By Joseph Robertia
While there is no shortage of radio stations on the central Kenai Peninsula, few offer as eclectic a format as KWJG, of Kasilof Public Broadcasting. At least that used to be the case, before Aug. 12, 2012. After that date there was just static when attempting to tune the dial to 91.5 FM.
Until last month, that is, when KWJG went back on the air.
“People are excited to have us back,” said Bill Glynn, the general manager of KWJG in Kasilof, and sister station KMJG in Homer, both of which went off the air at 7:10 p.m. Aug. 12, 2012.
The station began broadcasting again Aug. 11 and has been playing oldies rotations and local programming 24 hours a day since returning. It is unclear, however, how long the station will remain on the air, since the issues with the Federal Communications Commission that led to a year of static have not yet been fully resolved.
Wanting to not only be commercial free, but free of government influence, as well, KWJG has never accepted funding from any governmental entity. Instead, the station was supported entirely by underwriters listeners’ donations. According to Glynn, that is where the problems arose.
“We’ve long been a thorn in the state’s side by doing what it has claimed can’t be done — namely, operating public radio without government support,” said Glynn, who has expressed similar sentiments on and off the air about his belief that that government is unlawfully competing with the private sector.
Glynn said that he believes pressure has been applied to squeeze the station off the dial, which 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, some which could range as high as $25,000 per offense.
Since funds had to be put toward paying these potential fines, money wasn’t as available for other things, such as paying the electricity bills and other expenses at the station and the station’s board of directors made the decision to go off the air.
If a station goes off the air for too long, it might not be able to return once it is ready to resume broadcasting.
“If you’re off the air more than a year, you can lose your license, which in our case is a Class A noncommercial/educational public radio license. It would be almost impossible to get it back,” Glynn said.
Not wanting to lose the license, Glynn said that the decision was made to challenge the FCC violations and put the station back on the air until a final decision on the station’s monetary forfeiture determination comes out of Washington, D.C.
In the interim, Glynn said that it is likely the local disc jockeys will remain off the air. These volunteers formerly 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, to a “Just Dogs” show that offered education about responsible pet ownership, to the “Parade of Old Time Bands” featuring polka music, classic country and even bits from the folksy “Amos and Andy” show.
“We’d love to bring everyone back,” Glynn said, “but we don’t want to get everybody all worked up if the FCC still ends up shutting us down. So, for the time, we just wanted to get back on the air to not lose the license, and we’ll continue to try and resolve the FCC issues as best we can.”