Clay’s Corner for April 2013

March 30, 2013
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 A lot of attention was paid to  a couple of EAS Events recently – First was the Zombie Attack when some likely fun-loving folks found out how to get in the ‘back-door’ of brand-X EAS equipment and have a little fun.    This quickly, got the attention of the FCC who put out an urgent email telling everyone to change the default pass word.   You’d think that folks would know better…But not everyone did.   Second was the airing of a movie trailer (part of a spot for the film) that contained EAS data bursts.    Can’t blame the studio or the ad agency etc. because they don’t need to know about EAS rules…However, broadcasters that air them are potentially in violation of FCC rules.   Again, You’d think that everyone would know better, but, alas, this was not the case.

 I am happy to report that our State EAS Committee, the SECC, has recently augmented its Technical Committee (TC) to include representatives from all stakeholders in the EAS.   I appointed Lowell Kiesow to be the TC’s initial chair where he will represent Radio.   Marlin Jackson from KXLY in Spokane is the TV Rep.   If you would like to assist the State EAS Technical Committee, contact Lowell at 253-525-8758 or email him at lkiesow@kplu.org.   One of the first tasks for the TC is to get to the bottom of issues involving Dasdecs. 

 On March 20th I received this email from Marc Kaye, the GM at Sandusky radio cluster  –

After a courageous battle with many health issues, I am sad to inform you that our former Chief Engineer George Bisso has passed this morning”   We have all known that George was medically retired, but this came as quite a shock.   Throughout that day many Chapter members were making comment on the Chapter Remailer – For the benefit of those that did not read what I posted – –

To say the least George left his mark on the radio side of this industry.   I recall first meeting him at the Ram at Northgate…He had recently moved up from the Sacramento area of California.   When I started the project that would become the first broadcast site on West Tiger, he was involved with the planning of the facility on behalf of KMPS….Always eager to contribute.   George had a very kind side and would often come to the aid of many in their time of need.   He had a number of loves – Marti RPU systems, Continental FM Transmitters and Audio Processing.   In more recent years he got his Amateur Radio license, KD7LXB which he quickly changed to his initials with the vanity call of W7GLB.      Along the way he was also involved with helping NOAA Weather Radio and the WWCIC (Western Washington Cooperative Interference Committee) the latter was right up his alley as he loved to hunt down those pesky signals that would crop up where you did not want them.   Let’s not forget the time he spent as our local, below 1 Gig Frequency Coordinator.    Not many radio chiefs were as active as George was…He will be remembered by many for a long time.

 We lost another member of our family with the passing of Mary Lewis (W7QGP) on March 12th  I recently spoke with their son, Gary, WA7BBJ, at the Puyallup Flea Market.   He indicated that Mary was not doing very well…If I recall correctly, saying she had recently suffered another stroke.

 Understand that they are now living in a retirement home in the Olympia area.   Harry (W7JWJ) and Mary (W7QGP) were Mr. and Mrs. Ham radio in this area for years – and – they were also involved with broadcasting and attended many SBE Chapter Meetings in years past.   The family is requesting that you do not send flowers. Cards can be sent to: Harry W. Lewis PO Box 5204 Lacy WA 98509-5204.  Any cash donations received will go toward the purchase of an ARRL Diamond Terrace Memorial Brick to remember Mary Lewis W7QGP as a Silent Key.

You have read my comments over the years regarding being prepared for emergencies.   A recent article in the Seattle Times on March 10th underscores that I have been talking about. In the article, titled ‘Planning for the mega quake and After’ – A new report paints pretty grim picture of what our area will look like after ‘The Big One’.  Before you dismiss all of this, consider that the geologic evidence is very clear – These major quakes have happened in the past and are certain to happen in the future.    What concerns me is that after a major quake, citizens will be relying on Broadcasters to provide them with extremely valuable information and the majority of broadcasters have not really planned for dealing with it so they will be there to provide this service.    Let me give you some examples, based on the information presented. 

1-      The report estimates it could take one to three months to restore power supplies to 70 percent of normal adding it could take 1 to 3 years for complete restoration. 

2-      Crews won’t be able to repair power lines until the roads are fixed…But road workers can’t run their trucks without fuel and, in most cases, there will be no fuel available without power (see how this works?)

3-      Phone lines and Internet service won’t be back to normal for one to three months.

4-      Underground things are not immune – Water, Sewer, Natural Gas lines will be out of commission for who-knows how long.

5-      WSDOT states that the ‘hope’ to be able to open I-5 and I-90 to ONE LANE within a months and 1 to 3 years to get things somewhat back to normal. (Can you picture a one-lane I-5?)

6-      Airports could be impacted for up to 3 years.  (Look what the Nisqually quake did to Boeing field)

7-      Ferries could be impacted 3 months to a year

8-      The study points out that the current advice of stocking up with enough food and water for 3 days is laughable (we need to prepare for at least two weeks)

So based on this how do I see it –

Very few radio stations will be back on the air very soon, the majority will likely be off the air for weeks.   TV will likely be worse off due to their lack of redundant transmitter and studio facilities.  Then again, with the projected massive power outages, who is going to be able to watch TV?

With the level of dependency on Cable and the fact that cable goes off when the power goes off,

TV’s ability to deliver the info we need will be very limited.

 Those radio or TV stations that do get back on will be faced with a woefully inadequate auxiliary power generation capability.   How many stations can operate their generators for 2 or more weeks with their existing/on-site fuel supply?  What the fuel runs out, what then?   How many stations are ready to operate from their transmitter sites, assuming they survive?

Sorry – I see a very bleak picture here.  I suspect that there is a lot of dice rolling going on in high places in our industry, along with praying that it does not happen on their watch.  To be sure there is an economic factor.  Being prepared for the ‘Big-One’ is an expensive proposition.

In the minds of many this is akin to purchasing too much insurance.   How to you demonstrate to station owners that this represents stock holder value?   Heck, some of the stockholders of local broadcast stations want to sell out now!   The economic impact of this event will be epic, but like all events like this, planning now will save money later.  But, like I’ve said, this is, in itself, a very hard sell.

For those Broadcast Engineers that are always thinking – what if – this is a very frustrating topic for they know that their bosses are not likely to be interested in discussing this topic.  They are interested in what makes money –NOW- and not interested in what ‘might’ cost money later.

As with most large scale disasters, radio becomes the primary information distributor.  Thankfully all it will take is for one radio station to stay on the air.  Hopefully it will be one that will have the resources to provide us with the news and information that we will all need after this event.   If the only station staying on the air through and immediately after the initial quake is one that now is fully automated with minimal or no staff that could hurt because at that time what we don’t need is a jukebox radio station playing the hits!

History has shown that when the power goes out and your cellphone won’t work…people head for their cars to turn on the radio to find out what happened, and, more importantly – When will the power be back on.    Let’s hope that PSE has learned to not do as they did during the last big ice-storm and tell people to check on-line for information as to when the power would be back on in their neighborhood! 

Here we go again …Another ranking for Seattle – According to recent reports Seattle ranks #1 among 50 major US cities where, when it comes to clothing purchases, comfort is the top consideration.   Interestingly Cincinnati is ranked #2 with Denver coming in #3.   Guess this explains the lack of suits at SBE Events these days.  Here, casual Friday, in many cases, has greatly expanded.   I guess I’ve always been in that category with Jeans and a Polo or Sweatshirt (depending on the season) my first choice.    I’m just thankful that this type of dress is acceptable for what I do.   Whereas most of my time is spent going to transmitter sites, guess it really does not make a huge difference.   It appears that the number of guys wearing shirts and ties and jackets etc. has been going down for years.  I recall going to NAB years ago and finding 95% of the attendees wearing ties etc…not any more – probably way less than half do so.    Borrowing from Randle Rocks, broadcast engineer in Boise who recently wrote – ‘the engineering book of fashion is the shortest book ever written…’.

On the other end of the ‘dress-spectrum’ are cities like WDC, NYC etc. where style rules.    

(Blue screen please) …But wait, there’s more!

Travel + Leisure magazine has ranked Seattle as the number ONE techiest city in America.   You might suspect why we received this ranking…Little outfits like Nintendo, Microsoft and Amazon being based here helped….so did the availability of Wi-Fi.  Perhaps they did not tumble to the fact that the Wi Fi is thanks to having a Starbucks on every corner?   Then there is what they called Tech-Savvy locals.   We have some good company here – San Francisco came in #2 followed by Austin, Texas and Portland Oregon (cool).   At the bottom of the ‘techiest’ rankings – Las Vegas and Washington DC. 

So there you go – Techy and Casual are us.

It was great to see all the traffic on the Chapter Remailer preceding the annual Mike and Key Club Electronic Flea Market at Puyallup on March 9th.   Equally good to see all the broadcasters that were there.   Then again there were faces that were always there that were missing this year.   I am thinking in particular about Jon Marcinko who is in a home suffering from Alzheimer’s.   Jon had long been a fixture in our area with his many years at Radio Systems and later Washington State.  Jon and I go back to the early 70’s where he and I jointly formed the WWARA the organization that handles frequency coordination for Amateur Radio repeater systems.   There was a table of tools and test equipment belonging to George Freese of Wenatchee.   George is still with us but fully retired.     For those of you that are Hams, or just like attending these functions to look for that bargain at the flea-markets – There are a number of events coming this summer –  I picked up some brochures for others that you might wish to attend –

Ø      Coming up this month is the Yakima Hamfest – This event is held in Selah (Just north of Yakima) on the 13th of April.   I have a lot of memories of this event as I was on my way to attend when Mt St Helens blew-up.   Never got there that day, I turned around just south of Cayuse Pass when it started raining gravel and ash.

Ø       June 7th and 8th is the 44th annual Wenatchee Hamfest held in Dryden.   For those not familiar with that neck of the woods, Dryden is located on Hwy 2, West of Wenatchee, between Cashmere and Leavenworth…..Just East of where US 97, the Blewett Pass highway, runs in to US 2. 

Ø       Perhaps the biggest one is the annual Sea-Pac event held at the convention center in Seaside, Oregon May 31 – June 1&2.   This is a great event that’s been on my must-do list for many years.  

Ø      July 27th is the date for what is billed as the Northwest’s largest indoor/outdoor Electronic Tailgate Swapmeet at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds in Chehalis.   August 24th the Highline Amateur Radio Club has their ‘Swap Fest’ at the Des Moines activity Center.   

For a complete list of events – check out this link – http://www.n7cfo.com/amradio/hf/hf.htm

One more thing about Amateur Radio – Congratulations to Tom Saylor who works in the Engineering Department of WSU/NWPR in passing his exam – He is now KG7BUH.  

Before I leave the topic of Amateur or Ham Radio….For many years, up until recently, Amateur Radio licensing required a degree of Morse Code ability.   Is it not interesting in this day and age of the Internet, satellite communications, jumbrotron displays, giga-watt sound systems and wireless everthing… that the Catholic Church took a giant step backward to announce the selection of the new Pope….Smoke Signals!   And you thought Morse was backward?

Remember that little ‘electrical ooopsie on the ferry Walla Walla?.  The official ruling is human-error and we, the tax payers of Washington State get to pick up the $3,000,000 tab.

The FCC has taken action. $6,000 worth, for the owner of an AM station in Texas that’s dark (Not on the air) According to the report the FCC told the owner he needed to update the ownership information on the tower, but failed to do so.  The normal fee of 3-Grand was doubled because the owner did not notify the Commish for – Eight Years.   It’s interesting how many fail to take serious the rules for keeping the Feds aware of who owns towers should the lights go out etc. 

60 Grand is a pretty hefty fine, but that’s what Mt Rushmore Broadcasting in Casper, Wyoming is faced with for a list of FCC no-no’s.   

Want to know how to really get the FCC’s attention – 1) Operate a ‘pirate’ or un-licensed station and, 2) Interfere with aircraft communications at a major airport.   The station is off the air and faced with contributing to the Federal Government 5 Grand.

We have likely all been caught not proof reading what we have written – In this case Radio World shipped out a story about an FM translator in Palm Desert, Ca. that was interfering with the VHF Aviation Band.  In their story they wrote the frequency of the translator as being – 109.5…Hmmmm.   Closer inspection determined that the translator was actually on 95.5.  I suspect just because RW got it wrong was not an excuse to get out of the $4000 fine.  Interestingly the broadcaster tried to get out of hit because the interference was not intentional. 

OK – I stand corrected….All those three bladed electrical power generation devices on the east side of the cascades are, indeed, NOT windmills for the simple fact that they don’t ‘mill’ anything.   They are properly called Wind Turbines or Wind Generators.     I guess I should have known as I’m the guy that finds fault with reporters that insist on calling those machines used in paving – ‘Steam-Rollers’ (Like it’s been many years since they were powered by steam). 

Sounds like the Fisher board continues to have challenges on its Board of Directors from factions that are not happy with their rate of return and is pressing for the selling of its radio and TV stations.   Time will tell if Fisher will, in the long run, remain our only locally owned broadcast outfit.  Not long ago they were forced to sell Fisher Plaza.  Interestingly business is not all that bad.  They reported that Radio was ‘flat’ but TV was up 23% thanks to all the election spots they ran.

 In a somewhat similar move, Clear Channel recently announced that they were selling a number of their towers to Richland Tower.  I went through something like this a number of years ago when I worked for the Tacoma Tribune owner of KTNT.   For many years the newspaper publisher acquired businesses and grew their company.  In the end, they were force to sell off the company a piece at a time.  

Could not help but notice where the new Harris Rep, Garrett Wood, lives – On Vashon Island – Guess that means he is likely to be able to attend our picnic this summer?  Must be drawn to RF.   Speaking of Harris – A huge thank you to Harris for their efforts putting on what they called the Harris Road Show.  In our case, the venue was the Museum of Flight at BFI.    A very interesting series of presentations and discussions.   To their credit, this was not just a 4 hour long sales-pitch but an event where you could actually learn something.   If you weren’t there, you missed something cool.

Norway is in the news announcing that they will become the first country to plan end all analog FM services as they move to an all DAB system.   Harris won a big contract to help this process too.   I find this interesting as efforts are being mounted in this country to try and pump new life into AM Radio.  Could it be the US is marching to a different drummer?

Thanks to, super sleuth Dwight Small we learned that Forbes Magazine recently ran a story titled ’13 Surprisingly Low-Paying Job’ ….Among them – ‘Announcers who speak or read from scripted materials (Sounds familiar)…On average they early only just over 40K/Year.  What they did not apparently explain is that many of these jobs have gone away in recent years.  A couple of the reasons why Clover Park shut down their DJ training program, I suspect.   Perhaps related, in Parade Magazines March 10th issue, (distributed by a number of newspapers) also ran stories about what people earn.   For sure they wrote about movie and music stars that make zillions…It’s interesting to see how many occupations are actually paying 40k/year or far less.  Missing from their story was ‘Broadcast engineer’.    Then again, how many times have you told someone that you are a broadcast engineer just to have them give you a puzzled look and ask what that means?

Perhaps evidence that the economy is picking up…In the past month there have been announcement of several job openings for Engineers in the PNW.   Look for those listings elsewhere in the Waveguide.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has announced that he is going to ‘step-down’ pretty soon, even though his term does not end until June of ’14.   Interesting how people leaving that job ‘Step-down’.  Does this mean when they start they ‘Step-Up’?

Speaking of the FCC – It’s been a while since we have seen someone from the local FCC office at any of our meetings.   I did spot this item the other day within an FCC item –

  Binh Nguyen

   Acting District Director

   Seattle District Office

   Western Region

   Enforcement Bureau

I guess one could conclude that Binh is the man in charge of the Seattle FCC office.    I assume that this means that they have not filled the position left by the retirement of Kris McGowan.

 Dwight also came up with this item – If you keep losing stuff around the house, shop, etc. here’s a cool application:  http://tinyurl.com/cjdkrvy.   There must be some nifty broadcast application for this item …Any thoughts?

 KHJ in L.A. was, in its prime, the home of some of the most popular DJ’s around.   As with all AM’s, income and ratings are down and property for antenna systems are hard to justify.  So, the historic KHJ Towers have been taken down and the station moved to another site where it will be combined with another AM.   Historic pictures of this structures coming down can be found here – http://amp.cbslocal.com/2013/02/27/carson-daly-bids-farewell-to-amp-radio-towers/

 From the Department of Corrections Department – Last month I listed a number of AM Frequencies that are home of what used to be called ‘Local Channels’   I mistakenly typed 1220 instead of 1230.  Gord Lansdell caught it.    Perhaps I should consider typing with fewer fingers?

 Michael Wolff, writing in USA today predicts the end of the Cable TV business as we know it within 5 years saying it’s too costly and inefficient.  Hmmm – If this prediction comes true, you have to wonder what would replace it.   Granted there are a lot of cable-channels that, on their own…Without being bundled with others, would likely not make it.  However there are also those channels that indeed have a reasonable audience.  Then there is the role of distributing OTA local stations.   Frankly I don’t see Joe Citizen running out to purchase a VHF and UHF antenna with rotator for his roof anytime soon.    Predictions are really opinions and, as they say, everyone has one (or more).

 Are you going to the big show in the desert this year?   I keep thinking about it…However with my days of attending SBE functions and looking for new equipment over I just can’t convince myself I should again go to the land of high-winds, cigarette smoke and beeping slot machines.

 We recently had a ‘conversation’ on the SBE Chapter Remailer about a news story that has been running concerning LPFM’s.     Those that write and repeat this item clearly have no clue about the mechanics involved (another Steamroller type item).  In this case the story states that it will be possible to have 8 new low power FM stations – PER ZIP CODE.   >> REALLY?? <<

In this conversation I asked how many Zip Codes there were in King County – Rob Purdy responded with 128.   With 8 per zip code, this means (if you believe the story) we could have over 1000 stations in King County alone.   Quoting Rob – “Enforcement is gonna be interesting”

My question is …Why does no one challenge these stories?   There must be thousands of folks that believe this and are making plans to become local broadcasters…Whew!!

 For many years there is a segment of broadcasters and non-broadcasters alike that all feel that HD Radio is a giant waste of time and money.    I will grant you that the AM system is certainly in that category; however the FM system has been something that I have always believed in.   Obvious so do the automakers with HD becoming standard equipment in new vehicles.   The challenge has always been – Where is the ROI?   This past month something big took place in the form of a news release from Arbitron who stated that HD Multicasts reach nearly 3.6 Million persons (12+) weekly in the 48 markets where they have their Portable People Meter system running.    This is a huge story.    Radio stations HD-2’s showing up in the ratings is just what the doctor ordered to cause station owners and operators to pay attention to HD Radio as they will be able to see money in the light at the end of the tunnel.  This will benefit everyone in the industry and will likely go a long way toward encouraging broadcasters to take a long and serious look at HD power increases and better programming.     It’s taken a very long time…But so did FM.    I recall vividly having an FM tuner in the glove-box of my 1963 VW Beetle…The reactions I had then, are very similar, if not identical, to the reactions I get now when I demonstrate my HD Radio.   Gee…Getting old does have some advantage.

 More laws of Murphy –

 

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/enjoythemasti/join/  Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

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

  If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.

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

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

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

That’s it for this month – Enjoy Spring!!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

 

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