A bucket of hot tar, a basket of feathers and an angry crowd of irate radio listeners are not on commissioner Mike Milovich's wish list. But there's an issue before the commission this month that Milovich warned will stir up some heated, bubbling discontent.
Namely, should the county stop broadcasting an upstate radio station from its microwave translators so a local station can grow and prosper? If so, what Salt Lake station should go off the air?
"We don't want to be tarred and feathered over this," the commissioner told Keith Mason, the voice of KASL radio in Price. Mason appeared live-on-site before the commission Wednesday to make a case for allowing the station to use one of the county's five working translators so it could begin broadcasting 24/7.
The station now is licensed only to broadcast on the AM 1080 frequency. It has to shut down its transmitter at sundown according to FCC rules. In the dead of winter, when sundown comes early and sunrise comes late, that means KASL is off the air too much, Mason explained. It needs more airtime to become more commercially viable.
It could get that extra airtime if it were allowed to translate its signal to an FM frequency, but to do that it needs to use one of the county's translators. Dropping an upstate station would not harm the community, Mason insisted.
He posed a rhetorical question: "When was the last time a Salt Lake station did anything locally?" He answered himself: Salt Lakers don't cover local news and sports. They broadcast Wasatch Front advertising to the detriment of local businesses. They don't provide local jobs.
However, Milovich countered, they do attract loyal listeners in Carbon County, as the commission learned years ago when a similar request was made by another local station. "We nearly got tarred and feathered for that," Milovich recalled. (He used that metaphor several times.)
The commissioner wants to see some sort of ratings on the stations before he and his colleagues make any decisions about dropping a station. "I want to know what kind of collateral damage we're going to have," he explained.
Frank Brady, who oversees the county's radio operations, was candid about the kind of static the commission can expect. "It doesn't matter which one you turn off," he said. "There's a following for all of them." The county gets flooded with phone calls when any one of the translators goes down.
Mason's suggestion that the commission give KASL a six-month trial period was not enough to get a motion from any of the commissioners.
The matter was tabled and scheduled for the next session, when the "collateral damage" of irate listeners can be better quantified.