Bonneville tower

Bonneville tower

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The big self-supporter is Bonneville's tower, which carries KTAR-FM (92.3C Glendale) and KPKX (98.7C Phoenix). According to FCC records, ground level here is 810.2 meters (2658 feet), and the tower is 114 m (374 ft) tall. It was originally built in 1991 for 98.7, which was then KKLT and owned by Pulitzer. The main antenna is an eight-bay full-wave-spaced ERI SHPX-8AC6-SP.

~~~ historical interlude ~~~

KPKX is the original (going way, way back) KTAR-FM. It appears to have started on South Mountain from the very beginning, with its first transmitter site on the tower of sister station KVAR-TV (12 Mesa), in July, 1960. By 1962, KTAR-FM was operating with 115 kW ERP; it would keep the grandfathered super-power operation until it moved to its current tower. The KTAR stations merged with the Karl Eller interests to form Combined Communications in the late 1960s, and KTAR-FM became KBBC. When Gannett bought Combined in 1979, the rules then in effect did not allow them to keep both television and radio, so the radio stations were spun off to Pulitzer Broadcasting, part of the Pulitzer newspaper chain, and Gannett kept KTAR-TV (which became KPNX). KBBC became KKLT in 1982.

Pulitzer sold all of its broadcasting interests, including KTAR and what was by then KKLT, to Hearst-Argyle in 1998 for $1.15 billion in Hearst-Argyle stock, beating out Texas venture capital firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst—the money behind Clear Channel/Chancellor/AMFM. Emmis then acquired KTAR (620), KMVP (860), and KKLT from Hearst-Argyle in 2001, as part of a June, 2000, LMA-to-buy deal in which Emmis would purchase a television station to be named later for $160 million and then swap it to Hearst for the Phoenix stations. Hearst-Argyle decided in September of that year to acquire WMUR-TV (9 Manchester, N.H.) for $185 million, and the transaction was approved by the FCC in early January, 2001.

The current KTAR-FM on 92.3 started out in 1970 as KXTC, a full service/jazz station owned by Dick and Alma Gilbert's Arizona Communications Corp., with studios in the Westward Ho Hotel in downtown Phoenix, and transmitter on the famous tower atop the hotel, formerly KPHO-TV (5 Phoenix). The Gilberts had previously owned KYND (1580 Tempe, now KMIK), which they sold in 1966 to Black Diamond Broadcasting (who would turn around and flip it to Buck Owens some fifteen months later). Arizona Communications Corp. was involved in an important 1971 FCC decision, in which the Commission determined that the Main Studio rule did not apply to recorded music programming; this freed KXTC from having to maintain a separate studio in Glendale. ACC owned KXTC until 1978, when the station was purchased by ITC Communications of Arizona, joining country KJJJ (910 Phoenix, formerly KPHO) which ITC had acquired the previous year. KXTC's studios moved around the block to the long-time KPHO studios, 631 N. First Ave.

The Broadcast[ing] Group acquired KJJJ/KXTC in 1981, and moved KXTC off the Westward Ho to Shaw Butte (part of what is commonly known as North Mountain) in early 1982. Later that year, 92.3 changed calls to KEZC; a couple years later, it would become KJJJ-FM before settling down in September, 1985, as KKFR. That same year, TBG applied to move the station to South Mountain; the new facility received a permanent license in 1986. (I don't know precisely which tower it was on at that time.) KKFR applied to move to another site on South Mountain in 1995, and the new license was granted in 1999. Meanwhile, The Broadcast Group sold out to Chancellor Media (later to become AMFM) in September, 1998, for $90 million.

At the same itme as Emmis was acquiring the KTAR stations from Hearst-Argyle, they were also acquiring two spin-offs from Clear Channel as a part of that company's roll-up merger with AMFM—KXPK (96.5C Evergreen, Colo., in the Denver market) and KKFR—for $108 million, after a deal to sell those stations to Hispanic Broadcasting fell apart. (Clear Channel sold three other Phoenix FMs at the same time, to CBS.) The Denver station was sold to Entravision in 2002 for $47.5 million, giving the Emmis Phoenix cluster a theoretical value of $220.5 million. During Emmis's ownership, the transmitter facilities for the two FMs were consolidated, with 92.3 and 98.7 combined into a single antenna on the 98.7 tower; this operation was licensed in 2004.

Also in 2004, Bonneville (the broadcasting arm of the LDS Church) acquired KTAR, KMVP, and KKLT (but not KKFR) from Emmis for $70 million plus Bonneville's WLUP-FM (97.9 Chicago). Two years later, Bonneville acquired KKFR for $77.5 million in cash. KKLT became KPKX in 2005, and KKFR became KTAR-FM in 2006 as a part of Bonneville's acquisition of the station. (Bonneville as a rule does not operate urban formats, and the purchase agreement included a clause requiring Emmis to assist Bonneville in transferring the KKFR format, personnel, and intellectual property to a buyer of Bonneville's choosing. It ended up on a north-side rimshot, KZGL (98.3C2 Mayer), which was in the process of being purchased by Riviera Broadcast Group.)

Copyright 2009, Garrett Wollman. All rights reserved. Photograph taken 2009-04-16.