Fighting for airwaves

BY CALLEY HAIR    Of the News-Times

Fourteen years ago, a group of local activists came together with an ambitious but straightforward aim — to create a nonprofit, community radio station.   

After more than a decade of licensing woes and mountains of red tape, they achieved their goal, and 91.7 KYAQ-FM hit the airwaves. But just three years later, the station is facing closure.   

They’re out of money, said Studio Manager Bill Dalbey. And unless the nonprofit station gains enough community support to cover it’s current debt and future expenses, KYAQ won’t live to see 2017.   

“By the time the radio station got up and running, they pretty much expended all of their donations,” Dalbey said, referring to the $35,000 raised by the community to get KYAQ othe ground. “There was really nothing left over by the time the station   started broadcasting.”   

KYAQ’s current supporting members pay about $700 per month to keep the station on the air. But even with a roster of managers, engineers and content producers working on a volunteer-only basis, rent for the studio and broadcast tower total $1,200 — they’ve only gotten this far because their understanding landlords believe in the station, Dalbey said.    However, the station’s debt is approaching $10,000 and creditors can’t take a noble cause to the bank.   

“The tower owner has been very, very patient with us,” Dalbey said. “(But) he’s going to pull the plug on us. That’s why we’re sort of in crisis mode, financially.”   

Dalbey and his wife, KYAQ Board President Franki Trujillo-Dalbey, have taken that crisis mode and turned it into an opportunity. The duo launched an exhaustive eort to gain more supporting members, including live fundraising concerts, a rae, and matching donations from community partners.     

As of press time, they’ve raised $2,160 of their $10,000 goal in one-time donations, and gained 49 sustaining members of their 100-member target.   

People do and should care, said Trujillo-Dalbey, speaking softly but passionately from the station’s studio at Toledo’s Floweree Community Center during a live concert on Friday, Nov. 11.   

“We really believe, especially — not to get political — noncommercial media is going to matter a lot in the coming four years,” Trujillo-Dalbey said. “I think we have to preserve whatever media we can at this point.”   

Regardless of political affiliation, trust in mainstream media is at an all-time low, she said. Hearing your neighbors discuss community issues, mixed together with national content like Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!” and David Barsamian’s “Alternative Radio” can help alleviate that distrust.       

“I think there’s going to be serious heat put on the mainstream media,” Trujillo-Dalbey said. “It makes us all the more important. You’ve got to have community radio.”   

Their current financial straits are made all the more discouraging because KYAQ is just starting to find its feet, Trujillo-Dalbey said.   

When she and her husband got involved with the station last year, it was still so focused on staying on the air that it lacked any locally produced content. Instead, the station relied on national shows from the Pacifica Foundation to fi ll airtime.   

Now, about a quarter of the station’s programming comes from within the county, a ratio Trujillo-Dalbey is hoping to bump up to about half and-half.   

“We just want to reflect our community, however we   can do that. And that means people need to produce shows,” Trujillo-Dalbey said.   

“It should refl ect writers and actors and all of the different communities we have here. It’s the people’s media.”   

KYAQ’s current weekly schedule includes “Talk of Toledo” with the Toledo mayor, “Furious George” with the head of the Lincoln County Democrats, “Latin Corner” featuring an entire hour of local radio entirely in Spanish, and several music programs, among others. In all, they broadcast 11 shows produced within Lincoln County.     

Getting locals involved in producing content starts with letting people know just how easy it is to get on the radio, Trujillo-Dalbey said. Anyone interested can reach out to the station via phone or online — all a producer needs is some basic equipment and something to talk about.   

“People think that doing a program means they’re going   to have to be somewhere every day,” she said. “It’s really not like that. If you have a recorder and it does a good job in terms of quality, then you’ve got a show. It’s that simple.”   

The station will continue holding live fundraising concerts each Friday evening through November. Listeners can make a onetime donation or sign up for monthly donations at KYAQ.org.   

The Central Oregon Coast National Organization for Women will match the first eight sustaining members. Sustaining members will also be entered into a raffle to win a candelabra from late Toledo metal artist Sam Briseño.   

“We don’t have to worry about making a profit, but we do have to worry about paying the bills,” Trujillo-Dalbey said. “We’re just beginning.”   

Contact reporter Calley Hair at 541-265-857 1 ext. 211 or chair@newportnewstimes.com.  

  Franki Trujillo-Dalbey, KYAQ-FM Board President (left), and Walker Ryan laugh together on a couch at the KYAQ studio in Toledo during a fundraising event on Friday, Nov. 11. (Photo by Nathan Howard)

 

  Bill Dalbey of KYAQ adjusts audio levels during a live performance and fundraiser at the station’s studio in Toledo on Friday, Nov. 11.

 

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