Community radio revived

This story was originally published in the April 6 print issue.

A new low-power FM radio station is going to open in Arlington by December of this year, headed by communication adjunct professor Paul LeValley.

LeValley is the Executive Director of Arlington Independent Media, a nonprofit organization that seeks to “promote and facilitate free speech by providing access to established and emerging media.” The organization began in 1982, and provides access to training and facilities that allow members in the Arlington area to create their own video, audio, web and digital content.

Recently, they were given permission from the Federal Communications Commission to host a low-power radio station.

“We were approached by a small group of Arlington residents who had heard that the FCC was going to be opening up some low-power FM stations to more urban spaces,” LeValley said. Normally, the FCC only allows rural areas to host low-power radio stations, as they are less likely to be serviced by larger commercial radio stations.

LeValley said that AIM’s Board of Directors were unsure if they should become involved at first.

“One of the requirements for a low-power FM station is that a nonprofit be involved,” LeValley said. “We talked about it for a little while, how the resources would make sense with our mission…the more we talked about it, the more it made sense.”

The next step AIM is taking is creating value statements that will define what they want the radio station to be. Then, when people come with ideas, they can evaluate them using these value statements.

“On the radio side it’ll be different, because the FCC is involved, and you can’t just play whatever you want,” LeValley said about the difference between AIM’s television resources and their radio programs. The station will feature local content, and its goal will be to serve the local community. LeValley also said that music is going to be “a big part of what we do,” and that he hopes the station will feature local bands and music.

Those who are interested in this do not have to be Arlington residents, and after taking classes, they’ll begin to create their own radio programs.

“A big part of our mission is to teach people how to do this stuff for themselves,” LeValley said.

There have also been talks of WGMU becoming associated with AIM’s new FM station. Jesse Robinson, program director at WGMU, spoke positively about the project, saying that he believes there is a large demand for smaller, more local radio shows.

“You see it with local TV a lot, community, county stations,” Robinson said. “I think the same thing could be said for radio. You have a local, tight-knit community interest, especially at GMU.”

As far as any official partnership between WGMU and AIM, Robinson says that it is only speculation at this point, but there have been brief mentions of this occurring in the future.

“It would be very exciting, and I could possibly see us doing some shows, getting some airtime.  Because you have that connection from GMU, and if you’re looking for content, that connection would be a great place to go. Obviously if they have the open time, and we have the availability, absolutely I could see something working out, as far as content,” Robinson said.

WGMU promotions director Ryan Allen also said he’s heard speculation about it and said he believes people will be interested in the new radio station.

“I don’t exactly know what they do, but if they are trying to train people to get more involved in media, and we do it as well, I believe there is going to be a market for it…we have students here at Mason, obviously there is Arlington campus, and there’s people who want to get involved over there as well. I think it’d be a win-win for both to have the media coverage as well as just spreading the word of radio,” Allen said.

“It is a way to teach people how to use radio in order to communicate, in that way it’s kind of like WGMU, it’s a teaching tool,” LeValley said.

Allen said that WGMU also has to follow the same FCC guidelines that LeValley mentioned.

“WGMU is a fully accredited radio station, we have requirements — profanities are obviously cut down, and we’re required to say what exact song is being played, with the artist, the album and even the producer,” Allen said.

While LeValley said December is the latest the station will be up, he hopes they will be broadcasting by Halloween of this year.

Photo Credit: Amy Rose