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WNCW Hanging On For Dear Life

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Here's how to get ahead in the cutthroat world of commercial radio: first, get your attorney, a former FCC board member, to plead that you're expanding your local radio station signal out of Albemarle so the good folks in Indian Trail can hear you. After that's approved, leverage your signal many times over, to reach out and crack the lucrative Charlotte market, again with FCC approval. The sudden growth spurt of radio station WABZ was no accident. It's been planned for years.

This past week, all their planning bore results. As we reported last week, the Charlotte translator for popular Spindale, NC Americana station WNCW will become ineffective as soon as WABZ's expansion request is approved, which may come at any moment. The consulting engineer at WNCW delivered his official report to Station Manager David Gordon last week and the news wasn't good.

Here's what Gordon said; "It does appear that if the changes to the commercial station's (WABZ) license and transmitter are approved, it would interfere with [WNCW's signal]. What we are looking for now is to move to another frequency. Keep in mind that the change requested by the commercial radio station has not yet been approved. It's still pending. We're still looking at a few open frequencies we may be able to use. We're now waiting for the FCC to give us an opportunity to file and request to make the changes we need. And we don't know when that might happen."

That means that yes, WNCW's Charlotte translator will be forced to shut down; unfortunately for Charlotte fans of the station, there is little likelihood of finding a new frequency. Sometimes there's a window for filing secondary displacement requests, but according to Bill Clay, who first discovered this problem for WNCW, "The FCC has not been accepting applications for some time and there is no foreseeable point at which they will."

The Charlotte radio band is filled up with radio and the FCC is jammed with radio applications. That's why WABZ started their own filing procedures over four years ago. There may be a very slight chance for a "minor modification" of WNCW's signal; their engineer and attorney are both working on that possibility. But it's not likely to be successful. The fact is, according to Bill Clay, "The best time to have protested this was the summer of 1999."

Clay says, "The only hope of keeping WNCW on the air in Charlotte is to block, delay or force modification of WABZ's proposed facility. We need lots of public outcry and lots of friends in high places. The FCC may act on WABZ's application by the end of the month so we must mobilize very rapidly."

Ruth Moeller, Chair of WNCW's Community Advisory Board, also has words of encouragement saying, "The battle may already be lost. Losing the (WNCW) translator creates a very real void in the Charlotte radio landscape. But individual citizens, acting together, can make a difference. It may be a long shot, but every once in a while it's the 'Hail Mary pass' that wins the game."

Joe Kline, an early founder of WNCW in Charlotte and deejay says 'Please visit www.savewncw.org to learn how you can contact the FCC to protest Charlotte's losing its only source of old-time, gospel, bluegrass and singer/songwriter music on the radio." *

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