I was listening to Cliff Mass recently explain how the last week in October or the first week in November is the time that the weather-switch is thrown and, for us, we say goodbye to nice weather and hello to storms. Boy was he right!. Especially when I think about the fact that we had over 50% of our normal rainfall by the middle of the month and that was followed by a dandy Pacific Storm that dumped more rain and swept the area with a lot of wind resulting in about 400,000 out of power. The wind portion of the storm impacted Eastern Washington as well hitting the Spokane area especially hard. US 2, west of Stevens Pass was closed due to downed trees. Many roads, including I-84 thru the Columbia Gorge, were closed. All together the storm related death toll stood at 3. The following picture speaks volumes- Look at the size of that tree! Many areas were dealing with significant flooding for the next couple of days….After that, thankfully it turned cool and dry.
A storm of a different kind recently roared thru Parkland and Pacific Lutheran University when they announced that they were selling KPLU to KUOW. For those of us that have been in this business for a while we vividly remember the good-ole-days when you worked for a company that had ONE set of call letters and ONE program feed ONE transmitter. Several years ago the FCC put an end to that mode and opened the door, in Radio and TV, to having multiple call letters, and streams, under one roof. On the commercial side, this became SOP. In this market, the KPLU/KUOW deal marks the first time that the change that rocked our house is now rocking theirs. However, I should point out that KUOW, in the past, did operate then called KXOT, however that station was not purchased and the relationship ended.
This deal is interesting in a number of ways….
From a personnel perspective this is not good news as this is, reportedly, an asset sale. This means that the new owners will end up with a bunch of equipment and FCC licenses and will be hiring their own people to staff it. (Funny how these things often come down the road just before Christmas).
On the technical side, KPLU has a fairly spread out system with transmitters not only at West Tiger and Cougar, but in several locations in Western Washington. Keeping all this up and running is a tall order for the existing tech-crew at KUOW. If they are smart, they will be talking with Lowell Kiesow and Nick Winter. It’s been my experience that engineers are often considered to not be a threat to a new ownership, but rather an asset. There are a number of us in this game that have worked for multiple owners at the same channel or dial position. Those in other departments are not as lucky.
Certainly the studios for KPLU will be leaving Parkland (South of Tacoma) for Seattle where they are following in the footsteps of those that have gone before. The City of License of KPLU is Tacoma…But so are TV Channels 11 and 13 and FM stations on 97.3, 103.7 and 106.1…all of whom have their S&O (Studios and Offices) in Seattle. The same can be said about AM stations on 850 and 1360 whose transmitters are still in the Tacoma area, but whose offices are in the big city to the north. KPLU’s move is perhaps just unique because they are late to the game.
Another interesting wrinkle is the fact that KUOW is on a commercial FM Channel (94.9) while KPLU, on 88.5 is in the NCE band. Some years ago, when consolidation was in full swing in Seattle and we were having trouble keeping up with who owned what ….There was a certain party that was rumored to have approached KPLU about selling. The goal here was to purchase KPLU, then give it to KUOW in exchange for 94.9 that would become another commercial FM outlet. Granted this was back in the days when FM stations in Seattle were priced –considerably- higher than they are now. Despite that, there are those that have recently suggested that KUOW is purchasing KPLU for 8 Million will simply move KUOW to 88.5 and sell 94.9 for a bundle. The result, bigger signal, more coverage, and a tidy profit. Granted they are telling the world that 88.5 will remain with KUOW as a Jazz Station…but again, history has clearly demonstrated, at this stage, new owners frequently change their mind. Time will tell.
Another interesting aspect of this is the fact that the announcements I’ve been seeing indicate that all hands will await the FCC’s approval of the deal before any changes are made. Seems to me that this is not the way the game is played. As soon as the deal has been signed between the parties and the application filed with the FCC the buyer takes over the operation with an LMA so that the FCC approval is a formality that comes along later. Certainly everyone at KPLU is likely flooding the market with resumes at this point.
One interesting, and perhaps unusual aspect of this is the fact that they have telegraphed how they see this new Duopoly coming together ….Complete with maps (see below). Here are some thoughts after looking at this graphic –
- Ø KUOW will be ‘cherry picking’ the KPLU translators and Class A’s considerably increasing the coverage of 94.9
- Ø 5 will be left with their rather impressive signal from West Tiger as well as little translators in Bellingham and Tumwater.
KPLU feeds these smaller market Class A’s and Translators using Satellite C-Band as well as off-air. The reduced coverage of the 94.9 operation from Capitol Hill will likely cause them to utilize the HD2 Channel of 88.5 for that purpose. KPLU’s 88.5 has been used for the past few years for something they call Jazz 24…Perhaps that will move to the Main Channel whereas it’s been announced that 88.5 will no longer be carrying NPR in favor of an all-music format.
Not everyone is silently accepting this deal with plenty of un-happy folks trying to stop the train. Probably one of the more vocal has been Cliff Mass. You can read his blog filled with weather info and KUOW/KPLU deal- bashing here – http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/
Whatever happens – This is certainly an interesting change.
On the subject of changes. Remember the 1480 operation in Lakewood that lost their transmitter site and both of the towers were taken down? Well, the station is apparently back on the air operating with a random wire antenna from a house near the middle of Lakewood. The coverage of the, what appears to be a temporary operation, is very limited…but perhaps it qualifies the station to turn back on their FM translator in Tacoma. This station, along with one in Bremerton and Lacey were recently sold.
Thanks to a dandy 16 MP camera in my smart phone….I have found that I’m taking pictures of a lot more things these days….Most of them are work related…but occasionally I find something to share with my readers. The following was taken from the Collins Road, looking East toward Cultus Mountain in the Skagit Valley as I was on my way back from visiting a NWPR transmitter site just north of where this picture was taken, near Burlington. The vivid green land and blue sky is what got my attention. Those of us that live in this neck of the woods are so blessed.
Speaking of cool cameras….How about those that recently sent back pictures of Pluto? NASA has certainly taken Cameras to a new level. Here’s a cool site that you can visit that shows the entire earth at one time –
I probably should give credit to someone for this – But I don’t recall to whom I should give it –
I’ve found there exactly two kinds of persons in the world –
1, Those who do and, 2, those who don’t
Those who do, take all the blame and those who don’t… take all the credit!
I suppose you have heard, Tom McGinley is retiring and heading back to his roots in Montana. For the past several years Tom has been the DOE and IT at the CBS Radio cluster in Seattle. Word is that CBS is, at this writing, interviewing for his replacement at 1000 Dexter. CBS Operates 3 FM and an AM Station in Seattle.
Tom Pierson, DOE at the Bonneville Radio cluster in Seattle (KIRO AM&FM and KTTH) recently underwent knee surgery. He is planning some intensive re-habitation therapy in Hawaii. Spoke with Tom recently, he said he is doing better than he expected.
Old friend, Joe Fleming, sent me this one. One of his stations, WWLB-FM had been suffering abnormal VSWR issues for a long time. Taking apart the antenna system revealed the problem.
This is a classic case of what’s called a ‘Split Bullet’. Note how the inner connector is splayed outward. In a higher powered operation this kind of thing would have likely been more of a problem. His guess is that it was built this way.
The FCC has recently issued CP’s for a number of on-channel boosters for the Bustos Media 99.3/KDDS. They would be in areas that are within the normal service contour of their main transmitter (South Mountain west of Shelton) but are somewhat shadowed by terrain. They would be located at Rainier Beach, Tukwila, Kent and Seattle. The system they are proposing to deploy is called Maxx-Casting and it a product created by GatesAir and Geo-Broadcast Solutions. You can read more about it by Googling GatesAir FM Boosters. The system will not be simple to install, nor in-expensive to operate. Local Engineer Buzz Anderson is heading up the project.
Some of the other interesting items on the local news scene include –
- Ø Seattle’s 1590 AM is increasing day power to 20 Kw rom their site on the island west of Seattle.
- Ø Looks like the efforts to stop KRPI from moving to Pt Roberts may have paid off.
- Ø Rumors are that possibly two more FM’s may be re-locating to South Mountain, already the home of 3.
More from ‘Clay’s Camera’ – This shot of a fellow about to climb up one of the towers on Cougar Mountain. What makes this interesting is that he is wearing an ‘RF Suit’. This process started out with the need to climb the tower to make some measurements and the tower outfit contacting me asking that the stations at the site either reduce power or turn off. I pushed back and asked if they could do this work in what they call a ‘Hot-Suit’….they agreed. Looks much like something would wear if they were a bee-keeper.
Every once in a while I come across an example of superior, out of the box thinking and examples of just what Broadcast Engineers are cable to doing in the field. The word MacGyver might be used in this example – In an effort to protect the creators….No names will be used !
Now tell me, do you really think the FAA is going to permit them to build a 101 story building in Downtown Seattle? That’s the plan of the developer. 4/C would be on the SW corner of 4th and Columbia – Across the street from the presently tallest building in Seattle, Columbia Tower. To put this into perspective at 1111 Feet above street level it would be twice a tall as the Space Needle. If you recall the amount of flack that was generated when they wanted to put twin antenna masts on Columbia Center you can understand my wondering how the FAA would tolerate this. Back then the FAA said no and that was it. This will be interesting
It appears that the movement to get FM chips in cellphones is gaining a bit of traction. Recently Commissioner Rosenworcel weighed in with support. IMHO the only problem is that the phones are pretty deaf in terms of receiving without having an earphone, doubling as an antenna, plugged in. Then there are the questions like – Would the users know where to tune for emergency information and which FM stations are likely to be broadcasting the information needed? Perhaps this is a chicken and egg argument?
And then there are these classics on their way to the re-cycle joint – On the Left is a QEI FM Modulation Monitor. In their day they were super cool. On the right Is a set of RCA FM Monitors. These were made by Belar that also produced them with a beige panel and orange labels. A lot of programming was monitored with these old critters. Betcha some of my readers have a story or two to tell about them too.
It was 20 years ago that I first met Mark Allen as he attended the kick-off meeting for our new EAS system. He stayed with the EAS Effort, and just this past month attended his last SECC Meeting. Hopefully the new, incoming WSAB President will wish to engage this project as well. Marks history is an interesting read –
The Washington State Association of Broadcasters has announced that President & CEO Mark Allen will retire at the end of 2015. He will continue with the Association as a consultant during 2016. Allen has been the Chief Executive Officer of WSAB since 1990 and prior to that served for seven years as WSAB’s Assistant to the President & General Counsel. July of 2015 marked the 50-year anniversary of Allen’s first employment in the broadcasting industry. He was a 17 year-old high school junior when he began working as an announcer at KASY-AM, a 250-watt daytime-only station in his hometown of Auburn, Washington. Since that time, Allen has held on-air and programming positions in markets such as Seattle, Spokane, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He currently serves as the play-by-play announcer for KIRO-TV’s coverage of the Seattle Seafair unlimited hydroplane race and KNDU-TV’s coverage of the Tri-City Water Follies Columbia Cup unlimited hydroplane race. He joined the Seattle law firm of Ogden Murphy Wallace in 1980 when WSAB was run as a part of the firm’s law practice. Allen is currently a member of the Bench-Bar-Press Committee of Washington; chairs the Washington AMBER Alert Advisory Committee; is a member of the Northwest Communications Law Group. He is the Broadcast Vice-Chair of the State Emergency Communications Committee (EAS Steering Committee) and is a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. He served as the President of the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA, then known as the Broadcast Executive Directors Association) in 1989 and is currently the 7th most senior member of NASBA.
In my comments about Mark Allen I noted that he and I started the Washington SECC 20 years ago. To be exact, it was Nov 14th, 1994 that the FCC Adopted the EAS Rules. They have been upgraded and changed a number of times since then.
WSAB’s Mark Allen
On the topic of EAS – I have agreed to stay on as chair of the SECC past my announced retirement date of December 31 this year. This thanks to the fact that the SECC has a new member. Jon Kasprick, who has agreed to take on the newly created position of Data Base Manager. In this role Jon will be keeping track of Monitoring Assignments, giving me a chance to do more of what chairman does. One of my new projects is something that I discussed with the SBE Chapter a few months ago….That is work toward creating emergency communications circuits between our areas EOC’s and broadcast stations and/or their transmitters to provide a means for Emergency Management offices to provide the public with vital information after the ‘Big One’. There is an exercise planned for next year based on us having a 9.0 Quake called Cascadia Rising. I’ve given this effort a name – EPIS for Emergency Public Information System. Thus far the reception has been very good in my conversations with Emergency Managers and Broadcast engineers and managers. The SECC appointed Phil Johnson and Roy Benavente to work with me in getting this to the next level. That will be a meeting to be held at the King Co EOC on January 27th. There will be more information coming out on this in the coming days. This will be something that news directors and engineers from those stations having news departments in our area will want to attend.
There were some interesting comments posted to some of the national list-servers regarding going back to Standard Time. Some object to the time shift, claiming that it messes up their sleep schedule. Another writer submitted that he runs on GMT and has no trouble. Not wishing to leave this item alone I have an idea for a compromise –
Next Spring, instead of ‘springing forward’ ONE hour….I proposed that we ‘spring forward ONE-HALF hour and just move all the clocks ahead one hour. For example – Instead of moving the clocks ahead one hour at 2 AM – Move them ½ hour. This would mean, from this point forward, we would all be on ‘half advanced time’. And would never move the clocks again.
This would be a great time to get rid of our old base-12 time system and go to Metric Time. (Thanks to Dwight Small for his research on this topic). Stop and think about how time is measured. We use Hours, Minutes and Seconds and then –leap- to metric measurement and TENTHS of a second etc. For example- Time is expressed – 12hrs, 37 min, 16.5 Seconds. This is stupid. Let’s do away, once and for all, with this double standard time measurement system. Here is how it works-
- Ø Each day would be divided into 10 hours.
- o Yes, we can still call these Time Units Hours if we wish.
- Ø Midnight, the start of a day, would become 00 Hours (Like it is now)
- Ø Noon (the day 50% completed) would become 5 hours.
- Ø 30 Minutes would become .5 hours
- Ø Utilizing Metric principles – You could create time divisions, much like we have now with Nana, Mili etc.
- Ø Digital Clocks would really be – Digital
- Ø Speedometers would be interesting – They would still indicate Kilometers per hour, it’s just that an hour (base 10) would be quite different than an hour base 12.
- Ø A great deal of work would need to be done making new clocks, road signs and the like, perfect for this time when we are trying to figure out what all the new aliens will be doing….
While we are at it – We might as well change the way we measure directions too. A base 10 compass would seem reasonable to me. Not to mention geographic coordinates. No more Minutes and Second there…no-sir!. Come to think about it, a lot of these measurements are already in that mode…Checked your GPS location device lately? Perhaps this is sneaking up on all of us and we have not been watching?
Former Seattle resident and noted historian, John Schneider, is out with a new calendar (Still 12 months and not 10….Yet) This year he has picked a number (well OK, actually the number is 12!) vintage pictures from radio studios in the 1920s onward. John, as he did last year with vintage transmitters, has colorized the black and white pictures to produce a very realistic set of pictures that can “put you in the picture.” For more information, John is selling them on eBay with free shipping:
From the ‘Where is the outrage’ department comes news that some of the new Ultra High Def TV are power hogs costing owners 30 percent more in electrical usage compared to their present HD TV’s. Sounds like a candidate for an investigation by the Light Bulb Police to me.
I know it will come as a shock to my readers….But Sony – Officially – has ‘finally’ decided to kill their Betamax format. For those of you that still use the stuff, understand you can buy hardware on eBay.
Wonder how many other companies would even both to tell the world that they are killing a product line…Seems to me most just quit with some kind of press-release…They don’t wait 30 years. Of course, in many cases, the company that quit making something may well be out of business.
I love writing about surveys that show just how the states where this column is published stack up against others. Time looking at the States with the fastest job growth…Often a good barometer of how well our industry could be doing. Kiplinger recently rated the top 15 states – Here’s what I learned….
- Ø Ranked #13 is Idaho
- Ø #8 is Oregon
- Ø #6 is Washington
Looks like the Pacific Northwest is in pretty good shape.
iHeart Media has a new Nautel GV40 being installed at their facility on West Tiger for KBKS/106.1. Here’s a picture of DOE, and SBE Chapter Chairman, Marty Hadfield standing next to his new baby.
It’s certainly heartening to see radio broadcasters invest in new transmitting hardware. Of the 13 FM’s at West Tiger the last couple of years have seen 6 new Transmitters – The score card looks like this –
94.1 & 96.5 – Gates Air FAX series
92.5, 97.3, 98.1 & Now 106.1 – Nautel GV Series
Slowly but surely the trusty old Continentals are being put out to pasture….Or finding new lives in smaller markets. For instance, one of the old 97.3 rigs is now on the air in Lewiston, Idaho. Pretty
Hard to kill these transmitters. Perhaps what is most notable is that Continental , who at one time, had a huge market share, elected to stay with the single tube design rather than move forward to all solid state construction. They were not alone in this decision. Today we are left with what appears to be only two manufacturers of AM and FM transmitters, Nautel and GatesAir….Who would have thought that this would have happened? A lot of familiar names have been relegated to that famous location…the Dust Bin of History. Remember – RCA, GE, Westinghouse, CCA, ITA, Wilkinson, Bauer, Collins, Energy Onix, AEL etc come to mind. Continental is still alive and well, and still offering their 816 Series of Single Tube FM Transmitters while concentrating on their legacy products – Really high power HF transmitters and specialty products where large amounts of RF are needed.
Try this shot of a school girl dealing with homework in front of the home radio. If you remember when radios were that size – YOU ARE getting old….Notice- No earbuds or smart phone…and I’ll bet that was a real light bulb in that lamp. Those things on the top of the radio console – they were called ‘books’ Chances are the notebook in her lap had pieces of paper with ‘hand-writing’. Nope – no laptop or tablet. That think she is holding in her right hand, perhaps a pencil?? How it the world did this poor girl function??
I recently received a note from KING’s Ace-Transmitter Engineer, Mark Huffstutter. He sent along a copy of a page from the December 14th 1953 Seattle Times that read –
Christmas Light on KING-TV
“Television Station KING-TV last night lighted up its 459 foot antenna tower on Queen Anne Hill like a Christmas Tree. The tower is decorated with 1,500 colored lights. They will be turned on each night during the Christmas Season.” For the benefit of those that are not familiar with this tradition. There are 3 big self-supporting towers on Queen Anne Hill, NW of Downtown Seattle. KING’s tower is the eastern most of the 3. These lights are now all white and are put up each season by Joe Harrington of Harrington Tower services. 62 Years !
Mark added –
The Christmas lights are a lot of work, but once they are up the tower
And lit they look great. I remember coming in to Town as a little Kid to look at them.
1953 was, I think, a big Year for KING-TV. The “Freeze” of 1948 was over,
and competition was on the way. With no other TV station in Town, KING continued with the original KRSC-TV 100’ tower, still here, by the way (minus the antenna) and the RCA TT-5A 5KW transmitter, with an ERP of 19KW.
Sometime in January, 1953 KING got FCC approval to go to the newly
established Full Power rating for low-band VHF Television, 100KW. according to articles in the Seattle Times, tower construction started in July of 1953, and a new
GE TT-42A 35KW transmitter as well, to make the 100KW. At some point the target
Date of Thanksgiving Day was set for the new high power operation, likely because
It was the 5th anniversary of KRSC-TV/KING-TV going on air. They were certainly shooting
for First 100KW TV Station in the area, a race with newcomer KOMO-TV. As it turns out,
KOMO-TV did hit the air first with 100KW, on November 18th, but it was only a test pattern.
KING-TV was still first at 100KW with programming on Thanksgiving Day. So there!
So lighting up Their brand new, Full Power Tower with Christmas lights must have been pretty satisfying!
Any broadcast technical/engineer worth his salt will instantly know what a Greenie is. In fact, as the story goes, someone encountered Walt Jamison at KOMO long ago (Knowing that Walt was a master of details) and asked him about his R3322 upon where he instantly produced his Excelite Screwdriver.
I have to admit I just had to grab my S5 and take a picture of this item at the store the other day. I’m sure my Dog, Yagi (who is quite bright) would be able to ID a Greenie also.
I recently ran across a piece of equipment in the shop (yes I’m trying to down-size). I contacted Ben Barber of Inovonics asking if he would be interested in receiving it. He was delighted and sent me a shipping sticker. Happy to report that their model 705 Stereo Max encoder is now back home where it was built.
Anyone recall using one of these ….or even recall what FMX was all about?
From the ‘time sure does fly’ department – Can you believe it was 30 years ago that Microsoft launched its first version of Windows. Some say as an answer to the Apple Macintosh. I well recall sitting in front of a PC having to load DOS from a floppy and then load the program I wanted to work with. This was all before color and hard-drives and mice. The only color the monitors had was a choice of white, green and amber. Oh yes, these was before the Mouse (Trackballs were not thought of yet I suppose). Everything you did was with the keyboard and arrow keys etc. We all got pretty good at memorizing ‘DOS Prompts’ etc. Here I sit operating a Win 7 computer and being pestered to upgrade to Win 10.
We’ve come a long way. Wonder what the next 30 years will bring? Guess I won’t have to worry about it as I will be long gone.
Gee Bill – You looked a bit younger back then.
Going back in history just a bit father- It was 50 years ago we had the great northeastern power blackout (Nov 9, 1965) That situation woke up many to the fact that our electrical grid was very fragile. The hard part for me writing about this is the fact that I was already working in this industry back then.
One more history item – Can you believe it was 25 years ago that the I-90 bridge sunk in a wind-storm?
The FCC has come out with their plans to help the struggling AM Band. I’m not going to go into all of this in this column….But do have a couple of observations –
- Ø I find it interesting that many are, apparently, of the notion that the solution to the economic situation of AM stations lies in having an FM Translator and that license to begin operating on the FM band is just awaiting the submission of a simple application to the FCC after which – Presto! – You are on an equal footing with the local Class C FM. The simple fact is that there are not enough FM frequencies to support those that want them, especially on the heels of the FCC’s approval of LPFM….Which leads me to ask-
- Ø Where in the world were all these AM station owners when that process was going on ? It’s not like they did not see this coming down the road! Now many will be PO’d because they were late to the party. When they come up empty handed…Who are they going to blame – Perhaps the FCC for not manufacturing additional spectrum?
- Ø IMHO FM translators may help out those small, out in the boondocks AM’ers, however by being on two bands is not going to improve their content…and chances are their content will not improve. Granted if that little station is a Day-Timer, a full time FM will be viewed as a godsend.
- Ø I have to wonder if the Commission is trying to breathe life into a terminally ill patient? Think about all the other industries whose products or methods have been allowed to move to the dust-bin of history because something better came along etc. Just how many times has a Federal regulatory agency come to the aid of something that has fallen out of favor? (Seriously, I’d like to hear some examples)
- Ø The FCC, on one hand, works to address relaxation of their rules to give AM Radio a hand while, at the same time, does little about the rapid increase in ambient noise floor that has the impact of continuing to reduce the coverage of AM Radio whose emissions are decoded by receivers equally with the noise producers. The December 2015 issue of QST has a great piece on how they, the ARRL, is fighting to get the FCC to regulate the sale of know noise producers. It could be said that the FCC is issuing mixed message. Where in the ____ are the owners of AM Stations in this battle?? Where is the outrage??
- Ø Other than the fear of the costs involved, why aren’t the AM Station owners pushing to open up the, just below the FM band, Spectrum for aural broadcasting as they are doing in Brazil? Why have they not banded together to mount a full-court-press for a long-term solution instead of pinning their hopes that they (may or may not) get a low powered FM Band-Aid?
- Ø My crystal ball tells me that AM will, on its own, slowly loose favor with the masses and the smaller facilities will go silent, meanwhile, those that provide unique and popular programming will soldier on for many years. Perhaps call it survival of the fittest, or natural selection.
Well folks – That’s it for this edition – Thanks allowing me to invade your head for a few minutes for another year.. Have a great Holiday Season. Hope to see many of you on the 12th at the Annual Seattle SBE-16 Christmas Gathering.=-
Till next year – Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE