Hoth

Alternate title: Winter in the Northeast

For all you southerners and west coast people, we have been having an average winter here in the Northeast. While many of our transmitter sites are drive ups, we have several located at ski area mountain peaks.  Technically, those mountain top transmitter sites are a fantastic way to get the Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT) way up there.  Logistically, they are much more difficult to deal with.  Installing a new transmitter or even refueling a generator takes major effort.  Working in the cold and wind is much more fatiguing and requires paying special attention protective clothing, hydration, exposure, etc.

Here are a few pictures from Killington and Pico mountain ski areas in Vermont

Your ride is here.
Your ride is here.

The snow grooming machine is the only way to bring anything up to the top of the mountain during the winter time. In this case, I needed to replace a BW Broadcast TX 1500 watt transmitter.

Trail from ski lift to tower
Trail from ski lift to tower

Even with the snow grooming machine, the last few hundred yards needs to be walked. Fortunately, the snow is packed and not too deep here.

Tower on Pico Mountain
Tower on Pico Mountain

Tower is encrusted with ice. I can tell the tower climber is having a great day:

Tower climber working on ice encrusted towe
Tower climber working on ice encrusted tower

Riding the chair lift back down the mountain gets plenty of strange looks from those skiers coming up:

Pico chair lift
Pico chair lift

Over on Killington Peak, conditions are actually worse.

Killington Peak tower
Killington Peak tower

The ERI antenna heaters cannot keep up with the ice buildup.

ERI two bay antenna with ice.
ERI two bay antenna with ice.

The general manager insists that this winter is not too bad and everything should be working right. My statement to her: Based on my 27 years experience, your shit is fucked up. But if you know how to fix this, come on up and show me.  She deferred.

FM transmitter building and antenna
FM transmitter building and antenna

What the fire tower looked like last winter.

Killington peak fire tower
Killington peak fire tower
Train from the Gondola to the tower
Train from the Gondola to the tower

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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.

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.