Peninsula school district reflects on future of KGHP radio station

Gig Harbor’s small public radio station may have dodged a bullet, but staff members aren’t entirely sure about KGHP’s future.

The Peninsula School District, which owns the station, has “on hold” a planned study by an outside contractor to determine the value of the station’s equipment and frequencies, a district spokesperson said.

“The radio station is on status quo right now,” said Aimee Gordon, district communications director.

Spencer Abersold, station manager and former Gig Harbor board member, sounded the alarm earlier this year when he told Key Peninsula News he feared the district wanted to close or sell the station.

“If the school district decides to cut funding for this radio station, we’ve lost it,” Abersold told The Gateway this month.

Low consumption license

KGHP operates under a special low-power license limited to non-commercial educational use. If the district wanted to sell it, the buyer would have to be another nonprofit educational entity, Abersold said. The chances of finding one are low, he said.

“It would have to be a school,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of options.”

Abersold said he was concerned when his boss, Kris Hagel, the district’s chief technology officer, spoke to him in July about the assessment. Since then nothing has happened and no one has told him anything more, he said. Hagel did not immediately respond to a request for comment made by Gordon.

KGHP broadcasts on FM on three low-power channels: 105.7 at Gig Harbor, 89.9 on the Key Peninsula and 89.3 on Fox Island, using between 40 and 90 watts. It programs an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, rock, classical, country and talk shows, all presented by volunteer DJs. Abersold is the only paid employee.

The station hasn’t conducted a hearing investigation for about six years, Abersold said, but he estimates the audience to be between 10,000 and 15,000. Even with low power, the station can be heard as far south as Olympia and across the bridge at University Place and Tacoma, he said.

Local media

One of the station’s volunteers is Robyn Denson, a Gig Harbor board member who hosts HarborChat, a talk show.

“I think it would be a disservice to the community to shut down the radio station,” she said earlier this month. “All the other stations are outside of Seattle, so having our own media means a lot to a community our size.”

The station reaches many people on the Key Peninsula who do not have high-speed internet access, she noted, and it plays an important role in the region’s emergency communications plans.

“It’s more than music,” she said.

KGHP has been on the air for almost 40 years, but lately he’s become something of a red-haired stepson in the district, Abersold said. He blames the district’s lack of support for a recent hard drive crash that wiped out the station’s 27,000-song music library.

“I told them it was going to happen, but they pushed him away and pushed him back, and eventually he crashed,” he said.

He restored around 7,000 songs, he said.

Part of a trend

Educational institutions have gotten rid of public radio stations in recent years as student interest in broadcasting has waned and schools seek to sell scarce frequencies.

The Lutheran University of the Pacific sparked an uproar in 2016 when it attempted to sell KPLU, its popular jazz station, to the University of Washington. Ultimately, the university agreed to sell it to a hastily organized nonprofit for $ 7 million, and it now broadcasts as KNKX, with studios in Seattle and Tacoma.

In 2010, Clover Park Technical College quietly ceased offering broadcasting classes and transferred programming from KVTI-FM, its radio station, to Northwest Public Radio, operated out of Washington State University. at Pullman.

The Peninsula School District also stopped offering its classes on electronic media this year, following the retirement of its longtime instructor. Abersold thinks this is a mistake.

“Look how important podcasting has become,” he said. “Watch TikTok, watch YouTube. Just recently you had a story in the newspaper about a teenage kid with two million followers on TikTok. These are skills kids can and want to use.

“Yet they have batik lessons, they have pottery lessons. I don’t know anyone who became a millionaire by making batik.

When asked for details of the ‘hold back’ of the investigation, Gordon said: ‘Ta radio station is a complicated situation.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that KNKX was broadcasting from Seattle. Although its transmitter is on Tiger Mountain near Issaquah, the station has studios in Seattle and Tacoma.

This story was originally published December 14, 2021 5:00 a.m.


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