Friday, April 1, 2016


WKYU has announced that they will debut a new Classical Music FM station in mid April. Like many public radio stations in small and medium markets, WKYU has had a dual NPR News & Classical for years.  Over time, news hours have increased and Classical hours have decreased.  WKYU now airs Classical during the evening and overnight hours.

The new classical station will be on translator W249CS 97.5 FM will repeat the Classical programming on WKYU’s HD-2 channel. It will provide excellent coverage of Bowling Green, Morgantown and Franklin, Kentucky.  The FM translator is owned by a Bowling Green resident who is a fan of Classical music.

WKYU will increase news programming on their primary signal at 88.9 FM when Classical begins on 97.5 FM.



WJCT, Jacksonville is primarily a NPR News station but it has been airing Classical music overnight for many years. Now they plan to drop Classical and play “Beautiful Music” (“BM”) overnight.

The reason for the change is that a unique noncom station, WKTZ, one of the nation’s few remaining BM stations, has been sold to EMF and will become a repeater of CCM K-LOVE

WKTZ was owned and operated for many years by Jones College, a private school in Jacksonville.  For reasons I never understood WKTZ has been playing the hits of the 1930s, 40s and 50s for many years.  BM station used to be ubiquitous in the 1960s and 70s but almost disappeared in the 1980s.  The reason: It attracted only older listeners.  Now, 30 years later, folks wanting to hear BM must be really, really old. It is not an oldies format, it is a museum format.



I hope my posts this week about the conflicts between noncommercial FM stations and channel six TV stations, based on my grad school thesis, kept readers awake.  I know it is a story about bureaucrats and legal disputes from a long time ago but we are living with its legacy now.

Radio Scholar and contract engineer Aaron Reed added important perspective in a comment about the issue. I am posting Aaron’s entire comment below.

Reed observes that:

The flip side to the TV6/FM "problem" is that in TV6 markets you often ended up with several very small FM stations in the non-commercial band.

This is so true.  For years channel six TV operators controlled the growth of noncom radio in their markets.  This often caused paralysis for new or improved FM service and lead to a checker-board of itty-bitty noncoms rather than full market stations.

A case in point is Indianapolis. In 1950 the “channel six problem” was clearly demonstrated by WFIU-FM. When it began, WFIU was located in the NCE reserved part of the FM band.  WFIU’s interference for viewers of channel six TV caused the FCC to move WFIU up the dial to 103.7 FM where it is today. The channel six issue meant that few full market noncom stations were allowed to broadcast in Indianapolis. 

Today there are 17 noncom stations between 88.1 and 91.7 and only two – WFYI & WICR – cover the full metro.  The rest are small coverage stations whose presence made it difficult for new professional noncom stations to be built in Indy.


The flip side to the TV6/FM "problem" is that in TV6 markets you often ended up with several very small FM stations in the non-commercial band. That's because of the quirk in the FCC's interference rules, where you can have an FM station that "interferes" with the TV6, but only if the interfering signal contour covers 2000 population or less (determined by the US Census). This was often achievable, but only because the signals were transmitting from college campuses (which generally don't have population as far as the Census is concerned) and were very, very small in terms of power.

The end result is a whole bunch stations that cover the college campus and not a whole lot more than that. They're not economically viable without a lot of subsides from their parent school. And with such tiny signals (usually 500 watts or less, and from low heights) it's exceedingly difficult to attract an audience, regardless of the content being broadcast.

You can see this on full display in the Providence market, for example. Just in and immediately adjacent to the tiny little state of Rhode Island, we have: WELH 88.1, WKIV 88.1, WGAO 88.3, WQRI 88.3, WJMF 88.7, WRIU 90.3, WJHD 90.7, WCNI 90.9, WXEV 91.1, WTKL 91.1, WDOM 91.3, WCVY 91.5 and there's a CP for a new station on 91.5 in the NW corner of RI, too. And that doesn't count the bigger signals from out of state that can also be heard here: WGBH 89.7, WUMD 89.3, WHUS 91.7, WPKT 89.1 and WBUR 90.9.

Of the "in state" signals, only WJMF, WELH and WRIU have any real "heft" to their signals, and none of them are all that big (they're all mid-sized Class A FM's around the equivalent of 3000 watts). Both WJMF and WELH immediately rushed to expand their signals after the local TV6 (WLNE) changed frequency as part of the DTV migration in 2009. The rest are mostly 100 to 500 watts and are functionally little different from the LPFM Class of license.

And unfortunately now all these little signals are all packed in so tightly that none of them can really expand. The entire non-commercial band is a mishmosh of overlapping signals, by and large, throughout the state. :(

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