A low powered FM license issued recently by the Federal Communications Commission will allow KSUB volunteers to turn their focus towards adding new equipment, raising funds, as well as grabbing permits to get the operation running.
“We don’t know when the station will become operational. Probably a year,” said KSUB advisor and mathematics instructor John Carter. KSUB will look to add new in-studio equipment to buoy the frequency created by a radio tower and transmitter slated for the SU campus.
“[KSUB is] currently working with a local engineer to determine what items we will need for the transmitter and tower,” said Bill Koch, KSUB’s general manager and mechanical engineering student. When the new radio equipment is installed, the station will have a roughly three and half mile broadcasting radius, according to the FCC. But making the upgrades a reality will require some financial backing.
A forthcoming budget will prioritize new equipment purchases, said Koch. KSUB is also collaborating with SU administration in order to raise funding for the equipment. Carter and Koch couldn’t provide a dollar figure on the expenses at this time, but KSUB is raking in dividends on their currency of student support.
Plans to snatch up the LPFM license were sparked by a curious student’s email following an announcement by the FCC opening up a window for organizations to grab unused bandwidths.
Central District radio staple Hollow Earth Radio also made plans to pursue an LPFM license in 2012. Hollow Earth’s Forrest Baum tells CHS while the station is waiting for the FCC to issue its license but that it’s moving forward with the project in a big way:
After 7 years of all-volunteer effort running a 24/7 online radio station, we have our first actual employee: Erick Iñiguez, our new LPFM Coordinator. Erick is organizing the efforts to get our infrastructure, equipment and policies to be fully FCC compliant. Amongst other projects, have a growing list of local (and radio safe) tracks to be played on the air. Erick is also actively working with neighborhood groups in the Central District, looking for ways we can support our community, and give the mic to those with something to say. Even though we may still have a long wait until we can be heard on the airwaves, we are inviting the community to come participate right now.
Baum also explained how the technical side of things is playing out for Hollow Earth:
The LPFM frequencies are awarded based on a point system. Currently we are in what is called an ‘MX’ group with two other community groups who have applied for the same frequency as us (105.7).
What this means is that we all have the same amount of points and are tied for ownership. We are currently in talks with the other groups and are investigating our options for the best way to share the frequency. (The other groups that applied for 105.7 are SEED (South East Effective Development) and Earth on the Air Independent Media. We’re excited about the opportunity to possibly work with both of these groups. We’ve been very involved in the local outreach regarding LPFM, having met many of the interested applicants throughout the process. The applicants come from a diverse set of groups, with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests.
At Seattle U, KSUB staff began drafting a proposal in January 2013 with the support of the school administration. The expanding radio territory also opens up new possibilities (and audiences) for KSUB who have some ambitious goals.
“Ideally we will go to 24 hour programming,” Koch said. “We would like to see an increase in the amount of specialty shows on the air. These shows will focus on one central topic or type of music.”
A 24/7 operation might be daunting to prospective DJs, but KSUB holds a strong core of ongoing student activity to cover the spread. Currently, 40 different DJs spin for KSUB that rounds out its roster with 16 staff members who are overseen by two advisers. “Each DJ has a unique show, and many focus on different types of music,” Koch said.
The station attracts around 65 student volunteers a quarter, according to Carter, as well as their eclectic tastes.
“[KSUB features] a mixture of college rock, indie rock, local music, electronica, metal, [and] some hip-hop,” Carter said. One program in particular Friday Night Lounge has become a rising star among the KSUB programming line-up.
“Initially, the station only broadcast in the residence halls via a carrier signal fed into the electrical wiring. KSUB began broadcasting online in 2003,” Carter explained.
In 1994, Joseph Abel – then head of news at KIRO and SU trustee – donated equipment to launch the station in a basement of the former student union building on campus – now Hunthausen Hall. Father John F. Foster, SJ is credited as the founder of KSUB. The station has an multi-generational reputation behind it, but it’s had some trouble adapting to an increasingly digital audience.
“Every year that I’ve been at KSUB, we’ve mentioned how we would like to have a larger web presence,” said Koch. “We aren’t nearly big enough to have a person dedicated to that… we’ve done a little bit better every year though, so we are definitely on the right track.”
To keep up, the station offers an online stream for their music, as well as a growing social media presence. He tells CHS that people should ultimately tune in because the station offers something different.
“In a city where it’s not uncommon to change the radio dial three times and hear the same song on each station, the people yearn for variety. KSUB helps to provide just a bit more of that.”
Meanwhile, you can also tune in online to Hollow Earth at hollowearthradio.org.