Plains radio station in need of local help

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  • Radio antenna for KWHP-LP radio station. (Douglas Wilks photos/Clark Valley Press)

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    The main controls of KWHP-LP; two CD players, each one holding 301 CDs, the microphone and speakers. (Douglas Wilks photos/Clark Fork Valley Press)

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    The transmitter for KWHP-LP. (Douglas Wilks photos/Clark Fork Valley Press)

  • Radio antenna for KWHP-LP radio station. (Douglas Wilks photos/Clark Valley Press)

  • 1

    The main controls of KWHP-LP; two CD players, each one holding 301 CDs, the microphone and speakers. (Douglas Wilks photos/Clark Fork Valley Press)

  • 2

    The transmitter for KWHP-LP. (Douglas Wilks photos/Clark Fork Valley Press)

Plains radio station KWHP-LP may soon have to shut its doors if it does not get help from its listeners.

The letter K is designated for radio stations that are west of Mississippi. The letter W is for Wild, H is for Horse, and P is for Plains. The LP abbreviation is low power. The radio station is at 104.5 FM.

After a bumpy start, the radio station was on the air back in early 2002. I had noticed a small paragraph in John Meckler’s newsletter he sent to the local fire chief stating that Plains would not be able to have a local radio station due to the cost that was quoted to him for the station. Having some experience in the field, I sought Meckler.

After listening to him explain the problems of prohibited cost, I told him that I felt that I could help build a station much cheaper. He felt that if it was so, go ahead and start. He dropped the whole thing in my lap. We began by raffling off an old Matchlock 75 caliber rifle in Benji’s restaurant and a wooden stagecoach for starting funds. The local hospital was getting rid of some old X-ray equipment that had some nice power supplies, which were donated. A small audio mixer was acquired from Radio Shack with some low-priced microphones. Online sources were searched for a small low-power broadcast band transmitter that was acquired. Work began on a home-built antenna and someone donated an old telephone pole that was 45 feet long, which was hauled through the streets of Plains behind my pickup with a large American flag attached to the end of it as a warning sign.

Things were beginning to come together. The hardest part was trying to find a line watt-meter that would work in the broadcast band (a cheap one mind you). Soon Plains was on the air (albeit clandestine) under the name of Plains Radio. With a whopping 18 watts of power, we were going places.

I had visualized jail. I think we were reaching the city limits, it was amazing. All this equipment was installed in a small shed about the size of a one-hole outhouse. A few weeks rolled by and I was getting very nervous. Meckler called and said he had a letter from the FCC. Curtains, curtains — send me chocolates and socks in prison. Surprise, surprise, the chap (name withheld) who had originally quoted the price for the radio station had filed with the FCC for the license to approve the station, with certain restrictions of course. We would even be allowed to pick our own call letters. Of course it had to be KWHP-LP. We could even pump 100 watts of power, wow! The antenna could not be higher than 45 feet, and the location had to be in the local area. We had won the FCC lottery it seemed. Searching for real station equipment began in earnest.

When I was a teenager, tube-powered radio stations would fill a small house. Today’s transistorized equipment could be filled in a small unit. I thought that would make a good radio station. I had my eye on a 12-foot gazebo that someone had installed glass windows on. I thought that would make a good radio station. After some serious horse-trading we were able to acquire it. Glory be, we were big time.

Over the years, we have had our ups and downs. Lightning blew out our transmitter once. A commercial radio station in Missoula transmits on our same frequency and I complained to the FCC to no avail. I would like to change to a different frequency, 105.5 MHZ. We also had run-ins with copyright boys over music you like to hear.

Here is our current situation: We have no funds for copyright license. Unless the community gets behind our effort, we will probably lose our station. The staff is all volunteers. The current equipment is funded out-of-pocket. Copyright licenses cost several thousand dollars.

If you would like more information, please contact Earl Edrington, Chief Engineer and Station Manager, at 406-826-5919.

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