Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
Daniel Roberts has brought the coastside's KPDO back on the air. The commercial-free station runs with the help of many volunteers.
KPDO is on the air. Unless you live on the south coast of San Mateo County, however, you’ve likely never heard of the commercial-free radio station.
Its signal goes from just south of Half Moon Bay, down to Año Nuevo and east into the foothills of La Honda. It does stream online, though, and is starting to pick up a following.
Although the radio station at 89.3 FM has been around for a while, it typically has only broadcast four days a year for the past couple of years to keep a hold of its broadcasting license, issued by the Federal Communications Commission.
That just changed May 8, however, as Pirate Cat Radio founder Daniel Roberts took over the station. Roberts, 29, approached the Pescadero Radio Service, a nonprofit agency, about putting KPDO on the air full time and is now the primary stakeholder in the radio station.
It broadcasts from a small building in the far reaches of the county at Pescadero and Stage roads and is essentially surrounded by farm land.
Roberts loves radio. He started his own radio station out of his Los Gatos bedroom at the age of 15. He studied communications at the University of California at Santa Cruz and has spent years developing Pirate Cat Radio into a San Francisco institution. The Pirate Cat Radio Cafe is a studio and performance space located at 2781 21st St. in San Francisco. It combines coffee with community radio and every purchase in the cafe supports the online station.
KPDO’s license was going to disappear, Roberts said, until he brought an engineer in to resurrect the station. The station is on the air now with the help of many volunteers. Roberts offers internships to college students eager to learn more about the business in addition to training for prospective disc jockeys.
Tuesday afternoon, DJ Larry Trujillo, a Pescadero resident, engineered his show for the first time by himself thanks to some of the training Roberts provided.
Trujillo manned the microphone while intern Nee-Sa Lossing was on the phone trying to find underwriting for the station. Since the station cannot accept advertising it must find support from within the community to stay on the air.
Lossing, a Boston University student, met Roberts at Pirate Cat Radio Cafe years ago and now volunteers at KPDO for college credit. Lossing is not interested in becoming a radio personality, but is rather interested in learning the business side of radio. "I want to focus on the behind-the-scenes stuff,” Lossing said.
Roberts has 83 two-hour spots to fill weekly and is looking for talent. Since the station is commercial free, some topics are taboo and some behavior is forbidden. Racist and sexist language is off limits and overt religious opinions are not allowed either.
Other than that, though, its a radio free-for-all. Roberts is into community radio. He is not in it to get rich.
"There is money to feed myself and keep the station on the air,” Roberts said. "It is better than being in a ‘cube farm’ writing code for someone.”
The station is hoping to get coastsiders involved in the race for county supervisor by hosting a debate and question and answer session with the candidates this weekend.
Matt Grocott, Don Horsley, Michael Stogner, Jack Hickey and April Vargas will all participate in the debate and listeners will be able to call in with questions.
Outside of KCSM, which plays jazz music all day, the county does not have any major radio stations. Roberts is hoping KPDO will help fill a bit of a void, even if it’s only heard in the most rural region in the county.
To learn more about the station or to listen online visit www.kpdo.org.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.