Clay’s Corner for August 2022      Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986



Well, here we go, once again the ‘heat of summer’…Near the end of July we were seeing:

With a Heat Advisory…..Perhaps some things to be thankful for –

  • Unlike last year – Nothing (yet) forecast in ‘Triple Digits’
  • Unlike previous years – No smoke from fire (Yet)

If you are still doubting there is a change in our climate, consider that we – again – broke a high temperature record on the 26th of July – 94 Degrees.

The days when you could go out and purchase a radio for your Kitchen (or other room) are largely gone.  Today, a home radio is likely not be an OTA (Off the Air) device, but rather an Internet connected device like Alexa.   Or perhaps a home PC where the user streams a local radio station.

Today, radio just about 100% depends on those receivers mounted in vehicles.   This is why the NAB and EBU are working so hard on their relationships with carmakers.   These efforts were in play during a recent ‘World DAB’ conference in London.

The US (and Canada) are, perhaps, unique, in that we still have a lot of broadcasting taking place on the AM band.  Vehicle makers are interested in phasing out AM in vehicles for a couple of major reasons –

  • The challenge in dealing with the electronic systems used in many vehicles, conventional and electric power, that create a lot of radio-frequency noise.
  • The continued decline in the popularity of AM Broadcasting.

The other challenge facing Radio is the competition for other items on today’s dashboard.  The days of the simple – 2-knob, slide-rule dial, 5 or 6 pushbutton radio are long gone   On the positive side, vehicle makers want content in their cars and radio has the ability to deliver ‘tons’ of it and all for relatively low cost.   To that end, NAB has been working with the firms like Google with systems like their ‘Android Automotive’

I recently ran across this one – Certainly worthy of placement on the door of the Chief Engineer, especially in this day of having to, periodically, ‘Power-Cycle’ things to restore functionality.

As you are aware, legendary broadcast engineer, James Boyd recently passed.  Kent Randles recently distributed the following picture of those that gathered for the Wake for James Boyd.   Kent is in this picture, 3rd from the left, on the left.   There are many familiar faces at the table.

It’s the end of POTS and ISDN as we know it…

When the FCC 19-72A1 order takes effect from August 2nd, 2022, the shutdown of remaining POTS and ISDN services in the US will commence and become real for many broadcasters.

From the looks of our local ‘Telephone Company’ infrastructure, he may be right.   Everywhere I go I see Telephone ‘Pedestals’ that have been driven over, covers gone, wires hanging out etc.

Granted the ‘telephone companies’ are investing in Fiber, as they should be.   Today the big players are firms like Comcast that were able to ‘repurpose’ their coaxial cable networks to handle Internet services are, as they say – ‘Eating their lunch’.

One of the major broadcast sites I work at on Cougar Mountain is a prime example of this shift.   The telephone company terminal has just a few remaining connections.  Meanwhile AccelNet and Comcast have moved in with Wireless and Fiber circuits.

Note all the missing Carbon Protectors

One of the most famous AM Radio Stations in the Country is WLW in Cincinnati.    Like a lot of AM’s, they have had to face the fact that all the land consumed by their big broadcast tower could produce considerable revenue if developed for other purposes.     ‘Tower Park’ is the new development in the works for the WLW site.

Unlike some AM’s that have either elected to share the use of other towers, or terminate operations, WLW, apparently, intends to continue operating with other uses sharing what used to be protected turf….Their antenna ground system.   The 747 foot tower will be sharing the 26.7 acre site with restaurants, office buildings and a 700 vehicle parking lot.   Here is a portion of the plan.   You can see the tower location looking like a spider in the middle of a web.

This is – not – a small tower – In addition to being 747 feet tall, it’s 35 feet wide In the middle and has 8 guy wires. Typically a guyed tower is a 3-sided structure with the same width from top to bottom and only has guy wires extending in 3 different direction.

Here’s a closeup look at the middle of the tower –


One aspect of this that will be interesting is the matter of RF interference to other electronic equipment…. Not to mention damage from falling ice.  This could be interesting !

The tower is not owned by the Broadcast Station, but rather by a firm called Vertical Bridge who purchased the tower from iHeartMedia and leases it back to them.

WLW transmits with a power of 50,000 watts on 700 kHz.

As we all know, Inflation is raging.   Not long ago, having a ‘Mega-Buck’ in savings would mean you were a ‘Millionaire’ and were ‘In the Chips”.  A recent, published, survey, shed new light on this one.    Assume you are living in Seattle,

Question How long $1 million would last?

Answer  About 14 years. (With Inflation raging, that number is sure to go down)

From the ‘Do you remember Dept’ –

On July 10th 1962, 60 years ago, the first communications satellite that could relay TV signals across the Atlantic was launched.   Telstar broke a lot of ground.  Compared to today’s satellites, Telstar was a ‘Mini’.   Less than 3 feet in diameter and weighing only 171 lbs.    Do you also remember the ‘Pop-Song’ with the same name?     I remember all of this…(Yes, I’m that old) and I was working in a Tacoma area Radio Station at the time.

How about this one – Do you remember when the Russians launched Sputnik?    I recall receiving it’s ‘Beep Beep’ on my old Hallicrafters receiver as it passed over.

Wow we have come a long way !

A Florida Radio Station did a big No-No recently.   The FCC came to visit and were denied access!.,,,Even after they showed their badges and credentials etc.   (OOPS)!  Violation #1 – FCC rules state that licensees must make stations available for inspection ….

This goes back to March of this year when agents from the Miami field office attempted to inspect the little, Low-Power FM station. WDZP in West Palm Beach.   The Commish said they had 20 days to explain their actions and how the situation will be rectified.

We’ve never had a ‘Franken FM’ in the Seattle area so a bit of background thanks to Wikipedia

These stations transmit an analog FM signal centered at 87.75 MHz, designated by receiver and station marketing as “87.7 FM”. This is just below the lowest FM band frequency of 87.9 MHz, thus receivable by most consumer radios. Although primarily functioning as radio stations, they are formally licensed as TV stations, thus are still required to provide some sort of video signal in order to comply with FCC regulations.

These are VHF,channel 6 TV stations, which operate as radio stations capable of being picked up by standard FM receivers. These stations are colloquially known as “Franken FMs”, a reference to Frankenstein’s monster, because TV stations functioning as radio stations had not been envisioned by the FCC which commonly refers to these stations as “FM6” operations.

What’s new is the new FCC, finally, may act and create some structure.

On May 17, 2022 Jessica Rosenworcel, head FCC commissioner, announced that one of the agenda items for an upcoming FCC Open Meeting, “Preserving Local Radio Programming (MB Docket No. 03-185)”, “will consider a proposal to allow these broadcasters to continue their existing FM6 radio service, provided that they meet certain conditions, including interference protection and the provision of a synchronous TV service to consumers.”[6] However, this agenda item was dropped as being no longer needed,[7] due to the June 6, 2022 adoption of a “Fifth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” for MB Docket No. 03-185, which requested additional public comments about the best use of the frequencies assigned to TV channel 6.[8]

Meanwhile the NAB feels they should be left in place…..Will be interesting

The FCC has been dealing with another matter, this time something, not broadcasting, that impacts just about everyone – Robocalls.  The Commish announced  that it was ordering phone companies to block call traffic that the agency believes is part of a massive car warranty robocall operation responsible for 8 billion illegal robocalls since 2018.   (I received mine)

An interesting twist on this effort – They are going after the phone companies telling them to not accept traffic from them.

Those that read this column have certainly determined that I am concern about the amount of misinformation that’s been flowing through our airwaves.  Unfortunately, one of the impacts of this has been the erosion of trust in the news media.  A recent survey shows it’s down to about 26%…The lowest in the World according to a study released in June by Reuters.   The study shows the ‘right-leaning portion of the sample dragging the numbers down…At the same time, the left-leaning trust has gone up.   It seems that there is a segment of our country, on the right, whose goal is to plant the seeds of mistrust whether it be in elections, government or the media.


As we are seeing – the day of the Electric Vehicle is certainly here.   A recent survey showed that California has over 23% of the EV market, followed by Texas with 13.9%.  We (Washington State) come in at #6 with 3.4%.    Thankfully a good percentage of our power comes from renewables.  In fact, our two major cities are doing very well at producing power using non-carbon sources…

Other areas of the country are not quite so fortunate – As the following illustrates

Generating power from Solar has a lot of appeal, however, the price of a critical metal may put a damper on new solar projects.   Polysilicon has recently jumped in cost by 190 %.   This has driven the cost of large-scale solar project up more than 25% from a year ago.    We have some 30 solar power facilities, east of the Mountains, for example.

As you may have quickly noticed, Washington is one of those places where UFO’s are more frequently seen…..BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE !!!     Not only that – Washington State is ranked – NUMBER 1 in UFO sightings per 100,000 residents.

We have a long history with UFO’s or UAV’s

Remember it was Kenneth Arnold that saw a number of them near Mt Rainier in 1947, where we learned his term to describe them ‘ Flying Saucer’

Have you every seen one (or more) ??    Me neither.

My faithful cellphone (Samsung S5) was getting near the end of life so I went out and invested in a new S22+.    The camera is something to behold (you can look up the spec’s on-line).    I shot the following about 10 PM on the 7th. Yes, that’s the Moon.    It’s amazing what these cellphone cameras can do these days.  You can look up the S22+ and see the specs if you are curious.

This one take on the 15th of Mt Rainier with a ‘cloud cap’


If you have a picture to share- Please send it my way !!

Hope to catch you here next month

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member # 714

Since March 1968