KXCI will likely be the first local radio station to convert to digital broadcasting, offering CD-quality sound to listeners with the right equipment.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting recently decided to award KXCI a bit more than $60,000, its maximum grant for digital conversion. But the station still needs to generate an additional $15,000-$20,000 to cover construction and other costs.
General manager Larry Bruce plans to launch a big capital campaign early in the new year, and get the new equipment up and running by late summer. Although Bruce anticipates seeking money from listeners, who already fund the station, he's going to spend much of his time seeking matching grants from foundations.
Perhaps KXCI will finally be able to reach listeners in the northwest around the same time the digital signal goes online, but that's a completely different issue. Five years ago, the station raised money to put a signal translator on an existing tower at Interstate 10 and Ruthrauff Road. But just then, religious broadcasters wanting to build a nationwide empire tried to gain control of translator frequencies around the country, and KXCI--along with 12,000 other applicants--couldn't obtain FCC approval for its translator until the issue was settled in court. Recently, the case was resolved in favor of local broadcasters, so now it's just a matter of KXCI moving its application through the FCC bureaucracy, then ordering and installing the necessary equipment.
Digital signals can deliver more than one program stream, but Bruce isn't sure if or how KXCI may take advantage of that. "It's unclear whether a station like ours that operates under 1,000 watts has the wherewithal to do that," he says, "and it's unclear to me whether the FCC is inclined to authorize multiple program signals for radio, although they certainly have for television."
The digital signal will be carried on KXCI's present frequency, 91.3. The translator frequency, assuming it's approved, will be 100.1
Hatfield hadn't had a full-time job since April, when he was bounced from KVOA after 21 years. He wanted to stay in Tucson, and had been freelancing the radio-TV column for the Arizona Daily Star. Two weeks ago, he was already in the ITB office, struggling to learn the phone system. No chance to develop big plans yet, but Hatfield says he wants the paper to run more enterprise stories, and he's thinking of starting a business-oriented version of his (now former) Star column.