In this week’s installment of NorthEast Radio Watch, PBRTV friend Scott Fybush reports on a complicated series of moves south of Pittsburgh by Educational Media Foundation.
EMF is a California-based non-profit corporation that has acquired more than 100 low-power FM radio translators around the country to rebroadcast its “K-Love” Christian music format.
Back in January, EMF purchased an unbuilt FM license on 98.5 mHz for the borough of Meyersdale, Somerset County, at an FCC auction for $376,000. Now EMF has gotten FCC approval to move the license to another Somerset County borough, Confluence, a community of about 800 people that’s best known around these parts for whitewater rafting along the Youghiogheny River. It’s also on the biking/hiking trail between Cumberland and Pittsburgh.
“By itself, the new WKEL won’t even approach Pittsburgh rimshot status,” Fybush notes. “But it will put a decent signal over much of Fayette County, including Uniontown and Connellville, and it will eliminate the need for EMF to feed its chain of (as yet unbuilt) ‘K-Love’ translators serving Pittsburgh from a primary station way down in Grafton, West Virginia.”
EMF has pledged to follow all of the rules for commercially-licensed stations, including construction of a studio to serve Confluence, Fybush says. The station would be licensed at 1.1 kW from a tower in Fayette County, halfway between Connellsville and Confluence.
But Fybush predicts, based on paperwork EMF filed with the FCC, that it will eventually change the station’s status to “non-commercial,” apply for a local studio waiver, and use WKEL to simulcast KLVR-FM in California.
“It’s all strictly within the letter of the rules, as is everything that EMF does, but it seems — to us, anyway — to stretch the spirit of the rules more than a little bit,” he says.
Meanwhile, Pat Cloonan of the McKeesport Daily News reports the FCC has authorized Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications Inc. to move WANB-FM (103.1) from Waynesburg to Mt. Pleasant.
The move, which includes a power upgrade from 970 watts to 4.4 kW, would enable WANB to serve most of Westmoreland and Fayette counties, along with large chunks of Allegheny, Washington and Greene counties. (In fact, most of WANB’s present service area in Greene County will fall under the “primary contour” of the new signal, though reception may suffer along the West Virginia border.)
In the Pittsburgh region, Stevens also owns WKHB (620), licensed to Irwin, and WKFB (770), licensed to Jeannette; the stations share studios in North Versailles Township. The WANB move, writes Cloonan, also includes transferring BCI’s WROG-FM (102.9) from Cumberland, Md., to Chambersburg, Pa., “which would put WROG into the larger Hagerstown, Md., market.”
(In the interest of full disclosure: Both this correspondent and the editor of PBRTV work part-time for Broadcast Communications Inc.)