Hot Air-waves II

[MG Note: The Pencil is posting for the second time today to accommodate breaking news.]

[MG Note II (December 17, 2014): The person who submitted the following letter has requested her/his name be redacted. After much wrestling and negotiation, I’ve decided to accommodate this person.]

Culbertson In at WFHB

Kevin Culbertson has accepted the job of general manager at community radio station WFHB.

One of my sources for today’s earlier post about the GM search and selection was [NAME REDACTED]. [S/he] tells me the other two candidates were informed last night that they didn’t get the job.

[S/he] also authorized me to use the following piece. “Feel free to use it in any way you see fit,” [s/he] wrote. [NAME REDACTED] did the work; I’m just providing [her/him] the venue. I do not vouch for any of the research just yet.* The goal is to provide a forum for one respected WFHB volunteer’s non-authoritative investigation into the professional history of the station’s new general manager. Here are [NAME REDACTED]’s impressions:

*[MG Note: Now that I’ve had a chance to look into all the links, [NAME REDACTED]’s research seems to be based on good public documents and previously published newspaper and magazine articles. Ergo, I withdraw my mealy-mouthed distancing from [her/his] work.]

So, it’s official! The WFHB Board of Directors, in the face of the pleadings of many within our community to the contrary, has announced that they have chosen someone who has never been part of our community, to come to our community, and run OUR community radio station.

Well, let’s get to know our new GM, shall we?

First, google: Kevin Culbertson.  Nothing much comes up, does it? Why would that be?  The other candidates come up in dozens of results related to their professional experience.  Also, try to find him on Facebook or any other professional networking sites and you get a similar lack of findings.

Actually if you try really hard, you’ll find extremely little to no association with any of the entities Kevin claimed to be associated with, except for KHHB and KEEN.  So, then, zoom in on those two and you’ll learn who our new GM really is (and you’ll soon find another station he never told us about too!)

KHHB Launching January 2006

“Culbertson is the general manager of KEEN-TV in Las Vegas, which was named the National Religious Broadcasters 2005 Low Power Television Station of the Year. It is owned by Total Living Network, which airs Christ-centered programming.”

“The (Hilo) TV station, straight up, happens to be owned by Christians,” Culbertson said, but his station won’t merely be a satellite of the Total Living Network.  It will be “safe for the entire family in terms of the values, in the sense of the language and everything else, but it is not necessarily only a Christian product in the sense of promoting or popularizing a specific religion,” he said.

source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 13, 2005

It seems that KHHB was a TV station similar to Indianapolis WTTV-4, not a community station in terms of programming choices or governance. They showed syndicated comedies like “Soap” and “Mad About You.”  Their primary “News” was limited to 30-second news updates. Culbertson promised half-hour newscast but never got beyond 5-minute drop-ins. This is not at all “hyper local” as he claims. In fact, Hilo Hawaii Broadcasting Ltd soon lost its local ties and became Nevada-based under Kevin’s leader/ownership.


When Kevin claims to have “sold” KHHB to Stephens Media LLC. His claim is in direct conflict with the statement made by the “purchaser”:

Michael Ferguson, vice president and chief operating officer of Stephens Media, does not consider this a purchase.  “We’ve formed a new company that will manage the station,” said Ferguson, who is president of Hilo LP TV LLC, formed with Culbertson for the deal.

In fact, the application to transfer the license of KHHB refers to a “contribution agreement”, versus the usual asset purchase, or asset sale agreement.  Stephens will pay (donate) $242,000 for its first step into broadcasting, but Culbertson “is still the owner … He’s the TV guy,” Ferguson said.

“Watchdogs are alarmed the deal would decrease diversity in media ownership and potentially silence an independent news voice.”

source: &

FCC records, including an ownership report filed by Kevin himself, indicate that he was still a one-third co-owner years later.


When Kevin “sold” KHHB to Stephens Media LLC, the ownership transfer application did not disclose that the buyer was a newspaper. He draws widespread criticism in June 2007 for that shady deal that made Hawaii’s only daily newspaper publisher co-owner of KHHB:

Federal law currently prohibits newspaper publishers from buying full-power television stations in their markets, but that law does not extend to low-power stations, which normally have output of less than 1 kilowatt.  Watchdogs were alarmed as the deal would decrease diversity in media ownership and potentially silence an independent news voice. 

Media and telecommunications attorney Chris Conybeare believes cross-ownership, even of a low-power TV station, is a disservice to the community.  “Even if technically there is not a violation, the spirit of the rule is being violated to the detriment of the people of the island of Hawaii,” he said.  Las Vegas-based Stephens Media LLC, which publishes the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today as well as the Big Island Weekly, did not disclose that it is a newspaper publisher in the ownership transfer application filed with the Federal Communications Commission.  “It really smacks of hiding the ball,” said Wayne Cahill, administrative officer of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, which represents newspaper workers.


So how did Mr. Culbertson’s five years at KHHB help the station?  Actually it destroyed it.  The last KHHB broadcast occurred on May 6, 2011, and the license was cancelled on July 25, 2012 for failure to transmit a signal for a 12-month period.  (The station’s entire lifespan was just over five years)



A close review of both KEEN and KHHB shows that Kevin was not a real station manager, had no real radio experience, but was, rather, a MEDIA BROKER;

“VMG Broadcasting Company acquired KEEN in September 2003, transferred control of the station to Christian Communications of Chicagoland two months later, then sold the station outright in September 2004.”


FCC Violation at KEEN

Legal Name of the Licensee






But Wait, There’s One More Station He Didn’t Tell Us About

Another station comes up in the FCC database related to Kevin’s name — WXOC.  This station seemed to have operated fine for eight years until Kevin came in as the new sole owner to broker another of his deals.  The station was located in Salisbury Maryland. Kevin, in California, was listed as “Owner”.

Their home office contact listed as:

PO Box A,

Santa Ana, CA

92711-2101 / 714-832-2950 /  (Trinity Broadcasting Network)

Its license was cancelled in February of 2013.

sources: &

Additionally, a thorough background check reveals:

  • 17 different addresses in seven separate states
  • A filed Chapter 7 (full liquidation) bankruptcy in Arizona in 2010

So, In A Nutshell:

1997-2000: Kevin is director of operations for Total Living Network, Chicago, Il

2003-2007: Kevin is General Manager for Total Living Network, Las Vegas, Nevada

Total Living Network’s Vision Statement: “To communicate the need for a total relationship with God (body, mind and spirit). We believe each person was created by God, needs God and through God can live a vibrant, healthy and wholesome life that is a blessing to themselves and a positive spiritual influence on others. We consider electronic communications to be a strategic tool for communicating these truths.”

2006-2009: While still General Manager for Total Living Network, Las Vegas, Nevada, Kevin manages to be Co-founder, President, and General Manager of the new KHHB-TV in Hilo, Hawaii.

2007: Though called “hyper-local” Kevin brokers a deal that sells his KHHB-TV to his TLN friends in Las Vegas. He receives a $242,000 “contribution” and retains the management position. The local Hawaii article says “while it was not illegal it was very upsetting that an out of state owner had taken over” and “Watchdogs are alarmed the deal would decrease diversity in media ownership and potentially silence an independent news voice.”

2010: Kevin files a Chapter 7 (full liquidation) bankruptcy in Arizona.

2011: The last KHHB broadcast occurs on May 6.

2012: KHHB license is cancelled on July 25.

Somewhere in all of this (and undisclosed to us) Kevin also acquires, from California, WXOC, a radio station in Maryland. He is owner and the station is now part of the Trinity Broadcasting Family. Yes, TBN, of Jim and Tammy Faye Fame!

TBN’s self-description: “TBN is the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel.  TBN offers 24 hours of commercial-free inspirational programming that appeal to people in a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic and Messianic Jewish denominations.”

February 2013: WXOC’s license is cancelled.

September 2013: Within months of the collapse of the last known station with which Kevin Culbertson was affiliated, he begins to target WFHB; a little Midwest station without a General Manager; a station that didn’t make their last fund drive goal, and with a board short two people, and the seven that are left not even representative of the volunteers, but rather, either appointed by the board to fill vacant seats or elected to positions in elections that offered volunteers no choice (two openings / two candidates – each selected to run by the board itself). All in all WFHB looks weak, an easy target.

You might be pondering some questions right about now.

Why did our Board, knowing all of this information, select this candidate over two local, highly qualified others? And why did they do so, when so many within the community voiced their support for the board to do otherwise?

And, why would Kevin Culbertson, a man with long standing associations with the most right-winged evangelical broadcasters in our nation want to come here to live and work among us filthy liberals?

Should we really think he is going to stick around WFHB for long?  Or just long enough to do the damage revealed in his history of hopping from project to project, buying/selling stations whenever an opportunity arises.

His very presence in our organization will hurt our credibility. And when that happens, how will it hurt our fund drives? And when we suffer financially to the point that we must begin to seek out big assistance to survive, who will we turn to; Kevin’s financial friends in Las Vegas or Ivy Tech Community College?

The wolves are at the door good citizens.

Goodnight, and good luck.

16 thoughts on “Hot Air-waves II

  1. What the?

  2. Joy Shayne Laughter says:

    Just adding something that was available to Hondo as a member of the Search Committee, and available to WFHB Members as part of the Resume Summaries that were sent out ahead of the Candidate meet & greets: Finalist Candidate Dena Hawes is indeed a local (born & educated here, and just returned after 25 years in the big world), and she is uniquely qualified to head a non-profit arts organization with a community service mission.

    However, she has no radio or broadcast media experience. She acknowledged that this was a weakness in her application.

    Thus, some who have observed the interview and hiring process might question this article’s characterization.

    • Jim says:

      The main point of the article is that the chosen candidate seems quite shady, so your point is largely irrelevant.

      • Joy Shayne Laughter says:

        Largely, but not entirely. The article states that the other candidates were “two local, highly qualified others.” No, one of them had high qualifications for a post OTHER THAN operating a radio station. This difference calls the article’s high emotional tone into question — do we trust the writer if significant details are massaged towards an agenda?

    • jansaldo says:

      The main thrust of the article is that the chosen candidate seems pretty shady, so your point is largely irrelevant.

  3. A Mariner on this Sea of Madness says:

    Man the barricades! The Christians are at the gate! Seriously, what do the people who chose this guy say as to why they made their choice?

  4. Joy Shayne Laughter says:

    Can I also add, the WFHB GM has no legal ownership of the station, and all financial decisions are made by the Board? This is a good reason for volunteers and members who intend to keep WFHB locally-owned and operated to stand up, and fill the empty Board seats. Make the station you want – get involved and come to meetings, do the work, don’t make this a chapter of “The Little Red Hen.”

    And – DONATE! Keep the local funding coming. Sustaining the station’s financial health through local, independent money is the best way to prevent any need for out of town or out of state investors.

    • jansaldo says:

      Again, this response is a deflection of the main argument.

      • Joy Shayne Laughter says:

        The main argument is that this guy has “targeted” WFHB to sell it to a Christian broadcasting network. My point directly contradicts that argument.

  5. David Baas says:

    I will talk to at least some of the Board members to learn about why they made this choice.

    Also, I would be happy to serve on the Board for WFHB. I have wanted to for some time and had no idea there was a need for people to participate on that level.

  6. John Stancomb says:

    Ah, aint there 2 sides to ever story? A businessman who “flips stations” criticized by a businessman who “flips houses”? I’m just a HS grad but I know about them anti-discrimination laws by the Feds. So WFHB hates Christians. Don’t you got some closet Christians hangin’ ’round? Are you skeered he’s goin’ baptize y’all? I might just start listening more since y’all hired in a minority – a Christian!

  7. WM says:

    Despite jansaldo’s protestations, JSL makes good points worth noting. And glad to hear that D. Baas is willing to serve on the board–would be a good voice..

  8. Joy Shayne Laughter says:

    All volunteers at WFHB are welcome to attend all Board meetings, final Monday of each month.

  9. Vera Grubbs says:

    These open discussions are very refreshing. Is it possible that the WFHB board felt it was choosing the better of two evils? Maybe that is too strong. Let’s say a “counter-weight”……to achieve a certain balance or equallibrium? Just thinking out loud…….

  10. Hondo says:

    John Stancomb>
    WFHB does not HATE anyone and we’d like me to keep it that way.
    And you don’t know my business sir. Not one little bit.

    The point of the article is not “that this guy has “targeted” WFHB to sell it to a Christian broadcasting network.” but rather “The main thrust of the article is that the chosen candidate seems pretty shady”.

    He’s shady, why did we pick him?
    Clear enough?

  11. Dan says:

    Why indeed. One led to this situation another was clearly not right for the station (most likely the most devious of 28 applications) and another has had great success leading non-profits.
    Would love to know why

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