On Friday, January 3, 2014.KYAQ(91.7 FM in Siletz, Oregon) went on the air and made way for the people of Lincoln County to shape their first local non-commercial radio station.
Bridget Wolfe, past Board President of Firebare, the station’s sponsoring non-profit, said, “This is a gift to the community, a gathering spot for everyone on the Central Coast to share our wealth of intellectual and artistic resources. The airwaves are crucial to our area, often the only way people can know what is going on.”
Wolfe said, “In the spring of 2007, my husband John Crawford and I decided to mark his birthday with a trip to Ashland to hear Amy Goodman speak. John and I had lived in Los Angeles before moving to the Oregon Coast and were avid KPFK listeners and supporters. We were frustrated by the lack of alternative voices in the area. We met people in Ashland who had similar concerns; listening to Amy inspired us, and we decided to make community radio here in Lincoln County a reality.”
A local non-profit, Firebare, signed on as sponsor and, with the help and guidance of the Prometheus Radio Project, the group applied for a radio frequency. Firebare was initially rated second among eight competing applicants. In 2011, when the number one applicant withdrew, Firebare was issued its FCC construction permit to build a station, with a three-year deadline.
Community members, individuals and institutions, artists and musicians, belly dancers and a salsa DJ, all pitched in to raise money. Local artists collaborated to create a video for an Indiegogo campaign and designed the station’s “Find Your Voice” posters, “to increase public awareness of KYAQ and how it will promote democracy, be a home to free expression, stimulate investigation of new ideas and become Lincoln County’s premier creative outlet.” National support came from Amy Goodman and Mike Malloy who called in during station fundraisers and David Barsamian of Alternative Radio who spoke at a local event. (Barsamian spoke again at a KYAQ event last fall.)
Some six to eight months into this process, Crawford met Alan Searle. Searle recalls, “I was standing in line at the feed store when I ran into Firebare Board Member John Crawford.” Said Wolfe, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We could not have done it without Alan.”
Searle, who had 30 years experience as a broadcast journalist, including positions with both Minnesota Public Radio and Free Speech Radio News, knew the ropes. He says, “From the onset, we demonstrated what an engaged community station can do.” KYAQ operated as an internet station and broadcast live local music events, and also maintained a news, information and opinion website. During the early years, the website promoted the station project with construction updates, video commentaries from locals as well as national personalities.
Then, finally, came January 3, 2014; and, with some 14 hours of grace time before the FCC construction permit expired, KYAQ went on the air and began regular broadcast operations. Locally produced programs cover the gamut from environmental news and interviews, community affairs, political news, cooking, LGBTQ issues, Spanish language news Native American issues, and music, lots of music. KYAQ now has eight music programs created by local volunteers. Programming typically is talk, news, and educational shows during the day and music at night. Sunday afternoon features several Spanish language news and music programs, and Native American programming.
The station is completely volunteer run, and maintaining sufficient operating revenue has been challenging, as is typical with start-up community radio stations. After several years of operating losses, the station found itself $15,000 in debt. Over the last few years, the community stepped up with generous donations and the station has now retired most of its outstanding debt, but the financial challenge continues.
KYAQ’s annual pledge and membership drive is scheduled for August 16th through the 19th, with two days of special live programming, followed by two days of broadcasting music live from the Toledo Wooden Boat Show.
Thursday and Friday, August 16th and 17th, KYAQ’s local radio program hosts will be doing live broadcasts, interspersed with personal messages from community supporters. The goal is to add at least 20 new sustaining members, who will pledge a monthly donation of $10 or more.
On Saturday and Sunday, August 18th and 19th, the station will broadcast live from the Toledo Wooden Boat Show at Toledo’s waterfront park, bringing great musical acts to the airwaves for the enjoyment of all. KYAQ will have a vendor booth at the Boat Show where they will take donations and memberships, and many of the local show producers will be on hand to chat with the public.
An exciting new feature this year is an online silent auction. Beginning August 16th and ending August 19th, the public can go to the website at www.KYAQ.org and bid on all the wonderful products and services that have been generously donated by local people and businesses. There are sure to be things in the silent auction that will appeal to every taste.
Lincoln County’s only community radio station has grown to become a hub of information and education. The community calendar at www.KYAQ.org is filled with local events. Interviews with local people active in the environment, community service, politics and education abound. KYAQ has come a long way but it is just getting started. With the help of the community, the little radio station that could aims to fulfill its primary mission: “ to strengthen the fabric of our community by weaving together vital threads of news, information, science, music, and art, creating an environment rich with surprise and discovery.”