FM station’s fate rests with its new ownership
As an Austin, Texas-based company prepares to buy one of Nevada County’s few locally-owned FM radio stations, representatives of the current and prospective owners say there are no immediate plans to discontinue station operations; however, that option has not been ruled out.
Bob Breck, chief executive and general manager of Nevada County Broadcasters Inc., said any talk of KNCO-FM leaving the airwaves is premature at this point, a statement echoed by the radio station’s prospective owners.
“There’s no reason to believe that the station will close,” said Chris McMurray, vice president of station acquisitions for First Broadcasting LP, which is wrapping up its $3 million purchase of KNCO-FM, better known as “Star 94.3.”
The Grass Valley station has an identical frequency as another station First Broadcasting owns in Jackson, Amador County. There is often interference between the two frequencies.
The interference problem led Breck’s group to unsuccessfully lobby the Federal Communications Commission for a wider signal band before selling to First Broadcasting.
For now, KNCO-FM will continue broadcasting a mix of Top 40 and adult-contemporary hits.
Breck said the new owners are looking to upgrade KNCO-FM’s wattage to 25,000 watts — four times the power the station currently sends over the airwaves. The station’s reach now extends south to Auburn, north to Red Bluff and west to Yuba City.
KNCO-FM broadcasts Bear River High football contests. Breck said he’s working on getting coverage of Bear River and Nevada Union high schools basketball games on the AM dial.
As for what might happen to local coverage of Bear River football, Breck said, “It’s premature at this point to say if those games won’t be broadcast.”
Sister station KNCO-AM (830) is home to broadcasts of NU sporting events.
It’s also unclear how many disc jockeys at the FM operation will move over to the AM side, though Breck hopes to retain as many of the 20-25 employees at both stations as he can.
“Our goal here is to keep as many people on as possible,” Breck said.
With the sale of KNCO-FM scheduled to close by early January, Nevada County Broadcasters Inc. is still very much in the market for other radio stations, said Breck.
“Our goal would be if we were to purchase another frequency, to move the whole (FM) operation there,” he said Monday.
While “Star 94.3” programming includes a popular morning show with hosts Michelle Shockley and Tom Fitzsimmons, the AM counterpart features news, local and syndicated talk-show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, and the popular “Swap Shop” call-in program.
In the meantime, a company called Grass Valley Broadcasting was recently granted a construction permit for an FM station using the frequency103.3, though information about the group is scant.
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