WINNEMUCCA - Humboldt County evidently will no longer be in the commercial radio translator business, which means the local airwaves are likely in for some changes.

County District Attorney Mike Macdonald is sorting out the legal issues, but it looks like the county-owned translators on Winnemucca Mountain will be sold or leased.

The issue never came up until Rodd Stowell, general manager of local station KWNA, approached the county in May about buying the translators.

As I understand it, the FCC no longer allows the county to bring in a radio station signal in competition with a locally originating station.

Stowell's running a business and taxpayer subsidy of competing radio stations is unfair. Two Reno stations, KOZZ and Magic 95, are rebroadcast on the county's translators. They can turn to advertisers and sell them on reach of the station far into northern Nevada.

The county gave Stowell and Ken Sutherland, who owns radio stations in Elko and has just gone on the air with a new Winnemucca station, until September to come up with a proposal to possibly buy the equipment and licenses.

Stowell's got a point about unfair competition, but it isn't clear what happens when the county sells the translators to private operators, who get to decide, in a rather exclusive arrangement, what's broadcast on the local airwaves.

I'm a fan of radio, despite its brushed-off status as part of the "legacy media." As a kid, I could pick up KGO out of San Francisco late at night on my dad's old Zenith radio and listen to Giants games. The mind fills in the details you can't see, putting you behind third base at the old Candlestick Park.

The time spent in my car is radio time, mostly talk radio. I tune most of the pundits in to hear what they have to say on the day's news. It's fairly predictable vitriol from Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. I can pick up Michael Savage, an eccentric conservative, to put it mildly, later in the day on the same Reno station. The AM dial is dominated by conservative talk radio. For some reason, liberals haven't succeeded in pulling in listeners. There's no radio station with the call letter KALS - "Al Franken and Al Gore all the time."

I like KOZZ, a Reno music station that is currently bounced off one of the county's translators and may get dropped. My favorite two hours are the Big Hair Bash on Sunday nights, a return to 1980s glam rock and Spandex.

I also listen to National Public Radio. If it goes away with the sale of the county's translators, local residents lose a source of in-depth news, commentary and culture.

You can never have too much culture, can you?

Steve Lyon is editor of the Humboldt Sun. Contact him at