View Full Version : Why stations are licensed to neighboring small towns

05-25-2010, 12:30 AM
Quoting Randy Zerr KW4RZ in another forum:

Nice DX. That must not be the actual legal ID for 98.9 KTUX. ID is "Shreveport / Bossier City" used to live there in the 90's and listen to them when they were playing hit music as "Tux 99". I have not learned the reason stations are licensed to neighboring small town names.

This may be a bit lengthy...

- Firstly, before a commercial FM station can exist, a channel must be allocated for its use. Initially, channels were allocated by the FCC on their own motion. However, once FM became commercially viable, these channels were grabbed up, at least any place with enough population to make a station worthwhile.

In their initial allocations, the FCC gave more channels to larger cities, some to outlying important towns, and some to the very largest sub-central cities. (Berkeley, Long Beach, Elgin, Newark, Cambridge, etc...)

- So today, if you want a new station (except possibly in Alaska...) you have to get a new channel allocated. Or moved from somewhere else.

- The Communications Act charges the FCC with ensuring an "equitable distribution of service". The Commission has interpreted this as meaning, that a petition to provide a first station to a community that doesn't already have one is preferred to a petition to add additional stations to a community that already has at least one station. If I petition to allot 108.1B to Hartford, Connecticut while Mike Bugaj petitions to allot the same channel to Newington, the channel will be allotted to Newington, [0] as that city has no FM stations.

- This also means the FCC will not allow you to delete the last channel from a city in order to move it someplace else.

- To get a channel allotted to a city, the petitioner must be able to show a location exists where a station could be built on that channel without interfering with any other existing station (or previously-filed application) and while delivering a "city-grade" (usually 60dBu) signal across most of the city in question.


So, let's say you're a broadcasting company in Clarksville, Tennessee. You'd like to add another station to your cluster, but none are available to buy at a price you're willing to pay.

A check of the FCC database shows that if you purchased WDBL-FM Springfield, you could move it to Clarksville without interfering with anything. And WDBL-FM is cheap.

So you buy WDBL-FM and petition to change the city-of-license from Springfield to Clarksville.

And the FCC denies your petition. Because there are already two FM stations in Clarksville. Moving WDBL-FM to a city that already has stations doesn't result in a "favorable arrangement of allocations".

OK, so you don't petition to change the city-of-license from Springfield to Clarksville. You petition to change it from Springfield to Oak Grove, Kentucky.

This time, the FCC grants it. Because there aren't any existing stations in Oak Grove. You're bringing Oak Grove its first local service - you're creating a favorable arrangement of allocations.

(never mind that neither the station's studios, nor its offices, nor its transmitter need to be in Oak Grove. Never mind that 100% of the programming is directed at listeners in Clarksville.)

Why specifically Oak Grove? Really only two reasons:
1. It didn't already have other stations.
2. It's within the 70dBu principal city coverage contour of the station at your desired transmitter site.

You probably could have just as well chosen Tiny Town (actual name), Hammackville, or St. Bethlehem. (again, actual name..)

[0] not really, the FCC staff will simply laugh their heads off at both of us, making it impossible for them to add the dismissal of our petitions to the day's Daily Digest posting...

05-25-2010, 01:02 AM
WRIK FM 98.3 Metropolis, IL is actually located at Golo, KY ... 31 miles from Metropolis.
There might be 25 people living in Golo. By the time you've slowed down, to drive through "town," you've already passed it. :-)
73, Ed NN2E
Owner / Operator - Murphy's Law Test Site & Thunderstorm Proving Grounds

05-25-2010, 01:19 AM
How about Pennsuco, FL? WGNK 88.3 is licensed to Pennsuco, which I might wanna call a "ghost town", although it is (I suppose) and industrial center of sorts.

Nobody has "Pennsuco" as a mailing address (although it's technically, I suppose, part of Hialeah ZIP 33016)...I suppose they had to NOT call the COL "Miami" because of the 3rd adjacent WDNA 88.9.

The main sport in Pennsuco, among the few residents, is cockfighting....(but I suppose that would be something for the Political thread)....I believe there have been a few busts there for it.


Jim Thomas
05-25-2010, 01:35 PM
And then up the road in my neck of the prairie (woods?), there is a 100kw K-Love affiliate COL in Chugwater, WY (real name). Their market is Cheyenne, which was no longer available for full power FM's. They originally were a 100 watt translator in Cheyenne, but when they petitioned to get a full power FM in Cheyenne, they had to find a different town.

05-25-2010, 06:08 PM
While we're at it...

The WPSD 32 (6) Paducah, KY transmitter is located at Monkeys Eyebrow, KY about 22 miles west of Paducah.

73, Ed NN2E
Owner / Operator - Murphy's Law Test Site & Thunderstorm Proving Grounds

05-25-2010, 09:36 PM
I never knew this, I always thought stations just put the town closest to where there transmitter was. Since they are usually on hills away from the city, or wherever land is available. I never knew there was reasoning behind it.

Even in the small city of Watertown, NY the recent sign-ons have had a small town tacked onto there ID.