Keeping up with my routine of mentioning weather early in this
column….The NWS announced that the Seattle area has broken the record
for winter rainfall….as if any locals needed them to tell us that it’s
been awfully wet. My guess is…This is all about getting even for
those that were griping about our record dry summer last year.
Something along the lines of be careful what you wish for. Looks
like this will also turn out to be a snowless winter too, at least in
What happens when a track-hoe encounters a buried power line?
Answer – The power line always loses. Around the middle of
February a contractor was installing water-bars - (Our dry-land
readers can read about it here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterbar)
and encountered the buried (not so deep) power line that serves the
Boeing site on West Tiger Mt. The resulting BUZZZZAP caused an
excessive amount of current to flow, resulting in about 4 hours of
unplanned generator testing at the electronic sites.
Congrats to KING-TV for accomplishing their move to Sodo, kitty corner
from Safeco Field. Here are some of my rambling thoughts –
- Hard to believe they are going to tear down 333 Dexter.
- If you are old enough, you recall when they added that tilt-back glass front.
- The 333 Dexter address used to also include KING-AM and FM.
- In the old days, radio stations
would build studios at street level so that anyone could walk by and see
what was going on…..Then everyone moved inside…out of sight.
- TV stations, becoming increasingly
concerned about security made getting inside feel like entering Fort
Knox. Then the Networks and some cable-news outlets moved to
street level for all to see. Now, bringing the trend to
Seattle….you can actually see KING-TV in action.
- Who would have predicted that Sodo would be the home of new car dealers and a TV Station?
- And for those from other places –
Sodo stands for South of Downtown. (No idea why the other side of
Downtown Seattle is not called Nodo).
- With KOMO operating from pretty new digs….who is next?
- Did you note how the ownership of
KING-TV is shown as Tegna and no longer Gannett? Tegna Media is a
42 station group operating in 38 markets, billing themselves as the
largest independent station group of major network affiliates – So
I have to think that the local Chapter Board has already made plans for a tour of the new KING5 facility !!
Just so you know….The FCC is requesting a budget of $358 megabucks for
2017. So what are their goals for that pile of taxpayer
cash? Some of their announced goals –
- Expansion of competitive telecommunications networks
- Protecting public interest goals
- Ensuring that networks are widely available to the American public
- Effectively managing the FCC’s resources
- $16.8 Million for finishing their move to newer quarters
- Shifting legacy applications and other matters to a cloud-based platform
- An increase in the amount of spending for spectrum auctions and the costs of incentive TV auctions.
- Just in case you missed it….There
was nothing said about enforcement of their rules. Oh how soon I
forget…They are now issuing huge fines to the big players while everyone
else is on the honor system.
Tried listening to KMNT/104.3 in Olympia lately? Something nasty
has been making this impossible…Preliminary investigation has ruled out
the Entercom 104.1 Translator. Matt Green is busy sniffing out the
source. My guess, from the sounds of it, he will find it to be an
Intermodulation product with the contributors being a couple of local
No shortage of news these days about how to pump new life in the legacy
AM Broadcast band. An item I found interesting is the matter of AM
receivers in vehicles. Apparently BMW concluded that it would be
easier to just omit AM in their vehicle radios than to eliminate the
noise created by their electrical and computer systems. Apparently
this has not set well with some of their customers with some users even
resorting to trying to ‘hack’ AM radio capability back in their
cars. Have to wonder just how much AM band noise these cars
create….Perhaps you will see a nearby ‘Beemer’ when you think that your
radio has gone on the fritz? (Shades of the Seattle electric
Last month I wrote about the call letters, KNBQ. Over the years
the logo was changed….This was the first one, if I recall correctly,
right after they changed from KTNT-FM.
Sinclair, who owns
stations in Seattle and Portland, recently purchased the Tennis Channel
for 350 Million bucks. Hmmm, me thinks there are other things on
their mind with this move.
For years many have been wishing that those that sit on the FCC had some
technical background…I recently found out that German chancellor Angela
Merkel has a doctorate in physics….Who knew?
Could it be that NAB Labs is thinking beyond the broadcast
transmitter? That’s my guess with the announcement of what they
call ‘Pilot’ complete with a snazzy logo -
The announcement explained Pilot is “an initiative to bring together
leading-edge companies, organizations and educators to advance broadcast
technology and broadcaster innovation.” Guess we will have to see
what develops under the leadership of new hire, John Clark.
So why am I including a picture of an airplane in my Column? A number of reasons…
1 - How many cities are home to an airline? (Alaska is based in Seattle and Frontier in Denver)
2 - Alaska only flies Boeing 737’s (which are made in Renton, adjacent
to Seattle, that Denver based carrier buys foreign made aircraft)
3 - They have a new cool paint scheme….Did you see a hint of Seahawks colors in it?
Congrats to Jim Stenberg for his promotion to Principle Engineer RF Broadcast at American Tower.
Interesting recent headline – US HOME PRICES RISE IN NOVEMBER; ALL-TIME
HIGHS IN 4 CITIES. That got me wondering who those might be and if
Seattle was one of the 4. The 4 are – Dallas, Denver, San
Francisco and Portland Oregon - have either matched or eclipsed their
all-time highs. On that topic, the growth in home values in
Western Washington has spread north with reports that home values are up
in the 4th quarter of 2015 by 7.8% in Whatcom County (Bellingham
area). Washington State ranked 3rd in the country in terms of home
appreciation with 10.7%, tied with Idaho. Colorado is at
10.9%. Compare this to the national average of 5.8%.
It was bound to happen – The FCC has adopted an R&O that will
require pretty much all broadcast and cable operators to put their
public files on-line. This seems to be yet another step by the FCC
to make changes that will enable them to manage compliance from
WDC. With local FCC offices being closed, who is going to stop by
stations to inspect the old public files? This will, also, make it
easier for the ABIP inspector to check your files from their
office. This change will be phased in with the top 50 markets and
stations with 5 or more full time employees being first. One piece
of good news is that will prevent some yahoo from coming into your
stations and making off with a critical file that the FCC would be
looking for the next day. I can see some stations having a problem
with this however…especially those stations that have had Pub File/FCC
issues in the past.
Well folks – HE FINALLY DID IT. Dwight Small, chief engineer of
Entercom’s cluster of radio stations, has announced his retirement
date…March 31. Some random thoughts about Dwight – He has worked
at Met Park for 31 years which must be a record <> He’s a genuine
Cougar (WSU Grad) <> In the past, I was his boss and he was mine
<> For the last 6 years I’ve been working for him as a contractor
<> We have this thing about vehicles…He now owns the car and truck
I used to own. <> He is a Ham who just happens to also own an
Elecraft K3. <> We have a similar sense of humor and love of our
language. The bottom line is that I will significantly miss
chatting with him professionally – He is, simply, the best. No
word on his replacement. I do know a couple of folks that are
inquiring. As for future plans….I know that he has started
building at his place on Lake Cavanaugh in Skagit County a place that
has been his get-away for some time. I have not heard about any
retirement party for Dwight…But am sure it will be very well attended.
Speaking of retirement – Don Peters, DOE at WSU in Pullman (and my boss)
retired at the end of February. Nice to have been able to be in
Pullman to wish him the very best. They have a number of
applicants being reviewed….Gee, one of the readers of this column could
be on that list…..Don said that he was going to remain in the Pullman
area and go fishing.
At Don’s retirement gathering, in the NWPR/Murrow College facility in
Pullman they had a very cool cake….Don’t think anyone ate the piece with
the tower on it…Likely saving this for Don.
These retirements are all part of what is being called the ‘Silver
Tsunami”. I was talking with a friend recently about how public
utility firms are being impacted. He told me that one of the PUD’s
said that 40% of their electrical crew members will be retiring in the
next couple of years. Just recently I was asked by a fellow in the
HVAC business if I was thinking about retirement. I asked him if
he thought I was looking old…He said no…It’s just that he was in his
20’s when we first met and he’s in his late 40’s now and was just doing
the math. Frankly I’m not sure that I will completely retire,
however I will be cutting back….I’m just waiting for the employer or
customer to make the first move.
As we get closer to the day of decision I wonder which TV station owners
in the Seattle market will take the money instead of agreeing to stay
in the TV Biz? There has been a lot of talk about those stations
that run religious or foreign language programming going away. One
has to wonder about those stations that ask for and accept donations…Is
it OK to keep the money?
Speaking of decisions….KPLU appears to be heavily promoting their Save
KPLU efforts. They have a few months to go to raise the 7 Million
necessary to become an independent station (Much like KING-FM). I
understand they are working to become an official non-profit so that
contributions will be tax deductible…It's likely that this will help
bring in the donations. Frankly, with the amount of money in this
area, I would not be surprised that someone would step up and write a
check for the 7 Million.
Talk radio tends to be conservative in nature with names like –
Limbaugh, Medved etc. and can claim the most number of stations airing
it. If you recall, 1090/AM in Seattle, at least for a while, ran
programming bearing the label – Air America. It’s ‘slant’ was
decidedly more liberal. What surprised me was that in Liberal
Seattle it did not succeed and the owners (CBS) opted for something
else. This brings me to the news that in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
there is an effort being made to get a Liberal-Talk station on the
air. In this case, there are some interesting aspects - - A
group called 'Citizen Action of Wisconsin' is trying to raise enough
money to purchase, and change the format of an AM station.
Milwaukee, like Seattle and other markets, has two local conservative
stations. I find this of interest in light of the efforts to
purchase KPLU from PLU so that the format might continue.
Something similar was done with KING-FM. I’m not saying there is a
trend here…however, we have citizens, who like a particular format, are
going beyond the typical levels of support and are going out and buying
stations to achieve their goals. With the values on AM stations
going downward, perhaps the cost of these ventures are now less than
they would have been in the past?
State broadcast associations have a lot in common in what they do.
Some deviate a bit – Kentucky’s association recently surveyed their
members to determine what areas of broadcasting will be seeing the most
employment opportunities in the next 5 years. The top 3? – Sales
(of course)….Digital content creation (Duh) and ….(surprise)
ENGINEERING. Here is what they are saying –
“The third job growth area is for engineers. The
engineering workforce was downsized due to consolidation and many of
those left are nearing retirement age", Taylor says. But the jobs have
changed. “Computers and digital put new demands on radio engineers to
learn new technologies or leave.”
My guess is the same could be said for Television.
Back on January 28th – Comcast suffered a huge outage. I became
aware of this due to the failure of a radio broadcast circuit that
utilized the carrier. What I found interesting that the outage not
only impacted the system I was involved with in Western Washington…but
in checking their Web Site, involved a number of other markets as the
following maps show. Interestingly this was posted on their Web
Site which you might not be able to see if your Internet provider is
This reminds me of some statements made by local electrical provider,
PSE. One of their reps was on local TV telling viewers that if
their power was out they could check their Web-Site for more
information. I found this a bit strange in that most folks
Internet access requires power…Unless you use your smartphone…and that
only works until your batteries run down.
I often write about statistics that support why living in the Pacific
Northwest is a great thing. Often Seattle and Portland receive
high marks, and good press. Recently a new survey of the best
places to live in the WORLD got my attention. What was
interesting that the ONLY place in North America that was mentioned was
Vancouver, B.C. Our neighbor to the North. As viewed from
north of the 49th…This would be the Pacific Southwest perhaps?
You can read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3459417/Vienna-best-city-world-live-London-Paris-New-York-don-t-make-35-German-speaking-cities-dominate-quality-life-rankings.html#ixzz413z6IUh1
The FCC now has their famous M3 maps of Ground Conductivity available
on-line in a printable form. Interesting part of this announcement
is the fact that they have specific data for the Puget Sound
area. Anyone who has measured AM Propagation in these areas will
tell you that the Commission's M3 is a very rough and perhaps crude
tool. This is due to the fact that conductivity of Puget Sound
varies with tidal movement, added to the fact that we have some extreme
‘conductivity breaks’ thanks to the actions of glaciers that left
shortly before I was born. This has been good news for engineers
as only actual measurements tell the whole story.
Whoa – Is that Allen Hartle with a BEARD? And – wow – Look at the color – Welcome to the club, Bro.
Gee didn’t we just have a big switch from Analog (NTSC) to Digital
(ATSC)?? Now the wheels of progress are rolling full speed toward
what will become ATSC 3.0. In this case it does not appear that
the FCC will be mandating backward compatibility. Jerry Whitaker,
VP for standards development put it this way, "We can't make consumers adopt it. It needs to be a 'pull' technology".
This puts ATSC 3.0 in a similar category as HD Radio. Speaking of
which, it appears that vehicle makers are quickly catching on to the
‘trick stuff’ that HD Radio means for vehicle radios….Much of which
depends on the data capabilities of HD-R. In this case, consumers
are wanting real time traffic reports, album art and weather forecasts
on their vehicle radio. All of this was not available prior to HD
Radio. In light of all of this, it’s hard for me to believe that
smaller markets are going to be able to ‘hold-out’ and not install the
technology much longer. What is a radio station going to say when
car dealers in their market tumble to the fact that these gee-whiz
features don’t work because the broadcaster has been dragging their
feet, and start asking questions?
Recently I started looking for a replacement meter (Yes those
electro-mechanical devices used to display an electrical value) for a
transmitter. I learned that the manufacturer had none…The next
step was to check the manufacturer of the meter to see if they could be
of help. This turned into a dead end search. I guess I have
not been paying attention as I quickly discovered that all my searches
for Weston turned into history lessons of this once great company that –
went out of business in 2010! Unfortunately meters are no longer
used in new equipment, having been replaced with computer based
displays. It was then I recalled how Nautel, in their V – Series
transmitters had a single meter. I was told they were pressured by
some to keep it – So they did. The next generation….No more
Who hasn’t had their cell phone ring just to discover that someone has
dialed them in error. A friend of mine called me a while back….He
was in his doctor’s office discussing his condition and I sat back
listening in…without his knowledge. Butt Dialing is becoming more
and more of an issue, at least with me. Earlier I got a call, at
home, from Ichabod who was working on an issue at a transmitter site in
Eugene. I listened for a while trying to figure out who it was,
finally I heard him say something about butt-dialing…at that point he
put the phone to his head and we were able to talk. I am now
receiving several butt-dialed calls a month and wonder if this has
something to do with a particular brand of phone or what? Don’t
recall my old Flip-Phone doing that.
Alpha Media continues to grow….With the closing on a $264 Megabuck deal,
they are now the 4th largest group in terms of total stations.
Let’s hope they are in better financial condition that a couple of those
that are bigger. Alpha does not have stations in Seattle (yet)
but does in Portland.
One of my readers, Charles Shaffer, K7NW, correctly guessed the location
of the unusual tower light fixture I had in a previous column and wrote
– “ I'm going to try "Eiffel Tower."
Received an email from Stu Seibel (retired from KIMA in Yakima)
informing me that Tim Schall has moved on to Cherry Creek Radio.
Tim was at KCTS-TV in Seattle for quite a while. Apparently
longing for more dusty surroundings, moved back to the dryer - east side
of the State.
It seems like every month there is a news release about the nasty
effects of cellphones….This month comes the news that these
communications tools are cooking mens sperm. Not sure they
mentioned what they were doing to women – I’ll let you read it and get
back to me - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/12167957/Mobile-phones-are-cooking-mens-sperm.html
Everyone loves a mystery and, apparently there is one going on in Forest
Grove, Oregon (Not far from Portland). According to news reports,
residents are reporting a mysterious shrieking sound, the source of
which they have not been able to locate. What we do know is that
it comes and goes and only is heard at night (perfect for a
mystery). You can Google Forest Grove Noise and hear what they
have been concerned about. I’m sure that readers of this column in
the Portland area have been following this with great interest….What
broadcast engineer would not be? For another mysterious noise…Read
about the Taos Hum. For me…I hear what sounds like an old noisy
horizontal output transformer in a Conrac monitor most of the time….They
call it tinnitus. Likely due to working all these years listening
to all the blowers at West Tiger.
If you were planning on attending the 2016 Crystal Radio awards on April
19th in Las Vegas to cheer a Seattle radio station accepting their
award….You can forget it – We struck out this year.
Just about everyone has seen the EAS Handbook hanging somewhere near the
control point of a broadcast station. (An FCC Requirement)
If you ever opened it you have likely thought that it was in need of
updating. The good news is that it will be. I’ve been
working with a CSRIC Committee on this task and I believe you will like
what you see…..Someday….When the FCC decides to release it.
Speaking of the EAS – The FCC has out for comment an NPRM that has the
potential to make substantial changes to EAS. If you are involved
with EAS or work at a station where you are responsible for compliance
with the FCC’s EAS Rules you should be paying attention to this….Better
yet, you should down-load FCC PS Docket No 15-94 (Released January 29th)
and respond to the Commission with your thoughts and comments on their
proposed new rules. You don’t have to respond to every ‘We seek
comment…..”. The bottom line in failure to respond is telling the
Feds that you will be happy with whatever they come up with.
As many of you know, I have been chairing the Washington State SECC for
about 20 years (despite efforts to find a replacement). In this
proceeding the FCC deals with SECC’s (State Committees) and LECC’s
(Local Committees) like never before. Historically they have only
addressed issues involving their licensees….This time, they have
included emergency management, EAS messages using various
platforms…Including Social Media, Security issues etc.
The day finally came when Sumner Redstone would step down as chairman of
CBS/Viacom. Phillippe Dauman is the new CEO. I have a lot
of memories about this as I was working for Viacom when Mr. Redstone and
his firm National Amusements came along back in the 90’s.
I’m not sure which is more irritating, being placed on hold by a
real-person or being put there by some telephone computer system….
Certainly there are times that you feel that someone has not pushed the
‘hold-button’ but rather the one marked ‘forget’. Well a new study
has found that more than half of Americans spend 10 to 20 minutes of
every week on hold – That adds up to 43 days in a lifetime. There
are those that understand this and have made a business out of those who
are waiting by playing messages, or spots to the victims. Then
there is the automated attendant that will not let you speak with a real
person and will hang up on you if you try.
We all know about smart phones…But what about Smart TV’s? Those
are the ones that combine the function of the home TV and a
computer. Projections are that half of US homes will have one by
Back to how Seattle is growing….News early in February about plans for a
pair of 41 story buildings at Denny and Fairview. I very much
recall standing on the 20th floor deck of Met Park East and having
nothing blocking my view of the Sound all the way around to the Ship
Canal Bridge. Today, blocking that view is a forest of cranes and
new buildings. I used to tell people how Met Park was on the
northern edge of the Seattle high-rise area…………Not any more !
SiriusXM appears to be doing very well with the announcement that their
revenue was up 9% in 2015 to a record setting 4.6 Billion. Guess
they are here to stay .
Well that’s about it – Spring is on the way…Temps are rising, my lawn
needs mowing and my summer To-Do-List is being created by my wife .
The following is a contribution from old friend Bob Gorgance in Wisconsin ….Oops, almost forgot – [GROANER WARNING]
ARBITRAITOR - A cook that leaves Arby’s to work at McDonald’s
BERNADETTE - The act of torching a mortgage
EYEDROPPER - Clumsy ophthalmologist
CONTROL - A short, ugly inmate
COUNTERFEITER - Workers who put together kitchen cabinets
ECLIPSE - What an English barber does for a living
LEFT BANK - What the bank robbers did when their bag was full of money
HEROES - What a man in a boat does
PARASITES - What you see from the Eiffel Tower
PARADOX - Two physicians
PHARMACIST - A helper on a farm
POLARIZE - What penguins see through
RELIEF - What trees do in the spring
RUBBERNECK - What you do to relax your wife
SELFISH - What the owner of a seafood store does
SUDAFED - Brought litigation against a government official
PARADIGMS - 20 cents
I hope my warning was sufficient
In the meantime – If you have some feedback, or a contribution, I’d love
to hear from you. My email address is k (seven) firstname.lastname@example.org
Lord willing, will do this again next month in most of these same locations.
Clay, CPBE aka, K7CR