KDNK, CARBONDALE, CO IS CELEBRATING A MILESTONE THIS WEEK. LET'S JOIN IN SALUTING THEM. (www.kdnk.org) THEIR SUCCESS ILLUSTRATES THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO OPERATE A SUCCESSFUL PUBLIC RADIO STATION IN COLORADO, OR JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE.
KDNK STARTED DURING THE DAYS WHEN A LONG SHADOW WAS CAST UPON PUBLIC BROADCASTING BY THE REAGAN ADMINISTRATION; NOT EXACTLY THE BEST TIME TO START A GRASS ROOTS RADIO STATION FROM SCRATCH. IT WAS A TIME WHEN MANY A PUBLIC RADIO STATION MANAGER AND PROGRAM DIRECTOR HIT THE PANIC BUTTON WITH DISTURBING TALK FROM WASHINGTON; THAT FUNDING FOR THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING (CPB) WOULD CEASE. TOO MANY IN THE PUBLIC RADIO COMMUNITY BLINKED, AND WELCOMED WITH OPEN ARMS AUDIENCE BUILDING EXTREMISTS INTO THEIR INNER CIRCLE. ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN AROUND COLORADO FROM THE 1970'S TO THE PRESENT AND REMEMBERS HOW KCFR SOUNDED IN THE 70'S UNDERSTANDS THIS POINT ALL TOO WELL TODAY. FORTUNATELY, OTHER PUBLIC STATIONS IN COLORADO AND ACROSS THE NATION HAVEN'T BLINKED. THEY CONTINUE WITH THEIR (SOMETIMES) QUIRKY PROGRAMMING; PROGRAMMING THAT COMMERCIAL RADIO WILL NOT APPROACH. THEY CONTINUE TO PROVIDE A VOICE FOR THE DISENFRANCHISED; ESSENTIAL PEOPLE WHO DON'T CARRY ENOUGH ECONOMIC CLOUT IN ANY GIVEN COMMUNITY. THESE TYPE OF STATIONS IN ESSSENCE HAVE CARRIED THE SPIRIT (OF THE PUBLIC BROADCASTING ACT OF 1967) AND HAVEN'T LET UP IN THEIR EFFORTS TO FULFILL THE MISSION PRESCRIBED IN ONE OF THE MOST ESSENTIAL PIECES OF LEGISLATION TO EMERGE FROM THE 1960'S.
The following appears on the Grass Roots Radio site (grc.org), a national organization interested in maintaining grass roots/community radio.
RECOLLECTIONS OF A KDNK FLOUNDERING FATHER
BY JIM GROH
I'm proud to be one of the four or five crazy guys who started KDNK.
After 25 years, I still consider it one of the niftiest things Ive done with my life. And I'm delighted to hear that, despite the digital age, its still hippie radio.
I moved from Chicago to Carbondale in the fall of 1981, the year they paved Main Street. The first night I ate dinner at the Village Smithy, I noticed a collection jar at the cash register. It had a phone number and the message, Help bring public radio to Carbondale. I'd been a fan of alternative radio for years, so I paid my bill, put a buck in the jar, and wrote down the phone number.
I called and got the town locksmith, Lee Swidler. Lee described the dream to serve and unite the community with a radio station, like KOTO in Telluride or KVNF in Paonia. He invited me to the next meeting, where I met the others: Bruce Stolbach, Brenda Jochems, Brian Vancil, Mike Speer, and Bill Phillips.
As a new employee of Audiolab down the street, I was the only one who knew anything about electronics, and only enough to fix stereos. I was immediately voted technical director. I heard the universe speaking, got some books and started teaching myself broadcasting technology.
By the winter of 1981, we had: the dream, a place to meet (Valley Lock and Key), a CPA (Brian), an attorney (Bill), a blank copy of the FCC application, and a copy of Sex and Broadcasting, the irreverent manual on underground radio by Lorenzo Milam.
So line by line, we started filling out the application. How hard could it be, right? Uh-huh. But Brian made the numbers work, Bill kept us legal, and I attacked the technical details. At some point, we had to predict our coverage the geographic area that would pick up the station. For that, we needed to know the location of the tower and the nature of the terrain around it. Uh-oh.
In Kansas it would have been simple. The coverage of a tower in the middle of a prairie is easy to predict. But poor old Carbondale sits in a Y-shaped hole formed by the river valleys. Predicting our
coverage involved a careful study of topo maps along these damned things called radials straight lines drawn 10 miles out from town in eight directions. I'll never forget the late nights in the lock shop,
crawling around on maps on the floor, getting sore knees and going cross-eyed.
We also had to make a study of the other stations in the area, their programming, and their locations on the FM dial, so we wouldnt interfere. We also had to submit a list of desired call letters. All the cool ones were taken, but because we had found a home in the Dinkel Building by then, we were approved for KDNK. Get it?
So, by spring of 1982 we'd completed the application in triplicate, and off to the FCC went a 3-inch stack of paperwork.
Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For Dept.: We were approved! We then used the same information to request a grant from the NTIA-PTFP, the national funding agency for community radio. Success again! We got $38,000! The fundraising picked up steam with events and publicity, and what had been Carbondale Community Access Radio (CCAR) became allied with the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities (CCAH). At the Mountain Fair that year, sharp-aiming throwers could soak their favorite town solons at the KDNK dunking booth.
By then, Pat Noel, Brad Hendricks, John Palmer and Wick Moses stepped up to do the construction and the equipment selection.
We began ordering the equipment: a transmitter, an exciter, an equalizer, a monitor amplifier, and an equipment rack to put them all in; an antenna, a tower, the cable, and all the mounting hardware; the audio mixing board, some turntables, microphones, a cassette player, speakers, wires, and connectors for the studio. Over the winter, a flurry of building and wiring. We turned four rooms in the back of the Dinkel Building into a studio, a record library, a transmitter room, and an office.
The volunteers continued to appear: Virginia Squier, the first station manager, Donna Wolfe, the volunteer coordinator, and a host of others: Frank Smotherman, Lucy Blake, Jenny Diaz, Sid Lincicome, Jerry Weinstock, Jerry and Gayla Duckowitz, Jeanne Mulcahy, Richard Flaven, Tim Montgomery, and eventually scores more.
April 7, 1983. We throw the switch. Folks, the very first emanation from your beloved KDNK was a loud, obnoxious hum. Back to the wire cutters, soldering irons and voltmeters. But by then we also had a real radio engineer (Alan Bell of KMTS, I believe) to fix the problem, sign some forms, and make a final blessing on our efforts.
And that takes us to April 15, the date we celebrate this week. I'll leave it to others to talk about the life of KDNK since then. For now, be assured that your founders had all the joys, frustrations, parties, personality conflicts, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, that you know are part of any well-loved and worthwhile project.
To the small army of people whose names Ive forgotten, and those Ive remembered: I'll see you at the party.