Clay’s Corner

October 2, 2017

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

September has been a very interesting month – Our long-hot-dry summer had a down side with a number of very large fires breaking out, some caused by lightning….Some caused by man.  In our State a couple of bad fires – Jolly Mountain, NW of Cle Elum and Norse Peak, NE of Mt Rainier.  The most heart breaking was the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia Gorge.  This hit me especially hard as I spent many hours as a youngster hiking the many trails in the Gorge.  I can’t print how I felt when I learned that this was all started by a 15 year old boy being stupid with fireworks.

Thanks to winds blowing from the Northeast, the air here in Western Washington was filled with choking smoke for what seemed like weeks.  The following pictures show the ash-fall on the hood of my truck.  It looked like light-snow falling.  Some pretty large chunks of burnt wood.

Thankfully, about mid-month, the winds shifted and we got a wonderful dose of rain.  Not only did our air return to its normal sweet smell, but mother nature went to work on those fires.  It will take some time before they are completely out…but the end is in sight.  The change in the weather was very abrupt with the temperatures in Seattle falling about 20 degrees from where they had been.  And the snow level came down to the point that higher elevations were getting their first snow-fall of the year…Yet the calendar said it was still summer!

This summer was one for the record books with about 3 months of hardly any precipitation.  Even at that, it hardly put a dent in our total precipitation for this year.  If you recall we had a record amount of the wet stuff this past winter and spring.  Seattle had almost 4 feet of the stuff, leaving us about a foot over our average.  Looking ahead, the long-range forecast calls for this coming winter to be a repeat.  Perhaps we will go from record wet to record dry and back to record wet again?  Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the folks in Houston were dealing with epic amounts of water from Hurricane Harvey that stalled over the air, dumping more rainfall in a couple of days that Seattle’s record amount for a year.  Right after that – Florida got nailed by Irma, causing tremendous damage due to winds and flooding.  Hard to image what it would be like for those folks that have come to depend on air-conditioning, to not have any power for a long period of time.

With the power out, cellular phones soon became paperweights with no way to re-charge them.  Add to this the large number of cell-sites that were no longer functioning.  As usual, in the case of both of these storms – Broadcasters were there to assist.  Music radio stations paired with radio news stations, or in some cases – TV news operations.  Whoever was the best source of news in an area became the program source.  In one instance, a cable-news facility was feeding radio stations.  In another, a non-commercial radio station was carrying news from a commercial station.  In Houston, a commercial TV station’s studios were flooded and they moved their operation to a Non-Commercial station that was on higher ground.  That station did not have the graphics capability so they were being sent in from a co-owned station in Denver.  There were lots of stories like these – where broadcasters banded together to serve their communities.

Most stations that were knocked off the air were due to flooding.  I did not hear of any major towers failing.

The amount of devastation in Puerto Rico is hard to imagine.  All of this just underscores how totally dependent we are on electricity.

Due to the lack of power, and the lack of battery powered TV sets, radio, once again, was the vehicle of choice to get the word out to the citizens.  A recent survey showed that 57% of Americans turn to local radio and TV for updates during an emergency.  That’s 4-times more than Text Messaging, email or cable news channels.

One more time – Kudos to Amateur Radio as they continue to be a lifeline when nothing else is functioning.

Broadcasters again established themselves as first informers.  However, efforts to give them a formal federal designation has not been able to move forward until these events.  It remains to be seen now whether states will see the value of this designation.  Thus far, here in Washington State, efforts to get this designation have fallen short.  Lets hope that these events will open some eyes.  A friend of mine posted a comment on a list-serve recently.  He submitted that the best way to get through police lines during a disaster is to drive a bucket-truck of the type used by utilities to work on power lines.  Sad, but probably true.  I should mention that one of the major proponents for giving Broadcasters first informer status has been one of our state’s Senators – Maria Cantwell.

The FCC keeps track of the number of broadcasters that are off the air as well as the number and location of cell sites that are off-line via a program called DIRS.

All this led me to think about major disasters that could impact our area…

We have had flooding.  However, thanks to our topography, we don’t have a lot of flat land like found on the Texas coast and in Florida.  Nor do we get that much rain.  Back in 2006 we had some pretty heavy rain with some gauges around Mt. St. Helens recording 38 inches in 3 days.  That caused the river valleys to flood, but again the impact was contained.  Back in 1996, Western Oregon got hit by too much water.  Folks in Portland were putting up plywood walls in downtown.  Heavy rains have caused I-5 to become water covered in the Centralia area, in Fife, the Snohomish river valley etc.  How would we handle 50 inches?

We’ve had some pretty good windstorms over the years.  Those of us old enough will certainly recall the Columbus Day Storm of 1962.  Some Pacific Storms can achieve Hurricane wind speeds, especially with the classic situation of a low pressure system tracking northward just off the coast.  However, none of these approach the severity of an F4 or 5 Hurricane.

What major disaster do we have to be concerned about?  Obviously a huge earthquake and a tsunami.  Do a bit of reading by Googling ‘Cascadia Rising’ to see what will, one day, happen to us.  I have to wonder how many citizens of other areas will be rushing to this area to help out, to restore power etc?  My major concern is the ability of broadcasters to keep operating, to be able to inform our citizens, as is the case with the Hurricanes.  Hurricanes have a huge advantage – Lots and lots of warning (media hype if you will) with opportunities to, “get out of Dodge”.  Not to mention they happen fairly often.  Here we have a damaging earthquake every few years and a really ‘big one’ very infrequently…All without any warning at all!  I suspect that the majority of our citizens are not prepared…and I also fear that our broadcasters are in the same boat.

Do you know what’s the most feared thing that can happen to a broadcast station?  It’s being told by public safety officials that everyone in your studio facility must evacuate and no-one can go in.  Bet on the fact that after an earthquake, you will see a lot of this stuff.

What would your station do under those circumstances?  You might wish to add this to your emergency plan.

From a friend of mine: There are three kinds of people in this world…

  • – Those who make things happen
  • – Those who watch things happen
  • – Those who wonder what happened

I was recently at KVTI In Lakewood and was walking toward my truck when I saw this reflection in the windshield.  Thought I’d share the images.

Then  again————————————————————– if I stood on my head it would look like this

You know how I love surveys.  In this case, a listing of the 15 most beautiful cities in the entire world.  Happy to report that a city very near Seattle was included.  Vancouver!  Congratulations to our neighbors to the North – I could not agree more.

I ran across a couple of pictures to share –

First of all – When was the last time you saw this on your TV Set?

 

 

 

Take a good look at this picture.  Notice all the tall masts and towers holding TV antennas.  Can you imagine what a HOA would say about this today?  This was obviously taken before there was a cord to cut.

 

 

As long as we are looking back at TV from the past – September 24th, 1968 was the first airing of 60 Minutes on CBS.  Not many, prime-time TV programs can say they have been around this long!

 

Look at the following picture.  A couple of observations –

  • The set is Black and White (no color yet).
  • Dad has his hand on a knob on the front of the set (No remote control yet).
  • Mom has been reading a newspaper (many today don’t).  Perhaps she is looking at the TV program listing (remember those days?).
  • I’m guessing because there are no ‘Rabbit Ears’ on the top of the set, that it’s connected to one of those antennas 50 feet in the air in the previous picture.
  • Is it just me, but does the dress on the girl on the left closely look like the fabric on the furniture?
  • And, for-sure, that’s a genuine ‘light bulb’ in that lamp.

While I’m looking back – I ran into a radio program listing from the Seattle Times in 1967.  There have been some changes in the last 50 years.  For those of you that were around back then, this will bring back a lot of memories.  See if you can spot all the changes in call letters and/or stations that no longer exist.

ON THE AM BAND:

  • 570/KVI – Hardwick and Dave Clarke in the mornings
  • 710/KIRO – Arthur Godfrey and Jim French CBS Network
  • 770/KXA – Light Classics
  • 910/KIXI – Featuring ‘syrupy instrumentals’
  • 950/KJR – Frantic DJ’s and 5 minute newscasts
  • 1000/KOMO – Jay Ward and Paul Harvey at noon, ABC Network
  • 1050/KBLE – Christian Programming – Fulton Lewis Jr. in the afternoon
  • 1090/KING – NBC News hourly – Frosty Fowler
  • 1150/KAY0 – Country KAYO – Buck Richey in the mornings – Mutual News
  • 1250/KTW – Jerry Holzinger – Signed off at Sunset, back on at 11:45 p.m.
  • 1300/KOL – Top 40 – Buzz Barr
  • 1330/KFKF – Eastside News – Dick Stokke and Jack Hemmingway
  • 1460/KYAC – R&B
  • 1490/KBRO – Jim Blossey in the mornings
  • 1590/KETO – Don McNeil’s breakfast club at 9 a.m.

On FM:

  • 92.5/KFKF – Duplicated 1330 AM
  • 93.3/KBLE – (Pronounced Cable) International Music
  • 94.1/KOL – Music of the 40, 50’s and 60’s – Simulcast 1300 AM at times
  • 94.9/KUOW – Conversational and informational programming – Noon to Midnight – Off on Saturdays
  • 95.7/KIXI – Duplicated 910 AM
  • 96.5/KLSN – Show tunes and classics – In Stereo!
  • 98.1/KING – Separated from KING-AM at 1 p.m. – Classical Music
  • 98.9/KBBX – Background Music
  • 99.9/KISW – Classical Music
  • 100.7/KIRO-FM – The Young Sound in Stereo
  • 101.5/KETO – The Wonderful World of Stereo
  • 102.5/KTW-FM – Duplicated 1250 AM
  • 105.3/KGFM – Inspirational Music
  • 107.7/KRAB – “Listener supported station with the widest range of musical and informational programs around, most of it unlistenable”

50 years ago Seattle and Tacoma might have well be 100 miles apart.  Each city had its own Radio and TV stations and were treated as very different markets.  In the same issue of The Times is a run-down of Tacoma Radio, starting with a story about KTAC (850 AM) and how their FM on 103.9, is now being programmed separately, this being brought on by a change in FCC rules.  Meanwhile KTNT-AM (1400) and KTNT-FM (97.3) are still simulcast, as the station has applied for an extension of the, then new rule, involving simulcasting.  Other Tacoma Stations mentioned in the piece include – KLAY-FM/106.1 which was airing ‘Dance Music and Light Instrumentals’ 18 hours per day in Stereo.  Non-commercial stations mentioned were – KPLU/88.5, KCPS/90.9 and KTOY/91.7.  Other AM stations mentioned were KMO/1360 and KFHA/1480.

The part that gets to me was that I was very much employed in Broadcasting  at the time that this was published.

It happens every once in a while.  Apparently commercial fisherman are using amateur radio equipment and frequencies in the Skagit and Whatcom county areas.  They are careful not to use vessel or operator names and certainly no call letters have been heard.  Not only are they using 146.42 simplex, but have been heard on various repeaters in the area.  Modern VHF and UHF radios used by hams are very capable and, sadly, easy to purchase whether or not you have a license.  If you have any information about these operations, please let Scott Douglas know – at – w7xc@arrl.net or the ARRL Section Manager at  af7pq@arrl.org.

Rumors are flying that a Seattle-area based cellular company, T-Mobile, are in talks to take over Sprint.

Latest word is that the Entercom/CBS Radio deal is still on – But likely will be near the end of the year, a bit later than first thought.  Which stations in the Seattle market will be spun-off, and to who, remains a closely guarded secret.

So how many radio stations are there?  I ran across this graphic recently –

The owners of the new 103.3 in Oak Harbor are not happy with the long-time, co-channel Entercom translator (K277AE) in Downtown Seattle which re-broadcasts their KHTP/103.7.  Entercom has installed a directional antenna to try and minimize the problem.

This is yet another example of FM Translators causing ‘sparks’.  Time will tell how this one turns out.  Meanwhile the NAB is proposing that the FCC make some changes that would give broadcasters a faster path toward resolution of interference issues, including the ability to move translators to any FM channel, not just an adjacent one.  There are other proposals for dealing with what is rapidly becoming a contentious issue, as the FCC continues to flood the spectrum with new signals.  Seems to me that this is a case where the FCC, perhaps, has not planned for what is happening in the real world.

If you have any doubt the FCC is filling up the FM band with new signals, here’s a sample of recent activity to that end:

  • 95.3 – New – Tacoma
  • 99.5 – K258BJ – In Everett
  • 100.3 – Cle Elum
  • 104.9 – KHUH-LP – In Seattle
  • 105.7 – KVRU-LP – Seattle
  • 106.5- KQWZ-LP – SeaTac

On the TV front, Broadcast-Only TV continues to make gains.  Nielsen reports an increase of 41 percent in the last 5 years.  Cord cutting and antenna discovering indeed!  I recall a lot of talk, a few years ago, how those big, power hungry TV transmitter plants would be going away to be replaced with cable and satellite delivery.  The good news is that there is strong support with millennials, or those with a median age of 34.5.  Gee, you mean OTA TV is not just for oldsters?

One of the greatest pleasures I’ve had in my long career is having been able to work with Dwight Small.  Not only did we (I think) appreciate each other’s brand of humor…but we loved the adventure that is the English Language.  Every once in a while we would run across a word and could not wait to use it on the other.  I recall one time I related a word to him that stopped him.  Needless to say I was pleased, for this was a very rare, if not memorable, event.  Long after that day (apparently) that work stuck with Dwight.  On the 4th of September he sent me this email with the subject “You will be pleased”.  The rest of the email reads this way: “I’m reading a book by Neil Degrasse Tyson and just came across ‘sesquipedalian’ in his writings. :-)”  Thanks Dwight.  Nice to know you are remembered for something.  Now the question for you, my readers, do you know someone that this word aptly describes?

Perhaps a news item to come?  Many watch Mt. St. Helens to see if it will, again, re-awaken for another episode of activity.  I’m one of those that, once in a while, checks the PNSN site to see what’s shaking.  Interesting to find that Mt. Rainier has had more than twice the number of quakes as St. Helens in the past month.  Many have forecast that Rainier was one of the most dangerous in the country.  Certainly from the standpoint of proximity to population, this is the case.

An old friend (come to think of it, a lot of my friends are old) sent me these items.  Hope they bring a smile.  They are called ‘Aphorisms’.

It’s not whether you win or lose,

But how you place the blame

 

We have enough “youth”

How about a fountain of “smart”?

Money isn’t everything,

But it sure keeps the kids in touch

If at first you don’t succeed,

Skydiving is not for you

We are born naked, wet and hungry.

Then things get worse

Red meat is not bad for you

Fuzzy green meat is bad for you.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS NO

MATCH FOR NATURAL STUPIDITY

The latest survey shows that

Three out of four people make

Up 75% of the population

Perhaps Congressmen should wear uniforms,

You know, like NASCAR drivers, so we could

Identify their corporate sponsors.

 

That’s it for this month.  Summer is over, the rain has returned, the days are getting shorter, the stores are full of Halloween and Thanksgiving Items, Christmas is not far away.  If the Lord is willing, I will be back at most of these locations with another edition of the tradition.  Till then –

Thanks for reading my stuff!  Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE