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Clay Freinwald

Clay’s Corner for August 2015

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



I think he is happy...This picture of KIRO Radio's chief, Tom Pierson, discovering that his new Nautel GV30 transmitter will indeed produce the power required for the job.  Cool thing about this new rig is that this fancy screen with oodles of information is available on Tom’s office computer (or wherever else he wants it).  KIRO-FM’s new rig went on the air the afternoon of July 18th.

Tom Pierson
 
While doing some serious house-cleaning around the KIRO-FM Transmitter I came across this item.  Those of you that are on the technical side will recognize it as an XLR (Normally a microphone connector) connected to a UHF (normally used for RF or Radio Frequency) connector.  Now I will be the first to admit that you probably would be hard pressed to find one of these ‘factory made’…I have no idea of what it might have been used for.

Microphone Connector  

A lot of duct-work was changed at West Tiger to accommodate the ventilation needs of the new transmitters resulting in quite a collection of old-stuff to be hauled away -

Old Tiger Stuff 

This is not the only site with a lot of ventilation work going on recently.  Over at the ‘other’ site on West Tiger, CBS was busy modifying that building's waste heat exhaust system in conjunction with the installation of a new GatesAir FAX30 for their 96.5 operation.

KING-FM will be on their air with their new GV30N the last week of July.  This will be my first experience with a station running un-equal HD Carriers (-10 and -14).  This is because of an adjacent channel situation in SW Washington.  Looking at the front of the transmitter - It looks like this - 

Transmitter Display

The question of does elevating the HD levels north of -20 really have an impact.  In my driving around, the answer is a resounding yes!  For example - I was recently listening to KMPS’s HD2 very nicely while driving along Lake Samish just south of Bellingham.  In another test, just south of Mt Vernon (In the Skagit Valley) I could listen to the 96.5 HD2 but tuning to 93.3 FM was just mush.  Seems to me with all the new cars coming out with HD Radio standard that broadcasters should follow the lead of the others and get those HD powers up.  I think it’s well worth the time and investment.

Hubbard recently installed a new transmitter also.  In this case a new Nautel GV10 at Cougar Mountain for an Auxiliary (backing up their main transmitter on West Tiger).  This replaces a relatively low powered Aux they had at this location.  If you notice the display on the front of the rig….They are running HD-R.  What’s unique about that?  Hubbard has not only purchased a new Main transmitter so they can increase HD Power, but they have invested in an Auxiliary transmitter that will run HD as well.  Having HD on an Auxiliary transmitter may be a first for this market.  Here’s a shot of Chief Dave Ratener next to the new rig –-

Dave Ratener
 
There are two items that seem to be capturing a lot of news around here -

First is the weather.  For those readers that are in this area, you know that it’s been REALLY dry to the point that we are having a record number of grass fires, apparently many due to people tossing cigarettes out the window.  Normally, around here, that’s not a problem… But not now.  Already some of these fires have spread to structures.  Keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have a large-scale urban wildfire.  Despite a little rainfall during the last weekend of July…I cannot help but notice how the lack of moisture is impacting vegetation.  Near my home there are several Maple trees that are dying.  Along SR18 today I noted that many Fir trees have turned brown and are dead…even Scotch Broom is turning black!  Brown lawns have become the norm too.  Rivers have become creeks as well.  I know that this is hard to believe for those of you (Like William Shatner) that live in other areas who are convinced that it rains - All the time - in Seattle.

So how bad is it?  Apparently it’s not been this dry since back in the 1800’s.  Recently they closed the upper sections of the Columbia River in Eastern Washington…Reason?  The water is so warm that it’s killing the fish.  If you’ve been over Snoqualmie pass lately you know that the lake just east of the summit is very low.  The Yakima river does not have enough water to go around and for the first time growers are told they can’t irrigate their crops.  Looks like California is not the only one that’s suffering.

NOAA has declared just about the entire state of Washington as being in a “Severe Drought”.  Here’s their map – (The Orange Areas are classified as Severe.)

Drought Map
 
The other big story is growth - The Seattle area is booming (not likely due to the dry weather) …there are a number of measurements that confirm this….To start with, our historic traffic jams are getting worse.  Here are some more stats –
  • The –MEDIAN- price for a home in King County (Seattle is in King Co for those of you not in this area) is now 500 Kilo bucks…and that’s UP 10% over a year ago.  Looks like this area is rapidly joining other cities on the West Coast (which I will not name) that will be famous as a place where you can’t afford to live?
  • Seattle is going to get an 880 foot tower!....Reading the fine print you discover that this is not a tower like broadcasters think of but rather a skyscraper building.  This tower, err building, will be the second tallest on the West Coast.
  • Amazon just keeps getting bigger and has now passed Walmart in size based on Market-Cap.
  • Seattle is one of the nation’s fastest growing cities (just behind Austin and Denver).
  • Seattle has close to 5 Billion dollars’ worth of construction projects either permitted or under construction….48 are projects downtown.
  • 7.1 million square feet of office space is under construction downtown.
  • A project to create a new 1270 room hotel is getting underway.
  • A new 58 Story, downtown;s second tallest building, is to open in 2017.
  • For the first time – Sea-Tac airport has had 4 million passengers pass through in a month.
  • According to Zillow – Market conditions are ‘very hot’.
    • Median price of a home in Seattle has increased 10.8 in the last year.  Prediction is that it will increase 7.7% more in the next year.
    • Median price for rent in Seattle is now $1800/month.
    • The percentage of delinquent mortgages in Seattle is at 2.4% (The national average is 6%).

The annual SBE-16 Picnic on Vashon at the KOMO-AM transmitter plant has come and gone…Despite the gray skies, a good crowd was there to enjoy fellowship and the cooking skills of Terry Spring.  Was great to see Doug Irwin (Editor of Radio Magazine and RF Poohbah of iHeartMedia in LA).  Nick Van Haaster was there from GatesAir along with recently retired GatesAir sales-guy Garrett Woods.  I was surprised to see Jon Owen.  First met Jon when he was working for Entercom in Rochester, NY several years ago.  Jon is doing field service work for GatesAir and is now living in West Seattle!  Small world indeed.  Spent some time chatting with Steve Allen who is now looking after several of the AM plants on the island.  The next weekend will be the summer event in Portland.  This time the usual locations are not available.  Tom Cauthers sold his place on the Sandy River and Gray is recouping from medical issues…So this year the Sylvan tower site will be the venue.

The matter of cellphones causing cancer has again raised its head at a not too surprising location….The City of Berkeley has passed an ordinance requiring sellers of cellphones to tell their purchasers that the device causes cancer and is hazardous...especially to Children.  IMHO we have overlooked a solution to this issue.  Find out where those that supported that idea live and shut off the cell towers serving their area.  Then, when the calls come in complaining about lack of service, direct the caller to the backer of the ordinance.  The same technique should be used by those that object to other things, like electric power meter data transmitters.  Turn off their power….Problem solved.  Yes, I know, this is not the politically correct method.  Sort of reminds me of those that refuse to have their children receive measles vaccine and yet they insist on sending their kids to public schools.  Yah…I'm probably becoming a curmudgeon.

So what the heck is going on with Voltaire?  Recently Nielsen finally spoke publically about the Voltaire box and announced that they would be making changes to their encoding scheme very soon.  All of this has caused me to come up with some questions –
  • Is Nielsen making changes in their system as a reaction to the Voltaire, i.e., did the political pressure caused by Voltaire force them to do so?
  • Is Nielsen admitting that Voltaire was right and they were wrong?
  • What about those markets where stations installed a Voltaire and this resulted in an increase of ratings for those stations…Do those that did not and saw a decrease in ratings and with that, perhaps a loss of revenue, do they have a beef with Nielsen?
  • What about programmers working for stations that have not installed a Voltaire and whose compensation is based on Nielsen's results, do they have a beef?
  • Is the Voltaire thought of much like an audio processor?  Stations have long purchased new processing hardware on the belief that this piece of hardware will increase ratings.
  • As a result of all this interest, apparently, Nielsen is thinking about increasing the amplitude of their supposedly inaudible ‘water marking’ to the point where it could become audible and, as a result, thereby cause degradation to the station's audio quality?  (Trading ratings for quality, I can only guess who will win that race.)
  • Why did Nielsen stop short of requiring their customers remove the Voltaire device?  (This is what happened in Canada)
  • Are stations now more likely to purchase a Voltaire just in case the Nielsen ‘fix’ does not pan out?
  • Have the stations that have purchased the Voltaire seen an up-tick in their ratings that could be marketed to the degree that they can economically justify the purchase of the Voltaire?  (Did they get their money back?)
  • Do stations that have a Voltaire in line try and keep it a secret from competitors and Nielsen?
  • Why have we not seen an independent review of this issue?  (Reportedly the MRC is doing just that.)
  • The $64,000 question – Will we see legal activity related to this issue?

Bottom line – This whole topic is cool – Can’t recall when something that took 2RU created so much buzz. Smiley Face

TV Technology recently ran an interesting article regarding the impact on Re-packing on the Sutro Tower in San Francisco.  Perhaps, fortunately, Seattle does not have a major – multi-user TV Site so this issue is not likely to surface here.  The only thing we have that’s close is the ATC site on West Tiger, but that site only has a couple of TV station users.  Their concern is very real because no one knows what the TV broadcast bands are going to look like after this big shuffle.  Some stations may stay on the same channel, some may change and some may - take the money - and go dark.  Major site owners like to have some sort of a clue to plan ahead.  With this issue all they can do is ‘hide and watch’.

Here comes another study…This time about how much we work.  The headline - ‘8 hour work day a thing of the past’ …Here are some of the findings -
  • Almost 2/3 of American workers think the 8 hour day is a thing of the past.
  • 50% of those surveyed said they check their work email when not at work.
  • More than 1/3 said they work well beyond traditional office hours.
  • 20% said they think about work until they fall asleep at night.
  • 40% said they wake up thinking about work.

For those of you that read this column who are in the same line of work as me…You know how close you are to these findings.  Perhaps an overlooked item was how many do this because they love their work (or are married to the job) vs. how many do it because of the new communications tools we have today…Smart phones and email.  Another fact is that broadcasting is a 24/7/365 business and anyone doing contract work, like I do, knows that those numbers could be increased.  Certainly expectations are involved here.  Employers and clients have increased expectations, again, thanks to the technology that permits it.  A recent survey by Gallup showed that nearly 50% of smartphone users can’t imagine life without it.  Smartphones have only been around for less than 10 years…during that time 46% percent now have them.  In another survey, Gallup found most Smartphone owners check their phone at least hourly.  Young adults are especially hooked with 73% say they check it multiple times an hour.

KEXP continues to work on their new digs in the NW Corner of the Seattle Center in what we used to call the Northwest Rooms.  Their published goal is to be broadcasting from there by the end of this year.  For the past several years they have been broadcasting from a location on Dexter that has been the home of many previous stations in the Seattle area.  The new location is about a block east of KING-FM.

As you know the FCC recently announced changes to the EAS Rules –
Here are some places you can go to get an overview –

http://eas.radiolists.net/summary-of-fcc-eas-sixth-report-and-order/

http://www.tvtechnology.com/news/0002/fcc-order-aims-to-strengthen-eas/276623

EMF (Educational Media Foundation) who recently took over the operation of 104.5 FM in Seattle recently opened their checkbook, big-time, and shelled out 21.7 Million cash for several FM stations and translators in Florida that were operated by American Public Media Group and reportedly losing money.

A couple of other companies with properties in the Seattle area are on the move – Entercom, who operates 4 stations and Bonneville, who operates 3 in Seattle are in the news with the closing of the Entercom/Lincoln Financial deal are part of a station ownership shuffle.  Entercom was faced with having to divest of some of the Lincoln stations in Denver because they already owned a cluster there.  In the end, Bonneville ended up with a cluster of 4 stations in Denver and Entercom got their first in the Los Angeles market.

Last month I wrote about things that younger generations are confused by….And, I received a number of comments indicating that many of my readers are also getting along in life as well.  Got to thinking about some of the stuff I used to see and do in broadcasting.  Looking back 54 years is a long time…Here are some items that come to mind.  Much of the following was scratched on my dashboard notepad as I traveled from site to site this past month.  For our younger readers – a brief description of what the heck I’m talking about.

CUE BURN - The first part of a phonograph record that has an extra amount of ‘scratch’ due to have being cued a number of times.

HEAD OVER-RIDE - Starting the head rotating on a quad machine to enable a shorter start up.

PRE-ROLL - Tape machines used in Radio and TV would require them to be started ahead of the time needed.  This varied by machine.  Early Quad VTR’s (without the head override on) took 8-10 seconds.  Early Magnecords used in radio were about the same.  Likely today’s operators would have a fit working with these beasts as we now have come to expect instant response from pushing a button.

TURN OVER CARTRIDGE - Back in the day, phonograph records used two different sized needles in the pickup cartridge.  One I recall was the GE VR II.  Tone arms would have little red knobs above the cartridge to change the needle size…Push down and rotate 180 degrees.

GRAY RESEARCH 602C EQUALIZER - Before there were phono-preamps there was the 602C which was a passive device permitting a turntable to work with a standard microphone input on a mixing console.

TURNTABLES - QRK, Gates, Fairchild, Russco, Presto.  Many of the early turntables would be mounted on pedestals to provide room for the mechanism below that was required for rotation and speed changing.

MICROPHONES - Here are some I’ve used in the past - Altec 639 Bird Cage and ‘Salt-Shaker’ - RCA’s 77DX, 44 BX, BK5 and something we used to call a Cone.

AERIALS - For some odd reason the term was changed to Antenna.  

KILOCYCLES - Just like Aerials, the term was changed to Kilohertz.  Probably part of the metric conspiracy.

FILM ISLAND, OR FILM CHAIN - A device where slides or film could be ‘converted’ to video.  Usually a floor mounted device using mirrors or prisms into which were a couple of 16mm film-projectors and a 35mm slide projector.  The projectors were remote controlled by the master control operator or TD.

SLIDES - A term for still image that was continued to be used long after slides (usually 35 mm) were long gone.

AUDIO CARTRIDGE TAPE MACHINE MAKERS - ATC, ITC, Collins, Gates, RCA, McCarta, Sparta, Spotmaster and, of course, the IGM Instacart. (Can you think of anymore?) I saw the Cart-Machine come in and go out.

AUDIO REEL TO REELS - Ampex 350’s, PR10’s - Magnecords PT6 - Scully - Crown, Studer and later a number of Asian brands like Otari etc.  Despite what some may think…I was not here when they were started to be used by broadcasters.

TV CAMERAS USING - Image Orthicons …(Don’t forget the Orbiter) Vidicon and Plumbicon (Yes, they were vacuum tubes)

CAMERA CONTROL - Shading and Registration…Especially fun during outside events like football games where the ball carrier runs from full sun into the shade.

TV INTERCOMS - Remember those using carbon microphones and retardation coils?  Hearing a director say …Ready 1, Take 3

EARPHONES - Always made of Bakelite - Manufacturers - Trimm and Brush.  Long before the cover, the ear phone and DJ’s going deaf demanding they be louder.

TELEVISION EQUIPMENT MAKERS - DuMont, RCA, GE, Visual, Houston-Fearless, Conrac, Tektronix, Sony, Allen, Ampex.

RADIO EQUIPMENT MAKERS - Collins, Gates, General Radio, Langevin, Altec, Western Electric, Nems-Clark…and many more

ZOOM LENS - Remember the Zoomar actuated with a rod running thru the turret handle?  Cameras only had one handle in those days and there were no controls mounted on them.

GENERAL ELECTRIC BROADCAST EQUIPMENT - TV and Radio Transmitters - Audio Consoles - TV Cameras - Radio Modulation Monitors.  All painted a distinct green.

VU METERS - How can you forget the big Westons complete with a pair of #47 lamp?

TRANSMITTER LOGS – Back when, the FCC required that you log certain ‘meter readings’ every half an hour.  Where the game was for the Engineer to make a change in a parameter to see if the person ‘taking the readings’ was just copying the previous numbers or actually read the meters.

PROGRAM LOGS – Done ‘manually’ with - Typewriter and used real paper.

WIRE SERVICE - There were two main ones…You could tell which one a station had by looking at the colors…UPI was purple ink on sort of yellow paper, AP was black on white.  5 and 10 Bell signals too.  I recall creating a gizmo that would count the number of ‘bells’ that would turn on a light in the studio.  In those days just about every radio station did an hourly newscast, either on the hour or ‘live at 55’.

LOOK OR LISTEN - Tacoma’s Channel 13, during the morning and mid-days elected to position a DJ in front of a camera where he played tunes.  You could look-or-listen (They never said you could do both).

OVER THE AIR - There was no cable TV…So if you wanted to watch TV, you used an antenna.  If you were close to the station's transmitter, you used Rabbit Ears, if not…It was up on the roof.  You brought the signal in from the antenna via ‘Twin-lead’ as coax was not then used.

RHEOSTAT - The name given for anything the was used to dim lights

NEMO - The official definition is - Not Emanating Main Office.  I first saw this written on program logs, patch-panels etc. when I started long ago.  In today’s terminology it means - Remote Broadcast.  In those days it simply meant that the broadcast did not come from the main studio.

NBQ - Way back when….When something was deemed too poor quality to put on the air you would simply write those three letters on the log - NBQ…Meaning Not Broadcast Quality.  Quite a chuckle resulted with old-timers when the Tribune in Tacoma chose KNBQ for the new call letters for their then KTNT-FM (Now KIRO-FM).

TOLL - This was this mysterious place at the telephone company that kept track of remote and network broadcast lines.  Remember, back then, the telephone company was just about the only means of being able to broadcast from locations away from your studio.  It was carried over into the early days of TV as well.  

PLATTER - Today it’s something you find in a kitchen…Back then it meant that thing you put on a turntable from which you played commercials, programs or music.   

ET - This term, meaning Electrical Transcription had nothing do with the little follow that wanted to ‘phone home’.  ETs were often 16 inches in diameters, hence the need for large diameter turntables.  I recall playing spots that arrived on ETs as well as syndicated programs.

TRUCK - Before the Zoom lens and motorized dolly, directors would want the camera operator to move the camera closer.  The call was to ‘truck-in’…This meant, while on the air, push the camera dolly forward (of course while maintaining focus).  The opposite was to ‘Truck out’…Occasionally you would be asked to ‘truck left or right’.

Enough of that - Hope that this stirred some memories that you might have of forgotten terms and words used in this business.  54 years is a very long time….Yes, I started full time Aug 1, 1961.

Thanks for your time and eye balls – May summer continue to be good to you.

Clay Freinwald, CPBE aka K7CR (Not a vanity call)