As volunteers and programmers waited in frustration for their full-power station, LCCR now quickly applied for a second license to participate in the new lpfm service (the first application, for the full-power station, was still on hold in Washington DC). Their application was accepted and KPFZ-lp would be born as soon as the necessary fundraising and organization was taken care of. Inspirationally taking its call letters from the Pacifica Network (which had pioneered listener supported community radio – KPFA, KPFK, KPFT), LCCR community radio dubbed itself KPFZ. The lp was added to show it was a low power station (the licensed form of micropower radio),
A series of events, presented in Lake County Board of Supervisors chambers, to fundraise and alert the community to the new station featured everything from noted lecturers to group drumming. These events would be the first in a series over the years which would sustain the station – from community picnics, to intimate musical concerts, to yard sales, video nights, and to LCCR’s premiere event, the annual Blue’s n’ Barbecue, which traditionally attracted a large turn out and offered great food and plenty of live music.
Though some of the programming from the micropower station was carried over to the lp station, new volunteers and programmers were recruited for the new station. Trainings and workshops were held, a start-up grant for equipment was obtained, a new studio was constructed (in the same private residence in the Lucerne hills), and the transmission equipment was set-up and tested. Scheduling (more around people’s lifestyles than proper radio demographics) was put in place, and on September 1, 2001, the low power station went on-the-air to the north part of the lake.
KPFZ-lp became known across the land and helped usher in the new national radio service by being the third station in the United States, and first in California to be licensed. KPFZ made national news in the LA Times, the Jim Lehrer PBS News Hour, and was awarded “Station of the month” by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. The county was getting a taste of licensed, non-commercial, free speech, community radio done on a shoe-string by volunteers, and supported financially by the community.
For almost the first two years, KPFZ-lp continued to broadcast from its studio and transmitter site in the hills of Lucerne. In 2003 and after nearly five years of broadcasting in a private residence (including the microstation), KPFZ was able to afford (through listener supporters, events, and donations) to move its studio and programmers into a small back room in law offices in Lakeport. Being in a more publicly accessible area allowed the station to expand its programming and bring in new programmers. The station began averaging 16-18 hours, seven day a week of programming. Meanwhile the transmitter and a second studio functioned still from the Lucerne hills.
Aside from the already full spectrum music programming already offered (Native American, salsa, jazz, country and roots, blues, soul and gospel, grateful dead, rock n’ roll, experimental, eclectic), KPFZ now offered reggae, Celtic, local, classical, world, novelty and plenty of the unusual and unclassifiable.
In the spoken word department, KPFZ expanded its programming to include more local public affairs with local interviews, debates on issues, lots of call-in shows, programs on the healing arts, animals, seniors, more local Indian affairs, as well as opinion and commentary shows from both the right and the left. Cultural programming included shows on literature, spirituality, history, automobiles and motorcycles, original comedy, local theater, psychology, a community oriented program on Christianity and religion, and more. It was a full plate of diverse and interesting, stimulating programming, and the county proved its interest by supporting the station as listener members and at events and by calling in to the numerous talk programs.
Interviews included local political leaders, community activists, business people, anyone who was newsworthy on any level, and such national figures such as Noam Chomsky, John Trudel, Barbara Boxer, Amy Goodman, Ferron, and Smokey Robinson, to name just a few. The station extended itself beyond the studio with loads of special programming from remotes to all night specials on Christmas and New Years Eves, and local rallies and protests, as well as much live music that as could be squeezed into a 12×14 room. Hot button local issues like a moratorium on a new geothermal plant, the controversy over Rattlesnake Island, Lake County’s grape industry, and fresh insights into the Marla Ruzikca story gave the station prominence in the local media. In depth interviews with candidates and examinations of issues, as well as debates for congressional, assembly, and state seats, and a full night of national-local election coverage helped to fill in the schedule. All this without any commercials, on a peanut budget, and produced by dedicated volunteers, who believed in their work and serving the community.
But suddenly big news was on the horizon. There was word from Washington D.C. that the Class A, full-power application had finally been accepted. The news was greeted with mixed feelings because even though a much bigger, more powerful station would be in the works, the news also meant the necessity of shutting down the lpfm station – and that station had become part of lives of many people in the community.