Mercer Island basketball radio broadcasts return

KMIH radio station will return to broadcasting Islander basketball games next Wednesday night.

THe Mercer Island High School radio station, KMIH, 88.9 FM, will broadcast Islander boys and girls varsity basketball games this season. The student-run station stopped broadcasting the games nearly ten years ago.

The first Islander game is set for 7:20 p.m. Wednesday between the Islander boys varsity team and Eastlake High School. The broadcast can also be heard online here.

The 'voice' of the Islanders will be Mercer Island High School senior Ryan Rouillard. Rouillard has taken on the project due to his interest in radio and as the topic for his senior culminating project. Rouillard will also broadcast the girls game on Dec. 2.

The plan is to broadcast 25 or more games over the next few months, he said.

A student in the high school’s radio class, Rouillard started to consider the idea of broadcasting basketball games last year. He has long kept the statistics for both varsity basketball teams attending nearly all of their games.

The radio class’s new teacher, Charlie Hilen, who also teaches video arts at the school, heard Rouillard’s idea and encouraged him to do a live game broadcasts.

The station, on the air since 1970, has made its way with volunteers, students, bartered equipment and donations. Leaving behind an Island tradition, the station dropped broadcasting high school games in 2002. Former vocational ed teacher Nick DeVogel explained then that interest in broadcasting games had waned and they were too complex to manage from remote locations. Instead, the station went another way to bring in more listeners with on-line streaming and adding adult volunteers who were 'guest D.J.'s to fill the 24 hours of the broadcasting day. A major focus was to bring in R & B music. "Our mission (now) is to promote rhythmic stations," an adult volunteer said then. One guest D.J. was suspended for some inappropriate remarks.

By 2005, the struggle over whether the station could keep its spot on the radio dial, 104.5 FM. took an increasing amount of time and attention. Because the high school-run radio station is considered a “Class D” educational station under federal rules, KMIH faced giving up its frequency to a larger commercial station.  In the summer of 2008, a deal was reached and the station remains on the air on a different frequency.

Recently, the station has become more involved with the city of Mercer Island and emergency planning coordination. The number of students involved in the KMIH, a vocational-education class, has grown.

Rouillard said that the broadcasting the games requires a lap top, a sound board and a phone line to transmit the sound to the station back at the high school. Working out the logistics of the phone line is the crucial link that needs to be worked out at each school.

It takes some doing. He is headed to Mt. Si High School next week to make sure their connections will work for the game there.

All of the schools contacted are glad to participate except Liberty High School who has yet to give a definitive answer.

"They are worried about whether or not the coverage can be unbiased," the student said.

Rouillard is also the editor of the school newspaper. He is hoping to pursue a career in journalism.



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