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Clay Freinwald

Clay’s Corner for July 2015

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineer's perspective since September 1986



Not a lot of time of late for news gathering as I have been in construction mode at West Tiger Mt.  This project involves the replacement of transmitters for KIRO-FM and KING-FM at the same time – Here are some pics I want to share -

Here you can see the two KIRO-FM Transmitters, two Continental 816’s operating in parallel.  Nick Winter and I installed these in 1987.  The project called for removing the one on the right while keeping the one on the left as an Auxiliary.  (Yes they are the same color – In this pic there is a mix of light sources causing a big shift.)

KIRO-FM Transmitters 

Pictured here (now shooting 16x9) is the new Nautel GV30 just after it was moved into place.  Looks like it was made for the place.  The new rig is a bit taller and deeper, but not quite as wide.

Nautel GV30 

In the basement of the building, standing ready for the movers, is the KING-FM Continental.  KING-FM had two identical transmitters, this one will be moved to Cougar Mt. to replace an older Collins 831G2 next month.  The other transmitter, just shown on the right, is on the air.

KING-FM Continental Transmitter

Shown here is the new Nautel GV30N, partially installed.  You may have noticed that the KIRO transmitter is bigger than KING’s…That’s because KIRO needs to generate 28.5 Kw and KING only 18.  The new KING Nautel will generate both FM and HD Signals, something that is now done with two transmitters. Behind the new KING-FM Rig is the back of the transmitter for Entercom’ s KHTP/103.7.  A trusty Continental 816 that used to on 3-Sisters Mt as KBRD.

Nautel GV30N
 
Just to make life a bit more interesting, they have been logging at West Tiger requiring us to share the road with their operations.   Thanks to Brian Ballard of DNR, we were able to coordinate getting the new rigs up the mountain.  For my readers in other areas, West Tiger sits in the Tiger Mountain State Forest where the Department of Natural Resources grow trees as a ‘crop’.  This area is also used, extensively, for hiking and mountain biking.

West Tiger Logging Operations
 
Not often you get the Chief Engineer out from behind his desk and come to the transmitter site to make lunch for his installation crew!   Here Tom Pierson is showing off the sandwich he just made for Nick Winter.  Behind them is a KBKS/106.1 Transmitter.  Still can’t get over the fact that he brought us Sardines.

Tom Pierson
 
Here’s a picture of the tower at what we call West Tiger One – (the first broadcast site at West Tiger) taken from the north-side (A view not often seen) shot from what’s called the ‘Bypass Trail’.  This trail was installed many years ago to keep hikers out of the high NIER areas.  I won’t bore you with info about all the antennas – however, the top 4-bay is KIRO-FM, below that are the panels for the Master Antenna that all the other stations share.  The two-bay below that is used by KIRO for their HD operation. The 3 square things, one above the other, are ENG receive antennas for KIRO, KOMO and KING-TV.

West Tiger One
 
Now, as they used to say on the air …..In other news –

Apparently Sweden has suspended their conversion to Digital Radio….Hmmm I recall another country in the region that recently said they were suspending analog FM in favor of Digital.  One of the factors cited was the fact that there are 10 Million analog FM receivers in use.  Apply some of that thinking to the US and Canada and you can see why any thought of shutting down an existing operation brings forth similar comments.  We need to remember that the government is much more involved in broadcasting in other countries.
Entercom
 
The FCC has apparently recently given the green-light to the purchase of Lincoln Financial Media.  The 105 Megabuck deal has been hung up at the Commission over concerns on how the new company would deal with the fact that both firms have clusters of stations in the Denver market.  Entercom also operates clusters of radio stations in Portland and Seattle.

One by one…People I have known and worked with for many years are retiring (perhaps it’s time that I got the message?) One of the latest is the announcement that Bob Surette is retiring from Shively as of July 10th.  I first got to know Bob in the mid-80’s as we were working together on an antenna system for West Tiger’s first FM.  Over the years, Bob was the go-to guy for FM antenna issues for many.  Bob was always down to earth and very real….full of knowledge and solutions and a constant willingness to share.  Shively will continue on, I’m sure….But to many of us, we will long miss the man that was the voice and face of Shively where he worked for 38 years.

Speaking of retirement – I received a call from Nick Van Haaster announcing that he is the new contact for GatesAir in our area.   Garrett Wood has retired.  Nick has an interesting background with FOX and others in the LA area.  He has quite a territory as well - U.S. | Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming.  Canada | Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon.  I suspect we will all get a chance to meet Nick at an upcoming SBE Event.

I find it interesting that, on one hand, the FCC speaks of a dramatic reduction in the number of offices (including Seattle) while being very vocal about some of the challenges that their enforcement folks find the most troubling.  FCC Commissioner O’Rielly, speaking to a meeting of New York State Broadcasters, was quite open about the Pirate Radio problem.  Rather than reveal how the FCC is going to deal with the issue….He suggested that building owners should play a more active role in combating the problem by refusing to allow such illegal activity on their property.  A sobering statistic is that about 25% of the nation’s Pirate Radio activity is in New York, he said there were 34 pirates operating in Brooklyn and The Bronx alone.  He made one comment that should cause any licensed station owner to pay attention – He supports a renewed focus on pirate radio enforcement “along with consideration of potential private remedies to give licensees more tools to defend against interference.”  Remains to be seen just what this means.  In light of the mess in NYC, I submit that we have a lot to be thankful for!

Have you been following the Voltair saga?....

In short, this company came out with a product that they claim can overcome some of the short comings of the Nielsen (formally Arbitron) watermark rating gathering system.  According to reports some 600 of these devices have been installed.  All this leads to a number of questions – (My short list)
  • Is there a problem with the existing hardware provided by Nielsen?
  • Do some stations have an advantage based on what they program?
  • Are the ratings to be believed?
  • Do the stations that have installed these devices have an advantage over those that do not?
  • Is this electronic snake oil or not?
  • Is the playing field not as level as we thought it was?
  • What is the Nielsen position on all of this?
  • Why is it taking Nielsen so long to release their official findings?
  • What about the stations that have shelled out (reportedly) $15,000 for the device?
  • If it is determined that there are major issues, who is going to take the fall and who is going to pay?

Meanwhile, in Canada, things have taken a different turn where broadcasters in our neighbor to the north have pushed ‘pause’ until the matter can be thoroughly and independently tested.  There, Numeris expressed concern that maintaining a level ratings playing field is a major concern.

I suspect that the real winners in this contest not be Nielsen or the makers of Voltaire but the lawyers that are almost certain to be involved.  Wonder if you can compare this to other technology challenges of the past?

Kudos to CBS for taking HD Radio seriously.  Recently their local 96.5 FM installed a new GatesAir FAX30 and increased their HD power levels to -10 dbc.  The impact of this change is considerable…While driving back from Bellingham recently I was able to listen to their HD-2 programming while some Cougar Mt. FM’s were fuzzy in analog.  CBS has taken the lead in a number of markets recently by launching new formats for what the non-techies call ‘Side Channels’.  Recently I had the opportunity to expose some folks to the number of program choices on HD2 and 3.  Their reaction was quick and surprising.  Despite how well it works in this area, and the number of new vehicles with the system built in….there remain those that still feel HD Radio is dead….At least on FM, in this area, the tide is clearly shifting.

Recently, in this column, re-ran my opinion on what to do with AM radio.  The story was also carried in the BDR.  I received a number of emails supporting my position….which is always nice. Smiley Face

A while back I ran a picture in this column of a coaster I saw at a local watering hole I’ve been known to frequent where they used the term ‘IPA’  which everyone working with transmitters knows means Intermediate Power Amplifier.  Amateur Radio friend, Jim Hadlock, K7WA, ran across this one –

Greenbush Coaster
 
Obvious connection to Sunspot’s and impact propagation.  I can see it now – A new brew to be called CME!

Congratulations to one of the nicest people you will ever have a chance to meet …Shannon Nichols, celebrating 20 years with one of our chapter's long supporters, Tacoma Based BSW.

Shannon NIchols
 
Appears that long-time marketer of audio/video equipment, Crutchfield, has decided to cash-in on the ‘cord-cutting’ movement with a well worded piece on choosing an outdoor TV Antenna.  http://www.crutchfield.com/S-zI4ccyxyvdK/learn/learningcenter/home/antenna.html  I suspect that this is a subject that is viewed as new by many of the current generation.  On this topic-
Just for grins….Google OTA.

Sorry to report on the passing of an old friend, Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF.  Bill was a broadcaster, retiring from KTTV in LA in 2012,  who just happened to be significantly involved in various aspects of Amateur Radio, notably, the voice of Newsline...a news service about Ham Radio.  Got to know Bill many years ago when I was involved with the VRAC (ARRL VHF Repeater Advisory Committee).  He was 73.

104.5 is now the home of KLSW-FM and part of the Educational Media Foundation group that also owns the 88.1 operation on Capital Peak, SW of Olympia.  The station, in addition to changing its call letters from KMCQ, also changed their status to Non-Commercial.  This makes the 3rd FM, in the commercial portion of the FM band to have this status…(They join KUOW/94.9 and KING-FM/98.1)  The story about how this station got to Cougar Mountain could fill a book of its own.  One interesting aspect of this station is their lack of a local studio….In fact, their EAS Equipment is located at their transmitter site on Cougar Mt.

The local newspaper, The Stranger, picked up on the story of how the FCC is putting the squeeze on spectrum used for wireless microphones, pointing out how theatres around the country are going to have to pay for new mics all because of the FCC’s auction of broadcast spectrum.  In this day and age there are very few that are able to escape the ‘Broadband take-over’…..Perhaps only those below 50 MHz can feel safe (for the time being).  Let’s face it…It’s all about the money and our fierce desire for more wireless gizmos.

Guess it’s official now – Our very own Jim Dalke is now a broadcast station owner…guess we have to be careful what we say Smiley Face.  Family Stations has filed an application with the FCC to transfer ownership of KARR-AM to Jim.  At last report Jim had the station up and running with a temporary antenna and an STA.  No word as to what his plans are for the station.

Received a note from Leslie Stimson informing me that she is no longer with Radio World.  Lots of changes in the media magazine business these days.

A slight deviation from my normal stuff – I received the following from Tim Anderson in Spokane recently – Please note that I have only listed those systems in Western Washington.  For more information contact Tim or Howard Fine.

Washington broadcast engineers:

Howard Fine has been a wonderful asset to broadcasters across the nation as he tracks most of the wireless frequencies we use on a daily basis.  His tracking and dissemination of the associated licensee and FCC database information has kept both broadcasters and regulators in sync.

In today's world of spectral compression and White Space devices, it is imperative broadcasters double check their licenses and FCC databases to assure their properties remain as insulated from interference as possible.

With that in mind, would you take the time to look at Howard's Washington state list.  He has identified two licensing issues, lack of receiver information or site coordinate errors.

Last year I corrected a couple of our own licenses and found the ULS site modification filing process to be fairly straight forward.

Tim A. Anderson, CPBE
Director of Engineering
Morgan Murphy Media West
500 West Boone Avenue
Spokane, Washington  99201
509-324-4000

Any chance of helping get these bad licenses fixed for the State of Washington?

WLI862     CENTRALIA, WA      950    CENTRALIA COLLEGE, DISTRICT 12,
STATE OF WASHINGTON    Missing receive site coordinates on license

WLE245     LAKEWOOD, WA    950    CLAY HUNTINGTON LEGACY L. L. C.
Missing receive site coordinates on license

WLD632     TACOMA, WA         950    CLOVER PARK TECHNICAL COLLEGE
Missing receive site coordinates on license

WHY533     EDMONDS, WA      950    CRISTA MINISTRIES
Missing receive site coordinates on license

WLI388        LONGVIEW, WA    950    FAMILY STATIONS, INC.
Azimuth Discrepancy: 77.0° Licensed; 63.2° Calculated

Local Port Angeles Broadcaster KONP will be growing in size with the announcement that they will be adding a 2nd FM in Port Angeles, KSTI 102.1,  as well as a new station to be constructed in Sequim on 104.9.

I was recently chatting with fellow WSU/NWPR engineer Martin Gibbs about how and when FM Stereo came along.  Many FM Station owners and Engineers viewed it as a mixed bag.  They were happy that they could run stereo (and turn on that stereo indicator on new receivers) but they were all displeased with the reduction in coverage that the change from Mono to Stereo created.  In this market, you may have noticed how KIRO-FM/97.3 compares with other stations operating from West Tiger Mt.   They made the decision to run Mono for the same reasons, not to mention that a news/talk format really gains little from running stereo.  Recently WSU had a transmitter failure with one of their NWPR stations that was operating at about 1250 Watts (Transmitter Power) and stereo.  I installed a temporary transmitter running about 400 watts and switched the station to Mono.  I was delighted to discover that there was no noticeable coverage loss.  On a related matter, a lot of people think that the modern day audio processor used in FM stations primary mission is to make the station louder…Well this may be the case to some extent today….Way back when, the main reason these devices were installed was to overcome, or mask, some of the grunge and artifacts that were created when FMs pretty much universally switched to Stereo.  Martin came up with the following item that explains more about this subject - http://www.engineeringradio.us/blog/2011/08/fm-stereo-vs-station-coverage/.  By the way – If you want to listen to KIRO-FM in Stereo – Use an HD Radio – The sound is amazingly better than FM…Especially in many of the multipath riddled areas around Seattle.

Received a note recently from Russ Hill.  He was telling me that the 91.7 FM that operates from the KCPQ/13 Tower on Gold Mountain has been sold to Bible Broadcasting Network Media and will most likely come back on the air here at Gold in late June as KYFQ (As of this writing, June 30, the station is not yet on the air.)  Russ also added that he will be retiring at the end of the year as RF Honcho with the Tribune stations in this market.  Jim Belsvig will be handed his ‘Tweeker’.  Jim is presently a Sat-Truck operator for the stations.

In closing this month…..A quick review of terms that you and I likely use that confuse many younger than you and I…..For example... 
  • WHY DO WE "DIAL" A PHONE?
Have we forgotten that phones don’t have ‘Dials’ anymore?   For a while we used the term ‘Rotary Dial’ but that event has past.   Perhaps the term will remain ‘Dial a number’ but many will never know why we use that term.
  • WHY DOES A PHONE OR ALARM CLOCK "RING"?
Betcha many don’t know that all telephones had “Ringers” in them that were actually ‘Bells’ that were rung electrically.  Alarm Clocks all had bells, until they were ‘electrified’ and gained buzzers.  Today our smart-phones come with a number of ‘Ring-Tones’….some may even sound like the bells of old.
  • WHY DO CASHIERS "RING UP" A PURCHASE?
That’s because cash registers also used to have little bells in them….Now bar codes are scanned and we can all enjoy the sound of beeps.
  • WHY DO WE "ROLL" A WINDOW UP OR DOWN?
Remember the days before power windows when you would rotate the crank handle on the door to ‘Roll’ the window up or down?
  • WHERE DOES "SOUNDS LIKE A BROKEN RECORD" COME FROM?
Perhaps with the recent interest in vinyl records this term is still in the minds of those that play ‘phonograph records’?  Remember hearing a radio station playing a stuck-record?  That was later replaced by radio stations playing something that sounded like C-DDDDDDDDDDD.
  • Why DO WE "TURN" A DEVICE ON OR OFF?
That’s because, for a very long time, devices like radios, TV’s, Ranges etc. were started and stopped with a rotary action….the word ‘Turn’ endures.
  • WHAT IS "CLOCKWISE"?
Boy do I love this one – I still find it amazing that we have so many that can’t tell time with an analog clock.  I recently encountered a person that referred to a meter as a device with a ‘Hand’ (they did not know the term ‘needle’.  For those that have no idea of which way the ‘hands’ on a clock rotate…The term ‘Clockwise’ or ‘Counter-Clockwise’ is meaningless – The question is now what to use to describe the direction of rotation?   Righty and Lefty?
  • WHY DO WE SAY "REWIND" FOR A DO-OVER?
This is a reference to the days of tape recorders – Rewind was a universal term for do over, or re-record on a segment of tape.
  • WHAT DOES "CC" MEAN ON AN EMAIL?
Ever try and explain the term ‘Carbon Copy’ to someone?  Why in the world do we still use this, could it be because no one has had the guts to change it?  Perhaps the same rationale that Microsoft had for us to click on the START button to stop a process?
  • WHY DO RECORDING PROCESSES STILL HAVE TO BE CALLED TAPE?
We finally got over having ‘Film’ at 11….Or explaining that something was ‘filmed’….But then we got hung up with the term ‘Tape’.  Just recently I saw some video on a TV newscast that came from some homeowners security camera.  Yep….It was something caught on ‘Tape’….I could visualize someone with a Vidicon camera connected to a consumer grade VHS recorder.  Even TV Stations and Networks are having trouble letting go of the term Tape.  They can bring themselves to say – recorded or saved in our server Smiley Face.  Just recently I was viewing a channel where they were playing a previously recorded bit of audio and….yep – There was the video loop of an old 10 inch reel to reel.

That’s it for now – Hope to see you all on the 25th on Vashon for the annual SBE-16 Picnic at KOMO-AM.

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE