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New FM Signal in San Fernando Valley Gets Closer to Reality

Low-power applicant was challenged by two broadcasters but FCC finds in its favor

A new FM signal at 107.9 on the dial in the San Fernando Valley area is closer to reality, over the protests of two area broadcasters.

The application for a low-power construction permit from the Los Angeles Social Justice Radio Project was reinstated and granted in late June by by the Federal Communications Commission despite objections about site assurance and the building of a transmitter site in a nature preserve. It was given the call sign KXSX(LP). Once the station is built, the signal will be centered near the neighborhoods of Chatsworth, Reseda, Canoga Park and Winnetka.

The FM project was launched in 2013 by the Foundation for Social Justice, which wrote in its original application that education is a fundamental human right that should be open and available to all, regardless of socio-economic status. It cited support from Pierce College students and elected officials at the city and in neighborhood councils for its plan to “spread information and knowledge over the airwaves, particularly to an audience of 18-35-year-olds who do not generally listen to public radio, and … to use our LPFM station as [a] fulcrum to advance other civic improvement groups.”

At first the FCC Media Bureau dismissed the application to construct the signal, which SJRP had filed during the big 2013 low-power FM station application window across the United States. There would have been no lack of interested second parties ready to step in to serve this populous area; nine other organizations had reached the stage of being listed by the FCC as having filed mutually exclusive applications.

Turns out that SJRP had specified a transmitter site on the campus of Pierce College, a small community school, but then soon after, it proposed a different site. But in doing so it provided inaccurate coordinates that would have put its transmitter smack in a nature preserve that’s home to several-hundred-year-old cave paintings and a sizable reservoir. A second amendment revised the coordinates to private land about 750 feet from the edge of the preserve.

But two neighboring broadcasters — Univision’s KLVE(FM) at 107.5 in Los Angeles, and Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, licensee of KWVE(FM) at 107.9 in San Clemente — argued that SJRP lacked reasonable assurance of site availability for the nature site and had incorrectly claimed an environmental exemption.

Here is where timing gets tricky. The FCC’s Media Bureau at first denied SJRP’s twice-amended application, saying an applicant must already have reasonable assurance of site availability for its transmitter. The Los Angeles Social Justice Radio Project then responded by providing a statement from the owner of the private site to clarify that it did indeed have site assurance; the bureau ruled against it, stating that SJRP had not demonstrated assurance for either site when it filed initially.

But in a late-June decision, the full FCC has disagreed with the challengers. Overruling its own Media Bureau, it said SJRP had never intended to use the nature site. The two intended sites — the college and then the private site — did provide site assurance and the group had reasonable site assurance for both when it filed its amendments. As a result, the commission granted SJRP’s request for review and its application to construct the new LPFM station, which includes a second-adjacent waiver in respect to KLVE.

According to the original application, the planned station’s content is to be produced by academics from institutions such as Princeton, Cal State, Harvard and Claremont, featuring conversations between scholars and laypersons, “the latter serving as a proxy for the typical audience member.”

It also planned to pair each of its programs with a public interest charity related to the program content. “For example, our program ‘Know Thy Food’ will spend a portion of the broadcast discussing the valuable work of Second Harvest (which provides food to families in need), ‘El Mundo Hoy’ will do the same for Homeboy Industries (which offers job training to ex-gang members attempting to re-integrate with productive society), and ‘Aviation Week’ will highlight The Young Eagles (which teaches disadvantaged children how to fly).”

See the station’s projected footprint on the website