Council to explore options of FM radio transmissions

By Dan Jacobson

Forget trying to tune in to your favorite non-local FM radio station—they are not there anymore.

A hearing will be held for DeKalb residents to come and voice their concerns and opinions on what they are getting when they tune in to the FM frequency at 7 p.m. Monday, at the city municipal building, 200 S. Fourth St.

On Oct. 5th, Warner Cable stopped transmitting FM radio stations to the DeKalb area. The discontinuance was in response to the retransmission consent rules stated in the Cable and Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992.

Assistant City Manager Dean Kruitof said the current franchise agreement DeKalb has with Warner states that 40 FM stations be available to the local area.

Andrew Bast, general manager of Warner Cable Co., said FM stations were randomly received by DeKalb customers.

“The technology we had was a large antenna on top of our 400-foot tower. Whatever hit the antenna would come in and at any one time we could not predict what channel would be coming in,” Bast said.

Under the new regulations, Warner would have to get the consent of every FM station that would come in on DeKalb radios. If a station came in that did not want to be broadcast in this area, it would be against federal law.

Kruitof said the public hearing is for the public to help the city council find a solution.

“We want to make sure what the residents of DeKalb are provided with is what they want,” he said.

Bast said Warner is offering an alternative to retransmitting and therefore has to gain consent of every station.

“Legally and technically we are no longer able to offer FM service as it was before Oct. 5th,” Bast said. “Instead of getting consent of stations, we are offering Digital Cable Radio (DCR).”

“The DCR system would offer 30 music stations with no commercials, no D.J.s, just song after song,” he said. The cost including 30 channels, a converter and a master control would be $5.95 per month.

Sycamore and Rochelle already are using the DCR system as an alternative to FM radio. Bast said Warner Cable is waiting on an approval from the DeKalb City Council to start marketing the DCR system or to find another alternative.

Some of the alternatives would be to retransmit the FM frequencies, which would involve buying new equipment that Bast said the cost of which has not yet been determined, transmitting the DCR system with FM channels included in the frequency or having the DCR system with a separate FM frequency.

“With the unintended consequences (of losing FM channels) we feel moved that we have been able to offer customers with a very good alternative,” he said. “We are replacing a mediocre service with a truly enhanced service.”

WKDI General Manager Ketan Shah said he thinks the DCR will lessen the amount of ears listening to his station. “I think it’s pretty silly that we are not carried over Warner Cable.

“It’s going to hurt our listenership in the sense of the in-home listeners,” he said.

Shah said WKDI is broadcast from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on AM radio and FM. At 6 p.m., the station leaves the AM station and can only be reached on the FM station. Prospective listeners are only able to listen to the station if they are in the residence halls, although a new FM transmitter is almost completed.

“This is inconvenient for our off-campus listeners who might want to listen to us while studying,” Shah said.