Over the many years I have been working
in this business, and writing this column, I run across the name of
a person that I have worked with in the past. In this case
Andy Laird. First met Andy at West Tiger Mt when he was involved
with one of the stations there. Much later I looked him up at WTMJ
in Milwaukee. Happy to report that Andy will be receiving the NAB
Radio Engineering Achievement Award at the big show in the desert (NAB)
on April 20th. Congrats Andy !
Andy is another one of those people who are much smarter than I ….He retired
The ‘Rumor Mill’ is in full production with the announcement that CBS -
might - sell off their Radio stations. This group consists of 117
stations in 26 markets that produced some 1.28 Billion in revenue in
2014. Based on an often used equation, the group could be priced
in the vicinity of 3 Billion Bucks. This matter is of obvious
interest to those that would be potential buyers. Just who that
might be is a matter of considerable debate. Then again would CBS
do, as it has been doing, selling off chunks…or would they be looking
for someone to buy the whole thing. Parting out appears to be the
most likely, due to the amount of money involved. This also
expands the list of possible buyers considerably. Here in Seattle,
CBS owns 94.1, 96.5, 102.5 FM and 1090 AM. Perhaps, due to their
already heavy debt load, we can rule out Cumulus and iHeart Media.
Selective markets might well interest Alpha, Entercom and
Hubbard. Then again…Perhaps they ran this up the ‘flagpole’ to
increase investor awareness and help elevate the stock price? This
will be a matter that will be watched by many.
The recent retirement ‘gathering’ for Dwight Small was well attended by
present and previous Entercom employees. Here is Dwight’s reaction
to being presented a plaque by Market Manager Jack Hutchison and HR
director Noreen McCormick.
No word yet on Dwight’s replacement – I will continue to ‘mother’ the
stations' transmitting equipment at West Tiger and Cougar, as a
contractor, as I have been for the last 6 years since leaving Entercom
as a full time employee.
Just as predicted – The plan, by Crescent Heights to build a 101 story
building downtown has been down-sized to 94 stories due to FAA
concerns. I will believe that Seattle will have something higher
than 1049 feet AMSL when I see it. Meanwhile, on the Eastside –
Bellevue’s skyline continues upward with the recent announcement that a
cluster of 4-40 story buildings will be built. Downtown Bellevue
is something that any major city would be proud of and is remarkable
when you consider the population of Seattle’s across the lake neighbor.
It’s official – This has been the wettest winter in history. If
you are new to the Seattle area and have known, all your life, that it
rains all the time….and have heard natives poo-poo it as an urban
legend…you are now on solid (or soggy) ground. Now, let us pray
that we have a summer like the last one. In this area a week of
warm and wonderful weather is enough to forget a month of
rainfall. The following picture of the tower at South Mountain
(Home of KDDS, KOMO and KLSY-FM) clearly shows how winter at the higher
elevations is still a factor in mid-March. The tower was due for
some lighting maintenance but their efforts were cut short as this
picture, supplied by Doug Fisher, shows why. If you look closely,
the top half of the tower is solid ice !
Always like to see where the markets that this column appears in stack up compared to others…
This month I note a survey of 20 good places to live from the magazine US News - Here are some selected results – City and Ranking –
Portland, OR- #20
Seattle, WA - #7
Boise, ID - #6
Colorado Springs - #5
Denver, CO - #1
I have to admit that I like Denver – Even though it has the reputation
of being a location where you may need a lawnmower and snow-blower on
the same day ! They proved this saying with a nasty snow storm
near the end of the month that was so bad it closed the airport.
Are you ready to be un-leashed? If so, the big show in the desert
is April 16-21 this year. Yes, we are talking about the NAB
show. Not likely I will be going this year….No big EAS activity
and no need to walk the floor looking for the latest toys.
Speaking of NAB…The organization is backing a request for additional
time and funds allotted for station re-packing after the FCC’s incentive
auction. I wonder what some of the old timers would say if they
were to come back to life and see what’s happening to broadcast TV
Earlier in March, our own Jim Dalke was in the hospital dealing with
‘stones’. Yeeouch ! Understand that corrective procedures
Perhaps you have noticed that we have not heard much about copper thefts
of late. Not too long ago we were hearing about the theft of
air-conditioners (this happened to my dentist) street light wiring and,
of course, broadcast equipment. It’s not that the bad-guys have
all reformed, it’s based on the fact that the prices for, recycled just
about everything, is depressed. For instance …. A recycler used to
pay 3 dollars per pound for copper. This was just enough to make
it worthwhile for the no-good-nicks of the world to rip it off.
Now the price for scrap copper is more like a buck a pound. Couple
this with greater efforts at curbing theft via security measures….Our
copper items are less attractive. The same thing is taking place
for other items that were previously economical to recycle.
I’ve recently flown several times out of SeaTac Airport….You can’t help
but notice that things are getting crowded. The North Satellite
used to be pretty much all United, now it’s pretty much Alaska. In
the past an N-Gate was for just one plane…Now Alaska has several
aircraft sharing the same gate with gate numbers now having a letter
suffix. Then there is the ever increasing presence of Delta that’s
been expanding significantly. The bottom line is little Sea-Tac
airport handled some 42,000,000 passengers in 2015 and that number is
going up. This is yet another indication of how the Seattle area
is growing at a rapid pace. We are all familiar with the ‘forest’
of tall cranes putting up new buildings in Seattle and Bellevue…However
we don’t think about the airport…Unless we use the facility.
Speaking of airports etc.…Last month I ran a picture of a new paint
scheme for Alaska. Did you hear that our hometown airline, Alaska,
is one of several carriers that has made application to expand service
From the – Boy, that did not take long department – the FCC has granted a
modified CP for a new FM station north of Everett on 103.3 (COL – Oak
Harbor). The interesting part is the fact the call letters will be
KMCQ-FM. Up until EMF took over the operation of the Seattle area
104.5, KMCQ was that station's call, in fact, that was the call used
when 104.5 was in Oregon. EMF changed it to KLSW. There are a
number of former Seattle area call letters being used by smaller
stations in the state, for example – KLSY – Long time the call for
92.1/Bellevue – is now operating from South Mountain on 93.7.
Standards are great things…especially if they open the door to
interoperability that was once closed. Of late we have some
progress to report –
In the world of Audio we now have AES70 that, according to its
proponents, will allow Audio over IP (AoIP) devices, made by different
manufacturers, to not only send their audio to and from each other but
will permit the related control information to flow as well. In
the practical sense, this will mean that equipment made by Wheatstone or
Axia, perhaps one day, can work together. As we move beyond
analog audio, AES70 promises to be able to see this process accelerate.
Just about everywhere you look today – IP – is becoming the standard
method which things communicate with other things. The XLR and BNC
cables being replaced with the RJ45 and Cat XXX. This is the case
for Radio – and – Television. This is especially the case for new
Recently a European operation demonstrated the power of IP with a remote
broadcast consisting of 10 mics, 4 cameras, intercom, tally lights etc.
all connected to their production studio some distance away all via
Fiber and IP. The cool thing was they did not need a remote
truck. In the world of Radio and TV remotes and news gathering IP
has become the vehicle of choice to get the picture and audio back to
the station. This has probably been the biggest revolution since
we moved away from tape.
Ray Tomlinson is not a very familiar name…But perhaps should have
been. Ray is credited with being the inventor of modern
email. Ray died early in March at age 74. Next time you
write an email address and use the ‘@’ symbol between the users name and
their address…..You can thank Ray …this was his idea.
Was in Bellingham recently and took time to have lunch with Mike
Gilbert. He was telling me about a fire they had at KARI in
Blaine. Apparently an old ceiling light fixture overheated
resulting in a lot of damage to a couple of studio and adjacent rooms.
Hubbard, owner of a cluster of 3 FM and 2 AM’s in the Seattle market
recently changed formats on their 98.9 FM to what they are calling ‘Rock
98.9’. According to those that follow these things, they are
targeting a similar audience to that of KISW 99.9. Let the games
Sorry to note the passing of Anne Nelskog, wife of the late Wally
Nelskog…radio broadcast legend in the Seattle area. Their daughter
Carol continues to work in this business in Seattle.
I was recently sent this picture of a trusty old Pacific Recorders AMX
Console that was the on-air board for 97.3 when they moved from Met Park
East to the KIRO facility on Eastlake Ave. The Bonneville
facility there now has become an all-Axia AoIP facility under the
leadership of Tom Pierson. Bet this would look really cool at some
LPFM station !
Congrats to WSAB and OSAB honcho, Murrow Professional Advisory Board
member and broadcast station owner, Keith Shipman, on having one of his
stations in Bend Oregon be named as OSAB Radio Station of the year.
I love looking back at advertisements for products that –
Are not needed any more
That many of today’s adults have no clue what they would be used for
I will let the following speak for itself -
I was chatting with someone recently about this and they remarked they
were at a transmitter site recently when they found a dial-phone that
was still connected and working. Am curious, will a present day
central-office even respond to ‘dial-pulse’ ?
The FCC continues to try to breathe life into AM Radio with a number of
proposals. These proposals have certainly drawn a lot of comment,
just how many have been filed with the FCC I don’t know. Some of
the more interesting thoughts that caught my attention –
They are barking up the wrong
tree. One of the major reasons that AM’s are suffering is
the ever rising noise level produced by all manner of un-regulated
devices that have raised the noise floor, and in the process, severely
reduced the coverage of all AM Stations. Many have been calling
out the FCC for turning a ‘blind-eye’ toward these noise sources.
The SBE has filed comments with the FCC regarding the ambient noise issue as well.
Some are suggesting that the lower
powered AM’s be forced out, with perhaps the government buying them,
thereby allowing the remaining AM’s to increase power, relax directional
antenna systems etc. with the thought that AM is still valid, but only
if we return to the days of much fewer stations.
Others have proposed that AM’s be permitted a significant power increase.
There are those that have proposed
letting stations increase power at night. Certainly there was a
time when day-timers or full time stations that altered something at
sunset was understood…but that day has past. With FM, these daily
shifts don’t take place and many AM owners want the FCC to let them go
full time, apparently ignoring the negative aspects of night time
The proposal to further restrict
the coverage of major Class 1A stations at night has caused many of them
to object. (Think KIRO and KOMO in Seattle) KIRO-AM’s GM, Carl
Gardner, has spoken out publically about this issue.
There are EAS impacts involved here too with many of these Class A station being Primary Entry Point (PEP) facilities.
Some Class A’s have a petition drive underway to preserve the historic sky-wave night signals.
There seems to be a growing
understanding that there will not be enough FM Translators to go around
and that this effort will not, in itself, resolve all the AM issues.
The FCC is finally getting pressure
to require those that moved to the expanded AM band a few years ago to
surrender one of their licenses (Like they were supposed to do way back
As expected, some have proposed that the AM band be shifted to all Digital, perhaps DRM.
One commenter suggested that the FCC should bring back AM Stereo (it did work pretty well).
Several have recommended what I
have been advocating for a long time – Provide a migration path for AM
to the spectrum adjacent to the present FM band where Low-Band VHF TV
was until the switch to ATCS.
The bottom line is that there is a lot of interest in this activity and
the FCC appears to be asking a lot of questions.Many reasons to keep an
eye on the results as they trickle out of WDC.Whatever happens, AM is
going through major changes and will likely continue to do so for years
Once again a broadcast station group has sold off a bunch of its towers
to a firm that manages these structures. In this case, some 200
towers belonging to Alpha Media have been sold to Vertical Bridge…A
firm, like American Tower, that specializes in vertical real
estate. I have to admit I would have never predicted that a
station would sell its tower and then lease the portion used back…again
providing that there is nothing more constant than change.
This old saying is being underscored in the television business with the
coming of incentive auctions and re-packing the TV
band. This all brings up another thought – Fight or
flight? The broadcast landscape is being changed that no-one would
have even dreamed about several years ago.
A number of us got together on the 5th of March for breakfast before
heading to Puyallup for the annual flea market sponsored by the Mike and
Key Amateur Radio Club. One of the attendees was Lowell Smith who
handles IT chores for Entercom in Seattle. To my surprise, he has
been studying for his Ham License….and to his surprise, he took the
exam at the Puyallup event and passed! Congrats to Lowell
indeed! Here he is, in his office at Met Park West next to a
historic piece of test equipment.
This past month, the media that covers the media, has been doing pieces
on the debt situation at iHeart Media. This company, formally
known as Clear Channel, is faced with some huge amount of debt… Like,
over 20 Billion Dollars worth. The question is what is going to
happen to the company? Much of this debt is in the hands of
private equity firms. One has to wonder if no-one really knows how
to handle this. Not likely the Feds will come to the rescue like
they did GM. Not likely anyone would pay off the ‘note’ and buy
the company. In other industries they would be selling for some
fraction on the dollar and/or be sold for ‘parts’. Then there is a
matter of Cumulus, the #2 Radio company that is also massively in debt
with declining revenues.
I was recently over in Forks, Washington…..You know, that former logging
town and home of Twilight? I went over to perform periodic work
on the transmitters for NWPR (Northwest Public Radio). Before I go
on, let me provide you a brief overview of Forks –
It’s a former logging town situated at the west end of Clallam County, which runs along the north side of the Olympic Peninsula.
You cannot receive any broadcast station from the Seattle area due to shielding of the Olympic Mountains.
They receive about 3 times the annual rain fall of Seattle.
Area population is 6,240 and it’s going down.
It’s likely that this is the smallest market in the state with a broadcast station.
Now with that being said, the only AM/FM station in town historically sounded awful.….Now for the surprise...
On my recent trip, I put the radio in my 2016 Toyota Tacoma pickup on
scan just to see what I could hear. The scan stopped on 96.7 and
out of my speakers came great sounding audio….Shortly thereafter the big
surprise surfaced…They were operating in HD….and not just HD1, but HD2
and HD3. I quickly grabbed my smart phone and snapped a picture of
the display (Yes those are my fingers in the reflection). All I
can say is wow !
If you recall, earlier in my column I mentioned that I had lunch with
Mike Gilbert….Mike confessed that he set up the HD-R equipment at
KBDB. And a great job did he !
On the drive back I could not help but think about this little station
in this tiny market, with a great sounding station operating in Digital
!!!! I then began to think about all the excuses I’ve heard from
broadcasters in much larger markets as to why they can’t/won’t install
HD Equipment or how they are waiting for some magic moment to arrive
when they can convince themselves that HD Radio is here to stay??
There has been some recent antenna activity on Cougar Mt. EMF’s
KLSW (104.5) began broadcasting in this area as KMCQ, licensed to
Covington, from Radio Hill east of Enumclaw. A while later they
moved to the then Entercom site on Cougar, connecting their 1.5 kw
transmitter to the directional master antenna where they have operated
for some time. Recently, under new owners, EMF, they decided to
compare the 6 bay DA to an Omni, single bay antenna at the tower
top. The following picture shows you what the tower looks like
You can see the single bay on the very top right. Below that the 6
bay panel array used by all the Auxiliary stations installed
there. The 2 bay panel on the lower left, is KNHC, Seattle
Another change in the world of local AM stations - 1560/KRIZ is being
sold to XL Media for $680,000. The station's transmitter site is
located south of Auburn and East of Pacific in Green River Valley.
Another addition to the South Lake Union area – Google has announced
they will be moving into new buildings between Valley Ave and
Mercer. (Remember the Denny’s in that area?)
Nick Winter and I set off to deal with an issue recently on Crego Hill
(West of Chehalis and South of Adna, transmitter site for KMNT, KSWS,
KCKA-TV etc.) discovering that we could not access the site because
someone had rammed the gate on the Access Road. I contacted Darin
Gerchak, Engineer at KCKA-TV, and he responded with the proper tool…..A
hot wrench !
Congratulations to NAB’s David Layer, winner of this year’s Radio World
Excellence in Engineering Award. David is the 12th person to be
presented this award…joining a very exclusive club of which I am proud
to be a member.
Received a note from Tom McGinley, former chief of the CBS cluster in
Seattle. He is now enjoying life in ‘MSO MT’. From the
sounds of things, spending a great deal more time on Ham Radio.
Wow is that ever a tempting thought. Here I am approaching ¾ of a
century and still working.
I wrote, in a previous column, about KING-TV leaving 333 Dexter.
One of my readers (Ash), wrote that he was old enough to recall when the
KING Address was on the ‘other side’ of the building (on Aurora).
Time is flying – Just made reservations to attend the annual Seaside
Amateur Radio gathering on the Oregon Coast – Perhaps I will see you
Big thanks to Jim Hatfield for the following items -
*Cocktail Lounge, Norway: * LADIES ARE REQUESTED NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN IN THE BAR.
*Doctor's Office, Rome: * SPECIALIST IN WOMEN AND OTHER DISEASES.
*Dry Cleaners, Bangkok: * DROP YOUR TROUSERS HERE FOR THE BEST RESULTS.
*A Nairobi Restaurant: * CUSTOMERS, WHO FIND OUR WAITRESSES RUDE, OUGHT TO SEE THE MANAGER.
*On the main road to Mombasa, leaving Nairobi: * TAKE NOTICE: WHEN THIS SIGN IS UNDER WATER, THIS ROAD IS IMPASSABLE.
*On a poster: * ARE YOU AN ADULT THAT CANNOT READ? IF SO, WE CAN HELP.
*In a City restaurant: * OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK AND WEEKENDS.
*In a Cemetery: * PERSONS ARE PROHIBITED FROM PICKING FLOWERS, FROM ANY BUT THEIR OWN GRAVES.
*Tokyo hotel's rules and regulations: * GUESTS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO SMOKE, OR DO OTHER DISGUSTING BEHAVIORS, IN BED.
*On the menu of a Swiss Restaurant: * OUR WINES LEAVE YOU NOTHING TO HOPE FOR.
*Hotel, Yugoslavia: * THE FLATTENING OF UNDERWEAR WITH PLEASURE IS THE JOB OF THE CHAMBERMAID.
*In the lobby of a Moscow Hotel, across from a Russian Orthodox
Monastery: * YOU ARE WELCOME TO VISIT THE CEMETERY, WHERE FAMOUS RUSSIAN
AND SOVIET COMPOSERS, ARTISTS, AND WRITERS ARE BURIED DAILY, EXCEPT
*A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest: * IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN ON
OUR BLACK FOREST CAMPING SITE, THAT PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT SEX, FOR
INSTANCE, MEN AND WOMEN, LIVE TOGETHER IN ONE TENT, UNLESS THEY ARE
MARRIED WITH EACH OTHER FOR THIS PURPOSE.
*Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand: * WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS?
*Airline ticket office, Copenhagen: * WE TAKE YOUR BAGS AND SEND THEM IN ALL DIRECTIONS.
*A Laundry in Rome: * LADIES, LEAVE YOUR CLOTHES HERE AND THEN SPEND THE AFTERNOON HAVING A GOOD TIME.
*And finally, the all-time classic, Seen in an Abu Dhabi Souk shop
window: * IF THE FRONT IS CLOSED, PLEASE ENTER THROUGH MY BACKSIDE.