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This information is from an occasional reader who wished to remain anonymous.

Another AM station surrenders its license, this time from north of the border. CKSL, London, Ontario, Canada is gone for good.  Current owner, Bell Media, has determined that it would cost more to repair the deficiencies with the antenna system than economically feasible, especially considering it’s low ratings.  Here is their filing with the CRTC:

Bell Media is the licensee of CKSL-AM 1410, assuming stewardship of the station in 2013 as part of the Astral Media acquisition.

A technical review of the transmitter site was recently completed both by Bell Media and contractors, which has resulted in the determination that the AM array poses an unacceptable risk from a health and safety perspective.  The five towers are experiencing serious structural degradation and also require repairs to the aviation safety lighting system. In addition, the building which houses the transmitter has shifted off its foundation (as have several of the individual tower sheds).

Given these problems, Bell Media would need to make a significant financial investment to bring CKSL-AM’s transmitter up to compliance with Human Resources Development Canada, Industry Canada and NavCanada operational codes and standards, all of which is estimated to exceed $3 million dollars.

From a market perspective, CKSL-AM has consistently ranked last out of all ten commercial stations in the London market, both in audience share and revenue generation, over the last several years.  In fact, since 2013 the London market has seen radio revenues drop 4% and CKSL-AM generates the least amount of revenue of the stations in the market. Even with a significant investment in programming, this trend is unlikely to be reversed. 

In light of the significant capital costs coupled with the absence of revenue and audience share, Bell Media is respectfully requesting the revocation of the CKSL licence.

Well, 24/7 comedy will do that to you.  Somebody in the business said to me recently “The listeners are abandoning radio!”  No, it is the broadcast station owners who are abandoning their listeners and their cities of license.  I have a news flash for all current broadcast station owners; as surprising and radical as this might sound, bland, boring, canned, completely irrelevant, dismal, uninformative, unimaginative, unentertaining, dreary, stale, unenjoyable programming will drive away even the most loyal listeners.  People really want to listen to radio, it is an easy habit and readily accessible.  Radios are ubiquitous; they are in our kitchens, bedrooms, cars, hotel rooms, offices, restaurants, barber shops, etc.  That, however, may not always be the case, as more and more people move Spotify, Pandora, or Apple radio when they are tired of the disappointment.  I was listening to a certain sports radio format the other day and I kept waiting for something interesting to happen.  I waited and waited. I would say to myself; okay, this will be the segment when I will learn something or be entertained.  This upcoming guest will say something interesting.  Sadly, those expectations were never met and I will never tune into that station again. Elevator music would have been better.  Worse than sports radio, 24/7 comedy is the absolute death knell.  This is like saying; we are out of ideas and we do not care.

Here are a few pictures of the former CKSL-AM transmitter site:

CKSL antenna array

CKSL antenna array

CKSL_transmitter

CKSL transmitter building

CKSL_transmission

CKSL transmission line bridge

CKSL_tower

CKSL tower base

Actually does not look too bad, at least the field is mowed. I have seen much, much worse.  Those bolt together towers, though. I would bet that they are the real problem, bolts are deteriorating faster than the tower steel. Very likely all the towers need to be replaced and that is why the license is being surrendered.

If you are a radio geek, get out there and take some pictures of your favorite radio station.  If the current trends continue, eventually they will all be gone.

Remember kids:

μ = 1/1,000,000, 10-6 or 0.000001

Microaggression: If the worst thing that happened to you is you suffered through one millionth of an aggression, you are having a pretty good day.

Came as a stock item

So, I wore out another car and it was time to get a new one. Unexpectedly, the new car came with one of these fancy gizmos:

HD Radio as a stock item

HD Radio as a stock item

This is not the first HD radio I have owned, the Jeep Cherokee had one that I install myself. This is the first time it came with the car and I didn’t even mention it to the sales guy.

A few observations:

  • Many stations’ HD1 channels don’t sound very good, they are either shrill and tinny, or not synced with their analog counterpart.
  • There still aren’t very many station transmitting HD Radio; FM stations are either NPR affiliates or belong to a few larger corporate owners.  The AM stations are few and far between.
  • AM HD Radio still has numerous problems in the mobile listening environment.
  • Many of the HD 2/3 don’t sound very good; low audio levels, muffled modulation, low bit rate audio, etc.  The only exception that I have found so far is Vermont Public Radio’s classical format, transmitted on the HD2 of WVPS, Burlington.
  • HD2/3 channels mainly serve as “translator loophole” stations, AKA “Metro Stations”

As far as the new ownership by DTS goes; I will reserve judgement until they do something with it.

Common’ Baby

Who is that old guy standing next to Chubby Checker?

Chubby Checker and yours truly

Chubby Checker and yours truly

Hey, that’s me!

And never will you meet a nicer gentleman than Chubby Checker.

Comacho 2016

I know who I am voting for:

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho

If you have not watched Idiocracy yet, Netflix it (or youtube it).

Seriously, I can’t see anyone worth voting for, I suppose I will have to Johnson it again.

The Gates Air Flexiva 1

We just finished installing one of these units for one of our clients. This is the third one that I have dealt with in the last two years. I have to say, these transmitters are pretty cool.

Gate Air, Flexiva 1 running at 990 watts

Gate Air, Flexiva 1 running at 990 watts

We also installed a 7/8 transfer switch and a 1.5 KW test load:

New installation of transmitter, transfer switch and test load

New installation of transmitter, transfer switch and test load

Another view:

Transmitter installation

Transmitter installation

New transmitter rack, processor and remote control:

New transmitter installation

New transmitter installation

The former main transmitter, the venerable BE FM1B:

Broadcast Electronics FM1B transmitter

Broadcast Electronics FM1B transmitter

View of the 7/8 inch coax going out of the transmitter room to the tower:

Coax out to tower

Coax out to tower

Rarely, if ever, have I worked with 7/8 rigid transmission line. Usually, it is 1 5/8 or 3 inch line, which require some amount of patience when installing.

Nice little transmitter site upgrade project.

Out storming castles and what not

Sorry for not posting more, it just seems that most of what I am doing these days has already been covered here before. I don’t like repeating myself.  I certainly have been busy with all things related to radio engineering, including a few cool project in the works.  More details on those as they come to fruition; a couple of more transmitter installations, a cool studio installation with AOIP hardware, etc.

Even though I have not mentioned it, certain things have not escaped my attention:

  • The on going financial problems/stock crash of Cumulus Broadcasting.  TL,DR; bad decisions made, lots of people left, content still matters.
  • AM revitalization:  Band aides (no pun intended) at best, far too late for band aides.
  • HD Radio: Crickets chirping…
  • Nielsen: PPM software upgrades have arrived and been installed.  Goodbye, Voltair?

When I have the chance, there is also a cool story about an LPFM going on the air in Rochester.  Stay tuned.

Microsoft: I am so done with you…

Except for the two applications that only run in Windows…

I lost use of my Windows 7 partition on my laptop last week after a Windows update.  They have been pushing Windows 10 for a while now, but I have ignored it because Windows 7 is just fine for me. I tried to ignore the latest nagging update and: Oh, joy! Computer stuck in an endless reboot loop. Fortunately, I had a dual boot system and the Linux OS booted right up. Go figure! I was able to mount the the Windows partition from Linux and recover all of my files.  This is a good reason to have a dual boot system, or keep a bootable thumb drive handy.  At first, I thought I might be loosing sectors on my hard drive, but no.  It turns out, one of the files changed during the update was corrupted.  No big deal, I can reload windows and be back in business.

It will only take an hour or so.  An hour that could be better used for something else, something akin to billable hours, which is how the mortgage gets paid. My computer is not a hobby, it is a tool. I don’t have time to play around with things for fun.

Then I thought, why bother?  I am using Linux with no serious disruptions.  In fact, it boots faster, runs faster, is more secure, and generally has fewer hangups. LibreOffice has all of the applications I need for general correspondence and business administration.  I can run Win 7 as a virtual machine in VirtualBox as long as I can get the USB device I need to be recognized by Linux then passed through to the virtual Win 7 OS.

So, to hell with Windows and all its nonsense. Goodbye you inferior, expensive and buggy piece of garbage. I will not miss you.

Radio is dead? Don’t tell these guys then…

WXHC in Homer, New York will never be listed on the NY Stock Exchange. Is that bad?

WXHC, Homer, New York

WXHC, Homer, New York

They don’t think so. A small class A FM station, one of many that signed on in the early 1990’s as part of the 80-90 drop ins (FCC docket 80-90, for those unfamiliar). Many of these stations did not fair too well and ended up being absorbed by larger stations and groups starting with the first wave of ownership deregulation in 1993.

WHXC has remained under the same ownership since it signed on in 1991. Eves Broadcasting is a family operation, employing maybe half a dozen people. Their studios and offices are on the third floor of the Bank of Niagara right in the center of town.  The facility is very nice.  Like any successful radio station, their focus is the community they serve. The format is “Oldies” but they also broadcast high school football, Syracuse sports and so on. They host a yearly Blue Grass festival on the village green.

WXHC air studio

WXHC air studio

The air studio has an Arrakis console and uses BSI Simian automation software. They have live DJ’s from 6am to 6pm, local news, weather, sports, etc.

WXHC production room console

WXHC production room console

The production room has a BE Spotmaster 8S200A console from 1978. Aside from needing some power supply capacitors, it still works relatively well.  However, as the owner’s son said; that thing belongs in a museum.

BE Spotmaster line input card

BE Spotmaster line input card

BE Spotmaster line input card. Probably can still get all these parts if we wanted to.

I forgot to take pictures of the transmitter site when I was there.  Next time.

We will be working on several projects for these folks, so I will keep  you posted on the progress.

Dun Dun DUN!

UPDATE:Turns out it was nothing…

Hurricane Joaquin, 1800 UTC, October 3, 2015

National Weather Service, Hurricane Joaquin, October 3, 1800 UTC

Could be something. It might be nothing. Better top of the fuel tanks just in case…

National Weather Service, Hurricane Joaquin, September 30, 1800 UTC

National Weather Service, Hurricane Joaquin, September 30, 1800 UTC

On top of all the other scheduled projects taking place, we have a bad generator fuel transfer pump at one of the E911 sites that should be replaced before Monday, apparently.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

Free counters!