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

As I start writing this column I am reflecting back on a question that was asked of me recently…

“When did you start writing this column?”   I had to answer – I don’t really know.   All I recall is that someone asked me to write a column back when SBE16 was meeting at Ivor’s on Elliot Bay and that was a very long time ago.   If anyone does remember when I started-…I’d appreciate knowing …..Again J

We had some very good news this past month…..The fact that you and I are here has to be viewed as good news.   Obviously all those that were hunkered down underground were wrong about the Mayan Calendar.   Harold Camping and Y2K come to mind.

This past month is going to be one of those early winters that those of us who maintain equipment at West Tiger will remember.   At this writing there is about 3 feet of snow on the road to the sites meaning that the only way to get there is ‘over’ the snow.  Thanks to Alan Robinson’s snow-cat – and a failure at one of the radio stations at West Tiger – I got to make the trip the day after Christmas.    Unfortunately none of the broadcasters who have equipment up there has ever provided equipment to make the trip.    Thanks Alan for being there.

Thus far, snow totals in the Cascades is running 150% of normal.   Over in the Olympics there is only one broadcast site, South Mountain (Site of KDDS and KOMO-FM).  According to those that keep track of these things – the snow-pack is at 250% there.  The following is a picture taken on Dec 20 by a camera at that site.   Not too bad for the start of winter. If you want in that door, plan on digging for a while.


According to a recent newspaper item written by Cliff Mass of UW, by 2050, this kind of snow will be just a memory due to global warming.    He stated that by then there will be no skiing at Snoqualmie Pass…and this will mean no more snow at West Tiger and South Mt as they are about the same elevation.

One of the effects of global warming is the rise in sea-level.   During a recent storm, the combination of wind, barometric pressure and sea-level caused locations like Tacoma’s Day Island to be under-water.    Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast caused politicians to start thinking in terms of barriers and other means to protect low lying areas.   Thankfully most of our AM sites in the Seattle area are located high enough-   However, KKMO, located at Browns Point, likely got wet during this event.

Down here, in the low-lands, the story is – WET!   It looks like Seattle will finish the year some 11 inches above normal in the rain gauge.

On the EAS Front – There have been a number of new ‘Tabs’ released in the past couple months that belong in your stations copy of the Washington State EAS Plan.    Whereas EAS remains a ‘lightning rod’ for FCC actions, you would be wise to make sure that your copy of the State Plan is up to date.     The body of the plan is in the process of being re-written and should be released in the new couple of months that too, will need to be in your binder.    There are 3 ways you can obtain these updates – 1) They are always posted on the WaState EAS Remailer, 2) They are posted on the WSAB Web Site, under EAS ….and 3) You can let us know what you are missing via the EAS Remailer and I, or someone else, will try and send it to you.    If you are not sure what you are missing, request a copy of TAB 31 (the Tab Index)

As Chair of the State EAS Committee, SECC, I want to personally thank the Seattle Chapter of SBE for their support of our EAS Effort as well as Hatfield and Dawson for hosting the WaState EAS Remailer.

The next meeting of the Washington EAS Committee will be Wednesday January 9th and 930 AM at WEMD at Camp Murray (I-5 Exit #122).  You are also welcome to participate via conference call.  Detailed information and agenda will be posted on the Washington State EAS Remailer.

Not exactly EAS, but similar, is CMAS. (Commercial Mobile Alert System).  This is also, sometimes called the WEA or Wireless Emergency Alerts.    CMAS is the system that has been set up by the major Cellular carriers to ‘broadcast‘ emergency messages.     One of the first uses of this system can on December 16 &17 when the National Weather Service (NWS) used the system to warn of a Blizzard for the Cascades and Olympics.    These messages looked like this on my phone –

From what I understand these messages were sent to all cellphones capable of receiving a CMAS message in counties where the NWS issued a blizzard warning.   There are a number of issues here –

1 – A lot of people thought that this was an EAS Message and were ‘not pleased’ …and voiced their displeasure toward those that they knew were connected to the EAS.   The fact is that these CMAS messages may have the same –source- as EAS messages (in this case NWS) but they are handled and routed very differently.

2- The SECC has been closely monitoring the roll-out of CMAS; however we ‘officially’ have nothing to do with it.

3 – The Blizzard Warning issued by NWS was for the ‘Cascade Mountains and Olympics’ – Not for the low-lands of the counties that lie within the forecast zone despite stating “Blizzard Warning This Area”.   The problem is these messages are ‘Geo-Targeted’ to the county level.  This means that pretty much all the cell sites in the impacted counties were broadcasting the same information.

4- The same message issued by the NWS was carried on NWR and was distributed to the EAS.  In those cases the message contained specific geographic information.  Somewhere in the CMAS process this location information is edited out leaving users to perhaps conclude that the Blizzard Warning was meant for them.

5- I asked why there was no specific location information in the message, for instance, the word Mountains….What I learned was – “The Blizzard warning for only for the Cascades and Olympics, but when the cellular providers transcribe the geographic area of the alert (cascades in this case), it is mapped to counties” Apparently specific location information is not sent on the belief that Geo-Targeting to the county level is sufficient.    It appears that those that designed this system are un-aware that counties can contain mountains and that the weather there can be different in different parts of a county (Duh!).   Example – The folks in Clallam County got this message.    As anyone knows, the weather at Hurricane Ridge is very different than the weather in Sequim.

The good news is that there are a lot of people, hopefully in the right places, that will, because of this event, see the error of their ways and make corrections to the system.   Perhaps in flat-lands this will work, but here in the West where we have great weather differences – WITHIN – a county, their methods could be described as ‘Geo-Misdirection’ or Geo-Vagueness.

If you would like to see exactly how CMAS fits into the big picture…You need to look no closer than Tab 16 of the Washington State EAS Plan.  (Your stations should have this document there now)

Looking down-stream – Look for CMAS to gain more widespread use as other government entities are tied into the system.   CMAS offers some significant advantages over the EAS as it does not rely on ‘Joe Citizen’ having his radio or TV turned on.   The fact is, with the large number of folks with Cellphones or other connected electronic gizmo’s, CMAS is on its way to being the most effective tool in the public warning ‘toolbox’.

Now here comes the part that really concerns me- Note that the message states – “CHECK MEDIA’. ….Wow do I have questions –

What does ‘Check Media’ Media mean to Joe Citizen?

Ø      If you were to ask 100 people on the street my guess is you’d come up with a very large number of very different answers.

Ø      Certainly some would tell you that it means ‘electronic media’…While others might indicate it means a newspaper etc.

It is perhaps safe to assume that Check Media will mean to some to turn on their Radio or TV for additional information about the message just received on their wireless device. We have a situation here where, presumably thousands of people are suddenly going to go looking for more information

The BIG question is what is the media going to do in response?

Ø      Will broadcasters receive the message and immediately put on their air additional information.  In the recent case, will they explain to their listeners and viewers what the message meant and that the Blizzard Warning is only for the mountains?

Ø      Or will broadcasters ignore the CMAS message in much the same way many ignore the voluntary portions of EAS leaving those wanting more information to try and find it elsewhere?

Ø      Some TV Stations may well use the CMAS Message as their cue to quickly put up a crawl providing the needed details.

Ø      Some Radio Stations, especially the all-news types, will quickly air a series of Weather Forecasts.

Ø      Some broadcasters will embrace this new technology and integrate it so that that stations image is improved. Etc…

Others are watching –

Other government entities associated with public warnings are taking a long-serious look at CMAS.   The system has enormous potential.   The ability to ring everyone’  cellphone at the same time and give them a text message is a very powerful tool and one that is certain to gain increased use in the future.  However, there are, clearly, some tweaks to the system required as demonstrated in the recent Blizzard Warning.     There is always the danger that wireless device users will not wish to be bothered and request it be disabled.   Then there are those that may wish to have it turned off due to the failure of those that control the system to fully comprehend the requirement that the reception of vague or misleading information is a serious mistake.

I look for NAB to weigh in on this shortly as this could well play into their call for cellphones to include radios.    But – again- what assurance do we have that those FM radio stations within those cellphones will indeed broadcast the public warning message and not consider it a violation of their format?

As you know…I like to write about things that show-off the Seattle area, or our State, a bit…Here is some of the latest based on new census data –

Ø      Washington had the 8th largest population increase among the states in 2011 and 2012.

Ø      Washington grew at a rate of 1.1%, adding 74,000 in one year.

Ø      One third of the new residents are from overseas.

Ø      Our population gain is very small compared to Texas (427,000) and California (357,000)

Ø      We are outpacing other states in terms of economic recovery.

Health Magazine recently ranked Washington at the 13th healthiest states in the country….We are tied with Oregon.  This is not exactly good news as our 2011 rank was #9.   Idaho is ranked # 17…Number One, Vermont.    Perhaps the good news is, despite our long-gray winters none of the states in the PNW is ranked in the Most Depressing list.

I just received my registration information for the annual NAB show in Las Vegas April 6-11 this year.    A sure sign that spring is on the way.

Was great to see Doug Irwin in town during the Holidays.   Doug, who longs to come back to the PNW, is working for Clear Channel in NYC.   I had a chance to chat with him about his experience with Hurricane Sandy.   Great opportunity to learn things that you hope you will never have to use again.

HD Radio continues to push forward with the announcement that there almost 11 million HD Receivers out there.   One of the major hold-backs for many radio broadcasters making the investment in the technology has been the lack of radios out there.   This is beginning to change in a big way.   Certainly the vehicle radio is the salvation of Radio and with now some 29 automakers offering HD Radio in some 150 Models, many of these excuses have evaporated.

On the topic of Car Radios – Toyota is reportedly working with a system that will permit hand gestures to control a vehicles car radio.    They’d better get this one right as I’d had to be accidently flashing gang signs just trying to change stations.

The Engineers at Boeing (a local Seattle area aluminum fabricator) trying to figure out how to make their in-flight Wi-Fi system work better needed to come up with something that would simulate the impact on RF within the cabin of passengers.   At some point a light came on (aka someone had a bright idea) …Why not use sacks of potatoes?    Obviously spending a tidy sum, they determined that, because of their water content and chemistry, potatoes are similar to people in the way they absorb radio signals.    I suspect, in some cases, there is little difference between people and spuds in other ways as well….But that’s another story for another time.

As one that loves learning new words…..I recently came across this one.    What do you call a person that works for the transmitter manufacturer Nautel ?      The answer – Nautellians.   Now that we know that – a raft of ideas magically float by…..Harrisites perhaps?

 Speaking of Harris – The long awaited announcement came on the 6th of last month.   The Harris Broadcast Communications Division has been sold to The Gores Group for about 225 Mega Bucks. 

  Most folks immediately want to know who are ‘they’…..The official line is The Gores Group is a global investment firm.   Some refer to outfits like this as a venture capital group. Closing is expected in early 2013.    The word is that Harris will continue pretty much as is, just with new owners.   Of course this is what they always say in situations like this.   The best thing we can do is wait and see. 

  For many years Neilson has been doing TV Ratings and Arbitron Radio….Now they are one with the Neilson purchase of Arbitron for 1.26 Billion.   Makes me wonder if the new radio rating equipment will have the Neilson logo…or perhaps they will call it  – Neilatron, or maybe Arbison?

 The Durst organization in New York City was recently in the news with the topping off of the new One World Trade Center building in NYC.  On top of the building will be a 408 foot spire that will, they hope, contain antennas for some of the Big Apples TV and Radio Stations.  The spire will top out at 1,776 feet.   I’ve not heard that anyone is ready to move to the new site.   After 9/11 everyone pretty much congregated at the Empire State Building..

To put this into perspective – The top of the tallest building in Seattle, as well as the towers on Queen Ann and Capitol Hill, is 1049 feet.    The top of the tallest tower on Cougar Mt is about 1725ft….and the top of the towers on West Tiger are all at 2948 feet.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, American Tower has purchased on of the premier sites in that city….The Hancock Buildings 93rd and 97th floors in addition to the roof top.   This includes 34,000 sq. ft. of space for equipment.   The site is the transmit location for a number of Radio and TV stations.  Price was stated as 70 Million.

American Tower, of course, owns several major facilities in the Seattle area.

Recently a Ham Radio Operator in New Jersey was fined $16,000 by the Commish for operating on 296.550 MHz.   Not a good idea as this is a US Military frequency.   No word as to what he was doing there.

Recently the FCC got after a broadcaster in American Samoa to the tune of 18 Grand, that station was off the air and did not have FCC permission to remain silent.

While we are talking about Amateur Radio….The ARRL has file a petition with the FCC to create a new band for Amateurs at 472-479 kHz.   Yes this is below the AM Broadcast band. Power would be limited to 5 Watts (EIRP).   Mighty big/long antennas.

Now that Comcast owns NBC….The parent company has adopted the historic peacock for its own logo.  Brings back a lot of memories when all of the NBC shows in color would start with that famous bird.  Living color….as opposed to the other kind.

Congratulations to Northwest Public Radio’s first radio station, KWSU, at WSU in Pullman that went on the air on Dec 10, 1922.   The stations first call, KFAE, is still associated with WSU and is used in Tri-Cities.   The call was later changed to KWSC.     There is an interesting Seattle connection with KWSU that goes back a long way.    For many years Seattle’s KTW shared the 1250 AM Frequency with the Pullman station.   When I worked at KTW, back in the 60’s, the Seattle AM signed off at Sunset to protect KWSU, but could sign back on at 1115 PM after Pullman signed off.    KTW operated 5Kw non-directional from Pigeon Point in West Seattle.  This was later changed with the sale of KTW and the creation of a night directional array east of Seattle.   Today NW Public Radio has grown to 18 stations and 13 translators with staff, studios and offices in Tacoma, Tri-Cities, Wenatchee and Pullman.   Interestingly KWSU is the only AM.

Does anyone, other than me, find the irony in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that they are marketing a new lantern call ‘Old-Brooklyn?

My sources of news are not always the most direct.  I was recently doing some work at Crego Hill (SW of Chehalis) where I ran into Russ Hill – He passed on that Pat Otis is now the DOE of the Tribune stations in Seattle.  Congrats Pat.   If you recall, Pat worked for many years at KIRO-7.

From the Oops Dept….I recently wrote that CBS changed a format in Portland.  Kent Randles, editor the Chapter 124 newsletter provided me with this correction – (Thanks Kent)

A correction:  CBS did not flip 620 from Progressive Talk to Sports, they never owned 620.  620 KPOJ is owned by Clear Channel and they are playing Fox Sports Radio.  It was KGW, one of the King stations before that.

CBS split up and sold their Portland cluster several years ago.  Marty was the DoE for Alpha which ended up with three of the FMs, 98.7, 101.1, & 101.9, and the AM, 970 (they also got 750 and 95.5 from Paul Allen’s Rose City Radio).  Clear Channel got the other 2 FMs, 106.7 & 107.5.

Thanks to Dwight Small for this item – The inventor of the 555 timer chip back in 1971 passed away.  Hans Camenzind died on August 8, 2012.   My guess is that just about everyone has designed something using that famous chip.

I recently had a chance to stop by the KPLZ site on Cougar Mt where LouisToepel showed me their remodeled installation.   The old RCA is gone and a 2nd BE 30Kw transmitter now sits next to the old one, in the back a nice switchless combiner with a bunch of nicely done plumbing.    Understand that Gil Housewright from BE was in on the installation.  ERI did the plumbing inside and outside the building and supplied the new antenna that graces the old Green pole.

On November 30th – Someone shot into the CBS Radio facility, on the 5th floor of a 12 story building in Dallas.   What was unusual was it took place at 315 in the afternoon. Luckily no one was hurt.     With all the shooting going on in this country these days…Stations are wise to re-visit this issue.

Well, my friends, that’s it for this month – The Best of 2013 to you and yours.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE