Mauians who have grown to love listening to Hawaii Public Radio station KIPO may be surprised to learn that, officially speaking, it's not actually there.
When the HPR staff rebuilt the old KIPO transmitter to boost its signal on Oahu, an unexpected thing happened: The errant signal that reaches Maui got a lot stronger. You can hear it fine Upcountry and in some other parts of the island, but not others. Besides, it's spotty; it comes and goes.
"It was better than we expected," said Hawaii Public Radio President Michael Titterton of this development. "That's wonderful, but it's accidental - a happy accident. This doesn't mean Maui has KIPO service. Until we get KIPO to all of Maui County, we won't be finished."
Hawaii Public Radio President Michael Titterton
With that distinctive English accent so well known to HPR audiences during twice-a-year pledge drives, Titterton will be at the Historic Iao Theater on Saturday morning to update Maui listeners on the station's plans to expand here.
Titled "Maui On Our Mind," his presentation from 9:30 to 11 a.m. is free. That evening, HPR will present the Maui Jazz Septet with radio jazz host Don Gordon in a 7:30 p.m. concert.
Topping the list of the station's plans for Maui is bringing in KIPO - our call letters will be KIPM - for real, and on purpose this time. It will broadcast at 89.7 FM when it goes on the air in 2011.
What: HPR on Maui
Where: The Historic Iao Theater, 68 N. Market St., Wailuku
9:30 to 11 a.m. Station President Michael Titterton will discuss expanded service and more HPR programming for Maui County.
7:30 p.m. HPR jazz host Don Gordon will present the Maui Jazz Septet, featuring John Zangrado, saxophone and flute; David Choy, saxophone; Shiro Mori, guitar; Sal Godinez and Gene Argel, keyboards; Bob Harrison, bass and Michael Buono, drums.
Tickets: $35 general, $30 HPR members, $15 students, available at (800) 955-8821 or online at www.hawaiipublicradio.org/mauijazz.html.
"This is a10-year enterprise that's coming to fruition," said Titterton during a recent visit to Maui with the station's vice president and assistant general manager, Valerie Yee.
"The dream of a decade ago was for HPR to configure itself to provide not one but two program streams for the whole state."
Maui currently receives the "legacy stream," KKUA at 90.7 on the FM dial. Along with its National Public Radio programming - notably "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" during weekday drive times, and other shows including "Car Talk" and "Prairie Home Companion," - KKUA features classical music, fine-arts programming and local news including Ron Youngblood's weekday feed on behalf of The Maui News.
Titterton describes KIPM as "a second stream, a news and public information stream that could operate in parallel.
"It's not just another form of entertainment. The exciting thing about KIPO and KIPM is that it's not just another vehicle for national news programming. It will be that, but it will also be the manifestation of another dream we've had at HPR, of developing a mechanism whereby a peculiarly geographically challenged region like the state of Hawaii can communicate with itself in a way that only radio can. As old- fashioned a medium as radio is, there are still things it does uniquely and superbly. Bringing a community together is one of those things. KIPM is going to be a huge step across the finish line whereby Hawaii can talk to itself."
The steps to make it happen have involved 10 years of chess playing with the Federal Communications Commission, notably pouncing on a five-day window of opportunity to apply for the necessary licenses.
In the meantime, on Tuesday morning HPR began operating a new station bringing KKUA programming to terrain-shielded Hana, and will have KIPM up and running there before the rest of the island. It's also at work on a booster that will provide its signal to Haiku and the road to Hana.
Plans are to flip the switch at the Ulapalakua transmitter for KIPM to start serving all of Maui County and the western edge of the Big Island some time next year. HPR has already raised the "lion's share" of the $500,000 bill, and will launch a capital campaign to raise the remaining $187,000 to cover installation of the transmitter and the first year of operations.
Titterton points out that $187,000 is "pretty modest as capital campaigns go. One thing we've learned at HPR is how to make projects cost effective. As we've been building stuff out in the last 10 years, we've redoubled our efforts to be sure everything we build is not just able to bring the service to the greatest number of people, but to ensure that it's there not just when you want it, but when you need it. We're trying to make the system as bulletproof as possible.
"We have pledged to do is not to begin any grass-roots capital campaigning until we can state with absolute good faith and clarity what the sign-on date will be.
"It's a little unusual, a little nuts, really, because most communities this size have forsaken one stream of programming for the other," he continued. "It's quite understandable. But we, for a number of reasons, thought we could pull it off, and we're about to."
He'll spell out the details Saturday morning at the Iao. And then in the evening, there'll be jazz.
"It's information, it's consciousness raising," he says of his morning presentation.
"There are still a lot of people who don't know about KIPO or even Public Radio. What we set out to do, first and foremost, is to be useful. The extent to which we can be useful is the degree to which we will continue to be successful and stay in business."
* Contact Rick Chatenever at email@example.com