Bill Glynn, GM of KWJG-FM Kasilof, Alaska turned the station dark at 7:10 p.m. on 8/12, pending payment of fines from the FCC. Glynn, president of Kasilof Public Broadcasting, told The Redoubt Reporter the station started as a dream to provide the Kenai Peninsula with a commercial-free radio alternative. It signed on September 1998 and was later upped to 1,000 watts.
The station was supported entirely by listeners’ donations and underwriters. According to Glynn, that is where the problems arose that led to the station going off the air.
“It’s my belief that state-funded public radio doesn’t want us calling ourselves public radio, or competing with them for listeners, so pressure is being applied to squeeze us off the dial,” he said.
This “pressure,” as Glynn told Redoubt Reporter, came in the way of numerous and thorough inspections by the FCC. He said that while no technical or operational issues were noted by the inspectors, KWJG was cited for numerous administrative infractions, many of which come with citations and fines.
“I believe they’re trying to fine us out of existence,” he said. “Generally speaking I stay on top of the paperwork, but they dug deep to find stuff. Some of the things were having the 2003 version of ‘Broadcasting in the Public,’ instead of the 2008 version. All my licenses were in order and posted, but we’re supposed to have Xeroxed copies of all of them and I had missed one. We also didn’t have enough specificity to adjustments in our transmitting logs, which means if we made tuning adjustments we were supposed to record them, but we don’t do them. It’s always the same number. It was lots of things like this.”
Glynn doesn’t yet know the fine for those infractions: “We’re waiting for the monetary forfeiture determination to come out of D.C. The fines could be $100,000 plus another $25,000 per citation. Since funds will have to be put toward paying these fines, which means funds won’t be available for other things, like paying the electricity bills at the station, our board made the decision to take us off the air.”
A representative of the FCC field office in Anchorage said the office could not comment on an ongoing matter, and the Washington office could only confirm that a “Notification of suspension of operations” of KWJG was filed 8/3.
In the interim, many of the disc jockeys are dismayed at being off the air. The volunteers produced, at times, as much as 40 hours a week of local programs, ranging from the peninsula’s only live radio cooking show to the “E-Zone” devoted specifically to women in music.
Faith Hays, who hosted the Friday afternoon “Just Dogs” show, which offered education about responsible pet ownership, said she is sad to no longer have the venue: “I think the biggest thing that will suffer will be the dogs at the shelters because every week I’d call all the shelters and put all the available dogs on the air,” she said.
Doug Johnson used to DJ a Sunday show with old-time music. While Hays’ program was a teaching tool, Doug Johnson’s Sunday afternoon shows were simply to “remember the way things used to was.” He played polka music, classic country and even bits from the folksy “Amos and Andy” show as part of the “Parade of Old-Time Bands.”
“I think it’s really too bad. I’ve never seen the FCC crack down like this,” Johnson said.
Having worked as a DJ since 1972, and at large commercial stations down to tiny, 50-kilowatt farm stations, he said he’s experienced issues like this before. It’s more than just the station employees or, in this case, volunteers, who feel the pain, he said.
“The listening audience are the ones who really suffer,” he said.
Supporters of KWJG will hold a “Fill the case” fund drive from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Alaska Roadhouse. Cash donations, and donations of items and services for a silent auction, are requested.
RBR-TVBR observation: The Commission, of course, is not supposed to discriminate against any ownership, format or history of any station and their inspections are pretty much random. There is one other community radio station in KWJG’s listening area, KDLL-FM. In Anchorage, Alaska Public Radio’s KSKA-FM, but that’s 55 miles away. We doubt they would have much interest pressuring the FCC on KWJG, like Glynn may have implied. Nonetheless, these violations seem pretty frivolous and KWJG may want to spend their money on a good FCC attorney.