Increasing local media options benefits our county

One way to measure the vitality of Snohomish County is by the strength and number of its media outlets. Local newspapers and broadcasters play an important role in connecting people to the news and events that define what life is about in our corner of Puget Sound. This is why our family is rebuilding KRKO (1380-AM) from the ground up with a state-of-the-art transmitting facility south of Snohomish. This investment will finally allow KRKO’s 85-year-old signal to reach the entire county, including its commuters, and will provide a rare opportunity to establish a new radio station (1520-AM) to serve our area.

We are grateful for the tremendous support of the community and from listeners who appreciate the many ways local media improves their quality of life. When the Everett Silvertips made their fairytale run for the WHL championship in 2004, the games played live over the airwaves of KRKO with legions of fans tuning in. Likewise, during the Election Day floods of 2006, our station provided emergency updates for listeners whose homes were threatened by rising rivers. These are just a few examples of how local media connects and informs communities in Snohomish County. Our ultimate goal is to provide more local programming of this kind.

The first phase of our project is nearly complete and brings KRKO into the digital age with four structures. We are now working on the second phase, as proposed in 2000, by adding two more structures to this site for the new 1520-AM antenna. These structures will be 12 inches wide at the top, 199 feet tall, painted gray, self-supporting and unlit. They will be identical to three 199-foot structures already installed for the KRKO antenna. Throughout the process, we have responded to concerns of residents in the Snohomish Valley by making significant reductions to the original proposal.

Despite our best efforts, the perceived impact of this project has been litigated to death. The Snohomish County Council, State Shorelines Hearings Board and King County Superior Court all previously concluded that these broadcast facilities will have no adverse impacts. Now, having lost earlier legal challenges, opponents launched one last-ditch effort to prevent Snohomish County from benefiting from a new radio station, claiming that AM radio signals are harmful to human health. The facts do not support their claims.

The fact is that health arguments raised by residents in the Snohomish Valley have already been litigated. Federal courts, once in 2003 and again in 2005, have upheld the FCC standards. The courts rejected claims that the FCC standards did not consider all potential health effects or were biased in favor of broadcasters and telephone companies.

The fact is that the Federal Communications Commission regulates AM radio signals and sets very conservative standards to protect the public. These standards are precautionary and protective against all potential adverse effects from AM radio signals. Federal health and safety agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and National Institute of Occupational Health, all endorse the FCC standards.

The fact is that every national and international health agency to consider health and radio signals agrees with the conclusions of the FCC. This includes the health agencies of all European nations, the European Union, the World Health Organization, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

And finally, the fact is that AM radio has been around for nearly 100 years with no documented health effects from exposure to AM radio signals. There is no known biological mechanism that would harm anyone’s health from exposure to an AM radio signal. Moreover, the actual signals from KRKO and the new 1520-AM station are well below allowable FCC standards by a wide margin. The evidence shows there is simply no risk of adverse health impacts to anyone living in the vicinity of our broadcasting facilities.

The County Council will hear and consider our application for the two additional antenna structures this month. An impartial and unbiased consideration of the law and facts support our application. In an age of media consolidation, our community will benefit from the first new, local voice in 17 years (and last available frequency) that will evolve to serve new audiences and underserved communities in Snohomish County.

Andrew Skotdal is president and general manager of S-R Broadcasting, Inc.

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