Local public radio station KPBS was forced to switch frequencies Tuesday, after wildfires took out the station’s only transmitter on Mount San Miguel. KPBS will continue broadcasting on FM 94.9 (KQVO for people in Imperial Valley) and via live stream on the web, and is feeding its television signal to Cox and Time Warner, which are available only to cable TV subscribers.
“Our main concern is, we’re the largest radio newsroom in town,” said KPBS spokesperson Nancy Worlie. “We’ve been wall to wall since early Sunday evening. We haven’t gone off the air since then.”
The switch wasn’t hard to make, said Mike Hansen, assistant program director at FM 94.9. Hansen got a 6:30am call from KPBS, asking if FM 94.9 would be willing to air the station’s coverage. FM 94.9’s transmitters are located on Mount Soledad.
“They knew we weren’t aligned with anybody with the ability to cover news … They reached out to us, and we were happy to do it,” Hansen said. “We’re just grateful that we have something like KPBS to get the information out with.”
But the changeover also means ads interspersed with public radio. KPBS carved roughly eight minutes out of every hour for FM 94.9, allowing the station to provide promised airtime to advertisers, Hansen said.
“We’re just happy to be on the air somewhere,” Worlie said. “We’ll work around their commercial breaks.”
KPBS isn’t the only station to suffer interruptions from the fire. Clear Channel stations and KSOQ/KSON were knocked off the air briefly Monday, Hansen said, likely by interrupted power. Several radio stations have transmitters posted on Mount San Miguel, Hansen said, but most have other transmitters available on Mount Soledad.