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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Column 157 -- KIND FM; Brad Hoshaw, Noah's Ark tonight...

The biggest question surrounding KIND FM remains "Will it happen?" I know all the details are below, but even after reading this, there are those who will still be skeptical, and I don't blame them. A single parent with two kids who runs/owns The Pizza Shoppe and PS Collective, how will the adorable Amy Ryan also have time to operate a radio station? The job of coordinating dozens of volunteers is a challenge that's too big for most people, let alone someone with so many kettles already on the stove. Luckily she also has the help from another go-getter in Shawn Halpenny. Even if they manage to get it going (and I think they will) an even bigger challenge remains: Keeping it going. And that's where you come in. Every broadcasting student, every frustrated DJ, every person who ever dreamed of getting involved in radio, here is your chance. Even if the signal only travels a mile, it's a mile more than we had before. And who knows where it'll go in the future?

Column 157: The Quiet Revolution
A community gets a broadcast voice.

When word starts getting around about a new radio station that will actually focus on the community and its artists, people get excited. Very excited. Maybe too excited.

The rumor started leaking out about KIND FM a week ago -- a new radio station that would operate out of Benson and play local music -- yes, local music -- as well as other locally produced programming. For a community of musicians and artists that has been starving for such a broadcast voice for as long as I can remember, it seemed too good to be true.

And like all rumors, the story only got bigger and bigger. Before long, I was hearing that KIND would have a broadcast range of 50 miles. My god, you'd be able to pick it up in Lincoln! But wait a minute… that could only happen if one of the large commercial stations was to change format, and doesn't it seem unlikely that a money-generating FM station would switch to a non-profit community-based format?

The truth, while not nearly as big and bold, is still exciting in its own way.

The people behind KIND FM are Amy Ryan -- owner/operator of The Pizza Shoppe and PS Collective in Benson -- and WOWT senior writer/producer Shawn Halpenny -- the driving force behind the broadcast of the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards for the past two years.

For Ryan, KIND is yet another effort to turn Benson into what she calls a "self-sustaining, harmless community." Give her a chance and she'll tell you about dreams of mounting power-generating wind turbines on the roofs of Benson buildings, about creating an all-inclusive community that nurtures artists and musicians. Her performance venue, PS Collective, is about "experiencing all perspectives of the human condition," she said. "That's the power and magic of creativity!" She plans to eventually turn the Pizza Shoppe and PS Collective into nonprofit businesses that provide work training for "people in transition." Some might call her a visionary; others, a hippie with a cause.

Ryan shared her vision with her old pal Halpenny. "At an impromptu meeting a few Saturdays ago, Amy asked me about how we could get the word out about Benson, and how Benson resembled Haight Ashbury circa 1968…" Halpenny said. "It just clicked… a radio station."

Not your typical radio station, an FCC Part 15 station -- a low-powered FM broadcast that Halpenny said is allowed to operate by the FCC without a license. "You don't need a license if your signal's power doesn't exceed 100 milliwatts," he said.

So what kind of range are we talking about here? Fifty miles? Twenty miles? "It will cover 10 to 15 blocks in every direction, if we're lucky," Halpenny said. "It's truly a community radio station designed just for the people of Benson."

Halpenny said the $150 transmitter and 40-foot tower were donated by his radiohead colleagues at WOWT. The PS Collective building will be the station's headquarters, housing the studio and transmitter, with the tower mounted on the roof. Halpenny and his TV friends will be the technical brains behind the station, while Ryan will coordinate programming and the volunteer personnel who will run it all.

"The station is designed to promote local art and businesses," Ryan said. Operated as a nonprofit, KIND won't accept advertising. It also won't play music registered with ASCAP and BMI -- which is most of the music heard on college and commercial radio stations. That means KIND will only air locally produced original music. What about local bands on labels like Saddle Creek? Their music may be aired if musicians sign a release form. Needless to say, Ryan and Halpenny already have lawyers involved who are familiar with broadcast rules and regulations.

Beyond music, Ryan said KIND also will broadcast talk shows and live performances not only by bands but by local theater troupes who have voiced interest in producing radio plays. It sounds like a mish-mash, but there will be plenty of hours to fill. Halpenny said programming will be surprisingly automated, utilizing Vara broadcast software tools. "People will be able to build their own master show using Audacity (software) and e-mail it to me as an mp3 file," he said.

The studio will be used for live interviews, performances and talk shows, including Halpenny's own show for M.A.P.S. Omaha -- the Metro Omaha Paranormal Society, which he helped found. Got an idea for a show? Ryan and Halpenny are open to anything, as long as it follows the rules.

So when's all it going to happen? Ryan and Halpenny couldn't say for sure. KIND literally is in its infancy, though all the pieces are slowly coming together. They both say the station could be broadcasting in the next few months, depending on the amount of help they get from volunteers. Anyone interested in playing a role in KIND is invited to an organizational meeting to be held at PS Collective, 6056 Maple St., at 7 p.m. Jan. 31.

Before I left the interview, Ryan played an mp3 file on her MacBook -- a station promo created by WOWT's Dave Webber. Amidst a blur of noise, Webber's sterling voice announced, "KIND FM, the revolution has begun."

It's a small revolution, one with a tiny voice, but a revolution none the less. And in a city internationally known for its creativity, where its own artists' voices have been effectively kept off the airwaves, it's a revolution that's a long time coming.

Tonight down at Mick's, it's the return of Brad Hoshaw, whose last appearance at Mick's became fodder for a Lazy-i column (here). You need to hear this guy's stuff. Headlining is the Southpaw Bluegrass Band. $5, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, down the street at The Waiting Room, it's once again, Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship with Dimas Lemus and Lincoln's Spring Gun. Noah's Ark plays more than any other local band that I've heard. If you haven't had a chance to catch them, then you're living in a cave (you're certainly not reading this). Here's another chance. Take it. $7, 9 p.m.

--Got comments? Post 'em here.--

posted by Tim at 5:23 AM

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