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 KUAC, our local NPR affiliate station, particularly after one bureaucrat unceremoniously dumped several beloved local and syndicated programs. Thus was born the "KUAC Listeners' Alliance", which launched a "conditional" or "counter" pledge drive during KUAC's pledge drive to resist the abrupt, rightward turn of KUAC. 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, our group pursued various strategies for propagating alternative, independent media. We had a web site that published local perspectives and news analysis. In 2012, we obtained an FCC permit to build a high-power FM station. In recognition of the amount of money we would need 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 now broadcasts "The Voice of Denali" on KRFF 89.1 FM as part of a network of FM stations serving communities across Interior Alaska. Some of our volunteers produce radio broadcasts for broadcast on both KRFF and KWRK-LP, and we are proud to continue that collaboration.
Inspired by the LPFM movement for community-responsive radio, organizers at Fairbanks Open Radio ultimately decided upon the LPFM option for its universal accessibility - both to us as broadcasters and to our listeners as users of inexpensive, readily available equipment. We are forever grateful to the Prometheus Radio Project, who helped us both to navigate the stormy seas of bureaucracy to acquire the permit and to work through the technical process of setting up our broadcast studio.
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, principled media activists like Prometheus had lobbied the FCC to allow community access to the increasingly consolidated airwaves, which culminated in a one-time open season on 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 whether it will ever reopen an 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 publicly funding it sufficiently to be responsive to the needs of diverse, local communities. At a bare minimum, the FCC should open another LPFM application filing window.)
In 2015, we organized the volunteer labor and raised the funds necessary to buy, assemble, and install radio broadcast equipment at our no-frills studio. We affiliated with the Pacifica Network and Radio4All.net (and later the Channel Zero Network) and identified radio productions to syndicate.
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 every day 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 per week. Two years later, in February 2018, we began an Internet audio stream trial - a live mirror of KWRK-LP 90.9 FM as heard 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 our community - 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, given our inherent money and time constraints, to maintain or replace the flailing fourth estate. We're counting on the no-frills, low-stress LPFM approach to let us carry the torch.
We invite you to participate in this ambitious, community-powered radio station.