Search

Low-power FM's powerful pal

scwis's picture

Low-power FM's powerful pal
Sam McManis. The Sacramento Bee. Sacramento, Calif.: Jul 18, 2006. pg. E.1

Abstract (Document Summary)
Only two nonprofits in the area -- KDEE (97.7 FM) in Rancho Cordova-Citrus Heights and KDRT (101.5 FM) in Davis -- received LPFM licenses. Both went on the air in 2004, but their 100-watt signals don't reach Sacramento.

The one low-power station that does broadcast in Sacramento, KNOZ (96.5 FM), does so without a license. The "pirate" station recently was fined $20,000 and ordered to shut down by the FCC's San Francisco office. As of Monday, KNOZ was still on the air.

Oui, oui: Our award for the most original local TV news report goes to News10's Jonathan Mumm, who did the voiceover for a story on the Sacramento French Film Festival entirely in French -- with subtitles. Mumm pulled it off with elan. His accent and hushed, come- hither vocal intonations brought to mind Maurice Chevalier.

Full Text (1015 words)
Copyright The McClatchy Company Jul 18, 2006

You know what we need in Sacramento?

More radio stations.

"What?" you might ask, incredulously. "You gotta be kidding. We've already got enough ranting talking heads, both left- and right- wing. We've got too many stations playing old Eagles and Foghat tunes. We've now even got two country stations with almost identical playlists."

Yes, more.

But not more of the same.

We're talking about low-power FM stations, which came into existence in 2000 when the Federal Communications Commission began allowing licenses for 100-watt stations to nonprofit organizations.

The application process proved too onerous for many local nonprofits after Congress -- bowing to pressure from the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio -- quickly passed the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2000 to severely curb the FCC's licensing authority.

That legislation increased the number of channels that low-power stations must protect from interference on each side of its signal from two to three. In urban markets, where the radio dial often is crowded, it became nearly impossible for stations to find room to broadcast.

Access Sacramento, which airs two community television stations (Channels 17 and 18 in town), and a handful of other nonprofit applicants in 2000 saw their hopes of getting low-power licenses dashed because of the change in the requirements.

Only two nonprofits in the area -- KDEE (97.7 FM) in Rancho Cordova-Citrus Heights and KDRT (101.5 FM) in Davis -- received LPFM licenses. Both went on the air in 2004, but their 100-watt signals don't reach Sacramento.

The one low-power station that does broadcast in Sacramento, KNOZ (96.5 FM), does so without a license. The "pirate" station recently was fined $20,000 and ordered to shut down by the FCC's San Francisco office. As of Monday, KNOZ was still on the air.

Now, there may be hope for the little guy in Sacramento.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has introduced an amendment to a wide- ranging telecommunications bill that would reduce the number of channels protected from interference back to two.

If passed, that could open slots for Sacramento nonprofits to get slots.

"We're excited," says Ron Cooper, executive director of Access Sacramento. "When that window of opportunity comes, we'll be there."

Access Sacramento already airs a radio network, The Voice, on its two cable access TV channels -- but you must press the secondary audio program button to hear it. The Voice, which features music of many genres and community news programming, also broadcasts at www.accesssacramento.org.

"We'd just need a transmitter and a tower, and we'd be ready to go (on radio)," Cooper says. "We've been ready for 20 years now."

Cooper hopes it won't take another 20 years before The Voice can finally be heard on the radio. At KDRT, it took four years and a lot of work to reach the air.

"It wasn't easy, even though we had no interference from neighboring commercial stations," says Jeff Shaw, KDRT's station manager. "Just running at 100 watts, we have to protect like we're running a 9,000-watt station. It takes a lot of resources."

Even if McCain's amendment makes it into the final telecommunications bill being debated in the Senate, it won't help a "pirate" station such as KNOZ go legit. Rules state that to receive a low-power license, a station must not have broadcast illegally in the past.

Access Sacramento has stayed on the right side of the law, biding its time.

"This is important," Cooper says, "in creating opportunities on the air for speakers other than white males from major corporations to offer a breath of fresh air on the radio."

Chopper coming: Have you seen the cool new station promo on Channel 3, the one that looks like an outtake from "Apocalypse Now"? The spot opens with eerie synthesizer music reaching a crescendo with sounds of chopper blades mixed in. Then a helicopter rises over a setting sun, followed by the words (white on black): "IT'S COMING."

"It" is KCRA's new helicopter. No word from KCRA honchos on when it will debut, and they're also being mum on what fancy things it will do.

Here's an idea: Maybe KCRA can sell its old helicopter to Channel 13, which has been promising for a year to get a chopper.

Movin' on down I-80: News10 afternoon traffic reporter Julie Durda -- best known for her daily traffic Webcasts from 3:30 to 6 p.m. -- will leave the station Monday for a similar position at KRON in San Francisco. Durda will do traffic and become a VJ (video journalist) in her new gig.

Oui, oui: Our award for the most original local TV news report goes to News10's Jonathan Mumm, who did the voiceover for a story on the Sacramento French Film Festival entirely in French -- with subtitles. Mumm pulled it off with elan. His accent and hushed, come- hither vocal intonations brought to mind Maurice Chevalier.

So what's the deal? Is Mumm originally from Paris?

Would you believe Lynchburg, Va.?

New star at 4 p.m.: Channel 13's 4 p.m. news is a week old, and the highlight is the breath of fresh air that is the station's Web site editor, Vanessa Amezquita. The anchors chat up Amezquita about what users are viewing on the station's Web site. She's funny and articulate, and has better camera presence than some of the "talent."

By the way, that new face on the 4 o'clock news Monday is Bridget Cannata, who comes here from KSHB in Kansas City.

And finally: CBS Radio laid off 115 employees last week, and Sacramento's KHTK (1140 AM) and KYMX (Mix 96) took a hit. Station manager Michael Hernandez was among those given the pink slip.

The big surprise was word that Ken Kohl, vice president of KCBS and another station in San Francisco, was being laid off. Kohl was the operations manager at Sacramento's KFBK (1530 AM) and KSTE (650 AM) until last fall, when he left to go to a larger market.

Media Savvy by The Bee's Sam McManis runs Tuesdays in Scene. He can be reached at (916) 321-1145 or smcmanis@sacbee.com.

Posted as Good Faith Fair Use: Transformative, educational, nonprofit use of articles, stories, or essays less than 2,500 words, factual in nature, not for use as entertainment or reward, the use is instructional, the place is non-profit multimedia and the use will not negatively affect the value of the copyrighted material.

randomness