KVWV: New community radio station taking input

by Rodney Lotter

Way back when, as a young lad, the radio was ubiquitous in my day-to-day life. The bus driver would be listening to classic rock on the way to school, and then again on my way home. I would get home, sit on my bed, crack open whatever homework I had to do and turn on the radio in order to hear the latest from Korn or Foo Fighters or whatever (retrospectively) music was playing on “alternative rock” radio stations in the mid- to late 90s.

Back then, radio was an important thing; then the internet came along, digital music, etc. and  very few non-corporate, hyperlocal broadcasters were left. Of course, podcasts had a masive significance, and thanks to some changes in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) act, unused FM stations can be owned and operated by the community, rather than a corporation.

Make.Shift and Bellingham Community Radio (94.9 FM) are are working on a new low power community radio station. An online fundraiser will be launched in the coming weeks. COURTESY PHOTO

Make.Shift and Bellingham Community Radio (94.9 FM) are are working on a new low power community radio station. An online fundraiser will be launched in the coming weeks. COURTESY PHOTO

One of these unused FM radio stations was recently given to Bellingham’s Make.Shift. The art gallery located at 306 Flora St. is now home to 94.9 KVWV (fun fact: the call letters were chosen because the “VWV” looks like mountains).

“Low Power FM stations (LPFM) are community-based, non-commercial radio stations that operate at 100 watts or less and reach a radius of 3 to 7 miles,” Make.Shift’s website states. “With the help of radio advocacy group Common Frequency, Make.Shift applied for an LPFM license in 2013, during what may have been the last application window ever for LPFM stations across the nation.”

The initial idea for the radio station came about as another way to connect the arts and music communities in Bellingham, to give exposure to local bands, non-profit organizations, businesses, artists and various others in and around the city, said Matt Fu, one of the main brains behind KVWV. Some of the other people behind the scenes are Bellingham musicians and residents such as Tyson Ballew, Spencer Willows, and Kelly and Alton Fleek. (Fun fact: The Fleeks are in a cool band called Spider Ferns and are Bellingham-ish residents.)

“[KVWV] is about making it as accessible to the community as possible,” Fu said. “We want community members to engage with each other and make the radio station their own. All we are doing is facilitating it, so it gets on the air.”

Before the station will be able to reach the airwaves, there is a lot of work that needs to be done, the group said. Prior to getting the license, Make.Shift did not have any resources to run a radio station out of the gallery. In total, about $30,000 is needed in order to purchase all the audio equipment, antennas and other materials needed to get it up and running. In order to buy them some time, KVWV will first begin streaming online only, in order to give the community a taste of what they can expect from the station and donate money as they see fit.

Willows said they are also coordinating an online fundraising campaign and hope to launch later this month or in February. (Stay tuned to the group’s Facebook page or website for details.)

“We want this radio station to be a voice for Bellingham and Whatcom County,” Willows said. “We want it to be something you can’t hear anywhere else. Not only is it exciting to have a local radio station, but also since it will be online as well, we can reach out to the entire world.”

There have been many ideas floating around about what will be broadcast on the station, some of which are live in-studio performances by local bands, music shows, and human interest and community news programming.

MORE DETAILS: The new station, KVWV, will be based at the Make.Shift space at 306 Flora Street. Before it can hit the air, a fundraiser will be launched to raise money for equipment and other needs. The group is currently taking input from the community about what they would like to hear on KVWV, and are also looking for volunteers to take part in the creation of the radio station. More information can be found on their facebook page or on their website bellinghamcommunityradio.org.

Published in the January 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine