By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Hilo is at the end of the line but is finally about to get a full serving of Hawaii Public Radio.
Most of the state — everywhere but East Hawaii — now gets the full array of HPR programming, said Michael Titterton, president and general manager of Hawaii Public Radio.
In February a $100,000 transmitter was put into service on Hualalai that allows West Hawaii listeners to hear both of HPR’s broadcast programming channels — HPR-1 and HPR-2.
The new West Hawaii transmitter “went on right on schedule,” Titterton said. “It filled in a lot of dead spots.” Waimea was “a notorious blank spot” and one of the more prominent unserved areas prior to getting the new transmitter, he said.
Thousands of new listeners in West Hawaii will be able to tune into HPR-1 and HPR-2 as a result of the new transmitter, although exact numbers are difficult to determine. “This new transmitter fills in that (area) very nicely,” he said.
But East Hawaii is still without HPR-2, so now HPR’s focus is on expanding its programming to Hawaii’s last unserved region by the end of this year, Titterton said, though he declined to release any details of the plan.
During last year’s spring 2012 fundraising drive, classical music and fine arts stations known originally as KHPR 88.1 (Honolulu), KKUA 90.7 (Wailuku), and KANO 91.1 (Hilo), were branded as HPR-1 stations, while, KIPO 89.3 (Honolulu), KIPM 89.7 (Waikapu), KIPH 88.3 (Hana), and KHPH 88.7 (Kailua-Kona), which offer news, talk radio and jazz programming, are now known collectively as HPR-2.
Titterton said about 15 percent of the funds it collects from on-air fundraising drives comes from Hawaii Island donors, and most of that (56 percent) comes from East Hawaii (Hawi to Hawaiian Ocean View Estates).
“Members,” as on-air contributors are known, number 1,044 in East Hawaii and 824 in West Hawaii, though West Hawaii is growing faster than East Hawaii. HPR has more than 12,000 members islandwide, Titterton said.
Among Hawaii Island’s faithful listeners and generous contributors is Barry Taniguchi, CEO of KTA Super Stores, who said HPR’s programming is “good for the entire community.”
“I like to listen to the news in the morning,” Taniguchi said. He said KTA advertises on local commercial radio stations, but the HPR stations provide more programming variety for the island’s radio listeners, so he wanted to support public radio for the community as well.
Last year Taniguchi contributed $5,000 to the West Hawaii signal transmitter fundraising effort and has been a steady contributor to public radio for years.
“Barry was one of the first to step forward from the beginning with KANO in Hilo in 1999,” Titterton said. “He got the ball rolling.”
Soon all of Hawaii will have over-the-air access to both signals, said Titterton. “The last piece of the puzzle will be East Hawaii.”
Taniguchi said adding HPR-2 to East Hawaii’s radio dial would probably require a capital fundraising campaign for a new transmitter. “We would help with that, too” he said.
Titterton said he and his staff always feel welcome on Hawaii Island. “When we can go… it’s always such a warm reception. It’s neat,” he said.
But East Hawaii listeners are still clamoring for HPR-2.
“They are not backward about being forward,” Titterton said. “There is an acute consciousness that HPR-2 is not there yet. We resolved to have that dealt with by the end of the year.”
Contact Hunter Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org.