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KOWS Community Radio Sebastopol antenna stopped by lawsuit

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KOWS Community Radio Sebastopol antenna stopped by lawsuit


By Robert Feuer

The KOWS-LP radio antenna project, one that would have vastly increased their power, though unanimously approved by the Sebastopol City Council, has failed due to a threatened lawsuit by a small group of Sebastopol residents. The KOWS group of 80-100 broadcasters is hurting down deep.

Years ago, Kathleen Schaffer, then a City Councilmember, while being interviewed on KOWS, stated that Sebastopol had been looking for a radio station of their own, without success. This moment, possibly more than others, was the spark that led KOWS to Sebastopol. The station’s studio was later moved there, their presence became well-established in the town. Only thing is, hardly anyone in Sebastopol can listen to KOWS on the radio.

Some think that’s fine because KOWS is on the internet, anyone can listen around the world. This is far from true. No one accidentally discovers a radio station on the internet. Starting a computer from rest takes time. But, the easy flipping of one’s wrist can bring anything on the radio dial to you.

Community radio has become the only way for community members to express themselves on the airwaves. Petaluma’s starting up a station. Santa Rosa has one. So do Laytonville and Red Bluff, and hundreds of other towns.

KOWS had been working on their antenna project since 2011.  Now, they’re back at Square One.  Their very existence is threatened in various ways by this antenna loss. A strong signal would have brought in new members and underwriters, more quality programming.

KOWS allows anyone to speak their piece on air, or play their music, or even have their own show after training. They’ve broadcasted county political debates, and live candidate interviews in the studio.  Concerts and street events, roving reporters in the Sebastopol streets, with a microphone and a happy face. A live broadcast of the Sonoma County Bluegrass Festival. Just flip your wrist.

Do the station members have the energy to start over or even continue as they have been? Do they wish they’d never heard the words of Ms. Schaffer?

With 75 local volunteer show hosts aged nine to ninety KOWS radio produces a wide variety of original recorded and in-studio live music, discussion and public affairs programming. We are working hard to support our station and we depend on listener generosity to cover our operational costs.

We can be found on 107.3 on the FM dial and our current reach is a good part of West Sonoma County with portions of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol able to pick up the ‘terrestrial’ signal. For listeners elsewhere in the county (and for that matter around the world) we can be heard on the internet by clicking on the Listen link at the top of this page. We’re proud to say that we have avid listeners throughout the world.

KOWS is an all-volunteer committee-run station. To help on a committee or for more information, please contact a member below. We have been on the air for over eight years. The management of the station is carried out by an eight-member Steering Committee that meets monthly. Each member represents one of eight subcommittees that keep the station operating. Each subcommittee reports to the Steering Committee monthly. There are general meetings as needed for all volunteers for reports, updates, and to vote on significant issues. KOWS costs about $20,000 annually to operate. As an all-volunteer organization, every dollar we receive goes to our operations: rent, phone, internet, music royalties, insurance, and studio equipment and supplies. Our income is sourced from business members, individual donations, small grants, and our many community benefit events. KOWS takes no money from the Public Broadcast System.