Clay’s Corner – April 2010

Well I finally did it !   On March 31st I ended my run as a full time employee of Entercom-Seattle.   During just short of 28 years I have managed to work for 3 different owners in a number of different buildings and for a bunch of different call letters.   The time had come to move on and, as they say, seek new opportunities.  Please understand that this was – my – choice.   My life is going to be considerably different as I transition from full time employee to part time mixed with doing an increased amount of contract work.  I re-instated my State Business License and Clay Freinwald Technical Services is back in business.  I start my half-time job on April first with WSU.   Now 95% of my time will be working with RF transmission systems.    I did not intend to do it this way, it just happened.  The good news is that there are less and less of us working in this area and for me, this has meant demand and, as they say, that is a good thing.   I want you to all know that I will certainly miss working with the Entercom technical crew…In particular, Dwight Small, Lowell Smith, John Price and Chuck Taylor.  These guys are the best!   The good news is that It’s likely that I will be doing contract work for Entercom at West Tiger and Cougar Mt’s, so, in some way, I’ll be doing the same work, just under different circumstances.   What I will not miss will be slogging my way from Auburn to Seattle (or visa versa) during drive time.   Anyone that says they enjoy a 2 hour commute is nuts!..

On the subject of doing contract work, I have been reading that there is likely to be an increased amount of this in years to come.   I can recall, years ago, when the only person that came in (from the outside) was the guy that repaired typewriters (I did my share) and the fellow that repaired the wire-printer.    There are those that predict that a larger and larger percentage of stations will employ contactors in the future.  It used to be that only small market radio stations did not have a technical staff….Now, with the way the economy has behaved, it’s becoming the norm for larger and larger markets.

Then there are exceptions – The Bend Radio Group. (Oregon) are looking for a full time

Congratulations to our Chapter Chairman, Jim Dalke, on scoring a new place for our Chapter Meetings….The Museum of Flight.   Recent experiences with the Eastside location along 520 have been less that optimum.   The MoF location has plenty of parking and is certainly a great location for most of us.   Thanks Jim !

What’s in a name?   I have often wondered how long the term ‘Radio’ would be around.  That word must drive those that like to come up with new names for old things nuts. Radio…It sounds so….Yesteryear.    Now there is a push to change the name  to…are you ready for this ….”Audio” .      I can hear it now – KOMO News-audio 1000.  Oh well.

This year, due to my employment changes I will be missing the NAB show in Las Vegas.

I had hoped to go, in fact, I was supposed to have moderated some sessions, and made a presentation in another.   Just was not in the card this year.  Perhaps the next.

Speaking of NAB.   Last years ‘buzz’ was mobile small screen TV.   This years buzz – 3D.   On the subject of small screen/mobile TV.  I was in a local Radio Shack store the other day and could not help but notice a display for FLO-TV.

Taking a look at the economy –

>> Belo, owner of stations KING and KONG in Seattle, reports that business is looking up.

>> Radio sales are projected to grow 1.5% and post an annual growth rate of 2- 4% according to a recently publicized report.   At the rate, it might take a long time to gain back what has been lost during the ‘Great Recession’.

>> The list of firms that have reported raising lots of cash include – QVC and Sirius/XM

One would have thought after all the analog TV channels that went dark that the Feds would have been happy with all the spectrum they have to ‘peddle’.   But apparently this is not enough as they are pushing to have broadcast TV cough up a bunch more.  Our society has become so addicted to ‘wireless’ (talk about old terms) that the demand from those with deep pockets has caused the Commish to scramble to try and meet the demand.   Whereas the good-Lord has not created any new spectrum of late, their attention is now directed on existing users and one of those users is Broadcast TV.   This is setting up to be a battle royal.

Here’s a comment I just had to include –

How ironic – On the one hand, the FCC wants to provide disaster assistance to broadcasters, and on the other hand, they want to take away all our spectrum and move TV stations to cable and satellite, which won’t work when the power goes out.  Does one hand have any clue what the other hand is doing???  (What’s that I smell?  Ah… cynicism…)

A PNW radio station is under the Commish Microscope.   KJOT in Boise was recently advised that they should contribute about $4000 to the Treasury for violation of contest rules.

Here’s an interesting question – If you had to give up TV or the Internet…Which one would you choose?   The answer may not be a great surprise to many…TV.   Perhaps it’s because of the increasingly interactive nature of the Internet with it’s social networking sites etc.   Certainly a lot of teens would choose the Internet over TV and they are the future.    This does not bode well for the future of broadcast TV.

Well how is DTV doing, now that the big switch has taken place.  This was one of the topics discussed over lunch the other day with a couple of local channel Engineers.

Everyone seems to agree that Low- VHF is not the place for Digital, however there does not appear to be solid agreement as to whether High-V is yielding acceptable performance or if UHF is the place to be.   Here in our area, we have a mixture – with Channels 9, 11 and 13 still on VHF, while 4, 5 and 7 have moved to UHF.   Anyone have any thoughts on this one, drop me a note.

You think that time fly’s?    Try this item – It’s been 10 years since they blew up the King Dome!

Some good news out of WDC – Senate Bill S.2881 has cleared a Senate Committee. In the event you have not been following this item – The bill’s basic purpose is to provide greater technical resources to FCC Commissioners by providing for a study by the National Academy of Sciences on the technical policy decisions and technical personnel at the Federal Communications Commission. The bill now moves back to the Senate.   It’s long been the feeling of the SBE that the Commission has, in recent years, lacked the technical support staff to help guide them in making decisions

Here’s a good idea from Chris Alexander of Crawford Broadcasting, who like a lot of broadcasters has been fighting vandals seeking copper items.  He has placed signs around his facilities that state “All copper used at the site is copper-clad steel with no salvage value and stamped with identification numbers” He adds “.We’ve had no more copper theft since putting up those signs a couple of years ago”

Another item from WDC – A court has lifted the Media Cross-Ownership Ban in the top 20 markets.   Gee this means that the Seattle Times, Tacoma Tribune, Everett Herald etc could be co-owned by a local Radio or TV station.  Now to find someone willing to do it.

The EAS Summit in Washington DC was well attended by representatives from our State.  Mark Allen of WSAB,  Don Miller of WSEM and myself were there.  The good news from this is that there is indeed progress being made.   Right now it looks like Q4 will be the start of the process that will require all broadcasters to purchase new EAS equipment.   More recently the FCC has put out a call for comments that will be used in the creation of an NPRM that will lead to a new/revised FCC Part 11.   I know that you have heard about this for some time, folks – It’s really going to happen.   Meanwhile, Washington State is going to be installing a larger number of new endecs around the state to augment the State Relay Network. All of them will be connected to the Washington State CAP Network.

BTW – If your station has purchased any new EAS Equipment that –IS- CAP capable.  Can you please contact me ASAP as we want to work with you to get you plugged into the new WaState CAP System.    Drop me an email if you would – Thanks!

KING-FM made the news recently with the announcement that they would, next year, become a listener supported radio station.   As must of you know, KING-FM has been this areas Classical Music station for many years, 62 I understand.  A couple of things led to this change. 1) The shift in the way radio ratings are determined, from diary’s to PPM have caused classical music stations, nationwide, to go down.  2) Fisher, who has a sales agreement with KING-FM has announced that they don’t wish to renew their agreement.   This will leave Seattle in the unique position of having two – non-commercial stations in the commercial portion of the FM band.  KING at 98.1 and KUOW at 94.9.

Every year about this time I discuss those radio stations that have been nominated for a Crystal Radio Award from our area – This year we have just one from the Seattle area – KIRO-FM and one from Oregon, KEX-AM in Portland.   I wish them well.

Also at the Las Veges NAB Technology Luncheon, two awards are presented for Engineering Achievement.    This years winners are – Steve Church, founder and CEO for Telos, for radio and Mark Richer, President of ATSC for Television.  Congrats to the winners.

A good sign for HD-Radio as more and more consumer devices are available to purchase.   Additionally an every increasing number of auto makers offering HD in their products.    I was recently in a local electronics retailer and he told me that selling HD Radio products was hard because he could not receive stations well inside his store.  I explained that the FCC has recently authorized a power increase.  He was happy to hear that and asked me when it was going to happen.  At that point I was stuck.  Once again Radio Broadcasters are faced with a chicken and egg situation.   One local broadcaster told me that they were not going to spend a dime on HD power increases until consumers showed more of an interest.    The bottom line seems to be – If Radio Broadcasters really want to see HD become more accepted, then they are, once again, going to have to dig down and pony up the bucks to ‘front’ the deal.   The evidence is clear, the increase in power really does make a difference.   As we come out of our economic funk, who is going to buy new RF hardware?

On the subject of HD-Radio….Here’s a new term for your vocabulary – ‘Quadcast’

CBS Radio has starting running HD-4 in some of their markets, hence the term.  For those of you that are not familiar with HD-R.  Here in the Seattle area we have a few stations that are running 3 channels (HD-3) but none are doing 4…..Yet.

According to a new report, 24% of US homes have a web connected TV that permits them to find TV shows and movies online and watch them on their TV set.

With all the hoopla over new networked gizmo’s have you wondered how in the world they are going to wire all this together?   Well now …Your trusty column writer has come up with something that solves the problem <grin> …Check out –   The good news is that no broadcast spectrum is required !

As usual, I like to leave you with a little something.  This months item comes from friend Jim Keightley –

Ten Pretty Good Rules

1. Never wrestle with a pig; you both get dirty and the pig likes it.

2. Never argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.
3. Observe everything; admire nothing.
4. It’s easier to obtain forgiveness than it is permission.
5. Never resist the opportunity to keep your mouth shut.
6. Don’t ask the question if you can’t live with the answer.
7. Things are never so small that they can’t be blown out of proportion.
8. Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.
9. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t know when to quit.
10. Never look back unless you intend to go that way,

With that, It’s time to leave this work alone for another month.   If the good Lord is willing, I will see you here again next month.

Think Summer !

Clay, CPBE, K7CR