Big Isle station changes name and relaunches
The disturbance in the Force some old-time broadcasters may have felt July 30 was caused by the change of call letters that date back to 1947.
Hilo's KIPA-AM 620 signed on with those very call letters that year, said Buddy Gordon, son of late owner Hugh Gordon. The younger Gordon also was an owner prior to a sale several years back.
Broadcast call letters with not nearly that much longevity are known in the industry as heritage calls.
The call letters were intended to be welcoming to listeners, as the Hawaiian phrase "E kipa mai" is generally taken as an invitation to visit.
The station is back on the air after a yearlong silence -- under the call letters KHNU.
Making the change "was a tough decision," said Vice President and General Manager Dan Deeb.
However, the decision was made because Mahalo Broadcasting LLC of Arizona, which bought the station last year, planned to take the station in a different direction.
KHNU, or Honu 62, carries a news/talk format at the moment with hosts including Sean Hannity, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Michael Savage, according to co-owner James Walker.
"Everything will be streamed online eventually," but time-shifting mainland shows for hours-later Hawaii audiences has proved a "technical nightmare," he said.
The format is not set in stone, Deeb said. "Right now there are a lot of issues with news-talk ... among them is, what's going to fly on the Big Island versus the mainland."
Honu 62's sister stations are on the FM dial. KHNU, KBGX-FM 105.3 and KKOA-FM 107.7 were purchased a year ago from Skynet Hawaii LLC for $2.1 million.
Skynet owner Tom Troland had to take the AM station dark last July when he lost the lease for its transmitter site.
Mahalo temporarily has resolved the issue pending a permanent resolution, Walker and Deeb said.
In the meantime, Mahalo has taken the former mainland-generated programming for KBGX, or Lava 105, in-house. It plays primarily classic rock, while KKOA's country format comes in via satellite, "but it will be in-house in the very near future," said Deeb.
As for the KIPA call letters, "I'm sure somebody else will use them," Deeb said Wednesday.
Sure enough, Idaho-based Parrott Broadcasting LP reserved KIPA for its Kona FM station shortly after your columnist called Gordon to verify when KIPA first signed on.
Gordon is general manager of Parrott's Hawaii stations, KHBC-AM 1060, KHWI-FM 92.7 and the soon-to-be-KIPA-FM 92.1.
In the interest of disclosure, your columnist's first paying radio job was at KIPA many moons ago.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, 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 at: email@example.com