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Vendors: Pay Attention to LPFM

The LPFM sector needs robust and helpful information from reliable vendors.

The author is a Radio World contributor who helped found a low-power FM station in Newcomerstown, Ohio, and is part of a group holding a CP for another in Dover/New Philadelphia, Ohio. By day he is associate director of video at New World Center in Miami Beach. He has been blogging for RW about the LPFM rollout.

Now more than ever, I hope to see a lot of information coming out from our industry’s most respected, long-term manufacturers and dealers related to radio gear appropriate for LPFM stations.

Why? Because as a CP holder from the recent window, I’m suddenly receiving a lot of spam and “advertisements,” much of it from companies I feel are not of the caliber of dealers and manufacturers I’ve trusted. Some of these dealers and manufacturers are pitching gear that I know to be sub-standard compared to what we’ve come to expect in our industry.

I’ve built commercial and non-commercial studios and facilities in small markets like Zanesville, Ohio, and large markets like Dallas, Texas. I’m sufficiently versed to understand the importance of “solid gear,” after-sale support, and gear that simply “sounds good on the air.”

By utilizing high-quality radio gear on the air at an LPFM in Newcomerstown, Ohio — WNHS(LP) Newcomerstown High School — we’ve been able to make sure that station has been on the air 24/7/365 for over 10 years.

But with some of the gear I see being marketed — some of it nearly “home-brew” — I fear many LPFM stations could wind up with poor audio quality and on-air inconsistency (in other words: you’re on the air when the equipment works).

Don’t get me wrong, not all new or less familiar equipment manufacturers and vendors are guilty of this. But experience and longevity do count to me.

Listeners expect radio stations to all sound good. Where, on any radio, is there a setting that says AM, FM and LPFM? There isn’t. Nor do radios indicate “non-commercial” and “commercial,” nor should they. In all aspects of radio, we should strive for the best quality. We’re in a time of change. New forms of electronic communications and entertainment are hitting listeners daily. We must be relevant, consistent and of the highest possible quality.

So I want to remind manufacturers and dealers alike that this is the time to “come out swinging.” Whether it’s through radio/TV trade magazines — which I use as a regular reference for not only technical information but for learning about products and searching out dealers — or other means, please serve this new family of low-power broadcasters. Don’t let these potential new customers — perhaps as many as 3,000 — go by simply because they don’t know you are there, seem “too small” to you or don’t understand the importance of the quality of your product and service (yet). A small LPFM could spend anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000 to get going. Multiplying that times 3,000 is a great indication of some excellent upcoming sales.

More importantly, our industry will get a better LPFM service as a result.