Anatomy of a move-in turn-down


Broadcast TowerThe request by M&M Broadcasters Ltd. to move KWBT-FM Mexia TX into the Waco market isn’t completely dead in the water, but the FCC found more than enough reasons to turn it down. In short, it’s a tough time to try to exit a rural area for an urbanized area.

The target city of license for KWBT is Bellmead TX. M&M states that Mexia would not be left high and dry if KWBT exits, as it would still be served by KLRK-AM.

The first thing the FCC noticed, however, was the proximity of Bellmead to Waco, and the fact that the new station parameters would provide coverage of 84% of the Waco market. It therefore treated the proposal as a move into the Waco market rather than an attempt to provide first service to Bellmead.

It noted that Bellmead is considered to be part of the Waco advertising market and that even though Bellmead has its own local government, the Waco bus system services the community.

Nonetheless, M&M stated that Bellmead was “culturally” divided from Waco due to its high minority population – 34.5% of which was said to be Caucasian compared to 69.8% for Waco as a whole. M&M proposed to provide programming aimed at the African-American audience.

The FCC had two points on that count – first, African-Americans make up only 17.5% of the Bellmead population and 21.5% of the Waco population, a comparison that tilts the wrong way in light of M&M’s argument; and further, that there was no requirement and therefore no guarantee that M&M would continue to use an African-American format once it executed the move to Bellmead.

Netiher was the FCC moved by M&M’s argument that the KWBT is already considered part of the Waco market, even if it doesn’t cover the urbanized portion, and that granting the city of license change would enhance its financial viability and therefore its ability to serve the public interest. The Commission, however, is more concerned with the station leaving the citizens of Mexia stranded, something which runs counter to current policy priorities.

The FCC concluded, “We therefore do not find that the relocation is supported by the alleged need for KWBT’s current programming. Consistent with the Commission’s stated goal of protecting listeners in smaller communities and rural areas from the loss of needed transmission and reception services, we conclude that the public interest would be better served by retention of Station KWBT as a second local transmission service at Mexia, rather than by the addition of  an eighth local transmission service at Waco.”

M&M was given 30 days to “correct all deficiencies” in its application and try again.

KWBT is a Class A on 104.9 MHz with 2.85 kW @ 482’. Located east of Waco, it does not put a primary signal over the city but does reach it with the weak outer-reaches of its contour.

RBR-TVBR observation: It would appear that the days of the freshly-granted Docket 80-90-style rim-shotter are over. It will apparently take an extraordinarily compelling showing to get an existing station close to a rated market under the current FCC administration.

That’s not good news for the owners of stations just out of reach of a rated market, and its even worse news for the more creative engineers out there who dream up possible upgrade and move-in projects.

But somebody’s dark cloud is almost always someone else’s silver lining, and in this case it is the marginal stations already in a market that at least won’t have to worry about increased competition from a brand new marginal signal. For those of you with long memories, the rim-shot generation of stations, coupled with an economic down cycle, made life impossible for a number of radio groups back in the early 90s, and you can draw a direct line from the events of that period to the consolidated radio industry we have today.