On Thursday, public radio station KMXT-FM launched an online listener survey asking Kodiak residents what they’d like to hear when KODK-FM 90.7 begins broadcasting.
“Right now, we've got the grant for equipment and all that kind of stuff that goes with it,” said Merissa Koller, KMXT’s volunteer coordinator. “We're trying to get input from the public on what they want to hear.”
KMXT has been broadcasting in Kodiak since 1976, and the addition of a second station is a big change. “It’s monumentally huge,” general manager Mike Wall said.
Wall said the addition of a second station comes because listeners frequently are divided on what kinds of music or talk shows should air. For a radio station that relies on public support and public funding, that divide can be a significant problem.
In the 1990s, KMXT began pursuing a second radio license from the Federal Communications Commission after particularly loud arguments between listeners who love classical music and those who can’t stand it.
Regulatory hurdles meant the process of approving a new station was glacial. “We even forgot we had applied for the permit,” Wall said.
In the meantime, KMXT began broadcasting three dedicated digital radio stations, also known as HD radio. One station was dedicated to news, another to music, and a third carried a digital version of the station’s main signal.
While the digital stations offered variety, they required special radios in order to pick up the new signal. “It took some of the pressure off of there, but what we found was not everybody wants to buy an HD radio,” Wall said.
After the HD attempt, KMXT picked up the idea of a second station and obtained a grant to install a second control room in its Egan Way building. Work is ongoing to determine whether both signals can be broadcast from the same antenna atop Pillar Mountain and if KMXT’s translator stations across the archipelago will also be able to broadcast both signals. “We’re still working on the technical end of things,” Wall said.
Assuming KMXT adds a second station on schedule, it will be only the second public radio station in Alaska to add another channel. Juneau’s KTOO-FM split into three stations in January 2007, and radio manager Cheryl Levitt Snyder said that move has been wildly successful.
“Six years into it, I think most people in the town cannot imagine Juneau without so many options,” she said. “Our community support in terms of listenership went up … membership support has gone way up, corporate sponsorship has gone way up.”
Snyder said if she could offer any advice for Kodiak’s station, it’s to listen as well as broadcast. “I think you really have to listen to your community,” she said.
She added that some listeners in Juneau were concerned when their station changed, but once they realized what they were getting, they were happy with the switch.
“I think that just knowing that for some people, change can be scary, but ultimately, change can be a good thing,” she said.
The KODK-FM opinion survey can be filled out at http://goo.gl/peKam.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.