KHOI Community Radio celebrated its seventh birthday on Sunday, and Story City has had a key role in the success of this grassroots effort.
After seven years on the air, KHOI has managed to become a radio station run by the community for the community. But it was no easy task getting to this place.
The project to start a community radio station in Ames began in 2006. In 2007, an application was submitted to the Federal Communications Commission, which was approved by that federal organization in 2007.
“It took a tremendous amount of endurance, time and money to see it through to getting it approved,” said Ruedenberg.
Ruedenberg credits Roger Parmenter, in particular, with helping the community radio station get off the ground.
“Roger put up a lot of the money,” Ruedenberg said. “And I wasn’t living in Iowa at the time, so he was the person on the ground who did the hard work.”
KHOI has about 50 shows during the day, every day, and plays music at night. It features local programs produced and hosted by central Iowans who bring local issues, events, personalities, music, art, theater and poetry to the airwaves at 89.1 FM or streaming live at khoifm.org. The station welcomes community participation in hosting programs, running the station and as on-air guests.
About half of KHOI’s programs are locally produced and about half are from the Pacifica Network.
The idea for community radio is not a new concept. It was invented in 1949 in Berkley, Calif., Ruedenberg said.
“The concept is almost 80 years old, so it’s not new,” she said. “It’s just new to the area. It started in Berkley and spread hand-in-hand with democracy movements.”
Ruedenberg grew up in Ames and was living in New York City in 2007, when a time she describes as a “really historic moment” occurred. For a short period of time, the FCC allowed people to apply for noncommercial radio licenses.
Prior to that there was about a 20-year freeze on those noncommercial licenses as large religious organizations were trying to take all of them over.
“So for about 20 years, no one could apply for a noncommercial radio license,” Ruedenberg said. “We knew the time would come. And when it finally did, we only had a one-week filing window.”
The FCC got an avalanche of applications. Ruedenberg was working with a coalition called Radio for People, which helped small groups and communities work through the rigorous and complex application process by providing kits to explain and simplify the paperwork.
“Our goal was to do outreach to apply for these frequencies like we knew the religious broadcasters were doing,” she said. “Being from Ames, I looked in the Ames area. I started alerting people in Ames.”
Ames Unitarians filed the applications because there was a need for a local, noncommercial group to file for the frequency. That has changed since the original filing, though, and now KHOI is run by an independent non-profit group. “So, we have no allegiance with any particular group,” Ruedenberg said.
KHOI founders discovered a good frequency on a radio tower outside of Story City. So technically the application goes to Story City at 89.1 FM and the radio studio is in Ames at 410 Douglas Ave.
It was launched in 2012 through the work and donations of local residents.
“I think Story City has pride in playing that role,” Ruedenberg said. “We announce our legal ID once an hour and it includes Story City and Ames.
“We want to reach out to our rural towns too because we’re representing central Iowa, the Heart of Iowa. That’s what the HOI in KHOI stands for.”
Ruedenberg said her experience at KHOI has given her a whole new level of knowing her community, of understanding the people and respecting the environments.
“Every day, there are a lot of amazing moments where people in the community are communicating in ways that kind of surprise me,” she said.
And there’s still plenty of opportunity for other community members to become involved in the station through volunteering.
“We always want volunteers,” Ruedenberg said. “There are lots of areas where people can help out: Internet, equipment, studio engineering, party planning. We do also still accept program proposals.
“Just stop by the Ames Pantorium or give KHOI a call. It’s pretty easy to get involved here.”
“We are celebrating the amazing and miraculous accomplishment of this community to build, run and sustain KHOI,” Ruedenberg said.
“It represents thousands of hours volunteered by central Iowans, not to mention their deep well of creative ideas, talents and abilities to communicate with our neighbors. We are so proud of our talented radio hosts and we are so proud of everyone else who makes this happen behind the scenes.”