Friday, September 11, 2009

91.7 KAXE and 90.5 KBXE, Northern Community Radio

In early August, the FCC awarded Northern Community Radio a construction permit to build a new radio station that would serve the Bagley/Bemidji area.

We hope you will call KAXE at 218/326-1234 if you have any questions or want to help build KBXE! You can join a committee for construction, fundraising, events, technical crew or publicity OR you can come to the next general meeting.

KBXE will be a noncommercial station licensed in the city of Bagley. Depending on the final location and power of the KBXE transmitter, the station could serve Bemidji, Fosston, Gonvick, Clearbrook, Debs, Erskine and Zerkel.

KBXE can broadcast at as much as 100,000 watts, or it may be more cost effective to use less power. In some respects, the location of the transmitter will determine the ERP (effective radiated power) of KBXE. A high power station cannot be located near some other stations due to interference issues, while a lower power station would have more location options.

KBXE’s construction permit was originally awarded to the Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (HUUF) in Bemidji. Northern Community Radio signed a purchase agreement with HUUF to obtain the construction permit, at cost. HUUF was interested in bringing a community radio station to Bemidji. The HUUF agreement stipulates that Northern Community Radio cannot transfer KBXE’s license to any other organization for at least 10 years. This is so Northern Community Radio cannot just build and then sell KBXE to make money. HUUF definitely wants a community radio station to serve the Bemidji area, but did not think this was something they could do themselves.

Now Northern Community Radio is the sole owner of the KBXE construction permit. Northern Community Radio’s board of directors will “own” KBXE on behalf of the community. Our organization’s mission, which is to “build community in northern MN through radio broadcasting, cultural events and interactive media,” will guide KBXE just as it does KAXE. KBXE will serve a wide broadcast area just as KAXE does.

Northern Community Radio was interested in a new station because KAXE’s signal to the west is experiencing more and more interference. Translators are low priority for the FCC and do not have the protections that full-power stations do. KAXE’s Bemidji translator is in the commercial band, making it especially vulnerable. A commercial broadcaster could take its 105.3 frequency for a full-power commercial station if the FCC opens another filing window. The radio spectrum is a limited natural resource. KBXE’s 90.5 frequency is the last remaining noncommercial frequency that can serve the Bemidji area.

In all, 5 entities applied for this broadcast license. A settlement agreement allowed both the Unitarians and Leech Lake Reservation to squeeze in their proposed stations before Northern Community Radio purchased the construction permit. Leech Lake Reservation is building a tribal station that will broadcast at 90.1 FM. Its call sign is KOJB.

Northern Community Radio plans to build studios in Bemidji, although the location hasn’t been determined yet. At an initial gathering in Bemidji with about 80 KAXE members, those attending said locating downtown, building green, and including a performance space were important considerations. They also thought KBXE should be a mix of KAXE and locally originated content, that KBXE should air NPR programs, and that KBXE should have its own version of the Morning Show. Everyone wants to meet again in a month or two. New people are welcome to join the process at any time!

A committee is working now on a tower location. They are trying to determine if we can build a tower of if we should rent one, and where.

Another group is looking at studio location options. They are looking at land and buildings and talking about the pros and cons of locating with other organizations and building new versus renovating.

Yet another group will help raise the money to get the project done. The project will have to show significant community support before it will be able to get matching money from foundations or government agencies.

There is a lot more to do, including reaching out to more people in the Bagley area, but this is a start!

There is a deadline. KBXE has to be built and operational by March 23, 2012 or Northern Community Radio will lose its construction permit. The tower and transmission plant are high priority in getting the station on the air by the deadline. There are a lot of unknowns, but we think it will cost at least $1 million to build the tower, transmitter and studios, and possibly closer to $1.5 million.

Call or email KAXE/Northern Community Radio if you have ideas, want to sign up for a committee or would like more information: 218/326-1234 or

1 comment:

Northern Minnesota Ojibwe said...

Let us have the station headquarters situated at the Warehouse in downtown Bemidji.
The location allows for a diverse population to become involved as volunteers it is close to where people can walk over to volunteer - the ACLU-MN has their office there which is cool.