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Clay’s Corner for October 2016

October 3, 2016
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Clay’s Corner – Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

30 years of doing this column – This must be some sort of record for this kind of thing?

I got to thinking about how I went about it back then – A couple of items were recalled from the musty depths of my mind –

I was typing it on an Apple 2E

Was using a program called PFS Write

Was sending it to John Forbes via a dial-up modem at the blazing speed of 300 baud

Later when I got my first PC (a 286) I continued to use PFS Write (they had a DOS Version also)

Beyond that point I don’t recall as it did not take place long enough ago for me to remember.

For those of you in my age group – You know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

 

I suppose I should have added that I’ve been an SBE Member since Feb 2, 1968…Member # 714.

Yikes that means I’m coming up on 49 years!

 

One of the big news items this past month had to be the nation-wide EAS NTP.   From what I am hearing it went pretty well.  I did hear of one station that was ‘sleeping at the switch’ regarding upgrading their equipment and ETRS.    I’m sure there will be more in that category.   What remains to be seen is how the Commish will deal with what some are viewing as an automatic violation tip mechanism.   I’m sure we will be hearing more about this issue.  Regardless of how much effort is expended trying to get everyone totally EAS compliant….There will always be those.  

As we await changes related to the upcoming elections…There have been some changes taking place on Greenwood Ave in Seattle. Stephen Lockwood is now president of Hatfield and Dawson consulting engineers.  Going forward Erik is now the Managing Partner with Tom Eckels and David Pinion remaining.  From what I understand, this change will enable Ben to spend more time on fun projects and less time with the admin load that comes with heading up any organization.  Knowing that Ben is a bit older than I, I can relate.  Congrats to these gentlemen.

While I’m talking about old things – How about this item? – The Radio Club of Tacoma is going to have a 100th birthday party on Oct 16th.   The club, with the call of W7DK, was formed in 1916 and is reported to be the 2nd oldest Amateur Radio Club in the country.  Oh yes, I joined the club in 1973.

Before I leave the topic of Amateur or ‘Ham’ Radio – if you are like me, you look forward to the delivery of the major magazine devoted to the hobby every month, QST.   And, you are like me and are getting ‘up there’ one of the first places you check is the listing of fellow hams that managed to get out of this world before you get to see if they list anyone you knew.  They call an amateur that has passed a ‘silent key’.  In this month’s list was the name John Black, W7HIL.  I first met John many years ago at the business he ran on Weller Street, just off Dearborn, called Radio Systems.  Radio Systems was the RCA land-mobile dealer – back when there were 3 – Motorola, GE and RCA.  Over the years I got to know several fellows who worked there for John.  Names you might recognize:  Jon Marcinko, W7FHZ and I became friends and were involved with various ham radio related projects.  Jon passed a few years ago (he was a year older than me).  Another fellow I had gotten to know prior to him working at Radio Systems was Arne Skoog, WA7WKT, who many of you know and some had the privilege of working with.  The passing of John Black closes another chapter of this former Seattle firm.

The 2016 Marconi’s have been awarded and only one station from the PNW made the cut this year…KQMV’s morning team of Brooke and Jubal won the category of Large Market Personality of the year.

Does the name Tessera ring a bell? Didn’t for me either – They are in the news for their accquistion of DTS who only recently acquired Ibiquity, the developer of HD Radio.  Wow, that was quick.  Just when we were getting used to saying DTS.   Reportedly the deal was worth $850 megabucks.  Tessera must be doing OK.

knkx

It’s official – the ‘Friends of 88.5’ now own the station.  Certainly a historic move…Listeners taking over the ownership of a station that had announced it was going to be sold to another party.  Who would have predicted such an activity could take place…much less in our area?  24,000 donations from 18,000 donors certainly indicates the depth of support for this operation.  Still hard to believe, after all these years that KPLU is no more….In this case the call letters are gone but the station survives.  From what I understand they will continue to operate out of the Neeb Center in Parkland for about the next 3 years, at which time the station may be moving to new quarters in a location to be determined.  Like a number of other legacy call letters it’s likely that the call – KPLU – will surface some place in the area.

In a related matter – Bill Putney, Chief Engineer of KPTZ in Port Townsend, was filling out his ETRS information, as all stations are required to do. When he told the ‘system’ that one of the stations he was monitoring was KNKX it confused the system, so he had to enter the stations previous call, KPLU.  Apparently the FCC’s ETRS system did not yet have the monitored call letter changed in that system.

Often a market is described by what’s called its ‘Market Rank’. Nielsen, the ratings outfit, has released a new listing of Local TV Market ranks – Seattle-Tacoma come in where they have been at Market #14.  Interestingly, we are very close to the size of #12 (Phoenix) and #13 (Detroit).  The way the Seattle area has been growing, I suspect that this rank may be shifting in the future.  While I’m at it – Denver is #17 and Portland is #25.

Congratulations to Jerry Massey who has been elected to serve another term as SBE President. Also re-elected were the other board members – VP, Jim Leifer…Secretary, Tim Anderson…Treasurer, Andrea Cummis.  You can find the all the details in the latest SBE Signal or on the Society Web Site.

Abbreviation time – HDR vs HD-R – HDR is a TV term meaning High Dynamic Range                                                                    HD-R is a Radio term meaning H.D. Radio.

Several of us spent some serious time recently at West Tiger Mountain installing this big gray gizmo on KIRO-FM. It’s a four section band-pass-filter manufactured by American Amplifier Technologies.  In combination with their recently replaced antenna, and year old transmitter, West Tiger’s first FM Station is considerably updated.

bandpass-filter

Perhaps sobering data regarding the fiscal position of the average household in the U.S. According to the Federal Reserve the total debt stood at just under $13 trillion.  As if that is not bad enough, according to a Pew Study in 2015, only 20% of Americans carry no debt.  To which I say…It’s nice being in the minority.  I wonder how this compares with Canada?

For years we have been buying things made in China…Sending money from here to there. As they say…All that money has to go somewhere.  Now that money is coming here….I don’t mean just the Seattle area, but the entire west coast.  Some areas are reacting to this with something less than enthusiasm…In fact it’s being reported that Vancouver BC is imposing a tax on foreign national buyers.   This has the impact of shifting the buying south of the border.  Another report found the period March 2014 to 2015 buyers from China invested over $28 million into US residential real estate.  With that kind of money flowing is it any wonder that there is pressure to increase the amount of foreign investment in broadcasting.  Makes me wonder about big broadcast companies that are deeply in debt.  When you are in debt, someone with a lot of money to invest has got to look attractive.

One of the reasons AM radio suffers compared to FM is ‘static’. The noise level in the

AM band naturally goes up in the spring with the increase in thunderstorms. This is the crashing sound you hear on the legacy band.  Here in this area we don’t have much lightning (thankfully)…not like they do elsewhere.  There is a considerable amount of money spent trying to keep damage caused by these ‘sky-bolts’ (An Arne Skoog term) at a minimum.  So how big can a lightning bolt be?  Reportedly, one was just under 200 miles long back in Oklahoma.  The longest duration was over 7 seconds (That’s a lot of current flow).  For more information about this topic – go here – http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2016/09/15/world-lightning-strike-records/90418046/

Could it be that the FCC is finally concluding that they can’t fix AM Radio? FCC Commissioner O’Rielly recently was quoted as saying that the future of AM Radio is in the hands of broadcasters, not regulators…Adding the ultimate future will be decided in the market by stations meeting the demands of listeners.  This has been my position for a long time.  There are some things that you can’t do – Nail Jello to the wall, push a rope up hill, herd cats, make the horse drink….etc. – AND – force people to listen to radio they don’t desire.  I still feel that what’s happening to AM radio is very similar to what’s happened to other products and services…They lose favor and/or customers find something better.  This is a natural consequence of our free market society.  In a few years the things should balance out between the desire for AM Radio and the number of stations that provide it.  As I have said in previous columns, perhaps we will see the AM Band look much like it did back in the 50’s…Some big signal Clear Channels with scattering of small stations serving their communities.  Perhaps the FCC is thinking the same thing?

Every once in a while an older technology is ‘discovered’ and everyone is filled with Wow!

Here’s what I mean – Qualcomm just announced what they are calling ‘Clear Site’ Dual Camera Technology. The basis of this is a smartphone camera to have two image sensors…One for color and the other for black and white.  The stated advantage is that the black and white sensor can absorb more light.  Put them together and you have a more sensitive camera.  Gee folks – I seem to remember early TV Cameras that had 4 image pickup tubes for the same reason – 3 for R, G and B and one, in early models, and IO for black and white.  Could it be the folks at Qualcomm did not know about this?  Lets assume they did and just decided to dust-off an old idea.

There are changes being made in the world to tower lighting to help cut down on the death of birds. Reportedly there are 7 million birds colliding with towers every year.  Investigations of this issue have turned up the fact that birds appear to be attracted to the steady burning side lights on towers more than to the flashing beacons.

So what to do? The FCC, working with the FAA is revising tower lighting requirements.  The new standards will eliminate the steady burning lights on towers over 350 feet and transition from steady burning to flashing lights on towers from 150 to 350ft.  On the taller towers, the change will reduce energy use, maintenance costs and, according to the experts, reduce bird strikes by 70%.  To make these changes to towers, you have to run this by the FAA and get their permission.  You can do this on-line by going to – https://oeaaa.faa.gov/oeaaa/external/portal.jsp.

Could it have something to do with the presidential election? A recent Gallup poll showed that just 32% of Americans trust the media, quite a drop from the 40-45% figures over the past eight years.  These percentages were further skewed if the responding person was aligned with a particular party.  A lot has changed since the days when there were only 3 TV networks and we got our news from Walter, John or Chet.

Repack – By now just about everyone in broadcasting has, at least, heard about it. It’s all a bit confusing with forward and reverse auctions, broadcasters deciding whether they want in or out, wireless carriers willing to pay big bucks for new spectrum, stations changing channels or sharing channels all with the FCC holding the gavel.  At some point this process will end and the game will end and the race will be on to get it all done in the 39 months the process is supposed to take.

For many years Orban has been making audio processors for the radio industry – How old some of this equipment is may startle you a bit – The 9100B, used by many AM Stations was first released in 1982. Their model 8200 (still in service at many stations) is 26 years old.  To put this into perspective, while we were replacing that big filter at KIRO-FM, they were operating their auxiliary transmitter at Cougar Mt.  This rig is a historic Collins 831G2 that was made in the middle 70’s…..Yes, that’s a 40 year old transmitter that we trusted to keep KIRO-FM on the air for several days of construction at the main site.  Not too many pieces of equipment that old around.  Proving, once again, that a great product will last a very long time.

I don’t make any claim to be a photographer…However I do carry a camera with me on my travels, looking for something to share – Every once in a while you see something at night that is a ‘keeper’.   In this case I was coming down the West Tiger Road and spotted moonrise in the east.

moon

 

In the category of – We’ve been hearing it, now it’s official – The FCC has begun closing nearly a dozen Field Offices and moving to a new plan, whereby they will be consolidating operations into fewer offices and reliance on what they call a WDC based ‘Strike Force’ to deal with un-named enforcement actions. Going away are 11 offices, including the historic one in Seattle.  The other office in the PNW, Portland, Oregon will remain in operation as will the office in Denver.  Chairman Wheeler maintains that the remaining 14 locations will enable the Commission to respond to any location in the country within one-day.  The FCC’s budget request for 2017 will feature an Enforcement Bureau with a 16% reduced budget, presumably due to the reduction in the number of field offices.

Meanwhile Pirate Radio continues to be a problem. Frankly, it’s hard to see how this problem is going to get better.  The problem today is our communication systems that enable the pirate operators to share their techniques for staying one (or more) steps ahead of enforcement.  Then there is the issue of equipment availability.  If the FCC totes away your radio equipment, it can be easily replaced – and purchased on-line.  Probably the most frustrating aspect is where a pirate operator is advised that they have to pay for their violation and then they don’t and slip back into the darkness to do it another day in another location.

This problem, in several major cities has grown from being a ‘whack a mole’ or cat and mouse game to the point that the Feds are trying to find other ways of attacking the problem. One technique has the Feds going after the owners of the buildings where the stations or transmitters are located.  What I find amazing is that in a country with buildings full of rules and regulations, operators of small radio stations can continue to get away with it.  I can recall the day that there was significant fear of doing wrong and violating FCC rules…Guess I’m too old to understand.  What I find surprising is that you don’t hear of a commercial station receiving interference from one of these jokers and the commercial operator tackling the problem outside of the FCC.  Perhaps some of the problem is being solved by LPFM.  Generally, pirates look for a quiet frequency to set up their operation.  With all the translators and LPFM’s on the band these days, those days of a quiet frequency are, in most larger markets becoming a thing of the past.

I love statistics and study results as they give us a picture of how things are in our town as well as others. For example – A new study determined the salary you must earn to buy a home in 27 different markets.  Now, granted house prices are all over the map in any area.  For the basis of this study I am assuming they are using the average sale price.  Looking at the markets where this column is read –

In Portland, Oregon you will need to make $73,613 per year to afford that $356,700 house.

In Denver you’d need to make $72.847 and in Seattle $82,670. You get the picture – Seattle is expensive and prices are likely rising faster than most salaries.  Sounds bad huh?  Not compared to San Francisco where you’d have to be hauling in over $162,000 to afford the average house and that’s if you put 20% down.  If you only paid 10% down you’d have to make about $200,000 per year to afford the house payments.  Any wonder why people are living far away from town and commuting?

The FCC has shocked many by lowering fees for small stations. Perhaps they are getting the message that their fees are part of the problem?  The Commish collects almost $390 million from all the communications services it regulates.  Radio pays just over 8% of that total.

The business of determining the ratings of broadcast stations has had some interesting twists and turns recently. Nielsen taking over Arbitron.  The introduction of the Voltair by the Telos Alliance that claims to improve the watermark technology used by Nielsen.  Then there were changes made by Nielsen to ‘improve’ their system.  More recently we have seen a couple of locations where broadcasters have elected to jump ship and use some other method for determining who is using their product.  One of the issues are the multitude of new ways that consumers are using to receive audio and video sources for what used to be strictly over-the-air.  There is a degree of secrecy going on out there.  Stations that are using the Voltaire or other gizmos are very tight lipped.  We’ve come a long way from just wondering who was filling out a diary.

Spoze you heard – Funai Electric, the last maker of a VCR, has stopped making them. No more new VCR’s anyway.  I guess we will continue to see these electro-mechanical tape based devices around for a while longer.  Another death nail in the world of tape-recorders.  If you are an old timer, like me, you witnessed the birth, and death. of tape at the consumer and professional level for audio and video.  Guess we no longer have to wonder if it’s live or Memorex.  Just for grins – One more look at one of the biggest and most complicated tape machines ever built.  The RCA TCR-100.

tcr100

Exploding batteries continue to be an issue.   Apparently Boeing and Tesla have resolved the problem.  However recent news indicates that Samsung may have not, by suspending sales of one of their new products that were exploding while being charged.  We’ve come a long way, very quickly, with batteries…perhaps in some cases, too fast.

I frequently look at the FCC’s Daily Releases and found it interesting that an FM Translator was being moved from Astoria, Oregon to Seattle. What is perhaps more interesting, is that the FCC calls this a ‘minor change’.  You can look up the call letters for more info – K278BH.  The proposed location is Cougar Mt. to be used to translate Salem’s KGNW 820 AM.  This is all part of the move to grant FM translators to AM stations.  This activity has significantly increased the prices that people are paying for FM Translators – In one case, it was reported that $700,000 changed hands for a translator.  In the case of the new one for the Seattle area for KGNW, the price paid was reportedly over $30,000 and the new FM operation will be operating with very low power and a directional antenna.  I guess I have a hard time understanding how they figure that it will pencil out.  In Albuquerque, New Mexico the owner of legacy station KOB (Now called KKOB) is paying $425,000 for a translator for the big AM just to get their programming on FM.  What makes this move interesting is that KKOB is owned by Cumulus who is ‘considerably’ in debt.

At the end of August it was announced that an AM station in Salisbury, North Carolina would be going dark. Perhaps what makes this interesting is the fact that the station had been on the air since 1939 and had been broadcasting a Sunday morning church service, from the same church, for over 75 years.  The station operates on 1490 which is a frequency that receives a lot of night time interference and is unable to make any technical improvements.  Chalk up another AM.  There will be more stories like this to come.  Speaking of which – According to recent ratings of radio stations in the Seattle area…You have to go down to #17 to find the highest rated AM, KOMO.  KIRO-AM comes in at #19.

Yet another indication of how the Seattle area is growing is the growth at Sea-Tac Airport. The old Bow-Lake airport is reportedly the fastest growing large airport in the country for the last 2 years.  Passenger growth was up 13 percent in 2015 and is on track to come close to that this year.  The problem is they need more gates, etc.  A $550 million expansion of the North Satellite was announced recently that will increase the size by another 180,000 square feet.  Likely the continued expansion of our local airline – Alaska – is fueling a lot of this.  From what I have seen, it appears that the North Satellite will be all Alaska.  Guess this is more appropriate than having Alaska at the South Satellite?  To put these size numbers into perspective…the average Costco store is just over 144,000 Square feet!

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management is moving forward with a system that will enable Broadcasters to be part of what they call their ‘first informer’ access program. This is very good news for those broadcasters that are responsible for keeping stations up and running during times of emergency.  My fingers are crossed that this will come to Washington State as well.  Let me give you an example –  Around the 8th of September there was, once again, a nasty wreck on highway 18 between the Issaquah Hobart Road and I-90. (Unfortunately this happens too often).  The Washington State Patrol deals with issues like this by closing that section of roadway.  Unfortunately this cuts off access to the Tiger Pass area which is where the only access road to the broadcast sites on West Tiger Mountain starts.  Some years ago I was headed to the mountain to do some work and encountered this situation.  A very nice, but firm, State Trooper told me after I explained that I did not want to go near the scene of the wreck, but rather would be turning off before there to go up Tiger Mountain.  His response was something to the effect of – I don’t care what you are god of…You are not going up there!!  If I had just some sort of identification that would be recognized by law enforcement, that would have been a great help.  In times of emergency, when roads are closed by police…A broadcast station could well be out of operation and unable to provide the public with vital information.  This has been a long standing issue.  Hopefully the WSAB and others can come together to provide broadcasters with something like this in this State.  The NAB estimates that about a dozen states now have something similar.  Whether this program would provide us access to Tiger Mountain for when there is a wreck causing the closure of Highway 18 remains to be seen.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I love great photography. Here’s one that was recently taken by Dwight Small who has, obviously, time, now that he has retired.  A beautiful sunny day on Puget Sound.

sun-on-water

Climbing towers is, from what I have read, one of the most dangerous jobs there are. (Falling is never good).  A friend of mine in Montana sent me this item.  What would you do if you were 120 feet up a tower and encountered a bunch of snakes?  Apparently this is what happened…go here to read more – http://www.cnet.com/news/snakes-on-a-cell-tower-t-mobile-photo-full-of-nope/

 

Looks like more translator shuffles in the wind – I see where K238CA in Twisp is being sold to Saga Broadcasting who operates a cluster of stations in Bellingham….Just a guess you understand. Sometimes my dot-connecting is accurate – but not always.

 

As we all recently remembered 9/11, it was announced that TV antennas are about to be installed on the new World Trade Center in NYC. We all recall the pictures of the roof top antennas falling to the ground and the loss of life of several broadcast engineers.

 

Thanks to Mike Brooks at KING-FM for this excellent example of creative writing –

rane-box-smaller

 

From the category – Things I have always wondered…..

Why is the third hand on the watch called the second hand?

If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know?

If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?

Why do we say something is out of whack?  What is a whack?

Why does “slow down” and “slow up” mean the same thing?

Why does “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing?

Why is it called “after dark” when it really is “after light”?

Doesn’t “expecting the unexpected” make the unexpected expected?

Why are a “wise man” and a “wise guy” opposites?

Why do you press harder on the buttons of a remote control when you know the batteries are dead?

How come abbreviated is such a long word?

Why do they call it a TV set when you only have one?

 

Enough news and nonsense for this month – Remember that Christmas is not far away….In case I forget – Happy New Year.

 

Till next time –

 

Clay, K7CR, CPBE.

 

 

Clay’s Corner for Sept 2016

September 3, 2016
By

 

Clay’s Corner – Providing news and views from a broadcast engineer’s perspective since September 1986

The FCC’s new Electronic Test Reporting System, ETRS, has certainly got a lot of attention of late, and with good reason.  As you know I have been involved with EAS for many years, at many levels.  I find a wide range of attitudes about the system ranging from considerable interest and willingness to participate, all the way to those who detest the mention of those three letters.  Meanwhile the FCC, now with participation from FEMA, continues to stress the importance of the system and the responsibility of broadcasters to follow the rules.  The new ETRS is forcing stations to take a very close look at what’s involved, perhaps some for the first time.  I can confirm this as I have been receiving a steady stream of emails requesting information on Monitoring Assignments etc.  What will be interesting to watch will be what happens with those that continue to feel they can disregard the whole thing.  The ETRS will certainly provide the FCC with the tools necessary to find out who is naughty and who is not without having to send out inspectors to do random inspections.  One has to wonder if this was part of the thinking behind the closing down of FCC field offices? One thing for sure, EAS is a continuously evolving creation where the requirements for the equipment that every broadcast and cable system has, is periodically forced to upgrade in some fashion, for instance, the recent requirement that every EAS decoder can process the Location Code 000000 that will get the equipment ready for the big national test coming soon.  All of these changes are due to the lessons learned the last time we did a national test.  (Then called the EASNT). There are also some economic aspects of all of this that have impacted some facilities.  For example, those stations that chose to purchase add-on devices in order to save a buck.  Then there are the non-comms that are operating on a shoe string and are facing having to spend money they had not planned on. One longtime equipment manufacturer, Gorman-Redlich is asking the FCC for a partial waiver so that users of certain legacy equipment can continue to be used.  At this writing, no word on whether the Commish will agree.  Interestingly, Mr. Gorman submitted his request to both the FCC and FEMA.  At this writing, nothing has been heard.  Some are predicting that the FCC will sit on this with no action. From the ‘about time’ department….Finally the impact of spectrum noise is getting some attention.  Ask any Ham Radio operator about the noise floor on HF.  This has been a matter they have been complaining about for years.  Electronic gizmo’s of every description have been polluting their HF Spectrum to the point that some Hams are unable to operate their home stations.  The same issue has been steadily eroding the coverage of AM Radio stations.  With the recent concern about saving AM radio, it appears that the FCC might now be listening (assuming they can hear through the noise).  The impact of spectrum noise is to reduce the coverage area of AM Stations and this comes at a time when many of them are fighting for their lives.  The NAB has joined the call for the FCC to deal with the issue and the FCC is asking for input.   It’s interesting that many of the relatively new devices we use everyday, with good reason, have a dark side.  For example – Switching Power Supplies are smaller, cheaper, more efficient that their analog counterparts, but many of these devices are RF noise generators.  LED lighting is another.  No one can dispute the economic value if these over old incandescent lamps.  However, while saving power, many are polluting the spectrum. In June, the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology announced that its Technological Advisory Council be looking into the matter….All the while they cut the FCC’s field offices….However, I can just barely recall when someone from the FCC was trying to find the cause of something that raised the noise floor. Perhaps a bit of good news is that the wireless industry is speaking up about the problem, claiming the their networks are suffering from sources of interference like video displays, industrial lighting systems, LED lights. CFL ballasts etc.  AT&T Cellular added something to their complaint list that’s not a conventional source of RF noise – FM Broadcasters.  They cited a number of instances where FM stations are causing them problems.   Could it be that the FCC is too busy trying to generate revenue from new technologies that they are forgetting to protect those systems that have been around for a long time? If there is one thing that has kept Radio in business it’s the car-radio.  There have been a large number of advances in this area in the last few years that are providing drivers with more and more electronic ‘bling’.   My 2016 Pickup is a great example to the point that the term ‘car-radio’ does not begin to address what this creature can do.  Car makers are struggling trying to find the right balance between features that their customers want and features that increase distraction that could contribute to accidents, or worse.  Thankfully my new ride’s radio has HD Radio that works very well.  On that subject I am having a bathroom remodeled and the plumber that’s working at the house happened to mention that he had HD Radio in his truck.  WOW!  This is the first time I’ve run across someone that knows what it is and actually has it and uses it.  I was very pleased with the performance and number of formats available…Interestingly he named off a couple of them by name!  A number of surveys continue to show that people want their fancy electronic to do everything in their vehicle to still have a good working radio.  Taking the cue, Ford has announced their 2017 vehicles will have something they call ‘dual reception’ that sounds like an upgrade of the old diversity systems of years gone by.  This project has a Seattle connection – Ford reported that they have tested the system in cities like Chicago, Detroit, LA, NYC, Pittsburgh AND SEATTLE.  As anyone that has been in these markets – Propagation in Seattle is tough on good radio reception.  Kudo’s to Ford!  Not often a vehicle maker will talk about their radios. .

The saga of KPLU 88.5 is all but over – The FCC has, in what felt like record time, approved the sale of the station and, at the end of August the station will be sporting new call letters, KNKX.  I have to admit that after 50 years of calling it KPLU, this will take some getting used to.  Apparently the new letters stand for Connects, or should I write Konnects?  The good news is that there are no other stations in this market with letters that would cause any contusion.  I recall that we did have a KNWX for a while.  Then there is the historic LA station, KNX.  We wish the new station the best.

KNKX

iHeart Media continues to struggle with increasing losses.  It was recently reported the nation’s biggest radio outfit lost 279 megabucks in the 2nd quarter of 2016…That compares to a loss of just over 54 megabucks in the same quarter a year ago.  Obviously they are far from being out of the woods.  The question remains as to what will happen to the big operation.  Anyone got a few Billion laying around that they are not using?  With the projections for Radio not exactly looking attractive – iHeart is in a $21 Billion bind.

Bill Major

Remember Bill Major?  Bill was working for the iHeart cluster in Seattle and moved back closer to home in Arizona.  Understand that Bill is not the Market Engineering Manager for iHeart in Tucson.  The above is a picture with Bill standing next to something he loves – Flying. As you know I frequently drive to West Tiger Mt. (east of Seattle) as I work for a number of broadcast interests there.  Just to put things in perspective for those of you that are tied up in Seattle’s famous traffic jams – I too have to occasionally sit and wait to be able to get where I’m going.  Shot this the other day to demonstrate what I mean –

Trucks and Logs

I recently sent this picture to a friend out of state and they were having trouble getting their head around the fact that trees up here are considered a crop.  As we were all settling into the thought that CBS was going to spin off their radio division into a separate company comes word that they are still considering other options or alternatives.  One would suspect that someone flashed some money in their direction and now they are having some ‘discussions’….But this is only a guess.  CBS Radio has 117 stations.  The Society of Broadcast Engineers has announced the recipients of the 2016 SBE National Awards.  Michael Hendrickson, CPBE, CBNT, of Lakeville, MN won the Robert W. Flanders SBE Engineer of the Year award.  Hendrickson’s recognition comes from his success in furthering the mission of the SBE.  Hendrickson is a former SBE Chapter 17 chair and is currently a member of the National Board of Directors.  With a broadcast engineering career that’s spanned more than 35 years, his work has been responsible for the upgrade of Minnesota Public Radio stations, several stations in Florida and a creation of an early database in the 1980s containing entries of most of the 950 MHz aural studio/transmitter link assignments. Cheryl Lustenberger, CBNT, CTO, of Chapter 11 in Boston, has been honored as the James C. Wulliman SBE Educator of the Year.  Her award is for outstanding service and excellence in teaching other broadcast engineers.  She is the assistant manager at the Tufte Television Facilities at Emerson College, where she teaches broadcast engineering students.  In addition to providing personalized workshops for her students, she also teaches professional workshops on safety, rigging and technology. SBE’s newest honor, the Freedom Award, has gone to Norman Portillo, CBT, CTO, who is also the 2014 winner of the Educator of the Year award.  Portillo continues to educate the military community and has established a new chapter of SBE at Fort Bragg, NC.  Blackmagic Design has won the 2016 SBE Technology Award for its URSA Studio Viewfinder. Ever wonder just how many satellites there are in orbit around Earth?  According to what I recently read, that total would be about 1400…an increase of 40% in the last 5 years. I frequently write about cool things in the Seattle area….Time to honor our neighbor to the South.  Portland was recently selected by Sunset Magazine as the Best Food Town. What level of sales indicates an extremely successful product?  How about selling ONE-BILLION items?  Not many can claim that lofty level of success ….Apple can and has with their I-Phone, making that device one of the most important, world changing, products in history. The National Association of Broadcasters announced finalists for its NAB Marconi Radio Awards.  The awards honor radio stations and on-air personalities for excellence in broadcasting.  Winners will be announced at the 2016 Radio Show in Nashville in September. As usual – I went looking for finalists that have connections to where this column is read.  A couple fit that criteria this time around – NETWORK/SYNDICATED PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR – Delilah, Premiere Networks.  LARGE MARKET PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR – Brooke Fox & Jubal Flagg, KQMV-FM Seattle.  CHR STATION OF THE YEAR – KQMV-FM, Seattle. I recently reached in my desk drawer to grab a file folder label (Yes I still keep paper files for some things)….I could not help but smile at what was written on the end of this sheet of labels.  My guess is that I’ve had this for some period of time. J

Typewriter

Here’s something you don’t run across very often – The FCC has announced that the Canadian Pacific Railway will pay over $1.2 Million due to the railroad’s operation of more than 100 wireless radio facilities in the U.S. without FCC approval. A friend of mine recently sent me this picture.  Interesting how the call letters you see are not the real call letters for the station.  Perhaps like knowing that KOMO-TV-4 is really on Channel 38.

93KHJ

 

If you are an Engineer or otherwise technical/scientific minded you likely already understand that there is an automatic rejection of ‘new fangled gadgets’ in the minds of many…We’ve all read about how some rejected the automobile, refrigeration, electric lights etc. etc.  A lot of this is rejection of new and improved ways of doing things or stalling our own progress.  I have family members that fought to hang on to their typewriters and not move to computers until they discovered they could no longer buy new ribbons for the mechanical creations.  Look what we are doing today with driverless or electric cars.  We humans have a habit of stalling our own progress according to Calestous Juma, a professor at Harvard in his new book, ‘Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies’.  He maintains that people are concerned that innovation means losing a piece of their identity or lifestyle.  A lot of times the rejection of something new is a gut reaction rather than a decision based on evidence.  There are new technologies that people flock to however…A great example is the smart phone and social media.  This is especially the case when the new gadget is adopted by their peers and they want to be part of the crowd. Dwight Small, Nick Winter, Arne Skoog’s widow Debra and I recently made a trip to Buck Mountain, near Quilcene, to retrieve Arne’s old UHF Repeater.  ‘Twas a beautiful day in the PNW.  Here’s a picture of Dwight, amongst the wild flowers look east over Hood Canal.

View

Between you and me ….All it takes is a few minutes looking at this scene to make me overlook about a month of rain and restore my feeling of how thankful I am to be able to live in this area.  For my readers that are not from around here….We are standing on a foot hill of the Olympic Mountains West of Seattle looking back over Puget Sound to the east.  When I turned around and looked the other way – This is the view:

View 2

 

For those of you that have responsibility for towers at your facility – You have heard that there are some new FAA Regulations coming down the pike – and this time, for shorter structures that, historically, were below the FAA’s level of concern, unless of course you were near an airport.  Here is something that you ought to check out – H.R. 636 – a/k/a the “FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016” This little 51 page item contains, buried inside, some new things that could potentially impact owners of small towers, especially those in rural areas.  Those days of assuming that if a tower is below 200 feet they don’t have to be marked and lit may be over.  Oh yes, future FAA Rules could affect some Ham Radio towers as well.  The ARRL is following this one closely too. Word to the wise – Be sure and follow this to see exactly what new rules come out of the FAA. Those of us with smart-phones that we use for telephone communications know to check for Wi-Fi for when we want to access our email or connect to the Internet.  As the demand for spectrum increases look for Wi-Fi/Cellular Hybrid devices to come along to augment 4G and other ‘G-Whiz’ enhancements. As anyone working in the Broadcast Engineering area knows…There are a lot of folks with gray, white or no hair in our field.  As you know, I have elected to continue to work beyond traditional retirement time.  In my case, I no longer work for a single employer…Giving that up over 6 years ago.  I now work half-time for WSU, augmenting this with contract work for several firms.  I have chosen to keep working for a couple of reasons – 1) The money is good, 2) I get to do what I like, 3) my schedule is reasonably flexible, 4) My health is good, 5) I have Zero politics and (the big one) 6) I know that I can quit anytime I want!  (When I want is the key).   It is perhaps comforting to know that I am not alone, with many choosing to work through their golden years.  In fact, approximately 20% of those in the labor force today are over 65. Recent studies have uncovered the reasons why people are working later in life –

  • People enjoy what they are doing
  • They want to stay busy
  • The extra money is always nice
  • Some have not put away sufficient amounts to augment Social Security
  • The recession wiped out their savings
  • There are no pension benefits
  • People are living and are healthy longer
  • A lot of jobs today are not physically demanding
  • The choice to continue to have the income to support a chosen lifestyle

There are a couple of recommendations that I routinely make to those friends that are getting close to traditional retirement age –

  • Get a good financial advisor to help determine whether or not you have sufficient ‘socked away’ to last before you set your retirement date.
  • Don’t for a minute think that you are going to be able to shift from full time employment and rely exclusively on Social Security.
  • Be fully prepared to learn that you would be much better off to delay taking Social Security and to keep working longer than you would like.
  • Consider that you could well outlive your wealth.
  • If you are an Engineer, be thankful that your skills are still very much in demand.

On the personal side – I got my First Class Radio Telephone license (with Ship Radar Endorsement) on July 25, 1959.  Yikes that was 57 years ago.  I started working (full time while still in school) August 1, 1961 (55 years ago) and it was September of 1986 (30 years ago) that I started writing this column. And you think you are old? Now to the question of how do you cut-back in later years?  This is something that I have been seriously pondering.  Right now I work very much full time, ie, at least 5 days a week.  The problem with this kind of work is it does not lend itself to certain days of the week.  For example, what happened if I were to announce that I wanted to only work 4 days a week (3 day weekends every week have some appeal).  The problem is that something would happen that would demand my attention and my desired schedule would be trashed, at least for that week.  You see the problem with broadcast engineering is with the fact that broadcast stations expect you to be on call 24/7/365.  The other alternative is, if you work for more than one firm, you cut back on your client load by eliminating one of the firms you have been doing work for.  This would be an easy decision to make if you were not being treated fairly or were being paid poorly, if not – it’s tough…and that’s the boat I’m in. Thinking back to when I was first exposed to electronic products made in countries not in North America – The first ones were German.  Fancy pushbutton multi-band radios etc.  Then the next wave came from Japan with a huge impact.  Now it appears that the Japanese manufacturers are facing stiff competition from Korea with such names as Samsung and LG.  In Broadcast TV Japan, historically, has been a leader and early adopter.  Now that seems to be shifting to South Korea – An example of that is the news that South Korea has adopted ATSC 3.0 over options including Europe’s DVB-T2.     Now here is something that does not happen very often – Radio stations sharing a frequency.  Apparently that’s what is going to happen in San Francisco with a pair of LPFM’s.  Apparently the Commish has resolved a mutually exclusive dilemma by having these two applicants share the same 102.5 frequency with each station taking turns and operating six-hour shifts.  Not exactly the same I recall WBAP and WFAA in Dallas doing something funky many years ago where they would swap between two AM frequencies.  Sharing used to be S.O.P. in the early days of AM radio. A couple of other radio happenings in the Golden State…In these cases stations going silent.  KPSI and KWXY (two AM’s) are going off the air.  The owners have requested permission to go silent while they seek buyers.  KUSP in Santa Cruz recently went off when it could not find a buyer, ending 45 years of operation.  The station was reportedly some $700,000 in debt.  Small potatoes compared to the debt carried by iHeart Media….making us wonder if they are like the term used for certain firms during the recession – “Too big to fail”. One technique that’s been used by more than one radio broadcaster facing hard times has been to get permission to remain silent or to come up with something to justify not operating.  Well this is not sitting well with Peter Doyle, chief of the Audio Division of the FCC and he made his position quite clear recently stating, “Silence instead of licensed operation is a fundamental failure to serve a station’s community of license,” Doyle wrote, “because a silent station offers that community no public service programming such as news, public affairs, weather information and Emergency Alert System notifications.  Moreover, brief periods of station operation sandwiched between prolonged periods of silence are of little value because the local audience is not accustomed to tuning in to the station’s frequency.” He noted that in 2001, the FCC issued a decision cautioning that “a licensee will face a very heavy burden in demonstrating that it has served the public interest where it has remained silent for most or all of the prior license term.”  In his view, licensees have been on notice since then that the eventual resumption of operations after long periods of silence “does not necessarily resolve the renewal inquiry as to whether the licensee served the public interest during the preceding license term.” Eventually economic reality takes its toll and so will it be with the folks with some LPFM’s.  I feel it’s likely quite a few of them will go away as the newness wears off and the financial aspects are learned.  With no sources of income, the picture is not that rosy.  Look at AM Radio – The station totals are now down to 1980’s level.  I suspect that in a few years we will see the number of AM’s shrink back to levels similar to decades before.  All of this despite the FCC’s attempts.  In this society, money talks and the lack of it often speaks the loudest! I suppose you heard that Seattle City Light is going to replace the historic neon sign at 4th and Spokane with a new one with LED’s.  Guess this is another example of where solid state devices replaces tubes? I recently read that broadcast companies are looking toward diversification as a means to spur growth.  Wait a minute!!!  What happened to the idea that if something did not match your core business it should be sold off and the money used for something within that core?  Seems to me that this was the rationale for many stations to sell their towers.  In some case these towers represented considerable income.  Could it be that this thinking was, at least in some cases, wrong?  Could it be that broadcast companies are starting to think outside the box and would be receptive to doing something outside their core to benefit their bottom line?  Stranger things have happened. Over the years I’ve used several shipping containers for transmitter enclosures for radio stations, so I found it interesting that these ‘cans’ (as they call them in the shipping trade) are finding uses for all kinds of things…In some cases some pretty interesting homes.  I was surprised to see a couple of these put to use by Starbucks.

Starbucks Ships

Do you ever wish you could pick out a T-shirt that has a message on it that you’d like to show off?  In keeping with my comment in this month’s column about retirement, consider this gem –

Lazy

I talk a lot about Radio, as this is where I found myself for the last many years.  I just want to make sure that you all understand that being a Television Broadcast Engineer can be an equally rewarding experience – As the following picture of Terry Spring certainly demonstrates.

Terrie Sweeps

Speaking of TV – could not help but notice that Pay-TV is losing a large number of subscribers.  The Satellite and Cable providers are being impacted by what are called ‘cord-cutters’.  Then there are those that are ‘cord-nevers’.  I suspect that the Cable firms know all about this and this is what’s behind them pushing the IP side of the business.  Having a bigger pipe down main street represents a lot of future value.  I did find it interesting that there has been some movement to be more flexible in the world of cable – In some cases you might be able to subscribe to Cable-TV and not be forced to pay for channels that you will never want or watch. Not often do you hear about the FCC hitting a Ham Radio operator with a huge fine…but that is exactly what they did to W6WBJ in California for broadcasting music and intentionally interfering with others.  He has been asked to contribute $25 Grand to the Treasury.  In the end he may end up also losing his license. Finally – In keeping with my tradition of occasionally providing you with something at the end to bring a smile or two – I present these items for your consideration – I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom, until they’re flashing behind you. I changed my password to “incorrect” so, whenever I forget it, the computer will say, “Your password is incorrect.” Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity. I’m great at multi-tasking — I can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once. If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame. Never tell your problems to anyone because 20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them. Doesn’t expecting the unexpected mean that the unexpected is actually expected? I hate when people use big words just to make themselves sound perspicacious. Television may insult your intelligence, but nothing rubs it in like a computer. I bought a vacuum cleaner six months ago and so far all it’s been doing is gathering dust. Every time someone comes up with a foolproof solution, along comes a more-talented fool. Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes. If you keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, you’ll have trouble putting on your pants. A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing. Ever stop to think and… forget to start again? My wife got 8 out of 10 on her driver’s test – the other two guys managed to jump out of her way. There may be no excuse for laziness, but I’m still looking. Give me ambiguity or give me something else. He who laughs last thinks slowest. Is it wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly? Women sometimes make fools of men, but most guys are the do-it-yourself types. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. The grass may be greener on the other side, but at least you don’t have to mow it. I like long walks, especially when they’re taken by people who annoy me. I was going to wear my camouflage shirt today, but I couldn’t find it. If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you. If tomatoes are technically a fruit, is ketchup a smoothie?   Thanks for taking time to read my stuff – Hopefully we can do more of this next month.  Meanwhile – Remember that Christmas is not far away…..You can tell as retailers have already got on display items for Halloween Clay, K7CR, CPBE

 

Clay’s Corner for August 2016

August 6, 2016
By

 

Clay’s Corner for August 2016

 

Clay’s CornerProviding news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

In the many years I’ve been writing this column I’ve written about many sales of broadcast stations…in fact, since September of 1986 there are few stations around here that have not changed ownerships.     In the recent instance a lot of ‘firsts’ were made with the sale of KPLU.

Announcing the sale of the station, then, in a relatively short time, announcing the sale to someone else…Perhaps what makes this one remarkable is that the station is being sold to a bunch of their listeners.   If there was ever a demonstration of a station doing something right…This is it! I wonder just how many of this areas radio stations could rally their listeners to the point that they would want to purchase it to help insure that the format stayed intact?   Indeed the sale of KPLU is making history.   This event has attracted a lot of attention nationally as well.   A relatively new term comes into play here – Crowdfunding.   This is where a number of small investors come together to fund a project.   Typically this means funding a project where those that invest hope to see a return on their investment. In the case of 88.5 the return will come in a couple of forms – 1) Their expense is tax deductible and, 2) They get continued use and enjoyment from their investment.

It’s official …The sale agreement has been inked and now they wait for the approval of the FCC to seal the deal.   Perhaps the major question is what will the new call letters be?   It’s been made clear that 88.5 will have new letters attached.   In fact, if you listen, in places where they used to say KPLU they now simply state 88-point-5. The station has taken the unusual step of having their listeners included in the new call letter selection process.   I have to wonder if the KPLU call letters will end up at some other location in our state as has been the process with a number of previous call letter changes.

As we were celebrating the 4th of July in this country, just across the border there was another kind of fireworks going on. In this case at the 730 AM transmitter site in Delta.   Over the years I’ve written about fires that were threatening, or taking out, a broadcast transmitter site.   In this case it’s not a forest or brush fire, but rather the ground is burning as the site sits on a bog. Perhaps the name had something to do with the event?   The area is known as ‘Burns Bog’

One of the stations towers went down as a result– apparently a base insulator broke on one of the guyed towers causing the structure to hop off its base sending the lower part of the tower some 30 feet into the bog.   (Would have loved to seen a video of that happening)

Interesting that Peat has been used, over the centuries as a fuel. This situation caused several in the Seattle area to wonder if it could happen in low-land area transmitter sites here. The Bellevue Swamp comes to mind.

Tower - Smoke

AM 730

AM 730 in Vancouver has a very interesting format with a logo stating all traffic all the time. It’s also interesting that HD Radio has recently come to Canada’s second largest city and that AM 730 is now broadcasting on 101.1 HD3 as well as from a temporary AM antenna on a downtown building.

Reading the news reports you quickly came across the term ‘ Hectare’ (A term not used south of the 49th)   Fire reports were given in terms of the number of hectares burned..   Remember that Canada (for the most part) uses the Metric System….Therefore land area is measured using square meters which is broken down into Hectares.   To translate to more familiar terms …An acre is about .405 hectare…or a hectare is about 2.47 acres.   The fire consumed about 70 hectares and the area will take years to re-generate.

In this picture you can see the flames attacking the stations facilities at the base of a tower.

Tower Smoke 2

HD Radio systems are, slowly but surely, starting to be used for purposes other than a dumping ground for less popular formats to be used as ‘place-holders’ until something more valuable comes along.     Here in the Seattle area, we find HD Channels are popular for carrying AM station programming from co-owned operations, for instance, KIRO-AM is on 97.3 HD2 etc. For the life of me I don’t understand why KOMO is not heard on an HD2 Channel from their co-owned 101.5 FM. Foreign language programmers are welcoming the capability of HD channels, certainly superior to the old FM Sub-carrier systems of years past.   Another application is for unique formats. Entercom operates an all-blues channel that’s quite popular.   Occasionally a format is dumped by a station in favor of something that will gather higher ratings…If that format is still in demand, an HD Channel is perfect.   I am waiting for the day that these HD Channels show up in the ratings in this area …One of these days.

The sale if the CBS Radio group has been in the news for some time…Apparently no one was willing to pony-up the estimated 2.9 Billion for the 117 station 26 market group…So CBS is now planning on spinning the group into its own public entity.   This will be an interesting IPO to watch.   I suspect that this news brought a considerable number of smiles at local CBS stations.   Going through a sale is always a nerve rattling experience. One of the reasons CBS is spinning off radio….The division lost $136 Million in 2015.

CBS Logo

CBS Radio operates 3 FM’s and an AM in the Seattle Market.

 

94.1 – KMPS

96.4 – Jack FM

102.5 – KZOK

1090 – KFNQ
Meanwhile other big radio groups are in the news in different ways – Apparently things are not going all that well at iHeart Media with talks with their debt holders.   The dreaded ‘B’ word has been noted in print in recent media stories.           It sounds like the company is trying to convince those that hold all the paper that they would be better off riding out the storm – in the long run – as opposed to the ‘B-Option’ that would mean their ‘paper’ would be worth a whole lot less.         Needless to say, the ‘natives are restless’.   $20 Billion is a LOT of debt for any company to carry.   Locally, in the Seattle area, iHeart owns a flock of radio stations.

 

It’s interesting to note that IHeart tops the list in terms of radio company revenues at 2.6 Billion. Coming in 2nd, is the group that may shortly become on its own, CBS with revenues near $1.25 Billion.   #3 is another company that is burdened with huge debt, Cumulus.   Entercom, who owns clusters of stations in Seattle, Portland, Denver etc. came in 4th.   Portland based Alpha was #8 and Hubbard (who owns a cluster of radios in Seattle ) was #10.

The headline read – 126 MHz Cleared @ $86 Billion.    This was just one phase of the process of shoving historic broadcast spectrum aside to make more room for wireless gizmo communications.    Now to see what the Wireless bidders do.   Potentially a lot of money could be changing hands in this unique process.   There are a lot of facets .….For those of you that are interested, there is plenty to read about it everywhere.     My interest is what will it mean for the Seattle area…Who will be changing channels and who will take the money and run.

  NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton released the following statement regarding the conclusion of the first reverse auction:  “Broadcasters have done our part; now it’s up to the wireless industry to demonstrate the demand is there for low-band TV spectrum.”Ever wonder how the FCC’s recent actions involving TV will play along our borders?   This is a question that many have been asking for some time (Including this writer).   Anyone that has been involved with cross-border issues can tell you that this is a knot that, at times, is not easily un-done.   We can have our incentive auctions and repacking etc. etc.…But in border areas there are other considerations.    Markets like Seattle, Detroit, Buffalo (to name a few) certainly have something additional to think about.  Then what about those stations on the other side …How are they to react?   This whole shuffle is a US issue.    Time will tell…Meanwhile – Lets all hide and watch.

Some big programming changes at NPR – After 31 years the program Whad’Ya Know has come to an end.   The program was cancelled, according to exec’s with Wisconsin Public Radio due to financial reasons.   The other big news item was the retirement of Garrison Keillor as host of the long running Prairie Home Companion.   The show will go on with a new host with a lot of nervous affiliates left wondering

The nearest star (we call it the sun) has been acting funky.   In early June the sun went completely spotless for 4 days….It does not do that very often with the last time in 2011. Normally a blank sun is taken as an indicator that we have reached the solar minimum or minimum amount of spots.   The sun goes thru cycles that have been studied since 1755…numbering from there, we are just now leaving solar cycle 24.   So what does all this mean? A lot of things to scientists …One of the major impacts is on radio frequency propagation. If you are a radio DX’er or Ham Radio operator – you are watching with great interest.   Then there are those that feel this could be linked to changes in weather with perhaps a cooler time on the horizon?

For some time we have been seeing warnings about the impact of these flat-screen displays on us.   Concerns range from causing optical issues to altering sleep patterns and the bad things that take place as a result. Now some are expressing concerns about LED street lighting.  Can’t blame governments for replacing more power hungry devices, however, apparently the new/white LED’s suppress melatonin than sodium lamps.   Apparently I’m missing something here…If melatonin helps you sleep, would not you want a suppressed melatonin in street lights?   Apparently the harshness of the white light from the high color temperature (4-5000K) devices are sources of complaints of severe glare that can cause problems with seeing clearly at night. This all due to the amount of blue in the new lights. Yes, Seattle is installing these new devices.

Looks to me like a business opportunity here – A button on your TV remote you can push that will alter the picture if you wish to drift off – Or how about blue filters for the windshield of your car? …(In Seattle we don’t see much blue during the day anyway)

So the battle lines are forming – Burn more fossil fuels for older less efficient street lights …or have glare and sleep issues.

In my travels for NWPR I often come across some items that the average person can’t see because of locked gates etc.   Here’s an example – The power at Striped Peak west of Port Angeles.   This is an interesting site in that it’s right on the south shore of the Strait of Juan De Fuca.   The site is used by two radio stations, NWPR’s KNWP as well as KVIX which receives its programming from the soon to be former KPLU.   There are Cellular, State Patrol, a UW Seismic Sensor, FAA as well as one of the sites used for vessel tracking in the inland waters of Western Washington (That’s what the funny antenna on the top of the tower is used for). The site is administered by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Utility Tower

Here’s an item that will be familiar to old-timers.   Those of us that work in the broadcast business are familiar with the EAS equipment that each station must have…..Before EAS we had EBS and equipment that went with that.   Before EBS we had Conelrad.  This gem (a bit battle warn) was an example of equipment from that era.

The frequencies listed are (in order) 640, 1240, 710, 1000 and 1090

Conelrad

 

 

About the 8th of July it was announced that Day Sequerra was purchasing Orban.  According to reports manufacturing of the legendary audio processing equipment will be shifted to the East Coast to be co-located with the new owners facility while Engineering, R&D etc. will remain in Silicon Valley California.

According to recent research 74% saw news outlets favor one side.   This is not exactly surprising as our citizens have become increasingly ‘binary’ in their thinking.   A lot of this change is attributed to Cable-News where channels have laid claim to a particular political persuasion.    For those of us that are older than most – We recall when the news was (at least we thought) objective and just dealt with the facts.    Granted there were the Drew Pearson and Gabriel Heatter’s …but they were known commentators …and were not the entire network.  Talk radio has helped this process along as well with names you all know  along with stations and bill themselves as associated with a particular bent.    Perhaps all this has polarized our society to the extent that our elected representatives have forgotten the art of compromise.  Bottom line – Broadcasting, perhaps, should own some of the blame?

 

As luck would have it in our business – it was determined that the best time for KIRO to change out their transmit antenna at West Tiger would be the weekend of July 2 and 3.   Thankfully the weather gods cooperated….well sorta.   At least it did not rain.

Down came the old KBSG Shively Antenna that was installed back in late 1987.   Here you can see the tower being rigged for removal –

FM Bays on Tower

Steve Lemay and crew had the old antenna on the ground in about 2 hours – removing it a few pieces at a time-

Single FM Bay

After nearly 30 years in the air – You’d expect to find something interesting when the old girl came down …and we were not disappointed – Here’s a look at one of the inner connectors that has been stressed more than once.

Heliax Inner

Here you can see the 4 brown pods (radomes) of the old antenna …In the foreground the black item is a part of one of the new antenna bays.

On Ground

One of the new antenna bays preparing to be hoisted up the tower –

Going Up

 

Despite the summer fog on the mountain – it remained dry as the new antenna took shape

Antenna in Fog

The new antenna, like the old one, is a center-fed 4 bay.   Just below the KIRO-FM/97.3 antenna is the Master Antenna used by several stations at the site.  You can just make out the ‘basket’ behind one of the top bays.    The master antenna, also made by ERI, was installed on the tower about a year after the original 97.3 array.

Time once again for a look at the radio ratings for the Seattle area. These comments are based on the 12+ numbers from June-

 

  • 36 Stations Listed
  • Looking at the top 10 –             The #1 Station is Hubbard’s KQMV            1 is a Non-Commercial (KUOW)
  •             7 are transmitting from West Tiger, 2 from Cougar and 1 from Capital Hill
  •             No surprise, all are FM’s
  • Looking at the bottom 10, 4 are AM’s
  • Lowest rated is an AM – KFHZ/1090 – (a 50 Kw facility)
  • Highest rated AM – KIRO/710 at #11 – Next highest rated AM, KOMO @ #16
  • Non-Commercial stations are doing pretty well –             #17- KPLU            #28- KNHC            #34- KVTI
  •             #29- KBCS
  •             #26- KEXP
  •             #7 – KUOW
  • Some stations are not listed in the ratings for various reasons, i.e., there are more than 36 radio stations in the Seattle area.          A short while ago the Seattle times magazine ran a story about Vashon. Having been there a time or two I gave it a careful read.   Noted mentions of the local Low-Power radio station and a DJ that does his show from the Island for an out of state station…But nowhere was there any mention of the major stations whose transmitters are there. Namely – KOMO, KGNW, KJR, KVI, KIRO, KTTH and KFNQ.   Total this up and you get 305,000 Watts of AM…You’d think that this would, at least, receive honorable mention

For some reason, market #1 in our country appears to be a magnet for illegal/pirate radio stations.   It’s almost hard to fathom what it would be like if the number of pirate operations in NYC were to appear in, say….Seattle, Portland, Vancouver or Denver.   Can you imagine 76 pirate stations in your market?     Now, add to that, the almost total absence of any government enforcement action.   Should I dare call this the ‘wild-wild east’?     Apparently, despite the efforts of the Feds, the number of pirates is increasing.   In light of the recent reduction in FCC Field offices, this information is not exactly what you would term encouraging.   Perhaps, due to political pressure, congress will deal with the issue….But not until after the leftover mud has been washed away from the elections.

  • There are rumors that the huge culvert is to permit passage of the recently discovered Tiger Mountain Trout.   Scientists are concerned that RF could be contributing to the issue <gggg>
  • Here’s both halves together – That truck could drive thru it !
  • Culvert 2

 

  • I’ve been driving up the road to the summit of West Tiger mountain for getting close to 30 years now and, over that period of time, seen a lot of changes.   Back in the late 80’s the road was quite primitive.   Since that time the State has opened up areas to logging and with that came substantial road improvements.   Later came the new road to the east summit and the new site constructed by American Tower for Radio and TV.   A few years ago they replaced a culvert under the road through which 15 mile creek flows (a tributary of Issaquah Creek) with a very large replacement. I recall asking why and was told that it was for the passage of fish.   Fish 2000 feet up the mountain from Issaquah and upstream from a waterfall?.   A couple of months ago I received a call from the local power company informing me that they were going to have to re-locate some 1500 feet of road and the power line that’s buried within it…..Again, the reason was because of fish. Huh? Apparently there is a rule that a road cannot be in close proximity and parallel to a stream.   So…..The State is relocating the road so that it crosses the stream at 90 degrees…and they are. Again, installing a huge culvert.   The following shows you how big. The trailer here is hauling ONE-HALF of the new pipe.

Big Culvert

  • In the event you have been off the planet and have not noticed…Samsung has become a huge player in the world of Electronics (and many other things). Late word is that they have committed $1.2 Billion (Yes with a B) to US research and project support for what’s call I o T (Meaning Internet of Things ventures during the next 4 years.   These projects will include systems for governments as well as consumer devices and healthcare.   Exciting to see and announcement regarding R&D.   Perhaps the scary part is knowing that RF spectrum is going to be part of the picture.

In communicating with Pat Otis at Tribune I learned that Don White has retired.   More things to make me feel old. Don and I worked together many years ago….and that Russ Hill also did so.   Taking his position is Jim Belsvig.

Other changes to note – Now that Matt Green has moved into the slot vacated by retiring Dwight Small…. John Mackey has taken the job at Bicoastal Media vacated by Matt.

Likely no surprise that there are now a record number of LPFM’s on the air….Many of these pint-sized radio stations are operated by volunteers with minimal or near zero budgets.   In the area of FCC rule compliance there is a temptation to compare them with larger commercial operations.   We need to realize that a lot of this is new and the fact that they may not have anyone on-staff with any previous broadcast experience. This matter was discussed at the recent Washington State SECC Meeting where some wondered how these operations were obtaining compliance information as they may be operating outside the conventional information distribution loops.   In some cases the new requirements for EAS, specifically the new ETRS could be quite telling.   Broadcasters are expected to seek-out rules and regulations, subscribe to news services etc. to keep up to date…But what about these new operations that don’t?   As an example – How many stations subscribe to – digest@info.fcc.gov?    What’s that old saying about ignorance of the law………..??

Another, no-surprise, news item is that the number of AM radio stations continues to decline with the total number looking like figures from the 1980’s.   As you know, I have been predicting that this process will continue until we reach the point where the remaining number of stations better represents the number of listeners to the legacy band.   Right now the number of non-commercial FM stations is approaching the number of AM’s.   The total number of broadcast stations….Radio and TV, stands at just over 31,000.

The Federal Communications Commission has moved ahead on its plan to add new event codes to the nation’s Emergency Alert System. signify “Extreme Wind Warning,” “Storm Surge Watch” and “Storm Surge Warning” so that communities can receive more specific and relevant alerts during hurricanes or other severe weather. Expect to see the three-letter codes “EWW,” “SSA” and “SSW” added to the commission’s revised Part 11 EAS rules.    Ted Buehner, Seattle WCM and longtime member of the Washington State SECC, told that group recently that these changes will not impact EAS in the Seattle area as these events don’t take place here.    What change  will impact everyone is the requirement for your EAS Equipment to process NPT’s as well as deal with the 000000 Location Code.       As part of the ETRS process the FCC is wanting to know what kind of EAS Equipment you station employ’s as well as the Software version etc.

Here’s a summary of EAS Compliance items posted to the Washington State EAS Remailer from the SECC Tech Committee Chair, Lowell Kiesow on July 20th.

There are FCC compliance deadlines related to EAS fast approaching:

 

  1. July 30, 2016.  Your EAS box needs to be configured to immediately relay a National Periodic Test (NPT).  The location code for both NPT and EAN needs to be set to 000000.  All current, and some older, EAS products can be set to comply.  Some units will require new firmware to work with the new codes. The Sage ENDEC model 3644 requires new firmware, which will be released in the coming days.  I know Sage is working hard on it, but don’t expect it this week.

 

  1. August 28, 2016.  All stations need to complete online form 1 of the FCC EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS).  You can register for ETRS at the following link.

https://www.fcc.gov/general/eas-test-reporting-system

 

  1. September 28, 2016An NPT will be sent via IPAWS at 11:20 am PDT.  All stations must immediately relay the test.  The ETRS day of test form, online form 2, must be completed by midnight.

 

  1. November 14, 2016.  The ETRS post-test form, online form 3, must be completed by the end of this date.

 

If you have any questions regarding any of this, please ask.  Barry Mishkind has written a nice ETRS how-to, at the following link.

http://www.thebdr.net/articles/fcc/eas/ETRS.pdf

Some new and perhaps encouraging information for OTA TV from a new survey. Here are some of the high-points –

 

  • 17% of U.S. households rely only on over the air broadcasting
  • 25% now have no cable or satellite connections.
  • Homes of 18 to 34 year olds are more likely to opting for alternatives to cable and Satellite.
  • Viewers over 50 are more likely to have cable or satellite

Personally I wonder how many cable subscribers are doing so for the speed of their internet connection?

I stopped by the studios of KVTI recently where Steve Reeder was looking a recently received picture of his old friend, Harrison Klein.   The first time I met Harrison was at an SBE meeting in Seattle where he was showing off his recently installed AM stereo operation on 1090 KING-AM. If I recall the receiver was a Sony that would decode the then various types of AM Stereo.   Later he would work for Westinghouse in New York as well as Hammett and Edison in California.   After living in Hawaii for 10 years he and his wife Sharene have moved to Amsterdam.   Here is that picture Steve had received –

Steve Reeder

 

My longtime friend, Nick Winter (KPLU, KLAY etc.) recently had his trusty Taco pickup totaled by an elderly driver in Tacoma.   Perhaps with over 325,000 miles on it …It was time for a replacement.    After a bunch of shopping Nick decided that his new ride would look much like mine (which I purchased last December).   We met for lunch at the Auburn Golf Course and got this picture – As you can tell mine (with the K7CR Plates) is on the left, Nick, K7MO on the right.

Shiny Red Cars

The Society of Broadcast Engineers has released its first-ever salary survey of broadcast and media technology engineers

For radio engineers, the mean 2016 salary, according to the survey, is $75,306 for SBE-certified professionals and $71,432 for non-SBE members. For TV and TV/Radio mean salaries, SBE-certified engineers make $79,616 per year, with $78,176 for non-SBE. There were no TV-only salary results released. No surprise to those of us in this industry…there are more Engineers in the 50 to 62 age range than any other group reinforcing what we all know – In the next few years there will be a lot of openings in this industry.   Unfortunately I rarely run into anyone that expresses a desire to have my job.     Come on folks – Putting chains on all 4 wheels to get up West Tiger is FUN !

Somewhat of a shocker – a new name in the audience measurement game – Shazam.   Already some big names are on board with the new firm –iHeartMedia, Entercom, Cox etc.   At this writing there are more questions than answers – Stay tuned to find out how this will work with the existing Nielsen system.

And now the time has come for some additional educational material to brighten you day –

-I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. Its syncing now.

-When chemists die, they barium.

-Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

-How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

-I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

-This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.

-I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

-They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Type-O.

– Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.

-Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

-What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.

-England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

-I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.

-I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.

-I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

-Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

-Velcro, what a rip off!

-A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.

-The earthquake in Washington obviously was the government’s fault.

-I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.

-Corduroy pillows are making headlines.

-Without geometry, life is pointless.

-When you dream in colour, it’s a pigment of your imagination.

-Reading while sunbathing makes you well-red.

-A man’s home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

-Dijon vu the same mustard as before.

-Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

-There were two ships. One had red paint, one had blue paint. They collided. At last report, the survivors were marooned.

OK ….OK – I promise that’s all for this month.

Remember to get outside and enjoy summer. Here in the PNW, this is our shortest season.

Lord willing, I will been feeding your eyeballs with more of this kind of stuff, on most of this same computer next month.   Thanks for reading my stuff –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE etc.

 

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for July 2016

July 3, 2016
By

 

Clay's Heading

At the outset – A big welcome to Seattle to our newest Chief Engineer – Matt Green (pictured below)

Matt is now in the seat once occupied by now retired Dwight Small.

Guyatdesk

Lowell Smith photo

Then there was this announcement from Marvin Marcelo, GM of Northwest Public Radio and TV at the Murrow College of Communications at WSU –

It is my pleasure to announce that Jeff Snell has accepted the position of Director of Engineering and Technology, starting today.

Jeff started working for us back in December 2000 with the Washington Higher Education Telecommunications System (WHETS) program as a Computer Operator III and worked his way up to Systems Administrator for Northwest Public Media and The Murrow College. Jeff also obtained his master’s degree in Engineering and Technology Management from WSU while working full time.

From helping with the analog to digital transition in WHETS/AMS/NWPTV-NWPR, building out of all the new computer labs in Murrow and Goertzen Halls, the new radio control system with Colorado Public Radio, and the current TV joint master control move from KSPS to Central Cast in New York, Jeff has been an integral part of the many technological changes in our organization.

There are some big challenges ahead for radio, TV and The Murrow College, but I know that we’ll make great strides with Jeff’s leadership, technological background and passion for innovation.

The other big headline in Seattle broadcasting this month is the fact that the listeners of KPLU were successful in raising some 7 Million dollars to purchase the station from Pacific Lutheran University.   They accomplished this with a month to spare (In 5 rather than the allotted 6 Month) .   PLU has indicated that they will indeed sell the station to the new group and, apparently the folks at KUOW have agree as well. It is my understanding that the sale agreement was to be completed the last week in June leaving one more hurdle, application to and approval of the FCC. Once that is accomplished It’s likely the station will change call letters to further distance themselves from the University that owned it for some 50 years.   Consolidation of studio operations is quite possible in the future as the new operation attempts to keep operating costs in check.   Rumors are that a location in downtown Tacoma might be considered. Certainly costs there would be less than in Seattle where costs are rising to historic levels.     88.5 will be joining KING-FM in becoming the latest listener supported radio station in the Seattle area.   Interestingly both stations transmit from West Tiger Mountain using the same antenna.

Seattle is an interesting place.   For those visiting here the first time they are often struck by the number of homeless….and news of the, now famous – ‘Jungle’ under various portions of I-5 in the city.   I get asked – How could a city like booming Seattle have such a homeless problem?   I’ll admit it seems counter intuitive.   A lot of it boils down to the fact that many on the lower end of incomes have found themselves priced out of a place they can afford to live in the City due to the rapid increase in rental amounts.   There have been calls for rent-controls, however the fact is that rental prices are based on supply and demand.   Like a lot of things, prices will continue to rise until the either the supply exceeds demand or they are priced too high and the demand drops off. Meanwhile – Rental prices continue to climb and we see more tent-dwellers as well as more freeway congestion as people are forced further away from the city to locations they can afford proving that it’s often still more economical to put money in your gas tank than into where you live.

On the bad news front, KPLU engineer Nick Winter was in an auto accident in Tacoma recently totaling his 2004 Toyota Pickup .   Thankfully no one was hurt in the crash.   Considering that it had some 325,000 miles on it – perhaps it was time for a new ride…and that’s exactly what he has coming. Looking very similar to what I’ve been driving since late last year.

Last month I wrote about the little station in Forks upgrading their FM by moving to much higher terrain. Mike Gilbert reports the owners are very pleased with the results with the stations move to Ellis Mountain reporting the station is able to be heard all the way east to Port Townsend.   This is a huge improvement from the former location on their AM tower in town. The new site is at 2,654 ft. Considering the population density in this area, this a great move for the little station.

The owners of boats have historically given their craft interesting if not funny names.   I spotted this one the other day and just had to share it with you.   I’m guessing that the owner is into computers !

C Drive

 

KLSW (Very close to KISW) is now operational with their new Single Bay antenna at Cougar Mountain. Prior to this time 104.5 was using the Master Antenna at the site that was designed for use by a number of stations at the site for Aux’s backing up main transmitters on West Tiger.    According to Steve Flyte the new installation is performing very well.

Retired KIRO pronouncer, Central Puget LECC Chair and retired Coast Guard ossifer, Phil Johnson was recently suffering thru the weather on Kauai where he got to have a tour of WWVH.   Documenting the visit he sent me the below picture of himself standing in front of a 10 MHz transmitter (Phil on the left)

If it were me, I have a new sign made for the front of that transmitter – It would read

“10.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 MHZ’

Wonder how accurate the clock is on top?

10 mhz

Another survey to report – This time the top –ten with the lowest risk from natural disaster.

Here are those mentioned in our area –

  1. Corvallis, OR
  2. Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
  3. Bellingham, WA
  4. Wenatchee, WA
  5. Spokane, WA
  6. Salem, OR
  7. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA
  8. Yakima, WA
  9. Olympia, WA

Apparently those that did this research did not consider the potential for a major earthquake or volcanic event.   During my travels around the country I’ve found many that said they would not consider living in this area….Not, as you would first suspect, because of our wet weather, but because of their fear of quakes and mountains blowing up!

 

Every once in a while I run across an example of someone playing with electricity that probably should not be.   I have no way of knowing if this is for-real or was staged…Regardless, I got a chuckle out of it.

redneck

 

I just got my monthly newsletter from my power provider….urging me to save energy by replacing my power hungry lights with new energy efficient LED’s.   Then the idea struck me – All those big broadcast transmitters out there could save a ton of wasted power if they would just come out with vacuum tubes that, instead having filaments like light bulbs, would use LED’s   – (going into hiding now)

Consider the example of poor wiring that is for real ! BTW this is in South America.

wiring

 

The HD Radio bug has caught on with our neighbors to the north with now 3 Vancouver stations operating with the mode – 96.9, 101.1 and 103.5.   Programming for these stations new HD2 channels follows what’s been taking place in other US markets – a new voice for co-owned AM operations.

An interesting side effect of BC broadcasters (finally) installing HD Radio equipment is the impact on those markets between Seattle and Vancouver.   In markets like Bellingham, co-channel operation on a frequency used in Seattle is not possible, despite the shielding of the Chuckanut Mountains South of Bellingham. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuckanut_Mountains) However adjacent channels of Vancouver stations have historically been used for translators and other low power operations…..that is until those adjacent channels became occupied with HD Radio digital carriers.   This was the situation with a NWPR Translator on 101.3.   (First adjacent to a Vancouver station) all was well until the time that the BC station turned on its HD.   Suddenly the little FM operation in Bellingham was being covered by the strong HD digital carriers from the North.     Another factor here is terrain.   Bellingham is situated on what could be considered the southern end of the Frazier River Valley, on the other side of the ‘valley’ are the mountains just north of Vancouver, site of the markets FM station transmitters.     From the standpoint of the high power/high elevation FM station…Perhaps HD Radio has another, rarely-discussed, benefit ….It’s helps keep those pesky adjacent channels in check J

 

There are many waiting for more ‘shoes to drop’ in the process of re-packing the TV channels.   In some markets this is going to be impacting multiple use towers in ways that station and tower owners can only guess about.   As an example – Picture a big tall tower with a couple of TV’s and a couple of FM’s all sharing the structure.     Along comes the need to change channels for the TV’s.   Unless the TV stations antennas will work on the new channel – It will have to change. …and this is not an overnight operation. Structural and construction issues will come into play here and these could well negatively impact those radio stations that are, traditionally, mounted lower on the tower.   They could be faced with making decisions that they have never even dreamed about.   Going to get interesting.   Perhaps thankfully, this will not likely impact Seattle broadcasters due to the rather unique way our markets stations and towers are situated.

Another big story in the world to towers is the number of cases where a broadcaster has sold towers to those whose business is selling tower space.   Many of the major radio broadcasters have been selling towers, Alpha alone sold 200 of theirs to a firm call Vertical Bridge.     Looking back (I can do a lot of that) If a person had walked into the door of a station I was working at expressing a desire to purchase the stations tower they would have been openly laughed at.     Wow how times have changed.     A nice big positive hit to the stations bottom line is being viewed as a whole lot easier than a station trying to market tower space, an industry that most broadcasters know nothing about.

For years the FCC would slap the knuckles of a broadcast station for putting on the air a caller without first advising them of the action.   Now comes the story of a new variation.   iHeartMedia has agreed to pay $8.5 million to resolve an issue involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by -unsolicited – sending text messages to its radio listeners. Oops.

One of our markets FM stations has cellular equipment on their tower that recently was being modified to accommodate some new (G-Whiz) equipment.   I’m used to contractors posting some caution signs that are required by regulators.   In this case, the contractor did not just post a sign – He erected a banner to cover all the bases ! Frankly I found this moderately funny.

no trespass

 

From time to time I participate in conversations on remailers that are related to broadcast engineering. A recent thread dealt with the relationship between management and engineering in many smaller radio stations.

Ø         Those that manage radio facilities often have no clue as to what the engineer does -especially – if they stay on the air. Only when a station goes off the air, and management knows, or see’s that their engineer working to resolve the issue does his ‘value’ go up.

Ø         A lot of management is under intense pressure to better the bottom line, they knows that their survival is at stake. They are more likely to resist increased expenses unless they can actually ‘see’ how this benefits that bottom line.

Ø         In many case Engineering is looked upon like insurance.   A large percentage of management would stop buying insurance if they thought they’d get away with it.

Ø         The graying of our industry is viewed by many as an opportunity to cut engineering expenses based on the simple notion that younger people will cost less….at least initially.

Ø            Management is often not going to invest in a full time engineer any more than they are going to hire a full-time copy machine technician who will sit around waiting for the machine to break.

Ø         They are a whole lot more willing to pay for something that is broken to be repaired than to pay for someone who ‘ Fixes things’ to be sitting at a desk etc.

Ø         There is this universal feeling that it they can’t see you working, and understand what you are doing is benefiting the bottom line – you are wasting time and their money.   An example of this is the engineer that is working on a transmitter project and out of the studio/office for a few days…Often the manager equates this with being taken advantage of.

Ø         Some of this is the engineers own fault and is based on – How they dress – How they interact with the rest of the management team- how they present to others what they do . This is often a lack of willingness to ‘sell’ what we they etc.

Ø            Willingness to work-cheap is often a contributing problem.

Ø         In many ways this mistrust is like a spreading disease.   Either you work to regain their trust and turn your own ship around or you will suffer the consequences.   Yes, I place a lot of blame on the Engineer that may be technically sharp but also quite stupid when it comes to the politics involved.

Ø         Many have made the decision to stop working for one company and move into contracting or working for people part time.   Often this works better for both parties. Management is happier paying for specific work (no desk-sitting) and Engineers often enjoy a higher rate of compensation. With that comes increase levels of mutual respect.

Ø         Times have changed for sure – either you embrace change and figure out how to make it work FOR YOU…or you suffer the consequences

Of course there are likely to be other points of view on this topic – If you would like to express yours…I’d be interested…and I might even make it a part of next month’s column.

In this day and age of battery powered everything – Did you know that 90% of us panic about losing power on our smart phone.   LG had named this condition – Low Battery Anxiety.   Which reminds me –

How many of you are still using NiCad battery powered tools? I notice that the major tool makers are selling these relicts at steep discounts.   Meanwhile work is rushing ahead to develop more impressive batteries.

Ready for another survey ?   This time the question is – Which States have the best economy? This one conducted by WalletHub where the findings were – 1, Utah; 2. Washington; 3. California; 4. Massachusetts; 5. Colorado; 6. Delaware; 7. District of Columbia; 8. New York; 9. Texas, and 10, Oregon.

Washington has the highest value of exports per capita, $12,517, which is nine times higher than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest, $1,361 Suspect Boeing has a lot to do with this.

Here’s another one, this time from Forbes – Which are the fastest growing cities in the U.S.?

1-         Austin, TX

2-         San Francisco

3-         Dallas

4-         Seattle

5-         Salt Lake City

6-         Ogden Utah

7-            Orlando

8-         San Jose

9-         Raleigh

10-       Cape Coral, Fla

11-       Denver

If you been to Seattle lately – You can see it happening all around you.   The news around here is full of stories of how the price of housing is going out of site for those that want to rent or buy. With higher prices comes higher valuations and with that higher property taxes.   This hurts many at many levels.   Many are being force to move out of town for the simple reason that they are not paid enough to afford it. Then there are those that are retired and living on a fixed income – (this is where it gets ugly) .   All of this is a recipe for more urban sprawl fueled by those seeking prices for housing they can afford.   We’ve come a long way since the days of that famous billboard at Sea-Tac asking that the last person leaving Seattle to please turn out the lights.

For those of you that are science-heads – are you ready for the new elements ?   Apparently 4 more are being added.   Gee all those big wall hangings in science classrooms are going to be out of date.

For those of you that just have to know more – Go here – http://www.miningweekly.com/article/four-new-periodic-elements-named-including-asias-first-discovery-2016-06-09/rep_id:3650

With all the worry about health issues ….Why would you want to go to Rio to watch the Olympics when you can sit in downtown Seattle and see them to the West ?   (Ducking again)

We’ve all seen the pitch from the wireless providers for the latest ‘G’ – 3G, 4G, LTE etc. …Well fasten your seatbelt…Here comes 5G which is, according to its proponents, will give us network speeds 10 to 100 times faster than we have now. More G-whiz gizmos are in the pipe.

If you are presently working in the field of Radio Broadcasting…or are thinking about doing so… consider the fact that the number of radio broadcasting jobs has fallen over 25% since 1990.   Is it any wonder why schools in this area no longer off courses on the subject?.   Consolidation of station ownership has meant an across the board reduction in the number of jobs.   Helping to fuel this trend has been a significant increase in the use of computer technology.   Back in 1990 it was common place to have a radio station manned 24/7…today that mode of operation is increasingly rare.   On the technical side, consolidation has meant a large reduction in the number of engineers.   I recall when we were building out the facility at West Tiger Mountain. The first multiple station operation in the area with, at its peak, 11 stations under one roof.   We’d have periodic meetings of all of the engineers to go over matters of common interest.   Today such a meeting would only have a hand-full of engineers representing all licensees.   Just like a lot of other industries – Less people are doing more with less.   Generally consolidation has worked well for most owners (With a couple of very high-profile exceptions)   I could add AM Radio to this, but I think you all know what’s happening there.   Perhaps one could state that AM is broadcastings equivalent to newspapers?

On the TV Side there have been major changes as well.   Today we have technologies like robotic cameras and centralized and computer controlled master control operations replacing many. The idea of a TV station with only a couple of employee’s and no local studio cameras back in 1990 would be far-fetched.   Overall jobs in Television, unlike Radio, are actually up by less than stellar amounts.

Compared to the Print Media – Broadcasting is flying high.   In the Seattle-Tacoma area we have witnessed the demise of several daily newspapers and the dramatic reduction in size of others.   Compared to 1990 this segment has had a 60% drop.

Predictably the segment were we have seen the biggest increases in employment are those industries that rely on the Internet for distribution.

Want more information?   Check out – http://www.radioworld.com/article/radio-jobs-down–over–years/279004#sthash.5AO7N73F.dpuf

Bottom line – If you have a good steady job in OTA Broadcasting – Be thankful and consider taking a cue from those that bicycle to work by installing a rear view mirror on your glasses.   Personally, I consider myself to be a very lucky person having been employed in this industry, full time, since August 1, 1961. Hopefully I will be able to work a couple more years before hanging up my spurs – voluntarily !

Perhaps related to the reduction in the number of those employed in this industry is the matter of finding those that are willing to serve on the local. Chapter SBE Boards.     I recently posted that question to the Chapter 16 remailer and got this response from Bob Trimble –

Hi Clay.

In my discussions with engineers around the N.W. there is a lack of engineers who have the time or energy to add an unpaid part-time job that also requires travel to meetings. Most engineers work well over 40 hours working up to a seven day week. Many do not even attend NAB anymore.

The engineers in Salt Lake City do not even have a local chapter anymore because they won’t even take the time to attend a lunch or dinner meeting once a month (which is usually free).

Montana and Wyoming each did have a small chapter last time I checked, but the attendance is very small because the few engineers there are spread out roving around the state. Yet Oregon has three chapters that have good attendance because we can attract presenters who will do all three cities in three days making it worth their while to come to Oregon and that attracts attendees from the few engineers we have left.

Thanks!

Bob Trimble N7IYI

Andy Skotdal submitted this-

It would be interesting to compare the number of engineers in the area 20 years ago to now. My sense is it’s a function of fewer numbers overall, that creates more work for those who do participate, and then the workday responsibilities for those still around have grown exponentially over the same time. Thankless volunteer positions, no matter how noble or worthy, are suffering, and not just with the SBE. Look at SARA/PSRBA going away, and look at the WSAB evolution to Keith working out of his home with no assistant and also serving the OAB. But it isn’t just broadcasting. It’s also happening in banking. Two banking trade groups in Washington State are on the precipice because the number of local banks have dropped so dramatically. There is no good answer right now

Perhaps bucking the trend a bit – Google this item – National Radio Talent System

And – http://www.radioworld.com/article/hubbard-radio-talent-institute- starts/279024#sthash.FOnxpTKl.dpuf

Kudos to those behind this effort.

For those of us that used to go to the NAB Convention in Vegas every year…The Riviera hotel across the street from the             LVCC was a landmark – As you know the place has been closed to make room for more convention center – In the middle to this past month the demolition got underway with the implosion of the Monaco Tower.   All together there were 13 buildings in the complex.   $42 million is the price tag to make it all go away.

When you install an FM antenna on a ‘hot’ AM broadcast tower you have to deal with how to isolate the process from the AM Antenna…This is an application for what’s known as an Isocoupler.   Occasionally things go wrong…Like when the FM Antenna gets struck by lightning…In case of KWSU in Pullman this is what took place with, as you can see, considerable damage. Note how the top part of the enclosure is blackened in addition to the melted items….Things were very nasty inside!   The Isocoupler was replaced.

burned iso

West Tiger Mountain is scheduled for tower work on July 2-4 as KIRO-FM changes out their main antenna.   This will involve replacing the antenna that was installed at the site back in 1987. At that time, 97.3 was the first FM broadcast station on the mountain.   12 more have followed since.

In addition to narrow audio bandwidth, lack of stereo operation and less than inspirational programming, AM Radio is suffering with the fact that the average AM receiver cannot distinguish between the emissions of a stations transmitter and those of thousands of devices we have today that emit what is commonly called ‘noise’.   You often hear stories about –back when – you could pick up AM stations at great distances but it is no longer possible.   A common reason cited for this is poor receivers. Granted there is not a lot of incentive for the makers of consumer radios to produce super sensitive receivers…one of the reasons for this is the fact that what engineers calla the –Signal to Noise Ratio – is getting worse by the day. AM radio uses a system called Amplitude Modulation …Unfortunately sources of noise generate signals with the same characteristics .   A radio with greater sensitivity would only be better able to produce more noise for the user!.   If you would like to check this out for yourself – Here’s what you do – (Based on living the Seattle area)

Ø         Go out to where you park your vehicle and tune around the AM band noting just how many AM stations from Vancouver or Portland you can receive.   (You can down-load a list of stations in those cities from Radio-Locator.com)

Ø         Wait until we have a large scale power outage and repeat the test.

Ø         Drive out in the country and down a road as that has no power lines or electric fences (Goal is to be as far away from anything with a power line as possible) ….Repeat the test.

What you are going to discover might surprise you.   Chances are, without devices that are connected to the electric grid near your receiver, your receiver is going to perform a whole lot better. So what’s the problem?   The issue is that we have an ever increasing number of electrical devices that emit, or transmit, noise.   That noise directly impacts how well you are able to receive AM radio signals/stations.

This is not a new situation….In fact, devices that emit what engineers call RF Noise, used to interfere with receiving TV stations back in the days when the video portion of things was also using Amplitude Modulation.   Then, there was a lot of pressure to find those noise sources and deal with them.   Today, just about the only place where AM is used is the AM Broadcast band….and the pressure to resolve sources of noise is considerably less.

Then we add a couple more factors to the equation.

Ø         The number of devices that generate noise has exploded in recent years.

Ø         The FCC, who historically has dealt with this matter, no longer goes – in part because the Commission has changed from one that enforces rules to one that enforces rules only when someone complains.

Ø         The number complaints about noise on the AM Broadcast band is almost nil- and very likely limited to organizations that recognize the impact of it.

Ø         The average consumer likely fails to understand the source of the problem and simply chooses another means to receive their desired product (FM/HD Radio – Streaming services etc.) and never thinks to complain to the FCC.

Knowing all of this- the makers of all manner of electrical devices have been able to ignore any existing regulations that would limit the amount of radio frequency energy (aka noise) that these devices create.   Remove any enforcement of regulations and you have the wild-wild west.

Now comes this –

The FCC’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory group to the FCC operating under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, is investigating changes and trends to the radio spectrum noise floor to determine if there is an increasing noise problem, and if so, the scope and quantitative evidence of such problem(s), and how a noise study should be performed. In this public notice, the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) announces the TAC’s public inquiry, seeking comments and answers to questions below for the TAC about radio spectrum noise

I’m thinking that this is too little, too late.   Not only has the horse gotten out of the barn but he has been joined by a herd of millions of other horses.   Remember too that regulators are driven by complaints these days, i.e., No-complains – No problems.   Who is likely to put up a fuss because they can no longer receive an AM station without a lot of buzz, crackle and bizzaps?   I submit that those listeners have been chased away never to return…..But maybe I’m wrong about this.   Maybe the Feds will actually determine that enforcement of their own rules has merit.     I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime – Several organization are weighing in – I wish them the very best!   For those that would like more information – go here – http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0615/DA-16-676A1.pdf

A TV station in North Dakota recently got into a dispute with DirecTV .   One of the ways the tackled the problem was by offering their viewers free TV Antennas.   Viewers had to go to the station and present poof they were a DirecTV subscriber.   The station ordered 1000 Antennas for the purpose.   This leads me to ask the question – How many TV Viewers today would be able to install an OTA TV Antenna if you gave them one?

In the world of EAS there is no shortage of ‘stuff’ going on….Here are the headlines- –

Ø         Our recent regional NPT came and went with a number of stations ‘discovering’ issues in their endec programming that needed to be corrected.   Hopefully all will be ready for the big nation-wide test coming this fall.

Ø         Don’t forget to keep your ears to the ground for news about the new electronic test reporting system called ETRS.   My understanding is that the FCC will be wanting us all to use this new system for the fall NPT.

Ø         Looks like we may not be having new Event Codes as suspected, at least in the near term

Ø         Happy to report that we have two new parties stepping up to lead local EAS committees (LECC’s). In Mason-Thurston long time local broadcast engineer, John Price, who recently retired to the Rochester area.   In North Puget, Jeannie Gilbert.   Jeannie is the wife of Mike Gilbert and former Editor of the Chapter 16 Waveguide.

Ø         Other volunteers working with our SECC include – Jon Kasprick dealing with Tab 10/Monitoring Assignment and new-comer Arlene Hand working on our Tab2 Data Bases of LECC’s and associated Emergency Managers.

Ø         The recent Cascadia Rising exercise revealed a potential communications gap between emergency management and citizens based on the assumption that broadcast facilities would not be negatively impacted by such an event.   Phil Johnson (Retired KIRO) as well as others are working on solutions to this problem. One possible solution is a means for emergency management to be able to turn on and broadcast through a local broadcast station.   Such a system has been installed in Port Townsend.

Ø         The next State EAS meeting (SECC) will be July 21st at Camp Murray.

Ø         Don’t forget you can stay connected to what’s happening with EAS in Washington State by subscribing to the State EAS Remailer – http://sea.sbe16.org/mailman/listinfo/eas-wa

This is now we distribute Plan updates, meeting notices, EAS news and more.

They say – One picture is worth a thousand words – I love this one of a monster generator at a big server farm.   For those of you into really big engines – Note that this is a V-20!

big genset

Well, my friends, that’s about it for this month- Thanks for taking time to read my stuff J

Hopefully, I’ll be back next month for another edition on most of these same computers.

Have a great summer !!!!!   See you on the 30th on Vashon for the annual SBE Picnic

 

Clay, K7CR –

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for May 2016

May 2, 2016
By

 

 

Clay’s Corner Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

Looks like continued donations for KPLU as they strive to become community owned radio station.   Helping with the process was a listener that said they would donate $500,000 if the listeners would do the same – It took them only 9 days to raise the million.   One has to wonder if some big contributors are in the wings until deep in the process?

Last month I noted that we just experienced one of the wettest winters in history…One record we did not break was the number of days in a row with precipitation….That record, set back in 1950-51 of 125 days still remains.   In April we often have what I call – teaser weather- i.e., a blast of warm/dry days. Mother nature did not let me down as we hit 89 degrees on one day setting a record for the warmest April day in history. (Meantime Denver was getting snow). There is no doubt about it –

So I was sitting at the Starbucks in Chehalis recently and this guy comes in wearing a bright yellow rain jacket….I glanced at it and did a double-take . Fortunately my cellphone has a camera – Thought you’d enjoy this one.

Dont Shoot Tech

 

In last month’s column I mentioned that Alaska, the airline, was based in Seattle… Had no clue that they would go out and purchase another airline.   It will take a while for all of this to come together….over the coming months we will find out whether those Virgin America vertical stabilizers will be sporting an Eskimo or not.   Then there is the issue of all of those foreign (Non USA) built aircraft recent news has Alaska buying a number of new smaller jets built elsewhere.Recently the radio biz was all abuzz over the thought that the CBS Radio group would be sold off setting off waves of speculation as to who might buy what.   Then the news that CBS may keep their Radio division and spin it off to a new division etc.   Oh well. Likely one of their goals was met ….helping to establish value for their radio operations.Meanwhile the financial woes of Cumulus and iHeart continue to be making news with both firms doing the fast shuffle with those that deal with really big numbers.   Still hard to fathom how big companies can avoid being sold off by their lenders for penny’s on the dollar.   Apparently size does matter providing that not all things are treated equally.There is a bright side that many in broadcasting are thankful for…Political advertising.   Not so much for the spots that are purchase by the candidates and parties (they are usually low) but in terms of ratings that help drive rates.   In Radio….News talk stations are seeing their numbers go up, in TV the news channels are too.The FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, continues to speak out on behalf of AM Radio citing its long history etc. etc.   This may all be well and good, but all this ‘talk’ is not going to generate listeners for the medium that many feel is ancient technology on a par with Morse Code.   My crystal ball says that the AM will survive and will, perhaps, end up looking more like it did in the late 40’s or early 50’s.     Certainly the value of AM properties is falling making it attractive to those that simply can’t afford an FM station.   Foreign languages are loving it.As perhaps a canary in the AM mine indicator….one of the west coasts legendary stations, KGO in San Francisco has just gone through a huge staff reduction and programming re-alignment thus ending 30 years of domination.As a person that’s been in this business for over 50 years, I can tell you that un-certainty seems to come with the territory. Of late, perhaps all due to the pressure for additional spectrum for more wireless gizmo’s, we are now on the cusp of the biggest change in TV broadcasting I’ve ever witnessed.   Who would have ever thought that we’d see broadcasters be paid to go off the air…or be facing a channel change – downward in frequency (UHF to VHF) or, in some cases, sharing a channel with another broadcaster.   20 years ago if anyone had suggest that this was going to come to pass….You would have been openly laughed at.   Then there is the other option – Your station may not be impacted at all.   Now put yourself in the position of those that are presently working at a TV station where you have this looming over your head. Perhaps some talented people will see this as a sign to exit the business for something that has less uncertainty? Someone, long ago, said that there is nothing more constant than change….Indeed!   Radio has had its share with consolidation….Now TV is getting it with both barrels.   Looking at the winners and losers in this process – The winners will be the wireless carriers and users of this new, above 600 MHz spectrum as well as those that are able to cash-in on the changes required (Transmission systems makers and installers)…..The losers will be those that are displaced in the process. Guess one could say that this is the price of progress.   Certainly there will be books written about this transition….Perhaps not hard-bound, but rather the kind you down-load via some wireless device using spectrum that used to be used by a broadcast station ?Speaking of changes…What about all the retirements at the ‘home team’. Just like baseball, you need a program to keep track.   Understand a couple Engineers also were involved. At least the old folks got to experience the new digs.A good example of a winner is the satellite radio provider, Sirius/XM who recently announced they now have over 30 million Subscribers.   Perhaps we should think of them as an OTA Broadcaster?On the technician side – I recently was asked to label the coax cables for a new installation for NWPR.   I thought about this for a while and ended up walking the isles at a local office supply. My solution was a heavy, flexible, device used for holding badges etc. at gatherings. You have likely had one of these attached to your shirt many times.   You can purchase these for cheap (without the safety pin).   To start with I composed a message on my computer, cut out the text and slipped it inside and attached it with a ty-rap. In the field, you could do this – on the fly- by having the right size pieces of paper that you could attach text generated by a label maker.   Wished I’d thought of this years ago.   Nothing more frustrating in an RF plan like not knowing which cable belongs to whom.

Cable Tags

 

How many times have you heard an Apple computer user brag about how much more secure and immune to attacks that the PC?     Time for a bit of rain on that parade as a new study recently discovered that this is no longer true.   Apple’s I-Phone however is still much harder to hack than an Android device.     Now if I could figure out how to stop getting calls telling me I have won a trip to the Bahama’s or that my credit-card is – – – – – – Hacking is one thing, spam (of any flavor) is another.

 

Speaking of hacking ….A couple of radio stations became the targets of hackers recently. In one case, a hacker got into the stations IP connection between their studio and transmitter site and took over the stations programming with some ‘naughty stuff’ …and in the process prohibited the station from turning off their transmitter because it used the same internet based system. (Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!).   The availability of modestly priced codecs coupled with the fact that internet service is available almost everywhere has been a marriage made in heaven for those wishing to do more with less.   Apparently there are some that install these things for connecting their studios to the transmitter either are given strict financial limits, or, they don’t fully grasp the fact that these devices are like hanging out a sign ‘Hackers Welcome’.   This reminds me of the Zombie attacks were hackers were able to get into EAS equipment and create a mess for some stations.   Indeed there are a number of lessons in common here.   Not installing –open to the whole world – equipment using the manufacturers default password is a good start…followed shortly by a short course in why and how to use firewalls.   But the fact is – Some lessons are best (and at times only) learned via the school of hard knocks.   Betcha these stations that were taken over by hackers have been on a quick learning curve and have opened the mind of the party controlling the purse strings! Unfortunately there are those that view insurance – in any form – as waste of money.

Perhaps some FCC action will help with the ‘lesson plan’ ( :-o)

 

On the topic of hacking….What’s to be done when radio spectrum is hacked?   What I’m talking about is – Pirate Radio – or, simply put, un-licensed operation of a radio station.   Unfortunately the FCC (remember them when they were an enforcement entity?) appears to be largely toothless these days.   They are dealing with this issue (a major problem in some cities) similar with trying to stop a groundhog or mole from tearing up your lawn by stomping on that mound of freshly mined soil.   Stomp here, and it comes up there.   Add to this the fact that many of the fines they hand out are never paid you have recipe for encouraging the behavior.   Even the FCC recognizes the problem and is asking congress for help. Perhaps I am beginning to understand why the FCC closed all those offices …Perhaps it’s because of the fact that too many are ignoring their actions anyway?   A technique they are exploring is being able to go after the property owner where the pirate has his station.   Remains to be see if this idea will prove effective.   This all seems to boil down to whether or not the Feds will have a means of actually collecting their penalties.   Some states have passed laws making pirate radio operation a criminal act…but compared to much more serious crimes, it’s hard to find a prosecutor that will find this type of infraction worthy of his time.

Congrats to Hubbard (Owner of several stations in the Seattle market) on re-claiming it’s position of owning the top billing radio station in the country with their WTOP in WDC…Their $65 Million in billing for 2015 edged out KIIS-FM in LA who only billed 64.7.   Stop and think about it – That’s an average of $178,082 per day.   Not bad for a radio station !! Market size has a lot to do with the amount a station bills, for example – Half of the top 10 billing stations are located in NYC while 3 are in Los Angeles.

There are those that are claiming that we are turning the FM radio band into an overcrowded mess….These folks have some numbers to support their contention too. As of March 31 there was a 31% increase in low powered stations (LPFM’s) many of which are operating in major markets contributing to the fact there is likely a station on every channel.   FM translators and boosters are increasing in numbers too with over 6500 of them now on the air, some of which are related to AM stations.   The mainstays of FM, commercial and NCE’s were pretty much static.   Meanwhile, on the AM side there are 22 less stations compared to last year…a total that is certain to increase

SBE is out with a new publication – The SBE Broadcast Engineering Handbook.”   Perhaps the most expensive publication yet in the SBE Library at $199.   I’ve not had my hands on one yet…Those that have –Let me know your impressions.

Here’s an item that really grabbed my attention.   Kudo’s to the folks at Sears for coming up with a wonderful spoof:

Kitchen Chainsaw Part1

Kitchen Chainsaw Part2

Entercom has still not filled the slot once filled by now retired Dwight Small.   While they search for his replacement they have been rotating folks from other Entercom markets into the station. One of those folks (Name withheld) had never been in this neck of the wood before and asked me an interesting question – ‘How do you folks prepare for Earthquake and Volcano’s?” Whereas he is from the other corner of the country…I guess I can understand that he might be apprehensive about what we live with.   I sent him the link to the Mt St Helens Camera as well as to the USGS Earthquake site.For some time we have been writing about the plight of Tribune Publishing (owner of 2 TV Stations in Seattle) Recently it was reported that Gannett has offered $815 million to buy Tribune.Many people with Amateur Radio (HAM) Licenses have their call letters on their license plates (Technically not a vanity plate). From time to time you have someone ask about it.   Recently I had a most un-usual question from a fellow – He asked if the K7 had something to do with KIRO-7 and wondered what the CR meant. I like to tell people that the license plates are my email address (sort of true).Here’s an interesting statistic – Today people are spending more money on electronics than they do their clothing.

Climate forecasters are again at work releasing projections on the impact of climate-change and sea-levels….This time they are warning us what the world will look like in 2100 at the present rate due to melting ice in Antarctica – IF – nothing is done to curb the generation of greenhouse gases etc.   The big issue is, of course, rising sea-levels. Some projections have sea-level rising by more than 6 feet by 2100 and perhaps as much as 50 feet by 2500.

Just for fun – I looked at the impact on broadcast operations in the Seattle area – the following facilities would be underwater.

VASHON ISLAND –

Ø            Transmitter sites for 570/710/770/1090

o            820/950/1000 would survive

TACOMA –

Ø         850/1300 and 1360

SEATTLE –

Ø         The new KING5 Studios (as well as the stadiums in Sodo)

o          333 Dexter would look attractive

Ø         Queen Ann and Capital Hills would become islands

 

Portland Oregon, several miles up the Columbia River from the Ocean, experiences tidal variations…Likely many facilities there, in low lying areas, would be impacted.

The good news – Folks in Denver have nothing to worry about (at least from rising sea-levels)

As usual, I light to write about the Seattle area …Finding most interesting results of surveys etc. A recent survey for the best cities for Coffee fanatics got my attention… No surprises here. Seattle is known for being a coffee town and the survey confirmed our reputation with our city ranking #1.   So who are the others?

#2 – (surprised) New Orleans

#3 – Our neighbor to the south – Portland Oregon

#4 – San Francisco

#5 – Oakland (across the bay from S.F.)

#6-   San Diego

#7 – Austin, TX

#8 – Denver

#9 – Honolulu

10 – Washington D.C.

 

What they said about Seattle was interesting – Here are the highlights-

Ø         Long, gloomy winters

Ø            Glorious coffee culture

Ø            Birthplace of Tully’s and Starbucks

Ø         1,600 cafes and coffee shops

Ø         3rd highest concentration of coffee sellers of any U.S. City

Major events taking place in the world of EAS –

Ø         NPT and ETRS coming soon (is your station ready?)

Ø         Major changes proposed in the new NPRM

If you are the person designated to make sure you are EAS Compliant – You have been warned.

In the good EAS news department…I’ve been working with a CSRIC group on overhauling the EAS Handbook (you know, that thing that is required by the FCC to hang on the hook at your control point). I think you will appreciate the new one.   Can’t tell you more as the CSRIC group only makes a recommendation to the Commish and then they do what they want J

Reminder – The next SECC (State EAS Committee) will be on May 11th…This time in Ellensburg. If you are interested in attending, we will be car-pooling from North Bend, as always, you can listen in on the conference bridge. Full details on the Washington State EAS Remailer.

The FAA has opened a web-based registry for drone users.   One of the engineers at WSU’s NWPR, Martin Gibbs has one of these and has been using it for tower site projects.   Very cool. Question for my readers – Who in your area is using drones for TV News and/or spots?

Great to see one of the areas IT engineers get interested in Ham Radio.   As reported last month Lowell Smith at Entercom recently passed his Tech exam and has received his license…Additionally he now is sporting a vanity call – N0LCS.   What a Zero call I asked.

He explained that he is from Kansas, so guess that’s OK J

Congratulations to KPLU on winning 4 Murrow’s.   Speaking of which, at this writing, they have raised over 4 million on their way to 7 so the station can be purchased from Pacific Lutheran University rather than becoming part of KUOW. Interestingly KUOW, upon announcing the agreement to purchase KPLU, said that they would not need their news department. Many of those that objected to the sale citing KPLU’s news as one of their reasons for opposing the sale. winning the Murrow’s re-enforces these comments.

An ownership shuffle at long-time broadcast equipment maker, Broadcast Electronics, usually referred to as B.E.  Instead of yet another in a string of venture capital groups buying the firm, this time the new ownership is headed up by their VP of Engineering, Brian Lindeman.   There are a lot of people that have openly expressed concern about the viability of B.E. as a company. This time the ownership change appears to be bringing smiles. B.E. started out in 1959, then known as Spotmaster known for their audio cartridge tape equipment. Certainly having an Engineer at the top is not that common.   Then again the big-office at Nautel is occupied by their former service manager that is also an engineer.   We wish them well.

Recently spotted this sign at Cougar Mountain – Hmmm guess it’s meant to protect the croakers in the nearby stream.

No Spray Zone

 

I did not make it to NAB this year due to a very full plate here at home.   I have, however been looking at what’s new in the world of TV. Perhaps there is still some TV blood in my veins from many years ago.   Here are a couple of thoughts to share –

Ø         Lots of activity regarding ATSC 3.0.   Repacking etc.

Ø         The evolution of TV continues as TV evolves into something more like a fusion of IP and OTA distribution systems.

Ø         Yet to come are the consumer products that will dazzle everyone and make todays systems look crude.

Ø         Like everything else, TV is rapidly moving away from the concept of racks full of devices having a specific purpose toward a system whereby everything is IP based and that data is stored and moved around using systems that could be found in plants dealing with the movement of a large amount of data.

Ø         Radio and TV are both moving in this direction. Audio consoles and Video Switchers are now just control surfaces that happen to have the right kind of knobs and switches to get the job done where a display and mouse would work too.   XLR and BNC connectors are being replaced with RJ45’s with most of the wiring being done via CAT___ cable.

Ø            Thankfully storage is advancing at a rapid rate as tons of that is required.   I could not help but notice that one firm was talking about the fact that they can have 504 TB of memory in only 5 RU of space.   (Try and convert this number to reels of tape)

Ø         Let us not forget those that are very resistant to change that view change as a threat rather an opportunity. I suspect some old-timers (I understand them well) will want to get out before the tidal-wave of changes hits.   For the rest of us – These are very exciting times.

 

A blizzard of changes. to be sure.   What’s amazing is the rate of change in the last couple of years and the rapid adoption of IP everything.   The days of a computer controlling a dedicated piece of hardware is going away with the computer now doing all the work.   It does not seem all that long ago that I got my first 286 !

The totals are in from the Big Show in the desert – NAB has announced that just over 103,000 were in registered. (More than that attended via exhibit only passes etc.) 26,000 were from 187 other countries looking at exhibits from 1,874 companies.   If you work in this industry and have never attended this event – It should be very near the top of your bucket list.

The following item was posted on a popular Remailer by Adrienne Abbot.   She is the Nevada SECC (EAS)Chair as well as the states ABIP inspector – I read it and ask her for permission to reprint it here.   It has to do with her walking into a (in this case TV) station to do an inspection – I will this speak for itself.

Autopilot or not, somebody better be there when I arrive or the station doesn’t receive a certificate!

True story…ABIP Certificates are renewed every three years. You and I know that a lot can change in three years. The engineer for a station I inspected recently met me in the lobby, explaining that when she retired the long-time receptionist was replaced with security cameras and microphones. As we walked through the silent hallways the engineer noted the empty offices where jobs had been eliminated, automated, consolidated, transferred to corporate or “hubbed” to a central location serving multiple sister stations since my last visit.

My inspections include a tour of the station news facilities. In this case, there was a brand new news studio, full of bright and flashy technology–new robot cameras, LED lights, green walls that could put the weatherman in any part of town the producers wanted, a morning news set, a set for the noon news, a set for the evening news, an interview set, all with sleek desks in front of massive city scapes. The producer’s booth had a wall of HD TV screens and computers on desks, no boards to punch, no tape machines to load, no Teleprompter to run. The engineer shook his head as he told me how many news positions had been eliminated by these latest whiz-bang gadgets.

I expected to find the newsroom as empty as the rest of the station. Instead, we stepped into a large, open room that was humming with the voices of dozens of people, many on headsets and cell phones, editing video and writing stories. Waves of people washed around the raised island of The Desk, rolling out the back door or to a row of glassed-in edit bays. Before I could ask, the engineer answered: “Social Media. Social Media is a big part of our news department now. They’re 24/7, just like our news folks.” I asked how many Social Media staff they had. The answer was a number very close the running total I was keeping of jobs that had been eliminated by the switch to automation-consolidation-corporation–hubbing. The new Social Media department had even absorbed a few of the employees whose jobs were lost in the all the changes.

Out in the garage, it was a little sad to see the old consoles, mixers and tape players piled around empty file cabinets, broken chairs and bundles of wire. The equipment that was once state of the art and dearly purchased had done its job, told its stories and was now set aside, silent, next stop the recycling center. Our generation struggled to learn that equipment, making the transition from one inch tape to Beta and VHS, from cameras with decks and mic booms to cameras with cassettes and shotguns, from analog to digital.

The current generation, our kids and grandkids, were born digital. They learned to shoot and edit right after they learned to talk and text on their cell phones. It seems to me like they haven’t had the challenges of trying to coax a cold transmitter to life at 5:00 AM, load a 12-inch tape reel from a pancake or untangle a cassette with a pencil or edit with a razor and block or build a crawl from a roll of black paper and sheets of white rub-on letters.

Where am I going with this? Maybe we made it too easy for them. Maybe in all this automation and computerization we should have provided the Next Generation with a struggle to learn something. Maybe we went from Ohm’s Law to Windows 10 too quickly. We used to build boards, now we grow black boxes.

Maybe we’ve forgotten that there’s a place for responsibility, that someone has to take charge of the machines and not depend on them to do everything and that there’s no such thing as a perfect computer program. We forgot to show them how to turn off the equipment. We certainly had a lot of warning. Remember those old Sci-Fi B movies we watched on Saturday afternoons?…Now the alien monster isn’t some oversize scaly reptile from the back side of the moon or militant automatons from Mars, it’s the enormous lack of passion and dedication to future of the business of entertaining and informing the community.

I think I have laundry to do…

Adrienne

 

And in keeping with my tradition – I want to leave you with someone to smile about – In this case – Some signs –

Sign in a shoe shop in Vancouver:

“We will heel you

We will save your sole

We will even dye for you.”

In a Podiatrist’s office:

“Time wounds all heels.”;

At an Optometrist’s Office:

“If you don’t see what you’re looking for,

You’ve come to the right place.”;

On a Plumber’s truck :

“We repair what your husband fixed.”;

On another Plumber’s truck:

“Don’t sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.”;

At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee :

“Invite us to your next blowout.”;

On an Electrician’s truck:

“Let us remove your shorts.”;

On a Maternity Room door:

“Push. Push. Push.”;

At a Car Dealership:

“The best way to get back on your feet – miss

a car payment.”;

Outside a Muffler Shop:

“No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.”;

In a Veterinarian’s waiting room:

“Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!”;

At the Electric Company:

“We would be delighted if you send in your payment

on time. However, if you don’t, YOU will be de-lighted.”

In a Restaurant window:

“Don’t stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up.”;

In the front yard of a Funeral Home:

“Drive carefully. We’ll wait.”;

At a Propane Filling Station:

“Thank Heaven for little grills.”;

That’s it for this month – Keep your fingers crossed that summer returns (that week of it we had in April was a cruel trick).   Till next month on most of these same computers –

Clay, CPBE, K7CR, OM

 

 

 

 

 

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