Edited by Tower Site's own Scott Fybush - and available now in print or as an e-book!

August 29, 2008

The Big Trip 2007, part XVII: Logan, Utah

It's become an annual tradition here at Tower Site of the Week - load up the tape decks and the DVD recorders and the cameras, line up a bunch of station tours, gather a few friends, and hit the road for as much as two weeks of in-depth exploration of the radio and TV environment in some scenic part of this great nation of ours. Then we come home and share it all with you, in pictures here on fybush.com and in audio (of legal IDs) over at our sister site, tophour.com.

"Big Trip 2007" covered parts of Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon over two weeks in late August and early September.

Day Thirteen - Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A little back story to start us off here - one of our favorite stops on our annual travel schedule is the luncheon that Barry Mishkind, Ray Topp and the nice folks at Radio Guide magazine hold each year during the NAB convention in Las Vegas. It's always a nice chance to catch up with old friends, and to meet new friends. In the case of the 2007 luncheon, it was a chance to meet a new Friend - Friend Weller, chief engineer of Utah Public Radio and the authority on broadcast history in northern Utah's Cache Valley.

"Look me up if you ever get to Logan," said Friend, and he was probably a little surprised to find out that his corner of Utah was already on the travel agenda later that summer.

As it worked out, Logan (an hour and a half north of Salt Lake City) was the very last stop on the 2007 Big Trip, and because your editor had an afternoon flight home out of Salt Lake, our time in the Cache Valley was more limited than we'd have liked.

But it gave us a chance to visit with Friend and see his unusual broadcast facility - and we're delighted to be able to share it with you.

Yes, Utah Public Radio is housed in a World War II-era quonset hut on the campus of Utah State University, and it's been there from its beginnings 55 years ago. In 1953, this hut was the birthplace of two stations - KVSC-FM (88.1) and KUSU-TV (Channel 12). The FM was student-programmed, and the TV station broadcast a limited schedule of educational programming from a sparsely-equipped studio in the middle of the hut.

Flash forward more than half a century, and things have changed somewhat.

The TV station is long gone, squeezed out of existence in a late-sixties power play by the state's dominant public TV station, Salt Lake's KUED (Channel 7) - and the student radio station of 1953 has evolved into a statewide public radio service.

"Utah Public Radio" serves northern Utah via the old KVSC, now 90 kW KUSU (91.5), transmitting from a site in the Junction Hills northwest of Logan. The signal actually overshoots Logan a bit, and so in 1999 KUSU added an 820-watt relay signal, KUSR (89.5), operating from a tower right next to the building.

But some things haven't changed: "the building" is still the original quonset hut, where the old TV studio remains in place for video productions. The original TV control rooms overlooking the studio are still there, now used to produce talk programming for Utah Public Radio, and the main KUSU studio and engineering racks are in a newer addition to the building. ("Newer" being a matter of degree; the additions were added in 1957 and 1964!)

There's one big gap in Utah Public Radio's statewide coverage, incidentally - the main KUSR 91.5 signal can be heard as far south as Ogden, but it's blocked out of Salt Lake City itself by adjacent-channel KUFR (91.7). South of Salt Lake, there's a translator in Provo and more than two dozen other translators all over the state, as far south as St. George.

From Utah Public Radio, we head off to the commercial stations in town, which are all located in one building along State Route 30 just west of downtown Logan. Kent Frandsen's Cache Valley Radio Group owns the market's two AMs - talk KVNU (610 Logan) and standards/talk KLGN (1390 Logan) - and a slew of FMs: AC "Q92" KBLQ (92.9 Logan), top 40 KVFX (94.5 Logan), classic rock KLZX (95.9 Weston ID), country "Kix 96" KKEX (96.7 Preston ID) and oldies "Kool" KGNT (103.9 Smithfield). And Cache Valley Radio has a JSA with the other commercial station in the valley, Three Points Media's classic country KYLZ (104.9 Tremonton).

They're all located at what was originally just the KLGN transmitter site, which has now grown a whole row of studios all lined up along a hallway of a newish addition in back.

These stations are in something of a state of flux, since several of them hold CPs to change frequency and transmitter site as part of a monumental allocations shuffle that will bring two new FMs into Salt Lake City and move several others (including KGNT) up to the Humpy Peak rimshot site east of Salt Lake.

KLGN runs 5 kW non-directional by day and 500 watts directional at night, using the two towers next to the studio building.

As for KVNU, with its big 10 kW non-directional day signal and 1080 watts directional at night, it's our very last stop on Big Trip 2007 as we head south out of Logan on US 89. We don't have time to get all the way back to the two-tower array deep in the farmland of the southern Cache Valley, but we get a nice shot of it from a distance before getting on the road and zipping south to the airport and the long flight home.

We'll have to get back there sometime to get a closer look at KVNU - and to go exploring that station's long and fascinating history (it signed on back in 1938) with Friend Weller, who's documented much of it over the years.

We hope you enjoyed our long recap of Big Trip 2007 - and we hope you'll take advantage of our special offer on Tower Site Calendar 2009, just back from the printer.

It's regularly $18 - but if you order before September 5, you can save $1. Or you can lock in our 2008 subscription rates before they go up - and get a free 2009 calendar. All the details are right here at our Support page!

Thanks for your support - and make a note next Wednesday to stop by our sister site TopHour.com to hear what Cache Valley radio sounds like.

Thanks to Friend Weller at Utah Public Radio and Cliff Smith at Cache Valley Radio Group for the tours!