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As close as your continent.

Sunday, 31 January, 2010

From January 2008 to March 2009 KCPW-AM in Salt Lake City was a 24-hour outlet for BBC programming. Mostly the World Service with some Radio 4 content in the midday and afternoon drive. Although officially run through the auspices of SLC’s Public Radio organization, it was programmed entirely from London.

This experiment is regarded as a noble failure. KCPW was one of the few MW Public Radio stations ever licensed. Today under new calls, 1010 in SLC has changed owners and is predictably religious. The FCC was anxious about foreigners fully programming a radio station on their territory.

According to the grapevine:

Since sometime in 2008, owners of underutilized radio stations in the US have received offers from China Radio International. The substance of these offers is unclear, but a consortium of Chinese media companies and the state broadcaster are working together to find space on the radio dials in the United States.

The only radio station, so far, to accept this arrangement is on the air now. IDing as “CRI, Beyond Beijing, KGBC 1540, Galveston-Houston” with a Galveston, Texas city of license. Until the late 90’s KGBC was a proper old-school, full-service AM serving Galveston and environs. This independent station has flirted with closure for some time; the overall nature of the new arrangement is not clear. What is clear, however, KGBC has applied to change their COL as an presumed first step to formally broadcast into Houston, as the ID suggests. Some of my misgivings about Houston (soccer mom, strong social contrasts, &c.) may be unfounded as the city has, today, a 24-hour WRN outlet, via HD, with other “public” stations leasing time to international broadcasters. KGBC is licensed today as a commercial station, even if they have only one client.

I find myself wondering if all these new-to-us international programs have something to do with the collapse of the Christian-Center movement and the availability of all that time they used to clear on the under-92 part of the FM dial.

Incidentally, the night time pattern of KGBC predominantly covers the Gulf. Whether this is somehow useful or subject to change is not at all clear.

CRI is the only non-US-based broadcaster with a 24-hour broadcasting presence in the US today. As I type, I am listening to their stream which is a program of contemporary, hip-hop-prominent Western hits with host for whom English is clearly not his first language. Not at all oddly, they are doing top-of-the-hour news from a distinctly Chinese perspective and promoting non-music programming. That is, the Chinese are attempting a proper old-school, full-service AM, which Americans won’t so much as try. As close as we get to that is syndicated talk, rarely sweetened with local hosts.

It’s like we’re being Radio Sawa’d.

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