Clay’s Corner

For those of us in the PNW we are reading the news about balmy weather in other parts of the country and wondering what happened to us. Waking up to a blanket of snow in my yard in late March is a bit un-usual. Some of our mountain top sites are still only accessible by snow cat, thusly delaying construction and post-winter repairs. Perhaps we will be happier when we read that the East Coast is suffering with high temps and humidity? Then there are those – tiny- earthquakes in Wisconsin that have folks there all shook-up. Hard to imagine how a 1.5 could cause so much angst. It helps to understand that there are many that feel that they are immune and earthquakes only take place elsewhere.

Well we, apparently, survived the recent CME. Many were forecasting outages for communications systems, the power grid etc. I don’t recall hearing about anything that went down due to the solar flare. However I have to believe that some used this as reason for various failures.

The contention that towers kill birds has been simmering in WDC for some time. The assertion is that towers, guys, etc. kill millions of birds every year. Personally, I’ve been around towers for half a century and have yet to find an accumulation of dead birds…but what do I know? What this all means is that those that propose tall towers (apparently they kill more birds than do short ones) are going to have to jump through more regulatory hoops. Good news for consultants, bad news for those paying the bill.

The big employment news in this area is that Dave Ratener has been hired by Sandusky to be CE of their cluster of radio stations. Dave, if you recall, worked in this market, and was active with SBE, a few years ago. For the past several years he has been working in Spokane.

The Forest Service is moving forward with new regulations at some of their RF Sites now that the FCC has come up with new schemes and regulations to protect birds etc. All this just creates another layer of regulatory, you know what, for those that use these federal lands. I have to wonder just how far this will go.

In what has been termed, an end of an era, took place in Bellingham with the sale of KVOS-TV and the ending of employment for 22 folks that worked there. The new owners, OTA Broadcasting, a company controlled by Michael Dell of Dell Computers, is, apparently working toward some sort of consolidated operation involving a Seattle TV station. The station went on the air in 1953. Guess we will all have to wait and see what transpires here.

Back in 1988 KPLU moved their main transmitter from View Park (near Port Orchard) to West Tiger. To provide better coverage of the west facing slopes in Seattle, they operated a translator on 88.1 from their former main site. That came to an end recently with the construction of an 88.1 on Capital Peak near Olympia. Not wishing to give up their unique situation they recently moved to 92.1 with a new array. Some are, perhaps not pleased with the shift as the translator effectively covers a Canadian Station that enjoyed bonus coverage in that area. 92.1 is also used in Tacoma by the operators of Lakewood’s 1480 AM.

The Washington Legislature passed a couple of bills of interest to Broadcasters.

We now have what’s called Blue Alert. This, as a result of the recent killing of a State Patrol Trooper in Kitsap County. The bills asks that the WSP design an alert system when a law enforcement officer is killed or severely injured and the suspect is on the run that can be used to help find the suspect. This system – will not – be using the EAS.

Due to the amount of metal theft going on, the Legislature created a task force to come up with recommendations for deal with this problem. Broadcasters and other communications systems have been especially vulnerable to copper theft in recent years. Thanks to Mark Allen of the WSAB for his work in this area.

The FCC has been acting to deal with those that want more LPFM stations. In this process, translators will be yielding to LP’s. A great deal of interest exists in both translators and LP’s, hopefully these changes will bring clarity.

Pew Research recently announced some findings that should encourage Radio. 50% of Americans still get local news from Radio. Interestingly, this is more than get local news from Newspapers or the Internet. I am reminded of how when I got into this business (50 years ago) that just about every radio station ran an hourly news program. This finding helps understanding one of the reasons that stations like KOMO, KIRO, KPLU and KUOW do so well in the ratings. Radio can still brag about the fact that over 240 million tune in every week.

Been some time since stations have been impacted by interference to the satellite from where they get their programming. Recently AMC-1 was receiving interference that was traced to the vicinity of Hagerstown, MD. At last report, the search was on to find the source of the problem.

A lot of Pirate News this month –

No very often do you here about pirate operation on the AM band. Perhaps because of the size of antennas? In a recent case 1680 was apparently be used for unlicensed operation in the Fullerton, Ca. area. The FCC carefully documented this operation noting field strength numbers were well in excess of what was permitted,

The FCC did their job in Bellville, Tx. Finding the AM day timer was operating after sunset beyond when it was supposed to sign off. That will cost them 4 Grand.

The CCC decided that the operator of a pirate station in Miami on 88.7 should pay 15 Grand. Apparently this fellow was interfering with wireless services and AT&T complained. Interestingly this fellow was giving the stations phone number on the air that aided in track him down. (Perhaps a Darwin Award nominee?)

The Commish recently reaffirmed a $25K fine against a fellow in San Jose, Ca. for not allowing inspection of various un-licensed stations in the San Jose area. What really help nail this guy was that he was apparently interfering with the Aviation Services Band. To their credit, the FAA has a zero tolerance policy.

Chris Murray recently reported a pirate in the Eugene area operating on 98.5 to the Portland FCC Office. In the end they found an antenna on a roof top, a 100 watt Ramsey transmitter and a laptop. Apparently the operator had been busted in the past.

A fellow in P.R. was operating on 88.5 and told investigators that he thought he could use his transmitter, legally, without a license. Hopefully his $1500 fine will help with the education process.

My favorite this month is the station in Hilton Head S.C….apparently, among other violations; they hadn’t had any EAS activity in 5 years. Inspectors found the stations endec plugged into power, but not connected to any receivers or the stations transmitter…25 Grand.

Light Squared does not appear to be going away. The proposed system wants to operate near frequencies used by GPS systems. They have come back to the FCC proposing lower power operation. This proposal continues to create a lot of interest. Anything that could, potentially, negatively impact the operation of GPS devices is going to attract a lot of attention.

The FCC finally came out with their 5th R&O involving EAS along with a number of changes to Part 11 of the Rules. If you have not read them over, you should, as EAS compliance will likely remain a hot-button issue with the FCC. Big issue for Washington State is the Commissions stance on Text-To-Speech. As you know, Washington State has been using TTS since October 2010 and the FCC’s action potentially is going to cause us to make some quick changes in order to remain compliant. I urge all Washington Broadcasters to stay tuned to the Washington State EAS Remailer for more information. Meanwhile FEMA has filed a request for reconsideration with the FCC (don’t see that very often). The Washington SECC and WSAB are doing the same. Many feel that the FCC made the wrong decision in this case. Stay tuned.

There was a recent thread on one of the broadcast engineering type remailers about one of the first TV remote units. In this case, the Dumont Telecruiser. The following link will take you to some great pictures as well as some restoration work being done on one – Back in 1949, Dumont was big in television…and TV stations that had remote units, housed them in busses. I vividly recall being inside the bus used by KTNT-TV. A couple memories of Dumont – Their huge, square, camera cable connectors. I also recall seeing some of their field camera control units….This was before ‘fader-bars’. Video dissolves were handled much like audio by turning up one pot while turning down another while watching video levels on a scope (Later called an A-scope) We’ve come a long way!

Apple has become the biggest company in terms of market capitalization overtaking Exxon by 100 Billion. If you bought Apple way back when it was really cheap…You are a very happy camper. Their numbers are staggering…with profits and cash reserves that most can only dream about.

The US Military has unveiled a new, non-lethal, heat ray weapon using RF. Apparently the device will ‘shoot’ high powered RF over half a mile at 95 GHz at such levels that it causes the ‘target’ to want to immediately flee. Captain Kirk was likely using this long ago with a hand-held device. Another new weapon is a system developed in Japan that records what one says and firing it back at them with a .2 second delay with very high power. Not sure how much this might be used on a battlefield, however, I could see some political applications <GRIN>

April 16th is the big day in Mexico City with the launch of Ibiquity’s HD Radio system in the Mexican capital. Helping with this effort is John Schnieder who was very active with SBE in Seattle and operated the local RF Specialties office.

Every year the Crystal Radio Awards finalists are announced. I quickly scanned the list looking for call letters from our area. Only one could be found – Congrats to KIRO-FM in Seattle.

Frank Foti of Telos-Omnia has been creating considerable interest with his proposal to make changes to the FM Stereo system we all use. He proposes to change the Stereo Subcarrier from DSB to SSB. (Called SSBSC) The following link will give you an idea of what kind of improvement could be possible. This is certain to be a hot-topic at the NAB Convention in Las Vegas later this month.

On the topic of NAB – Paul Brenner of Emmis Communications will be this year’s recipient of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award. If you are attending the convention, this is presented during the Technology Luncheon on April 18th.

For many years radio stations have been frustrated by an FCC rule that forbid the use of Part 101 spectrum for their STL ‘final link’ to the transmitter site. The Seattle area is like many large metropolitan areas in the US that find their traditional aural STL band at 950 MHz filled. This rule has caused many a broadcaster to use creative and sometimes illogical means to be compliant with the rules. Granted the FCC did issue a few waivers. Now the situation has been changed – for the good – with newly adopted Part 101 Rules. The problem is not just finding a frequency, but in many cases, there is simply not sufficient bandwidth to handle the STL payload used by today’s broadcasters. Today radio stations need to not only transmit their main program channel but now have to get, RDS, HD2, HD3, RDS, PAD, Ethernet etc. to their transmitter as well things that were un-heard of way back when.

With the new 1 World Trade Center under construction in our #1 Market, New York City, plans are being made for a tower on the roof. After 9-11, and the destruction of the WTC buildings, NYC was left with the historic Empire State Building as the prime RF spot in town. The Durst Organization hopes to attract many broadcasters to the new building.

Could the era of the set-top-box be coming to an end? That appears to be the goal with many wanting to incorporate those functions to within the TV set. Likely to be a while before this change takes place as many have, not long ago, purchased new DTV sets that are likely to

Not need replacement soon. One of the goals expressed is the ability to deal with the matter of selective override.

Last month I wrote about FM in Cellphones – Ron Diotte, CE of KSTW-TV, sent me a note informing me that his HTC smart phone came with an FM, analog, radio. Good to hear from you Ron – Hope to see you at an upcoming SBE Meeting.

Speaking of Cell Phones – Brian Daly made a presentation at the last SECC Meeting regarding CMAS. Very interesting to learn how mobile devices will be used for public warnings, augmenting the EAS.

Was good to see Lee Hurley check into the Chapter 16 remailer recently. From time to time, old-timers check in….A good thing.

Here’s an interesting piece of information – In 2011 guess what the #4 export was for the U.S.?……Bet you would have never guessed – It’s Vacuum Tubes. 37.3 Billion Dollars’ worth. I recall a few years ago being a guest speaker at a local college electronics program and learning that their instructor told the students that vacuum tubes were no longer used. Granted their use is going down, back on 2007 we exported $50 Billion worth. Still a huge number.

Well, my friends, that’s about it from this end. Thanks for the read – Hope to see you in much of these same locations next month.

Clay Freinwald