The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

10 April 2006

Filling the gaps

In January 2000, the FCC approved a new class of low-power FM radio station. But what the Feds giveth, the Feds taketh away: three months later, the charmingly-named "Preservation of Radio Act" amended the rules just enough to eliminate most of the potential slots on the dial.

Oversimplified: FM stations in the US are allocated to channels 0.2 MHz apart. The new LPFM rules would have allowed new stations at the second-adjacent position, a distance of 0.4 MHz — from, say, the KATT, which operates on 100.5 MHz, this would mean 100.1 or 100.9. The "Preservation" Act changed this to third-adjacent, 0.6 MHz away: 99.9 or 101.1. By no coincidence, the largest radio markets have most or all of their major stations 0.8 MHz apart; there are second-adjacent positions between them, but no third-adjacent positions.

In the Oklahoma City market in particular, move-ins by rim-shooters have positioned commercial stations at second-adjacent positions: KQOB (Bob) at 96.9 and KOJK (Jack) at 97.3; WWLS-FM (The Sports Animal) at 104.9, KINB (La Indomable) at 105.3 and KROU (sister to KGOU) at 105.7. It's true that the transmitters are scattered across the area to meet spacing requirements; nonetheless, these transmitters (except maybe Jack's) run a lot more power than microradio stations.

Which, incidentally, is the term they prefer to "pirate":

We are a "Micro-Station" We are here to provide the OKC area with Commercial Free programming and give our listeners what they want! We are not here to cause havoc or anything of that sort! We support our local police and if you listen you would hear us at 2am telling our listeners NOT to drink and drive. We are Radio Edited, We DO NOT broadcast 24/7. We are not hiding from anyone so there for [we] ARE NOT A PIRATE! We offer a various format of Dance, Trance, Hip-Hop, Comedy etc that you don't get from the Corporate Stations. We made SURE our equipment DOES NOT drift.

And, perhaps more to the point:

We are not the ONLY underground station in this City however we are the ONLY one I know of who does respect the law, we just disagree with some policies set by the FCC. Maybe if the FCC deregulated some of the channels this "Pirate Radio Movement" would slow down. We are not the first one here, And I KNOW we will not be the last.

Incidentally, they're on a third-adjacent to the nearest commercial station.

I'm a firm believer in following the rules. However, I'm also a firm believer in the idea that the rules ought to make sense. As media writer Jesse Walker notes, "There is clearly room for more stations on the local airwaves than current FCC regulations allow — otherwise there wouldn't be so many operations able to broadcast without causing real interference. Public policy should aim to accommodate as many of these voices as possible, not snuff them out."

Posted at 6:18 AM to Overmodulation

Just like a lot of other types of "big business" the radio conglomerates have a group of lobbyists that are constantly trying to push these "interlopers" off the air ...

I for one love "pirate" radio ... in my travels to Chicago,New York, and San Francisco I have enjoyed some of the more ecclectic broadcasts ...... it is real freedom of expression!

Posted by: ron at 8:05 AM on 10 April 2006

Well, this one seems to have shuffled off to Buffalo, temporarily anyway.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:12 PM on 10 April 2006