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Happy Birthday, KDRT.

May 8, 2005
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@ dcn.davis.ca.us

If you don’t know about KDRT, reach over and turn on your radio. Tune it to 101.5 FM.

You might hear music, you might hear conversation or you might hear a combination of words and music. KDRT is nothing if not eclectic. If it were an animal it would be an ever-changing chimera with a child’s pure heart, an old man’s brain, a teen’s foot tapping out a tune and a ventriloquist’s voice, sometimes sophisticated and sometimes childlike. It would have lots of hands to play lots of music.

On a suddenly cloudy and windy Saturday afternoon and evening, the KDRT chimera celebrated its 1st birthday with a community party at the Farmers’ Market in Central Park.

Folks came to listen to music, enjoy a picnic dinner on the green, and see and hear KDRT folks in the flesh. KDRT also aired the celebration in a patchy live broadcast.

Entertainment was provided by local bands HardWater, Duval Speck and Bill Scholer. Other activities included a kids' space, a performance by Granny Muffinz' Travelin' Puppet Show, and a raffle.

As its supporters like to say, the 88-watt station may be small, but it's made a mighty contribution to the community since its launch a year ago on Sept. 24.

The studio is a closet just large enough for three adults or six children at 1623 Fifth St., home of DCTV.

There are almost 50 local programmers. Some are children (“Kids’ Planet” with Fraser Shilling and Gregory Shilling Goins) and some are seniors (“Great Jazz Albums” with George Moore). Support for programs comes from local businesses like Redwood Barn, Studio 66, Alphabet Moon and individual supporters. The station also broadcasts selected syndicated programming including news shows like "Democracy Now" and "Making Contact."

A complete schedule is available online at www.kdrt.org. There’s something for everyone – or if you can’t find anything you’d like to listen to, you can design your own program.

A recent “Kids’ Planet” show featured a too-brief Donald Duck imitation contest and an excellent interview with local folk musician Rita Hoskins.

Pat Burkhardt, 68, and Judith Plank, 44, combine to form “2 BroadsCasting” – and irreverent interview show heard live at 4 p.m. on Thursdays. Many shows including theirs also is rebroadcast. Guests have included: writer John Lescroart, twice; UCD Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef; activist David Dionisi; digital film-maker Mark Simon, natural foods expert Roseanne de Cristoforo and UCD Police Chief Annette Spicuzza.

“We have fabulous local guests and talk about great issues,” said Plank.

Burkhardt hosted a TV talk show in South Carolina before moving to Davis a year ago.

“I always wanted to get back into radio,” she said. “It’s so immediate, I love the improvisational quality. It’s free, too, that’s a biggie. And you don’t even have to comb your hair.”

An academic program coordinator at UC Davis, Syma Solovitch devotes her show to playing soul music – obscure songs that deserve to be heard, she says.

She appreciates the opportunity to expose others to her personal collection of music.

“I’ve loved music for so long, I have a real need to let other people hear it,” she said. “And KDRT is a great, great station. I enjoy all the time I’m there,” she added.

Nick Mariano and Aaron Price have a call-in show “Your Politics” devoted to a discussion of local, state and national politics that impact Davis. The pros and cons of Covell Village are dominating the airwaves currently.

Ben Luna is an attorney who remembers what it was like to be a kid – the result is “Teen Talk,” which he co-hosts with teens. School board candidates will be interviewed on upcoming shows.

Anne Evans (not the fomer mayor) has two shows “Access Davis” and “Access Davis Kids” that focus on events and issues of interest to special needs adults and kids.

“Art Talk” host Tyler Hawkins recently talked to a buddy of his on the air about the Burning Man celebration outside Reno.

There’s a lot of overlap between DCTV and KDRT including the fact that Autumn Labbe-Renault, director of operations for DCTV, has a close family member who has a show on KDRT. That’s Lee Renault who has a music program “Eclectic Dinosaur.”

You get the idea. There’s a lot going on KDRT’s airwaves.

Jeff Shaw, 30, KDRT's station manager, sounds like he still can’t believe the station is on the air.

“We've come a long way and accomplished a great deal on a shoestring," he said. “It’s hard to turn 1 year old so quickly,” he added.

KDRT is a project of Davis Community Television, the local public access channel 15 in Davis. KDRT is a largely volunteer-run organization governed by the KDRT Working

Group, which is in turn governed by DCTV's board of directors.

When the Federal Communications Commission opened a five-day window for California organizations to make applications for a low-power radio station, DCTV quickly applied. That was in May 2000.

“Early on, we learned that we met the criteria and qualified for a license,” said Kari Peterson, executive director of DCTV. “We were one of a couple hundred stations in the state that met these technical and legal criteria. But our application sat at the FCC for nearly three years awaiting processing. In March of 2003, we were issued a construction permit and had exactly 18 months to get on the air.

“We formed a working group that went to work immediately to acquire equipment, build an antenna, develop programming guidelines, develop policies; put together manuals, recruit and train programmers, design promotional materials, launch a founding donor campaign, do some heavy duty strategic planning, join associations and attend conferences,” she said.

KDRT went live Sept. 24, 2004, right on schedule. Its signal covers most of Davis. More than 120 people gave $101.50 or more to help the station get started and it is now largely self-supporting.

Shaw admits the quality of the shows is uneven but is quick to point out that that’s the joy of community radio.

“You get the best and you get the worst,” he said.

You never know what you might hear – programs range from the sublime to the forgettable. But you are likely to know many of the guests because they’re your neighbors and friends.

“It has been extremely fun to build something from the ground up,” said DCTV’s Peterson.

“By expanding our tool kit to include low-power radio in addition to TV, we are offering to the community access to two exciting media channels on which to tell their stories,” she said.

“We are having a lot of fun with our name KDRT,” said Peterson. “We picked our call letters and, after consideration of other slogans, chose “where the grassroots grow,” reflecting the home-grown nature of our programming and tying into Davis’ ag roots and location in the Central Valley.”

Shaw said KDRT has come to Davis at a good time.

“My feeling about Davis right now is that it is going through it’s own identity crisis,” he said. “KDRT can help people communicate, share ideas and debate.”

For more information, phone DCTV/KDRT at (530) 757-2419.

-- Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at gizmo@dcn.org and watch for local writers to be featured biweekly at this web site.

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