Well here we are – Another year….and some more of Clay’s Corner. Gotta be pushing 30 years with this. I have to admit that I’m hearing a lot of –when are you going to retire – comments which roughly translates into ‘you are really looking old’. I do have a bit of an answer for this one. Because I work for several different organizations ….I figure that the first one I quit working for will be the one that gives me a lot of static or starts treating me badly (Thus far it appears that they must not have a youngster in the wings) I’ve been trying to find a replacement for myself as the State EAS (SECC) Chair …Appears the same situation exists there. I spoze there is always the option of quitting and just let the chips fall. Then there is the automatic method – I pass and then those that are left behind will be forced to deal with the matter. Looking at the amount of Gray Hair at the Christmas Party I get the feeling that management is going to be in for some painful moments in the not too distant future. Ooops, I forgot – Broadcast engineers with knowledge of things like antennas, transmitters and high-powered OTA stuff will shortly be a thing of the past as all those systems will be delivered to land-fills as all audio and video content will be on the Internet. Then only IT types will be needed. Perhaps it’s a good time to be this age?
Speaking of the Party…It was great to see so many old friends there. Understand that it was our biggest turnout as the room was packed. Unfortunately there were a number that were no longer able to attend…and we miss them.
Looking back at 2014 – Been wet enough ? If you think it’s been abnormally wet….You are right. Here are some stat’s to back it up. Normally by Christmas we should have had just over 36 inches of precip…This year it’s over 48!. That’s a foot above average. To put this into perspective – Denver only averages 14.3 inches a year. Last year Seattle only received 32.52 by this time so we are 15.69 wetter than last year….Yikes! The mountains are pretty bare for this time of year, and rock-skiing is not all that popular in these parts. Up at West Tiger there is only about 3 inches on the ground. The forecast for after Christmas was calling for dryer and cooler …A good thing.
A sincere thank you to those that took time to note the passing of our beloved Taylor. Many have been thru this and have learned that a house without a dog is not a home and have quickly set out to find another furry companion. Whereas Taylor was what they call a very large Yorkie at 18 pounds (The AKC states they should never weigh more than 7 pounds) we knew that finding a Taylor size Yorkie was going to be difficult. We mentioned this situation to our dog groomer, who has groomed both of our big Yorkies for many years. As it turns out, she is also involved with dog-rescue and asked us if we would accept a rescue….We said, conditionally, yes (knowing that we would prefer a puppy). My wife and I had recently been thinking about names for our future new member of the family and had come up with names for a girl and boy. The boy name was ‘Yagi’ (yes just like the antenna) …Thankfully my wife liked it. Now, to make a long story short. Within a week of chatting with our groomer she called us on a Sunday afternoon saying that she just picked up a big Yorkie in Wenatchee and wanted to know if we wanted to see him (She said he was a very big boy). On Monday evening we met him and quickly decided to bring him home for a night to see what kind of fella he was and how he and our other dog would get along. It did not take very long to find that big fella was wonderful, the next morning the call was made and the deal was done. Now back to the name. We asked what its name was and was told it was ‘Shaggy’ – My wife and I looked at each other and immediately called him Yagi and he came right to us. I guess we got our Christmas present early….
On the subject of Dogs names I am reminded of a friend who was very actively involved in Amateur Radio …He named his Husky pup Seiku. For those of you not from this area, this is a little town in NW Clallam County pronounced C-Q. CQ, in Ham Radio lingo meaning I am listening on this frequency in the event you’d like to communicate with me. Meanwhile, Kent Randles from Portland told me about a pair of cats he named Fletcher and Munson….adding that he carried around a graph of the Fletcher Munson curve for quite a while. For those of you that are behind the curve – Here’s a link to more info – http://www.webervst.com/fm.htm. Tom McGinley remembered that his Dad had a spaniel with very long ears….Named Dipole. If you have named your pet something interesting and having to do with our business, let me know.
I’m always pleased to see the name of a local engineer in a national publication, for example in a recent edition of TV Technology – 1) James Burns piece on King County TV’s new automation equipment, 2) Greg Thies (KING-TV and above 1 Gig Coordinator) contributing to an article on BAS transition. On the Radio side – Andy Skotdal has a great article discussing the results of the recent all-digital testing at his Everett Stations and Tom McGinley recently was published where he interviewed retiring Andy Laird. Unfortunately the piece did not mention the time that Andy worked in this area. Remember him well at Tiger Mt.
I found it extremely interesting to read that, after all this testing, Andy concludes that the best thing for AM is migration to vacated VHF TV spectrum. This is significant in that Andy, working with the NAB, Hatfield & Dawson etc. reached the same conclusion that I did a while back regarding what should happen to AM. If you recall, I submitted a multi-step, process whereby a new band would be created below the present FM Band where todays present AM operations would migrate to. Another recent article on this topic is in the November/December issue of Radio Guide authored by Ted Schober.
Frankly I feel that those that are trying to apply band aids to the band (no pun) are wasting their time…. The old saying “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” meaning – You cannot make a good quality product using bad quality materials – certainly applies here. The problem is that this particular piece of spectrum is not suitable for what we want to do with it. The other problem is the noise level that has been increasing over the years having the net effect of reducing the coverage of every AM station dramatically. If the NAB is smart, they will be joined by owners of AM stations and consulting engineering firms by getting together to apply pressure on the FCC to work to ‘solve’ the problem as opposed to apply ‘salve’ to the existing very sick patient. A new, perhaps viewed as a replacement, band for radio sounds exciting. Not only in terms of better spectrum, but the ability to employ today’s technology rather than trying to make excuses for yesterday’s.
For those of us in the technical side of life we are constantly reminded if how the average technophobe deals with technology. I can best explain it this way….When you start to answer the question about how something works you reach (sooner rather than later) to point that you see the ‘deer in the headlights’. This is the point that the person asking the question has heard all they want to hear beyond which you are ignored. Technology is a wonderful thing today, creating a zillion cool tools and toys….However we have a great divide between those that want to understand it ….and those that are best described as ‘users’ that don’t want to be confused with the facts.
A great example of this was underscored in a recent study that explains how many of those that purchased electric or hybrid electric cars are really doing more to hurt the environment that those that drive petro-powered vehicles. The basis of this is the fact that a huge amount of our domestic power is generated by the burning of coal. The study states that if that power they plug their vehicle into is generated by coal – that electric car will produce – 3.6 times- more soot and smog that a car using gasoline. (Before you start throwing things my way…I – DO- understand that we in the PNW have an abundance of Hydro and wind power). Granted the savings in operating these machines for the user is significant, but the savings in terms of carbon emissions may well not be true.. So why is it that so many ‘super-green’ types have never researched this? Could it be that it requires learning more about the topic than the wish to learn?
Another example of this are the objections that are voiced when there is more generation or distribution required to power all these electric gizmo’s and new infrastructure has to be built. This is happening right now to PSE along the fast growing East-Side. PSE wants to install new, higher voltage power lines on taller poles and you’d think that they were now the enemy. Then the crowd comes out of the woodwork claiming that none of this is necessary that all we have to do is all install LED lightbulbs….or (ignoring costs) just put all the power lines underground. One more time proving that technology is great…but don’t expect Joe Schmo to understand anything beyond their self-imposed limit on understanding.
Want another? How about the big battle in Whatcom County where a radio station wanted to build an AM antenna array at Point Roberts? Not only did this get shot down, but word has it that there are now those in the County government that want to limit all towers to an height that would kill the electromagnetic systems they support. One more time – The lack of desire to understand the technology involved leads to problems. When government entities, comprised of technophobes, have the authority to ignore and disregard science bad things usually take place. My friend, this is not likely going to get any better.
Let me add this comment made by Elisha Gray many years ago “ As to Bell’s talking telegraph, it only creates interest in scientific circles, and as a toy it is beautiful, but…It’s commercial value will be limited.”
Car Sagan perhaps said it best – “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology”
Will all of this being said….Let a government entity do something that messes with the Internet, Facebook, Twitter etc….and watch what happens.
This past month has been full of news about the cyberattack on Sony by, apparently, North Korea. Certainly cyberattacks have been in the news with events impacting credit cards at major retailers…but the one against Sony opened perhaps a new chapter in where this can go. This is all leading me to wonder if we will see similar attacks take place against a major network or perhaps a broadcast station. Certainly events like this tend to fester in the minds of those that will become copy-cats. Can you imagine the pressure within other major media organizations right now as they attempt to keep this from happening to them? ….. Certainly a situation to watch for in 2015.
In our town we’ve seen the owners of Channel 11 sell their tower on Capitol Hill. Entercom sold their sites on Cougar and West Tiger and so it goes. Broadcasters are, all over the country, selling their towers…Something that would likely cause many to ‘roll in their graves’. The latest to follow this path is iHeartMedia (formally Clear Channel). They recently decided to sell some 400 sites to a firm called Vertical Bridge Holdings (Not American Tower….Surprise). The broadcaster will now move from making money with these chunks of vertical real estate to writing checks who see this as a viable business.
In the event you wonder just how much of a business the tower business is ….Consider that American Tower has a Market Cap of 38.69 B. …For comparison- Sinclair is 2.54B, Gannet 6.9B, Entercom 469M, 3.39B, and CBS about 28B.
Also on the business side….Amador Bustos has closed on 9 former Adelante radio properties in Washington State, including local KDDS-FM and KMIA-AM as well as 7 stations in Eastern Washington.
Bustos operates a number of stations in the Portland market as well.
Entercom, operator of Stations in Seattle, Portland, Denver and elsewhere got a bit bigger with the announcement that they are purchasing Lincoln Financial Medias 15 radio stations. This move will fill up their holdings in Denver and add new markets to the company, namely, Atlanta, San Diego and Miami increasing the size of the company to 122 radio stations in 27 markets. The deal was valued just over 100 Million.
Another firm with stations in the PNW has been out there buying things. Alpha Media recently picked up additional stations in Louisiana and Texas and California….When completed, Alpha will have grown to 83 Stations. Alpha owns some legendary stations in Portland, Oregon like KOIN and KXL.I see where the FCC went ahead and renewed the license for WWXX-FM despite an objection from a university law professor who was trying to gain leverage to get the name of the Redskins to change their name…He is apparently trying to do the same with KTTV in LA. Seems to me to be a bit of a stretch. Here in our town the name Seahawks and Mariners appear to be safe….However It is possible that a group of horses may file an objection over the football team name in Denver J
This past month saw another one of those weather systems where a ‘low’ traveled up the coast bringing with it some pretty strong winds and with that a lot of power outages. The good news is that the last wind-storm we had …With Easterly winds, apparently de-limbed a lot of the trees so that this time outages impacting broadcast operations were minimal. As with events like this…The Oregon coast got perhaps the worst of it with a gust of 79 mph at Newport and 73 in Lincoln City. Here in the Puget Sound area the NAS at Whidbey Island recorded 69 mph. Alki Beach 60. Interestingly the 520 bridge was not closed where they recorded a peak gust of 51 mph. The good news was the low stayed on the West side of the Olympic Mountains…had it gone up the East Site and traveled thru the Puget Sound Basin…Things would have been a lot worse. But there is time – Winter just got started! Speaking of winter – At this writing – The NWS is predicting snow on Christmas Eve …..(At West Tiger Mt)
We do have a copper theft to report this month …. However not at a broadcast facility but rather at a church in Bellingham where someone stole some copper water line connecting their hot water heater. The cool news is that someone, hearing of the theft, dropped off an envelope with 10 100 dollar bills in it to cover the damage.
The lure of money and the pressure of the wireless industry (gee didn’t broadcasting used to be called wireless?) the FCC continues to try and figure out how to re-shuffle the channels used by TV Stations in addition to trying to convince others to cash-out to gain spectrum for all those low powered gizmo’s that we have become addicted to. Some are predicting that their ‘incentive spectrum auction’ scheme may not fly. Time will tell.
Speaking of flying – (Subtle change noted) Alpha Media’s news station in PDX, KXL, has cut a deal with a local drone company for use with breaking news coverage. I can understand how a drone would work with TV news…not sure how it will work with Radio …other than to provide pictures to reporters than can then describe to the stations listeners. Interested in hearing more about how this works out.
The latest 12+ radio ratings for Seattle are interesting (yes even to an Engineer) here are some things that stood out to me –
Seattle is in Market #13
- The population is 3,584,700
- The top rated AM Station in the Market (KIRO) is at #14 (Underscoring the plight of AM Radio)
- The next AM (KOMO) comes in at #18
- Non-Commercial Stations are doing well – KUOW-#8, KING-FM-#10, KPLU-#17
- The radio audience is sliced a zillion ways with 34 stations listed.
- Being owned by a big company does not ensure success….They have stations near the bottom also.
Another church apparently had a similar problem and elected to make it the topic for their sign
From time to time I will write something about how the Seattle area ranks in one category or another…This month – A house for sale on Mercer Island. For those of you not from this area…Mercer Island is surrounded by Lake Washington which is sort of between Seattle and Bellevue. This little structure made it on the Top-10 list for most expensive homes in the country – Here’s a brief run-down of this little abode….At 5330 Bufferworth Road….14,940 Square feet sitting on a 1.89 acre lot. Features a 7 room master suite. Asking price – @26,800,000. If you are wondering what the payments would be on a place like this …try $100,036 PER MONTH. Wonder why the present owner is moving?
FCC actions for new Low Power FM’s for our area continue. Apparently the term- “Low-Power’ means exactly that…The Commish recently authorizing a new station in Bellingham to operate with 1 (yes, ONE) watt on 107.3. In this case the modest power level will be made up for with a relatively high elevation site in the Chuckanut’s south of Bellingham
To the South….with a bit more power, the Tulalip tribe will be operating two LPFM’s on 102.1 and 96.9. West Seattle, actually closer to White Center will be the home of a new 10 watter on 98.5. Further South a new LPFM Group is shopping for tower space in the Tacoma area. I suspect that these non-profit operations are going to be in for a shock when they find out that tower space is not given away
If recall we have been having fun with Call Letters in recent columns….Jim Dalke found another for the list – KGUT-LP for Hollow Earth Radio in Seattle. K-Gut….OK ! If you are like me and enjoy the Elmer Fudd way of speaking, there is a whole category of possibilities starting with the letters K-W. For example – KRUD would become KWUD etc.
Lots of hype over 4K TV…However whether or not this format gets legs will depend on the availability of content proving again that just because you have more pixels does not guarantee success. Where have we heard this before? This truth applies to Radio and TV. You have to have compelling content before you are going to attract an audience. This is one of the reasons why HD Radio has been so slow to take-off. Radio broadcasters are fearful of putting great content on the new mode based on their fear that they will be taking audience away from the vehicle that pays the bills. Can you imagine putting the next Seahawks game only on a – dot something – TV channel and an HD 2 Radio stream. Not going to happen because the bottom line would take a huge hit. As so it goes…TV puts mainly old-stuff on their ‘dot-something’ channels and radio fills their multicast channels with the cheapest to produce stuff they can.
A couple of passing’s to make note of – 1) Richard C Hottelet passed at 97. Many of us recall that name. Richard worked with Edward R Murrow in the coverage of WW-2 on CBS. Thankfully we in this state are blessed with the Murrow College at WSU in Pullman that helps those that will follow us of the contribution of those that have gone before. 2) Rod Belcher recently passed at 94. Rod was familiar to all of us in the Puget Sound for many years as the voice of many a game.
On the subject of radio history – If you are like me and are interested in what has come before us (or if you are as old as I am, things that happened early in our career)…Check out this web-site –
http://www.americanradiohistory.com/. This is a great place to spend many rainy days.
I often come up with items that would look good on an Engineers desk…..How about a shirt that would look good on an Engineer?
And ….How about this for a sign on the engineers office wall?
We are all aware of the changes in terms of languages spoken (and broadcast) in the last few years. For a while, English is the #1 spoken and Spanish is #2…But have you thought about which language comes next? Well, it’s not the same everywhere – For example – In Washington its Vietnamese. In Oregon is Russian and in Colorado its German. This is evident on the radio in the PNW with Vietnamese language programming heard in Seattle and Russian in the Portland area.
Changes in the way tower lighting is reported has been announced. This item should be noted by all those that are responsible for tower lights was announced just before Christmas –
The Federal Communications Commission this week, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, announced a revised policy for tower owners’ required notices regarding extinguished or faulty obstruction lighting. In an effort to streamline its processes related to Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs), tower owners will now have the option of self-selecting the amount of time their NOTAMs remain active. Tower owners still must notify the FAA within 30 minutes of discovery of any lighting outage or malfunction, and they must take steps to repair the faulty lighting as rapidly as possible. See 47 C.F.R. §17.48.
Previous submissions to the FAA’s web-based outage reporting form resulted in the automatic issuance of NOTAMs that expire after 15 days. When repairs are not feasible within that 15 day timeframe allotted, tower owners were forced to, often repeatedly, cancel and reapply for NOTAMs until such time as the necessary repairs could be completed. In an effort to alleviate the administrative burdens placed on reporting tower owners, as well as the FCC and FAA staff charged with tracking and enforcing the obstruction lighting rules, the new flexible expiration date will enable all parties to focus more resources on alleviating the root problem rather than on clearing administrative hurdles.
The rule changes are expected to take effect in mid-January, 2015. While tower owners may self-select their repair deadlines, they are reminded that every obstruction lighting outage should be corrected as soon as possible. Keep an eye out over the coming months and years for more aggressive enforcement of this provision of the rules. Requests for unusually long repair times, and the failure to cancel NOTAMs where repairs have already been completed, will receive increased scrutiny under the new rules.
Yes, it’s that time of year- The NAB is promoting Hall Passes for those that want to take in the big show in the desert this year. April 13 thru the 16th in the event you have not marked your calendar.
For many years one of the major considerations in purchasing a transmitter (or other large piece of broadcast equipment) was the fact that there was 24/7 parts and service support. As a sign of the times or market conditions, Continental Electronics announced that they are stopping their 24/7 support in favor of a standard business hours approach. Continental used to be one of the major suppliers of AM and FM transmitters, however, in recent year they have failed to introduce new products with firms like Nautel and GatesAir becoming the major suppliers of this equipment. The days of being able to call a service tech and be talking through a problem – for free – for a piece of equipment that is 20+years old is likely coming to an end. Perhaps they are learning from the airline industry?
Yes, the FCC is still dealing with violators and violations of their EAS Rules. Pathfinder Communications will be contributing $46,000 for miss-use of EAS Tones….Here is what the FCC had to say-
The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television operators, wireline video service providers, satellite digital audio radio service providers, and direct broadcast satellite providers to supply the communications capability to the President of the United States to address the American public during a national emergency. Federal, state, and local authorities may also use the EAS to deliver emergency information, such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to specific areas. The EAS is well known to the American public as the nationwide warning system used to address the public in national or local emergencies. The specific sounds comprising the EAS tones are defined in our rules, and are designed to alert the public and activate the emergency communication system when necessary. To preserve the unique purpose of the EAS tones, the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) enforces laws that prohibit the use of the tones, or simulations of them, except in actual emergencies or authorized tests of the EAS. As many complaints about EAS abuse have noted, misuse of the tones creates a “Cry Wolf” scenario, which risks desensitizing the public to the significance of the tones in a real emergency.
The FCC has also taken action in an area usually reserved for Radio broadcasters….Ordering a TV station to pay $35 Grand for airing a telephone recording without informing the caller that they are being recorded for broadcast. Ooops!
Another broadcast facility was heavily damaged. If you recall, last month a station in Tri-Cities Washington was hit. In this case a small AM in Morganton, N.C. was the victim as thieves cut thru a chain-link fence and broke into the station thru a window doing $50,000 damage to the stations equipment. It’s amazing how many feel that a chain link fence and a locked door will prevent this kind of event and, on top of that, not have a top-notch security system installed that will automatically call the police. In most cases like this the owner does not want to spend the money (Not sure about this one). In this case the station, a religious broadcaster – WAS – Gambling that it would not happen to them.
If you have been following the recorded music industry you know that Internet distribution of music has made the local record store a thing of the past. Just try and go out and buy a CD of your favorite artist these days. All while this is happening…Vinyl sales are breaking records. Last year 6.1 million albums were sold…This year it’s pushing 8 million. So what’s going on here? Do you still have a turn-table as part of your home stereo system? Are you ready to go back to ‘record scratch’?
Those that operate broadcast systems on Vashon Island, Cougar and Tiger Mountains the announcement that the State Attorney Generator has concluded that PSE is over charging their customers is a bit of nice news. They went on to express that State law requires utility rates to be fair, just and reasonable…but not excessive. Apparently that is the case with PSE to the tune of as much as $35 Million per year. Of course PSE does not agree.
On the technical side …There was a recent thread on a technical List-Serv dealing with coaxial cable connectors and the differences between 50 and 75 ohm Type-N connectors. This got me to thinking, where does a person learn these things these days? If you were new to the world of Broadcast Engineering and wanted learn about topics like this, where would you go to learn them? Wow have times changed. If anything, this topic got me to thinking about how confusing one of our major transmitter sites looks to the new IT guy in the department. I know a lot of sharp RF guys that have picked up IT skills…however not too many have done the reverse. When the RF savvy guy retires (or expires) what are these folks going to do. Station management does not understand the crisis that is brewing I’m pretty sure.
Something that many engineers are involved with at stations is the Public File. In the last few years the FCC has been hinting that they would like to see these available ….On-Line instead of the old system whereby the public would come into a station and physically review paper files or on a computer terminal. The FCC appears to be moving toward having all radio stations moved to the on-line method….Apparently there are some fine-points…Small NCE Stations will be off the hook for a while…Major market stations would start sooner with small stations in smaller markets coming later. Having been responsible for Public Files in the past…I certainly welcome this change.
As we enter the new year many of us are thinking about the most popular resolution of all – Lose weight. Like with all things, there is a new study out about how to deal with those extra pounds we’ve added over the year (Not to mention the Holidays). According to this new study weight training is the most effective way off keeping your belt-line in check…in fact, it’s better than running. (Tell that to all those running around Green Lake on a winter day). This research comes from a big name place…The Harvard School of Public Health and involved 10,000 men over 40 over a 12 year period, i.e., a good basis.
“They found that those men who spent an extra 20 minutes a day weight training gained less abdominal weight over the course of the study than men who increased the amount of time they spent doing aerobic exercise” Giving some credit to aerobic exercise, combing the two led to even better results.
So time to think about how you can combine lifting with your job. Here are some quick thoughts –
1- Remember that wheels are only designed to make you fat – Carry it!
2- Stop making multiple trips – lifting weight is your friend.
Well, that’s about it for my first column for this New Year. May 2015 be all that you hoped for and may all you be able to keep all of your resolutions.
73, Clay Freinwald, K7CR – CPBE and other letter things.