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An Arkansas LPFM Is Ready to Jump to Full Power

The Christian nonprofit is based in Norman, Ark., population 303

Low-power KPGC(LP) in Norman, Ark., is on its way to becoming KPGC(FM), a full-power radio station.

With the station hunkered down in the Ouachita National Forest, it’s an upgrade that Len Doughty, who oversees station operations, said is greatly needed.

The City of Norman’s water tower with KPGC’s antenna.

“Being in a rural area with tree-topped mountains, there are coverage challenges from our antenna on the City of Norman’s water tower,” said Doughty. “Our LPFM has been on the air for over six years, but the signal was not viable in Mt. Ida, the county seat, just eight miles away on the other side of the mountain.”

The path to becoming a full-power station, however, has proved to be a little unusual. The LPFM initially applied for 4 kW to serve 15,774 people, or 9,156 households. While that would have provided coverage to most of Montgomery County, where Norman is situated, Doughty said they had “no chance” of winning against the other applicants.

“The winner for our frequency was the applicant for Dover, Ark., with 10 kW ERP. No other frequencies were available to us,” said Doughty.

“After more calculations, our engineer determined that we could reach our target audience, including the county seat, with 1 kW ERP. That would mean that the winner, who had already been announced, would have to agree to reduce his application request to 3 kW and the other two applicants would need to agree to be bought out.”

In the end, the winner was agreeable to the settlement.

“Getting the signatures by the deadline was somewhat of a nail-biter, as one applicant was in Hawaii,” said Doughty. “However, that obstacle was overcome and the settlement was finalized.”

Now, KPGC(LP) 95.1 — an affiliate of LifeTalk Radio, a Christian network — will soon be expanding its reach.

“While our call letters stand for Keep Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, I have tried to do all I can to help the station be relevant to the local community with programming and announcements that meet the needs and interests of listeners.”

To learn more about KPGC’s journey, Radio World caught up with Doughty, who, with a new LPFM window looming, said maybe his story can “encourage someone else to take the plunge.”

Radio World: Len, can you tell us how the idea for the original LPFM came about? 

Len Doughty: I am a retired registered nurse. I had retired from a job at a state hospital in Austin, Texas and moved to Arkansas in 2008 after living in Austin for 33 years. When I came to Arkansas, I decided to work in a hospital for a few more years. In 2013, I was reading a little magazine from a Christian TV/radio network that mentioned the FCC was accepting applications for LPFM stations. Since I was approaching retirement, I started to consider it and felt that the area we live in would be a good place for a Christian station. My wife admitted later that she thought it was a fleeting idea, but she was supportive. I decided to look into it.

RW: What is your background and how did you come to run an LPFM? 

Doughty: Except for a brief stint hosting a few music programs on campus radio station KVUC during my college days in Lincoln, Neb., my primary radio experience was that of a listener. When I learned about the opportunity to apply for an LPFM construction permit, I had never raised funds before. The time was very short before the window to submit applications was going to close. I started talking with people who had LPFM stations to help me decide whether or not to apply. Someone referred me to a pastor with knowledge of radio. His recommendation was to move forward. If I ran into insurmountable obstacles, I would know that it wasn’t meant to be.

Len Doughty at KPGC’s transmitter site.

I started raising funds to pay the broadcast attorney and engineers who would help with the application process. We moved quickly, but there was no assurance that the process would be completed before the FCC deadline. At that time, President Obama and Congress came to an impasse about the budget. When they could not reach an agreement, there was a government shutdown from Oct. 1 to  Oct. 17, 2013, which extended the time to submit applications. Because of that we were able to complete the process and submit our application by the new deadline. I saw it as divine intervention, and decided I would continue moving forward.

It took me three years to get the station on the air. During that time I received encouragement and valuable assistance from some veteran engineers.

I started connecting with LPFM groups on Facebook, and Dan Slentz offered to mentor me. He has supported me from the start. Chris Daniel lives in my area, and he has been an excellent resource, as well. I took the one-week radio engineering course taught by Larry Wilkins at the Alabama Broadcasters Association and became a Certified Radio Technician (CRT). All in all, I have learned what I know from the best of the best in radio. But I’m still learning, and I’m thankful to have these experienced engineers available when I need them.

[Related: “A Maryland LPFM Makes the Jump to Full Power“]

RW: What is the community of Norman like?

Doughty: The population of Norman is 303 as of the 2020 census count. We have a Dollar General and a café/convenience store. The two-lane road going through Norman is a major north/south thoroughfare with over 5,000 vehicles traveling through town every 24 hours. The Caddo River flows along the edge of the city.

The lakes and rivers in the area make it an attractive place for outdoor recreation like canoeing, camping, fishing, etc. The most memorable feature from the highway through Norman may be the 14 ft. x 14 ft. Norman Library  on the town square. It was once considered by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the smallest freestanding library in the United States.

RW: What is the current station format and what else can you tell us about its programming?

Doughty:  It would not be possible for me to run a station without the help of network programming. His Will, Inc. our nonprofit, owns and operates KPGC(LP) 95.1 and the new KPGC 88.7 full-power station that is under construction. Our funding all comes from private donations and underwriting by local businesses. His Will, Inc. received a generous offer from Versacare Foundation to help us reach our goal by matching half of the final amount needing to be raised to purchase the rest of the equipment for the new station. Now that the funds have been raised, we are in the process of submitting the paperwork.

There is programming for both children and adults which includes music, news, talk, dramatized stories and more. The music format is light inspirational. I chose LifeTalk  Radio because I feel it is he best fit for our area out of the networks I considered. The local community has been very supportive of KPGC(LP), and they are looking forward to KPGC becoming a full-power station. Having a station in Montgomery County that serves them, announcing local events and warning about emergencies is a source of pride for the community.

RW: Who handles your station engineering work?

Doughty: I take care of most of the engineering issues. When I have a problem that stumps me, I contact Dan Slentz, Chris Daniel or one of the other engineers who have been so gracious to help me. Since Chris Daniel is in the area, he is the most readily available for any hands-on assistance.

RW: Where is the studio, and where is the transmitter? Will either of them move?

The transmitter building is 7 by 7 feet to fit the available space inside the fence on the city’s property. Doughty said the space has been “adequate to meet our needs.”

Doughty: Originally, I developed plans with the help of Dan to extensively remodel a building on my property in Norman for a studio. Unfortunately, we were unable to raise adequate funding for that project. A friend who is a builder helped construct a transmitter building on the hill by the City of  Norman’s water tower. Our antennas are on top of the water tower, and the city has been gracious with a lease. We broadcast from the transmitter building, and I manage the station via AnyDesk remote desktop from my home about a mile away. I make trips to the transmitter building once or twice a week. We will be using much of the same equipment and the same location for full-power KPGC 88.7. Of course, the transmitter will be upgraded, and the tuned two-bay antennas will be replaced.

RW: Do you plan to continue the same programming philosophy after converting to full power?

Doughty: The move to become a full-power station will raise the credibility of KPGC and reach more listeners. We are excited about the prospect of serving a wider audience. While the programming will remain essentially the same, we are always looking for new ways to better serve the local community through announcements and program changes.

RW: Describe the planned air chain.

Doughty: The BW Broadcast TX300 V2 has served our LPFM well, and it will be keep for a backup. The new station will have an Elenos 2000W FM transmitter which is already purchased new from Chris Daniel at KAWX(LP) in Mena, Ark. The plan is to use Shively Labs 6812 two-bay antennas. We anticipate being on the air before Thanksgiving

[Related: “Taking It LPFM: Finding or Founding Your Nonprofit“]

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