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Thriving campus radio station to get an upgrade


The local college radio station is starting its third straight year of local broadcasts on 90.1 FM, with some major changes in location and equipment on the way.

Dave Martens, who took over as manager last winter, said the response to the station has been good on and off campus.

"We've generated a lot of interest," he said.

The broadcast booth this fall will move from the tower on Cowan Hall to the Student Union Building, with state-of-the-art equipment installed in the new booth, Martens said.

The station got a new boost on life when Yellowstone Public Radio installed new Havre transmitters in December 2000. That freed up the station for local broadcasts. KEMC at Montana State University-Billings had been rebroadcasting its public radio programming through the Northern station,

Trygve "Spike" Magelssen, a student at the time, and Bob Bentz, Northern's director of information technology services, spearheaded the move to start up the college station again. Bentz is also on the station's advisory board.

The station did a test broadcast in March 2001, installed new equipment over that summer and began regular local programming that fall.

Martens said students demonstrated their interest in the station when the student senate discussed cutting some fees to offset tuition increases last winter. In two days, he and the former station manager, Kendall Griggs, collected 300 signatures of students who supported keeping the radio station fees at $10.

"The signature thing was great," he said. "It showed that people were listening, people care."

Also, at least 60 people from on and off campus attended the student senate meetings to support KNMC, Bentz said.

"The students and community en mass wanted to keep it," Bentz said.

The station has a long history. Bill Thackeray, English professor at the university, said professor Bill Lisenby "put it together" about 1960.

Thackeray said he worked worked at the station when he attended Northern as a student.

The station wasn't KNMC at first. It operated under the call letters KNOG because KNMC was already in use. When those call letters became available, the station switched to them.

KEMC began using the station to rebroadcast its signal in the 1990s.

Martens said he had hoped to move the broadcast booth to the Student Union Building by the start of the fall semester, but the move has been delayed. Construction on campus is making it difficult to make the changes needed in the SUB to set up the station, he said.

The broadcast booth will be in an alcove by the stairs, across from the university bookstore. The space serves as a coatroom now. Computerized equipment will be installed when the new broadcast booth is set up, Martens said.

"It's going to be like having a professional station," he said.

An electrician was working on the wiring today. Bentz said he hopes the relocation will be completed in a couple weeks.

Bentz said the new equipment will help for those times when people can't do live broadcasts. A disc jockey could record a show for broadcast at a later date.

The new location will also provide easier access at all times. Now, when Cowan is locked, the students have to find someone to let them in. It also will make the booth handicap accessible, he said.

"And we're putting it down where the students are," he added.

Equipment purchased in the last two years has been paid for with the radio station fee, Martens said.

When the station began rebroadcasting in 2001, it used equipment purchased by the student senate. Most of the station's equipment at that time dated back to the 1970s and '80s.

"The first year, they approved a sum of money that kind of got us started, got us up and running," Bentz said.

The next step will be getting a better transmitter, he said.

"We've got some issues with our transmitter. It's old. It's been in use a long time," he said.

Martens said quite a few people work as announcers at the station, although the supply gets slim during the summer months and during school vacations. Anyone interested in being an announcer should e-mail the station at [email protected], he said.

People can play just about anything they want, Martens said, although there are Federal Communications Commission rules that have to be followed, including some governing language. Anyone is welcome to come broadcast, he said.

"It's open to the community," Martens said.


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