PALA: Radio station will be a source of news, culture for tribe

North County Times 2.28.09


PALA ---- Tribal officials at the Pala Indian reservation said last week that a new radio station that may be on the air as soon as next year will help them spread information and enrich the tribe's culture by airing native music and other cultural programming.


Tuning into 91.3 FM in the scenic valley about five miles east of Interstate 15 along Highway 76 will yield a variety of content, said Kilma Lattin, one of six elected tribal council members and a proponent of the new radio station.


"I envision a 24-hour broadcast," Lattin said last week. "Of course, in order to get a 24-hour broadcast, we can (pick up) syndications, fill it in with music."


Perhaps the station's most useful role will be to keep the 650 residents of the Pala reservation informed, especially during emergencies.


The signal will stay in the valley, Lattin said.


"The radio station frequency isn't going to be strong enough to where it protrudes outside of our local valley here ---- people in Oceanside and Temecula and Escondido won't be able to hear our broadcast," he said. "It will remain local."


Washington, D.C.-based communications attorney John Crigler said Pala applied for a "noncommercial educational" permit from the Federal Communications Commission in October 2007.


In February, the tribe announced it had received clearance from the federal agency to build the station, but because of the nature of the permit, programming will be restricted to content similar to public radio stations such as KPBS, officials said.


"The main thing they can't broadcast are advertisements," said Crigler, whose firm, Garvey, Schubert and Barer, represents other tribes around the nation which are in the process of establishing radio stations.


"Those ads include not only ads for commercial products and services, but also political ads," he added. "So they couldn't run paid announcements for a political candidate."


He said the federal communications agency provided a five-day window for new wavelength applications in October 2007, and that it is still sifting through the thousands of applications that flooded in during that week.


Pala's request took nearly a year and a half to process because of the reservation's proximity to Mexico, he said.


"When you propose a station near either the Mexican or Canadian border, the FCC won't grant the application until it receives the consent of the other country," Crigler said.


Even though Pala's 91.3 FM signal won't reach farther than 10 or 15 miles, he said, it's "based on just the proximity of the transmitter site to Mexico."


That transmitter will essentially be an antenna on top of the reservation's administration building, Lattin said.


A broadcasting booth with sound equipment will be built elsewhere on the reservation, but that site hasn't been determined yet, he said.


"The way that a lot of information is spread now is by word of mouth around the reservation, but like a bad game of telephone, sometimes that information can get distorted," he said. "With a radio station, it gives the tribal council and our 23 departments an opportunity to convey accurate information in a timely manner."


The ability to broadcast native songs and other cultural content is also appealing to leaders, he said.


"We can do interviews with our tribal elders over the airwaves, we can play our songs," Lattin said.


He said other tribes have launched similar noncommercial radio stations that have been met with open arms ---- or ears, as the case may be.


"Those stations that are owned, operated and broadcast within the reservations have been very successful," Lattin said. "There has been a lot of good feedback from their people, because it's an extension of the oral tradition, which is something that native American people are really fond of ---- passing stories and information by mouth."


Lattin said he'd like to see the station on the air by 2010, but added that's "entirely dependent on the construction process and obtaining the right equipment."


"We're in the process now of obtaining call letters," he said. "Once we get the broadcasting station and booth built to code, then we'll get an inspection from the authorities, and get the OK to flip the switch."


Contact staff writer Tom Pfingsten at (760) 740-3516 or


Pala Band of Mission Indians

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