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Cleveland’s “La Mega” and the case for channel 6 FM radio

La Mega radio 87.7 FMThe Federal Communications Commission’s proceeding on whether to permit Low Power TV stations to broadcast FM on channel 6 (87.7 FM) has reached its formal deadline: January 12 (backgrounder here). The FCC rolled the question into a whole suite of issues facing LPTV. Of interest to us is a defense of the channel 6 FM practice from Murray Hill Broadcasting and WLFM-LLC filed late last week. Murray Hill runs the Spanish language FM station “La Mega” in Cleveland, Ohio. WLFM runs WGWG-LP in Chicago. Both operate as channel 6 powered 87.7 FM signals. Both are owned by the Venture Technologies Group.

“The Spanish-language programming on 87.7 ‘La Mega’ in Cleveland exemplifies the innovative, niche broadcasts enabled by channel 6 stations,” Murray Hill and WLFM write:

“La Mega provides one of the only audio outlets for Northeast Ohio Hispanic audiences. The response has been overwhelming. According to the Hispanic Alliance, a nonprofit organization that addresses Hispanic and Latino community needs in the Cleveland Metropolitan area, ‘La Mega has immersed itself in the Cleveland market… and has become an asset that feels as though it has always been part of our environment. It has become the great equalizer among the many Latino groups living in this area.’ The Ohio Latino Affairs Commission expressed a similar sentiment: ‘Through La Mega’s air waves, you have been able to educate, inform and preserve the language and cultural values that bind together generations of Hispanics in the region and the state. The impact of La Mega is felt throughout Ohio and we consider you a valuable partner in supporting andinforming Latinos.’ The Ohio Hispanic Bar Association was similarly enthusiastic: ‘It is very exciting that after so many years we have a radio station that can call our own. Your services have provided a forum and media source not only to entertain but help educate and bring awareness to the Hispanic Community.’ In addition to news and entertainment, La Mega offers a Spanish-language radio outlet for Cleveland Cavaliers games.”

As for WGWG: “In Chicago, when the Smooth Jazz format was abandoned by a major radio group, the niche was filled by WLFM-LP. The channel 6 station aired FM programming on 87.7 that attracted underserved, urban, niche audiences. At one point, the station was the second-most listened-to station in Chicago among African Americans age 35-64.” The station seems to have morphed through a variety of identities since then.

In conclusion, without this arrangement, “these diverse ethnic audiences would not have access to an important news and entertainment resource,” the filing observes. “We urge the FCC to respect the public interest benefits of these stations and to provide a flexible framework to allow LPTV stations on digital TV channel 6 to operate analog FM radio services on an ancillary or supplementary basis.”

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