KPCW: Momentous deal to acquire Salt Lake station secures the future
Larry Warren, general manager and president of KPCW, and the rest of the local non-profit radio station’s leadership were dubious when they got the offer. There had to be a catch.
Broadway Media, a Salt Lake City-based radio and media company, was proposing to donate one of its top-rated stations to KPCW. All KPCW had to do in return was change its frequency on the dial — a switch Broadway Media would pay for and that would significantly strengthen KPCW’s local signal.
"This just kind of blew us away when it was offered," Warren said. "We were thrilled, but it started out as sounding too good to be true. We were skeptical, so we engaged three different law firms and three different broadcast engineers, and we looked at this every way possible. We could just not find a downside."
Several months later, the deal is done. KPCW announced Wednesday that it had agreed to acquire the station KUDD — which operates at 107.9 FM — from Broadway Media in exchange for moving from 91.9 FM to 91.7 FM on the dial. For KPCW, it represents a considerable windfall, Warren said.
"In terms of a donation, we’ve never received anything close to this," he said. "This one is highly significant. I can’t really put a dollar figure on it because the radio business is in such flux right now, but certainly this is the most significant donation this station has ever received. And it’s one that truly does, in somewhat uncertain times, secure our future."
Broadway Media’s motivation for striking the agreement stems from its plans to move its station KUUU from the Nephi area to Farnsworth Peak on the northern end of the Oquirrh Mountain Range near Tooele, a prime location for a Salt Lake station, Warren said. But that would have caused an overlap in the signal area of KUUU — 92.3 FM — with that of an upgraded signal KPCW had received prior FCC permission to build.
The FCC doesn’t allow such overlaps of frequencies that close on the dial, Warren said. To avoid the infringement, Broadway Media had to give KPCW a reason to change its signal frequency.
"That gives us enough separation on the dial that we’re not in their way, and they’re not in our way," he said. "So we both win in this deal, and that’s the best kind of deal. They get their upgrade, we get our upgrade — we just have to move our listeners down a click on the dial."
KPCW is now evaluating several options of what to do with its new station. KUDD, which KPCW will likely officially take over within the next two months, depending on FCC approval — is located near Coalville, but the signal is boosted to the Wasatch Front, stretching from Provo to Ogden. Warren said that one option is to sell the station, which is currently one of the top-rated in the state, to create an endowment for KPCW. But KPCW could also choose to program it for a Salt Lake audience or simulcast its Park City broadcast to commuters in the valley.
But whatever KPCW chooses to do, it will be with the best interests of its Summit and Wasatch county programming at heart.
"I just want it crystal clear that we’re not going to get distracted building a media empire," Warren said. "We are still focused on being the voice of the Wasatch Back, and that’s always going to be the focus. This KUDD donation is just a way of securing the future of this station."
As part of the agreement, KPCW’s signal strength on 91.7 FM will improve to 1,800 watts from its current 250 watts at 91.9 FM. That will allow the station to give listeners a more crisp sound and to reach areas the current signal can’t, such as some of Summit and Wasatch county’s traffic corridors.
Warren is not concerned about the switch causing confusion for listeners. He anticipates the change to occur around March 1 and by then, everyone will be well aware.
"The fact that we have such loyal listeners means we’re not terribly worried about losing them," he said. "We’re just going down a click, and we’re going to let everybody know. It’s not going to be a surprise when it happens."
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