Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986
Well, here we are at the mid-point of the year. Looking back, this first half has been anything but normal. Here’s a look at some of the events of this past month that caught my attention.
Mike Gilbert advised me that KEYG-AM has suffered major structural damage to its tower. Unfortunately, in light of the state of AM Radio, they have determined that this will be the end of KEYG. For those of you not familiar with this station, its licensed to Grand Coulee, WA and has been operating on 1490 since 1980. Their other station in the market, KEYG-FM will continue with programming coming from their KCSY studio in Wenatchee. Therefore, scratch another AM off the list.
Crego Hill (Southwest of Chehalis) is the home of several towers and broadcast operations. If you recall, I wrote about this site recently, citing it’s history as an old Air Force Radar Site. It’s a very unique structure. A self-supporting tower with a guyed tower on top. The time had come to replace the guy wires. That work was accomplished by Joe Harrington and crew on May 5th and 6th. This tower supports KCKA (TV) as well as KSWS operated by NWPB.
Steve Newsom reported that Jim Belsvig has joined KBTC in Tacoma as Assistant Chief Engineer. Previously Jim had been with KCPQ-TV in Seattle.
Here’s a trivia question for you –
What was the nickname for the engineers who created IBM’s first PC?
Answer – Dirty Dozen
The back story: IBM chose 12 of their best and brightest to create their first PC (personal computer) in 1980. The 12 engineers (dubbed the “Dirty Dozen”) worked on the project for two years, revolutionizing the PC with a smaller, less expensive, and easier-to-use model. The device was simply called the “IBM PC,” with an initial price point of $1,565.
Despite a term that is someone misleading if not inaccurate…the term ‘Digital AM’ appears to have stuck. This past month another AM has announced they will be making the switch…WFAS (Near NYC) will become ‘Digital AM 1230 HD: New Talk for New York’. They’ve set the date of May 24th to make the flip.
This is what they are telling those that may wish to know –
“Broadcasting in digital will eliminate annoying static and interference, improve the sound quality to equal FM radio and streaming, and extend the range for clear reception.”
What is perhaps notable about this change is the fact that the station is owned by one of the biggest companies in Radio – Cumulus.
For those who have been hoping that we would be able to hear an HD only AM here in the PNW, you may not have to wait too long, as KXPD has advised the FCC this is what they want to do.
The station is licensed to Tigard, OR, a suburb of Portland. It operates with 2.2 kW Day and 200 watts at night, Non-Directional on 1040. According to the FCC’s records, the station does not have an FM Translator. I state this because smaller AM’s may well be operating an FM Translator that has decent coverage that listeners can, or perhaps have already, migrated to.
The Big Shoe to fall will be when a 50,000 Watt AM jumps into this arena. Time will tell.
Speaking of which – Andy Skotdal emailed me recently on this topic. As you may know, he is involved with KRKO and KKXA in Everett and has some unique experiences in this area. Here’s what he wrote:
The last time I spoke with Joe D’Angelo was six months ago and the in car digital penetration in Seattle was still about the same as a couple years ago ~22%. Most big markets are similar. And, still no portable AM digital radios, and there may never be portable AM digital radios.
So, with that as a backdrop, I’m very grateful to those who are starting to make the all-digital lift. Taking under performing signals and making one of them an all digital music format will be the only way to improve in-dash penetration over time.
I’d prefer to be running MA-1 again for now, and if we can see receiver penetration increase to 40+% then with the stream and the translators (even though they aren’t great), I could see us going to MA-3. Alternately, we talk about going to one format, and then simulcasting AMs with a waiver, if needed, one in MA-3, the other analog, and trying to push everyone to the MA-3 until we can transition the other signal.
It may be too little, too late. We won’t know for many more years.
Has it really been 50 years? I received this from Joey Cohn, GM at KNKX on May 3rd:
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the very first National Public Radio broadcast. All Things Considered debuted on Monday, May 3, 1971. Among other things, the fledgling news program covered Vietnam War protests that were happening in Washington D.C. that same day.
With the reopening of the economy, we are seeing a lot of interest in deal making. For instance, in the world of Broadcasting – Gray Television announced a $2.7 billion deal to buy 17 stations in 12 markets from Meredith. Yeah – 2.7 with a ‘B’. Not small change. Understand that two stations in PDX will be involved – KPTV and KPDX.
The local housing market is an example of this pent-up demand. According to Zillow the value of my house has increased by 70K in the past 60 days. A house down the street from me sold in a matter of days from being listed for 70K more than the listing price. I found it interesting in chatting with them recently. They told me (with a roll of the eyes) they moved to Auburn – from – Seattle.
There have been a lot of rumors flying about regarding the impact of the Pandemic and/or Social issues on Seattle. Some have people running for the exits, while others paint a different picture. Gene Balk, writing in the Seattle Times, dug into the matter. Here are some of his findings:
> New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020, Seattle’s population increased by about 16,400, hitting a total of 769,700. That pencils out to a growth rate of 2.2% last year.
> And that means that among the 50 biggest U.S. cities, Seattle is No. 1 for growth in 2020.
> Last year’s 2.2% actually beat out the rate of growth between 2018 and 2019, which was 1.4%.
> Only one place in Washington, among those with at least 60,000 people, grew faster than Seattle last year. Kirkland had a 2.6% growth rate in 2020, and its population is now 95,400.
> The Census Bureau data doesn’t include any of the components of population change. In other words, we can’t see how much of Seattle’s growth was due to in-migration vs. out-migration, and we don’t know how many moved to the city from within Washington, from other states, or from other countries. The data also doesn’t show “natural growth” numbers — births vs. deaths.
One thing that’s impacting all of us is the shortage of housing and the cost of building materials. Helping fuel some of this is the fact that the Pandemic caused a number of lumber mills to close. The result is that the price of wood building materials have skyrocketed. I heard a story recently of a party that had agreed to a purchase price for a new home, who was told by the builder that he would need an additional $100,000 to build it! Here’s an interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal that explains a lot of this –
Meanwhile, Zillow reports that over half of the homes sold in Seattle recently sold for over their asking price.
Here’s another one from one of those sites. This one from GOBankingRates. The question was ‘How much to you have to earn to be in the top 5% in each state? Those in the top 5% are considered to be ‘rich’. In Washington State you would have to earn $457,171 per year. Consider the fact that the ‘average’ income for the entire state is $105,775, you would need over a four times the income. I wonder if anyone in broadcasting in this area makes over $450,000?
In the event you think the Seattle area is an expensive place to live…you are right. According to a recent survey this is the sixth most expensive place to live in the U.S. Housing prices are now, reportedly, 113% higher than the national average. Makes you wonder when a person is offered a job here if they do check out these costs and adjust their salary demands accordingly.
If you are wondering where those who are leaving this area are going, checkout:
Here are some interesting facts associated with area names:
What former great retailers, past and present, have their products carrying the name of local communities, both starting with the letter ‘K’?
Answer – Sears with Kenmore and Costco with Kirkland.
What former automobile maker shared the name with the King County community that used to be called Slaughter?
Answer – Auburn.
And, if you did not get either of these, an easy one:
What is the name of the best selling mid-sized pickup truck that shares it’s name with the 3rd largest city in Washington State?
Answer – Toyota Tacoma
In the event you are thinking the Toyota Pickup truck was named after the Puget Sound area city, well, perhaps not, considering there are a number of places named Tacoma. In addition to the Tacoma in Washington (the biggest one of the bunch), there are Tacomas in Virginia, Ohio, New York, Maine, Florida and Colorado, and even one in Bolivia (South America).
The only other Tacoma I’ve been in, is in Colorado. It’s located North of Durango in the beautiful Animas Valley, at an elevation of 7,296 feet near Electra Lake. The whole area from Ouray to Durango is incredible. It should be a ‘must’ on your bucket list! And it’s only a short 19 hour drive from Seattle 😊
We have a new Chief in town. Josh Harstad is the new Chief at Bonneville Radio’s KIRO AM & FM and KTTH. Here’s a picture I shot of him in front of the KIRO-FM Transmitter at West Tiger Mt.
On the Covid Front there is a lot of news.
> The BAD NEWS – On May 26, it was reported that we have had over 432,000 Coronavirus cases in Washington State, so far.
> The GOOD NEWS – Just over 41% of our residents are fully vaccinated.
> The BAD NEWS – We need to get to at least 70%.
Most of it good, as it appears the Vaccines are doing what they are supposed to do with the pandemic in retreat. As a result, the restrictions are being eliminated and things are edging toward what we call the ‘new normal’. This is, of course, all conditional. Should the number of cases and hospitalizations increase, we could find ourselves in reverse.
The understanding is that 70% of us need to be vaccinated. The problem with that goal is there remain a number of people (including my next-door neighbor) that will not get their shots. It was announced on May 24th that 40.75% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated…and we are not there yet. The question is how to deal with those that are against getting their shots. Unfortunately, what should be a clear – medical message – has been clouded by the political aspects of this pandemic. I guess I would never let a politician replace my Doctor…but…it’s happening!
According to a recent survey, 80% of those who say they won’t get vaccinated also say that there is nothing that can change their minds. So how do we get 30% more to get their shots? Apparently the old ‘Dangle the Carrot’ is being tried.
As I predicted in this column many months ago, we may reach the point where there will need to be incentives for those who are on the ‘vaccination fence’. To get there, we are hearing a variety of techniques being employed.
> Oregon has a $1 million drawing as an incentive for those residents over 18, in addition to 36 $10,000 prizes, with a winner in each county. Those ages 12-17 will have a chance to win one of five $100,000 Oregon College Savings Plan scholarships.
> New York is giving a lottery scratch ticket.
> Maryland has announced an incentive lottery too.
> New Jersey has a lower cost incentive. Those who get vaccinated will get a free beer.
> Ohio is using a $1,000,000 lottery.
> And the list goes on.
The question is – do these incentives work? The answer appears to be yes. In Ohio, their lottery, cleverly called ‘Vax-a-Million’ has, reportedly, resulted in a 28% increase in vaccinations. Time will tell if this method works. In addition to state governments offering incentives, many employers are doing it too. Perhaps I should ask my anti-vax neighbor how much money would it take for them to change their mind?
Another way to get the percentages up – vaccinate younger people. That’s happening too. U-Dub and WSU have announced that if you want to attend, you need your shots.
In the meantime, the Mask Rules are changing rapidly. On the 24th of the month, I visited a Costco and a Fred Meyer store. Everyone was still wearing them. Many are saying that until we reach that 70% mark, wearing masks inside and in public spaces is required.
As pointed out, we had very little flu this past winter. The reason cited was the precautions taken by people to avoid the Coronavirus also worked very well in keeping them from catching that ‘bug’. It’s been suggested that, come flu season, not only should you obtain a vaccination, but consider social distancing, washing your hands, and…wearing a mask.
On the personal side – One aspect of this Pandemic that has really got to me is the politicization. I fully understand there have always been some that object to getting vaccinations of any kind for any number of reasons. In the case of the vaccinations for COVID-19, I would expect some of the legacy reasons for not getting vaccinated to prevail. However, we now have a relatively new element injected into the mix – Politics. Recent surveys have concluded that those who are ‘Antivaxers’ (Perhaps a new word for the dictionaries?) also align themselves with a particular political party. On Page 81 of Scientific American there is a piece written by Naomi Oreskes titled ‘Do Republicans Mistrust Science’. Her piece is not a typical letter to the editor. She is a Professor at Harvard and author of a book titled ‘Why Trust Science’. Allow me to quote her last paragraph entirely.
Everyone deserves accurate information to be presented in an apolitical way and to be addressed with respect and not condescension. But the reality is that most of the science that matters most comes from government or from scientists funded by the government. Until Republican leaders stop telling voters not to trust the government, many of them won’t trust science.
A good piece, I encourage you to read it.
In some other countries, things are much worse. The big question, with Broadcasting related issues, will there be Olympic Games in Tokyo this year? A lot of advertising revenue is hanging in the balance.
Did you ever dream that the little On-Line book seller with the funky name (Amazon) would have grown into what it is today? Did you ever dream Amazon would purchase MGM for 8.45 Billion to become even a bigger player in producing TV programming? This list goes on.
I recently received word that long-time broadcast engineer Dave Hebert passed on June 17th. I got to know Dave back in, about, 1970, when he was chief at KXRO in Aberdeen. (I was at KMO at the time) Dave moved on to Tri-Cities where he worked at (if I recall correctly) KONA and perhaps other stations in that area. I understand that, in recent years, he was in poor health. Dave was also a ham with the call sign WA7YKV. Looking up his call in QRZ I found:
> Originally licensed as WN7YKV in February, 1974, while living in Aberdeen, Washington. In July, 1974, upgraded to Advanced Class. Moved to Tri-Cities, Washington, in February, 1976. Upgraded to Amateur Extra Class in March, 1979.
> Past president of the Grays Harbor Amateur Radio Club, and the Tri-Cities Amateur Radio Club.
> Taught classes in Amateur Radio theory at Columbia Basin Jr. College from 1977 to 1978.
> Life member of the ARRL since 1979. Member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers since 1976.
> Became involved in Broadcast Engineering in 1966. In 1997 moved to Dallas, Texas, to work in AM transmitter test at Continental Electronics.
> Married Judy Turner in 1989, who’s callsign is now N7PGJ.
Thanks to Michael Gilbert for passing on the information.
We all know about ‘Climate Change’. A recent story ran about how the National Weather Service has reviewed the last 10 years in our area and has concluded that our climate has indeed changed in a couple of ways.
1 – It’s getting Warmer
2 – It’s getting Wetter.
In local Translator News:
> 92.1 in Tacoma that used to be affiliated with the long/dark 1480 AM in Lakewood is now running the same programming as KMIA/1210 in Auburn. Check out (20+) Radio Amor | Facebook.
In what might be termed a unique-twist:
> The 102.1 Translator (antenna located on the KMIA AM Tower in Auburn) is back on the air re-broadcasting KOMO-FM 97.7.
OK – I fall for it all the time – if for no other reason that I want to know what others think of the area that I call home. In this case, the headline read:
The Most Beautiful Places in All 50 States
The picture was taken from one of my favorite locations – Chinook Pass looking over Tipsoo Lake at Mt. Rainier. They went on to recommend the hike around Natches Peak. Boy it did score points with me on this one. This is a hike I’ve taken many times over the years. Let me add some recommendations.
Park your vehicle along SR-410 on the west side of the pass. Your hike will begin along the side of the lake and over the log bridge at the summit of the pass. (You want to be sure and go this way). The Trail will take you around Natches Peak in a ‘clockwise’ direction. As you get to the south side of the peak, suddenly you are looking straight at Mt. Rainier for the rest of the way. To your left, looking south, you will be able to see Dewey Lake along the PCT. At the high point, to your right, is a wonderful little tarn that makes a perfect place to break out that picnic lunch. The trail continues around the peak to SR-410 to your car. This is a perfect place to bring friends from out of state that have never been to the PNW. They will be hooked!
You may wish to do this on a weekday, as the place is very populated on weekends. Be sure to put this one on your bucket list.
Here are some links with additional pictures:
Obviously you want to visit the Chinook Pass during daylight hours. However, coming up on August 11th is a significant reason to visit the Pass after dark to view the Perseid meteor showers. (Yes, I’ve done this several times.)
You want to arrange to get there just before dark so you can see to pick out your viewing location. It will likely be warm, however a jacket is recommended along with a thermos of your favorite keep-warm liquid. A late picnic dinner works too. You will want to bring along an old fashioned lawn-chair (The kind you can almost lay down in) or perhaps a cot. I’ve usually found a nice place on the North side of the Log Bridge, on the hill above Tipsoo Lake. Bring some friends as they will enjoy it too. Children over 10 or 12 will remember it for sure.
Lay back just as it really gets dark and enjoy the show. You will likely be able to see over 50 meteors an hour. You will also be able to spot what appears to be a steady stream of satellites in polar orbit scooting across the shy. The Milky Way will be clearly visible as it rotates overhead. The Moon is projected to be at about 13% so it should not be an issue, perhaps providing just enough light to illuminate Mt. Rainier.
In years past, I’ve been amazed by the number of people who travel to this wonderful location from Seattle and Yakima for the same reasons. If you go, do let me know how you enjoyed it.
The world has been waiting to see who, or what, was going to occupy the time slot once occupied by Rush Limbaugh (9 a.m. to noon in Seattle). The answer came down the last week in May, with Premiere Networks announcing that Rush, and those who have been filling in since his passing, would be replaced with, not one, but two hosts, Clay Travis and Buck Sexton. Apparently, the local outlet for Rush, 770AM/KTTH, elected to go a different route, putting Dan Bongino in that time slot. It will be interesting to see how this works out and who might pick up Clay and Buck in this area.
I find this interesting because Mr. Travis and I share the name ‘Clay’…not the most common name out there.
Acronyms are always interesting. Government’s love them, and so do engineers!
Jerry Olson in Spokane recently joked about TLA’s (Three-Letter Acronyms) submitting there was a shortage of letters so we were moving to ETLA’s (Enhanced Three Letter Acronyms) . I recently used one of my favorites – SPOF (Single Point of Failures). From that came the suggestion there should be MPOF’s (Multiple Points of Failure).
A recent thread on a national remailer popular with Radio Broadcast Engineers drifted to how our telephone system was not as reliable as it used to be. One of the lists frequent contributors contributed the following:
One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy, three…TELCO was once required to provide 911 service and to this end the “telephone” needed to be immune from power outages. It isn’t anymore. No power, no phone.
The old phone company–yeah there were pros and cons. The downsides were the stuff of jokes. I remember an episode of Get Smart when Max Smart confronted a Kaos agent who had just cut a phone cord, “You have a much bigger problem now than Control; now you have to deal with AT&T.”
I remember being at a party around 1992 and an AT&T executive was there and the conversation turned into the DoJ breakup of the Bell System. I remember him saying, “Yes it was a monopoly, but it was a benevolent monopoly.” We’ll never know how we’d be communicating today had the Carter Administration left Ma Bell alone 40 years ago, but back then I never heard anyone complain about telephone cost or service. I came to regard Bell Tel Co as a sort of national communications utility, similar to the way I see McDonald’s as the U.S. Dept. of Hamburgers.
The Bell System operating units, AT&T, Western Electric and Bell Labs, all produced a telephone system that was second to none. I remember being in S. Korea in the 1970s and trying to place in-country phone calls. It would take hours. Here, you could direct dial from N.Y. to Hawaii. The reason for the reliability was that the phone company owned everything right up to the handset at your head. Everything was made to be bomb proof, literally in the case of the concrete microwave relay towers, which had walls two feet thick. The breakup ended Bell Labs eventually, which was a Nobel Prize factory, and Western Electric, which manufactured some of the best audio gear in the last century.
PICTURE TIME !!!!! Once again, the Earth’s wobble means that Dwight Small is able to enjoy sunsets at the west end of his ‘backyard’. The poor guy, for the past few years, has been subjected to clear air, no traffic jams, riots, and a view like this. 😊
Suddenly we have job openings in Radio.
OPB is hiring two positions for our Bend shop – a Chief Engineer and a Maintenance Engineer.
For those of you who know Max Culbertson, our current Chief, he’s announced that he’s ready to retire by next summer. We are hiring his successor now to give plenty of time for knowledge transfer about the 34 sites he maintains in Central and Eastern Oregon.
The Engineer position will report to the Chief and will help round out that team. As I’m sure many of you are aware, there aren’t a ton of Broadcast Engineers out there, so we are considering candidates with experience in fields that have parallel technologies. If you know someone who enjoys working on mountaintops and has done microwave, two-way, cell, radar, or military weapons systems, please encourage them to apply.
You can read more about both jobs at the link below.
Jonathan Newsome | Director of Engineering
Please note updated address:
OPB | 7140 S Macadam Avenue | Portland, OR 97219 | (503) 293-1952
Meanwhile, John McDaniel has announced that he is going to retire around the first of September. This creates a job opening with WSU’s NWPB which I have worked with for the past 11 years. The job will be based in Tri-Cities. If you are interested, or know someone who might be, give me a call or shoot me an email. The job opening will be officially posted soon.
I guess it’s official – NAB has announced that registration is open for the Oct. 9 to 13th show in Las Vegas. This is even hard to write after all these years writing about the ‘Spring Show’.
The FCC recently put out a notice with this headline:
FCC DEMANDS TWO MORE COMPANIES IMMEDIATELY STOP FACILITATING ILLEGAL ROBOCALL CAMPAIGNS
You can read it yourself here. DOC-372543A1.pdf (fcc.gov)
Frankly, I have a wait and see attitude about this. For some reason I wonder if this is all bluster and no action, similar to the FCC’s efforts to stop Pirate Radio?
Nielsen reports that 10% of radio audiences use digital streaming to listen, double the rate that did so a year ago. “Share of Ear” data indicates that streaming audiences account for 13% of radio listeners between 18 and 34 and 11% of those between 35 and 64.
Looking at the latest Radio Ratings for Seattle-Tacoma:
> KISW has claimed the #1 spot
> KIRO-FM is right behind at #2
> For reasons that are hard to explain, little KEXP is holding on to the #3 position.
> News Talk, KUOW is #4
Just for fun – I decided to look at how Seattle and Portland might differ in terms of ratings and format. Here’s a table, looking at the top 15 stations, that does a comparison. I used the top 15 ranked stations in Seattle and compared the rank of the same listed format to Portland.
Can you draw conclusions from this? Perhaps….Maybe not.
Certainly there are many stations rated below #15. Likely every format can be heard in both cities. It’s just that some of them are more popular in one place than the other.
One more thing – the population, according to Nielsen, for those over six looks like this:
Seattle Tacoma (Market #12) – 4,042,000
Portland (Market # 22) – 2,428,000
More on how various magazines rate things in our State –
Woman’s Day ranked the most beautiful small town in every state. For Washington, Friday Harbor got #1 here. Interesting choice considering you have to take a ferry to get there.
Town & Country rated the 60 most scenic drives in America. Here we claimed two of the 60.
> The first one is the 440 mile “Cascade-Loop”. From Everett you would go north on I-5, east on SR20, then south to Wenatchee and west on US-2 (of course you can travel the loop in the other direction).
> The second is the 330 Mile ‘Olympic Peninsula Loop’. Good Starting Point would be Olympia following US-101
As the economy shakes off the pandemic, we will be seeing more deal-making in Radio. Certainly not as large as recent TV deals, however. Here in our state, a deal was recently announced that will see the sale of two stations and a translator in Spokane. In this case, 104.5/KHNK and 1300/KYOZ and its translator on 95.7 are going to the owners of stations in Walla Walla. $395,000 was the announced price.
Since 2010 I have been driving a Barcelona Red Toyota Tacoma Pickup. Nick Winter and I both purchased 2018 models. Later the Chief Engineer at Bonneville Seattle got one. Recently the ‘club’ was enlarged once again with Jeff White joining in. What are the odds we’d all be driving the same make and color vehicle? If you don’t know what Barcelona Red looks like, here’s a picture of my ‘Taco’:
During our weekly WSU/NWPB Engineering Zoom Meeting I used a word to describe an upcoming planning trip to a mountain top in Eastern Washington, where I will be installing a different transmitter. I chose to use the word – Reconnoiter. I immediately saw a number of funny expressions. Much to my surprise no one on the call knew the word.
In the event this word is new to you too…here is what I could find online:
Reconnoiter is to conduct a military mission to observe something or someone or to find something out. (intransitive, military) To perform a reconnaissance (of an area; an enemy position); to scout with the aim of gaining information. Our scout will reconnoiter the path ahead of our troops. To examine or survey (a region, area, etc.) for engineering, geological, or other purposes.
OTHER WORDS FOR RECONNOITER
The definition of inspect is to carefully look over someone or something, especially to determine if minimum criteria or standards are met.
To conduct a statistical survey on.
To test by carefully questioning in order to find out the knowledge, skill, qualifications, etc. of (a student, witness, job applicant, etc.)
Explore is defined as to search, investigate or travel in.
To seek information about
For a bit of fun….Use Reconnoiter in a memo or email and then hide and watch for a reaction.
Electric Vehicles are certainly becoming increasingly popular. The changeover is not always a smooth one as the following pictures will show:
A generator, using fossil fuel, powering an electric vehicle charging station.
This one speaks for itself.