Thursday, January 21, 2010

And Now, the Buzz Around KAXE

by Doug MacRostie

[Originally posted on 91.7 KAXE Notes]

As usual, things are flying at about twenty million mph around the KAXE Studios; we’ve got the exciting return of Ojibwemowin on the Morning Show, a fundraiser coming up next month and an ever advancing online-media presence. The other big news is the ground work for KBXE, the new radio station being built by Northern Community Radio to serve Bagley, Bemidji, Fosston, Gonvick, Clearbrook and beyond (check out this video of our float in the Night We Light parade). This is a huge and exciting project and here’s a little info from my perspective on the Publicity Committee. Physically, KBXE doesn’t exist yet – we don’t have a tower, we don’t have a studio and just over two years to get on the air. But we do have people, and community radio is people. KBXE already has dozens of dedicated volunteers working on finding locations for the studio and tower, fundraising and spreading the word.

What is KBXE?
KBXE is being welcomed with a high level of enthusiasm and energy, and we plan to continue raising public awareness with monthly events – the next is Sat. Feb 6th at the Backyard BBQ in downtown Bemidji. KBXE will “Spread the Love” with fun, info, love-themed trivia hosted by Brandon Chase and some rockin’ blues with The Beerds which includes KAXE Volunteer Steve Ross on bass along with local legend Rob York on guitar, Chris Carter on drums and Shane Corning on guitar and vocals. We’ll have a chocolate fountain with dip-ables, and trivia prizes like chocolates, roses and honey (for your honey) [Thanks to KD Floral and Gardens, Chocolates Plus, Bar Bell Bee Ranch, Harmony Food Co-op and Lueken’s Village Foods]. But mainly, we’ll have the answer to, “What is KBXE?”

If you’re interested in helping spread the word about KBXE, let us know! There are committees you can join and there is plenty of work to be done. Get more KBXE info at, or check out the KBXE Facebook page.

What the hell is the internet?
KAXE was a wonderful reputation of being on the cutting edge of technology and there are a lot of ways to keep up with us. Other than streaming live online and archiving many of our programs, did you know we’re on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger? Yup, we are. From videos of live music at the KAXE studios to blogs about John Bauer’s bad hair day – you can find it all at

What is Ojibwemowin?
is the language of the Ojibwe people. In the Nigaane Language Program at the Bug-O-Nay- Ge-Shig School near Bena, elementary students learn to speak the language of their ancestors. They are immersed in speaking and reading Ojibwe. From time to time we’ll hear a variety of programs featuring Ojibwe speakers, and what it means to the Anishinaabe people.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's So Exciting About KBXE?

[Originally published 10/27/09 on 91.7 KAXE Notes]

If you look carefully at those distinctive green KAXE bumper stickers, you might notice something different…on some of those stickers the “A” in KAXE has been replaced with a “B.” You are seeing the very first bumper stickers for Northern Community Radio’s new station that will serve Bagley, the Bemidji area, and points west: KBXE!

90.5 KBXE has to be on the air by March 23, 2012! Building a new radio station is a whirlwind of problems to solve and opportunities to seize, but collaborating with folks from Bemidji and Bagley has been a lot of fun. KAXE members from the “western fringe” are sharing their creativity, knowledge of the area, and professional expertise. Committees are hard at work, progress is being made in the search for studio and tower space, and we’re figuring out how we might raise a pile of money in tough economic times. Fashionable folks across northern Minnesota are sporting enigmatic green buttons on their shirts and coats that ask, “What is KBXE?”

There are lots of reasons for excitement! One of those reasons is that KBXE will be founded in 2011 or 2012, and it will have the benefit of everything we’ve managed to learn at KAXE over the past 33 years—all those mistakes and triumphs that have taught us important lessons about being an authentic local radio station for northern Minnesota.

KAXE was founded in 1976, and there will always be a lot of 1976 in KAXE. As much as we pride ourselves on KAXE’s good reputation and its contributions to the wider world of community and public radio, the inertia of the past sometimes makes it hard for us to adopt new ideas and methods. With KBXE we can create an innovative and thoroughly modern version of our medium. KBXE will reach out to new people. KBXE will develop its own quirks, its own attitude, new programs and sensibilities.

Here’s another exciting thing: At the first KBXE community meeting in August, people clearly said they hoped we would build in the ability to pass a signal back and forth between KAXE and KBXE. Sometimes KBXE’s program would be on both stations and sometimes KAXE’s program would be on both stations, and sometimes each station would operate independently, broadcasting separate programs.

A relationship like this between stations is fairly unusual in broadcasting. A more normal model is for a lead station to broadcast to one or more repeaters without give and take, except maybe for the occasional remote studio interview.

This way of passing the signal back and forth has the potential to bring about some positive consequences. In northeastern and north central MN, KAXE has helped create a sense of neighborliness and belonging. That’s our mission. We call it “building community.” The relationship between KAXE and KBXE may help create an even larger sense of neighborliness—a sense of “northern Minnesota-ness”—that stretches across the whole top part of the state!

In the overall world of radio, community stations are fairly rare. There are only a handful of community-licensed stations in Minnesota. KBXE and KAXE together will help us bring out the best of the culture of our region and show it off as few other media organizations can. What we are building here is going to take a lot of work, but it will be a wonderful asset!

I hope you are all as jazzed about this as I am! Call us if you’d like to help with this project, or if you want one of those new KBXE bumper stickers or a fashionable “What is KBXE?” button: 800/662-5799 or 218/326-1234.

Stay tuned. There will be more reports as things develop…

-Maggie Montgomery

91.7 KAXE & 90.5 KBXE, Northern Community Radio

[originally published 9/11/09 on 91.7 KAXE Notes]

In early August, the FCC awarded Northern Community Radio a construction permit to build a new radio station that would serve the Bagley/Bemidji area.

We hope you will call KAXE at 218/326-1234 if you have any questions or want to help build KBXE! You can join a committee for construction, fundraising, events, technical crew or publicity OR you can come to the next general meeting.

KBXE will be a noncommercial station licensed in the city of Bagley. Depending on the final location and power of the KBXE transmitter, the station could serve Bemidji, Fosston, Gonvick, Clearbrook, Debs, Erskine and Zerkel.

KBXE can broadcast at as much as 100,000 watts, or it may be more cost effective to use less power. In some respects, the location of the transmitter will determine the ERP (effective radiated power) of KBXE. A high power station cannot be located near some other stations due to interference issues, while a lower power station would have more location options.

KBXE’s construction permit was originally awarded to the Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (HUUF) in Bemidji. Northern Community Radio signed a purchase agreement with HUUF to obtain the construction permit, at cost. HUUF was interested in bringing a community radio station to Bemidji. The HUUF agreement stipulates that Northern Community Radio cannot transfer KBXE’s license to any other organization for at least 10 years. This is so Northern Community Radio cannot just build and then sell KBXE to make money. HUUF definitely wants a community radio station to serve the Bemidji area, but did not think this was something they could do themselves.

Now Northern Community Radio is the sole owner of the KBXE construction permit. Northern Community Radio’s board of directors will “own” KBXE on behalf of the community. Our organization’s mission, which is to “build community in northern MN through radio broadcasting, cultural events and interactive media,” will guide KBXE just as it does KAXE. KBXE will serve a wide broadcast area just as KAXE does.

Northern Community Radio was interested in a new station because KAXE’s signal to the west is experiencing more and more interference. Translators are low priority for the FCC and do not have the protections that full-power stations do. KAXE’s Bemidji translator is in the commercial band, making it especially vulnerable. A commercial broadcaster could take its 105.3 frequency for a full-power commercial station if the FCC opens another filing window. The radio spectrum is a limited natural resource. KBXE’s 90.5 frequency is the last remaining noncommercial frequency that can serve the Bemidji area.

In all, 5 entities applied for this broadcast license. A settlement agreement allowed both the Unitarians and Leech Lake Reservation to squeeze in their proposed stations before Northern Community Radio purchased the construction permit. Leech Lake Reservation is building a tribal station that will broadcast at 90.1 FM. Its call sign is KOJB.

Northern Community Radio plans to build studios in Bemidji, although the location hasn’t been determined yet. At an initial gathering in Bemidji with about 80 KAXE members, those attending said locating downtown, building green, and including a performance space were important considerations. They also thought KBXE should be a mix of KAXE and locally originated content, that KBXE should air NPR programs, and that KBXE should have its own version of the Morning Show. Everyone wants to meet again in a month or two. New people are welcome to join the process at any time!

A committee is working now on a tower location. They are trying to determine if we can build a tower of if we should rent one, and where.

Another group is looking at studio location options. They are looking at land and buildings and talking about the pros and cons of locating with other organizations and building new versus renovating.

Yet another group will help raise the money to get the project done. The project will have to show significant community support before it will be able to get matching money from foundations or government agencies.

There is a lot more to do, including reaching out to more people in the Bagley area, but this is a start!

There is a deadline. KBXE has to be built and operational by March 23, 2012 or Northern Community Radio will lose its construction permit. The tower and transmission plant are high priority in getting the station on the air by the deadline. There are a lot of unknowns, but we think it will cost at least $1 million to build the tower, transmitter and studios, and possibly closer to $1.5 million.

Call or email KAXE/Northern Community Radio if you have ideas, want to sign up for a committee or would like more information: 218/326-1234 or