Canadian Flag

NORTHWEST
BROADCASTERS


United States Flag


Recent News | About Us | AM Stations | FM Stations

Digital Radio | TV Stations | Digital TV | Links


Clay Freinwald

Clay's Corner Logo


June 2019 Edition


And the Headline read -

Washington earned the No. 1 spot on U.S. News & World Report's Best States rankings.

So you say – How come?
  • Booming economy…The nation’s fastest growing
  • Tech-sector powerhouse
  • Many big name companies are here (Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, Costco, Starbucks, T-Mobile etc.)
  • Cheap, climate-friendly electricity…or as they call it north of here, ‘Hydro’ and lots of wind-power generation (The writer of the story still calls them ‘wind-mills’)
  • Other rankings –
              º  #3 for economy
              º  #2 for Infrastructure
              º  #4 for Health Care
              º  #4 for Education

Other states in the region did not fare as well –
     #16 – Idaho
     #27 – Oregon
     #29 – Montana

That’s all well and fine - - Now for the no-so-good news –

The Headline read - Seattle gas prices spike 42 cents over the last month
   
Not sure I can feel great about knowing that I’m paying some of the highest prices in the country to be able to sit in a traffic jam!

Meanwhile, Seattle’s neighbor to the south recently learned that, according to Redfin, Tacoma is the hottest housing market in the nation right now.  There are a number of reasons they were able to make that call.  Speed of sale is one of them with just over half of the homes being sold just 2 weeks after being listed.  Typically the number is 8 days.  That’s faster than any other market in the country.  Another indicator of a hot-market is when homes go for more than the asking price.  Right now, about half of them in Tacoma are doing just that.  Price is a big factor that may be causing home buyers to look south of Seattle where the median price is $698,000.  In Tacoma-Pierce County that figure is $335,000.  But those prices are going up at a faster rate than those in Seattle.  In short, Tacoma is Hot.
    
Seattle’s success has some byproducts – Increased homeless problems as low-earners are priced out and comparison shopping where would-be homeowners are forced to look elsewhere.

I have personal experience with this issue going back about 30 years ago, when the station I worked for moved from Tacoma to Seattle.  At the time, I was living in Lakewood (southwest of Tacoma) and found I could not afford Seattle home prices, so I moved to Auburn…a move I have never regretted.  

Are you ready for the next EASNT (Emergency Alert System National Test)?  FEMA has announced that it will be August 7th at 2:20 p.m. (ET) this year.  Rather than test all of the various warning systems at one time, FEMA selects certain ones to test their viability.  If you recall, last year they concentrated on WEA.  This year it will be the original, analog, EAS system, commonly called ‘Legacy EAS’ with the test message being distributed via the nation's PEP (Primary Entry Point Stations).  In Washington State, this means KIRO-AM 710 in Seattle.

The Washington State SECC is charged with the responsibility of creating a means for all EAS participants (AM & FM radio, TV and cable systems) to receive these messages if they cannot receive KIRO-AM off-air.  In our case, we use the State Relay Network (SRN) operating on 155.475 for that chore.  Additionally, the SECC requires that participants monitor one or both of these frequencies.  There are other sources that are also monitored.  In the Seattle area NOAA Weather Radio acts as a relay station.
      
When the test is completed, the FCC will require that stations report how their portion of the system worked.  This is done via what’s called the ETRS or Electronic Test Reporting System.

You may be wondering why, in light of newer alerting methods (FEMA/IPAWS, WEA etc.) they are testing this rather ‘mature’ system.  Al Kenyon of FEMA put it this way –

“The intent of conducting the test in this fashion is to determine the capability of the EAS to deliver messages to the public in event that dissemination via Internet is not available.”

The bottom line is that the Internet is amazing in what it can do.  At the same time, it is fragile, with much of it based on what’s termed – ‘Wire lines’.  The Legacy system is primarily a wireless system.  FEMA knows that you cannot always depend on Internet-based communications systems.

Interestingly, FEMA is has been involved in a multimillion dollar upgrade to their 77 PEP facilities, including upgrades to KIRO-AM.

The bottom line for all EAS participants is –
  • Make sure these systems are working well.
  • Perhaps plan on having someone be there on August 7th at test time.

Here is a look at the coverage of the various PEP’s.  KIRO-AM is that the one in the far NW corner of the map. 

 PEP Map

My readers are used to me writing about the demise of AM Radio.  Here is another one for the list of AM’s that are now silent. 

The FCC recently cancelled the license for the only AM station in Forks and in Western Clallam County.   For many years the 1490 AM operation was the only US station you could hear there.  At first the station was known as KVAC.   I have a lot of memories of driving up there to help the station's owner/operator Gordon Otis with technical issues, and perform the, then required, annual performance measurements.  In later years, the station's owner built an FM which I assume continues to operate.  Something to do with the lease on the AM transmitter site I understand.   

Bottom line – Another AM bites the dust….Trust me, there will be more.

Looking at ‘Radio Locator’ today this is what you see – (No Local AM’s)

Radio Locator Data
 
KBDB, last time I checked, was operated by the same party that owned the, now dark, 1490 AM, the only commercial station in the area.

If you live in Forks, you could do very well without an AM Radio, except at night when many signals from far away locations are available.

There has been a lot of press recently about the demise of AM radio.  To the surprise of many, an unlikely organization (Politico) picked up the story and ran with it.
   
The Headline Read - ‘The Low-Fi Voices That Speak For America.’
 
In their piece, Politico uses 6 AM stations across the country.  To be honest, I never thought that I’d be reading about AM Radio here!

They point out there are many AM stations out there that are thriving because they are providing a service that has a demand that perhaps other stations do not.  I found it interesting that they mentioned the long-reach of some of these stations.  In some cases, a 50 kW station in an area of great ground conductivity can indeed cover several large states.  KRVN in Nebraska is an example.  They also explain how unique formats have their place.

Want to read more?  Go here:
 
https://www.politico.com/interactives/2019/magazine-am-radio-still-matters/

Here in the Seattle area we have some AM’s that are doing much the same thing, providing a programming source that is not found on FM.  All-news, foreign languages, specific areas of talk, etc.  In some cases, AM Stations that used to run mass-appeal formats, have been sold to entities that target specific groups.  Example is 1240 and 1180 that now target Catholics.  Tune to 1250, 1450, 1560 etc. and you will see what I mean.  In some cases the prices of AM stations have dropped to the point that these groups can afford to purchase a station to target a specific audience…and that is a good thing.  Is AM dead or dying?  I say no…It is evolving into something different.  It’s a classic example of ‘supply and demand’.  The number of stations should be equal to the demand for what they can produce.  When you have an over-supply, you have stations going off the air.  Perhaps this is the way it should be?

The FCC has altered the supply and demand equation with their move to enable AM’s to use FM translators.  Perhaps the day will come that the Commish will permit these operators to turn off their AM’s that will enable those that wish to continue on the AM band an opportunity to improve their facilities?  Only time will tell.

Meanwhile there are some AM operators, figuring they have nothing to lose, experimenting with running all digital.  There are a number of technical advantages to this idea, mainly shifting to a modulation mode that better deals with an ever increasing noise level.  The question is, will the advantages of digital overcome the fact that zillions of AM-only radios exist that cannot decode those transmissions?  There have been many that have been critical of this move.  The only problem is, those that poo-poo the idea, don’t have an ‘economic horse’ in this race.  I contend that if an owner of an AM station wished to go all digital, let them do it.  It’s  their money!

Interestingly, the NAB has filed comments with the FCC, stating that it’s time for the Commish to formally look into permitting AM stations that wish to go digital only to do so.  Certainly the support of NAB is welcomed by those that are seeking to make this change.

Meanwhile another proposal is being circulated that would create a new radio band in the area historically called Land-Mobile ‘Low Band’.

FINALLY A SOLUTION TO THE AM “PROBLEM” THAT IS IF “THEY” ARE REALLY LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION!

WRNJ, Hackettstown, NJ will be filing a Petition with the FCC requesting they explore moving AM band stations to the near-vacant 45 to 50 MHz VHF band.  The AM band is no longer capable of providing a quality service to its communities for several reasons.  Noise, skip, overly expensive antenna systems, varying hours of operation, and directional patterns to name just a few immediate issues.  And, lack of listeners!
 
WRNJ suggests the FCC consider the digital transmission DRM+ system along with a simple vertical only, non-gain antenna.  The VHF 1 band is ideal for local / regional coverage.  Exactly the local service that was expected during the early days of AM would return.  The two-way radio licensees of the 45 / 50 MHz band have all but fled the band for either trunked or cell service.  This ended the expense and maintenance of low band FM mobile radios for the many users.  Too, Motorola and Kenwood, it is reported, no longer manufacture low band equipment.  A scanner covering 45 to 50 MHz at a tower with reception from New York City to Philadelphia can go days before hearing a single carrier.

International regulations for ITU regions 2 and 3 already call for broadcasting between 47 and 50 MHz as previously mentioned, the band is ideal for local / regional coverage and can provide Americans with the latest technology from their local stations.  It would be wise for broadcasters to familiarize themselves with all the abilities of the DRM+ modulation scheme…it’s far from just an audio transport.  Many (ITU 2 and 3) countries are already embracing the DRM+ which is so far superior to anything we’re presently using the USA.  Why would we wait any longer?
 
July 2008, the BROADCAST MAXIMIZATION COMMITTEE   published the results of their study on AM and proffered the concept of converting the Channels 5 and 6 to digital AM’s, LPFM, NCE’s et.al.  See   http://www.broadmax.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/proposal.pdf
 
That was 12 years ago and nothing has been done about it.

With this proposal, we would avoid AM noise, nighttime interference, adjacent channel issues and eliminate the awful fidelity issues.  There is occasional skip on the proposed band.  Adjacent TV channel 2 survived it for 50 plus years.  Skip is infrequent and probably won’t have the deleterious effects experienced with analog.  There is skip on the AM band every night!

DRM+ channel efficiency is more compact than present channel spacing. Spectrum efficiency vastly exceeds anything we’re using today. The implications of that efficiency are evident.  Far more information can be packed into the DRM+ in much less space.  A short basic explanation of DRM+ can be found here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGa8X5hr5Vw  A more technical explanation of DRM+ can be found at this location: https://www.drm.org/what-is-drm-digital-radio/summary/  Note in the video that 1KW ERP of DRM+ equals the same coverage as a 5KW conventional installation.  An efficient system lowers the electric bill.  The proposed vertical antenna of unity gain reduces tower loading and or rent.

There are no receivers!  Right. We propose a transition period of years to come to fruition. American broadcasting has spent tens of millions on moving TV facilities and the market responded to the shifts in frequency and modulation schemes.  The AM band too, was extended and radio manufacturers responded.  Simply stated, if not now, when?
 
The AM band is beyond practical (include economical) use anymore.  The transmission systems are onerous to say the least.  We have to live within the bounds of physics and that, simply put, eliminates todays AM band as it is structured.  We know Japan will soon be amongst other nations that terminated AM radio…at the request of AM operators!! Italy too is converting to DRM+.

We propose that any AM operator simulcast the new and old band until the market dictates the AM shutdown of dual facilities.  We propose the system be local and that any who might wish to stay with AM be free to stay there.  With the migration, we expect, the AM band may again have a chance for wide area service from those who can increase power and coverage upon spectrum availability resulting from the migration to DRM+ VHF.  The FM band would be relieved of the congestion it’s now experiencing from translators.  We would hope that the ownership remain local and avoid the dereliction of local community service that came with ownership-consolidation.

Is there any better time to start this than now?  I can’t think of one negative, can you?  We look forward to your input if and when the FCC moves with the Petition for Rule Making.

Larry Todd
WRNJ Radio
Hackettstown, NJ
larryradio@wrnj.com

Locally, the 1210 Auburn station has been having some interesting twists and turns.  First the station's owner, Bustos Media, elected to abandon their 10 kW night operation using 4 towers on the east side of Auburn, opting for low power night operation at their day site on the west side of Auburn.  

The next phase of this project was to completely take apart the former ‘night-site’.  This process went smoothly to the point of taking down the towers.  As it turned out, the City of Auburn required a demolition permit to take the towers down…and getting that permit required even more hoops.  Then, just as the permit was granted, came the news that KZIZ/1560 was seeking a new transmitter site.  (The 1560 site is just south of Auburn)  Apparently the owners of the station asked Hatfield and Dawson if the former 1210 night site would work for 1560 and the answer came back yes.  With that the owners entered into a tentative agreement to purchase the property, transmitter building and antenna system from the Garre family.  Mr. Bustos sent out an email stating that the towers did not need to come down after all.

(The Garre’s were the original owners of the Auburn AM station going back to 1958 when it was KASY).   Someone is going to have a lot of work to do to make this operational.  Perhaps I’ll have more on this one in my next column.

Perhaps one of your pet-peeves is – dumb people with smart phones?  Since the introduction of these devices, we have become better connected with tools in our hands that would have been ‘Sci-Fi’ only a few years earlier.  With all the good they provide there are certainly some down-sides.  Perhaps distracted drivers is the worse.  People believing they can drive and text at the same time etc.  How about distracted walkers?  Perhaps you have seen one of these recently…a person walking and running into something etc.  This too is a serious problem.  Think about the person walking and texting and walking into the path of a moving vehicle.

Apparently a New York state Senator has introduced a bill to make texting, while walking, illegal with fines ranging from $50 to $150.  The bill would make it illegal to cross streets while their eyes are glued to their phone.  Sadly, you cannot depend on common sense to prevail.  I understand that similar laws have passed in other cities, but this would mean the entire state.

And the Headline read –
 
An estimated 3.7 million Washington residents living in drought areas

If you are like me and travel on non-paved roads reaching broadcast facilities and have, perhaps, noticed, a cloud of dust following you?  I was working over in Forks in early May, talking with the fellow that mows the grass at the ONRC.  He noted that his machine was doing something unusual for this time of year, kicking up a cloud of dust.  Remember, this is Forks where they get 100 inches of rain a year!  What does all this mean?  We could well be headed into a season of bad wildfires.  Remember last summer and all the smoke?

Want to read more about this topic – KING5 explains it well.

https://www.king5.com/article/weather/an-estimated-37-million-washington-residents-living-in-drought-areas/281-593e8a18-bd67-4118-a912-b6b60c65e655

Then this announcement: Inslee expands drought emergency for nearly half of the State

So what’s going on?
  • Now half of the State is officially in a drought emergency declaration area because of worsening forecasts calling for warmer and drier conditions through the summer.
  • Our Snow-Pack is currently less than 50% of average for this time of year, meaning less water for all this summer.

If you recall, we had a similar situation in 2015.

The following two maps help make this situation more clear.
 
Yes, the Seattle-Tacoma area is surrounded by Red…with 3 counties being recently added.

Drought Areas 2019

Drought Monitor

The FCC is out with new rules to deal with the issue of resolving translator interference complaints.  Much of this driven by the FCC’s allowing AM’s to have FM Translators in appeals by AM broadcasters for help.  Up to this point there have been a number of issues raised that drove the FCC to re-think how they were handling these matters.

Under the new rules, the FCC will use a station’s outer 45 dBu contour limit.  That includes establishing a minimum number of additional listener complaints that must be included in any waiver seeking to establish a claim of interference outside the complaining station’s 45 dBu contour.  While the FCC received proposals calling for a 60 dBU or 54 dBU contour limit instead, it says there is “extensive evidence” from markets nationwide to support the idea that full-service stations have substantial listenership outside the 54 dBu contour, and that listenership would be at risk if interference complaints outside this limit were not considered actionable.

Here’s some of what else is changing:
  • The order adds more “flexibility” to its rules by allowing FM translator stations to change frequency to any available same-band channel – as a minor change in response to interference issues.  It notes channel changes are “a relatively low cost way to resolve interference with little or no reduction in service area.”
  • The FCC also established a minimum number of listener complaints ranging from a low of six to a high of 25, proportionate to the population the complaining station serves, that a station would need to submit with any claim of interference.
  • Interference complaints often devolve into questions about the veracity of the allegations.  In an effort to reduce those fights, the FCC approved guidelines for specific things a listener must say in their complaint.  That includes sharing complete contact information; a clear, concise and accurate description of the location where the interference is alleged to occur; a statement that they listen to the station over-the-air at least twice a month to demonstrate the complainant is a regular listener; and a statement that the complainant has no legal, employment, financial or familial affiliation or relationship with the station.
  • In a series of steps designed to help resolve disputes, the FCC okayed several moves that translator owners must take to keep their signals on the air.  They include working with the listener to help resolve the problem.  But the order eliminates the requirement that listener complainants must cooperate with the translator operator.  Instead, it would be up to the listener if they wanted to help.
  • The Commission also concluded that 90 days “should be sufficient” to resolve most claims of interference.  If it goes beyond that, the Media Bureau must offer an explanation as to why.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly had pushed the FCC to firm up that 90-day remediation deadline process.  He said it would bring “an even higher level of predictability to the process.”

The new guidelines largely follow suggestions handed to the agency by the National Association of Broadcasters in 2017.  “The FCC deserves credit for endorsing a common-sense compromise for reviewing FM radio listener complaints alleging interference from FM translators,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.  “FM translators have been enormously helpful extending the reach of AM radio stations.  We’re pleased the FCC continues to embrace ideas that foster the revitalization of AM radio.”

The Headline read - Revenues Climb 8% At American Tower.
 
The piece explains that the tower business is ‘red-hot’, explaining ATC’s overall, global revenue rose 4.1% to $1.8 Billion (Yes, with a B).  The company that owns many of the major transmission sites in the Seattle area has nearly 25,000 towers.

If you are like me…you wondered why a broadcaster would sell their tower assets to American Tower and then lease space on them.  Broadcasters would often cite that towers were not their core business and they did not know how to adequately market them.  My response to that was, find out how it’s done and keep the profits for yourself.  Obviously I was viewed as a voice from the basement.  Besides, they were in business not to make money but put smiles on the faces of stockholders.

The wireless industry is what’s fueling growth in the tower industry…not broadcasting.  ATC has reportedly constructed more than 700 new sites thus far this year.  Back to the broadcast side, a lot of their attention has been due to re-packing related to ARSC 3.0.

Talk about poor timing.  In last month’s column I ran a picture of Amador Bustos…This this month it was announced that his firm ‘Bustos Media’ was buying a number of additional radio stations.

The one attracting the most attention in the Seattle area is 102.9/KFNY-FM, that was one of the stations that iHM had to shed as part of the CBS/Entercom deal where iHM picked up some of the former CBS stations.  A bit about his new station –
 
The transmitter is on Capital Peak, Southwest of Olympia.  (The same site is used by 88.1 and 96.1)  Providing coverage south through Lewis County, west to Grays Harbor and northeast into Olympia and the Seattle/Tacoma area.

Technically the station operates with 70,000 watts ERP at 668 Meters Above Average Terrain or 867 Meters Above Mean Sea-Level.  Compare that to the station down the dial at 102.5/KZOK which operates from West Tiger Mt. with 68,000 watts ERP at 698 Meters HAAT or 932 Meters AMSL.  As you can see the power and elevation is similar.  The big difference is the proximity to population.

102.9 has had a large number of call letters in its history.  Here are a few – KELA (1980), KMNT, KNBQ, KYNW, KZLS, KOAG, KFXY, KMMZ, KMKZ, KBFQ to name a few.  If you dig a bit deeper….or are an old duffer like me, you know that the station began operation on Cook Hill (NW of Centralia) as KGME.  (The FCC shows the station first licensed on Feb 23rd, 1966)  The owner was the legendary Chuck Ellsworth who was an on-air talent during the glory days of Seattle rock stations.  Later Chuck taught broadcasting at Bates in Tacoma while still working part-time, on the air, in Seattle.  The G and M stations call letters were named for family members the E was, of course for Ellsworth.
  
Chuck was a great guy, one that your writer turned to back in 1966 when I was faced with a decision whether to accept a job as a DJ at a major Seattle AM…or Chief Engineer at a major Seattle AM.  I recall Chuck telling me that with my technical abilities I’d be much better off doing Engineering.  I took his advice and was about to take that Seattle Engineering job  when I learned that old friend Peter Policani was leaving KMO.  Whereas I was living in Tacoma, I opted for that job instead.
   
Shortly after this, Chuck passed and his wife sold the station to the owners of KELA in Centralia in 1968.  They moved the transmitter to Crego Hill where it operated at much higher power.  It then used the call letters KELA-FM.  Later when that combination was sold, the transmitter was moved to Capital Peak.

For Bustos, the first station in the Seattle market was the 1210 AM in Auburn which he purchased from Entercom.  He later purchased 99.3 from Greg Smith.  More recently he purchased the 103.3 in Skagit County (near Mt. Vernon).  The addition of 102.9 will mean he will have 3 FM’s and an AM in this market.

Amador was not done, with the announcement that he was purchasing KRCW licensed to Royal City, north of Tri-Cities.  That station operates with 19.5Kw at 241 Meters and covers the area between Moses Lake and Tri-Cities.  This will make his 5th Station in that market.

One more mention of Amador Bustos – He was recently appointed to a two-year term to the Radio Board of Directors of NAB.

If you recall, in a past column, I mentioned that Kent Randles, who has headed up the engineering department at Entercom Portland with oversight responsibility in Seattle, was retiring the end of June.  The announcement was recently made who will be replacing him, Jeff McGinley, son of now retired Tom McGinley.  Not often you find a situation where a son opts for the same business.  (The name Hubert comes to mind.)  Congratulations to Jeff!

Washington State has joined its neighbor to the south with the signing of a bill giving certain broadcasters ‘First Informer’ status.  Congratulations to all those that worked to make this come to pass.

Here is how the WSAB, prime sponsor of the bill, put it –

GOVERNOR INSLEE SIGNS FIRST INFORMER BROADCASTER BILL!

HB 1147 – the First Informer Broadcaster Bill – was signed by Governor Inslee on April 30, 2019, culminating three years of efforts by broadcasters to ensure access to transmitter and studio facilities during time of a declared emergency.

The WSAB worked with the State’s Emergency Management Division to move the bill forward, which was sponsored in the 2019 legislative session by Rep. Mike Chapman (D-24), Rep. Brad Klippert (R-8), Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45) and Sen. Sam Hunt (D-22).  The bill passed through both chambers of the Washington State Legislature unanimously (House 97-0 and Senate 44-0) before reaching the Governor’s desk for signature.

“This legislation is really impactful for broadcasters,” said Janene Drafs, Chairwoman of the Board of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters. “Access to our transmitter sites and studio facilities during time of emergency allows us to broadcast important safety and recovery information to the communities we serve across the state of Washington.”

“On behalf of the 260 commercial and non-commercial radio and television stations across the state, we appreciate the support of our state legislators and the Governor in passing HB 1147,” said Keith Shipman, President & CEO of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters. “We’re pleased to become the 11th state in America to pass such legislation. We also wish to acknowledge the great work of Mark Allen of Mark Allen Government Relations for navigating the legislative process and broadcast engineers Keith Nealey of KIRO-TV and Marty Hadfield (retired) for offering testimony during public hearings on this issue.”

The First Informer Broadcaster bill was designed to allow broadcast technicians who have registered with the Washington Business Re-Entry System (https://mil.wa.gov/emergency-management-division/business-re-entry-registration) access to their studio and transmitter facilities in order to restore broadcast operations and disseminate safety and recovery information to listeners and viewers.

A First Informer Broadcaster is defined as “an individual who is employed by, or acting pursuant to a contract under the direction of a broadcaster; and maintains, including repairing and resupplying, transmitters, generators, or other essential equipment at a broadcast station or facility or provides technical support services to broadcasters needed during a period of proclaimed emergency.”

Broadcasters must still follow the direction of incident commanders as it relates to safety issues in declared emergency zones. Key language in the bill prohibits authorities from confiscating resources – fuel, food, water and other essential materials - brought to the site by a First Informer Broadcaster.

Broadcast engineers and technicians are encouraged to register through the aforementioned link to become a First Informer Broadcaster. Once registered, the engineer/technician will receive a registration card via email. 

This announcement drew comments from many:
 
This from Andy Skotdal -

Keith Shipman deserves twice the thanks since he was integral in getting it done in Oregon, first, with Bill Johnstone.  This is an effort that has been discussed among all of you and at the WSAB board level since Katrina (over 11 years ago!), and it was the dogged handful like Arthur, Clay, Mark, Keith, Bill and others who prioritized it and got it done.  The WSAB board and OAB boards also deserve credit along with the SBE for prioritizing this initiative in order to give their leaders the authority to march.  Law enforcement types were initially resistant, and this was truly a broad group effort.  Congratulations!

And this from Marty Hadfield -
 
Andy, I will second that recommendation to applause the undying efforts of Mark Allen and Keith Shipman.  Their focused guidance made all the difference in the world.

It was nearly a year and a half year ago that I sat with Mark and Keith, and provided passionate verbal testimony to Senator Sam Hunt, Sponsor of SB 6056, giving a technical "boots on the ground" perspective of my Katrina/Rita Hurricane and other disaster incident response experiences.  This was provided on behalf of all Radio Broadcast Engineers in Washington State - describing the basis for needing unfettered access to the studios and various transmission sites that are critical to providing broadcast information to the general public in the confusing times surrounding a disaster and recovery effort.  No other industry has proven to provide better reach to those directly impacted citizens than Broadcasting. Period.

Subsequent to that meeting, I'm happy to say that my colleague, Keith Nealey, provided his supporting testimony on behalf of the Television Engineers across Washington State.

It was a great team effort and I know we are all proud of the results and positive implications for maintaining a strong on-air broadcast presence whenever disasters may strike in Washington.

Looks like the FCC may have more tools to fight pirate radio.  A bill is making its way through congress called the ‘Pirate Act’.  If the President signs it, the FCC will have the authority to fine a pirate station operator up to $100,000 per day, per violation up to a max of 2 mega-bucks.

As I have stated many times, all of this is meaningless until they come up with a method of collecting the fine.  In many cases these operators don’t have the funds to pay the fines and are let off with a ‘hand-slap’.  There are many that feel they have a right to do what they have been doing.  Perhaps this could be compared to when a person is stripped of their drivers license and continues to drive a vehicle?

In another FCC action – back in 2016 Cumulus Media agreed to pay a $540,000 fine in response to a violation of sponsorship identification rules.  However, they never paid it (something about their bankruptcy getting in the way).  Looks like they are still ‘on the hook’ for this one.  This time the FCC, with the support of the Justice Department, are asking a judge to force the company to pay what is now a $792,344 bill.  Just like when you don’t pay your taxes, the amount goes up.

Don’t forget  - The next NAB event in Las Vegas will see things shifted forward a day from a Monday thru Thursday event to a Sunday thru Wednesday one.  Attendance at the most recent show was 91,921 - about the same as 2018 - but under the 103,000 that attended in 2017, a major factor in driving the change.

Looking for a job in the technical side of broadcasting?

OPB is looking for an individual passionate about technology to join our Bend-based team supporting OPB’s RF distribution technology at our remote sites in the Central and Eastern parts of Oregon.  This non-exempt regular status represented position is full-time and includes benefits.  Apply at http://www.opb.org/about/jobs/

Broadcast Engineers don’t all sit around soldering things together at a work-bench or click keys on a computer all day….OK, some do…and some don’t.  Some actually get dirt under their nails Smiley Face

Occasionally things go wrong at Mountain Top transmitter sites – presenting some interesting challenges.  The following pictures come from the NWPB crew that was recently dealing with a power failure at a site near Wenatchee called Naneum.  This is the location of NWPB’s KNWR that found itself off the air due to failure of a PUD power line and an empty auxiliary generator fuel tank for the State DNR Generator.

So what do you do in a case like this?  They knew the power line came across the ridge from KPQ’s transmitter site on Mission Ridge, and they had power.  A call to the PUD apparently revealed that they had no vehicle to deal with the power line.  To get the station back on the air meant one thing, time to haul diesel to the site.

Here you see the NWPB Snow-Cat loaded on its trailer about to get a work-out.

NWPB Snow-Cat
 
Three Drums of diesel on the back and time to head up the mountain.

Three Drums of Diesel
 
Three Drums of Diesel - 2

Looking from the Naneum site across the ridge at the KPQ facility.  Elevation about 7000 feet.

KPQ Facility
 
A bit of scenery from Naneum, looking to the Southwest at Mt. Rainier.  The shape of our famous landmark looks odd when viewed from this side.

Mt. Rainier 

Over the years I have found it ‘interesting’ how few inside and outside the industry are curious, or perhaps remotely interested in knowing anything about the facility that creates the signal that people receive to make sounds and pictures...the places where I have been interested in since the get-go.  I recall, early on, when I was a young sprout learning about the industry that I would, one-day, be employed in...asking if I could see the transmitter.  Perhaps these people feel that transmitters are mystery machines full of techno hocus-pokus that they would not comprehend?

The FCC has issued its final report on the impact of Hurricane Michael on broadcasting and on other services some seven months ago.  Here are some of the major take-aways:
  • A number of radio stations remain off the air in Panama City.
  • All of the stations were off the air due to damaged transmitter sites.
  • Some stations, particularly in hard-hit Bay and Gulf Counties, the damage was long-lasting or even permanent.

The Commission was not pleased with some aspects of the wireless industry –
  • The investigation found that three key factors, including insufficiently resilient backhaul connectivity, inadequate reciprocal roaming arrangements and lack of coordination between wireless service providers, power crews and municipalities as the predominant causes of what the FCC says was the “unacceptably slow” restoration of wireless service.
  • FCC Chair Ajit Pai, who visited the region following the storm, “I appreciate the efforts of the FCC’s public safety staff and call on wireless phone companies, other communications providers and power companies to quickly implement the recommendations contained in this report.”  Pai has directed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to conduct a comprehensive re-examination of the FCC’s Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework.  That work remains ongoing.

Looking briefly at the business side of Radio:
  • Saga reported revenues were down a bit, some of this as the result of purchasing additional stations in Florida.  Saga operates a cluster of stations in Bellingham.
  • Salem Media reported a 61% decrease in net income along with other negative results.  Salem operates a number of AM stations in the Seattle area.
  • iHeart Media is officially out of bankruptcy.  With the company now controlled by a number of hedge and mutual fund companies, other changes may be on the horizon.

One of the national remailers aimed at technical workers in broadcasting recently had a thread going about pagers, commonly called beepers.  These were little gizmos that attached to your belt that were your only wireless means of being reached in those days.

At first there was what was termed a ‘tone only pager’ that ‘beeped’ when its associated phone number was called.  This told the wearer to head to the nearest phone and call a pre-arranged phone number.  The telephone company also offered this:  They called them ‘Bellboys’.

Next came the ‘Tone and Voice Pager’.  With this one, a caller would dial the pager's phone number and when they heard a beep, could speak to the user.  Usually the caller would speak the number they wanted the person to call.

Then came the Digital Pager.  Not only would this device beep when called, but the person on the phone could ‘input’ a specific phone number for the wearer to call back.

In all these cases, you had to have a pocket of change ready to go to use with those pay-phones that seemed to be everywhere.

In some cases, the RCC’s (Radio Common Carriers) offered Mobile Telephones.  These were sold by private owners and the telephone company.  They worked pretty well, provided you were within range of the provider's equipment.  Generally they were installed in a vehicle and were not portable.

Of course this all changed with the introduction of cellular telephone systems.  A 2-way communications device was certainly better than what we had been dealing with.  Cellular has evolved in many ways as we all know, with more bells and whistles than anyone back then could have dreamed.

Back to the remailer thread.  The question was posed, ‘Is anyone still using a pager?’  Much surprise to many, the answer was yes, there are still pagers being used.  Here are a couple of links with more information on the continued use of these little critters:

https://www.americanmessaging.net/coverage/coverage.php

http://www.sound-tele.com/answering-services/pager-services/states/WA/Seattle

https://www.amazon.com/Motorola-LS350-Annual-Service-Beeper/dp/B00914ZZ0Q

My column would not be complete without a picture of an amazing sunset from the deck of Dwight Small's new home in Skagit County.

Dwight Small View 
 
There is a lot going on in the world of EAS these days.
  • The Washington SECC formed a Plan Revision Committee whose job it was to overhaul our existing Plan with the following goals:
          1 - Make it better organized
          2 - Bring it into conformance with recent FCC changes, specifically ARS
  • During this process we have come to learn –
          1 - The term ‘State EAS Plan’ will be used by the FCC
          2 - The FCC will be ‘housing’ State EAS Plans on their computer system
          3 - The SECC will be inputting a good deal of the data into it
          4 - Our new ‘Plan’ will contain a ‘Tab’ or ‘Link’ to the FCC’s State EAS Plan
          5 - A name change for our (Washington State Plan) is likely because –
               a. Our plan contains a lot of material that is not required by the FCC and will not be in the FCC’s data
               b. It’s not a good idea to have two different books with different information.
          6 - The Plan Rev Committee will be dealing with the Name Change matter in their next meeting on June 17th.   Should they reach a decision, it will be forwarded to the SECC for formal action at their July 9th Meeting at CPTC in Lakewood.
  • As always, all of our EAS Meetings are open to all and your input is always welcome.
  • It looks like our new Plan (with the new name) will be rolled out early this fall.

I like to leave you with something that will bring a smile.  This month some funnies that were contributed by my readers….the ages of whom are perhaps revealed by the nature of the following.

Don't Stress

Wall Phone

LD Call

That’s about it for this month, my friends.  Thanks for the read.

Lord willing, I will be back to most of the same locations next month at this time.

Until then – May you have a wonderful Spring!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

Recent News | About Us | AM Stations | FM Stations

 Digital Radio | TV Stations | Digital TV | Links

+++