JB and Sandy’s Bikes for Kids campaign returns

Radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree have helped give away almost 20,000 bicycles to needy Central Texas children over the years. (Laura Skelding photo)
Radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree have helped give away almost 20,000 bicycles to needy Central Texas children over the years. (Laura Skelding photo)

Hundreds of Central Texas children will get brand-new bicycles this Christmas thanks to longtime Austin radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree.

The morning duo, who joined 105.3 Fringe FM this spring after spending almost two decades at another local station, said reviving their annual Bikes for Kids campaign was a top priority after settling into their new gig.

The hosts kicked off this year’s Bikes for Kids campaign right before Thanksgiving with a flurry of on-air mentions and posts on social media. Learn more about how to nominate a family in need or make a contribution at fringefmaustin.com.

“We’re trying to do a lot in a very short amount of time,” Hager said. “This is a reset of sorts for us. We’re hoping to grow it back to where it was before.”

New this year, Hager and McIlree said they hope to deliver many of the bikes themselves. In past years, volunteers handed out bikes and helmets at the Mellow Johnny’s bike shop in downtown Austin while they were on the air.

“We never really got a chance to see where the bikes went before,” Hager said. “By the time we were off the air, everyone was gone.”

McIlree said the station plans to post video of some of the heartwarming deliveries on its website.

The tweaks to Bikes for Kids are one of many changes for Hager and McIlree this year. They helped launch Fringe FM in April, after several months off the air, and are trying to build the locally owned station’s audience. It’s been hard work, they said, but exciting at the same time.

“We have a whole lot of freedom,” McIlree said. “That’s the big thing that keeps us coming in every morning.”

“The owners basically told us, ‘Guys, just do your thing,’” Hager said. “It’s been great.”

In addition to hosting their show from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays, they’ve taken on a number of other duties to help get the station up and running — everything from production work to making sales calls to music selection.

“It’s really grassroots,” McIlree said. “We’re a local radio station with local owners. We’re just trying to give Austin the station it deserves. This isn’t corporate radio, where there’s no difference between a station in Austin and one somewhere like Milwaukee.”

Even though “The JB and Sandy Morning Show” has been back on the air for about seven months now, many listeners are just now rediscovering the duo, Hager said. That’s happened, in part, because of listeners and business owners around town who’ve helped spread the word the old-fashioned way, such as using yard signs.

“It seems like every single day someone is saying they just found out we were back on the air,” Hager said. “A lot of people were upset and had left radio altogether after we went off the air. They went to Pandora or Spotify because they weren’t getting what they liked on the radio. The feedback we’ve been getting has just been phenomenal.”

Spirit 105.9 brings Christian artists to town this weekend for Spirit Fest

Jeremy Camp will be among the headliners at Spirit Fest.
Jeremy Camp will be among the headliners at Spirit Fest.

One of the nation’s highest-rated contemporary Christian radio stations is right here in Austin.

Since it hit the air four years ago, Spirit 105.9 has steadily climbed the ratings charts and now sits comfortably in the top five citywide in many key demographics.

Among women ages 25-54, a group coveted by advertisers, Spirit 105.9 placed second in October, for example. Among all listeners in that age bracket, it ranked fourth, according to Nielsen.

Its morning show, featuring hosts Steve Sunshine and Amy Byrd, has grown into a powerhouse of sorts. It was No. 2 among listeners ages 6 and up in October and regularly attracts almost 10 percent of all Austin-area women ages 25-54 listening to radio in the early hours of the day, general manager Tim McCoy said.

Weekend programming is highly rated as well, including the Sunday morning “Keep the Faith” show.

“We’re very blessed to be in that arena, to rank so high,” McCoy said. “We’ve got a great team here, and we have a great navigator and captain in Jesus Christ.”

The station will celebrate its success at Spirit Fest, set for Sunday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The event draws about 13,000 people annually, McCoy said.

Performers this year include Jeremy Camp, Kutless, Gungor, Building 429, Jamie Grace, Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Shawn McDonald and Tedashii.

General admission tickets start at $25, with some discounts available for members of the military and children.

“This year’s Spirit Fest is going to be incredible,” McCoy said. “We’re doing our best to bring as much contemporary Christian music to Central Texas as we can. We want people to see, hear and experience this music in person.”

Part of the reason Spirit 105.9 has been such a hit, McCoy said, is because the music the station plays is family friendly — no sex, no violence, no swear words. It’s a claim many of its competitors can’t make.

“We will never say something or air something that would be offensive to children,” he said. “It’s our mission to inspire, to help people, to let people know there’s hope.”

Spirit Fest

When: Sunday beginning at noon

Where: Dell Diamond

Tickets: General admission starting at $25

Online: spirit1059.com

Grande now offering 1-gigabit Internet in West Campus

Grande Communications is a San Marcos-based company.
Grande Communications is a San Marcos-based company.

Grande Communications has expanded its super-fast, 1-gigabit Internet service to the West Campus area, the San Marcos-based company said Wednesday.

Customers in parts of West Austin and Buda got Power 1000 1-gigabit service earlier this year.

Eventually, Grande said it plans to make 1-gigabit service available to all of its Central Texas customers. About 75,000 homes and businesses in the Austin area are wired for Grande’s cable, phone and Internet services.

The price for the Power 1000 Internet service is $64.99, Grande said.

TWC News to host Austin mayoral debate Wednesday

Mike Martinez and Steve Adler are in a runoff for Austin mayor
Mike Martinez and Steve Adler are in a runoff for Austin mayor

Time Warner Cable News will host a debate Wednesday featuring Steve Adler and Mike Martinez, the two candidates in Austin’s mayoral runoff.

The hour-long debate will air at 6 p.m., with Time Warner Cable News anchor Paul Brown serving as moderator.

Repeats of the debate are scheduled for noon Nov. 23, 11 a.m. Dec. 2, 7 p.m. Dec. 7 and twice on Dec. 16 – at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

KVUE is also planning a debate that will air Dec. 3 at 11 a.m., with evening news anchors Terri Gruca and Tyler Sieswerda serving as moderators.

Election Day is Dec. 16, with early voting set to run Dec. 1-12.

A poll released this week by the Austin Monitor shows Adler is favored by 56 percent of likely runoff voters, while Martinez was the choice of 35 percent of respondents.

The Justice Network to air in Austin

The Justice Network is set to debut in January.
The Justice Network is set to debut in January.

A new crime-focused TV network will sign on this January in cities across the country, including Austin.

The Justice Network will air as a digital subchannel on Gannett-owned stations nationwide, including KVUE.

Programming on the Justice Network will largely consist of repeats of shows that previously aired on other broadcast and cable networks, including “Alaska State Troopers,” “Body of Evidence,” “Dominik Dunne’s Power Privilege and Justice,” “I, Detective,” “The Investigators,” “LA Forensics,” “Locked Up Abroad,” “Masterminds,” “Missing Persons Unit,” “Murder by the Book,” “Over the Limit” and “Psychic Detectives.”

Local affiliates will also contribute content, such as safety tips and details on wanted criminals and missing children.

“Recognizing that by 2013, half of the top 50-rated prime shows on television were justice-oriented programming, our management team saw the need to satisfy America’s obsession with justice,” said Steve Schiffman, Justice Network’s CEO. “We are proud to be a part of this unique multicast network’s efforts to make a difference in people’s lives, fight crime and to keep communities safer.”

Rockets, Astros games can now be viewed in Austin

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (Associated Press photo)
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (Associated Press photo)

A new channel popped up today on the AT&T U-verse and DirecTV lineups.

Root Sports Southwest signed on this morning, promising access to Houston Rockets and Houston Astros games.

The first pro sports matchup airs tonight at 7:30 p.m., when the Rockets take on the Memphis Grizzlies.

U-verse subscribers can find Root Sports Southwest on channels 758 and 1758. On DirecTV, tune to channel 674.

Root Sports Southwest is the new name for what was Comcast SportsNet Houston. The channel filed for bankruptcy and was recently gobbled up by AT&T and DirecTV.

The change in ownership dramatically expands the audience for Rockets and Astros games, which previously had been limited to Comcast subscribers and customers of a few very small cable companies in the Houston area.

Other programming airing on Root Sports Southwest includes “The Rich Eisen Show” and “The Dan Patrick Show,” as well as some college sports matchups.

High school football playoffs to air on KBVO

Cedar Ridge's Ron Dogan (Lourdes M. Shoaf photo / Round Rock Leader)
Cedar Ridge’s Ron Dogan (Lourdes M. Shoaf photo / Round Rock Leader)

Austin TV station KBVO will air the first of several high school football playoff games tonight.

The MyNetworkTV affiliate will broadcast the Cedar Ridge-Bowie matchup at 7:30 p.m., with KXAN sports director Roger Wallace handling play-by-play duties.

Additional high school playoff games will air Nov. 21, Nov. 28 and Dec. 5. Teams and times have yet to be determined.

Where to find KBVO

  • Over the air: Channel 14
  • AT&T U-verse: Channel 1007
  • DirecTV: Channel 51
  • Dish Network: Channel 5185
  • Grande Communications: Channel 818
  • Northland Cable: Channel 101
  • Suddenlink Communications: Channel 725
  • Time Warner Cable: Channel 7

KVRX celebrates 20 years on FM dial with a concert

Sara Beechner, left, Texas Student Publications general manager Richard Lytle, Kevin Tuerff and Kirk Launius at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for KTSB, the predecessor to KVRX, in April 1988. Beechner, Tuerff and Launius are co-founders of KTSB and KVRX.
Sara Beechner, left, Texas Student Publications general manager Richard Lytle, Kevin Tuerff and Kirk Launius at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for KTSB, the predecessor to KVRX, in April 1988. Beechner, Tuerff and Launius are co-founders of KTSB and KVRX.

“None of the hits, all of the time.”

That doesn’t sound like a winning radio slogan, but it’s worked just fine for student-run 91.7 KVRX-FM for the past two decades.

The station is celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend with a number of special events, including an alumni reunion and a Saturday night benefit concert featuring Hickoids, Daniel Francis Doyle & the Dreams and Pure X at the old “Austin City Limits” studio on the University of Texas campus.

The goal, organizers say, is to raise $20,000 for new equipment for KVRX. The station’s transmitter is on its last legs and has required significant repairs recently. Other gear reportedly isn’t far behind.

“To really compete technologically, we just need to upgrade,” said station manager Rodrigo Leal. “We’re running Windows ’98 on some of our computers.”

The fund-raising effort comes at a time when a number of universities nationwide have either eliminated student-run radio stations or are thinking of doing so. In Houston, for instance, Rice University pulled the plug on KTRU-FM in 2011 and sold the frequency the station had long occupied.

Before KVRX hit the FM dial in 1994, the station was available to cable TV subscribers through a unique arrangement with Time Warner Cable that started in 1988, according to Kevin Tuerff, one of its co-founders. Back then, the station was known as KTSB.

The goal from the very beginning was to give UT students an independent, uncensored outlet to hone their skills.

“In the 1980s in Austin, every radio station in town was just awful,” said Tuerff, who today serves as president of Austin-based marketing firm EnviroMedia. “All you heard was all the hits, all the time. We wanted our own station with our own news, music and sports.”

After some lobbying, that’s exactly what Tuerff and his pals got. “None of the hits, all of the time” was born.

“KVRX attracts people who are risk takers and not scared to jump in, people who want to do something great,” said Carol Ramsey, who served as station manager during KVRX’s 1994 sign-on.

The station got off to a humble start, largely using donated equipment. When there wasn’t enough money for sound insulation, co-founders resorted to covering studio walls with carpeting salvaged from a seedy motel, Tuerff said.

One of the rules back then was that Texas artists had to be played in heavy rotation. That’s still the case today, meaning local musicians often get their big break on KVRX.

“There’s so much musical talent in Austin, but no outlet was paying them the attention they deserved,” said Sara Beechner, another KVRX co-founder. “KVRX is such a great launch pad.”

KVRXFM20 benefit concert featuring Hickoids, Daniel Francis Doyle & the Dreams and Pure X

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Former “Austin City Limits” studio, University of Texas communications complex, 2600 Guadalupe St.

Tickets: $20

On the Web: kvrx.org

First playlist

A look at some of the most-played albums on KTSB, KVRX’s predecessor

  • Talking Heads, “Naked”
  • The Pogues, “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”
  • Morrissey, “Viva Hate”
  • Butthole Surfers, “Hairway to Steven”
  • Ziggy Marley, “Conscious Party”
  • Sex Pistols, “Better Live Than Dead”
  • Midnight Oil, “Diesel and Dust”
  • Biff Bang Pow!, “Oblivion”
  • Echo & the Bunnymen, “Bedbugs & Ballyhoo”

Weekend anchor Deeda Payton leaving KEYE

Deeda Payton
Deeda Payton

KEYE’s Deeda Payton will anchor her final weekend newscast Nov. 30.

Payton is leaving the station to become general manager of Community Impact’s Central Austin edition.

She announced the news on Facebook saying, in part, “The time has come to announce I’m retiring from TV News. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of the most fascinating people, work with the best in the biz & make lifelong friends, but it’s time for a new challenge. Thank you all for your support!”

Payton joined KEYE in January 2013 as co-anchor of the station’s morning newscast before shifting to weekends. Prior to arriving in Austin, she worked at the Fox station in Oklahoma City.

A replacement for Payton hasn’t been lined up yet, the station said Monday.

NPR’s ‘Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!’ originates from Austin this week

Host Peter Sagal
Host Peter Sagal

Listen for some Texas twang on the next edition of NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”

The popular show, which quizzes participants on current events, was taped in front of a capacity crowd Thursday night at the Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas campus and is scheduled to air on NPR affiliates nationwide this weekend.

Guests included local musician Dale Watson.

In Austin, “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” can be heard at 10 a.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday on 90.5 KUT-FM.

It’s not the first time the Chicago-based show has visited Austin – and host Peter Sagal said he hopes it won’t be the last.

“We love Austin,” he said. “Austin represents everything that’s best about America – and Texas. It’s this wonderful amalgamation of politics, the Mexican culture, food, tattoos … you name it.”

“Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” is a bit of an oddity on the news-heavy NPR schedule. In fact, when Sagal was first tapped to serve as host, he said he didn’t expect the gig to last very long. He was wrong. The show’s been on the air for 16 years and counting.

“People who listen to public radio need humor, just like the rest of us,” Sagal said. “There’s very little comedy on public radio. We almost have that to ourselves. It’s nice that there’s one hour a week where NPR isn’t serious.”

Taking the show out of the studio and recording it in front of a live audience from time to time is something Sagal, who has a background in theater, said he pushed for after taking over as host.

“For me, it was weird to be stuck in a studio,” he said. “I need to see people in front of me to see if they’re laughing, if we’re connecting. You need people to laugh, you need them to respond. If there’s someone who might reward you with a laugh, we all become these leaping porpoises in search of attention.”

‘Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!’

10 a.m. Saturday

7 p.m. Sunday

90.5 KUT-FM

On the Web: kut.org