What’s in a job: 1 man keeps 21 radio stations on the air for you

Kelton Lloyd, chief engineer of Canyon Media, sits in the hot seat in the KONY 99.9 studio. St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — If you ask the sales department at Canyon Media in St. George how many radio stations they operate, they will tell you there are seven stations. But if you ask the chief engineer of the group, Kelton Lloyd will tell you there are really 21.

Canyon Media Chief Engineer Kelton Lloyd in his office, St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
Canyon Media Chief Engineer Kelton Lloyd in his office, St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

The seven stations in the group consist of KONY 99.9, Planet 94.1, 95.9 The Hawk, Easy 101.5, Fox News 1450 KZNU, 96X and Juan 104.1 FM.

There are 14 other translators as well, Lloyd said, smaller FM stations in outlying areas that retransmit a primary station’s signal to fill in an area that would otherwise not receive the station; and HD radio stations – digital stations that retransmit a radio station in high quality digital sound. They all require just as much care as the main signal transmitters do.

Lloyd takes care of all of those stations. From keeping them on the air to making them sound just right coming into your home, he drives thousands of miles a year to make sure the radio station is on the air and sounds good.

“I come in in the morning and I fix people’s emails,” Lloyd said joking, when asked to describe an average day. “I then teach people how to get on their computer to use their emails, then fix the radio station stuff that broke overnight. Then I go to the transmitter sites and play diesel mechanic (for the generators), occasionally have to fix a transmitter site and then come back and replace the toilet paper in the bathroom.”

While Lloyd was joking, the life of a chief engineer is not far off from what he describes. It can be a constant battle between fixing immediate problems and performing preventative maintenance.

Lloyd started in December of 1993 at what was then KSGI, now KZNU 1450 AM in St. George.

Canyon Media Chief Engineer Kelton Lloyd in front of a bank of audio processors, St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
Canyon Media Chief Engineer Kelton Lloyd in front of a bank of audio processors, St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

“They needed a telephone connection to a transmitter site,” Lloyd said, “and in order to get this connection going, the engineer, Pat O’Gara, told me how to build an autocoupler … so I built this device, flipped the switch and broadcast the radio station over the phone line.”

Lloyd studied under O’Gara to increase his knowledge of electronics and radio station operation. O’Gara was based in Las Vegas, so Lloyd became O’Gara’s eyes and ears for the St. George operation, taking care of what he could and letting O’Gara keep his base in Las Vegas.

Lloyd learned a lot under O’Gara’s tutelage, but sometimes his knowledge came from experience, and that experience was not always positive.

“In 1994 we put a new station on the air in Delta. O’Gara told me what to do (over the phone), to put the exciter (low power transmitter) in place, then turn on the filaments and then reach inside the (high-powered) transmitter and adjust the power amplifier for minimum reflected power. I didn’t feel comfortable reaching inside the transmitter so I didn’t do that step and flipped the main switch. The station came on the air at 25,000 watts and I thought that was so cool – until the people from Delta called that night saying they were off the air.”

By skipping the vital step and not adjusting the power amplifier Lloyd had allowed a mismatch in the antenna line. Power was reflected back into the transmitter burning up the final 25,000-watt amplifier, rendering it useless. He learned quickly what had to be done.

Canyon Media Chief Engineer Kelton Lloyd visits with Juan 104.5 morning personality Pedro XXXX , St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
Canyon Media Chief Engineer Kelton Lloyd visits with Juan 104.5 morning personality Pedro Magdiel in the studio, St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

Lloyd was hired by Canyon Media in 2004 and began his long run by implementing the design of their then new studios in Washington City on Playa Della Rosita. But when Canyon Media moved to its new studios on South Bluff Street in 2014, Lloyd’s flair for the operation began to manifest itself.

“I designed and built most of this myself,” Lloyd said.

Indeed. the seven station operation is very well designed and laid out. All audio feeds are sent over VoIP instead of analog, not only to the individual studios and engineering room for processing, but to the transmitters themselves.  That not only eliminates miles of wiring, it makes it much easier to track down a problem should it occur.

The people that use the equipment, the names that are known on the radio, all agree that Lloyd did and continues to do a good job.

Pedro Magdiel, morning show host on Juan 104.1 praised Lloyd for his work, as did Amy Chesley, who does the morning show on KONY 99.9 with Carl Lamar and Marty Lane.

“He’s fantastic,” Chesley said. “He does so much around here that I didn’t even know about…He’s our go-to guy.”

About the series “What’s in a job”

Labor Day invites us to give “tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” according to the Labor Department.

St. George News brings this “What’s in a job” series of stories over Labor Day weekend to recognize workers whose contributions may go unnoticed, who may be less visible to the general public than others and to unpack some of what goes into everyday jobs performed by everyday people in our communities. Work is a good thing. We honor it and those who do it.

Other stories in the series:

Email: rwayman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @NewsWayman

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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6 Comments

  • Real Life September 3, 2016 at 8:28 am

    St George has the absolute worst radio stations in the country. Songs are cut short and often edited. Playlists are minimal so you hear the same songs over and over. And then there’s KZNU. What a joke. Thank God for satellite radio so one can keep touch with the outside world.

  • .... September 3, 2016 at 11:23 am

    St George has the best radio stations in the country . no music is cut short they play the whole song .the Playlists are excellent with plenty of music to listen to. Thank God for St George radio stations and they’re international news. ..the best there is. …Praise the Lord !

    • Real Life September 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      Now that is actually very funny!

      • .... September 3, 2016 at 9:25 pm

        Now that is actually very funny !

  • Bob September 3, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    i never bother with radio. just noise and ads

    • .... September 3, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      All that noise you hear is all those voices in your head waiting for they’re meds

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