February  2021 – Clay’s Corner

February  2021 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

 

The big news item of this past month was likely the events in WDC. The amount of air-time given to this was huge.

The word of the month was ‘STORM’…

  • Storming the Capital in WDC on Jan. 6th
  • Rain and wind Storms in WA State on Jan. 12th

On the night of the 12th our Atmospheric River induced heavy rain was aided by a pretty intense windstorm that knocked out power to, reportedly, over 500,000 customers of PSE, Seattle City Light, Clallum County PUD, Tacoma Power and Lewis County PUD (I’m sure there were others).

Many likely did not receive much warning about the windstorm, giving them time to be able to avoid flying patio furniture. Lowell Kiesow (KNKX) submitted this excellent item about the sudden storm:

https://theconvergencezone.com/2021/01/13/5-reasons-why-a-significant-puget-sound-windstorm-occurred-with-almost-no-warning/

Sinclair’s Tim Moore submitted these pictures of the power lines feeding the Cougar Mt. broadcast transmitters, at this point, laying on the ground. This was one of the longer power outages at Cougar Mt., with power being restored about 10 p.m. on the 16th, making it about a five day outage.

Look closely at this tree that was snapped off by the wind.

 

I received a note from Paul Carvalho at KIRO Radio that was an interesting twist. Due to Covid, many of their on-air personnel were working from home, as opposed to coming into the downtown studios. Then, along comes a big windstorm, with many of those home studios being without power. Time to find isolated places within the studio for them to work from, causing quite a scramble.

Arthur Willits was on his way to West Tiger to check on the Day-Star TV transmitter when he discovered that access was going to require a big chainsaw.

Doug Fisher reported that South Mountain got hit very hard with flooding and landslides taking out the powerline and generator failures. That site, finally got its power back from Mason County PUD at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Many of the AM’s on Vashon were impacted by power outages, as well indicated on the PSE Outage Map on the morning of the 13th. Thankfully, all of them have generators.

Thankfully, the evening of the 14th we were treated with a wonderful sunset. This taken from my back deck:

 

On the Covid front –

Did you ever think we would see ‘Drive-Thru’ vaccinations?

Some good news for us seniors. We will be able to get it earlier than once thought. I received my first dose on January 21st. My second one is already scheduled for February 24th.

The good news is now it appears that our Governor and President are on the same page with this pandemic. Perhaps even better news is that our President is NOT anti-science!

Meanwhile, as of the 24th of January, the totals are still grim!

  • Total worldwide cases –  Approaching 100 Million
  • Total worldwide deaths – Approaching 2.2 Million
  • Total U.S. Cases – Over 25 Million
  • Total U.S. Deaths – Over 423,000
  • Total Washington cases – Over 300,000
  • Total Washington deaths – Over 4,100

Even if you have been vaccinated we will continue to have restrictions until a sufficient number of us have been poked. Bottom line – We have a way to go. Don’t throw away those masks!

On the good news front (yes there is some), Salem Media Group just announced that they are restoring employee compensation to 2019 levels. Like many firms, salaries were cut due to the Covid-related economic downturn.

And on the ‘not so good news front’, Alpha Media has filed for Chapter 11. The firm that owns 200 radio stations, based in PDX (Portland, OR) said the action was due to ‘Covid-19 Headwinds. The firm owns stations in Wenatchee and Grays Harbor as well as Portland.

The list of events being cancelled continues –

  • The Mike and Key Club Flea Market in Puyallup
  • The Sea-Pac Convention in Seaside
  • NAB in Las Vegas
  • The summer Olympics in Tokyo

Certain to make headlines will be the announcement that an annual event will be held!

NAB is planning on having enough of us vaccinated by this fall to have a show in Las Vegas. Along with this will be the fall SBE Meeting. We shall see.

For some time, some of the larger Radio companies have been taking advantage of the talents of some of their on-air personalities and syndicating them. Thanks to the fact that you can send a high quality audio signal across the continent these days with minimal expense. Here in our area, Hubbard has decided to do this with one of their morning shows. Recently Entercom announced one of their stations would be switching to 100% syndicated operation. This means there will not be any life/local announcer/DJ’s. Come to think of it, has not KJAQ/96.5 been in this mode for a long time? The changes caused by the Pandemic have accelerated this process in many cases. New radio studio facilities may well look a lot different in the future as a result. It will be interesting to see if a ‘Live and Local’ time segment, within the same format, will be more successful. Perhaps hearing a DJ talk about local things, weather etc. will prove to not be that important? Look at TV. At one time, many stations had live/local programming. Now, other than newscasts, this is rare. Remember when there were four stations in this area than had live programming for children every afternoon? (Stan, Captain, JP and Brakeman)

Now that Pai is gone, and we have a new administration, it’s time for a shake-up in leadership at the FCC. Accordingly, President Biden has appointed Jessica Rosenworcel as the acting head of the Commission. This follows a natural process, as she was the senior Democrat on the FCC for some time. Time will tell if her new job will become permanent.

At the Inauguration, someone snapped a picture of Bernie Sanders seated with mittens. Boy did that attract attention, with his picture showing up all over social media. People are showing Bernie in all kinds of various locations. It did not take long before someone had him sitting in a broadcast setting, like the following in front of a huge old RCA Transmitter.

A thank you to the Seattle SBE Chapter for inviting me to be their ‘program’ at their January Meeting. I showed, via Zoom, my collection of 75 pictures of the West Tiger-2 Antenna Fire and re-construction. While reflecting on who was in the meeting when I joined SBE, if I recall correctly, only one person. Good to see you Walt! There are not many of us around with 3-digit membership numbers that remember those days at the Dog House and the W7 Room.

The FCC is making it clear to owners of C-Band stations they have to move to make room for more wireless operations…and have set a deadline for doing so. The following link provides more details: FCC gives earth station operators final warning Earth Stations that don’t appear to be operating or that haven’t notified the Federal Communications Commission of their operational status will be shut down as of April 19. The FCC says most stations are accounted for and will make the transition to the upper part of the band, but some have not responded to multiple communications and are at risk of being terminated.

And now, a bit of technical humor –

Now, if I may, I’d like to share some personal thoughts regarding something else – Truth.

I recall the days when I got into this business, we had several sources for news and information –

  • AP and UPI wire services – Every station, Radio or TV, had one or both.
  • Radio Networks – ABC, CBS, NBC and MBS
  • All but the smallest stations were affiliated with one of them.
  • TV Networks – ABC, CBS and NBC
  • Just like Radio, the major stations were affiliated with a major network.

Back in those days, just about every radio station aired 3-5 minutes of news every hour. TV ran a combination of local and network news, much as they do now. In those days news, pretty much, meant factual reporting.

Over the years – Radio and TV started changing.

  • Radio Stations stopped trying to be what was called ‘Full Service’, opting for specialization, usually adopting a specific music type, or, in some cases, just news and/or talk. The number of stations that aired news or had a wire service, or network affiliation, was reduced to just a few. As the number of stations grew, so did the number of formats without any news.
  • As the number of TV stations increased, only a few hung onto their long-standing formats that featured news. Many of the new ones, became…news-less.

Looking back at radio, one is hard pressed to come up with names and programs that were delivering anything but good, old fashioned, objective news. There were some exceptions, many of whom were newspaper columnists that adapted to broadcasting. Walter Winchell, Drew Person, Gabriel Heatter, and of course, Paul Harvey come to mind (yes, I do recall my family listening to them). We knew that these were newspaper columnists and a lot of what they were airing was opinion. Back in those days, Broadcasting was much like newspapers. There was a clear line between fact and opinion.

Fast forward to today –

We have had an explosion in the number of delivery systems – Cable and Satellite Radio and TV and program providers, and, of course the Internet that has become the biggest distributor of all. Perhaps one of the biggest changes was the introduction of 24/7 news outlets on Cable and Satellite.

With the resulting multiplication of choices has come the need to do whatever it takes to attract attention to your brand so as to be able to survive, or increase profits.

Somewhere along the way, the philosophy of the ‘Supermarket Tabloid’ was adopted by many sources looking for a niche. Many discovered that you did not have to tell the truth. What you needed to do is appeal to the subconscious to the point that they would make a purchase based on very different criteria. These folks learned, long ago, that truth did not matter. They were in the business to sell their paper and, thereby, make money. Sadly, some broadcasters followed suit.

Add to all of this the increasingly polarized political climate in our country, coupled with the desire to see and hear what you want to see and hear, you have the recipe for a lot of what we have today where, in some cases, truth has become optional. Or, putting it another way, one man’s truth has become the other man’s lies. In order to maximize your potential audience (and thereby maximize your profits), many have learned that you can appeal to a specific segment that believes a certain way and turn that into money. Who would have thought that we’d have, to this extent, polarized media?

In the past, I’m sure, some politicians stretched the truth…or, perhaps, outright lied. What’s new here is that now we have broadcasters (using the term loosely) that have moved away from objective, honest and factual reporting, apparently catering to those that like to hear news that fits their point of view. A lot of what bills itself as news today is not based on facts or objectivity, but rather on a bias that is designed to appeal to a target audience who wants to hear what they have come to believe. The owners of these outlets know well what they are doing. In some cases, the size of the bottom line overshadows the desire to be truthful, something the ‘Snake-Oil’ salesman of yesteryear knew very well, and in some cases, political leaders.

Those that are not willing to ‘drink the Kool-Aid’ and are willing to sort out the fact from fiction are likely OK as they are not as gullible. However, I am concerned that their numbers are declining.

When I was 20 (way back in the last century) I was, pretty much, provided information that was not only factual but could be verified. I have to wonder about those that are 20 now, with fewer reading newspapers and magazines, and more getting their information via social media etc. How are they choosing what’s fake or factual? Do the 20-somethings take the time to determine whether a Left or Right leaning information source is telling the truth? Do they bother to compare the broadcast or even cable offerings that bill themselves as news?

I’m not the only one that has noticed this issue.

Recently journalist Megyn Kelly said this, “…because there has been a complete lack of trust, a destruction of trust in the media, and people don’t know where to turn for true information.”

As we look back at the previous four years where truth telling from the ‘top’ has been optional, have we, as a society, learned something? Perhaps, most importantly, how can a broadcaster convey that what they air is true and can be believed? Seems to me our industry has a lot of work to do – lest it be as credible as those tabloids. I should mention, at least one, of our local TV stations is running clips featuring various anchors, stating how they stand for truth. This just underscores what I have been saying here.

One of the major problems for mainline broadcasters is the fact that many no longer tune in, preferring to get their information from Social Media, where there are little, if any,  checks and balances and where facts are often replaced with falsehoods, rumors and, propaganda. Some politicians have seized on the opportunity to push their agenda using these platforms knowing well that there is a huge audience out there ready to adopt rumors and outright fiction. Look as what’s happened with 5G. Social media nuts have pushed the idea that it causes Covid, to the point that many cell sites have been vandalized in an attempt to stop the ‘death rays’. When it comes to conspiracy theories, the Internet has become the wild wild west. And, in the minds of many – a source of truth! (P.T. Barnum perhaps foresaw the Internet.)

Perhaps the most frightening thing is the statistics that show how many, firmly, believe things that are not true. Those numbers are huge!

Broadcasters have a huge challenge – how to attract an audience with the truth. This goes back to the supermarket checkout. Chances are a fiction filled tabloid will outsell the local daily newspaper.

Hats off to Tegna who recently announced they are expanding their ‘Verify’ program, whose goal is to combat disinformation (or is it misinformation?) You have likely seen this feature on Tegna stations in your area.

Were things better in this regard 50 years ago? I really think so. Does anyone else see it this way?

(Soap box off.)

There are a number of firms now with a portfolio of a large number of towers, many of which used to belong to cellular, land-mobile or broadcasters. Crown Castle, Vertical Bridge and American Tower quickly come to mind. Most of these firms continue to grow. Recently American Tower, who owns a number of major sites in the Seattle area, has expanded with their, reportedly $9 billion acquisition of Telxius and has gained a large foothold by adding some 31,000 sites in Europe and South America.

Another great picture from one of the NWBP Engineers, Jason Royals.

This time the transmitter location of KNWV, a Class A licensed to Clarkston,WA on 90.5.

Working on this side of the Cascades, we rarely get to see open country like this, thanks to our forests.

As far as I can tell, there has not been a great rush by owners of AM stations to jump on the ‘All-Digital’ bandwagon now that the FCC has given the mode the ‘Green-Light’. However, the number of stations running this mode, apparently, recently doubled with WMGG in Tampa, Florida joining the ‘club’.

Much like the station in the WDC area that started the process, WMGG has a companion FM band translator affording those that don’t have an HD Radio the ability to continue to hear the station on their analog receivers.

WMGG operates on 1470 using a shared directional antenna running 2800 watts daytime and 800 watts at night.

There was a recent editorial in Radio World that describes what I’ve been saying for years. To a significant degree, Broadcast Engineering has become full of Gray Haired folks, or, if you are like me – no hair. The author makes a number of good points.

  • He sees trouble ahead due to a shortage of qualified broadcast engineers who know how to read schematics and troubleshoot problems to the component level.
  • We are seeing newbies whose troubleshooting abilities are limited to calling the factory, describing the problem and waiting until a loaner gizmo arrives.
  • Not helping the situation is the fact that a lot of equipment in use today is made overseas and is so cheap, that tossing it in the trash and buying another has become a viable option.
  • Today, stations have become full of computers that employ those that maintain them, but we should not forget we also have a lot of other things that enable a station to ‘Radiate’.
  • Quoting now the author who wrote, “sending an IT guy into that is like sending a 90 year old woman into the Indy 500 with her Buick LeSabre. She ain’t gonna win and she will probably die trying.”
  • His recommendation, “We all, especially big conglomerates who own most of the broadcast stations, have to make a concerted effort to get high school and college kids interested in broadcast engineering as a career. Get them interested, get them educated, best by shadowing an old goat who can show them the tricks of the trade”.

On the personal side, as of the first of the year, I am no longer receiving a regular check from Entercom. I started with ETM when they swapped an FM station in NYC for 97.3, 100.7 and 1210 AM back in about 1995. When I left being a full timer, I became a contractor with a retainer and a steady paycheck. Now that too is in the past. I may still do some ‘task-specific’ work for them. This is TBD. 25+ years with the same company, in one capacity or the other, is a long time. This means that Phil Van Liew will now pick up the slack and be taking care of the transmitters for all five of the local Entercom stations. ‘Tis time that I cut back anyway. I still make routine visits to Cougar and West Tiger for my other clients.

Not often I look at the obits in the Sunday Times. On the 3rd there were three former area broadcasters that passed.

Dick Curtis, formerly with KJR, KOL and other related businesses. He, like many, attended Bates (then known as Tacoma Vocational School) and went on to a successful career in radio.

Alan Houston was with KING 5 for almost 40 years.

Mark Simonson, formerly with KOMO-TV for over 30 years.

Another passing I want to mention is that of Mike McCarthy. Likely few of you in the Seattle area knew him. I first met Mike, waaay back when I was working for Viacom at a meeting we had in Chicago where he was the assistant Chief at WLAK. We hit it off and remained friends for many years. A couple of years ago he and his family came out here for a look at the PNW. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a heavy layer of smoke and forest fires. At least we did get to all have lunch together. Mike was very active on several national engineering remailers and was known to all as a very knowledgeable engineer.

.

August 31, 1962 – December 30, 2020

 Michael McCarthy, of Downers Grove, IL died peacefully after a long battle with lymphoma, a stem cell transplant, and GVHD. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer Adelman-McCarthy, daughters Kelly and Colleen McCarthy, and his therapy dog, Koehl; sister Christine (Albert) Goetz of Roselle; niece Alison (Goetz) Martin; and brother Thomas (Laura) McCarthy of Leander, TX.

Mike was a longtime member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers and served on both the National and Local Boards of Directors. Mike attained certifications CSRE and CEA. Serving as the Chicago Frequency Coordinator was perhaps his favorite “side job”, as it allowed him behind-the-scenes access to Bears, Cubs, White Sox, and Blackhawks playoff games. For the past two decades he has been the Chief Engineer for Newsweb Radio. Mike took great pride in making everyone sound their best on the air. Owner of McCarthy Radio Engineering, he was happiest when messing with transmitters and towers.

He was a ham radio operator and spent time and talent giving back to the community in emergency communications. He and his friends built a huge network of repeaters allowing Chicago area ham operators to communicate with the weather service. They spent many a stormy day and night at the weather office relaying messages. He contributed technically, with Jen and a local group of hams, to rescue efforts on 9/11. He was always ready to step up and help.

I’ve recently been doing some ‘house cleaning’ and came across a number of things to share with you –

This item was on a box that was, apparently, used to ship a Vox Pro (Audio Editor) from Audion Labs to Cal Vandegrift in Federal Way. Do you remember when Harris (now GatesAir)  and Allied were one? Anyone care to guess the year?

 

How about this gem? This nice metallic label was once attached to an ATC Cartridge Tape unit.

 

I have no-clue how I ended up with this item. I found it in a pile of ‘stuff’ at my shop. Apparently it was used by KTAC (now known at KHHO) in Tacoma. The Wall-Wart power supply was smashed. I scrounged another and it leaped to life with a very scratchy volume control. Don’t know about the tape player. All my cassettes are long-gone.

Last fall I stopped by KELA in Centralia where John Mackey showed me the old KELA Transmitter. It had been moved to a second story room to keep out of the site’s frequent flood waters. He said it did not work, and wanted to know if I knew how to get it going. I said ‘sure’ but not sure they’d be willing to pay for the parts. Incidentally, this is the same model transmitter used by KTW when I worked there in the late 60’s.

 

The following picture adorned my office when I worked with KNBQ in Tacoma. It was a full page from the station owner’s newspaper, the Tacoma News Tribune, announcing the birth of their new radio station using a mode of modulation that was new back then…called FM. The Studio, Offices and Transmitter were all located at what they called ‘The Top of the Town’ at 11th and Grant Streets in Tacoma. The Tribune was not done with broadcasting, later adding an AM Station (the FM became KTNT-FM) and, a couple years later, KTNT-TV Channel 11, all operating from the same location. (They did add onto the building). Later on, the FM’s call letters were changed to KNBQ.  Today they are KIRO-FM. This picture now resides in the technical area of Bonneville-Seattle.

 

The following is an enlargement of the tower showing on the top the stations first FM Antenna.  There are very few of us that recall the name of that antenna (That’s another story)  As time went by they mounted that antenna on a platform on the roof of an adjacent house for a while, eventually giving it to Clover Park in the late 50’s for use with their FM on 90.9 (Then called KPEC)  there It was mounted inside the tower at what is now Clover Park Technical College that was used to support their UHF/Channel 56 TV Antenna.   Last I know, it was cut up for scrap.

 

On another front, some FM’s that are operating ‘Multicast Channels’ (sometimes call Side-Channels) are starting to attract attention. We’ve seen a few instances in the Seattle area where one of the HD-2s will show up in the Nielsen Ratings…but nothing substantial.

For some time I have been told that HD Radio is fine for large markets where revenues are higher and pockets are deeper, but not in smaller markets. This theory is pretty evident when you travel east of the Cascades and discover a lot of FM signals, but few running HD.

Then along comes Nielsen with their recently publicized ratings of radio stations in markets, large in small. Most of the time I scroll through these lists just looking for call letters that used to reside in the Seattle area. Earlier in January, something caught my eye that I want to share.

Lincoln, Nebraska, market #163 with a total population over 12, of 273,000. The 8th ranked station is KBBK-HD2, with a 3.2 share running CHR.

How about Canton, Ohio, market #142 with a 12+ population of 342,700, where WHOF-HD2 is #5 in that market with a Country format.

Or, Hagerstown-Chambersburg- Waynesboro, MD-PA, market #165 with a 12+ population of 263,000. They have TWO HD Channels generating ratings, both of them owned by the same company. WWEG-HD2 is #6 and WWEG-HD3 is #8.

This time looking at Reading, PA…

WLEV-HD2 is #2 with Urban AC owned by Cumulus
WRFY-HD2 is #5 airing Spanish CHR – iHM
WAEB-HD3 is #8 running CHR- IHM

There are a couple of questions that come to mind.

Why do certain markets have very successful HD Channels while others do not?

Could it be because, in these markets, the stations are trying harder to gain ratings?

So Channel 9 wants to change channels? This has been an interesting process to watch, when the big channel shuffle took place and the shift to Digital. The low channels, in the case of Seattle, Channel 4, 5 and 7 opted to stay on UHF  (granted there was some shuffling as part of RePack). From all of this we got ‘Virtual Channels’, so the historic channel numbers would still work for those who would be confused with new numbers. During all of this, the higher VHF Channels in our area, channels 9, 11 and 13, opted to stay where they were. Now Channel 9 is saying that their coverage is not what they thought it would be, and are asking the FCC for permission to move to Channel 17. I assume, if this comes to pass, they will still be known as Channel 9. I have not heard of Channel 11 or 13 having the same issues and are planning to move upward in frequency. Apparently they are happy with being Channel 11 and 13 that are actually on those historic RF Channels.

Another picture from the East-Side. On the far right you can see the antenna (the 3 black things) for KQWS, located on a 5200+ foot mountain in the Okanogan. KQWS is licensed to Omak and is operated by WSU’s NWPB.

I was informed recently by Kent Randles (retired from Entercom in PDX) that KYCH has purchased a new 35 kW GatesAir liquid-cooled transmitter for their station in Portland. Apparently having a lot to do with space and lack of room for ducting an air-cooled model. This may well be the first liquid-cooled FM transmitter in the area. These days, most TV Transmitters are liquid cooled. Speaking of new Entercom transmitters, reportedly they have ordered a new ‘air-cooled’ model for their 107.7/KNDD in Seattle. I understand it will be installed in the latter half of February, weather permitting.

In the wake of the storming of the U.S capital, the FCC came out with a warning about the use of Ham or CB frequencies for coordinating illegal activity.

Frankly, I find this a bit amusing. There are a large number of people who are of the opinion that if you have a law or rule prohibiting an activity that this will solve the problem.

Seattle is, finally coming to grips with a similar issue and is discovering that you have to ‘enforce’ a rule and punish the violators if you expect those that are intent in doing what they want to have second thoughts. In many ways the FCC and Seattle have become what’s known as ‘Paper Tigers’. If you are not familiar with this term, here are some definitions I found:

  • “Paper Tiger” is a literal English translation of the Chinese phrase zhilaohu. The term refers to something or someone that claims or appears to be powerful, or threatening, but is actually ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge.
  • Something, such as an enemy or foreign country, that seems very strong and dangerous but is really weak and not harmful.
  • A paper tiger is someone who at first glance seems to be in charge but who, on closer examination, is completely powerless.
  • A person or organization seeming powerful but really weak.

Interesting to note that this term is used by many languages.

Before I end this, a collection of images that many can relate to.

A flag for all countries!

 

 

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

Until then, stay safe and continue to wear your mask….and that means cover your nose too. The ‘All-Clear’ Is still a long way off.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
A SBE Fellow
SBE Member # 714
Since March of 1968

January  2021 – Clay’s Corner

 

January  2021 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

Over the many years I’ve been writing this Column…I find the one I do at the end of December seems to have a similar theme. Look back at the previous year and look ahead to the next.

Like no other previous year in our lifetime, we have been dealing with a pandemic. Pandemic was a word that we’d read or heard about, but never thought we’d experience. 2020 started out with a roar, everything was running in high-gear and then….WHAM! We quickly discovered we are in for a huge change. When it all started, many wondered how long all this would last. Some figured a month or so. Accordingly, event dates were pushed back. Gradually it became clear that we were in this mess for much longer than we first thought. Despite all the warnings, the Virus continued to infect an ever-growing number of people all over the world.

On Christmas, here are the WA State COVID stats as published in the Seattle Times:

  • Number of cases – 233,093
  • Number of deaths – 3,184
  • Number Hospitalized – 13,908
  • Those testing positive – 12.2%
  • Counties with no deaths – San Juan and Wahkiakum
  • Ages with the most cases – 20-38 (40%)
  • Ages with the most deaths – 80+ (50%)

Recently the situation in Southern California deteriorated to the point there were no hospital beds available. Meanwhile there are those that continue to call COVID a hoax, refuse to wear a mask and avoid groups while others are openly protesting restrictions. This all puts political leaders in a spot. Do they ignore those that are sick and dying or do they yield to those who want their freedom and jobs back? Like many major events in history, some leaders rise to the occasion, while others do not. History writers will certainly have plenty to say about this event.

Early into the month, every newscast was guaranteed to contain a high percentage of stories related to COVID-19, as the impact of this terrible virus surged to its highest levels. Suddenly COVID became a leading cause of death. Those newscasts were a mix of how bad things were and news about the promise that a vaccine was on the way, with some actually receiving it by the end of the year.   Did you happen to notice the video clips of those getting vaccinated usually involved their left upper arm (what’s with that?). Then there is the file footage of machinery cranking out vaccines. Everyone was running the same ones. Guess they figure we can’t watch someone talking about the vaccine without it?

Thankfully, there are now two vaccines that are being rolled out, with more on the way. I hate to think of the situation we’d be in as a society if this were not the case. The problem now is not everyone is willing to be vaccinated, and until sufficient number of us have been, the restrictions are going to continue….which brings us to the annual expression of ‘Happy New Year’. At this point, the best we can hope for is, perhaps, a happier one. Certainly 2020 will go down in the history books as one that many of us would like to forget.

With the news that vaccinations were actually coming, and that – with luck – in six months or so we might be seeing some real signs of getting back to normal, came an increased number of stories about how the transition will work in the real world. Employers are wondering if they should or could require their employees to get vaccinated. What about those who resist? Can they, legally, fire a person for not getting vaccinated? KING 5 recently explored this issue in this report: Employers can legally require COVID-19 vaccinations, attorneys say | king5.com

Will they offer an incentive to get the shots? How is a person to know if they are mingling with people that have ‘really’ received their shots? There are a lot of legal issues that are going to need to be resolved for which we have no regulations or prior case law to draw from. What about those who refuse to wear a mask and/or think this is all a hoax….do you really think they are going to volunteer to be vaccinated? Would a person quit their job if their employer made being vaccinated a condition?

To be sure, there are still those who are being defiant and protesting what they feel are the actions of an evil Governor. Interesting how these folks never blame the virus but rather blame their government for imposing restrictions they don’t like. The businesses that are baulking appear to be a magnet for the news media, not sure that this attention helps or hinders. Sure to anger many is the fact that even after people start getting their shots, mask wearing is going to have to continue. It will be interesting to see what changes will take place after there is a new occupant in The White House.

In addition to all of this, many industries, Radio and TV stations among them, are going to be very different places to work. Some positions that existed prior to the Virus will no longer exist. Employers have already discovered they really don’t need to have a large physical plant to house a staff, so look for the footprint of many stations becoming smaller.   Many have discovered that their product does not require as many bodies as they thought. Already many large broadcast companies have been shedding staff and cutting expenses in order to survive. When the revenue comes back, don’t look for staff sizes to return to normal. They may well never return to pre-COVID levels. If you still have a job, be thankful as many won’t. Don’t expect any pay raises. Many employers have exhausted all their reserves and have been forced to cut staff to previously unheard of levels.

The experts are saying we will be wearing these things for a while longer, even after getting vaccinated as we could still spread the virus to others. I understand that 70-90% of us have to be vaccinated before we can get back to something that resembles ‘Normal’. In short, there is light at the end of the tunnel – but we are not there yet.

I find it interesting how sports teams, perhaps with a lot more money on the line, have approached all of this, with constant testing and putting their team and staff in a ‘bubble’. Don’t think many broadcast companies are ready for that. I suspect, like most, they are trying to be the best they can until we reach that point where ‘Herd Immunity’ becomes real.

I recently ran across a person making comments on one of the remailers frequented by people in this industry that is, obviously, not happy with the way things are going. I’ve X’d out the company name and cannot vouch for the validity of any of these comments, however, even if some of it is true, it’s an indication of the state of our business in some locations.

  • There either will be a live morning show (big markets) or XXXXX syndicated morning show.
  • Air talent can work remotely from home. Some will be on payroll, others will be paid $500 per month per market that they voice track for. $500 is the top figure, for smaller markets it is $300.
  • They have created for engineering, a series of “TIGER TEAMS”…engineers around the country who will be first responders to severe engineering problems.
  • They are downplaying local sales as it is too difficult managing sales people. Instead they have elected to concentrate on national and agency sales for national clients and PACKAGE all of their stations into a bundle.  They are after SHARE of the buy, NOT PRICE. For local sales, they have developed several central sales pods. The ones that I know of are in XXXXXXXX and XXXXXX The local AE’s are told to refer new clients to either “the XXXXXX computer sales web site” or to a regional sales pod where a person on headset will help you with your advertising.

We thought the world underwent major changes due to COVID, with life becoming what we called the ‘New Normal’, with wearing masks, social distancing and other restrictions.  During this time it also taught many how to do with less. So, looking ahead to the time when we have beaten the virus – much will never return to the ‘Old Normal’ but rather will become the ‘New Normal – Phase 2’. Granted there will be those industries that are extremely labor intensive, like construction, maintenance and repair, foot services etc. They will likely return to the ‘Old Normal’. One cannot overlook the economic impact of all of this. It will take a long time for this to sift out.

I understand that a University owned by the State is very different than a broadcast station…however, it’s interesting to note that WSU has announced it plans arrival testing for all Pullman students, regardless of where they live. I get the feeling HR departments are working overtime on figuring this one out, likely in consultation with their legal departments like never before.

Immediately following a National Election, we traditionally start to wonder what changes are coming that will impact our lives, and the business we work in. Some of those changes take place in advance of the new arrival in the White House. This year is no exception with the recent announcement that Ajit Pai will be stepping down as Chairman of the FCC. During his time at the helm of the ‘Commish’ we have seen a lot of changes…many of them good. Now the waiting game to see who the new POTUS appoints and what he, or she, will do that will impact the Broadcast Industry. I have one, perhaps fleeting, connection with Pai. He was on the stage at the NAB Convention shortly before I stood in the same spot to accept an award.

With all the unemployment and closed businesses how do you explain this KOMO headline? Tacoma is now the nation’s hottest housing market.

According to real estate firm Redfin:

  • Tacoma is the nation’s hottest market with half of all homes having a sale pending after being on the market for only six days (it was 21 days last year at this time).
  • 58% of homes in Tacoma are selling above their listing price.
  • The average home price in Tacoma is 17.3% higher than last year.

Perhaps this could be explained as Seattle’s ‘issues’ are driving people out of town? However, the Seattle market remains hot too. Homes are selling at the fastest rate in the past eight years, with prices averaging 13.1% higher over a year ago. It’s not been that many years ago that Seattle was ‘smugly’ looking down at Pierce and Snohomish Counties!

There is, apparently, a lot of pent-up demand for companies to show our industry what they have to sell, that we should buy. Underscoring this is the announcement that more than 500 Exhibitors from 31 countries have already committed to the 2021 NAB show. Now before you start thinking of booking that flight and hotel room in Vegas for this coming April, consider this 2021 event will be in October from the 9th to the 13th. This leads me to wonder if the ‘Big show in the desert’ will ever return to April or will the spring NAB show become the annual ‘Fall NAB Show’?

If there is one thing we all use a lot of, it’s batteries. Over the years we have seen a steady stream of improvements in that area, to the point that many devices are now possible for a couple of reasons: 1) Reduced power consumption and 2) New and improved batteries. I recall the first piece of battery equipment I used in broadcasting was a Field Strength Meter. This, very heavy, device used Vacuum Tubes and had an ‘A’ and ‘B’ battery. Thanks to solid state devices, the newer models were solid state and ran on flashlight batteries. Those too have involved significantly. Back in the days, the only batteries that could be recharged were Lead-Acid (like we still have in our vehicles). Then along came the Nicads, and the NiMH’s. The development of the Lithium battery changed as a lot of things do, quickly. Suddenly portable Radio and TV broadcast equipment were on board, as were Laptops, Cellphones and, of course Vehicles. Untold amounts of money has been spent by firms like Tesla to improve the Lithium-ion battery. Now you can purchase an alternative/ auxiliary power source from Tesla and other makers as an alternative to a fossil-fuel generator. In fact, this is exactly what a radio station in Pt. Townsend is doing right now.

Have you heard the name QuantumScape? Chances are you will, perhaps because a local guy you have heard of (Bill Gates) is involved. Their new battery has some features that are sure to get the attention of many. For instance, they claim it can be charged to 80% of capacity in 15 minutes. It’s non-combustible and has nearly double the energy density of a Lithium battery. The company has been working with VW, who proposed to use the new battery in their new EV’s. But, hold-on, this is getting more interesting, as Toyota is rumored to be on the cusp of announcing a new battery too.

Compared to Hydro, or fossil fuel power generation, Wind and Solar are wonderful green alternatives. However, the wind does not always blow and the sun, predictably, only can provide power for part of any day. The missing element has been energy storage. Now, thanks to the battery revolution, these energy alternatives are becoming more practical. I recently read a piece about a large wind power system in California that features large banks of batteries nearby.

The battery revolution continues, and this will make electric vehicles all the more practical, and so will these devices find their way into the electronic equipment that broadcasters use as well. Certainly exciting times.

Looking back can be fun. Here’s an example:

Northern Electric Catalogue no. 7: Electrical Supplies: Northern Electric Company Ltd: Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming: Internet Archive

Here you can browse their extensive catalog(ue): Broadcast equipment starts on Page 30.

Then there is Magic Broadcasting that’s been ordered to pay 125 Grand as part of a Civil Penalty and Consent Decree. So, what did they do wrong? A couple of things: 1) Conducting contests that were not fair and, 2) not keeping watch on their tower and its lighting. As I like to say, you’d think they would have known better. Apparently, the Feds have a soft heart as they are letting the company pay off the balance in 20 installments of $6250 each. Should they default (miss a payment), the balance is immediately due.

Last month I wrote about the FCC’s decision to permit All-Digital operation within the legacy AM Band. Proving that things can get done during a Pandemic, the FCC has been doing more with Radio, this time dealing with Geo-Targeting for FM boosters. We have something similar going on in this area for over a year now with Bustos Media’s KDDS on 99.3. If  you drive south of downtown Seattle and pay careful attention to the RDS display on your vehicle’s radio, you will be able to tell a bit about how this works. KDDS operates it’s main transmitter from a site called South Mountain which is west of Shelton. The big north-south ridge that runs from West Seattle – south – through Federal Way does a great job of getting in the way for listeners of the station that are east of that ridge. The solution was the installation of a series of on-frequency boosters (sometimes called a single frequency network) that are all timed so that a listener is not aware that they are actually receiving a signal from one of the boosters rather than the Main Transmitter some 50 miles to the west. The company behind this, Geo Broadcast Solutions, wants to take this a step further by allowing a station to geo-target programming (and advertising) to particular boosters. For this they use the term ZoneCasting.

The FCC recently voted to launch a rulemaking that could allow this system to be used by FM’s nationwide.

As you may have guessed, there has been a name change at Century Link. First many of us learned about this was when we learned they were changing the name of the facility where the Seahawks play to Lumen Field. If you do a little digging, you come up with these items:

  • CenturyLink has rebranded to Lumen Technologies in an effort to focus on next-generation connectivity solutions for enterprises.
  • Effective with the opening of the trading day on Sept. 18, 2020, the company stock ticker will change from CTL to LUMN. The legal name of CenturyLink, Inc. is expected to be formally changed to Lumen Technologies, Inc.
  • Internally, its legacy business will still be called CenturyLink, with Lumen referring to its enterprise division. Its fiber network-based consumer and small business segment will be rebranded as Quantum Fiber.

Back to the important stuff, where the Seahawks play, the name has changed over the years.

  • The Hawks first played in the Kingdome (remember that?)
  • Then, when the new place was constructed, we called it Seahawks Stadium.
  • When ‘Naming Rights’ became vogue, it became Qwest Field, then with the change of the phone company name, it became Century Link Field (often called the ‘Clink’) and now Lumen Field. Wonder if they will start calling it ‘The Lume’?

At least this name is easier to get  your tongue around than the new name for Key Arena :- (

Early in December, there was a lot of activity on the KPLZ Tower on Cougar Mt. For those of you who have seen it, it’s perhaps the only broadcast tower in the area painted green. I reached out to Tim Moore of Sinclair to find out what was taking place. Here is his response, and some pictures:

KPLZ’s main antenna started having high reflections so we swept the system. The result showed major problems at two line connection bullet points. Inspection of the line found the issues shown in the pictures.

The sections of line were replaced which reduced the reflections, but it was not quite back to nominal values.

The decision was made to replace the entire line run with HJ8-50B Heliax. The line was replaced by P&R Tower, also known as Northstar.

The replacement line considerably reduced the high reflections to normal parameters, 50 watts total.

Inspection of the rigid line that came down showed a lot of contamination caused by the line that burnt up and indication of a couple more bullets may have been running a little hot.

In the following picture, you are looking at what’s known as the ‘Center Conductor’ of a piece of rigid coaxial line that connects the station’s Transmitter to their Antenna. Normally the pieces would be bright and shiny. The reds and grays you see are evidence that this has been very hot. Usually, in cases like this, the heating is coming from a poor connection that could be caused by either poor design, operating with more power that it was designed for, or poor installation techniques.

Here’s a comparison between the damaged item and what it should look like. The item at the bottom has also been used, as evidenced by discoloration, however it was still usable.

Upon seeing these pictures, iHeart Medias local chief,  Jeff White, submitted this item:

If you are a DIRECTV customer you have been impacted with a dispute between DIRECTV and Tegna that lasted a couple of weeks. During this period, Tegna’s Channels 5 and 16 were replaced with a static message encouraging you to get their programming via their live stream. Thankfully the dispute was resolved just before Christmas.

Here is how USA Today explained it on December 2nd:

Customers across much of the U.S. have lost TV stations thanks to a dispute between AT&T and broadcaster TEGegna.

The communications company and the broadcaster failed to reach a new agreement Tuesday, resulting in more than 60 stations lost on DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and the AT&T TV streaming service.

AT&T places the blame on Tegna, which has more than 60 TV stations in 51 markets and reaches 39% of all U.S. TV households.

“In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, TEGNA is demanding the largest rate increase we have ever seen, and intentionally blacking out its most loyal viewers,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY. “We challenge TEGNA to return its local stations immediately while we finalize a new agreement and pledge to pay TEGNA retroactively whatever higher rates to which we eventually agree. We share our customers’ frustration, appreciate their patience and intend to do all we can to resolve this matter soon.”

It is common in carriage disputes such as these, neither side is releasing the specific points of contention.

“The companies have not specified why the two sides are quarreling, but money is the usual reason behind a channel blackout,” says Phil Swann, a journalist who operates The TV Answer Man website. “Tegna station subscribers are already voicing their anger on social media sites.”

If you are annoyed by all of this, there is a work around using technology that’s been around long before Satellite TV. Put up an antenna! Classic legacy technology comes to the rescue with even better news. You will, going forward, be able to watch KING and KONG for free!

On the topic of local TV, ‘Hats Off’ to KOMO for their production of a 90 minute documentary that explores the effects of the drug culture on the Emerald City. With fingers crossed, this will promote a conversation that will yield positive results. My first job in Seattle was back in the mid-60’s working for KTW. I returned with the building of the new studios for KBSG in the mid 80’s and worked downtown until about 11 years ago. What we have today is something very troublesome. Hopefully Seattle can get it turned around.   You can watch the documentary here:

‘Fight for the Soul of Seattle’: Program looks at effects of city’s permissive posture | KOMO (komonews.com)

During December is was announced that the end of Radio Disney is now planned for Q1 2021…and some layoffs. A few years ago, Radio Disney operated at 1250 AM in Seattle (The old KTW).

As you all know, AM radio is suffering, for a multitude of reasons with many stations going dark. Meanwhile,  iHeartMedia discovered a business opportunity with it’s Black Information Network, BIN, which it launched in June of 2020.

iHM quickly changed the format of their Tacoma 850, KHHO to the new format (long time known as KTAC). Apparently,  the idea has caught on with the company snapping up AM stations across the country. Kudos to iHeart for beathing new life into AM Radio.

Here’s a publication that you may not have heard of:

In a recent issue they have an article titled:

AM Radio Transmitter Sites Now Valuable Real Estate for Logistics Industry

Here is what they had to say:

The familiar real estate adage “location, location, location” rings true these days for huge tracts on the outskirts of major cities — sites that for decades housed AM radio towers but that today command top dollar as e-commerce fuels rising demand for new warehouses and logistics centers.

Look no further than the $51 million sale of a five-acre parcel in Queens, N.Y., where an AM radio station will eventually abandon its existing tower and transmitter site, and move it.

New York radio station WFME’s owner, Nashville, Tenn.-based Family Radio, sold its AM transmitter site to Prologis, a San Francisco developer that specializes in building warehouses for companies looking to expand final-mile capability.

This property is situated near the Long Island Expressway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and La Guardia and JFK airports. The spot’s current value as a logistics hub far outstrips its importance to a broadcast outlet that didn’t register in New York’s most recent radio ratings book.

The rising value of these locations is being driven by changing consumer habits and rapid technological evolution. Sites on the edge of town that in radio’s heyday were cheap and plentiful can now house vital links in a supply chain propelled by technology that was hard to imagine back in AM’s early days.

Elon University journalism professor Richard Landesberg told Transport Topics most AM station owners know their transmitter sites are worth more than the licenses for their stations — licenses that, as a practical matter, are issued by the Federal Communications Commission and are not technically owned by licensees.

“It used to be if you were in your car, you listened to AM radio because that’s all there was,” said Landesberg, a former network radio bureau chief in Los Angeles and London with Mutual/NBC Radio. “A lot of AM broadcasters are giving up their licenses. It’s because the licenses aren’t worth much, but the land is valuable. If you’re a small, 5,000-watt station that served a community, those days are gone.”

Landesberg noted that value is harmed by AM radio’s audio quality, which is far weaker than that of FM stations and digital services such as streaming audio, satellite radio and internet stations.

FCC data shows that since 2000 nearly 400 AM stations have ceased operations. The trend has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic — nearly 80 stations have gone silent this year.

Arizona State University logistics professor Dale Rogers told TT he expects the demand for warehouse space to accelerate as e-commerce becomes more critical to consumers.

“It’s pretty clear urban land is going to be more valuable, especially in particular areas,” Rogers said. “It’s places where there are a lot of exciting things going on; we’ll see a lot more of this.”

Broadcast groups such as iHeartRadio have sold or leased hundreds of transmitter and tower sites to privately owned tower management companies, including Boca Raton, Fla.-based Vertical Bridge. These companies are either developing the real estate or, in some cases, building lucrative cellular antennas.

But it’s not just low-rated or struggling station groups cashing in.

The owners of WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM — the top-rated station in Chicago — in 2018 sold the station’s 42-acre transmitter site near O’Hare International Airport to Bridge Development Partners for $46 million. The 695-foot antenna and a smaller backup unit had been in use since 1942, but now a 750,000-square-foot logistics and warehouse complex is being developed on the site.

“This site had unparalleled highway access,” he said. “That’s about as close as you can get to O’Hare, and for us this was proximity to the other freight forwarders.”

Technology also is making it easier to relocate AM transmitters. While stations previously needed their own transmitter sites, engineering improvements now permit more than one station on a single antenna. WBBM now shares an antenna with another station in its ownership group, and WFME likely will do the same thing.

“AM radio is not making the money it used to,” Elon Landesberg told TT, “It used to be if you owned an AM radio station it was a license to print money. Now, it’s valuable real estate, and they’re not making more of that. Whatever land use brings in the most money, then the antenna is coming down.”

Here in our area we have also seen a number of relocations of AM’s, most of which occurred several years back.

KOL/ 1300 was for many years using a huge, self-supporting tower in the Port of Seattle. They moved to Tacoma and later to Bainbridge Island.

KBLE/1050 was also located in the Port of Seattle. They now are operating from Pigeon Point in West Seattle.

KJR/950 was located on the West Waterway. They have made several moves, first up the Duwamish, then to the 850 site in Tacoma and finally ended up duplexing the 820/KGNW array on Vashon Island.

KKMO was located in Fife for many years. They moved, first, to Indian Hill and then to Browns Point. Their old location is now industrial.

KKNW was located in the SoDo area of Seattle for years. They are now in the swamp near I-405 & I-90.

The major AM’s in our area are either located in the ‘Swamp’ that’s the home to 880,1150 & 1540 or are on Vashon Island.

The bottom line – The article is correct in many respects, it’s just that the AM’s in this area moved out of these industrial areas long ago.

From the Profound Department –

If you only have two ducks, they will always all be in a row.

The December, 12+, Radio Ratings are out for Seattle-Tacoma.

Here are some observations:

  • KIRO-FM is back at #1 followed by KUOW @ #2
  • All news KOMO Radio is #4.  Pretty impressive for any AM Station!
  • Can’t help but notice that of the top 15 stations, only one of them is owned by Entercom (KISW).
  • Perhaps as a result of the recent elections or the lack of sports games, conservative talk, AM, KTTH is marginally ahead of KIRO-AM.
  • In the battle for the Country listener, The Bull is having it’s way with the Wolf.
  • KFNQ continues to struggle with the other Sports/Talkers. Their numbers are a third of Seattle Schools KNHC and a fraction of KEXP.

I was recently working on Vashon Island with the local crew from Bonneville (Steven Allen  & Paul Carvalho). On one day we were joined by Bonneville’s regional engineer, Jason Ornellas.

To my surprise I recently learned that Jason is the recipient of the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award. You can read about the Award and Jason here:

https://www.radioworld.com/columns-and-views/from-the-editor/jason-ornellas-makes-his-mark

Speaking as an ‘Old Duffer’, I am more than pleased to see a fellow who is less than 1/3 of my age be recognized for his accomplishments.

Congratulations  Jason!!

While doing some, long overdue, purging of old stuff, out of a file folder fell a picture that took me back to my days at KNBQ in Tacoma. This picture was taken in the Engineering Shop at the, then, Tacoma-based station and a much younger Nick Winter. My guess is this was taken in the early 80’s. We were preparing to move the station’s studios to Seattle. In the process, we were building items that would be used there. The rack that Nick has his hands on would end up in the Telephone Equipment room and would house House-Monitor Amplifiers, etc. Some other things in this shot: The workbench behind Nick is still being used at my shop in Auburn. That Red Toolbox is still serving us well. It was moved to the Seattle Studio Shop. Later, when 97.3 moved to the KIRO building at 1820 Eastlake, when Entercom purchased the station, it was moved to West Tiger where it remains today, and is used by the five stations that used to be part of Entercom, still adorned with KNBQ Stickers. Oh yes, Nick is now retired and living in Tacoma. For those of you who have not followed the progression, Viacom renamed KNBQ KBSG. Bonneville renamed it KIRO-FM.

The following shows the collection of stickers on this trusty toolbox. That KNBQ Bumper Sticker was there when the above picture was taken. The Station’s call letters were changed to KBSG when Viacom purchased it. Note the little Viacom Inventory label.

I recently heard a rumor that Dave Ratener had landed a new gig, so I dropped him a note to gain more info, here is his response:

Hi Clay, Yes I am now the new chief engineer for Salem media here in Seattle. Monte Passmore, the current chief, is retiring after 22 years. The stations are KGNW, KLFE, and KNTS. All 3 are AM’s. KGNW is on Vashon, and the other two are diplexed on Bainbridge Island. I have started the job and actually getting trained and introduced to all of the equipment in use now at Salem. Nice to be working again.

On the morning of the 12th at about 10:15 a.m., something went buzzap-pop at West Tiger. That something turned out to be a high voltage disconnect owned by American Tower that forced generators at three of the sites on the mountain to spring into action. All the damage was confined to the Gray Gizmo on the right. Thankfully it can be repaired. Until then, power to a couple of the non-broadcast sites is being supplied from the Broadcast building at the site.

Thanks to all the Web Cameras up there, now we were able to watch the coming and going of various parties as the day wore on. In this picture, you can see the headlights of a couple of PSE service vehicles as they head down the hill after locating the problem.

Then on the 22nd, a major power problem struck Cougar Mountain. There were a number of PSE vehicles on site and multiple generators running when I left the site that day. I suspected it had something to do with the heavy wet snow we had overnight that brought down a lot of limbs.

Speaking of which, on the 21st, the first day of Winter, we set a record high at Sea-Tac Airport of 59 Degrees. Remarkably, in a few hours it would be snowing.

In the FCC’s Releases on December 15th, I see KZIZ has filed to modify their Construction Permit from the former KMIA Night Site to the existing KMIA (Day/Night) transmitter site, where they propose to diplex the existing two KMIA towers.  They would be operating 3.2 kw Non-Directional Day and 200 Watts Directional at Night with nulls to the Southeast.

This contribution comes from Bob Trimble of RF Specialties fame. I’m sure that you have all read about this metal monolith that was discovered In Utah. Didn’t take long for someone to exploit the term. 😊

 

Yes, thankfully, there is a category for COVID Humor. Let me leave you with some that will hopefully leave you with a smile.

  • One day, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids …”I survived the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020”.
  • The world has turned upside down. Old folks are sneaking out of the house & their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors!
  • Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.
  • Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands?
  • I never thought the comment, “I wouldn’t touch him/her with a 6-foot pole” would become a national policy, but here we are!
  • I need to practice social distancing from the refrigerator.
  • I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to the Backyard. I’m getting tired of the Living Room.
  •  Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller with a mask on and ask for money.

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

Until then, stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings and freshly washed hands, keeping your distance from others. The ‘All-Clear’ Is still a long way off.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

Clay’s Corner for January 2020

Clay’s Corner

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

 

Assuming you are reading this column in 2020 – Happy New Year. Some thoughts about this year:

  • Most will pronounce it Twenty-Twenty.
  • This decade will be pronounced the Twenty Twenties.
  • It’s been a very long time since we had 1919 and it will be a even longer until 3030.
  • 2020 is often said describing a person’s vision.
  • If you are into Roman Numerals – it’s MMXX.
  • 20/20 is an ABC TV news magazine.
  • 2020 will be a Leap-Year (quick check your calendar to make sure).
  • February this year will have 5 Saturdays.
  • It’s been 20 years since Y2K. (Remember that one?)
  • 2020 will be a presidential election in the U.S. (good news for broadcasters as a lot of money will be spent on advertising.

The end of a decade is, traditionally, a time to look back. Here are some of my thoughts at this time about events and changes in technology that have impacted many of us.

The Tiger Mountain Antenna Fire

In all my years in this game, I’ve seen many antenna failures. The failure of the Channel 11 antenna on Capital Hill comes to mind. In that case, they had to go back to their historic site at View Park to stay on the air (I was the last transmitter operator at that old site). The Tiger Mountain event, a year ago, caused six radio stations to be immediately thankful that they had auxiliary facilities – elsewhere. In years past, having this much redundancy would be but a dream. Sadly, in smaller markets, an event like this would have meant much more off-air time. Today, the switching to back up equipment is likely seamless and automatic. Hopefully the owners of those ‘very-mature’ Auxiliary transmitters will see the need to replace them.

Drones

Too bad Igor Sikorsky is not alive to witness what has happened to his helicopter! It’s amazing what these multi-bladed little machines can and are doing these days…not just in our business but many others. In TV they are the key to those, long wished for, overhead shots for news, sporting events and, of course, the production of spots. On the technical side, it was a drone, flown by Alex Brewster, that provided close up videos of the fire-damaged antenna at West Tiger, so the manufacturer, far away, could see for themselves what had happened, all of this in a very short time period. Recently, while chasing a source of interference to an FM Station, WSU’s Martin Gibbs deployed his specially equipped drone to fly a circular pattern around the suspected station while recording the radiation pattern of their antenna. The final presentation showed their actual antenna pattern overlaid on a Google Earth picture was not omni-directional as the owner thought and clearly showed why there was co-channel interference. Again, something that would have been impossible without the little drone that arrived on site in a small package. In days past, having a pilot on staff meant someone who could fly a light-plane or helicopter…another great example of how far we have come.

Video Cameras

Back when I was working in TV, cameras used vacuum tubes to pick up images and where NOT small. Image devices have come a very long way now, producing superior pictures and doing so in very small form-factors. Examples are in the drones. High Definition, broadcast quality pictures it a tiny package that weigh almost nothing. It’s hard to remember how we thought that Image Orthicons and Plumbicons were cool. The picture taking drone would not have been possible without the advancements in imaging devices in recent years.

Vacuum Tubes

They have served us well for many years. First our Radio and TV studios saw them be replaced with solid state systems.…leaving just the really big ones working in transmitters. The first to make the switch from tubes was AM Radio. Now there are just a few Tubes still working in FM Broadcast transmitters. Likely the reason they are still at work is that many of these transmitters were built extremely well. As an example, when the FM Antenna burned at West Tiger, many of those stations relied on Vacuum Tube transmitters that were 40 years old. Today, as these are replaced, the tube era will go away as well. TV is in the same boat as FM. Today, finding a person that knows their way around vacuum tubes has become rare.

The LED

Probably one of the greatest inventions of our time is the LED or Light Emitting Diode. They were, at first, used as a replacement for little light bulbs that showed the status of a device. Later, as the technology improved, the LED was being used to replace light bulbs of all kinds. The illumination of homes and business have switched to LEDs as have vehicle head and taillights, traffic signals, tower and obstruction lighting and, of course – Christmas decorations. Lighting our studios has also seen the Lightbulb go away. Gone are those heat producing spots and scoops as well as the air conditioning required. Let’s not forget displays that have become huge. Wonder what Thomas Edison would have thought if he were to stand at Safeco or T-Mobile Park? Dazzling displays, not a shadow to be seen and not a lightbulb in sight!

AM Radio

Who would have thought that the birthplace of broadcasting would, in many cases, be struggling to survive 100 years later? Despite all the competition for people’s ears, Radio continues to survive, however the portion that is AM continues to shrink. It is rare today to find an AM Station in the top 10 of the ratings. The number of AM transmitter manufacturers has been reduced to a handful. Locally there are exceptions with 710 and 770 recently investing in the legacy band with the purchase of new transmitters. There’s a lot of interest now on changing the modulation scheme from AM to DM (Digital Modulation) as a means of giving consumers what they have come to expect from a radio station. It’s early, and the jury is certainly out, as to whether this will catch on and breath new life into where it all started. One thing to watch in the coming couple of years will be the 100th birthday of many of our AM Stations. Guess the question is whether or not they will be celebrating. Yes, folks, KJR is, according to a recent piece by John Schneider, 100, going on 101.

Bonded Cellular

Cellular telephone systems have been around for awhile now and have been used by broadcasters for some time, especially in today’s ‘smartphones’. The big change has been the bonding or combining of two or more cellular signals, so that the bandwidth can be combined to equal something that will permit wide-band audio or video to be transmitted. This changed everything. Now you did not need a pneumatic mast and a clear shot to your receiver to transmit audio and video from remote locations. Wonder if anyone, holding one of those Motorola ‘Brick’ cellphones would have even dreamed of this day?

The, Desktop Computer

Just recently, while cleaning out an attic of a local station, I ran across a P.C. with a label on the front proudly stating that it was a ‘286’ (I’ll have some pictures in a future column). This one featured two large floppy disc-drives! Likely the monitor that was used with it was Green or Amber. Wow, have these devices come a long way. Now we have hard drives with storage measured in Terabytes. Today, everyone has a computer at their desk, and we cannot imagine being without it. Portable machines have some a long way, in a short time.

How we communicate with each other

Finally, after what seemed like a long time – we were able to come up with a standardized means for computers to talk with each other and computer networking was born. At one time the average desktop PC was a stand-alone device. If you wanted a file on another computer, you transferred that file to a disk and walked over to the other machine and inserted the disk, etc. Early connections for PCs involved devices that would enable multiple machines to share printers…and later, electronically transfer files from machine to machine. (Anyone remember Twin-Ax?) First within a station and later to everywhere. Hard to imagine how it used to be. When I first started writing this column, I was using an Apple II (the MSDOS machine would come later). I would send the completed column to the editor, via a dial-up modem at the blazing speed of 300 baud. Today I compose the column using Word and send it to whomever I wish, almost instantly, via email and the Internet. Who would have dreamed we’d all know what ‘Snail Mail’ meant?

How things communicate with each other

The same technology that permits computers to communicate with each other has spread, much of our broadcast equipment has become specialized computers. Today, as they say, ‘everything’ has become IP (Internet Protocol). Gone are huge amounts of wiring, replaced by the ubiquitous ‘Network Cable’, along with the now, universal, RJ45 Connector.

Then there is the wireless version, WiFi, Wireless Routers, Bluetooth, and 802.11 systems etc. have all become the norm.

Who would have predicted that the pressure for more wireless gizmos would create a need so big that the purveyors of this technology would ‘purchase’ the needed spectrum from the FCC, and that money would be used to shuffle TV channels, and buy new transmitting equipment, to make room for it all?

The inter-connection that changed it all

Today our world has been changed, dramatically to the point that most of us are interconnected to each other via that wonderful thing called the Internet. We have watched its capability expand in terms of geography as well as bandwidth and speed. Not very long ago, watching TV meant that you had cable. Then came ‘cord-cutting’ and people were, switching from Over the Air TV watching to the Internet. TVs have changed in recent years to the point that almost all of them are what are called ‘Smart’, meaning that you can watch OTA TV, TV via the Internet or look for whatever via your favorite web browser. New to a lot of people in 2020 will be the discovery of the Antenna. The concept of Free TV is foreign to many!

How we communicate with equipment

In the past, equipment all came with a ‘Control Panel’ in some form. Knobs, buttons, switches, meters etc. The tools of the trade were your fingers and the famous little green screwdriver. Today, as more and more equipment has become computer based, operation of equipment requires the use of a keyboard, mouse (or trackball) and perhaps a touchscreen. I recall one the transmitter manufacturers, reluctantly putting a power output meter on the front of their transmitters out of fear that no one would buy one without it. Unfortunately, those that design some, rather simple equipment, no longer employ designers that knew how to adjust things with that little green screwdriver, when that approach would have been much simpler.

How we store stuff

Way back in the dark ages, we would record audio and video spots and programs on reel-to-reel tape which was stored in the station’s ‘library’. That’s all gone as these things are now stored on Hard Drives with capacities that were science fiction not that long ago.

The Cloud

As the required amount of computing storage and hardware for each station became bigger and bigger and more expensive, along came a solution called “The Cloud”. I guess that name clicked because it meant ‘out there somewhere’. Today, many of the big names that own data centers (Microsoft, Amazon etc.) have created these huge facilities full of computers called ‘Data Centers’ that provide the required computing horse power and storage required by broadcasters (and everyone else for that matter). As time goes by, more of this will take place. Perhaps to the point that the Local P.C. will only have minimal capability leaving all the heavy lifting to the cloud. Perhaps you are already using what Microsoft called ‘One Drive’. If so, you have some of your files’ In the Cloud. Who would have predicted that many locations in the out-back of Eastern Washington would see the giant buildings be constructed?

Wow – I could go on and on with this.

So where is this all going to go in the next decade? Certainly, everything will continue to become computer based. Bandwidths will continue to increase. 5G will become a reality, with broadcasters making extensive use of it. The Vacuum Tube will become but a memory. The curve of technological advances will continue to become steeper and IP will become as much of a standard as 60 Hz AC Power. AM Radio (no tears please) will continue to decline overall (yes, there will be bright spots) with the total number of stations declining to levels of yesteryear. FM Radio will continue to duke it out for the ears of one place where the medium still reigns, the automobile. TV will continue to be a major factor, thanks to our love for sports and the ability to display it on a large screen. Next Gen TV will be tough, not for what it can do, but for the lack of knowing how to do it. Many times we have created something, because we can, not because of demand for it. Certainly the jury is out. Jobs in broadcasting will continue to offer exciting opportunities. Just that staffing levels will never be the same as yesteryear. Oh yes, we will almost certainly have more cyber attacks. ☹

As I look back at almost 60 years in this game, I have to conclude it’s been a great ride. I also have this feeling that I have been in it at just the right time. Whether anyone will take on the challenge of writing a column like this…only time will tell. I’ve ended up being, mainly a transmitter guy, even though I did not start out that way. It’s nice, as I am largely working on my own, doing what I love. As long as there is wireless, there are systems that will break and have to be repaired. Certainly, what’s known as ‘component level repair’ will, if it has not already, disappear. I don’t know many that have an interest in doing what I have been doing for all these years. ‘Twas said, ‘There is nothing more constant than change’. Attending a meeting of my peers I see a ‘sea of gray hair’ with a few bright spots (those that still have hair) and I am reminded of how things appeared many years ago. It’s all a cycle, and the cycle repeats.

My readers know that I often talk about the weather…perhaps because this was one of my hobbies when I was a kid. One thing about this neck of the woods, there is never a lack of something to write about. This year, what’s on my mind this past November is how dry the weather had been. I was remarking to some friends over breakfast on December 2nd that it would have to rain about 10 inches in December to get our precipitation total up to normal.

According to those that accurately track these things, this past November was the driest since 1976 with only 1.71 inches in the gauge. That’s about 75% below normal. November is supposed to be one of our wettest months. Extend this and our snow-pack will be impacted and that could spell a lot of trouble. In early December that was running less than 50% of normal.

Mother nature has a way to deal with situations like this. This is why there are often great differences between ‘Weather’ and ‘Climate’. This December has been a great example of how that works. Suddenly, about mid-month, we were hearing terms like ‘Atmospheric River’ and without further delay the skies opened up and the Monsoons were well underway. Now we were hearing familiar terms…like Winter Storm warnings for the mountains, Flood Watches etc. As the rains continued, we set all-time records for amounts of precipitation, following by warnings for flooding and landslides. Suddenly that dry period was ‘washed’ away in our minds to the point that the natives were complaining about the amount of rain.

Some of the interesting records set:

The gloomiest day in 20 years. U-Dub, apparently, tracks the amount of solar energy reaching the ground. For those of you that have solar-panels, it was a bust. In addition, this was the Winter Soltice making it the shortest and darkest day.

December 20 was the fifth rainiest day ever! Seattle recorded just over three inches, while some areas got over four. The rain-shadow of the Olympics, once again, did it’s job with some locations there only getting an inch or so. Seattle was actually wetter than Forks!

Now that is some kind of record.

Looking at the Sea-Tac totals on Dec 20th:

  • Thus far in December 6.33 inches
  • Total since January 1 – 32.25 inches
  • Normal  – 35.66 inches

Bottom line – Even after all of this we are still below normal!

Then there is the issue of the amount of rainfall that people all over think we get. I recently ran across a survey of 50 Cites in the US that were to have the most rainfall in 2019. I’ll bet those that saw the same thing were looking for a city in this area…Sorry folks , we aren’t even in that list.

To help put things into perspective – Utqiagvik (previously known as Barrow), Alaska is in the midst of winter and having to deal with 67 days of darkness!

Cyber attacks continue to make the news and broadcasters continue to be victims. Recently KHQ-TV in Spokane was hit. One of their spokespersons said the attack targeted the software they use to prepare newscasts for all the stations in the Cowels group. Reportedly, the station informed their viewers they were having technical difficulties that impacted their ability to air graphics and video their viewers were used to. This caused the news to be presented the way it used to be handled prior to becoming dependent on computers. This made doing weather forecasts a challenge. Wonder if they had to call some folks that had long retired to figure out how to do things? Reading off of paper on live TV – Yikes!

Meanwhile, Entercom was hit by a second cyber-attack. Rightfully, the big radio company has not released much information about this one, so as to not encourage anyone. Apparently, the impact of this one was not as severe as the one in September, indicating the attack was different or their countermeasures were working. According to published reports, Entercom lost millions in the previous event, which may help explain why they have been shedding staff and not making capital investments.

The dependence on computer systems in today’s broadcast stations is….looking for the best word….almost ‘complete’. With today’s graphics, computer driven teleprompters and content on servers, it would be interesting to see how today’s news anchors would deal with typed pieces of paper on the desk in front of them. Without computers, today’s radio would be a bit better off as the mass scramble could not be seen.

I had a recent Ransomware experience at KVTI in Lakewood. In this case, the perps got to one of the PCs in the on-air studio that’s only used for research and communications. In this case, it was a simple matter of quickly replacing the stand-alone computer while the victim was taken to the shop to be ‘dis-infected’.

One target of ransomware are government entities. In some cases, some have actually paid the perps to get their systems back up and running.

The following picture was sent my way by an old friend who gets to see sunrises I don’t, as all my views are to the West. Thanks Neil!

 

It’s always sad to write about the passing of someone you knew. In this case, the unexpected passing of John Lyons at age 71, who was famous for his work with transmission facilities in New York City. The loss of the Twin Towers on 9/11, 4 Times Square, The Empire State Building and One World Trade Center are all broadcast transmitter facilities that have his name all over them in his role with the Durst Organization.

 

I would meet and chat with John at various NAB and SBE functions over the years, where I always found him to be easy to talk to, with a warm and quick sense of humor. He was a Fellow of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. NYC lost a giant in our industry.

Another passing to note, listed in the Silent Key column of the most recent QST was Phil Ferrell, K7PF. I first got connected with Phil back in the 70s when I was involved with Amateur Radio Repeater frequency coordination. Phil operated one of the first 2 meter repeaters in the area on 146.88, then known as ‘The Seattle Repeater’. He and his wife, Joni, were very good to me. He knew I was in broadcasting and loved to tease me about ‘patch cords’ (for some reason). His educational resume was most impressive – B.S. Physics, 1955, CalTech; Professional Engineer, 1966, state of Washington; PhD Electrical Engineering, 1970, University of Washington. Perhaps the only person I’ve ever known with a PhD in EE. He retired from Boeing in 1993. According to QST, he resided in Auburn, which was news to me. QRZ still shows his Port Ludlow address. Phil was 86.

Recently, several changes at the Federal Level caused EAS participants to have to perform upgrades to their EAS Equipment. In some cases, several hundred dollars were spent in the process. Whereas the FCC required that this upgrade be done, broadcasters had no choice but pay the price. In some cases, those that own and operate this equipment are not broadcasters but government entities that have to fund it.

Then there are some special circumstances. One of which is the Seattle Weather Forecast Office (WFO) for NWS. Many years ago, the Washington SECC, set out to fully integrate NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) into our area’s EAS system. In the end, NWR/Seattle, in many ways, looks like a radio station. In their case, their ‘programming’ comes from the computers that generate weather forecasts and warnings. Their ‘transmitters’ are the various NWR transmitters in the region. In Seattle, the local transmitter is KHB-60 on 162.550 which broadcasts from Cougar Mt., co-located with broadcasters. The beauty of this system is that a person with a NOAA Weather Radio will receive, not only Weather Warnings, but all EAS warnings as well.

The EAS equipment at the NWS has all been donated, as there is no funding for this system via NOAA, as this is the only place in the U.S. with this arrangement. (Sometimes called the Seattle Experiment) Much of the labor was performed by the late Jim Tharp and continues to this day thanks to the efforts of Lowell Kiesow.

When the time came to update the EAS equipment for the Seattle WFO – we had a situation that was unique – State Emergency Management could not fund it as they are prohibited from funding something used by a Federal agency. The NWS could not fund it as it is, technically, not approved for it. This meant that for the system to continue, a volunteer source of funding was needed.

I am, abundantly pleased, to announce that the required upgrade was – DONATED  by Broadcast Supply Worldwide (BSW) in Tacoma.

I want to publicly thank the management of BSW for their donation and support of our Emergency Alert System in this area. Next time you are shopping for broadcast equipment, and in the process, contact BSW and please take a moment to thank them for their contribution.

I am proud that many, across the country, continue to point to Washington State as an example of what EAS can do. It is through voluntary contributions of time and materials we have been able to achieve so much.

Before I leave this topic , if you would like to join our team, we’d love to have you. You are welcome to attend the next SECC Meeting, Tuesday, January 14th at 9:30 a.m. at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, or you can call me or send me an email for all the details.

The FCC recently announced some – huge – fines related to some unlicensed radio stations. Radio TeleBoston was fined $453,015 and Radio Concord $151.005 due to them apparently ignoring warnings to halt their unlicensed operations. Now the big questions –

  • Will they actually end up paying the fine?
  • Will they claim the don’t have the funds and end up paying a fraction of it?
  • Will then simply not pay anything and get away with it?

I will start believing the FCC means business when –

  • They actually collect the fine amount.

-or-

  • The pirate operators start spending jail time.

WWFD in Fredrick, MD continues making news with their operation as an All Digital station on 820. A lot of eyes and ears are on this experiment of turning off their AM signal in favor of running all digital.

For some in depth information on this operation, check out recently issues of Radio World and Radio World Engineering Extra.

Some of the highlights are –

  • The station, despite not being able to be received by an AM Radio is, attracting enough listeners to show up in the local Nielsen Ratings.
  • The FCC has renewed their Special Temporary Authority (STA) to continue in this mode.
  • The Commisson is asking whether this should be a permitted mode of operation by issuing an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making).

There are a number of things a digital only AM can do that a conventional AM cannot –

  • Operate in Stereo (Granted you could run the old AM Stereo system).
  • Offer relatively noise free reception.
  • Broadcast the visual content that, today, is only offered by FM-HD stations meaning Song Title and Artist information and Album Art.

The only down side is the station cannot be received on a standard AM Radio. Perhaps the bottom line will involve some simple math. Will the ability of an ever increasing number of digital receivers, coupled with the fact that to a consumer an all-digital AM have the same look and feel as an FM or FM band HD station, overcome the fact that legacy AM receivers will not be able to ever hear the station?

Up until the development of Digital TV and HD Radio, the FCC had been very concerned about reverse compatibility. Since that time, this has not been a stumbling block to gaining FCC approval. Perhaps this is underscored by the fact that they are willing to issue an NPRM?

The other major factor is that the FCC has been pressured to do something to save AM Radio. Their reaction has been a number of rule changes and, of course, the ability of an AM to put on the air an FM Translator. It’s interesting to note that WWFD was one of those AMs that constructed an FM Translator, whereby they concluded that most of their audience had switched to their FM translator that helped pave the way for them electing to experiment with changing their AM to all-digital.

The question that comes to mind is how many other AMs are in the same boat and how many of them will figure there is little down-side to changing their AM to all digital. My guess is that this is a question that’s being asked by many.

Another potential candidate for digital AM are those AMs that are part of a larger cluster of FMs that are supporting the AM, without whose support would likely go off the air. These groups may see the conversion of their AM to digital attractive.

The impact of this on in-home listening will likely be minimal (except for those that still have an AM radio in their kitchen). Today most in-home radio listening is via a ‘smart speaker’ that’s not really a radio in the conventional sense, but rather a device that can play the stations streamed programming.

Finally, will we see a digital AM in our area? I hope so …I’d love to personally be able to see how well it works.

Oh yes, what about Canada. Will we, one day, see this spread across the border?

A fascinating time, indeed.

Indeed ‘Smart Speaker’ has become a fixture in many households. My grand daughter was the first one in our family to have one…and to her surprise, it was also a radio. Broadcasters were often caught off guard with these devices and scrambled to come up with means for dealing with them. Radio is still not the major use of these gizmos…however the trend is certainly upward, which is good news. As I pointed out earlier, this is today’s in-home radio…and so much more.

In today’s world the term ‘on-demand’ is the key. It used to be that you had to look up a program schedule in the newspaper to find out when, what you sought, would be on a radio or TV station. Today, we have come to expect what we want – WHEN – we want it. The key to making all this work is, of course, the computer networks of today that give us our connected world.

For those of you that long for the look of a classic, in home, table top radio, I recently ran across this item:

 

Rerii Handmade Walnut Bluetooth Speaker

Even the old-school holdout can join the modern world with this wireless speaker that pairs with smartphones, tablets, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. But it still receives AM/FM radio stations, and the carved walnut case makes it look like a long-treasured heirloom.

I love it! You can have one for $60 from Amazon.

For those of us that are involved with towers, news of a tower failure is something that gets our attention. Recently a 500’ tower in Northwest Nebraska came down due to a heavy ice storm.

 

The tower supported an antenna for KQSK…as well as the National Weather Service.

A pretty steady stream of news about C-Band. But let’s not take our eyes of what’s called mid-band. The NAB has warned the FCC that permitting unlicensed users on the 6 GHz band can still interfere with electronic news gathering.

Looking for a job in Radio? Here are a couple of openings that might interest you:

The FCC recently announced they were allocating $17.2 Million of reimbursement money for FM stations that were impacted by the TV channel Repack program. Understand there were 87 FMs effected. To my knowledge, none in this immediate area.

HD Radio continues to grow in this area…a very different situation in smaller markets, however. Here many Non-Commercial FMs are running HD. Recently Latino broadcaster, Bustos Media joined the ‘HD Radio Club’ with the purchase of 102.9 which transmits from Capital Peak SW of Olympia. Not long afterward, KZTM added an HD-2. Bustos has been growing rapidly in recent years. Here is what they have in Western Washington:

From Capital Peak, SW of Olympia – 102.9 – KZTM-FM and HD, KZTM HD-2

From South Mountain, West of Shelton – 99.3 – KDDS-FM

From near Mt. Vernon -103.3 – KZNW-FM

From Auburn – 1210 – KMIA (AM)

I understand another station may become part of this group. Perhaps some news for next month?

Work is progressing on the new studios for KING-FM in Seattle. Due to the sale of their present home at Queen Ann and Harrison (just west of Key Arena) they are moving around the corner and down Mercer, where they will be in the same building at the Seattle Opera.

Here you can see Mike Brooks (on the right) working in what will be the new KING-FM on-air studio. The new consoles are all Wheatstone. This will spell the end for one of the last PR&E consoles in this area.

Here’s an early view of the KING-FM ‘Rack-Room’. Lots of empty space at this point that will be filled with equipment.

 

For a number of years, KING-FM has been operating HD Radio from their facility on West Tiger, using a mode that is a bit unique. They are transmitting with HD Radio power levels that are different than most, in that their HD Power level is higher on one side of their FM than the other.

A process called Asymmetric Sidebands. They’ve been doing this via what’s called a Special Temporary Authority or STA (Similar process to the AM running all digital I wrote about earlier).

Now the FCC is being formally asked to move this from a mode requiring an STA to something permitted by the NAB, NPR as well as Xperi, the digital radio developer.

Whether or not a station can operate with asymmetric HD sidebands is determined by the proximity and coverage of adjacent channel stations. It’s likely many stations would wish to do this, if it were an outright permitted mode of operation as it would increase their digital coverage. (The reason KING-FM opted to do this several years ago.)

Late news – Xperi, the outfit behind HD-Radio, has agreed to merge with TiVo,  creating a company worth about 2.24 Billion Bucks.

The following is in an interesting chart showing the growth of HD Radio over time from Xperi:

Have you been keeping track of Sun-Spots? If you are like most, the answer is probably no.

If you are a Ham Radio operator that operates on what are called the ‘HF Bands’ the answer is likely yes.

Our nearest Star (we call it The Sun) operates in a cyclical manner. That every 11 years it varies between being active (producing a lot of sun-spots) and quiet (having very few). Presently the sun is in the midst of a very deep, if not historic, solar minimum…the quietest period since 1913. This impacts radio propagation on the AM Broadcast Band as well as the spectrum immediately above it (where many Hams operate). These 11 year cycles are also tied, by many, to weather conditions and other events. Many years ago, there was a very long period of solar minimum that was thought to have contributed to a cool-down period.

The follow graphs shows these cycles and where we are now:

 

One final note of interest, the year 1913 cited earlier for its lack of sunspots on the order of 311 days was a year filled with wild weather extremes including the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Death Valley, CA.

There is a local connection keeping track of solar activity. Tad Cook, K7RA posts a great deal of information on the ARRL Web Site. Visit http://arrl.org/propagation-of-rf-signals  the ARRL Technical Information Service, read http://arrl.org/the-sun-the-earth-the-ionosphere  “What the Numbers Mean.

Old friend, Donn Harvey, has a good idea of my sense of humor and appreciation for certain things and submitted the following:

 

According to the records of the NWS, Seattle has a 5% chance of having a White Christmas.

Just for the record…Here’s a picture of West Tiger on Christmas Eve 2019.

That’s about it for this month, my friends.

Hope you had a wonderful Holiday Season and may 2020 be the best yet.

Lord willing, I will be back to most of the same locations next month at this time.

Until then –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

December  2020 – Clay’s Corner

 

December  2020 – Clay’s Corner

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

 

As the old-saying goes…”It’s all over but the shouting”. I’m, of course, talking about the elections. A couple of observations:

  • My email address was used by both political parties to the extent that about 50% of my incoming email was political (almost worse than robo-calls).
  • One more time the Pollsters are being questioned regarding their methods and accuracy in predicting the future.
  • The system in the U.S., whereby States control their election mechanisms, and the system that lets the States determine who gets their votes for President is still poorly understood.
  • Many, apparently, feel who gets elected is determined by the ‘Decision-Desk’ at the major networks.
  • In many cases, lawyers will be the ones still making money from the process.
  • Regardless of the outcome, we still have COVID-19 to deal with.

Meanwhile….the COVID situation has gone from bad to worse with new cases setting records. The timing was interesting. First we heard good news about a new Vaccine that got our hopes up. We thought, ‘The light at the end of the tunnel’ was real, just to discover that it was the Governor, with a flashlight, telling us to go back to hunkering down a while longer.

For reasons that will likely entertain professionals who deal with human behavior, rumors that we might be in for more restrictions, once again set off a ‘Toilet Paper Frenzy’. Pretty much proves the theory that if you have to stay at home and hunker down, it’s OK to run out of food…but NOT TP!

On the 16th came the good news, as the second firm announced that their Corona virus vaccine is about 95% effective.

While I was driving through Port Angeles recently, I spotted this item on a ‘reader-board’ which I thought was good enough to share:

‘WEARING A MASK IS NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT, ITS AN I.Q. TEST’

Many are likely to believe that this situation we find ourselves in is the first time in history.

 

As we all like to do this time of year, look ahead into the new year. Whereas it appears that 2021 will be the year that we will be able to be vaccinated against this horrible virus. Here are some things that I’ve been thinking about.

  • Whereas I’m an ‘Old-Duffer’, perhaps I will be close behind  Healthcare Workers and others on the front lines and be eligible fairly soon?
  • How will we identify those who have been ‘poked’ from those that have not? Will we have ID cards issued by some authority that we will carry?
  • I suspect that Airlines etc. will be coming out with a policy that requires evidence that you have been vaccinated, called a ‘Health Passport’.
  • What about sporting events? Will we be able to go to a game? Will they, somehow, screen those who wish to attend, to make sure that only the vaccinated get in.
  • Will broadcasters who are heavy into sports (ESPN etc.) be able to make a comeback? I suspect there is a lot of pent-up demand here.
  • Broadcast Stations and Print Media have been running tons of items encouraging us to ‘Mask-Up’. Will they start encouraging us to get vaccinated?
  • What are we to do with those who refuse to get it? Will they be excluded from certain locations and activities? Will these people be the same as those who refused to wear a mask and were rejecting the idea of government, at any level, telling them what to do?
  • What will you do if a co-worker refuses? What will your employer do?
  • What about those businesses, including broadcasters? Will they permit those who have had their shots to come back to their former place of employment?

I suspect, these are just a few of the questions that we will all be asking early in the New Year.

The list of cancellations is long. I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that this year there will not be an Apple Cup because some Cougars tested positive. Every organization is anxious to get back to normal. As we get deeper into the year, and (hopefully) vaccinations ramp up, we will start to see organizers announce their event – will – be held. I could not help but notice that the gathering of Hams in Seaside Oregon has their fingers crossed that they will be able to gather the first weekend in June…SEA-PAC. Note their Convention Theme. “Out of the Darkness; Into the Light” We can hope! NAB in Vegas in 2021?

Every once in a while there is a bit of good news in these days of gloom. On the 18th the FAA announced that the 737 Max, built right here in Renton, can fly again. Now, if we can just whip this virus and get everyone vaccinated so the airlines will have passengers and will want new airplanes. I noted that Alaska just announced they will be one of the first to fly the Max by leasing a number of them. They also said they would be eliminating a number of the Airbus aircraft that came with their purchase of Virgin Atlantic. All good news for the folks in Renton.

We are now, apparently, in WWBWD Mode. Translation, “Wonder What Biden Will Do”. Broadcasters will do, as they have historically done in times like these, is wonder what the new administration will do that will impact broadcasting. I doubt the Government could inflict more harm that is being experienced at the hands of COVID-19. Topics like, Net Neutrality and Media Ownership could be areas where changes might be made. We will see….

It’s always great to see a national publication do a story about a facility in your home-town, especially when it’s a station that you have been associated with for many years. In this case it’s Radio World and KING-FM. Take a look:

https://www.radioworld.com/news-and-business/headline/king-fm-studios-hit-the-high-notes

Should also mention Radio World did a write up about KARR using a cellular pole as an AM Radiator, giving credit to Jim Dalke and Hatfield and Dawson.

In other local happenings:

If you look up at West Tiger you will notice that the Twin Tower ATC site is now sporting LED Lighting. Easy to spot as those beacons quickly go on and off. Joe Harrington and crew have been wrapping up that project.

KIRO-FM just completed conversion to an Accel Net provided IP network to connect their transmitters on Cougar and West Tiger at the same time they upgraded to a new Remote Control system.

Work is being done that may lead to the return to the air of KMIA in Auburn.

Recently a wrote about how I suspected that many firms would discover that having their employees work from home was – now – a good idea. In the past, requests to work from home were often met with a rejection of the idea. After all, the boss wants to make sure that you are working, etc. Just recently, State Farm, who built a very nice regional office facility in DuPont, announced that they were going to close the place and make working from home a permanent situation. Not good news for the little town of DuPont, I’m sure. Hafta think that the price of commercial office space is coming down. Meanwhile, house prices in Washington and BC continue to climb. One way to look at it, that for some, the money they were spending on gas to commute can go to housing. A strange new world for sure. I suspect that a year from now, a lot of what was ‘normal’ will be gone forever.

You are not alone if you were wondering why in the world we set our clocks back a hour when we all voted to stay on Daylight Time. The fact is, the whole West Coast (BC through California) are in agreement here. There is one piece of the puzzle left to get this to happen. The U.S. Congress needs to put this on the President’s desk. Something that they, apparently, have been unable, or unwilling, to do. Perhaps considering the dysfunction in the ‘other Washington’ this is not surprising. We can only hope that this issue will be dealt with by the time that we are asked to set our clocks forward in the Spring.

It’s that time of the year. Local stations are gleefully showing snow in the passes on their news programs. Ralph Sims from AccelNet posted this picture from one of their Tiger Mountain Web Cams on November 10th. Come to think of it, didn’t we have snow in the Seattle area last November? As happens at this time of year, the weather warmed and this early snow melted away.

Proving that November is indeed one of our ‘stormy months’, I encountered this at Cougar Mt. on the morning of the 13th. Nice day for a walk to my destination.

I received an email, with attached picture from long-time friend Pete Policani: “Hello Clay, just came across this the other day. Brings back a lot of memories. Probably aren’t too many in existence’.

 

Pete was my predecessor at KMO when I went to work there in May of 1966. I was happy to inform him that I have one of these. 😊

As  predicted in my last column, on Oct. 27th the FCC voted to allow All Digital AM.

 

Media Contact:

Janice Wise, (202) 418-8165

janice.wise@fcc.gov

 

For Immediate Release

 

FCC AUTHORIZES ALL-DIGITAL AM RADIO

Action Will Improve Listening Experience and Provide Consumers with Enhanced Services

 

WASHINGTON, October 27, 2020—The Federal Communications Commission today adopted a Report and Order that allows AM radio stations to operate using all-digital broadcast signals.  AM broadcasters will be able to voluntarily choose whether and when to convert to all-digital operation from their current analog or hybrid analog/digital signals.

 

All-digital broadcasting offers AM listeners significantly improved audio quality and more reliable coverage over a wider listenable area than analog or hybrid digital broadcasts.  It also allows broadcasters to provide additional services to the public, such as song title and artist information.  These enhancements will enable AM broadcasters to better compete in today’s media marketplace.

 

Today’s Order establishes technical rules to protect existing AM broadcast stations from interference.  In addition, stations converting to all-digital operation will be required to notify the Commission and the public 30 days in advance of their transition.  These stations must provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast.  They also must continue to participate in the Emergency Alert System.  The Order envisions that AM broadcasters will decide whether to convert to all-digital operation based on the conditions in their respective markets.

 

Action by the Commission October 27, 2020 by Report and Order (FCC 20-154).  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, Rosenworcel, and Starks approving.  Chairman Pai, and Commissioner Rosenworcel issuing separate statements.

 

MB Docket Nos. 19-311, 13-249

 

 

 

This change to our ‘Legacy Broadcast Band’ is nothing short of historic by permitting something other than Amplitude Modulation to be used.

On the heels of this announcement that was an immediate release of information from two of the major distributors of Radio information, Inside Radio and Radio world, here is what they had to say:

Here’s the Inside Radio Story from that day:

FCC Approves All-Digital AM Broadcasting; Stations Would Voluntarily Make Decision.

  • Oct 27, 2020

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

By a unanimous vote, the Federal Communications Commission today approved a proposal that will allow broadcasters to voluntarily power down their analog AM transmitters and serve the public with only a digital signal. The FCC concluded digital would offer a “superior listening experience” for listeners than analog. Under the current rules, AM stations are authorized to operate with either pure analog signals or hybrid signals, which combine analog and digital signals. Yet the problem of interference remains. “What we’re doing today is enabling AM broadcasters to compete in an increasingly digital landscape,” said Chair Ajit Pai.

One requirement that the FCC has included is the establishment of a 30-day waiting period after a station files a Form 335. Once those details are submitted, a station would not be able to make any changes to its planned technical operation. The 30-day notice would also be used to alert listeners with required on-air messages that, without a digital receiver, they will no longer be able to hear the station. As for what those listener notices must say, the FCC is deferring to stations, saying broadcasters have a “strong incentive” to promote the change using on-air and website announcements.

The order also includes a number of technical guidelines, mostly geared toward preventing digital AMs from interfering with other analog stations. These include applying existing analog power limits to the digital broadcasts. But the FCC is giving stations flexibility when controlling that power, saying it is an “evolving and highly technical area” of radio engineering.

“Under my leadership, the Commission has taken a series of steps to help AM broadcasters confront the economic and technical challenges they face,” said Pai. “But to better ensure the future of AM radio, we need to squarely confront the band’s problems, foremost among them poor signal quality and listening experience.” Noting next week marks the 100th birthday of commercial AM radio, Pai said the band still offers a variety of local talk, sports and foreign-language programming, not to mention life-saving information during an emergency.

“Some may think of AM radio as quaint, but AM stations are vital to the communities they serve,” he said. “Making the transition to all-digital service presents a singular opportunity to preserve the AM service for future listeners. All-digital signals offer better audio quality, with greater coverage, than existing AM stations—whether analog or hybrid.”

Giving the FCC confidence that an all-digital signal can work is the experiment that has been running on Hubbard Radio’s adult alternative “The Gamut” WWFD, Frederick, MD (820). WWFD has been operating as a digital-only AM station since July 2018 under experimental authority granted by the FCC. Hubbard has said that it has seen “significant improvement” in WWFD’s audio quality and that the digital signal has been “much more robust” than the analog signal. And while the move has meant that analog radios can no longer receive WWFD, Hubbard says the feedback from listeners has been positive.

Nine all-digital AM tests were previously conducted between 2012 and 2014, spanning a variety of station types and geographic locations.

The National Association of Broadcasters has backed the idea of permitting stations to power down their analog transmitter and only broadcast a digital signal. “The order provides AM stations with essential flexibility to provide interference-free broadcasts and attract new listeners,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “Radio broadcasters are grateful to Chairman Pai for championing AM radio during his tenure at the FCC and thank him for successfully implementing policies to help revitalize AM stations.”

The NAB came to its conclusion based not only on a series of experiments conducted since 2012, but also what it says is the “significant” number of HD Radio-capable receivers already in use. It also illustrated how critical the issue has become, noting interference issues have already led some electric car makers like Tesla to stop featuring AM in their dashboard.

Then, the next day (Oct 28th) Inside Radio ran this:

 

No matter how much time Ajit Pai remains at the Federal Communications Commission, one of his lasting legacies has been the focus on revitalizing the AM dial. That most notably led to the push to allow AMs to add FM translators. On Tuesday a decision just as significant came when, just days before the centennial of commercial AM broadcasting, the Commission voted to allow AM owners to voluntarily cast off a hundred-year analog legacy and convert to an all-digital signal.

 

It may be years before the full impact of those decisions are known, but in the meantime Pai said he remains open to taking additional steps to boost AM radio. “I’ll have to circle back to the Media Bureau team, and if the Audio Division in particular can identify any AM radio-specific reforms that might be viable and important to the band, we’d be happy to consider them,” he told Inside Radio. “Thus far at least, I’m appreciative of all the support we have gotten from radio broadcasters around the country, and on the AM dial in particular, for some of these changes. It’s coming up on the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast next week and we want to make sure that in an increasingly digital landscape, broadcasters on the AM dial can continue to thrive and provide people important information in their communities.”

 

Giving the FCC confidence that an all-digital signal can work is the experiment that has been running on Hubbard Radio’s adult alternative “The Gamut” WWFD, Frederick, MD (820). WWFD has been operating as a digital-only AM station since July 2018 under experimental authority granted by the FCC. The move has meant that analog radios can no longer receive WWFD, yet Hubbard says the feedback from listeners has been positive. Media Bureau advisor Christine Goepp said not lost on the FCC was the fact that WWFD went from a no-show to a Nielsen-ranked station with a 0.5 share (12+) in the most recent survey.

 

Under the new rules, once a station decides it wants to go all-digital it will first need to alert the public before pulling the switch. The FCC has established a 30-day waiting period after a station files a Form 335. The delay would then be used to alert listeners with required on-air messages that, without a digital receiver, they will no longer be able to hear the station. The order also includes a number of technical guidelines, mostly geared toward preventing digital AMs from interfering with other analog stations.

 

Idea Planted During Pai Station Visit

 

The idea of allowing digital-only AM broadcasting on a voluntary basis took flight when Bryan Broadcasting’s Ben Downs petitioned the FCC in March 2019. While many ideas languish in Washington, failing to ever gain industry support, the all-digital AM outline quickly gained traction both inside the agency and among pivotal industry players, including the National Association of Broadcasters, which has supported a move toward allowing all-digital AM.

 

Pai revealed the idea had been presented to him much earlier when he visited Downs at Bryan Broadcasting’s “News Talk 1620” WTAW several years ago. “He hosted me at his AM station in College Station, TX many years ago and planted a bug in my ear about this idea,” said Pai. “I’m glad he and other dedicated advocates like him have so ably advocated for this cause.”

 Downs credits FCC staff for moving rapidly to collect all the required data to allow the Commission to make the decision so quickly. “It helps that there was so much support during the comment phase, including from NAB Labs who has tested this system across the country in real radio stations of different configurations,” said Downs. “But most importantly this is a voluntary conversion – if it doesn’t make sense for your situation, you shouldn’t do it and you don’t have to.”

 The new rules will take effect one the final order is published in the Federal Register. Once that happens, owners will then be able to consider making such a change.

 Vermont Broadcast Associates President Bruce James said the FCC move raises several weighty questions for the industry. “This is an evolution that has to come, however as an owner of two small market AMs, is America ready for this?” he asked.

 VBA owns a pair of small-town AMs in northeast Vermont that are now paired with FM translators, which James said helps them compete for listeners. But the expense of going digital – either hybrid or a full conversion – is something that is prohibitive for the moment. “I am in favor of digital radio and know it is necessary for the future of the genre, however small companies like mine cannot afford to build a digital system that 95% of its local population can’t listen to because their car, truck or home radio cannot receive digital broadcasts,” James said. – Frank Saxehe

  

Radio World, a leading publication dealing with Radio Issues, published this, on-line:

FCC Approves All-Digital Option for AM

The Federal Communications Commission will allow U.S. AM radio station owners to convert their stations to all-digital HD Radio transmissions if they choose to do so.

The commission voted unanimously in favor today at its October open meeting.

Industry observers will be watching to see if any owners large or small take this step. All HD Radio receivers in the market are capable of receiving the MA3 signals; but making this switch would end analog listening on the given frequency.

The order establishes technical rules to protect existing stations from interference. Stations that want to convert will be required to notify the FCC and the public 30 days in advance.

“These stations must provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast,” the FCC wrote in a summary. “They also must continue to participate in the Emergency Alert System. The order envisions that AM broadcasters will decide whether to convert to all-digital operation based on the conditions in their respective markets.”

The Texas broadcaster who pushed the FCC to allow voluntary all-digital transmission on the AM band has said this would be a “uniquely positive” one in AM revitalization.

Ben Downs, VP/GM of Bryan Broadcasting in Texas, petitioned the FCC in March 2019 to make this move. “The option to convert to all-digital isn’t a magic wand for an AM station, but it is a tool we can use to compete,” he told Radio World today in expectation of the vote to approve. “Those of us with AM stations have been limited to spoken word and niche formats because AM is just not suitable for mass appeal music formats. This changes that fact, and gives us many more options.”

He said there are 70 million radios in the marketplace that will receive AM digital now.

“I’m certainly happy about this. For AM stations that couldn’t find spectrum for a cross-band translator, this is a great option. It will probably benefit large markets with a crowded radio dial that still have the need to compete using an AM signal.”

This change is the latest in a series of “revitalization” steps that the commission has taken to help broadcasters that operate in the AM band, which is troubled by declining listenership, noise and changing consumer habits.

As we’ve reported, three AM stations have received experimental authority to operate in all-digital. Hubbard’s WWFD in Frederick, Md., has actively promoted the format and made presentations about its experiences. Another, WIOE in Ft. Wayne, Ind., experimented but ended its digital transmissions. A third, WTLC in Indianapolis, owned by Urban One, wanted to rebroadcast multicast channels of the AM test signal over FM translators, but the commission didn’t allow that.

The National Association of Broadcasters praised the decision. “Radio broadcasters are grateful to Chairman Pai for championing AM radio during his tenure at the FCC and thank him for successfully implementing policies to help revitalize AM stations.”

Additionally, Radio World offered some additional details:

All-digital operation will be allowed both day and night.

-There’s a 30-day waiting period before converting to all-digital “so that transitioning AM stations can provide adequate notice to the commission, consumers and other potentially affected stations.”

-The order requires each all-digital station to “provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast.” Beyond that though, digital subcarriers can be used for broadcast or non-broadcast services, including song and title information.

-Stations will be able to use their additional digital bitrate capacity for broadcast or non-broadcast services, with the capacity varying depending upon the mode of operation. “WWFD initially operated in core-only (reduced bandwidth) configuration while it modified its facility to enable transmission in enhanced mode (greater bandwidth),” the FCC noted. It will permit each broadcaster to select either mode as their situation dictates. (It opted not to require that additional digital data capacity be used only to enhance audio fidelity, particularly stereo audio, as some had requested.)

-Each digital station still must participate in the national Emergency Alert System. The station must ensure that any others that monitor it can still receive and decode an all-digital EAS alert, or adjust their monitoring assignments to receive EAS alerts from another station.

-The commission declined requests to consider Digital Radio Mondiale for AM digital operation, saying there has been no fully developed proposal or testing. “We approve the HD Radio MA3 mode, but do not foreclose the future consideration of alternative transmission technologies.”

-The FCC agreed to use average power of the all-digital signal (including the unmodulated analog carrier power and all of the digital sidebands) to determine whether the station is complying with the nominal power limits set out in the rules. This was a change from its original plan. “We find that this nominal power limit is technically feasible, as demonstrated in the NAB Labs experiments and WWFD’s experimental operation.”

-About interference, it wrote: “Although testing indicates that the digital signals may cause some increased degradation to analog signals, in most cases this will be masked by the noise floor, and in any case there is no evidence that interference will occur within service areas that are currently protected under our rules.”

-The FCC did not impose stricter spectral emissions limits as had been proposed in the NPRM. It said the consensus was that existing emissions limits will adequately protect stations on adjacent channels. Also, “the record indicates that these stricter HD Radio emissions limits may not be set at technically feasible levels and may need to be revisited in light of field data from all-digital experimental operation.” The FCC said stricter limits could hamper deployment of all-digital service but said it could revisit that later.

-The FCC declined to incorporate the NRSC-5D Standard by reference into its rules, for several reasons. Among them: “If we were to consider incorporating by reference the NRSC-5-D standard in the future, we would likely aim for consistency across services, and thus would consider AM all-digital, AM hybrid, and FM hybrid technical standards at the same time.” But it emphasized that it was not trying to undermine confidence in it as a voluntary standard.

-And the FCC declined to take certain other actions that had been urged upon it, saying these were beyond the scope of the proceeding. These ideas included increased enforcement to reduce noise floor levels; the sunset of AM translators; establishing a Low Power AM service; waiving regulatory fees for all-digital AM stations; allocating television spectrum for FM replacement facilities for AM broadcast stations on a primary basis; allowing translator rebroadcasting from an all-digital AM primary station to originate programming; disallowing use of HD Radio hybrid mode; authorizing AM programming on audio-only channels in ATSC 3.0 TV broadcasts; widening the FM band; other AM revitalization-related proposals, such as eliminating third-adjacent channel protections; and receiver standards.

The NAB weighed in with this announcement:

NAB welcomes FCC rule approving all-digital AM

The Federal Communications Commission says it will permit AM radio outlets to voluntarily broadcast entirely digital programming, provided each offers a minimum of one over-the-air stream that matches or exceeds analog quality. Gordon Smith, CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, welcomed the move, noting that it “provides AM stations with essential flexibility to provide interference-free broadcasts and attract new listeners.”

Then on November 2nd:

 

A Florida AM radio station plans to go all-digital soon, now that the Federal Communications Commission has allowed such transitions.

WMGG is owned by NIA Broadcasting; it’s a Class B station in Egypt Lake, Fla., near Tampa, airing a directional signal via a diplexed array. It has 2.8 kW power by day and 800 watts at night, and airs on 1470 kHz.

President Neal Ardman told Radio World he is in the process of ordering a Nautel HD Radio transmitter to make the change.

“It is time,” he wrote in an email, adding that he is “not worried” about losing analog listening.

WMGG has an FM translator on 101.9 MHz. Both signals are part of “96.1 FM Caliente,” the radio home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Spanish-language network.

 I have a gripe all of this. Why in the world would you call it ‘Digital AM’, when in fact this mode of operation will not have any Amplitude Modulation? Just like HD Radio on the FM band is NOT FM, but rather digital. I’m OK with calling it ‘DM’  for Digital Modulation…or even AM-Band Digital etc. I just think that Digital AM is an Oxymoron.

Confirming the rumors that have been circulating recently I received the following from Ken Johnson:

The rumors are true Clay, the WTM project was our last project. We are in the process of closing out the books and going on a permanent vacation.  

 Ken Johnson

 Project Manager

 It gave me great pleasure to learn from Stephan Lockwood that Ben Dawson had earned an award from IEEE. There are a number of reasons why this is special, not the least of which is the fact that the firm of Hatfield and Dawson is based in Seattle and that I’ve known Ben many years. I call him one of my ‘older’ friends because he is just over a year older than me. 😊 I recall when Ben was the Chief at KAYO in Seattle while I was at KMO in Tacoma.

I could write a lot about this award, and Ben, however I’m going to take the easy route and go with what was written by Radio World:

Ben Dawson Honored With IEEE BTS Award

BY PAUL MCLANE
PUBLISHED: NOVEMBER 3, 2020
UPDATED: NOVEMBER 4, 2020

Ben Dawson — whose name is associated with more than a hundred medium-wave, UHF and VHF broadcasting antenna and transmission system projects in the United States and abroad — is the recipient of a notable honor from the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society.

The BTS chose Dawson to receive its Jules Cohen Outstanding Achievement Award.

“Although we could not present Ben with the award in person, he attended the October virtual BTS Adcom meeting as an invited guest, where President Ralph Hogan virtually presented him with the award,” the society said in an announcement.

Dawson has six decades of experience in telecommunications engineering, and specializes in antenna and propagation design and analysis. (For a sampler of his many projects, see below.)

“Ben received numerous nominations from many colleagues throughout the industry,” the IEEE BTS stated. “One nominator stated ‘If Ben Dawson is associated with a project, it has instant credibility.’ Another nominator stated ‘Ben has always been a fabulous mentor.’”

Dawson taught himself calculus in high school to better understand antennas, according to a Radio World profile story in 2006.

“When I was 15, I began working an air shift during the summers for a radio station in Salem, Ore., but when the transmitter broke — an old RCA 250L — I was the only one who could fix it,” he recalled at the time. “Then my parents moved to Portland, Ore., and I started work for KUIK(AM), which was half-owned by Harold Singleton, who was a consulting engineer. Once Harold realized I could fix things I became his go-fer.”

After college, where he was chief engineer of Harvard’s student FM station WHRB for a year or so, and after stops as the chief of several West Coast radio stations, Dawson formed Hatfield & Dawson in 1973 along with Jim Hatfield Jr., and Maury Hatfield.

The Cohen award is given to “exemplify outstanding work in the field of broadcasting, focusing on Integrity, professionalism, quality, extent, reach and thoroughness of the candidates work as well as commitment to client success.” Last year’s recipient was Gary Cavell.

It is named after Jules Cohen, who among other contributions played a major role in developing the rules governing assignment of stations in the noncommercial educational portion of the FM band.

Ben Dawson received the National Association of Broadcasters Radio Engineering Achievement Award in 2006, with his longtime project partner Ron Rackley. He has produced numerous policy analyses and technical research for private clients as well as local, state, federal and foreign governments. He’s a past delegate to study groups of the International Telecommunications Union.

He’s a professional electrical engineer who is a member of several IEEE societies, as well as the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers and the Society of American Military Engineers.

Check out Ben’s favorites

Radio World asked Ben Dawson to list some of of his favorite or more interesting jobs. He replied by email:

  1. Diplexing 620 Portland on the 1190 antenna when the Port of Portland destroyed the beautifully designed 620 antenna (designed/implemented by Harold Singleton), ironic since 1190 had originally been at the 620 site.
  2. The three-station frequency swap in the Miami area that Ron Rackley and I did, establishing the 1040 operation in Miami with 50 kW.
  3. Designing the 900 MHz point-to-multipoint delivery system in the L.A. basin for City News Service of L.A.
  4. Design (with Harris Broadcast engineering staff) of the conversion of the Loran antenna in western Iceland to LF broadcast, and designing the new LF broadcast antenna system in eastern Iceland.
  5. Designing the adjacent-frequency two-site operation (954 kHz, 963 kHz) of what was then Radio Liberty in London, providing citywide coverage despite the unnecessarily restrictive allocation policies of the then-UK regulator (who’ve since been replaced by OFCOM).
  6. Obtaining FCC authorization for the first fulltime slant-wire fed grounded AM antenna in several decades.
  7. Designing and implementing the rebuild of the 1 megawatt VOA (USAGM now) antenna in Thailand so it would handle the peak modulation from a modern solid-state (DX-1000) transmitter.
  8. Design and implementation (including supervising installation contracting) of conversion of the original R. France antenna at Cape Creco, Cyprus for use by Radio Sawa (USAGM). Two high-power directional antennas (600 kW and 1.2 MW) in close proximity.

 

 

Looking at the latest Radio Ratings for the Seattle/Tacoma area, it looks like the elections had some influence on the ratings.

  • KUOW is back at #1
  • KIRO-FM is tied at #2
  • KOMO AM/FM is #5
  • Bonneville’s KTTH and  KIRO (both AM’s) are tied.

New rules that allow stations to stop publishing notices in local newspapers have been approved….meaning broadcasters can use their own airwaves to alert the public about license renewals, station sales and other pending applications at the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC approved the change in May, allowing stations to make on-air announcements and post notices on their websites.

Here is what the Commish said:

“We adopt these new rules in order to simplify broadcasters’ local public notice obligations in a manner that reduces costs and burdens on applicants, while facilitating robust public participation in the broadcast licensing process,”

 

Issaquah based Costco is actually benefiting from the pandemic. In September, it reported revenue was $167 billion, up 10% from the previous year.

Sam Bush, chief financial officer of Saga Communications, reported 43.1% growth in third-quarter net revenue.

ESPN is laying off 300 employees and will not fill 200 open positions as the sports network and its parent company Disney continue to deal with financial woes brought on by the pandemic.

Entercom is the latest radio company to report a strong sequential rebound from the COVID-pillaged second quarter. Third quarter revenues were $268.5 million, up 53% compared to Q2, but down 30% compared to $386.1 million in the third quarter of 2019.

Third quarter revenues at iHeartMedia rebounded by 53% from Q2.

iHeart, or iHM, has unloaded their 104.9 Eatonville station to 247 Media Broadcasting.

More pretty sunsets….Both of these from my back-deck overlooking the Green River Valley.

Caught this with my cellphone camera. I assume these are portions of vapor trails.

 

I forwarded the vapor trail picture to Dwight Small, who lives considerably north of me, and he caught this looking across the lake, also with a portion of a vapor trail.

As we get deeper into winter, sunsets like this will become more rare as our skies fill with clouds.

In the category of ‘new places and faces’:

Darin Gerchak, formally with KBTC is now at KCPQ (both TV).

Vern Lawton is now the Assistant Chief and IT guy at Bonneville, Seattle. Zach Davies is no longer with the company.

Nick Winter, now mostly retired, is recovering from foot surgery.

Chas Marini is the new IT guy at Entercom Seattle.

I could not help but notice these while waiting for the ferry on the south end of Vashon Island.

Wonder what frequency they operate on?

Are you old enough to –

  • Know what the device she is next to is?
  • Remember what this equipment, together, is called?
  • When RCA came out with ‘the new look’ (Blue)?
  • Note the size and shape of the monitor 😊

Caleb Pearl of ION Media posted this picture on the West Tiger Remailer on October 30th showing the installation of a new retaining wall on the Main West Tiger Road, in the area that has been the site of repeated slides. While this work was being done, those wishing to reach the broadcast sites on West Tiger were forced to use what’s call the ‘East Side Road’, which is considerably longer. The timing was excellent, as the following weekend was scheduled for tower work involving the ION Media Antenna.

Shifting from my normal focus of current events to a bit of history. For those of you that have been to Crego Hill, near Chehalis, you have, perhaps, wondered about the history of this place. Let’s face it, you don’t often see a self-supporting tower with a guyed tower sitting on top. Perhaps you wondered a bit about the history of this place?

I was recently chatting with Tom Saylor, a fellow engineer at WSU, about Crego Hill, site of WSU’s KSWS and Bates’ KCKA-TV. In response to this, Tom sent me the following history of not only Crego Hill, but another site with a similar background. Enjoy.

 Air Defense and Northwest Public Radio

At least two NWPR stations are located at former USAF air defense radar sites: KNWO Cottonwood and KSWS Chehalis.

During the cold war, these radar sites were elements of a national air defense strategy, designed to detect low-flying Soviet bombers at distances sufficient to scramble a timely response.

Cottonwood Butte was home to an AN/FPS-24 long-range surveillance radar. The main support structure for the massive radar antenna is still there. The radar operated in the 214-236 MHz frequency band at undoubtedly enormous power, probably obliterating high-VHF television signals in the process.

The facility included barracks and living accommodations for staff and families assigned to the station. The barracks have been converted to the North Idaho Correctional Institute, and the family housing area is now occupied by the forest service.

The KNWO transmitter is located in a building owned by Avista utilities on the grounds of the former radar facility.

Crego Hill, near Chehalis, was the location for an AN/FPS-18 “gap filler” radar. These were unmanned sites tasked to fill the coverage areas of larger radar facilities. They were remote controlled by a primary location such as Cottonwood.

The self-supporting towers unique to these sites feature a wraparound access stairway and a top platform where the rotating radar antenna was mounted. At Crego, an extension tower was added above the platform, more than doubling the structure height. The adjacent standardized equipment building housed radar electronics.

The KSWS transmitter occupies floor space formerly held by the radar transmitter.

Following is a series of articles and images covering the history of these sites.

 

Tom Saylor

Chief Engineer

Northwest Public Radio

 

Source: Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville)

Author: Phil Runke
6/17/2010

Cottonwood’s USAF base not forgotten

822nd radar site

Original Article   COTTONWOOD – Many people in the area here have either forgotten or are unaware of the significant role Cottonwood played during the cold war era. The USAF 822nd Radar Squadron, part of the 25th NORAD Region, operated a base located on Cottonwood Butte and was part of an alert readiness group called the Spokane Air Defense Sector.

This group was made up of a large number of active Air Force personnel who worked and lived on the “Butte,” operating and maintaining one of the many “GAP filler” radar sites located across this country and Canada. The site constructed at the 5,730-foot summit, incorporated a Goliath radar called an AN/FPS-24, which was a rotating antenna, 120 ft. wide, weighing in at more than 85 tons.

This antenna assembly was installed on top of an 80 ft. tall massive steel truss tower. The support tower still stands and can be seen for miles around. The entire facility, including the antennas and cantonment area, were all self-contained with their own backup power generators, fuel storage, water systems, and additional cooking/housing facilities.

The AN/FPS-24 was used to detect low-level Soviet bombers approaching from the many river canyons around the area and to fill in the gaps or blind spots that were inherent to the other radar facilities located in the Spokane and eastern Washington areas.

It was a search radar designed and built by General Electric to provide Enhanced Electronic Counter Counter measures (ECCM) capability. The Cottonwood site was one of 12 FPS-24 sites in the country and was one of only two that had a protective enclosure around the antenna called a radome.

It looked like a huge golf ball on top of the butte. The large antenna was accompanied by a pair of FPS-6 height-finding radars and together could pinpoint enemy aircraft out as far as 200 miles, giving substantial advance warning time.

The site was commissioned in 1959 and operated until July 1, 1965, when just prior to closing, the main rotating bearing on the massive antenna failed. Due to the cost of repair, the introduction of new satellite technology, along with budget cutbacks, the decision was made to shut the site down. Today only the support tower and other radar footings remain on the butte.

The cantonment area is now home to the North Idaho Correctional Institution (NICI) and the military’s family housing located west of the cemetery is still being utilized for housing.

The successful launch, in 1957, of both a 6,000-mile ICBM and the orbiting satellite “Sputnik” raised concerns about the vulnerability of the North American Air Defenses and instilled a fear that the Soviets were gaining an upper hand over the United States of America.

To counter any Soviet threats, the radar sites such as the one on the butte landed the USAF, its men, women, and families from around the country, in the middle of the Cottonwood community. It also brought in contractors, workers, and money to local economies. The sheer size of the radome, and the fact that it was visible for miles around, along with military personnel ever present was helpful in instilling a sense of security during those unstable times.

It may be interesting to note that Ivan Dannar, USAF MSgt.(ret), who was responsible for the maintenance and operations of Cottonwood Butte, as well as several other radar facilities within the Spokane Air Defense Sector, lives in Grangeville.

He has a wealth of information pertaining to not only the radar and electronics used at the time, but also this country’s uncertainty about its future due to Soviet threats during the late ’50s and early ’60s. Give Ivan a call and he would be happy to talk with you. Bring your coffee cup, nothing too clean nor too fancy — and ask for the eight-minute special.

USAF CONUS Gap-Filler Radar Sites
(AN/FPS-14 and AN/FPS-18), 1957 – 1970

“During the late 1950s another area of progress was the development and deployment of AN/FPS-14 and AN/FPS-18 gap-filler radars. Having a range of around sixty-five miles, these radars were placed in areas where it was thought enemy aircraft could fly low to avoid detection by the longer-range radars of the permanent and mobile radar networks. Gap-filler radar deployment peaked in December 1960 at 131 sites throughout the continental United States. Because the introduction of gap-filler radars alleviated the need for civilians to scan the skies for enemy bombers, the ADC disestablished the Ground Observer Corps on January 31, 1959.”

This medium-range search radar was designed and built by Bendix as a SAGE system gap-filler radar to provide low-altitude coverage. Operating in the S-band at a frequency between 2700 and 2900 MHz, the AN/FPS-14 could detect at a range of 65 miles. The system was deployed in the late 1950s and 1960s.   

Clay:  The Power Levels were HUGE, 750,000 to 1,000,000 watts!

This looks very-much like the building and tower at Crego Hill  – Clay

This is the same floor plan as at the Crego Hill facility.   Today the larger room is used by Broadast Trannsmitters    The smaller, former Generator Room is used, primarily, by Public Safety radio systems.   Clay

Recent Photos of Chehalis GFA, WA

 

Thanks to Sherri Garland of the Centralia School District, who provided information in an October 3, 2002 email, and to Deborah Carey, also of the Centralia School District, for providing images seen here.

Located on Crego Hill near the community of Boisfort in Lewis County, the Chehalis Gap filler annex was turned over to the United States Office of Health Education and Welfare after being excessed in 1960. HEW transferred the site to the school district on August 28, 1961, under the proviso that the school district should maintain and use the property for translation of educational TV, and file an annual report to HEW for a period of 20 years. Installation of necessary receiving and transmitting equipment was completed on April 25, 1962. Since that time, Channel 9, Channel 56, and Channel 15 public (instructional) television signals have been transmitted (at various times) from the tower.

Special dispensations were granted by HEW for use of the tower by commercial and public service units. Commercial tenants were Western Telepage and Teleprompter; service agencies were P.U.D. No. 1 of Lewis County and Lewis County Departments of Public Works, Sheriff, and emergency Services (fire and medical).

The current users of the tower are Metrocall, Arch Paging, Kelly TV (KPQC), and Lewis County Sherriff’s Department.

The school district has just contracted with a company to help manage the site.

Over the years, renters have come and gone. The district has basically earned enough over the years to maintain the site.

A strong road barrier/gate was installed at the base of the road leading to the tower, as it has been the target of vandalism in the past.

It has provided a service over the years and is still in use.

NOTE – Since this was written – the Paging companies have gone.  KCPQ (Call Letters correct)  uses this site for a Translator.   Bates Technical College, KCKA’s main transmitter is located here as is WSU’s KSWS.   Lewis County’s 2-way radio systems are still there.

I should add there are now other towers on Crego Hill.

This was the site chosen for a tower for KELA’s 102.9 FM which operated there until it was sold and moved to Capital Peak.    Today, Bi Coastal Media operates KMNT/104.3 from the former 102.9 Tower.   KIRO-TV operates a translator at that site as well.

On another, much smaller tower, is a translator for KNKX on 90.1

NOTES –

Here you can see the old Self Supporting Antenna and the ‘Platform’ where the radar antenna used to be.   Above that, the guyed tower that sits on top.    Whitacre Engineers of Tacoma did the structural engineering.

This picture was taken some time ago, today the tower above the ‘platform’ is occupied by a number of antennas, including that of KSWS.   The antenna on the top was changed more recently as part of the TV ‘Repack’ project.

 

Going from a hilltop near Chehalis, to a hilltop near Forks…Here is a picture of the ONRC or Olympic Natural Resource Center, operated by U-Dub, sitting on a bluff south of the Forks Airport. If you were to look closely at the two ‘Standpipes’ you would see a number of antennas mounted on the top.

The one on the left has antennas for the PNSN. (Pacific Northwest Seismic Network). The one on the right has an antenna for NWPB’s KNWU. This is a location I get to visit a few times each year.

 

Then there are antennas that are going away. After some 57 years the huge Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico is going to be no more. All this stems from damage to the facility that was deemed too dangerous to repair.

Here’s an item that you are not likely to be able to purchase from Amazon…Or anywhere for that matter. Are there some old-timers out there that can identify what this is and tell where it was used?

 

And then, as if we have not undergone enough changes in recent times, they change the name of the place where the Seahawks play (that we only get to see on  TV) from Century Link to Lumen Field. Huh? What is a Lumen? I had to Google it to discover it’s a firm based in Louisiana. More Huh!

And finally…..
This Gem from an old friend that explains a lot!

 

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

Until then, have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings and freshly washed hands.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

November 2020 – Clay’s Corner

 

November 2020 – Clay’s Corner

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

Around these parts, October means it’s transition time…from the warm and dry, and lately smokey, days of summer to the stormy month of November. Remember that October can be stormy too, as anyone that was here in 1962 will have stories about the Columbus Day Storm. This year is starting out about right with the second weekend of the month being full of rain and wind. Time for the first snow in the mountains and flooded streets from leaf-clogged drains. A couple of extras this year….A Washington State Ferry was struck by lightning (not often you hear about that) and the KIRO-TV studio roof sprang a lead during a newscast! And a confirmed Tornado in Grays Harbor County on Saturday morning, Oct. 10th. (My weather monitor went off at 4:45 a.m.) On the 13th, we were treated to a very strong wind storm knocking out power, reportedly to about 100,000 customers. At this writing, near the end of the month, we were supposed to get our first freeze to, perhaps, actually put frost on the pumpkin.

Elsewhere in the country, things were a lot worse – hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and record setting fires in Colorado all combine to further convince me that we live in a special place. I’ll probably feel that way until the day we have that, long predicted, big quake.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the Colorado Fire, said to be the largest in Colorado history. A friend of mine who lives in the Denver area commented about the smoke there…adding that it’s been very dry.

 

 

States impacted by these disasters routinely come to the aid of each other. In the case of this fire, I received an email from the person we deal with at Washington DNR regarding transmitter sites, informing us that she had been dispatched to Colorado until the end of the month.

Historically, about this time of year, many try and predict whether we will have a warm-mild or stormy and cold winter. Not sure how accurate these long range forecasts are….but they are fun to look at anyway.

One of the more famous weather predictors is the Old Farmers Almanac. As you can see, they really get precise. For our area, ‘WET YOU BET’. Don’t think this takes a lot of high powered computing to come up with this one. Historically, our winters are just that!

Looking north of the border, it looks like they are predicting ‘Snow-Time’.   Apparently, the U.S. – B.C. border shut-down is going to have an impact on the weather too?

Giving the scientific approach a chance at this. we need to consult the Climate Prediction Center or CPC. This is what they said on Oct 16th:

According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), La Niña conditions are present in the equatorial Pacific and are expected to remain present into the Spring of 2021. Below normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) appeared in the eastern Pacific in mid-May, and have since expanded across the international dateline to 160 ˚E. Over the last month, cooling between 0.5 to 1.5 ˚C occurred in the western equatorial Pacific, but local SST anomalies remain positive. Since our last update in early October, SSTs have dropped from -0.9 to -1.2 °C in Niño 3.4, which is the principal area used for the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI). ENSO models have drawn upon the recent SSTs cooling and the already La Niña consistent atmospheric circulation to predict a moderate to strong La Niña event with ONI values of less than -1.0 °C during the peak months of November to January.  Probabilistic models have placed chances at 85% and 60% of La Niña lasting through winter and spring, respectively.  These odds have been upgraded since our last Climate Outlook, which placed odds of La Niña continuing through the winter at 68%, and only 32% for the spring. When La Niña conditions are present, cooler and wetter conditions are favored for the Pacific Northwest.

What does this mean for Washington in the coming months?

The CPC November temperature outlook has equal chances of above, below and near-to normal temperatures, which matches the October temperature outlook. The precipitation outlook gives Washington State the sole area in all of CONUS with increased chances of above normal precipitation. Chances of above normal precipitation are slightly higher in northern areas of the state in the 40 to 50 % range.

The CPC three month (November-December-January) temperature outlook has slightly favored chances of below normal temperatures only in the far NW reach of WA state. Elsewhere, equal chances of above, below and near-to normal temperatures reside. Striking similar resemblance to the previous 3-month CPC outlook, above normal precipitation is favored statewide with the greatest odds in the 40 to 50% range in eastern Washington.

Frankly, after reading this several times, I am concluding that they are predicting that anything might happen. It will be interesting to see which method of long-range forecasts is more accurate.

Looking at the bigger picture nation-wide, this is what the maps of temperature and precipitation look like:

Not often we have a big sale of TV stations in the U.S. This one is pretty good sized…Scripps is purchasing Ion Media. What does this mean for us in the Seattle area? It means hat KWPX will have new owners. KWPX’s Chief, Terry Spring, has long been a fixture in our community. Here is how the FCC Notice read:

KWPX-TV 56852 ION MEDIA LICENSE COMPANY, LLC WA WA, BELLEVUE BTCCDT-20201013ABX E CHAN-33 Voluntary Transfer of Control From: MEDIA HOLDCO, LP To: SCRIPPS MEDIA, INC. Form 315

We are all familiar with TGIF and other multi-letter ways of expressing things. Sometimes duplicates come up. For instance – For years BLM only meant Bureau of Land Management. Now we have Black Lives Matter and WFH. Not familiar with that one? It means Work from Home.

So what’s up with the coronavirus situation?

As in previous columns, I try and provide a snap-shot of the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on our area. The short report – not good, getting worse. As of the 24th of October here are the State totals:

  • Total Active cases –  ~ 102,000
  • Total Hospitalized –    ~    8,300
  • Total Fatal cases –     ~    2,400

The following graphs tell the tale pretty well. In the first one, you can clearly see that we are on the 3rd spike. In the second one, you can clearly see that we have not flattened the curve.

Nationally, the news is not good at all.

  • Predictions are that the U.S. could have 500,000 deaths by February. (As of 10/24 that total now stands at 227,399.) Unless, nearly everyone starts wearing face masks.
  • The UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation fears that colder weather will drive more people indoors where the virus is more likely to spread.
  • According to U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, the behavior of individuals saying household gatherings have become a “major vector of disease spread.”

The hope of us all is that a vaccine will soon be available that will protect those of us who have not yet caught this thing. Thankfully, we are hearing good news coming from the various vaccine trials. However, we are, according to the experts, several months away from being able to be vaccinated.

Then there is the question of who is going to be able to get it first? The following piece from the Seattle Times explains this pretty well:

Vaccines could take months to distribute, leaving some people waiting.

At the federal government’s request, the National Academies built a framework that anticipated scarcity, aimed for equality and maximum impact, and considered the disproportionate impacts of the virus on certain populations, Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, said during the UW event last week.

According to the plan: Vaccine doses should initially go to health care workers and first responders who are at high risk. Then, distribution should focus on people with underlying conditions that put them at significant risk and on older adults living in congregate settings such as nursing homes.

The next priority group includes K-12 teachers and school workers, workers in critical industries, people in homeless shelters, incarcerated people, older adults, and those who have underlying conditions and are at moderate risk.

Next, young adults, children and some workers in key industries could receive the vaccine. Then, everyone else.

The committee said the vaccine should be free and distributed in a manner that acknowledges systemic racism and the socioeconomic factors that have allowed COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, to disproportionately affect some communities.

Bottom lines –

  • Continue to wear your mask and stay far away from those that don’t.
  • Avoid inside gatherings.
  • Wait a few more months.

Unfortunately, we are at the start of the Holiday Season when families and people traditionally gather inside. This will make it doubly hard on all of us.

It’s Zoom to the rescue. Instead of physical gatherings, we now have virtual ones, using platforms like Zoom that will enable us to see each other.

In early October the Nielsen Radio Ratings came out. Here is a list of the things that grabbed my attention:

  • Our Market is now over 4,000,000!
  • Three of the top five are non-music stations.
  • An AM Station (KOMO) is #5. Granted they were helped by their 97.7 FM.
  • Two of the top ten are Non-Commercial operations – KUOW and KING.

 

 

Seattle-Tacoma (#12)

6+ Total Pop: 4,006,500    Black: 6.71% Hispanic: 9.14%

 

Station Format Owner Jul Aug Sep
1)    KZOK-FM Classic Rock 6.3 6.9 6.9
2)    KIRO-FM News/Talk 7.1 7.1 6.4
3)    KISW-FM Rock 5.2 5.7 6.0
4)    KUOW-FM / KUOW-AM / KQOW-FM News/Talk 5.4 5.3 5.8
5)    KOMO-AM / KOMO-FM News 4.9 4.4 5.0
6)    KJR-FM Classic Hits 5.5 5.5 4.8
7)    KQMV-FM CHR 4.9 5.1 4.2
8)    KRWM-FM Adult Contemporary 4.3 4.2 4.2
9)    KING-FM Classical 4.4 4.1 4.1
 

10) KPLZ-FM

Hot AC 2.9 3.3 3.9
11) KNDD-FM Modern/Alternative Rock 4.3 3.8 3.9
12)  KBKS-FM CHR 3.0 3.4 3.7
13) KSWD-FM Soft AC 4.0 3.5 3.5
14) KJAQ-FM Adult Hits 3.1 3.4 3.3
15) KKWF-FM Country 3.9 3.4 3.3

 

 

 

Last month I wrote about the geographic division between W and K calls. Here is a bit more on that topic:

K/W Call Letters in the United States

 

Thomas H. White — January 1, 2020

This is a comprehensive review of K and W call letter assignments for AM band (mediumwave) radio stations in the United States, with an emphasis on stations that are on the “wrong side of the Mississippi”.

https://earlyradiohistory.us/kwtrivia.htm

Shutterbug extraordinaire, Dwight Small submitted some jewels this month.

With all the fog and smoke haze, it’s been very difficult to see much of anything, much less the conjunction between the Moon and Mars. Despite these obstacles, Dwight was able to capture this stunner recently. The Moon and just above to the right, Mars which is quite close.

Shutterbug extraordinaire, Dwight Small submitted some jewels this month

With all the fog and smoke haze it’s been very difficult in seeing much of anything, much less the conjunction between the Moon and Mars.   Despite these obstacles, Dwight was able to capture this stunner recently     The Moon and just above to the right Mars which is quite close.

Earlier he captured this spectacular view of the Moon rising over the lake. Wow! Once again proving how rough it is to be retired!

And this of a sunset lighting up the Cascades:

Like Dwight, I usually have my camera nearby so I can capture a scene worthy of sharing.

In this case, I was working on a NWPB project on Mt. Brynion near Longview. It was getting near the end of the day as I walked back to my truck, getting ready to leave I saw this:

On the 14th, the day after our rather significant wind-storm, things settled down nicely and ended with this sunset taken from my back deck..

 

And on the 18th…

 

Occasionally I am able to use the camera of someone else. In this case, the  following picture, taken on the 20th by one of the AccelNet cameras on West Tiger, has a couple of interesting features.

  • The Moon, just to the right of the Antennas on the left side.
  • The sunset turned Puget Sound a wonderful shade of red.

Meanwhile, another camera captured this image from a building to the north of the tower where the camera is mounted for the above picture. (Center of the following frame). This too shows the moon. In the upper right corner is a glimpse of the tower and antennas used by 88.5, 98.1, 103.7, 97.3, 99.9, 100.7 and 107.7.

Thanks to retired KIRO Radio and Central Puget LECC Chair, Phil Johnson for this item.

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/632726/man-cycles-from-poo-poo-point-washington-to-pee-pee-creek-ohio

The way the average person can see Poo Poo Point is by driving south from Issaquah on the Issaquah-Hobart Road. Keep looking left at the west shoulder of Tiger Mt. for what appears to be a pretty steep cliff….that’s it. You will likely also notice the landing area for those who fly off of Poo Poo. It’s an open field to the left with the Wind Sock.

After all the discussion, including my comments in this column, it appears the FCC will vote in late October on All-Digital AM. According to media reports, this action will allow a voluntary migration. This means if an AM station wishes to drop their Amplitude Modulation and start broadcasting in all digital, they may do so. Many are viewing this as another step in the direction of ‘re-vitalizing’ our legacy broadcast band. FCC Chairman Pai put it this way, “This hints at digital AM’s potential to bring AM stations back from the brink of extinction to become competitive players in the market.”

Like a lot of these things, ‘The devil is in the details’. For instance, will the FCC permit other than HD-Radio transmission, for instance, the popular DRM?

One of the major plusses for making this change is, perhaps, understated. This will go a long way toward overcoming the differences between AM and FM stations on the dashboard of today’s vehicles.

  • Ability to run a music format with much improved fidelity, including stereo.
  • Ability to overcome the every increasing noise that attacks AM signals.
  • Ability to run textual information, which is now standard with FM.
  • Ability (potentially) to multicast.
  • For the first time make an AM Station sound good enough that the average listener will not tune away.

One of the big questions is, who, other than the Hubbard station in the vicinity of WDC, will actually do it? Some have expressed the thought that they have nothing to lose (except for the money to actually implement it) feeling that many AM’s have fallen on hard times with little, if any, revenue and/or ratings.

If this action had come along during better times, and not in the middle of a Pandemic, with all of its economic consequences, perhaps the idea would be more warmly received.

What’s making all this possible is the fact that today’s new vehicles are being sold with radios installed that are capable of receiving an All-Digital AM signal. This means these owners would be able to receive the Digital AM on day one.

In my view, there are some candidates for giving this a try.

  • AM’s that now have a translator that is not listened to by the majority of their audience, to the point they can afford to ‘disconnect’ all their former AM listeners. (This is the case for the station in MD that’s been doing all the testing.)
  • AM’s that are doing very poorly and are part of a cluster of successful FM’s.
  • AM’s that have antenna systems and transmitters that will not require major modification.

I will admit, there are some down sides –

  • Those with conventional AM receivers will, upon the station making the change, hear nothing but noise.
  • Jillions of radios made in the last 100 years will not be compatible.
  • With very few non-vehicle Digital Receivers out there…stations will be relying on streaming.

Frankly, I am excited about this and honestly hope that an AM in the Seattle market would take the plunge. I own two vehicles that are fully capable of receiving an All-Digital AM. I hope I get to experience this before my time is up.

I could not help but notice that our own Ben Dawson was asked to comment on this topic. Here is what BFD-III PE had to say:

“The real meat of the AM revitalization NPRM was to finally make realistic changes in the basic allocation rules to reflect modern noise and propagation conditions, which are significantly different than those of the 1930s, which the present rules are based upon,” he said.

“And that simply hasn’t happened. When we’ve talked with FCC staff about it, the impression we’ve gotten is that the upper echelons of the commission just don’t think it has much importance.”

Dawson believes the cross-service FM translators allocated to AM licensees have cluttered the FM band. “Translators and low-power FM stations are just being sandwiched in.”

Digital AM in the United States faces an uphill battle, Dawson said, in part because many owners and large groups object to paying licensing fees. (While Xperi has offered AM stations a license for all-digital HD Radio technology in perpetuity without fees, that offer is seen as a kickstarter rather than a long-term policy.)

“The adoption of FM, NTSC, FM stereo, digital TV; none of those had licensing fees,” Dawson continued. “And neither should digital AM. And of course, DRM [Digital Radio Mondiale] doesn’t and is already being employed in some countries.

“But we need to develop the allocation rules for all digital and movement toward that has been very slow.”

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that Ben has been awarded the 2020 IEEE Broadcast Technology Jules Cohen Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award. This is the highest award from the Broadcast Technology Society. Congratulations my old friend!

Some of the previous winners of this award are:

  •  2019: Garrison Cavell
  •  2018: Merrill Weiss
  •  2017: Byron W. St. Clair
  •  2016: Lynn Claudy
  •  2015: Thomas B. Silliman

Time to update your record of the FCC’s address. Yup, they have moved from their old location at the Portals to 45 L Street. I have some memories of their old location…was there a couple of times, first time, on a upper floor, to discuss with staff regarding issues involving Part 74 frequency coordination. The other time was involving EAS and on that occasion I sat in one of the directors chairs (comfy if I recall). What is a bit surprising is the fact that the FCC does not own their own building. They actually lease it. The new digs cost less and are 30% smaller. Of course, the size of the space does not matter much, as they too are mainly working from home.

There is something very special about 2020 for broadcasting. It was 100 years ago (1920) that much of it began. There are a number of recent articles written about KDKA, WWJ, KNX etc., each one claiming to be a part of the puzzle that was the beginning of commercial radio in the U.S.

To be fair to my Canadian readers, I found this item on-line:

Radio as we know it was first created by Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian working in the US. And although many sites list an American station as the first broadcaster, in fact it was a station in Canada, XWA that was granted the first broadcast licence on this day December 1st, back in 1919.

XWA, was a Marconi station in Montreal and the call letters stood for “experimental wireless apparatus”.

The first scheduled broadcast was in May 1920, also predating American broadcasts, becoming the oldest radio station in the world, although actual broadcasts were very limited, and nothing like the 24/7 operations of today.

By 1920 XWA had changed it’s call sign to CFCF which it retained for decades. Those call letters stood for “Canada’s first, Canada’s finest”. Much later the TV operation would also use those call letters.

It remained a highly popular radio station and changed owners over the years, and call letters as well.

In 1991 it was CIQC, and a news format. In 2005, another format change to news-talk, and in 2008 a switch to all-hits radio. But AM radio was dying, and in Montreal a percentage of the Anglophone audience had moved out of Montreal and the mainly French-speaking province.

With the combined factors of a reduced audience, the fading of AM radio in popularity generally, and its remaining audience split amongst several competitors, there was clearly trouble on the horizon by the 2008 switch to all hits music.

In 2010, using the call sign CINW 940 AM, owners Corus Entertainment shut the operation on January 29th. At 10;00 am the programming ceased and looped messages were played explaining that given “current economic conditions” continuing to broadcast was impossible.

At 7.02 that evening, the broadcasts simply stopped and the first and oldest of radio stations, certainly in North America, and possibly the world, went silent.

For additional information about the history of Radio in B.C. go here: https://vancouverbroadcasters.com/history.html

Here in our area we have a lot of radio stations that are also at, or approaching, that 100 year mark. KJR was certainly one of the first with much evidence that it is 100 years old. It’s not hard to find the older AM stations in the area by looking at their present, or former call letters. (Dates from the FCC)

KVI – 570 – 11.24.26 – One of the few still using their 3-letter call.
KIRO – 710 – 1.17.27
KXA – 770 – ??.??.24 – now KTTH
KJR – 950 – 12-30.26 – This from the FCC Data Base. There is plenty of evidence that KJR went on much earlier
KOMO – 1000 – 3.9.22
KGBS – 1090 – 11.5.28 – now KFNQ
KTW – 1250 – 4.22.22 – now KKDZ
KOL – 1300 – 5.23.22 – now KKOL
KMO-1360 –3.30.22 – now KKMO

There are a couple of other ‘Oldies’ in our area:

KRKO – 1380 – 3.17.22 – In Everett (perhaps unique in that it’s a 4-letter call)
KGY – 1240 – 3.30.33 in Olympia – now KBUP

In Eastern Washington –

KHQ – 590 – 2.28.22- Spokane – now KQNT
KGA -1510 -1.4.27 – Spokane
KPQ – 560 – 9.23.26 – Wenatchee
KUJ – 1420 – 12.3.26 – Walla Walla
KWSU – 1260 – 6.21.22 – Pullman

From this FCC data, it appears there will be a number of stations turning 100 in 2022.

It’s a bit harder to determine which FM Station was the first in the Seattle area.

Certainly,  a couple come to mind.

KING-FM – 98.1 – 5.21.48 – (Yes, still KING-FM)
KTNT-FM – 97.3 – 5.29.49 – (Now KIRO-FM – still licensed to Tacoma)

If anyone has a list of the first FM’s in this area, please let me know.

One cannot talk about the early days of Radio Broadcasting without mentioning what is billed as the oldest radio program still on the air – WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. The ‘Opry’ has been on hold due to the corona virus pandemic. However, there was a special gathering to celebrate the show’s 95th anniversary.

One of the oldest stations in the U.S. is the famous KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA (now owned by Entercom). As perhaps a sign of the times, they can now be heard on FM via a translator on 100.1. Effective November 2nd, their ID will be – ‘100.1 FM and 1020 AM KDKA’.

Note how the FM gets top billing!

Another sign of the plight of AM Radio is this item:

Chattanooga’s Oldest Radio Station “Goes Silent”; WDOD Sold To Baylor

WDOD, Chattanooga’s oldest radio station, has gone silent after 86 years on the air.

The large, valuable WDOD property along the Tennessee River has been sold to Baylor School.

WDOD’s last day on the air was Tuesday. It most recently had a sports format. The station had moved to an Air America format in 2005 when longtime station fixture Earl Freudenberg left to join WDYN. WDOD later moved back to easy listening.

Bernie Barker, station general manager, said, “The equipment at the station was very old and the parts were hard to get. The components had to be made in some cases.”

He said Baylor School needed the property for expansion so the deal was signed on Wednesday.

Mr. Barker said the WDOD license was turned back to the FCC.

He said no employees lost their job.

The deed says the property is 22 acres and the sales price was $600,000.

The station maintained its original call letters for its entire life.

It’s indeed interesting how many stations never change their call letters. In our area, we can, perhaps, count on one hand those that have not.

Usually in selecting call letters, a station wants to avoid any confusion. This was not the case in our area as we had a KMO and KOMO operating at the same time for many years. Finally KMO, bowing to the potential confusion factor, changed from KMO to KAMT. Later the station switched to KKMO.

I recently ran across a list of stations in Colorado Springs, CO and found something interesting. A number of stations whose calls start with KK –

  • KKMG-FM
  • KKFM-FM
  • KKPK-FM
  • KKLI-FM

Many years ago, KIRO and KOMO-TV installed Satellite Up-Link equipment at their (then) co-owned AM transmitter facilities on Vashon Island. In the case of KIRO, they did not have a clear microwave shot to their Seattle facilities, so they installed passive-reflectors up on each of their 710 AM towers that provided a microwave path to equipment in a newly constructed building behind the AM transmitter building. In the process they installed some large dishes to connect to the ‘Bird’. Here are some pictures of them recently being removed, all to become a large pile of surplus aluminum. Note the size comparison with the workers.

Thanks to Steven Allen for some of these pictures!

Well those days are long gone. The time has come to take it all apart and haul the pieces off for scrap.

In the following picture you can see the big dishes, lying face down. If you look closely, you can make out one of the KIRO AM towers just above and to the right of the center of the old dish. (Red Arrow)

Here’s the other one with the, no longer used, electronics building in the background.

And this one. These things were huge by today’s standards.

I found a piece created by Moneywise where they list states where Americans are leaving and moving to. Interesting to note how three of the top five areas that are gaining, are located in our area.

5. Washington

Inbound moves: 59.5%

While states like Florida owe their influx of new residents to retirees, Washington’s growth is due in large part to the number of job opportunities for young professionals.

Companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks are all headquartered in the Evergreen State and are major draws for jobs. Roughly half the people who moved to Washington in 2019 did so for work, according to United Van Lines.

Although the cost of living in Washington is higher than other states, the wages tend to be higher as well.

“Housing is where we saw a big jump in cost,” writes Reddit user ZombieLibrarian, who moved to Washington from Kentucky with his wife. “The jump in cost was exceeded by the jump in our salaries, though, so it sounded a lot more scary than it actually was.”

2. Oregon

Inbound moves: 65.4%

The Beaver State has been flooded with new residents since the founding of the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s, and 2019 was no exception. For the third year in a row, Oregon occupied the No. 2 spot for inbound moves on United Van Lines’ study.

Aside from the plentiful trees and lush vegetation, Oregon is also rife with tech industry jobs, particularly around Portland and Hillsboro, an area which some have dubbed the “Silicon Forest.”

“There are hundreds of satellite offices of big companies that support the semiconductor industry,” writes Quora Anil Kumar. “Additionally, Nike, Columbia and Fisher Investments are headquartered in Portland Metro.”

1. Idaho

Inbound moves: 67.4%

It appears the Gem State is no longer a hidden gem.

Idaho had the highest percentage of inbound moves in the country in 2019, marking its first time at the top of United Van Lines’ inbound list in more than 25 years.

With a burgeoning job market and an extremely low cost of living, Idaho is particularly attractive to IT workers who want to avoid shelling out millions for a home in other tech hubs like California.

The median price of a home in Boise is $332,698. In San Francisco, it’s $1.32 million.

On top of that, many residents say Idaho is a great place to raise a family.

“I loved the fact that my kids knew their teachers in and out of the classroom,” writes longtime Idaho resident Diane Allen on Quora. “I knew their bus drivers and knew my kids were in good hands.”

After many years of thinking that Tacoma was very much a 2nd rate town – comes this headline:

Study: Tacoma is nation’s fastest-selling housing market

In Seattle, the median home sales price in September rose by 18.5% over the same month last year to $640,000. The average home price in Tacoma was $435,000 – a 14.5% increase over last year.

For the third month in a row, Tacoma also was the fastest market in the nation, with half of all homes pending sale in just six days, down from 16 days a year earlier. Seattle was tied with Indianapolis and Grand Rapids, Mich., as the second fastest market in the nation, with half of homes pending sale in seven days.

Tacoma also was the second most competitive market in the nation, with 59.6% of homes selling above list price.

Always good to see where radio signals come from in other markets. The following comes via John McDaniel at NWPB of a site in the Wallowa Mountains Southwest of Enterprise, Oregon called ‘Sheep Ridge’. This is the location of K265DX, one of several translators operated by WSU’s NWPR out of Pullman. The first picture is of the receive antenna for the translator.

Some of the other antennas and systems at this location:

Sheep Ridge has some serious elevation. The license for this site shows it being 595 meters above average terrain and 2174 meters above sea level. That works out to be about 7134 above sea level. So where is Enterprise, Oregon?  Check out https://www.enterpriseoregon.org/

A very scenic place indeed. Take a look: https://www.gonorthwest.com/Oregon/northeast/Enterprise/Enterprise.htm

When you hear, or read, the words Tri-Cities, Washington what do you think? OK, how about Richland? Perhaps Hanford and nuclear power or the WSU Campus? Betcha you don’t think about the fastest production automobile? Big news was recently made with a product from that community along the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.

The headline in Motor Trend read:

The SSC Tuatara Is Now the Fastest Car in the World at 316.11 MPH!

Saturday, October 10, a team gathered alongside a closed, seven-mile section of Highway 160 near Pahrump, Nevada to attempt—and set—a new record, with U.K. pro racer Oliver Webb driving a supercar hailing from Richland, Washington, the SSC Tuatara. The new speed? A staggering 315.7 mph!

And now, more good news. The U.S. elections are about over!!! For reasons I will never understand, both of the major parties got hold of my email address resulting in, at least, 50% of my email coming from those two groups. Interestingly, as I look out the front window of my home, there is not a yard-sign to be seen. I’m sure that this season has been good for the broadcast industry with record amounts of, very welcome, money being spent on political advertising. However, for me, I will be very happy to see this event be finished.

A big thank you to Buzz Anderson for the following timely item:

The following was sent to me recently by an old friend in Wisconsin:

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

Until then, stay safe as you carefully venture out with your facial coverings and freshly washed hands.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

The KE0VH Hamshack Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

Well, dadgummit (no he didn’t dad had teeth!) here I am finally getting around to getting out a 3 month edition of “the Hamshack”.  Lots of stuff to share with you in this edition, so buckle up it may be a long one.  But a lot has happened since August, so let’s get started.

By the way, I have a small editorial that I am writing here that will be at the end of this month’s article.  Just a heads up.  It’s a doozy…………….

The new repeater is up and operating at the weekend and getaway QTH of Cris W5WCA in the Grand Lake area north of Granby.  448.250 covers a large portion of the valley and Cris reports that you can get into the repeater going down the east side of Berthoud pass and on thru the towns of Winter Park, Frazer, and the rest of the valley.  We were worried about Cris’ place there during the “Troublesome” fire that destroyed many homes in the area around Grand Lake but thank the Good Lord Cris’ and Amanda WØHOP’s places were spared, where so many others lost homes.  We are thankful primarily for that of course, and that the repeater is still on the air for that area connected to SkyHubLink.  The repeater is a Motorola pair with a flatpack duplexer and is putting out 20 watts on AllStar node 506061 connected to SkyHubLink fulltime!

The repeater at W5WCA’s cabin, Coverage map, and the Cushcraft AR-450 antenna.

And now after a wait the long anticipated 449.625 has finally found its permanent home on the marvelous site of Mt. Morrison between the towns of Golden and Morrison on the west side of Lakewood overlooking the Denver Metro.  This site has just a TREMENDOUS view of the metro area and the repeater is covering from Castle Rock up to Greeley and some of the mountain valleys west.  We seem to have a shadow though up I-25 thru Thornton and north.  The antenna is a Diamond X-50 and the repeater is Fusion digital with full Wires-X capabilities.  You can steer the repeater around the Wires-X system with your Yaesu Fusion radio in Wires-X mode.  On Saturday nights we put 449.625 on the America Link Wires-X room for the International Wires-X net.  Check it out sometime and have fun with the repeater!  And thanks to the crew who helped set up the repeater on that beautiful day.  KD0SIY, N0XRX, W0SKY, KD4DT, KE0LNU, & KE0VH, with a special thanks to the site manager Mark Smith for helping us out!

The VIEW from Mt. Morrison and the 449.625 Diamond X-50 antenna

Skyler WØSKY, Matt KEØLNU, & Mark NØXRX looking at the antenna placement, and Mark hooking up the duplexer for 449.625

 

Matt KEØLNU mounting the antenna base, Jack KEØVH putting on a ½ inch connector. Below, Scott KDØSIY doing the climbing needed for the project!

As of this writing as well we are anticipating getting a new Fusion Wires-X repeater on the air from Milner Mountain above Loveland in the next month thanks to Conrad KØSVT.  This system will give great fill in Fusion Wires-X coverage from Thornton north to the Wyoming line and all of Ft. Collins, Loveland and Longmont.We also have been given another analog system that we will think about where it is needed in 2021.  Plus the 449.575 repeater will be on air soon covering a large area near Pueblo for SkyHubLink from Bakulite Mesa on the NW side of Pueblo.  Stay tuned for details on when these machines come on line.

The new home on Milner Mountain for the new 447.800 Fusion Wires-X repeater (not shown) and the old derelict and abandoned Motorola repeater that will find a home sometime on SkyHubLink.

😊So how about “Shopping Cart Mobile”!  Gotta always have your radio with you!  One day at King Soopers! 😊

Another project at “The Hamshack”.  I was wanting to use my Astatic D-104 microphone with the Yaesu FT-991A, so sure enough someone had information on how to do the modification already, so I ordered the little kit from W2ENY on Ebay.  (https://www.ebay.com/itm/W2ENY-HiFi-kit-replacement-element-for-Astatic-D-104-All-Models/233277861976?_trkparms=aid%3D1110006%26algo%3DHOMESPLICE.SIM%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20160323102634%26meid%3Dd181a0ac62574f338a5f6efefb27fc7f%26pid%3D100623%26rk%3D4%26rkt%3D5%26mehot%3Dpp%26sd%3D352922839514%26itm%3D233277861976%26pmt%3D0%26noa%3D1%26pg%3D2047675%26algv%3DDefaultOrganic&_trksid=p2047675.c100623.m-1 ) It works great.  The kit comes with everything you need to do an upgrade for todays transceivers including a voltage blocking cap.  And, the microphone is easily reverted back to its original form if you so desire at a later time.  So these days you will hear me on the mic when I am at home on the FT-991A it will be on the modified D-104!

 

The old original dynamic mic element removed from the head of the D-104, and the new condenser assembly

 

 

And old Amazon mailer as the backer/insert padding to hold the element in place, and the finished conversion wired into the FT-991A.  I left the original 4 pin Kenwood type plug assembly on the mic cable, and adapted to the RJ-45 type input on the radio with a temporary setup to test.  My favorite microphone of all time, will never part with it.  Well, at least not while I am alive!  😊😊😊

Another project fix from Skyler WØSKY.  So the repeater for WØJRL analog 447.175 on SkyHubLink, an older Yaesu DR-1, lost its transmit.  We had been operating the repeater on Lookout Mountain (and may be moving it soon to a better location) and all of a sudden it stopped transmitting.  Well Skyler went up and found that the transmit section was indeed dead.  So with a little research and his ingenuity, he managed to insert a Motorola VRM-650 and get it to interface to the DR-1 controller. The repeater is based on a pair of FTM-400’s contained in the repeater box.  Skyler found the pinouts for both radios and matched them up.  Now we are running this repeater as analog, but Skyler is confident that it COULD possibly be used as a YSF digital repeater. The VRM-600 is capable of passing digital signals and can be used for DMR and possibly P-25 digital modes too.  The Motorola however is only capable of 20 watts full duty cycle, so it wouldn’t be quite as powerful as the original FTM-400 50 watt radio.  Skyler refers to it as the “YaesuRola” or “FrankenFusion” repeater.  We will be redeploying it soon at a better location for analog coverage to complement 449.450.

On the left you can see the Yaesu radio and on the right is the Motorola VRM-600

***********************************************************************************************************************

AND another NET joins the SkyHubLink system!  If you have digital questions and would like to learn more about operating those modes such as DMR, FUSION WIRES-X, and others, be sure to join Doug KEØDC and Bucky (Bill) WØSUN on the radio or Google Meet where they will talk about everything digital radio, It’s held on Wednesdays at 19:00 (7pm) MST on the Sky Hub Link. You do not have to have a digital radio to participate, you can join them via analog 449.450 and the various AllStar connections. For more information and how to connect, go to https://skyhublink.com/repeaters/ and https://skyhublink.com/nets/.

****************************************************************************************

HEY!  A GREAT FIND on Amazon for a power supply that will power just about any radio!  It says it is rated at 30 amps.  When I was running it in the shack I didn’t notice any voltage fluctuations or noise being generated either.  It seems pretty darn solid in testing.  We are going to use it to power a node radio for the Pueblo 449.575 repeater connection back to the SkyHunLink system.  So far as we have not been able to deploy the system yet, during Skyler W0SKY’s testing the power supply bears itself out!  And, it is very small, at 7.75 x 3.25 x 1.5 inches.  Now I haven’t tried to power my FT-991A with it, but it supposedly has enough horsepower 😊 to do so.  The voltage output is adjustable with a small pot next to the output section.  So far, I am suitably impressed!

A closeup of the output side of the power supply showing the voltage adjustment pot.

The Motorola GM-300 analog node radio, the Raspberry Pi3 AllStar link with fan (Love the lights!) and the Power Supply with a volt/amp digital meter.  This is the AllStar node radio that will be deployed for the Pueblo 449.575 repeater.  The node setup will be hosted by our good friend Ray, AAØL.

As mentioned above, you can adjust the voltage out of the supply with a pot located just to the left of the outputs for a “perfect” 13.8 volts!  And it just plain looks GREAT!  Easily readable!

The Pueblo repeater on 449.575.  This had been deployed on Mt. Princeton working well for a couple of months until the 449.925 Methodist mountain repeater came on line.  Now it has been re-allocated for the Pueblo area from Bakulite Mesa.  We hope to deploy this one weather and scheduling permitting before the end of the year.

Tom KD4DT is the proud owner of a new Yaesu FTM-300 and shows the way that he mounted the control head in the dash of his car.  The radio itself is mounted under the seat and can easily be moved to his other vehicle!  Great job, nice install Tom!

 

Seen by Skyler WØSKY on a hike in the mountains!  An APRS solar powered digipeater setup probably setup by Chuck NØNHJ.  I say probably because according to Skyler he is responsible for at least 15 of these around the state!  This is really awesome since APRS coverage in the “hinterlands” (where there ain’t a hint of nothin’) is so very important for emergency APRS use.  Skyler saw this one in the Dillon area.

AND, JUST FOR FUN AT THE END! For all us Engineers!

 

 

My Jinki and Liu Liu LOVED THIS! Thanks to Jim KCØRPS!

 

Well, OK here is my editorial that really has nothing to do with the “Hamshack”, so I will stow it at the end here.   I need to say something about the pandemic going on.  As of just yesterday, the USA is seeing more than 150,000 new cases a day.  There are so many hotspots that I can’t mention them all there, but the information is readily available from many sources, so you can pick the one you trust and go from there.  I have a wife in healthcare, and folks, the medical community will tell you that this is an ongoing and serious issue, and they are ALL exhausted.  So, if you don’t believe the news media, talk to someone in the medical community.  We want to know the real truth and facts, so get it from those who are dealing with over loaded beds and are on the front line.  And as I shared on the SBE SkyHubLink Net, we need to be wearing masks.  If you simply don’t want to for whatever reason, now we are getting word that, as I have really thought all along, it will provide you a modicum of protection for yourself, and especially for those around you, from you!  As one lady put it, I heard last week, “I wear a mask because I care about you.  If you don’t, I guess you don’t care about me”.  By the way, the graph below is just Colorado as of this writing.  34 average deaths per day.  Honestly, I don’t know how I could look someone who has lost a loved one during this time in the face and not think that the complaining and arguments that have arisen between so many can be justified.  Shame on us. We should care about EVERY SINGLE DEATH, more than a quarter of a million at this writing fellow Americans.  Are we really THAT selfish and petty???????  Unfortunately, we have a lot of people making decisions not to wear masks and by that token, are making the decision to expose you and me.   Very sad……..  THANK YOU to those of you who do care.

 

HAMSHACK ARCHIVES FILES

 

                                                  4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2016/09/

                                                  5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/09/

                                                  6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/09/

 

Click HERE TO CHECK OUT the latest BDR.net articles at: https://www.thebdr.net/articles/thisweek.html

AND DON’T FORGET THE MONDAY NIGHT SBE/SKYHUBLINK NET at 7pm Mountain, 9PM Eastern, 6pm Pacific

 

SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SkyHubLink HAMnet

 

 

The SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SkyHubLink Hamnet is tonight (Monday) at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) worldwide via

1.    Allstar node 46079, tied into repeaters all over Colorado, see www.skyhublink.com/status or link in via your local AllStar repeater.  Email or call Jack KE0VH for details on how to.

2.    Echolink W0SKY-L, node 985839 (available via computer and radio)

3.    Via Yaesu FUSION Wires-X Room “SkyHubLink” 46361.  

4.    With a HOTSPOT on YSF00002 YSF to DMR for DMR radio’s set to talkgroup 310847. 

5.    With a Hotspot node number YSF92722 The US SKYHUB

6.    Locally in Denver on 449.450 Analog pl 103.5.

7.    Locally in Denver on the Fusion Repeaters 448.350 KDØSSP/R, 449.625 KEØVH/R and 449.600 NØPUF/R,  OR WORLDWIDE linked to WiresX room “SkyhubLink” room 46361.

8.    Locally in Denver ON DMR 449.750 KI0GO/R, Timeslot 1, Talkgroup 310847.

9.    Locally in Colorado Springs on Fusion YSF Simplex node 446.275

 

You can listen on the LIVE STREAM thru Broadcastify at:

https://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/25448/web

or https://hose.brandmeister.network/group/310847/  
If you listen on the live stream text Jack at 303-704-3290 during NET time and you will added to the check in list.


We hope you’ll join us. 

See the latest edition of “The KE0VH Hamshack” for more information at www.ke0vh.com.

2020 0601

 

The Society of Broadcast Engineers

9102 North Meridian St, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260
317-846-9000 ■ Fax 317-846-9120

 

 

 

 

Society of Broadcast Engineers, 9102 North Meridian, Suite 150, Indianapolis, IN 46260

 

October  2020 – Clay’s Corner

 

October  2020 – Clay’s Corner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 September 2020, 15:39

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

There certainly is an impact on broadcasting.

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

And the headline read:

Mt. Wilson Comm Towers in Danger from California Wildfire

(Image credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

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

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

These pictures are of a communications site in Eastern Washington:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To apply, send a resume to engineering@rmgmwf.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear NAB Show community,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KBOO?wprov=sfla1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of my favorite examples is the smart phone.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

If you ever wondered who owns all these tower….Here’s a list you can browse through:
http://wirelessestimator.com/top-100-us-tower-companies-list/

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TIP #30: Non-Weather
Emergency Messages

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please contact Mike.Gerber@noaa.gov for additional information about NWEM broadcast over NWR.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.kitsapsun.com/story/news/2020/09/21/favorite-local-hiking-spot-green-mountains-some-changes/3490465001/

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Here’s an item that grabbed my antenna:

Miller Lite Creates ‘Cantenna’ Reception Device

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

 

(Image credit: Miller Lite)

The official text reads:

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

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

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

 

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

 

https://www.orcadxcc.org/content/cantenna_va7jw.pdf

 

https://www.eham.net/reviews/view-product?id=13123

 

https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/heath_cantenna_hn_31.html

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

September 2020 – Clay’s Corner

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

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

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

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

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

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

My questions are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As of 8.28.20 –

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

1,000 living on WSU campus including frats/
sororities

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

Pullman 200 new confirmed cases in two weeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more visuals, go here:

https://www.kotatv.com/2020/08/28/lake-charles-la-tv-station-tower-toppled-in-hurricane-laura/

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

https://www.cbs17.com/weather/tropics/hurricane-lauras-high-winds-topple-tv-tower-obliterate-weather-service-radar-in-louisana/?ocid=uxbndlbing

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

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

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

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

Here’s the actual piece:

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

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

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

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

Not all is doom and gloom….

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

Key findings from the 2020 report include:

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

Did you know that our planet’s magnetic field is doing strange things? Yep, check this out: https://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-is-tracking-the-mysterious-evolving-anomaly-in-earth-s-magnetic-field

Great test questions for ‘newbies’ in Television:

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

And for Radio:

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

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

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

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

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

Hi everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following have been elected to one-year terms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay,

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

Best regards,

Steve Newsom | Chief Engineer
KBTC-TV Tacoma/Seattle | KCKA Centralia
253.680.7735

Shortly afterward, I received the following from Darin Gerchak:

Hello Clay

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

Darin Gerchak <gerchak@icloud.com

Speaking of Bates Technical College, congratulations to Roland Robinson.

SBE National Educator of the Year

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

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

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

 

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

The headline read:

Long Island kids are cracking Morse Code

Read more here:

https://www.newsday.com/lifestyle/family/morse-code-long-island-1.47458713

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

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

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

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

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

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

Clay’s Corner FOR AUGUST  2020

 

 

Clay’s Corner

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at the ups and downs during these historic times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what about us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-252595321/the-topping-out-traditions-of-the-high-steel-ironworkers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topping_out

 

https://www.aisc.org/globalassets/modern-steel/archives/2000/12/2000v12_christmas.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Jeff White – iHeart Media

Phil VanLiew – Entercom

Daniel Sipe – iHeart Media

 

Bob and Dalton – Midpoint Electric

Paul Shulins – Shulins Solutions

Supplier of the new Antenna Monitor System

Alex Brewster- Hubbard

American Tower Site Manager – Joe Taylor

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

James Boyd – Boyd Broadcast Services (Portland)

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

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

Assisting Lowell with another project was  Greg Ristau

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

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

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

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

  • In the equipment rack, left of the transmitter

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

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

  • On the surface

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

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

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

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

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

Chart at http://www.sbe124.org/news-and-links-you-can-use/

Thanks!

Kent

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

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

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

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

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

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member #714 since February 5th, 1968

The KE0VH Hamshack for July 2020

July 2020

Many things to cover in this addition.  First, the NEW 449.850 AllStar repeater is now on the SkyHubLink full time in Colorado Springs.  Skyler WØSKY and I put it on the air from the “Gardner Rock” site on the southwest side of town up in the foothills.  Thanks to our good friend Vic Michael for allowing us on the site and Dave West of Mountain Country radio for the internet connection.  The repeater has GREAT coverage so far, up and over Monument Hill north of town and south to just north of Pueblo plus out onto the eastern plains.  We have been searching for a Colorado Springs coverage repeater for quite some time and now are able to serve this area with a SkyHubLink connection.   We decided to do this one analog to introduce more amateurs in the area to the SkyHubLink and ease of setup in this case.  More on the new repeater later in the “Hamshack”!

With the thunderstorm and lightning season well underway one of the projects I wanted to accomplish was getting our node radios for the YSF system link that connects the Wires-X linked repeaters to the rest of the SkyHubLink.  And, I decided to homebrew the 449.450 analog AllStar node radio antenna instead of using a vertical that I had employed.  A simple 5 element Yagi plan made from some brass rod and loose molding that I had on hand in the garage junk bin.  I wanted to mount the antenna inside the garage, and since I am line of site to the repeater at 11,440 feet, I really didn’t lose any signal that would have caused problems.  Since the YSF link radio antenna is a professional level 3 element heavy duty beam antenna and is mounted in my attic on the other end of the house from the garage, a little separation between the antenna’s wouldn’t be a bad thing.  In the pictures below you can see the easy construction and how simple the antenna is.  Now there is about 30 feet separation and both antennas are “inside”, so I don’t have to disconnect them during storms, thus losing link node radio service to the repeaters.

The simple construction of the repeater Yagi, cut for the middle of the 5 MHz of the 449.450 repeater output and the input, so it is cut for 446.950.  In the picture blow you can see the simple soldered feed point on the split driven element.  Standard element spacing is used.  And the mounting is keeping with the simplicity of the design.  Mounted to the rafters in the garage and out of the elements, the antenna has been on the air now for about 2 weeks as of this writing and is working well connecting 449.450 to the SkyHubLink system.

The antenna mounted in the garage and the analyzer measurement using a NanoVNA

My good friend and SkyHubLink colleague Mark NØXRX worked this past month on a derelict Heathkit SB-200 amplifier that had really needed a restoration for quite some time.  It had sat on a shelf for who knows how long and was quite in need of some loving care by a good technician.  Mark really knows his stuff, so with that I will let him tell the story of getting this fine amplifier back in operational order.

The AMP definitely was owned by a smoker at some point in its life. It had a lot of smoke residue all over the case and frame. The front light came on when I powered it up, but the tubes wouldn’t. With some simple troubleshooting I found at least two capacitors in the power supply that were bad and a few other things.

I picked up a new power supply with some more modern components and a much cleaner package. Well I had to assemble it.

I replaced the RCA RF input with an upgraded SO-239

I found bad/broken diodes as well. The crystal diode was hard to find and I’m still waiting on it to arrive. The silicon diode I had in my parts bins.

I installed a slow-start relay board to protect the power supply and the tubes. This is a mod from Harbach Electronics. They only provide the parts and I assembled it. The trick was getting a good place to mount it (They don’t provide the mount).

I installed a slow-key as well so I can use it with modern radios like my ICOM IC-7300 and Yaesu FT-991 without the need of an external adapter box. This is also from Harbach Electronics. This was a tight install.

After cleaning everything up this is how it ended up.

Now tubes all work, well the best that I can tell so far. I still need the RF diode before I can start doing other tests.

 

I still need to install a protection circuit for the meter. Apparently, that is the hardest and most rare part to buy so I want to protect it. There are some other mods available, but I think I already have way too much time and money into it so far.

Mark Thomas – N0XRX

 

Thanks for the contribution to the “Hamshack” article Mark!  GREAT JOB!  It looks amazing!

**************************************************************************************************

The node radios at the home QTH were originally in separate racks on either side of my operating position and it was difficult to see the 449.450 link setup in the upper right-hand rack due to a computer monitor placement.  With the new antenna setups and the way they fed into the shack where I wanted them finally it was easy to place the two node radio’s and power supplies where I can always see the fronts of the radio’s and the power supplies, plus makes much easier access for troubleshooting any possible issues that could crop up.  This is a project I have wanted to complete for quite sometime so that there would be easier access to the UPS and the network connections.

BACK to Colorado Springs, here are the pictures of the day Skyler and I installed the 449.850 analog AllStar repeater.  Skyler built the repeater out of a Raspberry Pi3, two Motorola radios, and the UREI interface box.  The Pi serves as the repeater controller and AllStar network interface, with audio interfaced in the UREI.

The Motorola MaxTrax receiver, MCS2000 transmitter and power supply on the rack shelf

 

Skyler assembling the Diamond X-50 repeater antenna

Jack mounting the antenna on the standoff and THE

VIEW!!!!!!

 

Last week on Lookout Mountain and the 449.625 Wires-X repeater there were several electrical power hits to the site that took out the hard drive on the computer that takes care of the Wires-X functions and links to the SkyHubLink Wires-X room 46361.  Over the weekend I rebuilt the computer using Windows 8.1 instead of the old Windows 7 system, did the system updates, the remote Wires-X system configurations for unattended operation. By the way, be sure to do this on your Wires-X computers as you don’t want updates and other computer functions happening during main usage hours.  You want to make sure that full restarts will take place if power anomalies happen.  Now the system is back on air on Lookout Mountain updated and working perfectly. And dusted!  Speaking of electrical power, see the system below that Jeff AK6OK has set up at his repeater site in Auburn CA covering Rocklin, Roseville, and the area NE of Sacramento CA.

A couple of years ago now I wrote about my 5BTV vertical tilt over mechanism that I built from a couple of pieces of angle iron and bolts with wing nuts.  This has been a very beneficial and inexpensive way to have a much easier time repairing and maintaining my vertical antenna.  I also had previously modified the antenna for 12 and 17 meters by adding wires fed at the bottom of the antenna and supported by PVC spreaders attached to the antenna after reading about them in another article.  Well after a few years, the antenna needed some repair and attention as one of the “spider” elements between the 20- and 40-meter sections of the antenna had broken and fell. The wire antennas had fallen too with the top spreader support. With the addition of the mounting scheme you see below, repairs to full operation only took a little while with the addition of my tilt over homebrew mechanism.  The two top wing nut bolts are the vertical supports, the bottom is the pivot point.

The tilt over mechanism that pivots on the bottom bolt next to the feed line in this view.  The two red wires are the 17 and 12 meter ¼ wave wires.

The antenna tilted over for repairs.  You can see the pivot point mounted to a pole in the ground on the right.  Below is the mounting point for the “spider” element of the antenna.

 

The “Spider” element repaired, and the top spreader secured in place for the wire elements for 17 & 12 meters.   Below another view with the suspension lines in place on the PVC spreader.

The repaired antenna back in its upright and locked configuration and new suspensions for the 17- and 12-meter wires.

 

Want to see a great article about an urban antenna installation, go to this website suggested by George NO7O from the Monday Night NET:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Urban-Rooftop-Ham-Radio-Antenna/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email

HAMSHACK ARCHIVES FILES

 

4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2016/07/

5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/07/

6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/07/

 

Click HERE TO CHECK OUT the latest BDR.net articles at: https://www.thebdr.net/articles/thisweek.html

 

 

 

SBE VHF/UHF Chapter 73’ of the Air SKYHUBLINK HAMnet

 

 

The SBE Chapter 73 of the Air SKYHUBLINK Hamnet is every Monday at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) worldwide via Echolink KG0SKY-L, node 985839 (available via computer and radio), Allstar node 46079, DMR Talkgroup 310847, AND try it with your hotspot on YSFtoDMR then TalkGroup 310847 or C4FM Fusion YSF node 92722.  The Hamnet is based in Denver on 449.450, pl 103.5, KDØSSP-RPT 448.350, Fusion/Wires-X, 449.600 Fusion and the 449.625 Fusion repeater, linked to WiresX room “DenverSkyhubLink” node 46361.  Also, on DMR Talkgroup 310847 on the 449.750 Timeslot 1 DMR repeater in Denver.  See www.skyhublink.com for more information.

You can listen on the LIVE STREAM thru Broadcastify at:

https://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/25448/web

or https://hose.brandmeister.network/group/310847/  

We hope you’ll join us. 

See the latest edition of “The KE0VH Hamshack” for more information at www.ke0vh.com.

 

 

The Society of Broadcast Engineers

9102 North Meridian St, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260
317-846-9000 ■ Fax 317-846-9120

 

 

 

 

 

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