Fifteen hundred people live in the country comfort town of Paonia, Colorado, and the population of Delta County, where it is located on the Western Slope, is slightly more than thirty thousand. Is that enough folks to sustain a successful listener-supported radio station, do you imagine? Well, yes, in fact, it is and it has, for more than 40 years.
Campbell Stanton developed his chops playing tunes at KCFR-FM, which when he began was virtually an intercom system at Denver University. By the time he moved on a few years later, it was a listener-supported affiliate of National Public Radio and a force for good in the Denver radio market. Let’s do that again, he said when he moved to Paonia in the late Seventies, and he did.
He did it with the help of the community, including my pals Bob and Candy Pennetta, who joined him in the effort to raise the money, get a license, build the audience, and launch a great station. Candy is Music Director, Bob and Campbell are among the many local talents who do the shows, and you can hear it streaming through the ethers HERE, Campbell’s story HERE, and Bob’s story HERE. All well worth hearing!
Then there is my friend Davyne Dial. When this thoroughly Southern lady and her spouse retired to Asheville, NC, which is only one of the hippest towns east of the Mississippi, she found a failing radio station on the verge of collapse, the creditors hovering, buzzards in the treetops nearby.
Davyne organized Friends of WPVM-FM, Inc., who became the Board of Directors, she became the General Manager and operational wizard, and for the past seven years, the station has been the Voice of Asheville. For a station a stone’s throw from famed Black Mountain College, you can bet the arts are at the very top of the playlist. Local artists are the daily diet. They reach an audience that is finely attuned to their work and thankful for hearing them in glorious, commercial-free broadcasts. You can, too, right HERE.
Davyne Dial is the maestra, and she operates from a big vision about the importance of radio for building and sustaining a community. The thriving listener-supported station she has created is a vivid example, but she thinks a lot too about the potential that radio has for strengthening communities throughout the country. She talks about that vision in an interview HERE, which is well worth hearing and giving some thought.
Then there is WFMU-FM radio, and there is nothing else like it. The About Us section of their website tells it better than I ever could:
“WFMU-FM is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station broadcasting at 91.1 Mhz FM in Jersey City, NJ, right across the Hudson from lower Manhattan. It is currently the longest running freeform radio station in the United States…
WFMU’s programming ranges from flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM Records, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, classic radio airchecks, found sound, dopey call-in shows, interviews with obscure radio personalities and notable science-world luminaries, spoken word collages, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English as well as Country and western music.
All of the station’s programming is controlled by individual DJs and is not beholden to any type of station-wide playlist or rotation schedule. Experimentation, spontaneity and humor are among the station’s most frequently noted distinguishing traits. WFMU does not belong to any existing public radio network, and close to 100% of its programming originates at the station.”
WFMU-FM is a phenomenon in today’s radio market. Listen for yourself HERE. If you’d like to hear an analysis of the station, what it does, and what matters about freeform radio, hear General Manager and Program Director Ken Freedman explain it clearly and lucidly HERE.