Erika Engle

Maui Community Television
venturing into radio

Akaku, Maui County Community Television Inc., has received permission to build a low-power FM station in Kahului.

It will be a "natural extension of our mission, empowering our community's voices through access to the media," said Sean McLaughlin, chief executive officer of Akaku.

Akaku will use about $10,000 of existing operating funds to build its LPFM, which will consist largely of "a little antenna fixed on the roof of the building we now occupy," he said.

Programming may include simulcasts of any one of its five public access cable channels as well as live County Council meetings and other community events.

"We're going to look for opportunities to cross-promote and extend the benefits of those programs to radio listeners. It gives us a chance to reach an audience that doesn't have cable," said McLaughlin.

Akaku officials do not want its LPFM to compete against nonprofit, noncommercial KEAO-LP 91.5.

Called "Mana'o Radio," the station was licensed in April 2002 by veteran broadcasters Kathy Collins and Barry Shannon.

"They do a great job. We're going to be careful that we do something different," said McLaughlin.

KEAO's Web site,, streams the station's eclectic mix of music, including jazz, rock, rhythm and blues, world beat and more. The Internet carries the signal all over the world but the over-the-air signal is heard through Maui's central valley, upcountry and parts of south Maui.

"We actually heard our station inside the (Haleakala) crater one day," said Collins. Low-power FM stations are limited to 100 watts of power, "but we have a fairly good antenna location in Wailuku," she said.

Volunteer air personalities are reminded that while they may be heard by people in far-flung places, "We're here for Maui," Collins said.

"Barry has offered to help (Akaku) in any way he can," said Collins. "We don't really see it as competition. We're really happy to see communities being empowered. It's about time we took a little bit of the airwaves back from the big corporate giants."

Mana'o radio received a groundswell of listener support after its financial struggles were reported in the Maui News recently.

"We received a lot of donations and, more importantly, commitments and proposals for ongoing funding from individuals as well as businesses. We're determined to keep it going no matter what," she said.

Akaku also had applied to erect an LPFM on Molokai, but that application was denied by the FCC, possibly due to a technicality, McLaughlin said. Akaku plans to appeal the decision.

"We are still hopeful we can offer something on Molokai. It's underserved."

The Maui LPFM had not been the front-burner project, McLaughlin said. "There already is a lot of commercial radio, public radio, local noncommercial radio ... In the TV realm, we're the only TV operation for Maui. There is a visitor channel, but we're the only local TV for residents of Maui."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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 at:


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