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Island radio on the way?A former school bus driver and kids lead the way.
"The idea of an island radio station is crystallizing - with kids hoping to run the show.It would be the voice of Bainbridge Island, with creative content for adults, kids and churches, said Tomas Smeeth, the (adult) brainpower behind student-operated Bainbridge Radio.I love kids and want to give our kids a voice, said Smeeth, an employee of NetNanny.com and a former radio program manager and Bainbridge school bus driver. Smeeth said that while driving his school bus, instead of telling the students to be quiet, he would bounce his ideas around with the kids about a Bainbridge radio station. Everyone was excited about the prospect of building something, he said. Parents are busy and kids have a lot energy to expend, he reasoned - so why not channel that energy into something that may benefit all islanders?This will be be an avenue of expression for the kids, but it will also give them self-confidence and future job idea, Smeeth said. Smeeth hopes to enlist students from all island schools, to make something that is pure Bainbridge.As envisioned, the programming would include interviews with people connected with island history; music from local performers; readings from island authors; discussions of current issues; national or international stories connected to the island; and anything else that relates to Bainbridge.When the group met for the first time last spring, the plan generated excitement.Most (kids) wanted to be a deejay, said Victoria Hutchings, a sixth grader. That would be fun.It's kind of cool, because if it does go on all the way to China, I can say that I helped make the radio station, said Stephanie Hutchings, a fifth grader and secretary for the group. Although deejays are the highest-profile players at a station, other positions would have to be filled. Those willing to work as general administrators, programmers, technicians and other behind-the-scene jobs are also crucial for a station to survive. Constructing a radio station from scratch, especially with limited funds, is an enormous task. The equipment alone would cost thousands of dollars. Smeeth said he is counting on the donations of equipment, talent, ideas and money. Smeeth and the kids know they can't tackle the project on their own; they need the involvement of Bainbridge businesses, creative minds and money. In May, the Federal Communications Commission will accept applications from the West Coast for low-power FM licenses. Smeeth said that it is essential to convince the agency that Bainbridge is ready for its own station. Before mid-January, he said, two things need to be done.First, the group needs to put together a series of short programs on various topics. Interested islanders are asked to submit a short suggestion for a radio program. Information should include specific programming ideas, volunteers who would be producing or performing and what equipment may be needed. Second, Smeeth hopes to give students a look at the skills they would need for radio management. Nathan Hale High School in north Seattle has invited the Bainbridge students to be guest deejays for their station, KNHC 89.5 FM. Although the premier of Bainbridge Radio may be a long time in coming, parents and children are hopeful. I think that it's a great idea, said Patricia Hutchings, a parent whose two girls are members of the Bainbridge Radio planning committee.It's good for them as they are growing up to be able to be bold and step forward and make a statement. "