Hawaii Public Radio’s decision to take over KAHU-FM means Ka‘u residents will end radio silence in the district.
The Federal Communications Commission last week approved a transfer of ownership of the station from Ka‘u Community Radio Inc. to Hawaii Public Radio for the station, which airs at 91.7 FM.
“This helps (public radio) to really give coverage to all of the island,” Ka‘u Community Radio President Christine Kaehuaea said Tuesday. “It protects the community. For me, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel.”
KAHU 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.
HPR President and General Manager Michael Titterton worked with Kaehuaea to secure the FCC approval of the sale. No one commented on the proposed transfer during the 30-day comment period.
“There was a community there with literally no access to radio,” Titterton said of Pahala and the surrounding communities. “That really got our attention.”
HPR has a mission to bring both of its program streams to a statewide audience. The FCC, however, has severely limited opportunities to apply for new station licenses, Titterton said, making expansion difficult. In the “best of all worlds,” HPR will be able to eventually place a transmitter at a higher elevation than Pahala and extend its broadcast from Milolii to Hilo.
Within a few weeks, KAHU will again be broadcasting, this time with what public radio refers to as HPR-2, one of two broadcasting streams. Re-establishing a radio station means more than public radio programming, Titterton said. It also allows for residents to get Civil Defense alerts and updates, something they weren’t able to get over the radio after KAHU shut down earlier this year.
Kaehuaea said HPR will have the option of using KAHU’s old studio or a new location, being offered by a Pahala landowner, that would be slightly less expensive.
Kaehuaea’s father, Wendell, started the station and passed management to her in 2011. She moved from the mainland to take on the project and is hoping to continue working on some of the goals she had for the station, including bringing more music opportunities to the school and encouraging more retailers to locate in Pahala, “things the community wants and needs and they’re requesting,” she said.
In addition to those projects, Kaehuaea is also looking to keep music on the airwaves, at least through an Internet-based radio station.
She said she was very happy to be handing the station off to HPR.
“I am so elated,” she said. “This whole area is going to be protected.”