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Corporate Radio Uses Big Government to Block Local Competition

"Why 80s music?" Why not?!

The Post SD features John and Heidi Small, owners and operators of Sunny Radio FM 92.1, the only locally owned radio station in the Sioux Falls metro area.

Sunny Radio's brave broadcasters note that their entry into the media market was not exactly welcomed by their corporate counterparts (jump to 2:30, on challenges the station has faced):

John: That other company filed an informal complaint, meaning we didn't do anything wrong, but they could file an informal complaint to keep us off and they did.

Heidi: Kept us off for six months, and it cost us---

John: ---not quite six months, but they kept us off for a while

Heidi: It hurt us, but it didn't stop us.

[interview with Sawyer Vanden Heuvel, "The Story of Sunny Radio,", 2011.06.07]

John declines to name the complainant in the interview, but I would love to know which good capitalist corporate citizen decided it just couldn't stand a little more competition in the Sioux Falls market.

Oh, wait, this is the Internet: I can find out! The four-month delay came from a complaint from KELO-92.5 FM owner Backyard Broadcasting:

The delay was the result of an informal complaint filed earlier this year with the Federal Communications Commission by Backyard Broadcasting, which owns seven Sioux Falls radio stations.

"They filed an informal complaint, but we did nothing wrong," Small said. "But it did do what they wanted it to. They knew it wouldn't stop us but that it would slow us down."

According to Small, the complaint claimed Sunny's position on the dial is too close to that of Backyard Broadcasting's KELO-FM station at 92.5.

Barry Drake, president and CEO of Backyard Broadcasting, said that was primarily the reason the informal complaint was filed. Drake did say that it wasn't his company's intent to silence Sunny Radio on the FM frequency. Instead, he said the company mostly was concerned about the potential for interference between the two stations.

"As with any station, (the FCC says) if you are three channels away, that's fine," Drake said. "The FCC's become more relaxed and allows some stations to move around in that framework."

Drake said Sunny Radio's antenna is about one block from the Backyard Broadcasting tower in Sioux Falls. "So we certainly feel there is great potential for interference," he said [Jill Meier, "Radio Station Weathers Complaint, to Go on Air," Brandon Challenger, 2010.09.01].

But feel the love:

While Backyard Broadcasting opposed Sunny Radio's position on the FM dial, it did sell Cup O'Dirt the rights to the AM station in February [2010] [Meier, 2010.09.01].

Yes, KELO and its owners are all about capitalism and competition.

Eighties music all day still isn't quite as good for the soul as a daylong dose of CKUA from Alberta, the most interesting and musically instructive radio on the continent, or the stream from NPR's World Café. But at least Sunny Radio adds a little local voice to the media market. And I just tuned in and heard Oingo Boingo's "Dead Man's Party"---tell me when that will play through the cycle anywhere else on the local dial! Listen live online and enjoy!


  1. Steve 2011.06.07

    I am a little surprised that they would pick a frequency so near to KELO's. But the FCC permit process should have cleared those hurdles. I can certainly understand where KELO would have a technical concern, but it sure appears they're using this as a competitive tool to hurt the new kids in town.

  2. shane gerlach 2011.06.07

    great station, great facebook page.
    tune in to KILI from time to time you will love it Cory.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.06.07

    We listened to KILI while driving through the southern Black Hills! Good music... plus we caught the Head Start report and learned about ticks. It felt like we were listening to "Chris in the Morning" on Northern Exposure. :-)

  4. shane gerlach 2011.06.07

    It felt like we were listening to “Chris in the Morning” on Northern Exposure. :-)

    God I miss that show.

  5. john 2011.06.07

    And don't forget sunny will tatoo their logo anywhere on your body for free! I know where I would put a kelo logo.

  6. kwn 2011.06.07

    You came to Brandon and didn't call me? Ouch.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.06.08

    Actually, I haven't been to Brandon since February, when "Sunny" and "80s" seemed very far away.

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