An interview with Jacquie Biloff, Dakota Conference communication director, and KTWJ board chairman DeLane Meier

JB: A radio station is a momentous project. When was this dream born?

DM: In 1999, the FCC (Federal Communication Corporation) opened up low-power frequencies. Bismarck Church thought it would be good to have an Adventist radio station in town. However, there were three groups in town that applied for the same frequency. After a slow selection process, our church received a license for FM frequency 106.7. New Song got 100.7 and the Catholic Church received 93.7. In the end, 3ABN took over 93.7.T

JB: When did 106.7 go live?

DM: In August 2006 KJIT (King Jesus It’s Time) was awarded 106.7 at 45 watts. The FCC expected our broadcast radius to be about three miles, but the Lord had other plans, and it reaches nine miles.

JB: The application process took seven years?

DM: Yes, the process is very slow. Then we wanted to expand our territory, so we obtained a construction permit to put up a 250-watt translator, which began airing August 2007 on 100.5. It reaches 50 miles—again, farther than the FCC projected.

JB: Frequencies are at a premium, are they not?

DM: The FCC opened additional frequencies in 2008 under the non-commercial, educational category, so we applied for a 25-kilowatt power station. The FCC awards frequencies by points. The points have to do with several items including local audience and area served. We didn’t have enough points to guarantee that frequency, so we applied for a different frequency (90.9) and moved the tower’s possible location to a point north of Wing, North Dakota for broader coverage. We also increased the power request t o100 kilowatts. The FCC approved.

The two other applicants are still fighting over that other frequency. That has been over three years ago now, which shows how long the FCC usually takes to make a determination. The Lord opens and closes doors. He closed the door to the 25-kilowatt station and opened the door to one with 100 kilowatts.

JB: What is involved in the permitting process?

DM: First a frequency must be available. Prairie Public is on 90.5 so we couldn’t ask for that. But 90.9 was available. An expensive computer program is essential in the process. When coordinates are entered into the program the computer determines which radio stations the inputted frequency would undermine. Although 90.9 was available, the  tower would have to be located north of Wing not to interfere with Prairie Public’s frequency.

Next you need a tower as tall as possible to cover an area as large as possible. When tower height was entered into the computer program, it said the  tower should be 570 feet tall. Then two applications have to be made. One is with the FCC and the other is with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), because when you put up tall towers, your tower may interfere with airplane traffic. After the application is submitted, a waiting process begins to see if anyone else is going to apply for the same frequency. Unfortunately, the previously mentioned point system determines who receives the nod, not whose application was received first. In our case, no one else applied for that frequency. The FAA also gave their approval and verification was received that we could construct the 570-foot tower with 100 kilowatts on land north of Wing.

JB: Is there a restriction on the wattage?

DM: 100 kilowatts is the maximum wattage for a noncommercial radio station. The amount of power that is approved is determined by the amount of interference to other stations and the desired coverage.

JB: It looks like God has had His hand in this.

DM: Yes, at every stage. After we received approval from the FCC and the FAA, I got out the county maps and located the owner of the desired location for our tower.  The owner lived on the other side of the river near Beulah. We went to visit the gentleman and he said the land was CRP and recommended we find some other land in the area that we could use.

I took him out to the spot and explained that we needed the tower to be on top of a hill, and that the other sites were not ideal. His site was really where the tower should be.

He said, “Well, this is where it should be, then.” That was a miracle, since he didn’t want us there to begin with. 

JB: I assume the studio will not be located in Wing, North Dakota.

DM: The FCC doesn’t care where the studio is located. So we contacted Dakota Adventist Academy and asked about having a studio on campus. We agreed that it would be a good location because students could be hired to help with programming and watching the studio.

JB: What is next on the agenda?

DM: Raising $300,000. We have just recently started actively looking for finances to construct the tower. Several donations have come from people who will not even be able to hear the station. These are miracles!

We’ve also sent flyers to Dakota Adventist churches and advertised in Outlook. I believe God wants this to go out beyond Bismarck to all the little towns, so they may have some Adventist presence as well. This is God’s will and timing. Sometimes He waits until the last minute, so we know that He did this and not us.

JB: What will you use for programming?

DM: The main programming will be Radio 74. Producing all local programming 24-7 would be a tremendous burden on all of us, but we will have some live local programming. For instance, Dakota camp meeting services, local musical programs and people who are talented in writing and/or broadcasting will be able to share. Some write weekly newspaper articles or Bible studies that we can use. We would like to start doing more of this on the local radio station and then move it to the 100-kilowatt station as soon as it goes live. We’ll have control of what goes on the station.

JB: What is the call sign of the new station?

DM: The new station will be KTWJ (Keep in Tune with Jesus).

JB: Are you working within a specific time frame?

DM: We would like to begin construction of the tower in the spring. The construction permit expires August of 2012. We would solicit prayers and support. Anyone interested can contact me (DeLane Meier) at 701.223.8579 or through the Bismarck Church at 701.223.6830.