Lawmakers approached about radio signals
Amongst the items included on the agenda of last week's regular meeting of the Carbon County Commission was an issue that could have far ranging effects on the radio listening habits of residents in the area.
David Smith of Against the Wind Broadcasting Company which recently bought the KPRQ FM and KRPX AM radio stations made a presentation to the commission about some possible changes in the area.
The presentation to Carbon lawmakers was made because the translators that radio stations come into the area on are owned by the county.
"We have been granted more power for our station, but the FCC will not let us have another transmitter," pointed out Smith.
The broadcasting company representative hails from Wyoming, but currently resides in Ogden. Smith's company presently owns 28 radio stations.
"So the only way we can increase our coverage is for the county to unplug one of the Salt Lake stations and give us that spot," added Smith.
The history of the county owning or having licenses to own the translators is complex.
Years ago, the United States Federal Communications Commission decided that counties could own the licenses. Ownership would allow the counties to decide what stations would be put in place on th e licenses.
In the 1960s and 1970s when FM began replacing AM radio as the major listening system in the United States, a number of the large broadcasters approached Carbon along with other counties and were able to obtain permission to use the licenses.
The stations local residents currently listen to from the Salt Lake ares are ancestors of the initial broadcasters.
The majority of the original stations have changed call letters, personnel and ownership during the years.
The placement of stations based on licenses was on a first come, first serve basis.
"I feel that there are a number of good reasons to switch, but let me list the reasons why you might said Smith to the commission. "I am sure you can find reasons not to, and that it has always been this way may be one of them, but I think the reasons to switch are more compelling."
Smith explained that he believed by allowing Salt Lake stations with Wasatch Front advertising to come into the area that the county was actually working against their own interest.
"They advertise against the merchants and businesses in this area," he said. "We advertise for those businesses and those only."
He also brought up the fact with the change in the stations he bought (the FM station is now called KUSA), his station is now carrying a very similar format to at least one of the stations coming from Salt Lake, KISN.
" People here have little choice," he said. "We have three stations with this format, two with country and one oldies station."
He then told the commission that in a sense they were competitors with all the local media: the radios stations, the television station and the newspaper.
"You are in a strange position by being a competitor with these media sources," he stated. "The county is actually taking revenue from Carbon County because it carries Salt Lake radio stations."
Smith also pointed out that there is a chance that because of this, in one way or another, the local radio stations could go down the tube.
"Then who would carry the Emergency Broadcasting System in this area," he stated. "Who would carry CEU and Carbon High's athletics, along with other local information and news?"
The commissioners then had a discussion about his ideas and the situation they find themselves in.
"Who has the power to change this?" asked Commissioner Bill Krompel. "Is this within our power."
"The commission is the one who has to make the decision," said Commissioner Mike Milovich, under whose area of county government this falls. "But I don't think we have the right to make the decision on what any particular citizen listens to."
Smith told the commission that if they didn't want to unplug KISN and give that slot to his station then they should at least replace it with a station that will give more variety to the public.
"Three stations here have the same format," said Smith. "People here need more variety of stations. Put KUED from the University of Utah on it or some other station that would provide an alternative then."
The commission talked about the situation, but none felt good about just making a change without judging how the public would feel. It was decided that a public hearing on the matter would be held sometime within the next couple of months.
In other business the commission did the following.
They decided to let the contract they have for a public defender in the county run out at the end of the year so they can revamp how they handle the situation. In the past they have had one lawyer under contract to be a public defender, but a situation where two defendants that need public defenders, but are with odds with each other in a court case has made it impossible for the county to use the same defender for both, and the exorbitant cost of securing another lawyer as a public defender on a short term basis has raised some problems with the traditional contract system.
The school district and the county has approached the Utah High School Activities Association about the possibility of holding one of the high school football championship classifications playoffs this year in the newly renovated Dino Stadium, and are requesting assurances that the high school can use the counties portable bleachers if they do so. The commission approved the use of the bleachers if the school gets the event.
The commission approved leasing some ground to the Federal Aviation Administration at the airport for some new navigational equipment they are going to install.
The commissioners approved certified tax rates for the year for the general fund, the county assessment and collection and for the municipal services fund. County Clerk, Robert Pero, reported that the projected revenues on the general fund for this year have fallen about $318,000 short of what was expected. The county assessment and collection fund was right on it's projections while the municipal services fund was slightly short.
"I would suggest we take the money to make up these short falls out of our surplus when we open up the budget later in the year," he told the commission.