Small radio station, big fight
July 14, 2009 · Updated 1:47 PM
Snoqualmie Valley is getting its own radio station — KBSG-LP on 104.5 FM. The station, which expects to be on air this fall, will focus on local programming.
The “LP” stands for low power. Broadcast at 32 watts, the station will have a six mile radius, enough to reach from Sammamish to North Bend.
The little radio station is also part of a national fight between community-radio advocates and commercial broadcasters.
The station is owned by the non-profit Snoqualmie Educational Radio Project, which consists of two Snoqualmie residents, Frank Hansche and Robert Keeton.
In August 2008, the station’s previous owners sent Hansche, 58, an e-mail asking if he wanted their license. He had not expected the e-mail, and jumped at the opportunity, applying to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve the transfer.
“I was even more surprised when the FCC granted the transfer,” Hansche said.
He had figured they would let the station go dark. A full-power commercial broadcaster, KMCQ, in Covington uses the same frequency, 104.5 FM, which could cause interference if the two station’s radio waves overlap.
Whenever there is a possible interference conflict between an LPFM and a full-power broadcaster, the little guy loses.
Since LPFM licenses were first granted in 2000, low power stations have been the bottom man in the FCC’s pecking order.
There is a finite amount of space on the radio dial. When stations broadcast too closely together, listeners hear static.
Full-power broadcasters, such as commercial stations and public radio, have opposed loosening the licensing rules for LPFM.
“It’s not a competitive thing, it’s just about interference,” said Kris Jones, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents commercial radio.
Hansche and local-radio advocates say the rules are unnecessarily restrictive.
Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has submitted legislation to loosen the restrictions on LPFM.
KBSG has more to worry about than a fight in Washington. Hansche and Keeton have to beg, borrow or steal enough equipment to get the station back on the air.
Also, the station has to provide eight hours of original programming a day, which is required to maintain its LPFM license.
“It won’t be easy, but it can be done,” Hansche said.