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Christians find mission in new radio station

Low-power FM spot broadcasts religious messages and rock

Posted: Monday, April 17, 2006

It was no joke on April 1 when Juneau's newest radio station went on the air at the stroke of midnight.

"It was awesome," said Paul Stephens, the 19-year-old programming director for KVIM. "Other than the moment I was saved and gave my life to Christ, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me."

Stephens said the phone began ringing the minute they flipped the switch. Flyers put out the word that the station could be found at 92.7 and people were listening for it, he said.

"Vertical Impact," as people at the Christian-rock station call it, operates under a low-power FM license from the Federal Communications Commission. It programs its own music and doesn't run commercials. General Manager Brian Ewing said the license doesn't allow them to broadcast satellite programming, but they run recorded Christian-teaching from out of town.

In addition to popular contemporary music consistent with the station's message, there is about four hours a day of Christian teaching, Ewing said.

Miriah Brown, a Juneau-Douglas High School senior about a month shy of her 18th birthday, inputs programming into the computer. Some of it comes from her own compact discs that she brought into the station. After the station has been on the air for two months, they will begin getting songs from record companies she said. "We pay royalties," she said.

Ewing said he is getting good feedback on the content, and he is impressed with how well the low-power signal covers the area from the Auke Bay area. It reaches the back of Mendenhall Loop Road, but he has heard people say they can pick it up in car radios as far away as Tee Harbor and Douglas. "Someone said they heard it at Eagle Beach," he said.

The station isn't about Calvary Fellowship, where Ewing is the pastor, he said. It is aiming to reach a segment of Juneau that the existing Christian stations may be missing. KVIM is looking for the right combination of music and teaching aimed at teenagers and young adults - an age group he sees less of at his services, held at 10 a.m. Sundays at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.

Brown said the station is great to listen to, with bands like Kutless, Relient K, Falling Up, Seventh Day Slumber, and P.O.D. The station plays more than 800 songs, she said. "Christian rock, since the '80s, has grown so much."

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Ewing said the station keeps current with new releases. The variety is important to the station. "We don't want to play the top 25 songs every two hours," he said.

Like Stephens, Brown said it's "awesome" to think about what they're doing. "The work is sometimes tedious," the full-time high school senior added.

Stephens doesn't choose what songs are played on the station. The playlist is "something we all talk about". But he said he does categorize the music that comes in. Currently there are three categories, from soft to hard. "We're planning on branching out to six categories," he said.

A group of 50 songs - a mix of new releases and more popular tunes - gets more frequent play. There also is the worship category, Stephens said. "We try to make Sunday a worship day."

Ewing said lessons can range from 15 minutes to a half-hour in length, and generally two hours apart. The music categories give the station some consistency in what listeners will hear at different times. There have been some adjustments along the way, he said.

There were two-minute "God spots" that didn't work, although the teaching was solid, Ewing said. Done by a Southern preacher, they didn't sound right with harmonica music and a Southern voice following hard rock.

Brown is volunteering, as is Stephens, who has a full-time job at Fred Meyer. After helping get the station on the air, Stephens puts in about five or six hours a week programming it. "It's like a fun hobby," he said.

"There are a lot of behind-the-scenes volunteers," Brown said. The station has come along at the right time for her to be a part of it, she added. "It's awesome seeing how God's plan has worked out. He's taught me a lot of patience."

Stephens said he will miss the station when he goes to Calvary Bible College in California later this year. "It's been an awesome ride so far."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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