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Clearing the air

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Clearing the air
Steven Oberbeck. The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah: Sep 24, 2005. pg. C.3

Abstract (Document Summary)
Since it started broadcasting in October 2002, the tiny, nonprofit KAAJ radio has ingrained itself into the daily life of Monticello, a town of about 2,000 in southwestern Utah some 60 miles south of Moab.

Communications consultant John Broomall, whose Christian Community Broadcasters in Atlanta helped KAAJ and well over 100 other low-power stations get on the air, said there is a rich broadcasting tradition among churches and ministries.

KAAJ traces its beginning to a Federal Communications Commission decision five years ago that authorized licenses for low-wattage radio stations capable of broadcasting a signal only a limited distance, typically three to 10 miles.

Full Text (902 words)
Copyright Salt Lake Tribune Sep 24, 2005
MONTICELLO -- Pastor John Williams of the First Baptist Church was sitting in his office three years ago when a listener called to complain about the offensive programming carried on the church's new low-power radio station, KAAJ - LP.

A Monticello councilman uttered a profanity during the town meeting the night before and KAAJ, which was carrying the meeting live, broadcast the expletive throughout the city.

"It's the only complaint we've ever received," Williams said. "Since then, members of the city council have gotten used to the idea their remarks are being broadcast. We like to think that maybe we've helped clear the air a little."

And maybe help a few souls as well.

Several times each weekend, the station re-broadcasts Williams' sermon from the previous Sunday. "It provides an opportunity for our members to hear the message if they missed it, or maybe listen again if they would like," he said.

Yet such strictly religious-based programming isn't a large part of the station's family-friendly broadcasts. "We're never wanted to hit anyone over the head with our doctrine," Williams said. "And there are other ways that we can be of service."

Since it started broadcasting in October 2002, the tiny, nonprofit KAAJ radio has ingrained itself into the daily life of Monticello, a town of about 2,000 in southwestern Utah some 60 miles south of Moab.

To the delight of many residents, KAAJ carries Monticello High School football and basketball games at home and on the road. And the station, whose signal under the best conditions can be picked up no more than 15 miles out of town, gained a multitude of new listeners when the Buckaroos won the state 1-A football title last fall.

"The games and the city council meetings probably are the most listened to shows," said plumber Steve Dunow. "My boss's dad, who I'll occasionally go out on a job with, likes to listen to the music. It's usually pretty good, but sometimes its gets a little gospelly."

Communications consultant John Broomall, whose Christian Community Broadcasters in Atlanta helped KAAJ and well over 100 other low-power stations get on the air, said there is a rich broadcasting tradition among churches and ministries.

"For 2,000 years spreading the gospel has been a mandate for disciples of Christ," Broomall said. "And as technology evolved, Christians of all denominations have eagerly embraced whatever new media is available to help them spread the word of the Lord."

KAAJ's owners also believe they serve the Lord when they serve their community, which explains the local sporting events, national news, regular weather forecasts and interviews with elected community leaders and candidates when elections draw near.

"And there also is a lot of family friendly programming available from a variety of sources that fit right in," said station manager Rhett Sifford, KAAJ's only employee.

Sifford, who has a background in broadcasting, moved to Monticello from Indianapolis two years ago after visiting his brother. "I immediately wanted to become part of this church, but I also knew I should only do it if I could be involved with the station."

Sifford may not have had a job if Broomall hadn't given Williams a call about setting up a low-wattage station.

"I'd never meet him, but he called one day and asked if we would be interested in setting up a station," Williams said. "He explained how it would work and that he could help with the licensing and paperwork and get us on the air."

Money, though, was a problem. Compared with setting up a full- power station, low-wattage stations are relatively cheap, costing in the range of $15,000 to $25,000. Still, that was a lot of money for the small Baptist congregation.

"We just approached it with the idea that if we were meant to go on the air, that the Lord would provide for us," Williams said. "And he did."

A church in Roanoke, Va., donated enough money to buy the station's transmitter. A businessman from California donated the broadcasting tower.

"He heard we needed a tower and said he had something that we could use," Williams said. "He even shipped it out here himself and put it up for us."

KAAJ traces its beginning to a Federal Communications Commission decision five years ago that authorized licenses for low-wattage radio stations capable of broadcasting a signal only a limited distance, typically three to 10 miles.

While the federal government envisioned the licenses would be snapped up by municipalities and community groups and bring a range of new voices and new views to the airwaves, church groups proved to be the real beneficiaries. Of the 485 low-power FM stations now broadcasting throughout the country, 243 or 50 percent are church owned.

Community organizations operate 168 stations, schools and universities 44 and municipalities 30.

"Churches have been much more organized than community groups in applying for low-power stations," said Carol Pierson, president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters in Oakland, Calif. "They're willing to help each other get their stations going."

Pastor John Williams of the First Baptist Church in Monticello points to the broadcast tower donated by a California businessman who wanted to help the church-owned KAAJ-LP get on the air. "He heard we needed a tower and said he had something that we could use," Williams said. "He even shipped it out here himself and put it up for us."

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