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Radio AM to FM: December 11, 1998

Religious Sprawl

The noncommercial segment of the FM radio band (88.1 to 92.1 MHz) is experiencing a "reverse urban sprawl" due to the wishes of a religious station located in Lancaster that wants to put up translators in Long Beach and Buena Park.

If approved, the translators -- transmitters that pick up the signal from the main station and retransmit it in another area on another frequency -- may mark the death of at least one student-run college station and significantly cut the coverage areas of numerous other stations in the crowded noncommercial band.

According to Loyola-Marymount student station KXLU (89.9 FM) programmer Liz Ohanesian, Lancaster-based Living Way Ministries' plan to place a 100-watt translator in Long Beach that will transmit at 88.9 FM and a 100-watt translator in Buena Park that will transmit at 88.7 FM will significantly cut into the coverage area of KXLU, effectively cutting off a large portion of KXLU's audience.

"There is a great potential that the Long Beach translator will cut off KXLU in the South Bay, an area where we have an enormous following," said Ohanesian. "At the same time it appears that the Buena Park translator will bounce off the ocean and drown out our signal in the area immediately East of Malibu, another area where we have a large following -- not only from residents but also from commuters."

The commuter problem is serious enough, and is one that dogs KROQ (106.7 FM) on clear days in the South Bay ... days where KROQ is often clobbered by San Diego's KKLQ (106.5 FM), making KROQ unlistenable in the car in many beach areas. If both translators go on the air, it would make KXLU's signal area shrink down to approximately a few mile radius of the station.

But that's not all. Little KUCI broadcasts a puny 10-watt signal from the campus of UC Irvine at 88.9 FM. Usually their signal coverage is decent considering the low power (indeed, before a frequency swap, KUCI could be heard in San Pedro). If Living Way has their way, KUCI might as well turn off the electricity all together.

Other stations in that portion of the band also have a stake: KSPC ("The Space," 88.7 FM) and Saddleback College's KSBR (88.5 FM) will definitely see their coverage areas shrink. And all the while, KLA at UCLA has been told by the FCC for the past thirty years that there are absolutely no open frequencies anywhere on the FM band. KLA makes do with small-power (campus-only) AM transmitters and covers West Los Angeles only through cable-FM reception.

KXLU wants to stop this in its tracks: Programmer Ohanesian is forwarding letters and petitions to the FCC directly in order to help convince the commissioners to deny Living Way Ministries' application. Hopefully she is successful; local colleges have enough problems keeping their signals on the air without the added threat of a Lancaster religious station stealing their frequency. more on this as it develops ...


Copyright © 1998 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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