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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 –
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.
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 .
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
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
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
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
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
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.