Fading Frequency

KMRE community radio’s uncertain future

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Two trends in broadcast media appear to be moving in tandem and accelerating. One is the continued consolidation and monopolization of media in the hands of fewer and fewer players. The other, not surprisingly given the first trend, is the increasing homogeneity and bland sameness of broadcast content—you can drive across the country and the same syrupy voices, the same moribund tunes, the same bloviating talk shows are heard across the dial and throughout the travel. The unique, the special is crowded out and the people’s radio has becomes merely a delivery vehicle for corporate advertising.

The Pacific Northwest is not immune to the trends.

In August, progressive radio talk station KBAI 930 AM became a classic hits station. Shakeups continue with the remaining local content of Cascade Radio Group, already a media conglomerate.

With the airwaves and the frequency nodes on the airwaves already an endangered commodity, the board of directors of the SPARK Museum voted to sever operations with KMRE 102.3 FM, long hosted and sponsored by the antique radio museum downtown. Their decision was organizationally appropriate for SPARK, but it has plunged the nonprofit independent community radio station into an uncertain future.

“SPARK Museum has been a great host to us for all these years; however due to space issues, we will need to find a new location for our community studio,” KMRE Station Manager Suzanne Blais said.

The Federal Communications Commission rarely grants licenses for community stations. KMRE must continue to broadcast as they look for a new location or lose its license and the public’s access to the airwaves.

“If this signal goes away, it is likely that Bellingham and Whatcom County will never see access to the community airwaves again,” Blais said. “If local media is important to you, now is the time to show up.”

The change comes at a time of expansion for the station. KMRE has steadily upgraded their studio over the last year and more than doubled the amount of local programming they broadcast, providing more than 30 local programs.

“This is a big step for us—it’s an opportunity to evolve into a separate organization from the SPARK Museum, which has many challenges, but is also very exciting,” Blais said.

KMRE features local arts and educational programs like “Spark Science,” and “Up Close and Personal.” It is also one of the few remaining sources for classic-style radio dramas. Viking Radio Theatre, Bellingham Terror, and the Chuckanut Radio Hour are locally produced at KMRE.

Thanks to a partnership with Daylight Properties, KMRE’s transmitter is located on top of the Bellingham Herald building, allowing the signal to reach north to Ferndale and south into Skagit County. With a potential change in location, the station seeks to know if the community wants it to continue broadcasting or if it is time to hang up the microphones.

“If you love community radio, the local shows we produce on KMRE, and public access to airwaves, we need to hear from you at one of these meetings or over the next month. This is our chance to decide what KMRE will become. We are working very hard to ensure that KMRE stays on the air but we can’t do it without public input,” Blais said. “Together, we can ensure our community has a voice on the air for years to come.”

Full disclosure: Cascadia Weekly Editor Tim Johnson is a cohost of Cascadia News Now with Stephanie Kountouros at 5:30pm each Wednesday at KMRE 102.3 FM

Cash Spell
More Words...
Magpie Murders
A mystery within a mystery

Now that there’s been snow in the lowlands of Whatcom County and the sun sets before 5pm, it’s time to flip on the gas fireplace and cozy up with a stack of mysteries from the library. Anthony Horowitz’s latest thriller is just the thing to take your mind off the weather and…

more »
Unexpected Treasures
A collection for the ages

In a town known for its abundance of resident poets and writers, Port Townsend poet Finn Wilcox has long been considered a local treasure. 

For more than three decades he has been crafting clear, poignant and jewel-like poems from distinctly non-literary pursuits—riding freights and…

more »
A scary story of survival

“CamperForce. Your next RV adventure is here.”

Thus promises Amazon’s CamperForce website in its seasonal labor recruitment pitch to “enthusiastic RVers who help make the holidays bright for customers of Amazon.com.” Based on several years of corresponding and camping with these…

more »
Home for the Holidays

5:00pm|Ferndale Events Center

The 39 Steps

7:00pm|Sehome High School Little Theatre

Little Women

7:00pm|Ferndale High School

Peter and the Star Catcher

7:00pm|Squalicum High School

Romeo, You Idiot!

7:30pm|Heiner Theater


7:30pm|Mount Baker High School

Craft Bazaar

9:00am|American Legion Post #43

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Hot Cider & Cool Art

10:00am|Morgan Block Studios

Used Book Sale

10:00am|Everson Library

Red Barn Handpicked Holiday Market

12:00pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

3:00pm|Lynden Library, Ferndale Library

It's Where the Sidewalk Ends

6:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

New Music, New Dance

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Big Short One-Act Festival

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Bellingham Repertory Dance's Emerge

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Backyard Brawl

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

VFW Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Pancake Feed

8:00am|VFW Post 1585

Holiday Bazaar

9:00am|Hillcrest Chapel

Christmas in the Woods

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Acme Elementary School

Turkey Trot

9:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Climate Reality

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

South Fork Winterfest

10:00am|Van Zandt Community Hall

Fall Gardening

10:00am|Lynden Library

Cheese Fest

10:00am|Everybody's Store

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Holiday Farmers Market

10:00am|Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center

Lynden Book Club

10:30am|Everson Library

Salmon Sighting

12:00pm|Haynie Creek

Conquering Writer's Block

2:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Fishboy Holiday Show

2:00pm|FishBoy Gallery

NaNoWriMo and Indie Publishing

3:00pm|Everson Library

Skagit Wine & Beer Festival


Homeless Summit and Cold Weather Giveaway

3:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

i.e. artists talk

3:30pm|i.e. gallery

Small Works Opening

4:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Smith & Vallee Artist Talk

4:00pm| Smith & Vallee Gallery

WA 129 Poetry Reading

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Giving from the Heart

7:00pm|Depot Art Center

A Light in the Darkness

7:00pm|Church of the Assumption

Welcome Home Celebration

7:00pm|Village Books

Ruach Consort

7:00pm|St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Eagles Hall

Michael Kaeshammer

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Legends of the Blues V

7:30pm|Byrnes Performing Arts Center

Peter and the Star Catcher

7:00pm|Squalicum High School


7:30pm|Mount Baker High School

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Bellingham Repertory Dance's Emerge

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Cheese Fest

10:00am|Everybody's Store

Holiday Farmers Market

10:00am|Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Getting in on the act


Sound of Music Singalong

1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

A Musical Thanksgiving

2:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Harmony from Discord with Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The 25th Hour

4:00pm|Village Books

Southside Community Meal

5:00pm|Our Saviour's Lutheran Church

Way North Comedy Showcase

7:00pm|Farmstrong Brewing Co.

Rutie Dornfeld, John Miller

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Wander + Camber Beer Dinner

6:30pm|Camber Cafe

Rocks & Gems

7:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building


9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

Kaeshammer Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Trove Village Books