On the heels of the Entercom/CBS deal, are
we about to see a lot more consolidation? Apparently some think so and this time it will involve television as
well. Part of what is fueling all this
is the belief that the changes in administration and at the FCC will change
ownership limits. This has caused a lot
of rumors to fly of late….Among them - Sinclair will do a deal with
Tribune. This would be interesting in
Seattle where Sinclair owns a station and Tribune owns two. Let’s not forget ION
and CBS that both own one TV station in Seattle, which many consider to be a
major market. Any reduction in
ownership limitations is likely to result in opposition from those that have
been consistent in their opposition to media consolidation.
So what is the FCC going to do about Pirate
Radio? For many years we have been
reading about how unlicensed radio stations have been a thorn in the side of
licensed broadcasters as well as those that are supposed to regulate the
activity. Unfortunately a lot of the
regulatory efforts have fallen short of what’s needed to stop the
activity. There are those big fines
that, apparently, go un-paid…or the pirate operation that is supposedly
‘shut-down’ by the Feds just to appear again at another address. Some local governments, reacting to pressure
from legitimate broadcasters have gotten involved as they see the Feds failing
to regulate.This matter is, apparently,
finally getting the attention of lawmakers and is resulting in the FCC asking
Congress to give the FCC more authority, including the ability to seize
equipment. Guess it never made sense to
me for the FCC to tell a pirate operator to stop doing wrong and walk away from
the equipment to repeat the process. Today, becoming a pirate is very easy….Just Google – Pirate Radio Station
Equipment and see for yourself. Will
the Fed's new interest in combating this activity be effective, time will
tell. I still fail to understand how
cutting back on the EB was the correct approach. The Commish has this concept of having Tiger
Teams doing enforcement.Appears to me
that they have this half right – The part about the Tiger.Unfortunately the FCC has become to all too
many, a ‘Paper Tiger’.
With the news full of stories about huge
radio operators like Cumulus sinking under the weight of their own debt – it’s
great to hear some good news.Recently
Saga Communications (who operates a cluster of radio stations in Bellingham)
announced that their net revenue, operating income, free cash flow and net
income all increased in Q4 of 2016. Meanwhile, Cumulus continues to receive more bad news as they try and
restructure their $2.4 Billion debt.Certainly the vultures are circling this firm, awaiting the time that
they are forced to sell off the company for bargain basement prices.
Meanwhile the Entercom / CBS deal seems to
be getting good marks from those that evaluate deals. The value of CBS Radio has been placed at
2.86 Billion Bucks!When completed, the
new Entercom will consist of 244 stations in 47 markets including all of the
top 10 and all but 2 of the top 25.Talk
about a dream position to be in! Some
of the markets are huge. Both the New York and LA clusters are valued at well
north of 300 million each.If you owned
stock in Entercom…28% will be part of the new company. If you have stock in
CBS, that figure will be 72%, underscoring who was bigger than who. I’m sure the new Entercom will be watching things very closely to avoid
the tragic mistakes of a couple of other big radio outfits.
On the local (Seattle) front of the
Entercom/CBS deal, apparently all of
the Seattle stations, belonging to both companies, have been put into a trust
giving the new company time to sort out just which ones to spin off (and which
ones to keep). They’ve made it
obvious that they would like to do a deal with whoever will bring the
maximum benefit to the new company. Meanwhile,
those that work at these 7 FM stations have likely been told
to continue to ‘soldier-on’ as if nothing was taking place. A
pretty tall order. I’ve been in situations like this. There
are likely a lot of hallway
conversations taking place as employees are, understandably, nervous
polishing their resumes….just in case. Uncertainty will cause many
to have less than peaceful sleep. There is little comfort knowing
same level of anxiety is taking place in other markets as well.
It’s happening again – the periodic call
for elimination of funding for some 1,500 Public Broadcasting (Radio and TV)
Stations. Interestingly there has been
government funds provided for now 50 years. With the new group in power in WDC, it remains to be seen if this will
continue or not. Many public stations
are, reportedly, gearing up for the fight, engaging their listeners and viewers
to write their congressmen in support of keep it going. Some are openly expressing concern that
elimination of the $445 million annual funding could cause public broadcasting
to collapse. Expressed as a percentage, the amount received
is a very small percentage of the federal budget. We
need to remember that this is the ‘proposed’ budgetand only one step in a process. There are those that questionshould the government be funding something
that is operating in competition to private industry? I’ve often wondered what would happen if
the FCC permitted Non-Coms to sell spots in exchange for dropping government
Some local translator news to report –
103.3/K277AE – The historic Entercom
translator in Downtown Seattle that runs the same programming as their West
Tiger based 103.7/KHTP, recently had to change antennas to one more directional
(aimed south)to avoid the new
co-channel operation on 103.3 in Oak Harbor.
94.5/K233BU – Is now on the air from Cougar
Mountain with a directional antenna (aimed north) re-broadcasting Bonneville’s
770 AM KTTH. 94.5 was on Capitol Hill
operated by a non-commercial station.
On the subject of translators…April 10th
is the day that the FCC is supposed to begin their new rules regarding siting
of AM Translators.Under the old rules,
an AM had to place their translator either within their daytime service contour
or within 25 miles of the AM translator, whichever was less. The new, and certainly more relaxed rules
drop the ‘whichever is less’ part allowing that AM to install their transmitter
anywhere within 25 miles of their AM, even if its outside their service
contour. The feeling is that this will
create more opportunities for the AM station. The problem is, with all the LPFMs and new translators, there is not
much spectrum left to do it. That is
unless you are in a very sparsely populated area.
Yes, once again, it’s time for many to make
their annual trek to Las Vegas for the NAB show. I
can well recall making that trip annually for many years.
without any compelling reason to go, I don’t. I do need to mention
that John Kean is going to be receiving the NAB
Radio Engineering Achievement Award. John is best known for his
work with NPR. Last year’s recipient was Andy Laird who I
am proud to say I was able to work with. John Lyons will be
receiving the NAB Television Engineering Achievement
Award. John is involved with the Durst
Organization in NYC.
Slowly but surely, the Radio industry is
finding a role for HD Radio channels. Early on Radio had no idea of what to do with these new resources, with
no receivers out there, they simply filled them with minimal expense
programming. This is changing as more
receivers are coming on line every day.
Most recently, HD Radio got a shot in the
arm with the announcement that Radio Disney is going to be on Entercom HD2
Channels in 9 markets including one in Portland, Oregon. Interestingly there was no mention of Seattle. Disney, for several years, operated the
1250 AM. Perhaps there will be an
Another item that comes around periodically
is the matter of public health issues caused by cellphones.
This time the California Department of
Public Health has release a draft document dealing with the issuethat was apparently kept out of public view
for some time.Like a lot of previous
items in this category…It is suggested that there is a connection to having a
cellphone pressed next to your ear and brain cancer.Perhaps the move to more texting is a good
one suggesting that repetitive stress disorder with our thumbs is a better
Things I learned recently –
Cubic Light years - Try and
get your head around that one! It’s
actually a measurement that's being used to describe the amount still out
there that has been found by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey.
expression meaning Quality of Experience being used by the wireless industry to
describe whether a customer has dropped calls etc.(I can see this one being used in many
Amateur (Ham) Radio continues
to grow.You’d think with all the
computers and smartphones out there that this legacy hobby would be
shrinking…Not so according to the ARRL.As of the end of 2016 there were over 742,000 licensed Hams in the
US. New licensees are growing at a rate
of about 30,000 per year.
What other people learned recently –
In this case, former Corporate Engineer for
Entercom and now retired John Price wrote–
through the April 2017 QST I noticed the Eclectic Technology column on page
71. Columnist Steve Ford has the story of an interesting WSJT project by
a Chuck Kelly, W9MDO/VE1MDO. Even though Chuck Kelly sounds like a pretty
common name, I wondered, with the VE1 call, could that possibly be Chuck Kelly
from Nautel? BINGO. A quick check of the W9 call at QRZ.com
confirmed my suspicion…it’s him. Pretty cool.
Chuck has moved from his role as Sales
Manager to taking the Southeast Asia sales rep. position due to the recent
retirement of John Abdnour.It’s my
understanding that long time Nautel fixture Wendell
Lonergan will be now heading up their sales efforts.
There has been a recent discussion on
Pubtech regarding the impact of wind turbines on radio and TV reception. If I recall, the Tri-Cities area of
Washington State dealt with this a few years ago, however I don’t recall what
happened. In this discussion, many were
calling these huge wind generator ‘Wind Mills’. Whereas I had recently been ‘nailed’ for
using the same term…I jumped into point out that these machines did not ‘mill’
anything and should be called by a more proper term. This set off some discussion about terms
that we have carried over – Here are a couple –
CUTTING A SPOT – From the days when radio commercials were
recorded with a cutting lathe for later playback on a phonograph.
PUMPING GAS –As many of you probably suspect – I
am indeed old enough to remember seeing this done.Gas pumps were indeed ‘pumps’. The attendant would ask how many gallons you
wanted and then‘pump’ gas up into a big
glass container on the top of the pump (they had graduations marked on them).When that process was completed, he would
transfer the fuel to your vehicle. You
can see these today in museums
FILM AT 11 -A
classic TV phrase used in earlier newscasts. News crews would go out and capture images on Film…Rush back to the
station to process it where it was loaded on a file projector (on a film
island) for playback during the 11 p.m. news. Amazing how many today think that
film is still being used.
ROLL UP YOUR WINDOW -Motor
vehicles all used to have a crank that you would use to ‘roll’ up or down your
windows. Today they are a rare site
with power operated windows becoming standard. This does not stop folks from continuing to use the term.
DIAL A PHONE NUMBER – Telephones of yesteryear had a ‘Dial’ (that
rotary motion devices that you would operate with your index finger) to
enter the number you wished to call. The ‘Rotary Dial’ was replaced with push buttons (often called a
Touch-Tone Pad). This does not stop the
use of the term today where many continue to ‘Dial’ phone numbers.
Got some more of these? Drop me a note, (oops, I meant to say send me
an email)so we can share.
Are you looking for a job in Radio
Engineering?There are a couple of
openings that I’ve heard of - 1) Bonneville (same folks that own KIRO In Seattle)
are looking for a Chief Engineer for their Phoenix, Arizona stations.2) Binnie Media is looking for a Chief for
their Maine Radio Group.Talk about
One area where all can agree that the FCC
has left something to be desired in enforcement is the matter of RF Noise
pollution. Finally AM Broadcasters and
broadcast associations are starting to catch-on that we have a problem that’s
largely out of control. Ham Operators
have long known that noise levels are increasing as they often have meters on
their equipment measuring it. Lately,
in certain areas of the country that noise level has shot upward….The
reason? The legalizing of pot and the
RF noise that is generated by the high powered lighting equipment used in grow
operations. I’ve read of
interesting cases where there is a power failure resulting in a dramatic
reduction in RF Noise. So what can be
done? The FCC’s enforcement capability
has been shrunk to the point of being useless…and all the FCC will
likely do with
a noise polluter is send him a letter requesting he fix the
problem. Likely those with RF Noise generating
equipment read the same ‘playbook’ as pirate radio operators that
to simply ignore the FCC. If we are
lucky, the FCC will gain some new teeth and be able to confiscate pirate
radio equipment. Now if they could do the same with equipment
that also generates
illegal amount of radio frequency energy. The missing element here
is, of course, who is going to do the leg-work
that was formally accomplished by your local FCC Field Office? The
fear I have is that all this
congressional interest in solving the pirate problem will result in the
creation of a bigger tiger who will never visit my neighborhood.
Some Washington State EAS News to report –
The State EAS Committee, SECC, has moved their meeting location
from the Washington State Emergency Management facility at Camp Murray to the
Radio Conference Room at Clover Park Technical College.
In the SECC’s recent meeting a number of items were discussed
resulting in the approval to create two new Tab’s for the EAS Plan. Tab 17 will deal with ENS (systems used by Emergency Management), the other (Tab
13)details how the State Duty Officers
deal with the issuance of warning messages.
Tab 8 will be expanded to more fully explain which event codes can
be used with EAS and WEA.
Tab 26, which deals with Amber, is being re-written reflecting
changes in how Amber, aka Child Abduction Emergencies (CAE) are handled.
The next SECC Meeting will be on May 25th
at Kittcom in Ellensburg. The
following, July 13th Meeting will be at Clover Park Technical
College. Completed details are always
posted on the State EAS Remailer.
To learn more about the Washington State EAS
system, consider subscribing to the WaState EAS Remailer by checking out http://sea.sbe16.org/mailman/listinfo/eas-wa. Good time to remind all that this electronic
communications system is provided by the consulting firm of Hatfield and Dawson
to whom we should all say thank you.
Occasionally there is a bit of good news
for broadcasters. In this case a new
survey has shown that 82% of Americans listen to AM/FM Radio in their cars
every month. Add this to the fact there
are estimated to be 250,000,000 vehicles with radios – it is good news
the ‘end of an era’ department came
the recent announcement that International Crystal was shutting
down. For those of us that have been in this
industry for a long time – This is a shocker…but probably not
un-expected as we
have devised circuits today that have just about completely eliminated
for the products that they produced. For those of you that are not
on the technical side, for a very long time the frequency that
transmitters operated on was controlled by a little piece of quartz
crystal. International was one of the major
suppliers. I understand that there are
a few firms still in the business…just for how long remains to be
seen. International Crystal was 66 years old.
what about the impact of the TV Repacking on radio? On the non-commercial side, CPB has
determined that 95 of their eligible radio stations are co-located with TV
stations that are involved in the process and that over a third of them are
sharing towers with those TV Stations. Then there are the commercial FMs that share towers and sites with
impacted TV stations. Here in the
Seattle area it appears that we will not see much of a problem….But I can’t
speak for other areas of the country. If you know of a situation where a radio station will be adversely
impacted by the TV repacking process, please let me know and send me some
details of how it’s being handled.
the ‘department of they should have known better’ comes news that the FCC has
fined a church and its pastor for operating an unlicensed station in Arleta,
California.Additionally the FCC said
they had warned them multiple times.Perhaps they felt they were given permission by a higher authority?
time – this time of Arthur Willetts, with Terry Springs pickup, having fun
trying to drive up their transmitter site on West Tiger Mt.As you can see, from the angle of Terrys
truck, it’s time for chains.
If you look closely at this picture you can
see that they have chains on all 4 wheels, but are heading down hill. From the looks of all of the tracks in the
snow, my guess it was one of those days that they were unable to get to the
top. By the way….Just in time for
Spring – Terry reported, on March 20, the news we have all been waiting to
hear….He was finally able to drive up to the top of West Tiger.It’s been a VERY long winter.
On the 14th of March I had to
make a quick trip to West Tiger to repair a transmitter in distress.Whereas Terry had told me that he was only
able to get to within abouthalf a mile
of his site and had to walk from there…and whereas the site I was going to was
another half-mile and higher in elevation…Doug Fisher got another call to
provide transportation services with his Gator.He told me recently that he has made more trips this year with that
machine than any other previously. This
has indeed been an interesting year, weather-wise.I keep thinking back to the winter weather
predictions of last year. If I recall
they really did not know what to expect…Apparently we have now learned what
From time to time in this column I have
featured a Radio/TV transmitter site in another market and compare it to
Seattle. For those of you not familiar
with Seattle we have multiple transmitter sites.
For TV -
Gold Mountain west of Downtown about 16 miles
Queen Ann Hill – just north of Downtown
Capitol Hill – Just East of Downtown
West Tiger – East of Seattle
For FM -
Capitol Hill – Just east of Downtown (only one station there)
Cougar Mt – East of Seattle about 15 miles
West Tiger – East of Seattle about 22 miles
Whereas Seattle is, essentially, at sea level…All
elevations are in relation to that. The
area's lowest sites are on Queen Ann and Capital Hills where the tower top
beacons are all at about 1049 feet AMSL. The highest site in the area is West Tiger Mt where the tower tops there
are 3148 ft. AMSL.
The site we are going to visit is reportedly
the highest Radio/TV site in the country and is known as Sandia Crest and it’s over
10,600 feet above sea level!Just east
of Albuquerque,New Mexico.
To put this into perspective – Mt Baker (just
about 100 miles North of Seattle) is about the same elevation (10,781).
You may have noticed the difference in
color….All due to the difference in latitude.At about the same elevation, Mt Baker's summit is pretty much white all
year long with the peak covered in glaciers and hardly a place to put towers
and transmission equipment.
When you compare the elevation of the site
to the elevation of the primary target or major city you wish to cover you get
a clearer picture. In the case of
Seattle, our highest site is West Tiger with transmitting antennas approx. 3000
feet above the downtown town area. (Other Seattle sites are considerably lower). Sandia is extremely impressive! When
you consider the city of Albuquerque is nominally about 5300 ft elevation, and
do the math, you can see that, even at ground level, these transmitters are
well over 5000 ft. above their City of License. Just take a look at this picture looking
down at the city from Sandia Crest. There
are about 700,000 people down there.
Looking back up toward the towers you can
see they don’t have to be very tall….Not with that much elevation.
Thanks to friend, Bill Harris, here are
some other pictures of the Sandia Crest facility –
One of the American Tower facilities on
In addition to Sandia’s elevation above
sea-level and it’s elevation above the city of Albuquerque…A standard way to
measure transmitter location is by using what’s call Height Above Average
Terrain or HAAT.
Here is a table comparing the two locations,
using an FM Station at each –
Sandia Crest -
Radiated Power (ERP)
Height Above Average
Sea Level (AMSL)
Ground Level (AGL)
A couple of interesting comparisons –
The Power of the stations at Sandia is considerably less and this
is because the FCC requires that power be reduced once you exceed the maximum
elevation for that class of station. For example – KING-FM ran 100,000 watts ERP when they were at Queen Ann Hill
due to its much lower elevation.
The reason the power at Sandia is so much less than at West Tiger
is due to their HAAT.
The AMSL number is somewhat meaningless as it’s the relationship
to the surrounding terrain that really counts
I found it interesting that the AGL number was the same,
indicating that the tower height at both locations was the same.
Both locations have extensive site management handled by American
There are some other interesting, and perhaps
unique, aspects of Sandia Crest – (Unlike
the Seattle Sites)
Public Access – You can drive to a location near the broadcast
towers to catch the view and buy food.
Ride a Tram up the mountain
Ski(they have a 7500 foot
With that being said…. Yes, you can drive to
the base of the towers in Seattle.
I asked local broadcast engineer, Bill
Harris, some questions about the Sandia Site and the broadcasters that use it –
With a site elevation of 10,612 (According to ATC) it’s
one of the highest in the country??
Actually, we all think of it as more like
10,670. I’m told that the two FMs on the pole above what is now the ATC
building/tower are definitely among the highest anywhere in the country.
(KDRF is one.)
How many TV stations are up there?
Most of them. Though not actually on these
channels in many cases.
2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 13 and quite a few other
UHFs of various powers. In fact, the only TV that comes to mind that is
NOT up there is Ch. 14, which used to be, but moved out to a tall tower west of
the city some years ago. Let me put it this way, at my house on the west
side of the metro, my TV will scan 50 program sources (4.1, 4.2, etc.) with a
pair of rabbit ears with a UHF loop. BTW, 7 and 13 stayed on their VHF
How many FM’s?
Many of the ABQ and ‘near suburban’
licensees are up there. There are, however, a couple other ‘near market’
signals out on the west side on ‘Nine Mile Hill’ (C2s) and a class A, believe
it or not, licensed to a suburb whose antenna is mounted on the building at the
base of the tram going up to Sandia mountain! Then, there are a half
dozen or so ‘rim shots’, some north, some south, with varying degrees of
Do all the Class C FMs operate with 22 kW ERP?
Most of the FMs run in
that general ERP range, give or take. 250 watt translators perform
admirably from up there!
What about beam tilt, is it used?
I’m sure that varies a lot from system to
system. None of the FMs up there cover really well in the foothills on
the east side of the metro area. When I had to replace an entire antenna
for one of our FMs in the mid-2000s, we put in a couple of degrees and some
first null fill as I recall. Still, it really isn’t a heck of lot better
performer than any of the others. It’s a REALLY steep angle! On the
other hand, I have carried most of the signals from up there a looooong way in
some directions depending on terrain. Nothing to get in the way.
Sandia rises pretty abruptly in most every direction.
What about combining, most of the Seattle Stations now operate via
Combiners and Master Antennas?
There is a ‘tri-plex’ system, 3 FMs on one
Shively antenna. There might be another two in one….not sure.
Are their radiation concerns at this site, especially because
there are public facilities so close?
As for all the building shielding and
limited exposure times…there have been at least a couple fairly extensive
surveys done of the entire site. Yes, there are some fairly hot spots
near the ground, all of which have been located, but I don’t know of anyone who
is too concerned on a day to day basis. Now, gain any altitude and
that all changes. Since most of the towers are not very tall, it doesn’t
take long to get into the aperture of some serious RF. Believe it or not, the Forest Service allows
hang gliders to launch right from a location ON the site. They have been
known to ride a thermal too close to the antennas. We warn them about
that on occasion.
I want thank Bill Harris for his
contributions.If you would like to
read more about the Highest Transmitter site in the U.S.Here are some sites with more information.
Recent reports say that Norway has decided
to expand the number of FM Radio channels available, unlike their neighbor,
Sweden, that appears to be moving to shift things to an all-digital mode.
Seattle continues to grow at an all-time record rate. I recall working in the, then new, 20
story Metropolitan Park East Tower where our top floor deck on the north side
of the building had an, unobstructed, panoramic view from West, thru north. Not any more as the forest of construction
cranes have dramatically changed the South Lake Union landscape. Just recently it was announced that a new 40
story building is going to be built across the street. This video, from KING-TV, tells the tale.
In last month’s Column I dealt with
some terms that are likely not familiar with some of the more ‘freshly minted’
types that we deal with Such as Fritz,
Whack and Kilter.
One of my readers contributed
another term that belongs in this category – copacetic. If you are a ‘more
mature’ person you may have responded to a question like – How’s it going –
with a response – Everything is copacetic. Which is likely to produce some additional ‘Deer in the Headlights’
responses. In the event you are new to
this term – Here is the official word -
an adjective used to describe something or someone as pleasing or meeting one’s
expectations…Good, Excellent, Fine etc.
From the department of Call Letter Re-use –
KBSG was the call that then new owner Viacom gave 97.3FM (changing it from
KNBQ). They wanted to use KBST for
their new station slogan – ‘K-Best’ but were apparently un-successful in
getting the station using those letters to let them go…so they chose KBSG. Now those call letters are used by the Chehalis
Valley Educational Foundation for their little FM station in Westport on the
Time to once again put my spin on the
latest radio ratings. Radio ratings
are like a lot of things, they are taken apart in segments, in the case of
radio, age groups. Inmy case I just look at what’s called 12
Plus.Here we go –
There are 35 stations listed, meaning that the radio pie is divided
into 36 slices. This may sound
excessive, consider there are well over 200 different models of automobiles for
The #1 Station (KQMV) continues to prove that CHR is a popular and
Non-commercial stations are doing very well here – KUOW is ranked
#2, KNKX #9, KLSW #23, KING #24 etc. beating out many commercial facilities.
AM’s continue to struggle. The highest rated one, KOMO, is at #15, KIRO at #18.
Power used to make the difference with AM…Not so much anymore.KJR is #28, KIXI #29, KFNQ is #34 – All of
them 50,000 Watters.
In closing this month’s Column – The
following contribution comes from an old friend.This is a great example of how many things
that seem new really are not as new as you might suspect.