Homegrown Radio

An all-local station prepares to hit the airwaves in Columbia and Greene counties



When it comes to media share, it’s obvious Columbia and Greene counties have received the short end of the broadcast antenna. To the north is the Capital Region, the state’s populous political epicenter. To the south is the mid-Hudson Valley, a segment of the gargantuan New York City media market. That doesn’t leave much airspace for the two mostly rural counties in between.

A local nonprofit arts organization named free103point9 aims to fill that vacuum with WGXC, a new radio station that focuses exclusively on Columbia and Greene counties. WGXC, which will air on 90.7 FM, does not hit the actual radio dial until next June. But last month, to prepare for the launch, it began broadcasting on-line at www.wgxc.org. Once its signal is up, WGXC will offer locally produced, around-the-clock news and music programming — a rarity in radio, no matter the size of the market. “We want to be a place where everyday people in this community can hear and comment on what’s going on, where they can call in and start a real conversation,” says Tom Roe, the station’s program director.

WGXC’s organizing council plans to make the station a true region-wide pillar. Roe envisions town meetings and school plays broadcast live on location; local politicians espousing their views on-air in the weeks before Election Day; and a daily agricultural news program that will air at dawn, just as the area’s many farmers are starting the day. An all-volunteer staff will run the station, which relies on grants and donations for funding. Interested students and adults from the community can hold on- and off-air positions; WGXC staff will provide the necessary equipment and training.

Taken together, it is undoubtedly an ambitious vision. But given how unlikely it once seemed that stations like WGXC could even obtain a broadcast license, the council’s lofty goals may yet be within grasp. For decades, rich national conglomerates crowded out smaller groups like free103point9 from the radio business. In 2007, however, for the first time in nearly 20 years, the FCC allotted nonprofits a one-week window to apply for noncommercial educational licenses. (The move is the first in a wave of FCC initiatives to increase the number of hyperlocal stations nationwide.) A year later, in October 2008, the agency granted WGXC its license.

WGXC is serious about its commitment to serve the community. “We think the airwaves should be about providing access to people,” Roe says. Drive down Route 23 this time next year, Columbia and Greene county residents, and it might be a neighbor — not an old Albany or Kingston pro — delivering the drive-time news through your speakers.

 

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