cutters get NFL games


(Image credit: Miller Lite)

The official text reads:

CHICAGO—On the list of strange things to happen in 2020, add Miller Lite coming out with a TV antenna as the latest entry. The beer company has announced what it calls the “Cantenna,” a reception device—and beer—that is designed specifically for cord-cutters or cord-nevers to receive broadcasts of NFL football games as an alternative to illegal streaming.

For those of us that have been around Amateur Radio for the last half a century, we all knew that the term ‘Cantenna’ meant a famous product sold by Heath kit. In that case it was a resistor, mounted in a paint-can filled with oil that worked as a ‘dummy-antenna’ or ‘dummy-load’.

My guess is the folks creating this ‘beer’ Cantenna had no idea that the name was being recycled, perhaps because they never heard of it, or it came out (1961) before they were born. Then there is the fact that the Heath Cantenna was used to test transmitters when you did not wish to broadcast a signal, whereas the new Cantenna is designed to receive signals.


For additional information on the – famous – Cantenna, look here –


Perhaps the biggest news of the month for local TV was the announcement that the owners of KWPX-TV (Channel 33) ION Media has been sold to E.W. Scripps $2.65 Billion. Interestingly Berkshire Hathaway is contributing $600 Million to the deal. In the end, Scripps will be reaching 100 Million homes in 62 markets where it has stations, in addition to some 124 affiliates. I understand that Scripps will have to divest 23 Ion stations. No word where and who at this point.
We knew it was coming as John Poray had announced his retirement as Executive Director of SBE some time back. At the most recent fall meeting of the Society it was announced that James Ragsdale will be taking his place.

Ragsdale will start in January. The SBE Board noted that they had 28 candidates to choose from which is, in itself, quite a statement about SBE.

I’ve been a member of SBE since 1968 (52 years) and for almost 30 of those years, John was in Indy, keeping the work of the Society flowing.  Having served 10 years on the National Board of Directors, I spent a great deal of time with John. He certainly will be missed. Welcome aboard James!

My thanks to an un-named reader for this submission:



That’s about it for this month, my friends –  Lord willing, I will be back, next month to most of the usual locations.
Until then – Stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings!
Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

September 2020 – Clay’s Corner

October 12, 2020

As I sit here we have been having a wonderful summer, complete with a bit of rain to keep the dust down. Likely for many, the most unusual summer of all, thanks to the Virus. There is something about wearing a mask that seems to dampen the spirit. Then again, if you were a motorcycle fan and made the annual trek to Sturgis…apparently few attending wore masks…now the tracking begins.

In this column I have been repeating the obvious questions. How long will this COVID-19 thing continue and/or when will it be over?

About mid-month in August we were all advised: Most Americans won’t be able to get a coronavirus vaccine until well into 2021. Specialists say that the vast majority of Americans won’t be able to get a coronavirus vaccine until spring or summer 2021 at the earliest, even if the most optimistic projections hold true and a COVID-19 vaccine is cleared for U.S. use in November. That timeline likely means that many Americans will have to continue to wait.

Perhaps surprising is a recent survey conducted by NPR/PBS NewsHour/ Marist poll showed that 35% would not be willing to get the vaccine.

This brings up the matter of masks. I’ve been reading stories about how the masks with valves are not acceptable. These masks are designed to let a person exhale unfiltered air, which defeats the purpose. Then there are those that don’t cover their nose. Gee don’t we exhale there too? Recently someone did a survey in Pierce County where they noted that 75% were wearing masks, but only 66% were wearing them properly. Some masks are laughable. I was at a grocery store recently where I saw someone wearing a Halloween Mask. Guess he was in compliance of the store’s rules that customers had to have a ‘facial covering’. Then there are those that are determined not to comply with the wishes of anyone else. I was at a convenience store recently when a fellow walked in to purchase a pack of cigarettes. You guessed it, no mask. His expression was pretty clear. He was ready to fight anyone that challenged him.

There have been a number of calls to make wearing masks mandatory, including Joe Biden, who would like to be our next president. He has even called for a nationwide mask mandate.

My questions are:

  • Is it not time to determine which of the zillions of masks you can buy actually do the job as intended?
  • Is it not time to make a rule that prescribes how a mask is to be worn?
  • Is it not time that retail businesses…and Ferry Deck Hands, be given the authority to enforce the rules?

You have likely noticed that women that wear masks are harder to understand than men. The science behind this is relatively simple. Women’s voices contain more high frequency content than do men’s, and masks (at least the good ones) attenuate high frequencies, making many women sound ‘muffled’. Perhaps the quality of the mask is determined by the amount of high frequency attenuation?

This situation did not go unnoticed in the design of the following mask, a picture of which was submitted by Mike Brooks of KING-FM. Any audio engineer will instantly recognize the visual of ‘High Frequency attenuation’.

Modelers at the University of Washington, and elsewhere, are now pouring over the data to try and determine how many lives might be saved if most people wear masks.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt anymore about the role of masks,” said Dr. Jared Baeten, vice dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health. Baeten was among those who initially questioned the value of masks for the general public, partly to preserve the supply for health care workers, partly because disease prevalence was low, and partly because he — like many other epidemiologists — mistakenly assumed the virus was mainly spread by people with symptoms, who were always advised to wear masks.

What changed his mind was the growing realization that people seem to be most contagious before they feel sick and that some infected people never develop symptoms at all.

“That was the real sea change,” Baeten said. If there is no way to tell who’s infected, then it makes sense for everyone to wear masks to avoid spreading the virus to others.

In large part, the battle over public acceptance has already been won. More than three-quarters of people in an NPR/ Ipsos poll released last week favored state laws requiring face coverings in public, and a previous poll found strong support among both Republicans and Democrats. At least 30 states have adopted some type of mandate, as have most of the largest U.S. cities and major retailers.

One of factors getting in the way of understanding this virus situation is the fact that its spread is not linear but rather exponential. Perhaps many, for the first time, are exposed to something that is not linear, is when someone explains compound interest. For some reason, most people are programmed to think about things in a linear manner. I recall having a discussion with a station manager many years ago, who was of the belief if a broadcast station were to double their power, the result would be a doubling of their signal. (Clue, it does not.) In the case of COVID-19 the fact that most think in a linear manner tends to greatly under estimate how the virus spreads. For example, the number of cases can double in two to four days. There is an actual term used to describe people who have trouble getting their head around this situation. It’s called ‘exponential growth bias’. This bias is one of the reasons why it’s so hard to get people to grasp the reason for wearing of masks, social distancing, etc. Another example of where a weakness in understanding certain mathematical principles can hurt us.

To held get your head around how bad this situation is – consider – (as of 8.28.20)

  • COVID-19 is now the #3 cause of death in the U.S. Only Heart Disease and Cancer kill more.
  • It’s killing more Americans that Alzheimer’s, Accidents and Diabetes – a tragic statistic for a virus the did not exist a year ago.
  • World-Wide we are over 24,466,482 cases and 831,827 deaths.
  • U.S. totals are approaching 6,000,000 cases and 182,923 deaths.
  • Washington State numbers are 72.703 cases and 1890 deaths.
  • The good news is the number of new cases appears to be trending downward.

One of the most difficult things for people to grasp has historically been that a person’s behavior has a direct correlation to the transmission of this virus. Stopping to think about it, there are a lot of bad things that happen as a direct result of a person’s behavior. Example – smoking, doing drugs, speeding, etc. Way too many of us feel that it won’t happen to us and many more feel that their behavior will not impact others. Tragically, this is not the case. Many will resent anyone telling them that their behavior violates other people, as perhaps aptly demonstrated by some parties recently in Seattle and Portland? There are some that will become angry and/or aggressive when confronted with violation of a rule that they personally don’t agree with. Recently in Pullman such an event took place.

I suspect the ‘invincible factor’ may be in play here. For some reason, certain college students are of the opinion that COVID-19 precautions at designed for ‘other’ people and are choosing to ‘party-on’. Unfortunately, many of these will become infected. Wonder who they will then blame?

Speaking of Pullman, being a WSU Employee, I receive a number of news items. I can just imagine the reaction if the Seattle Police did this!!!

Pullman Police enforcing Gov. Inslee’s proclamations to combat spread of COVID 19.

As of 8.28.20 –

12,500 students returned to Pullman for “remote” learning

1,000 living on WSU campus including frats/

Pullman COVID positivity rate over two week period up from 2.5% to 16.5%

Pullman 200 new confirmed cases in two weeks

Pullman PD now issuing citations for lack of distancing, no mask, more than 10 in a gathering…no more warnings or “education”

No hospitalizations or deaths in Pullman or Moscow at this point.

The Pullman Police Department is enforcing requirements under Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamations aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID 19 while engaging with the community to promote public safety.

As we all wait for a vaccine to help in getting our lives back to the way they were, several are thinking about how getting vaccinated might work. For example, would your company require verification prior to being able to go to the office. How about sporting events or going to a restaurant? I can just see those that are not ‘rule-followers’ or anti-vaccine types reacting to this one. I can see airlines having such a requirement. Certainly, healthcare and government workers that interact with the public would have to be vaccinated. So it will be with schools. Then there will be those that will object based on a medical condition or religious grounds.

In the event you are thinking that this might be a first time that vaccinations would be required, you may want to look at history. There is a painting by Alfred Touchemolin from 1895 called ‘Vaccination’. It depicts French army recruits being vaccinated for smallpox. Back in 1901, Cambridge, Mass. had a law that required all citizens 21 and older to get vaccinated against Smallpox. The fine was $5 (equal to about $150 today).

Today the military requires troops to be immunized against a number of diseases. Several states require healthcare workers to do the same. According to what I’ve read, all employers, in any industry, can compel their employees to get vaccinated.

So how do you get those that reject being told what to do, even if its for their own good? You incentivize it. In other words, you want to do something popular, you want more freedom of choice? Fine, first let me see your vaccination documents.

At some point there will be legal aspects to consider. We are going to be in uncharted territory for some time to come, in addition to wearing your mask, keeping your distance and washing your hands, you may need to fasten your seatbelt.

I love it when someone creates a sign that says a lot with few words. Here is one that my readers have sent to me that help make my point:

If you ever wonder why we are blessed to live here in this part of the world, consider what happened on the 27th when Hurricane Laura came ashore with 150 mph winds.

The tower at the studios of KPLC-TV made an unexpected entry into their news set. The tower apparently damaged their STL (Studio to Transmitter Link) however the tower used for transmitting survived.

In addition, a representative from the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters reported that LPTV station KSWL, a CBS affiliate, has reported that its tower fell on top of its building.

Looking at the ceiling at KPLC-TV, portions of their news set can be seen on the right.

Outside, you can see what happened to the tower. The roof of the studio building is just visible at the bottom.

For more visuals, go here:

At 1253 a.m. the National Weather Service weather-radar quit working as winds destroyed the system. The following story provides video of both events.

Radio stations were also impacted with, reportedly, the Cumulus Media cluster of stations knocked off the air. For those of you not familiar with the area, Lake Charles is a community located approximately between Houston, TX and New Orleans, LA. on the Gulf Coast.

In previous columns I’ve mentioned that many businesses will be taking a fresh look at the amount of space they are leasing and start asking if it’s time to downsize. Think of it this way… If a high percentage of your employees are working from home and productivity has not suffered, perhaps you don’t need to provide an office or cubical for that person. In the past, many businesses were afraid to let employees work from home for fear that, without supervision, productivity would go down, etc. Studies are showing that in many cases the situation has been reversed.

Yes, this applies to broadcasting as well. Guess what? Recently the headline read:

Entercom Plans To ‘Significantly’ Reduce Size Of Office And Studio Facilities

Here’s the actual piece:

Entercom President and CEO David Field told analysts on Friday the company plans to “significantly” reduce the size of its office and studio facilities in the future, after learning during the pandemic that it “can operate at a highly effective level with modified work practices and reduced workspaces.” This will help the company save some of the roughly $70 million it spent on office rent and occupancy costs in 2019.

Entercom isn’t alone in looking to reduce real estate costs – iHeartMedia said last week it’s taking a “good hard look” at real estate with an eye toward reducing its physical footprint across the 150 offices it currently operates around the country.

Entercom also said on its second quarter results call, that it plans to discontinue some of its traditional promotional practices. They “have diminishing value,” Field said, in light of the “rapid evolution” of the company’s digital, social and other tech capabilities in recent years. This after the company pulled back on staffing of its radio station promotions departments during the pandemic.

Another way small market radio is reducing costs is by reassessing the value of paying for a survey of listeners, also known as, ratings. Firms that provide ratings services to broadcasters charge for their products. If your margins are extremely thin due to the present economic climate, you have to look at all ways you can cut expenses. This is especially the case when the costs for these services are viewed to be excessive during these trying times. I suspect that this is related to the fact that Nielsen pulled out of several smaller markets in this area, something I wrote about in a previous column.

Not all is doom and gloom….

The 2020 Business in the Northwest report, published by the Washington State University Carson College of Business, finds that although most businesses have experienced significant hardships due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Pacific Northwest business leaders are confident they have the necessary skills and resources to navigate the crisis.

Key findings from the 2020 report include:

  • Businesses feel the negative impacts of the pandemic: The majority of business leaders (64%) report feeling a negative impact on their business, resulting in a third of businesses having to close their doors. More than one in ten (12%) businesses had to close permanently, while almost a quarter (24%) have closed temporarily.
  • Adapting in the face of challenge: Refining or re-strategizing product and service offerings has helped 76% of business during this time.
  • Business leaders support stay-at-home policies: More than half of business leaders (66%) feel their state governments have done either an “excellent” or a “good” job responding to the COVID-19 crisis. More than two-thirds (79%) say stay-at-home orders were the correct response to slowing the spread of the virus.
  • In this together: The vast majority (87%) of business leaders feel a larger responsibility to help their communities during this time, and 95% feel an increased sense of responsibility to support their employees.
  • Teleworking is here to stay: More than half (56%) of business leaders will continue allowing employees to work from home, and 74% will continue with virtual meetings.
  • Optimism remains: Despite facing unprecedented challenges, 80% of business leaders are optimistic about the business climate in the region. Additionally, 92% feel their company is equipped with the tools it needs to withstand changes over the next three years.

Did you know that our planet’s magnetic field is doing strange things? Yep, check this out:

Great test questions for ‘newbies’ in Television:

  • What’s a Monoscope?
  • What’s an Indian Head Test Pattern?
  • Where is the Front Porch?

And for Radio:

  • What’s a ‘Gibson Girl’ tape splicer?
  • What did a log entry of NBQ mean?
  • What is the meaning of the letters – NEMO?

The matter of C-Band Repack is simmering along. In this case, the FCC is offering broadcasters a choice: 1) Take a lump-sum payment for the changes they will have to make, or, 2) submit a detailed reimbursement request. SBE has asked for more time to make the decision. The FCC, apparently being in a good-mood, pushed back the deadline for the decision until Sept. 14th. Apparently under pressure from those that are salivating over the thought of getting more spectrum for wireless devices in that spectrum, the Commish has made it clear – no more delays. They plan on auctioning off the, to be liberated, spectrum starting on April 8th. Stations are going to be faced with, depending on a number of circumstances, a variety of changes. This is certainly not as complex as the TV Repack, however, nonetheless, this is going to be a challenge, especially for smaller broadcasters who will likely be employing consultants and contractors.

As if the impacts of COVID-19 were not enough, some firms based in California, are also having to deal with their extremely bad fire season. One of these is Inovonics who recently sent out an email blast to their customers telling everyone they were fine, however, because they were in an evacuation zone, there were going to be delays.

Was it just me, but did you notice a reduction in robocalls a few months ago?  Seems to me the Feds were touting the fact they were cracking down on them. More recently, these slimeballs have apparently discovered the government is all bluff, or something, because the volume of these annoying/ pesky phone calls is once again on the increase. I’m receiving voice calls to my cell and home phone as well as text messages. Many of them are using their old pitches, using familiar voices. I can’t wait for political season to heat up…to make me seriously consider only turning on my phone to make outgoing calls. For incoming, perhaps a snail mail request for an appointment to talk in real time might work?

If you are looking for a job in Radio, here are a couple to consider in Oregon:

Hi everyone.

After thirty-odd years with OPB, our Western Region Chief Roger Domingues has decided it’s time to retire.  We just posted his position today. The job is based in Corvallis and it covers 35 sites from Tillamook down to Gold Beach, and inland through the Roseburg, Eugene, and Corvallis areas. This Chief will be maintaining VHF, UHF, FM, AM, and microwave transmission equipment, and will manage one Engineer. In addition to the Western Chief position, we are hiring a field engineer for the same region. The job is in Corvallis and maintains VHF, UHF, FM, AM, microwave, and IP STL installations. Please see the link here and spread the word.

Jonathan Newsome | Director of Engineering
OPB | 7140 S Macadam Avenue | Portland, OR 97219 | (503) 293-1952

There have been a number of notable passing’s recently –

Sumner Redstone, who, for many years, led Viacom/CBS, died at the age of 97 on August 11th.

Community radio legend Lorenzo Milam. Lorenzo passed-away at the age of 86 on July 19th in Pueblo Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. Lorenzo was a leader in community radio, disability rights, publishing, and half a dozen other pursuits. There are many radio stations still broadcasting today which he helped to launch, either directly or through the guidance of his writings.

  • Lorenzo Wilson Milam in the studios of KRAB, the noncommercial Seattle FM station he helped start in 1962. Credit…KRAB Archives.Milam loathed commercial radio stations, which he saw as purveyors of mindless junk. With KRAB and about a dozen other stations that he helped start in the 1960s and ’70s, he created a freewheeling, esoteric vision of commercial-free community radio as the voice of the people it served. Today the 107.7 frequency is the home of Entercom’s KNDD. If you go to one of the American Tower Sites on Cougar Mountain, you will be able to see the concrete slab that once supported the KRAB transmitting equipment. I suspect Ben Dawson would be able to provide a lot of interesting stories about this station. BTW, the KRAB call letters are now in use in Bakersfield, CA.Perhaps one of the most famous Disc Jockeys to ever work in Seattle Radio was Pat O’Day. Pat died recently at age 85. I have vivid memories of listening to Pat in those days on ‘KJR Seattle, Channel 95’. To say that he left his mark is a huge understatement. I was working at a station in Tacoma at the time. Pat’s innovative style impacted everyone in the industry. I never met the man, however I came close. One night I was playing in a band at the Ft. Lewis Officer’s Club. In an adjacent room there was a private party going on. I recall asking what it was and was informed it was a wedding reception for a Seattle DJ named Pat O’Day. Another interesting connection was the fact that Pat was influenced by Radio via his father who had a program on KMO in Tacoma….a station where I was associated for 19 years. Here are a couple pictures of Pat – In his prime and more recently.

Here is a collection of comments about Pat from various sources:

  • For most of the 1960s, the most powerful single person in the Puget Sound rock ‘n’ roll scene was Pat O’Day, the legendary disc jockey and program director of KJR-AM, then a Top 40 station.
  • O’Day reigned in an era when KJR routinely garnered 30% to 40% of all listeners. These days, a station with a 7% share can claim to be No. 1.
  • It was a time when, after school, kids would be listening to O’Day’s afternoon drive-time show in their cars or on their transistor radios.
  • O’Day decided what tunes were played on KJR. He controlled the local teen dance circuit. He booked many of the rock concerts. He sponsored “teen fairs.” He was instrumental in promoting local rock groups.
  • Patrick MacDonald, the longtime Seattle Times rock critic who retired in 2008, says he remembers listening to O’Day on a portable radio as he walked home after finishing his newspaper route. He says O’Day would make sure local bands ended up in the weekly KJR Fabulous Fifty listing you could pick up at record stores. “He sort of manipulated his Top 10,” MacDonald says.
  • In a 2010 Seattle Times interview, Don Wilson, one of the founders of The Ventures, credited O’Day with making “Walk Don’t Run” a national hit in 1960.
  • The year before, Wilson had been working construction in Tacoma. The group took their single to every radio station in Seattle, and they all turned them down, except for O’Day, who began using 30 seconds of it as “news kicker” just before the news. That was enough. The kids began calling, and the record went onto regular programming.
  • Jason Remington, founder and creator of Puget Sound Media, a website that focuses on the history of local radio and TV, is unequivocal in his assessment: “Pat O’Day was the creator of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll radio station in the Northwest. He did what others couldn’t do. He was a genius at hiring talent. He knew what sounds he wanted. That’s what made KJR.”
  • Listening to old recordings of O’Day, or other popular disc jockeys he hired — Larry Lujack, Lan Roberts, Murphy, Jerry Kaye, Dick Curtis — their jokes and patter often don’t translate very well some five decades later.
  • O’Day was born Paul W. Berg in Norfolk, Nebraska. O’Day enrolled in a broadcasting program at a Tacoma vocational institute after graduating from Bremerton High in 1953. He bounced around a few radio stations until 1960, when KJR went rock ‘n’ roll.
  • He’d be there for 15 years, named the nation’s top program director in 1964 and 1965, and “Radioman of the Year” in 1966.
  • During the 1960s, he led O’Day & Associates that staged teen dances and teen fairs, including at Parker’s on Aurora, the Spanish Castle Ballroom on Pacific Highway South, the Lake Hills Roller Rink in Bellevue, all now razed and gone.
  • In 1967, O’Day helped found one of the world’s largest concert firms, Concerts West, and staged shows for the likes of Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones. By 1976, O’Day was out of that business, amid management infighting.
  • In 1967, too, he began calling hydroplane races. Back then, the major local TV stations all broadcast the Gold Cup live. But with an engineer’s strike, a little independent station, KTVW, Channel 13, decided to step in. On short notice, O’Day was called.
  • He asked Wayne Newton, in town for a show, to help with the color, though Newton knew nothing about hydroplanes. But Newton owed him because KJR was one of the first to play his records.
  • That was the beginning of 46 years of O’Day broadcasting the hydros either on TV or radio, ending in 2013.
  • O’Day always just kept on going.
  • Ø    In 1986, after undergoing treatment at Shick Shadel Hospital, he became its spokesman.
  • O’Day would end up investing in three radio stations. In one of them, KYYX, he tried to recreate the KJR magic. A floating $10 million loan with sky-high interest rates during the Jimmy Carter administration turned into bankruptcy.
  • O’Day just kept on going. He bought a real estate franchise in Friday Harbor and became successful in that business.
  • But he never forgot radio.
  • O’Day is survived by his wife, Stephanie John O’Day; three sons, Jerry O’Day, Gary O’Day and Jeff O’Day; a daughter, Kelsey O’Day; and several grandchildren.

ATSC-3.0 continues to spread it’s wings with seven TV Stations in Portland recently launching the new system, often called NextGen TV.

There is an ever increasing amount of interest in Mars with new robotic missions on their way. This is causing some to ask the question, ‘Why launch now with so many problems on Earth?’ Some have asked if the money spent on exploring Mars were suddenly spent on a COVID-19 Vaccine, or addressing the cause of all of the riots, would it resolve those problems?

Stations impacted by the process of repacking C-Band to make room for more wireless systems are wrestling with the question: Should they accept a lump-sum to pay for the required changes, or, should they gather all the required information about the costs of the project? SBE asked for more time, the FCC was really nice and said, OK, here are two more weeks. Making the process more complicated are those advocating both methods. The lump sum would vary depending on what needed to be changed. For stations with engineering staffs it’s a lot easier. For many smaller operations, not so much.

Elections are over at SBE with Wayne Pecena elected to a second term as President. Wayne is the Associate Director of Educational Broadcast Services at Texas A&M University, which operates public stations news/ talk/ classical KAMU-FM (90.9) and KAMU-TV. He is a member of SBE Chapter 99 in College Station, TX.

The following have been elected to one-year terms:

  • Vice President: Andrea Cummis, CBT, CTO; Chapter 15 New York; Roseland, NJ
  • Secretary: Kevin Trueblood, CBRE, CBNT; Chapter 90 Southwest FL; Ft. Myers, FL
  • Treasurer: Ted Hand, CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB; Chapter 45 Charlotte; Charlotte, NC

Serving two-year terms on the board of directors will be:

  • Stephen Brown, CPBE, CBNT; Chapter 80 Fox Valley; Appleton, WI
  • Roswell Clark, CPBE, CBNT; Chapter 39 Tampa Bay Area; Clearwater, FL
  • Kirk Harnack, CBRE, CBNE; Chapter 103 Nashville; Nashville, TN
  • Tom McGinley, CPBE, AMD, CBNT; Chapter 16 Seattle; Missoula, MT
  • Shane Toven, CBRE, CBNT; Chapter 43 Sacramento; Antelope, CA
  • Fred Willard, CPBE, 8-VSB, CBNT; Chapter 37 District of Columbia; Washington, DC

They join the other six directors who have another year remaining in their terms:

  • Mark Fehlig, PE, CPBE, 8-VSB; Chapter 40 San Francisco; Walnut Creek, CA
  • Charles “Ched” Keiler, CPBE, 8-VSB, CBNE; Chapter 53 South Florida; Ft. Lauderdale;
  • Geary Morrill, CPBE, CBNE; Chapter 91 Central Michigan; Saginaw, MI
  • Jason Ornellas, CBRE, CRO; Chapter 43 Sacramento; Sacramento, CA
  • Chris Tarr, CSRE, AMD, DRB, CBNE; Chapter 28 Milwaukee; Milwaukee, WI
  • Dan Whealy, CBTE; Chapter 96 Rockford; Waterloo, IA

Jim Leifer, CPBE, of Andover, MA, continues as immediate past president.

On the personal side, I have a lot of fond memories having served on the SBE Board of Directors for 10 years.

A lot of milestones are being celebrated these days as several Radio Stations are celebrating their 100th. Locally, congratulations are in order for the Radio Club of Tacoma, W7DK as they are one of a handful of Ham Radio clubs that have been associated with the ARRL for 100 years. I also note that the magazine Scientific American is celebrating number 150.

A change at KBTC (The Bates Technical College station in Tacoma) I recently received the following:


I’m writing to let you know there has been a staffing change here at KBTC. Darin Gerchak has resigned his position as Director of Engineering, effective today, August 7.  Please contact me at, 253-680-7735 (o), or (253) 241-0950 (c) if you need anything or have any questions.

Best regards,

Steve Newsom | Chief Engineer
KBTC-TV Tacoma/Seattle | KCKA Centralia

Shortly afterward, I received the following from Darin Gerchak:

Hello Clay

Been a bit.  I am checking in to let you know that I am no longer with KBTC. If you need a hand with any projects or know of opportunities or places needing someone, please let me know.  I will keep in touch as I figure my way forward.

Darin Gerchak <

Speaking of Bates Technical College, congratulations to Roland Robinson.

SBE National Educator of the Year

As you can tell from the volume of traffic on our area’s highways, things are rebounding a bit after hitting some historic low points. iHeartMedia reported their revenue dropped 47% due to COVID-19, however they are seeing slow improvement. Salem reported their Q2 revenues declined y 18.3%. Entercom reported their revenues declined 54% in Q2. They report that Q3 revenue on the books is already 30% ahead of where Q2 finished.

In my last column I posted a number of pictures and details about the big FM tower/ antenna project on West Tiger. The last weekend of August saw one more ‘site shutdown’ related to this upgrade. This event was to install some Ice Shields and other related hardware on the tower. At this elevation, during the winter months, these towers accumulate a considerable quantity of ice during periods when the site is below freezing and the snow is falling. As happens in our climate, winter temperatures tend to go up and down. When the temperatures go up, that ice melts and falls off the tower. To protect equipment lower down, there are a number of structures called ‘Ice Shields’ deployed to ‘take the hit’ while protecting items below.

AccelNet, a Wireless Internet Provider, has a couple of installations on West Tiger. In the past I’ve shown you pictures taken from one of their several cameras they have deployed. In this case, a new camera is located near the summit of West Tiger pointed Southwest. To the left you can see several of the antennas on an adjacent tower. The brownish looking area near the center of the frame is the Cedar Hills Landfill. The water you see to the right is Puget Sound from Tacoma and up the east side of Vashon Island. As  you can see from the date stamp, this was captured the evening of August 6th with the clouds providing some nice color. Later in the year, this camera will be returning some great sunsets.


A lot of folks are looking for ways to keep kids busy during these trying times. I Guarantee this will become more critical as the days shorten and the weather gets more conducive to inside activity. The following story gave me a nice, warm, feeling:

The headline read:

Long Island kids are cracking Morse Code

Read more here:

Periodically I hear from Charles Shaffer, K7NW, usually commenting on something I wrote. During a recent email exchange, the topic involved the old KAYO/KRSC building on 4th Ave. South. I never worked there, however I do recall a now famous engineer who did – Ben Dawson. I recall their old Continental Transmitter with Glass Doors!

The tower, behind the building in this picture, was one of the first in the area using a folded unipole feed system installed by Ben’s predecessor…Tad Jones.

Our conversation took a turn when I told him I had worked at KTW. That’s when he sent me this picture. I worked in this building between 1964 and 1966, just prior to going to KMO.

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back, next month to most of the usual locations.

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

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

Clay’s Corner FOR AUGUST  2020

August 11, 2020



Clay’s Corner

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at the ups and downs during these historic times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what about us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Jeff White – iHeart Media

Phil VanLiew – Entercom

Daniel Sipe – iHeart Media


Bob and Dalton – Midpoint Electric

Paul Shulins – Shulins Solutions

Supplier of the new Antenna Monitor System

Alex Brewster- Hubbard

American Tower Site Manager – Joe Taylor

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

James Boyd – Boyd Broadcast Services (Portland)

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

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

Assisting Lowell with another project was  Greg Ristau

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

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

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

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

  • In the equipment rack, left of the transmitter

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

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

  • On the surface

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

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

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

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

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

Chart at



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

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

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

That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month to most of the usual locations.

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

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

Clay’s Corner FOR JULY  2020

July 19, 2020

Clay’s Corner

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

Wow….What a month!!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Release date: June 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

While I’m on the topic of EAS:

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

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

Tab 10A – Describes how the new system works

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

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

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

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

Looking at the Radio Ratings….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


That’s about it for this month, my friends. Lord willing, I will be back next month to most of the usual locations. Until then, stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings!

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

Clay’s Corner FOR JUNE 2020

June 4, 2020


Clay’s Corner

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

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

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

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

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


From these numbers some things jump out at me:

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

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

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

The losers –

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wonder what this is ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s about it for this month, my friends –  Lord willing, I will be back, next month to most of the usual locations. Until then – Stay safe as you carefully explore the new world out there.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

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