One of the most frequently asked questions at KSDT Radio is why we can't be picked up on a normal FM radio. And every time I'm asked the question I have to respond with the same, sad story that I've written below. First the station needs to find an open spot on the FM or AM bands in an already saturated market. Then we need to hire engineers to make reports on the effects of a signal if we had one. Next you hire a lawyer in Washington, D.C. to prepare and propose the application to the FCC which costs at least $10,000 in itself. Lastly, the FCC opens up the application to all interested parties and selects the lucky station from a lottery system at the end. So despite the work and energy and money you expend, you are still not guaranteed the coveted license.

But the story behind KSDT's transmission plight dates back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when each of the nine UC campuses managed to obtain FM FCC licenses with the exception of UCSD and UCLA. The station mangement as well as the Regents faced the problem of the FCC radio agreement with the Mexican government which mandated that the FM frequencies between 88.0 and 91.9 be shared by the two countries. Unfortunately this is the same band of channels that the U.S. government alloted for use by educational, non-commercial stations, namely for college radio and religious groups.

The agreement placed guidelines on legal power levels that stations could transmit but also forced approval for new radio stations by both countries before it can operate within this FM spectrum. So already you're dealing with half the number of available stations that you can work with in an unsaturated market such as Nebraska. Beyond this, the Mexican government's equivalent of the FCC lacks an enforcement branch, which effectively allows stations to transmit at power level far beyond the legal limits. The agreement was originally brokered to prevent transmission abuse by radio stations out of Tijuana, namely stemming from the radio disc jokey Wolfman Jack, whose show could be picked up as far north as the Canadian border.

Even back then U.S. money played a large role in picture as it does now with stations such as 91X, which transmits out of Tijuana. If you look at the band between 88.0 and 91.9, you can count approximately 30 spots to place a radio station (stations are separated by 0.2 mhz to prevent interference). 15 of those are Mexican spots and 15 are U.S. spots. However, when stations such as 91X tranmit their music at the high power levels that they do, their signal bleeds into the adjacent frequencies and render them useless. 91X itself bleeds over into about 3 or 4 spots that could otherwise be used for other radio stations.

As much as any god-fearing American or Mexican might want to curtail 91X's power levels, I wish them luck. The American radio market is a highly competetive and highly lucrative arena, doubtless armed to the teeth with a platoon of well-paid lawyers ready to strike down any movement to stop the operations. For example, a radio station located in Oceanside (the name unfortunately skips me at the moment) recently moved down to the greater San Diego area, and was originally valued at $6 million. After the move the station was valued at $30 million. We're not talking about pocket change here.

Its precisely this sort of money that has caused the other of KSDT's major transmission problems which is that the radio market in San Diego at this time is completely saturated. San Diego is the United State's 5th largest radio market which very much means that there are currently NO open spots for a new radio station on either the FM or AM bands and we can't have a radio station were there are no spots. But KSDT is not without its options, grim though they may be.

First, each license-holding radio station is required to renew its license every so many years (depending on its original agreement with the FCC). At this time the station must prove its worth to the community in which it transmits and must be free of major violations of law. Its at this time that other interested parties can (and not all too infrequently do) research a given station and preset a case to the FCC of why it should not renew the license. During the late 70s, two KSDT members tried to do just that with a local Christian station, who they believed to be delinquent in their radio responsibilites. The plan was to prove to the FCC that KSDT should instead be endowed with the license. The two members graduated and moved on with their lives, and the case was dropped.

The second option is to seek out what's known as a "short-spacing" agreement with the FCC. In any given metropolitan area, only one station is allowed to transmit on its allocated frequency. But in a mountainous or semi- mountainous region such as San Diego, radio signals are not able to transmit nearly as far as they can in flat terrain. Therefore the greater San Diego are cannot receive signals from stations in Temecula or Hemet (both considered part of the San Diego metro area by the FCC). Stations like KSDT may then attempt to negotiate a short-spacing agreement with the FCC, which allows them to transmit on a frequency already alloted to another station, but at reduced power levels. Since a signal from Temecula doesn't interefere with a signal from La Jolla, both parties remain relatively content.

The problem here is the same with any FCC agreement or licensing contract: the lawyer's fees, which run into the thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. However, unlike FM licensing, other parties may not apply after the radio station makes a bid for a short-spacing agreement.

The last option, and sadly perhaps the most realistic, is for KSDT to be donated a radio station. Palomar College was recently given an AM station by a corporation that needed to give up one of their stations in order to purchase another. Of course, this assumes that somebody far up in the bureacratic order knows the owner of a radio station.

However the largest problem facing KSDT isn't the licensing, it isn't the fees, its the high turnover that any college organization faces. People come to the station full of pep and vigor with images of licenses glowing in their eyes, but sadly they graduate before the dream can reach fruition. The ability to broadcast on the radio takes many years of redtape. Just 2 years ago the FCC endowed UCSDTV with a TV broadcast license, but this is a project that lasted nearly 15 years with the support of private sponsorship. The outlook is indeed bleak, but can be managed with the proper personel and a dedication beyond what has thus surfaced in KSDT's 30-year history.