Okay, it’s a little weird getting FOX on “Channel 5” – but it isn’t really 5 anyway (UPDATED)

kfyr_sale_2013A while ago I posted that the local television landscape would be undergoing even more changes as the Hoak Media stations such as KFYR  were being sold again, as was the KNDX cluster or stations owned by Prime Cities.  Then, to complicate things, the company that bought the KFYRs, KVLY, and KSFYs signed a tentative agreement to operate the KNDXs.  Whee.  I bet that’ll make for a busy control room.

Well, tonight I finally decided to watch 24 on KNDX instead of the web (I turned it off halfway through, though, to play a game with my little boy) and noticed that I wasn’t getting 26.1 anymore.  I knew the transition was coming, but I watch so little television these days that I hadn’t rescanned yet.  Sure enough, I picked up FOX on what my television calls “5.2” and no channel 26 could be found.

In case I didn’t mention it here, although I think I did on my blog’s Facebook page, the scuttlebutt I’d heard was for KNDX to move to 5.2, MeTV to eventually move to 26.1, and BEK Communications programming to reside on 26.2 or 26.3.  MeTV is still on 5.3, but I don’t expect that to last long.  The reason is that any TV station like KFYR only gets 6MHz of bandwidth for their TV signal, and the only way to fit more on it is by compressing the signals digitally – decreasing the picture quality.


Analog-vs-Digital-SignalI decided to make this rudimentary graphic (engineers, don’t freak) to give a broad overview of how TV signals are different these days.  On the left is the same old snowy analog signal that we grew up with, and on the right is the new digital DTV signal which provides that high definition picture.  Both use the same 6 MHz of bandwidth, which means the frequency range for their signal to modulate (think vibrate) in.

Note all the ups and downs on the left.  That’s because an analog TV signal was actually three different signals:  You had the picture, which was an AM signal (like the radio in Grandpa’s car, sorta).  This was actually black and white.  Then you have the color subcarrier, which put the color information into the picture, also AM.  Finally, spaced away from the video carrier by a specific offset, was the audio signal – but this is an FM carrier (like the radio the kids used to listen to in the 80’s).

On the right, you simply have one monster signal, going full blast like a fire hose from end to end (Note: engineers, I don’t think the readers want to hear about sideband right now).  What this signal is doing, rather than delivering actual pictures in wavy format, is trying to spew forth as many error-free ones and zeros as possible.  What the TV station does with those ones and zeros, however, is where the magic happens.

Say you’re Prairie Public, for example.  You put four channels on it: 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, and 3.4.  Or perhaps, like KX, you put up one HD channel and one weather channel. KBMY has recently started doing the same thing.

What KFYR has done up to this point is put out a 1080i HD signal for KFYR and a 480i (standard definition) signal for MeTV.  This makes sense, as the programming on MeTV was produced for a 4×3, standard definition broadcast picture.  But for the time being they now also have a 720p HD signal for KNDX running on the same data stream, meaning that their 6MHz bandwidth has to fit a lot more information on it.  I’m sure they’re eager to get MeTV moved over to 26 as soon as it’s technically feasible.


fcc-tv-queryOne other thing that’s noteworthy about Channel 26 vs. Channel 5 is that it is actually Channel 26.  When the federal government mandated that stations begin broadcasting digitally only and abandon their analog signal, many stations had to change frequencies.  In our area, “Channel 5” is one of these.

As you can see in the FCC table above, stations with frequencies already within the newly defined broadcast TV spectrum such as KXMB, KBMY, and KNDX were able to keep their existing channels.  KBME and KFYR, channels 3 and 5 respectively, weren’t so lucky.

Obviously these stations, and many like them, have spent fifty or sixty years identifying themselves with a channel number, and they’d rather not start from scratch.  No worries, though; they’re allowed to identify themselves as their old channel, even though the radio frrequencies they’re using to broadcast their signal are nowhere near that actual channel number.  As the chart above indicates, KFYR is actually Channel 31 and KBME is actually Channel 22.  You’ll never see them come up on your television that way, however.

The transition from analog television to digital television has been pretty weird.  The economic picture of terrestrially-based broadcasting has been equally spooky, with all these stations combining resources to remain viable while spending millions in capital expenses to adopt the new technology.  Thankfully, all you have to do to continue receiving the signals over the air at this point is to rescan every now and then to pick up any channels you’ve missed or, in rare cases like this, may have moved.

Update:  I’ve been told that there will be no Channel 26 in Bismarck, 24 in Minot.  That means what I’d heard through the grapevine about a MeTV/BEK thing on 26, 24, and the low-power stations in Williston and Dickinson is not happening.  Channel 5 may be a little more crowded, but all three pictures still look great…so I doubt they’re stressing their available bandwidth.

The Democrat letter-writing machine is in full gear. Here’s how to spot ’em

quinn_lettersHere we are, well into 2014 and the Democrats barely even have any candidates named for office.  That’s no surprise, considering the destruction their party has wrought on a national level.  Anyone with a “D” next to their name is likely to get a well deserved, good old-fashioned hinder-spanking.  What they are doing, however, is getting their tinfoil-hat brigade into full swing in letter-writing mode, hitting the “Letter to the Editor” pages as frequently as they can.

I’ve written my share of letters to the editor of our local newspaper as well, and I think it’s a great means of citizen activism.  What I am pointing out in this article is the orchestrated wave of motivated foot soldiers, belching Democrat Party talking points to the printed page in increasing volume.

I’ve noticed it lately because I check the Tribune’s Letters to the Editor page regularly.  I’ve mentioned before that their Comments sections (when they had them) were where one could go to kill a few brain cells.  But these are actual letters submitted to the paper, verified by the editor, and signed with people’s real names.  But who are these people, and why should you pay attention what they’ve written?

In the case of the Bismarck Tribune, you only have to do one additional click to get some background on a letter writer before you lend credence to what they have to say:

lebak_letterTake this cookie-cutter screed from Henry Lebak (to whom I’ve retorted on the Tribune’s Letter to the Editor page) going after Margaret Sitte.  This is the only race I can think in which the Democrats actually want to compete, so here comes the attack.  Well, simply click on good ol’ Henry’s name in the blue byline text, and you’ll come up with this list of what he’s written in the past:

lebak_lettersMister Lebak’s been busy.  He’s got a litany of “Republicans bad, Democrats good” type stuff in his repertoire. Fine…that’s his right.  But my point is that this isn’t just some regular guy who finally got so fed up with Senator Sitte or the Republicans that he had to finally write a letter and air his grievances.  No, this is a semi-pro.

There are other leftists, such as the one shown in the top image, who have an even longer list of vitriol than Henry does.  I don’t have to accuse Mr. Lebak or others of being shills for the Democrat Party, and it doesn’t matter if they are.  They’re activists, as evidenced by the volume of their writing, and it all reads like Democrat Party fundraising letters and talking points memos.

I’ve got few letters to the editor on the Tribune’s site, too…but I’ve got a website on which I’ve boldly declared where I stand on matters of faith and politics.  You may agree with me, you may not.  But if you still don’t know who I am, clicking on my byline will also bring up my list of rants and give you a good picture of who this crazy right-winger extremist zealot is.  Do your research.

This is especially important right now because, as I have pointed out above, agents of the left are already busy pecking away at their keyboards (with the W’s still removed, no doubt) and flooding newspaper editors’ inboxes all over North Dakota.  Take the time for one extra click, see what else they’ve written, and if you get a list as long as the guys above you can be sure you’re dealing with an activist.



Broadcasting is a strange business these days, and I’m glad I was able to get out of working in it full-time just as it was starting to get spooky.  Consolidation, especially in smaller markets, seems to have been the trend for at least the past ten to fifteen years.  It may be causing another twist here in DMA #145.

Recently the sale of the Hoak Media stations in North Dakota (formerly ND Television, formerly Sunrise, formerly Meyer Broadcasting, and a few in-betweens) to Gray Television Inc. was announced.  This includes not only KFYR (Bismarck), KMOT (Minot), KQCD (Dickinson), and KUMV (Williston), but also KVLY (Fargo) and the KSFY group (Sioux Falls).  That in itself is noteworthy, but there was something further down the press release that was even more interesting:

Separate from the Hoak and Parker transactions, Excalibur has reached a definitive agreement with Prime Cities to acquire the following television stations:

KNDX FOX Minot-Bismarck-Dickinson, ND 145
KXND* FOX Minot-Bismarck-Dickinson, ND 145
* satellite station    

Gray and Excalibur have agreed to enter into industry-standard shared services agreements through which Gray will provide back-office services and limited programming to Excalibur’s stations in the Lincoln, Fargo, Bismarck, and Monroe markets.  The shared services arrangements will commence upon Excalibur’s purchase of those stations.

The bold emphasis is mine.  This looks to me like KNDX isn’t going to have local technical staff for long.  It’s called an LMA, or Local Marketing Agreement.  This is not a new phenomenon in North Dakota; KVLY in Fargo operates KXJB in this manner for Parker Broadcasting out of Texas (thus the “Valley News Live” moniker).  This is a different arrangement than the Reitens’ KX network has with KBMY (Bismarck) and KMCY (Minot) on behalf of the Forum group; they handle sales locally while master control of the Beemer’s programming originates from Fargo.

While FCC rules prohibit one entity from owning multiple stations in the market, it does not prohibit them from operating multiple stations.  It’s a convoluted deal that could only be concocted by corporate bean-counters, but one that possibly ends up saving some small market television stations that would otherwise be unviable.  Whether or not it benefits the viewing public is a matter of contention.

Western North Dakota FOX has never been a powerhouse in a market that even the Forum group couldn’t crack; Meyer Broadcasting and Reiten Broadcasting established themselves in the 1950s and have never faced serious competition aside from each other.  (As an aside, Forum tried it with KBMY/KMCY.  They folded up their news operations here right before I joined the station’s technical staff.)  Now that KNDX/KXND have been sold to a company that’s going to try to cut costs and recoup their investment, and are named in a press release from a company who will “provide back office services” to their new owners, the future looks pretty apparent.  Better touch up that resume’ just in case.

As a former board op for the ABC and NBC groups, I’m concerned about what happens to the technical staff.  It typically means more jury-rigging in the control room and more demand put on the button pushers.  Hopefully, if my interpretation of this press release is correct and the FOX stations start running out of an NBC control room, it’ll be done in a way that causes as few Maalox Moments for the guys in master control.

A trip down broadcasting’s Memory Lane: Faces of Country Morning

I hope you all are aware of this, but just in case you aren’t – Phil Parker and Mark Armstrong are back on the air on KFYR-AM 550 with their “P.M.S. in the Morning” show. It’s fun, it’s local, it’s clean, and for me it brings back very fond memories.

I put in around 14 years at KFYR-TV, and during a part of that we used to simulcast the Country Morning program from 6 to 6:30 every weekday morning. Al Gustin would go down the hall to the AM radio studio, where we had a couple of cameras, and the guys would bring their combination of local news and weather as well as a dose of frivolity for the last segment of the half-hour. It was a blast and a privilege.

One of Phil & Mark’s trademark contributions to the show was an intentionally low-budget “camcorder” segment where they’d take a VHS camcorder with them on visits to small town activities and then show portions of the resulting footage on the air. This was an homage to that shooting style. One morning I decided to grab my old VHS camcorder (this was twenty years ago, after all) and do a little “behind the scenes” segment for the program. I’d all but forgotten about it, but I came across it this week while I was going through some old tapes and thought I’d share:

Al has since retired from broadcasting, Phil and Mark are back on the air, I haven’t spoken to Crystal in a few months, Mike passed away several years ago, and Reed and I are out saving the world one day at a time. Even during my tenure at KFYR-TV I moved on from overnights and mornings, working primarily on video production work and the afternoon and evening newscasts. I’m glad I got to work on Country Morning when I did. Currently you can catch the same ol’ familiar spirit in the revived Phil & Mark Show, PMS in the Morning, even if only on the radio side of things. Be sure to give it a listen.

I love the 80s

flashback_iphone_1040Going through some boxes of old books that my mom brought over from their house, I found these among the forgotten gems in those dusty old boxes.  Pac Man themed Archie, a guide to defeating that darn Rubik’s Cube, and an orientation to my beloved Apple //c.

I was among the first to get that new Apple computer, a pseudo-portable version of the Apple //e.  Sure, it had a handle, but it was like stapling a handle to your PC.  The power supply was external, there was no battery, and you had to lug a monitor with you as well.  Still, it was a capable and dependable little computer.  I soon shrugged off this paperback for the ring-bound Technical Reference Manual as I started digging into the guts of the machine.

I like Archie comics as a teenager.  I’m not sentimental about them, really, I just think it was cool to find one with a Pac Man theme on the cover.  I’m sentimental about THAT.

Maybe it’s time to take another crack at the Rubik’s Cube.  I never had the patience for it as a kid.  This summer somebody handed me a Pyraminx, the tetrahedral equivalent of the cube, and I was still able to solve it in under two minutes.  That pesky block, though, always bested me.  Perhaps I should read this book and give it another go!

Among the other treasures I found are piles of old Peanuts paperbacks, which I plan to share with my kids.  Peanuts cartoons are timeless, insightful, and the star of countless hours of my childhood.  I’m excited to sort through the rest of these and find appropriate places on my bookshelves to make them available for our family.  While I love archiving things digitally, there’s just something about having a book to draw from the shelves.  These are one of my favorite parts of the 80s.

How to choose shoe size…or, why you should have a website before your TV ads say you do

I don’t watch much television anymore, but I do try to catch the occasional local newscast. If you do the same, you may have seen ads running for the business portrayed above. They appear to have a regular schedule booked in the 5 o’clock news. Being the curious sort, I often check out local businesses’ websites when I see them advertised somewhere. In the case of this tree service, I guess I’d better bone up on my Thai.

This is a trimmed screen shot of cntree.com. As you can see, there’s nothing about tree services on it. It’s occupied by a squatter who has filled it with spam posts, mostly in Thai. The featured article, according to Google Translate, is “How to choose shoe size”. There are a couple of English ones at the bottom. Oops.

Frankly, part of the responsibility for this snafu lies with whoever produced the ad. I’ve produced hundreds of television commercials in my career, and a plethora of other videos and multimedia products. Nobody’s perfect, most of all yours truly, but I try to always check every URL (website address) I’m asked to put into those products, regardless of who provided it. The last thing you want to do is have the black eye of a wrong website address or contact information on the product. This ad has been running for weeks on local television, but apparently nobody has caught this? I sure hope they can get it rectified…either by securing the domain and getting a website up or by at least getting the doggone ad changed.

So, if you’re looking to find your shoe size, types of alloys, glasses that fit your face, or high back chairs…apparently C&N Tree Service can help. It could be worse: they could be putting out cereal boxes with the number of a phone sex line on them by mistake!

Kudos to KFYR; profanity has no place in public discourse

Posting has been a little light (okay, I haven’t posted at all) in the past week because of a big live production event I needed to prepare for and execute. In times like that I usually resort to simply posting snippets on this blog’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Let me preface this post by saying I have no animosity toward AJ Clemente. He was nervous, goofed up…sure, we all do that. However, I do think KFYR-TV, my former employer, did the right thing by terminating him.

First, some random thoughts on the whole debacle:

– If you screw up at any job you’re likely to be reprimanded. If you screw up really big at any job you can expect dismissal. Dropping the F-bomb in your first sentence on the air is a big screw-up. Period.

– People who I know who know AJ Clemente say he’s a nice guy, a good kid and taking it all humbly. Good deal, I wish him the best. I hope he learns this valuable lesson and cleans up his language off camera, like I had to do back when I was in broadcasting. Thankfully I was in the control room instead of on the set, or I may have had a similar incident before I straightened out.

– It looked like there were a few audio and communication problems. For instance, the music cut out during the headlines. There may have been something amiss. Even so, when you’re in a TV studio at 5:59pm, you ought to assume that your microphone will be open without warning.

– It looked like AJ said “gay” at first. If you keep watching though, it appears that he’s trying to pronounce the name of the London Marathon winner, Tsegaye Kebede. If you had to figure out the pronunciation of that name for your broadcast debut, you’d be flustered too. Of course, that stuff should be figured out before the newscast starts. The sad thing is, people of a certain ideological persuasion won’t have any problem with the F-word or S-word, but will be “offended” by the perceived use of “gay” in a bad context. Sad.

– Before I became a Christian, which would be during my long stretch at KFYR-TV, I was well versed in the use of the F-word and other profanity…so I’m not acting high & mighty. I’m speaking from experience: if you don’t talk like that in your daily conversation, you won’t blurt it out on the air. In fact, I bet AJ would not have said it if Monica Hannan or other KFYR-TV management was sitting in the studio to observe. But when your guard is let down, and your mouth is trained to spout profanity, bad things can happen.

– It’s totally ironic that the TODAY Show led off with the story Monday morning, and KFYR had to carry it. I am told that AJ will be making some TV appearances this week, including on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, another show carried on KFYR. Awkward.

– Letterman’s Top Ten List was pretty funny, though. Thankfully it’s available online so I don’t have to suffer through what his show has become to catch the list.

– By the way, there are plenty of broadcasters from my time who I never heard utter a profanity – even off camera. You’d recognize them because they have had long, respectable careers in North Dakota broadcasting and in many cases are still on the air. As you can imagine, it’s easy to have additional respect for those people because of their behavior.

– By the way, when I worked at KFYR-TV it was expected that all employees, not just on-air personalities, conduct themselves in a way that reflects the station in a professional manner. That included off the job. When you deal in a product and brand so publicly seen, that’s the nature of the business. Every move you make is viewed by thousands of eyes, everybody deals with your business on a frequent basis, and you represent that. My view on it is that if you don’t like the scrutiny, perhaps broadcasting isn’t the job for you.

– There have been well-known broadcasters terminated because of what they did in their private lives, because it reflects on their employer. Again, that’s the nature of the business.

– I’m dismayed at all the people who think AJ was treated unfairly. This is going to be day four of KFYR-TV being dragged through national news because of this incident. If you did something to put your employer in this kind of national spotlight, do you think you’d still have a job?

– This brings up the larger issue: profanity should not be an accepted part of public discourse. It’s called profanity because it is profane. The fact that so many people think it isn’t is a sure sign that things are heading in the wrong direction in our culture, even here in good ol’ North Dakota.

– This event was preceded by baseball player David Ortiz yelling, “This is our f***ing city!” at a baseball game when talking about the Boston Marathon Islamic terrorist attack. People cheered this deplorable outburst, and the FCC said it wouldn’t fine anybody. Why? Has this language suddenly become acceptable?

– One interesting tidbit is all the Generation-Y types who say, “Come on, KFYR – your page has had more Facebook likes than ever because of this!” as if that’s a meaningful metric of anything. Only in the self-absorbed world of the modern social media junkie, perhaps.

So, once again, I hope AJ can recover from this and hopefully make some vocabulary adjustments. It’s too bad to have a simple rookie mistake take on such magnitude. Maybe this notoriety will help him get back on his feet and get a second chance. I sure hope so, and wish him the best. I still think KFYR-TV did the right thing, and will be seen as an establishment which does not condone profanity – a position which I think reflects the majority of North Dakotans.

The only Super Bowl halftime show you’ll ever need

Super Bowl XXXVI had a special significance outside the football realm: it was the first after the terrorist attacks only a few short months before. Concerns about security ran high, as the nation was traumatized by the events of September 11th and worried whether more such attacks on civilians were in store. Thanks to President Bush, we have not been hit since, but some healing was in order. Who best to deliver a halftime show to help along the way than U2?

The YouTube video I’m going to link to below contains the second half of the show. I have a copy of the full show, raw as it was sent from the truck to the network, but I don’t have permission to put it online. The first song they play, Beautiful Day, is also on YouTube; just search for “U2 Super Bowl Halftime” and you’ll find it. But the part that had me standing, jumping, and cheering that day was the second song, perhaps their most famous: Where the Streets Have No Name.

When Bono is walking with the microphone before he begins to sing, he quotes Psalm 51:15 – “O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” In an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music, U2’s manager tells the story of how, in the band’s early days, he’d find them in the bus after their shows reading the Bible instead of out partying it up. Apparently they’re Christians of some sort. According to the program, they almost called it quits when all the fame took hold because they didn’t know what it might do to them. They didn’t break up, however, although Bono has since jumped the shark. I like their music and choose to remember where they supposedly came from.

Tonight’s halftime show was predictably garbage – half dressed “dancers” writhing around without a musician among them – so I tuned it out. In fact, I didn’t even get to begin watching the game until the start of the second half, which turns out to be the best part of the game. I kept a thumb on the remote button to switch away from any of the racy commercials, caught the Dodge Ram “Farmer” ad (easily the highlight of the night), and kept my family’s eyes safe from whatever assault Big Media had prepared for them.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenuous North Dakota holiday connection

I’ve been down for the count the past few days, sick and staying in bed with my Netbook and iPod. I happened to come across something extremely painful: an Arnold Schwarzenegger-hosted segment of a “Very Special Christmas” special from 1988. Don’t bother watching it…in fact, I only got through the first thirty seconds of it. What I did see, however, was apparently a champion granny bowler from North Dakota! If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can view the video here:

Notice the misspelling of granny’s town? Sigh. It seems that even when they get North Dakota identified correctly, some sort of other typographical error slips in.

I make no apologies if you watched after the mention of the bowler from “Wanpeton”…you were warned. I’m starting to feel a little better, so rest assured I’ll try to find something more genuinely Christmas-like and far less horrifying than Arnold’s demented television disaster.

Dark Knight Rises, A Tale of Two Cities, and a welcome coincidence

When I first started seeing trailers and footage from the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” my eye drew comparisons between the war on “the rich” portrayed therein and the “Occupy Wall Street” campaign in which compassionate, loving liberals defecated, raped, murdered, and vandalized their way into the hearts and minds of America. I’m pleased to report that no such comparison was intended, and none was conveyed. I saw it at the midknight showing last night at the Grand.

According to this interview on comingsoon.net, the screenplay for TDKR was begun right after the previous Dark Knight movie hit the screens. A distinct allusion to Charles’ Dickens work “A Tale of Two Cities” was present from the get-go.

As luck would have it, or by coincidence if you aren’t a detective, I recently began re-reading the Dickens work with fervor. I’ve been taking my time to really get into the characters and the setting of revolution-era France, and I have found it profoundly more stirring than in times past. Because of my newfound intimacy with this story I was easily able to see its influence on TDKR, particularly with regard to Gotham City…or what Bane, the villain, causes it to become.

I would love to outline a few of the direct comparisons between the two, but I can’t risk letting any spoilers fly. All I have to say is that reading A Tale of Two Cities, no small task at that, prior to watching Dark Knight Rises will give you a better feel for the film and the blight that strikes Gotham City. I’ll leave it at that.

By the way, what happens to “the rich” is not glorified in this movie, as much as the American left loves to champion disdain for successful people under the leadership of the modern Democrat party and the current occupant of the White House. Believe me, if there was such a slant in this movie I’d perceive it. I did not. With so much liberal activism in Hollywood these days, it’s not out of line for us to expect it, but you have nothing to worry about here. Enjoy the show.