On January 9, 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made an historic decision. It introduced a new category of radio broadcast station for which it would issue licenses: Low Power FM (LPFM). Such stations, limited to no more than 100 watts of transmission power, were designed to provide opportunity for listening to and developing new voices, reach underserved populations of both broadcasters and listeners, and to make the air waves more democratic by exclusively awarding these new licenses to non-commercial, community-based stations.
Thirteen years later, the FCC announced its second, and possibly its final LPFM licensing application window during Fall, 2013.
Two local theatre and speech artists, David Purdy and Ellen Stewart, operating as The Radio Project (TRP) elected to seek an LPFM license with the purpose of establishing a new community radio station to serve Sonora.
Because FCC regulations required non-profit status for applicants at least 3 years prior to application, TRP approached the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance, requesting use of their non-profit 501 c (3) status and enlisting TCAA’s support by applying for the license under the umbrella of the Arts Alliance.
With the support of TCAA Executive Director, Connie O’Connor, a long-time advocate of Community Radio, application was made in November of 2013 and a “Permit to Construct” was officially awarded February 3, 2014. The call letters, KAAD-LP, previously existing as a Coast Guard Registry, were assigned as was the frequency of 103.5 KHz on the FM dial.
The partnership then expanded to include Sonora Union High School. The Sonora Dome basement was offered as a transmission site in exchange for assistance with developing a Media Arts course as part of the career technical classes offered to students in grades 9-12. The radio station would also provide a laboratory opportunity for those students while at the same time forming the cornerstone of KAAD-LP Youth Radio.
The most significant support in developing KAAD-LP was achieved through the generosity of the Sonora Area Foundation (SAF) in a matching grant with the Sonora Union High School District for acquisition of radio broadcast and transmission equipment. A $10,000 bequest by SAF was matched by SUHS enabling KAAD to purchase the range of equipment necessary to produce, broadcast, and transmit FM radio from an antenna on the roof of the Sonora Dome. This transmission site enables on-air broadcast covering a 2 to 10 mile radius of the antenna, and reaching a potential audience of approximately 20,000 people. With the confirmed addition of Internet streaming at kaad-lp.org, the station has potential to extend its audience world-wide, wherever Internet access is available.
Most recently, KAAD-LP has secured tenancy in Portable #6 on the Cassina High School campus. The lease of this facility, negotiated with the support of the Tuolumne County Office of Education, will serve as a business/reception office, production studio, and training laboratory, as well as a broadcast site. Recruitment for programmers, hosts, presenters, and station volunteers is actively underway; fundraising has begun on a variety of fronts, and training sessions have been organized.
The creation of a community radio station for Tuolumne County will emphasize the promotion of local arts and artists as well as addressing issues and events of community relevance from local perspectives. It will be devoted to encouraging a grassroots, citizen-based journalism and a broad spectrum of programming that ranges from music and literature to audio drama and story-telling, local history, recreation, domestic arts and skills, and entertainment.
In partnership with TCAA and reflecting TCAA’s overriding educational commitment, KAAD-LP is dedicated to providing opportunities for adult members of the community to train in the field of media arts and technology. Concurrently, the station will provide a practical laboratory for the allied business practices necessary to the support and delivery of broadcast.
Finally, in partnership with the Sonora High School District, development of a Youth Radio remains as a top priority.
KAAD-LP is scheduled to commence full scale on-air broadcast by late fall, 2016, and will begin streaming prior, as content and staff permit.