KQAC, All Classical 89.9 FM, is a 24-hour classical music station in Portland, Oregon, USA. Established in 1983 as KBPS, 89.9 FM, All Classical broadcasts classical music and fine arts information to listeners in the Pacific Northwest and is also available via the internet. In April 2009, All Classical’s Portland call letters changed from KBPS FM to KQAC FM.
In 1983, Portland Public Schools applied for a license to create an FM station that would reach a larger audience than its AM station. The dream became reality when Reed College agreed to shift its FM station slightly, freeing up the 89.9 space on the dial. KBPS-FM went on the air August 1,1983.
During the early years, programming on the new station consisted of NPR Plus (a music service much like Beethoven Satellite Network), syndicated programming (such as Pipedreams and Minnesota Orchestra) and educational programming. Unlike today, all the programming was pre-recorded.
In the mid-1980s, NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered were added in the early morning and early evening hours. At about the same time Tania Thompson, a production assistant at the station, began live announcing following Morning Edition at 8 a.m.. John Pitman, a recent Benson graduate, was initially hired as a student assistant to change the tapes on the FM. In the spring of 1986, he started live announcing during the early evening hours. A third announcer was hired to work through the night beginning in March of 1988, making 89.9FM a 24-hour classical station.
Challenges and Changes
Over the decades, the continued growth of the two stations caused a space crisis. Station Manager Dr. Patricia Swenson and a team of community leaders, initiated a capital campaign to build a new broadcast center with private funds.
The list of community-minded benefactors on the builder’s plaque in the foyer of KBPS AM and FM is impressive to this day. Thanks to the generosity of these individuals, businesses, foundations and trusts, the dream of a new broadcast center came true on April 23,1992.
Before the successful completion of the new broadcast center, however, voters of Oregon passed a ballot measure that authorized a limitation on property tax rates in the state. Because of this measure, the Portland School District faced severe budget cuts, which in turn drastically affected funding to KBPS.
Operating cuts were necessary if KBPS was to survive. NPR membership was discontinued in 1993. The AM station was simulcast with FM on Saturdays and Sundays. Staff cuts included the overnight announcer, along with other key positions. Volunteers took on a more active role as pledge drives became the most viable option for insuring the ultimate survival of the two public radio stations. Subsequent pledge drive efforts proved that listeners appreciated the station enough to invest in it.
In January 2003 Portland Public Schools informed the KBPS Foundation they would be selling the FM license, and the Foundation signed an agreement to purchase that license for $5.5 million. As the campaign nears completion, securing and preserving the All Classical FM station is more important than ever.
Here and Now
Today, the stations of All Classical FM (89.9 FM in Portland, 88.1 FM in Lincoln City/Newport, 88.1 FM in Hood River/The Dalles and 96.3 FM in the Columbia River Gorge) offer classical music 24 hours a day, seven days a week to 180,000 listeners weekly. All Classical thrives due to the help of hundreds of volunteers and twenty paid staff members. Over 15,000 contributing members support this incredible resource in Portland’s art community.