Manchester’s local radio station 94.7 KMCH turned 30 this year. Throughout its time, the station has constantly worked to provide the Manchester area with quality local radio, often being on the cutting edge of radio technology to do so. The station was founded in 1991 by the Coloff family after seeing that Manchester was one of the larger communities in Iowa at the time without its own radio station.
According to station owner Jim Coloff, his father began the radio company, Coloff Media, in Mason City in the 1960s, later moving to start another station with his wife in Forest City in 1978. Coloff worked for his parents through his high school and college years before working at a larger radio company in Des Moines after graduation. After three years, in 1991, he received a call from his parents asking him to officially join the company and run a new station they had just received a permit to build in Manchester.
“We thought, ‘Manchester and the area around it deserves its own radio station’,” said Coloff, “so the company, which was owned by my parents at the time, worked to obtain a license to build the radio station 30 years ago. In those early years we were located in the Professional Services building, which was demolished after the second flood down near where Hardee’s is now located. It brought local radio to Manchester for the first time as their own local radio station.”
Coloff said a radio station is essential for a town after it reaches a certain size to help retain the sense of community connection.
“I think a community with any good size needs good local media, both a great newspaper and a great radio station,” he said. “Most towns already had a newspaper for many years but many towns didn’t have a radio station yet. Slowly that changed as radio stations were added and I think radio brings that day to day, hour by hour connection and live coverage of events which I think every community needs, especially a smaller community with a strong identity like Manchester.”
As it happened, the station ended up being built at the time when new radio technology had been introduced, allowing it to be incorporated directly into the building at its construction. Coloff said the station was so far ahead with implementing the new CD and hard drive technology that other stations came to them to learn about it.
“We were one of the first, if not the first, stations in 1991 to not have turntables in the studio,” said he said. “KMCH has always been a leader in technology in the state in that anything recorded was digital. The music was played off CDs back then in an elaborate system that controlled multi-track CD players. That was a big change from the turntables used in every studio around the country, so we actually had radio owners come to visit us in Manchester to see our setup which we had installed because it was so new then.”
Coloff said that, while the initial advance in the station’s technology was largely a matter of timing, it laid the groundwork for them to constantly work to keep up with new developments to offer their listeners the best product and service they can.
“Of course, technology has completely changed from that now,” he said. “There are no CD players in any radio stations in the country, all the audio elements are on hard drives, digital and done on a computer along with editing and interview recording. KMCH is now one of the first stations in Iowa to offer video play by play broadcasting of high school spots. Our company has been doing it for five years and we just brought it to KMCH to offer it to our listeners there. I feel KMCH is on the cutting edge with offering play by play, video interviews and live video of activities and interviews around Manchester and Northeast Iowa.”
According to Coloff, there are plenty of new developments to come in the near future as well, as the station continues to work at giving the listeners of Manchester the highest quality radio service they can.
“It’ll be interesting to see what new technologies come about,” he said. “We’re going to continue to build the video content we offer. I think that will continue to be something very important. There are some neat changes coming in radio as far as interactivity between the listener and radio station. One of the neatest things going on now is called hybrid radio, which means if you’re listening to the radio in your car and drive outside the radio tower’s signal, it will automatically switch to the digital stream of the station. Practically, you could listen to KMCH on your car radio if you were driving down to Florida for the entire trip, just like if you were listening to it sitting downtown on Main Street. That’s not technology we have been able to install yet, but we will as soon as it’s available for commercial radio stations.”
In celebrating its 30th, Coloff said the station has already held some major events last summer and is ending the year with another one for the public, as well as a thank you to the staff.
“We’ve been celebrating all year. We had a big summer promotion where we gave away $2,000 shopping sprees. That culminated with the car show back in August. Now we’re doing a “Santa’s ATM” contest as part of our thirtieth birthday. Listeners can call in this holiday season, guess how much money is in Santa’s ATM, and, if they guess it correctly, they win the cash inside. We also have a special dinner this month for our staff, full and part-timers, as a thank you to our team that’s made it happen.”
Coloff wishes to thank the large numbers of talented and dedicated people over the years who have gotten the station to where it is today and looks forward to seeing what the next 30 years bring.