Clay’s Corner

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

In my column last month, I asked for pictures.  This one, submitted by Alex Brewster of a sunset from West Tiger Mt., and shot from his drone, is nothing short of spectacular!

In the foreground is the West Tiger-1 Tower.  The round things are the antenna bays for KIRO-FM, perhaps the highest FM in the Seattle market.  Top of the tower is 3148 Feet above sea-level.

To say the least, Drones have changed the way we take pictures of a lot of things.  Combine their mobility with today’s high-performance cameras and you have a very useful device.  I recently Googled Drone Pilots and, from the looks of things, this has become an area of considerable interest.  Certainly, TV is using them to obtain shots that were, previously, only dreamed of for news, sporting event and, of course, creating compelling commercials.  I could not help but notice while thumbing through one of those real estate magazines recently, how many pictures of houses are not shot from overhead.

Meanwhile back to Tiger Mountain.  At the present time, there are two new tower-sites being built on Tiger summits.  One of them is in the location of the former Radio Systems site on East Tiger, and another, part of a new King County radio system on West Tiger.  In this picture you can see a track-hoe at work.  In the background are the twin-towers of the ATC 7500/7509 Site, home of several Radio and TV transmitters.

Looking at the chart below makes me wonder if those of us that go up there regularly will be dealing with a lot of snow this winter.  Perhaps not this year, as the predictions are for a warmer than average winter.

Speaking of mountains, the US Geological Survey has updated its volcano threat assessments.  It’s the first time that’s been done since 2005.  As expected, Mt. St. Helens is listed as a ‘very high threat’ for eruption.  This despite the fact that it is been very quiet of late.  What is, perhaps, a bit more concerning for us in the Seattle-Tacoma area is that Mt. Rainier is also in that ‘Top Five threat’ category.  Rainier is, perhaps, of more concern due to its proximity to population.  One only has to look at geological history to see that our tallest peak has had major impacts on this area in the past.

A site that I often visit is  If you would like to ‘drill down’ a bit and look at what’s shaking with our volcanoes go here  Looking at this site on the 26th of October, I could see that Mt. Rainier had 21 quakes compared to St. Helens’ 16.  Thankfully, most of these are quite small and below the point where one should conclude that the mountain is about to erupt.

Of course, Hawaii’s Kilauea is number one on the list.  Interesting that Mt. Shasta in Northern California is also in the top 5.

Hurricane Michael did a real number on the Florida Panhandle, Georgia and Alabama recently, with a lot of radio and TV facilities severely damaged.  In one case a broadcast station owner announced that they were going to surrender their license and not attempt to rebuild.  The wireless industry was struck hard with many discovering that their cellphones were useless.  Combine this with massive power outages and you get a sense of what it’s going to be like in the PNW when we finally get our big earthquake.  Once again, Michael proved the ability of radio broadcasting to reach the public with vital information.  Those stations that were able to stay on the air, or get back quickly, were a valuable lifeline.

We were all shocked this past month with the news that Paul Allen had passed.  Obviously, Paul has had a huge impact on the Seattle area.  One of the major questions being asked now is what about his interest in a couple of the area’s sports teams – the Seahawks and Blazers.  Guess we will just have to wait and see.

Something else to speculate on are the Fox Sports Channels.  It’s reported that sale of these could run up to 20 Billion Dollars.  Disney is buying over $71 Billion worth of 21st Century Fox, but is reportedly going to sell the 22 regional sports networks, which leads to speculation as to who might be the new owners.  Some big names are being mentioned including Rupert Murdoch who is rumored to be considering buying them back from Disney.

Awhile back Salem announced that it was going to move the transmitter for AM Station KKOL from Tacoma to a Tri-Plex arrangement on Bainbridge Island.  Then came word that they were selling the station.  Along the way there were those on Bainbridge that objected to the idea for various reasons.  On October 23rd the FCC denied the objections and gave the go-ahead.  The station now has a relatively short amount of time to construct the facility.  KKOL, as you might recall, used to transmit from Harbor Island in Seattle as KOL on 1300.  Us oldsters can still hear their jingle – ‘Colorful KOL’, back in the days when they were a competitor to KJR.

A quick look at what brand of radio transmitting equipment has been purchased the last few years around here tells you that Nautel has a large market share.  Some of the credit should be given to their regional sales manager, Ellis Terry, who has recently announced his retirement.  Congrats Ellis!!

The matter of Net Neutrality has been in the news quite a bit, especially in California where they have taken a path different from the FCC.  Always interesting to read the comments of FCC commissioners:


STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER JESSICA ROSENWORCEL ON CALIFORNIA NET NEUTRALITY LAW by STMT.  News Media Contact: Travis Litman at (202) 418-2400, email: OCJR. DOC-354334A1.docx DOC-354334A1.pdf DOC-354334A1.txt

You see me write a lot about West Tiger Mountain as this is a place I’ve been doing work for  the past 30 years.  There is only one road to the summit and that begins at what’s known as ‘Tiger Summit’ on State Route #18 (formally known as the Echo Lake Cutoff).  My approach is from the South, via Auburn.  Over the years WSDOT has gradually improved most of this highway from a two-lane road to a divided freeway.

However, the portion where you go over the pass (from Hobart Road to I-90) remains much as it has been for many years with only the addition of Jersey-Barrier in places.  Those locations – without the barrier – have been the scenes of horrible crashes and loss of life.  It is my understanding that completing this portion of the highway, which would include some sort of exit, over-under-pass at Tiger Summit, has not been funded.

Recently there was yet another wreck and more lives lost:

Here is a comment, posted by one of the Broadcast Engineers that travel that highway afterward:

Surely the survivors of the all the lost family members over the years are now preparing a case based on OBVIOUS neglect.  Every day I go to work I drive past the skid marks, burnt asphalt, and roadside crosses and wonder if I’m gonna be the next victim.

Congratulations to Jim Leifer on being re-elected President of SBE.  I should mention that Jim works for American Tower, overseeing their broadcast sites.  Let me not leave out one of SBE’s newest Board Members, Tom McGinley, who will be chairing the Awards Committee.  Tom spent many years in Seattle as DOE of the CBS Radio group of stations.  Upon retirement, he moved back to Montana where he is still active in our business.

No news on the fate of the Tribune Stations that were to become part of Sinclair.  However, there are no shortage of rumors floating about.  Would be an expensive process however, as Tribune has a Market Cap of about 3.3 Billion.  Tribune owns KCPQ and JOEtv in Seattle.

Another shuffle may be in the works with rumors that Cox may be shedding 14 TV Stations.  Not sure if that would involve KIRO-TV in Seattle.

Gee, and we thought that Radio was the broadcast home of the ‘revolving door’.

It’s now official.  KNKX has announced the location for their future studios will be in the Theater District of Downtown Tacoma in the historic C.N. Gardner Building at 930 Broadway, which is next to the Pythian Temple and across the street from Theatre on the Square.

The 88.5 Pubcaster was founded by Pacific Lutheran University, with studios in a building adjacent to the college campus in Parkland.  After the separation of the two, and the changing of call letters from KPLU to KNKX, the station had to move.

Perhaps what’s unique about this studio re-location is that the station’s city of license is Tacoma and unlike many other Tacoma licensed stations,  they are not relocating to Seattle.  However, KNKX does, and will continue to have studios in Seattle.

Now the work begins for the station’s engineering department headed up by Lowell Kiesow.  The new location will require a 2-hop STL to reach their transmitters on West Tiger and Cougar Mts.

The big TV channel shuffle called ‘Repack’ is having an impact on many FM stations that share towers with impacted TV stations.  The only FM in the Seattle area that might experience some of this could be on Capitol Hill.  Fortunately (for the FMs) most of them moved to higher terrain and off the TV towers.  NPR and NAB have been working to come up with funding from the FCC for those FMs, many of which are Non-Comms.

The Commission has announced the following totals for broadcast stations licensed as of September 30, 2018 in the U.S.




                TOTAL:  15,493





                TOTAL:   1,761



                TOTAL:  389


UHF TRANSLATORS         2752

VHF TRANSLATORS           914

                TOTAL:  11,514

UHF LOW POWER TV      1486

VHF LOW POWER TV         425

                TOTAL: 1,911

LOW POWER FM                2175


As my readers know – I LOVE PICTURES, especially of broadcast facilities that no one ever gets to see.  The following was taken by Kent Randles looking up inside the Stonehenge tower in Portland.  This is a very large ‘pipe’ that carries the transmission lines for the multitude of antennas on the structure.  The large diameter one on the left connects the site’s FM station combiner to the antenna at the top.  You will find some great pictures and related stories here:

Interestingly there are a number of other Stonehenge Towers in the U.S. – Instead of housing antennas those structure house people.   (Google it and see)

Well, we did it again.  Another National Test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) has come and gone.  This one was the first involving Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) at the same time.   Zillions of Cellphones went off at the same time, for the first time.   Now the process of learning what went right and/or wrong.   Certainly the Feds will have reports to come.

On the topic of EAS:

  • The next Washington State SECC Meeting will be on Tuesday, November 13th in the Radio Conference Room in Building 11 on the campus of Clover Park Technical College.  The meeting is open to all having an interest in EAS.  The Committee has been in operation for well over 20 years and relies heavily on volunteers.
  • The EAS Plan Revision Committee is well underway re-writing the State EAS Plan.  Their meetings are all via telephone conference bridge.  A report on their activity will be presented to the SECC at the November 13th meeting.

The FCC continues to battle Pirate Radio operations.  A bill, pending in Congress, would not only stiffen fines to as much as 2-Megabucks, but would enable the FCC to go after those that assist in these illegal operations, such as landlords that rent or lease space to those that operate the stations, as well as those that advertise on them.

Many of my readers access this Column via the NW Broadcasters Web Site which is based in Seattle’s big neighbor to the North – Vancouver.  I find it interesting how many people in the U.S have visited this spectacular city.  Both cities are experiencing similar issues.  The following will tell you a lot about Vancouver:

One of the greatest natural effects on the reception of AM Radio is thunderstorms.  Lightning produces those loud ‘crashes’ you hear on you AM Radio.  The good news for those of us that live in the PNW is that we have just about the lowest number of these storms of anywhere in the country.  Here is a link to a fascinating site that shows you, in real time, where these storms are located and when lightning is taking place.

One way to get about the adverse impact of Thunderstorms, and other source of noise, while making good use of our medium-wave spectrum is to convert AM radio to Digital.  An AM station on the East Coast is experimenting with just that.  Hubbard’s WWFD has received FCC approval to turn off their 820 AM signal and turn on all digital.  The results will be indeed interesting.  Perhaps we forget all those new car radios being produced today have HD Radios in them, capable of receiving the all-digital broadcasts.  Xperi reports there are already 50 Million cars on the road equipped to receive these broadcasts.  Preliminary reports are quite interesting.

It would be interesting so see if owners of AM Stations that are suffering from, not only natural noises (Thunderstorms etc.), but man made ones that have had the effect of reducing their coverage and chasing their audiences to FM, would be willing to turn off their legacy modulation method and go for all digital.  With the slow but sure process of AM becoming less relavent and profitable…perhaps the pendulum could swing in this direction?  Could an AM Station that is now operating an FM Translator that, presumably, has a large share of the station’s audience, be convinced to switch their AM to Digital?  Could this become a part of the effort of revitialize AM Radio?  As they say…time will tell.  I have the feeling a lot of eyes are on this one.

Meanwhile the FCC is trying to ‘Strike A Balance’ in coming up with new rules related to Translator Interference.  The addition of many new FM Translators for AM Stations has been a major driver in this discussion.

If you have been in broadcasting, especially Radio, for a long time, you will find this picture a trip down memory lane.  It belongs to a friend of mine who would like to sell it.  Contact me for more details.

Following is a complete listing of 2018 Marconi awards winners:

Legendary Station of the Year – KKBQ-FM, Houston, TX

AC Station of the Year – KSTP-FM, St. Paul, MN

Network/Syndicated Personality of the Year – Dan Patrick, Premiere Networks

CHR Station of the Year – KNDE-FM, College Station, TX

Major Market Personality of the Year – Angie Martinez, WWPR-FM, New York, NY

Classic Hits Station of the Year – KRTH-FM, Los Angeles, CA

Large Market Personality of the Year – Joe Kelley, WDBO-FM, Orlando, FL

Country Station of the Year – KCLR-FM, Columbia, MO

Medium Market Personality of the Year – Pat Kerrigan, KSRO-AM, Santa Rosa, CA 

News/Talk Station of the Year – WTOP-FM, Washington, D.C.

Small Market Personality of the Year – Brian Byers, WSOY-AM, Decatur, IL

Non-commercial Station of the Year – WPSC-FM, Wayne, NJ

Major Market Station of the Year – WSB-AM, Atlanta, GA

Religious Station of the Year – KLTY-FM, Dallas, TX

Large Market Station of the Year – WDBO-FM, Orlando, FL

Rock Station of the Year – WMMR-FM, Philadelphia, PA

Medium Market Station of the Year – KSRO-AM, Santa Rosa, CA

Spanish Station of the Year – WKAQ-AM, San Juan, P.R.

Small Market Station of the Year – WWUS-FM, Sugarloaf Key, FL

Sports Station of the Year – WEEI-FM, Boston, MA

Urban Station of the Year – WWPR-FM, New York, NY

Did you notice anything missing??

  • Only stations on the Left-Coast are in BOLD (3 of them)
  • No stations from our neck of the woods.

I mentioned TV Repack earlier.  Here are some pictures of happenings at KTNW in Tri-Cities, WA as the station, part of WSU’s NWPB, take delivery of a new Rhode & Schwarz transmitter.  The site is known as Joe Butte or Jump-off-Joe and is SE of Kennewick.

Another outdoor picture from the camera of Ted Beuhner of the tower on Striped Peak west of Port Angeles.   Two broadcast stations, KVIX and KNWP, share this site with a host of government services.

Edison Research is out with new data regarding radio.  Hoping I don’t get in trouble for doing it, here is the whole thing:

Broadcast radio may still reach more than nine out of ten Americans, but how they’re receiving those broadcasts is changing and with that comes a potential warning for the industry.  While the vast majority of Americans still own a traditional radio receiver, Edison Research reports the number who doesn’t have increased seven-fold during the past decade.  “Broadcast radio has a hardware problem,” Edison Research VP Megan Lazovick said.

The idea that traditional receivers are disappearing may seem somewhat far-fetched considering one in ten Americans surveyed by Edison still has four or more radios in their house.  And 60% said there are one to three radios in their home.  But Lazovick told the RAIN Summit in Orlando on Tuesday that the growing number of homes without a radio can’t be ignored any longer.  “One of the basic assumptions of the radio industry is that if we put that content and our signals out there, people will naturally have a device on which to listen to it,” she said. “No one ever discusses an utterly essential question, what do they listen to that content on?”

The research shows 29% of households overall have zero radios in their home.  That compares to just 4% who said that in 2008.  The shift is led by younger demos.  Among 18 to 34-year-olds Edison found 50% said there’s no dedicated radio in their home.  That’s an increase from 6% reported in 2008.  And among the half that said there is a radio in their house, most counted one to three receivers.

Even as the number of receivers in the home is in flux, one factor that will mitigate any changes is the fact that the car remains the top listening location for audio.  Edison’s Share of Ear study shows during any given day, 70% of Americans will hear audio while in a car.  That’s three points higher than those who listen at home.

“The good news for the radio industry is that the device that gets the most listening today is a radio — 42% of the time that consumers listening to all types of audio that Americans have available today is listened to on an actual radio,” Lazovick said.  Yet 24% of all audio listening is on a phone, 14% is on a computer, 2% is on smart speaker and 2% on an internet-connected TV.  Taken together those four digital devices now have a combined share just as large as traditional radio receivers.

How that is already shaking up listening to AM/FM may be Edison’s biggest wake-up call to broadcasters descending on Orlando for the annual Radio Show.  Lazovick said so far how much AM/FM listening is done on digital devices when that content sits alongside a variety of other digital options suggests broadcasters need to do more to compete.  “To date when people are choosing what they want to listen to on the infinite dial they are simply not spending a ton of time with streams of AM/FM radio,” she said.

Edison data shows just 6% of time spent listening on a smartphone goes to AM/FM radio.  The numbers are better for smart speakers where 21% of listening is to AM/FM content.  “This is a device that is designed for listening so it makes sense radio does better here,” Lazovick said.

In order to reverse the current trend lines, Lazovick suggested the radio industry address what some see as a less than desirable user experience whenever someone tries to replicate the over-the-air listening experience online.  “We’re taking something marvelous–an environment of preset buttons, scan, seek and simple easy switching to preferred content–and made it difficult at best,” she said.  Lazovick said that includes offering a variety of apps, which she believes is slowing listening to station webcasts.  She thinks the industry should unite around a single technology and instead compete on content.

“Millions of people across America are loyal to the content radio produces–the favorite morning show, the music, companionship, news and information, and sense of place that radio content provide to them,” Lazovick said.  “But no one cares at all about the method by which the content is transferred to them.”

From the File labeled ‘Head Scratching’….

We all know that we measure the power of a broadcast station using the unit ‘Watt’.  Yet, James Watt invented the term ‘horsepower’ as a marketing ploy for his engines.  While I’m at it…

  • The formula for Horsepower is: 1 HP = power needed to lift 550 lbs. 1 foot in the air in 1 second.
  • Real horses actually only produce about .7 HP, based on the official calculation for horsepower.

More useful information –

There was a survey published recently listing 25 professions that are dying and you should avoid ..Of course one of them was  – Broadcasters.  They stated:

One in 10 of the nation’s 33,202 radio and television announcers are expected to see their jobs disappear by 2026.  Consolidation in the industry, as well as increased use of syndicated content, is fueling the decline.  There’s also the explosion of streaming music services.  More and more listeners prefer that over their local, drive-time disc jockey.

Throwing in the Towel – WDCD in Albany N.Y. has surrendered its license.  The station was, as you might have guessed an AM operating on 1540.  In recent years the station tried to downgrade to less power in an effort to curb expenses.  In the end, the station was silent.  The station went on the air in 1948.

Having worked for Viacom when they changed 97.3 KNBQ to KBSG, I can’t help but be interested in when those call letters crop up again.  This time the call KBSG-FM are used by a 90.1 440 Watt operation in Raymond.  Yes, the old Seattle based KBSG is now KIRO-FM.

Every once in a while there is a ‘thread’ or conversation on a particular topic that comes along that gets my attention.  In this case, on Pubtech.  The conversation has been about the best way to use a microphone to record or broadcast the sound produced by a piano.

One of the participants wrote:

…you hit on a pet peeve of mine for years… and then I go and blow it!!  I detest the term spelling ‘micing’… like what cats do.  Then there’s ‘miking’ of which the root microphone has no ‘k’.  So if we have to live with micing, then it should be mic’ing.  And I

muffed it.  Or is it muff’d?

KNKX’s Lowell Kiesow responded with this – Mic’ing would be a contraction of the word microphoning.  “When microphoning up a trombone, put it a few inches in front of the bell.”

I’ll quote the comments of the late Brad Weber, a very bright mind in the audio industry.  “This very topic came up in a pro sound forum and the general view seemed to be that while “mic” has come to be a somewhat widely accepted contraction of microphone, other related terms like “micing” or “miking” are colloquialisms and industry jargon.  Basically, they are made up words with no defined or formally accepted application or spelling, so you can’t be right or wrong with how you apply or spell them.  And when addressing people outside the industry, you placed a microphone on someone or you are putting a microphone on someone or you are addressing microphone technique and application.”

The theater production forum,, did a small poll on this.  The results were:

micing, miced 53%

miking, miked 10.5%

mic’ing, mic’ed 28.9%

mic-ing, mic-ed 13.2%

other 2.6%

In the event that you too have wondered about this one, now you know that whatever you have been using may well be correct.

One of my favorite types of humor is what’s known as a ‘Groaner’.  The following, submitted by Phil Johnson, is a great example:

While we are all groaning ….How about some, equally bad, Puns?

The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference.  He acquired his size from too much pi.

I thought I saw an eye-doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

A rubber-band pistol was confiscated from an algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway.  One hat said to the other, ‘You stay here; I’ll go on a head.’

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said, ‘Keep off the Grass.’

A backward poet writes inverse.

With that behind me – and winter on its way remember:



If I forget to mention it – Have a great Turkey Day!



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