North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

Oct. 2, 2003


KZPN bought up
Station known for airing BBC is acquired by
Southern Oregon public radio giant



COUNTY IN FLAMES At the beginning of last week, the Canoe fire had burned about 1,650 acres in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, putting a lot of smoke into the air but otherwise leaving SoHum citizens alone. It's been a different matter since then. The fearsome blaze broke out of the park and onto private land, growing to more than 10,000 acres and continuously threatening the small community of Salmon Creek. The residents of the imperiled area were asked, but not forced, to evacuate. Relief centers were constructed, to be activated in the event of disaster. The Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency. Schools throughout the region were closed, due to degraded air quality. The King Range and the Lost Coast Trail turned away visitors. In all, over 2,200 people, 30-odd bulldozers and 16 helicopters were fighting the fire. On Saturday, one firefighter -- an inmate with the California Department of Corrections -- was badly injured when a tree fell on him. Two other inmate-firefighters went missing from their camp Monday morning and were presumed to have escaped. But the weather was being cooperative as we went to press, according to the California Department of Forestry, and if the trend continued the CDF hoped to have the fire contained early next week.

TIMBER AND TREES Judge John Golden, overseer of the EPIC v. PALCO lawsuit, has declined the Environmental Protection and Information Center's request to order Pacific Lumber to cease almost all of its logging operations, saying last week that such a move would damage the company and the local economy. However, the judge agreed to halt all PL timber harvest plans the company had filed since June. Golden's ruling angered North Coast Earth First! members and others working to stop PL's logging. "He's basically rewarding them for their illegal acts," said activist Naomi Wagner, 58, of Petrolia. "Anyone who wants to rob a bank should plead economic necessity so that they can keep on doing it." Meanwhile, Gov. Gray Davis, who may have just a few days left in office, was pushing to have the state acquire an additional 691 acres of PL land in the Grizzly Creek area before the recall election is held. The deal is an unconsummated provision of the Headwaters Forest agreement.
Meanwhile, Earth First! entered the third week of its "action training camp" near Grizzly Creek State Park this week. In an attempt to stop old growth logging and "unsustainable" cutting by Pacific Lumber, protesters have been blockading a road leading up to Pacific Lumber land near the park. And on Tuesday, two women and two men chained themselves to an orange Volvo in front of the law offices of Mitchell, Brisso, Delaney & Vrieze on Seventh Street in Eureka, to protest what it called the firm's conflict of interest in representing both the county and Pacific Lumber, activist Naomi Wagner said. None were arrested. Earlier this month, one PL security guard was very nearly hit by a falling tree as Earth Firsters shadowed loggers in the Grizzly Creek area. One protester was arrested; two others were cited and released, Wagner said. The loggers -- who reportedly have adopted forest names like the activists do (one calls himself "Clearcut") -- have since stopped their work, for now anyway. PL did not return a phone call on the matter.

EUREKA INN OWNER JOHN BIORD' S attorney has asked the city of Eureka to produce transient occupancy tax records for other area hotels. City Attorney Dave Tranberg says such records are not public information. Biord has been charged with misappropriating $117,000 in the so-called bed taxes, which hotels must collect and turn over to the city. He's scheduled for another court hearing Monday.

EVERYONE'S A CANDIDATE Buried under the mountains of publicity received by impeachment efforts and recalls, local and state, is the fact that we're going to have a good old, plain vanilla election next month. Normally these odd-year elections for school boards and special districts are quiet, civil affairs, but this year's promises some heat. Almost every office is being challenged, and the race for the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District looks to be especially juicy, with McKinleyville gadfly David Elsebusch taking on incumbent Charles Ollivier. Sal Steinberg, a Carlotta resident and head of Friends of the Van Duzen, will be challenging incumbent 2nd District Supervisor Roger Rodoni this March. Supervisors John Woolley and Jimmy Smith are also up for reelection, technically, but if there exists a candidate quixotic enough to challenge the impregnable Woolley, or just plain rude enough to challenge the beloved Smith, that candidate has not yet surfaced.

HARDWARE UPGRADE Humboldt County businesses, schools and tech geeks shed tears of joy and relief last week, as telecommunications provider SBC-Pacific Bell announced that the troublesome 21-mile gap in its fiber-optic line to the county had finally been conquered. The line bestows on Humboldt County a bandwidth bonanza, allowing local schools to hook up to the Digital California Project and businesses and residents to enjoy easier access to high-speed Internet services. The legal wrangling between SBC and the Caltrans, which held up construction for over a year, continues; Caltrans is seeking a few million dollars for the company's use of its right-of-way.

KZPN bought up
Station known for airing BBC is acquired by
Southern Oregon public radio giant


Outmaneuvering the Eureka based KEET-TV, a Southern Oregon public radio station announced last week that it will acquire KZPN, the 91.5 FM station best known for carrying news and other programs produced by the British Broadcasting Corp.

The $130,000 acquisition by Jefferson Public Radio, based in Ashland, Ore., will bring an end to those broadcasts, long popular with local radio listeners. According to JPR Executive Director Ron Kramer, KZPN will be used as a translator for its "Rhythm and News" programming.

"The folks at KZPN have been talking about wanting to get out from under the operation for years," Kramer asserted in a telephone interview this week. "At one point," he added, "we were asked to submit a formal offer [to buy the station] and we did."

Monica Olsen in radio stationJPR is not a newcomer to the Humboldt radio scene. Three years ago it acquired KNHT 107.3 FM, which carries JPR's "Classics and News Service" programming. In all, the station, a giant of sorts, broadcasts on 38 FM frequencies and seven AM frequencies in southern Oregon and Northern California.

KZPN, in contrast, has always been decidedly, and to many, refreshingly small. For the past 11 years the BBC broadcasts have been relayed basically single-handedly by Monica Olsen, KZPN's founder and sole deejay. [photo at right] Olsen, a British expatriate, started the station in her home with help from her then-husband, Lee Olsen, a radio engineer who formerly worked for KHSU.

"I'm tired of it," Monica Olsen said flatly this week. "Life is for living and I've been living under the wheel for too long."

Olsen said that running the station 24 hours a day meant that she was seldom able to get a good night's sleep. Operating on a shoestring budget -- about $14,000 a year -- didn't help.

The sale caught KEET-TV Executive Director Ron Schoenherr off guard. The local Public Broadcasting Service affiliate has been in negotiation with the Olsens regarding the purchase of KZPN since 2001.

"Lee [Olsen] said Monica was interested in selling the station because it was a burden operating it out of her living room," said Schoenherr. "He showed me a letter from JPR offering $100,000 for the station. Lee told us, `We would really rather keep the station local.'"

Schoenherr discussed the idea with his board and late last year KEET made a counteroffer: $108,000 with $8,000 down, the rest to be paid over five years, which was accepted verbally by Lee Olsen, who's on KZPN's board. "Then the next thing I knew, the station was being sold to JPR," said Schoenherr.

Kramer said he learned about KEET's plan to purchase the license from newspaper accounts and figured his deal was off. "Then, about five weeks ago I got a call from Lee asking if we still wanted to buy the station. I said `yes.'"

While Kramer denies that there was a bidding war for the KZPN license, his second offer was considerably higher than KEET's. "I offered them $130,000," he said. It would appear that KZPN merely went with the highest offer.

"We wanted to recoup our money," Monica Olsen said.

Schoenherr for his part is puzzled.

"Monica stated very clearly that she wanted to be sure BBC's World Service survived. My concern personally is that this is a community license and once it goes into the hands of an out-of-state party, it no longer is a local radio station."

The new programming at KZPN will mean a measure of duplication with another radio station, KHSU 90.5 FM, according to that station's general manager, Elizabeth Hans McCrone.

"Their `Rhythm and News Service' very much duplicates KHSU's programming content. They're carrying `All Things Considered,' `Morning Edition,' `Car Talk' and [a number of other] programs that we carry," said McCrone.

McCrone also expressed concern about "what it will mean to us for fund-raising," as those programs are popular with underwriters and contributors.



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