KWCX disconnects annoying antenna feed
KWCX, a radio station out of Willcox, has been embroiled in a lengthy feud with the Journal Broadcast Group, and now Scripps, over the use of the FM signal space at 104.9. KZLZ, LLC, the outlet that owns KWCX, argues its efforts to change licensing locations for the frequency to Tanque Verde supersedes Scripps' use of its translator for the same dial spot.
The KWCX argument: actual antenna trumps translator, which is what Scripps is using to broadcast sportstalk format KFFN on the FM band. KFFN is licensed for use on 1490 AM. It's a pretty good argument except that KWCX never actually had a physical address—an FCC requirement—in the city of license for broadcast purposes.
So KWCX's answer was to use the frequency anyway, and broadcast it from a microwave antenna sitting on top of its KZLZ building at the corner of Grant and Country Club. For folks who lived in about a six blocks radius, that meant they got the pleasure of listening to Colin Cowherd do battle with the likes of Bachman Turner Overdrive.
If anything, it was a statement of rebellion that did little to benefit either station, which was probably KWCX's goal. Maybe if it was annoying enough, Journal and later Scripps would just yield the space. Listeners could never get the Willcox station clearly, even plunked in the parking lot or stuck at the Grant and Country Club stoplight, mere feet from the antenna feed.
Whatever strategy they were attempting to implement finally got saddled over the summer when ownership disconnected the antenna.
Todd Robinson, managing member of KZLZ, LLC, said, "nothing to really to report. KWCX is back on over in Willcox," and when asked whether that meant giving up efforts for a presence in Tanque Verde that would allow the station better signal penetration in parts of Tucson, "Not at all."
Perhaps that's not an unusual response on the surface, but certainly a significantly different tone than his much more detailed explanation of the situation in March 2014.
Maybe the FCC construction permit for a 3,000-watt FM is still on the table. And if they can actually get set up in Tanque Verde, perhaps the fight isn't over.
But for now at least, that means no signal bleed if you happen to be listening to 104.9 FM while driving in the Grant and Country Club area. There's also no Cowherd since he bolted from ESPN, and no scratchy, limited reach classic rock. For the latter, not just because KWCX yanked the antenna feed, but because KWCX changed its format entirely, which could make for entertaining listening if you have Labor Day weekend travel plans near Apple Annie's Orchard.
Assuming the signal is functioning, itself an adventure given the budget restrictions of smaller market radio stations, the KWCX reach is pretty strong in and around Willcox. So if you don't feel like popping in the mp3 and listening to that latest podcast on how to effectively cultivate kombucha through water harvesting, there's always the option of experiencing the station's new blend of musical randomness.
Some months ago, KWCX jettisoned classic rock for a world hits format. Well, it's not really a format. More like half hour blocks of relatively similar musical stylings. Thing is, depending on the block you get, said stylings could be boring, predictable 90s hits or dance mixes from all over.
On a recent drive to New Mexico, KWCX played everything from marginal Britney Spears tracks to country, Christian, song mashups that sounded as if they were lifted directly from YouTube feeds to trance dance legends Cascada. Not familiar with Cascada? Huge in Germany and Israel. Really. And now transcending the airwaves of Willcox, apparently well known as a haven for international dance music.
Arizona has its share of great radio oddities on the FM dial, little nuggets of terrestrial sound that defy the logic of corporate radio formatting. They're all independently owned, and it's hard to imagine they bring in significant capital, but without the hindrance of traditional formatting requirements, the very uncertainty of what might be played is part of the enjoyment.
Head toward Phoenix, and again, assuming the transmitter is operational, tune to 103.1 FM and you'll get to hear KCDX, a station owned by Ted Tucker and licensed to Florence. It covers most of I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix, and plays what sounds like some 60-year-old dude's iPod, made up of a healthy dose of classic hits and rock from the Eagles to Donovan, Kansas and the Alan Parsons Project. Almost uninterrupted. Great station.
Make your way up north and enjoy KAHM 102.1 FM, what might be the last on-air bastion of Muzak. The station, which has been operational for the better part of three decades, is ideal for Prescott's retirement sensibilities. It's also perfect for playing the "guess the Muzak version of that song" game.
There are others for those willing to try their hand at on-the-road Radio Roulette, including a gem of a hodge-podge music station out of Santa Rosa, New Mexico that goes by "The Lion," and a classic country format from Benson that's more varied than any watered-down country in Tucson.
Proof that once you get out on the open road, radio's big city rules don't apply everywhere. As crazy as the formats can be, it's also somewhat refreshing now and again.
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