|Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986|
Not to be outdone – Dwight Small (Ret) sent me this one of Lake Cavanaugh
The headline this month – CBS RADIO IS GONE – ENTERCOM IS A WHOLE LOT BIGGER.
On November 9th the FCC approved the deal. Shortly afterward, CBS followed suit and on the 17th the deal closed. This is clearly one of the bigger moves in Radio ownership in a long time. The first move in this saga was CBS announcing that it was interested in spinning their Radio division. Speculation started as to what that would mean. Catching a lot of people by surprise, Entercom announced that they were ‘the one’ to do a deal with them. Nine months later it’s done. This has vaulted Entercom to the 2nd place position in terms of Radio ownership with now 244 stations in 47 markets including 23 of the top 25.
So why did CBS want to exit the radio business? The answer recently came from CEO Les Moonves.
“The separation of our radio business is part of a broader strategy to make CBS even more focused on our content and all the ways we can monetize it,” said Moonves. “We started on this path several years ago with the split-off of our outdoor advertising business. And just as we did with outdoor, we believe our radio transaction will allow us to unlock more value for our shareholders and further grow our revenue. As a result, we think CBS will be even better positioned to take advantage of all the new growth opportunities before us, and we feel very good about our future as a pure content Company.”
There’s a lot of history behind all of this with various players and names…Westinghouse, Infinity, Viacom, CBS and now Entercom. For the Field family – this has been a remarkable story. The elder Mr. Field became interested in Broadcasting when he was doing legal work for a broadcaster. From that he began to invest in Radio stations under the name of Entertainment Communications. The first I became aware of the firm was when they purchased KTAC AM in Tacoma and later KTWR that was later to become KBRD. Later, doing a trade deal with Viacom, they picked up Viacom’s 97.3, 107.7 FM and 1210 AM in the Seattle area. In the meantime, Entercom (as it became officially known) grew slowly into multiple markets including Portland and Denver. According to Mr. Fields son, David (now CEO) the deal with CBS fulfills a dream – in his words – “We have spent many years looking at all sorts of other opportunities to grow and have grown to be the fourth-largest company in the radio business,” David Field said during an investor presentation last week, “But we’ve always lacked that scale, and we’ve always coveted the CBS Radio assets, which are the best in the industry.”
Entercom-Seattle, once again, consists of 5 FMs. If you recall 97.3 (along with 710 and 770 AM) were once part of Entercom locally. KMPS 94.1 is now officially part of this group. The other two former CBS stations (KZOK 102.5 and KJAQ 96.5) are to become part of the Seattle iHeart group.
So where does this leave us? Here is a list of ‘who owns what’ going forward –
94.1/KMPS (Newly Added)
102.5/KZOK (Newly Added)
96.5/KJAQ (Newly Added)
1090/KFNQ (Newly added)
This will give IHeart a ‘full-house’ or the maximum number of AM and FM stations allowed in a market. To make this work, iHeart will have to spin off a couple of stations in the area. A move that can hardly be described as a loss, considering what they are gaining.
So what can we speculate on now? Well, plenty… Here’s my list, starting with the spin-offs:
- 102.9/KFOO, originally KELA-FM and licensed to Centralia, transmits from Capital Peak SW of Olympia. It covers a substantial amount of real estate and should be a very desirable pickup for someone that wants a Seattle rim shot or who is more interested in targeting the area where they have the signal. Like for instance an existing broadcaster licensed to Olympia etc., like KXXO or KGY.
- 104.9/KUBE, licensed to Eatonville, is much lower power and is located on a hilltop SE of Tacoma. In fact, it’s coverage includes Tacoma and points east, but not much more. This would make an ideal addition for KLAY AM.
- Later in the month we learned the answer to the questions of many. Would the KUBE call letters be saved for Seattle? Some of those questions have been answered by iHeart, who has traded KFOO with their AM in Riverside while swapping KUBE for KTDD in San Bernardino, a tactic that many large owners use to ‘warehouse’ desirable call letters. Will KUBE come back to Seattle? That’s an open question.
There are other questions –
- Will Entercom really try and operate two Country Music stations? They might, effectively keeping a huge country presence for themselves by skewing the two formats. Or they might ditch the format on one of the two stations and do something different. At mid-November that possibility looked more likely as 94.1 switched to all Christmas,making many to wonder what KMPS will sound like after the holidays. Christmas music is a great ‘cover’ for a station planning a change. It did sound a bit strange to hear a message on KMPS urging their listeners who wanted to hear the country hits to tune to sister station 100.7 The Wolf, something that I would have thought impossible a year ago. Meanwhile, 94.1 HD2 continues to air a classic country format.
- What will Entercom do with CBS Sports that is presently on 1090? There are many saying that the format will end up on one of the Entercom FMs – we will see.
- What about 1090? Will iHeart really want to keep what has been known as the hard-luck AM Frequency in the market due to its big null to the south. Then again they have KHHO that does not play to the north from their Tacoma transmitter site at night. Perhaps some sort of pairing? Not likely this will keep it sports as they already have KJR-AM with that format.
On the technical side –
- The three CBS FM station’s main transmitters on West Tiger Mt. are all in one room and quite intermingled. Separating KMPS from the other two will require a good deal of caution. The present single iHeart station at this site is on the floor above.
- Interestingly KMPS (soon to be Entercom) and KJAQ (soon to be iHeart) will end up sharing an auxiliary site on Cougar Mountain via branch combiner and common antenna. Will be interesting to see how the legal types apply the scalpel to that operation. ATC owns the site including the building and tower.
- The KZOK Auxiliary is located on Cougar Mt. also, but is in the former Entercom, now ATC site there.
- Technical Personnel is. another issue. CBS employed a couple broadcast techs – Phil Van Liew and Alex Brewster. Logic says that Entercom and iHeart will pick up these guys due to the increased amount of work that additional stations represent. In the meantime, they have both gained ‘entercom.com’ email addresses and are keeping things going at the former CBS stations while they are in the Trust.
One more time – Say goodbye –
The following courtesy of John Schneider
For some at CBS the transition meant a big payday. For instance – Andre Fernandez who was the CBS Radio president will get over $8. Matthew Siegel will receive $1.34 Million. Scott Herman, $1.7 Million. Must be nice to get the holidays off and not have to go back to work!
Thanks to Tim Moore at KOMO for this map of the Columbia Broadcasting System. Anyone care to guess the year?
On the local SBE Chapter Remailer in Seattle it was noted that there are a lot of radio broadcast company names that are now just memories in the minds of those that worked for them. Several contributed to this list –
West Coast Broadcasting, Sunbrook Broadcasting, Park Broadcasting, Sunbelt Communications, Noble Broadcasting, SRO, Kaye-Smith, Metromedia, Golden West, Buckley, Shamrock, Ackerly, Viacom, Tribune Publishing, Gaylord, Madison Park Broadcasting, Hercules Broadcasting, Heritage Media Group, EZ Communications, Alliance Broadcasting, Olympic Broadcasting (which was forced by the IOC to change its name to Olympia Broadcasting), O’Day broadcasting of Washington, Kaye-Smith, Fisher Radio, Bingham Broadcasting etc.
I’m sure there are many more.
So as the Radio rumor-mill smolders, we have Television to think about. What about the Sinclair / Tribune TV Station deal? In Seattle, its 4 stations and, potentially, 1 owner….Something has got to give. My guess, Sinclair will ‘cherry pick’, keeping KOMO and KCPQ and spin the other two…The big question is will they get to that point?
The FCC recently approved several Media Rule changes. The long standing ban on Radio/Newspaper cross ownership and radio/TV cross ownership is gone, etc. However this has not gone smoothly. You can tell that politics are involved, with the way the Commission voted (3 to 2) with the R’s saying Yea and the D’s say Nay, that this may well become ‘messy’.
This party-line spit is also involved in the Sinclair/Tribune deal. One of the leaders of the opposition is Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington State. Some are upset due to the reported conservative leaning of Sinclair, which is, apparently, enough to rile the D’s. This deal is not likely to progress as smoothly as the Entercom/CBS deal.
On the financial front, some difficult times ahead for a couple of the other giants in the radio business.
IHeartMedia and its bondholders are still trying to figure out how to handle the over $20 Billion owed by the company. The firm’s financials don’t look great with decreasing revenue and income. Contributing to the poor operating performance is the interest on the huge debt load. Just before Thanksgiving, their stock was selling at under a dollar per share.
Cumulus is suffering financially also. There the news is, they are weighing a ‘Debt for Equity Swap’ or even Chapter 11. There the debt is only about 10% of iHeart, standing at $2 Billion. Word is – all options are on the table. Cumulus recently had another set-back being officially de-listed by NASDAQ, forcing the firm to the Over the Counter market where investors were apparently not impressed, resulting in their stock price going down to 19 cents per share on the 22nd of November. If you recall, they did an 8 to 1 reverse split about a year ago to try and increase their per share price. Had they not done that, the price would be 2.4 cents.
The impact on the market cannot be overlooked. My personal financial advisor and I have chatted about this. He feels that Media is no place to invest. With Cumulus stock in the vicinity of a quarter dollar a share, all I can do is nod. Meanwhile, Entercom is looking like they are much better positioned than the other two in the top three. However, one has to think that the Entercom stock price is suppressed because of the iHeart and Cumulus mountain of debt. Something has to give here. Perhaps early this coming year we will find out what it is.
On November 14th we had our first good wind storm in the Seattle area, with power being knocked out for, reportedly, about 150,000 customers. Power was out on Cougar Mountain for about 9 hours, as expected, due to all the trees up there. Interesting that this storm caused a good size outage on Capitol Hill, impacting some stations there. I was talking with the GM of a local station, who is from Texas. He remarked that we sure had a lot of power failures…then noted that perhaps we have more big trees in this area. No Doug Firs in Texas!
All over the country, owners of primary stations are battling co-channel Translators. Here the operator of 103.3 (Oak Harbor) has been dealing with the long standing Entercom 103.3 translator in downtown Seattle (K277AE). Entercom has gone as far as installing a highly directional antenna to try and minimize interference. This is yet another example of why there should be some defined parameters that could guide the parties. Oh well – I can dream.
Meanwhile, the FCC continues to ‘Tinker’ with AM Radio, making more changes that they hope will make it easier for AM station owners to survive. If you would like all the details – go here – https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/11/03/2017-23908/revitalization-of-the-am-radio service.
Ran across this picture the other day. Anyone recognize this youngster. Hint – he is still working in Broadcasting and is 10 years younger than me.
WSU’s NWPR recently saw the retirement of one of the techs, Don Eckis, who was based in Wenatchee. Before he left, he passed on some interesting pictures of some of the things he was involved with. This first one shows the removal of a big dish from the WSU site on Johnson Butte near Kennewick. This was part of an old microwave system that once spanned the state.
Obviously those that have transmitters within the city limits of Seattle don’t have to deal with this! Working in places like this requires an outdoorsman spirit along with being able to repair whatever might be wrong once you reach the site.
On the subject of WSU’s Broadcast Operations – A bit of a name change in the works, to be rolled out on Dec 5th. From what I understand their Radio and TV operations will be under the new banner of NWPB – Northwest Public Broadcasting. Probably a good idea as there is a lot of confusion between NWPR and NPR. We will all learn more on the 5th.
This picture is looking at the snow-cat through the door of the building. Note the amount of ‘white-stuff’ on the trees in the background.
Every year, those of us that work at elevated locations wonder what kind of winter we are going to have. Those that are paid to predict these kinds of things (not sure how getting paid increases accuracy) are telling us that the coming winter is going to be about the same as last one. Many us recall that last year was one for the record books in terms of snow at West Tiger Mountain, giving us the longest period that we were unable to drive up there with a chained up 4X4 since the site was built 30 years ago. To put this into perspective, there have been years when you could drive to the top, without chains, all winter.
This year is starting off with many wondering if recent weather is a fluke, or a sign of things to come. Snowfall on the 5th of November, with lots of leaves still on the trees is pretty unusual….But that is what we got. I thought I’d be able to drive to the top of Cougar Mountain (1/2 as high as West Tiger) on Sunday, November 5, without my snow-tires or chains…I was wrong. The following day I got my snow-tires on (I have already mounted on different rims) and my chains are aboard.
Then, Mother Nature demonstrating who is in charge, as on November 22nd through us a curve with record setting temperatures for the date of near 70 degrees in many places.
The following picture was posted on the West Tiger Remailer by Rob Purdy from Hubbard from one of his new web-cams at the West Tiger II site.
This is nothing ….Look at a picture of South Mountain (KOMO-FM, KDDS etc.) taken the first weekend in November by Doug Fisher and note the required mode of travel.
Looks like the proposal that would have locally-based T-Mobile merge with Sprint is not going to happen after all. The proposed deal was called off in early November.
From the – I got my facts wrong department – I received the following from Tim Schall of KING5.
In your recent column, dated October 31, 2017, you write about the Entercom / CBS merger and its effect on local radio ownership. As always, your musings are interesting, but in this case there is an error. In the article you state, “Recalling when 106.1 was Young Country and they were purchased by the owners of the markets legacy country station…..”. Young Country was, in fact, on 96.5 having succeeded KXRX on that frequency. 106.1 was signing KRPM at the time as “Kicking’ Country.” At one point, CBS radio owned all three of them. Then turned 96.5 the present KJAQ / Jack FM and KRPM into what is today, iHeart Media’s, Kissing’ 106.1. As always, check the facts. But I believe that I am correct in this one.
Then, days later – John Price wrote this – Caught an error in your latest column. At the top you were talking about country stations, and you referenced 106.1 as being ‘Young Country’. That’s not accurate. It was 96.5 (at the time KYCH) that was called Young Country. George was CE there.
I was running on pure memory (perhaps some of those cells have outlived their usefulness? The good news is that there are those that actually read what I write!!!!!
Perhaps you have been following the aftermath of the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico. As I read these accounts I am reminded that we, here in Western Washington and Oregon, could be facing similar challenges after the predicted major earthquake. Significant loss of cellular and data communications. Most broadcast stations off the air, some for long periods, etc. We would be wise to study this situation and ask ourselves if we are ready for our disaster. The only advantage we will have is our proximity to the materials we will need to rebuild.
November 7th has a lot of historical significance – One that you may have overlooked is that this November 7 marks the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act. This started the ball rolling that has given us CPB, PBS and NPR.
Time to take you back. Recently it was brought to my attention that some indicator lamps on a device were dark. Come to think of it, there is a lot of equipment out there that still uses ‘light-bulbs’ for indicators…and not LEDs. How is your stock of 327 and 1829 etc. lamps these days and where do you go to purchase replacements? In this recent instance, the lamps were NE51s. (Remember those?) They were Neon Lamps and commonly used to indicate the presence of line-voltage in a piece of equipment. Being an oldster, I still have a nice collection of lamps….and it just so happened that I had a new box full of NE51s. With my trusty smartphone camera I captured the following. How many recall the name Tung-Sol?
Here’s another one – How long since you’ve see a TV made by Admiral?
Speaking of ‘old’…..The worst thing about getting old is having to listen to advice from your children!
You may have been reading about how Vinyl records are again in demand….OK, should you like ‘skritch-skritch’ – pop, pop, in your music. What I did not realize is that there is a new demand for Cassette Tapes (the Audio Kind). This presents a problem. Where are you going to obtain magnetic tape…or the duplicating machines? Raw materials are scarce. As time goes by, what is viewed by some as old is new to others. That seems to work in a lot of areas, for instance clothing styles.
While I’m at it. For the first time in my life, I now own a vehicle with an Automatic Transmission. My trusty Toyota Camry, with the 6-speed manual is now in the hands of a very appreciative person, having been replaced with a new 4Runner. Wonderful machine, however the dealer is still trying to figure out why I did not like the fact that it did not come with a manual transmission. In selling my Camry, I encountered many that wanted to buy it, but then confessed that they did not know how to drive a ‘3-Pedal’ vehicle. In fact, it appears that many are honestly afraid of trying to learn….apparently viewing the technology as overly complicated. Was talking with a contractor friend the other day and he remarked that its becoming hard to find workers that know how to drive anything other than an automatic. I have, many times, explained how driving a manual ‘becomes’ automatic and you don’t think about operating the pedal on the left, etc.…I can tell that most don’t believe it. It would probably be just as hard to find someone today that could properly thread tape on an Magnecord PT6 . At least I still have one vehicle with a manual, my Tacoma pickup. Guess I enjoy knowing that the manual is a wonderful theft deterrent…too complicated for many who would like to steal it.
From the Department of Famous Quotes –
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play the game better than anyone else.” Albert Einstein
I love searching the ‘Net’ for interesting statistics. Here’s one for you – Where is he quietest place on earth? Answer – According to Guinness World Records, Building 87 on the Microsoft Campus in the Seattle suburb of Redmond. It’s an anechoic Chamber. Finally a place in this area where I can go and – NOT – hear a cellphone ringing!!
Our area also just happens to have the 3rd most quiet place. It’s in the Hoh Rainforest South of Forks in Olympic National Park. I suspect that this measurement was taken when it was not raining
I know that when I receive a picture from Mike Brooks at KING-FM that it’s going to be a goodie, as he is always on the lookout for something that I would want to share with my readers.
For you non-technical types, let me explain that it is proper to ground your transmission line between your transmitter and antenna. For some, the proper way to accomplish the task was never quite learned (Hard to find a school that teaches this stuff).
Other big news item from this past month is the FCC actions approving the use of new technology called ATSC-3.0. This system, already embraced by a number of broadcasters, promises to change the way TV works, big time. Sinclair calls it ‘The Holy Grail’. There will be much written about this going forward. Fasten your seat-belts.
Did you happen to catch the news item about the discovery of a ‘Time Capsule’ while remodeling the Space Needle? Among the discoveries was an audio tape. There was some video aired, showing a number of local Broadcast Engineers trying to figure out how to operate an audio tape machine, that brought some smiles. Problem with some of these time capsules is that they have recordings for which there are no players. Wonder what they would have done had they found a reel of tape that could only be played on a 2 inch Quad machine?
On the 19th, one of the major distribution systems for public warning messages, FEMA/IPAWS, went down for about 10 hours. Thankfully we still have the legacy EAS system that can distribute national level messages from PEP Stations (Like KIRO in Seattle). What this event underscores is the fact that these systems can, and do, fail. If anyone has been wondering why we have the old EAS system in place, this should answer your question.
Here in Washington State we have two systems also – the Washington State CAP system hosted by Alert Sense as well as the State Relay Network on 155.475 MHz. All EAS Participants should be Monitoring BOTH of these systems.
On the local level – Emergency Managers can send public warning (CAP) messages and ‘SHOULD’ be able to do so also via each Operational Area’s – LOCAL RELAY NETWORK. And each Participant should be monitoring this system as well.
It is through these dual/redundant systems that our EAS systems can remain viable when something breaks.
There is a lot of conversation these days regarding US AM and FM Station’s use of translators. Many stations, especially NCE’s, have a number of them. One only has to look across the border from Washington State to see a substantial network of translators operated by CFNR. If you look closely, there are 61 of them….and soon to be 62!
Hat’s off to James O’Neal for a recent piece he wrote for TV Technology and Radio World called, “Doesn’t Anyone Build Anything Anymore?” I have to admit that I love to build things, coming from the days when you could not buy it, so you had to design and build it yourself. Major makers of broadcast equipment, back then (Collins, RCA, GE, Gates etc.) only sold the major items – all the little gizmos required between them were constructed, by staff engineers. This was long before firms like – Broadcast Tools and Henry Engineering were born and long before firms like BSW, SCMS etc. were around to sell their products.
Participating in the equipment removal from the old Entercom facility at Met Park, I could not help but note all the gizmos that Dwight and I had built over the years. Many of them were problem solvers that could not be purchased anywhere.
Today, many of the people that knew how to turn a problem into a design and construct the device, have retired. Fewer and fewer broadcast engineers these days have these skills. Also fewer have the Ham Radio background or formal training that was SOP for the prior generation. Times have changed, for sure.
If you think the Sinclair/Tribune/FCC battle is fierce….Just Google ‘Net Neutrality’ and settle back for some interesting reading. Forces on both sides are lawyering up for an epic battle.
The following gems come from a well-known Seattle area engineer (who shall remain nameless), who is also a senior citizen – Enjoy!
- Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
- Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.
- I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.
- We have come to learn that using CAPS in email is shouting – what we really need is a sarcasm font.
- After all these years now I wonder was learning cursive really necessary?
- Map Quest or Google Maps really need to start their directions on turn #5. I’m pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
- Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
- Bad decisions make good stories.
- You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
- I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
- Keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
- How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?
That’s about it for this month –
From our house to yours – Have a Wonderful Christmas and may 2018 be filled with whatever you wish for.
If I’m lucky – Perhaps I can do this one more time
Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE