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|Broadcast area||Minneapolis-St. Paul|
|Branding||Fresh Air Radio|
|Frequency||90.3 FM (also on HD Radio), 106.7 FM|
|First air date||May 1, 1978|
|ERP||KFAI: 900 watts
K294AM: 170 watts
|HAAT||KFAI: 241 meters
K294AM: 96 meters
|Callsign meaning||Fresh Air, Inc.|
|Owner||Fresh Air, Inc.|
KFAI (90.3 FM Minneapolis and K294AM 106.7 FM West St. Paul) is a community radio station in Minnesota. The station broadcasts a wide variety of music, and also airs programming catering to many of the diverse ethnic groups of the region. KFAI has frequently been honored by local media critics for its shows and musical diversity (for instance, the local alternative weekly City Pages has frequently included it in the annual "Best of the Twin Cities" awards).
The station offers public access services, so they encourage anyone in the community to make their own show and have it broadcast over the air. The station is part of Minnesota's Independent Public Radio network and, despite relatively weak transmitters, is considered by many to be the group's flagship station. The call sign stands for Fresh Air, Inc., the non-profit organization that owns KFAI.
The station first went on the air with a 10 watt signal on May 1, 1978, after drawn-out deliberations with the Federal Communications Commission, which was licensing a few low-power FM stations at the time. The first home was in the belfry of the Walker Community Church in South Minneapolis. In 1984, the primary transmitter was moved from the roof of the Seward Co-op to the top of the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis and upgraded to 125 watts. The studios moved from the church two years later, when it moved to the second floor of a Butler Drug store on Lake Street. In 1991, studios were built especially for Fresh Air Radio at Cedar-Riverside near the University of Minnesota, where it remains today. The 170-watt West St. Paul translator station went up in 1994.
In March 2007, KFAI's main transmitter moved to IDS Center, after the new owner of Foshay Tower evicted all current tenants of the building as part of a redevelopment plan to turn it into a hotel . Since November 6, 2007, the station has been operating under an FCC Construction Permit with an upgraded effective radiated power of 900 Watts and an IDS Center tower height of 247 meters (811 feet)above ground level. This upgrade allows the station to have a stronger signal from the IDS Center which extends the station's coverage deeper into St. Paul and the southeast suburbs.
Due to KFAI's limited signal power, programming is targeted to the Twin Cities communities. Three other IPR stations exist in Minneapolis-St. Paul: KBEM-FM (jazz), KMOJ (urban), and KUOM (college/eclectic). KVSC, another college station in St. Cloud, Minnesota, can also be received by some area residents. The station has major plans for expansion into HD radio by the end of 2008. As part of this expansion, on November 16, 2008, the station switched over to a new 900 watt transmitter and directional antenna for its 90.3 FM signal, significantly increasing the broadcast coverage area.
On June 30, 2010 KFAI instituted a new programming grid. Some long time listeners and programmers are very unhappy about this because they believe the station will be throwing away the volunteer programming model that has served them so well for so long and broadcasting for three hours each morning, The Takeaway, a nationally syndicated program from Public Radio International. However, the rest of the station's schedule will be essentially similar as in the past. However, even with the addition of new programming, the station remains committed to a volunteer powered model and the decision to make changes came from the Program Committee, which is made up of volunteers and listeners and is co-chaired by a volunteer and a staff member. Volunteers will continue to staff the on-air shifts 24 hours a day into the foreseeable future.
KFAI's programming is highly eclectic and uses block programming, so that, for example, one might find a country music program followed by an hour of news about LGBT issues, or a reggae program followed by an hour of spoken word readings or an hour of Hmong programming. Although programs almost always occupy the same blocks from week to week, programs often have little or nothing to do with what precedes or follows them, and the station prides itself on being a "different radio station every hour".
Some of the station's programming is carried on other radio stations. The show Crap from the Past, by Ron Gerber, airs on several stations in Arizona, plus one in New Zealand (in addition to a few Internet radio streams). KFAI offers archives of locally produced shows, and many of the station's various hosts and programmers also offer their own archived broadcasts at other sources.
- KFAI official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for KFAI
- Radio-Locator information on KFAI
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for KFAI
- Query the FCC's FM station database for K294AM
- Sound Affects: audio theater
- Shockwave Radio Theater Podcasts
- Crap From the Past archives
- KFAI's page on StylusCity
- Higher than Fi