Friday, April 14, 2017


On Wednesday (4/12) Nevada Public Radio launched Triple A KVNV “NV89” in Reno.  

 NV89 [link] emerged as a fully formed “Discover Music” source that promises:

No Commercials. Local Bands. Your Generation's Public Radio.

Mike Henry

NV89’s debut makes a terrific first impression. The beginning of NV89 reminds me of the start of 105.5 The Colorado Sound on Colorado’s Front Range about a year ago. Both stations were developed and are consulted by Mike Henry from Paragon Media Strategies [link]. Both appeared like magic for maximum buzz – first there was nothing, then presto, here a new music source you’ve always wanted.  Brilliant, Mr. Henry.

As I write this post, I am listening to morning personality Malayna Joy. NV89 sounds urgent, fresh and warm.  The music is a 50/50 mix of new tracks (I’ve heard new released tunes from Ryan Adams, Beck and the New Pornagraphers) and recent oldies and re-currents.  Malayna, who is live, is a smart companion, unobtrusive.

Willobee Carlan
NV89’s PD is Willobee Carlan, who has deep roots in Reno. Carlan programmed and/or worked on-air at commercial stations in New York City, Austin, Santa Barbara and Phoenix. He also has worked with major record labels and in artist management.

In addition to Malayna Joy, NV89 hosts include Gia DeSantis (KROQ, LA), Jake Wagner and Steve Masters (Live 105, San Francisco). NV89 also airs State of Nevada, the franchise-defining talk and interview show that originates at KNPR, Las Vegas. It airs weekdays from 9am to 10am.


Last November we reported [link] that Las Vegas based Nevada Public Radio had acquired 89.1 FM KJIV, Sun Valley, a suburb of Reno, for $550,000. Most observers (me included) thought the new station would be a 24/7 repeater of NPR News station KNPR, setting up a statewide news presence.

In that post, we opined:

I have just one question for Nevada Public Radio:  Why spend so much money ($550,000) to acquire a voice in Reno? 

The Reno-Sparks metro has around 400,000 residents and seems to be well served at present by NPR News KUNR and Classical KNCJ. Maybe the long-term goal for Nevada Public Radio entering Reno is to establish a new format such as Triple A.  Or, maybe there is Nevada gold secretly buried under the ground at the transmitter sight.

Now it turns out that the Nevada gold was NV89. When I wrote those words in November, I didn’t know that the plan to create NV89 was already in motion.

Nevada Public Radio is run by Flo Rogers, once a host at legendary Modern Rock station 91X in San Diego. Before moving to Las Vegas, Rogers paid her noncom dues at KRPS-FM in Pittsburg, Kansas. She has proven to be a wise and forward thinking public radio manager.  Nevada Public Radio operates KNPR (NPR News), KCNV (Classical) and Desert Companion, a weekly arts and culture publication and website [link]. Desert Companion's print circulation is over 55,000.


Perhaps Nevada Public Radio’s ultimate goal is to add a third format, Triple A, in Las Vegas.  NV89 is already on in Vegas via KNPR’s HD-3 channel. If they can acquire a well-placed translator, they will have an instant Triple A station on FM. Then NV89 will be a player in Nevada’s two biggest markets.

Last year Nevada Public Radio was rebuffed in their attempt to bring Jazz station KUNV into their shop.  Congratulations to all involved.  You make me proud to be in public media.


No doubt the new NV89 will be the buzz at the upcoming 17th Annual NONCOMMvention in Philadelphia May 17 – 19 [link]. If you want to attend (and I highly recommend it) early bird registration ends April 24th.

You can see the complete schedule for the NONCOMM here.

The 2017 NON-COMMvention will kick off with an opening party at 4pm on Thursday (5/16).  After that, there will be 56-hours of meetings and artist performances and/or intervews that include Dan Auerbach, Blondie, The Pixies, Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band and many, many more.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Major Edwin Armstrong
Edwin Armstrong would be celebrating today if he were still alive. The technology he developed – FM radio – is the “go to” system on the broadcasting platform.

Armstrong was a true believer in FM.  In the 1920s and early 1930s he developed frequency modulation (“FM”) in a secret laboratory at Columbia University. He was granted five U.S. patents covering the basic features of new system on December 26, 1933.

In June 1936, Armstrong debuted FM with a public demonstration at FCC headquarters in Washington, DC. It went very, very well.  Perhaps too well it turned out.

During his presentation he used jazz recordings to demonstrate the differences in fidelity for FM an AM. FM blew AM away.  The signal was as clear as a bell. According to a post on Wikipedia [link], a reporter that was on the scene said:

"If the audience of 500 engineers had shut their eyes, they would have believed a jazz band was in the same room. There were no extraneous sounds. Several engineers said after the demonstration that they considered Dr. Armstrong's invention one of the most important radio developments since the first earphone crystal sets were introduced."

The major broadcasting companies in the US certainly noticed. Armstrong's new device scared the shit out of them, so to speak. They were all heavily invested in AM and quickly saw that FM’s superior system, owned by independent up-starts, was a threat to them.

The Mighty W2XMN
In 1938, Armstrong signed on the first FM radio station, W2XMN, at Alpine, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The Mighty W2XMN at 42.8 on the FM dial pushed 40,000-watts over 100 miles, far surpassing the area reached by New York’s big AM broadcasters. In those days an FM receiver was one of the hippest devices available.

Unfortunately Armstrong had done some of his early work at RCA’s facilities. RCA buried him with litigation. Then the US entered World War 2 and FM (and television) was frozen.  As the war ended, RCA and other companies pushed the FCC to “redline” FM. The Commission moved FM to 88.1 mHz – 107.9 mHz making hundreds of thousands FM receivers obsolete. It ruined Armstrong’s business.

The litigation continued into the 1950s. Late on the night of January 31, 1954, Armstrong had had enough. According to the report on Wikipedia, Armstrong opened a window in his apartment on the thirteen-floor and jumped to his death.

If he had chosen to live that night by the late 1960s he would have seen his baby – FM – begin a growth pattern that continues to this very day…


According to a new report from the FCC, FM dominates the broadcasting platform.   

As of March 31, 2017, there were 20,243 FM stations on the air, counting full-power commercial, noncommercial stations, FM translators and LPFM. 

As of March 31st, there were 4,666 AM stations on the air, and that number is slowly dropping.

In early 2016 I wrote in a post [link]: We are now experiencing The Last FM Translator Gold Rush.  

Today the hits just keep on coming….

The boom in FM translators zoomed after the FCC permitted noncom broadcasters to feed programming to translators by satellite. 

This rule change, first championed by Moody Bible led to mega national networks like K-LOVE.   

The folks at Moody called them “sata-lators.”

In 1963, Keith Anderson became the first person develop and market FM translators. Anderson was living in the Black Hills of South Dakota making lots of bucks with cable TV microwave systems and VHF TV translators.   

He manufactured “boosters” for TV stations in the Rocky Mountain West.   

This was around the time John Malone (who founded cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. – TCI) was hooking up his first cable subscribers in Casper, WY.

I’ve got to think that Edwin Armstrong would be proud of FM today and grateful to the people who make it great.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


We have talked often on this blog about the problems at Pacifica Radio. Many years ago they created a template for listener-supported public media, they influenced policy regarding major social and political issues and added an important voice to the national conversation.

However, more recently, Pacifica became known for endless in-fighting between internal factions, declining listenership and fundraising, unpaid bills and a looming bankruptcy. I’ve called them public media’s most embarrassing, dysfunctional and disappointing organization.

Bill Crosier
Then, in early February this year, the clouds parted and a new leader, Bill Crosier, emerged as a voice of sanity and reality. Pacifica’s National Board named Crosier Interim Executive Director and he quickly got to work on some of the network’s most pressing issues. Crosier began his tenure with this public quote:

"Pacifica’s mission of alternative educational broadcasting is crucial to the future of this country.  I will do everything in my power to ensure the Pacifica  Foundation's survival until I can hand over the network to the care of a new visionary leader.”

Crosier himself may be that new visionary leader.  As CEO of the Houston Peace and Justice Center, Crosier survived in-fighting and partisan, personal agendas and kept the organization focused on it’s work. 

He climbed the ranks at Pacifica’s KPFT in Houston and became the station’s manager. Bill Crosier is a “visionary” because starts with the fundamentals for operating a national network and operating noncommercial radio stations.


On March 30th Crosier released the Pacifica Financial Recovery and Stabilization Plan, part of a past-due report to the California Registry of Charitable Trusts.  You can download the impressive recovery plan here.

A few of the actions Crosier has taken since be became Interim Executive Director include:

• Getting the owners of the Empire State Building (WBAI’s transmission site) to back down on their lawsuit and agree a settlement conference. The Empire State Building is Pacifica's largest aggressive debtor.

• Moving the impending drop-dead due date for Pacifica's delinquent FY 2015 audit report to August 27.

• Getting a generous WPFW (Pacifica’s station in Washington DC) donor to agree to free Pacifica from a requirement to immediately repay the donor for a $140,000 capital fund loan.

• Addressing Pacifica’s arcane and dysfunctional governance system. Crosier wants to do away with a 2002 rule change that, in Crosier’s words makes a mockery of our supposed democratic governance.

The new Pacifica Financial Recovery and Stabilization Plan even provides a clear-headed look at the existence of Pacifica in worst-case scenarios. According to the plan, the Pacifica stations in the greatest jeopardy are WBIA and WPFW. If conditions don’t improve in the few months, Crosier suggests swapping WBAI’s valuable signal with another noncom station where Pacifica could continue in a less costly environment.

Perhaps most importantly, Crosier doesn’t seem to dwell on the past. In the report Crosier says:

Here in Pacifica-land, we believe everyone has the right to be as stupid as they want or are, whether it's by nature or nuture. We don't discriminate against stupidity, or ignorance, or failure of fiduciary duty, or even malfeasance. Equal rights for all!

We wish Crosier well and hope he succeeds.



WWOZ [link] is one of gems of the public radio system. Not only does WWOZ present a tasty blend of classic New Orleans jazz, it successful deploys dozens of volunteers to all corners of the city.  

After a rough patch a couple of years ago, David Freedman and The Board of Directors of the Friends of WWOZ, brought in former PRPD leader Arthur Cohen to be Interim GM.  Cohen has done a terrific job of kicking out the jams and has WWOZ purring like kittens at a catnip festival.

Livingston Associates in conducting the search. To learn more and apply online
consideration, please visit the full job posting, application instructions
and apply online at For best consideration apply by April 15, 2017.


WHQR serves the Wilmington area (including nearby Myrtle Beach, SC) with two stations, WHQR Public Radio 91.3FM (24/7 NPR News) and ClassicalHQR at 92.7 (24/7 Classical music).

WHQR is licensed to an independent community organization. The station was founded in 1984.  Thanks to retiring manager Cleve Callison, WHQR is solvent aand respected in business community.

The Station Manager reports to an elected board of directors and leads a paid staff of eleven and a cadre of volunteers. 

WHQR purchased their current office and studios in downtown Wilmington. It has become a cultural center for both the station and the community.

Livingston Associates is also handling the search.  For details go to [link]. The deadline for applications is May 15th.  


Tuesday, April 11, 2017


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed a rule change that will give certain non-coms new flexibility in fundraising for third-party non-profits organizations. The new rule, if enacted, will let some non-commercial educational (NCE) radio and TV stations dedicate up to 1% of their “total annual airtime” to fundraising for third-party non-profits.

However, the proposed rule change specifically says that it does not apply to NCE stations funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). It appears to be a “gift” to religious broadcasters. Pai said CPB-funded station could ask for a waiver.

The proposed rule will be discussed (and perhaps voted on) at an open meeting of FCC Commissioners on April 20, 2017.

Backers of the rule change say it will make fundraising easier for soliciting funds for disaster recovery but the rule, as written, benefits a much wider group of non-profit organizations. 

Here is how Pai described the intent of the new rule in a blog post:

We will also consider giving NCE broadcasters more flexibility to raise money for disaster relief groups, charities, and other non-profit organizations. In the past, the FCC has granted waivers to allow NCE television and radio stations to solicit donations for causes such as Hurricane Katrina and Haitian earthquake relief. I believe that we should make it easier for stations to engage in this type of activity so long as it doesn’t compromise their non-commercial nature.

I’ve heighted the phrase other non-profit organizations because it appears to open the door to fundraising for 501c3 organizations involved in advocacy concerning social issues. The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) has been lobbying for such a measure for over five years.

Former NPR General Counsel and President of the Sanchez Law Firm Ernie Sanchez says the proposed rule gives noncom broadcasters are lot of latitude:

Ernie Sanchez
The FCC draft order is explicit that only 501c(3) organizations qualify. That includes most but not all churches because some have chosen not to formally apply for IRS exempt status. In general they are still allowed to claim non profit status under state law but without the federal 501c (3) reporting requirements.

Organizations heavily into social causes usually channel that activity into a 501 c (4) civic league.  For example the main ACLU is a 501c (4) but the ACLU Foundation is a 501c (3).


If the new rule in enacted there will be a new distinction between two types of NCE stations: One for CPB-funded stations and the other for all other noncoms including religious licensees.

Pai explained in his bog post why stations funded by CPB do not qualify:

“Certain stations have indicated that they have no interest in engaging in such fundraising activity on behalf of third-party charities. The push for relaxing the limits has come from – religious stations, and particularly the National Religious Broadcasters.”

In other words, because only religious broadcasters asked for the rule change, they are the only organizations that can use it.

Over the past several years, NPR has led a legal push back to the plan saying such a change would result in listeners being inundated with requests from local nonprofit groups, which in turn could affect station pledge drives. NPR has instead said the FCC’s current system that allows a broadcaster to obtain a temporary waiver to raise money in a specific instance strikes a better balance.


Lets take this discussion into the real world: Assuming a station operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, one percent of programming time equals roughly 90 hours for third-party fundraising.  By concentrating third-party fundraising in day parts when listening is high, the third-party campaigns could last weeks.

American Family Radio (AFR) based in Tupelo, Mississippi, is well known for its conservative stand on various social and political issues. AFR [link] is owned by the American Family Action (AFA), a 501c3 organization. AFA brought in revenue of $29,790,000 in tax-year 2014, according to the most recent IRS data available. Almost all of the revenue came from individuals.

AFR’s stated goal to be a champion of Christian activism.  They have this call-to-action on their website:

 If you are alarmed by the increasing ungodliness and depravity assaulting our nation, tired of cursing the darkness, and ready to light a bonfire, please join us.  Do it for your children and grandchildren.

This is a long way from helping victims of Hurricane Katrina or a Jello Jump for Jerry’s Kids.

AFR currently operates 156 full-power noncom stations and about 300 translator stations.  Programming comes via satellite from Tupelo. As you probably know, NCE translators can air programming delivered from satellite. AFR feeds two national programming streams: Talk and dual-format Talk and CCM.

AFR’s mission is to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, work that sometimes becomes political. AFR is currently a leader of an effort to persuade Disney Studios to edit their film Beauty and the Beast. AFP wants Disney to remove “a gay-oriented moment” in the movie.

AFR is pushing a petition against Disney’s alleged pro-gay bias on all of its platforms.  The petition is sponsored by Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based 501c 3 organization. During its radio programs, AFR stations are asking listeners to “flood the telephones lines of U.S. lawmakers” to publically “shame” Disney.

What if AFR decided to raise money for the effort? If Pai’s new FCC rule is approved, there is nothing I am aware of that would stop them from using their entire national network of stations and translators to raise money for the anti-Disney campaign.

Monday, April 10, 2017


S-Town, the new narrative podcast from the folks who brought you This American Life (TAL) and Serial, debuted in late March with over 16 million downloads, a record for the launch of a new podcast podcast. 

According to the latest Podtrac estimates, S-Town (a/k/a “Shit Town”) was major factor for a 52% increase in Unique Monthly Audience by the Serial Productions cluster. S-Town is the first series released under the Serial Productions banner.

Brian Reed
Brian Reed, a producer for TAL, is the host of the seven-episode documentary series. S-Town tells the story of a rumored murder in his rural Alabama town and the investigation into the son of a wealthy family who had been bragging that he got away with murder. According to Reed, the storyline continues and "Someone else ended up dead, and another story began to unfold–about a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure and the mysteries of one man's life.”

Podtrac reports that all ten of the top podcast publishers saw an increase in Unique Monthly Audience between February and March 2017. NPR, the New York Times, American Public Media, WBUR and The Moth all had one-month double-digit increases of Unique Monthly Audience.

Though there are limitations with Podtracs’ data, their charts are becoming an industry standard. They do not publish audience estimates for publishers who are not affiliated with Podtrac. Also, according to Podtrac CEO Mark Mccrey, metrics from month-to-month can vary by as much as 20% because of a number of factors.

Seven of the top ten publishers are affiliated with noncommercial stations. The New York Times, a commercial publisher, has consistently increased their estimated Unique Monthly Audience.


When the Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) chose Miami as the site for their 2017 annual conference, little did they know the gather would be at “ground zero” for a major confrontation between WLRN and its licensee, the Miami-Dade School District. We reported on the situation in late February [link].

For the past three decades, Friends of WLRN, a nonprofit group, has operated WLRN FM/TV with considerable success. Recently a power struggle between the district and the Friends of WLRN has erupted over the question of who is directly responsible for news coverage. The District want reporters to become employees of the District and have the newsroom follow the District’s policies. The dispute has yet to be resolved.

The PRNDI Conference meets at the Newport Beachside Hotel & Resort on Friday 6/23 & Saturday 6/24. Pre-conference training will take place June 21 & 22. Complete information about the conference is here.

Conflicts Between Newsrooms and Station License Holders, Saturday’s main conference meeting, will be held from 8:30am – 9:45am.

In addition to the conflict regarding WLRN, the recent firing of a reporter at WUTC, Chattanooga will be discussed. Yet-to-be-named panelists will look at station’s firewalls between the newsroom and the license holder. The session will explore navigating conflicts with licensee and strategies newsrooms can employ to protect their independence.  

A complete agenda for the PRNDI conference is here. Other sessions that look interesting to me include:

Real News in a Fake News Era
Friday 6/23, 9:00am – 10:15am

Michael Oresekes

Keynote Address by Michael Oresekes
Friday 6/23, Noon – 1:30pm

Senior VP of News and Editorial Director for NPR, Michael Oresekes discusses the importance of editors, the challenges journalists are facing in the current media environment and how stations and NPR can continue to strengthen their collaborative relationship.

Al Tompkins
Reporting on Guns with Al Tompkins
Friday 6/23, 3:15pm – 4:30pm

Poynter’s Al Tompkins will address some of the most common mistakes journalists make when reporting on firearms. 

What’s the difference between a rifle and a shotgun?   What’s a “semi-automatic” rifle?   And what does the “AR” in “AR15” mean? In public media, very few of us own guns. We talk often about firearms in our reporting, so this session will provide you with a better understand of guns and the gun culture.

Elana Newman
Managing Mental Health in the Newsroom: Including Your Own
Saturday 6/24 2:45pm – 4:00pm

Elana Newman, Research Director of the DART Center for Journalism and Trauma, will tell you the signs of potential depression among colleagues. 

During this session, you will learn how to respond in a supportive and appropriate manner when trauma and tragedy seem overwhelming. If you are feeling any low level stress from covering a relentless news cycle soaked in negativity, this session is for you.

Al Letson
Saturday 6/24 7:00pm

Reveal host Al Letson will emcee the annual awards banquet featuring winners of over a dozen news categories. Also announced will be the winner of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) Consumer Financial Reporting Award. The winner received a cash prize of $1,000 from NEFE.

Andrea DeLeon, NPR Bureau Chief, will be presented with this year’s Leo C. Lee Award for extraordinary contribution to public radio news.