It's official. Mana'o Radio 91.5FM is no more. Long live Mana'o Radio 91.7FM!
After 11 years on the air as low-power FM (LPFM) radio station KEAO-LP, limited to 100 watts of broadcast power, the Mana'o Radio 'ohana just got its varsity letters: KMNO-FM. Still noncommercial, all-volunteer and extremely eclectic, our little station has moved up, literally. The transmitter is now perched on the upper slopes of Haleakala and we sit a bit higher on the frequency band.
The move to 91.7 was prompted three years ago, when we were notified by the FCC that someone had been granted a permit to construct a station on Oahu at our 91.5 frequency. As an LPFM station, lowest on the radio totem pole, our choices were to apply for a new frequency or do nothing and be drowned out eventually by the big boys on Oahu. Tempting as it was to gamble that their full power station would not get off the ground and on the air by its deadline (which is what happened - or didn't happen), we decided to take control of our destiny. We had to compete with another Oahu entity for our chosen frequency, but we prevailed in our application for a full-power, noncommercial license, and now Mana'o Radio 91.7FM is alive and well . . . mostly.
We're still working out some technical issues. Soon, though, you'll be able to hear us in most parts of the island. Our reach has already expanded to Kihei and Huelo. The other night, I took a drive to see how far westward we could be heard, and it was loud and clear up to the scenic lookout on the pali. After that, an Oahu Christian station at 91.9 overcame our weakened signal. But one of Michael McCartney's long-distance listeners reported that we could be heard in Kailua, Oahu. Sketchy, but there.
That's how I've been feeling lately. Sketchy, but there. Like running on autopilot, not fully engaged in the task at hand. I should be elated, thrilled and overcome with joy at the fulfillment of an impossible dream. I am, of course, happy and relieved and, most of all, grateful for the invaluable contributions of our volunteers and supporters, far too numerous to name here, although special recognition must go to Mark Harmer and Harmer Communications and to our broadcast engineers, Don Mussell and John Bruce.
Two years ago in this space, I wrote a letter to my late husband, Barry Shannon, filling him in on the progress of our baby, the little LPFM that could. When we started Mana'o Radio in our spare bedroom, we honestly didn't know whether it would survive its initial three-year license. Happily, by the time Barry passed on in 2007, he did so with the confidence that the station would not just survive, but thrive. What a blessing, to be able to fulfill your life's goal before moving on to the next life. Moving to full power was beyond his wildest dreams.
I suppose that accounts for the sketchiness of my state of mind, the static interference in my emotional wavelength. Mana'o Radio as Barry and I knew it, as we created it, is no more. The preteen I wrote about in my letter has suddenly grown into a full-power adult. Like Barry, its presence continues to be felt, but nonetheless it's left my nest and now I have a forlorn little room full of silenced equipment and wires that lead nowhere. It's like when my son left home for college; I sat in his bedroom every morning for weeks, crying into his pillow. That bedroom, incidentally, became the first Mana'o Radio control room.
The other possibility is that the disruption I'm feeling is actually physical rather than emotional. Eleven years of living directly under a radio antenna, albeit low power, must have some kind of effect on the human body. At least that's what several concerned friends have told me. I used to laugh off their fears with my theory that the radiation was a source of personal energy. After all, Mana'o Radio was our miracle baby; we probably had some kind of magical symbiotic relationship going. It couldn't possibly be hazardous to our health.
Now that the transmitter down the hall from my bedroom has been disconnected, the house is definitely quieter. Not audibly, but energetically. I'm just not sure whether it's a feeling of peace or sadness. One thing's for sure: I'm not going to waste any time crying into a pillow or over a processor. I'm converting the transmitter and operations room into my home studio and moving Barry's urn to the shelf that holds miles of taped KC&BS radio shows done over our 23 years together.
Long live Mana'o Radio 91.7FM. Long live sweet memories.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.