Anchorage Baptist Temple radio broadcast draws FCC warning

"It was like, 'Ooh, ABT, the big scary pirate radio station,'" said Christian Broadcasting Inc. General Manager Tom Steigleman, of the low-power radio signal that had been broadcast from Anchorage Baptist Temple, drawing a warning letter from the FCC.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) It was just before evening services one night this summer when the FCC investigators appeared at Anchorage Baptist Temple.

“They kind of smirked and were like, ‘Well, we’re here because we have to be,’” said Tom Steigleman, general manager for Christian Broadcasting Inc., a non-profit with offices at the church.

One of Anchorage’s largest and most influential churches, ABT airs regular television broadcasts, hosted the funeral of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and regularly draws statewide political candidates. According to the FCC, it has also been operating an unauthorized radio station at 99.9 FM.

The agency’s enforcement bureau on Monday published a “notice of unlicensed operation,” warning ABT that pirate broadcasts are against federal law and punishable by “substantial monetary fines” and “criminal sanctions including imprisonment.” Trade publications took note.

But Steigleman said the low-power broadcast has been silent for a month or more following the FCC visit. Today, in the ABT parking lot, nothing could be heard on 99.9 FM but static.

While the FCC said the broadcast exceeded 250 microvolts per meter, the limit for non-licensed stations, Steigleman said the signal had barely reached across the street. It originated as a companion to the church Christmas lights display, he said, similar to how homeowners sometimes play music timed to their holiday lights.

The practice began years ago and the broadcasts continued during the off-season, playing church announcements on a loop, he said.

"Somebody picked it up on their car radio and probably somebody who doesn’t like the church -- a little controversial around here at times -- and decided to cause a stir,” Steigleman said.

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