After more than a decade on the air in Sonoma County, nonprofit Christian rock radio station Broken FM is going off the air for good on June 1.
The station, which broadcasts music over FM airwaves in Santa Rosa at 103.1, Calistoga at 91.5, Ukiah at 101.3 and Hopland at 88.7, was recently sold to KFAITH, which will begin broadcasting an all-talk Christian radio format featuring local and national programming.
According to Broken FM founder Keith Leitch, the decision to pull the plug on the radio station has been a long time coming, as his nonprofit organization, One Ministries Inc., has expanded into TV with KQSL television station, broadcasting Christian programming in Sonoma County and throughout the Bay Area.
“I didn’t want to break it up,” Leitch said of the radio station. “But, this should have happened long ago, we were in maintenance mode for several years.”
The all-volunteer staff of Broken FM included technicians and DJs Chris Kuhner, Tim Hopkins and Dustin Moore, who all helped the station get off the ground in 2009, and who continued to be involved in the station in varying degrees over the years.
“I loved every part about Broken FM personally, I had so much fun and I was go grateful for the opportunity, it was hard to leave that behind,” Kuhner, who moved to Michigan in 2018, said. “It’s kind of like losing a friend, I’m sad for sure that it’s not going to be on the air anymore.”
According to Kuhner, the station reached both a local and global audience through online streaming. In addition to round-the-clock music programming Broken FM carried interviews with some of the biggest Christian-rock stars such as Switchfoot and KORN guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, and would often broadcast remotely from live events.
“We had a tremendous community of people,” Kuhner said.
Educated at New Mexico State University, Leitch spent two years consulting on Federal Communications Commission license acquisitions before moving to Sonoma County in 2000, where he works full time at Keysight Technologies in Santa Rosa.
Some free consulting work he did for a church in Bethel, Alaska, led to his application for three FCC permits in the Juneau market. “I applied for everything I could get,” Leitch said.
He ultimately proposed a trade of the Juneau permits for the Hopland station owned by Rocklin-based K-LOVE, the nation’s largest contemporary Christian music station.
With that Hopland station, Leitch embarked on a personal mission to spread Christian values to young audiences through rock music, boosting the signal into Sonoma County through a series of FM translators that rebroadcast the Hopland signal throughout the North Bay region.
Programming the music via a computer out of his Santa Rosa bedroom closet at first, Leitch moved the station to the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, then called the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, in Santa Rosa, where the station broadcast for two years in a room rented by the Santa Rosa Christian School. Since then, the radio station has been based in an office building on Professional Drive in Santa Rosa.
Nine years ago, Leitch moved into television. He bought a full power TV station licensed to Fort Bragg in 2018, called KQSL, that is currently broadcasting from Sutro Tower in San Francisco and Sonoma Mountain and is available on cable in north Sonoma County from Windsor to Cloverdale, Mendocino County, Lake County, San Francisco and throughout Northern California from Redding to San Jose.
KQSL airs local church services for Promise Center Church in Santa Rosa Saturdays at 4 p.m., and Sundays at 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.
“The TV has been rewarding with growth,” Leitch said. “We’re reaching a huge audience throughout the Bay Area.”
Leitch says that while Broken FM struggled to get funding and donors for its decade-plus run, KQSL garnered almost $1 million in revenue last year.
Leitch adds that the decline in rock radio is a national trend for both secular and nonsecular rock music. “The interest in rock music, other than classic rock, has gone down,” Leitch said.
He also says younger people are adopting other technologies, and don’t listen to the radio anymore.
“With Broken FM, we were trying to reach the young people,” Leitch said. “Now our ministry has flipped, where we now reach a predominantly 55-plus audience with the Christian TV.”
Broken FM’s departure leaves K-LOVE and Air1 as the last two Christian music radio stations serving Sonoma County. K-Love broadcasts on 91.9 FM and Air1 broadcasts on 106.3 FM.
One Ministries Inc. will still be in radio. “We were granted a new construction permit for FM station on 91.1 for Glenhaven, in Lake County this year,” Leitch said. It’s not clear yet what that station will broadcast.
For more information, visit kqsl.org.