Radio Imbroglio

January 18, 1989 1 min read

It is the sort of battle that begs to be cast in David-and-Goliath terms: a tiny radio station run by high-school stu23ldents faces near-extinction at the hands of a giant media conglomerate.

At least, that is the way it seems to people at Piper High School in Sunrise, Fla., who since 1983 have operated a 3,000-watt, “progressive-rock” fm station, WKPX.

When the station applied to the Federal Communications Commission for a long-term broadcast license this summer, it quickly ran into opposition from CBS, Inc., which had bought a Miami-based television outlet, WCIX, not long before.

The problem, say CBS officials, is that WKPX’s radio signal interferes with WCIX’s audio transmission. Viewers near the school receive the right picture, they say, but can hear only the radio broadcast.

Peter Gutman, a Washington lawyer representing the high-school station, says most of the interference problems were resolved back in 1983. Still, he concedes, it is simply “a law of physics that there will be some interference” in the vicinity of the school.

A big company like CBS should havep,23lknown that when it bought the television station, Mr. Gutman adds.

“We’re not looking to shut down the station as an educational tool for students,” insists WCIX’s promotions and marketing manager, Steve Weisberg.

Instead, CBS has suggested that WKPX could be assigned another frequency or have its wattage reduced significantly, or students could broadcast through a public-address system heard only on school grounds, he explains.

None of those ideas is acceptable to WKPX. “CBS thinks they’re being constructive, but their suggestions are so unappealing as to be worthless,” says Mr. Gutman.

“We’re not merely a training facility,” Mr. Gutman argues. Other community residents air their own broadcasts on weekends and holidays, and the station has developed a large public following.

The case is currently awaiting a decision by the fcc--jw

A version of this article appeared in the January 18, 1989 edition of Education Week as Radio Imbroglio