Category Archives: Local News

KSON-AM Finally Set to Rebuild Tower

Lincoln Financial Media finally got approval from the City of San Diego to reconstruct its KSON-AM tower south of downtown. That tower, you may remember (article), had its top crumple over in a windstorm late in December 2004. Some 200 feet was left after the limp top sections were removed.

The replacement, also a self-supporter, will reach the same 445 feet height nearby on the same plot of land in the middle of a towing yard along I-5 where it meets the south terminus of State Route 15. The new tower will also have the same shunt feed design. But the new steel members are designed to be of sufficient strength to handle high winds and some antennas on top.

KSON-AM at 1240 kHz and KURS at 1040 kHz have continued sharing the remainder of the old tower after crews removed the damaged upper third.

According to San Diego Market Director of Engineering and SBE Chapter 36 Chair Eric Schecter, Joel Saxberg has served as AM consultant for the project. David Evans and Associates has provided navigation through the city permitting processes that started three years ago. Sabre Communications of Sioux City, Iowa will fabricate the steel kit, and RD Engineering and Construction of El Cajon will erect the tower.

Upon its completion, KBNT-CA channel 17 is expected to return to the top with an ERI 8-bay omni-directional antenna along with an antenna from Teletrac Fleet Management radio services. Eric expects crews to complete construction by the end of 2008.

XETV and KSWB Swap Networks

In February, Ed Wilson left his position as President of the Fox Television Network to become President of Tribune Broadcasting. The next month, he announced that Tribune’s TV station KSWB in San Diego would take over the Fox affiliation from XETV August 1, 2008, ending channel 6’s 22-year run with the network.

The race was on for KSWB Director of Engineering John Weigand to outfit the station not only for news, but high definition. Last Friday the station did just that, airing a four-hour morning program and hour-long 10 PM newscast, both in HD. This after a year of outsourcing news entirely to NBC O&O KNSD.

During the four months, they installed multiple Sony PMW-EX3 1080i cameras, a Ross Vision switcher, and related furniture and terminal gear. Crews from Tribune sister stations KTLA Los Angeles and WGN Chicago helped out.

Meanwhile, XETV negotiated with the CW Network to assume that affiliation on the same August 1 date. The contract wasn’t finalized until July 3, with 29 days to air.

The only technical challenge for XETV after changing web domain names was converting its DTV chain from the Fox Network’s elegant MPEG splicer that doesn’t involve decoding to the CBS distribution scheme that involves decoding not only HD video, but Dolby E audio, then rencoding AC-3 on an MPEG2 stream downstream of local switching. XETV aired the first night of CW with simple stereo audio, not having yet received the Dolby equipment.

There were a few stumbles during the transition, like Dish Network’s swapping channels, DirecTV’s forgetting to swap HD resolutions, KSWB’s 40 minutes of silence to debut its morning news, and XETV’s lip sync issues. But KSWB successfully introduced HD news, including ENG, and at a new price point as the technology advances.

The author is Director of Engineering for Bay City Television, US Operators of XETV Tijuana. 

Your Own Little Piece of Satellite Dish Heaven

Local member Walter Johnson asked if we would mention his special estate in Jamul. He’s retired now and moving closer to family. He explains:

I live in central Jamul very near the Oak Grove Middle school and about 10 minutes from Miller Canyon Road that leads to Mt. San Miguel. I have very good line of sight to Mt. San Miguel.

At one time I had 14 satellite dishes which I used to test data broadcast modulation techniques to small and large dishes. Along with that I have a workshop equipped for satellite signal monitoring. I hate to see all this ripped out by a new owner that is not technical.

I would like to make the availability of this unique situation know to the engineers that work at Mt. San Miguel  and their friends in the industry. I have put together a simple web site that describes the property.

Good luck Walt.

Here Come the Converter Boxes – UPDATED

Got my TV Converter Box $40 Coupon for my 1995 Sony TV upstairs the other day. Already spent it on a dandy DigitalStream DSP7700T from Newcast Distributing in Calabasas. In mid-May they were out of product.  Similarly, I tried to buy the Channel Master box at Fry’s, but they weren’t ready to take coupons yet. For the system to be five months into the coupon program, there seems to be a lot of ramping up yet to do while our coupons approach expiration.


Wikipedia has an exhaustive, if sparsely detailed, listing of Coupon-Eligible Converter Boxes. Take a good look at the specs available.

The first thing I notice in comparing models is that not many provide analog pass through. Too bad for the two remaining full-power analog English language, seven full power Spanish stations, and at least five lower power foreign language stations serving the San Diego market. The NTIA didn’t think of this in making the specifications?

My DigitalStream box bypasses analog when you turn off the power. That’s okay.

So I can at least take advantage of DTV’s better color processing and feed the component or at least Y/C (S-video) ports on my TV–right? Nope, not unless you buy the Channel Master CM-7000 or Apex (for which I could find no active distributor).

What about Smart Antenna processing for our market that has four major mountaintop transmission sites? A few boxes list that feature, but what consumer is going to know to look for it? Or look for a Smart Antenna?

So what did I get for my $41, including tax, shipping, and coupon discount? The DigitalStream DSP7700T found all the local digital stations with a broadband log-periodic pointed at Tijuana from Kearny Mesa, plus it found KCBS and KNBC off the back side! KNBC was on the edge of its capabilities, though. The menu is attractive, it includes a signal level bar readout, closed captioning, EPG titles, and stereo audio. I was most amazed by the reception under obvious multipath conditions since KGTV 25 and KFMB 7 were perfectly decoded off the side of the Blonder-Tongue UHF log.


I bought a second box, the Zenith DTT900, for $24 ($60 + tax – $40 coupon). No analog bypass or S-video, but it runs cooler. Hooked up to my 9dBi gain log-periodic and got all locals plus just about every LA station that didn’t have a San Diego co-channel. They faded somewhat later, but one might be able to overcome that with a gain antenna.

I also learned that Dish Network is offering a $40 box through their dealers with a net cost of sales tax only. Not bad. They want to ratchet up their customer base during all the box confusion.

Radio Shack’s website now lists four boxes including the DigitalStream I bought elsewhere.

A few calls have come in at work. Interestingly, most ask if we have a digital channel. Our web FAQ has been well buried by the station’s webmaster, so I can sort of understand.

A Little Help From Our Friends

Many thanks to the sponsors who help make our local chapter successful. To date, these vendors have each contributed cash to our treasury this year:

  • Computer Modules,
  • JVC,
  • Microwave Radio Corporation,
  • Piper Digital,
  • Western Technical Services,
  • Willy’s Electronics,
  • Broadcast Connection,
  • Dielectric Communications,
  • Grass Valley Thomson, and
  • Bext

We’ve received additional support in the form of valuable door prizes and accommodations from TV Magic, Rohde & Schwarz, WireCAD, SCMS, and Sangean Radio.

Our costs are sufficiently low enough that the chapter hopes to make a donation this year to the Ennes Scholarship Fund that helps put a deserving broadcast technology student through college.