Friday, December 4, 2020
Dec. 4, 2020

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Local radio station braces for frequency interference

Vancouver’s KXRW-FM may lose battle for airwaves to Portland station

By , Columbian staff writer, and
, Columbian Staff Writer
Published:
2 Photos
“Outlaw country” DJ Gerald Gaule, left, plays classic country hits with station manager David Stepanyuk while on the air Monday morning. The station changed formats at the start of the year after being pushed off its frequency by a larger station, and now Vancouver-based KXRW is facing a similar issue from a larger station in Portland.
“Outlaw country” DJ Gerald Gaule, left, plays classic country hits with station manager David Stepanyuk while on the air Monday morning. The station changed formats at the start of the year after being pushed off its frequency by a larger station, and now Vancouver-based KXRW is facing a similar issue from a larger station in Portland. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Vancouver’s only local radio station, KXRW-FM, revealed last week that some local listeners might tune in and hear different voices through the airwaves soon.

Portland radio company Bustos Media has applied to broadcast on the same frequency — 99.9 FM — and its feed from across the Columbia River may overpower some of the local transmissions.

Radio industry experts say it’s not an uncommon occurrence, but KXRW worries that it could be a setback for the young, volunteer-run station.

“It’s pretty nerve-wracking,” said Susan Galaviz, chair of the radio station’s board of directors. The station launched in March to highlight politics, events and music in Southwest Washington.

“It took all of our efforts” to get launched, she said. “Our whole goal is to have a platform to educate and inform folks, and we were just starting to have all local Vancouver musicians on who never have their music on the radio. You can imagine what a bummer it would be if we can’t be heard in Vancouver.”

The extent of an interference is still uncharted. Filings with the Federal Communications Commission show that the new Portland transmission would likely cover parts of east Vancouver, Camas and Washougal.

Bustos Media could not be reached for comment.

Michael Brown, a 30-year industry veteran who is consulting for KXRW, said it is possible the impact could be wider, but he said it’s too soon to tell.

“In some cases, (the FCC) will underestimate or even in some cases overestimate the interference,” he said.

Galaviz and KXRW volunteers are collecting signatures from those who may be unable to hear the station. The hope is to petition the FCC to move Bustos to a separate frequency.

It would not be the first time a local station has been drowned out by Oregon competition.

KIEV-FM in Camas used to broadcast programs in Russian, Ukranian, Bosnian and other languages until one day, listeners heard something odd: the English language.

Station Manager David Stepanyuk, 33, said he discovered they were overpowered by an adult contemporary music station with a lot more capital behind it. The station ended up changing frequencies — and the name — on its own.

“Basically there was nothing we could do,” he said. “The full-powers have the full power.”

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