KGEM/1140 AM Salt & Light Catholic Radio has launched a seprate website for its Spanish station – KCID/1490 AM. See it at salyluzradio.com
This post was left in comments on our earlier entry about the sale of KCID & KGEM to Salt and Light Radio. It is well thought out and though-provoking, so we’ll run it on the home page instead.
Even though this story was originally posted several weeks ago, I am surprised that there have not been more comments, concerns, and possibly a little outrage.
Outrage, you ask? Why would there be? The reason would be simply this: There is only a finite amount of spectrum space on both the AM and FM dials. This means that only so many stations will fit. Once the spectrum is full, it’s full. This means there will be no more room for new stations that could potentially have unique or local programming. Today, the spectrum is nearly full, and much of that spectrum space is already being hogged by religious broadcasters.
With Boise’s packed dial, religious newcomers have resorted to buying up existing commercial stations, as in the case of KGEM and KCID. Once these organizations acquire these signals, they will usually never amount to much more than a repeater for a satellite service. Also, history has shown that once a religious broadcaster gets a hold of a signal, they never let go. This amounts to a sad future for two stations with such an interesting past.
This should be at least a little cause for concern for Boise residents, because the process of signal acquisition by religious groups will inevitably have a negative impact on the quality and localism of radio programming. Whether you really think about it or not, the radio spectrum is all around us all of the time. Anyone with a radio or TV has access to the contents of our broadcast spectrum. It does not only belong to the FCC or broadcast corporations. It belongs to all Americans, and we should all care about it’s content.
Now, before I go any further, let me say that I do understand “Salt and Light Radio” is a network that we currently aren’t hearing here in Boise, and they are apparently going to offer Catholic based programming in both English and Spanish. Please understand that I have no problem with their organization, or their message. I have not heard their broadcast service. I am only taking issue with the amount of spectrum space that all religious broadcasters are consuming. Let me explain…
Somewhere around ten years ago, vacant channels on the Boise area FM dial started getting snatched up very quickly by religious broadcasters. Today, about 1/3 of the FM band is comprised of formats labeled as Religious, Christian, or Inspirational. Many of these stations are just broadcasting sterile sounding network satellite feeds. Many more are just translators that are re-broadcasting the same sterile sounding satellite feeds.
When you get down to brass tacks, you’ll see that, on just the FM band alone, there are 11 religion-based signals in Boise. (88.1, 88.3, 88.7, 89.1, 89.5, 90.9, 94.1, 95.7, 98.3, 99.9, 106.7.) Many of these are just low power translators, but a few, like KARO 98.7, are full power blow torches.
Perhaps there would be a legitimate reason for having this many religious stations in one market, if all of these signals had different and unique programming. However, that is not the case. Here is a perfect example of a religious organization, The Educational Media Foundation, wasting valuable spectrum space.
Three of the signals I previously mentioned, (88.3, 98.7, and 99.9) are simultaneously broadcasting identical program material- Air1 “Christian Alternative.” As I mentioned before, KARO 98.7 is a 100 kW blowtorch, so the other two signals are unnecessary. They do not offer significantly improved signal quality to areas not adequately covered by KARO, and it is worthy of mention, that both of their directional antennas are oriented to cover Boise.
Right now on the AM band, there are three religious formatted stations. (790, 950, 1060) These are included in the total of 10 AM stations that adequately cover Boise. Once 1140 KGEM and 1490 KCID become religion based stations, 5 out of 10 AM stations in Boise will broadcast religious formats. That’s half of ‘em, folks.
Here’s the worst part. The dial is packed so full of signals, that local and community stations are finding it difficult or impossible to squeeze their way into the market. It appears that only two FM frequencies (that are at least 3rd adjacent to existing stations) are still vacant in the Boise market. To my knowledge, they have already been applied for. (This lack of spectrum space is the reason for the big proposed frequency swap involving that 97.9-102.7 & 103.3-103.5 thingy.)
The AM band still has a little space left, but not much. Any remaining available frequencies would likely provide less than desirable nighttime coverage. (As did the now defunct KDJQ.) All of this simply means that as the number of religion based broadcasters increase, the number of other options naturally has to decrease.
Another byproduct of this transaction will be the cessation of any commercial AM stations in the Boise area broadcasting music. Fortunately, occasional musical programs are offered by KBSU AM (Assuming they don’t entirely lose their budget.) However, if you want music any time of the day from your antique radio collection, or your ’75 AMC Pacer’s factory AM radio, you better have a sensitive receiver and a good antenna. AM 1240 KMHI (Mountain Home, Classic Country), and 1380 KSRV AM (Ontario, OR, Country) will probably be all you can get. You’d better like country music.
It is sad that we have so many signals available to us, yet there are very few that actually offer any kind of quality local programming. Sadder yet: as of now, Boise has no community radio station at all. BCRP has been trying to get a signal on the air for years, but due to the saturation of the dial, they have had to settle for a transmitter site near Vale Oregon. As of yet, they are still off the air.
Back to KGEM and KCID: Why should we care? It’s only AM, right?
While it’s true that AM radio has some disadvantages, such as audio quality and interference, it is safe to say that AM is far from being dead. Look at the success of News-Talk formatted stations such as KBOI. Many markets have very successful AM stations that consistently stay at the top of the ratings heap.
KGEM and KCID’s lack of success in recent years was not due to the fact that they are AM. No, these stations died a slow, miserable death of starvation. Little to no funding has been given to those stations, and they have been broadcasting dull, lifeless satellite feeds. That is the fault of Journal Broadcast Group. Over the last about 7-8 years, they have directed most of their Boise radio budget to their FM’s, and sunk the big dollars into TV. While the company obviously has bigger goals, it is still a shame that KGEM and KCID were neglected as they were. Even in their pitiful state, Arbitron still indicated that they had some listeners.
Don’t think that these stations were let go because don’t have potential. KGEM, in particular, has gobs of potential. It’s signal is fabulous because it’s towers are right smack dab in the middle of the Boise bench. It broadcasts at 10,000 watts, day and night. At night, I have heard KGEM clearly as far away as Portland, Oregon. A few live bodies and some quality programming could have made something great out of this station.
KGEM also has a colorful history. Unfortunately I don’t know very much of it. I have heard a few tales like how irrigation line was used in place of copper transmission line during war-time shortages. During the Cold War, KGEM was required to install a bomb shelter, which back in the day, was fitted with a fully functional studio. Duck and cover! During the 1960’s KGEM used to be Boise’s popular music station. (Frostop diner story, anyone?)Sometime after that, KGEM simulcast the country music that was on KJOT FM, then re-established it’s independence after KJOT became J105 back in ’85. During the 80’s and early 90’s, KGEM actually broadcast in AM Stereo! I’ll bet you forgot about that that little attempt at a cutting edge technology that never really was. As recently as 2001, KGEM had a live, local morning show. Unfortunately, the budget was severed and the format was changed to “Good Time Oldies.” The Old Cassia building was left and all but forgotten about.
KCID doesn’t have the high powered signal, but it has always been the little local station that could. Back in the day, KCID AM and FM brought local programming with a personal touch to Canyon County. Lately, KCID AM has been treated more like the nuisance in the broom closet at the Journal building.
All of what these stations could have been, now will never be. Well, as long as the FCC approves the deal. I hope that Salt and Light Radio thanked you for the great deal, Journal.
In addition to KTVB’s News at Five airing (live and repeated) on 630 KIDO – KIVI’s news is now simulcast on KGEM/1140 AM. KIVI’s morning news, 5pm, 6pm, 6:30pm and 10pm shows now air live.
Speaking of KGEM – have you gone to their website lately? The “new” (1140kgem.com) site disappeared… and has been replaced by a generic splash page.
All the other JBG sites are registered to “Journal Broadcast Group Technology Services.” 1140kgem.com is registered to “Tate McColly Applied Marketing.”
The Boise Burn’s second season is underway – and the games are again on the radio – partnering with KGEM-AM again this year.