Local radio listeners might notice a new broadcast on their FM dials within a few weeks—Janesville's WCLO radio.
Through a plan developed over several months, Janesville-based WCLO radio will begin pushing its 1230 AM broadcast through to FM radio airwaves, creating a simultaneous broadcast of the station's full news, talk, sports and community programming on both the AM and FM radio bands.
The change likely will hit the air by early November, WCLO Station Manager Mike O'Brien said Thursday. It means radio listeners could tune into WCLO's regular broadcast at WCLO 1230 AM and at the station's new, 250-watt FM frequency, 92.7.
On Thursday, contractors began erecting a 30-foot steel mast on the roof of Bliss Communications' print plant and distribution facility off Wuthering Hills Drive on Janesville's east side. The mast will house an antenna, transmitter and radio frequency “translator” equipment that will allow WCLO to convert its AM broadcast signal to FM, O'Brien said.
WCLO radio is owned by Bliss Communications, the parent company of The Gazette.
O'Brien said before WCLO activates its simulcast, the new FM equipment will be tested to ensure its geographic reach is within federal standards. When the FM broadcast hits the air, it will add a new platform for WCLO to reach listeners in addition to the station's AM broadcast and its online, streaming broadcasts at WCLO.com, O'Brien said.
“It's really about trying to unlock every possible platform where radio listeners might tune in,” O'Brien said.
New Federal Communications Commission rules allow AM radio stations to obtain licensing and construction rights to build FM radio transmitters and use them to broadcast on AM and FM simultaneously under certain guidelines.
O'Brien said WCLO in January 2016 registered for federal approval to construct equipment and operate an FM radio simulcast, and the station's worked through layers of federal regulatory review and its own planning to find an appropriate spot for new broadcast equipment. He said WCLO is among about 15 percent of AM stations nationwide working on similar plans.
It's part of a trend by radio station operators to broaden the reach and appeal of AM radio to some demographic groups, particularly millennials, and to offer more platforms for advertisers who use radio.
“We believe that this (AM and FM simulcast) will improve listenership for people who tend to tune to FM radio habitually. It could especially appeal to millennials, who tend to find FM radio more relevant,” O'Brien said.
O'Brien said an emerging smartphone technology—built-in FM radio chips—is a major driver in WCLO's plans to broadcast on FM. When activated, the chips can allow people to listen to local FM radio stations on their smartphones without tapping their digital data.
“It's like using a smartphone as a transistor radio,” he said.
Some phones already have such technology, and O'Brien said analysts predict FM chips will become standard in future smartphones. He said that makes FM a potentially powerful tool to tap listeners in WCLO's reach who rely heavily on wireless electronic devices.
WCLO's evening broadcast, including sportscasts, could benefit from the company's new reach into FM.
O'Brien explained that the new FM station is intended to bring a clearer broadcast to listeners on the edges of WCLO's listening area who might experience waning AM radio reception at dusk.
Chad Lette, technical services and facilities director at Bliss Communications, said WCLO chose Bliss's east side print plant to house its new FM equipment in part because the facility is on a high, flat area, which will help elevate FM transmissions and give them a clear path.
O'Brien said WCLO considered installing its new FM equipment at Bliss Communications' headquarters in downtown Janesville, where WCLO houses its studios, but the downtown office was not an ideal fit for the new equipment.
Source : gazettextra.com