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