Tomball radio station extends its programming to the air

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Listeners are unlikely to hear the melodious voice of a radio personality making the station ID prompt early in the morning or late at night. “You listen to KTTF-LP FM 95.3 MHz in Tomball, Texas (LPFM),” the voice reads, but the once-only music station with a few exceptions at Tomball is changing the lineup, and for good reason.

The resort letters – KTTF – were generated from the city’s motto, “Tomball Texan for Fun,” said Mike Baxter, director of marketing and tourism for the city of Tomball.

And for several years, many didn’t even know the city had a station, but Baxter and his assistant, Larissa Roberts, the city’s marketing and communications specialist, are changing the playlist.

Roberts has only been at the console for extended periods of time in the past year or so.

The station came into being in 2012 following the wishes of former Fire Chief Randy Parr as a way to keep citizens informed in an emergency.

“He was thinking of hurricanes where battery-powered or hand-cranked FM radios are mostly available and useful when the power is off and there is no access to social media or broadcast media,” Roberts said.

“Almost as if we were going back to our roots of communication when families gathered around the radio and listened to FDR,” she said.

Roberts and his supervisor Baxter inherited the station just over a year ago and they had some important ideas to gain an audience.

“Yes, it’s perfect for an emergency, but we need people who are tuned in and accustomed to listening to the station before an emergency,” she said.

Baxter and Roberts have since been tasked with brightening it up.

“We gave them a reason to listen,” Baxter said.

“It’s hard to train them to listen in an emergency, so we try to train them first to listen outside of the emergency,” she said.

Before their intervention, it was just music.

“If there was a need, we could cut from the standard CD playlist and make an ad,” Baxter said.

“Now it’s very different from what it was then.”

For almost half a decade, the same 1,500 songs were streaming every week without a break, but the marketing team is changing that dramatically.

“You would hear Hank Williams, Sr. and Johnny Cash about 90 percent of the time,” Baxter said.

Like any other radio station, they are required to pay royalties to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Broadcast Music, Inc., the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers and other agencies for royalties like any other radio station.

“Every time I import the songs into the radio station’s playlist, we use a program that detects where those artists’ royalties go, the program signals that and then bills us,” Roberts said.

It is not an expensive endeavor but it is necessary.

“If they (a band) play at festivals or events, or a radio at the community center or at the pool, we have to pay for that as well,” Baxter said.

Roberts said they use software called StationPlaylist Creator and StationPlaylist Studio. Creator loads the playlist files used for broadcasting and provides a schedule template for planning purposes. Studio is the automation component and can continuously and uninterruptedly play jingles, commercials, news, songs, live streams and much more.

Baxter said they have programming blocks for gospel, country music and various other offerings.

Roberts spends about five hours a week on content creation and programming, including promotions for upcoming events in the city.

The software has an automated mixer.

“We just tell it to play country music from the ’70s,’ 80s, or ’90s and the software plugs it in and plays it,” Roberts said.

Under these circumstances, no one should be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Instead, when there is a power outage or something is wrong with the system, Roberts or Baxter are notified on their phones.

“I live about two miles from where the radio station is and can get there fast enough to troubleshoot what’s going on,” she said.

The station is located inside the No.1 Fire Station at 1200 Rudel Road, sort of in the middle of town.

“It was located there to accomplish the original purpose of airing emergency programming,” said Roberts. In addition, if there was an emergency, the main decision-making actors – the fire chief, the police chief, the director of public works – would be installed there. There is also a generator there to keep everything working in a crisis.

The signal is broadcast using the Northwest EMS antenna, across the street and down the street from the fire hall.

Originally, they could not get permission to install the antenna within the city limits. Being a low powered radio station, it could only span about 5 miles and the tower was in Rosehill outside of town.

A recent move from Rosehill to the Northwest EMS tower has produced remarkable results.

“It has a much bigger reach than we ever imagined,” Baxter said. The signal is now reaching the entire city and beyond to the emergency service areas that the city also serves.

“I heard it up to 14 miles from downtown, depending on the direction and the weather,” he said.

As a social media manager and public information manager, Roberts said it was difficult to do regular breaking and entering for news or constantly recording new content.

“We looked to our community partners to help us create content,” she said.

Since the station’s revival began, they have used interview segments with community actors and agitators and continue to do so.

“Last week we recorded a 30 minute segment with a new band. We also report on cultural events taking place in the city and pre-recording content with conductors, artists and Who’s Who 30-second sound clips that are played throughout the day, ”he said. she declared. They also did the same for city employees to familiarize the community with the different agencies within city government.

The children’s librarian records about five stories read to children each week and others contribute content as well.

As for Baxter and Roberts, they stand low and try to stay out of on-air coverage.

“Our job is to talk about others,” he said.

Currently, there is no way for them to measure their on-air audience, but in the fall that could change.

“We hope that the online streaming component will be up and running so that people can access a website and stream digitally. This will significantly expand our reach, as people will be able to log in on their phones, tablets or computers, ”she said. Digital broadcast, they will be able to measure live broadcast and plot metrics.

There is no advertising on the station at the moment.

“When city council approved it a few years ago, at the start of the project, it was with a clear understanding on their part that it would remain ad-free,” Baxter said.

As for who voices introductions, or introductions, and lineup releases, Roberts said that was a mixed bag.

“Sometimes they make theirs, other times I make them for them,” said Roberts.

In a recent program at Lone Star College, they did their own intro or intro and out of the program.

“If they are able and want to do it, we prefer it,” she said because it saves time.

Engaging Tomball ISD and Lone Star College with educational components and an experience for students to create programming for the station was another avenue they wanted to continue exploring.

“Finally, we talked about the broadcast of Friday night football games and graduation ceremonies,” Baxter said.

Recently, during the 4th of July fireworks celebration, the fireworks were put to live music on the radio station.

“People were encouraged if they were in their cars listening to music on the radio while watching the fireworks,” Baxter said. They combined the technologies with music playing live on the festival speakers, on Facebook Live with Baxter and on the radio station simultaneously.

In the last year or so, they’ve improved the technology at minimal cost.

“The overall cost is not very high at all,” Baxter said. They estimated the cost per month to be almost $ 500 for fees and equipment.

In the event of an emergency, Baxter said his station will provide Tomball-specific updates, unlike other stations in the Houston area.

“They won’t talk about flooding on the surface streets in Tomball. We will, ”he said.

Baxter said they also get the same information for the Gulf Coast region from the National Weather Service as any other outlet.

“We’re still in the early days of this thing because there’s so much potential. We have gone from a simple music station to a much larger programming, ”he said.

All of their efforts have resulted in more listeners who will also be listening when emergency updates and break-ins are needed.

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