Business / Economy

Low Power FM station getting tuned up

First community meeting sparks ideas for planned local broadcast channel

The 100-watt low-power FM radio station planned to go live in Hollister by next summer kicked off the community input stage of its planning with a meeting at Mars Hill Coffeehouse this week, and numerous volunteers said they are anxious to see the endeavor hit the airwaves.

Bob Reid, who is part of the effort to get the station going, told meeting attdees that in response to media consolidation in the United States, the Federal Communications Comission created low-power FM to provide more access to locally-sourced broadcasting. Local volunteers applied for and in February were granted one of these licenses through a partnership with Community Media Access Partnership (CMAP) and "now it's the community's turn" to plan the station's content, Reid said.

Organziers are in talks with the city of Hollister regarding leasing Building B, an abandoned office building on Vista Park Hill, near other city offices. They have had one walk-though of the building and another one is planned for Monday, Sept. 29.

"If you have an interest in being involved in some way, I see it as our role to hlep you get involved," Reid told guests, who took turns passing the microphone to share their ideas for broadcast content. "We'll be able to do streaming content and we can do podcasts now, but we need the people to make that happen. If you want to learn how to be on air, to promote the radio station or represent the community on air, let us know. At this point, nothing exists. If you want to decide what the process is, you need to get involved."

The as-yet-unnamed station is required to begin broadcasting at least five hours per day by Auguust 2015. Before then, volunteers are looking to form committees to determine programming, seek extra funding, promote the station and select a board of directors. Suggestions for call letters are encouraged as well. To find out what is available, visit www.fcc.gov/csrs.

"You need to have everybody represented," Reid said. "I want to give access to everybody."

LPFM Committee Chairman Rob Campbell, who teaches multimedia classes at San Benito High School, said big corporations "are telling their story" through the media, "but what's not being told are the stories of your community. We want to hear each other and find out what's happening outside our social group. The programming is determined by the people who get involved. If we can create 24-7 local media, that would be dynamite."

A sign-up sheet was passed around during the meeting as volunteers shared ideas and asked questions.

Attendees were encouraged to "like" the San Benito County Radio page on Facebook and leave comments or concerns there. A website for the planned station is expected to be operational soon and people interested in learning more about the effort can contact Reid by email at [email protected]

Two more planning meetings are scheduled at Mars Hill from 6-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 and 16.

"We live in a media shadow," Reid said. "People that we watch or listen to don't cover us unless something weird happens in San Benito County."

Various speakers mentioned the types of programming they'd like to see on a local radio station, noting topics such as music, sports, comedy, politics, bilingual programming, real estate and coverage of San Juan Bautista. Campbell encouraged the crowd to invite five to 10 people to the upcoming LPFM meetings.

Brent Hawkes noted, "This is only going to work if the community get involved."

Adam Breen

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.