Through a new partnership with tribes, corporations and schools, KYUK hopes to soon be broadcasting to more villages in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of Southwest Alaska.
KYUK has been broadcasting since 1971 as 640AM and is the only station in the state with both English and Yup’ik newscasts three times a day. In many villages it is the only daily news source relaying critical information during winter storms and spring breakup of the Kuskokwim River. But not every village in the region, which is roughly the size of Oregon, can pick up KYUK. Many Yukon and coastal villages only receive a weak signal, if they get it at all.
KYUK’s Unification Project aims to change that, using Class D low power FM stations to repeat its signal.
Shane Iverson is Program Director at KYUK. “Most of the time, we would imagine they would be broadcasting KYUK. But whenever they wanted to they could switch to their own local broadcasting. So they could do things like local sports events or if there was a conference there or if students had speeches. And they could give them to the whole community. On top of that they could send that back through, back to KYUK and if for some reason we wanted to we could broadcast that back to the entire region,” says Iverson.
The low power mini stations could also come in handy during disasters, Iverson says, and in emergency situations. The technology has been around for years, but recently became more affordable, he says.
Nearly a dozen villages in the Northwest Arctic are currently receiving KOTZ out of Kotzebue through Class D low power FM.
So far, the villages of Goodnews Bay, Tooksook Bay and Kongiganak have applied.
Michael White is with the village of Goodnews Bay. He says he hopes a station could be used for education.
“Well I was hoping that we could get some interest going for students to come in and begin a career in broadcasting. You know if we could get a studio set up here they could be working in the studio and they could go out and do reporting, things of interest in the town,” said White.
Tribes will assist with construction and village and regional corporations will pitch in funding.
Jason Smith, a senior in the rural development program at UAF’s Kuskokwim campus, has been working to contact village tribes, corporations and schools. He says, overall, the response has been positive.
“They’re excited about the project. The communities I spoke with didn’t have good reception and they wanted good reception. Some were excited about hey we could have our own music shows or we could have live broadcasts of basketball games,” said Smith.
Applying is free, says Smith. Building the low power stations should cost about $18-thousand dollars, including shipping and installation. That just allows the station to repeat KYUK. It will cost around $30-thousand dollars for a station that will be able to send audio back to KYUK in Bethel. It’s estimated that the stations will cost just a few thousand dollars a year to operate and maintain.
KYUK is prioritizing applications based on the village’s need, strength of local partnerships, and ability to invest capital into the project.
The application for a Class D FM station can be found on KYUK’s website, kyuk.org. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.