One of Our DJs Is Missing


Five years ago, when the FCC suggested squeezing new low-power stations into the spaces between bigger broadcasters, the industry bellowed that chaos would erupt on the airwaves. Few mentioned that the commission had already licensed many low-power outlets from the late 1940s to the late 1970s: the Class D stations, run by schools and community groups. The policy stopped not because it led to chaos or interference, but because National Public Radio was trying to build a network and thought the smaller outlets were in its way.

In 1978, the government gave the Class D's two years to boost their power and acquire a higher-class license. After that, they wouldn't be protected from interference anymore, effectively allowing any newcomer to bump them off the dial. One station that took its chances was KMIH, a.k.a. X104, a high school station in Mercer Island, Washington.

Enter KMCQ, a 100,000-watt outfit that broadcasts "a customized blend of contemporary adult hits" over the same frequency in Oregon. It plans to move its license to Covington, Washington, where it would blow the smaller outlet off the air. (The concealed goal, the students argue, is a foothold in the lucrative Seattle market.) X104 has been trying to save itself for several years; now it has an ally in Sen. Maria Cantwell, who has proposed a bill to protect several of the remaining Class D stations by changing their status to Class A, thus removing the possibility that a latecomer could expropriate their frequencies.

In other broadcasting news, college radio is coming to Afghanistan. Could zines and 7-inch indie labels be far behind?