The rest of the KKCR story

I submit the rest of the story about KKCR, regarding your recent article “Born of a hurricane, Kaua‘i Community Radio Turns 10,” (May 11, B1).

In my opinion, the whole story must be told to do justice to the history of the station, and to acknowledge and honor those who did most of the grunt work long before Hurricane Iniki ever happened.

I am speaking as an individual who was there and participated in the early days of the process of creating the radio station. I am not speaking as a member of the Board of Directors, or in any other capacity. No one involved with KKCR, in the article by Lifestyle writer Keya Keita, was part of the action in the very beginning. And, no one who was there in the beginning was asked to contribute to your May 11 article.

I believe that KKCR-FM is one of Kaua‘i’s most important information, education and entertainment resources, and has been for the past 10 years. Being on air has provided a tremendous service to the community, but it did not happen just because Hurricane Iniki hit this island in l992.

The seed for this station actually got planted on Kaua‘i at least as far back as 1989 when Butch Kekahu, Janet Friend, (aka Janet Planet), Koko Kaneali‘i and other community activists and local radio personalities started to discuss the need for a membership-owned community radio station on Kaua‘i.

The FCC had deregulated the commercial radio industry in the 1980s, which eliminated most, if not all the requirements for locally generated news programming. And, back then the local print media also left a lot to be desired, especially after the Kaua‘i Times was purchased by The Garden Island.

At the same time of the growing need for an alternative media outlet, many concerned citizens had been organizing in opposition to the PMRF buildup to the “Star Wars” missile launches. Janet, then a popular DJ on a local commercial station, encouraged her listeners to wake up to what was about to happen. She alerted us that the Navy was about to blast off their weapons from sacred Hawaiian burial grounds, and native fishing and gathering areas, and that they didn’t have an environmental impact statement to address those and the many other concerns of Kaua‘i citizens. She was soon fired from her job for speaking out.

Janet then set out to find a way to build the foundation for a not-for-profit community radio station, where she and anyone else on Kaua‘i could express themselves openly without the threat of being fired, or being controlled by commercial interests.

Through a great deal of research and by enlisting the support of many Kauaians who shared her dream, she learned that there was a license available from the FCC and a grant from the federal government, as long as the new station was at least 100 miles from an existing public or community station. Janet built a strong coalition and with the support of the Kekahu Ohana, who knew that the Hawaiian sovereignty movement needed a strong voice on Kaua‘i, there was no better way than to start a free speech community radio station.

The original goal was to centrally locate the station in the Lihu‘e area in order for any Kaua‘i resident to have reasonably easy access to become programmers and volunteer and paid staff. Janet and a small steering committee started the wheels rolling before the hurricane, and then afterwards, by setting up the groundwork for starting the non-profit Kekahu Foundation.

Immediately after Sept. 11,1992, when Hurricane Iniki shut down all radio communication on the island, Ron Wiley and KQNG did a magnificent job of getting back on the air, and pulling most of the island community together. But, their signal did not cover much of the North Shore.

After the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws were approved by the state of Hawai‘i in 1994, and with some political muscle from Patsy Mink, the FCC awarded a broadcast license to the new foundation. Since providing emergency coverage to the North Shore was part of the package, the station was initially located in Princeville, with the long range goal of relocating to a more accessible area. The station was originally called KLEO (the voice), but the FCC disallowed the use of those call letters. It took another three years and a lot of turmoil and hard work before KKCR hit the airwaves in 1997.

The rest of your story was covered well by your writer, Keya Keita, with the exception that no mention was made of a dedicated volunteer Board of Directors and a Community Advisory Board being integral parts of the ongoing strength of this valuable resource.

If Janet were alive today, I’m sure she would be pleased with the progress that has been made with an often struggling, mostly volunteer organization. So, for those who have never tuned in to KKCR, broadcasting 24/7 to hear the great variety of programming, both talk and music, try it out. And more importantly, if you are wanting to be a radio programmer, give the station a call to become a volunteer. KKCR is our open access, free-speech community radio on Kaua‘i. Please keep it happening and growing by continuing to give it your support.

• Marj Dente wrote this commentary for The Garden Island. She is a resident of Kapa‘a.


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