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LPA dialing up own FM station

—Bill Diven

On February 20, the Las Placitas Association’s application to build a low-power FM station, operating at 99.9 megahertz, was granted by the Federal Communications Commission.

“This is the first time in many years a community has even had the opportunity to do this,” Joan Fenicle of LPA said. “This all just happened yesterday, and we have 18 months to figure this out.”

In that time, LPA will have to raise funds to build a studio, set up its transmitter, decide on content, and line up volunteer broadcasters. Startup costs are estimated at twenty thousand dollars.

By law, the station must be operated by a nonprofit, have an educational mission, and not sell commercial time. “We have a vision for the programming, but that will depend on the volunteers,” Fenicle said. “We want to celebrate the art, history, and culture of this community.”

Feedback, so far, indicates that potential listeners don’t want talk radio filled with community bickering, she added. Programming could include everything from local news and lost pets to music, poetry, and wildfire alerts. A community radio board likely will be created to oversee content and operations.

The station plans to broadcast using an existing tower above Placitas village also used by Verizon’s cell-phone network. The studio site has yet to be confirmed but will need line-of-sight to the tower. At 93 watts of power, the broadcast signal will reach more or less 3.5 miles depending on terrain before becoming available to the digital world.

“Our eventual goal is to stream on the Internet,” Fenicle said. A further goal is to spin off the station from LPA to its own nonprofit corporation. “We’re not in the business of running radio stations,” she continued. “We’re doing this as a community service.”

New Mexico currently has nine licensed LPFM stations, six with religious affiliations and another based in Dixon, operated by the Embudo Library, according FCC records. Another dozen stations, in addition to Placitas’, have received construction permits and twelve more are shown in the application stage although some of those also have now received construction permits.

The FCC established the low-power radio service in 2000, offering licenses to educational, public safety, and transportation organizations. Late last year it opened a one-month window for filing new applications and received more than 2,800 from around the country.

Comments and offers to help can be directed to the Las Placitas Association at info@lasplacitas.org.

 

 
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