Utah’s KPCW receives donation of FM signal

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The holidays came early for KPCW-FM in Park City, Utah, Dec. 1 when a local commercial broadcaster gave it an FM station.

Salt Lake City–based Broadway Media donated its 107.9 FM signal to KPCW, including the transmitter and antenna. Broadway is also paying for a new transmission facility for KPCW.

Broadway Media made the donation as an “incentive package” for KPCW to move its signal down the FM dial, according to KPCW President and General Manager Larry Warren. Both KPCW and Broadway Media were looking to upgrade their signals — KPCW’s 91.9 FM and Broadway’s 92.3 FM — but were in each other’s way, said Warren, and KPCW had priority over Broadway to upgrade.

So in addition to donating the 107.9 FM station to KPCW, Broadway Media offered to cover what KPCW will spend to move its 91.9 FM signal to 91.7 FM. Broadway is also paying for construction of new transmission facilities at a higher power level, KPCW’s marketing to publicize its signal shift, and a 30-year prepaid tower lease.

Upgrading KPCW’s signal will probably cost in the six figures, Warren said, and the donated signal is likely worth something in the “low millions.”

“Suddenly we have a path to get the signal improvement we want simply from moving one click to the left,” Warren said. “It’s really a win-win deal. . . . Each side gets a better signal, and we get the biggest donation we’ve ever received.”

KPCW’s upgrade from 250 to 6,000 watts will give it a clearer signal in its service area of Summit and Wasatch counties, east of Salt Lake City. When KPCW began broadcasting, “250 watts was enough because people mostly lived in a five-mile radius,” Warren said. “Now that radius has expanded up into mountain ranges and valleys” where the signal isn’t as clear, he said.

KPCW is still weighing what to do with the donated signal of 107.9 FM. It could simulcast KPCW on the station, air new programming or sell it. The station plans to decide by June of next year, Warren said.

If the station does sell the signal, it would create an endowment to supplement its budget. “Any additional income we get we will pour back into local programming,” Warren said.

“This station struggled through the national recession,” Warren said. “This donation will help us even out the financial cycles and keep us going no matter what the economy is doing. For us, it’s really a game-changer.”

The agreement is awaiting approval from the FCC.