Clay’s Corner for December 2013

December 3, 2013
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Can you believe it? ….Another year almost gone…Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas a few days away.   Time to close the books on another one and get those year-end things in order and get ready for the tax-man. ..and… Make those hotel reservations for NAB in Vegas.   I’ve skipped the last couple, however we are going to have some EAS Sessions and my arm is being twisted.  

 Up-coming this month is our annual SBE Chapter 16 Christmas Party on Saturday, Dec 14th– Hope you can all make this event!  Check the Chapter Web-Site for all the details. 

   Speaking of EAS…I’ve been deeply involved in the CSRIC (You a can look it up) process for the last couple of months, my chore is to chair a weekly conference call with people all over the country working EAS Plans…Specifically the relationship between the FCC and SECC’s….Really interesting.   Other Committees are working on EAS Cyber-Security and the EASNT.

 Looking back this has been a big year for the broadcast industry in our area with a few new names added….Gannett, Hubbard, Sinclair….and a few departed…Fisher, Sandusky and soon to be Belo.   As we look ahead who knows what other changes will take place, as they say….Time will tell.

 From my Camera Card this month –

 Here is something you can add to the category of Huh ?   I found this item sitting at a location where some electrical work was being done.   Apparently an electrician experienced what we all have…The end of our measuring tape breaks off.   Most of us simply throw it away, but not this resourceful person.  A conduit connector, some green-tape and a sharpie for re-labeling the tape and he was good to go….I’ll have to bring this to a chapter meeting.

 

 

 Remember the days when someone asked you for your ‘address’ and you gave them the only one you had?…..Your street address.   Now a person is just as likely to give you their email address and refer to their street address referencing the term ‘snail-mail’.    Email addresses are handy for a number of reasons, like being able to come up with your own.   For a lot of us that are Ham’s we like to use our Amateur Radio call sign rather than our name.   Then there are those addresses that are so cryptic that you can’t possibly remember it.  That’s where your emails address book comes in- provided- that you entered the person by their name, otherwise you are lost.   Just pray your computer  does not croak and you lose your address book.   Good thing that we have these, mostly easy to remember short-cuts because those that designed IP addresses did not have recalling them as their primary goal.   

 On the subject of IP – Everything is becoming IP based.   Those little plastic (RJ) connectors that used to be exclusively involved with your telephone cords have become the universal connector of choice for data systems.    Switches used to be always thought of as something that you use to turn on or off the lights or some other electrical device, now switches for data look like yesterdays’ switches for telephones that were hidden in some closet down the hall and they all use the same little plastic connector.   Getting back to IP….The switch (pardon the use of the word) to IP based systems is taking place at a rapid pace.    In broadcast operations IP based systems for handling video and audio are now the standard and those, older/analog systems are now used with words like – Legacy.   In the process of re-writing our State EAS Plan, that committee had to recognize that we have two systems operating now for broadcast based public warnings.  The Legacy EAS (Analog) and the Digital EAS (CAP).   Every broadcast station now has an EAS unit that deals with both (an FCC Requirement) and yes….Those units have the same (RJ45) connectors to connecting to the world of IP.   Often the IP term adds a couple of letters to help you understand what’s going on, for example, AOIP tells the reader that this is Audio Over IP.   IP techniques have invaded telephony as well.  Look at DSL for example.   This popular technique has leveraged the standard telephone, or POTS, line to also transport data that enables a single pair of wires to not only provide you with standard phone service but data as well (more data and RJ45’s).  I recall writing about the development of what was then called ADSL not that long ago.   VOIP, or Voice Over IP has become common place as the merger of computers and telephones becomes standard.   Chances are your business has already made the switch to a VOIP phone system, or will be doing so.   

This is my segue to the following news item – The State E911 Office is bringing Washington State into the 21st Century. We’re moving from a 60-year-old telephone-based 911 system to an updated Internet Protocol-based Next Generation 911 network. With this evolutionary change comes a vastly expanded set of options for how our citizens will be able to communicate. When the transition is complete, they will be able to use nearly any device to make 911 calls via Voice, Text, and Images. Check it out in BlogEMD at http://www.blogemd.blogspot.com/

 So what’s next ?   In the not too distant future, all of your major appliances will come with RJ45’s for connection to your home network (More switches).  This will provide a new profit center for those that service these devices as they will be able to receive a message from your freezer indicating it’s temperature is too high.   Their computer will look up this information to see if you have a service plan and call you to see if they can stop by tomorrow to service the device.    The future for this technology is endless – everywhere you look.   Major broadcast transmitter manufacturers are already doing this.   Of course everyone will want a wireless connection and that’s where we in the broadcast industry find out backs against the wall.   The spectrum to do all of this comes under the heading of Broadband and the appetite for more of these techniques represents a real danger to those that have been doing point-multi-point distribution for years….Some call this broadcasting.   The battle for spectrum will make the historic battle for water look pale by comparison.   Fasten your seat-belts.

  Last month copper thieves were at work in Spokane, their target – KMBI (AM).  According to Marlin Jackson of KXLY the bums broke into the tuning shack and stole copper straps and tuning coils, while they were at it, they broke some vacuum capacitors.   Unfortunately the station is a 5 kw Day-Timer and they were at work at night. (RF can leave a lasting impression).   Marlin added that his company has 3-AM’s on a tower located about half a mile away.   His instructions are for their MCO’s are easy to understand – If one station goes down, call Engineering, if all 3 do, call 911.    This is another unfortunate example of where a lot of money could be saved with an adequate alarm system, which most small stations usually avoid.    Seems like I’ve been harping on this issue for years.

 Seems to me that the Brazil equivalent of the FCC is way ahead of us, at least in one respect.   They plan to migrate AM Radio to what they call Band 1.   What we call TV Channel 5 and 6.   If you recall, in a previous column I wrote about my solution to the AM situation in detail and proposed the same thing.  Personally I hope that our FCC is watching this very closely.    On the digital radio front…They are looking at two systems, DRM and HD Radio.   Interestingly John Schneider (Yep,  the one we claim) spoke in favor of HD-R at a recent congress on this topic in that South American Country.   It will be really interesting to read the comments that are filed in this country regarding what to do to re-vitalize our legacy radio band.

 We have a new station on the air in this area with the signing on of KXIR-FM in Freeland.  The 89.9 MHz, 1800 watt station will be running the same programming as KSER according to Chris Wartes, K7II, their engineer.  Freeland is located on Whidbey Island at the sound end of Holmes Harbor approx. 16 miles west of Everett.

 Engineers at Duke University have come up with a device that, as they put it- ‘Harvests’ microwaves and converts them into electricity.  Sort of like a microwave solar cell.  Like a lot of inventions, the question is what use will it be?  They are thinking that it would make possible the transmission of power sufficient to charge batteries or power equipment could take place using microwaves.    Can’t help but wonder what the NIER Police would say about this one?  

 New FCC rules dealing with tower construction near AM transmitter towers are here.  The FCC has established a new AM protection method that utilizes the ‘Moment Method’ to deal with these issues.

Seattle’s consulting firm of Hatfield and Dawson were part of a number of consultants and broadcast owners that proposed this change.     A welcome change for many.

 Old friend Bill Wolfenbarger dropped me a note the other day where I commented on the lack of HD Radio on the coast of our state.   He said that this was about to change with his purchase of a new Nautel transmitter for his KSWW that will operate the mode after the first of the year.    He added “Now, if I only had somebody to help me install this stuff in a reasonably professional manner.”    In a recent lunch with a person who works in Radio on the coast, I asked about  the lack of HD-Radio ‘out-west’….I submitted that with all the car makers coming out with HD Radios installed, that the time is coming that the owners of these stations will want to add the mode.   I suggested that all it will take is for the boss to get a new car and hear it for the first time.

 On the subject of HD-R….I understand that the Chicago Bears are exploring the idea of launching their own radio station on WBBM-FM –HD3….Perhaps in 2015.   Already pro-sports teams are already doing this in Philly and Dallas etc.  Wonder if this idea would catch on in this area?   Seahawks on K____ HD3?   Probably would go a long way toward selling a boat-load of HD Radios.

 Meanwhile a Delaware company is suing a large number of broadcast groups alleging they are infringing on a patents.  Some feel that this is all an action of what they call a ‘patent troll’ and will be tossed out.   I’ve not seen the specifics, all I know is they claim to have a patent for something called

‘Side-Channel Communications in Simultaneous Voice and Data Transmission’ and appears to describe techniques used by HD Radio for multicasting.  Some of the firms named have operations in Seattle – CBS, Clear Channel, Cox, Entercom, Hubbard, Disney etc.   The amount of legal horsepower these firms can put on the case will be substantial.   This will be fun to watch.

 Old friend Bob Gorjance sent me this picture of an AM Station in Michigan.  Apparently the top of the tower folded over in a wind-storm…and after the event, the top beacon continued to work.  That must have been an interesting phone call to the FAA.  Plans were to replace the big self-supporter with a guyed tower.  The gray skies are not the best for viewing this…Look for the former ‘top-beacon’ now pointing downward along the left face of the tower.

  

 

Happily the FCC finally acted on the matter of using EAS Tones within commercials and other non-emergency programming.   Those of us in Broadcasting have long known that this was a no-no.  However, those that are not involved with things like FCC rules are not.   Stations were concerned if they aired something that contained EAS tones that they would be in trouble with the Commish.   Every time something like this happened, EAS and other List Servers ‘lit-up’ with comments. Finally, on November 4th, the FCC cleared the air with this news release –

Washington, D.C. – The Enforcement Bureau today took action against Turner Broadcasting  System and reached agreement with Kentucky television station WNKY(DT) for apparent  misuse of the actual Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones or close simulations of those sounds. The Bureau also issued an Enforcement Advisory to address growing concern about the misuse of these sounds to capture audience attention during advertisements and at other times when there is no emergency or test. The Advisory reemphasizes the wide-ranging and long-standing  bar on such abuses and the potential for sanctions in the case of violations. “Today’s enforcement action sends a strong message: the FCC will not tolerate misuse or abuse of the Emergency Alert System,” said Enforcement Bureau Acting Chief Robert H. Ratcliffe. “It is inexcusable to trivialize the sounds specifically used to notify viewers of the dangers of an incoming tornado or to alert them to be on the lookout for a kidnapped child, merely to advertise a talk show or a clothing store. This activity not only undermines the very purpose o f a unique set of emergency alert signals, but is a clear violation of the law,” added Mr. Ratcliffe. The FCC has prohibited the transmission of actual or simulated EAS Attention Signals or tones under any circumstances other than a real alert or an authorized test of the EAS system for two decades, but there has been a recent spike in consumer complaints about misuse of the sounds. In response to a consumer complaint about a promotion for the Conan O’Brien Show carried on the TBS cable network, the Enforcement Bureau initiated an investigation. Turner provided a recording of the promotion and additional viewer complaints. Review of the recording established that the promotion includes audio material that constitutes a simulation of the prescribed EAS codes and Attention Signal. A $25,000 Notice of Apparent Liability has therefore been issued to Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.�
The Enforcement Bureau also initiated an investigation in response to a consumer complaint  about an advertisement broadcast by TV station WNKY(DT) in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The complaint alleged misuse of the EAS Attention Signal in an advertisement for “The Fan Wear & More Store.” Station licensee, MMK License LLC, did not dispute that it broadcast a simulation of an EAS sound within that advertisement, and cooperated with the Bureau to negotiate a  settlement. As a result of those negotiations, MMK has agreed to pay a $39,000 voluntary contribution and to implement a robust compliance plan that will help prevent future violations of the Commission’s EAS rules. In coordination with local public safety and emergency responders, MMK also voluntarily initiated a public education campaign to inform its viewers about EAS alerts.  The EAS is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television operators, wireless cable operators, wireline video service providers, satellite digital audio radio service providers, and direct broadcast satellite providers to make it possible for the President of the United States to address the American public during a national emergency. Federal, state, and local authorities may also use the EAS to deliver important emergency information, such as Amber Alerts and weather information, such as tornado warnings, targeted to specific areas. The FCC enforces its EAS rules to ensure that the EAS Attention Signal and tones are not used for unauthorized purposes.

The FCC recently gained a new Chairman as Tom Wheeler started heading up the Commission.   Whereas Mr. Wheeler did not come with a broadcast background, many in this industry and worried that he will lean toward broadband at the expense of broadcast…Time will tell on this as well.   Meanwhile broadcasters are fastening their seatbelts.

Another item from Clay’s Camera Card this month –

All of us in broadcasting are familiar with mounting things in equipment racks.   Every once in a while something comes along that does not have the mechanical construction to be quickly bolted into to a rack so you have to do something to accommodate it.   Often you will place the item on a rack shelf etc. Then there are those cases where either the person doing the work did not have a ‘conventional’ mechanical interface and used what they are familiar with.   In the following example, the person installing this unit in a rack was likely an electrician who was familiar with Beam-Clamps and Strut.

Interestingly, the ‘Rack’ or ‘Relay-Rack’ became standardized at 19inches wide back in the 1930’s. Western Electric, who was known for doing things a bit differently, opted for 23 inches which you will still find in use in the telephone industry.   Today you can purchase racks from a large number of manufacturers….Including IKEA!

I present this as I know there are some broadcast engineers that will smile when they see this installation method.  Many of you know where this is located too!

 

Congratulations to Jim Pace on his retirement as Washington State RACES Officer effective the end of this year.   Jim, who turned 70 this year, hands the baton to Monte Simpson.   For those of you that follow EAS in our State, Jim has a seat on the SECC.    We look forward to working with Monte.  Likely Jim will continue in his role as Northwest Division Vice Director for the ARRL.     Amateur Radio has played a historically important role in Emergency Communications.

Well, my friends, I am going to leave you with one more picture before I end this month’s column.  The following was taken from Crego Hill, looking west toward Boistfort Peak, commonly called Baw-Faw.  Crego is the home of a number of broadcast systems.   Several  translators for Seattle area TV and FM stations, as well as the main transmitter site for KCKA-TV,  KSWS and KMNT-FM.    It’s located SW of Chehalis.

 

May you all have a wonderful Christmas and a great new year !   Lord willing, til next time –

Clay, K7CR – CPBE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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