Clay’s Corner for January 2014

December 28, 2013



I hope that Santa was good to you this past Christmas  and that New Year will be a bright and good one….Now If we can just get used to writing 2014 on things.  2013 we certainly full of interesting events, some of which will be with us for a long time.   

 One event in our industry was the change in ownership of the Fisher stations to Sinclair and the Sandusky Radio group to Hubbard.   Approval by the FCC to transfer of Belo to Gannett came at the end of the year after some FCC conditions were met.   Interestingly the Seattle Times expressed their displeasure on the Editorial Page on the basis that it would negatively impact viewers of the station’s news broadcasts.   Locally this will involve KING and KONG TV along with NW Cable News.     I’m sure many will recall when these stations were part of KING Broadcasting.  What’s not often mentioned is that Belo started back in the 1920’s.   

 Not talked about as much is the FCC’s approval of Tribunes big deal with ‘ Local TV Holdings’  that will increases its size with 16 new stations in 14 markets.    Tribune owns 2 stations in the Seattle Market – KCPQ/13 and KSJO/22

 As I like to  do, from time to time…..Point out how the Seattle area is thought of  by others.    For many years, when you ask anyone from other parts of the country what they think of when you mention Seattle you are likely to hear first – I rains all the time, followed by comments about Starbucks, Boeing.. Costco, Amazon etc.    A new item has been added to that list that just might end up at the top….Pot !

Perhaps our reputation for a location for fresh air will be changed as a place of ‘haze’.   Already the statistics are showing the 1 in 9 are consumers of weed….and – A study released recently by the Rand Corporation showed that Washington’s 750,000 users will have consumed perhaps 225 metric tons of it in 2013.  

 Forbes just announced their top 10 list for cities with the biggest pay checks – Coming in at #5 was Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue with an overall median pay of $71,200, Starting median pay of $53,900 and a  Mid-career median pay of $99,000.    Who was at the top of that list?  – As suspected the Bay Area, San Francisco- San Jose-Sunnyvale- Santa Clara  California.   Interesting that Portland and Denver were not in the top 10.     The offsetting factor here is the cost of living.   I would doubt that this area would be ranked anywhere near the top of the cheapest place to live list.     From the looks of the number of tower cranes in downtown Seattle and Bellevue we are in for another boom cycle around here.

 On this topic – A national organization recently released rankings of the top 10 best places for early retirement.   Bellevue came in at #6.    Despite having a cost of living that is 16% above the national average.

 Looking further back ….Here’s an item that will help re-enforce just how far we have come. 



Have you looked at the prices of desk and lap top computers these days?    $3398 for 10 MB…..Hard to find a computer these days with something smaller that a TB.

Looking back not that many years microwave was the way communications was handled across the country as the things we wished to communicate exceeded the capacity of the twisted pair.   Radio and TV networks used multiple hops of terrestrial microwave.   A couple of developments came along that changed all that.   Satellites became the preferred option for point-multi-point distribution for the networks and buried fiber replaced many shorter routes.     On December 8th the Times ran a story on how a new firm called ‘Strike Technologies’ is underway building a network of ultrafast microwave links to speed up the delivery of Wall Street data.   The piece talks about the hoisting of a 6 foot dish up a 280 foot tower.    The new system is using a number of towers to link New York with Chicago….Just like days-of- old.   They claim what’s driving this is the need for speed and cite that Fiber carries data at about 65% of the speed of light and their microwave system is faster.   Who would have thought that the need for speed would lead to a resurgence in terrestrial microwave systems?     Gee…Maybe  AT&T should have not sold off all those ‘Long-Lines’ sites many years ago.

The other day I was chatting with a fellow who asked me where the next generation of broadcast engineers that work on transmission systems are going to come from.   I explained that this was the $64,000 question.   Frankly I have no idea.    I don’t know of any school that turns out people ready to tackle high powered RF systems, much less understand  vacuum tubes.     Just look around a chapter meeting at the ages of people in attendance and you can quickly see what I’m talking about.   Those that own and manage these broadcast facilities are likely too busy keeping the stock-holders happy to worry about such trivial matters.    I just hope that when the truth sinks in they will be able to explain to their boss why they are going to have to pay a lot more to replace the fellow that just retired.    As the pool of skilled labor goes down, prices are likely to go up….At least this is the way it’s supposed to work.

There is even a bigger problem that many are now talking about on a broad scale.   This issue is that our conventional educational system is not keeping up with the demand  for new employees that have the required knowledge for tomorrows jobs in the area called STEM which stands for Science, technology, engineering and math.    Broadcasting is not alone here.   Jim Sterling, writing in the November issue of Scientific American put it this way – -“Science career paths in the US have a ‘Goldilocks’ problem.   BS degrees are ‘too small’ or inadequate  for employer requirements.     Translation – We need an educational system that provides a solid background in –why- things work and, at the same time – how things work.       Then again… Will firms be willing to pay for people with this knowledge or will they do like a lot of them do today…Seek a contractor that has the expertise and pay them whatever it takes? The days when a broadcast stations engineering department  could handle just about anything that came along are evaporating and being replaced by people who don’t have the (STEM)  knowledge and by management that is willing to pay more for the outsider to come to the rescue.     Even if these firms were willing to pay for having the talent ‘on-staff’.  Where are they going to get them?   Seems to me that our educational system is in a serious need of an overhaul if it’s going to meet the challenges of the future, thankfully, I’m not the only one that sees this.   Folks like Hatfield and Dawson are likely pleased the way things are going as it just means more business for them….

Remember Hal Kneller?   Last time I saw Hal he was working for Nautel and hosted one of our Chapter Meetings.     Hal has moved on and is now VP of Sales and Business Development for GeoBroadcast Solutions.   This firm is working on Zone-Casting a technology that will permit geotargeting radio listeners in single frequency FM networks.   Harris did a presentation on this during one of their recent Road-Shows.

Olympia’s KGY-FM has a new set of call letters – KYYO-FM .  The station, for some time, has been branding themselves as KAYO which was the call letters used by South Sound Broadcasting’s 99.3 before it was sold a few years ago to become a Latino formatted operation.   Guess you can still pronounce KYYO …Kay-O if you wish.   

The change of format for Entercom’s 103.7 appears to have been well received.  The former ‘Mountain’ KMTT was rebranded as KHTP and has zoomed upward in the radio ratings. 

From the camera this month I caught this gem near the KVTI Transmitter Site in Lakewood.  Probably the most unique Christmas Lighting arrangement I’ve seen in a while.   For those of you not from this area – The number 12 is all about the ‘12th Man’ supporting the Seahawks.


 Our legacy broadcast band, commonly referred to as the AM or Standard Broadcast band is undergoing a lot of attention with the FCC participating in the quest for what to do to save it from potentially  gradual extinction.    If no-one does anything It appears that some of the problems will just go away along with the economic justification for owning one.   Certainly many of the smaller operations  are treading water these days.     Radio itself remains quite viable, however the percentage of listeners listening to AM continues to go down… in favor of FM.   (And to think that not that many years ago it was the reverse).  Many small AM’s are hoping to snag an FM translator as a lifeline but that is a gamble as there are not a sufficient number of FM frequencies to give every AM one…Not to mention all those frequencies that will become LPFM’s, then there is the issue where the power limit on a translator would likely yield coverage that would be smaller than that of the parent AM..    Going away with the potential to make money with an AM station has gone their value on the market.   There are likely a lot of stations owners will never see their investment return.    In cases where stations own the dirt under their antenna systems, the value of the property may well exceed the value of the radio station, in those cases the owner may elect to cash in and return the license to the FCC.    In the case of stations that lease their land…other options are sure to be considered.    In some situations giving a station to a non-profit becomes the best option….and that’s just what Entercom recently did in Salem Oregon with KWOD.   This facility, operating with 5 Kw Day and 690 watts at night on 1390 will become the property of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.     Now don’t get me wrong, many of the larger AM stations in this market are likely doing well, however, the smaller ones in our area may well be faced with making un-wanted decisions ….regardless of what the FCC comes up with during this current, save AM effort.   My answer remains the same – Look to Brazil for the answer.   The time has come to make plans to QSY.  (Ask a Ham for a definition)

 I find it interesting that we, in this country, are trying to find a way to keep AM alive…meanwhile other countries appear to be way ahead of us – In Europe many countries are making plans for the shutting down of FM Broadcasting in favor of all Digital.    I am left to wonder why we are so far behind the rest of the world?

What you don’t see very often any more is a small, portable, radio.    Well Sangean is changing that by offering a the kind of radio we all used to own (we likely called them a transistor radio in those days) that we would take with us on family outings for the entertainment or to hear the ballgame.   Cute little critter – and it includes an clock radio feature (been awhile since we’ve used that term too)


Since we last met,  a number of people have passed that I’d like to mention  –

 Ø      Larry Lujack who was a DJ on KJR many years ago and moved on to do great things in Chicago recently passed at 73.

Ø      Larry Estlack who was the technical director for the Michigan Association of Broadcasters  and whom I worked with on the BWWG regarding EAS, passed at age 64, also of cancer.

Ø      Bernie Wise left us on Dec 13th.  Bernie was a legendary engineer and was the founder of several broadcast equipment manufacturers, he was 87.

Ø      Bill Rohrer, W7IJ.   Most of you did not know Bill, I was introduced to Bill via our mutual hobby of Ham Radio friend  Nick Winter, K7MO.   Bill had a fantastic station well south of Tacoma where I was fortunate to be able to operate during a number of contests.    A truly great man that many loved and all will miss.   He had been dealing with Cancer for some time.

Congratulations to Deb – Arne Skoog’s widow – not only did she pass the Technician Class exam, but she now has Arne’s  call letters of WA7WKT.    Word is that she is about to start studying for her General Class.  

This shot was taken going up the road to West Tiger of the sun shining through the fog.  The road is noticeably bare of snow as our year finished warmer and dryer than normal.


I love to report on Copper theft arrests…. In this case video cameras mounted on a tower in Alabama alerted 911 dispatchers that suspects were in the process of stealing copper  from the county radio site (which had been hit 5 times in the last 3 years).    The surveillance camera installation paid off.

As I keep saying – It’s only a matter of time before one of our broadcast sites gets hit hard….How is your security system?   One of the problems is how to identify copper that is ripped off.   A firm called MicroDot has an interesting approach to this problem.  Check it out at

Did you hear about the weird sound coming from the recently completed One-World-Trade Center in NYC?   Apparently wind is making the building emit a strange eerie sound.     Click here for more –    Can imagine how residents of Queen Ann would react of one of the TV towers there made sounds like this?

A new study has concluded that cellular networks cannot replicate current radio broadcast economics and coverage to which I say – DUH !.   There is this notion that everything you want can be distributed by broadband cellular based systems.   The problem is that each site must transmit all the same information.   This is where the point-multi-point architecture of Broadcasting shines.    Interesting that some are finally starting to wake up and accept this fact.    The problem is that broadcasting is viewed as ‘old-school’ by many who are determined to do it their way.     Reminds me of the mind-set that says that you must use a computer to change the level in a piece of equipment when we all know that this is what a ‘Greenie’ is for.   

That’s about it for this month – May 2014 be good to you and yours

Clay, K7CR, CPBE etc.

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