Providing news and views from a broadcast engineer's perspective since September 1986
Wow…Finally…Spring is officially
here. Of course we have been having spring weather for a while
now. Have to feel sorry for those on the other coast as they have
been setting records for winter weather. Meanwhile, those that
make a living predicting climate events are saying that we are going to
be experiencing drought, however, from a slightly different cause.
In our case it’s not a lack of rain-fall but rather from a lack of snow
fall during the winter in the mountains that traditionally keeps the
water flowing downhill during our dry months of summer. Who would
have thought that Forks would be in a predicted drought area….Gee, isn’t
that near the rain-forest? Take a look at this map, the red
outlined areas are 2015 drought areas in our state. I’ve seen the
counties just east of the Cascade Mountains in this mode before due to
lack of snow-melt/stream flow …But never thought it would happen to the
wettest part of the country! With dry comes something else to
worry about…. forest fires.
If you want to see the impact of this – Take a drive over Snoqualmie
pass and look at the ski areas. That big lake on the east side of
the pass is going to be nothing but a valley of stumps very soon.
The folks in neighboring Redmond have once again gone to their
collection of product names and are about to introduce Windows 10.
Never quite understood their numbering scheme - It started with 3.1,
then 95 followed by 98 then XP and now 7. Must be some logical
reason why they skipped over 9…On second thought – Why does logic have
to play a role here?
Don’t forget the Seaside gathering of Hams coming up June 5,6 &
7. The annual SEA-PAC event is a great chance to get away and see
old friends. …And I mean OLD friends. Amazing how many folks I
know are looking a lot older.
Interesting to watch what’s happening with radio at West Tiger.
Since we last communicated via this column CBS has installed their 2nd
GatesAir FAX 30 transmitter for their 96.5 operation. Last year
Hubbard installed a new Nautel GV30 on 92.5 and now KING-FM and KIRO-FM
are about to do the same with construction scheduled for late this
Pictured below are the present KIRO-FM Transmitters at West Tiger.
This is one of very few parallel FM transmitter installations left
(this area used to have several). These Continental 816’s were
originally installed at Indian Hill (between Tacoma and Federal Way)
under the call letters of KNBQ. They were moved to this location
in 1987, the first FM to operate from West Tiger. One of the two
transmitters will be replaced with the new Nautel GV30 which will become
the station's Main Transmitter. The remaining transmitter will
remain as an Auxiliary. Uniquely the same people will be making
this change that installed them in 1987 – Nick Winter and myself.
An interesting, albeit sad, aspect of this change is the demise of
Continental Electronics. The Continental 816 was the transmitter
of choice for most of the broadcasters on West Tiger for many
years. In fact, two of the last 816’s sold in the area were on the
air from West Tiger-2 running FM+HD on 92.5 and 98.9. For reasons
I fail to understand, Continental elected not to produce new, non-tube,
products yielding their market share to GatesAir (formally Harris) and
Nautel. In fact, except for low powered AM and FM transmitters,
these are just about the only two manufacturers left. Do I dare
mention RCA that folded its tent and slipped away about 30 years ago.
Sad to announce the passing of Peter Onnigian who died peacefully on
March 13 in Sacramento at the age of 93. Peter’s interest in
broadcasting grew out of him becoming a Ham back in 1936 (W6QEU).
After WW2 he was involved in building radio and TV stations in the
Sacramento area. In 1950 he founded the Jampro antenna
company. Peter held several patents and was a Fellow in the
SBE. He and his wife were married 73 years.
Has our level of workmanship gone down over the years? I can’t
speak for TV, but I can for radio, and I think this is the case.
Back when I started in this business (in the middle of the last century)
you could look inside any equipment rack and find evidence of what I
call pride of workmanship. Cabling was always laced up (This was
before cable ties) …Things were neat and orderly with lots of 90 degree
bends etc. Today it’s quite common to find things very
different. Racks with no cable management at all. Point to
point connections, excess cable laying in the bottom of racks, or
spilling out on the floor…and, quite often, dysfunctional or no longer
used equipment still bolted in place. So what’s going on
here? Is this because we are told by managers to just get it done
and not worry about how it looks because looks does not impact
performance or their bottom line? Or, could it be that those that
took a great deal of pride on how it looks have passed on and the new
generation never learned how to do it right? Or, is it just a
matter of differing values? In one case I know a contract engineer
that was criticized by the station's management for taking time to make
it neat, stating that he was not paying for anything beyond ‘making it
work’. I recall a manager, who upon seeing a mass of wires and
cables spilling out from behind several equipment racks, stating that
the wiring was ‘terrible’….However it’s not clear that he would be
willing to take money from his bottom line to do it neatly. I
suspect that this has a lot to do with style – Some technical folks
appear to place no value on how it looks, while others view their work
with a great deal of professional pride and are happy to show it
off. There is, perhaps, another category……We have people doing
work in broadcast stations that have never done this work before and
have no concept of what’s neat and what’s hay-wire. I recently ran
across this item in an equipment rack – to which all I can say is – at
least – the wire nuts are color coordinated. Yes, this is a Live
Nice to have some good news once in a while. Apparently the Grant
County Sheriff’s office has arrested someone that vandalized one of the
Cherry Creek stations near Quincy. Appears that the person was not
specifically targeting the station, as he had apparently been stealing
from other locations as well. Perhaps drug related.
Speaking of Grant County. That county is now part of the North
Central Operational Area for EAS. New, revised, Tabs for the
Washington State EAS Plan will be coming out soon. Remember it is
the obligation of every station to down-load these new Tabs from the
WaState EAS Remailer and/or EAS Web Site and place them in your binder
insuring that your EAS Plan is up to date.
KARR and KKDZ lost their tower site in Kirkland, as you know.
Thanks to the efforts of Jim Dalke, KARR is back on the air with a
temporary and rather unique antenna. KKDZ, who used the Kirkland
site for their night operation has been forced to operate with very low
power from their day site at Pigeon Point. That station, owned by
Disney, is reported to be for sale. Rumor has it that the little
1480 day timer in Lakewood, KNTB, may be looking for an alternative
location for similar reasons. It’s rumored that the property they
have been leasing for many years may soon be used for other
purposes. This is the 2nd location for this station which used to
operate from another location just north of the present one. That
station went on the air in 1958 under the call letters KFHA and has been
on and off several times. 1 kw of power and extremely poor ground
conductivity have not helped. Interestingly KNTB operates an FM
Translator located in Tacoma which may have more value than the AM
So what’s going on at the FCC with the announcement that they are
shutting down two-thirds of their field offices…Including Seattle and
Portland? Seems there are a number of reasons cited for this
action. Some are saying that they are no longer needed, others are
saying that some consulting group recommended it. Tom Wheeler
recently said that too little funding was the reason, but added that the
team of field agents is ‘too large and too inefficient ‘ to maintain,
adding that the Seattle office deals with just one issue per week.
Does this mean we here in this area have been too good? Or that
the Seattle office has not been aggressive enough to discover those that
are violators? I can tell you that the FCC’s folks don’t get out
like they used to – obviously this is not setting well with many in our
industry who are letting those in congress know how they feel.
I’ve long held the position, in light of the size of the fines being
handed out, that I’d be happy to quit all my present work and accept the
task of rule enforcement, with my compensation based on a fair and
negotiable percentage. Then again, perhaps the FCC will take a
page from the FEMA guidelines and hire a contractor to perform
enforcement – I’m sure there are plenty of firms that would be happy to
do this….Gee they would not even have to bother with un-marked cars etc.
My concern is that when the cats are away the mice will play….Or how
would the average person drive if they knew there was not going to be a
cop behind the billboard? Which leads me to wonder...1) Has the
Commish just thrown in the towel on enforcement...or, 2) is this just a
ploy to get more money from Congress. Come to think about it, the
FCC’s lease is about up at the Portals (You’d think they own their own
Meanwhile – At the enforcement bureau…The Commish just handed out a
really big fine to WDBJ in Roanoke VA. The station has been asked
to send a check in the amount of $325,000 for showing sexually explicit
material during a newscast back on 2012. Apparently this is the
biggest fine ever issued by the FCC for a single incident at a
station. What made this worse is the station aired this during a
time that children could be watching. Apparently there were a
number of complaints. The FCC also nailed a non-comm in New York
to the tune of $10,000 for failing to have a complete public file.
One area where the Feds are apparently turning a ‘blind-eye’ is the area
of noise generating devices that have raised the noise level so high in
some places that AM does not stand a chance. Some of this noise
is coming from grow-lamps used in the growing of a popular crop .
The FCC may not be interested in noise…but local law enforcement is
certainly interested in the operations using these devices and are
increasingly DF’ing these operations. My take on this is - too
little - too late. There are plenty of devices being marketed
these days that create ever increasing amount of RF interference with
the FCC, apparently, having better things to do.
Once again I can write that Alpha continues to grow. They recently
announced they have picked a group of radio stations in Texas.
Including the cluster of stations they own in Portland, the company has
now grown to 96 stations.
Seems like it was not that many years ago that Seattle was thought of by
most in the country as a place up near Alaska where it rains all the
time. Times have certainly changed thanks to local firms like –
Boeing, Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, Costco, etc. In publications
that deal with the broadcast industry, it is now rather common to see
something written about an event in Seattle or by someone from
here. In a recent issue of Radio World there is a piece showing a
car radio display showing KIRO-FM and describing how Allen Hartle has
been the man behind a number great advancements. Then near the
back of the magazine is a picture of Tim Vik standing next to his brand
new Nautel GV40 on Mt. Constitution with the article written by Bryan
Hubert. Way to go guys, making us proud!
If you have been going to the NAB convention over the years, you have
been struck by the rapid pace of construction in that city. Seems
like in just one year a huge, multi-story building is constructed.
A couple of years ago I asked about that and was told that once they
start on a new high-rise they work 24/7 on it. The primary reason
for this speed of construction was cited as being because the building
owners are in a hurry to start making money on the property as opposed
to having it take 3 times as long in locations where construction means
one-shift. If you are going to Vegas this year, you’d better take a
good look across the street at the Riviera because next year it’s
likely to be gone. In this case the buyer is the Las Vegas
Visitors and Convention Authority….meaning that the, already huge,
convention center is about to get bigger…..Again. At one time I
thought that it was as big as it could get…just to find the next year
that they had built over the top of a freeway (Desert Inn Road) and
beyond on the other side. So how much bigger is the convention
facility going to get? According to press releases the expansion
will come in two phases….First will be 750,000 sq. ft. of new exhibit
space and 187,500 sq. ft.of supporting meeting space as part of a 1.8
million sq. ft. expansion. Phase two will see renovation of the
existing convention center. When completed, the present 3.2
million sq. ft. of convention center will grow to 5.7. This
process will take 5-8 years to complete. Those of you that are
familiar with the area know that the Riviera is not adjacent to the
existing convention center building, but rather some distance away to
the northwest with a big parking lot between the two. Just how
they are going to join the two, or if they will, remains to be seen.
Ever wonder why the NAB or CES hold their conventions in Las
Vegas? Consider how huge the convention center is and the fact
that the number of hotel rooms in Vegas is over 125,000. (Compare
that to the number of hotel rooms in King County – Just over 34,000.)
Oh, one more thing about Las Vegas and the NAB event. As you know
there is a huge hotel with many meeting rooms just across the alley from
the LVCC. For years this was the Las Vegas Hilton, then it became
the LVH and now it’s known as the Westgate. That huge sign, out
front, has undergone many Changes. Anyone remember when a
wind-storm blew it down?
In the Seattle area, construction is booming and the population is
increasing. Any doubting the latter has not driven one of our
freeways lately. With a booming economy comes higher and higher
costs for housing. Recently there have been a number of stories in
the media on how rent prices in Seattle are increasing at a rapid rate,
forcing out many who have lived there for a long time. House
prices are doing the same thing. So just how much do you have to
make to afford to purchase a house in the Seattle area? According
to HSH.com that salary needs to be $72,844. This is $12,241 more
than Portland Oregon and $11,202 more than Denver. Just to put
things into perspective, this is $69,604 - LESS - than San Francisco
where you would need to make $142,448/year. My question is, does
our industry offset the cost of housing with larger salaries? Does
a position in Seattle automatically pay 12 Grand a year more than one
in Portland? My guess the answer is no. We need to remember
that there are a lot of folks making north of 100 grand in Seattle and
these are the folks that are helping increase the cost of housing for
the simple fact that they can afford it. So what is the new hire,
making less, going to do? Simple – Live further out where they can
afford housing and help clog up the freeways.
Thought you’d enjoy seeing this video caught by KING-5 of a couple of
folks ‘Jumping off a perfectly good mountain’…Technically ‘flying-off’
West Tiger's Poo Poo point. From the looks of this video, the
weather was a bit cool and no one was catching some good thermals that
would have kept this aloft for a much longer period of time. There
are many times that they have flown right by the towers on the summit
of WTM. The story also explains how Poo Poo point got its name.
Their landing location (of choice) is located on the east side of the
Issaquah-Hobart Road just south of Issaquah. This explains the
wind-sock that they use when doing their final approach.
Perhaps a status symbol is whether or not your city is on the latest
version of Monopoly? As you probably guessed – Seattle is – As is
Denver – Sorry Portland, better luck next time. The Emerald City
is actually a magenta property, along with Atlanta and Little Rock.
I recently wrote about how camera equipped drones are likely to become a
highly used tool for TV news as well as spot production. In this
past month a couple of stories caught my eye ….
First there is this video, shot from a drone, of the dropping of a tower. Can’t imagine getting shots like this with anything else.
Then there is the situation that
took place in Seattle near the middle of last month where KIRO and
KOMO-TV were covering a fire using their helicopters when one of the
pilots noted a drone flying above them at about 1500 feet. Whereas
they are not supposed to go over 400 ft., the matter was brought to the
attention of the FAA.
News reports indicated that the KIRO-TV chopper team located the guy
controlling the craft….Gotta bet that this fellow has become acquainted
with the local FAA folks.
There is a lot of good reason to be concerned over where these drones
are going and who is controlling them. Hopefully the FAA will -
not - follow the FCC and will have the local manpower to deal with these
Meanwhile, down in LA, KFI Radio has announced that they will be using
drones for news gathering. Reportedly the drones will be equipped
with cameras, which is in itself interesting in that KFI is a Radio
station. What do you want to bet they have a ‘deal’ with a local
Time for a quiz – Look carefully at the following picture and tell me
what type of circuit this is - A - Short B - Feed back C -
About six-feet D - Self regeneration
The latest (12+) radio ratings are out ….and here are a couple of ‘technical ‘ observations –
Now that the Seahawks season is
over, there is no longer an AM station in the top 10…In fact the highest
rated AM (KIRO/710) is at #14.
AM’s continue to struggle, KOMO is now #20 and the bottom 3 (32-34) are all AM’s.
Playing spots does not make a radio station more popular – KUOW is #5, KING is #15 and KPLU #16.
Contemporary Christian KCMS, rated at #8 is likely going to face competition with the sale of 104.5 to EMF.
The country music ratings battle between Entercom’s KKWF and CBS’s KMPS appears to be one-sided with the present score 6 to 19.
High School operated station KNHC is at #25 beating out 9 other stations.
The NAB has announced a publication…A Broadcast Engineering Tutorial for
Non-Engineers. They are billing it as a guide to understanding
the technical world of radio and television broadcast engineering.
Seems to me that few technophobes I have met over the years are not
likely to read this one. Most have their minds made up and are not
likely to want to change their definitions of their favorite
‘buzz-words’. Something about ignorance is bliss.
The following came from Kerry Swanson, GM of WSU’s NW Public Radio in
Pullman – 77 years ago, March 13 1938, Edward R. Murrow and his
colleagues at CBS launched what many consider to be the start of
electronic broadcast journalism as the world watched the events in
Europe unfold leading up to WW II.
Inspiring to think of how radio helped bring news, context and understanding of world events to so many people.
The recent bout of tornadoes in Oklahoma gave me more reasons to love
our weather. Now I fully understand that a lot of people that live
in other areas of the country would – never – live here due to the
‘urban legend’ that it ‘rains all the time’. I think we are smart
enough to understand that Oklahoma does not have tornadoes all the
time. At least our rain is a whole lot less destructive! On
March 25th they had a bunch of twisters and one of them silenced a
historic radio station – KOKC formally known as KOMA. From
preliminary news reports, the station's 3 tower array became a partial
one tower system with that tower folded over like a jack-knife.
However I do recall a number of tower failures due to straight-line
winds in our area. The old KTOY tower in Tacoma and the 1090 array
on Vashon come to mind. Of course there are some memorable
man-induced tower failures, ala KRKO in Everett.
I like to end my ramblings with a bit of humor – This month credit goes
to old friend Bob Gorgance whose young family member came up with this
Lord willing we will be able to do this again next month in most of these same locations.