Clay's Heading

At the outset – A big welcome to Seattle to our newest Chief Engineer – Matt Green (pictured below)

Matt is now in the seat once occupied by now retired Dwight Small.


Lowell Smith photo

Then there was this announcement from Marvin Marcelo, GM of Northwest Public Radio and TV at the Murrow College of Communications at WSU –

It is my pleasure to announce that Jeff Snell has accepted the position of Director of Engineering and Technology, starting today.

Jeff started working for us back in December 2000 with the Washington Higher Education Telecommunications System (WHETS) program as a Computer Operator III and worked his way up to Systems Administrator for Northwest Public Media and The Murrow College. Jeff also obtained his master’s degree in Engineering and Technology Management from WSU while working full time.

From helping with the analog to digital transition in WHETS/AMS/NWPTV-NWPR, building out of all the new computer labs in Murrow and Goertzen Halls, the new radio control system with Colorado Public Radio, and the current TV joint master control move from KSPS to Central Cast in New York, Jeff has been an integral part of the many technological changes in our organization.

There are some big challenges ahead for radio, TV and The Murrow College, but I know that we’ll make great strides with Jeff’s leadership, technological background and passion for innovation.

The other big headline in Seattle broadcasting this month is the fact that the listeners of KPLU were successful in raising some 7 Million dollars to purchase the station from Pacific Lutheran University.   They accomplished this with a month to spare (In 5 rather than the allotted 6 Month) .   PLU has indicated that they will indeed sell the station to the new group and, apparently the folks at KUOW have agree as well. It is my understanding that the sale agreement was to be completed the last week in June leaving one more hurdle, application to and approval of the FCC. Once that is accomplished It’s likely the station will change call letters to further distance themselves from the University that owned it for some 50 years.   Consolidation of studio operations is quite possible in the future as the new operation attempts to keep operating costs in check.   Rumors are that a location in downtown Tacoma might be considered. Certainly costs there would be less than in Seattle where costs are rising to historic levels.     88.5 will be joining KING-FM in becoming the latest listener supported radio station in the Seattle area.   Interestingly both stations transmit from West Tiger Mountain using the same antenna.

Seattle is an interesting place.   For those visiting here the first time they are often struck by the number of homeless….and news of the, now famous – ‘Jungle’ under various portions of I-5 in the city.   I get asked – How could a city like booming Seattle have such a homeless problem?   I’ll admit it seems counter intuitive.   A lot of it boils down to the fact that many on the lower end of incomes have found themselves priced out of a place they can afford to live in the City due to the rapid increase in rental amounts.   There have been calls for rent-controls, however the fact is that rental prices are based on supply and demand.   Like a lot of things, prices will continue to rise until the either the supply exceeds demand or they are priced too high and the demand drops off. Meanwhile – Rental prices continue to climb and we see more tent-dwellers as well as more freeway congestion as people are forced further away from the city to locations they can afford proving that it’s often still more economical to put money in your gas tank than into where you live.

On the bad news front, KPLU engineer Nick Winter was in an auto accident in Tacoma recently totaling his 2004 Toyota Pickup .   Thankfully no one was hurt in the crash.   Considering that it had some 325,000 miles on it – perhaps it was time for a new ride…and that’s exactly what he has coming. Looking very similar to what I’ve been driving since late last year.

Last month I wrote about the little station in Forks upgrading their FM by moving to much higher terrain. Mike Gilbert reports the owners are very pleased with the results with the stations move to Ellis Mountain reporting the station is able to be heard all the way east to Port Townsend.   This is a huge improvement from the former location on their AM tower in town. The new site is at 2,654 ft. Considering the population density in this area, this a great move for the little station.

The owners of boats have historically given their craft interesting if not funny names.   I spotted this one the other day and just had to share it with you.   I’m guessing that the owner is into computers !

C Drive


KLSW (Very close to KISW) is now operational with their new Single Bay antenna at Cougar Mountain. Prior to this time 104.5 was using the Master Antenna at the site that was designed for use by a number of stations at the site for Aux’s backing up main transmitters on West Tiger.    According to Steve Flyte the new installation is performing very well.

Retired KIRO pronouncer, Central Puget LECC Chair and retired Coast Guard ossifer, Phil Johnson was recently suffering thru the weather on Kauai where he got to have a tour of WWVH.   Documenting the visit he sent me the below picture of himself standing in front of a 10 MHz transmitter (Phil on the left)

If it were me, I have a new sign made for the front of that transmitter – It would read

“10.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 MHZ’

Wonder how accurate the clock is on top?

10 mhz

Another survey to report – This time the top –ten with the lowest risk from natural disaster.

Here are those mentioned in our area –

  1. Corvallis, OR
  2. Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
  3. Bellingham, WA
  4. Wenatchee, WA
  5. Spokane, WA
  6. Salem, OR
  7. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA
  8. Yakima, WA
  9. Olympia, WA

Apparently those that did this research did not consider the potential for a major earthquake or volcanic event.   During my travels around the country I’ve found many that said they would not consider living in this area….Not, as you would first suspect, because of our wet weather, but because of their fear of quakes and mountains blowing up!


Every once in a while I run across an example of someone playing with electricity that probably should not be.   I have no way of knowing if this is for-real or was staged…Regardless, I got a chuckle out of it.



I just got my monthly newsletter from my power provider….urging me to save energy by replacing my power hungry lights with new energy efficient LED’s.   Then the idea struck me – All those big broadcast transmitters out there could save a ton of wasted power if they would just come out with vacuum tubes that, instead having filaments like light bulbs, would use LED’s   – (going into hiding now)

Consider the example of poor wiring that is for real ! BTW this is in South America.



The HD Radio bug has caught on with our neighbors to the north with now 3 Vancouver stations operating with the mode – 96.9, 101.1 and 103.5.   Programming for these stations new HD2 channels follows what’s been taking place in other US markets – a new voice for co-owned AM operations.

An interesting side effect of BC broadcasters (finally) installing HD Radio equipment is the impact on those markets between Seattle and Vancouver.   In markets like Bellingham, co-channel operation on a frequency used in Seattle is not possible, despite the shielding of the Chuckanut Mountains South of Bellingham. ( However adjacent channels of Vancouver stations have historically been used for translators and other low power operations…..that is until those adjacent channels became occupied with HD Radio digital carriers.   This was the situation with a NWPR Translator on 101.3.   (First adjacent to a Vancouver station) all was well until the time that the BC station turned on its HD.   Suddenly the little FM operation in Bellingham was being covered by the strong HD digital carriers from the North.     Another factor here is terrain.   Bellingham is situated on what could be considered the southern end of the Frazier River Valley, on the other side of the ‘valley’ are the mountains just north of Vancouver, site of the markets FM station transmitters.     From the standpoint of the high power/high elevation FM station…Perhaps HD Radio has another, rarely-discussed, benefit ….It’s helps keep those pesky adjacent channels in check J


There are many waiting for more ‘shoes to drop’ in the process of re-packing the TV channels.   In some markets this is going to be impacting multiple use towers in ways that station and tower owners can only guess about.   As an example – Picture a big tall tower with a couple of TV’s and a couple of FM’s all sharing the structure.     Along comes the need to change channels for the TV’s.   Unless the TV stations antennas will work on the new channel – It will have to change. …and this is not an overnight operation. Structural and construction issues will come into play here and these could well negatively impact those radio stations that are, traditionally, mounted lower on the tower.   They could be faced with making decisions that they have never even dreamed about.   Going to get interesting.   Perhaps thankfully, this will not likely impact Seattle broadcasters due to the rather unique way our markets stations and towers are situated.

Another big story in the world to towers is the number of cases where a broadcaster has sold towers to those whose business is selling tower space.   Many of the major radio broadcasters have been selling towers, Alpha alone sold 200 of theirs to a firm call Vertical Bridge.     Looking back (I can do a lot of that) If a person had walked into the door of a station I was working at expressing a desire to purchase the stations tower they would have been openly laughed at.     Wow how times have changed.     A nice big positive hit to the stations bottom line is being viewed as a whole lot easier than a station trying to market tower space, an industry that most broadcasters know nothing about.

For years the FCC would slap the knuckles of a broadcast station for putting on the air a caller without first advising them of the action.   Now comes the story of a new variation.   iHeartMedia has agreed to pay $8.5 million to resolve an issue involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by -unsolicited – sending text messages to its radio listeners. Oops.

One of our markets FM stations has cellular equipment on their tower that recently was being modified to accommodate some new (G-Whiz) equipment.   I’m used to contractors posting some caution signs that are required by regulators.   In this case, the contractor did not just post a sign – He erected a banner to cover all the bases ! Frankly I found this moderately funny.

no trespass


From time to time I participate in conversations on remailers that are related to broadcast engineering. A recent thread dealt with the relationship between management and engineering in many smaller radio stations.

Ø         Those that manage radio facilities often have no clue as to what the engineer does -especially – if they stay on the air. Only when a station goes off the air, and management knows, or see’s that their engineer working to resolve the issue does his ‘value’ go up.

Ø         A lot of management is under intense pressure to better the bottom line, they knows that their survival is at stake. They are more likely to resist increased expenses unless they can actually ‘see’ how this benefits that bottom line.

Ø         In many case Engineering is looked upon like insurance.   A large percentage of management would stop buying insurance if they thought they’d get away with it.

Ø         The graying of our industry is viewed by many as an opportunity to cut engineering expenses based on the simple notion that younger people will cost less….at least initially.

Ø            Management is often not going to invest in a full time engineer any more than they are going to hire a full-time copy machine technician who will sit around waiting for the machine to break.

Ø         They are a whole lot more willing to pay for something that is broken to be repaired than to pay for someone who ‘ Fixes things’ to be sitting at a desk etc.

Ø         There is this universal feeling that it they can’t see you working, and understand what you are doing is benefiting the bottom line – you are wasting time and their money.   An example of this is the engineer that is working on a transmitter project and out of the studio/office for a few days…Often the manager equates this with being taken advantage of.

Ø         Some of this is the engineers own fault and is based on – How they dress – How they interact with the rest of the management team- how they present to others what they do . This is often a lack of willingness to ‘sell’ what we they etc.

Ø            Willingness to work-cheap is often a contributing problem.

Ø         In many ways this mistrust is like a spreading disease.   Either you work to regain their trust and turn your own ship around or you will suffer the consequences.   Yes, I place a lot of blame on the Engineer that may be technically sharp but also quite stupid when it comes to the politics involved.

Ø         Many have made the decision to stop working for one company and move into contracting or working for people part time.   Often this works better for both parties. Management is happier paying for specific work (no desk-sitting) and Engineers often enjoy a higher rate of compensation. With that comes increase levels of mutual respect.

Ø         Times have changed for sure – either you embrace change and figure out how to make it work FOR YOU…or you suffer the consequences

Of course there are likely to be other points of view on this topic – If you would like to express yours…I’d be interested…and I might even make it a part of next month’s column.

In this day and age of battery powered everything – Did you know that 90% of us panic about losing power on our smart phone.   LG had named this condition – Low Battery Anxiety.   Which reminds me –

How many of you are still using NiCad battery powered tools? I notice that the major tool makers are selling these relicts at steep discounts.   Meanwhile work is rushing ahead to develop more impressive batteries.

Ready for another survey ?   This time the question is – Which States have the best economy? This one conducted by WalletHub where the findings were – 1, Utah; 2. Washington; 3. California; 4. Massachusetts; 5. Colorado; 6. Delaware; 7. District of Columbia; 8. New York; 9. Texas, and 10, Oregon.

Washington has the highest value of exports per capita, $12,517, which is nine times higher than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest, $1,361 Suspect Boeing has a lot to do with this.

Here’s another one, this time from Forbes – Which are the fastest growing cities in the U.S.?

1-         Austin, TX

2-         San Francisco

3-         Dallas

4-         Seattle

5-         Salt Lake City

6-         Ogden Utah

7-            Orlando

8-         San Jose

9-         Raleigh

10-       Cape Coral, Fla

11-       Denver

If you been to Seattle lately – You can see it happening all around you.   The news around here is full of stories of how the price of housing is going out of site for those that want to rent or buy. With higher prices comes higher valuations and with that higher property taxes.   This hurts many at many levels.   Many are being force to move out of town for the simple reason that they are not paid enough to afford it. Then there are those that are retired and living on a fixed income – (this is where it gets ugly) .   All of this is a recipe for more urban sprawl fueled by those seeking prices for housing they can afford.   We’ve come a long way since the days of that famous billboard at Sea-Tac asking that the last person leaving Seattle to please turn out the lights.

For those of you that are science-heads – are you ready for the new elements ?   Apparently 4 more are being added.   Gee all those big wall hangings in science classrooms are going to be out of date.

For those of you that just have to know more – Go here –

With all the worry about health issues ….Why would you want to go to Rio to watch the Olympics when you can sit in downtown Seattle and see them to the West ?   (Ducking again)

We’ve all seen the pitch from the wireless providers for the latest ‘G’ – 3G, 4G, LTE etc. …Well fasten your seatbelt…Here comes 5G which is, according to its proponents, will give us network speeds 10 to 100 times faster than we have now. More G-whiz gizmos are in the pipe.

If you are presently working in the field of Radio Broadcasting…or are thinking about doing so… consider the fact that the number of radio broadcasting jobs has fallen over 25% since 1990.   Is it any wonder why schools in this area no longer off courses on the subject?.   Consolidation of station ownership has meant an across the board reduction in the number of jobs.   Helping to fuel this trend has been a significant increase in the use of computer technology.   Back in 1990 it was common place to have a radio station manned 24/7…today that mode of operation is increasingly rare.   On the technical side, consolidation has meant a large reduction in the number of engineers.   I recall when we were building out the facility at West Tiger Mountain. The first multiple station operation in the area with, at its peak, 11 stations under one roof.   We’d have periodic meetings of all of the engineers to go over matters of common interest.   Today such a meeting would only have a hand-full of engineers representing all licensees.   Just like a lot of other industries – Less people are doing more with less.   Generally consolidation has worked well for most owners (With a couple of very high-profile exceptions)   I could add AM Radio to this, but I think you all know what’s happening there.   Perhaps one could state that AM is broadcastings equivalent to newspapers?

On the TV Side there have been major changes as well.   Today we have technologies like robotic cameras and centralized and computer controlled master control operations replacing many. The idea of a TV station with only a couple of employee’s and no local studio cameras back in 1990 would be far-fetched.   Overall jobs in Television, unlike Radio, are actually up by less than stellar amounts.

Compared to the Print Media – Broadcasting is flying high.   In the Seattle-Tacoma area we have witnessed the demise of several daily newspapers and the dramatic reduction in size of others.   Compared to 1990 this segment has had a 60% drop.

Predictably the segment were we have seen the biggest increases in employment are those industries that rely on the Internet for distribution.

Want more information?   Check out ––over–years/279004#sthash.5AO7N73F.dpuf

Bottom line – If you have a good steady job in OTA Broadcasting – Be thankful and consider taking a cue from those that bicycle to work by installing a rear view mirror on your glasses.   Personally, I consider myself to be a very lucky person having been employed in this industry, full time, since August 1, 1961. Hopefully I will be able to work a couple more years before hanging up my spurs – voluntarily !

Perhaps related to the reduction in the number of those employed in this industry is the matter of finding those that are willing to serve on the local. Chapter SBE Boards.     I recently posted that question to the Chapter 16 remailer and got this response from Bob Trimble –

Hi Clay.

In my discussions with engineers around the N.W. there is a lack of engineers who have the time or energy to add an unpaid part-time job that also requires travel to meetings. Most engineers work well over 40 hours working up to a seven day week. Many do not even attend NAB anymore.

The engineers in Salt Lake City do not even have a local chapter anymore because they won’t even take the time to attend a lunch or dinner meeting once a month (which is usually free).

Montana and Wyoming each did have a small chapter last time I checked, but the attendance is very small because the few engineers there are spread out roving around the state. Yet Oregon has three chapters that have good attendance because we can attract presenters who will do all three cities in three days making it worth their while to come to Oregon and that attracts attendees from the few engineers we have left.


Bob Trimble N7IYI

Andy Skotdal submitted this-

It would be interesting to compare the number of engineers in the area 20 years ago to now. My sense is it’s a function of fewer numbers overall, that creates more work for those who do participate, and then the workday responsibilities for those still around have grown exponentially over the same time. Thankless volunteer positions, no matter how noble or worthy, are suffering, and not just with the SBE. Look at SARA/PSRBA going away, and look at the WSAB evolution to Keith working out of his home with no assistant and also serving the OAB. But it isn’t just broadcasting. It’s also happening in banking. Two banking trade groups in Washington State are on the precipice because the number of local banks have dropped so dramatically. There is no good answer right now

Perhaps bucking the trend a bit – Google this item – National Radio Talent System

And – starts/279024#sthash.FOnxpTKl.dpuf

Kudos to those behind this effort.

For those of us that used to go to the NAB Convention in Vegas every year…The Riviera hotel across the street from the             LVCC was a landmark – As you know the place has been closed to make room for more convention center – In the middle to this past month the demolition got underway with the implosion of the Monaco Tower.   All together there were 13 buildings in the complex.   $42 million is the price tag to make it all go away.

When you install an FM antenna on a ‘hot’ AM broadcast tower you have to deal with how to isolate the process from the AM Antenna…This is an application for what’s known as an Isocoupler.   Occasionally things go wrong…Like when the FM Antenna gets struck by lightning…In case of KWSU in Pullman this is what took place with, as you can see, considerable damage. Note how the top part of the enclosure is blackened in addition to the melted items….Things were very nasty inside!   The Isocoupler was replaced.

burned iso

West Tiger Mountain is scheduled for tower work on July 2-4 as KIRO-FM changes out their main antenna.   This will involve replacing the antenna that was installed at the site back in 1987. At that time, 97.3 was the first FM broadcast station on the mountain.   12 more have followed since.

In addition to narrow audio bandwidth, lack of stereo operation and less than inspirational programming, AM Radio is suffering with the fact that the average AM receiver cannot distinguish between the emissions of a stations transmitter and those of thousands of devices we have today that emit what is commonly called ‘noise’.   You often hear stories about –back when – you could pick up AM stations at great distances but it is no longer possible.   A common reason cited for this is poor receivers. Granted there is not a lot of incentive for the makers of consumer radios to produce super sensitive receivers…one of the reasons for this is the fact that what engineers calla the –Signal to Noise Ratio – is getting worse by the day. AM radio uses a system called Amplitude Modulation …Unfortunately sources of noise generate signals with the same characteristics .   A radio with greater sensitivity would only be better able to produce more noise for the user!.   If you would like to check this out for yourself – Here’s what you do – (Based on living the Seattle area)

Ø         Go out to where you park your vehicle and tune around the AM band noting just how many AM stations from Vancouver or Portland you can receive.   (You can down-load a list of stations in those cities from

Ø         Wait until we have a large scale power outage and repeat the test.

Ø         Drive out in the country and down a road as that has no power lines or electric fences (Goal is to be as far away from anything with a power line as possible) ….Repeat the test.

What you are going to discover might surprise you.   Chances are, without devices that are connected to the electric grid near your receiver, your receiver is going to perform a whole lot better. So what’s the problem?   The issue is that we have an ever increasing number of electrical devices that emit, or transmit, noise.   That noise directly impacts how well you are able to receive AM radio signals/stations.

This is not a new situation….In fact, devices that emit what engineers call RF Noise, used to interfere with receiving TV stations back in the days when the video portion of things was also using Amplitude Modulation.   Then, there was a lot of pressure to find those noise sources and deal with them.   Today, just about the only place where AM is used is the AM Broadcast band….and the pressure to resolve sources of noise is considerably less.

Then we add a couple more factors to the equation.

Ø         The number of devices that generate noise has exploded in recent years.

Ø         The FCC, who historically has dealt with this matter, no longer goes – in part because the Commission has changed from one that enforces rules to one that enforces rules only when someone complains.

Ø         The number complaints about noise on the AM Broadcast band is almost nil- and very likely limited to organizations that recognize the impact of it.

Ø         The average consumer likely fails to understand the source of the problem and simply chooses another means to receive their desired product (FM/HD Radio – Streaming services etc.) and never thinks to complain to the FCC.

Knowing all of this- the makers of all manner of electrical devices have been able to ignore any existing regulations that would limit the amount of radio frequency energy (aka noise) that these devices create.   Remove any enforcement of regulations and you have the wild-wild west.

Now comes this –

The FCC’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory group to the FCC operating under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, is investigating changes and trends to the radio spectrum noise floor to determine if there is an increasing noise problem, and if so, the scope and quantitative evidence of such problem(s), and how a noise study should be performed. In this public notice, the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) announces the TAC’s public inquiry, seeking comments and answers to questions below for the TAC about radio spectrum noise

I’m thinking that this is too little, too late.   Not only has the horse gotten out of the barn but he has been joined by a herd of millions of other horses.   Remember too that regulators are driven by complaints these days, i.e., No-complains – No problems.   Who is likely to put up a fuss because they can no longer receive an AM station without a lot of buzz, crackle and bizzaps?   I submit that those listeners have been chased away never to return…..But maybe I’m wrong about this.   Maybe the Feds will actually determine that enforcement of their own rules has merit.     I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime – Several organization are weighing in – I wish them the very best!   For those that would like more information – go here –

A TV station in North Dakota recently got into a dispute with DirecTV .   One of the ways the tackled the problem was by offering their viewers free TV Antennas.   Viewers had to go to the station and present poof they were a DirecTV subscriber.   The station ordered 1000 Antennas for the purpose.   This leads me to ask the question – How many TV Viewers today would be able to install an OTA TV Antenna if you gave them one?

In the world of EAS there is no shortage of ‘stuff’ going on….Here are the headlines- –

Ø         Our recent regional NPT came and went with a number of stations ‘discovering’ issues in their endec programming that needed to be corrected.   Hopefully all will be ready for the big nation-wide test coming this fall.

Ø         Don’t forget to keep your ears to the ground for news about the new electronic test reporting system called ETRS.   My understanding is that the FCC will be wanting us all to use this new system for the fall NPT.

Ø         Looks like we may not be having new Event Codes as suspected, at least in the near term

Ø         Happy to report that we have two new parties stepping up to lead local EAS committees (LECC’s). In Mason-Thurston long time local broadcast engineer, John Price, who recently retired to the Rochester area.   In North Puget, Jeannie Gilbert.   Jeannie is the wife of Mike Gilbert and former Editor of the Chapter 16 Waveguide.

Ø         Other volunteers working with our SECC include – Jon Kasprick dealing with Tab 10/Monitoring Assignment and new-comer Arlene Hand working on our Tab2 Data Bases of LECC’s and associated Emergency Managers.

Ø         The recent Cascadia Rising exercise revealed a potential communications gap between emergency management and citizens based on the assumption that broadcast facilities would not be negatively impacted by such an event.   Phil Johnson (Retired KIRO) as well as others are working on solutions to this problem. One possible solution is a means for emergency management to be able to turn on and broadcast through a local broadcast station.   Such a system has been installed in Port Townsend.

Ø         The next State EAS meeting (SECC) will be July 21st at Camp Murray.

Ø         Don’t forget you can stay connected to what’s happening with EAS in Washington State by subscribing to the State EAS Remailer –

This is now we distribute Plan updates, meeting notices, EAS news and more.

They say – One picture is worth a thousand words – I love this one of a monster generator at a big server farm.   For those of you into really big engines – Note that this is a V-20!

big genset

Well, my friends, that’s about it for this month- Thanks for taking time to read my stuff J

Hopefully, I’ll be back next month for another edition on most of these same computers.

Have a great summer !!!!!   See you on the 30th on Vashon for the annual SBE Picnic


Clay, K7CR –