Northern California Public Media has agreed to buy a powerful local FM station to boost public broadcasting in Sonoma County. It has filed with the Federal Communications Commission to purchase KDHT-FM 104.9. Its signal reaches virtually all of Sonoma County plus northern Novato and western portions of Napa County.
Northern California Public Media has operated KRCB-FM on 91.1 FM since 1993. Its signal is difficult to hear in much of the county and could not be improved. “We’re pleased to be able to serve all of Sonoma County,” said Darren LaShelle, the nonprofit organization’s president and CEO. He continued, “This has been a goal of ours for a very long time. The stronger signal on 104.9 FM will feature more local news, NPR news, and locally hosted music shows.”
To prepare for this expansion, Northern California Public Media has expanded its staff, hiring former San Francisco news director and longtime Sonoma County resident Chris Lee as the station’s executive producer. Greta Mart, from KCBX in San Luis Obispo, will join as news director. Coming aboard as reporters are Marc Albert (North State Public Radio) and Tessa Paoli (Capitol Public Radio, KALW). The station is seeking community input on how to improve the station. An online questionnaire is posted at www.norcalpublicmedia.org/survey.
Amaturo Sonoma Media Group is the seller. “While we’re saddened to part with such a fine station, placing it in hands of our public broadcasting peers at such a crucial time softens the blow,” said Michael O’Shea, ASMG President. The company also owns four other local radio stations: KSRO, Froggy 92.9, 97.7 The River, and Hot 101.7, as well as NorthBay Biz magazine.
Northern California Public Media also owns KRCB-TV and KPJK-TV, both noncommercial channels. The organization has a national reputation for producing programs that focus on environmental issues through the Center for Environmental Reporting, including the regional Bay Area Bountiful initiative, the national TV series Natural Heroes and the New Environmentalists, as well as the award- winning NPR/NorCal podcast Living Downstream.
Both parties have filed the transaction with the FCC; approval is expected in 10-12 weeks. Terms were not announced.