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AM Transmitter Woes

The KNOM AM transmitter site, surrounded by snowy tundra.
The KNOM AM transmitter site. Photo: Ric Schmidt, KNOM.

The damage from last month’s power meter explosion at the AM transmitter site was repaired within a week.

Unfortunately, the transmitter was bumped off the air shortly thereafter. General Manager Ric Schmidt drove in the snowy midnight darkness to investigate.

As he made his way to the transmitter building — several hundred feet from the road — he took one step too far off the snowed-in access driveway and sunk chest-deep in snow. After some help to crawl out of the snow, he made his way to the transmitter building to assess the problem. This time, the studio-transmitter link had quit working. From Anchorage, engineer Van Craft was able to re-tune and ship a borrowed replacement, which was installed a couple days after the outage… just before the storm described here hit the region.

AM transmitter failures are beginning to hit with greater frequency. Multiple failures in the last 12 months have knocked KNOM AM off the air repeatedly, with off-times ranging from a few hours to a few weeks. This is a dangerous time of year for KNOM listeners to lose access to vital weather information.

Nome electrician Pat Knodel replacing parts on KNOM’s AM transmitter power panel.
Nome electrician Pat Knodel replacing parts on KNOM’s AM transmitter power panel. Photo: Ric Schmidt, KNOM.

KNOM needs to replace the current transmitter now, about one year earlier than originally planned. The existing AM unit is in its third decade of service and has become too unreliable.

A new Nautel ND-25 transmitter would increase efficiency many ways. An 18% savings on electricity would amount to $8,340 per year at the current rate. The solid-state unit’s internet protocol system would enable remote monitoring and diagnosis, and some repairs, by off-site engineers and technicians. When work must be done on-site, experts can either remotely instruct KNOM employees through the process or arrive in Nome prepared for the job with parts on hand. The new unit will easily fit in the existing building, so modifications to the building will be minimized.

If KNOM can secure funding, the new transmitter would be installed this summer, when the access road is passable. The price tag for the project is $143,600, with 4% seed money already generously donated. At the direction of the KNOM Board of Directors, one grant application for a significant portion of what’s needed has already been submitted.

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Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.