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Clay Freinwald

Clay’s Corner for October 2015

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



About a month ago, Saturday August 29 to be precise, we got some rain, and with it, considerable winds resulting in about 250,000 without power. Falling trees killed 2.  Some were saying it was a normal November storm….Really early.  Biggest loss to a broadcaster was at KCIS where, reportedly a tree fell onto one of the station's towers taking down the structure.  Lesson here – Remove any trees whose height is equal to or less than the distance to your guy wires!  Tom Pierson (DOE at KIRO Radio) reported he had 4 generators running, two on Vashon, one at West Tiger and one at their studios on Eastlake Ave.  Not sure if this is a ‘sign’ or not.  Understand that Cliff Mass said that this was one of the worst August Storms …Ever!  I chatted with Will Voss in Bellingham.  Lots of power outages in that area also due to very strong winds.

Unfortunately the rain that soaked Western Washington did little to douse the raging fires on the other side of the Cascades.  I did get called out to go up West Tiger Mt as one of the stations I look after had a piece of equipment that either did not like all the power bumps we were experiencing due to all the falling trees and branches, or objected to the transfer to the Generator when the power failed.  Making sure that there were no blow-downs on the road to the site I brought my chain-saw…..Now don’t laugh.  The sure way to NOT have a tree across the road is to bring you saw with you.

The ¾ of an inch of rain that fell the last weekend of August certainly helped Western Washington, for sure.  In fact it made it tied for the 5th wettest August on record.  But this is a ‘blip’ …Time will tell.  Let’s hope that this El Nino will bring plenty of snow and precip. to the mountains.  With that being said, the forecast for the fall and winter are not encouraging, with NOAA’s weather prognosticators calling for warmer and dryer than normal, i.e., more of the same….The drought continues.  In chatting with friends on the other side of the country, they are having a tough time getting their head around this one.  How could a place where it ‘rains all the time’ be having fires and a drought??  Damn William Shatner, if he had not suggested that California should ship Seattle’s excessive rainfall south, everything would have been normal.  Smiley Face

Received a note from Bill Fram in Boise in late August.  He wrote – The HD FM count in Boise is back up to 2!  Thanks to a new FAX40 at Sinclair and a FAX30 at Impact.  Not my stations.  The 2 University stations don't have the funding to replace the dead equipment.  (Note: We know Sinclair from the stations they own here in Seattle….Impact is a privately owned group of radio stations in the Boise area.)

In this column I have continued to point out how HD Radio appears to be size of market driven.  Seattle is market #13 and one can name on one hand those radio stations that are not running HD Radio…Possibly the reason for this is that Seattle is radio market #13…and Boise is radio market #97.  The major factor is likely related closely to the size of the number in the bottom line.  Stations in the Nielsen top-10 in Seattle likely have a spot-rate that is many times that of the top ten stations in Boise.  Likewise, stations in the bottom 10 in Seattle have much smaller bottom lines and are less likely to spend money for anything that does not guarantee a quick return on investment.  There are exceptions, of course.  As Bill mentioned, two stations in the Boise Market recently installed new transmitters and HD Radio equipment.  I suspect that those stations were doing rather well financially and could afford it.  Then again, perhaps they were positioning themselves for the future.  With new cars being delivered with HD-R as standard equipment, they may well feel that broadcasting in that mode (while others are not) will indeed bolster their ratings and with it, their bottom line.

The announcement on Sept. 3rd that Ibiquity, the developer of HD Radio, was being sold to audio technology company DTS, certainly surprised many.  The DTS website rather quickly posted this headline - DTS AND IBIQUITY DIGITAL CORP TO MAKE THE DRIVE BETTER WITH HD RADIO TECHNOLOGY.

HD Radio

The big question now is what will this $173 megabuck deal mean to the future of HD Radio?  Most of the media stories about the deal are positive, especially in the area of receivers available to consumers….Additionally, DTS perhaps has a larger global footprint that should help with off-shore adoption.  We will see.

Here’s a picture of Bob Ricker taken at West Tiger in the KING-FM Space.  Bob is now out on his own doing electrical work.  Many put him to work at Transmitter sites because of his familiarity with the unique situations found there.

Bob Ricker
 
Just happened by this piece of equipment the other day with camera in hand.  Found the jack for composite video interesting…Especially when this was at a -radio- station transmitter site.

Composite Video Jack
 
The following picture was taken by WSU’s Don Eckis.  Interesting how they protected a transmitter facility from the raging wildfires in Central Washington.

Transmitter Protection 

One measure of how fast an area is growing is to look at its local airport.  In the case of Seattle, some recently released numbers give you a good idea.  In 2014 total Air Passengers – approx. 37.5 Million.  They are on the way to passing 42 Million this year.  According to a piece in the Times recently, Sea-Tac is one of the fastest growing airports in the country and will soon run out of room to expand.  All eyes are focused on Paine Field in Everett as the next logical location for handling what’s next.  Airports are famous for the term NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).  In this respect, airports, broadcast and cell towers share the same issue…Everyone wants them, just not near them.  Our area suffers from a severe lack of any place to put another airport.  Years ago there was talk about McChord, south of Tacoma.  But the Military put a stop to that.

Kemper Freeman (former owner of KFKF in Bellevue) has announced a 1.2 Billion Dollar, 2,000,000 Sq. Ft.  expansion of his shopping center in Bellevue.

Recent news that there is a proposal to build a 101 story skyscraper downtown.  The first thing that came to mind when I heard this was ….Oh yah?  Just how do the proponents plan to get this by the FAA that have been very firm about structure heights in the downtown area for years?  Didn’t the 76 story (Columbia Center) want to put antenna masts on the roof and that never happened?  Hmmmm.

According to published items, CBS is calling attention of their concern that some makers of TV sets may not be following the rules regarding the use of virtual channels on certain TV sets.  This is the mechanism that makes you think you are still watching Channel 4 or 5 even though those stations moved to UHF long ago as part of the conversion to HD.  The problem surfaced in NJ with a station moving its COL to another city and their wanting to use a certain virtual channel number that was being used by other stations.  This must have been interesting…trying to explain how PCIP works to the non-technical.  Virtual channels work well, until it’s revealed that this is like a ‘Stage Name’.

As you know, from time to time I preach on the need for more STEM education…A lot of this is based on my years of experience of seeing the classic ‘deer in the headlight’ look on the faces of many when you mention those scary words – Science or Math.  Pew Research recent issued a report on the state of the average American regarding basic science facts.  They asked 12 questions on topics like geology, physics and astronomy.  On average, 7.9 were answered correctly – Result – a solid ‘D’.  Here’s a shocker – The more time a person spent in school, the better they did on the quiz!  Check out the test and see how you do:  http://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/science-knowledge/

According to an item sent my way by Kent Randles, Media General is buying Meredith for 2.4 Billion.  What makes this interesting is the fact that in Portland the outfit that owns KOIN-6 is buying the firm that owns KPTV-12 and KPDX-49.  Sounds like something is going to have to give.  In Seattle we have a number of TV Duopolies, but no trifectas.

Jon Kasprick has made the record books with this item!  He was recently wondering if anyone wanted this ‘jewel from the past’.  Jon….You may well have the last one of these standing and not in a dumpster!  I wonder how many others will be rolling out their white elephants?
Jewel of the past
 
From the – I’m not surprised department – Doug Irwin gives us a Sneak Peak of the Salary Survey in the October issue of Radio Magazine with the following stats about Radio Engineers ages.

     Approx. 40% are between 55 and 65
     Approx. 20% are over 65

I think that we all realize that there are a lot of gray haired (or minimally haired) folks in this game.  On this topic – AARP has found that by 2013 some 40% of those over 55 were still working.  There is some good news on the horizon however.  Not that more younger people want to become broadcast engineers, but because broadcast equipment is rapidly becoming more computer based and this is where the younger folks heads are.  In the future the CE or DOE is likely to be an IT person.

KING-TV posted on their website video of a huge crane hoisting dishes to the roof of their new digs in SoDo.  SoDo, like SLU, has seen a growth spurt in recent years.  Thinking back, remember when KAYO was at about 4th and Lander?  The old KAYO building had a lot of interesting history.

Here’s an item to watch – Certain members of Congress are accusing the FCC of failing to enforce NIER safety guidelines on towers…..(Excuse me! Didn’t the FCC recently choose to close a lot of their local offices?).  Perhaps as a result of pressure from law-makers, there are those that are predicting that the Commish will be out with new rules on exposure by the end of this year.  OK, just how are more rules going to resolve the problem with less enforcement?  Oh yes, how soon I forget…You don’t need local FCC offices and inspections…You can replace them with selected huge fines that will drive home the message.  As I have stated before….If this system worked so well you could simply add a couple of zero’s to all vehicle traffic violations and fire most of the law enforcement officers and come out ahead.  Seems to me there is a lot about ‘policing’ that certain federal agencies need to learn.

Another huge domino game has resulted in a new signal in the Portland Area on 96.3.  If you recall Seattle experienced something similar with the ‘move-in’ of 104.5.  That move caused ripples all over the area.  In the most recent action, the new signal in PDX was the result of a huge shuffle taking about 11 years to pull off.  One of the changes involved in this move impacting the Puget Sound area is the re-location of KXXO from their transmitter site near Cinebar to Capital Peak…Moving 96.1 further away from Portland.  Technically Seattle’s 104.5 COL is Covington with its transmitter on Cougar Mt., long home of FM stations in the Seattle Market.  The 96.3 COL is technically West Linn with its transmitter reported to be at the Stonehenge facility on Portland’s West-Hills.  Another thing in common with both of these ‘moved-in’ stations is that both of them were, at their former locations, operating with 100Kw ERP…Now both of them are operating with very modest power.  KWLZ/96.3 at 1.4 kW and KLSW/104.5 with 7.1 kW.  A whole lot less power, but a lot more people within your contour…AND – A lot more completion.  You have to wonder if some engineers lay awake at night thinking up these things?  The big question, do they pencil out?  Just how much money changed hands in these situations?  None of these shuffles compare with what’s going to take place with TV with its Auction and Re-Packing.  The difference is that TV’s changes are being driven by the wireless industry with the support of the Feds while the FM shuffles are being driven by good old fashioned creativity and the goal of making money.

Another shoe is about to drop in the continuing sage of PPM.  Voltaire is announcing that it is updating its software to give the device ‘more capabilities’.  Who would have ever thought that we’d see a situation like this one?  Unlike the radio station move-in business…There is certainly money changing hands in this adventure.  Suspect we have not heard the last on this front.

Cord cutting continues to make the news, at perhaps an increased pace and this is causing ripples to stock prices of some of the major players.  Cord cutting is perhaps not the most accurate term as many consumers are actually keeping the cord just changing how they use what comes out of it.  For years the Cable (and Satellite) providers have been selling consumers packages of signals.  Meanwhile, consumers have been voicing their concern about paying for channels they don’t watch.  Technology has come to the rescue with ever increasing down-load speeds allowing consumers to finally choose what they want and ignore the rest.  Is it any wonder why the cable companies are working overtime to transform themselves into high-speed data providers?  Consumers may be dropping their Cable TV lineup as they shift their service to higher-speed Internet connections.  This situation is likely to continue for some time.  Cable will still be providing TV channels in the future, but their customer base is likely to be quite different.  We are starting to see a bit of advertising for TV antennas with pitches that make the astonishing claim that you can get FREE Network TV!  Check out the – Mohu Leaf 50 Indoor HDTV Antenna from Amazon.

One of my former places of employment has undergone yet another change.  I’m talking about one of Seattle’s first radio stations, KTW AM 1250.  For the past several years it has been known to locals as ‘Radio Disney’.  With the sale of the station to a new group, the station has been re-born as Desi-1250 with programming targeted at the South Asian population in this area.  After being sold by Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church, the station has had a number of owners and call letters, KKFX and KYAC came before KKDZ.  More recently the station lost it’s night transmitter site in Kirkland forcing it to operate with very low power at its day site at Pigeon Point in West Seattle.  Specialty programming is one place where AM continues to survive, perhaps because the owners could not afford to purchase an FM station in this market.  Somewhat related, Disney has sold their station in PDX to Salem.

The following cartoon strip recently dealt with the decreasing popularity and value of AM Radio stations:

AM Radio Cartoon

I recently posted the following comments on a national radio oriented remailer –
Anyone who has even considered history quickly learns that 'change' is going to happen.  You either accept change or are doomed to suffer from your reluctance.  Looking at Broadcasting, we have seen a lot of changes and the future will see the process continue.  With now 54 years in this business, I've seen more than my share.   (I could eat up a lot of this bandwidth with a rather long list.)

The demise of AM Radio is just one of the many changes that we must control our emotions and look at the 'writing on the wall' ...and, if we are so inclined, make the best of a bad situation.  No amount of Band-Aid applications is going to change the fact that AM has entered a new phase.

One of the contributing issues is the fact that the number of choices and sources of entertainment and information today continues to increase.  This is not simply a matter of AM being replaced with FM...It's a matter of the survival of the fittest.  Granted some of the demise of AM is self-inflicted....However, I have to believe that if there was a way to stop the bleeding someone in this country would have discovered it and everyone would be rolling out their copy.

AM is already undergoing major changes and with that the number of stations is being reduced...Perhaps this is a good thing.  Do the math - comparing the number of stations vs. the number of listeners (not just potential ones) and you will see that the building boom in years past cannot be supported going forward.

When I got into this business, I worked for a little AM station that was squeezed in between two existing, adjacent channel operations.  For a while new stations were popping up all over.  Existing stations were seeking power increases and installing multi-tower arrays to get there.  Consulting engineers were busy squeezing in new or improved signals.  Today the reverse is taking place, for very good reasons.  This is all about supply and demand.  Sure, there are zillions of radios out there....Perhaps like there were zillions of phonographs, tape players of various forms, cart machines etc. etc.

So what will the future hold for the legacy band?  Perhaps today's popular use holds a key....Talk (Sports, telephone etc.)  Perhaps those stations that survive will be those that can continue to make money with the medium while those that cannot will go dark.  Perhaps many of the DA's and nighttime power reductions will go away....Perhaps AM will look somewhat like it did before.

And, perhaps to muddy the water a bit more - a couple of former FCC Commissioners have jumped into the AM revitalizing issue, stating that the Commish needs to take serious steps to revitalize the legacy band.  They proposed an FM Translator filing window exclusively for AM stations.  What is not explained is where the spectrum is going to come from for all these translators, especially in light of all of the new LPFM’s going on the air.  Sounds to me like they are proposing spectrum re-location is the solution.  Ahem!  Is this not just what I have been proposing and what Brazil has already started?

Before we leave the topic of what about AM – It’s interesting to note that Brazil is moving ahead with something that I have advocated in this column in the past – Creating a new aural band out of Channels 5 and 6.  Related to this move is this ad from antenna manufacturer, Shively - http://www.shively.com/141208_6277_announcement.pdf.  The question being raised now is who can listen when you can’t find any radios for the spectrum?  (Seems to me we heard the same thing about HD Radio in this country).  This is a classic cart-and-horse problem.  How does that country get anyone to invest in transmitting infrastructure when there are no receivers?  Some are suggesting that the Chinese could change that almost overnight and flood the market with new receivers.  We need to consider the fact that radios today are extremely easy to construct using a couple of ‘off the shelf’ chips.  Another fascinating story to follow.  Guess what I love about this is that there is never a shortage of new things to write about.

Looking for work in technology in Radio?  Bicoastal Media has an opening for an Assistant Chief in Eugene, Oregon.  You can email your resume to eugenehr@bicoastalmedia.com.  Demonstrating how varied the tasks are for today’s radio engineer – they are looking for someone that can -
 
•    Diagnose and repair all broadcast related equipment
•    Repair and maintenance of high power AM and FM broadcast transmitters and directional AM arrays
•    IT Systems installation, maintenance and support
•    Component level repair

Meanwhile, on the other coast, Adams Radio Group is looking for a Radio Chief to work in Ocean City…They too want a person with strong RF and IT Skills.

Looking for an engineer with Strong IT and Transmitter Skills is interesting and demonstrates just how much this industry has changed.  I recall the days when Radio engineers also had to have multiple skills, in those days many Engineers worked at a station dividing their duties between checking tubes and being on the air as announcers or DJ’s (Been there).
 
An interesting couple of retirements to note….First, Bill Johnstone, president of the Oregon Broadcasters Assn will be retiring on Sept. 30.  Then, at the end of the year, Mark Allen steps down as president of the Washington Assn.

Looks like TFT is no more.  I recall the first piece of TFT Equipment I worked with – a TV Modulation Monitor.  Over the years they made a number of items for this industry, perhaps the most well-known was their EAS 911 EAS endec.  They were perhaps also known for their classic Black front panels.  Apparently they have shut down and laid off all their employees.  Rumors are floating around that someone is trying to make it come to life again…Guess we will have to wait and see.
   
Here’s a stat for you – Can you believe that eBay has been around for 20 years?

If you are keeping track – Portland based Alpha continues to gobble up radio properties.  They claim to be the 4th largest in terms of number of stations and 3rd largest in terms of number of markets.  This may well be true, however their revenue is likely to be behind groups who own properties in the top tier markets.

Here’s a change that has sent ripples all over the place.  Shannon County (SD) is now Oglala Lakota County.  Stop and think in terms of your station's EAS Equipment.  It came loaded with the names of all of the nation’s counties.  NOAA has had to make the appropriate changes.  Don’t know if there are any broadcast stations there, but they would be impacted also.

Ok, I’m going to go out on a limb here.  Now that they have officially changed the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali – Is it not time to change the name of the highest peak in Washington State back to Tahoma?  I, for one, am very much in favor of it.  Perhaps so would the Tahoma School district.  Who knows, perhaps Tacoma would change the spelling of their city….Mt. Tacoma High School could be simple letter change too.  For Toyota – They could keep the name Tacoma if they wanted.

Was very saddened to hear about the passing of Dave Hultsman.  Dave was with Collins and Continental for many years and was one of the nicest guys you would ever know.  I had the privilege of knowing him.  I fondly recall one event involving Dave in our area.  For some reason (I forget what) he was in Seattle and I got to take him to the then, Entercom site, on Cougar Mountain where he got to see 6 Collins FM transmitters still in service.  He told me that the thought he’d died and gone to heaven.  As it turned out, that’s exactly where he is - Rest in peace my friend….Will see you in the not too distant future.

Ever heard anything about Maxxcasting?  http://geobroadcastsolutions.com/maxxcasting  Rumors are that a local broadcaster may be getting involved with this system.  Will be interesting.

I love it when someone comes up with a cute name for a product….Especially for something that has had the same name for a very long time.  May I present – The Quickie Bulldozer –

Quickie Bulldozer

$8.98
Was $9.98
Quickie® Bulldozer® 18 in. Indoor/Outdoor Push Broom

Now for a little Phun with our language…..

I’ve been recently thinking about the word ‘LINE’.  I was taught that a Line, or at least a straight one, is the shortest distance between two points.  But just what is a LINE?  Wikipedia sheds a little light on this, stating that a line, when used as a unit – means 1/10 of an inch.

Let’s look at how this rather simple 4 letter word is used -

ELECTRICAL – Power line, transmission line etc.
TELEPHONE – Telephone line, off line
RADIO – Remote Line, Line level
VIDEO – Lines of information making up a picture
RF – Transmission line, delay lines
MAGNETISM – Lines of flux, Lines of force.
PRINTING – Lines of text
PRINTERS – Off line, line printers
VOCATION – a line of work
ACTING – Speaking ones lines
DANCING – Line dancing, chorus line
CLOTHING – Lines of clothing
VEHICLES – Brake lines, brake lining
POLICE  ACTIVITY – Police lines – Walking a line (sobriety)
SPORTS – Foul line, base line, center line, yard line, line drive
UTILITIES – Water, and sewer lines.
MONEY – Lines of credit
DOWNTOWNS – Sky line.
TRANSPORTION – Bus, air, truck and shipping lines
VERBAL COMMUNICATION – Laugh lines, pickup lines, one liner
VERBAL (Negative) – Don’t give me that line of guff

This is my, off the top, short list.  The bottom line (oops there’s that word again) is the word LINE appears to be used in a large number of places.  No wonder those that are trying to learn this language have such a hard time.  I would been hard pressed to define the word Line, how about you?

Well….Enough lines of text for this month –

C.U. Next Month in most of these same locations…..Enjoy Fall!

Clay, aka, K7CR
SBE #714