How the FCC is Killing Local Radio

by: Ian Freeman

New England-based Great Eastern Radio has flipped Keene rocker 101.9 K-Rock (WKKN) to a simulcast of KIXX Country 100.5 (WXXK) out of Lebanon and also cut staff dramatically, to where Elise Valentine is the only member remaining. Valentine will still be heard during 3-7p afternoon drive on the “new” country 101.9 in afternoon drive.

With at least three country stations broadcasting from the area already, is another one really necessary? Apparently Great Eastern thinks so.

Great Eastern’s other transmitter in the market, their sports talk station, “WEEI” 93.5 (WEEY) is a simulcast of Boston sports talker WEEI. It has zero local content and doesn’t even have its own website.

This means Great Eastern Radio’s stations “in Keene” are now being run by a skeleton crew of Elise Valentine and maybe a contract engineer. It’s sad, but that’s what’s become of corporate radio – constant cuts and consolidation.

National radio operator Saga does deserve credit for doing a decent job with their station cluster in town, the Monadnock Radio Group. If Great Eastern thinks they’re going to make compelling local radio by cutting costs and staff to the bone, they will probably learn their mistake hard and fast and possibly end up failing and sell the stations.

Meanwhile, local current-rock listeners are screwed as far as on-air options are concerned. Of course, they could always start up their own radio station with all the open channels on the radio dial in this area. All they have to do is apply for and receive a license from the FCC…

Oh wait – no, they can’t. The FCC, according to local newsman Brad Ryder, has been sitting on a couple of station applications for nearly a decade! Ryder reports that he and the Monadnock Radio Group had applied for the same open frequency and the FCC has yet to decide to whom it should be granted.

You may be asking, “Why did they both apply for the same frequency?” Well, it turns out the FCC, in all their centralized, bureaucratic wisdom have decided that only one new station will be allowed in Keene. Yes, in a market with only around a dozen locally-originating signals (most owned by the above-mentioned Monadnock Radio Group) and oodles of open airwaves, the FCC has deigned that there’s only room for one more, but the applications for it were submitted years ago, and no new station applications can be submitted at this time.

Just to clarify – no new stations, ANYWHERE – not just Keene. You can only apply when they say you can apply. Any time in the past five years that I have checked, the “application window” has been closed. If you do apply, get ready to hire lawyers and engineering experts to help you with the paperwork. Ryder has spent thousands on the process and has nothing to show for it.

Of course, Keene is not alone in this predicament – people all over the country have been trying to start local radio stations for decades and have been crushed by the FCC and its labyrinthine regulations and thug enforcers. Some brave souls heroically broadcast openly without a license, like 87.9 “The Beat” in Nashua, which actually has an office on Main St! Also, local activists are broadcasting LRN.FM, an international talk radio network that originates in Keene, on “Liberty 94.3” in Keene. Starting your own professional-sounding station with quality equipment costs less than just the station construction application at the FCC.

Others, not quite brave enough to flip on a transmitter, have been begging the FCC for years to allow them a special “Low Power FM” license. Finally, around the turn of the century, the FCC began offering LPFM licenses, but immediately began tightening restrictions. As mentioned above, no new applications are being accepted, not even for the LPFM service.

The FCC is nothing but a protection racket for established broadcasters, but what those broadcasters don’t realize is that the FCC is “protecting” them to death. The severe lack of competition in the broadcast radio market results in bland, centrally-programmed, national content being the majority of what is on the air in any local market, Keene included. Companies have been consolidating stations ever since the FCC’s “deregulation” in the 90s that made it easier for radio groups to own even more stations in the same market, while still keeping new entrants OUT.

That leaves us in Keene (and anywhere else) with a nasty predicament: radio groups cut staff and budgets over and over in hopes of servicing their debt and staying afloat, resulting in programming growing distinctly non-localized. All of that happens while the FCC keeps any new operators and voices off-the-air by strangling the competition before it can even begin.

It’s just another reason NH should declare independence and secede from the United States along with everyone else. It’s long past time, don’t you think?

Meantime, if you want to learn how to put your own station on-the-air for a few hundred to thousand dollars, LRN.FM has a good guide at Broadcast.LRN.FM, which is useful whether you decide to use their content, or program your own music station.

Originally posted at