Puget Sounds last new AM station

October 12, 2011

The FCC cleared the way for KKXA to begin commercial programming and has given the station the green light to operate its new transmitter facility in the Snohomish River Valley.  The station will likely be the last new AM station in the Puget Sound broadcast market.

In his explosive hit single “Country Must Be Country Wide” Brantley Gilbert sings “In every state there’s a station playin’ Cash, Hank, Willie, and Waylon.”  That was true of only one radio station in Washington State until today’s launch of Classic Country 1520 KXA (KKXA-AM), Western Washington’s exclusive home of the biggest classic country hits of all time and the last all-new AM radio station that will ever go on the air in the Puget Sound basin.  KXA launched at 4:00 PM today with “Simple Man” by Charlie Daniels.

Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) officials cleared the way for KXA to begin commercial programming and gave the station the green light to operate its new transmitter facility in the Snohomish River Valley.  “Getting on the air is the first step,” said station general manager, Andy Skotdal, “Next, we’ll see how listeners respond to the classic country format and eventually add some on-air personalities to the mix.”  Classic Country 1520 will feature real country variety with country favorites from the 80’s and 90’s with artists like Travis Tritt and Brooks and Dunn and will include legends of the format like the late Johnny Cash.  “Seattle radio stations are running extremely tight music playlists and repeating the same songs over and over,” said Skotdal, “We’re going to bring songs to the radio that Seattle stations won’t play any more.”  KXA will also carry Washington State University football and basketball as well as some Everett Silvertips, Everett Aquasox and high school sports games.

Classic Country 1520 is one of two radio stations locally operated by the Skotdal family in a market that is dominated by large, multi-state radio station operators like CBS Radio, Clear Channel, Entercom, Bonneville International, and Sandusky Radio. “The cost of Seattle radio advertising is out of reach for most local business owners, but the northern Puget Sound region now has another affordable outlet for local businesses to reach consumers.  Instead of Seattle businesses pulling consumers from Snohomish County to King County, KXA and sister station KRKO 1380 AM (Fox Sports 1380) have formats that can pull consumers from King County back to businesses in Snohomish County.”

The call-sign is a tribute to the former KXA, Seattle, a station identified today as KTTH 770 and one of the oldest radio stations in Puget Sound.  Call-sign KXA’s heritage (1927) dates back almost as far as KRKO 1380 AM (1922), but KXA also has a bit of a storied past as a station once owned by Roy Olmstead, Seattle’s most famous bootlegger.  It is claimed that Olmstead’s wife used coded messages during her children’s story hour to signal offshore boats loaded with alcohol.

Earlier this month, the FCC granted KRKO authority to operate full-time at 50,000 Watts, a distinction shared by approximately 100 radio stations in the United States, KJR 950, KIRO 710, KOMO 1000, and KPTK 1090 among them.  KXA is now awaiting final approval to boost its full-time power to 50,000 Watts as well.

“There will likely never be another all new AM radio station in Western Washington.  We had an extraordinary team dedicated to making this happen.  More than 300 people assisted with the 14-year process to get the radio station on the air.  This is the last all new AM radio station that will ever go on the air in the Puget Sound basin, and on behalf of my family, I want to express my gratitude to all of those who helped make KXA’s debut possible.”

About KXA:

Online:  www.facebook.com/kkxa1520

Daytime power:  20,000 Watts

Nighttime power:  50,000 Watts

Application on file with FCC to operate full-time 50,000 Watts

Other Resources:

Details of the classic country format:

Jaye Albright, consultant, Albright and O’Malley

206-498-6261

Ms. Albright is co-owner of Albright and O’Malley serving top rated country stations across North America.  Ms. Albright is located in Seattle where she programmed, then consulted KMPS 94.1 for over twenty years.  KMPS 94.1 is a nationally recognized, award winning country music station.  Ms. Albright is a consultant to KXA.

Information on whether any more new AM stations will ever be put on the air in Puget Sound:

Stephen Lockwood, consulting engineer, Hatfield and Dawson

206-783-9151

Mr. Lockwood’s firm advises the Federal Communications Commission on broadcast rulemaking and is recognized as one of the top three consulting engineering firms in North America.  The firm provides services to Voice of America, Clear Channel, CBS, several branches of the United States military, and to various other entities utilizing electromagnetic spectrum.  Mr. Lockwood designed the antenna systems for KXA and KRKO.

Advertiser perspective on the value of local media ownership:

Steve Ahmann, Owner, Pacific Power Batteries

425-259-9260

Mr. Ahmann started advertising on the radio with KRKO and now advertises on radio stations around the state of Washington.

Rick Kvangnes, Judd & Black Appliance, Electronics, and Mattress Store

425-258-4003

Mr. Kvangnes buys media for Judd & Black, one of the largest local advertisers in the northern Puget Sound region.

Perspective on local ownership in a major market and bucking the national trend:

Glenn Johnson, professor of Broadcast Journalism, Edward R. Murrow School, Washington State University

509-335-3068

Mr. Johnson teaches broadcast management and broadcast communications at Washington State University.  He is also the Mayor of Pullman, Washington and the ‘voice’ of the Washington State University Cougars in Martin Stadium.  Mr. Johnson sits on the board of directors of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters with Andy Skotdal.

Historical perspective on the original KXA and Roy Olmstead:

Feliks Banel

206-369-6630

Mr. Banel is a communications consultant and Emmy-nominated writer/producer. He’s producer and host of This NOT Just In for KUOW 94.9 FM; produces videos for HistoryMediaHistory; edits the Aircheck Blog for the Western States Museum of Broadcasting; and blogs for Convince Me We Are NOT Doomed.  He can be reached via feliksbanel@yahoo.com.

Perspective on the permitting process:

Linda Atkins, attorney, Davis, Wright, Tremaine, LLP.

425-646-6115

Ms. Atkins focuses her practice on development permitting for telecommunications providers and represents national wireless companies before local hearing examiners and permitting agencies.  Ms. Atkins was a primary architect of the local legal arguments that were made in nearly fifty hearing and trial days over the ten year permitting process.

About Andy Skotdal:

Andy Skotdal currently serves on the board of directors of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters serving as its past chairman in 2007.  He’s a former board member of the National Association of Broadcasters based in Washington, D.C., and currently serves on the board of directors of Coastal Community Bank, a $240 million bank located in Everett, Washington.