Clay’s Corner for November 2019
Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986
Here we are, at this writing the end of October, and the stores are full of things for Christmas. The weather was wonderful as the month started. Then, like a brick wall, we experienced the ‘October-Shift’ and the rains began. Lots of it too, complete with your first taste of flooding. Then it was back to nice fall weather. By the end of the month most of the trees had lost their leaves and the colors will be gone, awaiting April when the cycle starts again.
Meanwhile in California, things are not so good.
Here is the FEMA Daily Operations Briefing for Sunday October 27, 2019:
Significant Incidents or Threats:
- California wildfires
- Extreme to critical fire weather – CA and AZ
- Red Flag Warnings – CA, AZ, NM and UT
- High Wind Warnings – northern and southern CA
The FCC has a reporting system called DIRS. Here is a recent look at the highlights coming out of the Golden State for October 26th:
- PG&E is expected to shut-off power to 940,000 customers
- 4 FM stations reported out of service (K238AF, KKLJ, KNOB, KSXY), and 2 FM stations out of service with programming on another station (KRSH, KXTS), most stations not reporting (17 FM stations reported operational)
- No AM stations reported out of service, most stations not reporting (3 AM stations reported operational)
- No TV stations reported out of service, most stations not reporting (10 TV stations reported operational)
- 1,427 cable and wireline subscribers out of service
- 32 cell sites out of 9,498 out of service (approximately 0.3%). Same caveats as yesterday.
In the event you think our weather is bad and need a little ‘comparison cheering’, you can check this out:
Stop and think about what these power outages mean to the average home-owner that has become totally dependent on electric power (unless, of course, you have a generator and a good source of fuel).
- No Lights
- No radio or TV
- No Internet
- No Clocks (Unless you kept that windup model)
- If you have an Internet based telephone, it’s dead too
- No way to charge your cell phone (unless you do so in your car using precious fuel)
- Garage doors that must be manually operated
- Your local gas stations are closed
- Typical public warning systems (EAS, WEA, Reverse 911 etc.) all useless to you
If you are like me, and have spent many years here in the PNW (or PSW if you are in Canada), all you have to do it look at the news to help you become convinced that we are really blessed.
The fear I have is that the 40 some million that live in California will be soon looking for a better place to live and will come to understand that here is better than there!
If you want another comparison, how about Texas? On Oct 20th a tornado cut a swath through the north side of Dallas. In its path was the studios for KNON, which was so bad they were looking for a new home. Not only did this ruin the day for many, but for those not in the path that were watching the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles play a football game, many were upset because the station elected to delay the airing of the tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service. Stations are put on the spot. Do they interrupt a popular sporting event, knowing it could save lives, or do they not. The fact is, some people do not wish to be warned.
Before I forget it, Nov. 3rd will again be time to set our clocks back one-hour to PST. Now that all the Western States, and BC, have agree to stay on Daylight time, that decision is on hold pending decisions to be made by government types on the Right-Coast that will allow us to, perhaps in the Spring, change to PDT and stay there. With no pun intended, time will tell.
I was recently thinking back to when we shifted from NTSC analog TV to ATSC digital. It was then that TV stations starting shifting channels and the true RF channel they were on no longer on, had any meaning. The legacy stations in Seattle, KOMO-4, KING-5 and KIRO-7 must continue was the cry. So along came the concept of virtual channels. Everyone bought in. With a bit of teaching, the new digital TV’s could be educated so that regardless of the RF channel the station was transmitting on, they could have the same channel number. Viewers only need to re-scan their TV’s and all would be good again, proving that the product name is more important.
Then along came Re-Pack and, once again, many (but not all) stations were again changing channels and stations were again asking their viewers to re-scan their TV’s so life would go on. I recently note the following posted by Lowell Kiesow (KNKX) and thought it provided an interesting perspective on the more recent shuffle.
As a radio guy, I found it interesting to see what happened after the Seattle TV repack took effect last night. There must be a story behind the fact that the stations cooperated to make the shift together, on the first day of the test period. Their deadline was 1/17/20.
The following seven stations moved channels: KTBW, KZJO, KOMO, KIRO, KFFV, KING and KUNS.
Daystar’s KWDK is off the air. I met their itinerant transmitter crew at Tiger last week, so they are probably still swapping equipment at this time. They had a 24′ box truck for hauling a lot of stuff.
My TV found two signals for KIRO TV. They have 715 kW from Queen Anne on ch 23, and 3.8 kW on ch 18 from West Tiger 2. The latter signal is stronger in Parkland (just south of Tacoma), despite the low power and being off the side of the antenna.
In Parkland, with a big, consumer grade, high gain, all-band antenna on my roof, I get 12 stations with 50 channels, not counting KIRO twice. Not bad for free.
The big winner is KFFV since they went from 169 kW on ch 44 to 260 kW on ch 16. I receive KFFV for the first time.
Before the repack, I would occasionally receive KZJO, but now it works. They moved from ch 25 to ch 36, both at 1 MW from Capitol Hill. Either my antenna is slightly better on the new channel or theirs is. It is just good enough because only one of my TVs receives it.
Just curious. Have any of you noted changes in the signals of our local TV Stations after this shuffle? If so, drop me a note and let me know so I can share.
The next shuffle in TV has a new Logo:
The CTIA has approved the new name and logo for what’s called ATSC 3.0. Apparently this new logo will be used to help consumers identify compatible ATSC 3.0 devices. This is not just a simple channel/ frequency change but, if it develops, as some have planned, will be a major change in many respects. Time will tell just how much this will catch on and how consumers will respond to it.
While in Gig Harbor recently, I spotted this service van:
Why you ask? Because these 4 letters are also used by the SBE, so I did a search and came up with this:
Certified Broadcast Radio Engineer (CBRE) is a title granted to an individual in the United States who successfully meets the experience and test requirements of the certification, regulated by the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). The CBRE title is protected by copyright laws. Individuals who use this title without consent from the Society of Broadcast Engineers could face legal action.
The SBE certifications were created to recognize individuals who practice in career fields which are not regulated by state licensing or Professional Engineering programs. Broadcast Engineering is regulated at the national level and not by individual states.
The following picture was taken by Entercom’s Alex Brewster of the –Site Access Key-Pad- at Cougar Mountain. Just getting in the Halloween spirit said the spider.
Over on the east side of the Cascades they are changing TV channels as well. The following pictures were taken by NWPB’s Jason Royals of a recent project to change the channel of one of WSU’s translators in the Lewiston-Clarkson area. Here you can see the location of the equipment on the little peak just right of center. Perhaps the thing most noticeable is the lack of trees. In locations west of the Cascades that whole area would be heavily forested.
Perhaps you should note that these pictures were taken near the end of October. Shortly afterward, this site was ‘white’ with our first, early season, snowfall.
Here is a view of the tower with all the antennas, one of which is for K34QC-D, the Lewiston translator
For KWSU-TV (second one down on the left side). The work here moved the system from RF Ch 27 to Ch 34. Viewers in that area needed to tell their TV sets to see this signal as virtual Ch 10. This type of
‘Channel Shuffling’ is taking place in the Seattle area as well, all part of what’s called Re-Packing to make room for more wireless services.
The number of FM Translators and boosters continues to grow in the U.S. The new totals reflect a 4% increase over last year. Nearly 250 more than the start of the year.
No one is shocked with the total number of AM’s as the mode continues to struggle. Nine more have shut down in the last three months and 25 have gone silent in the last year. I suspect this trend will continue until the supply equals the demand. Despite the losses, there are still over 4600 AM’s on the air. No surprise that about 37% of the remaining AM’s have an FM Translator leading one to wonder just how many more AM’s would be silent if the ability of having a translator had not come along.
Here are how things stack up:
The FCC reports the total number of full-power television stations was relatively steady with 1,760 licensed at the end of September. The latest FCC data shows the total number of low-power TV stations was 1,897. Overall, there were a total of 33,492 radio and television licenses issued by the FCC at the end of the third quarter.
In the U.S. we have, albeit slowly, become accustomed to HD Radio. Just about all new cars and trucks come with it standard and listeners are responding with a number of HD-2 channels showing up in radio ratings. We need to understand that not everyone around the world is on board with HD Radio, with several digital radio systems in use. One that has been around for a long time is DRM or Digital Radio Mondial. For some time DRM has been rolling out on the Medium Wave or AM broadcast bands. More recently, DRM has been demonstrated for use on the FM Band, which like HD-R will permit multiple channels to be carried along with the parent FM Signal. I have to wonder when the day will come that makers of receivers will incorporate all of these systems to help level the playing field. Then there is a matter of the regulators, and what they will permit.
Just as Harrington Tower was about to take down the four towers that was the KMIA night transmitter site, the operator, Bustos Media, and property owner, Dennis Garre, were approached by the present owners of the Pacific 1550/KZIZ who needed to vacate their present site just south of Auburn. Their timing was pretty good. The towers were spared. On October 2nd I handed the keys to the former 1210/KMIA night transmitter site east of Auburn to the new owners who propose to move the station to that location. Their application calls for using all 4 of the former 1210 towers operating with 3 kW day and 430 watts at night. This is less than the present operation of 5 kW day and 900 watts at night. The former 1210 array dates back some 30 years. The original plant was constructed by myself with help from Arne Skoog who was my assistant at the time.
I recently ran across this item from Readers Digest. Did you know that most Canadians live SOUTH of Seattle? Here is what they said:
Canada and the United States are both large countries which can make understanding the relative geography difficult. But the contiguous United States goes farther north than you think and the majority of Canadians live near the southern border. The result? At 45 degrees latitude, Seattle is further north than Toronto or Montreal, meaning 64 per cent of Canadians live south of Seattle.
I recall a few years ago while visiting the Nautel factory in Nova Scotia, telling the folks there that I had to go south to get there. They too found it hard to believe.
Understand that Mike Dosch, a person long associated with producers of broadcast audio equipment will now be focusing his full time to his recently launched company called Angry Audio. This is good timing as Radio Systems recently announced they were dropping production of their popular Studio-Hub products and they were going to be produced by Angry Audio.
For those of you not familiar with how broadcast audio items are interconnected these days, a quick look. In the past, broadcast audio used shielded two conductor cable (example, Belden 9451 or equal) or two pair (example, Belden 8723) or dual-pair Belden 1504 etc). Along the way came UTP cable which had 4 twisted pairs, which quickly found use with telephone and computer circuits. Meanwhile, connectors were changing. This time we were all following the telephone industry as they had adopted the RJ45 connector. Soon the computer equipment makers were all using RJ45’s. Broadcast audio was on the same train and soon UTP cable was being used in broadcast plants with many, but not all, connectors becoming RJ45’s. Audio over IP, or AoIP had become the new way of doing things. You could go out and find computer network cable (Cat5, 6 etc) just about everywhere, all made up in different lengths. The issue was that there was still a lot of equipment out there that used various kinds of connectors, XLR, ¼ Inch phone plugs, 1/8 inch phone plugs, RCA phono connectors, etc. The folks at Radio Systems saw an opportunity to provide adaptors to permit connecting these devices to standard UTP cables. They called their products ‘Studio Hub’. Broadcasters jumped all over this, as this made putting things together a snap with no soldering required. Plug and Play had become the norm. Back to the decision of Radio Systems to stop making these handy devices. There was some fear in the minds of many of having to build their own. However, Mike Dosch to the rescue and the news that his Angry Audio would pick up where Radio Systems left off. As an example, we used a considerable number of these wonderful gadgets in the recent installation at KVTI. If you want to find out more about these things, you can go here: https://angryaudio.com/ (read on)
The week of the 27th had me deep in the midst of a studio upgrade at KVTI, replacing their legacy Auditronics Consoles in two studios to new AoIP models made by Wheatstone. I have a bit of history with one of the old Auditonics. I installed it, way back when KBSG moved to Seattle’s Metropolitan Park East-Tower. Later, after the purchase of the station by Entercom, that facility was abandoned and the console was gifted to Clover Park Technical College, where it served well while CPTC was training DJ’s. Some years ago that program closed and the station became part of WSU’s operation, where several announcers continued to produce programs for NWPB to this day. The following are some before and after shots of one of the studios in this project –
The new mixer looks small in comparison. Due to the way these new systems are designed, the smaller device is actually more powerful than the bigger old one. Many of the controls on the old unit were used to start and stop magnetic tape equipment – all of which had already made it to the dumpster.
I’ve estimated that 70% of my time was spent removing the old wiring (much of it installed by people whose names you would recognize). Multiple pieces of two conductor/shielded cable, connectors, punch blocks etc. that took weeks to install, all gone. Today these studio devices are all constructed using standard computer/ network cables and pre-made adaptors, reducing the installation time to a small fraction of before. As time goes by, all the radio stations in this area have already or are about to switch over to the same technology. Next up, KING-FM, who are moving around the corner from 10 Harrison to Mercer. There again, loads of legacy analog equipment will be put out to pasture.
The question remains. Will T-Mobile (based in the Seattle area) really merge with Sprint? The FCC has said yes, however there are those that don’t like that answer, including 17 states that have sued to stop it. Again we wait.
Yet another survey to report on….This time – The Best Large Cities to live in.
#1 – Virginia Beach, VA
#2 – Austin, TX
#3 – Seattle, WA
#4 – San Diego, CA
#5 – Las Vegas, NV
#6 – San Francisco
#7 – NYC
#8 – San Jose, CA
#9- Honolulu, HI
#10- Portland, OR
Once again contributor Mike Brooks of KING-FM came up with a gem. In this case a fanciful schematic diagram. You have to study this carefully to get full appreciation. Obviously constructed by someone having too much spare time.
A friend of mine sent me this interesting picture of lightning. Looks like a highly charged man walking with a cane in his left hand.
That’s about it for this month, my friends.
Thanks for the read.
Lord willing, I will be back to most of these same locations next month at this time.
Until then –
Clay, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Member for over 50 years, #714