Radio – With Video?

If you spin the radio dial to the very bottom of the FM band in Anchorage, Alaska – and then go a little lower – you’ll find a pleasant surprise. There’s a radio station there.
Broadcasting on 87.7 MHz with 920 watts of power, KZND ‘The End’ is causing quite a stir in Anchorage. It was first stumbled upon by an intrepid newspaper columnist and offers “alternative music” to the masses.
But the KZND is out-of-bounds. The FCC says any FM radio station must fall on a frequency between 88 and 108 MHz, and must have a minimum broadcast power of 100 watts. KZND, by broadcasting on 87.7, falls outside the parameters the FCC allows for legal radio broadcasting.
So where’s the FCC and its crackdown crackpots? They usually jump all over low power radio stations. Especially those so open and bombastic about their existence. But KZND continues to operate.
How? KZND has an FCC license, but not for radio – it’s a low power television station. Technically, it’s not even governed by the radio powers-that-be!
KZND’s creator found a small loophole in FCC regulations governing LPTV – one that allows such stations to operate their audio and video signals separately.
KZND is following all the rules for a television station. It’s broadcasting a video signal on Channel 6, but only showing a still image. And, conveniently, the frequency used to broadcast audio on Channel 6 neighbors the FM broadcast band. There’s even been a proposal floated to the FCC to allow low power radio stations on the frequency used by KZND – most people’s radio receivers can reach down to 87.7, so the potential listener base is there.
FCC regulations do not mandate what a low power television station must program, either visually or aurally. So long as KZND fills Channel 6 with something, it can go hog wild with whatever it wants to on the audio side. In this case, KZND is radio masquerading as TV.
Other commercial radio broadcasters in the Anchorage area are reportedly furious with KZND. They see the station as “unfair competition.” But any legal challenge to KZND has yet to be filed with the FCC – and as far as the agency is concerned, there’s no problem.
Ironically, the same people who started KZND already own a television station there. KZND’s program director and morning show host, J.J. Michaels, is a longtime veteran of the market’s commercial radio scene.
Some may say that KZND’s ingenious method of getting on the air is being wasted by providing Anchorage with more commercial radio, but the labor involved in bringing KZND to life is worth closer examination to others looking for a way to beat the system at its own game.