Clays Corner – October

September 1, 2018

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

As I write this, in late September, our weather is pretty much back to normal. Much cooler temperatures, showers and breezes, noticeably shorter days and fall colors starting to show.  This past summer was indeed very dry in this area.  In fact we set a record for the driest May through August with just 1 inch of rain.  (Compare that to other places.)  Perhaps the smokiest (is that spelled right?) too with several weeks of breathing the output of BC forest fires.  The fact is, we went almost 3 months without clean air – violating federal smog standards for 87 consecutive days.  The low amount of precip took its toll on many trees.  You can see many of our evergreens that have been killed in the process.  Perhaps proving to some that it does not rain here all the time?

Other regions had their own issues – – California experienced terrible wildfires that will take years to heal.  This picture speaks volumes.  (Note the lights of an on-coming train coming around the curve.)

Hurricane Florence has made a mess of the things on the other coast with epic amounts of rainfall and flooding, power outages and, of course, failures of services and systems we depend on…Radio and TV Stations, Cable TV and Cellular telephone systems.

 

As we move into October, those of us that travel into the mountains of Western Washington are reminded that the ‘Windy Season’ is here.  The big historic October blow took place on Columbus Day in 1962…hopefully this year we won’t have any big storms to deal with.

 

A friend in Southern California sent me the picture below of what it’s like to be heading to the transmitter site, after a wind storm, and finding a tree across the road.

 

 

 

I recall, a few years ago, after a big ‘Blow’ we had about 30 of these down across the road to West Tiger.  It took 3 of us a day just to get the road open.  Yes, I carry a chain saw, as do others that have to go up there this time of year.  Below is Paul Carvalho, Chief at Bonneville/Seattle, getting in some practice at the KIRO-AM transmitter site on Vashon.

 

 

 

Perhaps by the time you read this, the EAS National Test, on Oct. 3rd, will have come and gone…The first scheduled date was scrubbed due to Florence.  This year’s test is the first one for both EAS and WEA alerting systems.  Will be interesting in how it turns out.  To find out, all EAS Participants are required to file an electronic report.  One wrinkle involved a great bit of Federal timing – EAS Participants had to update security certificates to all their EAS equipment shortly before the big test.  My guess is that some will not do this, meaning that their equipment won’t decode the test message.

On the topic of EAS – We have a committee of folks working on the revision and update of the Washington State EAS Plan – Several are broadcasters from this area.  The major reason for this is to bring our plan into full compliance with the most recent FCC EAS Report and Order.  If you would like to be a part of this process, please let me know.

In August we lost another whose name continues on today.  Jack Moseley passed.  Jack sold the company that we all know, back in 1977.  He was 91.  Could not help but note that his Obit mentioned that he enjoyed HAM Radio, like so many other pioneers in this industry.

It’s long been known that you could easily purchase two-way radios….for very low prices….at a number of on-line locations.  The FCC posted this item the last week in September –

  • TWO-WAY VHF/UHF RADIOS MAY NOT BE IMPORTED, ADVERTISED, OR SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES UNLESS THEY COMPLY WITH THE COMMISSION’S RULES.  Advises retailers and operators that VHF/UHF two-way radios must comply with FCC technical requirements before they may be marketed, imported or operated.  By Advisory. (DA No. 18-980). News Media Contact: Will Winquist at (202) 418-0509, email:Will.Wiquist@fcc.gov. EB. Contact: Jonathan Garvin at (202) 418-1130, email: Jonathan.Garvin@fcc.gov  DA-18-980A1.doc  DA-18-980A1.pdf  DA-18-980A1.txt

I could not help but note a recent story written about legendary Seattle Top-40 DJ, Pat O’Day.  In the piece I learned that his dad was a preacher in a Tacoma Church and had a radio ministry on KMO, the station I was associated with from 1966 to 1985.  It would be interesting to know just how many people, whose names we would recognize, were associated with that station.  The piece also mentioned the Spanish Castle, one of Pat’s concert venues during the 60’s.  This was a big dance hall on the NW corner of Kent-Des Moines road and Pacific Highway.  Another path crossing, as I remember playing in a band there…way back when.

In the category of – it was bound to happen – an AM Radio station gets an FM Translator and then asks the FCC if they can turn off their AM.  The FM Translator deal was the FCC’s plan for helping struggling AM stations.  The most recent instance involves KVSL in Show Low, Arizona who proposed to do just that.  They did not propose to turn in their AM license, just turn off their AM ‘from time to time’.  In the end, the FCC said no to the proposa,l saying that it was at odds with their intended goals of AM Revitalization.  The rules are pretty simple – The FM is a translator, and like all translators, operate when the parent station is on the air.  I suspect that other AM radio broadcasters were watching this with a great deal of interest, especially an AM that has relatively poor facilities, or where they could sell the land where their AM tower is located and continue to operate their FM translator.

On the subject of Translators, did you see where a pair of FM translators in the Chicago area recently sold for 3.5 Million?  Wow!  It would not surprise me that in some circumstances the value of an FM Translator could exceed the value of a parent station, especially if that station was a small signal, or daytime only AM.

There are some job openings for Radio Techs in the New York City area that are having issues being filled.  The reason.. the cost of living in the Big Apple.  A similar situation is taking place here in the Seattle area.  Bottom line – Wages for technical workers in Broadcasting have not kept pace with those that do similar work in other technical industries.  Couple this with the number of people who are retiring or passing away…and you have a recipe for some, perhaps painful, adjustments to come for the broadcast industry.

Here’s a look at one of the openings in NYC, in this case, with EMF, that provides an interesting look at what people who do what I do are expected to know how to do (Love that sentence).

Responsibilities

As a Field Engineer, here’s what you will be doing…

  • Evaluate the overall technical operation of facilities within the New York area, and take corrective action as needed, to ensure equipment is functioning.
  • Install, maintain, and repair broadcast equipment (such as audio processors and mixers).
  • Install and maintain microwave and satellite equipment.
  • Regularly operate equipment that regulates the signal strength, clarity, and sound.
  • Maintain knowledge of applicable FCC rules and regulations and ensure all equipment within area of responsibility is operating safely and legally.
  • Analyze and fix technical faults on equipment and systems to the module level.
  • Manage and partner with contract engineers to resolve technical problems.
  • Occasionally, carry out work on non-broadcast equipment (such as electrical generators, air conditioning units, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc.) as conditions dictate.
  • Make trips to sites to perform installations or repairs; and EMF headquarters for training or special projects.  The length of these trips varies depending on the specific needs.
  • If assigned, serve as Chief Operator/Engineer for one or more broadcast station(s).

Qualifications

To qualify for this position, here’s what you’ll need….

  • 5+ years experience troubleshooting and repairing radio broadcast electronic equipment
  • Good understanding of the components necessary in a broadcast air-chain
  • Understanding of satellite technology
  • Understanding of radio frequency emissions
  • Ability to solder and de-solder electronic components
  • Knowledge of applicable, broadcast-related FCC rules and regulations
  • Proficiency using standard broadcast test equipment, such as VOMs, oscilloscopes, and RF spectrum analyzers.
  • Being highly organized, detail oriented and thorough as very strong skills/traits
  • Personal, relational, friendly
  • SBE Certification highly desirable
  • Candidates currently residing in Central New York preferred

Employment Requirements

  • Must pass a pre-employment background & reference check.
  • Must provide proof of legal authorization to work in the US.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license and an acceptable motor vehicle report.

According to Pew Research –

The audience for nearly every major sector of U.S. news media decreased in 2017. The sole medium that did not experience a decrease was radio. In Pew Research’s “State of the News Media 2017” the fact tank found that while local and network TV, digital-native news sites and daily newspapers saw their audience shrink last year, radio remained steady.

Citing Nielsen data, Pew notes that the overall audience reach for broadcast radio – which includes all formats, not just news – has been at around 90% for the past nine years. Local and network TV news declined 7%, while cable news fell 12%, according to comScore TV Essentials and StationView Essentials data. The audiences for digital-native news sites fell by 5% in terms of monthly unique visitors in 2017, comScore Media Metrix Multi-platform data shows. The biggest loss of audience was the circulation of U.S. daily newspapers, which fell by 11% last year, according to the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM).

Certainly a finding that should make those that own and operate radio stations quite pleased.

News circulated this past month that there were plans to shut down legacy radio signals from WWV and WWVH due to budget  cuts.  Just think – That Atomic Clock you have would be ‘free to roam’.   For more information – Check out –

http://www.arrl.org/news/nist-fy-2019-budget-would-eliminate-wwv-and-wwvh

There is a  petition to request that funding be maintained

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/maintain-funding-nist-stations-wwv-wwvh

As we all know, newspapers are failing at an alarming rate.  Pittsburgh is about to have the distinction of being the largest city in the U.S. without a daily print newspaper, as the city’s Post-Gazette recently announced they will no longer be producing a weekend paper.  This paper began publication 232 years ago.  They did add that they will be publishing a digital edition 7 days a week…..Times do change.  You do remember holding a Seattle PI don’t you?

I recently ran across a piece titled –

“24 things that are considered ‘normal’ in the US but the rest of the world finds weird.”

One of the items has bugged me for a long time – Why do people in the U.S. use the term ‘American’ as if that were an exclusive term, or think that United States and American are interchangeable terms?  The rest of the world finds this weird.  After all, the U.S. is just one country in the Americas.  In my way of thinking Canadians are American’s too.  Most folks from other countries refer to the U.S. as ‘The States’.

Sirius XM Radio says it is buying Pandora in a stock deal valued at $3.5 billion, according to the Associated Press.  The satcaster says buying the pureplay webcaster will allow it to expand its service beyond cars and into homes and other mobile areas.

The after-effects of the Sinclair/Tribune deal continue to simmer.  Perhaps good news, the Inspector General concluded that the FCC didn’t show favoritism in their decision making process.  Now the two parties, that thought they’d have an approved deal are suing each other.  I’ve heard nothing as to the ownership status of the Tribune stations, other than that others are looking at them.

Around here we don’t get a lot of days with blue skies and white puffy clouds.  As I was driving into the KVTI transmitter site recently – I saw this –

No, it’s not your imagination.  The amount of spam phone calls is getting worse.

According to new data from First Orion, a call protection company, the amount of junk calls will reach 46% by mid-year 2019.  And by the end of that year, the amount is projected to finally cross the halfway point, meaning that half of all calls will be spam.

Collecting data from 50 billion calls over the past 18 months, the company was able to shed light on a phenomenon that many people have noticed and lamented: a severe uptick in calls, many of which use “neighborhood spoofing” techniques to entice people to pick up by having a fake caller ID that resembles the caller’s number.

The numbers weren’t nearly this high even a year ago.  In 2017, mobile call scams made up just 3.7% of total call volume.  By 2018, the number had shot up to 29.2% and projections for spam calls look on track to hit half of all call volume next year.

I had a recent experience that was ‘interesting’.  I was driving along when my cellphone rang and my truck’s ‘radio’ announced I was being called by Clay Freinwald.  Knowing that I rarely call myself I instantly knew it was a Robo-Call.  What was interesting was the displayed phone number – 000 000 0000.   Apparently they are able to not only spoof the phone number they are calling from, but they are able to gain access to your address book in your phone and use one of those names to make you think you are receiving a call from someone you know.  Perhaps the good news is that my home phone now rarely gets a Robo-Call as the scammers have shifted their attention to mobile devices.  Despite all the efforts of the FCC, FTC and others…they have done little to stamp out the practice.  Perhaps the sad part is that the fuel that keeps these outfits going is victims that fall for their baloney.  If everyone just hung up they would all go away.  A sad commentary.

Did you see the story about the big transformer that was being moved through Washington?  The media picked up the story about this big piece of electrical equipment and promptly called it a ‘Windmill’ transformer.  I recall having been sternly corrected a few years ago when I called those big machines ‘Windmills’….and being educated to the fact that they don’t mill anything.  They are to be called WIND-GENERATORS.  It was truly a big one – weighing just over 1-million pounds.

KRKO in Everett has been trying to sell their old transmitter site, hoping that some Ham Operator would want the place.  Comes complete with towers and a pretty good sized building…Check out

https://www.redfin.com/WA/Everett/7115-Larimer-Rd-98208/home/145977378

In a similar category – the 1210 AM transmitter site, east of Auburn, that’s been used for many years as the 1210 ‘Night Site’ is going away.  The owner of the station, Amador Bustos, has received a construction permit to operate Nights at the 1210 Day Site on the west-side of Auburn, with much lower power.  The property owner has put the land on the market (minus the towers that have to be removed).  I was looking through the files on that site and found a purchase order I had signed for those 4 towers back in 1989!  The 10 kW transmitter from that site will be moving to Woodburn, Oregon.  Another example of the retraction of AM radio.

Looks likes Seattle is no longer the nation’s hottest housing market – We’ve been replaced by Las Vegas.  Apparently the folks at the King County Assessor’s office are not moved by this news as my ‘Value Notice’ showed my house value increase by about 5%…In a while I will find out what the 5% means in terms of actual tax increases.  I should add that I live in Auburn, not Seattle.

With that being said – the typical single family home in Vegas goes for just under $300K, while Seattle is at over $800K.

While stopped for my favorite beverage recently I could not help but notice this license plate:

I asked the driver if this was a radio station.  He said no, it was just assigned to him.  The following explains –

https://www.oregonlive.com/cycling/index.ssf/2013/04/share_the_road_license_plates.html

https://bikeportland.org/2007/12/18/first-look-at-oregons-new-share-the-road-license-plate-6216

Just for drill – I looked up KPEB in the FCC Data Base and could not find a station with those letters.

Radio transmitter manufacturer Nautel seems to be doing well of late with the sale of two more FM transmitters for use on Cougar Mt.  Hubbard is getting a new GV10 for use as an Auxiliary for their 98.9 station (The Bull) and Crista is getting a new GV30 for their KCMS/105.3.  The only recent sale for GatesAir (that I am aware of) in this area has been to KNHC (I wrote about that recently).  GatesAir may have an edge over Nautel with their offering of Liquid Cooled FM transmitters.  Liquid cooling has been S.O.P. for TV Transmitters for years.  Thus far I’ve not heard of anyone buying one in this area, however.  Nautel is a Canadian company based in Nova Scotia.  GatesAir is in Illinois.

It’s been a year since Hurricanes Irma and Maria blew into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and there are still Radio and TV Stations that have not fully restored operations.  To be exact – The FCC  reports 10 AM stations, 8 FMs and 3 FM translators are currently silent.  That’s in addition to 11 full-power TV stations, 35 low-power TV stations and 3 TV translators.

Another country says goodbye to analog (or in their case, analogue) TV – This time it’s Ukraine.  One exception is the area’s bordering Russia.

Responses to what I have written –

I recently posted a picture of a pickup truck tailgate that had a big RAM on the back suggesting it might be taken as an invitation to do just that.  A reader of this column reminded me that those vehicles say DODGE in the front.

Then there was the piece about the FCC Chairman climbing a tower.  A reader suggested that this was ‘Pai in the Sky’.

In response to my list of paraprosdokians, a reader suggested this one – ‘Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like an banana’.

And from John Schneider, who was active in the Seattle SBE Chapter when I started writing this thing – “Glad to see you are still doing your column, after all these years.  Who knew it would last so long when we started?“

I found this survey info to be quite interesting –

According to the 2018 Infinite Dial, 82% of respondents 18+ who have driven or ridden in a car over the past month currently tune into traditional radio in the car.  Likewise, the audio source used most often in-car is radio, at 56%.  Next in line among chosen audio choices is a CD player, at 49%, then owned digital music (45%), online radio (28%), podcasts (23%) and satellite radio (21%).

Jacobs Media’s 2018 Techsurvey showed FM radio to be the No. 1 feature radio listeners want included in their next car purchase.

My question – Why is it that many vehicle makers want to remove the CD Player from new vehicle radios?

I often write about the radio ratings in Seattle.  This time, a look at the numbers in our neighbor to the south – Portland, Oregon.   First some market stats – Population 2.54 Million (Seattle is now just under 4 million) Market Rank – 22 (Seattle is 13).

  • The #1 Station is KOPB – Oregon Public Radio with an impressive 8.1
  • AM is not doing very well there either with the top rated station (KEX) at #18
  • Like Seattle, there are 3 Sports/Talk stations – All AM’s and 2 Country FM’s

If you recall my last column I wrote about how KNKX’s HD2 actually gathered some ratings with a minimal .1 share.  Portland is, apparently ahead of Seattle in terms of HD Channels getting ratings with THREE HD-2’s and HD-3’s showing…Each with a .8 and one with a .1.  Also ahead of Seattle is the KOPB Stream showing up with a .4.  I don’t know of any Seattle radio stream that has listed ratings.  One more thing.  Remember the call letters KMTT?  Long time letters for Entercom’s 103.7 in Seattle.  They are now ‘parked’ on an Entercom AM in Portland.

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The following item was submitted by now retired NWS WCM from Seattle Ted Buehner –

What’s the Forecast At My Transmitter Site?

Have you asked that question?  What source do you use to address that question?  Your smart phone weather app? A website? Your weather radio?

Some years ago, I pointed your Corner host Clay Freinwald to the site-specific National Weather Service (NWS) digital weather forecast to answer this question and he has used it ever since.  If you go to your local NWS forecast office website, you will find what Clay is using.  You can also find it on your smart phone by going to mobile.weather.gov, a mobile phone website application that you bookmark.

By using your local NWS forecast office digital weather forecast information, you get forecast information from experienced and local forecasters who live and work in your area.  Other sources like your phone weather app or other websites come from other parts of the country or in one phone app case – Russia!  Many of these resources use purely automated computer forecast output with no human input at all.  This fact helps explain why those weather forecasts ‘seem to be off’ at times.

Clay services many mountain top transmitter sites across mainly Western Washington.  One frequent site for him is West Tiger Mt. – about 20 miles east of Seattle.  The site has elevation of a little over 2500 feet with a great view of Mt. Rainier to the south. [plug in one of your Rainier photos]  So the weather at that higher elevation location is much different than in the lowlands near Puget Sound.

Over the years, Clay learned that the weather around Western Washington differs greatly from one location to another, thanks to the combination of complex terrain and the weather.  Knowing what weather to expect before ever heading to that targeted transmitter site is very important.  For example, during the winter season, it can be raining in the Puget Sound area while snowing up at West Tiger.

What does he use again?  He visits http://www.weather.gov/seattle/ and has bookmarked his usual mountaintop transmitter site-specific forecast locations for easy access before ever stepping into his vehicle.  It is the old slogan – know before you go, that has served him well over time.  If the weather at the site is going to be inclement, he is prepared for it.  And there have been times when it is snowing at the site, that he postpones that routine maintenance until the weather there improves.

Here is an example of his West Tiger MT 7-day weather forecast off the www.weather.gov/seattle/ web site.  In this particular case, wildfire smoke was widespread throughout much of the region.

But as they say in some television commercials, there’s more!  Upon scrolling down a bit on the page, you get the hourly forecast for that same green box (about one nm x one nm) location.

Yes, that is an hourly forecast for temperatures, wind direction and speed, cloud cover, rain or snow amounts and more!

Has this information sparked your interest?  Can you get the same kind of weather forecast information where you work?  Yes, you can!  There are 122 NWS forecast offices across the country with at least one serving your area.

Start by visiting www.weather.gov to view the whole nation and then click on your neck of the woods – that click will get you to your local forecast office – bookmark that.  Then using the provided clickable forecast map, click on the spot for your transmitter site.  The next page to appear will provide a map with a green box on it – you can zoom in and click one more time if you need to ‘fine-tune’ the location.  Now you have the forecast for that transmitter site.  Scroll down and you can get the hourly forecast for that location as well.  You can bookmark both of these.

This process can be done for all your transmitter sites as well as any other desired locations for business or pleasure.  I hope you find this information quite helpful.  As always, when you are weather aware, you are weather prepared.

If you have other weather-related questions that you would like addressed, let Clay know and he will share with me.

Ted Buehner

Meteorologist

Retired – National Weather Service

Washington SECC Vice-Chair

If you are like me, you are always pleased when someone you know wins an award.  In this case…I want to congratulate Jeff Welton of Nautel on being named SBE Educator of the year.  I’ve known Jeff for many years.  Our first encounter was by telephone, dealing with an issue with an AM transmitter close to 30 years ago.  At that time, he was a customer service tech with the firm.  Later he moved into sales, becoming central U.S. sales manager, but, along the way, has made it a point to reach out and teach others about how to do it better at their transmitter plants.  I was chatting with Jeff most recently and he was telling me about a day-long technical session he was involved with in the U.P. of Michigan.  They had a great turn-out with engineers that are unlikely to go to the NAB show in the spring.  The subject matter was broad ranging and I could tell that he was abundantly pleased that he could share some of his knowledge with those that are unlikely to gain it any other way.  Those of you that know Jeff will agree that SBE is honoring a person who richly deserves it.

Really….Is it that time already?  I recently received word that the 2019 NAB Show hotel block is now open.  Prices in their promotional piece range from $257 at the Aria Resort and Casino to $190 at the Westgate (formally the Hilton, next to the Convention Center) to $119 at Harrahs,  Of course, the further you go from the Contention Center the lower the price.

Tim Moore, Transmitter Engineer for Sinclair in Seattle found a file folder full of wonderful historic pictures of KOMO Radio and TV.   See it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShToFTzMNTY

I’ve written about Smart Speakers quite a bit for the simple reason that they might be the only radio in a person’s home these days.  I know that this is the case with a young relative of mine.  So here are some of the latest news items in that world –

  • Ownership of these gizmos is rapidly growing – Now some 32% of consumers own one.  (Would be interesting to compare that growth curve to other consumer electric devices from the past)
  • Recent projections show that 48% of U.S. consumers will own one by the end of this year.
  • And as if this were not enough – 45% of consumers who presently own one, plan to buy another by the end of the year.
  • So what are people using them for?

                    Music – 70%

                    Weather forecast – 64% (So much for NOAA Weather Radio)

                    Fun questions – 53%

                    Online searches – 47%

                    Checking the news – 46%

                    Making a call – 36%

                    Research or information searches – 35%

                    Asking directions – 34%

                    Ordering items – 30%

  • How many people who have one are actually using them?

                    Using it more – 76%

                    Using it daily – 71%

                    More than once a day – 44%

Amazon, our locally based giant – is fully on board with all of this with their Echo products with a recent release of a number of new products – including items for when you are on the go, in a vehicle.

I did have an interesting thought or two about all of this –

  • What happens if you already have a person in your home named Alexa?
  • Wonder how many children will end up with that name?

I love this quote –

Susie Dent – ‘The joy of dictionaries is that they provide you with dozens of answers you were never looking for’.

Here are some words to ponder –

  • confelicity – The joy you experience when witnessing someone else’s happiness; the near opposite of Schadenfreude
  • scurryfunging – Term that describes the frantic rushing around the house we perform in a crazed effort to tidy up before guests arrive
  • absquatulate – To leave somewhere abruptly
  • clinomania – The overwhelming desire to lie down
  • mumpsimus – Someone who rigidly sticks to their opinions despite being proved wrong
  • quiddle – to waste time on trivial matters in order to avoid doing more important things.  Which aptly describes what we have just done

That’s it for this month….My brain has gone from empty to something more extreme.

Lord willing – I’ll have another installment next month in most of these same locations.

In the meantime – Your comments and pictures are always appreciated.

Don’t forget to Fall-Back.

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