Over the weekend, brand new community radio station KHOI launched in Ames, Iowa. Five years in the making, the license application for the full power non-commercial educational (NCE) FM station was submitted to the FCC in 2007 and was granted in 2009. KHOI went on the air and began their testing phase on 89.1 FM on Saturday, August 4, 2012. Until recently, Family Radio aired syndicated religious programming via a translator at that frequency.
For the time being, KHOI is airing a mix of automated music programming (including world music, women’s music, jazz, reggae, folk, local music, electronica, and polka). Next week, other programming will be added to the schedule, including syndicated content from Pacifica. Pre-recorded local shows will begin next month and live shows will eventually be added to the mix, after the KHOI studio is built. A Kickstarter campaign is running until September 15, in the hopes of raising $12,000 in order build the broadcast studio by November.
KHOI’s Project Manager (as well as its Chair of the Board and Station Manager) Ursula Ruedenberg moved back to her hometown of Ames, Iowa in order to help get KHOI on the air. A long-time community radio supporter, Ruedenberg is also Pacifica Radio’s Affiliates Coordinator. She explained to me over email how KHOI came into being and what her goals are for this new community radio station in Iowa.
Radio Survivor: Can you briefly describe your radio background?
Ursula Ruedenberg: I have been a Pacifica listener since the 1970s. When the corporate takeover of Pacifica came to WBAI in NYC in 2000, I got actively involved with Pacifica as an organizer in the struggle to resist the takeover. I was a staff person for the Pacifica Campaign to Stop the Takeover, founded by Juan Gonzales.
When the struggle was over, I was outreach coordinator on staff at WBAI and at the same time was hired as a consultant by Pacifica Foundation to rebuild the Pacifica Affiliates Program. In 2003 I resigned form WBAI to begin full time employment as Pacifica’s Affiliate Coordinator, a position I still hold. Pacifica’s Executive Director was kind enough to allow me to move to continue my Pacifica employment from Ames, Iowa so I could lead the KHOI project in my spare time on a voluntary basis.
Radio Survivor: What brought you to Iowa to help start KHOI?
Ruedenberg: In 2006, I was in the group of managers from media democracy, community and public radio organizations who created the Radio for People Coalition, formed to find and assist community groups to apply for NCE’s during the 2007 filing window, so I was actively involved with facilitating many applications, especially in the Mid-west and the South.
Prior to my work in Iowa, I spent considerable time in Greenville, Mississippi, helping to get a station on the air there that also filed for a permit in 2007.
In 2007, as part of my involvement with Radio For People, I learned that frequencies were available for reaching Ames, Iowa, my home town, and so I had a special investment in facilitating this project. I worked with Roger Parmenter here in Ames, the person who acquired the construction permit here, with the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. In order to reach Ames, the City of License is actually a nearby town called Story City.
Since then, KHOI has become a separate 501(c)(3) organization and the permit was transferred from the Unitarian fellowship. After two years of holding the permit for KHOI it became clear that the project was in danger of losing the permit since it was not on track to meet the FCC deadline. At that point I moved to Ames to give assistance; and once here in Ames, was asked by the KHOI board to serve as the the project manager.
Radio Survivor: What do you plan to air over KHOI?
Ruedenberg: When we end the testing phase next week, we will begin to gradually interrupt the music bed and introduce content. There will be a daily hour-long local interview show. People of interest, event planners, social service groups, and others will be included, as well as special attention to the outlying towns. We have interviewed all of their mayors and will play [those interviews]. Our first show will include an interview with the historical society in town about their current exhibition on how the railroad started Ames.
Local people are also making short segments including a daily 10-minute piece about the environment and wild animals, daily weather reports, a “this day in history” about the arts, a weekly calendar of music events, and a daily calendar of local events (other than music). We will be introducing 9 DJs to begin music programs ranging from local music shows to international music to history of R& B and more.
Next week we are also going to introduce syndicated programs from Pacifica Radio – Democracy Now, for news and many other syndicated public affairs content offered by Pacifica.
In the following month we will begin to introduce local public affairs shows, local election coverage, and national election coverage from Pacifica Radio. We do not have a [studio-transmitter link] yet so everything is pre-recorded and taken by hand to the transmitter 8 miles away by a “Flash-drive Crew.”
Radio Survivor: What inspired you to help start KHOI?
Ruedenberg: What inspired me – It is an expression of love for my home town. I feel that the very best thing I have found “out there in the world” since I left Iowa, has been community radio and so I wanted to bring this great treasure and resource back here to [people who] will benefit from it. For me, community radio is my global community, it is my culture, and I think it is an important culture for the health of any community. I know that bringing community radio to this town will allow the positive aspects of culture and the benefits of public discourse to flourish. This area needs it as much as any other place to develop its cultural assets and find constructive ways for growth and problem solving. It is a source of great satisfaction to facilitate those aspects of civic life that I value in the area where I grew up.