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Clay Freinwald
Clay's Corner Logo

April 2016 Edition



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 Laird

Andy is another one of those people who are much smarter than I ….He retired Smiley Face

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.

Dwight Small

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 !

South Mountain Tower
 
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 spectrum?

Earlier in March, our own Jim Dalke was in the hospital dealing with ‘stones’.  Yeeouch !  Understand that corrective procedures went well.

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 to Cuba?

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 buildouts.

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 begin !

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 !

AMX Console  
 
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 -

Dial-Eze Ad

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 interference.
  • 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 when).
  • 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 to come.

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.

Lowell Smith
 
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 !

KBDB-HD Forks
 
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 now.

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 Schools.

Cougar Entercom Site  

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 !

"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. Smiley Face

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 there?

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 THURSDAY.
 
*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.
 
That’s it for this month – Enjoy Spring !

Clay, CPBE – aka K7CR