The number of stations on the FM band is about to see historic expansion thanks to the low-power FM window. Here, Radio World starts a series of posts by and about the entities that hold LPFM construction permits, discussing their hopes and plans. Do you plan an LPFM station? Tell us. Write to Brett Moss at email@example.com.
We did it ... We got our FCC authorization, in the form of our radio station Construction Permit. This official document makes the difference from trying to get it, to actually having it. It is the legal instrument that authorizes purchase of the transmitter, tower and antenna. Without it, you’re just a wannabe. With it, the heavens open, doors open and bottles of champagne open.
We’re Long Valley Communications Inc, in Laytonville, Mendocino County, Calif. We’re a local nonprofit organization in a sparsely populated, rural, mountainous county in northwestern California. The largest city is the county seat, Ukiah, 40 miles to the south with a population of roughly 15,000.
Our call sign will be KPHT-LP, at 99.9 MHz on the FM dial ... and our motto is “99.9% Fat,” which is a reference to the late KFAT(FM), Gilroy, Calif. Michael Brown of Brown Broadcast Services did the RF section of the application, Mike Couzins of Discount Legal did the rest of the form and the filing.
We’re a “singleton” in an area with a rare 17 available LPFM channels, unlike some urban areas that have a dog pile of organizations trying to get one frequency. We’re one of two CPs applied for and granted.
The local people we talk with are very enthusiastic about the prospect of a local radio station. We’d like to thank all those great people whose kind donations have gotten us this far. The folks that have donated, and continue to do so, are the true backbone of the community.
We started this effort several years ago, myself and Harold Day, after getting off the air one day at KMUD(FM), a community station in Garberville, Calif. Between the two of us, we have 80 years of broadcast experience. We both went to broadcast schools. We’ve both worked in commercial and noncommercial radio stations, and we both have been program directors. I’ve also worked in both commercial and noncommercial television stations. I’m also a ham radio operator. We formed an informal association close to three years ago with a local restaurant owner, and last year incorporated as a nonprofit.
One of my talking points, when in conversation with our local citizens, is we’re trying to go back to “the good old days” when just about every small town in America had a small local radio station. While there are some regional radio stations in the area, only a local radio station can give listeners the best possible info about a wildfire, landslide or other local event that might impact people’s lives.
While the vast majority of our donations collected at a table at the local supermarket ranged from $1 to $20 per person, during the holidays one nice person slipped a $100 bill into the donation jar. I don’t know who it was, but that person not only has our sincere thanks, but also set a fine example for others to follow.
Now, the more intense financial fundraising starts. The majority of our initial startup funds went to required legal and engineering professional services vital to making a successful FCC application.
This next phase of needed funding is for the physical plant itself, such as $5K for a transmitter, $4K–$5K for required EAS-CAP emergency alert equipment. Add another $4K for a broadcast antenna and that’s $15,000 without counting a building to house the studios, and other needed equipment.
Even though we’re a nonprofit company, we still need to buy the same equipment as a larger station. It’s one thing to walk into an already existing radio station, it’s much harder to start one from scratch, and this might be the last chance the FCC will allow to start new low-power radio stations.
Speaking of power, we’re a LP-100 Class CP in a valley surrounded by rugged mountains, and our population is rather spread out. Historically, other radio stations, with more power, have had a struggle to reach listeners in local pockets and hollows. Our challenge is signal reach, and we want to be able to reach all of our local population, not just those on the valley floor.
There is talk of asking the FCC to allow LP-100 stations authority to upgrade to 250 watts ERP in rural areas. I don’t know the status of this concept, and if it’s even been formulated in an official petition, but such a rule change would be very beneficial for our listeners. Our other hope is to be able to put a translator on a nearby peak where other broadcast facilities exist. That location is above our HAAT restriction of 450 meters, otherwise we’d be transmitting from there, but the hope of a translator in the future is what would allow us to reach more of our local population.
It’s all about what we can present to our listeners — that will drive our programming. Our Vice President/Secretary, Harold Day, will also act as our program director. He was known as “Weird Harold” during his tenure at pioneering KFAT over 30 years ago. KFAT in Gilroy (the call sign is now in Anchorage) was the birthplace of what is now loosely called “Americana” music. It was free-form radio, just like San Francisco’s KMPX(FM) and KSAN(FM), but with a country flavor, with “free range DJs” that pick their own tunes, create their own sets and read copy live over the air. That’s what we’re going back to.
Instead of block programming with two hours of bluegrass, two hours of Zydeco, two hours of western swing, it’s all blended together into flowing progressive sets, just like it was done “in the old days.” We’ll also be a voice for our local Native Americans. More info on our past, present and future can be found at our Web page.
By the way, we’ll be located in back of The Chief BBQ Smokehouse, on U.S. Hwy 101 (the main street in town) so I have a feeling good BBQ and broadcasting will be favorable combination.
Speaking of food, in 2012 while getting food at a different local establishment in town, I asked a local concert promoter if he’d like to support our efforts. His answer was, “No, but I’d like to do a rock radio show.”
That’s kind of backwards, isn’t it? It reminds me of the story of The Little Red Hen, and the loaf of bread she wanted to bake — nobody wanted to help her but they wanted to eat the bread when done. You gotta build the station before any opportunity for radio shows takes place. Now this is a friendly guy, but his perspective and priority was unexpected.
An old Native American saying is that “your worth is not measured by what you have, but by what you give away.”
We’d love to have any financial contributions by the readers of Radio World, but we’d also like to ask for equipment donations. Do you have serviceable equipment gathering dust? We have a “wish list” on our Web page, and it sure would make my day to have an Orban Optimod 8100 shipped to us. Or a 1 kW transmitter. We’re all in this together as broadcasting brothers and sisters.
We’re going to start in very humble facilities, probably a gutted out travel trailer, unless we can get funding for a portable office-type rig. Every medium or big station started small, which is where we’re at now, but this is a very exciting project. It’s so exciting that we’re unpaid volunteers, yet we do it with dedication anyway, so catch the fever and please join us with donations, equipment, music libraries, or other support …
I also want to thank the good folks at Clear Channel who facilitated our use of the KPHT-LP call sign. One of their stations is the primary KPHT call sign holder, and the Clear Channel folks were very supportive of our project, and gave us rapid approval.
The widespread acceptance, and encouragement of LPFM is heartwarming, and we’re going to NAB this April to meet software venders and have face-to-face demos and to look at hardware, as well.
We’re moving forward on a wonderful journey, and remember, on this virtual bus, you can hang your arms and heads outside the windows.
To make a cash or equipment donation or find further info, we’re available online at www.kpht-lp.org. We’re also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LongValleyRadio.
John “Long John” Morehouse, KE6VGA, is president and CEO of Long Valley Communications in Laytonville, Calif. He started spinning records at school dances in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1960. He had his first on-air gig at KALX(FM) in 1977.
To submit a post about your LPFM station’s plans, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.