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Motorists may hear the voice of Ybor City calling

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Motorists may hear the voice of Ybor City calling
Richard Danielson
St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Fla.: Oct 25, 1993.

Abstract (Document Summary)
Angelo J. Anello thought he had a simple idea this month when he set up a low-powered AM radio transmitter broadcasting information for tourists headed toward Ybor City.

"I'm trying to make it just a neighborhood voice," Anello said. "It's not polished and slick. It's just people in Ybor City speaking to visitors about what there is to do."

Anello, 45, a former broadcast engineer for several local radio and television stations, said he got the idea from airports around the country that use low-power radio to give motorists directions.

Full Text (691 words)
Copyright Times Publishing Co. Oct 25, 1993
Angelo J. Anello thought he had a simple idea this month when he set up a low-powered AM radio transmitter broadcasting information for tourists headed toward Ybor City.

"I'm trying to make it just a neighborhood voice," Anello said. "It's not polished and slick. It's just people in Ybor City speaking to visitors about what there is to do."

So far, though, Anello's idea has encountered a little static from local officials.

Anello, 45, a former broadcast engineer for several local radio and television stations, said he got the idea from airports around the country that use low-power radio to give motorists directions.

"Driving into a strange area, you're hungry for information," said Anello, who owns his own electronic service business.

Operating costs, he said, would be minimal - probably less than the cost of lighting a billboard on the interstate - and he hoped local officials would help make the project more than a little-known and short-lived experiment.

But Tampa officials wouldn't allow signs telling passers-by about the station on city rights of way, so Anello has begun to get permission to post the signs on private property. The first one went up at a coffee company on 22nd Street on Friday.

"Radio Free Ybor," as Anello calls it, went on the air at 1620 on the AM dial on Oct. 1. The signal, broadcast from a small homemade transmitter set up at a cement plant just south of Ybor, covers less than a mile.

The format consists of a one-hour, commercial-free tape of recorded messages about the historic district.

Even calling the operation a radio station is a little misleading, Anello said.

"Everybody envisions a big building with a lot of people," he said. "This is an unattended transmitter."

Eventually, Anello also hopes to persuade a local government to hold a Federal Communications Commission license for the operation. Under FCC rules, he said, governments are the only qualified applicants for licenses authorizing low-power "travelers' information stations."

Without a license, Anello said the broadcasts are legal, but he said they could be knocked off the air if someone else applies to broadcast on the same frequency.

"In 25 years, I've never had any problem with the FCC, and I intend to keep it that way," Anello said. "But I don't have dibs on that dial position."

When Anello approached the City Council on Oct. 14 about applying for a license and putting up signs on city rights of way, council members were intrigued.

At a follow-up meeting last week, however, local officials steered him toward the Tampa Port Authority, which has said it would consider a formal proposal but has made no promises.

"The concept is excellent," said Bill Stover, the port authority's public relations director. "Disney does a great service by offering those stations when you . . . go into the Orlando area."

But, Stover added, the port authority is not in the business of running radio stations and would want to be sure that "a lot" of other organizations would be involved with the radio station before it considered holding a license.

"It was left in A. J.'s hands to come back with a proposal a couple of weeks ago," Stover said. "I've got to have some assurances that we're not going to have any liability, and then our attorneys would have to look at it before we would even consider it."

Jim Clark, executive director of the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Association, also said he thought Anello had a good concept, but he added, "I think we need some more information."

Anello, who built the transmitter with his own money, said the operation would require little in the way of maintenance or electricity.

"It's like a 100-watt light bulb," he said.

Anello estimated that the cost of the equipment is probably less than $10,000. While he once had hoped to recover some of his investment through a grant of some sort, he has put that idea aside for now.

"At this point, I am not asking anyone for any money," he said. "I am only asking for cooperation."

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