Fairbanks Open Radio presents KWRK-LP 90.9 FM - the only fully independent, 100% listener-sponsored radio station in Alaska.
No commercials. No underwriting. No fascist creep.
By 2005, a growing number of Fairbanksans recognized a deepening want of community responsiveness in our local NPR affiliate station, particularly after an ornery bureaucrat unceremoniously dumped several beloved local and syndicated programs. Thus was born the "KUAC Listeners' Alliance", which launched a counter pledge drive to resist the abrupt, rightward turn of our public radio station. The funds collected became seed money for an independent, listener-sponsored radio station. Organizers began meeting under the banner of "Fairbanks Open Radio".
Over the next decade, we deployed a diversity of tactics to propagate independent media. We had a web site that published local news and perspectives on affairs here and abroad. In 2012, we obtained an FCC permit to build a high-power FM station. In recognition of the amount of money we would need to raise from private interests to finance such an endeavor and the degree to which that would compromise our aspirations for independence, we transferred the high-power FM license to the Athabascan Fiddlers Association, which had an established revenue stream and today proudly broadcasts "The Voice of Denali" on KRFF 89.1 FM as part of a network of FM stations serving communities across Interior Alaska. Our volunteers have produced radio broadcasts for both KRFF and KWRK-LP, and we are proud to continue that collaboration.
Inspired by the LPFM (aka “pirate radio”) movement for community-responsive broadcast media, organizers at Fairbanks Open Radio ultimately decided upon the LPFM model for its universal accessibility - both to us as broadcasters and to our listeners – through inexpensive, readily available equipment. We are eternally grateful to the Prometheus Radio Project and to Lewis Leonard of Glacier City Radio (KEUL 88.9 FM in Girdwood), who helped us to navigate the stormy seas of bureaucracy to acquire and maintain the broadcast permit and to work through the technical aspects of setting up and running our station.
In 2014, the Alaska Peace Center and Fairbanks Open Radio acquired a Low Power FM Broadcast Station Construction Permit from the FCC. Over the previous decade, Prometheus and other principled media activists, a not insignificant number of whom had their “pirate radio” equipment summarily pirated by the feds, had persistently invited the FCC to allow community access to the increasingly consolidated airwaves, which culminated in a one-time application period for LPFM permits. Our intrepid volunteers recognized and exploited the historic opportunity, and we obtained one of 1,000 LPFM construction permits issued nationwide. The FCC has since offered little indication that it will ever reopen the LPFM application window.
(For the record, Fairbanks Open Radio supports the movement to democratize the airwaves by normalizing independent LPFM broadcasts to protect them from state confiscation of equipment and other legal jeopardy and by improving existing public radio infrastructure and funding it sufficiently to be responsive to the needs of diverse, local communities. At a bare minimum, the FCC should reopen the LPFM application window.)
In 2015, we organized the volunteer labor and raised the funds necessary to buy, assemble, and install radio broadcast equipment at our lo-fi studio. We affiliated with the Pacifica Network and Radio4All.net and the Channel Zero Network and identified a solid array of syndicated radio productions to rebroadcast locally.
In early February 2016, we began testing our 100-watt LPFM transmission. We launched our regular broadcast on February 13 by airing the Fairbanks Winter Folk Fest live from Pioneer Park, and we've been on the air ever since. The FCC granted our LPFM Station License on March 2, 2016. By spring break-up, we were broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Two years later, in February 2018, we began an Internet live stream of KWRK-LP 90.9 FM as it is heard right now in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The workers behind Fairbanks Open Radio and KWRK-LP 90.9 FM fancy an open forum for insightful discussion of subjects relevant to the pursuit of justice in our communities - a source that introduces new ideas, inspires deliberation and reconsideration of old ideas, and stimulates us to act. We want to build an organization that works for working class folx like us to accomplish collectively what we cannot individually - to maintain or replace the flailing fourth estate. We're counting on the no-frills, low-stress LPFM approach to enable us to keep carrying the torch.