‘Fraser Free Radio’ hits airwaves
Sky-Hi News Contributor
Residents of east and central Grand County have a new signal on their radio dials.
KFFR 88.3 FM, Grand County’s new community-based non-profit radio station, launched on April 22.
By doing so, the station met the construction permit deadline for the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), and will become a fully licensed FM radio station later this summer.
“There are hurdles in creating a sustainable operation and we met our deadline, but it was a challenge with raising money and acquiring the best equipment and technical support. We did manage to meet the April 24 deadline and it was very gratifying,” said Denis Moynihan, board president of Fraser Valley Community Media Inc., the nonprofit organization behind the station.
Community radio stations are created by interested parties who want to produce and broadcast original radio programming specific to their locale. The first U.S. station was created by the Pacifica Foundation in Berkley California in 1949. Numerous Colorado communities from Gunnison to Cortez have well-supported local stations.
“I think radio is really interesting. It’s a combination of a technical challenge and the social space that community radio stations create to expand political and social boundaries,” said Pete Tridish, a certified broadcast radio engineer and the founder of the Prometheus Radio Project.
Tridish came to Grand County from Philadelphia to install the transmitter and the radio automation software system that is now operating with test content.
Tridish got his start in pirate radio. Now he helps communities all over the world create low power stations. Most recently he was on the Navajo Nation; before that he was in India.
Powered by Volunteers
KFFR will initially be run completely by volunteers. The station format will include music and local news and programming, with some national-level shows such as Democracy Now!.
The creativity of volunteer disc jockeys will distinguish the station from other radio broadcasting in the area, such as Colorado Public Radio based in Denver.
Maria Chavez, (aka “DJ Molish”) of Fraser brings her experience from volunteering at a radio station in Antarctica in 2006 and 2007. She had a weekly three-hour slot on 106.5 FM, “The Ice.” She plans to broadcast a new wave and indie rock show on KFFR.
“The best part about it is being able to express yourself through the music that you listen to. It shows your creativity,” she said. “But it is challenging to bring the right CDs and give your show an even flow instead of a DJ train wreck.”
Volunteers will receive training in what the FCC allows and forbids on its airwaves. For example, profanity is not allowed on FM radio. Moynihan is also very firm about the station’s policy prohibiting intolerance of diverse cultures or hate speech on the air.
Beyond that, the sky is the limit.
“I think the new radio station will bring local flair and local sprit for the community that lives here and plays here. It will bring a more collective vibe,” said Chavez.
The station signal currently reaches most areas from Berthoud Pass to parts of Hot Sulphur Springs and Grand Lake. KFFR will also be available streaming from kffr.org.
A temporary radio tower was erected to meet the FCC deadline. Periodic outages in the station have been due the severe weather in the area. During the test phase, periods of silence should be expected.
“This was really a soft launch and the permanent installation will be more robust and able to hold up against Grand County’s weather,” said Moynihan.
Plans for a permanent tower are in place and negotiations are underway for a station space in downtown Fraser.
The three-member board of directors just launched a fundraising campaign on the Colorado Gives website. Funding thus far has primarily been from grants and small events. Once the station is fully operational, local businesses and organizations will be able to sponsor programs and make announcements on the station to help support the costs.
“The station will primarily serve an education purpose and it will also amplify the issues and concerns of the community. We’ve done a test public service announcement with the Grand County Search and Rescue — just reading a post they had on Facebook about needing volunteers — and we’ve been running that on the air. We’re curious to see if anyone responds to it,” said Moynihan.
Moynihan created Fraser Valley Community Media Inc. in 2007, when the FCC launched a competitive application process for a full-power, non-commercial, educational FM radio license. Fraser Valley Community Media was granted the license for 88.3 FM.
“This is really a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” said Moynihan. “The FCC rarely opens this application process.”
Fraser Valley Community Media was the only locally based applicant for the license. The others came from as close as Idaho Springs and as far away as Texas.
“I’ve traveled the world and have been working in media for 15 years. Regions that have an active radio station have a more vibrant and engaged community. It is a wonderful resource. It will ultimately be as good as what the community puts into it. We can shepherd it into a dynamic local institution,” said Moynihan.
KFFR fills the gap left in Grand County-based FM radio when 106.3 FM moved to Summit County and became “The Lift.” KRKY 930 AM/101.9 FM Colorado Country also broadcasts local news and sporting events.
In spite of competition of new ways to access media, radio remains a robust avenue to receive information and engage in community.
“Over 90 percent of Americans listen to radio every week. FM infrastructure is very, very robust compared to the Internet,” said Tridish.
To find out more about KFFR 88.3 FM, visit the website kffr.org or find them on facebook.
Anna Winkel is on the board for the new station.
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