Clay’s Corner – April 2011

As I sit here in front of my trusty ‘puter….I just received an email from Terry Spring reporting that he was getting reflected power alarms on his antenna at West Tiger. Ahhhh, is it not supposed to be spring? The summit of this popular broadcast site has been snow-cat only (if you don’t count snowshoes) since late February. Finally, on March 28th Terry and I were able to drive to the top….It must be SPRING!

A couple of major changes in the world of radio engineering in our town with the announcement that Ken Broeffle and Jeff McGinley are no longer employed by Clear Channel.

A couple passages to note –

First the passing of Barry Ackerley. Barry was best known as a former owner of the Sonics. He also owned a number of broadcast stations in Seattle, KUBE, KJR etc.

Another broadcaster is no longer with us, Buzz Barr. I have a lot of fond memories of working the Buzz in the middle 60s…We had a great time.

Perhaps you did not catch the passing of Harry Coover. Harry is credited with the invention of Super Glue. Bet you did not know the official name for the adhesive – Cyanoacrylate. Like a number of important discoveries, this one was also by accident. Harry was 94.

Our area is going to represented well at this years NAB Convention in Las Vegas with presentations by Tom McGinley and Jim Dalke. I am very pleased that Andy Skotdal is going to be telling the story of KRKO and what a story that is!

Again another broadcast tower has come down in this past month, unlike KRKO, this was not vandalized. This was the tallest tower in Wisconsin, near Eau Claire, about 90 miles east of St. Paul.…The site of WEAU-TV (Ch 13) and WAXX- FM. The nearly 2000 foot guyed structure came down in a wind and ice storm. Even though winds in the area were reported to be about 40 mph, there were reports that the tower at 3 ½ inches of ice. How the station got back on the air is interesting. Apparently the station sent its programming to another station in the market (WQQW, Ch 18) which put WEAU on their 18.3. Another station, in another market, WXOW, put the station on its 50.1. In the end, even though their tower was in pieces on the ground, they were able to cover 87% of their market. Talk about broadcasters helping broadcasters! The downed tower was reportedly erected in 1966. Can you imagine the sinking feeling you would have responding to a call that your station was off the air to find that the tower was laying in a mass of twisted steel on the ground?

Here in Seattle the stage is apparently set for what some are calling the battle for the future of our towns own Fisher Broadcasting (KOMO/KUNS/KPLZ/KVI etc) Apparently there are those on the Board and feel the best way to resolve their frustration with firms financial performance is to sell. Bowing to pressure for more return, they have put on the block the Green Glass Palace, aka, Fisher Plaza. May 11th is the date for a meeting that may decide the issue.

Meanwhile over at Tribune on Westlake Ave ….Things are still not resolved with their parent company. Reportedly a Bankruptcy judge has not determined how to proceed with plans to reorganize the company under Chapter 11….So the matter drags on and on.

Every once in a while I write about a radio broadcaster that gets fined for putting a telephone caller on the air without first gaining permission to do so. Now comes word that two TV stations were each fined $4000 for airing video news releases during newscasts without properly identifying where they came from. This is a form of the old requirement for Sponsor Identification. You’d think that by now……..

The FCC is apparently intent on squeezing some 120 MHz of spectrum for Broadband etc out of the hide of broadcasters. Not everyone is pleased with this concept. The NAB and others are fighting back. Reportedly groups representing more than 200 TV stations have banded together to fight the idea. Representative Greg Walden from neighboring Oregon and a fellow who understands broadcasting is openly skeptical of the FCC’s plans. This is a battle that is far from over. Some are saying that it will be decided in Congress rather than at the FCC. One broadcaster made a great point explaining that point-multi-point distribution is the most spectrum efficient…Far more than any broadband scheme, including 4G. Look for more use of the terms – Broadband and Broadcasting. Now we can only hope that the technophobes in WDC will understand.

Congrats to KING-TV for winning a national photography award. The station was chosen as Large Market of the year based on a number of pieces the station produced.

Mergers are certainly in the news. One of the biggest in some time impacts a local firm with AT&T announcing it’s buying T-Mobile. T-Mobile is, as you may know, based in the Seattle area.

The recent earthquake in Japan has caused a lot of us in this area to again think about what happens when a big one takes place here. The ‘shaker predictors’ are all in agreement that we will have a huge quake in this area, it’s just a matter of time thanks to the subduction zone we have off of our coast. Thankfully we don’t have any nuke-plants near the ocean and we are, somewhat, isolated from the ocean…However a tsunami will certainly come in the Straight and impact a lot of low-land areas of Puget Sound. Compared to the last big quake we had here (Nisqually) the one in Japan was huge and it lasted for a very long time. A 9.0 would certainly make this area with all its elevated freeways and waterways impossible to get around. Just hope I’m gone by then.

There is a potential impact to our industry due to the fact that a number of suppliers of not only equipment but components come from Japan, some from the areas that were significantly impacted. Because a great deal of the power in Japan comes from these knocked out plants, many industries are going to be hurting for some time.

Are you ready for the latest NIER health scare? PG&E, the big utility in California, has, for some time, been installing what they call their Smart Meter which contains a tiny radio transmitter that transmits power consumption to the company. Someone, probably with a lot of spare time and belonging to an organization that fears anything they don’t understand, concluded that these meters are a health issue. PG&E is apparently agreeing to remove the critters but are passing the additional cost on to the customer to the tune of $135 upfront and $14 per month (I assume the cost of the now required meter reader). The utility maintains that the meter transmitters are safer than many items that are commonly used in the average home. In my experience, those that complain are likely to be the type that get a ‘deer in the headlights’ expression with the simple mention of terms like ….Mathematics or (horror) Science. On the plus side, if they are willing to pay for the reader to visit their meter, great. At least employment is created.

Congrats to former Seattle guy, Marty Hadfield and the crew at Portland’s Alpha Broadcasting on the completion of their new digs in the Rose City. Several folks from this area have been down to visit. It was the cover story of the latest Radio Magazine.

Congrats go out also to Andy Skotdal who recently received a CP for his 2nd AM in Everett. Andy is a guy that should have a metal for his efforts at overcoming the opposition of many. Let’s not forget the bozo that took down a number of his towers a while back. The new signal will be on 1520 and will share the site with KRKO.

Every once in a while you hear about a broadcast station that did not have a security system in place getting ripped off. In this case a small LPFM near Columbus Ohio was broken into. I am constantly reminded of the need to make sure that our facilities are secure and that we have ‘monitored’ alarm systems.

In a recent column I wrote about mobile TV and asked who was doing it here in Seattle. Tim Schall of KCTS-TV responded this way –

Hi Clay:

Your most recent ‘corner’ contains a paragraph about mobile DTV and Belo and ends with a question about ‘who else’ is doing it.

Here in my shop at 401 Mercer, and everywhere else I’ve tried for that matter, I can receive the following mobile DTV stations:

4-1 M/H KOMO-4
4-2 M/H ThisTV (KOMO’s secondary DTV service)
7-1 M/H KIRO
16-1 M/H KONG
51-1 M/H Univision

Note that 4-1, 4-2 and 51-1 are all emanating from Fishers physical channel 38 transmitter on Queen Anne. (Has anyone told those guys you can do digital radio on FM?) 51-1 M/H >IS NOT< broadcasting from West Tiger. 7-1 is on physical channel 39 from Queen Anne and 16-1 is on physical channel 31 from Queen Anne. Thanks Tim – A recent video surfaced where some employees of NPR made some statements that quickly got them fired and resulted in the President and CEO stepping down. This renewed the call by some in Congress to pull funding from NPR and public broadcasting. A proposal to do just that passed in the house but died in the Senate. Certainly with everyone trying to reduce expenses, public radio and TV have something to be concerned about. Perhaps it’s time to permit these stations to obtain revenue the same way commercial broadcasters do? As if NPR needed more bad news….. Garrison Keillor, host of the popular A Prairie Home Companion, announced he is retiring in the spring of 2013. On the plus side, nation wide, contributions to NPR stations are way up. Here in Seattle we have a couple major NPR stations, KPLU and KUOW and KVTI from Tacoma. Joining those radio stations that are listener supported this summer will be KING-FM. The new owners of KDDS and KTBK, Adelante Media Group, are in the process of making a number of improvements to their stations which target Latino listeners. The reason for the investment can be found in the census figures that show 16% of our population is now Latino. That’s a huge segment. If a broadcaster can deliver the majority of that group, he is ahead of just about everyone else. I have to wonder why some of the major radio broadcast owners have not awakened to this fact. Congratulations to KIRO –FM in Seattle as they were nominated for NAB’s Crystal Radio Award. The station is one of 50 nominated and the only station in this market named. The winner will be announced at the Radio Luncheon at this months NAB convention in Las Vegas. Speaking of KIRO, It’s been reported that WTOP in Washington DC is the nation’s highest billing radio station. The owners of KIRO, Bonneville, recently sold the station. Pirate Radio operations continue, and so does the FCC’s efforts to get them off the air. In this case the FCC really threw the book at a Gabriel Garcia of San Jose, Ca. Over a period of approx 4 months the FCC tracked this fellow on a number of frequencies and locations. One of the parties that complained with the FAA (That will do it) the tab? 25 Grand. It’s nice to know that you have readers. As a demonstration of fairness…Here’s a letter recently received – I have to take issue with the comment about "the lack of battery powered TVs these days that can receive ATSC". In fact, there are millions of them. There are many different brands, and many have a built in rechargeable battery as well as a 12v plug to charge in your car. They can be purchased online for $49.00 or less. Example: I'll admit the whip antennas are lousy, but most of these portable TVs seem to have good reception if you add a better antenna. In many cases a $5 bowtie will work. During a natural disaster, there might not be internet or cell service in some areas. At this price, I think everyone should have one of these TVs for their disaster kit along with a portable radio. (I may be a little biased, but being that our TV station is the EAS local primary station, I think I should have that right.) These TVs are great during power outages. My home is on the same substation as our transmitter. During the last outage I was able to verify that our channels were operating on the generator. They have audio / video inputs so they are a handy small and lightweight video monitor. For station engineers that still have to maintain analog translators, they also receive NTSC. Michael Mattson KWVT 17 / KSLM 27 / KPWC 37 Northwest Television, LLC Thanks for reading my Column, Mike, I stand corrected. I’d like to add that I was with Terry Spring the other day visiting a transmitter site here in Western Washington and watched him pull out his laptop and plug in something that looked like a Wi-Fi adaptor into which he connected a small antenna and – presto – he had a laptop TV that would receive NTSC as well as ATSC. Cool. Talk about bad luck – How about the group that shelled out 4.4 megabucks at an FCC Auction for an FM station in Omaha, Nebraska. When they tried to build the station they found out there was no location available for them to build the station on 107.7 that would permit them to cover their city of license and be acceptable to the FAA. Apparently the Commish will give them their money back. Yes we have a 107.7 here in Seattle. Apparently Mexico will be joining the US in the use of HD Radio with their version of the FCC giving the green light to the technology in our neighbor to the south. The future for HD Radio in this country on FM appears to be bright with an ever increasing number of radios available. However HD has been fighting an uphill battle in other parts of the world where DRM and other system appear to have the upper hand. As you know, I frequently like to leave you with something to ponder. This month credits go to Dwight Small for the following tidbits. > Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

> Some people never really grow up; they only learn how to act in public.

> An argument with your boss does not determine who is right – only who is left.

> How come the evening news begins with ‘Good Evening,’ and then proceeds to tell you why it isn’t.

> To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

> A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

> You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

Well folks, that’s it for this Month – Thanks for the read and keep those cards and letters and emails coming my way.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE.