Cantwell Helps Broker FCC-Approved Deal to Keep Local High School Radio Stations on Air

Agreement will preserve, improve Mercer Island, Peninsula, Bellevue High School stations; Senator continues push to encourage community radio

WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday, the FCC removed the final barrier to an agreement brokered by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) allowing KMIH to move from 104.5 FM to 88.9 FM, ensuring that the Mercer Island High School FM radio station can remain on the air. KMIH’s future became uncertain when, in 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed KMCQ—a full power station operating in The Dalles, Oregon—to move to Covington, Washington, and broadcast a high power signal on 104.5 FM.

According to FCC rules, a full power station such as KMCQ has priority over a low-power station like KMIH. KMCQ’s signal not only would have forced KMIH off the air, but would have forced one of Peninsula High School’s translator stations, also operating on 104.5 FM, off the air as well. The Peninsula High School translator station serves the community of Gig Harbor.

“KMIH has been a vital part of the Seattle radio community for over 35 years,” said Cantwell. “A number of on-air personalities as well as many individuals working behind the scenes here in Seattle got their first taste of live radio at KMIH. I’m glad I was able to help keep this station on the air by bringing all parties together to fashion a solution that works for everyone. This complex agreement could only come together because of the strong sense of community within our public and commercial local radio stations. I want to thank all those involved for making this work.”

Under current FCC rules, there were no other frequencies available for KMIH or the Peninsula High School translator station to move to unless other local stations also agreed to change frequencies, and additional stations agreed not to oppose the changes. Over the past year and a half, Cantwell worked with Mercer Island High School, Peninsula High School, the owners of KMCQ, Bellevue High School, and FCC Chairman Martin, as well as several other area stations affected by the proposed frequency changes, to broker a deal preserving the Mercer Island, Peninsula, and Bellevue High School radio stations.

The deal also allows Bellevue High School’s radio station, KASB, to change from 89.3 FM to 89.9 FM and increase its broadcasting power to better serve its community. Under the arrangement, the owners of KMCQ—the full-power commercial station moving from The Dalles to Covington—agreed to pick up all costs associated with the agreement. Cantwell has long worked to support low-power FM radio and encourage media diversity, and has teamed up with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to introduce legislation that would encourage more community radio stations nationwide. Cantwell and McCain were able to add this legislation as an amendment to a broader communications bill approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in June.

Last week, the FCC also approved Spokane-area low-power FM station KYRS’s Cantwell-backed bid to move from 95.3 FM to 88.9 FM. This station had been threatened by a full-power station’s move closer to the Spokane area.