Local radio may come to North Shore, on FM


POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oahu's North Shore could one day have its own radio station—but it will be years in the making.

The Federal Communications Commission has not formally allotted an FM frequency for a station in Kahuku, but Colorado-based broadcaster Victor Michael has gotten the ball rolling.

Michael has reserved 107.1 FM, but it has not been officially allotted by the FCC. If and when it is, there is no guarantee Michael will be the one to build the station. The commission may see fit to auction it off, as it has with other frequencies in the past.

“;I have been in radio my whole life”; after growing up with a father who was a broadcaster as well, he said.

“;My dream,”; he said, is to have a station in Hawaii and it matters not on which island. He loves them all, he said, and visits Hawaii two or three times each year.

Michael's Kona Coast Radio LLC actually did win the right to build a station in Wahiawa during the FCC's FM Auction No. 37 in 2004, as reported in this space at the time.

Bidding reflected what former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan might have termed “;irrational exuberance,”; but Michael used the term “;drunken sailor”; to describe the skyrocketing prices.

The nearly $2.2 million winning bid he placed for the frequency was not going to pencil out for him, so he sold the so-called construction permit to California-based Educational Media Foundation Inc. in 2005 for $2 million.

A “;very large portion”; of his liquidity was tied up in the bid, “;and I just couldn't try to make another large investment.”;

“;To do something credible there would have been tough,”; said Michael.

He has looked to buy existing Hawaii stations, but “;it's tough for me to overpay for anything,”; he said, and “;prices are still high.”;

He is what some in the industry call a “;spectrum speculator,”; referring to buying and selling broadcast spectrum, but he is also a station owner and operator with several stations in operation as well as construction permits for future stations.

“;I like running good radio stations. I don't like them totally automated,”; Michael said. “;You put out a good product and it sells itself. I've always had that philosophy and have always done well in the radio business in a small way.”;

Some of his stations operate under local marketing agreements, which means he essentially leases the station to other entities, though as the licensee he is still required to ensure that the stations operate within FCC regulations.

He owns, operates, or has interests in 16 radio properties as well as an FM translator on Palehua Ridge and a tower in Ocean View, on the Big Island that bears cellular and other communications transmitters.

His Colorado-based tower company, established in 2005, is called Mauna Towers LLC, using the Hawaiian word for mountain to reflect his interest in the islands. It operates more than 20 tower sites, which “;pays the bills,”; but “;I grew up with radio, I love the business, and I do it more for the fun of running the stations. I'm fortunate enough to make a living doing it.”;

It should be noted that there is a Marconi Road in Kahuku, named after Guglielmo Marconi, a pioneer in the field of wireless telegraphy and the early days of radio technology. The story behind it is detailed, but there are only so many column inches in TheBuzz. You can satisfy certain of your geek-icidal tendencies by Googling “;Marconi Road in Hawaii.”;