KOAL, KASL will use county translators, KODJ, KRSP dropped
Salt Lake radio stations KODJ and KRSP are out. Local stations KASL and KOAL are in.
The county commission decided Wednesday in a two-to-one vote to allow the locals to use the county-owned translators at Star Point to broadcast on the FM frequencies now used by the two Salt Lake stations. As reported earlier, KOAL and KASL owners explained that they have problems with the AM band restrictions. KASL has to cease broadcasting entirely between sundown and sunup, while KOAL can't sent its signal eastward during hours of darkness.
Both will soon be able to broadcast - and sell commercials to local advertisers - 24/7 on the FM frequencies.
Arbitron ratings submitted earlier by KASL owner Tony Basso showed that KODJ and KRSP audience numbers are the two lowest in the county, measured in the hundreds rather than thousands of listeners. However, Rodney Wilde, a long-time resident of the county, is one member of the hundreds about to be cut off.
"I like Tony's station," he told commissioners, "but I want to hear what's out there, not just what's local. Leave it the way it is and let us enjoy what we want to listen to."
Wilde's plea was close to commissioner Mike Milovich's position. Milovich, who voted against the transfer, explained that he had "a philosophical problem" with it. Although he had no problem with an arrangement that would benefit local businesses, the issue to him was that it could not be done without taking something away from people like Wilde, who want a choice in listening.
Commissioner Jae Potter took a different stance. He noted that with satellite and on-line streaming available, people can pretty much get whatever they want.
Potter's motion to approve the transfer did have a few strings attached. First, he wanted to delay the transfer until spring. That would give time to notify the Salt Lake stations of the county's decision. It would also give the high country where the translators are a chance to warm up a little so whatever work needs to be done won't be as frigid. The motion also made it clear that the translators belong to the county, and that all equipment and maintenance required on the links from the stations to the translators are the full responsibility of the stations.
That's the end of the basic story. The rest may be of interest to hard-core policy wonks.
One item has to do with some nuanced interpretation of an FCC regulation that says the county can do what it wants with the translators, as long as it doesn't in some way "lend its credit or appropriate money" for the benefit of stations being translated. So a question, noted Assistant County Attorney Christian Bryner, is if the county is appropriating money for the stations it translates by maintaining the translators without charge. He didn't think so, mainly because the county owns and maintains the translators for its citizens, not the stations.
Another issue is programming. Radio frequencies are scarce and expensive to obtain. For that reason, nobody is allowed to use the translators for anything other than what they are already sending out. For example, KOAL could not broadcast a political talk show on its AM band and use the county's FM signal for a sportscast at the same time. The same principle applies to KASL. Otherwise, the county would be providing what amounts to new radio stations, which would be a no-no.