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Church bumped in frequency bid

An FCC ruling leaves BIB in first place in the quest for an FM station.

The day when Bainbridge tunes to its own 102.5 FM is closer.

Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission blocked Bremerton Calvary Chapel’s bid for a low-power FM frequency also sought by Bainbridge Island Broadcasting; the decision leaves the island’s community-access station closer to sole use of the frequency.

“We’re happy, of course,” BIB board member Wini Jones said, “but we’re not ready to jump up and down, because it’s not a done deal, not yet.”

The FCC had paired Bainbridge with the fundamentalist evangelical church housed in Bremerton’s Roxy Theater, giving the two organizations a March 16 deadline to work out a plan to share the only available 100-watt frequency in Puget Sound. Without an agreement, each would have been granted four years of exclusive use, after which the frequency would be given to other interests.

The deadline passed without an agreement – the church planned to broadcast religious programming, while BIB planned broader-interest fare. In the meantime, BIB wrote to the FCC objecting to the church’s application, on the grounds that a Calvary Church programming is already heard in this area on 88.9 FM. The Bremerton church, BIB officials said, does not have a distinct local presence and mission, an FCC requirement for low-power FM licensing.

Tuesday, the FCC dismissed the Bremerton Church application, and those of 22 other Calvary Chapels nationwide, as “patently defective.”

In a letter to the church, the FCC wrote: “Indeed, nothing in the educational purpose of the application references the community of license in any way or demonstrates a local purpose that can be distinguished from the purpose of the national organization with which it is affiliated. Without this evidence, the Commission cannot determine whether the local chapter will advocate the uniquely local purpose of an LPFM station.”

The Bremerton group will appeal the ruling, church pastor Rick Beaudry said.

“We should have no problem being reinstated because we are, in fact, a local group,” he said. “We’re not going to give up, we’re not going to lay down and roll over. We’re going to take it as far as we can.”

If the appeal is denied and BIB receives the go-ahead, the next step is a construction permit from the FCC, Jones said. The station has been invited to share the antenna at the Bucklin Hill fire station, and BIB is already seeking grant money to buy basic equipment.

Programming, which like BIB’s cable broadcasts would be “largely member driven,” might include such offerings as excerpts from oral histories drawn from the Bainbridge Island Historical Society’s archives and weekly updates from island non-profits.

Jones emphasizes that while there are many community members excited at the prospect of home-grown radio the station, the organization is still waiting for a final FCC decision.

“Programming is still a long way down the road,” she said.

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