Chewelah radio station looks to boost power

Staff Writer

The radio listening options for Deer Park and surrounding area may grow in the coming months after Chewelah’s KCHW-FM (102.7) has secured a $30,000 NW Community Foundation grant to increase the station’s signal strength.
KCHW originally downgraded it's operating license from a C3 with a maximum power output of 25,000 watts to a class A at 1000 watts due to the high cost of equipment and erecting a tower. The group’s goal has been to return to the C3 status.
Station Manager Scott Schlafman said it was apparent that it would take 10-plus years just to save the funds needed to meet that goal based on their annual income.”
“If community radio in Chewelah was going to grow and continue our only option was to expand, and that would take a pretty large grant,” he added.
The radio station, operated by the Northeast Washington Radio Guild, has secured an agreement for shared tower space on Wright's Mountain and once the tower is completed this spring KCHW's signal power will increase to 25k.
The station’s signal at 102.7is projected to penetrate homes at the north end of Spokane and in cars much further away. KCHW currently covers nearly all of Stevens County and parts of surrounding counties.
Schlafman emphasized that the grant can only be used for the “power increase project” and cannot be used to assist day-to-day business operations. KCHW operates on an annual budget averaging $14,000, which covers rent, utilities, minor equipment upgrades and the more than $3,000 in annual music licensing fees.
He said community radio has survived in Chewelah through a consistent group of business and non-profit Radio Guild annual members, a handful of core continuous on-air programming sponsors and a base of private/personal community Radio Guild memberships.
“Private memberships from community members tend to be the financial base for most public radio stations but it has been something we haven't been very successful at despite creative efforts and what we thought were cool thank you gifts,” he said.
The radio station currently operates in the building formerly occupied by the Art Institute. The much larger space has allowed KCHW to host two “mini concerts,” recorded a music video for a Blues Hall of Fame inductee and begin offering audio and video recording services.
“We have a chance to re-invent ourselves and take all the amazing things that happen in Chewelah and promote it the entire region.” Schlafman explained. “I believe KCHW is set to have a massive effect on tourism and the local economy.”

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