Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Q&A: Maximum Power

Questions, oh we get questions. By the way, you can send comments or questions to the link listed at the bottom of each post (where it says "comments"). Here's one from reader "LaughingBoy": why are some FM stations more powerful than others, and what's the limit?

The FCC limit for max power on an FM station is 100kw -- unless you've been on the air since before 1960 and had more power to start with. Case in point: KZZO-100.5 Sacramento began operation in 1958 at 115kw, and remains at that power to this day. It is "grandfathered" into that power, and there's no other 100.5 signal for quite some distance.

Class "C" FM stations in Sacramento generally operate at 50kw, because they have either very tall towers or antennas located at higher elevations. Because of the area's unique terrain, less power is needed to cover more ground. KGBY-92.5, KYMX-96.1, KSEG-96.9, KRXQ-98.5, KSFM-102.5, KNCI-105.1, KWOD 106.5 and KDND-107.9 all operate at 50kw power, and each of their antennas are located at better than 400 feet above average terrain.

On the other end of the scale, there are regional FM stations, or Class "A" stations, that are designed to serve smaller population centers. Examples of these include KBDB-92.1 Placerville (3kw), KXCL-103.9 Lincoln (6kw), KTTA-97.9 Esparto (6kw). Those stations were not originally designated to serve large population centers when first licensed by the FCC, but in the era of deregulation station owners opted to move them to larger areas to be more competitive (all the stations listed above are operated from Sacramento).

Actually, all station listed as Class "C" in your blog are actually Class "B", with the exception of KZZO. KZZO is directional, as it is short spaced with another station. It has (or at least had) the opportunity to downgrade to a full "B", and go non-directional, but the owners at the time decided not to do that (I was Engineer there at the time)
You can easily look this up at . It's a great resource.
I'd take issue with your use of the word "competitive."

As you've no doubt noticed, none of the Class A "rimshots" you've mentioned as examples has been competitive in the Sacramento market.

Use of the word "profit" or "profitable" might be more accurate.

KXCL's seller First Broadcasting moved it from Yuba City in order to sell it to a company that was willing to pay big market prices for a small market signal ("improved" is what they'd label it.) in or near Sacramento.

One wonders whether First made a profit after purchasing the station, legal and engineering costs, and that big "TA DA" it splashed all over television when it first signed on in early 2004 with 10,000 songs in a row.

Then there's the other kind of "profitable," when an owner targets a bigger market with a small-market station in order to make more money per commercial.

KHYL, 101.1, Auburn did that years ago with oldies, and became the first (or one of the first) way out of town stations to succeed in making a dent in the Sacramento market.

In the same era, KSFM, 102.5 Woodland did so as Earth Radio 102... but its transmitter is closer to Sacramento, near Roads 29 and 102 between Woodland and Davis.

Both of these stations are way more powerful than the Class A's mentioned.

If I recall correctly, the former KFBK-FM, 92.1, Sacramento was a Class C with 100KW from less than 300 feet next to the Bee Building downtown, and kept that power when it moved to the still-McClatchy owned tower a couple of blocks away on R St. That 300 foot tower is currently the home of KBMB, 103.5, a Class A 6KW facility.

When 92.1 (by then, KAER) was sold by McClatchy, it moved to its current home on a 500 foot tower in Elverta and changed class and power.

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