PUBLISHED: 3:49 PM on Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Public radio triples at KTOO-FM
New sounds are buzzing at KTOO-FM this season as they prepare for the expansion of public radio in Juneau. Anticipation shines in their voices as staff members talk of big changes coming for the station. KTOO president and general manager Bill Legere, announced Dec. 7, that the Federal Communications Commission authorized the transfer of commercial stations KFMG Magic 100.7 and KSRJ Star 102.7 to Capital Community Broadcasting. KTOO will launch at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12, its new K3 stations, which include KTOO News on its original frequency.

In 2005, KTOO joined in Public Radio Capital's nationwide "More Channels, More Service" project, designed to help public stations find new channels for programming. The project helped determine if the station was ready and what opportunities there were to expand in Juneau, Legere said. Since June 2005, PRC assisted KTOO, including conducting a comprehensive financial analysis and business plan for expanding service.

Station manager Cheryl Levitt said that when the station envisioned broadening, it was a dream to have just one new station; financial analysis looked best to run all three stations. Also, KTOO now qualifies for more federal funding.

Once KTOO knew it had an agreement with a seller, it began the long assessment process to determine the best program schedules, which meet Juneau's needs. Research included community focus groups with listeners and non-listeners, a town meeting, online listener service, feedback from phone calls, e-mails and people stopping in to make requests. Clearly KTOO takes into deep consideration their community, fans and radio listeners. "The heart of this project is community involved," Levitt said.

K3 is all about "adding more programs that people will really love," Legere said. The new stations are jam-packed with old and new requested favorites, locally-hosted programs and new top national programs--the list goes on and on.

"Everything that is currently on KTOO will find a home on one of three stations," Levitt said.

The three new stations will be:

KTOO News on 104.3-Juneau's 24 hour station for local, state, national and international news. Radio shows include current programs and several new additions. Listeners can tune into programs such as BBC World Service, Car Talk, Democracy Now!, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation and Fresh Air.

A few new local additions include Focus on Community, a volunteer hosted discussion/call-in/forum that looks at regional, religious, peace and statewide issues by a person of interest in the community; and TBC Help Desk, a comedy show based on behind-the scenes look at the workings of a fictitious company deemed the support entity for all technology in Southeast Alaska. A national addition is Encounters, hosted by award-winning nature writer and cultural anthropologist Richard Nelson. The program is recorded live-to tape in a wild setting and takes listeners on his adventures through Alaska's back country. For gourmands, listen to The Splendid Table, a syndicated show hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who celebrates food in all its sensual nuances and how it relates to specific cultures and its people.

Rain Country Radio on 102.7 is the station "that is musically what KTOO is about," said Jeff Brown, program/music director. The programs are mostly locally hosted by community volunteers, who offer a selection of handpicked music varying from classic, jazz, folk and world music. Rain Country Radio celebrates Juneau's diversity with an eclectic music schedule, a close connection to the community and a strong sense of place, the station states.

A local addition is Future of Modern Rock, which groups modern rock from the 80s, 90s and 00s. It's mostly music that connects the dots to music we listen to today, said program/operations director Andy Kline. Transglobal, a new world beat show, plays a wide variety of stylized and traditional music from around the globe.

Excellent Radio on 100.7-presents the best of today's new music, alternative, hip hop and classic rock tunes. They will use a computer generated system to put out play lists; the station has a digital collection of 5,000 songs that is regularly updated. The station is "still top 40 but not as repetitive and definitely and utterly locally based," said Kline. Programs include An Excellent Afternoon with Andy Kline, Chocolate City, Kickin' Music Mix and more. Levitt said, "Excellent Radio is the big splash and innovative for public radio."

What's hot about Excellent Radio is many of the tunes that will be jamming are freely syndicated by KCRW, Los Angeles' public radio station. KCRW does not distribute its shows to anyone except KTOO, Kline said. He said Levitt was instrumental in forming a good relationship with KCRW, and used its shows on the airway. Listeners will reap the benefits. KCRW is avant garde and often breaks new bands all the time Kline said.

A focus with Excellent Radio is appealing to younger listeners, another way KTOO strives to improve public service.

"It's exciting to see a whole new group of people excited about radio," Brown said.

KTOO enlisted 50 new local radio hosts, but will utilize in-house and seasoned announcers before expanding to new people throughout the course of the year.

Additionally, for listeners who might miss the old stations, Excellent Radio and Rain Country Radio offer more than music - no commercials.

"We believe people will be super-served and hopefully done in an improved way," Kline said.