BURLEY — After years of struggling to keep the lights on and stay on the air, Voz Latina KBWE 91.9 FM Spanish-speaking radio station has a new owner, Ruben Bautista.
“The station now really belongs to the community,” said Bautista, president of the station.
Broadcast from downtown Burley, formerly under the nonprofit umbrella of Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN), the station provides a vital link for its listeners to the news that affects their lives, station DJ Damian Rodriguez said.
“We have a rich cultural diversity in this area and there is a desperate need for the information we provide,” Rodriguez said.
The station’s $2,500 monthly expenses came from community donations, paid sponsorships and fundraisers hosted by the station, like dances, along with some grants.
All of the money that was raised was sent to the nonprofit, Rodriguez said.
“ICAN hogged all of the money,” station DJ Dianne Buerkle said. “Sometimes there wasn’t even any toilet paper, and the bills didn’t get paid like the rent, utilities, internet and phones.”
Bautista said it wasn’t uncommon for the DJs to reach into their own pockets for money to pay the bills to keep the station on the air.
There are also people in the community who would come in every month and make donations of $10 or $100, he said.
Last summer, the station fell silent for several weeks and a sign was placed on the door, saying anyone caught trespassing would be arrested, Rodriguez said.
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Bautista said donations were collected to pay for an attorney and with the help of people he knew with an out-of-state Spanish-speaking radio station, they were able to negotiate a deal to purchase the station for an undisclosed amount of money.
Rodriguez said the station will retain its nonprofit status.
“Regarding the change in ownership, I’m putting a positive spin on it,” the former owner’s executive director, Terri Sterling, said. The1 nonprofit organization says its mission is to educate and advocate on social issues.
Sterling said it was true that at times the station’s bills were not getting paid.
“Ultimately, I think this is a good thing for the community. It’s a win-win situation for them and for us,” Sterling said. “It shows that with the right leadership you can make changes in a rural community.”
Sterling said the benefit for former owner is the organization can now devote more resources toward other causes with a focus on rural communities.
Bautista has applied for the Federal Communications Commission license and the ownership paperwork is in the process of completion.
“Ruben is well respected in the community and he’s a good leader,” Rodriguez said.
Although it is a Spanish-speaking station, the station wants to reach out to everyone in the community, he said.
“We want to foster cultural understanding and bring our two communities together to celebrate our commonalities and not our differences,” he said.