Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986
CONGRATULATIONS TO WASHINGTON’S MARCONI RADIO AWARD WINNERS – KIRO-FM AND KRWM-FM (WARM 106.9)!
Two Seattle radio stations have received the prestigious NAB Marconi Radio Awards – Bonneville’s KIRO-FM was named News/Talk Station of the Year and Hubbard’s KRWM-FM (WARM 106.9) was named Adult Contemporary Station of the Year.
Winners of the 2019 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Marconi Radio Awards were announced at the 30th annual NAB Marconi Radio Awards Dinner in Dallas, TX.
September, in the Puget Sound area, started off with a BANG….in fact many of them. On the 7th of the month we were treated with a very rare storm that hit this area with heavy rain, hail and some 2,200 lightning strikes. For one that moved here from elsewhere, this was no biggie…however, statistically, this was VERY unusual. The storm shut down the game at Husky Stadium and caused fans to scramble for cover. (Unfortunately, they lost too). A couple of days later, the Portland-Vancouver area experienced a tornado.
Thankfully, things have settled down and are, pretty much, back to normal for this time of year. The hours of daylight are now less than the hours of darkness as we head into fall. Like you knew they would, the cloudy & rainy skies have returned, the talk of drought has faded and snow levels are coming down. In fact, the higher passes will be getting their first snow of the season before the end of the month. One of the things I do, being involved with things at West Tiger Mt., is to watch the Weather Forecast from NWS. Thanks to their ability to target an area it’s a lot easier. Here is what I have saved for quick viewing
When I see the snow levels getting below 3000 feet, I quickly look at the other columns to determine whether or not it will be ‘winter time’ at the transmitter site.
After our experience with winter weather, many are wondering if it could happen again this year. The Farmer’s Almanac says yes. Meanwhile the NWS is, apparently, being more cautious with wet and warmer. As we found out last year, no one can accurately predict the weather, especially in this neck of the woods.
The big story this month has been the Ransomware attack on Entercom early in September. This was no local happening, but rather something that, apparently, involved all of their stations and many of their computer systems. The perps were asking $500,000, which Entercom announced they would not pay. As time went by, the company was digging out of the mess created.
This is not the first time a broadcaster has been hit with Ransomware. Perhaps most notable was the hacking of KQED in San Francisco. According to reports on that event, it cost the station $1 million in lost revenue and expenses. This, however, is the first time that a major, multiple station owner was a victim.
Today’s broadcast operations are highly dependent on computers performing various tasks. Out of necessity, many of these computer systems are accessible from the outside. Incoming e-mails, off premise production companies and talent, advertising agencies etc. This is like giving keys to those that you work without knowing when those keys will end up in the wrong hands.
This all gave me cause to look back at my long history in this business. Back when I started (at a small radio station in Tacoma) it is likely the term ‘computer’ was not even used. This was in the days of the typewriter (yes, we had a couple of electric ones) and vacuum tubes. We had a teletype machine spitting out news on long sheets of paper and anything recorded used tape recorders. Agency commercials often arrived via the USPS in the form of a recorded reel-to-reel tape. Radio stations played music from phonograph records what were delivered the same way. There was nothing, in house, that could even make a copy of a printed page. Certainly, a younger person today would view such an operation as primitive, at best.
Along the way, computers started to make their way into stations. I recall the first one was a huge IBM device the size of a large office desk, used to generate what were called ‘program logs’. Internal sales people would write up orders (with pen and ink) and hand them to the person doing the data entry. Advertising agencies would send their orders in via a FAX machine. Eventually the ‘beast’ was replaced with a relatively small PC sitting on a desk. The next to get computers were administrative assistants. In those days, computers were stand-alone devices connected to their own printers (oh yes, the display was all text in white, green or amber….Windows had not yet arrived). Eventually we saw the introduction of devices to share a common printer. Eventually internal networks were created permitting users to share files. Anyone remember Twinax? Eventually I saw the introduction of not only internal but nation-wide private networking using Windows 3.1 as introduced by my, then employer, Viacom.
Fast forward to today. Just about everyone has a computer that is connected to a network that spans the world. In our homes we use it for communicating with everyone using e-mail. Just look at what Amazon has done to change the way we do retailing in a short period of time.
Even a small radio station today is totally dependent on computers connected to the outside for everything that used to be ‘hand-carried’. Today we find radio stations that only have an small office or sales staff. All of the equipment that generates programming may well be located out-of-state…all connected by networked computers.
All this interconnectedness has been great, however, it has become a huge temptation for those that have nothing better to do that cause someone grief. A person’s computer, whether it be a PC on a desk at home or something they carry, is a target for someone bent on seeing what they can get away with. For businesses and governments the whole process is just scaled up. Countries are hacking into each other’s systems. State and local governments are being hacked with regularity, and so are businesses, large and small.
The challenge is how to keep all this data flowing between parties that have become dependent on it, all the while keeping the bad guys out. Can you imagine what Amazon must do to keep from being a victim of Ransomware?
I have to believe that, out there somewhere, there are a lot of computer engineers working to come up with a new contraption to remain one-step ahead of those that seek to put another notch in their belt for overcoming and/or invading some system. In many ways, the ‘Wild-Wild-West’ continues.
In a somewhat related matter, the FCC is proposing a $15,000 fine for a small Virginia AM Station for public file violations. A couple things about this one are interesting.
- The owner of the station is a 92 year old gentlemen who is, apparently, not computer literate and did not know how to perform the task (yes, there are some that are in that mode…some even younger).
- In the past the FCC required things to be simply placed in the station’s Public File. That was a ‘physical file’, usually a file cabinet that the station kept for the benefit of the public (they could come in and view the contents) as well as the occasional FCC inspector that would drop by (un-announced, of course) to see to it that you were keeping your files up to date per the Rules. Not too long ago the FCC changed things so that these files are now kept by the FCC…for public viewing (and FCC enforcement). This change requires that licensees up-load the required material. Of course, that requires the use of a computer. The FCC does not require that you have a computer, but being compliant requires that you use a computer to upload the information. In the case of this little station, it appears the owner could have had someone perform the task even if they were not familiar with computers.
The bottom line is, in today’s world, you just about have to have one.
Just owning a computer and connecting it to the outside world requires that you keep it up today to keep out the perps. Recently, Microsoft warned users of one of their older browsers, Internet Explorer, of a security flaw that required an emergency patch. From what I read, there are still a lot of computers out there using Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, 10 and 11. All this underscores the need to understand a good deal about the computer you are operating.
Automakers have been facing a similar situation and have responded with dashboard indicators that tell the user – – Check Engine or Maintenance Required. Perhaps one day computers will do something similar that will reduce what is likely overwhelming to many, to something that will tell them – in simple terms – what they need to do?
The C-Band issue continues to percolate. Related print media sources are full of articles about it, while broadcasters wonder what this is all going to mean. In simple terms – the wireless industry is extremely spectrum hungry. This is why many of the TV stations are being forced to change channels to accommodate the needs of wireless. In this case, it’s called ‘Re-Packing’. On the bright side of this activity is the fact that many TV Broadcasters are getting new transmitters and antennas, all paid for with funds coming from the Wireless Industry.
Perhaps feeling that broadcasters have been historic spectrum hogs (having spectrum allocated to their use that they were not using) led them to look at what’s called ‘C-Band’ or spectrum around 4 GHz (3.7 – 4.2). In many ways they were right. One of the major uses for this spectrum by cable system and broadcasters is for communicating with Satellites for wide-area distribution. The systems use systems called ‘up-links’ to send their signals to the satellite, whose function it is to relay that signal to a large number of receivers scattered over a wide area. When wireless first looked at this spectrum they found what appeared to be a lot of spectrum they could use. Unfortunately, it was not a real-world picture of how, and where, this spectrum was being used for the simple fact that no one really kept track of where all those satellite receive installation were located. (Only some bothered with letting the FCC know.) I guess you could say that many of these users ‘assumed’ that their system was safe. The news that Wireless wanted this spectrum for other things was a wakeup call for those folks. Meanwhile the systems that rely on all of this, the broadcast networks, where watching the store and were letting the FCC know, early on, that they intended to protect their interests.
Today we have a much better picture of who is using C-Band and how much spectrum is actually being used and where. The FCC, in the middle of it again, is wrestling with how to give Wireless something while protecting existing users. My guess is that we will be looking at some sort of compromise. As with all things like this, the devil is in the details. Obviously the TV re-pack process will likely be used as a model. Will the FCC require all the existing C-Band users to do as they did with Broadcast-TV and require them to ‘snuggle-up’ to open up ‘dedicated’ spectrum for Wireless? Would Wireless pay for the relocations? Or will the Commish come up with some plan that will call for the differing user to ‘intermingle’? From what is being said by the FCC, we may well see a decision coming before the end of the year.
So guess what radio station is celebrating 100 years?
Here are some hints:
- It’s west of the Mississippi
- It’s transmitter is in Fort Collins, Colorado
- It has ‘W’ Call letters
- You may have a receiver tuned to this station but have never heard it.
- It is one of the world’s oldest continuously operating radio stations.
If you guessed WWV – you are correct. The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) station celebrates their 100th on October 1.
Want to know more, here are some links that you may find interesting:
Here’s a picture of the facility at Ft Collins. If you have ever driven in the vicinity of Ft Collins (North of Denver) you can spot the WWV Towers.
KQED, the major public radio station in San Francisco has announced a $91 million facelift and expansion for their facility in the Bay City. That’s a – lot – of money for a non-commercial radio station. Here in our area, KNKX recently moved into new digs in Downtown Tacoma. Certainly a lot smaller than the 165,000 square feet of KQED. To put this into perspective, the average Costco is 144,500 Sq. Ft. The average Home Depot or Lowes is even smaller. Hard to believe a radio operation that big.
Xperi, the organization behind HD Radio, has announced HD Radio trials in India. Leads me to wonder why they need ‘trials’. With all the HD Radio operations in this country, one would think that the days of ‘trials’ are over. Perhaps what they mean is they are going to compare the various digital radio systems? Oh yes, they will only be testing the FM version. One thing driving this is the ability of the system to multicast various channels. In a country, like India, this is attractive.
Here’s one you don’t hear often, the FCC revoking a license and the owner appealing to the President for help with the IRS. It’s apparently happening with WGEA in Geneva, Alabama. From what I read, the station’s license was revoked because they did not pay their fees to the FCC, and the owner says he can’t pay until he receives a refund from the IRS going back 32 years.
One of the changes the FCC made a while back was to authorize clustering of station ownerships. For example – in Seattle one firm can own 2 TV Stations. On the Radio side, one firm can own 8 Radio stations (up to 5 of one kind, AM or FM). Certainly the temptation to cluster stations and operate them for profit has not been ignored by Low Power FM’s in Charlottesville, VA. Saga Communications has pointed this out to the FCC, demanding action.
Major amounts of money continue to be spent in the tower business. American Tower Company, a big player in the Seattle market, is on the way to adding 6,000 more sites to their portfolio by the end of 2019. ATC already operates 41,000 Sites in the U.S. and about 170,000 world-wide. A look at their Market Cap tells much. It’s over $100 billion. If you want to get a better idea of just how big $100 billion in Market Cap really is, it’s over 10 times iHeartMedia.
If you are like me, you receive a number of Robo-Calls. In my case, I can count on about 3-4 a day. A couple of recent ones come to mind (you probably get these too).
THE VIRUS PROTECTION SCAM
The recorded voice announces that my virus protection is being renewed (citing an organization I’ve never heard of) and that my account is being charged etc. Of course, they want you to call a number or hang on to talk with someone.
The recorded voice announces they are from the Microsoft support team and my computer is causing problems etc. etc. A couple of times I have hung on and talked to someone (obviously in a boiler-room from all the chatter in the background) explaining that I don’t own a computer and there must be a big mistake. <GRIN>
YOU MUST BE IN PAIN SCAM
It’s quite easy to find out these days how old a person is and be put on a ‘list’ for those that are trying to peddle a quick cure. In this case the person (live this time) asks me if I am having pains etc. etc. After listening to their pitch, I response that they must have a mistake as I’m only 23 years old. <GRIN>
HELLO GRANDPA SCAM
Another pitch for mature people from the ‘we know how old you are list’. In this case the pitch man is assuming that the person answering the phone has become mentally challenged and can’t recall his grandchildren. You answer the call to hear a plaintive ’Hello Grandpa’. Just for drill, I played along to see how it works. If the caller is crafty, he will get you to tell him the name of a grandchild (setting the hook), then will go on to explain that he is having a hard time and needs money etc. etc.
The sad things about these pitches is the knowledge that people must be, routinely, falling for them to the extent that they stay in business.
One thing interesting is that I rarely, if ever, receive any Robo-Calls to my home/land-line phone any more.
Here’s something that you don’t hear often – a company cutting the number of board members to reduce costs. It’s happening to Salem Media Group. Yes, they own several stations in the Seattle Area.
The battle over 5G is heating up – worldwide. News from Switzerland, one of the first countries to roll out the new system, is of a nationwide revolt over radiation fears, with demands that the technology rollout be put to a vote of the people. Those that oppose 5G are warning of health risks. Shades of the battles in Seattle from years ago faced by broadcasters. There are those that state they have ‘electromagnetic hypersensitivity’ and these new systems will be devastating.
The situation in the U.S. is there are pockets of opposition to the roll-out of the technology.
Meanwhile, the industries that will benefit from all of this are racing to get it up and running and the FCC, thus far, is on their side.
So if you are fearful about getting ‘nuked’ by 5G radiation, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Take a look at this site: https://speroprotectionclothing.com/
I’m not sure how viable your wireless device will be zipped up in a RF-Proof bag.
Meanwhile, there are studies that contend that RF Energy may have some benefits.
I recall, many years ago, going to a doctor regarding sore muscles, whereby he used a Diathermy device. Frankly, I thought it worked very well. Interestingly, after the scare about harmful effects of RF, these devices are hard to find in use anymore.
I am reminded of the Coffee Cups that were given out by the RF Specialties Group (suppliers of equipment for broadcasters). RF, or course, meaning Radio Frequencies. That’s the one on the right from my personal collection.
Advertisers are having to deal with some un-expected issues these days.
- Programs that are being pre-empted by the latest Trump-mess
- The apparent health hazards from Vaping has caused many to pull the plug on these as they want to distance themselves from the product as some states enact laws regarding it
- Whether or not to advertise CBD related products.
The question is – just how big is Broadcasting in the U.S.? According to a new Woods and Poole Economics study, Broadcasting contributes $1.17 trillion to the annual U.S. GDP.
Those of you that have been in Broadcasting for a long time certainly remember the name ITC. ITC was one of the major makers of tape-recording equipment for broadcasters, perhaps more so for their Cartridge Tape equipment. What is little known is that ITC considered making Cassette Tape equipment. Here’s a picture, courtesy of contributor Mike Brooks of KING-FM of a prototype that never made it to production.
As well all know, Magnetic Tape equipment (Cartridge, Cassette and Reel-to-Reel) all were replaced with computers….and with it ITC.
Southeastern U.S. broadcasters had a challenge recently with Hurricane Dorian. Usually stations cover these approaching and quickly departing storms. In this case, Mother Nature pulled a ‘slow-one’ with a storm that not only was hard to predict where it was going, it just sat over the Bahamas for 36 hours. There was plenty of humor along the way with the President telling all that it was heading to Alabama. I guess you can tell that such events are a challenge to the Whitehouse.
Looking for a job in broadcasting in this area?
Saga Communications, operator of a cluster of Radio Stations in Bellingham are looking for a General Manager.
How about a technical position, out of this area?
Perhaps you are tired of endless traffic congestion and ever increasing prices and a dislike for rainfall? This may be just what you have been looking for – a director of Engineering job with a Radio group based in Cody, WY. Here is what they have posted:
Director of Engineering
Sep 6, 2019
Legend Communications is searching for an Engineer to maintain our 23-radio station group.
Candidates must be strong on RF, studio gear, STL’s and audio processing. Our past Director passed away unexpectedly and was with us for 21 years.
Based in Cody, Wyoming and supervising one other full-time IT engineer. Competitive salary and benefits. Company truck for use. Great lifestyle and no state income taxes. EOE.
Send letter and resume to Larry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. All replies confidential.
Compare this to the Seattle Area
Cody is a town in northwest Wyoming. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West has 5 museums. These include the Buffalo Bill Museum, tracing William F. Cody’s life with multimedia displays, and the Draper Natural History Museum, with wildlife exhibits. Nearby, Old Trail Town is a re-created frontier town with 1800’s log cabins and a saloon. Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway winds past craggy cliffs to Yellowstone National Park.
Elevation: 4,997′ (Seattle is between Sea-level and 1400 ft.)
Population: 9,885 (2017). (Seattle Metro is close to 4,000,000)
The climate is VERY different
Cody experiences a semi-arid climate with highly variable conditions. Relative humidity is usually a fairly dry 30% or less. Precipitation averages 10.5 inches annually, including 42.5 inches of snow per season. Cody enjoys about 300 days of sunshine per year. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 25.9 °F in December to 69.9 °F in July. The wettest calendar year has been 1991 with 16.04 inches (407.4 mm) and the driest 1956 with 3.58 inches (90.9 mm).
There are no Freeways (probably never will be) so you can, perhaps, predict when you are going to arrive at a destination. Go ahead, try that in the Seattle area.
While I’m at it, MSN Money recently ran a piece called:
The 15 worst places to buy a home — and where to invest instead
Don’t Buy a Home in Seattle
- 1-year home value change: -5%
- 5-year home value change: 59%
Seattle may boast incredible natural attractions but its real estate values are being outpaced by smaller nearby cities. It’s still quite pricey to buy a home here, too, at $525.87 per square foot, and to make matters worse, home values sank by 5% over the past year. The average five-year home value change was a more heartening 59%, but that’s not the best value in the area.
Instead, Choose Tacoma
- 1-year home value change: 8.4%
- 5-year home value change: 72.9%
The port city of Tacoma, situated on Puget Sound, still has affordable real estate at $239.26 per square foot. And homeowners will see value in as little as a year. The one-year home value change was 8.4%, and the five-year home value change was a robust 72.9%.
As you may have heard, the Tacoma area is one of the nation’s hottest real estate markets. Perhaps being fueled by the raging fire to the north?
Recently Readers Digest ran a piece titled:
15 Most Expensive States to Live in the United States.
Here is what they said about this area:
Blame Seattle and its behemoth companies (we’re talking Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks, just to name a few) for jacking up the cost of living in Washington. It’s currently the fourth most expensive state in the United States for housing.
While I’m at it …..Here are 3 of the fastest growing housing markets in the U.S. located in the PNW:
#18 – Spokane
#14 – Tri-Cities
#3 – Boise
If you have not been to the Boise area recently (my kids are there), the growth is amazing, especially the area just west of Boise, Meridian.
More ownership shuffles for the TV industry.
The FCC has recently approved the Nexstar-Tribune Merger.
An Order detailing the Commission’s reasoning can be found here.
View the Nexstar-Tribune transaction page here: www.fcc.gov/transaction/nexstar-tribune
Tribune operates two Stations in the Seattle area, KCPQ Ch. 13 and KSJO Ch. 25. If I recall, KSJO is slated to move to Ch. 36, but uses Virtual Ch. 22.
I love pictures of locations where Radio & TV signals begin. In this case, it’s of the Mt. Sutro Tower near San Francisco. Here, thanks to a blanket of fog, you can’t see the tower, making the structure at the top look like a ship in a sea. Interesting that this is a big self-supporting tower with three guyed towers sitting on top. We have a smaller version of this on Crego Hill near Chehalis, where a guyed tower sits on top of an old radar tower.
Here’s a switch – East Arkansas Broadcasters are purchasing a recently closed newspaper. The Stuttgart Daily Leader.
Often a name is changed to ‘freshen’ the image. Example – NPR is no longer National Public Radio…now just NPR. Let’s face it, the word RADIO is very old (almost 100 years). For some reason it’s a term that continues to be used. However, a newer, more contemporary term could be well received in some circles. I can imagine a lot of younger types think of Radio as something old and dated. Now comes news that ABC Radio has been having the same thoughts and recently dropped the word Radio from their name, henceforth to be called ABC Audio. Perhaps this makes sense as many listen on-line. You can hardly say listening that way would be called ‘listening to the radio’. Could we see the beginning of the end of the word Radio? It will be interesting to see how many follow suit.
Is there anyone alive that has not heard of Amazon these days? Not the river, but the giant in Seattle. So how big has Amazon become? Here are a couple of tidbits that underscore their size:
- Locally (in the Seattle area) they employ in excess of 53,000. This now makes them the second largest employer in this area, behind Boeing (they employ about 70,000) bumping Microsoft to 3rd place.
- They are presently occupying about 13,000,000 square feet of space.
- Nationally, their employment is something like 300,000.
Remember the antenna that caught on fire at West Tiger Mountain a while back?
Well…here it is:
The stations at this site are still using a temporary antenna system and will be doing so until a permanent replacement is installed. Rumors are the replacement will be shipped in November (just in time for winter). My guess, perhaps this coming Spring this project will be completed.
Here is a picture of an operating FM Transmitting Antenna at West Tiger Mountain.
In this case, it was taken with an Infrared Camera to show the relative temperature of various portions of the device.
OK…here’s one for you Technical Types. I recently spotted this tag on what appears to be an operational piece of equipment:
Anyone know what it is?
I found that the company is still in business making a number of items.
As we all know the Picture Tube, or CRT, that was used for many years in TV Sets and computers is long gone in favor of what’s called a flat-panel display. Along the way we have seen a number of variations, Plasma, LCD etc. LG, the big Korean maker of many things, has a new production plan up and running where they expect to produce 10,000,000 large OLED Panels by 2022. These will be 55, 65 and 77 inch panels. I’m old enough to recall my first TV set used a 7 inch round picture tube!
One of the tools used by those that generate ‘Click-Bait’ is to show a picture of something completely un-related to their pitch. I am often amused at how many times I see this picture with the statement that this device is going to revolutionize the world. Here is the typical text:
Better Than Solar Panels? Revolutionary New Invention Takes Country By Storm
What’s pictured here is what’s known in Ham Radio circles as a “Halo Antenna’. This one is, rather obviously, home-made using copper tubing and PVC Pipe. Just about everything here can be purchased at a big-box hardware store.
These antennas are easy to build and are used by Amateur Radio operators, world-wide. If you wish – Click on this site
And see the very antenna. Perhaps sadly, this is not some new invention that’s better than a solar panel, just an effort by someone to make you click on the site.
If you are interested in constructing a Halo Antenna, check out this site for pictures of many home-made versions of the Halo.
If you wish, you can make one of these for the FM Band where it will function as an omni-directional receiving antenna.
The FCC is looking at making changes to the rules governing low-power FM’s. First round of comments have to be submitted by Oct. 31 with replies due by November 4th. So what changes are being considered?
- Use of directional antennas
- Use of boosters
- Increased power levels
All right, enough of the serious stuff. Time for some smile making.
“Lexophile” describes those that have a love for words, such as “You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish” or “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.”
An annual competition is held by the New York Times to see who can create the best original lexophile. Perhaps I should issue a ‘Groaner Warning”.
This year’s submissions:
I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.
I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.
A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
A will is a dead giveaway.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.
A bicycle can’t stand alone: it’s just two tired.
The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.
He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.
When she saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she’d dye.
Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.
I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?
When chemists die, they barium.
I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.
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 –
Clay, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Member for over 50 years, #714