I just came back from Salida, to help the creation of KHEN, a Low Power FM community radio station, run entirely by volunteers (including KGNU's own Jane Carpenter) on a budget that makes KGNU look like it's extravagant.
We created KHEN in record time (60 hours from empty rooms to 1st broadcast). The enthusiasm and responsiveness of the volunteers was astounding: I would write a line in the "to do" list, and the job would be picked-up by someone and finished in fifteen minutes.
|We had to work with a 1960's vintage mixing console, old home-quality components (CD players, turntables, cassette player), a mike-arm fashioned from a dentist's chair component, 4 old Hi-Fi receivers used in place of phono preamps, on-air monitor and speaker amplifier. Cheap, inadequate, but doable.|
An initial hurdle came-up on Wednesday, when we realized that we didn't have a long enough antenna cable, so we had to order an additional length of it. While we had a solution, the rush shipping charge still constituted a significant drain to the cash-strapped, fledgling station.
|On Friday morning, Mark went to pick-up the huge antenna cable from UPS, and carried it back, by bicycle, wrapped around his shoulder.|
||Fred, a local Ham (and a real character), helped us tune the antenna to 106.9 MHz within a RCH (a foul acronym that he refused to translate in front of Jane).|
Eric and others got the pole and the guy cables ready for the antenna. I tuned the compressor to get the most loudness out of KHEN's miserly 100 W.
Mid-afternoon, we all went to the roof or a nearby building where we had permission to place the antenna.
We raised just the pole (Mike took a great "Ivo Jima"-like picture) and adjusted the 6 guy cables that held it up.
We brought the pole back down, and placed the antenna on it.
We were just about ready to raise the whole thing up, when the
building's landlord showed up. He expressed concerns over the
integrity of the roof, so we had to stop and see how we could
address them. Eventually, the landlord completely retracted permission
to use his building' s roof, and KHEN found itself unable to go
on the air as planned.
Some theorize that the real reason that that landlord retracted his permission is that, the previous day, the local paper had reported that KHEN had received a sizable check from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. That may have not gone well with the more conservative elements in Salida. As a matter of fact, it appears that some locals may be referring to KHEN as "that Gay and Lesbian radio station". Ouch!
Very demoralized, we removed all the equipment from that building's
roof, and we retired to KHEN's production studio to lick our wounds.
There, we drowned our sorrow by sharing a bottle of Australian
Cabernet. Having done so, our rebellious spirit resurfaced: someone
proposed to just sit the antenna somewhere over KHEN's own roof
(just 1 floor high), and to go on the air anyway! We all agreed
enthusiastically. Within 10 minutes we had done so, we did a test
to make sure that the transmitter could handle such a so poorly
placed antenna, and we went on the air. That was Friday, 1/10/03,
at 6:33 P.M.
First we played Jimi Hendrix' "Star Spangled Banner", then the sound of clucking chicken that Dr. Martin had recorded for us, and then turned-on the mike for the first time: "You are listening to kay aich ee en, saLEEdah."
Kay-Hen was born!
We hugged, laughed and cried.
||A round-robin of DJs got on the air, and spun music picked from KHEN's vast library of 40 or so CDs and albums. Dead tired, and unfamiliar with the equipment, DJs averaged one noticeable mistake every third song: "dead air" became the most played piece. At 8:33 PM, two hours to the minute from when KHEN went on the air, the first obscenity sneaked on the air ("motherfucking") and that CD was quickly potted down..|
Exhausted from the nearly non-stop effort, I went to bed at 9:00, but I couldn't take off my headset radio, so I listened to the entire first broadcasr broadcast, until 10:00, when Jane played Jimi's "Banner" once more, wished us all a "nighty night", and turned off the small transmitter.
KHEN has taken its first step.
The next steps may not be so easy. KHEN has no tower, may be unwelcome by a segment of its own community, has a yearly budget that wouldn't buy you a nice used car, and is run by a group of people who are already quite exhausted by the effort to get to that first step.
In the spirit of community radio, and in the memory of those heroes who 25 years ago made KGNU come alive in not-so different circumstances, I encourage you to support KHEN in any way you may see fit. At the very least, send them your words of support: Jane Carpenter <teknowitch at amigo.net>
Pictures by Mike Rosso of Four Corners Media
You are visitor #