Duvall resident Daisy Pongrakthai has spent seven of the past 12 years out of the country.
But now that she’s back, her next project is decidedly local. Pongrakthai decided to start a local radio station, Radio Duvall, after hearing that the Prometheus Radio Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping citizens and communities participate in media, was accepting applications for low power radio stations.
"It just was like a light that went up," Pongrakthai recalled of hearing about the opportunity. "It was a huge barrier getting past all the doubts, but I really wanted to try."
Pongrakthai isn’t a stranger to radio, or to communication. Her father owned a cell phone business in Montana in the 1980s, so she understands how to deal with the Federal Communications Commission. She helped her father do emergency dispatch for fire and police, so she’s used to being on the air, she said. In high school, she wrote a column for a weekly newspaper, and she has a degree in communications from the University of San Diego.
Radio Duvall’s content will span a wide range, Pongrakthai said, citing ideas from a community survey she did.
News about Duvall and Carnation. "Educational offerings," such as highlighting good teachers or new teaching methodologies, or do-it-yourself and how-to features. Sports. Local music, and perhaps performances by local stars who’ve made it big, like Duvall singer Austin Jenckes from NBC’s "The Voice." Art. Community theater and radio drama. A "virtual garage sale" in which people can call in and sell things, like a radio version of Craigslist. Science and technology. The history of the community and stories from elderly people. Elected officials talking about problems and progress. Health and well-being. Comedy.
The nonprofit radio station can also serve as a tool for emergency preparedness, helping people stay safe and informed in an emergency when other channels of communication might be down.
"I just didn’t want to limit myself, because there’s quite a few hours of time to cover," she explained. She added, "There’s wide open space for all these ideas. That’s the beauty of it."
To make all those ideas possible, Pongrakthai is still looking for board members, program coordinators and a website designer.
Board members will make decisions about funding, equipment, advertising and promotion. Coordinators will gather content about a subject they’re interested in from locals.
"It’s more the drive and interest than it is the experience," Pongrakthai said of the coordinator position. "It’s a fun and creative position, but there is work."
Pongrakthai hopes Radio Duvall will be on the air by the beginning of 2014. She’s still waiting to hear from Prometheus whether she’ll get a station and what number on the dial it will be, but she thinks Radio Duvall has a good chance because it’s in a rural area. She hopes the station will have a 10-mile radius, but says it might be closer to 5.
She believes the radio station will help people connect in a way that other forms of media don’t.
"We are connected with technology, but are we really connected?" she wondered. "We’re all in our own little world."
Hearing your friend or your daughter on the radio creates a social connection that blogs don’t have, Pongrakthai said.
"It’s more dynamic. It’s connecting people in a higher way. I think people will feel more proud, and there’s more social networking," she said. "...I think as humans, we’re all looking for that connection, and I think it offers that possibility."
Interested in volunteering with Radio Duvall or making a tax-deductible donation? Contact Daisy Pongrakthai at (425) 221-4445 or use the contact form at radioduvall.org.