On Radio: KMCQ-FM/104.5 still off the air after several weeks
Future of station unknown
By BILL VIRGIN
Mercer Island High School's radio station, KMIH-FM/88.9, recently turned on an FM translator at 94.5 in Seattle, vastly improving the station's reception for listeners on the west side of Lake Washington.
That was one more step in a lengthy and complex series of moves set up to accommodate a move into the regional market by an Oregon-based commercial station.
Which brings up a question: Whatever happened to that station?
At the moment, nothing appears to be happening with KMCQ-FM/104.5. The station has been off the air for several weeks, and there's no explanation as to why or when it might return.
Calls and e-mails to the station's owners and operators, Dallas-based First Broadcasting Capital Partners (which also goes by Broadcast Management & Technology), weren't returned.
KMCQ's owners had received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to transfer its city of license from The Dalles, Ore., in the Columbia River Gorge, to Covington, and to operate a transmitter near Enumclaw. Because KMIH and KMCQ shared the same frequency, and the latter had a higher-class license, KMIH was faced with the likelihood of going off the air if its signal interfered with KMCQ.
Instead the station enlisted support from political leaders and the community sufficient to force a compromise in which KMIH got a new home on the dial (a small Bellevue station was also moved to make it work).
After KMIH moved to 88.9, KMCQ went on the air last fall with automated programming of rock and pop from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but with no advertisements, DJs (although listeners reported hearing an occasional afternoon host in recent weeks) or announcers, other than for brief station identifications.
That was fine with listeners who found the station. "The fact that they played absolutely no commercials was great, but made me worry for their long term viability," one wrote to the Seattle P-I.
Indeed, plans for the station have been subject to conjecture ever since the move was proposed. Although the station's owners cited the lack of local service for Covington as a reason for the move in their application, critics argued that the move was merely an attempt to grab a share of the much larger Seattle-Tacoma radio market and sell it for a higher price.
First Broadcasting has also been seeking to move the station's transmitter from Enumclaw to Cougar Mountain, providing a stronger signal in Seattle. But that would require the move of a station in Bellingham, which in turn has run aground on a frequency allocation in Vancouver, B.C.
A First Broadcasting executive said recently that the company is still working to resolve those issues, but if it's not successful it will sell KMCQ as currently configured.
But the plans to sell the station, whatever its location, have hit additional snags -- the credit squeeze and a downturn in the radio advertising market that have cooled deal-making in the business.
Some deals are still being made. In fact, First Broadcasting recently completed the sale of an AM and an FM station in Forks to a local, Steve Rhyner.
In other radio notes:
Ryan Seacrest may be best known as the host of "American Idol" on television, but he's also a radio host, and his nationally syndicated show of music and entertainment news will be added to KBKS-FM/106.1 from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays beginning Monday. Kristin the Island Girl will continue her show from 10 a.m. to noon, then be the local producer for Seacrest's show.
The Metropolitan Opera performs Puccini's "La Rondine" at 10 a.m. Saturday on KING-FM/98.1.
Jim Wilke's "Jazz Northwest" at 1 p.m. Sunday on KPLU-FM/88.5 features a recent performance by Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts.
P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or email@example.com.
Bill Virgin's Radio Beat, Thursdays in the Seattle P-I