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.
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
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
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.
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.
The following picture was taken by WSU’s Don Eckis. Interesting
how they protected a transmitter facility from the raging wildfires in
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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.
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® 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!