The ghost station of Omaha is a mysterious radio signal at 1490 AM — seemingly without owners, advertisers or disc jockeys — that plays a continuous loop of Buddy Holly, Petula Clark and Bobby Darin, like a 1960s malt-shop jukebox stuffed with an endless supply of coins.
Nobody seems to know much about it. The Federal Communications Commission admitted it was stumped in papers filed last month. The airwave regulator said in the filing that it could find neither the owners nor the studio.
The station operates under the call letters KOMJ. Regular listeners to the station's oldies format can testify that commercials aren't part of the deal, leaving questions about who is paying for the programming, which can be bought from music distributors via satellite.
The FCC said in its filing that the station is owned by Cochise Broadcasting, in Jackson, Wyo. The agency said it could find no phone number for the company, no website. Neither could The World-Herald.
Other than the singers of songs such as “Forever in Blue Jeans” by Neil Diamond, or “Evergreen” by Barbra Streisand, the only voices heard are in short station promos.
“Magic 1490,” intones an announcer. “The height of relaxation.”
Maybe. In truth, what the station specializes in is old music, dubbed “easy listening” or “middle of the road” by programmers. The playlist includes a smattering of big band, swing-type numbers of the 1940s, and a few softilicious hits of the 1980s, such as “Captain of Her Heart,” by the French pop band Double.
But most are from the dawn of the rock era and up through the singer-songwriter trend of the 1970s.
Occasionally, a promo will feature someone who sounds like a listener who called in with a message of praise.
“Just keep playing those hit records!” says a woman with great enthusiasm.
What number she called is a mystery.
“On August 1, 2013, an agent from the Kansas City Office attempted to inspect station KOMJ's main studio, while the station was on the air,” the FCC enforcement report reads. “The station's web-page contains no main studio address and only lists a local phone number, which transfers to voice mail for stations located in the state of Arizona. The station's address of record is a mail box in the state of Wyoming.”
The saga took another twist when the FCC dug deeper into the studio location. The agency said it found an unnamed attorney who served as contact person for the station. The attorney, filings say, said the main studio is at 10714 Mockingbird Dr., Omaha.
The FCC investigated further, sending an inspector there.
“This location is the main studio for the Journal Broadcast Group stations in Omaha,” the report says. “The staff for the Journal Broadcast Group stations stated that station KOMJ's main studio was not located at 10714 Mockingbird Dr. and that no one associated with station KOMJ worked at the location.”
Journal Broadcast Group sold to Cochise Broadcasting in 2007. The station at one time carried Lancers hockey games. KOMJ, the FCC said in its report, leases space at the Journal Broadcast studios, but does not broadcast from there.
“The agent from the Kansas City Office was unable to locate any main studio for station KOMJ,” says the report.
Lack of a studio and lack of an address for the licensee operating on FCC-regulated airwaves is frowned upon, according to the report.
“Every permittee or licensee of an AM, FM, TV or Class A TV station in the commercial broadcast services shall maintain a public inspection file,” the FCC enforcement action reads. “The file shall be available for public inspection at any time during regular business hours.”
And that is where it stands. The FCC media relations department said it would look into the matter, but said the agency doesn't comment about ongoing cases.
As of Friday, the music rolled on, oblivious to the administrative hub-bub, analog streaming audio from an era when portable music meant an AM car radio.