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Beacon of Light: KSKQ FM Gives Power Back to the Public

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Host, Wes Brain interviewing Mickey Huff of Project Censored. Photo by Jason Houk

In this era of parroted programming and ad interruptions, community-powered KSKQ Radio (89.5 FM and 94.1 FM) is media for the people, by the people, giving listeners a breath of fresh airwaves.

“The radio station is totally community run, and holds the same non-commercial educational (NCE) license as JPR (Jefferson Public Radio),” says KSKQ Management Committee Chairperson, Connie Saldana. “It’s independent media, which is a critical cornerstone of democracy, and in community radio the public has access to the airwaves without being controlled by corporate interests.”

Through a concerted effort by local, community-radio advocates and several sponsor organizations, including the Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon, an application to the Federal Communications Commission to create a low-power radio station was completed and in 2005, after nearly five years, the application was approved.

“We got this letter that said ‘you can build a radio station’,” laughed Saldana, who is a board member for the Multicultural Association. “We didn’t have anybody left on the board that really knew how to do that but there was this wonderful group of citizens who were very enthusiastic about community radio that really helped make it happen.”

We’re a hyper-local, independent station that’s entirely volunteer-run, with no full-time paid employees or federal funding,” she adds. “The station is definitely proactive in the area of free speech and the only station around that plays a variety of alternative news and information shows.”

Local programs include Laura Ferguson’s “Honey Culture Radio,” a program dedicated to the honeybee and natural beekeeping, which has a loyal following of listeners as far away as Australia, while David Munson’s “Farm Talk” now airs to an audience of listeners across the US.

“Concentrated civics for all the true patriots and an alternative to Prozac” describes Jason Houk’s “Whistling in the Dark” radio show, a mix of folk music, interviews and discussions around the not-so-bright topics-of-the-day, flavored with a bit of humor. “Local Smoke” with Roo Grostein covers everything cannabis-related and Saldana’s “Age of Adventure—the Positive Side of Growing Older” focuses on topics like successful retirement, brain health and people with interesting careers or travels.

Programming Director Shiloh O’Connor is excited by the wide variety of music offerings, opinion and lifestyle shows created by the local community, as well as the station’s offerings of  popular syndicated programs like the award-winning “This Way Out,” an international show focused on LGBT issues and topics, and “WINGS,” an all-female production delivering international news and issues affecting women.

The lack of access to the award-winning “Democracy Now” program fueled residents’ desire to start their own independent radio station. Once able to air syndicates, KSKQ added several more, including “Peace Talks Radio” with Paul Ingles and Susan Kryder, “Big Picture Science” highlighting new innovations and scientific discoveries and “Whittler’s Corner Show” with pioneer music and stories of the American West.

“It’s what kind of groomed KSKQ in the first place,” says O’Connor. “It’s an underground, hipster, specialty radio station, the kind that would only work in a college town like Ashland.”

KSKQ will host keynote speakers Mickey Huff and Cian Westmoreland during Ashland’s Annual Independent Media Week (April 26—May 2).

Huff, a professor of social science and history at Diablo Valley College in San Francisco is the director of Project Censored, a hub for independent investigative journalism and Westmoreland is a whistleblower who operated drones at the Mexico border.

“The Multicultural Association’s mission is to help reduce racism and find ways to create understanding between different groups, so the radio station fits perfectly with that,” adds Saldana. “Community radio is a rare resource and a mission-driven station is very relevant in this day-and-age.

Full programming schedule at kskq.org.


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