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Saturday, July 28, 2007

NEW MAUI TV STATION K - UNT ???

THE call letters KUNT have landed at a yet-unbuilt low-power digital television station in Wailuku, Maui.

Alarmingly similar to a word the dictionary says is obscene, the call letters were among a 15-page list of new call letters issued by the Federal Communications Commission and released this week.

The same station owner also received KWTF for a station in Arizona.

From Skokie, Ill., comes a sincere apology "to anyone that was offended," said Kevin Bae, vice president of KM Communications Inc., who requested and received KUNT and KWTF. It is "extremely embarrassing for me and my company and we will file to change those call letters immediately."

On the Net:
» svartifoss2.fcc.gov/reports7/callsign.cfm
He thanked your columnist for bringing the matter to his attention and pledged to, "make sure I don't fall asleep on the job when selecting call signs again."

One might understand how Bae's eyes could glaze over during selection, as KM has some 80 sets of call letters and alpha-numeric callsigns for TV and radio stations in several states.

No KM station is yet on the air in Hawaii but its mainland TV stations carry programming from America One Network, My Network TV and the CW.

The call letter snafu was a source of great mirth for Bae's attorney.

"I can't tell you how long he laughed at me when he learned of my gaffe," Bae said.

Broadcasters for generations have joked among themselves about call letters resembling off-color words or acronyms knowing the FCC would never approve their assignment -- but that was before computerization.

KCUF-FM near Aspen, Colo. got its F-word-in-reverse call letters in August of 2005 and has been on the air since December, "Keeping Colorado Uniquely Free," its Web site says. Uh, yeah.

Station officials could not be reached, but the automated pop-music slinger has been written about twice in the Aspen Daily News. The paper said radio regulators "blessed the call letters."

However, assignment of call letters actually is an automated process, according to Mary Diamond of the FCC's Office of Media Relations. Broadcasters use the FCC Web site to request and receive call letters with no oversight from Beavis, his partner, or any FCC regulator.

Dude, seriously. Even after years of concerns over broadcast indecency and the debate about fines for fleeting profanities that hit the air.

The Code of Federal Regulations allows applicants to request call letters of their choice as long as the combination is available. Further, "objections to the assignment of requested call signs will not be entertained at the FCC," it states.



Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: eengle@starbulletin.com

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