Not many people know that Tracy has its own radio station … but it does!
Unfortunately, you won’t find it on the air right now. For the past several years, the residents of Tracy have been working diligently to obtain a broadcast signal that will serve southern San Joaquin County, but that hasn’t been easy.
Despite our best efforts, we have repeatedly come up short in our quest for a radio station in our community, which would also serve as the cornerstone for a media training center for young people in our area.
We did find one station, licensed to Tracy but not currently broadcasting, for which we thought we made a substantial bid … but again, we came up short.
Our quest for a radio station led to a perplexing question:
Why is Tracy’s radio station not on the air?
Radio stations are expensive. They are expensive to build. They are expensive to operate, and they are expensive to maintain. A radio station has a lot of moving parts – delicate and expensive moving parts. And the required license for a radio station is difficult to acquire.
About ten years ago, an FM frequency became available in Tracy — not a great dial location (89.5 FM), and the station would broadcast with low power (100 watts), just enough to squeeze its signal over the communities of Tracy and Mountain House. But the signal would be strong enough to be heard by the nearly 100,000 residents of our growing towns.
After a tough fight, the good people of the Peace & Justice Network of San Joaquin County (PJN) in Stockton were awarded the license for the station, which was set to go on the air in 2013 as KYNJ-FM.
On April 30, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington DC issued a license to the Peace & Justice Network for the station to begin broadcasting from a transmitter location in the hills above Tracy, off of Corral Hollow Road.
However, on that very same day, PJN filed an application with the FCC for what is known as a Special Temporary Authorization (STA). Why did they need to apply for an STA? So they could legally keep KYNJ off the air.
That’s right: the Peace & Justice Network won the right to build and operate a radio station to serve Tracy. And on the same day they received approval to put KYNJ on the air, they immediately filed to keep the station off the air.
Why the “radio silence”?
Keep in mind that PJN has zero connection to Tracy or our local community. None of its board members live here. Their headquarters is in Stockton. Their organization never opened an office or had any presence in Tracy, and they never built a radio studio here.
There is also no evidence that they ever actually turned the KYNJ transmitter on up in the hills above Tracy.
So why would they work so hard to get the license for a radio station in Tracy, and then simply keep it off the air?
The answer is very simple: after the Peace & Justice Network was awarded the permit to build KYNJ in Tracy, the FCC made available a frequency in Stockton – PJN’s hometown – for an FM station with the same power (100 watts), but covering a much more heavily populated city.
And why would PJN want a tiny FM station with a weak signal in a city they had no connection to when they could have a much stronger station that blanketed Stockton, where they lived and worked?
There was only one problem … but it was a huge one. The new FM license in Stockton came with a major FCC restriction: as licensee, PNJ could only own one station, not two.
What was the solution for the Peace & Justice Network? Easy! They could simply hold onto the license for KYNJ in Tracy for the four-year period required by the FCC and, meanwhile, they could build out their shiny new station in Stockton, and put it on the air – and hope that nobody noticed what they were trying to sneak past the FCC!
But then … what about KYNJ?
Who cares? Once the Peace & Justice Network had their station in Stockton, the little pea-shooter station in Tracy became an afterthought.
Which leads us to an important question:
How much is a radio station worth these days?
Radio stations, depending on their power and the population of the area they serve, are very valuable. Some stations are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Others are worth tens of millions.
How much is little KYNJ in Tracy worth?
To the good people of the Peace & Justice Network of San Joaquin County, KYNJ was worth one dollar. That’s right – one single dollar. One-hundred little pennies.
The board of directors of the Peace & Justice Network sold the Tracy station for the princely sum of $1 to a group based in Antioch, over in Contra Costa County – a group also with no previous connections to the Tracy community.
But why would they sell a Tracy radio station to a group from Antioch?
While it really doesn’t make much sense, there’s good news in all of this.
The Antioch group, Delta 2000,* is a community-oriented nonprofit. Right now, they don’t have a presence in Tracy or southern San Joaquin County, but that’s where we can all join together and help them get acquainted with us and our thriving city.
* – We note that Delta 2000 did not renew their domain name registration, and they no longer have an active website.
They will need a space for offices here in Tracy, and a place for studios, plus a location to house their broadcast transmitter and antenna.
They will need people power, too. They’ll need program hosts, announcers and interviewers, news reporters, sportscasters, office workers, and people to solicit sponsorships and funding from Tracy businesses and residents.
(More good news: we’ve already done much of the legwork for Peace & Justice Network, so there will be funding available to them, and we have offers for highly-discounted office space in Tracy, as well as several potential locations for their transmitter!)
UPDATE: The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that Delta 2000 is ineligible to own the station, and the sweetheart deal by Peace & Justice Network was denied.
When will the station go back on the air?
The owners-to-be of the station have already changed its call letters from KYNJ to KBCC, and have filed a request to go back on the air soon with ten watts of power from a temporary antenna on the roof of West Valley Mall – not much power, but enough to cover a portion of Tracy until they secure a permanent site in town.
According to the station’s coverage map, shown below, its signal blankets as much unpopulated farmland in the unincorporated area north of Tracy as it does the parts where people live.
We’re not sure what actual programming they’ll eventually broadcast, but at this time they are using “filler,” random music looped over and over again on a MP3 player connected to the transmitter. It may be repetitive and annoying, but, again, it’s a start.
So what can you do?
Our first plan is to get the Peace & Justice Network’s board of directors down here to have a look around our city. Meet Mayor Rickman and our city council, as well as our city manager, and representatives from the Tracy City Center Association.
Tracy’s civic leaders must demand that Peace & Justice Network sends representatives to appear before the City Council and explain their plans for the radio station’s operation here in Tracy.
It’s time for Peace & Justice Network to make a long-term commitment to Tracy – not just wait until nobody here is paying attention so they can quietly move the radio station to Stockton.
We’ve got a team from the Tracy Chamber of Commerce and local business leaders that we know will open their arms wide to welcome the owners of Tracy’s radio station!
If you own a space here in Tracy, preferably downtown, that can house a few offices and a studio or two on a temporary basis, please let Peace & Justice Network know!
There’s more good news!
Peace & Justice Network is being represented in this transaction by Michael Couzens, one of the leading proponents of grassroots-level, community-based radio. His Oakland-based law firm, Discount Legal, specializes exclusively in community radio stations.
Mr. Couzens is considered a great friend to small, community-based broadcasters, and we know that he will do everything in his power to make sure that KBCC grows into a powerful voice in Tracy and Southern San Joaquin County!
Tracy’s future as a city with a strong, community-oriented radio station is on the horizon. We look forward to working with Peace & Justice Network to make KBCC a key part of our city for many years to come!