Clay’s Corner for June 2011

As I sit here writing this column it’s been a day of cool, below normal, temperatures with showers and I am reminded of those that have been impacted by severe storms and tornados and how fortunate we are to live in this beautiful part of the country. We may have cool and damp weather, but in comparison, I’ll take it ! With that being said, there were reports on late May that a small twister may have come down near Napavine, South of Chehalis.

The many tornados that have him the Mid-West have again demonstrated that when the chips are down (or blown away) that Radio and TV are there. There are countless stories of stations providing wall to wall coverage of the paths of these twisters providing advance warning to many. TV Stations with radars and trained staffs went into overdrive showing their viewers exactly where the twisters were located, which way they were moving etc. After the storms they have become lifelines to those that are looking for their love ones etc. When there is no telephone, cell service, or power broadcasting again has been there.

NAB and a number of other radio groups have been trying to get the FCC to require that cell phones include FM receivers. It could be that the storms that are ravaging the Midwest could play a helpful role in this effort. With tornados wiping out cell sites rendering these phones useless, radio has again proved that its point-multi-point distribution system is a time proven method of getting emergency information out to those who need it.

On the personal side I’ve had an interesting month. Probably the most excitement came in the form of a phone call informing me that PSE had turned off the power to the West Tiger-1 transmitter site on West Tiger. As it turned out, it was due to hikers over the years using the power line right-of-way as an aggressive trail to the top of West Tiger-3 resulting in erosion that caused the once buried line to be exposed in places thereby creating a safety issue. Thanks to the folks at Boeing who share this right of way, the lines got covered and the power turned back on. That little episode caused us to burn right at 2400 gallons of Diesel. It’s become clear that the old line, installed in January of 1988, has reached the end of its life. Plans are now being made to extend the power line from the ATC Site on the East end of the West Tiger ridge to the summit of the mountain ASAP.

Big news locally this month is the return of Marty Hadfield to Seattle Radio. After leaving Entercom, Marty went to work for MediaFlo, later he went to work for Alpha Broadcasting in Portland where he oversaw the building of a radio cluster operation that was the subject of a recent national magazine review. The news that Marty was coming back home to work at Clear Channel came as a bit of a surprise to all. Marty has many friends in this area and it’s good to have him back. Hope to see you at an upcoming SBE Marty!

We have another HD Radio station on the air in Western Washington as WSU recently completed the installation of a new Nautel VS2.5 HD transmitter at its NWPR site in
Chehalis on Crego Hill. The station broadcasts news-talk on FM/HD-1 and Classical Music on HD2. WSU will be adding another station to its facility in Forks early in the month. No HD in this case, with both program services being on different FM frequencies. Interesting statistic, about 20% of radio stations have added HD.

The big news this month, on the national scene, is the release of the long awaited EAS FNPRM. I have posted the whole thing on the Washington State EAS Remailer. As I often say…If you don’t make comment on this, you are telling the FCC that they should deal with EAS by listening to others. Another example of – You snooze, you looze.

As a reminder – when you get your new CAP Capable EAS box – and you have it connected to the Washington State CAP Network, be sure and let ME know. I am in the process of updating the Monitoring Assignments for our state and need to integrate this information. You can send the info directly to me at – k7cr@blarg.net – in the Subject Line, write – TAB 10 UPDATE. Thanks.

The NAB show, last month in Las Vegas drew some 90,000. Would have been over that, but I elected to stay home this year and work on my kitchen remodel.

As announced by Chris McGowan at the last Chapter Meeting …the FCC has revamped their Web Site adding a lot more pictures etc. Check it out at www.fcc.gov

From time to time you hear about venues that install cell phone jamming transmitters to keep phones from going off during performances etc. Down in California a high school decided that text messaging by their students was not a good idea, especially when testing was going on. I can see it now…the smart kid in the class ‘texts’ answers to others for a small fee… The FCC got wind of it and ….Well you know what happened. Seems to me it would be perhaps easier to have a no cell phone rule on exam day…but then again, perhaps no one would show up to take the test.

Speaking of Texting…Driving a 4×4 with some elevation to it, I am amazed at the number of folks that continue to text while driving. The difference now appears to be that they hold their phone lower so the police won’t see what they are doing. Seems to me that this causes their eyes to be even further from watching what they are doing.

Have you followed the matter of how Light Square is proposing a 1500 MHz broadband system? The problem with this is their proposed operation is very close to the frequencies used by GPS having the potential to cause interference with a system that many have come to depend on. Could this be yet another example of where the politicians are leaving their brains at the door as they rush to embrace anything with the name broadband associated with It.?

The FCC has been doing a FINE job of late….Here are some examples of how enforcement appears to be alive and well.

In L.A. CBS has been asked to contribute 10 Grand to the US Treasury. Appears that an FCC employee noticed that the top beacon on the KNX tower was out. The fine was not for the lack of light but rather for the fact that the station did not report this to the FCC. Naughty naughty.

Television gets its share of FCC attention – for example, KSKT in San Diego has been asked to pay 14 Grand for public file violations. The fine was 10K but was increased when the FCC learned that a previous inspection did not promote compliance.

$25,000 is the NAL total for KZQZ-AM in St Louis. The station got the FCC attention when it received a complaint that the station was not switching to its night time power and pattern like it should. As in cases like this, when one violation is found the inspector starts looking for more…and in this case, they found a number of public file and other violations.

Florida appears to be favorite turf for pirate radio stations. In this case the FCC found an unlicensed station operating 3 days in a row on 94.7. (That’s repeated). The station operator admitted that he was aware that he was not supposed to operate a station without a license (That’s Willful) His Tab ….15 Grand.

The other case, this time in Miami, they found a pirate operation on 95.9. The stations operator made her first mistake when she refused to let the FCC inspect the station …
Ca-ching – $7K. $10K for unlicensed operation ….In the end the stations operator will likely be paying 22 Grand. Of course they can appeal.

A small market station in Mattoon, Ill (wherever that is) got hit for 14 Grand for a couple of reasons…1) Lack of good, locked fencing around their towers, and failure to have management and staff at their studio. Regarding the latter, the FCC reportedly tried, un-successfully, for a couple of days to get into the station. Better have a means of contacting someone on the front door.

Then there is case where the operator of the unlicensed FM station in San Jose threatened to shoot the FCC inspector (never recommended). The tab there…$25,000.

Who can forget WKRP? In the event you would like to own a bit of history, the Cincy TV station with that call is on the block.

Clear Channel recently purchased Metro Traffic from Westwood One for just under 120 Megabucks. Metro Traffic has an operation in Seattle and serves many local broadcasters with traffic reports.

Seattle now has two non-commercial stations in the commercial portion of the FM Band with the addition of KING-FM. (KUOW is the other). Since KING-FM became separated from the once great KING empire, they have had their commercial air time sold by other local radio broadcast companies. Now ‘Classic KING’ is listener supported. Classical formatted radio stations have had a tough road in recent years all over the country. In some cases the only place to find the ‘classics’ are on HD-2 channels. I wish them the very best.

Ratings are often directly connected to the economic viability of radio and TV stations. Since they went on the air, KMCQ, Licensed to Covington and now transmitting from Cougar Mt… has not been transmitting PPM data ….That is until recently. The little station rather quickly jumped to about mid-pack in the ratings scramble.

In a past column I wrote about how few portable DTV receiver’s were in use causing me to mention that Radio continues to be the chosen medium when things go wrong and the power goes out etc. I have recently learned that RCA and come out with a couple battery powered sets… A 3 ½ inch model for about $120 and a 7 incher for $180. Just writing this reminds me of my first TV back in 1955 or so. It was a Motorola with a 7JP4 picture tube. ..Are you old enough to know what that is?

Are you ready for Century Link Field? Boy is that going to take some getting used to. In the event you missed it Qwest is about to join US West.

More and more news radio stations are moving to FM. The latest move in our area is legendary KXL in Portland. Their news format will be moving to FM (where it’s been simulcast for some time) while the 750, 50Kw AM becomes a sports station. Bucking the trend here in Seattle is KOMO which seems to be doing very well with news on AM.

Not too many years ago there were many in the broadcast biz that were predicting that satellite radio was a not going to make it. Then the two providers merged to form SiriusXM and look at them now! Over 20 million subscribers and revenue closing in on 750 meagbucks. Just proving, once again, our ability to absorb another electronic system.

Are you into Pandora? In the past couple of weeks I’ve run into several people that are. Could this be yet another major threat to conventional radio? Like Sat-Radio, it’s not totally free.

Harris is reporting that sales are up in their broadcast equipment division….Meanwhile Nautel has reportedly sold over 10,000 transmitters, worldwide. The little Canadian company, at Hacketts Cove, NS. has become one of the major players in that business. I suspect that the majority of recent radio transmitters sold in the Seattle are Nautel. A unique aspect of Nautel is the fact that they have never made a transmitter with a tube in it. I believe that they were the first to market a 50,000 watt, solid state, AM transmitter. Two of which are on the air here on 1090 and 1210.
So which is the best state to do business? According to a recent survey, Texas is best and California last. Oregon comes in at #33 with Washington following at #34.
For the first time in 20 years the number of television homes has dropped according to a new survey. According to Neilsen the reasons are poverty and other electronic gizmo’s that younger folks are attracted to. Can you say – Internet?
It’s long been known that many folks don’t like towers….Just ask the folks at KRKO. Radiation has long been used as a means to make towers frightening as a means of gaining support. Another tactic has been the contention that towers kill birds…and who would want to hurt a poor little sparrow?. These folks have been trying to gain leverage with the FCC, hoping that they would side with them and force all the towers they don’t like to come down. The FCC has now drafted rules and procedures designed to protect the little critters. I was surprised to learn that the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that 4-5 million birds are killed by communications towers every year. As you know, I’ve been around the block a few years now and for the past 50 years I have been around towers of all types and have yet to find a flock of dead birds at their base….Oh well, chalk this up as something else where my experience doesn’t count.
They have concluded that light appears to attract birds, especially at night or when weather is adverse….especially steady burning red lights. (funny how towers use that color). So now some are recommending that those nasty steady burning red bird killers be replaced with lights that flash, or install strobes. Could it be that the tower hater’s scheme is back-firing? Perhaps they should adopt the lighting scheme used by KOMO or KIRO on Vashon where all the lights blink?

By the way, the antenna farm in the Snohomish Valley has gained more towers with the addition of radiators for KKXA 1520. The station is a bit unique as it will be operating with more power at night than during the day. (50,000 vs. 20,000) They hope to increase day power later on.

We have a new station on the air in the Puget Sound area, in Port Townsend. KPTZ-FM signed on recently on 91.1 with an all volunteer staff. The town will be joined by a second station, KROH on 91.1 later in the year.

So just how many broadcast stations are there? According to the FCC there are –
14,728 Radio stations, 1, 774 regular TV stations, 515 Class A UHF’s, 10,595 Radio and TV translators and boosters, 2,172 Low Power TV’s and 859 Low Power FM’s..Total – 30,643.

The NAB has hired a new head-tech guy. Kevin Gage fills the newly created of CTO at the broadcast organization.

Every once in a while we report on someone stealing copper wire etc. Those that would like to steal this stuff have become a bit more brazen and have taken their trade to the Nations Capital, Washington DC. Apparently posing as road crews (reflective clothing and cones are available everywhere) they helped themselves to copper wire in our nations capital. With scrap dealers paying almost 3 bucks a pound for the stuff, you can see why. In a more bazaar situation…Thieves have helped them self to a hundred yards of railroad track in the Sacramento area of California….and did so during the day. In this case, they were caught.

Well, my friends, it’s time to close this edition – Hopefully, I’ll catch you next month at the same location.

Cheers !

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE