Scott Kaplan will originate his afternoon talk show from Solana Beach for the 1090 transmitter in Rosarito.
On Monday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) told the operators of URadio 690 AM with its 77,000 watt powerhouse transmitter in Rosarito Beach, that it had 48 hours to get its application in order or it had to get off the air.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas applauded the move, saying the feds, with his support, are now starting to crack down on this pro-China radio station that beams its Mandarin language propaganda to the U.S. URadio 690 gets its audio feed from a company called Phoenix TV.
“Phoenix TV is a puppet of the Chinese Communist Party that broadcasts propaganda across the Unites States,” said Cruz in a statement. “I have long fought to expose and stop a scheme in which a Phoenix TV company was waging information warfare from a radio station across the border in Mexico.”
URadio 690's official call lettters are XEWW. Two years ago it flipped to an all-Chinese/Mandarin words-and-music format. Before that, as The Mighty 690, it featured English-speaking formats including oldies, beautiful music and Top 40. In the 60s it was the West Coast’s first all-news station. In the 80s, it was the Mighty 690, one of the first all sports stations in the west.
Chances are none of the Chinese voices you hear on URadio 690 have ever set foot in Mexico. According to a spokesman man for the FCC, URadio’s programming originates from a studio in Irwindale, and is sent via shortwave to the studios in Baja. XEWW is a Tijuana station and has little direct oversight by the FCC. The reason the FCC is involved is because of an agreement it oversees which allows a feed to be sent across the border via shortwave and then back to the U.S. via 690 AM.
In the June 22 declaration to fix it or quit, the FCC says that Phoenix Radio is not listed as part of the group that sends the 24/7 feed to the 690 studios in Baja. The FCC says Phoenix Radio is part of Phoenix TV which is a publicly-traded Hong Kong company that claims to be the largest Chinese-language television provider in North America transmitting to over 200,000 subscribers via DISH and Direct TV.
If the programming originated from studios in Baja and was not a cross-border “re-transmission” the FCC would not be involved in this technical demand for correction.
On Tuesday, June 23, the FCC spokesman would not say if Phoenix was cooperating. The spokesman declined to say if the Mexican counterpart to the FCC is involved.
Ray Fitch is an Washington D.C.-based attorney who specializes with FCC issues. He says this move is “clearly political,” and that it is interesting to note that there is an FM station in the D.C. area called Sputnik that broadcasts pro-Russia propaganda in English. “It has raised some hackles over the years but it is still on the air.”
No one questions the pro-China political bent of URadio 690. But the question is to many: does anyone in San Diego even care about this station that targets its all Mandarin programming to Los Angeles? URadio gives L.A. traffic reports.
One local veteran of radio sales who declined to be named says URadio 690 has had no local impact in its two years on 690.
The answer to URadio 690’s current FCC problem may be found with the technology that will be used by the other Baja-based “border blaster,” the 50,000-watt XEPRS 1090 AM. That all-sports station, formerly known as The Mighty 1090, went off the air a year ago when the San Diego-based operator, Broadcast Company of the Americas, couldn’t remain solvent. It is set to return to airwaves “…before the end of summer,” says new owner Bill Hagen.
Hagen says the new station, rebranded as “The Mightier 1090” will be anchored by long time sports talker Scott Kaplan, but that the other hosts will not necessarily be talking sports. He says Covid-19 has led him to rethink how radio stations will work going forward. Hagen says Kaplan, for instance, will originate his afternoon talk show from his home in Solana Beach, and that it will be “cloud delivered” directly to the 1090 transmitter in Rosarito. He says all the other hosts will also be originating their shows from remote locations and then sent to the Baja tower via the internet.
“Like with everything else, we’ve had to rethink how we do things,” says Hagen. “Look at Howard Stern. He’s now doing his show from his basement. The pandemic has taught us how be nimble. These are different times in radio. Everything has changed. It’s not the corporate radio world we’ve always known.”
One longtime radio veteran says that income from radio advertising countywide is off by almost 60 percent compared to the same period last year. “And all those people furloughed by iHeart, I doubt they’ll be coming back.”
Hagen says he is just about ready to unveil the lineup of the new Mightier 1090. “They are names that you know, that you have heard of. Let me just say that for now.”