Local voices are back on the air in Ka‘u, but not via the radio waves.
Christine Kaehuaea, formerly the KAHU 91.7 FM general manager and now Kau Community Radio Inc. president, said the need for community based programming remained in Ka‘u, even after Hawaii Public Radio picked up where KAHU stopped broadcasting last year.
“A lot of the contacts that I had with the other radio wanted to see things keep happening,” Kaehuaea said. “People linked in with it (KAHU) because it was theirs.”
So Kaehuaea, working with Streamguys.com, Oceanic Time Warner Cable and StationPlaylist, founded Honu Road Radio, an online station that offers the same genre mix of music, as well as civil defense alerts and news, plus community partnerships in education, health care and arts and cultural programs.
She moved to Ka‘u in 2013 to help close KAHU. That station went on the air in June 2010, but faced funding issues almost from the start, eventually accruing about $68,000 in debt during its last 18 months of broadcasting. The Federal Communications Commission approved Hawaii Public Radio’s request to acquire the station last summer.
By streaming online, Kaehuaea and Honu Road Radio avoid some of the challenges community radio stations face when working with the FCC, she said. Those rules forbid KAHU, licensed as a community station, from selling advertising and required the station to pay certain fees. Those, combined with the overhead costs of maintaining an office and broadcasting equipment, were obstacles in keeping the station up and running.
With her home-based station, Kaehuaea avoids many of those costs. She can accept advertising and be more involved in community events, she said.
When she first moved to Ka‘u, she found a community unaccustomed to tuning in to broadcast radio, because KAHU was the only station on the airwaves in the region.
“More people had smartphones than radios,” Kaehuaea said.
That had started to change before the station went off the air.
“We want to continue what KAHU was building,” she added. “It’s a blend of community and commercial.”
Music for the station has been donated by community members, she said.
She said she sees it as a community’s responsibility to use its resources and learn from its mistakes, even when a business fails.
“(F)or today, we are love and being heard in Ka‘u, around Hawaii island and beyond,” she said in a press release. “It’s a new beginning to hopefully a bright future.”
The station can be heard at honuroadradio.com.