Clays Corner for September 2019

Clay’s Corner – Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

Enjoying summer? At least this one has been relatively free of the choking smoke of last year. We’ve had some rainy days that have kept the fire danger under control and temps have been fairly mild. Fall is not far away as the leaves are starting to turn and fall.

TV broadcasting has been undergoing major changes to accommodate what’s called repacking, which is basically cramming all the TV stations together to create open spectrum for wireless devices, among them, the much-touted 5G or 5th Generation systems. Perhaps we should have known, but the pushback for those new systems is ramping up, perhaps thanks to stories on the Internet and social media that have fueled fears that the emissions from these new facilities are actually evil.

Look no farther than Northern California where cities and towns are issuing ordinances that would prohibit new 5G facilities from locating in residential areas. Areas as close as Portland, Oregon have residents clamoring for restrictions. Many are asking for more studies on the health aspects. Fear is a powerful tool…and fear of the unknown is even more powerful. This is an issue that is bound to become highly political.

Local politicians’ jobs are not to protect the wireless carriers, but rather to protect the interests of the residents who fear these new systems will negatively impact their health, not to mention their property values.

The telecoms, who have invested huge sums of money for more spectrum (some of which is being spent on moving TV station frequencies) are not likely to fade away into the sunset. They will be fighting back and asking the government to help.

It’s estimated that there may be a half a million new cell sites. Due to the short range of some of these frequencies, many new antennas will be mounted on existing utility poles, buildings etc. which only fuels the debate. I can just see ‘Oscar Objector’ watching very carefully on what the guys in the ‘bucket truck’ are installing on his street.

The telecoms are heavily invested in 5G, and they have a lot of legal horsepower. There are consumers that are anxious for higher speeds and new gizmos. Friends, this could get ugly despite the rules the FCC has passed an effort to speed up 5G’s roll-out.

Many years ago, the late Chuck Morris (of KIRO) used to keep track of station call letters in the Seattle area. Sure, there are those that have never changed KVI, KJR Radio. Channels 11 and 13 and a number of UHF’s have made the switch. Perhaps some should have. Many still think that KIRO Radio and TV are the same company. Ditto for KING-TV and KING-FM.

There are just so many call letters in the U.S. Generally, west of the Mississippi all start with the letter K. Therefore, call letters tend to migrate from station to station as owners and formats change. A couple of them come to mind, both of which I worked for in this area. KNBQ and KBSG have been associated with various stations since they left town.

Lowell Kiesow recently sent me a note stating that KPLU is now used by a Spanish religious FM Station in Palacios, TX.

The first letter of a call indicates where in the world the station is located, however, not all those first letters are used by broadcasters. For example, in the U.S. we have K, W, N and A with only K and W being used for broadcast stations. Canada has C and V…with only C’s currently being issued.

Who owns what in broadcasting requires an up-to-date program.

For example:

  • Apollo purchased Cox (owner of KIRO-TV in Seattle)
  • Now Apollo is eyeing the purchase of Tegna (owners of KING and KONG-TV)
  • Don’t think a given company can own three TVs in this market, meaning, that if this deal comes true, one of these stations would have a new owner.
  • Then again, perhaps nothing will happen.

Whatever happens, Apollo could become one of the biggest owners in the U.S.

Didja hear, Seattle’s traffic is #7 on the list of the worst places to drive. The good news is that drivers in this area have plenty of time to tune into radio. Ever wonder why so many stations offer traffic reports? I still wonder why someone has not done as they do just to Seattle’s north and have a radio station dedicated to traffic reports? (Tune into 730 AM sometime). Seems to me that a struggling AM station in the Seattle area could do this. Take a look at the big-signal AMs near the bottom of the ratings list for good candidates.

Dealing with the traffic situation in the Seattle area is becoming increasingly obvious. Make drivers pay to get there sooner. 405, 167, 520 & the Tacoma Narrows Bridge were made bigger, coupled with a larger dent in your wallet. The Alaska Way Viaduct is now gone, replaced with a tunnel…and tolls. Welcome to the new world.

The FCC routinely cracks down on a pirate/ unlicensed radio stations. Generally, these are in major cities on the east coast. This month someone was perhaps caught by surprise when the Commish nailed a pirate radio operation in Arkansas and fined them $10,000. Was on 103.1 in Alma, AR. This one was interesting, as the operator reportedly told the FCC that the Communications Act did not apply to him. My question is this – Will the Feds ever collect the fine? Odds are the operator will claim financial distress etc. and get off with a much lower amount or a hand slap. A version of the old saying about ‘blood and a turnip’.

It appears we are getting closer to the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. This is of local interest as T-Mobile has local roots. The past month saw the FCC Chairman recommending approval. One of the drivers behind this is the push to get 5G up and operating, and approval will help with that process. Of course, there are road-blocks. Like all matters of this nature…time will tell.

EAS continues to be in the news with the recent NPT (National Periodic Test). From the sounds of things, things in Washington State went well. Thanks to all of you that participated. Our State SECC will be meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10th at CPTC in Lakewood. Hope you can participate with that as well. We are working on changes that will impact everyone.

If you own Sage EAS Equipment, you likely have heard that you are going to have to update your equipment. NO – This is not an option! To gain more insight into this matter I dropped a note to Harold Price of Sage Alerting. Here is his response:

Clay,

The September Update will be called rev 95, as in 95-0.

The update will need to be installed by Nov 7, 2019.

The list price, per ENDEC, is $349, though we’re selling via distributors, and they set their own price.

No group or quantity discounts.

Each update file is tied to the serial number of the ENDEC.  You get a .x file for each ENDEC.  The distributor will give you a download URL.  The installation process is otherwise the same.

Updates are free to ENDECs purchased new from our distributors after March 1 2018, which are serial numbers in this range:

Free: B417611 – B429999

These serial numbers must purchase the update:

Pay: All serial numbers less than B417611.

Pay: Serial numbers B430000 to B439999.

Regards,

Harold

At long last CBS and Viacom have merged. Like a lot of mergers, this one featured some rough spots in the road. Certainly, there are some lawyers that can now likely retire. At the helm will be Bob Bakish of what’s now known as Viacom/CBS. This is of interest me to for a couple of reasons: 1) I worked for Viacom for 10 years, and 2) I still have a chuck of their stock.

In the event you are wondering, this is only CBS Television. CBS Radio disappeared into Entercom. Speaking of which, Entercom recently cut their dividends and saw their stock take a big hit. They too are faced with a mountain of debt, whose service is deemed more important than paying stockholders a few cents a share.

Earlier this past month another merger was in the news. This the merger of Nexstar and Tribune. Tribune owns a couple of TV Stations in the Seattle market. No word on any impact to these stations from this change.

Looking for a job in broadcasting in the PNW? How about Chief Engineer at a TV Station in Eugene? Read on:

EMPLOYMENT ANNOUNCEMENT

https://www.oregonsfox.com/uploads/8/2/8/6/82867196/chief_broadcast_engineer.pdf

KLSR/KEVU

2940 Chad Drive, Eugene, Oregon 97408 * Phone (541)683-3434 * Fax (541)683-8016

POSITION TITLE:    Chief Broadcasting Engineer

STATUS:                 Full Time

LOCATION:            Eugene, OR  KLSR/KEVU_

DATE OPEN:          Immediately

SALARY RANGE:   DOE

RESPONSIBLE TO: General Manager

DESCRIPTION/DUTIES: KLSR-TV/KEVU-TV has an opening for a full time Chief Engineer.

This position is responsible for overseeing technical aspects of a digital broadcast studio and multiple transmitter sites, which includes equipment procurement, installation, and maintenance. In addition, manage and maintain all ancillary systems responsible for supporting the on-air operation, such as HVAC, networking, electrical and mechanical.

The ideal candidate will also support our staff with all computer-related hardware and software needs; manage local computer networks and local phone systems.

Works closely with General Manager, Production Manager, Corporate Engineering, and pertinent cable systems.

EXPERIENCE: Two-year technical school or equivalent college courses. 3-5 years’ experience as a broadcast technician. Must have working knowledge of desktop computers and IT networks, microwave transmission systems, television  transmitters, test  equipment, vehicle  maintenance, and construction  tools.  The  ideal candidate will be successful in working well with staff, thinking clearly under pressure, and applying creative solutions in a timely manner.

REQUIREMENTS: A valid driver’s license and good driving record are required.  Drug testing is a pre-employment requirement.

SBE Certifications preferred.

Please send resumes to:

Fox Television

Chief Engineer Position

2940 Chad Drive

Eugene OR 97408

The C-Band mess continues. Bottom line – wireless wants a big chunk of the band while broadcasters (Radio and TV) are heavy users and are fighting back. As I predicted some time ago, there seems to be growing belief that some sort of ‘repacking’ may take place. The FCC dealt with a similar situation with TV Broadcast where Wireless wanted more spectrum. The Commish, essentially, devised a plan whereby all the TV stations would ‘snuggle up’. Likely this will be the case with C-Band. There have been some of the more technically challenged that are suggesting that all the broadcasters can just switch to fiber. The extent that C-Band has and is being used is greatly misunderstood. Part of the blame belongs to users of the band for failing to register all their receiving equipment. Broadcasters are fighting back (a mode that is very common these days). If we were to have another ‘repack’ would wireless pay for the shuffle with the FCC playing banker again?

Just how this will be implemented is anyone’s guess. Again, we hide and watch this one end up in court.

The following is a map showing just how extensively C-Band is used by just one facet of broadcasting, in this case, Public Radio.

Sadly, another life has been lost involving someone trying to steel copper wire at a broadcast facility. In this case, it was at KRMG AM in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The station’s manager released this report:

“Early this morning two individuals broke into the KRMG-AM transmitter site. It appears they attempted to access a building through a conduit and were electrocuted. One of the individuals is deceased and one was transported to the hospital. From the tools and materials found at the site, it appears that they were attempting to steal copper. The safety of our community is of utmost importance – please do not enter any transmitter site, for any reason, as the area is extremely dangerous.”

Apparently, when law enforcement arrived at the scene, they found one man dead, another severely injured. Later a third party was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Good food and conversation was the scene at the recent Portland SBE summer gathering, including I found on the table. Kudos for a great design.

Now here is a story you don’t see very often. The Headline Reads:

Pullman airport closing temporarily to bring new runway online

There are some issues at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport that need corrected. One of them is huge, requiring the moving of a lot of dirt. Unlike Sea-Tac where a lot of dirt had to be moved in for the third runway, Pullman must move dirt out of the way as the runway sits in a narrow valley. This change will permit larger aircraft to use the facility, as will be the addition of an instrument landing system (ILS) and other improvements.

To make all this possible they are shutting down the airport for a month starting Sept 11th (can you imagine this taking place elsewhere?). Reportedly 5,600 people a year use this facility.

So, what are your options? Drive about 75 miles north to Spokane or about 30 miles south to Lewiston.

Once again, time to look at the radio numbers in Seattle from this past month. Here are my takeaways:

  • We have a new #1 Station – KZOK-FM
  • KUOW-FM is still a powerhouse at #2
  • Hubbard’s KNUC (the Bull) has overtaken Entercom’s KKWF (The Wolf)
  • Top rated AM is still KIRO/710 – However they slid, perhaps due to the Mariners performance?
  • The #2 AM is still KOMO/1000 whose numbers are holding steady
  • The #3 AM is KTTH/770
  • For the first time – 3 of the Bustos Media stations are listed
  • KRWM-HD2 is also shown.

Perhaps it should be noted that Bonneville Seattle’s cluster consists of 1-FM and 2-AMs

All of which are doing well. To underscore their belief in AM, last year KIRO-AM installed a new Nautel NX50 Transmitter. Now it’s time for KTTH to do the same with that project just getting underway. In this day of people engraving tombstones for AM stations, it’s interesting to see one company bucking the trend. One thing about Bonneville that I fail to understand is why they don’t promote the fact that KIRO-AM Is simulcast on 97.3 HD2 and KTTH-AM is simulcast on 97.3 HD3. Both of which have extensive coverage. Perhaps another reason why I am not in programming?

Another market where AM’s are getting a shot of FM to help out is San Francisco where Cumulus recently announced they were dropping their long-running KFOG music station to begin simulcasting KNBR, their local sports station.

Meanwhile, early in August it was announced that the FCC was hitting Cumulus with a $233,000 fine for Sponsorship ID Rule Violations.

Just for fun – I decided to look at another PNW Market to see how their radio listening habits compare to Seattle. In this case – Boise, Idaho. I’m going to leave out the call letters and frequencies as that information is meaningless to most, and just list the format and market rank. Very Similar.

Market Rank      Format Seattle Station

1              News/Talk          KIRO-FM

2              Variety Hits         KJAQ

3              Country KBUC- KKWF

4              Classic Rock        KZOK

5              Rhythmic             KHTP

What is different?

  • A highly rated Non-Commercial Station like KUOW
  • More Country stations
  • Sports Talk stations at the bottom of the list

 

There was something missing in last month’s Column, a picture from Dwight Small – Not this time – A fantastic sunset over lake Cavanaugh.

 

 

And, if you look east from the West Side of the Lake — You have this!

 

 

like a great quote:

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled”.

Mark Twain

Changes in Bellingham, long time Engineer Will Vos is out at the Cascade Radio Group.

It’s not only Seattle and Bellevue that have a forest of Tower Cranes. I recently counted four of them at work in Totem Lake. Even Auburn has one putting up a new apartment building across the street from the Sounder Station. Spotted another at the ever-growing area of Port Ruston near Tacoma.

Another group with stations in the Seattle area continues to prune their holdings. In this case, Salem Media Group is selling six stations in Florida to Immaculate Heart Media. All is a part of a reduction in the number of stations held by the group.

With all the hype about ‘fake-news’ etc., a recent study determined that Local News is still the most trusted source for U.S. Adults. Not surprising, Local TV news is the most trusted, followed by broadcast network news, then cable network news. Which is the lowest rated? Social Media.

Of course, this past month has seen news stories about Ransomware. This is where an entity finds their computer system infected with someone asking to be paid to unlock their system.

Interestingly, several municipalities have been hit with this, reportedly, some actually paying to perpetrators. Most recently a little radio station, KNEO, in Joplin, MO found its audio files corrupted and a demand to pay $100,000. Reportedly the station did not pay up, instead hired IT techs to work the problem. It was believed the hackers were in Russia due to the methods used. Not long ago, a station in Florida was hit, costing them about a million dollars in expenses and lost revenue. KQED in San Francisco was attacked in June of 2017. That one took them months to recover. It’s amazing how much we pay in terms of hardware and labor just to protect ourselves in these times.

Congrats to Charlie Wooten on being named this year’s Robert W. Flanders SBE Engineer of the year. I can tell you, as a previous winner, this is a fantastic honor. Speaking of awards, former Seattle Chief, Doug Irwin, has been honored for his writing skills. I had breakfast with Doug this past month. He is the technical ‘honcho’ of the IHM cluster in Los Angeles.

The FCC recently underscored their rules regarding misuse of EAS Tones with the handing out of some pretty sizable fines.

Jimmy Kimmel show – $395,000 fine for using a simulated WEA tone three times during a sketch last year.

The Walking Dead – $104,000 fine for using the EAS tone during the “Omega” episode.

Lone Star Law – $68,000 because they aired an actual WEA signal that was caught on crewmembers’ phones as they were filming.

KDAY and KDEY-FM parent Meruelo Radio Holdings – $67,000 for a simulated EAS attention signal in a promotion for the morning show on these LA area stations.

I am amazed at how many fail to grasp the fact that this is a no-no.

If you are not convinced that FM Translators, especially those in large metropolitan areas, have very high values, consider the recent announcement of a sale of two FM Translators in the Chicago market for $3.5 million!

And the headline read:

SiriusXM Pays $25M To Settle Class Action Suit Over Robocalls.

Apparently, the Satellite Radio Broadcaster violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Impacted parties are eligible for either $12 in compensation or three months of free service if they file a claim by Oct. 8th.

For a short time, Seattle rental costs went down. Apparently, this was short lived as they are on their way up again. According to recently published data, Seattle is now the fourth most expensive city for rent. The top 3 are all in California. As suspected – San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego. (Is it not interesting that the three most expensive places all have ‘San’ in their names?)

On the personal side:

Once in a while, not often enough, I get to build something for myself. In this case it was time to replace my mailbox. The mailbox I have been using was brought here by the first owner of this place, when the house was built in the late 70s and it was getting pretty rusty. I’ve replaced the wooden 4×4 post a couple of times over the past 30 years I’ve lived here.

The time had come to come up with something new and more durable.

Mailboxes in this country have to be approved by the USPS, so building one was pretty much out of the question. Provided you mount your mailbox in keeping with USPS specs, you are pretty much free to do what you want. Those of you that know me well, know that I collect cast-off stuff awaiting the day that it can be put back to work to resolve an issue. This is called ‘repurposing’. So, l looked at my collection of things that were used elsewhere and came up with:

  •     A short piece of Rohn 55G tower (previously used at West Tiger Mt.)
  •     An ERI FM transmitting antenna bracket (previously used at Cougar Mt.)

The hard part was digging a triangular hole 30 inches deep in native glacial deposits (aka lots of rocks) and mixing 18 – 60-pound bags of concrete mix in a wheelbarrow. But the results have been gratifying. I’ll admit my neighbors have not said much, perhaps in an effort to be polite?

Once again Seattle got in the national news. This time, not good news. Paige Thompson was arrested and charged in federal court for stealing millions of Capital One credit card applications that included names, birthdates, social security and bank account numbers.

Congrats to Nick Winter, K7MO (Ex KNKX Eng.) on his winning a $1000 gift certificate from Elecraft at the recent Amateur Radio DX convention in Everett.

Another wonderful quote:

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

Carl Sagan

Another congratulations to KNKX on their recent move to new studios in the theatre district of Tacoma in the historic Gardner building at 930 Broadway. For those of you that have not followed this event, several years ago Pacific Lutheran University decided to sell their long-owned radio station KPLU. The station had its studios and offices in a relatively new building adjacent to the campus in Parkland, named for its former Manager Martin Neeb. In the end, the station was purchase by its listeners and renamed KNKX. Moving out of a University Owned building was part of the transition.

Long ago, in the last Century, when I started in this business in Tacoma, the city had a number of radio and TV stations, all with studios in Tacoma.

  • KMO had moved from its historic studios in the Keys Building (very near where KNKX is located now) to their transmitter location in Fife.
  • KTAC (850 AM) used to have their studios in the Winthrop Hotel (also very near the new KNKX digs). They later purchased Tom Read’s FM Station (KTWR) renaming it KBRD and moving operations to the Tacoma Mall Office Building.
  • KTNT (1400 AM & 97.3 FM) were at the same location as KTNT-TV at 11th & Grant.
  • KLAY (106.1 FM) was operating from the Park Towers apartment building near downtown Tacoma.
  • KTVW (Ch. 13) was located at their transmitter site at North 35th and Shirley, also their transmitter location.

Over the years, Tacoma and Seattle have grown together in many ways and the FCC relaxed the rule that your studio had to be in your city of license. In this process the stations scattered and headed to the big city to the north.

  • KMO is now KKMO. Its studios were bulldozed last year. Their transmitter is still at Browns Point, but that’s all.
  • KTAC is now KHHO and is owned by iHeart Media with studios in Seattle, along with the other iHM stations.
  • KBRD became KMTT and is now KHTP. The station has been owned by Entercom all that time and is part of their cluster of five stations operating with downtown Seattle studios.
  • KBRD is now KHPT and still owned by Entercom with transmitter at West Tiger and studios in downtown Seattle.
  • KTNT-AM is now KITZ, located in Bremerton.
  • KTNT-FM is now KIRO-FM with transmitter at West Tiger and studios on Eastlake Ave. in Seattle.
  • KTNT-TV is now KSTW with transmitter and studios in Seattle.
  • KLAY-FM is now KBKS and is part of IHM, with transmitter at West Tiger and studios at the IHM facility in Seattle.
  • KTVW-TV is now KCPQ with studios on Westlake Ave. in Seattle.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because KNKX is now the only major broadcast station to buck the trend and have their studios within their City of License. Granted they also have studios in Seattle, however, their primary operation is in downtown Tacoma, not far from where many others used to be. One more fact, there was another station that used to be in Tacoma that had moved to Seattle when I started my career – KVI. But that’s another story.

Being a – really old – guy, I love to look back.

For my ‘older readers’, you are welcome.

For my ‘younger readers’ …Think of this as a history lesson.

HOW’S THIS FOR NOSTALGIA?

It took three minutes for the TV to warm up.

Nobody owned a purebred dog.

When a quarter was a decent allowance and made with real Silver!

You got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, all for free, every time. And you didn’t pay for air? And, you got trading stamps to boot.

Laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box. Not to mention Cracker Jacks!

It was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents.

No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked.

Stuff from the store came without safety caps and hermetic seals because no one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger.

Chances are your home had a front porch and a swing.

Summers filled with bike rides, hula hoops, and visits to the pool, and eating Kool-Aid powder with sugar.

Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside.

Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles.

Coffee shops with table side Jukeboxes.

Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers.

Newsreels before the movie.

Telephone numbers with a word prefix (Yukon 2-601). Anyone in Seattle remember Sunset 3-24-04?

Or, some of us remember when there were just 4 numbers with no word prefix at all. And, nearly everyone had a party line.

Hi-Fi’s & 45 RPM records.

S&H Green Stamps.

Mimeograph paper. (Remember the purple ink?)

‘Race issue’ meant arguing about who ran the fastest.

Catching fireflies could happily occupy an entire evening.

Having a weapon in school meant being caught with a slingshot.

Saturday morning cartoons weren’t 30-minute commercials for action figures.

‘Olly-oly-oxen-free’ made perfect sense.

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, what’s left of it, Summer!!….

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714