Beat Radio

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
May 5, 1999

The Federal Communication Commission's proposal to license very-low-power FM radio stations has particularly important ramifications for a city like Arlington - or, for that matter, a North Richland Hills or Grand Prairie.

If Arlington, with almost 310,000 residents, were not located midway between Fort Worth and Dallas, it might host anywhere from two to a half dozen independent radio stations focusing primarily on the local market. Since it is expensive to operate a radio station, virtually all of those in existence here - with the possible exception of WRR/101.1 FM in Dallas - serve the entire Metroplex. Now new technology makes low-power stations relatively inexpensive to operate, and very local in range.

These "micro" broadcasters would operate with power levels as low as a single watt and as high as 1,000. Depending on antenna height and terrain, a 1-watt station might serve an area with a diameter of about two miles. A 1,000-watt station could serve an 18-mile area. With a central antenna site - let's say, from atop a building at the University of Texas at Arlington - one of these stations could serve all of Arlington on about the same power as a couple of 200-watt light bulbs.

We mention UT-Arlington because the university already has a communication department, and a micro station would be a valuable learning tool. Such a station might also operate as a cooperative - a way to help the university, city, churches, schools and other community groups communicate citywide. The city might also host more than one such local station.

As might be expected, the National Association of Broadcasters opposes this idea. But the micro station's advantages far outweigh any drawbacks.

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