Friday, April 20, 2012

Radio group seeks support of leaders

Fledgling organization makes pitch to county ‘leadership council’

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine Regional Leadership Council meets Wednesday at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey. Clockwise from left are Hailey City Councilman Don Keirn, County Commissioner Angenie McCleary, Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall, Bellevue City Councilman Dave Hattula, and Carey Mayor Randy Patterson. Photo by David N. Seelig

A fledgling local community radio station is asking the community for $35,000 in the next few months to help make its dreams a reality.

Mike Scullion, founder of KDPI radio, met with the Blaine Regional Leadership Council on Wednesday night to raise awareness of his project and to raise the funds to build a radio tower on top of Bald Mountain.

Scullion said his organization has a construction permit and permission from Sun Valley Co. for the tower, as well as a broadcasting license and a skeleton crew to begin producing programming.

"We have everything except the funding," he said, adding that the deadline for raising the money is tighter than desired.

In order to have the tower built by the time the construction permit expires in March, Scullion said, his organization needs $35,000 in the bank by June.

Scullion said a community radio station in Boise, known as Radio Boise, operates on a similar model as the one he is planning for KDPI. He said the station would broadcast on wavelength 89.3 FM and would be able to be heard from Galena Summit to Timmerman Junction.

Programming would include everything from music to political commentary, he said, an idea that gained support from Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall.

"What appeals to me is the community aspect," he said. "It's not like commercial radio. We could have forums, we could do debates or we could sit there for an hour and play great rock 'n' roll."

Jeff Abrams, executive director and founder of Radio Boise, said roughly 75 percent of his station's programming is music, with some syndicated news coverage. However, he said the station's main mission is to connect the community in a way that isn't restricted by worries over ad revenue—as some larger media companies are.

Abrams said Radio Boise's funding, like that of the proposed KDPI, comes mostly from listener support. The small remainder, roughly 25 percent, comes from business support and fundraising events.

Scullion has said KDPI would probably need to raise at least $250,000 for startup and first-year operations, after which the station could become self-sustaining.

Elected officials present said they like the idea of a completely community-supported radio station, especially one that would broadcast local government meetings and help them communicate with the public.

The city of Hailey sends out a newsletter with its water, sewer and garbage bills, while Bellevue prints information directly on the water bill, but city representatives said they aren't sure how effective these methods are.

"Theoretically, everyone in town gets [the newsletter]," said Hailey City Councilman Don Keirn. "Whether they read it, I don't know."

Bellevue City Councilman Dave Hattula said that while Bellevue has attempted to raise awareness of important issues, and has increased awareness over recent years, he's concerned that many Bellevue constituents have been misinformed.

"People aren't getting enough information, let alone misinformation, from the limited coverage available in our valley," he said. "It would be refreshing to have an objective media forum in this valley."

However, it is unclear whether KDPI, if it is established, would offer regular local news coverage. Abrams said Radio Boise—which started operation in 2005—has not branched into local news coverage yet, though it hopes to in the near future. He said he believes that objective news coverage is possible with community-based radio, but it's challenging.

"It's the toughest thing to do," he said. "It's relatively easy to train people on [broadcasting] gear and basic regulations of the FCC, but it's a bigger challenge to take someone and train them on the ethics of journalism, train them on the technicalities of reporting and have them produce something compelling."

Still, Hall—a self-proclaimed fan of Radio Boise—said he hopes KDPI can gain enough support to begin operations.

"People don't realize that we are doing good here, and we don't know how to get the word out," he said. "The commercial outlets we have are not doing their jobs. I think we need more media in town."

As an example, Hall said he believes there was a "vacuum" in coverage of Sun Valley Resort's annexation of the River Run base area of Bald Mountain into Ketchum. However, a cursory review of the Idaho Mountain Express archives indicated that the newspaper wrote at least 20 stories about the subject.

Harry Griffith, executive director of the Sustain Blaine economic development corporation, raised concerns that a new radio station could draw advertising revenue away from other businesses, particularly existing radio stations.

"You really need to think about the commercial implications of this project," he said.

Katherine Wutz:

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