Friday, October 25, 2013

Doubling Down on Community Service

The non-profit KSER Foundation is about to be the steward of a second non-commercial independent public radio station. Sometime in the next few weeks we will expand our footprint in the North Puget Sound by launching the region's newest FM radio station: KXIR at 89.9.

This new station is a project that actually began years ago with planning and filings with the Federal Communications Commission. Several other organizations were eager to claim this last available full-power frequency in our region.  But almost three years ago the F.C.C. awarded the new frequency to the KSER Foundation.

Our initial focus was to find an existing tower that would meet the F.C.C. requirements for the broadcast signal. After all, who wants to build a new broadcast tower? Unfortunately, there were no towers already available that could accommodate our needs and the F.C.C. specifications. Eventually we were able to lease a small plot of heavily wooded land in the middle of Whidbey Island to construct a new tower.

We held a public hearing at Greenbank Farms which was attended by several of the neighbors who live in the sparsely populated area near the tower site. After the hearing we filed a land-use permit with Island County proposing the clearing of a relatively small area that would be surrounded by tall trees on all sides.  The average tree height in the area is nearly 140' and our tower would be 180' - meaning that from many vantage points you would barely be able to see the tower above the tree line. Our proposal also spelled out that the tower would remain in it's natural galvanized steel state - no bright orange or red colors. And because of the limited height, no strobe lights, beacons or lights of any kind will be placed on the tower.  We also included a commitment to plant additional trees around the tower site once it was complete.

The Island County Planning Department approved our application and allowed a window for public comment or appeals. There were none. We were given the green light to begin the project.

That began a four-month flurry of land-clearing; surveying; measuring; concrete-pouring; parts-ordering; parts-deliveries; (oops, defective parts - more ordering); trench-digging; conduit-installation; (oops, conduit in wrong place - more digging) electrical wiring; other utilities installations; on-the-ground tower parts assembly; antenna assembly; and more.

That was all followed by delivery of a large crane; (oops, discovery that the crane wasn't large enough!); delivery of a larger crane; stacking of a 180' tower; tower climbing; antenna installation; budget calculations and recalculations.

If you'd like to see a big chunk of all that work edited down to three minutes, watch this time-lapse video:

We're still not finished. We need to do some testing and proofs and file that information with the F.C.C. before we begin serving the community with KXIR.  But, hopefully, that won't take more than another few weeks and you'll be able to listen to our music, news and public affairs programming on both 90.7 FM and 89.9 FM.

For at least the first six months, we will simulcast KSER's programming on the new station 24 hours a day. But, we've already held six public forums seeking your input on how we can best serve our communities with two independent public radio stations.  We are planning more outreach and research to determine the best way to create two separate and distinct stations to serve our diverse area. But you can be sure that however the stations' programming is developed it will be done to match the KSER Foundation Mission Statement: To advance the common good in our community
through Public Radio and other services dedicated to arts, ideas and civic engagement.

You can find out more about our new station here. If you have ideas, suggestions or questions about the new station we'd love to hear from you.

Many towns and cities in the U.S. are not served by a community owned, fully independent public radio station. Some are fortunate enough to have one. In the North Puget Sound - thanks to the hard work, vision and dedication of many people and thanks to community support - we're about to have TWO!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

KSER Voice of the Community Awards

A packed house was on hand at Everett Community College Saturday evening for the annual KSER Voice of the Community Award Celebration.

(l-r) Kristin Ebeling; Ryan Crowther; Bruce Russell; Arnie Hammerman; Shannon Affholter; Sandra VanderVen

The award recipients:

Community Impact by an Individual
Kristin Ebeling, director, skate park and youth programs for Mukilteo YMCA
Sandra VanderVen, senior organizer, Fuse

Community Impact by an Organization
Japanese Gulch Group
Japanese Gulch Group Board President Arnie Hammerman accepted the award.

Community Impact by a Business
Economic Alliance Snohomish County
Shannon Affholter, Vice President of Economic and Community Development accepted the award.

Cultural Impact by an Organization
Everett Music Initiative
Everett Music Initiative founder Ryan Crowther accepted the award.

Cultural Impact by a Business
Whidbey Telecom
Whidbey Telecom Chief Operating Officer Bruce Russell accepted the award.

This was the sixth annual KSER Voice of the Community Awards Celebration. If you've attended you know it's a great way to pay recognition to individuals, organizations and businesses that speak up to raise awareness about community or cultural concerns with positive results.

If you've never attended, you should start making plans now for next fall and the 2014 KSER Voice of the Community Award Celebration.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

KSER's Voice of the Community Celebration

It's here!  The sixth annual KSER Voice of the Community Award Celebration takes place this Saturday evening. You can still buy tickets at the door for the event which takes place at the Jackson Conference Center on the Everett Community College campus.

The KSER Voice of the Community Award recognizes local individuals, organizations and businesses that speak up to raise awareness about community or cultural concerns with positive results. During the past several months, we received nominations for this years awards, and here's the list of recipients who will be honored this weekend:

Community Impact by an Individual
Kristin Ebeling, director, skate park and youth programs for Mukilteo YMCA
Sandra VanderVen, senior organizer, Fuse

Community Impact by an Organization
Japanese Gulch Group

Community Impact by a Business
Economic Alliance Snohomish County

Cultural Impact by an Organization
Everett Music Initiative

Cultural Impact by a Business
Whidbey Telecom

2012 Voice of the Community Recipients Roger Pawley, Jan Vance & Lillian Ortiz-Self
 Online ticket sales have ended. But you can still buy tickets at the door, Saturday evening at the Jackson Center on the campus of Everett Community College.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Everything You Wanted to Know About Pledge Drives (but were afraid to ask).

People are always asking us questions about pledge drives.

Do you have to do them? Are they really necessary? Do people even listen? Wouldn't it be better for the station if you didn't do them? Do people really call and pledge money?

Yes. Yes. Yes. No. Yes.

We do have to do them because more than 50% of the money we receive to operate KSER comes from listeners. And much of that money comes in during our pledge drives. So yes, they are necessary and we know people listen because, thankfully, they call and pledge money. So if we didn't do pledge drives, KSER just wouldn't be able to operate.

But, like everything else, you have to put things in perspective.

We do three pledge drives a year - Spring, Summer, Fall. Each pledge drive is just nine days long. That means every year we're doing pledge drives for 27 days. 338 days out of the year there are no pledge drives on KSER. (339 in leap year!)

Compare that to a commercial station and the ads they run. Commercial stations play commercials 365 days a year. Zero days commercial free, compared to our 338 pledge-free days.

We do occasionally receive the 'please stop talking and get back to the music' phone call. But put that in perspective, too. We do 4 or 5 three-minute 'pledge breaks' each hour. Compare that to commercial stations which frequently run a commercial break that is 7 or 8 minutes long several times an hour. Some stations run more than 18 minutes of commercials every hour, every day, all year long.

The other sometimes not-so-obvious issue with all those commercials is the 'clout' the advertisers may have. Even PBS may have succumbed to corporate pressure.

The truly good thing about pledge drives for radio stations like KSER is the fact that it is YOUR opportunity to support an independent community voice. KSER is your station. We don't have a corporate owner or out-of-town consultants. Everyone involved with the station - board members, volunteers, staff - are all doing this to serve the community. To provide an independent voice that is not tied to corporate interests or control. And we can only do that if the community continues to provide support.

And pledge drives can even be fun. This Saturday, October 5th from noon to 3 p.m. we're once again having a free cookout in the KSER parking lot at 2623 Wetmore Ave in Everett. In the summer we served hot dogs, this time it's brats as a nod to October. You  could make your important donation in person and meet your favorite KSER Saturday DJ's!

Of course if you can't make it to the station you can call anytime during the pledge drive, or, just go to and make a pledge online.  If everyone who regularly listens to KSER would go online once a year and make a $35 pledge, we'd never have to do pledge drives.

Fact: most people listen and never donate. But that's okay. That's why we count on special people like you who are willing to support independent public radio. Thanks!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government Shut-Down; Radio and the FCC

Of all the agencies and offices impacted by the US government shutdown, here's one that you probably haven't even thought about: The Federal Communications Commission.

Despite the FCC shutdown, the people on the air at KSER still aren't going to use any of George Carlin's 'Seven Dirty Words', even though some of us might have a few choice words for congress

The Federal Communications Commission has reportedly told 98% of it's staff to stay home and most of the tools and resources on the FCC website have been deactivated. For most Americans, the FCC shutdown is not exactly a big deal..or of any concern at all. But for those of us in the radio business, it's a concern.

For example, every radio station in the state of Washington is in the process of FCC license renewal. You may have heard the announcements on KSER and other stations. Current licenses don't expire until February of 2014 and the government shutdown, hopefully, will be long over by then. But even if the shutdown should drag on for months, radio stations will continue to operate.

And, fortunately, the KSER Foundation already has an FCC Construction Permit for another station - a brand new station in the north Puget Sound. In fact, it may be the very last full-power FM signal that will be available in this part of the country for a long time. For the past couple of months we've been hard at work on this project that will allow us to provide more community service, culture, music, entertainment and news and information to even more people in the region.  The new station, KXIR-FM will broadcast at 89.9 from a tower we're building in Greenbank on Whidbey Island.

Crew Preparing Tower Pad
Our project team has cleared a very small section of land for a 180' tower that will be barely visible in the area - It's only about 30 feet above most of the surrounding trees and will not have any beacon lights - but it will enable us to reach more people in the North Puget Sound. In fact, the KXIR signal, combined with our existing KSER signal at 90.7 FM, will reach more than 1.3 million residents in the North Puget Sound. You can learn more about our new station at where you can also learn how to contribute to our three-year campaign to raise funds to build and operate the station.

The FCC might not be working during the government shutdown, but, thanks to your financial support, we're moving forward with this important project and will be on the air and broadcasting sometime in November.  It will be one more rare independent voice owned by the community, not by an out-of-town corporation.