Friday, November 30, 2001

Christian light
to go dark

It's almost unheard of in the radio business, but KAIM 870 AM will go dark, or permanently sign off the air, at the end of this year and the frequency will no longer be used in Hawaii. It first signed on in 1952 and was joined the following year by KAIM 95.5 FM, which plays contemporary Christian music.

The stations, owned by California-based Salem Communications Corp., are operated by Salem Media of Hawaii Inc., which also runs KGU 760 AM and KHNR 650 AM.

"In order to facilitate a good transition for KAIM AM on Dec. 1," said KGU, KHNR and KAIM FM Program Director Michael Shishido, "we're taking all that programming and putting it on KGU AM 760. That causes a chain reaction, where KGU's (talk radio) programming gets merged into (all-news) KHNR."

Then as of Jan. 1, KAIM AM will go off the air and KGU's slogan will become "First in Ministry." It is a play on the fact that KGU in April 1922 was the first radio station licensed in the Territory of Hawaii. It signed on in May and was followed hours later by KDYX AM (590, now known as KSSK).

The decision to pull the plug was made for economic and other corporate reasons, according to Doug Campbell, general manager of Salem Media of Hawaii Inc. Employees will be "reallocated," he said, but there will be no staff reductions as a result of the plan.

Operating its 50,000 watt transmitter on Molokai costs $12,000 to $13,000 a month for electricity, Campbell said, and for technical reasons, "most of Honolulu from Hawaii Kai to Pearl Harbor doesn't hear the station or hears it poorly."

Conversely, electricity for KGU's 10,000 watt transmitter in Oahu's Kewalo basin area costs roughly $1,000 a month and it provides "stronger service to the main population base."

With 870 inactive as an AM frequency in Hawaii, Salem can boost KRLA 870 AM in Los Angeles from 5,000 to 50,000 watts with no concerns about interference from this side of the Pacific, Campbell said.

The transmitter site on Molokai is owned by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which sold KAIM AM and FM to Salem in October 1999.

"The transmitter and processors are ours," Campbell said, but the transmitter building and antenna array must be addressed by the association.

The transmitter site and radio frequency interference with new residential developments around it became the topic of controversy for the Maui County Planning Commission in recent years.

After public hearings, the commission granted Salem an extension of its special use permit for the transmitter site, "pending resolution of the (interference) issues and concerns of the community," Campbell said.

Those issues will now become moot.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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