When the LPFM application window opened in Ohio, an opportunity was
The matter had been discussed among the churches but at first no one
expressed enough interest to proceed.
Loudonville is the second-largest city in the County of Ashland with
a population of about 2,800 people. This community lies at about the
midpoint between Columbus and Cleveland, near Mansfield. There is an FM
station licensed to Loudonville, however, it has no presence in town,
only an 800-number to call. Its studio is in Mount Vernon, which is
about 20 miles away. A radio station that would truly serve the town
The pastor of the Zion Lutheran Church, Reverand Terry Ruther, was
approached with the suggestion that his church apply for a construction
permit for a low-power FM station. The goal would be for the station to
serve his church, the city and local area. A basic initial plan was
developed and he applied for a construction permit. The plan called for
an antenna to be mounted on a pole on the church spire and to locate
the transmitter and studio in a church office, thus keeping costs low
and placing everything close together.
Photo by Jim Brewer, Loudonville Times
Looking into the control room of WZLP.
The talk studio can accommodate as many as three guests.
The studios are compact, but they are functional.
The construction permit was duly issued and all seemed well until
someone noticed that the CP showed an effective radiated power (ERP) of
1W. The FCC Form 318 was electronically filed by a volunteer, but the
height above ground in the filing was incorrectly entered as 290m
instead of 29m. A quick modification led to a new CP with the desired
During the time that elapsed between the application and the grant
of the CP, the church congregation's interest grew and ambitious plans
began to make this truly a local station. Construction, programming,
operation, financing and staffing committees were formed. Meetings were
held with the school superintendent, the director of the public library
and the city officials, all with the objective of including these
sources in the station's programming. As a result of all this
pre-programming activity, it was decided that effort should go for
broke and take the time to find the best available transmitter site.
After finding a better site, the CP was modified and WZLP was on its
way to getting on the air.
Selecting the equipment
Time passed quickly, and the 18 months allowed for construction had
elapsed to leave about six months remaining. The church was fortunate
to have several members who had some broadcast experience and who took
over the problems of obtaining equipment and installing the station. A
budget of $50,000 was envisioned, and a retired former Christian
station program director was hired to oversee construction. Once again,
good fortune stepped in and contact with a nearby Christian station
resulted in the purchase of a 100' self-supporting tower for $5,000.
The price included removal, transportation and the erection of the
antenna, transmission line and tower at the site, which was not an easy
job because of the local terrain.
Considerable site work was required in bulldozing and clearing the
site and a path to it. All power and telephone lines were buried. An 8'
× 10' cinderblock building was constructed on a concrete slab and
a 10' security fence erected around the building and the tower. The
area is fairly remote and vandalism is not unknown in Loudonville. A
C-band dish was also installed with its output feeding a switcher
inside the transmitter building. Satellite programming switching is
remotely controlled from the studio and is fed directly into the
Inside the building, a Crown 100W transmitter operating at 112W
output (the transmitter is rated at 120W, and the church insisted it
meant that 112W continuous will work) drives a Shively two-bay 6812
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it was necessary to
explain to the eager beaver church member “engineers” that
an STL was not the same as an RPU, and could not be used for remote
pickup at football games. This having been explained many times, a
stereo loop was ordered from the telephone company together with two
regular phone lines for remote control and communication. Fortunately,
an incredibly low rate was available for the telephone services, making
the STL option moot.
WZLP's first remote broadcast was an away football game less than
six weeks after going on the air. A simple installation using a Conex
Flip Jack 2 was used via a POTS line. As far as is known this was the
first local live remote broadcast of a Loudonville high school football
game, although a local commercial station has been in existence for 10
The basic, simple, low-power FM installation plan that was
originally envisioned had long since been discarded. The congregation's
excitement and acceptance of the proposed station produced a surprising
amount of donations and grants. By now more than $50,000 was available
for construction. This meant that new equipment, in most cases, could
be purchased and although many offers of used equipment had been
received comparatively little was actually used. But heartfelt thanks
were offered to the generous potential donors.
Inside the studios
The studio is located across the road and in a house that is owned
by the church. This building is used as an annex and contains
conference rooms and young people's recreational rooms as well as a
counseling service. The area allocated to the studio is about
12'×12' and it was recommended that this be used as a combination
control room and studio. This would provide adequate space for several
program participants plus the operator and studio equipment and makes
for comfortable talk shows. A production studio was planned for the
future and there is ample room in the building.
However, the experienced members of the committee wanted a real
radio studio, with a separate control room and studio. The result is a
small control room and a small studio. Adequate soundproofing was
installed; air-conditioning is provided by a window unit that is turned
off when necessary.
The studio layout is convenient, although it will probably be
changed as time passes and more equipment is added. Suitable switching
has been installed to allow the console and master control to be used
as a production studio while a live studio program is on the air.
The church did not skimp on studio equipment and computerized
operation and logging is used. All the live programming at present
originates in the studio and consists of talk monologs and discussions.
Plans are in place to run a line across the road to the church for live
religious service broadcasts and chats from the pastor's office. When
this is completed, live church services will be carried regularly.
Services from other churches will be carried by means of phone lines.
The Loudonville school also provides several local live programs, and
school information notices are carried daily through this
The station started its operations the right way. It is an LPFM
station, but it is a real radio facility with the kind of operations
and programming that used to be found in good commercial radio
stations. In the end, construction costs to pass the states' many
nitpicking inspections cost almost as much as the radio equipment.
Signal coverage is in line with the Commission's anticipated level, and
is usable at more than 10 miles in some directions and covers the
adjoining village of Perrysville, which is what the church wanted.
Andrew coaxial cable
Broadcast Tools SS8.2 switchers
BSI Simian automation
Conex Flip Jack 2 and single Flip Jack
Crown FM100 transmitter
Electro-Voice 635A microphones
Inovonics 530 modulation monitor
Mackie model SR24•4 console
Marantz PMD320 CD player
O.C. White microphone booms
Shively 6812 antenna
Tascam 302 cassette
TFT EAS 911
Wegener Unity 4000 satellite receiver