A handful of folks are once again gathered around a large table above the Growers Market. Individual identities alter slightly each week, but intentions hold constant: assemble key pieces of a fledgling, local radio station. KEPW, 97.3 FM. Homegrown community radio. “No Voice Left Unheard.”
For most of the players attending this particular session, excitement is tempered but unmistakable. Committee members are steering KEPW through largely uncharted local waters. The station is currently streaming content over the web, but there’s a critical need to launch over-the-air broadcasts by February or risk losing FCC licensing.
“We’re calling ourselves a ‘news, public affairs, and arts radio station,’” explains Andrew Rosenthal, one of the volunteer planners, “but we’re trying to do that as locally as possible.” Though KEPW formally sits under the organizational umbrella of the nonprofit Eugene PeaceWorks, the planners around the table seem to share a collective attitude about station operations––consensus rules.
Launching a LPFM (Low Power FM) station doesn’t demand a Warren Buffet-sized bankroll; it does, however, require fundraising tenacity. So far, the station has attracted donations from the Oregon Country Fair and the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation. That said, the $20k dream of securing a reliable transmitter and broadcast tower aren’t yet fully realized. Local businesses and listeners will likely soon be asked to kick cash into the kitty.
Most of the launch team envisions a 50/50 program mix of music and public affairs when the station is fully operational. Musical content will heavily favor local musicians and genres infrequently heard on other area stations. Public affairs components will incorporate local news and interviews, organization profiles, discussion of topical local issues and editorial viewpoints.
“I think we’re going to draw in liberal listeners,” says engineering coordinator Dee Kemp. “And we’re also going to delve into radical audiences and their issues.”
“Put your ideas of judgment and criticism on the shelf, then pick them up after class,” advises Rosenthal. “You don’t have to like or not like what you hear. Just be open to the idea that whatever it is, it has a right to exist.”
Photos by Mikael Krummel