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

What a summer !!!    Even the natives are getting restless as the great dry spell of 2012 continues on and on.  A lot of brown grass in my neighborhood….and a lot of very distressed trees also I might add. Then there are the huge files in Central Washington and the resulting smoke that we have all experienced to some degree.  Interestingly, due to our very wet spring, we are still ahead in the Precip. Dept. for 2012.

A lot going with the EAS.   We have a Committee of the SECC dealing with making a number of changes in addition to a complete re-write to the State Plan.   I am a bit disappointed regarding the level of broadcast participation in EAS these days.   Let me remind you that EAS in our State has been a cooperative venture between Broadcasters and Government.   If broadcasters choose to NOT participate, this will leave Government to make all the decisions……HINT !

On the subject of EAS – As you may be aware the FEMA IPAWS CAP Server went down for the better part of a weekend.   This has generated a lot of critical comments from those that have, all along, felt that the Internet was the wrong place to put our latest public warning systems.  Obvious the folks at FEMA have more than a little interest in finding out what happened and how to make sure that it does not take place again.   Let me remind you of a couple of things –

1 – The FEMA IPAWS CAP system is NOT a replacement for the legacy EAS system; it is designed to AUGMENT those existing systems.

2 – The existing, legacy, EAS systems remain in place.

3 – Here in Washington State, we have our own CAP system that ALL Broadcast and Cable Systems are to be ALSO monitoring.   This system, also known by the provider, MyStateUSA, provides us with an additional layer of redundancy.

4 – To summarize – Each Broadcast and Cable System in Washington State should be monitoring the following –

a-      FEMA IPAWS

b-      WaCAP (MyStateUSA)

c-      Two or more analog sources as prescribed by the Washington State SECC as detailed in the Washington State EAS Plan – Tab 10.

Failure to do so, subjects your facility to action by the FCC.

5- Finally – Remember to log any failures of EAS systems your station/facility is connected to.

Again we have witnessed the passing of a couple people that have had a major impact in our industry.

The first is Ann Arnold.   Ann was with the Texas Association of Broadcasters for many years and a major player with MSRC and EAS on a national level.    I had the pleasure of working with her for the past 10+ years on various committees.   She was a true leader that sincerely believed in the mission.   A great loss.

The other passing is that of Steve Church.   Steve is best known for his work with Telos creating products that significantly improved the performance of on-air telephone calls as well as codecs for use with ISDN. As we all know, Telos expanded to include audio processing equipment and, more recently, innovative IP audio solutions.   What many don’t know is that Steve started out as a broadcast engineer.  Steve battled brain cancer for the last 3 years and was only 57.

The passing of John Battison, founder of SBE came as a blow to many, he passed on August 28th.  I note that he will be memorialized with the creation of a scholarship in his name.

The introduction of FM band HD Radio a few years ago motivated most broadcasters in our area to put something on the air to show the world that they too were behind HD.  I understand that not all have jumped on the HD band-wagon with still several FM ownerships remaining un-convinced to do anything.   Most stations have made minimal investments with little or no back up equipment and minimal investment in content.   The argument was the same – Until such time as there are ton’s of listeners out there and I can make money with it…that’s as far as we are going to go.

Many major broadcast outfits clamored for higher HD power levels claiming, with some justification, that the initial permissible power level (20 db below FM Carrier) was simply not enough to make HD cover as well as FM in the real world.   The FCC, finally, said OK to increased HD power (with conditions).    Then the economy went in the tank and no-one was buying anything for more HD power.

Perhaps things are about to change?   CBS here in Seattle is in the process of making a major investment in new transmitting equipment that will not only upgrade their FM transmitters but will enable them to significantly increase HD power.    According to their RF Chief, Arne Skoog, new Harris Transmitters and recently developed combining equipment from ERI is being installed.   The question now is – Will other area broadcasters follow?    Will those that have been waiting for some magical moment dig out the check book and install HD equipment for the first time…or will others that are running first generation HD equipment with no backup’s at lower power levels opt for taking their HD efforts to the next level?

Perhaps the decision by the auto makers is having something to do with this?   The list of cars that will come stock with HD radios is increasing every year.  HD is, despite those that poo-poo the technology, is making forward progress.   This has been a very slow slog…very much like the acceptance of FM many years ago.    It took years for FM to take-off.     With the technology able to, effectively, multiply the number of stations by 2 or 3, radio will have all the channels it can use.   We now come to the ‘other problem’…..Content.   Will radio broadcasters open their minds and learn what XM/Sirius or Pandora have known for some time…provide compelling content?    Time will tell.


In a previous column I wrote about signs that have been posted to deter the bad guys from messing with your stuff.  This should be of special interest for those engineers that are responsible for un-manned facilities…  Here are some interesting ones that have been brought to my attention. –









Or how about –

This is the Most Interesting

Transmitter Site in the world.

We don’t often shoot trespassers,

but when we do………….

Do you want it to be you ?

Signs that state there is high voltage don’t seem to keep anyone away these days…how about this one –


DANGER 500,000 OHMS!!

On the subject of keeping the bad guys at bay come word from Terry Ryan that someone recently broke into a remote vehicle and ripped off the local Clear Channel Cluster of some remote broadcast equipment, specifically – Zephyr Xstream ISDN Codec, Comrex IP Codec, Lectrosonic antenna and combiners, Shure SM58 Mics, Sony MDR7506 Headsets etc.   They were in various sized Pelican cases with the Clear Channel logo on them.   If you have info about this theft, contact the police and/or Terry at Clear Channel Seattle.  Email – or at his office at 206.494.2316.

I have been noting positive stats for the Seattle area….for example –

Six in 10 Seattle adults have a Bachelor’s degree or higher — the highest ratio of any large city in the United States..   There are some benefits to having a better education…for example –

Ø     Better health. Men with the most education live a full 12.9 years longer than the least-educated men, according to an August 2012 study in Health Affairs.

Ø    Better ability to cope with stress, and more effective management of chronic diseases.

Broadcast Engineers have been fighting hum for as long as I can remember…Hum can impact just about anything.    But what do you know when a location (not a piece of equipment) hums?

This is the question that the folks in West Seattle are trying to figure out.   There have been a number of cases of locations where humming can be heard, all over the world.  Perhaps the most famous one, in this country, is the Taos Hum in and around Taos New Mexico.  In these cases people hear a strange hum but can seem to find out the source of it.   This causes the eruption of conspiracy theories as to the cause.  The writers of Sci-Fi programs have often included these ‘hums’ in their creations. In most cases, the cause is never determined and the hum simple fades away or becomes less frequent…or perhaps, it’s like a lot of sounds that are still there but we have developed a way to tune them out.

So what does it sound like?   Here again it depends on who you talk to.   Some explain it sounds like a hum or low rumble or the sound of machinery running.   You can Google this topic and come up with a ton of interesting and weird ideas….Certainly certain late-night radio talk shows have discussed this one at great length.  In our case some feel that the sound is coming from a ship or industrial operations along the Duwamish.  One fellow was actually able to record the ‘hum’ and determine that it’s higher in frequency than the 60 or 120 Hz stuff broadcast engineers have been chasing for years, in this case he measured the frequency around 200 Hz.   Interestingly since the local media has been talking about this more people claim to be hearing it over a great area.   Some have even said they can hear it near Tiger Mountain…..and that makes me wonder if they can hear those transmitter site fans and blowers running.    Stay tuned to this one.  When we find out what’s really causing the hum…it would make a great Chapter program don’t you think?

The FCC is still looking for more spectrum for their best buddy – Broadband.   Now word is coming down that the Commish is thinking that spectrum around 3.5 gig would be great for small cells.   Others are proposing spectrum below 1 Gig and some are saying that repacking the UHF TV band will yield a ton of high quality spectrum.   Another report is trying to lead the masses to the area between 2.7 and 3.7 Gig.    Whatever happens, there is never going to be enough spectrum to satisfy the wireless monster that we’ve let out of the cage. This spectrum situation reminds me of the Colorado River water agreements   Everyone wants some of it…yet everyone knows there is only a finite amount of it and there is never going to be enough to satisfy everyone..    Thus far, the Feds have been very good at what they do best…Kick the can down the road.

Did you hear about the evacuation of the CBS radio facility in L.A.?  Recently the KNX news anchors announced that they were being ordered to leave their studio because a mystery package was discovered in the building.   Engineers came to the rescue and replaced the KNX studio feed with KCBS in San Francisco.  (Reminded me of when KOMO put KATU on the air when power failed at Fisher Plaza).   Firefighters and the police bomb squad found a package that was beeping on the 27 story buildings 2nd floor.  Apparently they did not have to call in a robot to determine that the beeping box was full of ‘clocks’.    Things were back to normal about 1045.

I got to thinking about clocks the other day, reflecting on how many of our younger people no longer have the ability to tell time on an analog clock…You know,  those funky round things with the pointers that go around and around.  Recently I noted a TV Spot for a new car where they showed the instrument cluster (Tachometer, Speedometer etc.) and got to wondering…How can you expect a young person to read an analog speedometer when they can’t tell time with an analog clock?

Speaking of TV spots….I noted, with considerable interest, a spot for a particular brand of car.  In this you have the car, in the desert,  racing past a point where people wearing smacks are supposedly checking the machines performance.   Sticking out like an old sore thumb is a 1960 era Tektronix scope on an old roll around cart.    Come on guys you can do better than that!

Not often you get to see a 2000 foot tower go down – on purpose.   Here’s a couple you tube videos you might find interesting.

Andy Skotdal, owner of KRKO and KKXA has come out opposed to the notion that broadcasters should compensate the mobile phone industry to encourage them to put FM receivers in cellphones.  Certain this would be a precedent maker as I don’t recall a situation where broadcasters have paid anyone for a receiver of any kind.   One of the examples used in the argument was the fact that Kodak and Canon didn’t beg the phone suppliers to install cameras.  I recall one of the arguments that was used, early on, in this effort was that FM receivers in cellphones would enhance the EAS.   Interesting to note that the new Apple iPhone 5 does not include a radio.

So what is KPLK ?   Well, it’s a new station under construction on Butler Hill near Burlington and Sedro Woolley on 88.,9.  (Same location as WSU’s KMWS on 89.7) .  Here you can see Chief Engineer Lowell Kiesow standing in front of the under-construction facility.



I recently posted a job opening on the Seattle SBE Remailer for a position at the University of Alabama.   What caught my attention was the following list –

  • No corporate BS
  • Low cost of living
  • Good weather, no snow
  • Great insurance
  • Liberal vacation time
  • Low pressure
  • Holidays? How about Christmas eve through New Year’s, Spring Break week, and most others
  • One of the best retirement plans in the country
  • Intellectual environment
  • Interesting and varied- TV, Radio, Studios, Transmitters
  • Key Member of Management Team
  • Participation in professional organizations and conferences is encouraged
  • Work on the University campus in Tuscaloosa
  • Ham Radio Friendly
  • Several challenging projects in works


I don’t know about you…but there are a couple items here that caught my attention .  Obviously the first one is subject to a lot of thoughts.   Low cost of living is almost a given when you compare prices in Seattle to the South.    I’m not too sure about the good weather part however…Hurricanes, heat and humidity together and an insect population that no one in the PNW can comprehend is another matter.   Ham Radio Friendly – Now that one is interesting.  I could not help but recall how, many years ago, one of our local TV stations, only hired engineers with Ham licenses.   They want people that thought about electronic communications beyond 8 to 5.

Received a note from Will Vos in Bellingham explaining that he has been very busy installing HD radio equipment on KAFE and KISM.     Great to see the commercial stations there are getting on the HD bandwagon.   Previously the only HD Radio outlets in Whatcom County were NCE’s.     Now the folks in Vancouver will be able to experience this system….When will we see HD operations start up in there?

Harris and Geo-Broadcast Solutions (GBS) have come up with a system called ZoneCasting that will enable an FM Broadcaster that uses boosters to target specific areas for advertising and marketing.   Interesting that Harris continues to innovate despite being for sale.

Popular entertainer, Sheryl Crow, believes that her cell phone use may have caused her benign brain tumor    Apparently the tumor was near where she would hold her phone.   She did add that there are no doctors that will confirm it.

Will we see a change in the way the towers on Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, Cougar, Vashon  and other locations where the structures are taller than 350 feet look different in the future?.   Apparently the FCC has begun letting tower owners replace their steady burning lights with those that flash.   This all in response the studies that suggest that bird kills are reduced when tower lights are all flashing.  Recalling how some of the tower lighting on Vashon behaves, many of those towers will not need be make any changes.   Gee, does that mean that legacy AM facilities have been kind to birds for all these years?    How come those that have been harping on this have not recognized Vashon ??

On the topic of towers.    The tower at Clover Park Technical College, in Lakewood,  recently received some serious attention.    This tower, originally located in Kennewick, was moved to the then campus of Clover Park’s Voc-Tech to support the stations FM (90.9 then KPEC) and channel 56 (KPEC-TV) back in the late 50’s   Later when Kelly purchased Channel 13, the FM was moved away and the tower was used to support their activities as their studios were at this location for several years prior to moving to Seattle.    In more recent years the tower had fallen into dis-repair with flaking paint and non-functional, left over antennas.   All the old stuff has been removed and a fresh coat of paint applied.

For some time many have been concerned about the continued viability of BE or Broadcast Electronics.   Early in September it was announced that BE and Larcan will be working together. Larcan is generally thought of as being a maker of TV equipment and BE, Radio.   Could this be the beginning of a consolidation of manufacturers ?

I recently wrote about a snake that made it’s way into a piece of Broadcast Tools equipment….This prompted the follow email to come my way – –

With nothing on TV and lost interest in the 75 meter band, I decided to look at some memories and ran across your column in the SBE news about the snake.   Shortly before I went to KSEM (Moses Lake), I was told that a shake got into the conduit from the mainland and ended up coiled around the bus bars of the primary feed to the transmitter.   P U


Teri   (K7RBT)

 Thanks Terry – Nice to know if there is nothing doing on 75….My column is there for the reading.

On the subject of Amateur Radio – Along with Nick Winter, K7MO (Asst Chief KPLU) and others we managed to again make a pretty good showing during the recent Washington State QSO Party, aka, Salmon Run, operating the club call N7PP.    This year I was almost exclusively on 20 Meters.  Understand that Chris Wartes, K7II talked with one of our stations…This is a fun contest, if you are a Ham, I hope you participated.   For those of you that have have been away from Ham radio for a few years, or are not yet licensed…Operating this contest is just about all done with the computer you can see in front of me.  The computer controls the radio equipment and does all the logging etc.  A far cry from the days of old when Ham Radio meant some big black machines in grandpa’s basement.


That’s it for this month – Hard to believe it’s October already….Can Christmas be far away?

Till next month –

73, Clay, K7CR, CPBE.