Tower move increases reach of BC public radio station

With the successful relocation of the 91.3 KBCS broadcast tower to the summit of Cougar Mountain in Issaquah, radio listeners in the Puget Sound now have a new option on the dial. The project, which has been in the works for several years, ushers in a new era for the public radio station – a service of Bellevue College – that’s celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

“This is incredibly transformational for our station,” BC President David L. Rule said. “Our geographic reach is now much, much larger. This is a big win for fans of public radio, because we provide unique programming that you just can’t get anywhere else, and we think a lot of folks out there will be delighted to have more choice on the radio.”

In moving its tower from the college's campus, the listener-supported KBCS expands the size of its potential audience by extending the reach of its signal in several directions: south into Tacoma and areas of Pierce County; west into parts of Kitsap County, including Silverdale and Bremerton; and east to North Bend and communities in the eastern portion of King County. Reception has also improved for listeners in its original broadcast area of the Eastside and Seattle.

“This is something that’s extremely rare in a saturated radio market like the Puget Sound, where every last bit of the radio spectrum is spoken for," said KBCS General Manager Steve Ramsey. Ramsey adds that because the station is dependent on listener contributions, it’s even more critical to reach more people.

KBCS is often described as eclectic, featuring adventurous music from a variety of genres, including world music, Americana, soul, and jazz, among many others. Born in 1972, the station is also known for its steady diet of news and public affairs shows, including the nationally-syndicated program “Democracy Now,” and a local program that premiered last year called “Music + Ideas.”

The tower project was conceived when a station in Tacoma, 91.7 KXOT, was put up for sale, creating potential space in the FM spectrum for KBCS (which broadcasts at a similar frequency) to expand. KBCS applied for and received permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), then set about raising the $150,000 it would cost to physically move the tower. Funds came primarily from grant-giving organizations and individual donors to the station, with BC’s Office of Student Programs also contributing money. The move was completed last month, and the tower is now broadcasting from its new perch.



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