Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007 | From the window of her Chula Vista office, Lisette Atala can watch the harvesting of salt from the lagoons at the very end of San Diego Bay. It looks like something out of a science fiction movie.
Atala, the executive director of XLNC1 (FM 90.7), and her staff and board are looking for a more earthlike harvest: $200,000 for new equipment and engineering work to extend the station’s reach.
Right now, its 1,000-watt signal reaches cross-border to southern San Diego County and northern Baja. By next month, XLNC1 plans to boost its signal to 7,500 watts with a new frequency at 104.9 FM. The tower will also be moved from 600 to 4,200 feet above sea level, the highest point in Baja.
That XLNC1 has survived is just short of miraculous. XLNC1 — “the little radio station that could” — bills itself as a classical music station. It has been battling problems since it went on the air in 2000.
For listeners in northern San Diego County the weak signal has had another complication that the changes will eliminate. In a special agreement between Mexico and the United States, XLNC1 is licensed as a Mexican station, with its signal tower in Baja. But the FCC assigned its frequency and gave it the same one as KPFK, which broadcasts from Los Angeles. The signals frequently cross. “It’s like buying a house and find someone sharing the master bedroom,” said Atala.
Even with a weak signal, XLNC1 reaches 70,000 listeners weekly plus another 51,000 on the Internet. Its web audience nearly doubled in July, after Google placed it first for those using keywords like “classical music san diego.”