I was a guest this week on a local show broadcasting on KPFZ 88.1 FM, our community radio station. Richard Martin, a co-host of the weekly show “Beat Café,” invited me to appear as a local author. It was an interesting experience to read aloud some poems, short fiction and a newspaper column over the local airwaves.
My husband and I have supported public broadcasting ever since we lived in Rohnert Park. I realize that PBS is not the same as community radio but it is similarly a non-profit alternative to commercial or network broadcasting.
When we lived in Sonoma Grove, which is a trailer park down the street from sonoma state university, the Rohnert Park PBS television station was the only station we could pull in. We faithfully tuned in every week to “Doctor Who” and “Masterpiece Theater.” Community radio in Lake County has an interesting history.
If you’ve ever read the Project Censored anthologies of underreported news, you may remember reading, in “Censored 1999,” about Radio Free Berkeley. It was a forerunner in the campaign to bring low-power radio into local communities. In an act of civil disobedience, Radio Free Berkeley broadcast without licensing by the FCC.
Lake County had its own equivalent that broadcast from the north shore on 88.1 FM — the exact same frequency that has been granted to KPFZ. During its brief stint, it provided radio programming that was entirely locally-produced.
The “micropower” radio station remained on the air until shut down in 1999 by the FCC.
Lake County’s community station is a beneficiary of those pioneering efforts that, in my opinion, helped establish connections among like-minded volunteers and helped to harness community involvement.
KPFZ was originally licensed for a low-power radio frequency and was on the air for three or four years at 104.5 FM. I would get out of work each day just in time to tune in to Amy Goodman’s “Democracy now!” I additionally listened in to a variety of music and talkradio programming whenever my car antenna had an unobstructed line-of-sight toward Clear Lake’s north shore.
The local station was eventually successful in obtaining a fullpower license. The process was fairly competitive, with two other applicants vying — but KPFZ had an advantage because it was the only local applicant. The other competitors eventually withdrew, leaving the field clear for Lake County Community Radio.
Obtaining a license was only one step on the road to going on air as a full-power radio station. The group of programmers who make up KPFZ also needed a studio and antenna. Many volunteers and contributors have assisted toward making this possible. Now, whenever I am able to, I try to pull in a signal.
I’ve found that there are still too many hills that interfere with radio signals when I drive on Lake County highways. In the future, I am hoping that I can download MP3 files of local shows or listen via high-speed Internet. no matter what the format, however, this is our community station in which we can all be proud of the time and effort invested.
Published May 30, 2008 in the Lake County Record-Bee