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Airwaves: February 1, 2008

It's Cold

My best friend from college, Andrew Holt, who was my partner in crime at UCLA's student-run radio station KLA, actually made it in radio. In his early days at small-market stations in Ohio and Pennsylvania, I used to call him when the weather got cold to remind him what he was missing.

"It got really cold here last night," I would tell him. "It got down to sixty degrees.

I haven't done that in a while even though I still can -- Andrew is now working in Walla Walla, Washington doing news and sports (he should be on in Los Angeles where he would kick butt, but that's another story). Yet the weather here last week was cold enough for him to call me, and it caused some problems for local radio and television stations.

Last Saturday was an especially bad day on Mt. Wilson, home of transmitters for many Los Angeles-area FM and television stations. Ice and snow wrecked havoc on equipment, including wireless transmitter links and transmitter equipment. Snowy weather and icy roads made repair trips to transmitter sites impossible or extremely difficult. Numerous stations had problems of some sort that couldn't be easily fixed even if they were simple.

But the broadcast community is tight-knit; most engineers know each other no matter where they work. Many are good friends. Engineering consultant John Davis told Don Barrett's of but one example: KKGO (105.1 FM) was off the air because their main studio link was damaged by ice. To make things worse, snow caused the roof of the backup transmitter to cave in, causing water damage to the transmitter. It could have been a long time for KKGO to get back on the air.

To the rescue was KROQ (106.7 FM) Chief Engineer Fred Holub, who offered his station's own backup transmitter for use by KKGO. He went to Flint Peak, switched the transmitter to 105.1, and had KKGO back on the air in very little time. Davis said, "it was a beautiful thing he did, and I want to publicly thank him and KROQ."

I do, too. It's easy to get lost focussing on the business of radio, but what makes radio, especially local radio, so special are the people both in front of the microphones and behind the scenes. Here's to the engineers who are on-call 24-hours a day so that we can hear our favorite programming: thanks for being there, and thanks for being so willing to help each other out.

Other Problems

KKGO wasn't the only one with problems. KPFK (90.7 FM) was off the air from Friday through much of the weekend, though they were back on the air by Sunday. The station reported that on Saturday, after finally reaching the transmitter the Chief Engineer found the snow so deep he couldn't get into the building and the antenna so iced up it had to be cleared off before returning to the air.

V-100 (KRBV, 100.3 FM) was using their backup transmitter still as of press time, along with Jack-FM (KCBS-FM, 93.1) and probably a few others. I would expect everything to be back to relative normal by the time you read this, or in a few days at the latest ... unless a new storm causes more problems.


Copyright © 2008 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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