KUTD-LP Signing Off
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the people that have progressed the KUTD-LP project to the point it is at today. It is unfortunate that the Construction Permit will not be fulfilled, but I'm proud of the work that has brought us this far.
The project began after a regular K5UTD Amateur Radio Club meeting, in the dining room of the local Raising Canes. A discussion was brought up about how RadioUTD was underserved by their internet stream, so we talked about the possibilities of getting them on the air. Later that evening, K5UTD co-conspirator Landon Elfenbein did some research, and determined the LPFM application window was open. This prompted a scramble greater than most group projects due at the end of a semester. Fifteen minutes before the deadline, an application for a construction permit was submitted. The application specified the K5UTD Tower on the Engineering and Computer Science building as the transmitter location; an unheard of move forward for an Amateur Radio Club.
It didn't take long for other pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. While we were waiting for the FCC to grant the construction permit, we picked up a few supporters with direct interests in KUTD-LP and supporters of community radio in general.
The first person to make contact with us was Reid Robinson of the Dallas Arts District. He has served as a friend and mentor through the whole LPFM project, appreciating the political difficulties we faced, as he was facing a similar battle at the Dallas Arts District. Reid worked tirelessly to dismiss bogus applicants in the area, specifically a fraudulent group out of Arlington. Without Reid's research and perseverance on that front, the DFW FM broadcast spectrum would be littered with syndicated stations that have no interest in furthering community arts and media.
The second person actually found us because of a sketch I drew on the whiteboard in the K5UTD Radio Room. Kevin Rogers, EE Lab Manager and Broadcast Engineer, happened to be walking to the labs adjacent to the Radio Room and saw the functional diagram of an FM stereo generator, and made an effort to track down the people responsible. Over the past three years, Kevin has been able to provide invaluable expertise with everything from hardware recommendations to the specifics of how to stay within the bounds of the FCC regulations. Kevin was also instrumental in filing the amendment to our application that allowed us to avoid time-sharing with the Dallas Arts District. With all things considered, this project would be a total disaster without the assistance Kevin has provided along the way.
Before it was clear that RadioUTD was interested in participating with the KUTD-LP project, members of the K5UTD Amateur Radio Club made an effort to gather enough equipment to get a basic station on the air. In a fluke connection through another Amateur Radio operator, I met Doug Holland of Clear Channel New Orleans. Doug is the Chief of Engineering for their 8-station cluster. After some tzlking in their studios, Doug offered "to fill a pickup truck with just about everything you need." This prompted a very long drive, and yielded a lot of very useful equipment. Despite the donation, we still lacked a transmitter. Through eBay, we found an estate in Crockett Texas that had warehouses full of transmitters and broadcast equipment. After some explaining and negotiating, the estate cut us a good deal on a (likely stolen) Harris MX-15. At this point we had acquired just enough gear to get us on the air.
On March 24, 2015, the K5UTD ARC was granted an 18-month construction permit for 95.7MHz in Richardson TX. This was just one day after we amended our application to move north and break out of a "mutually exclusive" group that included the Dallas Arts District and the fraudulent group out of Arlington. Colleagues of mine, who have been in radio for 30+ years, praised our accomplishment with sentiments along the lines of, "I've brought new stations on the air, I've rebuilt studios, and I've just about seen it all; but I have yet to be granted a Construction Permit. Good job guys!"
On March 28, 2015, a meeting was held with RadioUTD staff and UT Dallas administrators, in which they formally announced their interest in participating with the KUTD-LP project. We did not hear back from a university official until February of 2016, 11 months into our construction permit. On July 8, 16 months in, a Student Fee Advisory Committee meeting was held, in which a budget was approved for the build-out of KUTD-LP. This left us with less than two months to build out an entire transmitter site, and to retrofit antiquated studios with automation software and some new equipment.
It became apparent that a collaboration would not be possible in a meeting I had on July 26. In this meeting, I was presented with a Memorandum of Understanding by the UT Dallas attorney, Tim Shaw. This document proposed that all control of the KUTD-LP station be transferred to the university, and that the license be signed over at the end of the 3-year holding period mandated by the FCC. In addition, the K5UTD ARC was to assume an advisory role on just technical matters. After much thought and discussion with other project members, I have determined that the terms set forth by this MOU push me into an area in which I will not enjoy my participation in the project after the station is brought on the air. The legal elements in the document suggest that the university has no grasp as to how an actual FCC license or licensee function, and with less than 8 weeks to get the station on the air, I do not believe the university is qualified to broadcast with this license. In addition, the manner in which the UT Dallas Administration has conducted themselves lacks professionality and compassion for the project at hand. As with all volunteer opportunities and organizations, if a party is not having fun, it is time to move on. I believe it is time for me to move on.
I would like to take this final opportunity to thank those that have been supportive of this project from day one. James Pacifico, Humza Kahn, and Jamie Park; you all have been great Station Managers and I hope to work with you all in the future. Landon Elfenbein and Matthew McCann; thank you for your time and financial support throughout this endeavour. You two have helped me keep my head on straight since day one. Dr. Jim Coleman, Kevin Rogers, Reid Robinson, Mike Chittenden, and Doug Holland; I appreciate all of the technical and political advice you've given over the past 3 years.
Although we won't have the opportunity to turn on the switch and listen to RadioUTD on 95.7MHz, this project has taught me so much, and I am very thankful for those that have progressed my knowledge and experience in the realm of broadcasting, engineering, and business.
President, K5UTD ARC