John Brown University affiliated radio station KLRC plans to almost quadruple its listening audience before the end of the year.
They will move from 101.1 FM, which only offers 6,000 watts of power, to 90.9 FM which allows 100,000 watts of power – the most permitted by the Federal Communications Commission.
This project has been five years in the making, ever since the FCC announced an opening. Seventeen radio stations applied for the same vacancy as KLRC, and initially 90.9 was granted to the Cherokee Nation.
Sean Sawatzky, general manager of KLRC, said that while it may have seemed like the door was closed on this opportunity, God urged them not to give up yet. KLRC sent a congratulatory letter to the Cherokee Nation, which also mentioned their continued interest in the property.
Later, they received a letter back from the Nation explaining its intent to sell. In spring 2012, the property came under the ownership of KLRC.
As a result, the station will add a second radio transmitter tower in Colcord, Okla., which will significantly increase its potential audience in both Oklahoma and Northwest Arkansas.
Currently, 84 percent of listeners tune in out of range.
“They listen to us through the static,” Sawatzky said.
After the new tower is finished, that audience will hear more clearly; and a previously unreached group of people will hear KLRC for the first time.
“We will always be a Northwest Arkansas station, but we will definitely be reaching out to the people of Northeastern Oklahoma,” Sawatzky emphasized.
Expanding into Oklahoma was not an initial component of their plan. Yet, the KLRC team feels excited for the potential ministry opportunities that may evolve with the unfamiliar territory. They have already been contacted by a Christian bookstore in Tahlequah, Okla. about partnering for events in the future.
The total cost of the project is an estimated $900,000. KLRC aims to have the money raised before the end of this year.
The radio station launched a campaign called “The Powerful Difference” in mid-August, shortly after the plan was released to the public. Initially, they mailed out support letters to the community. In mid-September, they held a week-long telethon.
For 12 hours employees, extra staff and volunteers answered the buzzing lines. During the telethon, 500 first-time donors called in.
While technology has minimized the need for actual people to answer the phones, Sawatzky said that the station stresses the importance of building relationships with their donors.
Approximately $564,000 have been raised so far, an overwhelming majority as a result of the telethon.
KLRC has not currently committed to any other major fundraisers, but Sawatzky did not rule out another telethon next fall.
“We had no idea what to expect,” he said. “Our heads are spinning trying to grasp everything that has happened.”
The end of the station’s support letter states, “A Powerful Difference is coming. Hope will be shared. Hearts will be touched. And thanks to Jesus, we each get to play a role.”