UTICA-ROME -- If you've been eager to find out what the new owners of 1450 WKAL/Rome plan to do with the signal, it appears you'll have to wait a bit longer. After WKAL's owners told the FCC it had finally resumed full-time broadcasting for the first time in nearly a year, the station went silent again just three days later, citing "technical difficulties." Nearly another month later, and the station remains dark.
Thanks to a CNYRadio.com reader who pointed out the absence of a signal at 1450AM, a bit too far from CNYRadio.com HQ to check it out for ourselves. We didn't need to get out to the Rome area to verify the silence for ourselves -- it's all detailed in FCC records.
Tune In Broadcasting purchased the station -- formerly WYFY, then WRUY -- from Bible Broadcasting Network in May 2011. Because of Bible Broadcasting Network's status as a non-commercial operator, the station was exempt from the FCC requirement to maintain a local studio. When BBN owned WYFY, the station was nothing more than an AM transmitter relaying satellite-fed religious programming (with minimal automation equipment to broadcast EAS alerts and top-of-hour legal IDs, of course).
When Tune In took control of the station, the request to temporarily take the station dark was reasonable: the FCC requires commercial stations to maintain a local studio, and a sales contract filed with the FCC demonstrated that Tune In was only purchasing the transmitter building and the land it sits on in Rome, but not the towers, satellite dishes or any other equipment. Tune In said it would need time to construct the necessary facilities to resume broadcast operations.
The initial STA was requested on May 19, 2011 and granted on July 18, 2011. At that time, the FCC gave Tune In 180 days to get the station back on the air. Four days prior to that January 14, 2012 deadline, Tune In requested an extension. The FCC issued another approval, but this time, warned that the station's license "will automatically expire as a matter of law if broadcast operations do not commence by 12:01 a.m., May 7, 2012." FCC regulations forbid stations from remaining silent for more than one year.
A couple weeks later, a local broadcast engineer reported hearing the station running a loop of public service announcements and legal IDs for a brief time one Friday evening. The next day, the signal was silent again.
Fast-forward to May 4, just three days before the FCC's final deadline for the station -- which had since changed its call sign to WKAL -- to resume broadcasting. Tune In Broadcasting filed a "Resumption of Operations" form with the FCC, stating "the station has returned to the air with full authorized facilities."
But, as our most-recent tipster points out, there's nothing on 1450AM today. That's because on May 16, Tune In filed a new "Notification of Suspension of Operations / Request for Silent STA" with the FCC. Though the document was filed on May 16, it states WKAL went silent on May 7, 2012, "due to technical difficulties." It goes on to explain that the STA is requested "to remain silent while the technical problems are evaluated."
Though the latest application doesn't explain the nature of the "technical difficulties," nor does it provide any indication as to how long the silence will continue, the request was "Accepted for Filing" by the FCC on May 18. That means the FCC is likely to approve the request, though it remains to be seen exactly how much time will be granted.
Having been associated with WKAL in many capacities from my high school days in the late 60's, to even still working for other owners in the same building until 1988, I think the new owners have a difficult road ahead in getting the station on the air properly, with any type of decent sound quality.
Having driven by their transmitter and tower site on South Jay Street in Rome last week, I can tell you even if they were on the air, most of the signal would probably end up int he ground. The trees, weeds, brush, etc, is literally half the height of the 268 foot tower. And, much of that stuff is surrounding, or, in between the guy wires. I'm surprised the darn tower has toppled again like it did back in 1968 when I was in the building at 4:12-PM when if fell during a freak rain storm.
Not sure where the owners operations are coming from, but there is nothing at the South Jay Street location except the tower, small transmitter shed, and either one or two satellite dishes.
Would love to meet the new owners. They might find my knowledge of the station and area helpful to their future plans