• Join the community in celebrating “Where the sound meets the sea.”
By Christina Whiting
“Goat lost 12 miles out East End Road.” “Ride needed from Homer to Anchorage for two big men and one small dog.” “This message is for Snookie in Petersen Bay: we love you and miss you. There’s moose meat waiting for you in the freezer.”
These are just a few of the messages you might hear during KBBI AM 890’s daily “Bush Lines.”
Homer community members proudly display KBBI bumper stickers, drink coffee from mugs featuring artwork by local artists, volunteer at memberships drives and Concert on the Lawn and eagerly tune into favorite local programs like “Coffee Table” and “Slack Tide,” as well as national programs like “Car Talk” and “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”
In addition to providing residents with local news, marine weather forecasts, community updates, local programming and entertainment, KBBI also offers access to news and entertainment from around the globe.
Don Pitcher’s connection with KBBI stretches back 20 years to a time when he was working at a remote field camp on Kodiak Island.
“We made an antenna by coiling 100 feet of wire, and KBBI became our daily link to the outside world,” he said. “It provided news, weather and vital marine forecasts.”
Pitcher joined KBBI as an on-air DJ when the family moved to Homer in 1999.
Michael McBride raised his family in remote China Poot Bay and attributes KBBI to keeping them connected to the rest of the world.
“In the winter, we rarely ventured into town,” he said. “KBBI provided a very long umbilical cord to the rest of the world in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.”
On Aug. 4, 1979, KBBI AM 1250 graced the airwaves as Homer’s first AM radio station. Its first programs were broadcast from the back of a building on Lake Street, before moving to a Main Street property with a great view, but no running water. The signal was broadcast from the old FAA tower next to the studio, which reached Kachemak Bay, across Cook Inlet, down to Kodiak Island and as far north as Ninilchik. In 1991, the station moved to its current location on Kachemak Way.
The purchase of a new transmitter allowed KBBI to move its frequency to 890AM and extend its reach. A new generator made the station a reliable source of information during emergencies.
In the early 1980s, KBBI operated from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week with 11 staff positions. Today, they are on the air 24/7 with eight staff, and also manage and provide programming, development, news and business support to KDLL 91.9 FM in Kenai.
“We are no longer just a radio station,” said KBBI General Manager Dave Anderson. “It takes additional time to update the website, Facebook and Twitter. Our working relationship with KDLL in Kenai allows us to share some expenses and programs. This is the future of maintaining a sustainable public broadcasting service: collaboration and consolidation.”
Anderson started as an on-air volunteer DJ with KBBI in 1981, and has been general manager for almost nine years. He considers one of the station’s greatest successes to be its move from multiple-day membership drives to a one-day drive that takes place twice a year.
“KBBI is one of the few stations to continue to be successful with this format,” he said. “A number of stations have followed our lead.”
Grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission together provide 43 percent of KBBI’s revenue. The rest is made up via membership, underwriting and donations.
More than 50 volunteers help out with KBBI’s annual “Concert on the Lawn.” The summer fundraiser offers two days of live music from local and statewide musicians who volunteer their time and talents.
Glenn Caldwell, host of “Slack Tide,” has been a volunteer DJ since 1986, and has witnessed many changes.
“The new studio, updated equipment and technology allow our small community to share access to world news and culture, he said.”
KBBI’s future plans include replacing 12-year old audio consoles in the production studios, as well as expanding social media and digitally archiving 35 years worth of audio tapes.
On Jan. 23, KBBI celebrates 35 years of broadcasting listener-supported public radio and is the most-listened-to radio station in the area. A celebration will be held during the station’s annual meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Homer Elks Lodge. Bring a potluck dish to share, enjoy live music and be a part of the silent art auction featuring work donated by local artists.
For more information, call the station at 235-7721 or visit kbbi.org.
Comments are closed