|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:
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.
Janice Wise, (202) 418-8165
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.
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:
- 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.
- The three-station frequency swap in the Miami area that Ron Rackley and I did, establishing the 1040 operation in Miami with 50 kW.
- Designing the 900 MHz point-to-multipoint delivery system in the L.A. basin for City News Service of L.A.
- 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.
- 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).
- Obtaining FCC authorization for the first fulltime slant-wire fed grounded AM antenna in several decades.
- 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.
- 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.
Northwest Public Radio
Source: Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville)
Author: Phil Runke
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
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!
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