Goodbye to KODJ, KRSP? County could drop SL stations in favor of local KASL, KOAL
Here's the deal, as proposed by Tony Basso:
If Carbon County will drop Salt Lake radio station KODJ from one of its radio translators and replace it with Basso's KASL, the local station will change its format to "oldies" and will cover the costs of installing the hardware to make the switch.
Since the Salt Lake station plays oldies, "People won't notice any difference except they'll be hearing local advertising," Basso told the commission Tuesday. He also presented a list of radio station ratings from September 2009 showing that KODJ and KRSP were at the bottom of the heap for listeners in Carbon County.
The commission asked for the ratings at its last meeting, seeking to avoid a major uproar among the county's radio fans if it should grant the request.
As reported earlier, KASL 1080 AM can only broadcast between sunup and sundown, which means it's off the air more than on during the winter. By translating to a signal on FM 104.9, it could offer local businesses 24/7 advertising.
Basso's request to switch out KODJ does not let KRSP off the hook, however. The discussion segued into an additional request from a competing local radio station, the venerable KOAL. Paul Anderson informed the commission that even though KOAL does have a 24-hour broadcast license, it cannot broadcast everywhere all the time.
As soon as the sun sinks in the west, KOAL has to stop sending its AM signal to the east part of the county. That's because there is an AM station in Atlanta, GA, that broadcasts on the same frequency. KOAL cannot interfere with an earlier licensee. [AM signals bounce off the upper level of the atmosphere at night and can travel hundreds or thousands of miles because the waves can move around the curvature of the Earth.]
Anderson explained that listeners in Wellington and East Carbon/Sunnyside are blocked after sundown. This is not just a matter of missing out on KOAL's news/talk programs, he continued. The Federal Communications Commission has designated the station as part of the emergency notification system. So the KOAL request is a public safety issue, Anderson noted.
KOAL even offered to buy the translator if the county wanted to sell it.
That offer did not stir up much enthusiasm. The commissioners and Frank Brady, who oversees the county's communications, were not anxious to enter what is as yet unknown territory of FCC rules regarding sale of rights to the public airwaves. It's already clear, Brady added, that the county cannot collect payment for the use of its translators.
Brady also brought up questions about maintenance responsibilities and expenses. For example, if either KOAL or KASL should go dead, how would he tell if the problem was at the county's Star Point translators or with the transmitters at the local stations themselves? "I hate to go up to Star Point in the winter," he declared.
There was also a question about regulatory matters regarding a switch for KOAL. While the county probably would have no problem bringing KASL aboard, KOAL may have a different class of FCC license that could complicate matters.
Uncertainty about regulatory issues prompted the commission to postpone decisions pending further research. There was also a question about whether the county should enter a contract or memorandum of understanding with the local stations. It has no contracts with the Salt Lake stations and can drop them at any time without notice, but Commissioner Mike Milovich noted that the stations might want the assurance of a "time certain" agreement to justify the investment they'll have to make.
Basso replied he didn't need such an agreement, declaring that if his station wasn't delivering, the county should be able to yank it off the air anyway.