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Flash! (An Engineer’s Work Is Never Done)

Also, How the Retirement Savings of Woodpeckers Blocked a Microwave Dish

Fig. 1: A completed transmitter site building. So you install your beautiful new transmitter equipment in a new building on the top of a mountain.

The installation goes well and everything is working perfectly. Best of all, you’ve drilled ground rods into the rocky mountaintop and followed good engineering practice in all your installation.

It’s a model for future sites. Everything is documented properly; you even had enough budget to include some redundancy: a spare STL and backup low-power transmitter. The only thing missing is a generator, and you’ll add that in next year’s capital budget. You take a picture (Fig. 1).

Life is good … for now … and you head home. …

* * *

Sometimes, it’s just nature that takes on our transmitter sites.

Rick Levy of Broadcast Signal Lab ( passes along an interesting video that will make you chuckle at the persistence of nature — in this case, woodpeckers who stuffed a microwave dish with acorns.

View the clip by heading to . Click on the “acorns.wmv” file for a good laugh.

Though most radio broadcast STL dishes aren’t covered, it’s not uncommon in colder climates to protect satellite dishes with a protective snow or ice cover. Let this video be a warning to inspect those covers for any holes or tears, and repair them promptly.

* * *

Although this does not qualify as a broadcast-specific product, Netpresenter Newsfeed Server software may be a useful item for many broadcasters and their internal networks. It is designed to scroll internal information on computer monitors throughout a facility or within a company closed circuit/IP network. It operates as a ticker running unobtrusively along the edge of a monitor screen.

Newsfeed Server can also be programmed to deliver video, audio, RSS feeds, Web pages, info from databases or Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and Flash movies. According to Frank Hoen, Netpresenter CEO, “With Newsfeed Server, effective internal communication does not have to cost any time at all. It’s an ideal way to reach employees quickly, without interrupting the work process.”

A free demo is available. More information can be found at

Fig. 2: A simple way to monitor streaming: the Roku SoundBridge Internet radio. * * *

Dave Radigan is a young broadcaster who has seen his dream of station ownership come true. The president of Radigan Broadcasting, owner of WEBO(AM) in Owego, N.Y., Dave started as a station intern and had worked his way up the ranks of Entercom stations in Rochester.

As station manager, Dave is always looking for ways to improve his operation, making it more efficient. To monitor his streaming, without a computer, Dave selected the Roku SoundBridge Internet radio, on which Radio World has reported in the past.

Pictured in Fig. 2 and listing for under $300, the radio does not need a computer, only a broadband connection and Wi-Fi. Find out more information at

* * *

Back to our model transmitter site story.

One day you are alerted to your station being off the air. Curiously, there is no response from the remote control, not even the auto-changeover of the backup equipment. You head up to the site.

Fig. 3: The building in Fig. 1 after Mother Nature got done with it. You talk to a farmer who lives down the road and he tells you he saw a lightning strike during a brief thunderstorm, followed by a very bright white light — one that lasted about 30 seconds.

As you approach the mountaintop, you can’t believe your eyes. You realize that the white light had been your transmitter building consuming itself.

If there is a silver lining to this catastrophe, it is that you hadn’t installed a generator with a full fuel tank. If you had, the “after” picture may have shown a crater!

The farmer also tells you the lightning struck right at the building, leaving the antenna and tower alone.

This was the experience of William Cobacho and his associate Francisco Tejeiro of Spanish National Radio. The site (Fig. 3) was a total loss and now is in the process of being rebuilt. An engineer’s work is never done.

John Bisset has worked as a chief engineer and contract engineer for 39 years. In 2007 he received the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award. Reach him at[email protected]. Faxed submissions can be sent to (603) 472-4944.

Submissions for this column are encouraged and qualify for SBE recertification credit.