Clay’s Corner – July

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

If you live in the Puget Sound area you likely have noticed that something we normally have a lot of is missing. That item is Rain. One look around the area, you are struck at how many areas of brown grass you see. Forecasters are predicting a very bad fire season as a result.

The State Department of Ecology has, on their site, the following:

Drought in Washington 2019

Under our advisement, Gov. Jay Inslee expanded the state’s drought emergency, which now includes 27 watersheds — nearly half the state. On June 4, we began accepting applications for grants to help those experiencing hardships related to the drought emergency.

Here’s the latest:

  • Dry conditions continue, in particular, on the Olympic Peninsula. The U.S. Drought Monitor changed the status of the area to “severe drought” on June 6.
  • By the numbers:
    • The month of May tied for 9th warmest for Washington going back to 1895.
    • About 71 percent of rivers statewide are flowing below normal levels.
    • Statewide, March thru May tied for the 13th driest such period on record.
    • The Olympic Coast experienced the 2nd driest March – May since 1895 while the Palouse/Blue Mountain Ares experienced the 39th wettest.

Projected water supply shortages

  • Very dry conditions over the past months and a diminished snowpack mean streamflow’s will be much below normal this summer across most of the state. Watersheds west of the Cascades crest, which are more rain dependent than rivers on the east side, are flowing at much below normal levels. Some rivers are setting record daily lows for this time of year. Statewide, only 4 percent of rivers are flowing at levels above normal. Streamflow’s are strong in the southeast corner of the state. Twenty-seven out of 62 watersheds have been declared for drought.

The following map really puts things into perspective. The normally wet west side of the State is in the crosshairs of the drought. You may wish to show this to your friends and relatives that are convinced that it ‘rains all the time’ in this area.

My big fear is a wildfire impacting broadcast facilities that are located on mountain tops in this area. Locations like West Tiger, Cougar, Gold and South Mountain come to mind. Flames like to spread to higher ground and these mountain tops are where these facilities are located. Last year, California experienced a number of blazes like this resulting in the loss of many broadcast facilities.

In the past I recall the State DNR closing access to West Tiger or restricting access to what’s called ‘hoot owl’ hours. Anybody up for a Rain-Dance?

Once again Dwight Small has come up with a wonderful picture this month. This, another fantastic sunset at Lake Cavanaugh.

The Headline read:

BE Seeks “New Beginning” With Elenos

BE – Meaning Broadcast Electronics – began many years ago under the name Spotmaster, earning a name for itself as a maker of cartridge tape equipment. The firm enlarged its offerings, moving into manufacturing of AM and FM Transmitters and producing radio playout software products.  In recent years the firm has struggled under the ownership of various venture capital groups. Most recently the 60 year old firm was picked up by Elenos (an Italian transmitter manufacturer) who has vowed to re-establish BE as a major supplier of equipment to the industry. In doing so, they have hired a number of people with significant experience, notably Peter Conlon and Chuck Kelly who both had major roles at Nautel.

There is a lot of BE equipment still in use in this area whose owners are hoping that BE will be able to continue to support it in the years to come.

Speaking of changes, it’s hard to believe that Kent Randles had his last day at Entercom in Portland on June 28th. He now moves on to ‘Uni-Calendar’ mode. For those of you that are not familiar with that term, it means that, going forward into retirement, every day is Saturday. Taking his place is Tom McGinley’s son Jeff.

Remember when Sinclair tried to purchase Tribune? That effort fizzled with the FCC stating that Sinclair displayed a ‘Lack of Candor’. Apparently, according to recent news reports, the FCC has not forgotten the matter and may consider this as the big broadcast group renews its licenses. Sinclair owns KOMO and KUNS-TV as well as KOMO, KPLZ and KVI Radio in Seattle. Lying to the FCC is a huge No-No.

During the latter part of June, I managed to get out of town for a few days, visiting with my Kids and their kids (yes, I am a Great Grandpa) in Boise. From there we drove to Anaconda Mt. to visit old friends. The route had been on my ‘Bucket-List’ for many years. Got to see the Saw Tooth range up-close in Stanley, Lunch in Salmon, over Lolo Pass and into Montana using so lessor traveled roads. Fantastic country. If you have not traveled this route, you should add it to your list. The other scenic drive that should be on your list is between Ouray and Durango Colorado. While in Boise we stayed at a hotel whose bathroom had something that immediately got my attention.

Liquid Soap, Shampoo and Lotion dispensers with the word RADIO on them. I looked up the name and found this:

Not Soap Radio is a botanically based company which make sure their ingredients are locally sourced, cruelty free and free from harsh chemicals. This American based company once began has a small project two sisters could work on together, which eventually turned bigger from the many ideas they came up with. The brand name derives from the punchline of a practical joke, whereby the punch line has no relation to the body of the joke, making it unfunny.

All US Broadcasters are getting ready for the next Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System. This year’s event will take place on August 7th at 11:20 a.m. Pacific Time (2:20 Eastern).

FEMA is again testing portions of the National system. This time it will be the Legacy EAS system involving the Primary Entry Point systems. In the Seattle area, this means that the test will first be routed through KIRO-AM 710.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that the 2019 National Periodic Test is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 2:20 p.m. EDT. In case of inclement weather, a backup date has been set for Wednesday, Aug. 21.

New this year: FEMA proposes to originate the test via the National Public Warning System with a focus on Primary Entry Point facilities. According to Al Kenyon with the IPAWS Program Office, the intent of conducting the test with a focus on PEP is to determine the capability of the EAS system to deliver messages to the public in the event that dissemination via internet is not available.

This time around, the test message will also use the NPT event code and be geo-targeted using the All-US (000000) geocode.

“As in past years, the national EAS test message will look and sound very much like the regular Required Monthly Test messages broadcast every month by all EAS participants, broadcast radio and television, cable, wireline service providers and direct broadcast satellite service providers,” said FEMA’s Kenyon in a letter alerting the Federal Communications Commission of its plans.

All EAS Participants must file a report with the FCC regarding this test, as they have in years past, using what’s known as ETRS (Electronic Test Reporting System).

Speaking of EAS – The Washington State SECC will be holding its next meeting on July 9th at 9:30 a.m. in the Building 11 Radio Conference Room at Clover Park Technical College. The meeting is open to all having an interest in EAS. You can attend in person or via telephone conference bridge.

Last year the SECC appointed a Committee to deal with a couple of major projects: 1) Update the State EAS Plan and 2) Deal with the new FCC system called ARS. We will be discussing this process at the July 9th Meeting. The group will be asked to approve a recommendation that will re-name our EAS Plan. The reason for this is that the FCC will using the name State EAS Plan in an on-line system. All will be explained at the July 9th meeting.


One of the great benefits of working at West Tiger Mt. is the beauty of nature. Here, a cluster of wildflowers to help remind me how much I’d rather be here than stuck in traffic in the city.



Recently, six old guys who all used to work together at Entercom got together for lunch. From left to right: John Price, Dwight Small, Tom Pierson, the writer of this column, Marty Hadfield and Chuck Taylor.  Four of the six are now retired. A lot of white hair (or no hair). Chuck is well on the way. The sign in the background reading ‘WHAT’S NEXT’ just happened to be there.

Something you don’t hear about very often these days is broadcast employees voting to join a labor union, much less employees at public radio stations. This is what recently took place at KCRW in Los Angeles as they voted to recognize SAG-AFTRA as their labor union. Here in our area, KUOW and KNKX have done the same.

Big news item at the end of June was the sale by Cumulus of WABC in New York to Red Apple Media for $12.5 Million cash. The AM Station operates with 50 kW non-directional day and night on 770. The station has significant coverage, especially at night where it covers a huge area. Interesting to note that KABC (San Francisco) is on the same frequency.  Here, locally, 770 is the home of KTTH (Formally KXA). KABC signed on in 1923. This is, perhaps, a stark example of the declining value of AM Radio stations, even big ones. In that market, it’s likely the transmitter site property is worth that much!

You may have noticed that 102.9 is no longer Smooth Jazz and is now broadcasting something from south of the border with the call letters KZTM. Wonder if anyone else will pick up the format that ran so long on 98.9. One only needs to look at lower ranked FM’s to find out who might be looking.

KING-FM has announced their new location, after looking at locations in Fremont and Sodo. Their new digs will be quite close to their old ones at the Seattle Opera Center. The move seems like a natural fit for the two organizations that are devoted to historic music. The move to their new 4,000 sq. ft. space will take place about the first of the year. This will mean another station will say goodbye to historic PR&E consoles and say hello to new Wheatstone digital equipment. The Station’s Main Transmitter is on West Tiger Mountain, where they share the antenna used by six other stations, including KNKX.

Here’s a picture of the space that will be transformed into the new location of KING-FM:

Many years ago, while working at KMO in Tacoma, we installed EMP protection on the transmitting systems. Back then, KMO was the CPCS-1 Station for Pierce County under the old Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). Interestingly, there is renewed interest in protecting our infrastructure. The Congressional EMP Commission have been warning about the threat for over 20 years. Now, thanks to a Presidential Executive Order, things are moving forward again. Like the situation with Korea having something to do with it. If this topic interests you, I highly recommend you do some reading on the matter. There is plenty available on-line.

Did you know that WWV will be 100 years old this fall?

It’s obvious that things are getting crowded in these parts. There are now 7.5 Million that call Washington State home. Since 2010, King County alone has grown by 300,000.

KNKX is getting closer to moving to their new studio facilities in the Theatre District of downtown Tacoma. On the left, a picture taken by Lowell Kiesow of the antennas on the roof of the new location. There is no ‘clear-shot’ from here to their transmitter on West Tiger, so to get their programming to the transmitter these antennas are aimed at Fife Heights (on the hill in the distance) where it will be relayed to West Tiger.

Thankfully, my job does not involve working downtown, but rather takes me to beautiful places here in the PNW. The following picture is an example. This was taken through my windshield of the little road to Butler Hill in Skagit County. The word ‘verdant’ perhaps describes it best.

Did you ever wonder why we (in the US and Canada) appear to be behind other areas in the world? Here we are talking about the demise of AM Radio with shifting listenership to FM. Meanwhile, in Europe, they have installed many robust digital broadcast systems and are talking about the end of FM. News releases from the UK cite how DAB now covers 90% of the country, leading to, perhaps, shutting down FM in mid-2020. All the while there are on-going efforts to shift AM stations to Digital. Why is it that Radio is so resistant to change, while TV did not have the same degree of reluctance?

Meanwhile the ‘first’ digital mode of radio transmission (Morse Code) is celebrating 175 years.

I ran across this piece recently, showing the difference in the Seattle Waterfront due to the removal of the viaduct.  I have to remember there are many that were not yet born when it was constructed.

One of the pioneers in the world of equipment manufacturing, Arno Meyer, passed on May 25th. The name Belar became a familiar name to many in this industry, primarily for their Modulation Monitors. The name Belar came from Arno and his wife Isobel. The BEL from her and the AR from him (I never knew). Many of us recall chatting with him at their booth at NAB. Arno was 90. There are not many of radios pioneers left.

Guess there were a lot of upset folks in the Dayton Ohio area recently when The Bachelorette was interrupted by a Tornado Warning. The Weather guy on the station responded with a blast of his own. This all proving the point that some would rather be entertained than warned.


Last fall, work started on a new tower on West Tiger. Then we had some winter weather, so the contractor quit, figuring he’d come back in the spring. Then we had a period of relatively warm weather, so they went back to work and got the tower foundation installed. That was when Winter really hit hard in February, with the project stopped again. The following picture, taken from one of the AccelNet tower cams on February 13th, shows the track hoe used to put in the foundation. The poles sticking up are where the future tower will go.

On March 3rd, winter continued with the snow getting deeper. The tracks on the left are made by snow machines used to transport workers to the electronic sites.


Finally the weather broke, the some three feet of snow melted and it was time to get back to work. I took this picture as I was heading down. Had to wait for this truck load of tower pieces to turn around. The big orange tower on the left is one of three towers operated on West Tiger by American Tower.


It did not take long for the tower to be constructed. Helping that process was a huge crane that was driven up to the site.  By now they have delivered the prefabricated equipment building.






The Tower-Cam does not show how big the tower is.





From the east-side, you can see the fully erected tower. Yet to come will be a number of antennas. The other tower, to the left, is operated by Williams Pipeline. Some of those microwave dishes supply telephone circuits to the broadcast facilities on the mountain.







Meanwhile, over at Cougar Mountain, Hubbard has installed a new Antenna for auxiliary use for 92.5 and 98.9. The antenna is connected to the two transmitters via a new ERI Branch Combiner.






For many years I have been attending the Amateur Radio event at Seaside, Oregon. Walking around, you could not help but notice a boarded up theatre. The first of June, I was shocked to see that the boards were removed and the doors open. I figured (wrongly) the place was a mess inside…to my surprise they were using it for storage and it had not changed. On the right is a picture of what the place looked like 30+ years ago.

What they have done to transform the classic old theatre is amazing. Here’s a picture I took while there. They’ve removed much of the main level seating, replacing it with tables and chairs. Movie theatres don’t have much of a stage. Behind where the screen was, is now brewing equipment. They have a new screen that comes down, in from of the equipment. Where the back row of seating was, is now a bar.  As you walk in, the old Lobby still has normal movie fare. The projectors have been replaced with the latest digital projection equipment.

According to the person I spoke with, you can now go to the theatre and enjoy a movie, or a featured movie, or sporting event, have dinner and enjoy a locally made brew. For more information, check this out:

Looks like another fun reason to go to Seaside!

The May Radio Numbers have some interesting shifts.

  • KUOW is again at #1!
  • Entercom’s country station, The Wolf (KKWF) moved up to #4
  • AM continues to suffer with the highest rated station (KIRO/710) at #13
  • KOMO-AM is at #18
  • KING-FM (Classical) and KNKX (Jazz) are tied
  • Perhaps hard to believe – KJR/950, KTTH/770 and KVI/570 are all tied with KEXP-FM, the relatively low powered non-commercial FM station in Seattle (sign of the times)

I recently spotted this on an old AM Field Strength Meter at a work bench. Would be interesting to know who, over the years, used this one!

Reminder from Roland Robinson, Washington State RMT Test Coordinator. The July RMT will be originated by the State DEM for the entire state on Friday, July 12 at 10:50 a.m.



I recently met an old friend for lunch in Mt. Vernon at the ‘Lunch Box Café’. Sitting next to our booth was a Long Ranger lunch box. Perhaps the bad part of this is that I recall listening to the Lone Ranger on RADIO!



During my road trip through Idaho and Montana recently, I missed the KBSG reunion. This brought together many of those that worked at the station during its heyday. I have to admit, it was probably the high point of my career, building a new station in a brand new building and watching it become extremely popular. Like all things, the end came and the frequency 97.3 is now KIRO-FM. Kudos to Mark Christopher who did a feature about the station with many audio clips that aired recently on KOMO. (Click to listen here)

The only puzzling thing about this event was, it was in Everett. KBSG, when it started, was in Tacoma and later moved to Seattle. Several ‘south-enders’ did not attend due to the location. Those that organized the gathering promised that the next one would be closer to the birth place of the legendary station, Tacoma.

History shows that great Seattle call letters are re-used elsewhere.

KBSG-AM is not presently in use. The AM, on 1210, is now Owned by Bustos Media as KMIA.

KBSG-FM is now being used in Raymond on 90.1.

I’d like to leave you with a listing of ‘Well Known Laws’:

Law of Mechanical Repair – After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you’ll have to pee.

Law of Gravity – Any tool, nut, bolt, screw, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible place in the universe.

Law of Probability – The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

Law of Random Numbers – If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal; someone always answers.

Variation Law – If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now.

Law of the Bath – When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone will ring.

Law of Close Encounters – The probability of meeting someone you know INCREASES dramatically when you are with someone you don’t want to be seen with.

Law of the Result – When you try to prove to someone that a machine won’t work, IT WILL!!!

Law of Biomechanics – The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

The Coffee Law – As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

Murphy’s Law of Lockers – If there are only 2 people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

Law of Physical Surfaces -The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the carpet or rug.

Law of Logical Argument – Anything is possible IF you don’t know what you are talking about.

Law of Physical Appearance – If the clothes fit, they’re ugly.

Law of Public Speaking — A CLOSED MOUTH GATHERS NO FEET!

Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy – As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it OR the store will stop selling it!

Doctors’ Law – If you don’t feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there, you’ll feel better. But don’t make an appointment and you’ll stay sick.

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 Summer!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714.