Central Oregon on the air

KPOV starting daily community affairs radio show

When KPOV first hit the airwaves in 2005, the radio station had ambitions way beyond its 2-watt signal.

Since then, the nonprofit, commercial-free station has shed its “low-power” status and extended its range all over Central Oregon. Earlier this year, it added a third paid staff member, its first-ever director of development.

Next month, another long-held goal will come to fruition, this time in the form of a new daily show called “The Point.” Appropriately, that was the station's early nickname.

Beginning May 1, it's the name of a morning community affairs show, airing Monday through Friday, from 9 to 9:30. All of the show's content will be produced locally.

“It's going to be a place where you can find news and information on local issues, arts and entertainment, politics, the environment, and a host of other topics,” said Michael Funke, a longtime KPOV volunteer who will be one of the show's many co-hosts.

Funke worked for decades as editor of union publications. He got his start in journalism when, as a teenager, he was hired by The Advance-Star in Burlingame, Calif., to cover local high school football games.

“I was getting paid something like 5 cents a column inch,” Funke said with a laugh.

In his new gig as co-host of “The Point,” he'll earn even less money.

“Because we're all volunteers, we couldn't find one person to do this five days a week,” Funke said.

Instead, he helped convene a rotating cast of hosts and regular contributors to produce the radio equivalent of a variety show.

In addition to news and weather, a group of master gardeners will offer weekly tips. A local fly-fishing guide will present the fishing outlook. Others will weigh in on sporting events and the live music scene. Some will perform sketch comedy.

This crowd-sourced approach to filling a half-hour show is indicative of KPOV's roots.

In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission created low-power FM stations in response to complaints of over-consolidated ownership of commercial radio. Eight groups in Bend applied for permits, then consolidated their applications into one community radio station. The FCC issued a permit in 2004 and KPOV went live in June 2005, transmitting from a tower on Awbrey Butte.

Pearl Stark, the station manager, said legal restrictions meant that other, full-power stations were allowed to interfere with KPOV's broadcast. And the signal, capped at 2 watts, couldn't penetrate well-insulated walls.

“Some people could hear it in their car, but not in their house,” she said.

So the station raised funds for an upgrade. In the summer of 2011, KPOV moved down the dial, from 106.7 to 88.9, and began transmitting from a tower on Pine Mountain, southeast of Bend.

The station had originally hoped to ramp up to 4,500 watts. But Stark said land use issues have kept the signal to 1,000 watts.

Because of the region's topography and the sheer number of stations in Bend, the switch actually damaged reception in some parts of the city.

“We are looking at a technical solution that will improve reception in Bend itself and won't affect current reception, which is coming in really well in Redmond, Sisters, Terrebonne and Prineville,” Stark said.

For now, the station can be streamed live at www.kpov.org. Listeners can help fund the fix by giving to a pledge drive that kicks off Thursday.

Eventually, Funke hopes to recruit enough volunteers to expand “The Point” into an hour-long show.

KPOV will use the show's May 1 launch to raise the station's profile, with a billboard on Third Street, and a window display at Ranch Records, downtown.

“It'll be a challenge for us,” Funke said of pulling off an all-volunteer daily show. “But we really think that Central Oregon needs a daily show like this.”