By Clay Freinwald SBE Seattle Chapter 16 Featuring News, Rumors and Views From Usually Reliable and Irrefutable Sources

Welcome to February!     The days are getting longer (and you can tell) and spring is just around the corner.   This winter has been one of the wettest ones in some time.   We have moss growing on moss.  What we have not had is snow.   Statistically if we get this far into winter without snow, we are not likely to have any….at least here in the low-lands.   The mountains are another story.   As I write this they are plowing out the road to West Tiger where access to the broadcast sites up there has been via snow-can only for about a month….Very unusual.   I can recall just a few times in the 25+ years I’ve been involved with WTM that this has happened.  Typically March is the month that we are most likely to get snowed out.

Well the City of Destiny has lost yet another radio station.   This time it’s 91.7 that’s moved it’s transmitter out of town….In this case from Indian Hill to Gold Mountain.    This reminds me of a meeting I had with the sales department of KNBQ many years ago.  My mission, to explain to them why less is more.    It was back in 1987 and KNBQ/97.3 was about to move from Indian Hill to West Tiger Mountain and (Horrors) reduce power.   All this time the station was operating with 100,000 watts and the thought that we would be reducing power was a hard one for them to comprehend.    Despite all my examples and tech-talk, I could tell that they were having trouble grasping that reducing power by almost half was a good thing.    End the end, after we went on the air as West Tigers first FM – they quickly learned that power was not the only factor they should be concerned with.    I recall explaining how high elevation was to an FM station like low dial-position was to an AM.    Back to 91.7.    This station, KXOT recently moved from Indian Hill where they were operating with 23 kW ERP @ 223m AAT to Gold Mountain where they are running 4.3 kW ERP at 582m AAT.

A number of stations have operated at the Indian Hill tower. a 450 foot structure near the Pierce/King County line between Tacoma and Federal Way, originally erected by KMO back in the late 60’s as a 5/8 wave radiator for their 1360 operation.   First was KTAC-FM (then operating on 103.9)   this station would later change frequency to 103.7 and move to 3-Sisters Mountain and then again to West Tiger where they are today using the call KMTT.    The next station to operate at Indian Hill was 106.1 as KLAY-FM.   This station, like KMTT, ended up at West Tiger.   Then there was KNBQ on 97.3.   The last, and 4th station to operate there, was KXOT.   At one time the tower was full of 2-way and RCC antennas.  As cellular came along those were removed.   Now one has to wonder if the tower will, perhaps, be taken down?

Another station making the move to a higher site is KBCS/91.3 moving to Cougar Mt.   This station is also decreasing power from 8 kW ERP to 1.8 kW, but increasing their AAT significantly.   According to their Engineer, Buzz Anderson, their new antenna will be mounted just below the 106.9 array on what used to be (and still is) called the KUBE tower on Cougar.

The City of Destiny has seen a long list of FM Stations leave town…88.5, 91.7 97.3, 103.7 and 106.1.  It’s not just radio that has left town either.   Channels 11 and 13 have moved away as well.   Oh yes, all of these stations still have their City of License as Tacoma.    So what’s left in Tacoma?    KUPS/90.1 and KVTI/90.9.    On the AM Band there are a few left – KHHO/850,

KKMO/1360.   I suppose you can count KKOL/1300 that violated everything and moved TO Tacoma.

In recent editions of this column I have been asking for the date that I started writing this column…Thanks to a couple who responded – Erik Utter said it was at least 20 years ago for he found it in a Feb 94 issue.    Andy Skotdal felt that it was much before that stating that it was around the time of Marconi.    I had lunch recently with John Schneider, former editor of the Waveguide who said it’s more like 30 years.  He did promise to find out for sure and let me know.    I want to correct one thing however….For those of you that feel I am getting older than dirt to understand that this is NOT TRUE….However, I do recall when the dirt was ordered!…and by the way ….Consider these ‘mature’ folks that appear to be doing OK for themselves – Warren Buffet (82) Rupert Murdoch (81) Sumner Redstone (89)…And the Rolling Stones are still rolling after 50 years.

I like to point out statistics about the Seattle area that make us perhaps unique, and, at least, a bit blessed.  A recent issue of the Seattle Times had an article about home sales in 2012 in the 4-county, Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap County area.  Therein are some interesting stats – 54 percent of the sales were in King County with a total valuation of 11.3 Billion dollars.  The stat that is most interesting is that there were 945 homes sold valued at more than one-million dollars!  In the 4 counties total sales in 2012 were 16.8 Billion bucks.   Not too back for a bad economy.

Here’s a stat I picked up on this past month….Total annual advertising revenue for TV is 62 Billion Dollars while Radio trails at 17 Billion.

I received an email from former CCR Chief, and Radio Magazine writer, Doug Irwin informing me that he is leaving NYC and heading west to take the RF chiefs job at Clear Channel in Los Angeles.    This will be quite a climate change.    He commented that it will mean no more riding the subway to the transmitter.    In addition to FM’s on famous Mt Wilson, he will be dealing with AM’s again…Including legendary KFI.     At least Doug will be in the same time zone and a bit closer.    Oh yes, he will be trading hurricanes for earthquakes.

Smartphones are not just for telephone calls and text messages, or perhaps email.   They are for Apps!.   One interesting App was submitted by Dwight Small of Entercom – Check this out –   Using your Smartphone as a wireless electronic key to unlock doors.    There is certainly no end of things that you can make one of these hand held wonders accomplish.    One of the major alarm outfits has TV spots running that show how you can control and monitor a lot of things at home while you are away.

Congratulations to Greg Neilson and the Seattle School Districts KNHC-FM as the station celebrates 42 years on the air as and Greg for his 42 years at the helm of the operation.  Greg commented –  I had no idea it was that long though.  If you can believe it, I’ve been teaching film, radio, and video in Seattle or managing the station for 37 years.  Counting other jobs in other states, I’ve been teaching or counseling adolescents for 49 years.  Gee Greg, you must be almost as old as I am!

Some folks are really excited with the news that Sprint will be offering FM Radios in their cellphones.   Now pardon me for being a skeptic ….It is my understanding that in order for that radio in the cellphone to operate it must have an antenna external to the device and that antenna is supposed to be a pair of ear-buds or earphones.    My question is…Just how many people are going to plug earphones into their cell phone just to listen to the radio?  I know that NAB has been pushing cellphone providers to do this…but did they ever consider that without headphones that cellphone with a radio inside is likely to be a pretty poor receiver?    I guess I’m missing something along the way.   Now don’t get me wrong….Radio station owners and operators are certainly mindful that Smartphones are insanely popular.  According to recent research the shipment of Smartphones passed 200 million in the 4th quarter of last year alone and that 2012 saw some 671 million sold.   Those are some pretty impressive numbers.   Compare this to the fact that you can walk into just about any retail electronics distributor and find it very difficult to purchase a radio.    Go ahead – Go out and try and buy a Clock-Radio or a radio for your kitchen these days.   Perhaps those that are pushing cellphones with radios are just hoping to hitch a ride.   Radio’s only hope seems to be the Car Radio where at least new products are being offered in the battle for the dashboard.   HD Radio is finally becoming accepted by more than 30 auto makers, perhaps this is where the future will be?  According to Ibiquity, there are now almost 11 million HD Radio Receivers in the market and 2200 stations broadcasting with it.  On the subject of HD Radio – Doug Irwin has in interesting piece in the latest Radio Magazine about uses for HD beyond just being a jukebox for strange and minimally popular music formats.

Slowly HD Radio is catching on other places – In Mexico there are reportedly 12 stations on the air running multicasting.   In Canada one of the issues pushing HD forward is just what Doug Irwin writes about.  The use of the HD data-stream for vehicle nav-aids.   The makers of these devices want to sell them there and they need the HD data to make them work.   Brazil is another country that is considering the system, but like a lot of political decisions, they are in the process of studying the issue which is govnospeak for study it to death.    Elsewhere DRM and other digital system are making strong headway.

Speaking of Apps …Can’t help but notice the spots that KOMO-AM is running on behalf of their sister TV station for their Mobile TV system.   Still have to wonder just how many will, in the world of ever bigger TV’s, opt to watch something on the small screen.   Perhaps some men will be attracted to certain sports programming and women to their favorite talk-show or soap?

From the – sounds like something other than what it is department ….I recently sent an email where I used the letters CPTC (Clover Park Technical College) Rob Purdy commented that it sounded like a Canadian station.   I’ve often thought similar thoughts when I see KPFF (wonder if they would object to the FCC if someone wanted to use KPFF as their call letters?)

I recall attending one of the EAS Summits in WDC and hearing the call for broadcasters to become ‘First Responders’.    This is a serious problem for our industry.  Let me give you an example – A while back I was responding to a serious technical issue at West Tiger Mt.   As happens all too frequently, there was an accident at Tiger Summit and the WSP had closed SR-18 at I-90 on the North and the Hobart Road on the South.  (I was approaching from I-90)  I knew that the accident was south of Tiger Summit, where we turn off to get to the mountain, but I encountered a WSP Officer that was quick to tell me that he did not care what I was god of…I was not going to go up the highway.   I tried to explain to no avail.    Recently the State of Illinois

Approved their First Informer Broadcasters Act which makes sure that TV operators have access to their facilities during emergencies.   Let’s hope that this spreads.   Especially in times of disaster the public wants to be informed and broadcasting is the way it’s done and to enable us to keep doing it, we need to have in-hindered access to our studios and transmitter facilities.

Slowly we are getting to see what may be coming in terms of what’s call ‘Repacking’ the TV Spectrum.  Seems to me that they could have done a better job of spectrum management in the first place….But that’s another story.  2014 will have a spectrum incentive auction (something that would cause many old timers to roll in their graves).  The big players in the wireless world want more spectrum and they see all the ‘holes’ left over from the DTV conversion as a prime target.  The question is, how to gain the same spectrum nation-wide.  Then there is the issue of doing something that is compatible with Canada and Mexico to avoid having a chunk of territory become a guard-space between to dissimilar spectrum use schemes.    All I can say is – What a mess.



On the subject of messes ….What about the mess that Boeing has going with those 787 batteries?   Gee we have lithium batteries in everything these days…Cellphones, tools, cars, computers, ENG gear etc…Can’t blame Boeing for using these powerful electron storage devices.   Anyone that has compared NiCad’s and LI batteries would find their decision a no brainer.   However, we don’t hear much about batteries in cars blowing up or catching on fire…of course having this take place in a brand new model airplane is going to be view differently than if it took place in a Prius.  What’s amazing is that with all the engineering horsepower devoted to this issue that they (as of this writing) have not come up with the cause (and cure).  A ton of attention being focused on our local aluminum fabricator over this one.

One of the ideas being floated is to simply vent the smoke from the on-board burning battery outside the aircraft.   Pardon me, but a 1200 degree fire under my feet is not what I call a solution.   Whatever they come up with may well have an impact on other devices that use this technology.    The world is watching.

The U-Dub, working with China have come up with what’s call a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient way to store information by using organic substances.   The foundation for Cyborgs?

Congress is looking into what worked and what did not related to Superstorm Sandy.  A panel doing this is led by Greg Walden of Oregon.    Think many of us already know the answer, but the results will be, none the less, interesting.

It seems like we just made the switch from Low-Rez NTSC to ATSC DTV and this should hold us for a while.    Well perhaps not.   It’s been announced that Japan will be starting 4K TV Broadcasts in 2014 some two years ahead of schedule.   I take this to mean that there was considerable effort toward the next step some time ago.  It’s called Ultra-High Definition or perhaps UHD.    Wow!

Could our local Software outfit be moving in the direction of owning more hardware production?  Rumors are flying that Microsoft may be part of a group that would purchase Dell.

What to do to help AM was the topic of Chris Imlay’s recent piece in the SBE Signal.   Let’s face it, AM Radio is in trouble.   There is the fact that it’s in Mono and relatively low-fi etc…but the other factor is that the coverage of all AM stations is shrinking day by day due to an ever increasing noise floor that no-one is doing anything about.   In my recent lunch with John Schneider it was telling me about Brazil where the noise level has become so extreme that the effective coverage of AM’s is driving them out of business.    The sad thing is that we don’t appear to care and have given up on these lower frequencies.   Those that are talking about generating new radio spectrum out of former channels 5 and 6 and shutting down AM have a point.   Technically this is, perhaps, a good technical approach.  Politically it’s a mess due to the fact that there are zillions of AM Radios and no radios for new spectrum.   As time goes by perhaps the lower powered AM’s will elect to shut down allowing others to increase power.  Time will tell.

From the ‘sure I got it wrong’ Dept. …  I stated in a previous column the Seattle area was Market # 15   Tom McGinley is not likely to let that error go un-noticed and points out that this is Market # 13    Thanks Tom – I stand corrected.   For the record, Arbitron ranks Seattle/Tacoma as Market #13 in the fall of 2012 with a 12+ population of 3,538,100.   This puts us between Phoenix and Detroit.  (Denver is ranked #20 and Portland #23).  TV markets are a bit different with the market rank there at #12 with 1,818,900 TV households.   Like a lot of things, it depends on what you are measuring with.

Lost word department – apparatus – try this on the younger set to describe something that you know that they won’t understand.

 Engineers, in the past, were easily identified by the tools that they took with them.   Probably the most famous, and often used tool in broadcasting (Radio or TV) was the ‘Greenie’ I recall someone at KOMO, years ago, stopping Walt Jamison and asking him where his R3322 was…Whereby he pulled his Greenie out of his shirt pocket protector.     Everything had a pot to turn to adjust all manner of levels, voltages, currents etc.   Today the Greenie is becoming just another tool in the tool box as adjustments are made with a keyboard instead.


Finally – I will leave you with a couple items from the funny department, aka, groaner, department

  • Archaeologist – A person whose job is in ruins
  • A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory
  • Why was the book on mathematics sad?…..(Because it has so many problems)


That’s it for this month – Lord willing, we will do it again next month.

Think Spring !!!!!

Clay, CPBE, K7CR.