Santa Clara is a community in southwest Utah, about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas. (Image from the city website https://sccity.org/)
Seemingly out of the blue, the Federal Communication Commission has just approved a long-idle application for a new 1 kW AM station in southwest Utah, surprising the applicants and raising questions about where to take that project now.
Next steps are unknown, including how — or even if — this project will be developed, given the time that has passed as well as the changing business outlook for the AM band over that time period.
It was in January 2004 that Americast Media Corp., then a subsidiary of Legacy Communications Corp. and now owned by the non-profit Community Education Foundation, submitted an application for a construction permit to broadcast on 1490 kHz in Santa Clara, Utah. The idea was to provide a first radio service to that community near Zion National Park.
Americast was told that the original application didn’t meet the 80 percent coverage required for the primary community of service. The applicants took a series of steps to meet the requirements, including designing a directional signal to meet the 80 percent rule, according to Morgan Skinner, former president and CEO of Americast. He is now a consultant and partner at Rockwell Media Services, a boutique media brokerage and broadcast consulting firm.
FCC staff issued a subsequent deficiency letter stating that the rules didn’t allow for directional patterns for Class D stations, but the applicants were able to show that a similar application had been granted for a Texas AM station, Skinner tells Radio World. A series of engineering amendments to the application followed — in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 — but little was heard about the application since.
Then on Feb. 28 of this year, a CP with three-year term for construction was granted.
Why it took over a decade to make a decision is “beyond explanation,” Skinner said. (Radio World has reached out to the FCC to determine what action now and why it took so long to reach a decision; we’ll report what we hear.)
So what now? “The unexpected issuance of the CP leaves questions,” Skinner said. After 13 years, it’s unknown whether or how this AM station construction permit might be developed. “When the application was originally prepared, there was no station serving the community of Santa Clara,” he said in an email. “How things have changed in the last decade and half, especially for AM licensees! I think some of the board members are still trying to recover from the shock of the FCC grant.”
Questions include whether the original proposed tower site is still available. Much of the work performed years ago will have to be redone, Skinner said, including reinstating the antenna registration and a request for a no-hazard determination from the Federal Aviation Administration. The applicants must also request approval from the city planning and zoning department, and receive concurrence from the city council before the project can move forward.