KDGZ: KDogs Radio


KDGZ-LP, run out of Townsend, Montana's Broadwater High school, is integral to the school and the surrounding community. Townsend is very sports-oriented, but because students often travel  hundreds of miles for sports, it's hard for parents to make it to away games. Volunteers help by broadcasting them live. KDGZ also broadcasts information about community events, like the county fair and Oktoberfest. One year, elementary school students wrote holiday-themed poems. Broadwater's Radio Broadcasting class recorded them, and soon their little voices were on the air. "It was a hoot!" says Mia Whitfield, station manager.

The station would like to broadcast county meetings, but because those are at night, it's difficult to find students available to help. The Radio Broadcast class also works on PSAs about Montanan Native American history and traditions.

KDGZ-LP got its start because emergency services wanted a way to keep the community informed and safe. The station has grown to do so much more. Broadwater High's semester-long Radio Broadcasting class produces a lot of content for it. The class started after the station stabilized in early 2006. Since then, around 120 kids have taken it, with anywhere from nine to seventeen in each class. In Broadcasting, students learn how radio operates and its history. They learn about marketing, how to use high-tech recording programs, and how to do interviews, all useful job skills.

KDogs is funded by underwriters, each sponsoring a day of the week. The station is well-known to the 4200 people it broadcasts to, so sponsorship is very lucrative. Whitfield is working on writing some grant proposals to move the antenna up higher. The station also needs new headsets and equipment for the students.

In keeping with her additional role as the district's school-to-work coordinator, Whitfield has set up a summer-long student/teacher-run business involving the station. Employees track the community's invasive weeds, particularly knapweed. Students also report on the history of the various weeds and bugs. School officials will use the project to develop science curricula, and "create a self-sustaining school-based enterprise...covering all aspects of business (through marketing, sales and distribution of biological control agents as well as a GPS/GIS mapping service)."

The station has also been successful in its capacity as an emergency services beacon. "About two years ago, we had a 'freak' storm come through," making a heavily-used road between Townsend and a larger nearby town impassable in minutes. There were many car accidents. The sheriff's office kept Whitfield in the loop, "feeding [her] information to keep the public posted and...about their loved ones who were stranded on the road." Aside from alerts about road closure, KDGZ kept the public informed to prevent more accidents.

Though it started as an EAS project, with all of its initial funding coming from emergency services, the station has become a much larger project. KDogs helps bring a tight-knit community even closer with its local, youth-produced programming. As a dynamic, skill-building elective, Broadwater High's Broadcasting class is a great way to get kids involved in their school and community. Here's to hoping more school districts around the country follow Broadwater's K12 school district and delve into the exciting world of LPFM.


Thanks to Lucy Saunders-Pappentick for putting together this profile.