KTOO turns up programming

Two new public radio stations join original

Posted: Sunday, January 14, 2007

KTOO seized the airwaves Friday, its stations cranking out punk rock, world music and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

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With the touch of a ceremonial button at 5 p.m., longtime members Don and Janet Kussart helped the National Public Radio station re-establish itself as a three-station public radio entity.

A crowd of 125 was on hand as KTOO officially launched KTOO News (104.3 FM), KRNN/Rain Country Radio (102.7) and KXLL/ Excellent Radio (100.7). All three stations will be run out of separate second-floor studios at KTOO headquarters, 360 Egan Drive.

"I'm so excited for Juneau that it has these excellent choices of listening to fantastic music and news and world reports," said Janet Kussart, who pushed the button to launch KTOO News. "It will also give more local people a chance to share the wealth of music that they want to hear."

KXLL has replaced Magic 100.7, and KRNN has taken over for Star 102.7. KTOO bought both frequencies from California-based White Oak Broadcasting.

The FCC approved the acquisition in early December, and the purchase took place on Dec. 27. On that day, KTOO began airing sample streams on KXLL and KRNN as a way of experimenting with running three stations simultaneously.

"It's a phenomenal day," said station manager Cheryl Levitt. "This is just the beginning. It was a big push to get on the air, but there's going to be a lot of tweaking and fine-tuning."

"You only get to do this once in your career, usually," said Bill Legere, KTOO president and general manager.

"If we underestimated anything, it was how complex running these three radio stations would be in the midst of other technological challenges," he said. "We devoted an enormous amount of time to trying to figure that part out and undoubtedly there will be some mistakes. Other than that, everything that needed to fall into place fell into place."

KTOO News began its programming Friday with the syndicated National Public Radio show "All Things Considered." KRNN launched with the NPR program "World Café. National host David Dye recorded a special introduction for Rain Country.

Public radio stations

A look at KTOO's umbrella

• KXLL/100.7 FM: Excellent Radio. A mix of innovative new music, alternative and hip-hop. First song on Friday: "We Want The Airwaves," by The Ramones. Call 463-MIXX.

• KRNN/102.7 FM: Rain Country Radio. An eclectic mix of folk, world music, jazz, bluegrass and classics, both locally hosted and syndicated. First program: "World Cafe." Call 586-1212 for information.

• KTOO/104.3 FM: KTOO News. 24 hours of local, state, national and international news, including "Morning Edition" and "A Juneau Afternoon." First program: "All Things Considered." Call 586-1212.

More: For the complete schedule of each station, visit www.ktoo.org

"I can honestly tell you I have never, ever been in this position before," Dye said. "Congratulations to you and everybody involved."

KXLL's official debut began with "We Want The Airwaves," by The Ramones, a longtime favorite of program director Andy Kline.

Excellent Radio will be locally hosted, but run by a program called AV Air that functions as a "gigantic iPod." The computer has approximately 5,000 songs stored.

"We knew the technology would work, and we knew people were listening," Kline said. "One girl at Foodland (Alaska and Proud) said 'This is the best thing to happen to Juneau in years."

"We give people the opportunity around pledge week to let know they're favorite programs or the programs they want," receptionist Vicki Allison said. "I have the opportunity to type up those comments, and that's part of what we've done. What the community wants, you see that in the three stations that we have."

All three stations can be heard on the Web - www.ktoo.org. For now, only KTOO News (104.3) can be heard in Hoonah (91.9 FM), Gustavus (88.1), Excursion Inlet (89.9) and on GCI Cable (88.1).

That raised concern in Gustavus, where a number of listeners would prefer a service that includes the talk programming of KTOO News and the music on KRNN and KXLL.

KTOO has applied for a waiver from the FCC to transmit a hybrid of all three stations to Gustavus. It's unknown if and when the request will be approved.

"We've made our best case on the basis that people who live in Gustavus live in a place with no radio service, no TV and limited choices," Legere said. "We're optimistic that the FCC will grant our request."

For now, only KTOO News is broadcasting in digital high-definition. The station hopes to start raising funds in the next year to convert KRNN and KXLL to HD as well. It's not clear how many people in Juneau, besides employees at KTOO, even have digital radio receivers.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com

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