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LPFM and the Voice of Hmong People

Most LPFM construction permits end up in the hands of churches and schools. But some are granted to small ethnic groups that sought licenses because they have few other opportunities to communicate with their own people.

Most LPFM construction permits end up in the hands of churches and schools. But some are granted to small ethnic groups that sought licenses because they have few other opportunities to communicate with their own people.

One such CP for an LP100 station was awarded to The Hmong American Community Inc., a nonprofit organization of transplanted Asians, many of whom now live in California.

The Hmong people, according to the organization, hail from near Laos in the mountains of southeast Asia. They sided with the United States during the Vietnam War. When this country withdrew from that conflict, the Hmong were forced by the Communists into refugee camps in Thailand.

According to the 2000 census, about 170,000 of them resettled in the United States since 1970. Of those, nearly half live in California.

Farming skills

In their native country, most of the people were nomads isolated from the modern world. When they arrived here, many had few survival skills other than farming.

Vee Inthaly, project coordinator for the nonprofit community group and the LPFM station, said she allocated space in their small office for the studio but that no equipment has been purchased.

Huto Morales will serve as executive director for the bilingual radio station in the capacity of consultant.

“We will be starting from scratch and we’re trying to get our funding together now,” Inthaly said. “We’ll be using both paid people and volunteers and we will deliver information for the day to day lives of our people.”

The station, which will operate at 104.5 MHz, also will play music that will appeal to the Asian segment of the population. Fresno also is home to about 10,000 Lao, 2,000 Mien, 8,000 Cambodian and 8,000 Vietnamese people. The group plans to be on the air by fall.

“As of now, we are still in need of startup money,” said Inthaly. “If we were going to get a new tower and all new equipment, we would need about $225,000. However, as we have only raised about $6,000, so it looks like we will have to share a tower with someone and purchase used equipment to make it work.”

The organization faces an FCC-imposed October deadline to get the station built and running before its construction permit runs out.

The plan is to avoid an automated, CD-playing setup. Organizers hope to present a unique voice in the Fresno area.

“We will have different programs so people can listen to conversation and music in their own languages and learn about their cultures,” Inthaly said. “Sometimes they don’t get to do this in their school systems. Our programming will have a primary influence on their health, housing, education and careers.”

The LPFM station is part of the Hmong American Community’s outreach to the Asians they serve.

“We operate a co-op which was started using a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture,” Inthaly said. “It’s designed to support the farmers and train them. Many of our people are farmers.” The seven staff members of the Hmong American Community also are building low-income housing for their community near Fresno.

“Our goal is to become a multicultural radio station for the 40,000 to 60,000 Asians in the Fresno area,” said Inthaly.

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