A new volunteer-run radio station is coming to Arlington, Virginia, and it’s expected to kick off on a folksy note.
When WERA 96.7 goes live on Dec. 6, the first song the station will play is Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” says Arlington Independent Media Director Paul LeValley, whose nonprofit is launching the low-power station.
“Halfway through we’ll crossfade to a recording we just made in our studio of a bunch of people singing it,” LeValley says.
That musical introduction suits the community-oriented ethos of WERA, which plans to serve the needs of local residents. Formally known as Arlington Community Access Corporation, Arlington Independent Media has been around since 1982, providing mostly video-making resources to the community. But a few years ago the group’s board of directors asked LeValley to research the possibility of adding a low-power FM radio station to the organization.
“We didn’t know how we would fit a radio station into what was already a pretty full plate,” LeValley says. “But the more we thought about the mission of community radio the more we realized that it fit very well with what we do.”
LeValley says Arlington Independent Media wants to get everybody producing — not just consuming — media. “Our idea is that media shouldn’t be reserved for a few professionals here and there,” he says, “but that everybody should participate.”
Powered at a maximum of 100 watts and staffed by volunteers, WERA will be noncommercial. AIM plans to derive some income from equipment-use fees, but if volunteers help others produce radio work, LeValley says, they can earn “credits” toward equipment use.
Members of the public can volunteer to produce shows and radio packages on WERA. A board of 15 people called the Programming Advisory and Review Council will review volunteer applications for live radio programs as well as produced packages.
“Let’s say you want to produce a live music program about the blues. You submit an application to the PARC and describe what you have in mind, maybe you even have a little clip that you’ve produced at home,” LeValley says. “They’ll review it and perhaps work with you to make a suggestion or two to improve it. Then once approved, you’ll work with our radio coordinator to determine the time it’s going to play on the radio.” (WERA will also stream online at wera.fm.)
LeValley says the PARC has received around 45 applications so far, and he hopes to receive hundreds more. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and approved programs will be reviewed annually.
WERA isn’t the only new low-power station coming to the D.C. area: WOWD in Takoma Park, Maryland, wrapped up a successful crowdfunding campaign this year. Both WOWD (which hasn’t begun broadcasting yet) and WERA arrive in the wake of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, which allowed the Federal Communications Commission to grant licenses to new low-power FM stations.
The legislation led to a bumper crop of little stations across the country, offering local, noncommercial alternatives to mainstream radio. That’s the kind of community service WERA plans to provide, says Arlington Independent Media’s director.
“As a general approach,” LeValley says, “we want to be as inclusive as possible.”
WERA hosts a family-friendly launch party Dec. 6 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Arlington Independent Media.