Radio K should be allowed night broadcasting

Many might wonder why our beloved outlet of local music – the University’s Radio K – halts transmitting its eclectic AM mix during the nighttime hours. Surprise, surprise, the reason is political.

Federal Communications Commission regulations dictate that although Radio K has the ability to enlighten local listeners to talented local musicians throughout the night, an East Coast radio station – after finishing up the Rush Limbaugh show – must bulge into the territory. It displaces the modest, 5,000-watt range of Radio K. (The station’s 106.5 FM signal only reaches the west metro.)

Talk radio WABC, the “50,000-watt beacon of freedom” broadcast out of New York, occupies the 770 frequency. Due to the curious nature of AM radio waves, there is a possibility of mild nighttime interference between Radio K and WABC in the border regions. Hence, the Disney-owned commercial station consistently clutches at its archaic position of airwave dominance. The public, nonprofit Radio K is forced to shut down its evening broadcasts.

WABC operates under the FCC classification of a “clear” channel – protecting a vast tract of territory for a limited number of radio stations. Under a 1934 law, the FCC policy sets aside certain bands on the AM dial as “clear,” and the stations that hold these frequencies – such as WABC – hold more broadcasting freedom, with a larger signal, than normal commercial stations.

While the original justification for the statute was to broaden some radio signals for the benefit of rural residents who lacked a local station, this law is outdated; a policy change is long overdue. Clearly, the nation is saturated with more local stations, such as Radio K. The current justification for the flagrant inequality in airwave access is influenced by the political power of big radio. It does not demonstrate an examination of how public or locally operated programming can best serve the diverse local interests of a community.